HL Deb 15 December 1938 vol 111 cc610-28

had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make on recruitment for the various Defence Services; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friends and I thought it would be useful if we could have some information from the Government about their proposals for recruiting for the various Defence Services. We understand that a campaign of some kind for recruits will commence in the latter part of January before your Lordships resume, and I understand further that many of your Lordships who are Lords-Lieutenant and fill other important positions in the counties will be asked to take a leading part. As there is a good deal of information which has not yet been given to the public or to your Lordships, it might be valuable if the Government could tell us more about this very important subject. I may say at once that there are very widespread suspicions that the plans are by no means ready, and that there is a good deal of indecision and uncertainty about them. Indeed I have heard this whole question of national recruitment compared with the muddle of air-raid precautions, which still persists. Your Lordships will be aware that all over the country there are open trenches falling into decay and no one can get any decision as to what has to be done with them. I am told that with regard to recruiting the same state of affairs prevails.

First of all, may I ask some questions of which I have given prior notice to the noble Earl who will be good enough, I understand, to reply for the Government. We want to know where we are in the first place, and how many men we need for these various Services? The information for which I am asking is not confidential, because we get weekly or monthly returns of recruits obtained for the Territorials or for His Majesty's Army and other Services. May I, therefore, first of all ask how many men are actually needed now for His Majesty's Army, for the Royal Navy—I think I can give the answer about the Royal Navy at once; I believe they have all the men they require—the Royal Air Force, the Territorials, the Navy and Air Force Reserves, and Auxiliary Services, and how many men or women are required for air-raid precaution work in its various branches? By that I include the auxiliary fire brigades, the rescue and demolition squads, first-aid parties, decontamination squads and so on. In other words, how many people are we short of and what is the effort required to get them? I should also like to know how many are required for the balloon barrages.

Then there are certain specific questions that I venture to put to His Majesty's Government of great importance to everyone concerned. I understand from a careful reading of the statements made in another place that certain men working in what are known as key or reserved industries will not be eligible for recruiting to these various Services. We had an answer by the Leader of the House some time ago in which he told us that if these men in these key industries wished to enrol in the Regular Forces they would be allowed to do so, as this would be a change of profession. I gathered, though it was a little uncertain, that they would be discouraged from enrolling in the Auxiliary Services, including air-raid precautions, but there is nothing definite about that, and if they do enrol will it be for service near their own work? Take for example a man working in an ordnance factory. He obviously cannot be released to be made into an infantryman (if you can help it) in the Territorials but he probably would want to enrol in his works' auxiliary fire brigade or gas-fighting squad. Will he be encouraged to enrol in one of these services near his work or near his home? The importance of that the noble Earl will appreciate. Many of these workers, especially in the large towns, live in houses a long way from their place of work, and they cannot be in two places at once.

I understand that these key workers comprise most of the skilled and specialised workmen in the country. Already we have heard that agriculture is a key industry and that we shall have to keep all the people now engaged there on the land in case of a national emergency. Then there are transport, electrical supply, coal mining, iron mining, shipbuilding and, as far as I can gather, most of the engineering industries—all these are key people, and you really must not look upon them, so I understand, as a reservoir of recruiting. In passing may I say that I think when this scheme gets going, as I presume it will get going eventually, we shall begin to appreciate who are the really valuable people in the country; which will not be a bad thing.

I come to a question to which I should particularly like an answer if the noble Earl can let us have it. We were told a little time ago that there would be a scheme under which men working in key industries—munition works and important engineering works—would enrol themselves as local defence units for the defence of their own factories, to man anti-aircraft guns and machine guns, to cope with low-flying aircraft. I thought it was an excellent idea. But a few minutes ago I was talking to two gentlemen of great importance in this country—one a leading electrical engineer responsible for the largest power station in the country and the other the managing director of a very large factory engaged on Government work—and both told me that from that day to this they have not heard anything more. They were told that a letter would be sent describing the scheme, but they have not received it. Plenty of people in their special industries would be very willing to form these self-defence squads or parties, whatever you like to call them. I suppose at the moment there are not sufficient guns, but presently guns will be coming along and then the men will not be ready, because it takes time to organise and train men for this kind of defence.

In regard to this kind of service I come now to a very important question indeed. How far will contractual obligations go? Young men joining the Territorial Army enter, I believe, into contractual obligations which they have to carry out. Are there going to be contractual obligations for people who join the air-raid precautions services? I suggest that there should be, with great respect to the Government. We know what happened in September in certain cases. A few chief wardens and air-raid precautions officers promptly went off to South Wales or the West of Scotland and evacuated their families, and that was all the work they did. Only a few of them did that, but it was very disorganising in the districts in which they live. These people ought to be trained and ought to agree to serve when an emergency arises.

There is another question. Are they going to be paid during training, or during the time they serve in an emergency? A man with family obligations who is not young enough for the Army may be willing to join this service, but when the emergency arises it will be a whole-time job; he will have to throw up his present employment and he will have to think of his family. I think it ought to be laid down that he will be paid during actual service and that there will be a pension scheme to provide for his family if he is killed when on duty. No one knows the answer to these questions, strange as that may appear. We are not given the answers to what I should have thought were comparatively elementary questions.

I come now to what is perhaps the most important question that is agitating the public. Suppose men enrol in auxiliary fire brigades or decontamination corps—dangerous work—and a war breaks out, are they going to be conscripted into the Army or are they going to be exempt from Army Service and allowed to stay in those services? That, I venture to submit, is very important indeed, but nobody knows the answer. We do know from what the Government have said that if there is a war they will immediately introduce all-round military conscription. That, I believe, is common ground. Is it going to apply to these trained and specialised people, who have qualified for service in air-raid precaution duties?

The next question I would like to ask is what is going to be the central organisation. In another place the Lord Privy Seal gave an account of the county and borough committees with Lords Lieutenant or Chairmen of Petty Sessions in the chair, and all the local notabilities serving on the Committee, and as an afterthought said that a few Labour representatives would be invited to take part. But what is to be the central organisation? It is an immense task to organise a whole country for war, and that is what it means. I understand that at the present moment this organisation is a sort of branch of the Ministry of Labour. I suggest that the Labour Ministry should be kept out of this, apart from the compiling of lists, and that there should be a big central organisation for all these various services. I do hope that Sir John Anderson, the new Lord Privy Seal, for whose administrative abilities I, with everyone else, have the greatest respect, will not find himself in the position in which the unfortunate Sir Thomas Inskip has found himself for the last two years, with great prestige but no executive power at all. I hope that will not be the case with Sir John Anderson who is trying to organise National Service to-day.

As to the recruiting drive, I said at the beginning of my remarks that I understood it was to begin sometime in January. How is this recruiting drive going to be organised? I would like to help myself. I will help the Government in recruiting if I am of any use to them, but we want to know what are to be the methods of recruiting. Are the Government going to use modern means of publicity and advertising, wireless and so on? I hope so. Then about these little handbooks that we are going to have in the third week in January. The last considerable shake-up we had was due to the Munich Agreement last September. What has been happening since last September? From September to the third week in January is a long time. I do not want to be uncharitable, but with the greatest respect I would say that the Government are very slow-moving. The people are waiting to be told what to do. They are eager to help.


Slow, but sure.


I hope they are sure, but the noble Marquess the Secretary of State, if he will forgive me for saying so, confesses to slowness. This is not a time for being over cautious. If I might suggest it to him, he has been so many years in the East that he is imbued with the spirit of the East. This is not a time for the slow-moving spirit of the East; this is a time for the quick-moving spirit of the West. We are in an emergency now, though the people might not suppose so. This very day, according to the newspapers, the Trades Union Congress are seeing the Lord Privy Seal and the Minister of Labour. I should have thought that that ought to have happened weeks ago. Your Lordships know perfectly well that it is impossible to carry out schemes of civilian organisation touching labour at every point without the advice and, indeed, the collaboration of the Trades Union Congress. Why were they not called in at the very beginning of this—if I may be forgiven for so calling it—half-baked scheme?

Then may I ask what arrangements are being made about property which will be needed in case of an outbreak of war? That is also important. The Government will need certain premises for air-raid precaution work. That ought to be arranged beforehand, and people ought to be warned that their premises will be needed. Otherwise those premises may not be available, for one reason or another. You want special materials also; sand, for example. A friend of mine who has a large sand-pit sold the output of it for seven years last September. He contracted for it for seven years, because they do not get nearly enough sand in the London area. In other words, are any steps being taken to meet Earl Baldwin's demand for the mobilisation of industry?

Now I come to the question of this National Register. I have read again and again the debate in another place and the very important statements made by Sir John Anderson, and I am still uncertain whether it is proposed to compile this Register now or to wait until war breaks out. I cannot be sure; the statements which were made appear to be contradictory. I understand that to make this Register complete 50,000 enumerators are needed. Suppose that the latter course is chosen and we are going to wait until war breaks out before this Register is made: are these 50,000 people going to go about the country distributing forms, helping people to fill them in, collecting them, and then tabulating the results, and all that sort of thing? Is that really the proposal on mobilisation? I think we ought to have some information on the subject.

I wonder if I may be permitted to make a few general observations on recruiting. I have ventured to ask the noble Earl a number of questions. I hope he can answer them, and I know that if he cannot it will not be his fault, but they are all-important. Might I first make a few general observations on the system of recruiting to which we are committed? As your Lordships are quite aware, the Labour Party, of which I am a member, is opposed to any other system of recruiting for these Services than the voluntary system. Of course, if the voluntary system can fill all our needs, it is the best. There is a great deal to be said for it. It is not working very well at present. I will give a detail or two, if I may, in a moment, but that is a fact. Perhaps I might address myself for a moment to the Secretary of State for India as a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The strength of our armaments to-day is dependent on the degree of success we obtain with the voluntary system. If you cannot get all the men you want, you presently will have more aeroplanes and more cannons than you can man. That is a truism, and it is therefore tremendously important to make the voluntary system a success. If you pin yourselves down to the voluntary system and say that this is the British system, then you must make it a success. If it hangs fire you must find out why and find means of making it succeed. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me in those observations.

May I just give one example—I will give only one—of the way in which it works at present in the air-raid precautions services? I know a case of a gentleman, a local squire, who is the chief air-raid warden of his district. It is a very important district, one of the semi-rural districts, which has been built up and is thickly populated and in a vulnerable position. He has kept his estate, and they have made him the chief air-raid warden. Before the crisis came in September, after great efforts, he had eleven wardens. His complement was 100: he needed 100 and he managed to get only eleven. Then, when the trouble came, of course there was a rush of people to enlist and to be trained, and they knew nothing about what to do. I saw him a few days ago, and said: "You remember that you were so short of wardens last September, and you only had eleven out of a hundred; how many have you got now?" He replied, "I have thirteen now." The stimulus of the crisis had departed and these people had all gone about their business. It is a dormitory district, and there is great difficulty in the way of a few devoted, hard-working people who try to rouse a local patriotism and get their neighbours to take this business seriously.

Of course we all know that the volunteer is the ideal fighting man. I am going to quote just a few examples, not all British. Everyone who knows the facts knows that the soldiers of Kitchener's Army in the last War, just because they were volunteers, were magnificent material. I should like to quote two foreign examples. I believe the finest soldiers of their time were the legions of Garibaldi, who were all volunteers. You remember his great speech to them in which he said, if I may paraphrase: "I do not offer you glory or fame or monetary rewards; I can offer you only wounds and hunger and thirst and death." He had the finest men in Italy to join his legions. Those are the real volunteers. Pilsudski's forces in the freeing of Poland in the last days of the Great War were real volunteers. The International Brigade in Spain were real volunteers of all nations, and biased observers in Spain hostile to the Brigade have told me that they were the finest troops which it was possible to put in the field. They had the real martial spirit, which you can replace by nothing else.

Just to revert to my own Service, the Service in which I had the honour of serving, we went through a trying time in the years of the Great War, but we had no case of concerted indiscipline in the Royal Navy. It was the two conscript Navies of Germany and Austria which mutinied. So, if your voluntary system can work, it is marvellous. But, my Lords, if the Government—I may venture to say this to them—want a real and enthusiastic response to their appeal for recruits, it is necessary to convince the people of two things. The first is that you are trying to make a land worth defending. Now I am going to do the present Government the credit of believing that they are trying to do that. We may not always agree with their methods of doing it, but I believe they are attempting to do it. Secondly, if you want the real response that is necessary to-day, I suggest to the Ministers present that they must re-examine the Prime Minister's personal foreign policy, and try to restore confidence in it and convince the people that they are being asked to make sacrifices in peace or war for causes which they can believe in and support: the causes of right, justice and freedom. I am glad to see, from recent observations made by representatives of the Government in another place and outside, that there seems to be some hardening in the foreign policy of the Government. If you expect a real response in this great national effort for recruiting, you need, of course, at any rate a large measure of national unity, and you must therefore give the public confidence in the foreign policy of the Government. At present your Lordships are aware that at least half the nation are very suspicious of and hostile to the declared policy of the Government in foreign affairs. This is tremendously important when you are asking them to enlist voluntarily in services which may entail the greatest sacrifices from them.

May I just for a moment speak of the dilemma in which members of my Party find ourselves? We are tempted, through our contempt and loathing of the Government's policy and of their foreign policy in particular, especially with regard, for example, to Spain, not to assist such a campaign, and indeed to discourage recruiting. That is the temptation, and I can assure your Lordships it is a real temptation for those who feel these things sincerely, as we do. At the same time we realise that we are public men, and that it is our duty to play our part. We have to resist that temptation, and to do our best, however much we may despise the Government's policy; but you will get a far greater response from the rank and file of the public if you can convince them that you really mean what you sometimes say.

I want to enlarge for one moment on that subject of the assistance to recruiting by those who are opposed, and sometimes bitterly opposed, to the Government's foreign policy. We have no choice in the matter. We must help, of course, and we will. That is democracy, and we accept democracy with its disadvantages and its advantages. Take, for example, the other situation which might arise, which is a Labour Government in office. Members of your Lordships' House who sit on the other side might be bitterly opposed to our foreign policy, but we would not tolerate for a moment any tampering with the Army or the Navy. That would be treason. We had an example of it before the War, with the Irish troubles, and sensible level-headed men of all Parties discouraged it. I have ventured to make these few general observations when putting the questions, the answers to which I suggest are of far more importance than anything which I have said in those few general remarks. Speaking for the Party to which I belong, we are prepared to assist in this effort, but what we do need, and especially the industrial portion of the Labour Party, is an assurance from the Government with regard to the maintenance of the fundamental rights of the trade unions. If you satisfy them I believe you will get a great response. I beg to move.


My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has raised this general question of recruiting in your Lordships' House this afternoon. He has made a speech of great interest, in which he has raised a good many important points. In fact I have never heard so many points raised in such a short time, and I cannot promise the noble Lord to give an answer to all those points, but I will do my best to answer as many as I can. Your Lordships will perhaps forgive me if first I make some general preliminary observations on the Government's proposals for National Service, to which he has referred. These proposals, which have been already debated in some detail in another place, have met with somewhat contrary criticisms. Some have attacked them on the ground that they do not go far enough—that the mere registration of volunteers is not sufficient, and that nothing short of a complete National Register in time of peace will meet our present grave requirements—whilst on the other hand there are those who see in these proposals something more sinister than appears on the surface, and who believe that while they are ostensibly based on the voluntary principle, what is in fact contemplated is some violation of and attack on individual liberty.

I do not myself believe that there is anything so Machiavellian about these proposals. They are directed towards a three-fold object: in the first place, to enlist and enrol for immediate training the volunteers who are necessary to fill up the gaps in our Defence Services; secondly, to lay a basis for sane and ordered recruitment in time of emergency; and thirdly, to prepare the necessary machinery for completing the National Register that would, for various reasons—for example, the necessity of food rationing—be necessary were an emergency to arise. With regard to the actual enrolment of volunteers, I saw in a newspaper recently a highly unflattering comparison of the Lord Privy Seal with Noah, and it was not the Noah we know who emerged with a little tribe of animals and people after the Flood but a Noah who was lolling by in supine disinterest till the deluge struck him, before beginning to enumerate the people who should enter the Ark. I could not help feeling that the analogy was not altogether fair either to the Lord Privy Seal or to Noah, though the character of the latter, unlike that of the former, was undoubtedly disfigured by several grave faults. The right honourable gentleman is not concerned in these proposals to number the people who will have to take shelter in the ark, but rather to enrol and number the volunteers who will assist him to construct the ark of National and Civil Defence. The sole aptitude of the comparison resides in the fact that we are told, in the Book of Genesis, that before the Flood the earth was full of violence.

We are concerned, therefore, to secure volunteers for the services of defence, and I think the methods are now familiar to your Lordships. In the first place, the issue of a handbook or guide, and the time of the issue will be about the third week of January; secondly, a co-ordinated appeal for recruits, about which I will say something more in a moment; and thirdly, National Service committees throughout the country to stimulate interest, remove misconceptions where they exist—the noble Lord appeared to think there were many, and he may be right—and, generally speaking, to give assistance and advice to those who are not exactly clear what they should do. A certain amount of misconception apparently exists about the constitution of these committees. Perhaps it has not been made sufficiently clear. The noble Lord appeared to think that the Government were prepared to pack these committees with privileged country busybodies, to the exclusion of the local authority and the labour interest, but the Government have no such intention. No course could be more stupid or dangerous, and the Government are fully determined that these committees shall be fully representative of the services, of the local authorities, and of the labour interests. Their function will be, as has been said before, advisory and judicial rather than recruiting, and they will work under the National Service organisation, functioning from the Ministry of Labour. The noble Lord asked whether there would be a central authority. That will be the central authority—a branch of the Ministry of Labour.


Under the Lord Privy Seal?


Yes. The noble Lord also raised the question of contractual obligation in the engagement of personnel for some of the auxiliary branches of defence. As your Lordships are aware, in the recent crisis the great majority of volunteers reported without delay to their local authorities, but it is believed that all of them would welcome some closer definition of the precise scope of their duties. It is contemplated, therefore, that all volunteers, whether for part-time or whole-time service, should give a specific undertaking: in the first place to undergo the necessary period of training; in the second place, to report removal, or other reasons for leaving the service; and in the third place to report for duty when called upon to do so at the beginning of any emergency. We hope that under this scheme we shall enrol the people who are required for the jobs and who are ready to undertake those jobs, together with appropriate reserves, and we hope that we shall enrol them upon a basis which will secure such a distribution of our manpower between different services as will provide for a war emergency, should it arise, with the minimum amount of serious dislocation.

But I think I should add that, besides the recruitment and the enrolment of volunteers, the Government are building up a system of definition and registration which will enable us, we hope, to avoid many of the errors which were made at the beginning of the last War—which the noble Lord will remember better than I can—errors such as the indiscriminate recruitment of highly-skilled men in key positions, or men with special qualifications for duties in which their skill was wasted. This will be effected by the schedule of reserved occupations, which is now being prepared by the Ministry of Labour and is at the present moment the subject of active consultation with representatives of the employers and the workers; and, secondly, by the special register of persons with professional or technical qualifications, which is being compiled by certain other bodies. We hope that all this will provide machinery to secure that men will not be blindly removed from work where their services are essential, and that the special talent and ability available for emergency services will be known in advance, so that it can be called upon when need arises. Lastly, to complete this scheme of preparation, arrangements are being made so that a complete National Register could be very quickly compiled when the necessary circumstances arose.

I would like to come now to some of the more specific questions which the noble Lord raised. He asked me: Can men in reserved occupations join one of the Auxiliary Services? This is rather a difficult question, and I am afraid I cannot give the noble Lord as satisfactory an answer as I should have wished. He knows, of course, that there is no question that a man in a key occupation is at perfect liberty in peace time to join one of the Auxiliary Services. That would constitute a change of occupation, and the Government have no desire to impose a standstill order upon movement from one occupation to another. I think that I cannot say more on that subject, except that it is a matter of careful consideration and adjustment between the Departments con- cerned, and steps are being taken to reach an understanding which will make the position perfectly clear when the movement towards recruitment begins.

The noble Lord also asked: Will men who undertake a definite obligation for actual service in civil defence be exempted from military service in the event of war? The answer to that is that men who undertake such a definite obligation in respect of civil defence will not on that account be automatically exempted from military service in the event of war, but men who undertake an obligation in peace time for whole-time service, such as the auxiliary fire brigade, will certainly be retained in that service, at any rate during the early stages of an emergency. The noble Lord has asked for a number of figures, and he will forgive me if I give them to him in full. I must start with the A.R.P. Services in the form of estimated requirements and recruitment figures on October 31, 1938. Air-raid wardens: numbers required, 420,000 men, 100,000 women; numbers recruited, 380,000 men, 85,837 women. First-aid posts, first-aid parties, ambulance drivers and attendants: numbers required, 140,000 men, and 220,000 women; numbers recruited, 117,295 men, 194,440 women. Rescue and decontamination parties: numbers required, 70,000 men; numbers recruited, 107,870. That service is over-subscribed. Miscellaneous (report centres, etc.): numbers required, 32,000 men, 10,000 women. This last group has been heavily over-subscribed, having over 77,000 men and over 49,000 women, but these represent in part an unallocated reserve.


Is that first-aid?


That is Miscellaneous (report centres, etc.). The noble Lord also asked about the auxiliary fire service, and here I must frankly admit that there is a rather serious deficiency. It is estimated that the total number of volunteers required is approximately 300,000, made up as follows: 150,000 men for whole-time service; in war; 100,000 men for part-time service; and 50,000 women. At present the total number recruited is between 75,000 and 100,000—mainly men. In this connection I might add that women will be employed in control rooms and for driving light trailers. The Government are well aware of this deficiency in a very important service. When the committees are working and the handbook has gone out and recruiting begins, they intend to give this particular service special attention and to make a particular drive in order to get the required numbers.


Is that the end of the figures?


No, that is a little oasis; there are more to come. There is the question of pay, which the noble Lord raised. There is no pay during part-time voluntary service. There is pay for full-time service in such services as the auxiliary fire service when embodied in war under the A.R.P. The handbook will say which services are payable. One other point which the noble Lord raised, if I understood him rightly, was the opportunity for those engaged in factories to take part in some civil defence work as well. The intention is that people who are on work of national importance should be allowed to enrol for A.R.P. work which will not take them away from their own important occupations.

I should like to say a word about the air. At the end of June, as your Lordships probably know, the Secretary of State made an appeal for 31,000 recruits for the Royal Air Force and I may remind your Lordships that this number was as much as the whole Air Force personnel before expansion. The requirements per year and the numbers obtained up to December 3, 1938, are as follows:—Pilots: required, 2,100; obtained, 1,300. Air Observers: required, 550; obtained, 396. Tradesmen and unskilled men: required, 26,000; obtained, 18,019. Boys: required, 3,000; obtained, 2,167. Generally speaking, the recruiting position in the Royal Air Force is regarded as satisfactory and, provided the present high rate is maintained, it is considered that there should be no difficulty in achieving this programme. There have, however, been shortages in particular trades, such as wireless operators, and special efforts are being made to make up requirements in these trades by recruiting suitable men for training in cases where trained men are not available.

As regards the Auxiliary Air Force, there are nineteen Auxiliary Air Force squadrons in various parts of the country, and recruiting for them is proceeding on the whole quite satisfactorily. The establishment of these squadrons has recently been increased, and 2,000 more recruits will shortly be required, but no difficulty in obtaining them is anticipated. With regard to the Balloon Squadrons, ten squadrons have already been formed round London and about 70 per cent. of the personnel required has been obtained up to date. As the noble Lord knows, the Balloon Squadrons are regarded by experts as one of the most important elements in the defence of the country, and special efforts are being made by the Air Ministry and by the Territorial Force Associations to stimulate recruiting and bring these units up to full strength. The Secretary of State, in a speech on November 10 in the House of Commons during the debate on the Address, said that depots would also be formed at certain provincial towns—namely, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Derby, Hull, Newcastle, Plymouth, Southampton, Glasgow and Cardiff. A separate Balloon Command has also been formed to control the organisation and the training of balloon units as a whole.

With regard to the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, the programme originally laid down provided for a network of thirty-three flying training schools in various parts of the country. Over 2,000 pilots are now training at thirty schools, and the remaining three schools will be open very shortly, two of them at the beginning of the New Year. Recruiting, which in the case of this Service is entirely local, has been quite satisfactory, but plans are now in hand for a considerable increase in the pilot section and for the entry and training of air crew personnel. General recruitment for this latter section must await provision of adequate training facilities, but local recruitment at three selected centres has already begun.

I have got the figures for the Army, but I am afraid they came in rather late, so I can only supply them to the noble Lord in bald form. The present establishment of the Regular Army is 221,662, and the strength on December 1 was 201,138, showing a shortage of 20,524. The present establishment of the Supplementary Reserve is 56,396, and its present strength 31,068, showing a deficiency of over 25,328. The Territorial Army has an establishment of 223,858 and its strength is 200,190, but in the case of the Territorial Army I should perhaps add that the establishment has only recently been increased, so that these figures are, perhaps, not quite fair.

Lastly I should like to say a few words about recruitment for the Royal Navy. The noble Lord in his speech said he knew the Navy had got all the men it wanted, and he was right. At the end of 1935, when the rearmament programme was launched in earnest, the total personnel of the Fleet was in the region of 95,000 officers and men. This year the total strength on the active list will be 119,000 officers and men. During the year 1937–38 no fewer than 15,787 recruits of first-class physique joined the Navy, and I understand this was only a percentage of those who wished to do so but were debarred by the high standards of efficiency required. The number recruited in 1934–35 was over 7,000 and this has increased, as I have stated, to over 15,000 during 1937–38. As far as the Fleet Air Arm is concerned, now that the Navy is taking over the manning of this Arm, large numbers of young men will be required for the different technical branches. Recruiting will begin in the New Year, and the type of men who will mostly be required are mechanics who could undertake the routine maintenance of either the engines, air frames, armament or electrical equipment of naval aircraft. With the completion of the "Ark Royal," the Navy now has seven aircraft carriers, and five more are building. In addition, as the noble Lord knows, every capital ship and cruiser carries one or more aircraft. It is in these ships, which are stationed in all parts of home and foreign waters, that air mechanics will be required to serve, and it is reasonable to suppose that the combined appeal of the air and the sea will attract a large number of recruits into the Service.

There is a serious shortage of qualified candidates for direct entry, between the ages of 19½ and 28, into the artificer branches—engine room, electrical, and ordnance, but the figures are improving. They came up from 158 in 1936 to 456 in the present year, but many more are now required as our naval rearmament policy is beginning to bear fruit. There is also a shortage of short-service ordinary seamen who enter between the ages of 17½ and 28 for seven years, and there is also a shortage of shipwrights and blacksmiths. These last enter between the ages of 19 and 28, and must be able satisfactorily to weld together flat and round iron and to turn and weld together an angle bar corner. Although their numbers are small, these are, I understand, key men, and it is unfortunately a dying trade. Of the sixteen required this quarter, we have so far succeeded in recruiting only two.

I have attempted, I am afraid at undue length, to answer some of the questions that the noble Lord raised. I apologise to your Lordships for occupying so much time, but the noble Lord's Motion was wide in compass. I am conscious I have done less than justice to it, but I have done my best. I ask your Lordships to believe that we are well aware of the wild period of history through which we are passing, and aware also of the retribution which will fall swiftly and surely on lethargy and sloth. But I feel confident in saying that we are pursuing a policy which is at once constructive and sane, and which will enable this country to rise again, if she has to do so, with formidable reserves of man power and with the unfettered vigour of a free people.


My Lords, I am sure I have your Lordships with me when I congratulate the noble Earl on his first performance as a Minister in dealing with a very wide and complicated subject with such efficiency and giving the answers with such clarity. The answers themselves were, as he is of course only too painfully aware, most unsatisfactory. These subjects of vital importance are still under consideration. We can only hope that conclusions will soon be reached and made known. Your Lordships will appreciate from the answers the noble Earl has given that some of the most important matters are left in the air. Until answers are forthcoming, I do not see how the Government can expect the best recruits available to be forthcoming. After all, you want the flower of the population to enlist in these part-time temporary jobs. As far as I can make out from the Government statement of figures, recruiting is fairly good for the Air Force, very good for the Navy, not very good for the Army, and marvellous for some of the air-raid precautions services in that they are recruited about twice over; but there are certain gaps in the air-raid precautions services, particularly with regard to auxiliary fire brigades and the wardens. I think that is a summary of what the noble Earl has told your Lordships in answer to my many questions. That is the position we now have to meet. I only hope that the answers to these questions, which are really agitating people's minds up and down the country, will be forthcoming by the third week in January when, I understand, the campaign is to begin. I thank the noble Earl for his answers, and I have no desire to press for Papers in view of the full reply he has given. I therefore ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.