HL Deb 02 February 1944 vol 130 cc637-43

VISCOUNT ELIBANK had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government when they will be in a position to make a statement as to the conditions of service in respect to length of engagement, pay and non-effective benefits for the three Armed Forces: firstly for the period after the defeat of Germany and during the continuance of the war against Japan, and secondly after all the Axis Powers have been defeated; and move for Papers.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is really the third occasion upon which I have raised the issues mentioned in my Motion. But upon the last occasion, the 15th December, the noble Lord, Lord Snell, who replied for the Government, pointed out to me certain difficulties in answering questions at the present time concerning the future size and requirements of the Armed Services, not only in connexion with the war with Japan, after the Hitler war is concluded, but also after both wars are over. I said on that occasion that I felt there were difficulties, and I am prepared to say now that I have accepted the reasonings and difficulties as presented by the noble Lord on that occasion. I do not propose to pursue that part of my argument today, but must leave that to a future time. What I do wish to bring to the notice of the Government is the necessity for making plans for better provision for pay for those in the Armed Services who will be called upon to serve in the Far East after the Hitler war is over, as well as those who will be called upon to serve in the Armed Services in the post-war period.

There are two reasons why we should have an answer to that question as quickly as possible. The first—and I mentioned this in December—is that there is a considerable number of individuals, both male and female, who would like to make the Services their profession, but obviously they wish to know what security they will have, what their pay, pensions and, as they are technically called, non-effective benefits will be, the length of their engagements, and how all this will compare with conditions in civilian life, where they have been promised work, food and homes for all. I think this is a very natural wish, and it is a wish which should be gratified as soon as possible, otherwise many of them, both men and women, will be caught up in the maelstrom of demobilization, and their services—valuable services for they are trained already in war—will be lost, not only to us in the Japanese war but also in the post-war period.

The second reason—and that applies in the first instance to those who will take part in the war with Japan after Hitler is defeated—is that it is not equitable to ask our men and women to go out to the Far East and serve under conditions there at rates of pay which will be infinitely lower than those enjoyed by the men alongside whom they will be serving. It is true that this is happening to-day, in Europe and in the Middle East, and there is a great deal of discontent about that. But that, after that period of the war is over, they should be asked to go the long distance to the Far East and serve under the same conditions as over here is, I believe, not right. Let me illustrate what I mean as far as pay is concerned. I have looked this up, and I find that an Australian soldier gets 8s. 6d. plus 2S. per day, that is, including his deferred pay, 1os. 6d. a day altogether. A New Zealander gets 7s. 6d. a day; a Canadian gets 1 dollar 30 cents, which I understand at present exchange over here is somewhere about 5s. 9d. to 6s. a day. Our soldiers get 3s. plus 6d. deferred pay, or 3s. 6d. altogether. I admit that there are certain differences in currencies, depreciated currencies, for instance, so far as Australia and New Zealand are concerned to the extent of about 25 per cent.; but the discrepancy between the figures I have given and the amount paid to our soldiers is a very large one indeed.

And this does not only apply to the soldiers, but to the other two Services. I find, for instance, in the Navy that an ordinary seaman receives 2s. plus two sixpences, including the war bonus, or 3s. a day altogether, to which is added is. a day after one year's service. So far as the Royal Air Force is concerned, the rank that compares with the private soldier is the second-class aircraftman who receives 3s. plus 6d. deferred pay. I am not going to suggest to-day what I think the increase should be, because no doubt if you increase the pay of the lower ranks you will have to give increases right through. I do not wish to embarrass the Government in their calculations and considerations of the matter. As I said on a former occasion, I would much prefer seeing the Government come forward with their proposals, so as to enable us to accept them or to make such fair criticisms upon them as we might think fit. But I do wish to urge that in the Far East war the increases should be commensurate with the conditions which our men and women will have to face there, that is, quite apart from the rates of pay drawn by the soldiers and the other Services of the overseas Dominions and the United States.

I wonder how many of your Lordships realize what these conditions are. Probably few, if any, of your Lordships have visited Papua and the islands of the Western Pacific, or know the jungle conditions of Malaya and Burma. I do. In my early days I spent nearly two years in British New Guinea—now called Papua. I know Port Moresby and the mountainous jungle area behind it, and the malaria-stricken mangrove swamps of the coast, the insects and the diseases; I have suffered from them all. I know also the jungle areas of Malaya, and I say without hesitation that those of our Armed Forces to whom is entrusted the heavy and patriotic task of assisting in expelling Japanese from our British Protectorates and other places which they have attacked and occupied will be deserving of the most generous treatment by way of adequate additional allowances for their services. Japan for nearly fifteen years, knowing our hazardous position in Europe owing to Germany's rearmament and our disarmament, has consistently made us eat humble pie in the Far East or, to put it in her own phraseology, "made us lose face." She followed this up with the most treacherous war of aggression, followed by the most, ghastly and savage treatment of prisoners of war and even civilian internees. We cannot stop, any more than can the Americans, the Australians and the New Zealanders, until Japan is utterly defeated and has paid forfeit for her infamous deeds. There is one thing which I believe the people of this country will demand, and that is that the men and women in our Armed Forces who are going to participate in the Japanese defeat shall be reasonably compensated for the conditions which they will endure and for the sacrifices they will be called upon to make. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, when my noble friend last raised this question, and again to-day, he gave the impression that no thought was being given to the vital matter which he has raised in debate. I should like therefore to give him some assurance. As a matter of fact the Services—and here, of course, I can speak more intimately for the War Office—in spite of the almost overwhelming pressure of war are not only giving thought to this problem but are getting right down to the subject. I must remind him that in addition to the problem of the war in Europe we have the urgent one of making plans for an army for the occupation of enemy territories, and at the same time of sustaining the war in the Far East until final victory is won. Then there is the outstanding work of demobilization which confronts us and which in itself requires great preparation and foresight.

In spite of many unknown factors, preparations for all these immense undertakings are going forward. Each requires zeal and a concentration of work by all those who are called upon to make the preparation. In spite of all this pressure of second priorities, if I may so describe them—the first priority being victory—the problems of the post-war Army are being kept before us continually but all the time we are confronted by unknown factors. These include the ending of the war in Europe, the ending of the war in the Far East, the possibility of any recrudescence of trouble in a disturbed world, and also what part the Dominions may play in the future defence of the Commonwealth. We cannot, therefore, present at this stage any estimate as to what the final requirements of the Services will be.

I can, however, say with confidence that we appreciate the need which he stressed both to-day and in a former debate that it must be for no lack of a plan that we lose the 'Opportunity of retaining in the Services all those officers and men of proved merit and of suitable age who desire to make the science of arms their permanent profession. Obviously the first care of the Services will be to retain the pick of these tried warriors if they will remain in the Services. It is a natural corollary that the future conditions of service must be considered with this object in mind. I can assure my noble friend that we have no intention of allowing service to the country to be regarded as a mere substitute for employment which men cannot secure elsewhere. We want, and we must have, the best brains, ability and physique for the specialized work of the modern Services.

I would like also to say how much I welcome the opinion of the noble Viscount that the Services should be brought into the picture as part of our reconstruction programme. Whatever the size of the Services required may be, and it is generally admitted that they will be large, it is a factor of importance in the rebuilding of our country and it is therefore desirable that it should be taken into account in all measures for the replanning of our life in the post-war period in order that youth may be able to consider the Services as a career. For many years we attempted to influence the world for peace. We passed resolutions and we made bold statements to the world, incurring hostility in so doing, but completely failed to lealize that an active diplomacy without power ends in disaster. As one who consistently, and sometimes in very small company, advocated that view and fought every election for another place on those principles of security—not without success—as the supreme question in the life of our nation, I welcome the authoritative statements which come from many quarters with unanimous concord and emphasize that "never again" must we allow a similar position to arise.

This is a comforting fact to those who like the noble Viscount realize the need for looking ahead and I hope a definite encouragement to all in the Services to believe that the fatal habit of disbanding a large part of the machinery of defence after the war is won will certainly not be followed on this occasion. Defence has been proved to be of far more importance than ease, comfort or opulence. The margin between life and death in our existence has been on this occasion too narrow, and Parliament will feel it has a solemn duty to perform in placing the safety of the State before every other consideration. Finally, the noble Viscount will realize that the permanent policy of national defence rests with Parliament, and for me or anyone else to make any declaration or prophecy at this stage as to the system of service upon which Parliament will be called upon to decide would, of course, be both premature and improper. I am entitled, however, to express the hope that our youth, which in this struggle has learnt the real meaning and value of service and duty to their country and fellow citizens, may have opportunities of choosing or continuing service with all the dignity which should attach to it and under conditions in every respect worthy of a profession in which everything, even life, is offered for the common weal and the preservation of peace in the days to come.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for the terms of his reply in so far as it shows that His Majesty's Government or the Departments concerned have got this matter in hand and are not overlooking it. I feel quite sure that those in the Services who wish to continue will be very glad to hear the public statement made to-day in your Lordships' House that their conditions after the war are forming the subject of very close consideration by the different Departments and by His Majesty's Government. There is only one point which I confess myself not quite satisfied upon and that is that the noble Lord made no reference to the question of increased allowances or pay for those who are going to serve in the Far East after the European war is over. That question was particularly mentioned in my Motion and I did not gather that the noble Lord made any reference to it whatsoever. I would like to ask him whether it was overlooked or whether in the words which he used he meant to convey that that side of my Motion was being dealt with in the same way as that which referred to the post-war Army service.


It was meant to be covered in my general words that all these questions are now under definite consideration.


So far as the Far East is concerned?




I have nothing more to add except to thank the noble Lord for his answer. At some future time I may raise the question again but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.