Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 252,000, all ranks, be maintained for the safety of the United Kingdom and the defence of the possessions of Her Majesty's Crown, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Profumo)
It has become customary for the Secretary of State, in presenting the Army Estimates, to set the scene for the Army's policy during the forthcoming twelve months, and so, of course, there is always a central theme running through these speeches. Last year, I took up most of the time speaking about our chief task on hand then—recruiting. This year, I want to make the theme of my speech the new all-Regular Army.
We are at a very significant moment in our military history. Unless world tension deflects us from our declared policy, these Estimates are the last to be presented for a conscript Army, or, to put it another way, by the time we debate these matters next year, we shall, to all intents and purposes, have an all-volunteer Army once again.
For the past twenty years or more we have been compelling young men to serve in the Army. A conscripted force is a very different thing from an Army made up entirely of men who have voluntarily decided to make it their career. Today, we have only a few officers and senior N.C.O.s who had any practical experience of life and service in an all-Regular Army.
The new Army has to be organised, exist and endure in a Welfare State with full employment. Shall we be able to get the recruits we need? Will the Welfare 602 State have its repercussions on a modern all-Regular Army? These are two important questions we have to face. Suffice it to say that we are looking at all the matters with which we are concerning ourselves in the War Office today—recruiting, leadership, morale, pay, conditions, training, equipment, flexibility, reserves, and so on—in relation to their effect on an all-Regular Army. We know that we have to adjust our minds all the time if we are to be able to attract the right sort of men for the job.
Last year, when we talked about recruiting, not everyone accepted my forecast that would reach our minimum target of 165,000 by the beginning of 1963, but I think that we have now reached a stage—there are only ten months to go—when it is fairly clear that, if the present pace persists, we shall be there. We might even do better.
It is clear that the measures we took during the last two or three years to improve conditions in the Army, to publicise it as a fine career, and to mobilise a first-class recruiting organisation are having the effects we wanted. Look at the change that has taken place. In the first half of 1961 we were just feeling our way and recruiting went up by about 12 per cent. Compared with the previous year, which was a poor one, anyway, we were not doing much more than holding our own. But what a difference in the last three months of 1961, when the campaign had really got into its swing. We were up 80 per cent. on the previous year and now it looks as if we are running at 40 per cent. above 1961.
So, high-pressure public appeal is here to stay as far as we are concerned and this year's plans are already under way. We shall be keeping the Army in the public eye by means of teams from units both at home and in Germany, and the Territorial Army is to take part in a big way. We shall press on with our special overseas recruiting which made a very good start last year in the West Indies, the Seychelles and Fiji. This is only part of the manpower story. It is just as important to keep the men as it is to get them, and in some ways it is more difficult these days. However, there are encouraging signs here, too. The net increase in the strength of the Regular 603 Army during the last four months of 1961 was nearly 3,500, so we are on the right lines. My constant study of these problems since I have been at the War Office has led me to two or three general conclusions.
First, I do not believe that it is true today—perhaps it never was—that unemployment is the best recruiting sergeant. Our statistics bear this out. The Midlands, and other predominantly industrial areas where there are sometimes two or three jobs for every man, are our best recruiting areas and where we have had the most striking improvement during recent months. Compare this with Scotland and Northern Ireland. They are both admittedly fairly good recruiting spots at any time, but, in spite of the unemployment which, unfortunately, still exists there, recruiting has not improved to anything like the same extent. Clearly, there is no relationship between unemployment and recruiting. This gives the lie to the gibe that men will join the Army only if they cannot get any other job. I simply do not believe it. People are choosing the Army as a career because they want a life of interest and excitement with a chance to see something of the outside world—a life of comradeship and service to their country. This is a welcome sign, because it means that even in an era of full employment we should be able to keep an adequate standing Army by voluntary recruitment.
My next conclusion is this. It is not enough just to run recruiting campaigns from time to time. Making the young Army-minded must now be a permanent feature of our policy and we will not be home and dry until every healthy young man automatically considers the Army as one form of life he might follow.
My third conclusion is that wastage will improve when the Army becomes all-Regular again, when there are not so many people in a unit whose eyes are constantly on "civvy street", when all are there because they want to be, and when the old Regular spirit comes back again.
Although, as I have said, there are encouraging signs, I am by no means satisfied yet with the decrease in wastage. I repeat that all of us in the War Office 604 realise that, to keep the men the Army wants, we must give them what they are entitled to expect from the Army, and we are watching carefully to see that restrictions are kept to the bare minimum, consistent with the needs of a disciplined force.
During the last twelve months or so, I have visited every major overseas command and have seen how the Army is adjusting itself to modern trends and standards. The most important thing in all this is to establish the correct relationship between the soldier and the young officer. This is nowadays often referred to as man-management, but it is more than this. It is the establishment of confidence between the two based on mutual respect and understanding. We are working to improve this relationship all the time.
Now, a word or two about the Women's Services. There is good news here, also. Recruiting is up all round. But marriage is still our greatest occupational hazard. To keep pace with the wedding bells we must do better still. We have already started a recruiting campaign for women, and we shall make the greatest possible use of television.
Finally, there is our appeal to the younger generation still—to boys. This has been outstandingly successful. At the beginning of 1961 we had 7,200 boys under training. Now we have 9,800, and we expect to be up to nearly 11,000 by the beginning of 1963. Now we have got to the stage when the limitations are training facilities and accommodation rather than candidates. This is a good sign, because we can deal with that. We are going to expand the capacity of our boys' units as far as possible, and two new Junior Tradesmen's units, one at Troon, in Scotland, and one at Rhyl, in North Wales, are being opened. These will produce another 1,000 tradesmen a year and will soon make a valuable contribution towards filling those specialist jobs which are so difficult to fill today.
When we talk about recruiting in a general way, we mean signing on the ordinary average man—the normal soldier. But there is another side to recruiting which presents a very considerable problem. This is how to attract into the Army enough "out of the ordinary" men—specialists—to cope with the multitude of complicated 605 aspects of a balanced modern fighting force. One of the great problems of our age is that there are simply not enough of those specialists to go round, even in civil life. So, if the Army is to get its share of these V.I.Ps, it has to take special steps quite outside its normal recruiting techniques. A good example of this specialist problem is the difficulty of recruiting doctors and dentists. We are very short of both. Next year we shall be shorter still. With the ending of National Service, and the run-out of many short-service commission doctors, we are face to face with a dangerous situation, a situation in which decisive measures—not the ordinary recruiting devices—will be needed to preserve an efficient medical service.
The other Service Ministers and I have been in the closest consultation with the Minister of Defence and we have also held discussions with the B.M.A. If we are ever to get enough doctors, two things must be done. First, we must give them a satisfying professional career. Secondly, disturbances and the many onerous obligations of Service life must be recognised in their remuneration. I do not think that we have been giving our young doctors a satisfying professional career in the Army and the chance to build up as wide a medical experience as they could get in civil practice. One reason for this is the limited scope of the unit medical officer and many field medical units.
I do not believe that we are justified in continuing this organisation. So we have decided substantially to reduce the number of field medical units at full strength and leave just enough to deal with emergencies. From now onwards doctors will be stationed geographically on an area, as compared with a unit, basis, and they will care for all entitled patients in their area in the same way as a National Health Service doctor does. Many of these will be women and children and when they are serving abroad, there will be civilian employees as well.
We are determined that doctors shall concentrate as much as possible on doctoring. They must have proper transport facilities—even aeroplanes if necessary; I do not reject the idea of some form of flying doctor—and the married doctor must have a quarter. They must be given opportunities to 606 obtain certain qualifications and be rewarded with extra pay if they do; and they must be encouraged to go on with general practice doctoring right into the more senior ranks. From now on it will be possible to do so up to and including the rank of full colonel. Promotion will not bind doctors to administration. We are already cutting down on desk doctors.
So much for the G.P.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
The Minister will recall that I raised this point in the debate on defence and again in a supplementary question. The right hon. Gentleman then said that he would be dealing with the point I raised, namely, that in B.A.O.R. the strength of doctors in the units is down to 50 per cent. Is it as low as that? Does his statement mean that the war establishment of medical officers in units will be cut down?
§ Mr. Profumo
It is very largely because the right hon. Gentleman raised this question that I thought that this would be a good opportunity to say something about it. It does not alter the war establishment. What I am saying will obtain in Germany. It means that when this is organised—we cannot do it at once—the number of doctors we have in B.A.O.R. will be spaced more generally on an area basis, at any rate in peace time. What is more important than the numbers is that it will mean a very much wider practice and they will be able to do much more of the type of thing the doctor in civil life does.
I want to say a word about the specialist. So far as he is concerned, we do not intend, as I have seen it suggested, to reduce the degree of specialisation, but to improve standards in every way. The specialist will soon be able to become a consultant with a professional standing as high as any in civil life.
With all this in mind, I am proposing to start an intensive recruiting campaign for Army doctors. Of course, I realise that pay is one of the most important factors in all this, and my right hon. Friends and I are urgently considering this. Meanwhile, the Army will offer 607 the following eight-point plan of inducements:
Active employment up to 60; retired employment to 65, with the rate for the job as well as full Army pension; better promotion; married quarters for G.P.s and specialists; more short service commissions; commissions for newly-qualified doctors in their pre-registration year; medical scholarships giving commissions with full pay and allowances, and full payment of tuition fees, to students during the final stages of their training; up to seven years' seniority towards rank and pay for doctors joining the Army from civil life.
All these represent a new deal for doctors and dentists, and I understand that, generally speaking, they apply to the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force as well. The British Medical Association, which has given our plans its fullest approval and support, has expressed itself anxious to help. I hope the medical schools and the universities will also co-operate in this important campaign, which is not only to preserve but also to improve the medical services in the years to come.
Housing the Army has been one of the hardest nuts that we have had to crack since the war. There is still a lot to be done before we can really say that we have achieved a decent standard of housing all round. None the less, to have reached the point where about three-quarters of all the married men serving overseas have their wives and families with them shows the measure of progress.
Abroad, I confess, I should like to have done better this last year. But while we have been considering the new strategy, involving as it does changes in deployment, planning has had to be held up. Wherever we could, we have been pressing ahead. As hon. Members will have seen in the Memorandum, a good deal of work is already in hand.
At last, we are really beginning to make an impression on the wholesale rebuilding of old out-of-date barracks. During this coming year, half a dozen major new barracks will be completed, as well as the first two infantry brigade depôts at Sutton Coldfield and Cwrt-y-Gollen, and I hope that we shall get the 608 fine new Guards barracks at Chelsea finished in the late summer.
This is the Army's first big building scheme in our capital for nearly a hundred years, and I believe that it will be an added attraction to our scene. We have a lot more ideas, including a spectacular concept in the planning stage to replace Knightsbridge barracks. I hope that we shall be able to bring it off before long.
Now a word on equipment. We shall be getting a lot of new fighting equipment during the next few years. The important thing is that the tempo of re-equipment is steadily increasing. In 1959–60 the production subheads of the Stores Vote came to £73 million gross. This year, I am asking for £91 million. This is not perhaps quite as quick an expansion as I should like, but practical limitations govern what can be done. We cannot just think up a complex modern weapon today and get it, let alone use it, tomorrow. Design, construction of prototypes and tough testing in the field take years, and on top of that we have got our full-scale production time. The long journey from the drawing board to the battlefield may take up to eight years, and anyone who thinks that it can be done much quicker had better have a look at the United States. The same thing happens there, as it does, of course, in Russia, and any other country, too. So it is no good my promising spectacular leaps forward—just steady progress.
Today, the Army is—and so it should be—better equipped than it was three or four years ago, and by the middle-1960s it will be better still. By then, almost every weapon which was in use in the middle-1950s will have been replaced by something far better. Flexibility and mobility are of first importance today. Mobile equipment plays a big part in all this. For example, the 105mm pack howitzer, which can be moved in and dropped from transport aircraft. Our mobile reserve forces will be fully equipped with this gun during the coming year. We shall have the Malkara anti-tank guided missile in service later in the year, and the Vigilant is on its way. Both of these are air-portable and with the aid of the Wombat our anti-tank defences will be very much more efficient.
609 With regard to the heavier equipment, the new armoured personnel carrier and the 105mm self-propelled field gun are on trial in the field and the reports I am getting are encouraging.
As hon. Members know, the Chieftain tank is also in the final stages of very rigorous trials. There have not unnaturally been some teething troubles. We still have to overcome some of these, but this tank is undoubtedly going to be a world beater and the effect of all this new equipment will be increased all-round speed and mobility for the Army.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us just how long the 25-pounder will remain in service in the Army?
§ Mr. Profumo
I cannot say how long the 25-pounder will remain in service. It is a very good weapon and it will have to stay in service for probably a considerable time. I was trying to say how this new generation will be coming along. There will be a day when we shall outstrip the 25-pounder. I know that the hon. Gentleman realises its present value.
The "fire brigade" concept is of prime importance these days in two of the Army's chief tasks—preventing war and operations of mercy. As the Memorandum demonstrates, the Army has not been found wanting in the many emergencies which have arisen in the past six years. To test our ability to move quickly and to operate in all kinds of conditions, we carried out last year an ambitious programme of exercises, including for the first time one in Canada. I am grateful to the Canadian Government for agreeing that a battalion group should train there again this summer. We have also tried to expand our programme of overseas training in other places. The scope is sometimes limited by political considerations and sometimes it is because our forces are wanted for operations of one kind or another. However, with the first-class co-operation we get from the Royal Air Force, we shall keep this sort of training going at the highest possible pitch.
While I am mentioning air transport, I should call the Committee's attention to the considerable increase in air trooping which is taking place, and which, incidentally, will lead to a saving in 610 money. Early last week I saw off from London Airport the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, who were the first battalion to move, with families, from the United Kingdom to an overseas station by air. This revolution in travel has reduced the proportion of the Army in the pipeline at any one time to a striking degree.
It was always supposed that troops could not be committed to operations in conditions of great heat or humidity unless they had been previously conditioned in the particular theatre concerned. Kuwait has shown us that troops can, when they are properly trained, be flown out direct from the United Kingdom and that even the oppressive temperature of the Persian Gulf can be offset. This is a factor of considerable importance in our new strategy.
Before air transport made movement to distant theatres a matter of hours rather than weeks, the Army needed to be spread out all over the globe. Today, air transport and strategic stockpiles make it possible—and sometimes more economical—for the Army to carry out its tasks without, as in the past, necessarily having to tie up permanently large static forces all over the globe. Indeed, the whole idea of permanent presence can sometimes be replaced by what I would call the "turnover presence". I am not suggesting that we should ever aim at a sit-at-home Army. This would be quite wrong. What I do mean is that we can now have greater flexibility of action and, even though some of our traditional overseas bases may not be available to us for ever we can still carry out our rôle.
There has probably never been a time in our history when Britain's international commitments have been more varied. This means that the Armed Services must be able to operate with the greatest flexibility and the closest co-operation. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has pointed to further developments in the field on inter-Service activities. As far as the Army is concerned, we are eager to develop this and to co-operate with our sister Services to the greatest possible extent. For effective co-operation, the first essential is to keep the Army correctly organised with the right deployment, that is to say, the right number of units in the right places with the correct 611 administrative backing for the particular job in hand. This is a continuing task, because organisation is a thing that can never stand still.
The new Defence White Paper makes it perfectly plain that the next five years will see further changes in our commitments and deployment. The very thought of this is, not unnaturally, causing some uneasiness in what are known as the military circles, so let me say quite plainly and clearly that there will be no further large-scale reorganisation of the Army like there was in 1957. It may be that when all the staff tables have been revised, in the course of the next few months, our manpower requirements will be a little different from the previous ones, but we know enough already for me to be able to say that the variation will not be large. Nor will there be a serious redundancy of officers and men as there was in 1957. Some adjustment of strength in certain ranks may well be needed, but when I have worked out the details, I will let the House know.
Our immediate task is to go flat out with our recruiting campaign—past the 165,000 signpost and upwards. We still have to work to prove that we can get all the men we need in peace time under conditions of full employment. At all events, we cannot afford to slacken our recruiting endeavours in the foreseeable future. As my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Defence, has said, the commitments which are set out in the Defence White Paper require further study before any final manpower ceilings can be determined. This, of course, also entails a review of the Brigade of Gurkhas. We shall now start discussions with the Government of Nepal, and all those concerned with the brigade, whose distinguished record of service to the British Crown is so outstanding and who we trust will continue to fulfil an important rôle in meeting our commitments. I am looking forward very much to the privilege of going to Lyneham airfield tomorrow to meet the advance party of the Gurkha contingent which is, as hon. Members know, arriving to join our Strategic Reserve.
When the Services are all striving to increase the flexibility of their organisations, it is sometimes said that the 612 Army's regimental system, and, in particular, the regimental system of the infantry, stands in the way of change. This has led me in the last year to have a good look at our infantry system. Hon. Members will recall that in 1957 infantry regiments of the line were grouped into brigades of infantry, each containing three or four regiments. Within these brigades senior officers, warrant officers and N.C.O.s are interpostable. Each brigade has one training depot for all its regiments, and the sense of identity is fostered by all ranks wearing a brigade, rather than a regimental, cap badge.
I have found that the move over from the regimental to the brigade system has, on the whole, been going very well, and I think that many of the critics of our infantry arrangements do not appreciate how far their criticism is aimed at a system which has already been largely transformed. On the other hand, if there are any more tangible benefits to be derived from a transition to what is sometimes called the large regiment system, we cannot afford to ignore them. I believe that the time has come to examine this problem in more detail and to consult fully all those concerned.
§ Mr. Profumo
That is exactly what I mean. The hon. Gentleman knows very well the system to which I am referring. What I am saying is that we must examine whether the time has come when we ought to move further towards large infantry regiments. If there are any tangible advantages in this from the point of view of recruiting and flexibility, then I think that we must study the matter very carefully.
All I am telling the Committee now is that I am proposing to start studying very carefully whether something of this sort should happen. I make no apology for saying that if we decide to go any further we must fully consult all those concerned. I say no more than that, but I thought it right to show the direction in which my mind is turning.
The new and smaller all-Regular Army demands a development of its counterpart—the shadow forces—the reserves—or as I like to call them, the "Citizen 613 Army". Although our Regular forces will continue to be constituted on lines which will enable them to meet our known commitments, we must have stand-by plans for boosting the Army in times of tension or limited war from resources which can be easily called upon from civilian life.
During the passage of the Army Reserve Bill through the House, I have indicated to hon. Members that the creation of the new Territorial Army Emergency Reserve is for this purpose. We shall start recruiting this as soon as we can after the Bill becomes law, and I am very grateful to all in the Territorial Army organisation for their energetic support. If this force achieves its object, it should be able to provide at any given moment not only extra fighting men, but also a number of skilled specialists to bring Army units up to their wartime strength. I have spoken, in particular, about the shortage of doctors. This is a good example. To help with our problems, we shall take as many doctors into the "Ever-readies" as we can get, including women doctors. In spite of the obvious difficulties, I hope that it may be possible in large practices that arrangements can be made for at least one doctor to join this important reserve.
We are no less short of nurses. The Territorial Army itself is open to the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, so I am arranging that there shall be an establishment for Q.A.R.A.N.C.s in the "Ever-readies". They will get a slightly smaller bounty than the men, but I believe that we may well get a considerable response from women who, for one reason, or another do not want to make nursing in the Army a career, but who are none the less prepared to volunteer to be called up for six months, if necessary, in return for a considerable financial reward. Anyway, let us see.
I have told the Committee that we are at present enaged in a review of the other elements of our present reserves, in order that we can be sure that they are all properly geared to modern requirements. This examination obviously had to hold fire until my right hon. Friend's assessment of the new strategy. Now, as soon as we can, we shall go ahead with this work.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Did I hear the right hon. Gentleman aright 614 when he said that he was bringing into the "Ever-readies" reserve nurses upon the basis of a smaller bounty? Does the Bill give him any power to do so?
§ Mr. Profumo
The Bill does not give me any power to pay bounties at all. It merely gives power to raise the number of people for this reserve. I do not have to have power to pay bounties. I merely have to have from the House of Commons the power to have a ceiling for the reserve.
As I told the House when we were discussing the Bill, within the ceiling I shall try to vary the type of people in the "Ever-readies" to suit the requirements of the Army. I was merely telling the Committee that I proposed to have an element of the Q.A.R.A.N.C.s in it to see how it goes. Their bounty will be slightly less. I did not want them to think that they would get the same. It will be only slightly less than the bounty for the men, but it will be less.
On this sort of occasion we rightly spend a great deal of our time talking about the rank and file of the Army—about pay, the conditions and the way of life of the ordinary soldier.
§ Mr. Profumo
I am merely telling the Committee that it does mean that, because there is a differential between men and women still. I would rather not go into the question of equal pay. However, this is in accordance with present standards. I mentioned it merely because I did not want the women to think that they would get the same as the men. They will get a jolly good whack. [Laughter.] Perhaps I had better say that they will get a fairly good bounty, but it will not be quite the same as that for the men.
Although we spend a great deal of our time on these occasions considering the rank and file of the Army—and rightly so—let us never lose sight of the fact that the efficiency of an Army depends on the way in which it is led, and this, in turn, depends on the quality and the inspiration of its officers and senior 615 N.C.O.s. I have so often noticed, as, I am sure, other Members will have, that units with the highest discipline frequently have the best morale and the most spirit. One always finds that these conditions are combined with good officers and first-class N.C.O.s.
We are now filling practically all our vacancies at Sandhurst and all of them at Welbeck. This means that a good deal more acceptable candidates are coming forward. As the Committee knows, most of the Welbeck boys go to the technical corps, and they are proving a most valuable asset. Although we have not been getting as many university graduates as I should like, I am glad to say that last year we got over twice as many as in 1960, and I think that we have a good chance of doing better still in 1962.
The recruitment of officers these days presents new and interesting problems. Family traditions are no longer as strong as they used to be. Gone are the days when families were so large that, automatically, one son went into the Army. If, therefore, we are to continue to attract the right sort of officer material we have to be able to give a guarantee to enterprising young men not only of a full life of service but also of professional expectations which are equivalent to those which they can get in other walks of life.
I am persuaded that the part which is played by staff training in the career of an officer requires adjustment and clarification. I do not believe that the present system is entirely in tune with modern requirements. Post-war social changes have caused a basic alteration in the make-up of the regimental officer. In the old days many officers used to join the Army for a period of agreeable occupation. The height of their ambition was to command their regiment.
There can be no finer goal for a professional soldier, and I believe that every good young officer still cherishes this ambition, but it is perfectly clear that nowadays a large number of them hope to continue beyond that point. They want to make the Army their life, and they aspire at least to the rank of colonel or brigadier. These days, that is not, after all, out of tune with modern trends. 616 As social standards increase, so, quite rightly, does ambition.
As things are now, every young officer today believes that the Staff College is an absolute "must" if he is to get anywhere and if he is to have any chance of reaching higher rank in the Army. The danger is that, unless we take some action, good young officers who, for one reason or another, cannot get to the Staff College may well turn in their jobs and seek fame and fortune elsewhere.
Training at the Staff College must, of course, continue to play a vital rôle in the officer career structure, but my colleagues and I have come to the conclusion that there is room for alterations. To begin with, I do not think that it is widely enough known that we recently decided that 25 per cent. of second grade staff appointments should be filled by non-staff trained officers. This in itself is a very considerable change of emphasis, but we would be prepared to go further if at any time circumstances should warrant it. We would be prepared to increase up to 30 per cent., if necessary, the proportion of second grade Staff appointments to be filled by officers who have not qualified at the Staff College.
Our aim is to ensure that as many officers as possible who qualify at the Staff College examination but who are not selected to attend a course are given opportunities to compete for first grade staff appointments after they have proved a success in third and second grade jobs. We are proposing that such officers should be awarded a new symbol. We are going to call it "s.q.", meaning "staff qualified". They will then have good chances of promotion to lieutenant-colonel on the staff as well as in command. After that, if they show continued prowess, they will be eligible for selection in competition for higher rank still. We are also going to tighten up the procedure for recommending officers for Staff College training.
There is one further aspect of this which, I think, needs alteration. As things are, an officer can have three shots at getting to the Staff College, and so all-important is it to him that he may well swot for examination after examination from the age of 26 for the next four years. This is a large chunk out 617 of his regimental career and diverts his time and attention for far too long a period from real soldiering at a most important stage of his career. I therefore propose to change this system to shorten the period of strain. Henceforth, every officer will have only two chances over a period of three years. I hope that hon. Members and officers throughout the Army will find these changes helpful and in line with the requirements of the day.
I have tried to give the Committee an account of the Army as it is and of our plans for the all-Regular Army. I have not said much about the operational side, because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence dealt with this only the other day. However, I know that there are those who ask: is the Army doing its job properly and can it meet its future commitments? Surely, its peacetime achievements can be regarded as a reasonable indication of an army's wartime capabilities. Let us, then, just have a glance for a minute or two at what the Army is doing today all over the world.
First, as we have for over a decade now, we are providing a strong contribution to the N.A.T.O. ground forces defending Western Europe. B.A.O.R. is the strongest fighting force which the British Army has ever deployed continuously in peacetime. Although it is often overlooked, the problem of reinforcing Germany is today no more difficult than that of moving troops from England to Scotland or vice versa. With arms and vehicles ready for them on the Continent there is no question even of a sea passage for our reinforcements. They can fly over in a matter of hours.
This is not just a paper plan, either. As my right hon. Friend announced during the defence debate, we are to put this to the test in September. It will be linked with N.A.T.O.'s autumn exercise. The first phase will be a desk scheme and will not involve us in the movement of any troops at all, but during the weekend of 15th September to 16th September nearly all units of the Territorial Army will test out the first 48 hours of their mobilisation processes. This, of course, will not involve any special call-up. The troops concerned will all be volunteers and will merely be 618 using a normal weekend's training period for this novel and interesting task.
During the same period T.A. and the Army Emergency Reserve units, in all about 2,000 men of those who are destined to move to B.A.O.R. at such a juncture as this, will actually concentrate and fly over to B.A.O.R. We have arranged that this should take place for those units concerned which will anyway be doing their annual fortnight's camp at that period. When they get to Germany and have completed this exercise then they will do their normal annual camp there this year instead of in one of the more normal, conventional places in this country. This is in line with what I remember well a number of hon. Members asked about when they asked what would happen this year.
The rest of the exercise will be concerned with the Civil Defence aspect in this country, and during the ensuing weekends some reserve Signal units may be brought into play.
I hope that this realistic and imaginative scheme will demonstrate our ability to react with our allies in N.A.T.O. in accordance with our Treaty obligations.
Outside Europe, the Army is prepared to intervene to keep the peace in all parts of the world where our interests or those of our allies are directly involved, and we have proved our ability in Kuwait. It has been a most heartening thing to the Army as a whole that the strategic military concept on which we have been working for the last five years has been shown to work in practice. From the staff point of view, internal security operations in far-flung territories pose problems just as difficult as operations involving more serious fighting. The Army has had to undertake tasks of this sort in trouble spots as widely separated as British Guiana, the Cameroons and Zanzibar.
What does not happen is not, of course, news, but in so far as the Army is contributing to the maintenance of peace by its presence in territories in four different continents it is rendering just that service which the country expects of it. And so it has been in carrying out its mercy operations in British Honduras, Kenya and Hamburg. These are extremely exacting tasks, and I think the Army deserves high praise for what it has done in all these spheres.
619 As the effects of our new strategy begin to release more troops from fixed commitments overseas, and as our Regular Army builds up, so our commitments will become easier to meet. Success or failure in all this depends on being able to continue to attract a stream of high quality men and women, both officers and other ranks.
What is likely to be the magnet for drawing the young of tomorrow into the Army? Pay and conditions—yes, these play their part; but they are not the be all and end all, and we should delude ourselves if we thought they were. I am convinced that the one thing which, above all others, attracts men into the Army and, when they are there, persuades them to extend their service and to encourage others to join, is the knowledge that there is for them a worthwhile job in a well-run and well-led organisation. I venture to think also, from what I have seen in the course of visits to units during the last year, that, although there is still a great deal to be done, a sense of progress and well-being is growing.
I certainly do not minimise the very high cost of a modern all-Regular Army, but I can assure the Committee that I am satisfied that the money it is being asked to vote for Army purposes today represents, in the year in which we revert to an all-Regular Army, a better investment for the nation than it has done for many years past.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War chose as the theme of his speech this year an all-Regular Army. I will try to follow that theme too and, as far as I can, look at what that Army is committed to do.
The first paragraph of the Memorandum on Army Estimates says:… the British Army has three major rôles: to assist the defence of this country and the Commonwealth, to fulfil our treaty obligations, and to maintain internal security in those of our territories which remain dependent on us.Which are these treaty obligations? One has only to look at our first and most important treaty, which is the North Atlantic Treaty, to see that we are not performing our obligations. We are not even performing our reduced obligations. 620 We are several thousand below that, and to ask for a reduction has been a pretty humiliating thing for us to have to do. After all, as they knew that they would not get the contribution from us, our allies were not in a good position to refuse our application. To ask for a reduction of what we undertook for this century in the Brussels Treaty, and to ask for it at the very time when our partners were increasing their performance and were not only up to but above their Brussels commitments, has been, as I have said, a pretty humiliating thing.
I therefore find the following sentence in paragraph 3 of the Memorandum a little curious:The build-up of the Regular Army is going well"—It certainly is. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman's recruiting has exceeded his own expectations. It has certainly greatly exceeded the expectations of his critics. The paragraph continues:and we believe we can fulfil our normal peacetime commitments without further recourse to National Service. Meanwhile, tension in Europe has coincided with the period of transition to an all-regular force just when the Army is approaching its lowest strength.I find that phrase somewhat odd. As to the rest of the world, it would be hard to imagine that the planners of 1957 foresaw anything better than the present situation.
I observed the other day that for the first time since the war we had nobody anywhere on active service. Apparently that was taken as a great tribute by the Government, but we should remember where we had men on active service—in Suez—and how they had to stop being on active service. We should remember that they were on active service in Cyprus, from where we said that we would "never" go and, saying that we would "ne're consent, consented", and they ceased to be on active service.
One could go on with the list. It is something which it is odd to find the Conservative Party swanking about. Nevertheless, the result is that the Government could hardly have a more favourable situation than they have now. In spite of that favourable situation they have made a call-up, and it is a very temporary call-up because they run out of the possibilities of it by 1966. They have made it on the ground that 621 there is an exceptional strain in Europe. Does that mean that they will default even further from their N.A.T.O. commitments and that they have plans to do so? It is difficult to explain this in any other terms, but I most profoundly hope that it is not true.
It seems to me that we live in Europe. We have part-time commitments round the world, but these are temporary things in areas which are no longer ours. India will have to look after her continent and her commitments. We provide her with help, as we provide the other new nations of Asia and Africa, but our continent, where we live and where this really matters, is Europe. This is our first priority. Do we want to hand over the control and protection of that area to a German Army? If we fall down on our commitments and provide instead of four divisions merely seven brigade groups, or scarcely more than half, the northern area command has passed to the Germans. The effective Army of Europe has become progressively a German Army. That, from a political point of view alone, is something which we should not now accept.
The other great factor is that unless we provide—and, of course, we cannot do the whole thing—the leadership, which at least brings us to our treaty obligations, we are terrifyingly committed to an atomic defence which in terms, and even if it were confined, would involve the destruction of Germany. Where we find ourselves committed to a form of defence which would destroy the land of the only people who are providing a really effective army, the real horror of the situation becomes appallingly alarming—with the pressure on and the temptation for the Germans, faced with that kind of destruction, to yield. I cannot emphasise too highly the real obligation we have to build up that commitment and the total priority which that commitment should have over all others.
A pamphlet is about to be published of which I received an advance copy today. It is called A challenge to Leadership. It was prepared for the Army League by a Committee, under the chairmanship of General Gale, which included a number of hon. Members and other distinguished and experienced 622 people. The way the Committee puts this point is this:The calls on the Array have proved less than might have been anticipated in 1957. But in spite of this fact and also that at the moment we are not being required to provide men for active service anywhere in the world, whilst the British Army of the Rhine has fallen to little more than half the force which we were, and are, obliged to maintain under the Brussels Treaty; the fact remains that some 200,000 to 220,000 men are required to fulfil the commitments at present allocated to the Army. This gap may be met in a variety of ways: it may be simply papered over by providing grossly under-strength units with all the demoralising consequences that result"—that is what is being done at present—it may be met by re-allocating commitments to the other Services; it may be met by the re-introduction of conscription; or it may be met by finding new sources of recruits either in the Commonwealth or in Europe. If we are to have a volunteer Army, and this is the wish of all parties in the State, it may be necessary to resort to the latter two methods.That is a paragraph with which I wholly agree. I should therefore like to consider how, perhaps, we may reallocate our commitments.
As I have said, I would put the N.A.T.O. priority without question first, and I would put it certainly not at 51,000–52,000, nor at 55,000, men, but at something nearer 80,000. How would one reallocate? At the moment, spread around the world in the various outposts we have 40,000 men. The first place I would look at is Hong Kong. We had words about this at Question Time. We have there three regiments of artillery, amongst other things. When one of my hon. Friends asked the Minister what these were wanted for in view of the statement by the Minister of Defence that our garrison at Hong Kong was for internal security, the right hon. Gentleman replied. "We want a credible deterrent, or we shall have a Chinese take-over bid." Three artillery regiments as a credible deterrent—
§ Mr. Profumo
The hon. and learned Member is not being quite fair. I did not say that three artillery regiments were a credible deterrent. I explained the sum total of our forces there plus the reserves which we regard as necessary as a credible deterrent to avoid a possible take-over bid.
§ Mr. Paget
Three regiments of artillery, a squadron of tanks and four 623 battalions of infantry—a credible deterrent to the Chinese armies. The right hon. Gentleman must have a folie de grandeur and think that he is Courtaulds.
Let us get this straight. We cannot defend Hong Kong—of course we cannot. It does not need a Chinese takeover bid. It needs the Chinese turning off the taps—they control the water—or even turning off the trade. What is the point of our being there if they do that? We are in Hong Kong because it pays China for us to be there. It pays us to be there only so long as it pays China. It is a matter of mutual convenience. The idea of preparing a military defence is, frankly, absurd.
We do, however, have to provide for internal security. Even though it may be against Chinese interests to turn us out, although she might not wish to turn us out, if there were riots in Hong Kong which we could not control or if, above all, the Kuomintang element in Hong Kong rioted and seized control, a situation would be created which, by reason of face, which is important to that part of the world, might make the Chinese come in although they did not really want to. One is, therefore, faced with a problem of internal security and nothing else.
I have ventured to say that that is a job which can be looked after by sailors. I understand that that has brought formidable criticism from my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
§ Mr. Wigg
If, on the other hand, my hon. and learned Friend pours scorn on 624 three regiments of artillery, it is a fact that Lord Alexander, as Minister of Defence, explained the position over and over again and it was accepted by the Labour Party. My hon. and learned Friend needs also to remember that the only specific commitment which this country has that can be fairly laid at the door of the Labour Government is Hong Kong, because we went back there when we need not have done so.
§ Mr. Paget
It may also be recollected that we had more than twice the size of Army that we have now, so that these things were a good deal easier then. I have had great respect for my hon. Friend's opinion ever since he told me that Tudor Minstrel could not win the Derby. Since then, I have had great respect for any views which my hon. Friend has expressed.
§ Mr. Paget
I was only indicating, Sir William, that I have had the deepest respect for my hon. Friend's opinion on all subjects from then onwards.
On the other hand, I cannot entirely fall in with what, I believe, is my hon. Friend's view about my Service, concerning its capacity to deal with shore disturbances. My hon. Friend has, I think, a sort of feeling that we are a wild, drunken crowd who riot when on shore and have to employ a corps of marines to keep us locked up on board ship. That is no longer, however it might be historically, the truth.
Having done some of it with them, I believe that sailors are particularly good at dealing with civil disturbance and that if we put some sailors—we have plenty of them—in naval barracks and kept some of our ships in Hong Kong harbour we could certainly at any critical time, such as at times of feast when things are apt to get awkward, have a quite sufficient naval backing to the police.
625 I have heard it said that in order to support the civil power it is necessary to have tanks. I am not prepared to laugh about that, because it may well be that in Hong Kong, where psychology plays an important part, tanks would have the same sort of psychological effect as mounted police have in London. But for that sort of work we do not need the latest type of tank, or the full training necessary for an armoured unit. If a tank has to roll up the street for this purpose, I am quite certain that sailors, who are pretty adaptable people, could handle it—[Laughter.]—certainly. They could handle it quite easily if that sort of job had to be done. As the Army League pamphlet so accurately says, if we are to fulfil our commitments in Europe, we have to reallocate our commitments, and here is a commitment which the Navy could undertake perfectly well.
Next we come to Singapore, which is really a garrison masquerading as a base. As Singapore becomes part of Greater Malaysia, it will not be available in connection with S.E.A.T.O. commitments. However, it does not require that to happen because Singapore is entirely dependent on a local labour force; and in that force I am told that at the lowest estimate there are 5,000 dedicated Chinese Communists and that it is quite impossible to identify which is which. I do not know how we can work, how we can perform treaty obligations directed primarily against the Chinese, with that sort of set-up. In any event, I do not believe that we shall be there for very much longer. Malaya has been developing her own army, and we shall not have to be there for internal security reasons. In relation to these new emergent countries, the sooner that sort of thing happens the better.
There are other areas where our forces are spread around, for example, Aden. That is one base which has been expanded to cover the Gulf and to cover our oil supplies. From a strategic point of view, I find it a little difficult to follow the argument about oil. If we are to have a nuclear war, the statement that our capacity to use oil will be somewhat reduced might be regarded as the understatement of the century. On the other hand, if we are simply to continue a cold war, all experience would seem to 626 show that the need of the Middle East to sell oil to us greatly exceeds our need to buy it. There are any amount of sources available and nearly all the oilfields of the world are over-producing. So, from our point of view, I think it highly important that as these new nations emerge we should go; but not too quickly. We must give them time—protection till they can look after them selves and so we have to have something in Aden.
Is there any reason why Gurkha units should not serve at Aden? They should be a great deal better there than at Singapore or Hong Kong, because their homeland, like Tibet, borders on China; and if there are difficulties with China, involving Singapore and Hong Kong, the Gurkhas might find themselves in a very awkard situation. If it is at all practicable, I would have thought it desirable to use the Gurkhas in areas where they were not likely to come up against the Chinese. There may be objections to that, I do not know. But I should consider that Aden is an area where Gurkhas might be extremely useful.
Coming back to the Mediterranean, we have to consider Libya, where we maintain some forces, largely, I suppose, to assist the régime of King Idris. I do not criticise that as a thing to do. If we are to have mobile forces, that is a very convenient exercise ground for them. Here again is a commitment which Marine could undertake just as well. I cannot see why the Navy and the Air Force—of course, it could not be done all at once—should not take over the responsibility for our base areas. That, in turn, would be only temporary, until the new emergent nations took charge of their own areas.
That alone would enable us to fulfil our treaty obligations in the N.A.T.O. area, which seems to me vastly the most important. But if this means—apart from attachments which I hope will be frequent with the developing armies of the new nations—that the Army does its soldiering either in Germany or at home, a great deal more will have to be done to make Germany an attractive place in which to soldier. We shall have to do a great deal more to develop sport and other facilities there.
The next major point with which I wish to deal concerns equipment. This 627 document has been described as the "Spy in the Sky" Estimate. When we get year after year a list of the same weapons one wonders how many of these statements there will be. There is the Malkara, the Wombat and the Vigilant. Year after year they are said to be coming but they never seem to arrive. If a description is required I should think that "Pie in the Sky" would have been more appropriate, so far as equipment is concerned.
Perhaps the most remarkable piece of equipment for which we are still waiting is the infra-red equipment. The German Army was equipped with this in the last war. German lorries had infrared lights and screens. All the German divisions were equipped with sniping rifles with infra-red sights. All this existed in the Germany Army in the last war, and now at last it is being produced here as a novelty.
Now we come to signals. There was the old 19 set which was used in wartime and cost £100. It had a range of 10 miles. Now we have a replacement, the C.13, which costs £750. It is bigger and rather heavier and has a slightly longer range. There is a different waveband. The remarkable thing is that although these sets are still being delivered at this high cost none is transistorised, or none has a transistor, if hon. Members prefer it that way. Transistors have come and they are in all civilian equipment. They are lighter, cheaper, cheaper in use of electricity, and far more efficient. It takes the Army about ten times as long to develop a transistor set as it takes a civilian force such as the police to develop one. The police have it, but not the Army.
One may say that on a vehicle which makes its own electricity this is not so important, but it is all-important on the man-borne set, the "walkie-talkie". The Army has not even got it there. I am told by the manufacturers that transistorised sets can be produced for about half what is paid for the old sets. They will be more efficient and certainly not more than a third of the weight. Perhaps we shall hear more about this in the Government reply. We have probably to wait for another two years at least before men who carry these instruments on their backs will be equipped with transistorised sets. We must try 628 to get some method in our electronic age which will ensure that equipment for the Army is not obsolete before it is used. These C.13s, non-transistorised, communications are being delivered now at very high cost. They are obsolete, but delivery is still going on. I take that simply as an example.
So much for equipment. My final point essentially concerns the circumstances of a volunteer Army in the circumstances of full employment in which men have a choice of a job. The first revolutionary novelty which has got to be introduced in dealing with a volunteer Army in those circumstances is honesty. Never has our Army been treated with honesty. At present our pensioners are being paid in bad money—in depreciated currency. It is no excuse to say that that can happen to anyone. The employer, the Government, whose currency it is, when taking the service of men like these ought to stand by their currency and put it up. This was noted very much in the Grigg Report. That Report said, with complete truth, that the best commissioned and non-commissioned ranks come from military families. When they are defrauded—and it is defrauding to pay a pension with bad money—the father and the uncle, for all the recruiting on television—in the places where the best recruits come from, you are making anti-recruiting officers. That is enormously important, and I emphasise it. It is even worse in the case of the widowed mother or aunt in such families.
I have a whole list of letters from widows of distinguished officers who are now drawing National Assistance. Even more tragic, perhaps, is the case of those who are not drawing National Assistance. There is a lady aged 80, the widow of a major, whose total income is £127 a year. She writes:I have no other income. I am living alone and have to support myself.Another widow of a major is aged 75. She writes:I avoided applying for National Assistance by working hard, but my health has broken down. I was laid up for a year and am still crippled and infirm. I must now swallow my pride and apply for National Assistance.Another, aged 66, the widow of a lieutenant-colonel, has a total income from all sources of £162. She wrote:With my husband's rank and good service I would rather starve than go on National 629 Assistance. I have severe arthritis in both legs and am also a diabetic. I must go for treatment every six months. I am only a ranker's widow and have no means.What do we do for these people to whom we have honourable commitments?
Even from the point of view of getting recruits this is crazy, but, with this record behind the Government, in all conscience, is it not more than important that they should be honest now? Yet at this very time when the Government are so pleased with their recruiting record and achievement they are bilking on the terms on which they recruited these men. They are, in fact, picking the pockets of the Forces to the tune of about £9 million. To my mind, morals apart, that is a crazy thing to do. If we are to have a volunteer Army the atmosphere of honesty must be created around it. That was the leading factor in the Grigg Report. It said that what was killing recruiting was depreciation of the currency. Unless both as to pension and as to pay we guard against that we shall not get the men. The Government accepted that Report. This is a passage from the Report and its recommendation. In paragraph 251 it said:At present, the pay of both officers and other ranks bears a reasonable relationship to that outside; it does not constitute a deterrent to recruitment… It is, however, essential that inflation should not be allowed to eat away the real value of Service emoluments, and we therefore recommend:—(i) that there should be an automatic biennial review of pay which should take into account movements in civilian earnings over a range of occupations to be determined by agreement between the Treasury and the Service Departments. The first review should be carried out …".In Cmnd. Paper 570 it is stated:The Government agree that Service pay and pension should be reviewed regularly at intervals of not more than two years.There has been a review and a recommendation made on an agreed basis of between 7 per cent. and 8 per cent., with 5 per cent. for officers. Half of that is being bilked for one year. It is no use saying that all that was agreed was to review and that the Government did not agree to pay. That will not do. I know many commercial contracts which have the condition that the prices shall be reviewed at stated dates in accordance with the wage levels and various things. What does the Minister think a judge 630 would say to the argument, "Certainly we agreed to review, but we did not agree to pay the new prices." One would be laughed out of court. No one who is not a judge in his own cause could put forward such a contention.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman to return to the Cabinet and say "This will not do". After all, the Minister of Defence said that he was the trade union representative of the Forces. I do not know if he was brought up in the Electrical Trades Union, but in non-Communist unions he would know that trade unionists are required to consult their members. Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted his members? The right hon. Gentleman used the words "The Forces would not wish"—but has he asked them? Has he asked the privates if they wish to contribute £20 if they are married or £13 if they are unmarried? What about the sergeant-major? Does he wish to contribute £50?—this in a year when Surtax has been cut. Really!
The point is that it is not the Government's money. It belongs to the Forces. The Government made this bargain and, as the Minister of Defence said, the troops are in a special position. They are different even from the civil servants, for they are not in a position to throw up their contracts. I do not suppose we can take it that the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to offer anyone who does not like the new terms of pay—for which he did not bargain—a free discharge. These men entered the Army on certain terms, but those terms are being dishonoured unilaterally.
The Government cannot run a volunteer Army in a fully employed society if they behave dishonestly with those they engage. I urge the right hon. Gentleman with all my power—and I believe that he should take it even to the point of resignation if necessary—to tell the Cabinet how on television and elsewhere throughout the country he has been drumming up recruits very successfully—and I take my hat off to him for the way he has been doing this—offering them terms and using every means available to get recruits. Let him ask the Cabinet if, after doing that, he is to bilk on his offer. I do not think the Cabinet would accept his resignation, but he should nevertheless offer it. I 631 beg him to do that service for the Army, because if this principle of a volunteer Army is to be maintained the men must be treated honestly. The terms on which they enlist must be honoured.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said that in the past he had been one of the severest critics of his own party's defence policy. I can confirm that, for I have listened to many constructive and interesting speeches he has made.
It is a pity that he does not turn his very considerable talents towards helping his party evolve a defence policy which makes a little more sense than the one he has just enunciated. The hon. and learned Gentleman made great play with the word "honesty". I am sure that he meant what he said, but, really, if he looks at the arithmetic of his speech he will realise that he should not talk too much about arithmetical honesty. He spoke of 80,000 men in Europe, and no one would be more pleased than I to see 80,000 British troops in Europe, but I shall come to that later. Where I cannot follow the logic of his argument is when he turned, having said nothing about how he intended to get those 80,000 troops, to our overseas commitments.
I was interested yesterday to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) crying out in alarm at the idea of our cutting down in Hong Kong. Of course, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will recall that it was a Labour Government that had two brigades in Hong Kong and gave a firm undertaking to hold on to Hong Kong. I think that was said in 1949. But now the hon. and learned Member for Northampton talks airily of reducing our commitments and garrisons all over the world and replacing them by sailors in tanks. When he was asked how he would do that he merely replied, "They will have to if they are told to." If he expects to put sailors—who have been hired to go in ships—into tanks, he will find that he has exactly the same difficulty getting volunteers for the Navy as my right hon. 632 Friend has getting volunteers for the Army.
§ Sir F. Maclean
That may be true, but the hon. and learned Gentleman is going back rather a long way. If a man has gone into the Navy because he likes ships or into the R.A.F. because he likes aeroplanes, I do not know what he will say if he suddenly finds himself operating tanks in peacetime.
But what about the phrase: "They will have to if they are told to"? We must remember that we are talking about volunteers. The hon. and learned Member rightly said that the issue in Hong Kong, in Singapore—where he talked about 5,000 dedicated Communists—was largely psychological, and I agree with him. If what he has in mind is the wholesale withdrawal from our overseas garrisons, he will find that the psychology will work the other way and that absence will have the opposite effect to presence, namely, to encourage our enemies and discourage our friends. I do not think that whether he has sailors in tanks or in ships their hovering off the shores of these places will produce the desired effect.
Since the hon. and learned Gentleman spoke so much about honesty he could have gone into greater detail about exactly what he meant. What about all our overseas commitments? Does he propose that we should leave the Senussi and our other friends all over the world to look after themselves? If so, he should say so. Further, will he get his 80,000 men in Europe, and other men for our overseas commitments, without conscription? In fact, I do not think the word "conscription" came into his speech. He did not give any suggestion for getting that number of troops, and we know that the policy of his party—of which he has been such a strong critic in the past, but of which he is now such a strong upholder—is to abolish conscription, just as it is the policy of the Government.
§ Mr. Paget
What I have said for a long time, and not only this year but last year, is that Germany should be the Army's commitment and that we could 633 provide 80,000 troops in Europe out of an Army of 165,000. But as to the world bases, there are over 200,000 personnel in the R.A.F. and in the Royal Navy. I believe that the R.A.F. and Royal Navy can in a quite short time take over these commitments without conscription.
§ Sir F. Maclean
If the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests that the way to get round the difficulty of a shortage of manpower in the Army is to use personnel in the Navy and R.A.F. for military purposes in the narrow sense of the word, he will find that that is not the answer and that it will not work. Naturally, in an emergency sailors and the R.A.F. Regiment could be used if no one else is available, but to use them regularly for purposes for which the Army is intended does not make sense.
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War say that recruiting was going so well and that he would reach and possibly surpass his target. I have always hoped that recruiting would go well, and I always thought—I have said so all along—that there was a very good chance that my right hon. Friend would reach his target. What I quarrel with is his target I was interested to hear him say that recruiting had increased by 80 per cent. recently.
§ Mr. Profumo
I said 80 per cent., but I meant 50 per cent. I am glad that my hon. Friend has given me an opportunity to make that correction. The increase over last year is 50 per cent., not 80 per cent.
§ Sir F. Maclean
When my right hon. Friend announced that the theme of his Estimates speech was to be the new all-volunteer Army which will finally come about, with the help of the Army Reserve Bill, by the end of this year, I thought that it might be useful to review the Government's first five-year plan. When I was younger, it was Generalissimo Stalin who used to have five-year 634 plans, but now we seem to have caught the practice from him. We now find ourselves on the threshold of the second five-year plan.
I have seen the Defence White Paper described somewhere as an obituary notice of the 1957 policy. I do not think that that is the right description. I wish that it were. If it were the right description, it would have enabled me to vote for the White Paper last night, but, as it was, I was not able to do so.
With a stubbornness worthy of his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence says in the White Paper that the 1957 policy was "soundly based". Let us see what is left of it. After five years, let us see what is left of the plan which the Prime Minister announced in 1957 asthe most imaginative and constructive statement of military policy made by any great nation since the war.He called it "sound", "novel" and "dramatic". I am afraid its effects will be all too dramatic in the long run.
What are its features? They are an independent British nuclear deterrent, the abolition of National Service, and, finally, cheap mobile streamlined all-Regular nuclear forces.
That brings me to the Secretary of State's opening remarks about the all-Regular volunteer forces. It is interesting to recall that in April, 1957, the Prime Minister said:… we have no hope of doing without National Service unless we will accept the nuclear armament as the basis of our defence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th April, 1957; Vol. 568, c. 2050.]How does that look today? It would not be in order for me to say much about the independent British nuclear deterrent. I have not specialised knowledge nor special information about it, but it seems to me to be barely credible. I say no more and no less than that. I also feel that it will soon be beyond us financially to keep it credible. The Americans are spending on research and development alone a sum 40 per cent. greater than the whole of our defence budget. I do not see how we can hope to keep up with powers which can afford to do that.
As my right hon. Friend said, the prospects of abolishing National Service 635 seems to be a bit better. In fact, he is at last able to announce it. That is not all. He is able to announce that his target of 165,000 men, which was so unfortunately fixed in 1957, is likely to be reached. One would expect this to be an occasion for rejoicing and self-congratulation on the part of the Government. One would almost expect to hear one of those happy little Americanisms which the Prime Minister goes in for.
Instead of that, what do we get? We get panic and the Army Reserve Bill. And the reason, of course, is that the target has been wrong all along and that the Army today—this is well known—is well below the minimum strength required to meet even our present commitments, which are certainly no greater than they were in 1957.
The Secretary of State will, no doubt, tell us that whatever number turns up is exactly the number he has been wanting all along. I suspect that he might have told us that even if he had not been so lucky or so clever and had not reached the figure of 165,000. By the way, what has happened to the figure of 180,000, which seems to have been very conveniently forgotten? We now hear talk of a figure of 170,000 to 175,000.
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend reads Punch. If so, he will find a very entertaining article in the current number on the speech which the Minister of Defence or the Secretary of State for War will make in 1972 when the British Army has run down to a strength of 650 men. According to the article, he will explain that that is exactly the right strength and will say how mobile the Army is and how very well suited it is to its duties, especially with 75 German divisions to look after our commitments for us. I do not wish to be rude either to Punch, which is an excellent and wholesome magazine, or to my right hon. Friend, but to become a Punch joke one has to have been very funny for a very long time.
One of my favourite short stories is called "The Bottle Imp", by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is a story about various characters who had a magic bottle which gave them great power as long as it remained in their possession. But they had to get rid of it before it 636 was too late, otherwise they were eternally damned. The difficulty was to find someone simple-minded enough to pass it on to. The danger became greater as the price of the bottle became lower. The hero eventually got rid of it by selling it for the smallest possible coin to a drunken old sailor, who went reeling off down the road to eternal damnation. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton made great play with being a sailor. I hope that he does not find himself landed with this magic bottle. Meanwhile, I would warn my right hon. Friend to consider getting rid of it or doing something about it before he himself is landed with something very nasty indeed on his hands.
Now, how about the third item on the 1957 programme—the "cheap, streamlined, all-Regular nuclear forces"? Are they really cheap? One of the great ideas in 1957 was to save money, and a very sensible idea, too. I do not think that anyone will for a moment suggest that that has been achieved. Nor is it likely to be achieved, because everything to do with this new streamlined Army is extremely expensive. Volunteers are extremely expensive, as my right hon. Friend has just been finding out. The equipment, and especially nuclear equipment, is extremely expensive, and, finally, mobility, which is always held up as the answer to everything, costs the most money of all. The cost of a commando carrier is enormous. It is a floating base, the most expensive sort of base of all, and to keep 1,000 men on board a £40 million ship is real luxury for everybody concerned except possibly the men.
As to the forces being streamlined in the Army which we are to have at the end of the year, I am reminded of what the Prime Minister said in October:Whatever the size of the Army next year, it will not—and I admit it—be properly balanced,He went on to say of B.A.O.R. that it—is not up to strength and cannot be wholly in balance without mobilisation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th October, 1961; Vol. 646, c. 315.]Of course, it is common knowledge, and it has been said again and again in our debates this week, that units everywhere are under strength, over-stretched and out-of-balance. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw), who scarcely ever ventures to criticise any 637 aspect of the Government's defence policy, said that he was disquieted by this.
Now, the Government have had to have recourse to the Army Reserve Bill in order to fill the gap. That does not make an all-Regular Army, because what we are to have in a great many of the key jobs are men who not only are not Regulars, but who, unless things work out, will be practically untrained, and who will see their units only when an emergency arises, and, if then, only if there is time to get to them. Such, therefore, is the outcome of what we were told was to be—"the most imaginative and constructive statement of military policy … since the war … sound, novel and dramatic".
There is one final qualification—the word "nuclear". It is true that B.A.O.R. is equipped to fight, not a conventional war, but a nuclear war. The nuclear warheads are, I understand, held by the Americans, but our troops are equipped with tactical nuclear weapons. There I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth), Who said he thought that tactical nuclear weapons were "dangerous". He said that they could land one in a situation which one did not want to get into. He agreed there with the chief scientific adviser to the Minister of Defence, Sir Solly Zuckerman, who made it perfectly clear that the transition from tactical nuclear weapons to all-out hot war would be so fast that it is hardly worthy of the name of escalation.
This, then, is the nuclear armament which the Prime Minister said was to be the basis of our defences—the obsolescent independent British nuclear deterrent and these American-owned tactical nuclear weapons in B.A.O.R. Without a nuclear basis, we were told, there could be no hope of doing without National Service. But in spite of the inadequacy and the danger of our nuclear weapons, and our manifest over-dependence on them, we are somehow managing to do without National Service.
I do not think that anybody can dispute the failure of the first five-year plan. What about the second five-year plan? It looks to me very much like the first. The Government have, like the Bourbons, forgotten nothing and 638 learned nothing. It seems to me that the policy set out in the White Paper and set out again by my right hon. Friend in his Memorandum to these Estimates, does not face any of the basic problems, any more than does the defence policy of the official Opposition. I do not think that faces any of the basic problems, either.
In the first place, the Government do not seem to me to face the basic problem that we have either got to reintroduce conscription in a more effective form than the Army Reserve Bill or cut our commitments and reorganise the Army. My right hon. Friend has made it quite clear that he is not going to reorganise the Army, although he had something to say about the system of large regiments. It may be that that will cover a certain amount of reorganisation and disbandment of regiments.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. W. R. Williams)
Order. I have given the hon. Gentleman latitude, but I think he is exceeding it now. We are dealing with the Army as it is and with the organisation of it now, as I see it.
§ Sir F. Maclean
On that point of order, my right hon. Friend discussed at length in his speech the whole question of reorganisation—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I ought to make myself clear. I was dealing with the conscription aspect of the hon. Gentleman's speech. In so far as larger regiments are concerned, to which I understand the Minister referred, obviously the hon. Gentleman is entitled to speak about them.
§ My Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
On a point of order. I ask for guidance, Mr. Williams. It is true that we are dealing with the Army Estimates, but we are dealing with them as part of a general defence plan. I take it that we would not be out of order to say, for instance, that the Army Estimates ought to be reduced because the whole plan is of no value?
§ The Temporary Chairman
There is the possibility of an Amendment being moved for a reduction of Vote A and, so far as I know, that will be in order. 639 There is no need for me to say any more in reply to that point of order.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I was commenting on the theme which my right hon. Friend enunciated of volunteer all-Regular Forces which would come into being at the end of this year. I should have thought, Mr. Williams, that, if he discussed conscription in that context, it should be open to the rest of us to do so. It certainly was in past years.
To return for a moment to the subject of reorganisation, it seems to me that the Government are not even facing the basic choice between reintroducing conscription or cutting commitments. Here and there, my right hon. Friend either an-announces, or foreshadows, reductions in our garrisons. I am sorry, for instance, to see that he foreshadows a reduction in our N.A.T.O. contribution. It apears also that a saving will be made in odd garrisons overseas, perhaps a battalion from Hong Kong, perhaps a couple of battalions from Cyprus. But that sort of thing does not face the issue before us any better than the hon. and learned Member for Northampton faced the choice that either there must be conscription or we must cut commitments. What is happening at present seems likely to continue in the future. The Army will stagger along under strength, overstretched and out of balance, as The Times leader put it, "an Army of weak units ".
Still less, it seems to me, do the Government face the question of our proper rôle, the proper rôle of the British Forces altogether and of the British Army in particular, in Western defence. At present, our strategy, our foreign policy and our Commonwealth policy are all dictated by three things: first, by the number of volunteers obtainable by voluntary recruiting; second, by an arbitrary proportion of 7 per cent. of the gross national product; third, by a hazy idea that it somehow gives us more say to have that status symbol, an independent nuclear deterrent. As a result, we are not playing our proper rôle in the Western Alliance, quite apart from whether we are able to fulfil our commitments or protect our own interests.
It is common knowledge that this is causing grave dismay to our allies on 640 both sides of the Atlantic. Moreover, by our example we are discouraging other allied countries from playing their part. They are all, with the exception of Canada, which is in a position quite different from ours, prepared to have conscription and to make the necessary effort and sacrifice, and they cannot understand why, if they can do it, we should not do it too. Others have had the same idea as the Prime Minister, the idea of a policy with a nuclear basis—"A bigger bang for a buck"—but by now they have grown out of that. They have seen the weakness of it and the need to have, in addition to an effective Western nuclear deterrent, more conventional forces, what might be called a conventional deterrent. I believe that that is what we can help to provide better than anything else.
The President of the United States said the other day that to keep the peace one needed not only arms but men. Hon. Members will have read in the newspapers of a certain Major Lawson, a British officer, who with no arms at all did more to produce pacification in the Congo in a very precarious situation than any number of the block-buster bombs which at one time it was proposed to drop on President Tshombe. There is no better pacifier than the British soldier. His qualities for pacification are every bit as good as his fighting qualities, and that is saying a great deal. When hon. Members who hold this view say that more men are needed, they mean that they are not necessarily needed for what are nowadays called imperialist aims but mainly to keep the peace and to help our friends, not to hang on in places where we are not wanted.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has revolutionised our Commonwealth and colonial policy by his talk of a wind of change. It is high time that a wind of change blew through our defence policy. Our rôle in the Western Alliance must surely be to provide the conventional deterrent and to leave the Americans to carry the major burden, as they already do, of the nuclear deterrent. If in order to afford more troops we have to economise financially, we should do it at the expense of our contribution to the nuclear deterrent. As my right hon. Friend the Member for 641 Flint, West (Mr. Birch) pointed out the other day, by chopping £40 million or £50 million off the cost of the nuclear deterrent, we can pay for another 40,000 or 50,000 soldiers in the Army.
Although they do not say it in so many words, the Government Front Bench apparently intend to cut down on our contribution to N.A.T.O. The Opposition Front Bench evidently propose to cut down on our overseas garrisons. I believe that both these courses are equally disastrous. It is only because neither side is prepared to face the need for conscription that they are driven to these expedients. I invite both sides to sink their differences and agree both to make a proper contribution in Europe and to maintain our overseas garrisons at their proper strength. These things can be done, I believe, only by reintroducing conscription, and I am perfectly certain that, if the issue is properly put to it, the country will accept it.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) enunciated a very important principle this afternoon when he pleaded for honesty in dealing with the Armed Forces. I cordially endorse that principle. However, it must be honesty not only in terms of cash. I speak on this subject with feeling because I am one who, though not yet in receipt of National Assistance, is nevertheless one of the victims of the Government's parsimonious policy towards those who have served. It affects members of my family also. However, I have always tried to guard against being bitter, though I heartily endorse my hon. and learned Friend's plea for more generous treatment particularly for those who through ill-health or inability to get a job find themselves on hard times.
It is bitter ashes indeed for a man who has given long service in the Armed Forces to find himself eking out an existence on a few shillings or a few pounds a week, and then to see these sometimes lavish bounties given very often to induce men to join up. I would review pensions of ex-Service men and their dependants on grounds of wisdom, but I make this plea also for ex-Service men on grounds of elementary justice. 642 Before I return to the theme of honesty and its retrospective application, I want to refer to what I regard as perhaps the most important announcement affecting the Army made by the Government this week.
During the defence debate, the Minister of Defence announced that the average man-power target is to be 390,000 to 400,000 for all three Services. My first thought was that, if 400,000 had any validity at all, why did he mention 390,000? Therefore, for the purpose of my analysis, I took it that the new target was to be 390,000, and during the defence debate I broke this figure down, on the spur of the moment, to see what it meant in practice.
Assuming that the targets for the Navy and the Air Force remain the same, it means that the Army's new planning target is to be 167,000. I noticed with great interest next day that The Times came out with an article headed:Army abandons recruiting targets. Emphasis now on a larger Navy.The targets mentioned in The Times were not wholly dissimilar from the conclusions I had arrived at. Since then, I have had the opportunity to make a few more inquiries and do some more sums.
One of the major difficulties in which the Army and the Secretary of State find themselves—I include him because he accepts responsibility for what is happening in the Army—is that there have been two figures—the political figure and the internal planning figure. These figures were different as we know from the evidence of Lord Head, who was Secretary of State for War and then Minister of Defence. If gossip is correct, he was offered the job of Minister of Defence in the Macmillan Administration but declined to accept because he did not think that conscription should be abolished. In July, 1958, he said something which some of us already had an idea about—that the target figure of 165,000 was the figure which the actuaries had said might be recruited. That was the purely political figure.
Even on that figure, I have had my doubts as to whether the Army would attain the target. I still have them. I thought that the Regular Army must be a long-service Army. I was a minority 643 on this side of the Committee in believing that. Nobody believed it, but anybody who sees how recruiting is going now realises that it is almost wholly due in the first instance to the abolition of the short-service engagement and to the introduction of the long-service engagement in July, 1957. But the alteration from short to a long-service engagement came much too late.
The Army, therefore, was faced with the task of preparing plans without getting any clear political direction, except from the public announcement of a target of 165,000 men. One has said this before and one says it again—that in the first year of the 1957 White Paper we did not get a break-down but we got one a year later and it has altered every year since. But the figure built up overall to 403,000 for all three Services, and, though we never got a statement from the Government or the publication of any official document, the Army's actual target figure was 182,000 for planning purposes.
The Army has continued to plan on the basis of 182,000, whereas, of course, the Secretary of State, for political purposes, has always had to maintain that the target was 165,000. The Secretary of State is in the dilemma that he has to come to the Committee and praise the efforts if he gets 165,000 or thereabouts, but at the same time he is 17,000 short on his planning figure. Let us examine this political figure of 165,000. A year ago the right hon. Gentleman was as optimistic as he is today. Since that time he has done a number of things.
The right hon. Gentleman stopped discharge by purchase and perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will tell us how many men have applied for discharge by purchase and have been refused by the Secretary of State as a result of his embargo. That must affect the strength figures. The right hon. Gentleman has also introduced two bounty schemes of £200 each, one to National Service men to induce them to enter into Regular engagements, and the other to persuade Regulars to sign on again before 1st April. In addition, he has markedly lowered the standards of entry into the Regular Army.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will deny that last statement, but 644 I have tried to get some evidence because I know that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are sceptical and are not prepared to take my say-so on such a vital matter. I have with me a copy of a War Office letter. I am quite willing to give the right hon. Gentleman the reference because he has, perhaps, not seen it. I will enlighten him about its contents.
First, the letter does not talk about the target being attained on 1st January, 1963. We are always told here that the deadline is 1st January, 1963, but this letter refers toThe problem of ensuring that we reach our target figures for Regular other ranks by 1st April, 1963.I believe that date to be the true one.
The Secretary of State, and his predecessor, and the Minister of Defence have indicated that they hope to get the target not by the end of the year but by 1st April, 1963, and that is what I think will happen. This letter does not deal with the subject of recruiting, because that is not so important once the Army is rid of short-service engagements and moves within a short period of the target date. Any man who joins them on a three-year engagement adds to the target strength, whereas, if there are still four or five years to go, such a man would not be much use for target purposes because he would be in and out before the target date is reached. The letter deals with the importance of wastage.
The Secretary of State has left his imprint on the Army permanently by his recruiting standards policy, and this is what makes me so pessimistic. One of the things which has resulted from his policy is that he has lowered standards.
§ Mr. Profumo indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Wigg
Let the Committee judge. According to this letter, of 400 men becoming non-effective in the first six months of last year, 103 were transferred to the Army Reserve, 90 were discharged on medical grounds, 24 were discharged for disgraceful conduct, 35 were discharged as being no longer required, 63 were discharged by purchase in the first three months of their service, under Section 14 of the Army Act, and 32 were discharged by purchase in the ordinary way. Thus, out of a group of 400 non-effectives, 25 per cent. were transferred 645 to the Army Reserve in the ordinary way and an almost equal number went out on medical grounds, the majority being recruits in the first three months of service. What medical standards were being applied when they joined? What is the cost of that to the Army and to the country?
§ Mr. Profumo
Is the hon. Gentleman quite sure that the figure of people discharged on medical grounds really does contain only those recruited? I do not think that I wrote that letter myself. I certainly do not remember it. This figure does seem somewhat high.
§ Mr. Profumo
That is the point. We are trying to do a break-down of these figures. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was saying they were all there.
§ Mr. Wigg
It was quite high. The right hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to know that I do not keep things up my sleeve. I am giving the facts, because I am concerned about the wastage. I am not the only one who is concerned about the wastage. There was an extremely well-informed article in The Times some months ago. It may well be that the Secretary of State has taken steps to redress this and has tried to put it right. The quality of the Army depends to a great extent on very careful selection when men are going in.
The Secretary of State has told us that he is to apply a very high standard when choosing his "Ever-readies". I hope that he is, but I hope that he will apply a higher standard than the standard which would appear to be disclosed by this communication, because it looks as if there is irrefutable evidence of a lowering of standards. I believe this to be true. When the Secretary of State deals with his recruiting figures, he must take into account the fact that in the coming 646 year there will be an abnormally high wastage because of the normal run-out. This is probably the reason for his bounty policy. Normal wastage for the current year is nearly 2,000 higher than it was last year.
In addition, there will be this high wastage due to what I think is the over-speeding of the machine and taking anyone who can walk into the Army, irrespective of standards.
§ Mr. Profumo
I should have thought that the very reverse of what the hon. Gentleman is arguing would be the case. If I had given instructions to lower the standards in the Army, it would mean that we should not be discharging so many people as medically unfit; we should be keeping them on so that my figures would be increased. We are not doing that. I do not understand the force of this argument.
§ Mr. Wigg
I have said before, and I repeat, that I do not believe for one moment that the Secretary of State has done anything like this. I acquit him of any irresponsibility. I say that the War Office and the whole recruiting machine has been driven so hard to recruit, recruit, recruit, and then recruit! It is like coal at one stage—produce, produce, produce, and never worry about tomorrow! This is what has happened. In consequence, there has been the tremendous wastage to which I have referred
I have gone round and talked to some of the recruiters. Some of them have ulcers and schizophrenia and that sort of thing because the machine has driven them so hard. It is being driven so hard that anyone that can walk is taken in. If the right hon. Gentleman does not accept what I say—there is no reason why he should accept it merely because I said it—what about the turnover article in The Times, which dealt with a very crack regiment—the Rifle Brigade or the Sixtieth? That article revealed a tremendous wastage problem.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves this point, will he consider the fact that much of this trouble is caused by winkle-picker shoes? I have talked to people at our Green Jacket Depot. They have found that it is extremely difficult to spot the defects in people's feet caused by these shoes at the first examination. 647 It is only after a certain period that it becomes evident that they cannot walk properly.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Gentleman must not imagine that I am an expert on winkle-picker shoes. That is a little off my beat. I am quite prepared to believe that the "twist" and other current social habits may have an effect upon the health and limbs of our young people. Be that as it may, my point is that the Secretary of State has hotted up the machine to such a point that wastage is abnormally high.
I am concerned at the moment about what I call the planning figure. I have here a recent issue of the Soldier. I have referred to this paper before. I will weary the Committee by reading a passage from it again. This is an official publication issued by the War Office. This is the paper the soldier reads. This is what he knows. Ministers can come to the House of Commons and give a glossy story, but what goes into the canteen, the barrack room and the local which the chaps can read is what matters. We are told in the Soldier:The Army must have at least 182,000 officers and men to meet all its commitments, although even at this level there will still be some shortages.This is where the two policies harmonise. The Army, in order to be even reasonably viable, although there will be some shortages in the specialist arms, must have 182,000 men. In actual fact the Secretary of State, for political reasons, is hotting the machine up to get 165,000 by next January, although inside the War Office they do not hope to get them until April, 1963. They are still planning for 182,000, but now the word has gone round—the speech of the Minister of Defence last week broke the sad news to us—that the Army is not going to get 182,000.
The figure for which the War Office will now plan is 173,000. I will give the figure to the right hon. Gentleman. It will probably be given to him sometime next week. I think that the new planning figure will be mid-way between 165,000 and 182,000. The right hon. Gentleman broke the news to us today—this was why I interrupted him—that we shall get a corps of infantry. I think 648 that this is the right policy. It will certainly receive my support.
§ Mr. Profumo
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again. He has been most courteous about giving way. I never said anything about a corps of infantry. I said that I should study the idea of a large infantry regiment. The hon. Gentleman, above all people, knows that there is a complete difference between a large infantry regiment and a corps of infantry.
§ Mr. Wigg
I know that the right hon. Gentleman did not say that, but I am reading the signs of the times. I heard the speech of the Minister of Defence earlier this week. He did not know what he was saying. He was reading a brief. He did not understand it. I tried to apply my mind to it on the spur of the moment. It meant that the Army's target was down 15,000. This was the plain English of it. Because The Times is the only paper with an able military correspondent, it has got on to it.
The Secretary of State for War made another statement this afternoon which dovetails into this and supports my theory that we are to continue with one planning figure for political purposes to black out The Times and another to try to keep the boys quiet.
Inside the War Office somebody has to make up his mind how many battalions of infantry we are to have. I presume that we are to continue to have sixty. If the Secretary of State's statement does not mean that we are to have a corps of infantry and if we are to keep sixty battalions of infantry out of 173,000 men, it will mean in practice that a very large number of these battalions will be below strength. If we are to have fewer men but keep the same number of armoured regiments and artillery and the same number of units as we have had in the past, which have been dovetailed into an overall plan totting up to 182,000—there would be shortages even at that figure—it follows 649 that the units must be at an even lower establishment than they are now.
The proof is contained in speeches of previous Secretaries of State for War. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor told the House that the infantry battalion's establishment of 635 did not work in Cyprus. We had proof of that, because when later the Duke of Wellington's Regiment was sent to Kenya it brought a very hot article in the Daily Mail from Lord Harding, who had been in Cyprus. He protested at infantry battalions going out there with only 635 men.
The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor said that we could not use infantry battalions with strengths as low as 635. They were not viable if their establishments were below 800. I have tried to Check the strength of two battalions inside the Strategic Reserve. They are about 780. But I have never yet found an infantry battalion which was anywhere near the figure given by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton for the Second Battalion of the Scots Guards.
If the number of units remains the same but the total ceiling falls, the disease from which the Army is now suffering must get worse. Any pride which the Secretary of State for War has this afternoon about the success of his manpower policy must take this fact into account. We shall have under-strength units scattered all over the world. While they may be on the ration strength, they will not be fighting units.
I turn to the very interesting speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton. I have waited until his return before saying this. He enunciated his principle of honesty in regard to the Army. I am all for that. If we are to have honesty, I presume to say that after the most careful thought he on behalf of the Labour Party this afternoon made a declaration that the strength of the British Army of the Rhine ought to be 80,000 and that if the Labour Party returns to power it will be 80,000 and this will be done inside a ceiling of 165,000. I am sure that he will forgive me for putting it in one word—"Nonsense". It just cannot be done. There is nobody who has a reputation to lose, and no one who knows anything about it, even with the qualifications 650 of an unpaid orderly-room lance-corporal who would make such a statement. I hope that I have made myself clear on that point.
Let us see how the sums are done. This is not the first time we have considered this, and it is not the first time that I have risen in protest. In 1958, the problem was: if our forces in Berlin were attacked, how could they be defended? The story presented to us was that there were considerable forces in Berlin. There were in fact three battalions there. It was said that if those three battalions were attacked, they must stand and fight, even though they were opposed to twenty Russian divisions. I disagreed with that at that time, and I got into hot water when I said that this was no war; it was murder. They were to defend themselves with tactical atomic weapons which did not then exist. We had the most tremendous battle about whether we should use tactical atomic weapons, which did not exist. Questions were put by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and by other hon. Members—they are in the OFFICIAL REPORT—which quickly elicited the fact that the weapons did not exist.
Today we are doing the same sort of sum. Now we are to have 80,000 troops in Germany, but we are not to have conscription. That is out, and, I suggest, out for political reasons. We have been told that we have to get rid of our overseas commitments. The first name on the list, the one furthest east, is Hong Kong. I went into the Hong Kong situation, and it certainly raised my ire a little. The first person to say this in any definite form did so in a broadcast. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). It was repeated this week by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) did it again, as did my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton. He went one better. It was not so very much better because the same words had been used by other people. He suggested that our troops should be seaborne. That suggestion, from such sources, is so remarkable that it ought 651 to be given the most careful examination. We are, it is suggested, in the name of economy, to send cruisers or destroyers into Hong Kong harbour. These vessels cost several million. We are to take cruisers out there to collect barnacles so that we can, at a given moment, put sailors ashore to act in defence of the civil power.
This afternoon my hon. and learned Friend again enunciated a principle which I found most difficult to understand. He suggested that any old equipment would do, and that any old troops would do. It did not matter about their being trained. He said that we could put sailors in tanks. He drew on his imagination a little heavily by suggesting that the Tank Corps was trained by the Navy. What happened was that at one stage some soldiers went to Whale Island on a gunnery course, but the Navy did not teach them to drive tanks.
At great expense it is suggested that we should take vessels costing millions and put them in Hong Kong harbour in order to find living room for troops to aid the civil power. The one thing that one must not do in the modern Army is to use specialist arms except for the purpose for which they have been trained. It is a real crime to take paratroopers, for instance, and use them as infantry. The paratroopers are crack troops, the best infantry in the world—perhaps I ought not to say that they are the best infantry because I may offend the susceptibilities of some hon. Members, but they are very good infantry. It is breaking the rules to use paratroopers as infantry or to use the artillery as infantry.
The Government have done it. We have had case after case of artillery being used in an infantry rôle, but only for a limited period. Why we should want to use sailors in this rôle is completely beyond me. They have not been trained for the job. I should have thought that on this side of the Committee we were rather suspicious of gunboat diplomacy. The suggestion that we should land parties of sailors under the protection of the guns of the fleet I should have thought was more suitable for the Lyceum when it was open, but not for serious military discussion. Most of the ships could not give any protection 652 because they are armed for quite another rôle.
Let us go further with this very remarkable suggestion. It may cost this country dear and even cost some of our troops their lives. Let us remember why we are in Hong Kong at all. My hon. and learned Friend, if he troubles to look it up, will find that we re-occupied Hong Kong in September, 1945. I believe that there was very careful thought as to whether we should go back again, and considerable American opposition to our going back. My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) backs me up. This was a deliberate act of policy by the Labour Government, and they were fully conscious of all the difficulties involved. We went back to Hong Kong and, thereafter, successive declarations of policy were made by the Labour Party.
There was the major debate of 5th May, 1949. The present Prime Minister, then speaking for the Opposition, towards the end of his speech, said:For Hong Kong is the Gibraltar of the East. It must be held."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1949; Vol. 464, c. 1238.]He was given assurances by Mr. A. V. Alexander, the then Minister of Defence, and as a result there was no Division. There was a restatement of policy in a debate in the House of Lords on 3rd February, 1949, when Viscount Hall, the First Lord of the Admiralty, speaking for the then Labour Government said:Quite apart from several questions which arose in relation to Europe, a number of questions were raised concerning territories outside of Europe. My right hon. Friend referred to Hong Kong and said:"—He was referring to a debate that took place in the House of Commons on 10th December, 1948—'I think there is no need to make any formal or long statement. I will merely state that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to maintain their position in Hong Kong.' I do not think anything more categorical than that is required."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 3rd February, 1949; Vol. 160, c. 552.]The statement to which Lord Hall referred was made on 10th December, 1948, in the House of Commons—this is the amusing part of it—by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East, who was one of the first people in the early part of this year to suggest that we 653 should withdraw from Hong Kong or cut down our garrisons there.
This is the story. This was a commitment entered into by both parties—a most solemn commitment to go into Hong Kong for the purpose of the maintenance of internal security.
§ Mr. Paget
Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, has he observed that at that time there was a Chiang kai-Shek Government which was, in fact, a client Government of the Americans? Does he seriously suggest now that we can hold Hong Kong against the Communists, or that we should try to do so? If he is not suggesting that, I do not know what he is talking about.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am sorry that my hon. and learned Friend does not know what he is talking about. That balances us. I do not follow him. I had assumed that before he made this major declaration of policy on behalf of the Labour Party my hon. and learned Friend would have refreshed his memory and reread past debates. But he has not done so. I am reminded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington that when the Labour Government sent our troops back there in 1945 it was perfectly clear that there was no possibility whatever of holding Hong Kong in the sense meant by my hon. and learned Friend when he talked about going back into Hong Kong. All the way through those speeches was recognition of the fact that there was an internal security problem. The forces in Hong Kong under the Labour Government were twice as large as they are now, but their balanced composition was the same as it is now.
But I want to get on. I readily assure my hon. and learned Friend that at the time we went back into Hong Kong the Kuomintang was in power. But the situation there is exactly the same as it was. There is the Kuomintang Party and the Communist Party and a group in between that wants neither of them. That is what Lord Alexander brought out over and over again. Our job was to prevent the clashes between those two groups from blowing up into what would have mattered—an internal war which would have jeopardised the security of Hong Kong.
My hon. and learned Friend seems to have overlooked some of the facts. He 654 talks about internal security and landing a few sailors from a ship. He seems to have forgotten the riots and violence in Hong Kong in 1956 which involved 50,000 Chinese refugees and casualties including fifty-six dead and hundreds of wounded and material damage estimated at millions of dollars. Does my hon. and learned Friend realise what it means when he talks about using the Fleet? If one is to use the Fleet, presumably it has to have a harbour. Has he thought of that? Or is it that the ships are to sail back to Singapore? Then, I presume, the burglars will case the joint, finding that the Fleet has moved.
§ Mr. Wigg
I was waiting for my hon. and learned Friend to say that. The fact is that the naval dockyard was closed on 28th November, 1958. What my hon. and learned Friend has said is exactly what I was waiting for. Therefore, it seems to me that this was one of the most badly-thought-out and irresponsible statements that any hon. Member has ever made in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Paget
I have seldom heard quite such nonsense. How can my hon. Friend refer to Hong Kong as an entrepôt port when it has not a harbour and has nowhere for a ship to go? The argument between us is whether in the case of civil riots the local police can be backed by soldiers or sailors. There is perhaps room for some difference of opinion, but there is inadequate room for such offensive rudeness.
§ Mr. Wigg
I certainly am not going to withdraw if I have been rude, because I have tried to be rude, and I shall continue to be rude when people play politics with the lives of soldiers. I had a nephew serving in my own regiment which was there. This sort of thing sends my blood pressure up.
When one starts talking about withdrawal in that part of the world, there are certain aspects to it. I will describe what happens. I will put it in terms in which I have talked to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. I should have thought it certain that somewhere in the Chinese Ministry of Defence there is a file marked "Hong Kong" and perhaps "Bring forward on 1st January, 655 2000." It may be that suddenly the Chinese Government in Peking, who do not understand our ways and do not appreciate that statements can be made in the course of debate which are not meant, see references here to the withdrawal of the Hong Kong garrison, and they may think to themselves "Aha, the Kuomintang may move in. Now that the British are going out of Hong Kong and the Kuomintang are coming in under the shadow of American strategic air power, that is a different kettle of fish."
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is the only person in the Committee who has talked about the withdrawal of the garrison from Hong Kong.
§ Mr. Wigg
Let us leave the public to judge that. My hon. and learned Friend is saying that he is going to withdraw the Army and put in sailors on ships in defence of the civil power. If that is not withdrawing one's effective power from Hong Kong or one's ability to patrol over on the peninsula, I should like to know what is.
§ Mr. Wigg
I have had several talks with my hon. and learned Friend since he made his statement on Monday, and I guessed that he might be going to qualify it. That is not what he said on Monday night. He did not then say anything about putting sailors into barracks. On Monday night he said that he was going 656 to use cruisers and destroyers. He said he was going to use seaborne forces. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper mentioned seaborne forces, too. That is what was said. What I am suggesting is that if one does what has been suggested by my right hon. and hon. and learned Friends one is putting the seeds of fear and doubt into the minds of the Chinese Communists, who may think that there is a possibility of a Koumintang coup. By that means they may provoke the very thing that we are all desirous of preventing. It is no good my hon. and learned Friend trying to quibble about police forces. Again, the Labour Government dealt with this. The Labour Government doubled the police force. They also tried to raise a volunteer force. And they put in two brigade groups totalling 12,000 men, double the present force.
I am saying that we should not balance our accounts that way if we are to keep 80,000 troops in Germany. I do not dissent from stepping up the garrisons in Germany, but to do so we have to have some form of conscription. I fail to see how we serve a British interest if in order to keep 80,000 troops in Germany one has then to talk about—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend. I have listened to all these debates, and I know something about the policy of the Labour Party, but I was not aware that it was the official policy of the Labour Party—
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Surely my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), like the rest of us, has been aware for years that defence spokesmen from the Opposition Front Bench do not put 657 forward the defence policy of the Labour Party? They have not done it for years.
§ Mr. Wigg
That is my hon. Friend's view. I think that a statement from the Opposition Front Bench on an occasion such as this is, in fact, a declaration of policy. I am surely entitled—since I have been in the House of Commons I have tried to treat this subject seriously—to protest when Labour Front Bench spokesmen start talking about having 80,000 men posted in Germany and about our coming out of Hong Kong. Surely I have a right to make that protest.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), with great courage, did the same from the Dispatch Box. He made it clear that he had doubts about the Hong Kong policy. So we had two Labour Front Bench views. But after my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton had said that, my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper repeated that statement, and it has been made again this afternoon. Therefore, surely I am entitled to regard this as a serious matter.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
Would I be in order in asking the hon. Gentleman whether the statement made earlier this afternoon by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) about the 80,000 is the official policy?
§ Mr. Wigg
I hope that the hon. Lady will pardon me, but that is not really a question for me, but a question for my hon. and learned Friend. I certainly take what he says and treat it seriously. I am indignant about the Hong Kong declaration. I will tell the Committee why. I have told hon. Members this before, but I will repeat it again today.
This is one of my most vivid experiences of the last few years. I went with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington to East Germany. We wanted to have a look at the East German forces. While we were there, by accident we learned that there was a visiting delegation of Chinese. We were invited to go to a place called Strauburg—I think it was—where there was an East German guards brigade, and there was the delegation consisting of a very considerable number of Chinese officers. We spoke to the Chinese Deputy Prime 658 Minister and Minister of Defence. Neither of us could speak Chinese, and we did not speak German, but we had a translator who translated from Chinese into German and from German into English. What he said, making a full declaration to the German troops, was that an attack on Berlin would be regarded as an attack on China. I whispered to my right hon. Friend, "Hong Kong".
I have always been worried about the possible reactions of any tensions in Europe on the Chinese position in Hong Kong. This is one of the nerve centres. This is the point where East meets West. We should not even whisper in case we bring down the avalanche. We must be very careful indeed about what we say and do in that part of the world.
In order to maintain law and order we need to have a sufficient number of troops, of trained troops, well equipped troops, highly disciplined troops, troops who, the commander can be absolutely sure, will carry out his orders—just that, and no more: not having men coming ashore from ships and fixing bayonets and marching through the streets as in the days of good Queen Victoria. Not that, but a highly disciplined, tempered instrument which the Governor and Commander-in-Chief can be absolutely certain will play fair between the Kuomintang and the Communists.
That is the example of the sort of temperate use we need of British power at a very delicate point, at a stabilising point, at a point from which we should certainly not withdraw lightly or wantonly. We should certainly not talk about withdrawing from a place like Hong Kong because we want to balance the manpower account and will not face up to the issue of conscription. This is what is wrong. Let us always regard honesty to the Army as a right policy, not only as regards pay but also in balancing out commitments.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
I am indeed grateful to follow the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), because he has saved me a considerable amount of time by demolishing the case presented by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I rather feel that I am entering into what is perhaps a private war between the two views 659 which have been expressed, but I should like to make it clear that we on this side of the Committee certainly do not subscribe to the view that we can have just any old troops with any old equipment in Hong Kong or anywhere else.
What we on this side feel is that by providing a force in Hong Kong we can not only control internal security in that part of the world, but at the same time make it quite clear that if it were attacked at any time that would be an act of war. The hon. and learned Gentleman may be quite right—in fact, he is quite right—that the water supplies could be cut off and the amount of water in the reservoirs could be insufficient for an unlimited period, but it seems to me that if we have got a properly disciplined force there, then an attack on the part of the Chinese would be an act of war and an act which, I think, they would be very reluctant to take. So I hope that it will not be thought by the country that this side of the Committee subscribes to the view that any old troops with any old equipment are good enough for the defence of this or any other part of the world.
The hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the target as 80,000 troops. I do not know whether that is the Labour Party's official policy or not, but he did say that categorically in his speech.
§ Dr. Glyn
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for making that 660 clear, but if he thinks we can get that number of troops by cutting our commitments in these parts of the world, I am sorry but I entirely disagree with him.
What we need in these garrisons is a small, efficient force, which my right hon. Friend is endeavouring to produce, backed up by what he has already described as a very proficient, mobile force. I am sure that is the right policy we have to work to within the framework of an all-Regular Army.
There is a point which should be mentioned and has not been mentioned so far. So many of us refer to manpower as being the essential measure. I disagree fundamentally with that. What I am sure is needed in N.A.T.O. or anywhere else is not so much manpower: it is fire power. Since entering into our treaty obligations we have, in fact, increased our fire power. Would it be irrational to say that we could reduce manpower and still produce the same firepower to which we were committed under our original treaty? That is a point which I hope my right hon. Friend will stress.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) says that we have got to face the fundamental issue of conscription. I accept that, but we have now got this mobility, and that is very important. In my maiden speech two years ago I stressed the importance of this, that by having mobility in moving our troops to B.A.O.R. and bringing them back we can save man hours, and thus it may be possible to work down to a figure of round about 165,000. I do not think it is impossible. This has a bearing on our basic commitments and additional commitments, and I shall come back to that later on.
Now I should like to say one word about recruiting, which brings me to the question of accommodation, which is one I have always laboured, for it is absolutely fundamental. This is one of the things which the Army can offer and which competing professions and occupations cannot always produce. The Army cannot always compete with the civilian professions and occupations in pay, in conditions, in hours. If the Army can also offer accommodation, then I submit to the Committee that it will have one bull point which cannot always be guaranteed in 661 civil life. If my right hon. Friend can succeed with his building programme then I believe he will give the Army an additional attraction for recruiting men.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
I think I am right in assuming that the actual amount which was allocated to accommodation was underspent. Is my hon. Friend criticising my right hon. Friend for that?
§ Dr. Glyn
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It was in fact underspent. I realise that, and I appreciate my right hon. Friend's problem, that it is sometimes difficult to get these things phased in a year and within the framework of the budget; it is difficult to balance on an annual Estimate. I only wish that some other method of accounting could be adopted which would help us over that problem.
§ Mr. Profumo
One of the problems in this country is that, whatever we estimate for, we are, of course, building to the fullest possible extent which the building trade can absorb. There is nothing more I can do about that. It has meant we have not done quite as much as we should have liked because the building trade could not absorb any more.
§ Dr. Glyn
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I know that he is doing everything possible about it. I know he is even trying to get this wonderful building for the Household Cavalry at Knightsbridge which I trust he will not forget.
I should like to say a few words about the reserve forces. I regard the A.E.R. and the Territorial Reserve as very important, and I would stress on my right hon. Friend the importance of not having anybody in unless he is fully trained. There is not the slightest difficulty with big employers. It is easy to get them to agree to a man being away for training for six months, but it is not easy with a firm employing five or six people. I hope, however, that employers in general throughout the country will realise that men who have this obligation are doing a great deal towards the national effort and making a valuable contribution to the country's defence.
I would also ask my right hon. Friend whether the period of a fortnight's 662 training could not be increased at a man's request and whether, like our Supplementary Reserve before the war, a man should be allowed to exceed that period. It was done before the war, and the Supplementary Reserve worked efficiently. Officers and men sometimes spent two or three months in training. This applied particularly to the self-employed man, who was able to get off for that longer period and thereby benefited by the additional training.
The R.A.M.C. is a very important branch of the Army. I was very pleased to hear of the incentives which my right hon. Friend is offering to doctors to join the Service. It has always been thought in the past that a doctor was an old "saw-bones" who after spending ten years in the R.A.M.C. was fit for nothing. The reason for that was that too much time was spent in administration. I welcome the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend that a doctor in the R.A.M.C. can go in for something equivalent to a private practice and can have the chance of taking a specialist examination during the first two or three years of his service. He is, therefore, in almost a better position than he would be in civilian life.
As my hon. Friend knows, when a doctor is qualified he has to do a year's probationary period. If we could arrange with the General Medical Council to earmark certain military hospitals here and overseas where it would be in order for that doctor to do his year's training, subject to approval by the G.M.C., it would act as a tremendous incentive because in the first year the doctor would receive higher pay than he would receive in an ordinary hospital. This perhaps would also induce him to stay on in the R.A.M.C. He might have a three years' contract, of which the first year would be spent in a hospital recognised by the G.M.C. for that first year's training. It would mean a certain amount of supervision. I have been in contact with certain authorities already and I do not think that there would be any difficulty in giving that cachet of qualification to certain military hospitals provided that there was supervision that would be given in an ordinary civilian hospital.
As to professions supplementary to medicine, my right hon. Friend might 663 consider the possibility of giving officer status to people like radiographers and other technical people whose services are so important. This is important, because some professions like that of physiotherapist have officer status whereas radiographers have not. It may be that the trade union of doctors will not allow these people to have that status, but it would be a help if my right hon. Friend would look at the ranks carefully with a view to upgrading some of the more important ones to that status. Under the scheme which my right hon. Friend has initiated, doctors will feel that they have more chance of study and practice which will fit them for life when they leave the Service. I welcome this wholeheartedly.
In these debates we rightly talk about the men, but the officers are important and I was interested to see from paragraph 52 of the Memorandum that my right hon. Friend has laid stress on the importance of the relationship between young officers and men. This should increase recruiting figures. There is a feeling that perhaps young officers are not always as sympathetic with the men as they should be, and particularly with the senior N.C.O.s, when they come into contact with them for the first time. This can be cured by the commanding officer, the squadron leader, the company commander, or indeed the R.S.M. This is something which should be looked at and should be emphasised when the officer is at Sandhurst or wherever he is trained.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will agree that the question of officers passing out of Sandhurst is something that also should be looked at. Is the present course long enough? Should there be a little more academic training, and should not the officer be given a degree at the end of his Sandhurst course equivalent to a university degree? Officers who leave the Army at the age of 35 or 40 often have no actual qualification for any other professional life. Sandhurst gives them a wonderful education, but few people outside accept that. If officers were to spend a little longer at Sandhurst they could have a qualification not secondary to but equivalent to a university degree.
University graduates who come into the Army have the advantage that at the end 664 of their service they have a degree which qualifies them for a large number of civilian occupations. I know that my right hon. Friend will say that some of the military technical colleges do this already, but it should be basic to all officers passing out of Sandhurst, even if it means extending the course so that they should be given a general training equivalent to a university education.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend has said and I hope that the Army will feel that the opportunities presented basically represent a life of comradeship which should appeal to people who still have a spirit of adventure. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton made the point that the man who joins the Army does not always look at what he is getting now but rather at what he will have in the future. The pension is important to him when he starts his career. We should not forget that when pensions were initiated, the Services and the Civil Service alone gave them, but now they have to compete with great commercial undertakings which also provide pension schemes for their employees. Though I would remind the hon. and learned Member for Northampton that it has been the policy of a Conservative Government to maintain the value of the pound as far as possible, this question of pensions nevertheless is something which my right hon. Friend might look at when he reviews the possibilities of getting every possible man who wants to join into the Service.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
The hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) defended as best he could the Government's official defence policy of a relatively small full-time professional Army backed by the famous independent nuclear deterrent which is not independent and cannot deter. That policy has been severely criticised on both sides of the House as regards the nuclear deterrent, and I will not go into that further except to say that I agree with the criticism.
The alternative policy is that to which the present United States Administration is understood to have become a convert, and which has been pressed for some time on the House by the Opposition, namely, greater and better equipped conventional forces and less reliance on 665 nuclear weapons. In this connection, perhaps the critics on both sides are being a little hard on my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) for putting forward what was the official Labour policy. I do not agree with that policy, because I do not agree with our defence commitments. But given the existence of those defence commitments the Government and the Opposition are both in somewhat of a dilemma—for there is no such thing as defence of this country. It becomes indefensible in nuclear war.
When it comes to ringing the changes on what to do with the Army, we are up against certain basic facts, one of which is that the Government are afraid to put their policy to the electors. Defence costs have gone up this year by £100 million and there is a Supplementary Estimate for another £28 million. We only just escaped a cut in the social services because the Government were afraid of the political consequences. Similarly, the logic of the Labour Party's policy is conscription, but the Labour Party knows very well that it would be political suicide to propose conscription.
Therefore, the party policy which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton was expounding as best he could was that we should avoid the necessity for conscription while having bigger and better conventionally-armed forces, particularly in N.A.T.O., by cutting commitments in the Middle and Far East. That sounds fine until one starts trying to cut them. I will not indulge in any further remarks on the result of the efforts of my hon. and learned Friend to make suggestions. He was roughly treated by both sides of the Committee.
The whole operation is one akin to squaring the circle or making a blanket bigger by cutting it off at one end and sewing it on at the other. The same thing applies to the suggestion that we should cannibalise the Services in order to use sailors and airmen to make up for the deficiency of the Army. All that kind of thing is merely the result of the attempt to justify a demand for bigger conventionally-armed forces, a bigger Army, while dodging the issue of conscription. Both the Government and the Opposition are dodging that issue because it is a hot potato.
666 I am against conscription, because I am against these defence commitments. Therefore, I come to the question of what are the commitments for which the Army is supposed to fight. The Secretary of State for War, in his speech this afternoon—I took down his words and this is a fairly close rendering of what he said—told us that our forces are ready to intervene to keep the peace anywhere in the world where our interests or those of our allies are directly involved.
The first paragraph of the Memorandum on the Army Estimates defines the position a little more closely. It states:As the Defence White Paper explains, the British Army has three major rôles: to assist in the defence of this country and the Commonwealth, to fulfil our treaty obligations, and to maintain internal security in those of our territories which remain dependent on us.I shall confine my attention to the commitments of the Army under our treaty obligations, which the Defence White Paper defines as being N.A.T.O., CENTO and S.E.AT.O. I will not touch on the other obligations of the Army, what I call the national obligations, those which are entirely under the control of the Government, not because I agree with them but because, first, they are a relatively minor matter compared with our military or Army obligations and other defence obligations under these treaties, and secondly, because in any event they are matters which the Government can change at their discretion at any time they see fit, whereas their treaty obligations are subject to interpretation by our allies, and particularly by the United States, which runs these alliances and determines for what we have to risk war under those alliances and for what purposes our troops are to be engaged.
Let us consider our obligations in S.E.A.T.O. from that point of view. Under S.E.A.T.O., we may be committed at any moment directly by American policies in Southern Vietnam and in Laos. The other day, the United States Attorney-General, Mr. Robert Kennedy, said that America was at war in Southern Vietnam. He had to correct that slip of the tongue, because under the American Constitution the Administration has no right to engage in war without the assent of Congress. The fact remains, however, that there are about 4,000 667 American military personnel in Southern Vietnam. The situation there is becoming ugly and we may be dragged in at any moment under our S.E.A.T.O. obligations.
A similar situation, but one as yet not quite so threatening, exists in Laos. We could again indirectly be dragged in through the American alliances with Taiwan and with South Korea. The point about it is that this S.E.A.T.O. obligation as interpreted by the Americans in Southern Vietnam is one of armed intervention in the internal affairs of that country.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Robert Grimston)
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he cannot go into the merits of these treaty obligations. He can discuss whether the strength of the Army is sufficient to fulfil them, but under this Vote he cannot go at great length into the merits of these treaty obligations.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
In pursuance of that ruling, Sir Robert, I will not go at length into the merits. I merely say that I believe them to be improper in the sense of being contrary to the Charter, dangerous in the sense that they may land us in a world war of extermination and not in our national interest. Moreover, I believe that they exceed the capacity of the Army. We cannot engage in a large-scale guerrilla war in Southern Vietnam. We cannot afford another Korea.
Under CENTO, at the time that British forces were flown to Jordan in 1958, the Prime Minister claimed on 17th July of that year that they had been sent there because of what he called a "pattern of subversion and conspiracy". He claimed that under the United Nations, we had the right to act in that way in self-defence. Again, that could easily lead us into commitments far beyond our military strength.
It was only by the grace of God that that doctrine was not applied in Iraq at the time. It might be applied to Iran at any moment. If so, at the very best, the Army would be committed to trying to hold down vast areas of a country in order to suppress a popular rising against intolerably reactionary and oppressive rulers, with the imminent danger of starting a world war. All this 668 is an illegitimate extension of the right of defence against armed attack under Article 51 of the Charter.
In N.A.T.O., similarly, we have had the call for more conventional forces, no doubt to engage in small wars. It was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) in a debate some time ago that the situations that might arise would be mixed situations in which an internal rising was allegedly being helped from outside. That kind of situation also could develop militarily far beyond the capacity of the Army. It could let us in for some very large-scale operations. It is dangerous because it could escalate so easily into a world war. Under the Charter of the United Nations it is an illegitimate extension of the right to take the law into our own hands and resort to force. On top of that, as in the other examples, it is really not necessary, because from the point of view of at least Labour's conception of the national interest the basis for agreement with the Soviet Union in all those parts of the world exists and could be negotiated. So that these commitments are unnecessary.
Instead of loading this country with back-breaking defence expenditure and flirting with the restoration of conscription for commitments which most people, and certainly the Labour Party, would regard as not worth fighting for and which, in most cases, are worthy of being defeated, because these are reactionary and hopeless causes, we should on the contrary try to lighten the defence burden and the strain on the Army and avoid the need for conscription by applying the principle that we will not be committed to war by allies who refuse to agree with us on how to make peace. To make sure that we mean business by that we should withdraw our forces from N.A.T.O., CENTO and S.E.A.T.O. unless and until our allies trim and reshape these commitments to make them compatible with the Charter of the United Nations and a reasonable policy for making peace.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
A year ago the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) followed me in a similar debate and did 669 me the honour of being kindly about the manner in which I made my remarks. He was less kindly disposed towards the matter which I expressed. I hope that he will not take it amiss if I present the compliment in reverse tonight. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the possibility of bigger and better conventional forces, a matter to which I shall return in a moment.
Our need today is for a volunteer Regular Army, and I think it right to consider our manpower position in relation both to the strategy which we accept in this country, even though we do so by a majority, and at the same time in relation to the number of men which we may consider available to enlist in this country by whatever means we get them to do so. If we do this, at the outset we must—because of the size of our country and the available manpower, and apart from other considerations—face the necessity to accept the nuclear deterrent. But I do not think that we can do so without pausing to consider the bearing that this may have on the manpower situation in connection with what the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said earlier this week. He said:The United States has been engaged on a really very courageous recasting of its whole strategic thought in order to find an alternative to the repellent doctrine of massive retaliation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 63.]That is all very well and is an idealistic conception which we must admire. But we must not take it further—in relation to this debate—by construing it to mean that the possible result may be that we should be expected to find additional conventional forces.
I think, therefore, that we ought to balance those requirements for the nuclear deterrent with forces adequate for the strategy which that envisages. Mention should be made of our own deterrent in this connection; not to argue—it would be out of order to do so—whether we should have our own deterrent, but to point out that there are those of us who consider that this has a bearing on manpower, in that the possession of our own deterrent enables us to stand in a position to argue with our allies in relation to our requirements which many of us believe that we should not otherwise be able to do.
670 I think, also, that we have to carry on this argument, both in relation to strategy and in relation to available manpower. But I do not think that it would be realistic to do so without bearing in mind our world commitments, which hon. Members on this side of the Committee rate very high, not only because of treaty obligations which we have accepted, but in relation to our contribution to world peace; a contribution neither required nor expected from any other country in the world to the extent which it is expected from us. In doing this we must not confuse ourselves with what part nuclear strategy must play in the manpower situation outwith this country.
By now many of us must be beginning to realise that there can be no adequate subdivision between tactical and total nuclear war. It is noticeable from the Memorandum which we are discussing that tactical weapons, as we once envisaged them—that is as being something separate from those weapons of war which might constitute total nuclear war—have well nigh disappeared from separate consideration. When we remember that and when we add to it the fact that nuclear war is the more likely to depend on first-strike offensive, then the alternative is more likely to be a doubtful defensive rôle. We realise that the part played by our manpower contribution is, as I have already said, that which would adequately enable nuclear strategy to operate.
As conventional forces, therefore, we want forces capable of preventing a probing war, and we want conventional forces in the ultimate—and I repeat in the ultimate—capable of creating a pause during which we hope—this we all hope—that some form of sanity will still prevail. If this be our point of view, and if we are to assess our manpower contribution on that basis, we must for a moment consider the point of view of our main ally, if—and again I say if—it be that their view is the view expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) earlier, that it is necessary to increase the number of 52,000 troops which we contribute to N.A.T.O. at present—increase them to any number greater than the existing 52,000.
671 I think that that point of view overlooks a number of factors. It overlooks the limitations of conventional war in total nuclear strategy. It overlooks the fact that the abolition of the nuclear deterrent, so far as this country is concerned, would not of itself provide additional men. We cannot put men in the B.A.O.R. or anywhere else if we have not got them. Nor does it consider our worldwide commitments, which I have already mentioned; and one cannot dismiss this in relation to our American allies without remembering their known anti-colonial bias when they regard our world commitments.
In Europe at present, in men and in the cost, which we are discussing in the Estimate today, our commitments are such that we are maintaining over 100,000 men in Germany excluding the Berlin garrison. If we look at paragraphs 5 to 17 of the Memorandum we find that we have to add to that the cost of the contributions which we make in maintaining forces all over the world as a contribution towards world peace. If we overstretch ourselves and are unable to fulfil our world commitments, we shall undermine B.A.O.R., N.A.T.O. and world peace itself.
There is in addition the overall consideration of a contribution which undoubtedly adds into what we are considering today, in that we are responsible for paying out a vast amount to under-developed countries. Perhaps it is not paid strictly in terms of soldiers and their cost, but nevertheless it is part of the barrier against Communism for which we also provide men and money. We have to make this contribution, which hon. Members opposite will agree is a good one. Therefore, we should not be serving N.A.T.O. were we to reduce any of these commitments which must be added to the manpower commitments which we are discussing today. Conventional forces, as mentioned in paragraph 1 of the Memorandum, are for a definite purpose. They are there to provide that balance against nuclear and conventional attack and to create that pause of which I have spoken. They are also there to provide for our overseas commitments.
The alternative of extending our forces beyond these objectives would undermine 672 our manpower position at home, undermine the economy at home and in the long run would create defeat not defence. This is an aspect of defence sometimes forgotten when we are dealing with worldwide problems from a source as small as this island. If we accept our overseas commitments—and I must accept them, although the hon. Member for Gorton is unable to accept them—we may from time to time have to take away from our existing 52,000 in N.A.T.O. and I believe it is for that purpose that we have made provision to put in reserves. We therefore realise that we cannot and will not alter the present position, at least in the foreseeable future.
It is possible—and many of us may have given long consideration to that which may lie behind this Memorandum—that what we are being asked to do in Germany is too extensive. It would not be in order to discuss that at this stage, but nevertheless there are those of us who hope that our commitments may alter so that we shall soon be strengthened in our position in Germany rather than the reverse.
We are not entitled, especially in the light of what the Secretary of State for War said this afternoon, to resort to conscription at this stage. It seems madness that at a time when recruiting is going better than in any post-war period that we should fail to give its success the recognition that it is due and thus give every encouragement to maintain an all-Regular force on a voluntary basis. Nevertheless, when we maintain a fully-equipped voluntary force we must not at the same time seek to overstretch its commitments and we must equip it well.
The Memorandum says that much of the equipment is coming along. I have said before, and I say again, that I think it is too long in coming. The argument is that to re-equip an Army is a gradual process, but it seems to me that it has taken a long time in this case. I am well aware that it takes seven or eight years to put into the Army any major item of equipment, but, as hon. Members opposite would point out, we have had ten years to do this and we want to see good results. Therefore I think it unfortunate that while we look through the Memorandum and find such 673 a forward look in some of the illustrations these do not quite match the reality of what we see in fact in the units of the Army.
I confess that I like some aspects of the Estimates very little. I do not propose to go into some of the details of which I greatly disapprove, important although I consider some of them to be. I should like, for example, to spend some time discussing the educational facilities available to the Army at present. I am not now talking of the soldiers and those serving in the Army. I am thinking of the children of Army families who more and more are being taken all over the world—rightly so—with battalions of soldiers. I am afraid that in at least some instances they are not being educated up to the standards they could expect if they were in settled circumstances in this country. I hope that great thought is being given to the position of all those Army children. I am afraid that in many instances they were better served in the old days when an Army school mistress went around with the unit. I cannot think that any child can adequately learn if he or she has been taught by six, seven or eight different people in two or three years.
There are some aspects of the Estimates which, as I say, I like very little, but I am sure that in the main there is need to contain our manpower within our limited resources. I do not necessarily mean economic resources, but the realistic consideration of how many men we have in this country, what we expect them to do, and how we expect them to be divided. I think we should retain voluntary enlistment at this time when it promises well. And, in accepting the nuclear deterrent as part of the strategy which dictates the complementary manpower, we have to remember—and here I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean)—that power has power and power does speak.
We have also to remember that the nuclear deterrent carries the hope of preventing war. Thus it is our hope that war shall never come; but in the nuclear deterrent we keep thereby the associated nuclear work in rockets, satellites, space research and the like, without which this country's progress in more peaceful ways would be infinitely more slow.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Before the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) begins his speech, may I say that I presume he will be moving his Amendment. I want to make clear to the Committee that the moving of that Amendment does not either reduce or extend the scope of the debate.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I beg to move,That a number, not exceeding 251,000, all ranks, be maintained for the said Service.I am much obliged to you, Sir Robert, as I certainly wish to move this Amendment. I wish to begin by offering an apology to the Secretary of State for War and to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who opened for the Opposition, that, although I have given notice to move this Amendment and am now moving it—and at the end of the day hope to divide the Committee upon it—I was not in my place to hear either of their speeches. I do not think I am revealing any secret to the Committee when I say that I was engaged elsewhere trying with others to dissuade the Home Secretary from hanging or killing individually a part of the population of this country which the Government by their policy of collective insecurity are proposing to wipe out in larger numbers. I think hon. Members will understand what I mean.
I have listened fascinated to the discussion this afternoon. I have heard a number of such discussions in my time. I think this is the first occasion on which I have ventured to take part in one. There are so many hon., right hon. and gallant Members on both sides who know all about the technicalities, the weapons with odd and eccentric names, when we have them, where to use them, exactly how many men we could get if certain circumstances were different from what they were, and how we would deploy them if we had them. It is a very fascinating "Army Game" which far surpasses any competitor it may have or may have had in other departments of our national life. However fascinating, they seem to be conducted in a completely unreal world. They seem to be highly intelligent if disputatious discussions as to what we 675 might do if the world situation were very much different from what the Government themselves in the White Paper confess it to be.
May I remind the Committee—I hope without disrespect—that although it would be stupid to say that what one gets for one's money would be out of order when spending the money, nevertheless this is a Committee of Supply and all that we are concerned with is whether the Government should be given the money for which they are asking for the purposes they tell us they propose to spend it. Anyway, we are not dealing with any small amount. The Memorandum tells us, in paragraph 98, that the net grant for which Parliamentary approval is sought for the Army alone in this coming financial year is £523,920,200. Unless my arithmetic is sadly at fault, that is rather more than £1½ million every day.
That would be a very large sum if it stood alone, but it does not. It is only a fractional part of the total expenditure which the Government are inviting the country to embark on in this coming year. That total figure is given in the Defence White Paper as being £1,721 million—or £5 million every day as a peace-time expenditure. These are colossal sums, and every £ of them is inflationary. No one disputes that, for one cannot take £5 million a day out of one's resources without producing anything at all consumable. It is purely inflationary expenditure.
I am not so simple as to suppose that that is the end of the argument, because of course it is not. A great many expenditures are inflationary. No doubt the welfare services are inflationary because they are purely for consumption and, only to a limited extent, contribute to our productive efficiency. But, when one is dealing with inflationary expenditure on this scale, is it not fantastic that the state of the Committee should be as it is now? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Where are all the enthusiastic economisers from whom we hear on every other occasion?
It may be that after the most careful examination the majority of the Committee may be driven to the conclusion that every penny of it is justified and that we get full value for what we spend. I 676 doubt whether they would come to that conclusion and, if they did, they would not be supported by the Public Accounts Committee which has delivered report after report to the House of Commons calling attention to colossal wasteful expenditure over the years in the Defence Services.
I am talking about not just wrong estimating or even inflationary wrong estimating. I refer to estimating which postulates a figure at the beginning of the adventure but which is multiplied ten, twenty, forty or fifty times by the time we reach the end of the story. And the end of the story is often itself no good because, after spending it all, the things are abandoned and thrown away.
These are matters into which it is pertinent to inquire, and the Committee looks at them in this way because so many hon. Members believe that there are two kinds of inflationary expenditure. First, that it is unpatriotic to prevent it and, secondly, that it is unpatriotic to spend it. Meanwhile, in other respects, Parliament is being invited to deal with education, housing, the National Health Service, roads, hospitals, schools—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Ronald Russell)
Order. I am afraid that the hon. Member is getting rather away from the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. Silverman
I was pointing out that we are asked to allow the Government £523 million for the Army alone and I am commenting on the spirit with which very many hon. Members approach their examination of that expenditure. I am not asking for more money to be spent on the items I mentioned, for I appreciate that it would be out of order to do so. I am merely saying that if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were to apply the same spirit of examination and economy to defence expenditure that they are only too ready to apply to the other expenditures I have mentioned it might be that we would get more value for less money.
After all, what is this money for? It is part of our general expenditure on defence, and it is to play its part in our general policy. Therefore, it is necessary in the Memorandum on the Army to repeat again the ultimate objectives of our defence policy as they are set out in 677 the White Paper. It is permissible to glance at them to see what we are hoping to get from this expenditure. The first page of the Defence White Paper says in three short sentences:The basic objectives of Britain's Defence policy"—which obviously must include the Army's defence policy—will remain:whatever that may mean—
- (a) to maintain the security of this country;
- (b) to carry out our obligations for the protection of British territories overseas and those to whom we owe a special duty by treaty or otherwise;
- (c) to make our contribution to the defence of the free world"—and the prevention of war in accordance with the arrangements we have with individual countries and under collective security treaties.That last sentence contains a rather striking omission, for we are to… make our contribution to … defence … in accordance with the arrangements we have with individual countries and under collective security treaties.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member really is getting away from the subject of the Army Estimates. That is the subject we are discussing, and we are not having a general discussion on the Defence White Paper.
§ Mr. Silverman
With great respect, unless it is going to be said that the money we spend on the Army is not a contribution to our defence policy, I fail to see that we are very far from the object of it.
When the general global defence policy was being discussed on Monday and Tuesday, I and every hon. Member on this side voted against it. All of us on this side unanimously declared that we had no confidence in it. What I am saying is that if one has not confidence in the whole which includes the proposition, then one has no confidence in the parts. It is true that tonight we are discussing only one of the parts, but if I have no confidence in the general object which this part, like the other parts, is intended to serve, I am entitled to advance that as a reason for reducing that part by 1,000 men in order to call attention to the futility of the objects for which the money is demanded.
§ The Temporary Chairman
That is what the hon. Gentleman is not entitled to do, because that concerns the broad aspect of defence policy. He is entitled only to draw attention to the Army's application of the defence policy.
§ Mr. Silverman
Of course, I shall come in a moment to the particular part which the Army is intended to play, but, with the greatest possible respect, I ask you, Mr. Russell, to reconsider the Ruling which you have just given if it means that I am not entitled to relate this part of our defence expenditure to the objects of the whole of the defence expenditure. I agree that I should not be within the rules of order if I devoted my speech to a general discussion of the Defence White Paper. I respectfully accept that.
However, I do not seek to do that. All that I am seeking to do is to put this Army expenditure in its proper perspective and to relate it to the general expenditure of which it forms a part. If I have no confidence that the defence policy as a whole will achieve the first object claimed for it in the Defence White Paper, namely, to maintain the security of this country, that is a reason, is it not, for saying that the Army's portion of that expenditure should not be granted? That is all I seek to do.
I say that this Estimate should be reduced by 1,000 men because the security of this country will not be furthered by granting the Army the money which it is seeking tonight. This is true, not only of the Army, but of the Royal Air Force and of the Royal Navy, and I have no doubt that in due course Amendments similar to this one will be discussed when we come to those Services. I shall not talk about the Royal Air Force, nor about the Royal Navy. I shall talk about the Army Estimates. But the Army is an integral and inseparable part of the defence policy as a whole.
As I was saying, no hon. Member on this side on Tuesday had any confidence in the Government's policy behind the money that we are spending on the Army, or on any other defence service, for that matter. Since we on this side expressed that lack of confidence in all of it, I suppose that it must follow that all hon. Members who voted against the defence policy on Tuesday because they had no confidence in it as a whole will, 679 as a matter of logic, vote against these Estimates because clearly they cannot have confidence in the Government's Army policy if they have no confidence in their policy on the Royal Air Force or on the Royal Navy or in the general defence policy of which they form part.
§ Mr. Profumo
I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument because I may have to vote against him on this. Is he saying that simply because the Opposition voted against the defence policy the other night they must vote tonight against the primary objects of these Army Estimates, to Which I understand the hon. Gentleman is speaking? It is said that the Army has three major rôles—to assist the defence of this country—are we to vote against that?—and of the Commonwealth, to fulfil our treaty obligations, and to maintain internal security in those territories which are dependent on us. If that is what the hon. Gentleman proposes to vote against, we want to get into the Lobby pretty quick.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not suggesting that anyone doubts that these ought to be, and perhaps are, the objects of the Army and of the defence forces. What we have no confidence in is the Government's policy on any of them to secure these objects. In other words, my hon. Friends are saying, "We are prepared to vote whatever is necessary for the security of the country, but as we do not believe that the Government's policy is capable of bringing any security to the country we vote against it". If they did not mean that, they had no right to vote against the Government on Tuesday.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is right out of order in discussing the merits of the Government's defence policy on the Army Estimates. We are merely discussing the Army Estimates, and I must ask the hon. Gentleman to keep to them.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am inviting my right hon. and hon. Friends, who have already declared their complete lack of confidence in the Government's defence policy as a whole, to be logical and consistent and to vote against these Estimates tonight for the reasons which prompted them to vote against the defence policy on Tuesday.
680 I hope that this is a fair argument. With the best will in the world, I do not know the answer to it. I know why I voted against the Government on Tuesday, and I accept your Ruling, Mr. Russell, that I am not entitled to give the reason in this debate. I do not know why my hon. Friends voted against the Government on Tuesday.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman and I agree about something. The differences which my hon. Friends expressed were substantial. Perhaps there was enough in them to say, "The policy is not very good. We want a better one. We want to amend this one". But the differences disclosed in that debate were not perhaps sufficient to justify them saying that they had no confidence in the policy at all. But that was for them to decide, and they voted against the defence policy as a whole. I am surprised that it was left to me rather than to my hon. Friends to move this Amendment.
Why do I say that this Army expenditure, which I want to reduce and which I do not want the Committee to accept, affords no chance of security for this country? I hope that I shall not be prevented from justifying my reason for saying it from the Defence White Paper. As the right hon. Gentleman said, this is the Army's contribution to the security of this country. I wish to draw attention to one sentence, and only one sentence.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not quoting from the Memorandum on the Army Estimates. On page 5 of the Defence White Paper, there appears this sentence:The Government do not believe that major war could long continue without one side or the other resorting to nuclear weapons.They have repeatedly declared that in a nuclear war there is no possibility of defending the 50 million inhabitants of this country, and if the Government are 681 inviting the Committee or the nation to believe that they can secure the security of the country without defending the lives, let alone the property and possessions, of its population, obviously, they are preaching a doctrine that the people would find it very difficult to understand. Is it true that the Government believe that if war started it would not be long before one side or the other resorted to nuclear war? If they do believe that—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. This is not in the Army Estimates. This is a matter of the global defence of the country, and I must ask the hon. Member to keep to the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. Silverman
The point I am making, if I may put it again with patience, is that we are asked to give the Government £525 million to the Army so that the Army may play its part in the security of this country. I am pointing out, and I again suggest, with respect, that it is a legitimate point to make, that if the Government believe that if a war occurred it would be a nuclear war, if they believe, as they have repeatedly declared, that in a nuclear war the population of this country could not be defended, it seems pointless to spend £525 million in equipping the Army, which, on that assumption, would never be allowed to function. That is the point I am making.
There is no point in equipping ourselves with weapons if they are not the weapons to be used in the war we would expect to fight. There are certain peacetime things, no doubt, certain minor things, no doubt, but if we are talking about the security of this country, obviously, if we expect to be endangered in a nuclear war, against which there is no defence, expenditure on the Army, at any rate to this extent, must be wholly unjustified. That is the point that I am making. Whether it is acceptable or not is for the Committee to decide, but I submit, again with respect, that it is probably not out of order.
Let me come more closely to the particular function or functions suggested for the Army. I find in these Estimates a reference to the Army's contribution to Civil Defence. It used to spend just under £17 million a year on that, and the right hon. Gentleman is proposing now to increase it by just under £1 million. My figures may not be accurate, 682 but I do not want to detain the Committee by looking up actual references. The figures are of that order. We are to spend on Civil Defence not more than £20 million out of the £525 million that we are spending on the Armed Forces—the Army—in the process of maintaining the security of the country.
§ Mr. Profumo
I am trying to find any reference in the Army Estimates to any expenditure on Civil Defence. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could show me where it is. We are talking about the Memorandum on the Army Estimates, and I cannot find any reference in it at all. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would say what he is talking about, not in the Defence White Paper, but in the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not talking about the Defence White Paper. It is perfectly true that we are debating Vote A as a token vote for the Army expenditure generally. That is why the Memorandum talks about the total expenditure and not merely the monies voted in Vote A. If the right hon. Gentleman is saying that no part at all of this £525 million is to be spent on Civil Defence, I will continue my argument on that basis.
§ Mr. Profumo
I am asking the hon. Gentleman, so that I can follow him, which part of my Estimates are devoted to Civil Defence.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am talking about the Army Estimates, 1962–63. Very well. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the index, which perhaps he has not read, he will find the reference he wants. I will find it for him.
§ Mr. Profumo
Which page of the Estimates is the hon. Gentleman talking about, so that I can follow him?
§ Mr. Silverman
Not for a moment; I want to give the right hon. Gentleman his reference. He will find it on page 87 under Vote 4 (a), and it deals with the Army School of Civil Defence.
§ Mr. Silverman
Well, that is Civil Defence. What is the Army School of Civil Defence for? I hope the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied, and I am glad to have been able to point out to him something which his Estimates contain but of which, apparently, he was not aware.
§ Mr. Profumo
I am asking which part of Civil Defence the hon. Gentleman was referring to. Now that I know he is talking about the Army School of Civil Defence, I can direct my attention to his remarks.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am talking of Civil Defence, to which the only contribution I can find in these Estimates is the Army School. I am saying that it is not enough, and it is one of my reasons for thinking that the Estimates are wrongly based and that we ought not accept them. I was giving the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of the claim in the White Paper, which was that we were going to spend much more on Civil Defence than we are spending on the Army School, but if he will not have it we must leave it like that. The argument would have been fairer if I could have given him the benefit of what he is intending to spend, instead of limiting it to this nominal amount, to which he want me to limit the argument.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
I wonder whether the attention of my hon. Friend has been drawn to paragraph 48 of the Defence White Paper, which, under the heading Civil Defence, says:There have been a number of joint civil/military exercises in order to test plans for military aid to the civil power, and joint planning for this purpose is continuing.Does not that cover the subject? It involves money, does it not?
§ Mr. Silverman
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I did not want to refer to that, because I did not want to get in conflict over any more quotations from the Defence White Paper. I prefer to accept it from the right hon. Gentleman that the only contribution that he is prepared to consider to Civil Defence in his statement that we are now debating is the Army School. I am saying that that is disgraceful. If all that we are to spend on Civil Defence out of this vast expenditure is either the limited sum to which 684 the right hon. Gentleman confesses, or the rather larger, but not very much larger, amount of money that is referred to in the Defence White Paper, I am saying that it is absolute hypocrisy to pretend that the monies that we are seeking to raise tonight are intended for the security of the population of this country. Quite patently, they are not.
Now let us come to the document which is called the Memorandum on Army Estimates. I apologise for my amateur approach to these highly professional matters, but I hope I am in order in this debate on Vote A in referring to the document which the War Office has put out and which they have entitled "Memorandum on Army Estimates, 1962–63," because, as I understand it, in this document they are telling us what they hope to get for the money. It is an attractive document. I do not know which firm of public relations experts assisted the War Office to produce it. It contains some attractive photographs showing us what the Army will be doing and the function which it is to perform in the security of our country, for which purpose the money is required.
Before it begins to tell us anything at all in print, it shows a photograph of two British infantrymen in Berlin. They are standing by a brick wall. They are holding weapons, weapons which they can hold in the hand. To my un-instructed eye, there appear to be bayonets attached to the weapons. Whose security are they defending? Ours? I think not. They are certainly not defending anyone's security in Berlin. Does the right hon. Gentleman invite the Committee to say that, if any attack were made by anyone on West Berlin at this moment, our infantry forces in Berlin could do anything to defend it? Is that seriously proposed? Could they do a single thing to defend themselves against a major attack? They could not, could they? They are there as a presence, and their own safety depends on the assumption that no one will attack them. If anybody did attack them, they would be completely lost.
It is said that for our general security—I hope I am not straying too far from the Army Estimates—it is necessary that such an attack on West Berlin should be 685 prevented. Here we come to the essentials of the matter. It is quite possible to negotiate a settlement in Berlin which would make it not necessary for these soldiers to be there. When my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was speaking, something was said about what was and what was not official Labour Party policy. We are not committing ourselves, are we, to embarking on a war for the defence of Berlin in that way? What is the Labour Party's official policy about this? What can it be except to attempt to negotiate a settlement to withdraw all foreign troops of any kind out of Berlin, out of West Germany and out of East Germany and negotiate an area of disengagement in central Europe including Germany?
This is not the place to debate foreign policy, and I am not debating it. I am only saying that there are other ways of securing Berlin from attack and the people of Berlin from loss of their freedom and of achieving, in fact, the security which the present position may by some people be thought to give to our own situation. This could all be done more easily and more satisfactorily, the need for soldiers would be reduced and the expenditure would be less, if we approached this problem of self-defence in a more sensible and intelligent way.
We are told in the Memorandum about the weapons with which the Army is to be equipped. There is a picture of Chieftain, a new tank, a wonderful weapon. We are told for our comfort that it is already on order, from which I infer that at present we have none. We are told about an anti-tank weapon, the Vigilant, which is to come after we have the Chieftains which we have not got so far. All this is in a fantastic area of argument. It has nothing to do with the real picture of the world which is presented by the Government in the Defence White Paper.
There is the question of how many men we are to put into Germany. Here again, we come back to the argument about what is official Labour Party policy. Our policy is a policy of disengagement. I have heard my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench advocate that in foreign affairs debates. What then is the use of saying that we 686 must put 80,000 men into Germany? What for? In order to do what? In order to defend whom against what in a situation in which it is common ground that, if a war did take place, it would be all-out nuclear war? What good would they do there? It is said that they are to be equipped with tactical nuclear weapons. Are they? These euphemisms must be examined carefully.
What is a tactical nuclear weapon? When we asked for a definition, we were told that whether a nuclear weapon was tactical or strategic depended not on its size or who used it but on the purpose for which it was being used. If that is so, tactical nuclear weapons could be of any size. But let us suppose that the intention is to exclude the biggest and the medium-sized bombs and only the smaller ones are to be included. What are the smaller ones?
We know that what is now described as a tactical nuclear weapon is an atomic bomb many times the size of the bomb which brought destruction to Hiroshima. Is it really the policy of the Government or the policy of the official Opposition that 80,000 British soldiers shall be stationed in Germany armed with tactical nuclear weapons of that size and description? If that is the proposal, is it still contended that these weapons could be used without leading at once to total nuclear war in which this country admittedly would have no security? We have not heard. The Government say that a great many soldiers should be brought home and that we should have a mobile central strategic force. We heard my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley analyse that proposition with regard to Hong Kong. What security is intended behind all this?
We know what is in the Government's mind. It is set out in the Defence White Paper, to which I must refer again:We can expect no change in the relentless pressure of every kind from the Communist powers in pursuit of their long-term aim of bringing all mankind within their systemand the Government say that they sincerely wish to prevent that. But that is a dishonest statement. It is put into a Defence White Paper and it is related to Army expenditure as well as the other expenditures on the defence forces, the implication being that we must follow 687 that policy at whatever cost, at whatever danger, at whatever sacrifices—and the sacrifices contemplated are very great—and that we do it in order to defend ourselves and those with whom we are allied against the Communists' long-term aim of winning all mankind within their system.
The implication is that the Communist threat—as it is described, no doubt correctly, and I take no exception to that—is intended to be secured by military force, by attack, by offence. But we all know that that is not true. All this expenditure we have been examining tonight, and the expenditure we will examine when the Estimates for the other Services come along, make some kind of nightmarish sense only on the basis that what we are faced with is a military threat from the Communist powers. If we are not faced with any such threat, then all this argument is out of focus. To borrow a term from the football field, it is offside. It is related to a situation which everybody knows to be unreal.
Nobody on the Government Front Bench—except, perhaps, the Foreign Secretary, who, if he were a Member of this House, might be the exception, although I am not sure about that—believes that the danger of war in the world—and it is a very great danger—comes from some intention by the Soviet Union ox some other Communist power to bring the world under its sway by offensive military action. Nobody believes that any more.
The late Aneurin Bevan put it in a phrase that has often been quoted. I take leave to use it again. He said that the menace of Communism was a social challenge and not a military threat. It was put less dramatically but equally forcefully by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) in his speech during the defence debate. I have not the right hon. Gentleman's speech with me, and I do not want to delay the Committee long about it, but we all know that the true perils are very different perils. They may be even more dangerous perils, but they are not the perils of military attack, for which we are preparing ourselves in the knowledge that, if that were the situation, there would be no possibility of victory and only little of survival.
688 If we go on wasting our resources in this way, year after year after year, we shall not be able to meet the social challenge of the other half of the world. We have to approach these matters in a wholly different way, as, to do him justice, the Prime Minister has been trying to do in the last year or two, although without very great success. But he still sticks to it, and we all support him in it. The Government's defence policy is related to some nightmarish world and is divorced from reality.
We shall divide the Committee tonight. We do not believe that if one has no confidence in a defence system one has any right to allow the Government to have one penny or one man in support of it. This is not because we are inspired—if I may use a phrase from another connection—by any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interest of this country, but because we believe in the interests of our country, because we do not want to see it trailing behind others, either economically, politically or in any other way, and because we do not believe that this is a small nation, a minor Power on the downgrade.
It will be that if we go on as we are, but we believe that this country, instead of trailing behind this nuclear power or that nuclear power in an endeavour somehow or other to be in the picture, could and should place itself at the head of those nations—now rapidly becoming a majority in the world—who want to pursue a policy of relaxation of tension and of co-existence, with friendly but no doubt relentless rivalry between one system and another.
We want to see our country great and fulfilling the part which it used to fill at the head of the liberal and progressive nations, and not at the head of a materialist force we cannot maintain. We could do it, and in doing so could give the world new hope. It is with that purpose that I move the Amendment.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
It is always fascinating to watch the spectacle of the red flag being daubed with blue and white to make it seem like a Union Jack. I am not going to attempt to follow the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in the ramifications of his explorations of what I regard as foreign policy and other 689 matters, but I wish to make one reference to what he said about nuclear weapons, because it is rather important.
He quoted correctly a few lines from the Defence White Paper to the effect that a major war could not long continue without one side or the other resorting to nuclear weapons. From that moment, he consistently confused nuclear weapons with nuclear war. I think that we have arrived at a point of time in army training and equipment when it is important that these two things should be well distinguished. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will say something about this, because it is important.
All nuclear powers now are fast equipping their armies with tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons which are not bombs for the most part; they are missiles which are either aimed or guided, in some cases in the form of ammunition for large calibre cannon. These can be delivered more accurately on the whole than can bombs and are intended for use on the battlefield. Considering the money that has been spent on them by America or Russia, there can be very little doubt that they will be used on the battlefield and, since both nations are most anxious not to have escalation to a general nuclear war, we can only presume that their experts believe, as do many of ours, that these weapons can be used without such escalation following.
This is a matter of opinion, but I point out to the Committee that these tactical battlefield nuclear weapons and nuclear ammunition for existing weapons are becoming more and more common and more and more interwoven with the conventional forces of all the major armies. Whether that is acceptable or not, it is a fact.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Are we to understand that the hon. Gentleman reads that passage in the Defence White Paper differently from the way in which I read it and that he thinks that it does not mean what it says, namely, that if war broke out it would shortly become general nuclear war? He says, quite rightly, that these battlefield tactical weapons are becoming more universal. Would he tell us something about the size? Am I right in saying that some of them, still regarded as battlefield 690 weapons, are many times the size of those used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
§ Sir Richard Glyn
This is a rather technical point, but may I put the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest by saying that a battlefield weapon is a weapon for use on the battlefield? The place where it is used is more essential to the definition than the precise size of the explosion. The use of these weapons tactically is complicated. I do not wish to detain the Committee on this topic, but it is important not to use too large a one, nor to burst it too near the ground. These weapons are used for special purposes in particular ways. The great majority of them will be rather small. The tendency is to make them progressively smaller as it becomes technically possible to do so. The Americans are working on surprisingly small ones.
Some right hon. and hon. Members believe—this is a point of view which I can understand—that the use of these weapons must lead to escalation. There is also the contrary point of view which seems to be held by all the nuclear nations. They are all progressively preparing these battlefield nuclear weapons, and that includes the British Army.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne is entitled to his view that there is no threat to world peace from Soviet military power. He does not explain why the Russians have increased their army by 800,000 to 2½ million. However, I will leave this point, because I realise that I am straying outside our White Paper. I should dearly love to debate the Russian Defence and Army Estimates, if it were in order to do so. It would be a fascinating exercise.
Coming back to the subject of the debate, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the general excellence of his deployment of the resources available to him and also on the lucidity with which he explained them. I want immediately to refer to pensions, which have already been mentioned. I am one of the original signatories of Motion No. 66, which draws attention to the plight of retired officers, other ranks and widows. I hope that something will be said on this subject in winding up. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has used some rather hopeful words. I hope that it will be possible to do something 691 soon and that when it is done it will be done with full consideration for humanity and for the decencies of life.
I turn to the very interesting speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), which I very greatly enjoyed. I was particularly interested in his assessment of the need for 80,000 men in Germany which, coming from the Dispatch Box in this important debate, must obviously be a new and more precise definition of official Socialist policy. What was even more fascinating was where he said he was going to get them from. He said that we have 40,000 troops in what he described as outposts. That is roughly right. He proposed to take 30,000 of them away, leaving 10,000, or one-quarter of the present number, to carry out all the tasks and obligations at present being carried out by the whole.
The hon. and learned Member did not indicate precisely where the 30,000 men should come from. He mentioned Hong Kong but did not go into further details. As I understand it, we now have about 20,000 men in the Far East and about the same number distributed between the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa. On the policy advocated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, we should have to denude one of these two areas completely and halve the troops available in the one which we did not wholly denude in order to get the 30,000 men which it is, on the hon. and learned Gentleman's official statement, Labour Party policy to put into Germany.
The hon. and learned Gentleman did not say—I think that he should have done—which area he would entirely denude of troops, whether it would be the Far East or the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa. Nor did he indicate how he would distribute the paltry 10,000 he would leave.
§ Mr. Paget
The hon. Gentleman did not follow the whole theme of my speech. I assure him that this is not new. We have said from the Dispatch Box for some years that the bases should be transferred from an Army commitment to a Naval and Air Force commitment. It cannot be done tomorrow. It takes a certain amount of time for reorganisation, but there are 200,000 people in the Navy and in the Air Force. 692 They are doing jobs which in some cases appear to us to be somewhat less real than the immediate fulfilment of our N.A.T.O. commitments. That is how we believe that this realignment of the forces should take place.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I want to be very fair to the hon. and learned Gentleman. He gave us a fascinating picture of sailors in tanks helping the civil power to maintain order in Hong Kong. This was a delightful picture. We all know that at one time tanks were known as land battleships. Sailors were of the utmost use in the expediton to restore peace at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, but I do not remember them doing anything on this scale since then.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I will not continue with this much more, except to point out that in helping a civil power to maintain order, communications such as walkie-talkies, are required. I do not know how many of these the Navy and the Air Force normally have. I am sure the Committee will be interested to know that 15 per cent. of the total number of sailors and airmen, namely, 30,000 out of 200,000, are to be committed to this kind of police rôle, according to the new official Socialist policy. I think that this will be greeted with some choice comments in certain Air Force and Navy circles.
I only wish that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was here. He had a fascinating duel with the hon. and learned Gentleman which at one time reminded me of the duel between the elephant and the whale. They could not agree about which had backed the wrong horse for the Derby. However, I think that they both backed the wrong horse in this debate, because I did not like the views of the hon. Member for Dudley about what to do in Germany any more than I liked the views of the hon. and learned Member about how to denude what he described as the outposts and replace these trained soldiers with sailors in tanks and with airmen.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
The hon. Member ridicules that idea, but has he studied the part played by the Royal Marines inland during the Korean War?
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I have every respect for the Marines. I think I can truthfully say that I think more highly of them than some sailors do. However, we are not dealing with Marines. The hon. and learned Gentleman expressly mentioned sailors, but I do not think that the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) was in the Chamber at the time.
I come to the White Paper. It has been generally agreed that our commitments in Europe are quite different from those in what the hon. and learned Gentleman called the outposts. As regards outpost work, we must stress mobility and speed. I referred to this last year. What happened in Kuwait is quite a useful lesson. We got there first. Because we got there first, nothing happened. People may argue about what would have happened if we had not got there in time, but the plain fact is that an aggressor in that part of the world—not always very stable politically—dare not risk an initial defeat. He depends on a quick victory. He assesses the possibilities of a quick victory before we arrive. Our arrival immediately changes the picture. What happened in Kuwait may happen in other places. If we get there first, the whole thing is off. This is evidence of the value of speed in fire brigade operations.
I should like to say just a word about the battlefield nuclear weapons to which I have referred before. These are of very great importance to any Army which, like that of N.A.T.O., is not considering an aggresive or offensive move. Anyone on the defensive in modern war is aware that the aggressor can choose his time and place for an attack, and, if the aggressor has a good air force, as the Russians have, he can ensure local air supremacy over the area of which one might call the blitzkrieg. Therefore our defenders would be fighting in adverse air conditions which creates difficulties, especially for movement of reserves, and the only appropriate counter-balance to this might be the use of battlefield nuclear weapons. That is, I believe, why the Americans and, to an extent, ourselves are going in for these weapons.
694 I think that the time may come, whether we like it or not, when it will have to be accepted that heavy artillery duties will have to be carried out with missiles with nuclear capacity. They may have conventional explosive warheads, but they will also have nuclear warheads, too. As time goes on, not only heavy artillery tasks but medium artillery tasks may have to be carried out by weapons, some cannons, some missiles, which have an alternative nuclear capacity. We have to live with this fact, and its effects must be considered.
One effect of this on our Army is greatly to intensify the need for a very high standard of training. If we have to contend with adverse air conditions, and split up into small groups, as may have to be done in order not to offer tempting targets for the enemy's battlefield nuclear weapons, then a tremendously high standard of individual and unit training is necessary, and this, to my mind, necessitates long-term engagements.
This fact alone makes it quite profitless to consider an engagement of under three years, which, I believe, is the period of Russian conscription. Hon. Gentlemen who think that we may be driven back to conscription, which I personally hope we shall not, must consider this factor and bear in mind that in future, as these developments happen, conscription must mean conscription for a substantial period. I am not talking about people who may possibly be called to the Colours under the obligations of the new Act. I am talking about a possible reversal of our whole national policy and bringing in conscription again, a policy which has been advocated, but which I personally hope we shall never adopt. I believe that if we had to do so, we should have to call up people for not less than two and a half years, which would be a very severe degree of call-up.
The hon. Member for Dudley was, rather unfortunately, very critical of the standard of recruits which are being accepted for the British Army. His experience is not at all the same as mine. When I recently visited a recruiting station on the edge of London I was 695 interested to find that a substantial proportion of applicants who would probably have been willing to join were actually being dissuaded from doing so. People who were obviously misfits were politely turned away. It is very difficult to ascertain the proportion, but from figures I was given there it would appear that a quarter or even as much as a third of people who might have been jollied into signing are persuaded that it was not the best thing for them to do. I think that attitude is quite right.
As we get nearer our minimum target of 165,000 Regulars, which I hope we shall reach in twelve months' time or perhaps less, I should like to think that we would become more selective about those whom we accept as recruits. There is nothing better for the morale of any unit or force than for it to be known that it does not accept anybody and that it is, indeed, careful about those whom it takes, Should we ever arrive at a position numerically where we are able to get that feeling about the Army—when there was a certain degree of anxiety on the part of young men about whether they would be accepted—that would entirely change the whole psychological aspect of the matter. I believe that if that could be done we should get back to the old long-term type of Regular Army that we had in 1914, which was the best Army in the world at that time and probably comparatively the best that we have ever had. That is what we should aim at.
There is a point which has caused me a little concern. It has been said that we are lowering our top total from 180,000 to rather less. I very much hope that any reduction in this regard will be at the expense of Administrative Services and not involve further amalgamations of major units. I should very much regret it if that became necessary. We have already had some slashing reductions and amalgamations. Historically famous units have gone into suspended animation. This should be stopped even if it means holding units 5–10 per cent. under strength, for that would be preferable.
I should think that this is where the "Ever-readies" will come into their own. If this was not the case, and if eventually Regular units recruited up to 100 per cent. of their strength and 696 trained their own specialists, there would then be no call at all for the "Ever-readies". But I should like to think that the "Ever-readies" are going to be a permanent feature of the Territorial Army, and so I hope there will always be room for them. It seems to me that this would fit in with keeping a skeleton of major units which if 100 per cent. up to strength would be rather above the actual total for the Army at any time.
The Territorial Army is recovering from the difficulties caused by the recent reorganisation. Reorganisation always means disorganisation to start with. However, I believe that the difficulties are being overcome. I think that the "Ever-readies" will be a very popular corps as soon as they can be signed on. I know many places where people are anxious to sign on but are merely waiting to learn the conditions and so forth.
There has been reference to Civil Defence. I tread here with some delicacy, because I consider that the Territorial Army has an alternative rôle in Civil Defence. I should like now to speak of the Territorial Army's part in Civil Defence, which I apprehend is in order on Estimates which include the cost of the Territorial Army.
I believe that the joint exercises which have been referred to—they have been going on for years, and I took part in some of them while serving before I came to the House—show how vital communications are. If one assumes that the worst has happened and that there has been an incident, all normal communications will have gone. The need then is for motor cars equipped with wireless sets and manned by drivers and signallers who know the procedure for netting. I believe that this task could be fulfilled immediately by Territorial Army units which have a substantial supply of such equipment. Regular units may also be available.
A very great deal of command and control, especially what we know as third echelon work, must be done through the Army. In America and, I understand, Russia all Civil Defence comes under the Defence Ministry. I wonder whether attention has been given to the possibility of removing the active part of Civil Defence from the Home Office to the Ministry of Defence, which would be in 697 many ways, I believe, better equipped to handle it. I throw this out just as a suggestion. I think it might be worth considering in the light of the results of the exercises.
Just a word about the proposed practice mobilisation on the part of the Territorial Army. I am delighted to hear that this will include the movement of Territorial units to Germany where they will carry out an exercise. I think that is absolutely first rate. We have done it on a small scale before. I think it is excellent that it should be done now on a bigger scale.
I only hope that a number of administrative difficulties for the Territorials in being stationed a long way from home will be taken into consideration. I think it would be almost essential that they should be allowed to send advance parties some days ahead, which might possibly mean special aeroplane arrangements, but without such special arrangements I think there may be a good deal of pain and grief. After all, it is quite a new thing to do this on a large scale, and I do suggest that consideration should be given to the administrative difficulties which may be caused.
I do not want to detain the Committee because many other Members wish to speak, but there is one last point I would make. I refer to buildings. I do hope that everything is being done to achieve economy in these. I speak now as a farmer. No farmer would dream of paying the prices which are habitually paid by the Army for garages, stores, and other large buildings of that nature. We would not dream of it. One of the reasons for this is that a number of firms which specialise in making prefabricated buildings for ordinary agricultural machinery can supply them to us cheaply—at any rate, far more cheaply than any contractor putting up such buildings by conventional methods.
I am certain that if the Army were to approach one of these firms of manufacturers who make prefabricated agricultural buildings the firm could be persuaded to make the buildings a few feet wider or higher or lower, whatever is needed, to take weapons or vehicles which the Army requires to have housed. After all, agricultural machinery is every bit as complex as most warlike stores. A combine harvester, for instance, is not a thing to treat lightly, and I am sure 698 the same style of buildings as these agricultural buildings would be quite adequate for the Army's needs, and very much cheaper, especially if arrangements could be made to have them prefabricated in large numbers. I should like to leave that thought with my right hon. Friend.
I wind up by saying that although, like everybody else, I have points of reservation in regard to the White Paper and the Estimates, I believe that all in all we must give credit to the Secretary of State for having handled and distributed the available resources very well.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) referred at the beginning of his speech and later to the question of the use of tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield. That is one of the principal subjects to which I wish to refer in my remarks, and therefore I shall come back in a few minutes to what he said about it, but first of all I should like to make some more general comments on the debate we have had, almost all of which I have heard.
I heard my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). He had a bit of a rough time at moments, but he also gave the Government a very rough time on the question of the payment or the non-payment of the troops under the latest Government pay pause for the Army. I thought he made the most devastating attack on the Government in that respect. He accused the Government of having cheated. He used language which could hardly be strengthened, but I must say that I think that if the Opposition Front Bench are going to attack the Government they could be more effective in their attack of the Government if they had some people sitting behind them. I do not complain because there are only a few people here in the Committee now. I have addressed even smaller meetings than this in my time, and I dare say I shall again, but I think that if the Opposition are going to attack the Government they could make a very much better attack. It would look more as though there were something real in the attack if there were a few more hon. Members present on this side of the Chamber.
699 After all, this is one of the most important debates of the year. We are discussing how we are to spend £500 million. If the Labour Party in the House of Commons does not think it worth turning up to discuss expenditure of £500 million, there are a large number of Labour people throughout the country who think that it is. There has been talk in the debate about cutting garrisons. There has never been a garrison cut like this one—so depleted that there is nothing left. Why should people outside care what is going on in the House of Commons if hon. Members do not care? Many complaints are made, and the Leader of the Opposition was complaining the other day, about the failure of newspapers to report Parliament. I am all in favour of those complaints. I think Chat they should report Parliament much more fully than they do, but if hon. Members are not interested in what is going on in Parliament they cannot complain if the newspapers are not interested.
This happens very frequently. The attendance of hon. Members in this debate has been a disgrace to the House of Commons. It is utterly disgraceful that Members of Parliament should think that they have almost no obligation to turn up at a debate such as this. We know that Members of Parliament have many other functions to perform, but if their other functions have become so important that we have fewer than twenty Members to discuss the expenditure of £500 million—and there have been hardly more than twenty Members present throughout the debate—and if this is the state to which the House of Commons has come, no one has a right to complain if people outside have a contempt for the House of Commons.
What the official Opposition are doing, partly by the way in which they organise things in the House, is to help bring the House of Commons into contempt. I therefore protest very strongly at the way in which this is being done. Indeed, if the Opposition have such strong condemnations to make of the Government as were rightly made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton, he ought to have had more than three or four people here to support him in this Committee when he made it. I have said before on other 700 occasions, but it does not alter the fact that I think it is the truth, that we shall not sustain public interest in the House of Commons if this is the best that Members of Parliament can do in discussing not only the expenditure of £500 million but in discussing a subject which is more baffling and more complicated, and becoming more so each year, than probably any other subject with which the human race has ever had to deal.
I am sure that hon. Members opposite and hon. and right hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench hold their views quite sincerely about the use of nuclear weapons, when they should be used, how they should be used and whether their use would develop into a general nuclear war. They hold their views sincerely on these questions as we Members below the Gangway hold our views, but is the House of Commons to say that we have so little interest in the matter that we are not even going to meet and debate and exchange arguments and listen?
The hon. Member for Dorset, North—and I say this in no derogatory fashion—takes a complacent view about tactical weapons. I do not say that he likes them, but he takes the view that they are not anything like so dangerous as many people have described them to be. The hon. Member has studied the matter very carefully, but I hope to put against him in a few minutes an authority which the Committee should regard as even more eminent than the hon. Member on this subject.
In one way or another we are spending some part of the money which is to be voted tonight on equipping our troops in Europe, in the danger zone, with weapons which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has said are probably a good deal bigger than the Hiroshima weapon, though the troops may be getting smaller ones as well. Those they have at present are certainly a good deal bigger than the weapon used at Hiroshima.
For the House of Commons to say, "We do not need to discuss that very much" is disgraceful. If the House of Commons is not prepared to discuss these matters fully, hon. Members must 701 not complain if people say that they do not pay much respect to the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
My hon. Friend is tending to get a little sanctimonious about this. There are occasions when he is not in the House because of other commitments but other hon. Members are here. This is one of the occasions when he is present and other hon. Members are not. My hon. Friend is making a valid point, but he is tending to labour it a little too heavily.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) should start to discuss the Estimates.
§ Mr. Foot
If I may reply briefly to the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), I do not think that I was sanctimonious. I said that hon. Members had other occupations. No doubt, I offend as well, although I think I do so a good deal less than many hon. Members. I try, however, to attend the debates. I even do the rare thing of attending a debate in which I do not try to speak, which is almost unheard of in the House nowadays.
I am sure that my hon. Friend, who is a very good attender of the House, too, agrees with me that if that is the best that the House of Commons can do in discussing the expenditure of £500 million and the use of such weapons as little Hiroshima or big Hiroshima bombs, the whole apparatus which produces this result is inflicting the greatest possible injury upon Parliament. The Minister had a right to a much bigger attendance to hear the discussion of the Estimates which he has presented.
Let me put some questions to the right hon. Gentleman. I shall come later to a further reference to the tactical nuclear weapons, but I should like to know from the Minister whether the Army has any interest in the test which took place at Nevada?
§ Mr. Profumo indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. In that case, perhaps that is all the answer. Are we to understand that the weapons tested at Nevada have nothing to do with tactical nuclear weapons? Were any weapons tested which would be in any way supplied to 702 the Army? If so, under which part of the Estimates do they fall? Who pays for the tests in Nevada? Does part of the cost come out of the Army Estimates? If so, how is it concealed in the Estimates? I could not discover it. If the Minister says that this has nothing to do with him, we will have to ask the other Departments. If, however, it has something to do with him, does he propose to have, or to assist in having, any further underground tests?
I should like also to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any of the money which he is asking us to vote to him will be devoted to providing assistance for the Americans in their Christmas Island tests. Perhaps this is a matter which we will have to raise with the Air Ministry when we debate the Air Estimates on Monday, but we want to know exactly how these tests are being arranged and whether any of the Estimates will refer to them.
The main part of what I wanted to say concerns the question of the dangers of the tactical nuclear weapons, which now feature strongly in the whole apparatus and plan for the operations of the British Army in Europe. I listened carefully to what was said from the Opposition Front Bench on these matters. The Opposition Front Bench have, I understand, two main criticisms of the general way in which the Government run the Army. The first main criticism is that the War Office is weakening the support for N.A.T.O. much too much. The second criticism is that there is too great a reliance on atomic or tactical nuclear weapons, although the Opposition Front Bench do not say that it would rely on them at all. They say that there is too great a reliance upon them. These seem to be the two principal tactical arguments—I suppose they might be strategic as well—advanced by the members of the Opposition Front Bench about the Government. They go on to say, in effect, that their view of the matter—the view of the Opposition—is supported by the Americans and that the Government are somewhat out of step in this respect.
With respect to the military authorities on the Opposition Front Bench, I think that they were very unwise to press this argument because it is not one which will stand up very long. After all, the forces in Europe are now controlled by 703 General Norstad, who gives the orders. To some extent he gives the orders to the British Army as well as to other armies, and therefore I think that for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to base their main opposition on the claim that there is a great gulf between what they are proposing and what the Government are proposing—and that the American administration and General Norstad himself are on their side against the Government—is to put an argument which I do not think will last. It will be destroyed. It is being partly destroyed by statements being made by the American Government, and so it is foolish to base a great case on a technical claim which can easily be exploded.
If General Norstad says that he is quite satisfied with the balance between the nuclear weapons and the others, what happens to the claim? Or if the American President says that he is in favour of Britain having an independent nuclear deterrent, what happens to the claim?
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman says that we stick to it. As a recent convert to his view, I am glad to hear that my right hon. Friend will stick to it.
What I was saying—I am entitled to say it and I think it good advice even though he may not like it—was that it is not a good thing for the Opposition to base their attack upon the Government on a claim that they have a superior knowledge of the point of view of the American administration. I think that a very unwise thing to do and in some respects I think that the Government have good grounds for complaint. If one has been licking somebody's boots for a long time and one gets a kick in the teeth it might seem harsh. It would be harsh for the Government were that the situation with America. So I do not think it wise of my hon. Friends to base a case on those grounds.
There is, of course, the argument on grounds of principle concerning tactical nuclear weapons. I shall not argue the general case in which my hon. Friends believe. We are opposed to all nuclear weapons. We think that they are an entirely new kind of weapon which seems to be a perfection of the boomerang and which will come back to hit us. 704 We think that we can establish this argument. When we debate the Air Estimates we shall argue the whole case of the so-called balance of terror. If the balance of terror worked successfully, as the Government claim, they would not need an Army at all. All that would be necessary would be to use the supreme weapon. If it is true that the threat of the great deterrent will always work, it could be used in any circumstances. However, we shall discuss that more general question when we debate the Air Estimates.
I wish to deal specifically with the question of the tactical nuclear weapons with which, to a great degree, the British Army is armed. Right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench say that there is excessive reliance on these weapons, although they do not say that they would get rid of them altogether. I have always believed that in some respects the distribution of these tactical nuclear weapons throughout Europe constitutes an even greater danger of promoting war than miscalculation about the strategic deterrent itself. Nobody believes that there cannot be any possibility of miscalculation in these matters.
If we multiply the number of weapons, weapons which are not small but which can cause huge devastation, and put them more and more into Europe and spread them along this frontier—the Russians of course will do the same on their side—this multiplies enormously the possibilities of miscalculation. It multiplies enormously the possibilities of a war starting. If a war started in Central Europe by the dropping of a bomb the size of that dropped on Hiroshima—some are bigger—it might be thought by the other side that this was an opening of a general war. The hon. Member for Dorset, North, said that he did not believe very much in the escalation story.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I said that, whether we liked it or not, these weapons were there and that although the countries are determined that there should not be escalation, they cannot know that for sure. I agree that the experts are in conflict over this.
§ Mr. Foot
I hope I have understood the hon. Member aright. I do not 705 think that the fact that various countries have put weapons there means that they do not believe in the possibility of escalation. They have put them there even though there is the possibility of escalation. That is what I complain about. Because of the possibility—indeed the certainty—that if one of these bombs were used it would escalate into nuclear war, I would take all these weapons away.
The hon. Member said, "Whether we like it or not" these weapons are there, but I do not like it and I want them taken away. I should take them away unilaterally. I would have all tactical nuclear weapons taken out of Europe, even unilaterally. More and more people who have studied the matter are coming to recognise that it is a matter which should be at least considered. That is one of the reasons why I complain that hon. Members do not treat these matters seriously. I can understand why hon. Members do not pay much attention to what I say about military affairs for I have not much military experience, but as a citizen I try to understand what is happening. The curious thing is that some of the people who are coming more and more to support the views which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne and I hold are some of the greatest living experts.
On the general question of the deterrent, we have on our side the inventor of radar. On the question of nuclear tactical weapons in Europe the view I have just expressed, that we should consider withdrawing all these weapons even unilaterally, is very nearly expressed by the article which many hon. Members will have read by the chief scientific adviser to the Government in these matters, Sir Solly Zuckerman, "Judgment and Control in Modern Warfare." Some of us raised the question of judgment and control in modern warfare and argued that these nuclear weapons banished all judgment and control. Now all judgment and control is being seriously discussed by the chief scientific adviser to the Government.
He comes to the view that it is extremely difficult to control any of these nuclear weapons. He has said:It is essential, therefore, that the armoury of which we dispose in order to defend ourselves in field warfare does not contain within 706 itself trip-wires which unwittingly set into operation the whole panoply of strategic deterrence.He says further:The very existence of tactical nuclear weapons is thus the most urgent challenge that has ever been presented to military judgment and control. As weapons to deter aggression, they serve a very precise purpose; the context of field warfare in which they might actually be used is an entirely different matter.Obviously I cannot read the whole article but if, as Sir Solly Zuckerman says, the invention of the tactical nuclear weapon constitutes the greatest challenge, then I do not think that the Committee is discussing that challenge in the way that it should. The article continues:It seems to me, therefore, that when we talk about the potential use and effects of nuclear weapons, we must avoid the conceptual framework derived from the military terminology of pre-nuclear warfare. One may fairly ask what meaning there is to the idea of using nuclear weapons 'to defend our territories and peoples'. One can deter with nuclear weapons. Can one defend?The argument as to whether one can deter is a different one which comes more under the heading of the Air Estimates. After all, one must always prove that one can always deter, because one error may throw the world into oblivion. Sir Solly Zuckerman is clear on this point. He points out that tactical nuclear weapons in Europe are not defensive weapons and that one cannot use them as such. He asks if one can defend with them.
§ Mr. Foot
I am sorry that my hon. and learned Friend did not understand the article, but that does not depreciate my appreciation of what Sir Solly Zuckerman had to say. It is clear that he is saying that these weapons are so difficult to control that, in turn, it is difficult to ensure that there will not be an error. If my hon. and learned Friend does not appreciate that, I can read further from the article.
§ Mr. Paget
I read it with great interest and I entirely agreed with much of it, for it is very similar to the vew which I formed. But if one uses these weapons 707 the control of the battle becomes possible. From a morale point of view, I suppose that it would be almost impossible to get anyone to come out of their hole and, thus, the battle would have stopped. Why it is not an effective defence I fail to understand.
§ Mr. Foot
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton has not understood the article at all. Zuckerman is saying, and many others have said it, that if one piles more and more tactical nuclear weapons into Europe the possibility of one of them being let off is multiplied. Do I see the Minister indicating that that is not the case?
§ Mr. Profumo
I have read the article in question with great care and I think, with great respect, that Sir Solly Zuckerman cannot be held to be saying this, because the tactical nuclear warheads are under lock and key and cannot be released just like that. There is no question of someone losing his head and letting the things off. The rest of the argument may be valid but Sir Solly Zuckerman does not say what the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) has stated.
§ Mr. Foot
I am sorry, but the right hon. Gentleman should read the article again, too. The whole of the article is describing just what I have been saying. Why does the Minister think that the article is called "Judgment and Control in Modern Warfare". Sir Solly Zuckerman is talking about judgment and control. He is saying that it is getting much more difficult to control these things.
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman says that he is telling me the facts, but his Department is often wrong on these matters. It often makes mistakes. It is common sense that, if more and more tactical nuclear weapons are put into Europe, the situation will become more dangerous. Many other people agree with this, and many other military authorities say that all tactical nuclear weapons should be withdrawn from Europe. Sir John Slessor says very much the same. The wise Government, which we are asked to believe, thought it a good idea for the safety of the nation that we should jam tactical nuclear weapons into Europe and that we should have a line down Europe with tactical nuclear weapons jostling on either side of it. That is the policy which the Government have worked for, and they have got it.
The idea is that we should put tactical nuclear weapons on one side and that the other people should put them on the other. That is one of the reasons why we are opposed to putting tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. Before they were put into Europe, the Polish Government offered to keep them out of Europe if we in the West did the same and if there were an inspection system. But that was rejected by the Government's military advisers. We could have had an area in Europe which was devoid of these tactical nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Foot
That is absolutely untrue. I do not know why my hon. and learned Friend wants to parade his ignorance in this way [Laughter.] Look at the flippancy with which these matters are dealt. We could have kept these weapons out of the centre of Europe. 709 The proposal to do so was made by the Polish Government, supported by the Soviet Government, but it was rejected by the American Government, with the support of the British Government. Why? Because the British and American Government's military advisers said, "It is more important for us to put tactical nuclear weapons into Europe than to have any arrangement for a disengagement plan". They said that because they thought that they would be able to counterbalance the superior conventional force of the Russians by their own tactical nuclear strength.
That is why the Government said in the 1957 White Paper that in the event of a major attack by the Russians we would use nuclear weapons first—that is, the tactical nuclear weapons about which we are talking. The Government have repeated it. As recently as last January, the Minister of Defence said that, in certain circumstances, the British Government would be prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons first. That is official Government policy. It was the most shameful and lunatic statement ever made by a British Government.
What is the consequence of it? We are utterly vulnerable, and if one of these tactical nuclear weapons were used either by accident, as I argued earlier, or by deliberate calculation, which the Government have said they might do in certain circumstances, there would be within a matter of minutes of the use of such a weapon in Europe the utter and total destruction of this country.
We would be much safer, therefore, if these weapons were taken out of Europe altogether, even if we had to do it unilaterally. I would, of course, prefer to do it generally, but this country would be safer however if it were done.
§ Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I do not understand these matters as thoroughly as the hon. Gentleman, but he has said once or twice that these are not defensive weapons but deterrent weapons. If that is so, why should not we keep them in Europe as a deterrent?
§ Mr. Foot
Two points arise from that intervention. On the deterrent mainly arises the question of the strategic deterrent, which concerns the American Strategic Air Force, and the major deterrent forces held in the background. I am 710 against them, too. We can argue that matter on the Air Estimates; it does not come under these Estimates.
I do not say that tactical nuclear weapons never deter. None of us has said that tactical nuclear weapons never deter anybody. A weapon can be a deterrent in certain circumstances, but not always a deterrent. What the hon. Gentleman and the Government have to prove, if it is safe to have these tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, is that they have always to deter, and that there could never be any possibility of a mistake, because if there is a mistake, this country is destroyed, and that is putting it as mildly as I can. There are possisibilities of mistake, and Sir Solly Zuckerman said so, even though the Minister cannot read what he said with full understanding. If that is not so, the Government say that in certain circumstances—and this is official policy, which the Minister of Defence repeated quite recently—they would use these weapons first. That would involve the total destruction of this country.
Therefore, I say that even if we had to do it unilaterally it would be much safer to take these weapons out of Europe, and if we could take them out of Europe we could get agreement with the East on this subject more easily, perhaps, than on any other. We helped to get Russian troops out of Poland and out of Hungary. Is not that what we want to do? They propose to do business, but it is rejected by the British and American Governments. My hon. Friends and I voted in favour of this policy, and although they are straining their enthusiasm for it, judging by the looks on their faces at the moment, they are, officially, in favour of this policy, too. They are in favour of the Rapacki Plan, which would keep these weapons out of the area.
§ Mr. Foot
That, too, though I do not know whether it has been abandoned.
The fact is that the insistence of the military leaders on pouring these weapons into Europe, so far from increasing our safety, diminishes it. Therefore, if we did not have any other reason for voting against these Estimates, we are not prepared again to vote money 711 to cause these tactical nuclear weapons to be piled into Europe, involving possible disaster for this country. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne would agree that we do not expect that we can persuade the people in this House, because we know hon. Members have formed their views sincerely—I am sure they do—but they must not think that though we speak for a small number here, we speak for only a small number in the country. There are many people who look at this question of nuclear weapons in a different sense and in a different way, and, as Abraham Lincoln once said, we must disenthral ourselves from the military orthodoxies, which have very often led us to disaster.
Therefore, on these Estimates, my hon. Friends and myself are voting against the moneys supplied for nuclear weapons, which, so far from being weapons to defend this country, are, we believe, weapons which could cause infinite disaster.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
During the course of this day's debate, on several occasions I have felt inclined to ask the same question as the Irishman did—"Is this a private fight, or can anybody join in?" It would seem to anybody unconnected with and without any knowledge of our institutions that the real fight in these matters has been between the Opposition Front Bench and those hon. Gentlemen who are sitting below the Gangway opposite.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on his Memorandum, and indeed on his felicitous speech in introducing the Estimates debate. I do not propose to discuss nuclear weapons or higher strategy, but I have in mind several matters which should, I think, be considered in dealing with the detail of the Estimates.
The first is publicity. My right hon. Friend used the expression "high-pressure publicity". In many ways, he has been able to improve considerably the impact or, to use the modern word, the image of the Army with the public, though I think that there are certain directions in which he might well look 712 further. Paragraph 52 of the Memorandum, under the heading "Man-management in the Army", after speaking about freedom from certain restrictions and irritations in the Army, goes on to say:This guidance deals with such routine activities as inspections, guards, parades and fatigues and emphasises the need to cut out unnecessary and time-consuming activities.I suggest that we have gone a little too far, perhaps, in disposing of some activities which, though slightly time-consuming, are of value from the point of view of public relations. In my constituency this year the Queen's Birthday Parade and the Tattoo which normally accompanies the Aldershot show have been cancelled. As the number of men involved for the Tattoo would be about 400 at the most and as only two extra parades would be necessary for a full comprehensive Queen's Birthday Parade, for the troops in Aldershot District, the abandonment of these two events seems somewhat shortsighted.
The next matter, the supply of walking-out dress, I have raised on the Estimates in previous years whenever I have had an opportunity to speak. I still see many soldiers without the walking-out dress. This is very unsatisfactory. They are sad about it and they would be very proud if they were able to go home with all the kudos which goes with a really smart looking outfit. In my view, things such as a smart walking-out dress tend to encourage recruits, and I regard them as important for that reason if for no other. Two years ago I received a promise that within a reasonable time—within two years, I think—every soldier would have the walking-out dress, but this has not happened.
The brevity with which I shall touch on the next subject, pensions, will be no measure of its importance for recruiting, entirely apart from the human angle; there are today elderly needy widows, particularly those widowed before 1948 whose husbands were unable to subscribe to National Insurance, who are living on a mere pittance. People are talking about this and they say that if the Services behave like that they really should not have support by the encouragement of recruiting of young men of the appropriate age.
713 I want to deal with two or three other matters and then go on to what is admittedly a constituency matter but which is of some importance. I am pleased to hear from my right hon. Friend that special considerations are being given to doctors and that it is intended to put their service on a geographical basis. I hope one result will be some sort of liaison, from the point of view of medical attention, between the Services. It appears obvious, from what one hears, that there is a shortage of doctors and dentists. Would it not be better, therefore, to use area arrangements to cover both the Royal Air Force and the Army rather than have a separate organisation for each Service?
About two years ago the Estimates Committee considered this matter and made certain recommendations. Such an arrangement would appear to mean not only a possible economy but would also enable the work to be done for both Services even where there is a shortage. Of course, it could only be done in this country. Obviously it could not apply to units abroad.
The idea of giving a full service life to officers is excellent, but I am a little uncertain about how the proposed system of keeping on the middle ranks of officers—presumably senior captains, majors and lieutenants-colonel who have not gone to the staff college—will work. It is a laudable idea to keep on these officers, if one can do so, and to offer them a career. But surely there can be only a limited number of posts (to use my right hon. Friend's expression) for colonels and brigadiers, and merely to add a P.S.C. or S.Q. may not, as I see it, add very much to the opportunity these officers may have. There is a substantial danger in this scheme of a diminution of the standing of a P.S.C. or a course at the Staff College.
In regard to younger officers, I would like my right hon. Friend to consider the position which arises with regard to officers commissioned from Sandhurst. The popular and fashionable regiments are always very much sought-after by the newly commissioned and it sometimes happens in consequence that the line regiments do not get their fair share of the brighter lads from Sandhurst. This is very unfortunate and might in time 714 become disastrous. Action should be taken to ensure that the butter represented by the best class of young officer if this is a suitable metaphor, is spread over the whole of the Service, particularly the line regiments. This does not apply so much to the technical corps, where other qualifications are important.
I want now to speak of a purely constituency matter arising from the kindly observations in paragraph 88 about the military sector of Aldershot. I am very pleased that there has been so much redevelopment in Aldershot. The only thing I want to say about the building of the married quarters now being erected in substantial numbers is that it has not apparently been realised that some families consist of two and others consist of six, seven, eight or more. During the war the German Air Force very wisely built the semi-detached class of house in such a way that the top floor of either house could be shut off. If this was done, the result was that one house could accommodate a man and his wife and two children and the other could accommodate a man and his wife and as many as six children. The two rooms at the top could be put into either house.
I hope that attention will be paid to this matter. I confirm what my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) said about garages. If garages are to be erected, there is much to be said for not erecting the traditional type but erecting the prefabricated type, which is much Cheaper and equally durable.
Further buildings, some of which were so old as to have horse lines underneath the actual barracks of the troops, have been knocked down. This has happened with a number of barracks, with the result that it has not been possible since they have been demolished for any payment by way of relief of rates to be made in regard to them. Waterloo East and West, Talavera, Badajos, and Salamanca have already been demolished. Some houses have been built on Waterloo East. Work has been started on Waterloo West and Talavera and married quarters may be completed within a year. In the case of Badajos and Salamanca new quarters certainly will not be completed for two years. In addition, there are four new barracks in place of the Stanhope Lines which are 715 being abolished. These barracks will not be available until 1964.
I ask the Secretary of State to look into this matter with some care, because the effect so far of these not being allowable for the subvention which is given in place of rates to the Borough of Aldershot is that there has been a reduction in annual income of about £26,000, which is equivalent of the levy of a 11d. rate. In addition, although I do not want unduly to emphasise this, as a result of the decrease in population due to military exodus there has been a radical effect on the rate deficiency grant receivable, involving a loss of approximately a further £9,900. These are matters of importance, particularly so when people in the Services come back from Kenya and ask why it is that these buildings are not being got on with while barracks in Kenya are being proceeded with. The general feeling is that it would be more to the point to get on quickly with building at home rather than building in Kenya, buildings which may not be used by our troops or their wives.
Another reason why this is of considerable importance is that there has been a bottleneck in the building programme to the extent of about £6 million of work that has been approved but which cannot be done. Quoting from the Third Report of the Estimates Committee, a witness, when asked why only one-third of the planned expenditure for new barrack buildings was taking place in this financial year, said that this was due to delay consequent on pressure of work in the building industry.
I hope that when the Minister comes to reply he will deal with these matters. We have heard of all the work that is going on, and what is hoped to be done, in barrack building and married quarters building, and if we are to have these barrack blocks and old married quarters knocked down and not replaced within reasonable time, for whatever reason at all, it is a serious matter from two points of view. First, from the point of view of the rates, and, secondly, that unless we keep the existing buildings, particularly the married quarters, until they can be replaced we shall get into the old difficulty of people wanting accommodation and being unable to have it.
716 I hope very much that I may have an assurance that this building programme will not be held up and that the excellent suggestions about building which are contained in the Memorandum will be implemented without undue delay.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I have a certain amount of sympathy with the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington), for it is very natural from the point of view of his constituency that he would like to have additional expenditure on the Aldershot Tattoo. I suppose it is quite a human thing for an hon. Member to put forward a case why the Government should produce something akin to a display of fireworks in his constituency.
§ Sir E. Errington
I think that when the Aldershot Tattoo is renewed it will do the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) very much good if he will come along to it.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am always interested in anything colourful, and I might conceivably, if I had nothing better to do, go to the Aldershot Tattoo.
§ Mr. Hughes
We may soon have to put this into poetry.
If Aldershot is entitled to have its tattoo, is every garrison town in the country going to have one? Why should we all subscribe to a jamboree at Aldershot so that the hon. Gentleman—
§ Sir E. Errington
One very good reason for subscribing to the Aldershot Tattoo is that it is in aid of Army charities, and I am sure that that would appeal to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Hughes
That certainly does not appeal to me. I do not think that the widows and other dependants of officers and soldiers should have to rely upon charity. The hon. Gentleman's argument that we must have the Aldershot Tattoo in order to raise money for Army charities is a rather curious one. If that is the situation, it is a scandal. If men sacrifice their lives and their dependants are left in poverty, their needs should be met from State funds instead of their 717 depending upon a tattoo. It really is the most ridiculous argument that the hon. Gentleman has produced yet.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman carries on any recruiting campaigns in Aldershot, but the Minister is right to say that it is absurd to encourage men to join the Army and then tell them that their dependants will be able to get a meagre addition to their small allowance if the Aldershot Tattoo is a success. If a man enlists in the Army, his dependants should be entitled to decent treatment from the community which employed him.
We have a tattoo in Edinburgh every year. I do not know how far the Minister is responsible for financing it. Judging by the income which it brings into Edinburgh, I should think that the Edinburgh City Council might be called upon to contribute a certain amount. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman, in a fit of economy following the instructions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were to say, "We cannot have any of the expenses of the Edinburgh Tattoo borne by the War Office; that is a matter for the Edinburgh City Council because Edinburgh receives a certain amount of revenue from the Tattoo"—
§ Mr. Hughes
I am very grateful to the Minister for that intervention. Although I am a Scottish Member and an enthusiastic supporter of the Edinburgh Festival, I should be the last to follow the example of the hon. Member for Alder-shot and come along and plead poverty and try to get money out of the War Office for the Edinburgh Tattoo. We should let the Edinburgh Tattoo stand on its own feet, and we should let the Aldershot Tattoo stand on its own feet instead of the War Office being asked to increase its expenditure at a time when it wishes to cut it in response to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's campaign.
I believe that the hon. Member for Aldershot used to come to Pitlochry. He used to appeal to a national association of property-owners. I do not know how he will square that with his plea for a reduction of Government expenditure, the plea which he makes at Pitlochry, with the one he makes here. 718 However, I pass from that, Sir William, because I see that I am likely to transgress the rules of order. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot really should not entice one to examine the question of the Aldershot Tattoo too closely. I am a strong supporter of the War Office in its attitude to the Alder-shot Tattoo. If the right hon. Gentleman gets up and says resolutely and determinedly that he has got to resist the demands made upon him by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot I shall be here, I hope, even if it is near midnight, to say "Hear, hear" and to say, "The War Office is doing its duty to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to the country."
I wonder what sort of warfare does the hon. Gentleman want to see enacted at the Aldershot Tattoo? I can understand his wanting a beautiful scenic reproduction of the Battle of Waterloo or of the Battle of Balaclava, or even of the Battle of Bannockburn.
§ Mr. Hughes
He wants a beautiful scenic display of warfare and military grandeur from the distant centuries, but I fail to see what relevance that has to the sort of war we have been thinking about and discussing during the last few days and which we shall be discussing during the next few weeks. So in spite of the fact that next week I may be regarded as a villain by the Aldershot Times or the Aldershot Chronicle, or whatever the local paper may be called, I back the War Office and I say to Aldershot, "No tattoo as far as the War Office is concerned." I hope that when the local paper at Aldershot reports the appeal of the hon. Member for Alder-shot it will add a little postscript illustrating the sort of discussion he has aroused. I do not know whether I shall be invited after that.
I want to put a point of view not in regard to what is, after all, a small matter in the general scope of military expenditure, but a big one for Alder-shot, and to return to the question of the Army Estimates and how far we are justified in asking the country to raise the sum of over £500 million at the present time.
719 I have heard the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne)—we agreed on the broad general principle—say that what we really wanted was a committee of business men to examine the expenditure of the Armed Forces. I hope that the N.D.C. is not only going to examine the expenditure of industrial establishments but also the economics and administration of the Army and the money for it. I should like a Dr. Beeching to carry out a ruthless examination of Army expenditure, in the same way as he is conducting one now on the railways.
§ Mr. Hughes
Of course, the Army is one of the oldest nationalised institutions—next. I think, to the Monarchy. Certainly it is not I who am not logical. It is hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is the hon. Member for Aldershot, who makes these speeches about private enterprise at Pitlochry to the property owners' federation. Would he say, "Yes, we want denationalisation of the Army and we want to hand it over to the property owners and to private enterprise"?
I want to put this from the Scottish angle and from the point of view of my own constituency. I know that the Minister does not look upon my constituency as exactly an asset.
§ Mr. Profumo
I do. If the hon. Member will look at the recruiting figures for his constituency he will find that they have absolutely leapt up, entirely due to the help which he has given.
§ Mr. Hughes
Unfortunately for the right hon. Gentleman, I have the statistics here. I have furnished myself with the information about the statistics of how recruiting has leapt up in my constituency, but first I want to deal with the figures for Scotland.
§ Mr. Hughes
Mankind is my constituency, and in the present mood of mankind against war I would have a huge 720 majority. I know, Sir William, that you do not want metaphysical discussions in the Scottish vein interpolated into a debate on the Army Estimates. You would frown upon it, and I can see that you are frowning now.
I want to look at these matters from the point of view of a cold statistical examination and I hope that hon. Members from Scottish constituencies will correct me if I am wrong. At this time of year I always ask the Secretary of State for War about how Scotland did the previous year. Recently, in a debate the right hon. Gentleman thought that South Ayrshire was a bad spot. The right hon. Gentleman may have forgotten the speech which I made on the Army Estimates last year, but he cannot have forgotten what he said three months ago.
I have figures which can be found in HANSARD for 5th March. Last year 3,137 people enlisted in Scotland. When one thinks that in the event of war we may have to face the Red Army, perhaps with reinforcements from the Chinese and a few other nations, I can hardly think that this is a satisfactory indication of the contribution from Scotland.
I see that the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) is here. Has he gone into the figures of recruiting in his area? I find that in January 270 people enlisted in Scotland and in February 330. This was after a most intensive recruiting campaign, in the daily newspapers and on television and the radio, which was the most expensive in history. By the end of the year I should say that the Secretary of State for War will be very lucky if he has 5,000 recruits from Scotland. These figures show that far fewer people enlisted in Scotland this year, and at the rate in the last two months, than enlisted in the time of Bannockburn.
§ Mr. Hughes
I know that you and I, Sir William, agree about Bannockburn but the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), who is so provocative, does not.
I want to take up the challenge of the Secretary of State for War about the figures in my constituency. In Ayrshire in 1961 a total of 103 men enlisted. In 721 January of this year 17 men joined the Army. In February the figures "leapt up". They went from 17 down to 12. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Bute and North Ayreshire (Sir F. Maclean) is not here. There are five constituencies in Ayrshire and the number of people recruited from the constituency represented by the hon. and gallant Member, who is so keen about conscription, was two this year. The Secretary of State tells us that the figures have been leaping up. Last year, the figure was three. Now, it is two. I have completely disposed of the Minister's statistical argument.
I want to know the reason for this. The Army has tried the bands. It does not have a tattoo. It has closed down the Churchill Barracks at Ayr, which is a very good thing. Recruiting in that part of the world must be about as low as it has been in history. The Minister frowns and looks disapprovingly, but these are the figures supplied to me by the War Office. Surely, he does not suggest that the War Office has falsified his statistics to help me. The Minister is in a state of completely unbounded optimism about recruiting.
What I have said applies not merely to my constituency, but to the constituency represented by the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, my very opposite number, who said that we must carry out our commitments and that if we cannot do so, we must have conscription. The hon. Member was so dissatisfied with the policy of the Government that the other night I found him voting along with me, I do not know whether by mistake, in the Division Lobby on the Army Reserve Bill. That is mutiny in the ranks.
If the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire is so keen about conscription and about introducing National Service, if he is so keen to assist my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), he should resign his seat and decide to test out his constituency on the question of conscription by making it an election issue.
Conscription is completely unpopular. If the Government tried to impose it upon the people, they would be doing something undemocratic. Again, I support the War Office in its refusal to 722 embark upon a national scheme of either selective or general conscription for military service.
I ask myself why the young men in my constituency do not join the Army. It is not that they are pacifists, because the number of theoretical or philosophical pacifists, the number of Quakers or people who take the attitude towards war that I do, is infinitesimal. The young people of today and the young people in Ayrshire are normal, intelligent people who read international news in the papers. They watch television, they watch what the Army is doing and they hear the arguments for the Army, but they simply do not join.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am not to be provoked by that kind of remark. I have enough to do to dispose of one Estimate without trying to dispose of the Tory propaganda at the last Election.
What is the attitude? I believe that people are more interested—
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.
That this day the Business of Supply may be taken after Ten o'clock and shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for Two Hours after Ten o'clock.—[Mr. Profumo.]
§ Supply again considered in Committee.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am indebted to the House for continuing the debate for another two hours, and I promise that I will allow sufficient time for the Government spokesman to reply.
The average young man in my constituency looks upon the recruiting effort as an attempt to deceive him into going into an Army which a large percentage of the members of the older generation know is quite unlike the advertisements which appear on television or upon the recruiting posters. They realise, as everybody must, that this is an era of nuclear war, and all the appeals and inspiring propaganda falls on deaf ears. The result is that we are getting only a trickle of recruits. The country does not want conscription. 723 I hope the country will not have conscription, and I hope that whatever subtle means may be used to press unwilling people into the Armed Forces will be resisted.
I notice that this year the propaganda of the War Office takes on a different form. There is a Memorandum on the Army which appears in red covers. It contains some very interesting pictures. The first is one of British infantrymen in Berlin. I see two young, attractive looking men, a sergeant and a private, armed with the latest kind of gun, photographed against a background which appears to include a picture of my old friend, Reuter.
I want to bring the soldiers home from Berlin because I do not see what military purpose they are serving there at the present time. Hon. Members may say, "That is what we expect from you." But it is also the view of a man who knows more about military affairs in Germany than most people in this country—Field Marshal Lord Montgomery. When Marshal Montgomery advises us not to have any illusions about the Army in Berlin and urges a policy of withdrawing bases from Berlin, and argues that this country should withdraw its soldiers from territories which do not belong to it, I believe that he is a realist and is facing the facts.
It is all very well to get enthusiastic about Berlin. I remember the excitement there was in this House over the Berlin airlift. I remember the speech made by the present Prime Minister. We were in almost the same position, except that there was a Labour Government and the Conservatives were in opposition. The right hon. Gentleman now the Prime Minister made a very bitter attack on the Labour Government. He said that they were not doing enough about Berlin. He said that we should take a stronger attitude towards the Russians and be ready to force our way into Berlin.
I remember interrupting him. I have been interrupting the Prime Minister now for many years. I asked him, "Does this mean war?" It can all be read in HANSARD for those years. He said, "Oh, no. It would not be war. If we marched to Berlin the Russians would retire." What nonsense! They 724 did not retire then and would not retire now. I do not think there is any prospect of the Russians being forced by military methods to retire from Berlin. The only way they could be got out of Berlin would be by negotiation of some sort of European settlement.
§ Sir C. Osborne
While that is true, it is also true that the Berlin airlift succeeded in our purpose of getting the Russians talking over Berlin.
§ Mr. Hughes
I think that would be a good argument for the Air Estimates debate. The hon. Member must remember that we are on the Army Estimates and not yet on the Air Estimates. We are not likely to be on those tonight.
§ Mr. Hughes
I quite understand that my hon. Friend meant to be helpful.
I have reached only the first page of this pamphlet. I want to know why we should delude ourselves with a picture in the Memorandum showing two soldiers in Berlin into imagining that we are justified in expenditure on a military garrison in Berlin. The same argument applies to the whole position in Germany. I believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer is doing absolutely right in reducing our Army in Germany at present. My only criticism is that he is not doing it drastically or quickly enough.
When my hon. Friends talk about increasing the Army in Germany and increasing expenditure on it, I wonder if they think that finds an echo among the people they represent in Parliament. I do not think so. I do not think there is the slightest enthusiasm in this country for retaining our Army in Germany. They have read what Field Marshal Montgomery has said. That is not pacifist propaganda or Communist propaganda. It is what is said by Field 725 Marshal Montgomery, the most experienced major officer who knows more about military strategy in Europe than probably anyone in this country. He says it is nonsense and that we have got to come out of Germany.
We should be facing the facts. If the Labour Party is to tell the people of this country at the next election that we have to cut down the nuclear deterrent and spend the money in keeping troops in Germany they will face defeat at that election as they did at the last. If the Government are spending £500 million or more on the Army they must be getting the money from somewhere. They must be cutting down on some other services to get it, and if Opposition hon. and right hon. Members say that they intend to continue the expenditure on the Army at the same rate as the present Government they will be faced, should they win the next election, with having to produce a first Budget and Estimates allowing for such expenditure.
I want to see a Labour Government in power as much as anyone, but if they enter office with a defence programme costing more than £1,700 million, including big expenditure in Germany, they will be faced with continuing problems of balancing our finances and they will, obviously, have to cut the social services again. As one who bitterly opposed the Budget in which the Labour Government cut the social services—teeth, spectacles, and the rest-in order to spend it on rearmament, I hope that the time will not come when a Labour Government will repeat that.
I warn my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench not to delude themselves with the sort of involved strategy they have been advocating, for it will find no response from the rank and file in the Labour movement. They might as well face this now. If they intend to advocate increased military expenditure in Germany they must say so. They must say, "We are sorry but we cannot bring back the housing subsidy because military expenditure must have priority."
In any case, our defence expenditure is too great. We are spending on the Army 3s. 10d. per person per week, or 19s. 2d. per week per man and wife and three children. Instead of saying that this amount must be reduced, we 726 say that it must be increased. I do not see how we can possibly argue for a reduction in Government expenditure on all sorts of things and, at the same time, advocate increased military expenditure. We talk about inflation and the burden of Government expenditure. We set up committees and make proposals—all followed by the Government presenting huge Estimates with practically no hon. Members here to discuss them. It just does not make sense.
Whether the Government like it or not, a reduction in defence expenditure is vital if we are to have a sound economy. I consider that I am doing my job if, in these debates—and I have been doing this for years—I look critically at the Estimates and judge the arguments that are adduced. Some of the greatest political issues, both in the past and more recently, have raged over the question whether the Government should stand up to the military vested interests.
I recall that a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer once had the political courage, the guts, to say to the War Office, "You are asking for too much money and the country cannot afford it." That Chancellor of the Exchequer was Lord Randolph Churchill. The biography of Lord Randolph Churchill by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) is a very interesting and, in these days, a relevant account of how Lord Randolph Churchill said to the War Office, "You are asking too much from the nation, and we are not prepared to give it to you." There was a crisis and Lord Randolph Churchill lost. I do not suppose that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer will have the same courage as Lord Randolph Churchill.
§ Mr. Hughes
Yes, of course he had.
The Committee must adopt a definite attitude towards these ever-increasing defence Estimates.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Robert Grimston)
We cannot talk about the Air Ministry. I hope that the hon. 727 Gentleman will be clearer in relating his arguments to the Vote which we are considering.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am not talking about the Air Ministry. I said that the Minister of Aviation, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, resigned over the specific issue that we could not become a nuclear Power and maintain the conventional arms that we should maintain. However, it appeared from his speech this week that he has changed his mind. Nevertheless, we must pay tribute to his courage.
§ Mr. Hughes
I agree with the Chair. If my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) wants to discuss these matters in greater detail, he must wait until we get to the Air Estimates. I would not dream of attacking the Minister of Aviation in his absence. If I had intended to make an attack on him, I should have given him notice that I proposed to do so. However, realising that he is exhausted after his efforts in the defence debate and has gone away not worrying very much about the Army, I think we had better leave him in peace for the night.
There is reference in these Estimates to expenditure on the Army School of Civil Defence. I should very much like the Under-Secretary of State for War to tell us something about this school, because I am vitally interested in civil defence. What do the Government propose to do to defend the civilian population of this country in the event of war? This is a serious problem. I should like to have the military slant on it. Obviously this school is carrying out some study into Civil Defence, otherwise it would not be in existence.
I listened with great care to the concluding speeches in the defence debate. I waited until the end of it to hear some reference to what would be done in war in the defence of the civil population. There was no reference to this matter, despite the fact that there are about half-a-dozen paragraphs in the White Paper saying that the Government have a plan for dispersing the civil population in the event of war. What part will the Army play in this plan? The dispersal of the civil population would be such a huge project that it would not be carried out by the civil authorities. I assume that 728 the Army School of Civil Defence is engaged in studying the rôle that the Army is likely to play in the evacuation of the civil population.
§ Sir D. Glover
Since the hon. Gentleman realises the importance of the Army if such an event as he mentioned occurred, should he not join the Army recruiting campaign?
§ Mr. Hughes
If I were convinced that the main function of the Army was to engage in Civil Defence, I should be far less severe in my criticisms, but how can we believe that the Army will play an efficient rôle in the defence of the civil population if it is in Germany?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
My hon. Friend will remember that when I offered a few remarks myself the Secretary of State was most indignant at the very suggestion that the War Department proposed to spend any money at all on Civil Defence.
§ Mr. Hughes
If the Under-Secretary, when he catches the Chairman's eye, is to say that the main purpose of the Army will be to defend the civilian population and to organise the tremendous task of dispersing them in the event of a nuclear war, I shall listen to him most respectfully, but in that case, surely, the ratio of the expenditure is entirely the reverse to what he is doing now? Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us how much is being spent on the Army School of Civil Defence and how much on Civil Defence activities as compared with expenditure in Germany. I cannot see much logic and commonsense in a situation in which a soldier engaged in Berlin or in Western Germany, carrying out whatever may be the hypothetical manœuvres, is unlikely to have much satisfaction that, under our present civil defence arrangements, his wife and family will be safe at home.
That is why I say this expenditure is hopelessly irrelevant to the kind of nuclear war that we have been talking about during the last few days and will continue to discuss during next week. The Army, so far as I can gather, is rehearsng for a war which may never come, and even if it does may not be at all like the rehearsal. That is why I want to see a ruthless analysis by independent people of Army expenditure, and I want the same thing applied to the other Services.
729 When I am told by military authority that all our strategy in Europe is "phoney", and that we should bring our soldiers home, that the Americans should take theirs home and that the Russians should take theirs home, I believe that this is an alternative policy which the people of this country understand. When the Labour Party says that Lord Montgomery is too far to the Left for the Labour Party, a lot of people in the country, and especially young people, are looking up. They listen to Lord Montgomery and they say, "What on earth is happening to the Labour Party when, while Lord Montgomery wants to bring our soldiers back from Germany, the Labour Party wants to spend more money equipping and keeping them there?" I believe that the present line of thought, if one can call it that, that is being expounded from the Front Opposition Bench is one that could not be defended in any kind of intelligent discussion with people who realise what the possibilities of modern war are.
Perhaps I have been rather longer than I should have been, but if these benches had been crowded, with people enthusiastic about strengthening our military forces in Germany, I should not have been called, or I may have got two minutes. I am only stepping into the breach because the forces have abandoned the position. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) has drawn attention to a fact which I have been stressing over and over again during the last few years. It is an absolute scandal that on these benches there is nobody to protest, except a few of us, who protest vehemently against the expenditure of £534 million. If the Opposition really meant that the Defence White Paper was a White Paper which they opposed so strongly that they felt they should go into the Division Lobby against it, then they should logically follow that up and go into the 730 Lobby against the Army Estimates. I do not see the logic of it. So long as we have an Opposition opposing and taking a strong and critical line against the Government's defence policy and then folding up, these debates will be an unreality. I do not want them to be an unreality. I believe that the Opposition should be here to oppose and oppose and oppose to the very last ditch. Sooner or later, the Opposition will have to remember that the people of this country are asking what they are doing to justify their existence during these debate.
Some constituents of mine, miners, came down here on another matter and they went up to the Gallery. They are asking questions. They want to know why so few people are here. I have had to explain, and my answer is this. If the Labour Party put down a three-line Whip, everybody would be here. I am supposed to be in a quarrel with the Whips of my party, but if I were the Chief Whip of the Labour Party, I should be here and making sure that—
§ Mr. Hughes
No, it is a debate about Estimates which we oppose, and I am giving reasons to show why I should like this Committee of the House of Commons to be full of people protesting against the money which is being spent on the Army Estimates, while we know quite well that, if the money is spent in that way, we shall not have enough for schools, education and other social services.
Therefore, although we have to go not alone but with just a handful into the Lobby tonight, we believe that in that way we shall give the definite kind of fighting lead against the Government that the people and the rank and file of the Labour Party in this country want.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I have heard every speech delivered from the Opposition benches in the debate. It was, I expect, only the well-known humanity of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) which made his, perhaps, the least offensive to his own Front Bench. Every other speech I have heard contained even stronger criticisms of the statement made from the Dispatch Box opposite.
I have a higher regard for the military capacity of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) than has any of his hon. Friends sitting with him now, except, perhaps, for those on the Opposition Front Bench, but I feel that he asked for some of the abuse which he got, particularly when he presented us with a picture of a serious riot in Hong Kong being put down by a lot of sailors mounted on donkeys and waving cutlasses. I can only imagine that his mind had been somewhat unhinged as a result of having to support the Opposition's official defence policy, which is to pour thousands more troops into Germany, a policy which I believe is absolutely insane.
In my view, we cannot have a large-scale conventional war lasting for days and weeks in Western Europe today. I do not believe that this is so because of lack of balance in the conventional forces, or that it is necessarily so because of the preponderance of tactical nuclear weapons, about which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) talked for so long. I think that the main reason is the fact that the nuclear weapons which we have at the moment are predominantly first-strike weapons and that there is a very considerable advantage to be gained by the side that decides, once war seems inevitable, to strike first at the opposition's rocket sites and aerodromes.
I believe that once it is plain that the Russian forces are rolling forward across Germany en masse the pressure of the American military advisers on their President to strike first, in order to try to destroy as much of the Russian capacity as possible before it hits America a few hours later, will become overwhelming. So I just do not see that 732 it is going to be possible to have a large-scale conventional war in Europe.
It seems to me, therefore, to be a course of absolute folly to recommend pouring large quantities of British soldiers into that country, because they have, in fact, only one real purpose, which is to hold the front for a short time so that we can make sure whether it is a probing or an accidental attack. For this one needs not manpower but conventional fire-power, and this, I believe, can now be fairly easily obtained.
A platoon in the modern Army should soon be equipped with the F.N. rifle, with the new machine guns and with the Vigilant anti-tank weapons which will give it a fire-power two, three or four times as great as that had by the platoon which I commanded at the end of the war or which was available even to platoons, say, in 1954 when the Brussels Treaty was signed.
It seems to be one of the tragedies of the present situation that there is no easy statistical method of measuring firepower capacity. One can measure manpower but one cannot measure firepower, and so the whole debate tends to concentrate exclusively upon the number of men involved, however adequately or inadequately they may be armed. But if, in fact, the shortage of men in Germany should become a political embarrassment to us, then I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that he might try voluntary National Service for a one-year period.
I believe that there are a number of people who dislike the thought of two years in the Army and certainly dislike the thought of six years in the Army because at the age of 18 six years seem almost like a lifetime. But one year of fairly rousing physical training and experience might well be a considerable attraction to many young men. If I were that age now I think that I would be prepared to spend a year in the Army quite voluntarily, although I certainly would not sign on for six years. As a father, I should be extremely happy to see my sons serve for a year, although, again, I would not necessarily advise them to become Regulars. I think it would be possible to raise a few thousand men in this way—not very 733 many, but a few thousand. This might make us look a little more respectable politically on the Continent. We could not give them a very high level of training, but there is a lot of mystique about the question of how long it takes to make a trained soldier. One can become fairly competently trained in six weeks or three months.
§ Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)
My hon. Friend has said that the important feature of a modern army is not manpower but firepower. He has said that modern weapons give an accurate and very high rate of fire. Now he is postulating a theory that men with little training could operate these weapons. I do not see how he squares the two arguments.
§ Mr. Goodhart
I did not suggest that they would have the weapons which give the very high firepower. If it is manpower in which we are interested, one could be trained to use a .303 rifle or a Bren gun in a matter of weeks. Most of us have done it. Indeed, some people have had even less time—
§ Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)
One problem is that one can teach a man to fire a rifle in half-an-hour, but it takes a long time to teach him to hit anything.
§ Mr. Goodhart
I am suggesting that the main burden of defence could rest with the Regular soldier, but that if we are interested in political window-dressing, with a large number of men, these people could provide some political window-dressing.
If we are to push ahead with the provision of all the modern defensive weapons which are available, such as the Vigilant and the new rifles, this will cost even more money—and I do not particularly want to see the burden of Army expenditure rise still further. I believe that there are some fairly substantial savings which can be made within the present Estimates. Not long ago I visited the Army Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment, where I was taken into a cold chamber to see a vehicle which was a mobile dark room. The idea was that film should be dropped from aircraft, picked up by this vehicle and developed on the spot for rapid intelligence 734 analysis. This vehicle was being made ice-proof so that it could operate in the Arctic. The concept that one must spend money to try to achieve this sort of capacity shows a mentality which spreads the butter so thinly over the world that we are capable of doing very little.
But the main work of this research establishment in recent years has been the development of the new heavy tank, the Chieftain, a picture of which appears in the Memorandum. The picture makes it look like a dinosaur, with a tiny head at the end of a long barrel—extending down a very long neck to a large and cumbersome body. I suspect that already this heavy tank is just as prehistoric as is the dinosaur. Where would it be used? It could not be used in the Far East; it could not be transported quickly enough. It could not be used in the Middle East. One of the reasons that the Suez operation was so slow was that they were waiting for the tank landing craft to get under way. It will never be possible to use this tank in the Middle East. The only place where it will be possible to use it is in the middle of Germany where there is the most tremendous concentration of anti-tank weapons that there has ever been, and anti-tank weapons which are becoming increasingly effective. I believe that the entire expenditure on this heavy tank is a total waste of taxpayers' money.
Then we have the question of buildings. My blood ran even colder when I heard my right hon. Friend talking about his skyscraper this afternoon than it did when I was in the cold room at the Armoured Fighting Vehicle Research and Development Establishment. To suggest that a skyscraper barracks should be built on the Knightsbridge site! My right hon. Friend ought to be dragged through the streets of London by the Town and Country Planning Association and pelted with copies of its new pamphlet which suggests that this sort of thinking ought to stop.
I was most unfavourably impressed in talking to a number of senior officers in various parts of the world by the sort of complex that they have developed in this desire to leave enormous pyramid monuments behind them. One finds our generals talking about almost nothing else except the tremendous building projects that they have up their sleeves. 735 We are faced with the fact that as the Army steadily contracts, more and more money is spent on accommodation for them in exactly the same places that they have been living in.
According to the Estimates, we find that this year we are spending on building for the Army almost £300 per man. If we spent £300 per person on building for the entire population of this country the bill would come to £15,000 million in a year, which is almost the total of our gross national product. I regret that a rather firmer hand is not being taken with the building estimates that have come up.
§ Mr. Hugh Rees (Swansea, West)
The average council house for the average family in this country costs £600 per head. I scarcely think that £300 is adequate.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
On a point of order. Are we dealing with the Housing Estimates or the Army Estimates?
§ Mr. Goodhart
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Rees) has a point, but this figure of £300 per head is for a year, not £300 once and for all.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the practice that is followed in sending out schedules to building contractors to build Army houses is restricted to a very few contractors? In fact, there is a considerable waste of public money in not using the services of contractors in various parts of the country. A sub-contractor goes into an area where there are already many building contractors who are not on the Government's list and who, therefore, do not receive schedules to enable them to tender at competitive prices. This is one of the disgraceful things that go on in the Army.
§ Mr. Goodhart
I am sure that is a very interesting point. However, I notice that there are other hon. Friends of mine who wish to get into this debate, so I will not follow that matter now.
736 I wish to reinforce the point that was made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) when he spoke about prefabrication. I saw recently in Kenya at Kahawa some very good prefabricated Army housing, which is extremely easy to transport and can be moved from one part of the world to another at little cost. If at the end of the war, we had spent a few million pounds on research into prefabrication of buidings to produce decent, prefabricated houses for the Army, instead of the lavish houses which are moved into and then vacated after two or three years, I think we could have saved enough money in the last fifteen years to send my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) into orbit round the earth, if we wish to enter the space race, or enough to pay decent pensions to the widows of elderly officers and men.
Although I could go on for a considerable time, there are hon. Friends of mine who wish to get into the debate, I shall close by saying that although this is not the ideal Army and these are not ideal Estimates I think they make much better sense and are infinitely less expensive than the rather preposterous ideas which have been put forward from the Opposition Front Bench today.
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
In standing here at this Box this evening I am experiencing some of the feelings which I experienced not so long ago when I made my maiden speech in this Chamber. I am not asking for the same indulgence this evening because I cannot be entirely non-controversial, but I hope the Committee will show to a person as inexperienced as myself some measure of tolerance if not indulgence.
However, I am fortified in standing here by the first photograph in the Secretary of State's Memorandum on the Army Estimates. It is a picture which shows two soldiers on duty in Berlin. They are the inheritors, I think I can say, of the valiant deeds which have been performed on the Continent from the time of Crécy and Agincourt to this day. I am proud to be an ex-member of this regiment, the Welch Regiment. I hope that when my hon. 737 Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. I. Davies) goes to Berlin tomorrow he will convey the best wishes not only of myself but, I think, of everyone in this Committee not only to this regiment but to every other regiment of the British Army in whatever part of the world it may be.
But best wishes are not enough. We cannot cash a cheque for best wishes in the bank. And one of the most immediate considerations of a soldier is that of pay. Today, and on Monday and Tuesday, the question of pay and of the dishonouring by the Government of their obligations on soldiers' pay have been mentioned by hon. Members, but today hon. Members on the other side have been strangely silent on this question.
I welcomed when I heard them the words of the Minister of Defence:The Government attach great importance to carrying out pledges on service pay."—[OFFICIAL RFPORT, 5th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 43.]But in the next moment he was in breach of that same statement. He went on to say that the Services would not wish to be excepted from the sacrifice. He went to the House and made a statement based on his beliefs. I am entitled to ask, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) asked, what is the basis of that statement of belief that the Army, for example, is prepared and indeed wishes to be excepted in the way outlined by the Minister of Defence? Have any inquiries been made? Have any soldiers been asked whether they wish to lose the pay they are entitled to have under the terms of the Grigg Report?
Soldiers have contracted to serve for a fixed period of time. One of the conditions known to each of them when recruited was that there would be a biennial review of pay. Now there is a unilateral breach of contract by the Government, which has preached on so many occasions the sanctity of contract. Soldiers have been placed in an impossible position. They are compelled by law to honour their own engagements, but by this shabby trick and what I can only describe as a piece of gross hypocrisy their own self-styled "union leader" has repudiated the agreement for the Government.
738 The remarks of the Minister of Defence in calling himself the soldiers' union leader can be likened to those of a union leader in Soviet Russia saying that he was happy when his own collective was forced to accept a out. The private soldier is unable to do anything about this. He is unable to choose his own union leader. The Minister of Defence says that the Services would not wish to be excepted from this cut. How much does it mean? A married private is asked to sacrifice £20 a year, which, if my mathematical calculation is correct means 8s. a week. A captain sacrifices £50 a year, which is almost £1 a week. The Minister is enforcing from the soldiers almost a compulsory gift to the Government that will rank with ship money in British history.
I congratulate the Government on what has been done in recruiting so far. I only wish that the results were very much better. I was glad to hear the figures from the Secretary of State today. Has any estimate been made of the probable effect on recruiting of the Government's repudiation of the terms of the Grigg Report? There is no need for me to read the Report in detail, but one of the terms of the recommendation it made was that the first review should be carried out in time for any change of rate to come into force on 1st April, 1960. It is a vital part of the recommendation that all these reviews of pay should come into force, and it is no use the Secretary of State claiming that the Government have fulfilled their obligations merely by saying that they are looking into this question. It is a dishonourable way of dealing with a promise made to our serving men.
In his speech the Secretary of State faced up to the shortage of personnel in the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Dental Corps. I was glad to hear of the new conditions for doctors—in particular, those concerning extra pay. The right hon. Gentleman told us that one of the paramount needs of the Army was to attract out-of-the-ordinary men and that he might have to take special steps in this direction. I hope that he will look into that question of shortage of craftsmen and fitters and of other grades in short supply. It may be that one solution is differential rates of pay in addition to the ordinary basic rate.
739 What alarmed me, and what may well alarm doctors and dentists and anyone else promised special rates of pay in future, is that the Government, when the time comes, may not honour their pledge, for now one will always feel bound to take into account their present conduct on the Grigg Report. What will their word be worth after this breach of their promises?
The Memorandum contains a reference to the campaign for keeping the Army in the public eye. It is stated that the campaign has contributed to the success of recruiting. May we have some details from the Under-Secretary about the type of person recruited as a result of the campaign?
We are told in the Memorandum that our Strategic Reserve is organised to be sent at short notice to any trouble spot in the world. If an army is to have the ability to function effectively, it must have, first, a clear operational doctrine which in turn depends on immediately available services if conflict is possible, although not necessarily imminent. This does not mean that forces should be on a war footing. I have raised this question on other occasions in the House of Commons. Is any part of the Strategic Reserve earmarked for duties in the course of the summer involving Territorial Army camps? In the past some units based in this country have been involved in this. I have questioned the Minister about this previously. I served for many months in a unit whose main task was to act as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the Territorial Army. From 1st April to the end of October this unit was certainly not fit to be sent to any trouble spot in the world at short notice. I hope that we can have an assurance—I am sure that it can be given—that no unit in the Strategic Reserve will be involved in duties of this nature this summer.
Still on the Strategic Reserve, I hope that we can have an assurance that the two main infantry brigades and the divisional troops in this country are up to strength. I think that the assurance can be given. I am given to understand that there are a number of units based in this country which are not earmarked and generally form part and parcel of the Strategic Reserve. Perhaps we can be told how many of these, particularly 740 battalions of infantry, are in this country and what their strength is.
In the early part of the year when there was a little local difficulty in British Guiana two companies of the Duke of Edinburgh's were sent out to deal with the trouble. They were part of the force earmarked for B.A.O.R., as I understand it. [Interruption.] I am told I am wrong about that. They were part of the Strategic Reserve and part of the infantry brigade. While it was obviously within the power of the Government to send out two companies to deal with this difficulty in British Guiana, why did they break up a brigade in this way to send out two companies? Was it because there were no other units available which could have been sent out to do this work?
We were told by the Secretary of State earlier today that no further large-scale reorganisation of the Army is intended. Yet he toyed with the suggestion of a large infantry regiment. This is a little inconsistent. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will be able to tell us what is meant by the possibility of having a large infantry regiment.
Paragraph 1 of the Memorandum says that one of our rôles is to fulfil our treaty obligations. Paragraph 2 says that the Army is required to make its contribution to N.A.T.O. For the first time our contribution to N.A.T.O. is now made dependent on financial considerations. I will not pursue this matter, which was raised on many occasions during the defence debate, beyond asking the Under-Secretary to put on record whether he is satisfied that the Government are fulfilling their treaty obligations. We have been told several times of the sad deficiencies in the British Army of the Rhine. Yet the Secretary of State was able to tell the House on the Third Reading of the Army Reserve Bill that in his opinion we are doing our share in Europe. We were told only the other day by the Minister of Defence that, although our latest commitment to B.A.O.R. is about 55,000 men, there are only between 51,000 and 52,000 men now there. That is a shortfall of 3,000. How can the Secretary of State tell the House on another occasion that we are doing our share in Europe?
Let us look at the speech made by no less a person than the Prime Minister 741 in the debate on the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech. He said:In the first place, whatever the size of the Army next year, it will not, and I admit it, be properly balanced. There will be shortages in certain administrative parts—curiously enough, not in the great fighting part of the Army but in the administrative units. Perhaps I should say, not curiously but naturally enough, not in the teeth but in the tail."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1961; Vol. 648, c. 35.]That was the categorical statement by the Prime Minister. As it came from such an august person, one might have been expected to believe it.
But the following day the Secretary of State came to the House to correct the Prime Minister, and this was what we were told:He was not suggesting that it was only in the tail that there were shortages, but what is correct is that the majority of the shortages are in the tail."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st November, 1961; Vol. 648, c. 305.]That was the gloss that we had the day following the speech by the Prime Minister.
Which is it? Are there shortages? Where are they? Are they not everywhere? If there are these shortages, if we have in Germany at the moment only 51,000 or 52,000 troops when we are obliged by treaty to have 55,000, how can the Secretary of State tell the House on the Third Reading of the Army Reserve Bill that we are doing our share in Europe?
I turn briefly to the question of weapons. The Secretary of State told us this afternoon that by the middle of the sixties every weapon used in the fifties will have been replaced. I welcome that statement. Perhaps it would be worth examining for a little while some of the points made in the Secretary of State's memorandum.
As an ex-infantryman I am aware of the vital need to have proper anti-tank weapons and mortar fire and—even more important for an infantryman—a good system of locating from where the mortar fire is coming down on one. We are told that a new locating device will be coming into use for the first time. In respect of each weapon, the theme is that it is at some stage in the pipeline. The hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) said that the equipment is coming along but is too long in coming. I echo her words.
742 It would be far better if we were told exactly what weapons we have, how many units have them, how many have not got them, and in what state of training each unit is with the weapons. Instead, we are told that they are coming, that they will be there some day, and that units are now beginning to train on them, depending what type of weapon is being discussed.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) mentioned a certain infra-red device to facilitate movement and viewing by night which will be taken into use for the first time. There has been a controversy in the Press about these things. I should like to know whether there is something new in these devices or whether the newness rests in the fact that they are coming into use for the first time. We should be told. There is a significant difference between a new weapon and a weapon which is coming into use for the first time. If there is nothing new in these weapons, why were they not available many years ago? We are told that the Germans had them or something not unlike them in 1945 or earlier. The Under-Secretary should explain what he means by the phrase "coming into use for the first time."
We are told various things about the Vigilant—that it is highly mobile, and so on. I will not go into its good qualities—
§ Mr. Morris
I shall come to that. I compare the description of the Vigilant with another anti-tank weapon in the Navy Memorandum. One sees at paragraph 37 of the Memorandum on the Navy Estimates a description of the troop-carrying version of the Wessex helicopter, which will be armed with an anti-tank guided missile. There is a comment in The Times of 27th February, and I hope to hear from the Under-Secretary whether this is right about these weapons. It describes one which will be in use in the Wessex helicopter. This will bethe French SS.11—which it is claimed has considerably greater range than the British infantry weapon, Vigilant, and at a distance of two miles can stop the most heavily armoured tank.743 Is that right? What are the capabilities of the Vigilant, when are we expected to have it and when will our troops be expected to be trained with it? When the rôles to be performed by those who will use the naval helicopters and by infantrymen are not unlike each other, why should the Army adopt—if it has—a different anti-tank gun to that used by the Army?
There is an article in today's Daily Telegraph about the evaluation tests which are proceeding on two different warheads for the Vigilant, one British and one Swiss. The latter, we are told, is the cheaper of the two and has slightly less penetrating power, butIt is understood that the Swiss warhead acquitted itself extremely well in recent trials in Britain. It is available for immediate production, whereas the British warhead is not.Perhaps we can have a comment from the Under-Secretary about the state of progress on the Vigilant and what it can do.
The same applies to the Malkara and the Wombat, to which the Secretary of State referred in his speech last year. We were told that there would be further deliveries of the Malkara in 1962–63 and that a general-purpose machine would start to reach the infantry in 1962–63. When will these weapons be available in full quantity for all units which need them, and when will the troops be trained with them?
Of equal, if not greater, importance is a similar question about Blue Water. When taxed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) in the debate on Tuesday, the Minister of Defence chided my right hon. Friend and said:For example, the right hon. Gentleman took up the argument that the strategic nuclear deterrent was not really something which we could any longer call our own. He then immediately confused it by talking about tactical nuclear weapons.In defence of himself, the Minister went on to say:Blue Water, of course, will be a completely British tactical nuclear weapon."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 330.]The emphasis should be on the words "will be." When are we expected to have this weapon, which the Minister of Defence relies upon so much to rebut the allegation made by my right hon. Friend?
744 There is not time tonight to discuss the Chieftain, but I hope that the words "we shall continue our trials" in the Memorandum do not mean that there is danger of this weapon being abandoned. The Secretary of State told us this afternoon of teething troubles. I should like an indication of when the Chieftain is expected to be seen on the ground by the troops who need it.
Reference has been made in the debate by many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot), to tactical atomic weapons. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has on previous occasions questioned the lack of medium artillery by B.A.O.R. May we have a comment from the Under-Secretary on what my hon. Friend has said?
This is an important and crucial question. What sort of war could B.A.O.R. conduct short of using tactical nuclear weapons? If it is possible to visualise any type of conflict, we should be told about it, but what level of conflict could B.A.O.R. conduct without nuclear weapons? We have had the comments of Sir Solly Zuckerman about the use of tactical nuclear weapons and what might develop therefrom. I am afraid that B.A.O.R. is utterly dependent on nuclear weapons and could not wage any type of war without them. They may be conventional troops, but they are such in name only unless they can carry out conventional fighting. When one examines whether or not these troops are conventional, one must obviously consider whether they are capable of undertaking conventional fighting.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
If my hon. Friend is convinced that B.A.O.R. could not carry out any effective form of conventional warfare without the use of tactical nuclear weapons, and if he thinks that that situation is wrong, can he explain why he is not proposing a vote against the Estimates?
§ Mr. Morris
Of course, my hon. Friend has moved an Amendment to reduce the number of men, and, indeed, he is opposing the Estimates as they stand. That is not in accord with the policy of Her Majesty's Opposition. We should like to have a far greater number of men in B.A.O.R. and not fewer, as my hon. Friend would wish.
745 To prove what I have been saying one need only consider the exercises that have been undertaken by B.A.O.R. over the years—from Battle Royal—in which I had the honour of playing a small but insignificant part—to Spearpoint. Each major exercise has been based on the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Therefore, I must ask the Minister at what level is B.A.O.R. trained without the use of these weapons? Perhaps the Under-Secretary will give us some clue.
Regarding the "'Ever-readies", the Secretary of State has said that there will be a reduced bounty for members of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Auxiliary Corps. Can we be told the figure? I believe that a wrong decision was taken to train the "Ever-readies" with the Territorial Army, and, indeed, to make them a part of the Territorial Army. We are told in the Memorandum that there will be an additional stimulus to the sense of purpose of the Territorial Army. I would have thought that the action that is proposed will result in the reverse happening. These men, trained as part of the Territorial Army, will be whisked away when an emergency arises. Indeed, the Secretary of State had the blessing of the Territorial Army Council when this suggestion was first mooted. But these clucking noises will not be of much avail when the time comes and the pool of ex-National Service men will have dried up. They will no longer be available and the "Ever-readies" will be nothing more than Territorial Army trained men.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) cast doubts about this matter in his speech earlier. These men may be whisked away to join a Regular unit, people with whom they have not trained and who they do not know. Not only might that harm the unit concerned, but it might harm the Territorial Army unit with which they were trained. Once this pool of ex-Service men has dried up this provision will be a dead letter.
The aim is stated in the Memorandum; that we should have well-trained reserves for our forces. This can never happen under the present proposals, and I hope that when this stage is reached—and ex-Service men are no longer available—the Government will reconsider the training of these men— 746 over and above that of the Territorial Army. We are told in the White Paper that there will be an examination of the whole reserve system. I hope that that will include some extra training for the "Ever-readies" if they are to be of great value.
I turn now to the Kuwait operation. I, too, congratulate the troops on what they did on that occasion, but I hope that the Government will not be carried away by the congratulations which they themselves have given to the troops for what was done. As I understand it, this was the simplest possible kind of military operation, if one excludes the climate. It was an unopposed landing. What if it had been an opposed landing? What is the War Office estimate of the force which the 4,000 men who were landed could possibly have dealt with? What was the air cover available for them, what reserves and reinforcements were available, and how soon would they have been able to come up? The Secretary of State said that we proved our ability at Kuwait. We proved our ability at Kuwait to undertake an unopposed landing of 4,000 men at that place, but what if there had been two Kuwaits, one of them opposed? What would our capabilities be in that situation?
I come now to building, housing and accommodation. The Secretary of State said that this was one of the hardest nuts we had to crack. He mentioned the new barracks being built at Manston, Sutton Coldfield and Cwrt-y-Gollen. I give the Secretary of State, an Englishman, an alpha minus for his pronunciation of Cwrt-y-Gollen.
The War Office has something to answer for here, having regard to the Third Report of the Estimates Committee. The excuse given—I am glad that it was not given by the Secretary of State today—for the fact that, while every kind of military expenditure went up by leaps and bounds, barracks, housing and accommodation had failed to come up to more than a third of the original estimate, was delays consequent on pressure of work in the building industry. The Estimates Committee had this to say:Your Committee do not consider that conditions at the time the Estimates were framed differed significantly from those obtained during the financial year. They therefore believe 747 that the loss of so much as two-thirds of the programme must have been due in part to the Department embarking on an unrealistic programme. At the same time, they find it hard to believe that so great a shortfall was due solely to this factor. In any case the Department cannot escape considerable responsibility for the substantial discrepancy disclosed.It seems that in the order of priorities the Clores and Cottons of this world come very much higher in the queue than council housing and the provision of housing and accommodation for our fighting troops. It is the very existence and activities of the Clores and Cottons and the pressure upon building work which gave the excuse which was put before the Estimates Committee. Is it any wonder that our recruiting is not as good as it might be today? I was glad that that excuse was not advanced this afternoon.
We heard a good deal from the Minister of Defence on Tuesday last about the need for joint Services co-operation and integration. Referring to paragraphs 23 and 24 of the Defence White Paper, he said that, as we learned to work more closely together, new possibilities of rationalisation and co-operation would open up. There is not so much in this as might appear, for the new organisation which is to be set up will report to the Chiefs of Staff. The only reference in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War is to joint Service training with the R.A.F. and the Joint Services Demonstration. The Memorandum is framed solely as an Army Memorandum, and there is no other suggestion of rationalisation and co-operation, let alone integration. I am quite sure the time will come when memoranda of this nature will have to be prepared not merely from the point of view of the needs and capabilities of the Army but rather as part and parcel of the defence system of this country.
The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire quoted the Prime Minister's remarks about the White Paper of 1957. The Prime Minister said it was sound, novel and dramatic. In the words of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, our Army today is overstretched, under-stretched and out of balance. I am afraid that that is the situation. I wish it were not so.
§ 11.21 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. James Ramsden)
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) began his speech in a disarmingly modest way, and had I been doing this job longer I should be able, without presumption, to congratulate him on having acquitted himself very well. I hope that I shall have the pleasure as the years go on of following him on many other occasions—from this side of the Committee, I should add. I shall endeavour later in my speech to answer some of the many questions which the hon. Gentleman put to me in the course of his speech.
This has been a year of rather frequent debates on the Army, and I believe that there cannot be many—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
On a point of order. I wish to draw your attention, Sir William, to the fact that in this debate, which is of such vital importance to the country and when so much money is involved, there are not sufficient Members present.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
On a point of order. May I respectfully draw your attention, Sir William, to the fact that no one should be counted who is on the other side of the Bar?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is not correct in his opinion. There are more than forty Members present. The debate will continue.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I think that the Committee will regret the few moments which we have lost owing to the action of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), who made a long speech himself. I regret the loss of time because I had hoped to conclude what I had to say in answer to the debate in time to give some of my hon. Friends, who I know are anxious to speak, the opportunity of making some remarks.
I was saying that this had been a year of frequent debates on the Army. I do not believe that there can be many countries, if indeed any, of comparable standing to ourselves as military Powers whose Parliamentary system exposes the state of their Armed Forces to such frequent and searching scrutiny as ours are obliged to undergo. I must say that I hope this does not lead to wrong impressions either among our enemies or, indeed, among our allies.
749 It is in the nature of the way in which we conduct our affairs that the criticisms often get more publicity than do the answers. We give very full information to hon. Members and to the public, and we make things in that way and to that extent easier for our critics. Our only conclusive answer to the criticisms made of us is when the time comes for operations to be undertaken and when they succeed, as in Kuwait or the Cameroons, and now in British Guiana. Here, again, one must remember—and my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) made this point very effectively—that much of our force is deployed so as to prevent trouble from arising. If the trouble does not occur, that, too, is proof that the Army has done its job successfully.
I would point out in reply to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that this is also true of Europe and of the wider picture of our defences. The Army plays a part in that wider context of our defence expenditure. Whether hon. Members opposite approve of it or not, and of the ways in which this money is spent, there is no denying that through the way in which it has been spent, as part of the whole Western complex of defence, the freedom from Communism not only of Western Europe but also of many other parts of the world has been secured for the past sixteen years. The hon. Member said that he had no quarrel with the declared Communist aim. But we should all accept that this constitutes a military threat, and it is from successfully averting that threat that our defence policy draws its justification in the period since the war.
The hon. Member questioned whether our forces in Berlin were defending us in this country. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire said that we ought to bring them out of Berlin. I believe that most hon. Members accept that were our garrison not in Berlin—and it is there under international agreements and in fulfilment of solemn obligations undertaken by this country—nothing would be easier than for some sort of putsch or coup or take-over bid to be instigated from the east. My answer to the hon. Member is that they are defending us in this country in so far as we are part and parcel of the free world.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Is the hon. Member saying that if any attack took place in Berlin these men would be able to defend even themselves?
§ Mr. Ramsden
With their allies, of course they would. Were they not there, the likelihood not of overt attack but of something equally deadly and effective would be increased.
We welcome the interest of hon. Members. Over and above what has come out of this debate and the Memorandum which we have published, I hope that hon. Members will take advantage of a number of visits to Army establishments and troops in training which we propose to arrange during the rest of the year. In particular, they may be interested in the mobilisation exercise in the autumn. My right hon. Friend and I will do our best to see that hon. Members have a chance to see it.
May I, in particular, commend the joint Services demonstration in early June of this year, where the firepower and mobility of many of our new pieces of equipment can be appreciated in a tactical setting and in an inter-Service setting, which is important, because the Army often works not alone but in collaboration with the other Services. This demonstration was originally fixed for the first Wednesday in June, but by good staff work and in deference to the known interests of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), we realised that this was Derby Day, and we have been able to transfer the demonstration to the next day.
This leads me to say something in more detail about new equipment, to which the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), among others, referred. In the Memorandum we try to give a full account of the state of the play. In return we are told a lot of it is stale news. I see no way out of this dilemma. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton said in a tragic tone of voice that it took about ten years for any new item of equipment to be developed. He was very nearly right; it takes about eight years to complete the development of a new weapon, through research and development to troop trials, line production and finally being placed in the hands of the troops. It does take a long time. We naturally tell the 751 House about it as soon as we can. This means that hon. Members have been familiar with the name for a long time before the weapon gets to the troops. But of one thing I am certain. It is no use trying to telescope the process. Each stage in the development of a weapon is equally important, and it is a false economy and may well lead in the long run to greater delays if we try to telescope the process and to jump the gun.
The hon. and learned Gentleman asked me about infra-red developments. I think he must have taken a certain amount of the information from which he spoke from a recent article in The Times. This, however, I am assured, is misleading. The Germans did develop in the Second World War a complete range of infra-red equipment mainly for vehicle driving and night surveillance but the standard of performance was prety bad. They were heavy and cumbersome and for a time they were abandoned and the principle discontinued.
We also had produced night driving equipment late in the war, and an hon. Friend of mine, when he read the Memorandum, told me that it had been issued to his vehicle among the first, in the later stages of the war and that he too thought that this was not anything very new. What has happened is that the principles of infra-red operation have been subject to research, refinement and development in the intervening years; the kind of thing that we are producing now is founded on a much more refined and complicated principle, and to that extent is almost entirely a new development from the kind of equipment to which the article in The Times, from which the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted, referred.
The hon. and learned Member also made two points about wireless sets. First he implied that the C.13 set was very little better than the 19 set with which I think many of us are familiar. This is not true. The C.13 has a greatly superior performance, and in particular can work over the larger ranges which are necessary in the modern tactical conditions of greater battlefield mobility and more widespread movement of armour.
§ Mr. Ramsden
At a guess—I have not the figure in front of me—about double that of the 19 set. If I am wrong, I will write to the hon. and learned Gentleman.
Secondly, he criticised us for not having transistors in place of valves. The position here is that eight years ago, at the time when the range of sets which we are now using were beginning their development, transistors were still in their infancy. The hon. Member will realise that it is true that techniques which are suitable for commercial use and capable of very rapid commercial development are not always sufficiently robust and reliable for us to take on for service in the Army. We have got to have things which have been more thoroughly tested, which are able to stand up to rough handling and all types of climate. Although we shall get the transistor equipment, it will take a little more time. But as regards a set for the infantry of the "walkie-talkie" description, which the hon. and learned Gentleman asked about, as a result of the development which we have been carrying out, using transistors, we shall have a set for them shortly and this will be going into user trials in the course of the next few months.
§ Mr. Paget
Does not this illustrate just what I was saying, that when we are entering an electronic age we really cannot afford an eight-year development because it means that by the time we get the article it is out of date? All non-transistorised radio equipment of this sort is today out of date.
§ Mr. Ramsden
It is still operational. What we have now works better than the 19 set. I think it is the experience common to all countries which maintain armies and military equipment, that there is need for a long process of development of military weapons and equipment before they can be brought into service.
Perhaps I may finish my reply to the other points raised by the hon. and learned Member. I will not embark again on the debate about Hong Kong except to say that on the whole my views incline to those of the hon. Member for 753 Dudley rather than to those of the hon. and learned Member; but, more seriously, I will attempt to deal with what he had to say about fulfilment of our N.A.T.O. obligations.
He repeated the charge which had been made earlier this week from the benches opposite that we are welshing on our commitments to N.A.T.O. He mentioned the Western European Treaty under which we maintain our standing Army in Europe. It seems to me that there are two points here. First of all the Treaty and where we stand under it in relationship with our allies legally. The Treaty which we signed contained a provision under which, with our allies' agreement, we keep our forces in Germany at their present levels. They have been reduced, it is true, from their original level, but under the provisions of the Treaty and with the agreement of our allies. That is the legal position.
There is the second point which the hon. and learned Member stressed, the point that, as he said, our allies had no option but to agree to reductions because, in his words, we should have made them anyway. This is the point of how we are fulfilling the spirit of the Treaty and our obligation to our allies in N.A.T.O. Our position on this is quite clear and has been made clear many times and is well known to SACEUR and our allies, and it is that, if need arose, we are in a position and have plans to make our forces in Europe fully effective for war in a matter of days. Once we had done so our numbers would be well above the minimum which N.A.T.O. has asked for. I think our position on this is perfectly clear. The line which the Opposition have sustained not only during today's debate but during the earlier debate this week about the adequacy of our contribution to N.A.T.O, particularly the matter of the strength of B.A.O.R., I find very surprising from an Opposition who devoted so much time and energy to opposing the Army Reserve Bill, the main purpose of which was to ensure that we kept up the numbers of B.A.O.R.
§ Mr. Ramsden
General Norstad is well aware of the position and well 754 aware of how we could make our military contribution effective if need arose. My right hon. Friend answered this question the other day. Military commanders are never satisfied with the amount of force which they have. They would fail in their duty to their troops if they were ever so, but I am satisfied, and so is my right hon. Friend, that we are in a position effectively to discharge our commitments to N.A.T.O. and our allies should the need arise.
I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) was absolutely right in what she had to say about the rôle of our forces in N.A.T.O. and the relationship of our commitments in N.A.T.O. to our other commitments world wide. I thought she showed a much truer appreciation of these relative values than do hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I believe that they are wrong to discount the value of the influence of what we contribute in other parts of the world, as compared with the European theatre.
The hon. and learned Gentleman finally criticised us over the question of pay and pensions. I must say that his approach to this question showed a certain inconsistency of thought. The hon. and learned Gentleman began by describing, correctly, the plight of pensioners whose means of subsistence has been eroded by rising prices. This is a fair point and both Governments since the war must accept some share of the responsibility for what has happened. But, having said that, he criticised the effects on Service pay of the very policy of restraint by which this Government are seeking to maintain the future value of pensions of all kinds, not only Service pensions.
Pension increase measures have been introduced from time to time to relieve hardship caused to existing pensioners by severe falls in the value of money. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, the last such Measure had effect from 1st August, 1959. But because these were special Measures to relieve hardship, pension increases have been limited to those who need them most—incapacitated pensioners and pensioners and others reaching the age of 60 and so on. This has meant that Army pensioners and other pensioners from the public service do not qualify for pension 755 increases before the age of 60 unless they are invalids or permanently unfit for full-time employment. I cannot now give to my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North and others, an answer on the Government's intentions, beyond saying that we keep this matter constantly and sympathetically under review.
On pay, the hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that the Government had broken the promise they made when accepting the Grigg Committee's recommendation for a biennial review. This is not so. We have carried out the biennial review and are to increase pay to the extent the review justifies. It is perfectly true that the increase will be given not in one step but in two, but the plain fact is—and I think that the Committee will accept this—that to pay the whole of the increase justified by the review straight away would be contrary to the need for restraint which the present economic position of the country imposes, and that is why we are spreading the increases equally over two years. I do not see how we could have done more without going against the policy on incomes set out in the recent White Paper, and I believe that this will be accepted as an overriding necessity in the light of the national policy.
§ Mr. Paget
Is it not quite clear—I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has disputed it—that the Government's pledge on which these men were enlisted was not merely to review but to pay in accordance with the review? Now he says that part of the money which belongs, in honour, to the troops is to be postponed for a year. By that, does he mean that, at the end of the first year, the troops will receive the amount that has been held back this year—in the case of a private, £20—in addition to the rise next year? If it is just to be held back a year, that is what it means. As I understand it, the troops are losing half a year's pay that has been promised by the Government.
§ Mr. Ramsden
They will eventually get the full amount of the review but not the back pay. To that extent, they will suffer, and are involved in the sacrifice which other members of the public, in the national interest and in pursuit of 756 the Government's policy, have been asked to accept. It would be quite wrong for an exception to have been made of the Services.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
Can my hon. Friend explain why, if it is possible for the Government under present economic circumstances to find even £14 million for increased pay for the Forces, it is not possible to find a relatively small amount for those people whom he himself says are having a very bad time because their pensions have been eroded by inflation? That argument has never properly been put, and no answer has been given to it.
§ Mr. Ramsden
My hon. Friend tells me that there is no answer to it. She is a well-known expert on the subject. There is none better. I will not insult her by trying to find the answer.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I fully appreciate my hon. Friend's point of view. I think that she knows the policy and practice of successive Governments on this question.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I must get on. My right hon. Friend has already said something about recruiting. I wish to add a little on the aspect about which the hon. Member for Dudley spoke, namely, wastage. For control purposes we split the figure of overall yearly wastage into two parts—wastage of recruits, namely in the first three months, and the rest. The picture of recruit wastage is of a slight improvement from 21 per cent. in 1960 to 19.3 per cent. in 1961. The indications are that Parliament was wise when it gave us power to ban the discharge by purchase of recruits for eight weeks. There has been a dividend from the policy of new entrants having to take eight weeks to settle down and give themselves a chance to come to terms 757 with the Army. There has also been a dividend from the very considerable effort which has gone into what is sometimes called in jargon job induction. This merely means the application of common sense to try to ease the transition of these young men from one sort of life to another.
§ Mr. Ramsden
Overall there has been a reduction in the percentage of recruits wasting out. That is as far as I was trying to go on recruits. For ordinary wastage there is very little movement one way or the other from last year, which is satisfactory to the extent that we have managed to reduce an adverse trend. If the two rates are added together to get the overall figure in total, there is a slight worsening from 8.3 per cent. to 9.1 per cent., but we are getting more recruits and the recruit wastage element weights the whole total more heavily. Altogether I am rather happier about this than I was last year, but we certainly must not be complacent.
The hon. Member for Dudley alleged that we were taking in all sorts of unfit men and, as a result, were having after a few weeks to throw many of them out. I think he quoted a figure of 25 per cent. of one intake. He seems to have got hold of an unusual and very un-typically bad cross-section, because in 1961 2.8 per cent. of the total strength of the Army was discharged for medical reasons. For recruits alone the comparative figure was 3.3 per cent. of the total intake. Over the last year or so the figures for medical discharge have been fairly steady. The figures I have quoted for 1961 are a slight improvement on those for 1960.
§ Mr. Wigg
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will write to me about this, but we must not let it go by default. We must not be misled by figures of medical discharge as a percentage of the Army as a whole. If the hon. Member will write to me and let me have details of medical discharges of recruits in relation to the total intake and also tell me the 758 numbers discharged under Section 14, I shall be satisfied.
§ Mr. Ramsden
It is rather difficult to absorb, as it is to give, these figures in the course of debate, but if there is anything I have not covered I will certainly write to the hon. Gentleman.
Still on recruiting, I do not believe that the charge that we are using high pressure methods to scrape the barrel is fair. I do not believe that it can fairly be said that T.V. scrapes the barrel. It taps a bit of it which was quite untapped before we went in for television advertising. I believe that our campaign confronts potential recruits in their homes with the possibility of a life's career in the Army and gives them an option which in the ordinary way they would not have for making up their minds. It does a little to make up for the disadvantage that we are at in getting young men compared with civil industry which is always just down the road with its immediate attraction for young men leaving school, and which can take them younger. I do not believe there is anything more sinister about it than that, and I do not believe we are in any way lowering our standards. I was very glad to have the confirmation of my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North who, I know, has made considerable study of what is happening in this regard.
Last year my right hon. Friend mentioned a number of improvements in the soldier's lot which he intended to introduce, and as this is eventually the real cure for wastage—to make the Army an attractive place where people will want to stay—it might be appropriate if I gave a very short account of our progress in some of these particulars.
First of all, there is the extension of leave travel concessions for Regular soldiers. These have been primarily directed to easing the burden of unavoidable separation for the married man. But the single soldier has not been neglected. Married men serving with their families outside North-West Europe may now travel home once a year provided that their tour is for not less than two years, and the married unaccompanied soldier in Germany is now allowed two extra free journeys to this country each year in recognition of 759 the difficult housing situation in some stations there.
Movement around the world is inevitably the soldier's lot, and when a quarter is not provided, settling in a new home costs money. Account is taken of this to some extent by local allowances, but we have recently introduced a new scheme of a settling-in advance of up to 15 days' pay and allowances with a maximum of 30 days in special cases to help married men when they are having to move into private accommodation abroad. I believe that this will be a help.
My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East asked about education. I assure her that we have made some good progress in the last year or so. Fifteen hundred more places were provided in Army schools abroad last year, and they now cater for 28,500 children. On top of that, more than 4,000 new primary and secondary school places are in course of provision in Germany.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) asked a number of questions, and I should like to comment on one in particular. He said that the War Department contribution to the Aldershot rates had dropped recently. I am afraid that this is true and that it is inevitable that when we carry out demolitions and spaces and buildings are left empty there should be a loss in rateable value to the local authority. In this regard, I am afraid, Aldershot is in no different position from any local authority where a developer pulls down property and there is a period of unoccupation. But, perhaps in a sense it is better off than others, since, because of the presence of the Army, my hon. Friend's constituency can look forward to the redevelopment of these sites by the Army and eventually an increased contribution to the rates.
§ Sir E. Errington
The point I was making was that there has been—not necessarily through the fault of the War Office—delay in the rebuilding, and all the time the delay is causing a loss of rates to the borough. The important thing is to get on with the building.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I appreciate what my hon. Friend says. No one is more 760 anxious than we are to go ahead and complete our programme of building barracks and other quarters.
The hon. Member for Aberavon asked a number of questions. I cannot tell him specifically what amount of recruits we get from the "Keeping the Army in the Public Eye" campaign. This is part, with many other schemes, of our general recruiting effort, and it is impossible to produce an analysis.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the strategic reserve, whether it is up to strength, and to what extent some units might have to help in T.A. camps. I am afraid that I cannot answer in particular. He will appreciate that I do not want to be drawn into details about strength. In general, however, my answer is that the strategic reserve, whatever the temporary requirements may be, as its primary responsibility is kept ready for use in its primary rôle. There are also a number of battalions at home outside the strategic reserve ready to undertake internal security operations if need be.
The SS.11 anti-tank guided missile, about which the hon. Member for Aberavon asked me, is not man-portable and, therefore, is not suitable in the same rôle as the Vigilant will eventually fill with the infantry. The hon. Member asked about a warhead for the Vigilant. If there were a Swiss warhead or, in conformity with our policy, any other warhead available anywhere else which would do the job and come up to specification and be ready in time, we should, naturally, consider it.
Although criticisms have been levelled at us, some of which I have tried to answer, I believe that the Committee would like me to end on a note of wishing the Army well in all its responsibilities during the next year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We often ask ourselves why men join the Army. We have spent a lot of time and trouble in trying to pinpoint the reason and we have had a variety of answers. The one that is common to them all is that in service with a good unit, people find a sense of comradeship and purpose and of working together for a common good as part of something which, they feel, is bigger than their own private well-being. I believe that the opportunity to feel such a sense of purpose is something for which modern life provides increasingly 761 few opportunities outside the Service. It is up to us to see that those who look for this in the ranks of the Army find it there; otherwise we shall not get the men we want and we shall not be able to keep them.
To do that, my right hon. Friend and I have to arrive at a realistic assessment of the proper rôle of the British Army in the modern world and to ensure that its numbers, organisation and equipment are such as to let it do that job to the best advantage. That is what we seek to do and in this aim I should like to feel that we have the support of the Committee. I hope that the Committee will pass the Vote and reject the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne.
§ 11.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
There was a conflict of opinion between the Secretary of State for War and myself about certain figures. My figures were supplied to me by the War Office. The Secretary of State challenged the figures, which were his own figures. I should like to
§ know, therefore, what exactly is the position. Does the Secretary of State know what the figures are? Were the figures supplied to me accurate? If they were, ought he not to withdraw his statement that my figures were wrong? We are entitled to an explanation from the Secretary of State for War about these figures, because it is an important matter affecting my constituency.
§ My argument was that the figures for Ayrshire did not show any considerable increase in recruiting for Ayrshire. I gave the figures as they were given to me in a Written Answer on 5th March. Therefore, in using these figures in debate, I was entitled—
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Martin Redmayne) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 120, Noes 2.763
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Allason, James||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Balniel, Lord||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Peel, John|
|Batsford, Brian||Hastings, Stephen||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Biffen, John||Hendry, Forbes||Pym, Francis|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Ramsden, James|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Holland, Philip||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Bossom, Clive||Hornby, R. P.||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Box, Donald||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Rees, Hugh|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hughes-Young, Michael||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Bryan, Paul||Iremonger, T. L.||Ridsdale, Jullan|
|Buck, Antony||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Roots, William|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||James, David||Shepherd, William|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chlswlck)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Smithers, Peter|
|Chataway, Christopher||Kershaw, Anthony||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Kirk, Peter||Talbot, John E.|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Kitson, Timothy||Teeling, Sir William|
|Cooke, Robert||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Leavey, J. A.||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Curran, Charles||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|du Cann, Edward||Litchfield, Capt. John||Walder, David|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Longbottom, Charles||Walker, Peter|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Longden, Gilbert||Wall, Patrick|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Farr, John||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Webster, David|
|Finlay, Graeme||MacArthur, Ian||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Fisher, Nigel||McLaren, Martin|
|Gammans, Lady||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Whitelaw, William|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maddan, Martin||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Gilmour, Sir John||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wise, A. R.|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mills, Stratton|
|Goodhew, Victor||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Green, Alan||Neave, Airey||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Mr. Gordon Campbell.|
|Gurden, Harold||Noble, Michael|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Mr. Emrys Hughes and|
|Mr. William Baxter.|
§ Question put accordingly,
§ That a number, not exceeding 251,000, all ranks, be maintained for the said Service:—
|Division No. 119.]||AYES||[12.9 a.m.|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Mr. Emrys Hugbes and|
|Mr. William Baxter.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Noble, Michael|
|Aitken, W. T.||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Allason, James||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Balniel, Lord||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Batsford, Brian||Hastings, Stephen||Peel, John|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Biffen, John||Hendry, Forbes||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pym, Francis|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Holland, Philip||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bossom, Clive||Hornby, R. P.||Ramsden, James|
|Box, Donald||Horneby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hughes-Young, Michael||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bryan, Paul||Iremonger, T. L.||Rees, Hugh|
|Buck, Anthony||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||James, David||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Roots, William|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Shepherd, William|
|Chataway, Christopher||Kershaw, Anthony||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Kirk, Peter||Smithers, Peter|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Kitson, Timothy||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cooke, Robert||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Talbot, John E.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Leavey, J. A.||Teeling, Sir William|
|Curran, Charles||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|du Cann, Edward||Litchfield, Capt. John||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Longbottom, Charles||Walder, David|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Longden, Gilbert||Walker, Peter|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Wall, Patrick|
|Farr, John||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Finlay, Graeme||MacArthur, Ian||Webster, David|
|Fisher, Nigel||McLaren, Martin||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Gammans, Lady||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Whitelaw, William|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maddan, Martin||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Gilmour, Sir John||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wise, A. R.|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mills, Stratton||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Green, Alan||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Neave, Airey||Mr. Gordon Campbell.|
|Gurden, Harold||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
§ Original Question put:—764
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 2, Noes 117.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 116, Noes 2.
|Hastings, Stephen||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Roots, William|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||MacArthur, Ian||Shepherd, William|
|Hendry, Forbes||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Maddan, Martin||Smithers, Peter|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Holland, Philip||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Talbot, John E.|
|Hornby, R. P.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Teeling, Sir William|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Mills, Stratton||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Neave, Airey||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Walder, David|
|James, David||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Walker, Peter|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Wall, Patrick|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Peel, John||Webster, David|
|Kirk, Peter||Pitt, Miss Edith||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Kitson, Timothy||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Whitelaw, William|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Pym, Francis||Williams, Paul (Sunderland S.)|
|Leavey, J. A.||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Ramsden, James||Wise, A. R.|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Rawllnson, Peter||Worsley, Marcus|
|Litchfield, Capt. John||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Longbottom, Charles||Rees, Hugh||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Longden, Gilbert||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Mr. Michael Noble and|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Ridsdale, Julian||Mr. Martin McLaren.|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Mr. William Baxter and|
|Mr. Emrys Hughes.|
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 252,000, all ranks, be maintained for the safety of the United Kingdom and the defence of the possessions of Her Majesty's Crown, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received this day; Committee to sit again this day.