HL Deb 22 May 1946 vol 141 cc399-418

VISCOUNT TRENCHARD had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government what progress, if any, has been made with the extension to the Navy and Army of the system known as "Short-service" system in the Air Service; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, may I, first of all, say to the noble Lord who is going to reply for the Government that I regret I could not accede to the request he made to me a week ago to postpone my Motion. The Motion had been on the Order Paper for six weeks and I found there was no day available until some time after Whitsuntide.

That in my opinion would have been too late. I think it is very necessary that this Motion should be debated, but at the same time I regret if I have put the noble Lord to any inconvenience. I have referred to this matter twice before in your Lordships' House, once right at the end of 1944, and again at the end of 1945. I return to the subject because I think it is of the greatest importance, not only to the Air Service but to all three Services and to the nation. The scheme I have outlined before I will put again but in a different way to-day. It has two great objects: (r) it would add to the efficiency of the Services, especially in war-time; (2) it would help the general life of the nation and bring the Services and the nation still closer together. That last point is of equal importance as the first.

There are three great advantages to the Services. One is that a much greater reserve would be provided of young men of the right type, thoroughly trained, ready for war. Secondly, the system would reduce the pension list; thirdly, it would improve the curve of promotion for the long-service Regular officer and man. Some form of service it seems to me is required to fill the gap between the permanent service and the minimum compulsory service. I think it would be found that the "Short-service" system has the advantages I have outlined above, which I will try to elaborate. I feel that it should be exhaustively and sympathetically considered by the two Services named in the Order Paper.

What is the "Short-service" system? The "Short-service" system for the Royal Air Force proved itself a great success; in fact it helped enormously in making the Air Force the overwhelming power it was in the 1939–1945 war. I have no doubt about it. Now I admit that when it was originally introduced many years ago it met with criticism in many places, partly because it was not altogether administered as I thought it should be, or as I thought it would be. There were many small faults but it did provide the reserve and it did reduce the pension list and it did give a better curve of promotion. But there were some faults. For instance when the fear of war began to emerge again in the world, especially about 1933 and 1934, the "Short-service" system really stopped. The "Short-service" officers were offered and accepted what we called medium commissions for ten years which was not part of the "Short-service" system at all. In fact it was a great disadvantage to that system, because naturally young men thought they would be leaving the Service after ten years much too old to take up their professions in civil life, and they were right. I would like to remind your Lordships that even in those days, in 1933, of the young men who were on the "Short-service system, all I believe except one when they left the Service got very good appointments in civil life.

My idea now is that instead of a period in the Fighting Services being considered a handicap in life, as it has been in the past, though it ought not to have been, it would be accepted by the nation as an asset and a qualification of the utmost value in civil life. Is this too much to expect; is it not possible? The "Short-service" system I am now proposing affects amongst many, the Government services such as the Civil Service, education, Post Office, medical and even municipal services and some big businesses. I will only deal with a few of these to-day. What I would like to see is that in the teaching profession every man who aspires to become a teacher should have, besides the educational qualifications required from the schools and universities, the great qualification of having served for three or four years in one of the Fighting Services before taking up the teaching profession for the rest of his life.

We know that a defect in the past in the teaching profession has been lack of contact with the outside world and with men of other callings. I believe it would be an invaluable qualification to teachers to rub shoulders with their fellow-men by being in one of the Services for three or four years before being permanently appointed. This idea was sympathetically received by the Coalition Government, and your Lordships may remember that at the beginning of 1945 the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, when moving the Second Reading of the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill said: The Second Schedule of the Bill enables teachers to be seconded for other work for a period of up to five years and yet to retain their pension rights. He added that he hoped this would appeal to me because it was a step in conformity with suggestions I had made. This provision in the Bill really meant, as your Lordships will understand, that three or four years in one of the Fighting Services would count towards their pensions as teachers and would not be a handicap. If that can be done for one profession it can be done for other professions.

Another advantage of the scheme is that it would help to connect the three Services more closely with the life of the nation, and that service in the Fighting Forces would be regarded in civil life and in professions as advantageous and a normal introduction to a young man's career in the same way as school certificates and university degrees are considered a normal qualification. Is it too much to say this would give these young men extremely valuable experience by mixing with their fellow-men in different walks of life before settling down to civil careers in whatever profession they selected?

Now for a moment I would just like to refer to the Civil Service. Of course, I am assuming that everyone including your Lordships will not have become civil servants by then. When I originally suggested this scheme some years ago I thought, and I think now, that it is most desirable not to interrupt what I call the book education of candidates for the Civil Service. I recently read in The Times some letters advocating that conscription, if brought in, should be between school study and university study, but I think it is better that book education should not be interrupted. When that is completed young men should acquire an extra qualification by going into one of the Services after they have passed their examinations.

I think that if they went into one of the Services after passing their Civil Service examinations but before they settled down to their administrative desks for the rest of their lives it would be an added help to them in their careers. They and the Fighting Services surely would gain by that. It would make a break between university life and the Civil Service. In this connexion I would say that Sir James Grigg, Sir Arthur Street, and many others, in fact, nearly all the great civil servants of this time served in one of the Services years ago. I am sure they would agree that they gained invaluable help from their experience in those days, and I suggest that this shows that the advantage of such service early in a man's career should never be forgotten.

Now I would like to turn to some of the other professions, architecture, the law, medicine, and the Church. I have said before, and I say again, that young men who are going into the Church, before taking up their curacies, after passing their examinations, should do two or three years' service in one of the Fighting Services. It would be a great advantage to them. It would help the Church enormously, as well as the young men themselves. It would help to strengthen the Church and to bring that spiritual help to the nation which is so obviously desired today. It would be of great use to the life of the nation if young men had this experience instead of going at once into the Church after passing their examinations at the universities and before seeing anything of life at all.

Surely this is the time for changes of this sort. If they are not made now, a great chance will be missed, and it is questionable if they will ever be made. There is nothing in the Services to-day which has not got its counterpart in civil life. Some big businesses would look with favour on the proposal that young men after passing their book examinations should spend a certain amount of time in the Services before going into the businesses they have chosen, especially if the Services educational system included business training. These young men, I suggest, would be better fitted to take up their careers in business than is at present the case, if they were given some training when they are in the Services. I hope I am not assuming too much, and that there is going to be some private enterprise left. At any rate, I feel that the Government also have that hope.

It may be said that there would be too many officers with Short-service commissions, and that the affect on spirit and life and splendid traditions of the regiments and ships and squadrons would make it difficult to teach others to become good officers. I cannot believe this. Can anybody say that in this war officers who joined regiments or ships or squadrons for temporary service did not do magnificent work, and attain the highest distinctions? Can anybody say that those who entered the Fighting Services for the first time when the war was on did not most worthily maintain the traditions of those Services? My own experience dates back many years, for I was in the South African war, in the 1914–1918 war, and in the last war (though only in that as an onlooker, I grant you) and I feel that it would be of great advantage to extend this system of Short-service commissions in the way in which I am now advocating. I do not, I may say, want to see the regiments or ships or squadrons with too many Short-service officers. I dare say the system would have to start slowly. It would not start at the point which I hope it would eventually reach, with nearly fifty per cent. of the younger officers on the Short-service system. We might start with a much lower percentage, say, 20 or 25 per cent. of junior officers, so that we could see how the system works. Later the numbers could be greatly increased. There would be no danger of having too many of these Short-service officers in some of the great technical units in the Army, the Royal Artillery, the Royal Army Service Corps, R.E.M.E., and in the Navy and in the Air Force.

Again it may be said that the Short-service system is more suitable for the Air Force than it is for the Navy or the Army. I do not think it can be looked at quite in that way. I do not think it should be looked upon only from the point of view of the advantage it might be to the Services. We have to think of the advantage to the nation as a whole. The object of the scheme is to get over some of the disadvantages of the present system, of boys joining the Services when they are young, say about 20 years of age. A large number of them get no further than the rank of major or lieutenant-colonel in the Army at ages between 35 and 45, and then they are retired on a small pension, as a noble Lord pointed out the other day. In the Navy a great number of officers are retired with the rank of lieutenant-commander or commander. When such men are retired, it is too late for the majority of them to achieve success in civil life. They have to be retired because there is no possibility of promoting them all into senior ranks. If we had this Short-service system, that difficulty would be greatly lessened, because there would be fewer officers to retire at those ages and a good many more would automatically retire under the Short-service system after three or four years' service. There would no longer be such numbers of retired officers hanging about at Cheltenham and elsewhere as you now see. These men, being automatically retired, as I say, would know of it in advance, and knowing it they would get educated for civil life while in the Services. It cannot be said with truth, I am convinced, that it would not suit the Navy and the Army as well as it suits the Air Force. There is no possibility of promoting all the lieutenant-commanders and commanders in the Navy. I think any Admiral here would agree with me on that—though I can only see one here at the moment. I feel, too, that many Field Marshals would agree that there is no possibility of promoting everybody who joins the Army up to high rank.

I hope that this is still being sympathetically considered and investigated, and gone into by the Air Service, but I wonder if it is being considered and examined thoroughly and sympathetically by the Army and the Navy. I have not heard any talk which suggests that it is being considered. I feel it ought to be investigated. The Air Ministry have had exceptional experience of this system in the past, and though many of the officers responsible have retired, there are many left in the high ranks who could explain the system thoroughly to either the Army or the Navy. I hope it will be investigated and not only by a junior committee. I say again that this scheme would be of the greatest advantage to the Services. It would broaden the education of all those in Government life. It would link the Services more with each other and with every family in England, and it would fill the gap between the minimum-period conscription and the full-time of Regular service. The system could be applied to other ranks as well.

I do not want to detain your Lordships longer. The reasons which I gave before hold good today. The system would make for stronger and more efficient Services; it would reduce the pensions lists, it would give a better curve of promotion to those in the Services, which is what we all want to see. It would link all the Services with Government Departments to a far greater extent than before. May I therefore ask the noble Lord who is going to reply if he can give an assurance that this is being or will be sympathetically considered and explained to the Services with a view to its extension. I beg to move for Papers.

3.9 p.m.


My Lords, I will only say a very few words with regard to the Motion of the noble and gallant Viscount. As a matter of fact I have in my hands at this moment an Army Council Instruction which came out yesterday which proposes Short-service for the Army, though not quite on the lines that the noble and gallant Viscount suggests. I understand that the proposal of the Government—we shall hear what the noble Lord, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary has to say about it later—is intended to carry us through a very difficult period when we simply cannot get either officers or men. If I may differ, as an old regimental officer, from my noble and gallant friend Viscount Trenchard I would say that I do not quite see that he has given satisfactory answers to the question of what will happen if we have Short-service commissions for new officers when they first join. He said that it will make all the difference in promotion. I could not quite see why. What difference would it make to promotion? The problem of promotion is bad enough at it is. Why should it make any difference if a great many officers join on Short-service only? Does he mean that Short-service would mean more vacancies for those who remain?

As an old regimental officer, I do know that in times of peace Short-service officers would be very difficult to handle. I do not believe for a moment that an officer for four or five years can possibly in peace-time be as good an officer as a long-service officer. For instance, if we still have to keep troops in India, as we may have to do, in spite of what is happening there, young men joining as Short-service officers will not be of much use until they have been out there for two or three years. They cannot stand the heat and privations of the Northwest Frontier. I know, as an old Commander in-Chief, that young men under the age of twenty-two who came out to India always had to go to quiet, cool stations for at least two years, if it was possible for us to send them there. We did not send them to the frontier. The noble Viscount, I fancy, had to go straight to the frontier. As far as I can make out, this Short-service system which the noble Lord, the Under-Secretary of State will explain, is intended purely to fill a gap. I venture to suggest, as a very old soldier, that that is all we should do in the Army. We should not attempt to have Short-service for young men joining at the age of eighteen or nineteen. I am quite certain that most of us old soldiers would prefer what is happening now, unless the noble Viscount can explain how it will later promotion so materially. When I was Military Secretary only two per cent. of the people who accepted His Majesty's commissions could go beyond the rank of colonel, and I do not quite see how a system of Short-service officers can make the position any better. There will still be the same block. I hope that the noble Lord who is to answer for the Government will say that we are not going to have Short-service in the Army.

3.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad that my noble and gallant friend has raised this question at this time, because this question of terms of service is now in the melting pot. We have heard nothing definite yet as to what terms the Government are to offer as regards service, not only long-term service but conscript service and any other form of service. I do not propose to talk of anything except the Army, because of the Navy I am not qualified to say anything at all. It seems to me that this proposal of Short-service in the Army, especially for young officers and men, has a great deal to be said for it. It fills the gap between the long-service officer or man and the conscript who will serve for perhaps two years, perhaps one and a half years, or one year. These Short-service officers and men will undoubtedly help us in keeping the ranks of our armies of occupation filled and up to strength.

It is quite hopeless to think that conscripts, only partially trained, can go out and join the ranks of our occupation armies. Those armies are bound to remain, in Germany and elsewhere, for many, many years. It is almost impossible to foresee how many years; but certainly it will be for the next twenty-five years or more. We do therefore want that class of young man and young soldier joining up and learning his military career in the most advantageous circumstances possible. At the same time, these young men will provide a very useful well-trained and fully-trained Reserve. The one thing we have always lacked in the past has been a really well-trained Reserve, upon which any Government could call at very short notice if and when the situation demanded it. The other point I see in relation to this Short-service is that from those young officers and men a selection of the most fitted can then be used towards a permanent or long-term engagement. It is only after an officer or a man has served for some time in the Army that his real worth becomes apparent. If that Short-service were used as a sort of probationary period, the more efficient could then go on as permanent officers and non-commissioned officers in the Regular Army. I think that that would give us a chance to get a very fine lot of young fellows into the Regular Service.

The other point which my noble friend raised related to the retiring age. It is undoubtedly true that the Regular officer, especially the officer who retires after years of service, at the age of about forty, with the rank of major or lieutenant-colonel, finds it almost impossible unless he has very great interests somewhere, to find suitable employment. One knows so many cases of this sort. I have endless letters from my friends asking me if I can help in any way in getting them some sort of job that would suit their capacity. It is extremely difficult to place these fellows. Under this Short-service system, young men who want to do a short period in the Army will come out at an age when they can be readily absorbed into the ordinary civilian life of this country. They will have had experience, and will probably have had contact with nations abroad and thereby be the more useful in civilian life. I am sure that those in business, and others in this country, would be only too glad to absorb that class of man and officer.

Undoubtedly we shall have to send out a number of men to act in the Civil Service in the occupied countries. There will be controls at the docks and in businesses of all kinds, both in Germany and elsewhere. These young officers, after their service of four years or so, would be eminently fitted to work as civilians in these kinds of positions. There is, further, the possibility that the Colonial Service may be only too glad to absorb men who have had military training and who have also had experience of living amongst the Armies of Occupation.

I do not say that it is an ideal system for the Service, but, from what one can observe, it is true that it would be difficult to fill up the ranks of the old long-service Army that we used to know, and those Short-service officers and men will undoubtedly fill the gap; for how many years I do not know; it may become a permanent part of our system. But at least I do say with my noble friend that the War Office ought to examine it very closely. They should get the data from the Royal Air Force as to how it worked with them. They had not time really to develop it to its best stages. If we look at it carefully, it may well be that it will be a most useful form of service with which to fill up the gap between the longterm Regular and the conscript. I support my noble friend in this, and hope that the War Office will look into it.

3.23 p.m.


My Lords, any subject raised in your Lordships' House by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, will always command the attention of everyone who cares for the fate of the various Services. I for one am pleased that he took this opportunity of ventilating this question. We are anxiously awaiting the decision of the Government; it is true, as my noble friend Lord Hutchison has just said, that this matter is still in the melting-pot. Any advice coming from such a quarter must, I imagine, be of assistance to His Majesty's Government. But I also am glad that this question has been raised to-day, because I myself, somewhat indiscreetly a few months ago, in asking that we might have greater clarification with regard to future forces, urged that Short-service should not be ruled out of consideration, although perhaps for somewhat different reasons from Viscount Trenchard. I had in mind at that time the principal preoccupation of how we were to build up a really large reserve, so that we would not be in a position similar to that in which we were at the outbreak of the last war.

It is always dangerous for a civilian to enter upon these subjects, but I have taken the opportunity, since I ventured those few remarks, of consulting a great number of officers in the different Services, and especially those who have just come through the war, who have had long Regular experience, who are able to weigh this question, and I think that there is no doubt whatever that the noble Viscount has won his case with regard to the Air Force. There seem to be no two opinions that at the present time it is desirable—it certainly was in the war and just prior to the war—to have Short-service people in order that there should be a great flow of pilot officers who would be ready to take their part. It must be, I think, to the ultimate advantage of the Royal Air Force, that there should be this large number of officers who have served on this system. It has been proved again and again that most efficient young officers can be turned out in a short time. I think there is no dispute about that.

The question is whether the same idea would be of the same value in the Royal Navy and in the Army. I am informed by my friends in the Royal Navy (of whom there are several in your Lordships' House) that in that Service an officer cannot be considered to be of great worth to the Navy until after three or four years. The training is so intense, the technical knowledge required is so great, and the various kinds of knowledge required are so diverse, that it is only when the officer has reached his third or fourth year that he has become of great value to the Royal Navy. I understand that it would be regarded as a matter for very great regret if these men, just at the supreme moment when they are going to be of great use in the Royal Navy, had to depart because of the operation of this system.

With regard to the Army, I feel that we are somewhat at cross-purposes, because I think Lord Hutchison has emphasized that Short-service officers will be of great use in, say, the next ten years or more in the Armies of Occupation. I am not going to intrude on what the Under-Secretary of State will be saying, but I gather that this is the purpose, and that Short-service is already being encouraged in that respect during the turn-over period. I think, however, that a great number of officers of all ranks in the Army also feel that there must be very careful consideration before a permanent Short-service system is introduced. Here again it is just when the officer is beginning to qualify, for the position of, let us say, company commander or battery commander, that he will depart. That is just when he is most useful. At the outbreak of the war, we needed these key officers in order to train the multitude of other officers who came in.

I would point out that this consideration does not necessarily apply to the Royal Army Medical Corps, where a man clearly is carrying on his profession all the time. The same, I think, is true of the Ordnance Corps, of R.E.M.E. and other technical services, where a man is continuously working at his trade and undoubtedly is of value to the Army while he is in it. I am convinced that the noble Viscount is absolutely right when he says that the whole nation would benefit if all these various types of men from the Church, the Civil Service and the teaching profession could all have some brief period of responsibility in the Services. But I hope and I think most of your Lordships hope that every young man in this country will serve for a year or eighteen months, or possibly two years. That, I think, will give him just that experience which Viscount Trenchard hopes to see widened, although I agree it can hardly be hoped that, under our system of promotion from the ranks, many of them can become officers in that short period of time. Some may do so and a great many will be non-commissioned officers.

I must say, however, that, having examined this question rather carefully from many angles, and taken the advice of many friends, I think we must realize that there are great difficulties. Under this system in the Royal Navy and in the Regular Army you would have two distinct classes in the same mess, on board ship or in barracks—those who came in to make the Navy and Army their career and their life and those who came in for a short span. I think there would be almost inevitably a cleavage between the Regular men and the Short-service men. There should be great consideration before any final decision is taken on this matter.

That does not alter the fact that we are grateful to the noble Viscount for having raised this matter, because I think that everything that he has said to us has interested us immensely and shown that there are certainly two sides to this question.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, having listened with great interest to what the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has said concerning Short-service in the Royal Air Force and what he has proposed for the Navy, may I point out that if one goes back forty years to Lord Selborne's Short-service system one finds that definitely it was not a success. The young men came in too late and left too early. They were known as "Selborne's Light Horse." But that was forty years ago, and times change. So far as the Navy is concerned, we have seen in the second great world war how magnificently officers and men from the R.N.V.R. have risen to high position. Just to take one off the heap, we can quote the son of my late great leader, Captain Scott. His son, as a little ship man, without any previous naval training, certainly excelled. Education is so much better nowadays than it was in Lord Selborne's time. I can take another case, than of my own son, now 21, who is sweeping up mines as chief engineer of H.M.S. "Plucky," off the Borneo coast. Only last year he was a midshipman in the Royal Naval Air Service, and only the year before an engineering worker and student, and air raid warden. He does not seem to find any difficulty, and that is because of the basic training the youth of our day are getting.

The noble Viscount's suggestion concerning Navy, Army and Air Force Short-service commissions, with a view to going into different branches of the Civil Service, is indeed a fine one. It would bring a more human element into the Service. By moving about and meeting others, it would make them more considerate to those who work for our great Commonwealth of Nations and whose services are rather like those mentioned in the verse attributed to Nelson: Our God and the sailor we adore In times of danger, not before. The danger past, both are requited: God is forgotten, and the sailor slighted. As to the noble Viscount's suggestion that we should put sailors into pulpits and make pilots into sky-pilots, that might do harm or it might do good. You are very near to God in the big ocean spaces, and may be it would bring an entirely new heart into the Church. However, we have just entered a phase of fairer and better conditions for the three Fighting Services, and I feel sure that those at the Admiralty, in the Air Ministry and in the War Office cannot possibly have failed to consider this matter from almost every angle. For that reason I am not sure that we had not better leave this question to the Departments concerned.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, I welcome this discussion. The noble and gallant Viscount has chosen a timely and opportune moment for introducing this subject to your Lordships, not for the first time. As is clear and was mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hutchison, the question of the shape of the future Forces is under urgent consideration. Ideas are in the melting pot, and the form in which the Forces may emerge has yet to be finally determined. The noble and gallant Viscount, by introducing this subject once more to your Lordships' House, has drawn attention vividly to a matter which obviously from the course of the debate to-day gives rise to differences of opinion, not only between the different Forces, but between those within each Force—differences upon which a decision must be taken after no long delay The noble and gallant Viscount, in his long and distinguished career, was identified with the creation of the Short-service system in the Royal Air Force, and I do not think that anyone would question but that that Short-service system was of infinite value in that Force. It provided a substantial proportion of officers before the late war, but of course the scheme came to an end with the outbreak of war and with the introduction of temporary commissions. It has not yet been resumed, and although it has already been announced that Short-service commissions will continue in the Royal Air Force after the war, the extent to which they will be required has still to be worked out and is not yet determined.

I think it might perhaps help the clarification of this issue if I were to indicate some of the reasons, on one side and the other, in regard to Short-service commissions, which need to be taken into account, either in extension or elaboration of those which have been mentioned already this afternoon by the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Chetwode, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hutchison, the noble Lord opposite, Lord Croft, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Mountevans. Let me say at once that, so far as the Forces are concerned, there is no objection in principle to Short-service commissions as such, although they are not necessarily the ideal solution in every type of case. It is really a matter to be considered in regard to the needs and the times, and in relation to each particular Force. There are times and there are certain classes of cases where the advantages of a Short-service system are unquestionable. A temporary shortage of officers above the normal recruitment age, such as is now being experienced in the Army, cannot be suitably corrected except by the grant of Short-service commissions. Again, where an establishment includes an unduly large proportion of junior officers, Short-service commissions provide the only alternative to unsatisfactory prospects for the whole body of officers. Some classes of specialists also lend themselves readily and obviously to this form of engagement. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Croft, who referred to the Medical Services. It is of course true of them. The doctors, the dentists, the chaplains, and perhaps education officers, are already trained when they enter the Service, and they require little in the way of actual Service training. Short-term service is eminently suitable in that class of case, particularly when officers, on leaving the Service, can expect to obtain normal employment in their own professions. In these particular categories, Short-service commissions have long been in force in all three Services and they will continue in the post-war period.

The Short-service system is also valuable, as more than one noble Lord has emphasized, in building up a Reserve, but as well as advantages the system may have serious disadvantages from the Service point of view. It is uneconomical to give the intensive training required by certain types of officer to those who will be available for only a comparatively short period on the Active List. There is the case, to which the noble Lord opposite referred, of the young officer who has just become a company commander or a battery commander at the moment when his Short-service commission is due to terminate. At the moment when he can be most valuable he is due to leave the Service and to return to civil life. Moreover, the rapid turnover of officers involves a much larger training machine than will be necessary if the Service is to be manned by permanent officers. There is also the difficulty that while officers who leave the Service after Short-service are available as a reserve in the event of war, they have to be kept up to date, and their value will rapidly deteriorate unless they can undertake reasonably frequent refresher courses. That is not always practicable for those who have returned to their civilian professions and to business.

I would say, therefore, that the justification for Short-service commissions depends on the type of employment and on the requirements of the particular Service or establishment rather than on any inherent quality in the Short-service system itself. The fact that the system is successful in one sphere does not necessarily imply that it will be equally successful in another. In general, and excluding special classes, the Royal Navy, as my noble friend behind me has pointed out, and the Army, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chetwode, has pointed out, have hitherto found it more beneficial, both from the point of view of the Service and of the individual, to employ a great bulk of officers on a permanent basis. In the Royal Air Force, the requirements demanded a different form of organization, and Short-service commissions were extensively employed in order to maintain the appropriate establishment and reserves. It was for these reasons that the grant of Short-service commissions in the Royal Navy has become, in general, restricted to the medical, chaplaincy and such-like services, and, of course, for the Air Arm, where the requirements were to some extent similar to those of the Royal Air Force. This system may, however, be affected by the employment of ratings as pilots in the future and it cannot yet be said what arrangements will be called for in the post-war force. As in the case of the other Services, it may be necessary to offer extended service commissions in the Royal Navy during the interim period between the end of the war and the stabilization of the Fleet, but I am unable to give any details of that on this occasion.

As to the Royal Air Force, the permanent policy is materially affected by the new procedure for selecting officers from the ranks and the decision to fill a larger number of air crew posts by airmen instead of by officers. The whole question is now under consideration in the light of these and other changes, and it is not possible at present to say how the post-war proportion of Short-service to long-service commissions will compare with the pre-war proportion. As an interim measure, in order to man the force pending its reconstruction on a peace-time footing, the Royal Air Force is operating a Short-service commission scheme almost identical with that just adopted by the Army, to which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chetwode, has already referred and which I will now describe.

Before the war, the Army restricted the grant of Short-service commissions to the specialist classes, but a new Short-service scheme of a very general character has recently been decided upon which is intended, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, had in mind, to meet the more urgent requirements of the interim period pending the build-up of a post-war Army. The offer is open to non-regular officers now serving or who were released before the issue of the Army Order yesterday. The terms of service are three, four or five years on the Active List, with a reserve liability to make a total of eight years in all. Pay and allowances will be as for Regular officers, and rank will be based on the war substantive rank obtained. A gratuity will be payable on termination of service. The gratuities are £337 10s. for three years' service, £450 for four years' service and £552 10s. for five years' service, with higher rates for certain officers with technical qualifications. There is no age limit, although age will be taken into account in assessing suitability, and in general only officers of medical category A will be accepted. I hope it is clear from what I have said that there is no prejudice against Short-service commissions either in the Royal Navy or in the Army. It is simply a question of what is best for the particular Service and the particular individual in the circumstances of the particular case. The noble and gallant Viscount asked, as he was entitled to ask, that the matter to which he has drawn attention to-day, as he has done before, Should be considered thoroughly, exhaustively, and sympathetically. By his long record in the public service the noble and gallant Viscount is entitled to that assurance from me, which I now give him. They shall be so considered.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him one question? Is he going to continue giving these pension rights in the other Services from the civil point of view? The noble Lord has not addressed himself at all to the point on which I based most of my speech, namely, the benefit to the nation, like the teaching profession and others. Is that going to be extended in the same way as the Coalition extended it to the teachers?


My Lords, I think I should like to give a little more consideration to the way in which the question put to me just now by the noble Viscount should be answered. If he will allow me to do so, I will communicate with him on that subject.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his reply, may I say that he dealt a good deal with the interim period between the present day and the stabilization of the Forces on a peace-time footing. I was dealing with the Short-service system as a permanent peace-time organization. I do not feel that he altogether grasped some of the points which I elaborated. However, I do not want to weary your Lordships, because this is a subject into which one has to go in a good deal of detail. I did not hear one single argument that really showed any reason why it should not be applied to the Army and the Navy just as easily as to the Air Force—in fact, in the case of the Army, more easily. With regard to the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chetwode, I really could not quite follow his point about the heat in India.

I was out there and I remained there for seven years and I was never on the sick list once. I was in the Plains and there were many others like myself. I have had also a very long regimental life. In fact I only retired from the regiment a few days ago, and my service is almost as long as that of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chetwode. I could not follow that point at all, because my experience in India was the reverse. I was a regimental officer and not a Commander-in-Chief, I agree. With regard to the point the noble Lord made that he could not see how it affected the curve of promotion, it struck me that if you have one Field-Marshal at the top and a hundred other officers before you get to him, it would be more difficult than if you only had fifty junior officers. I may be wrong, but I think that is mathematically correct. With regard to the noble Lord, Lord Croft, I am sorry he did not give the support he gave the other day. He surprised me with one statement he made, if I did not misunderstand him. He said that at the outbreak of this war we were short of the medium-aged officers for training. I think the universal feeling was that we were short of young officers fit to lead men at the start of the war, and I think you will find the whole of the Services thought the same.


If I said middle-aged I did not intend that. It was the middle picture of it which was so much needed in the Services. I was referring to the battery commander and comparable ranks. Those were the men who were so essential, and that is why I was reluctant that at one gulp, so to say, we should part with a large number of officers who are just approaching fitness for those commands.


I do not want to debate the point, but I still stick to my opinion that it was the young officers who were short, because when conscription was applied it applied to the young men—to get them at once into the ranks—and not to the medium officers. With regard to the noble Lord who replied for the Government, I thank him for his remarks but I do not feel that the question can be discussed in a debate in this House in detail. I would ask again that this should be looked at. Your Lordships heard the reasons why it was started by the Air Force, and after my experience in the Army I say it can quite easily be started in the Navy. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Mountevans, supported it and I believe the noble Earl, Lord Cork, had he been here, would have supported it. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

3.54 p.m.