HL Deb 14 October 1946 vol 143 cc164-202

4.7 p.m.

VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN rose to call attention to the progress made in recruiting for His Majesty's Regular Forces; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I originally put this Motion down before the Recess. At that time I thought the reorganization of the Auxiliary Forces would have proceeded so far that it would be reasonable to expect an answer about their improvement as well as that of the Regular Forces of the Crown. However, that has turned out not to be so and I have therefore confined the Motion now on the Order Paper to the state of recruiting for His Majesty's Regular Forces. I have made it an inter-Service Motion because, although the Army is the Service I am most concerned about and know most about, this matter does appear now to be an inter-Service problem, a common problem for all three Services. I think the recent White Paper on Defence, which I am glad to see we shall have an opportunity of debating later this week, does make it plain that administrative questions which have common interests to all three Services will fall within the province of the Minister of Defence, if his appointment is approved by Parliament. I am quite sure that this question of recruiting comes into that category. After all, the recruits have to come from civil life, and they have to come from the labour markets. As we are dealing with the Regular Forces of the Crown, we are dealing not in this case with compulsorily enlisted men but with volunteers who have to be attracted by the economic and social conditions which prevail in the Service into which it is desired to enlist them.

The position regarding the three Services, as I see it, is something like this. The recruiting for the Royal Navy is pretty satisfactory. Let us take the good with the bad. I believe that is all right. The Royal Air Force recruiting, so far as ground staff is concerned, I believe is a good deal better than the Army, but it is not too good. However, other noble Lords will no doubt speak about that in the course of the debate. I now come to the Army. This question of Army recruiting was debated, as your Lordships know, in another place before the Recess. Not very much emerged out of that debate, so far as I could understand, in the way of facts and figures, but I notice that more recently the right honourable gentleman die Secretary of State for War, in another place, in reply to a question on the British Foreign Legion, made it appear from his answer to an honourable member that he was not satisfied with the success of the recruiting campaign. As I. said, before the Recess was not thought by His Majesty's Government to be a suitable moment to give detailed figures, but I hope very much that that view does not still prevail.

I wonder what the facts are. There has been a certain amount of controversy over targets. I think the target that was given before the Recess was 50,000 Regular recruits and a certain number of short-service recruits; but I believe the target changes almost every day. I believe the fact of the matter to be that for every three Regular recruits which the Army wants, only one, or slightly more than one, is being obtained each week. That state of affairs has been going on since recruiting was instituted for the Regular Army in the middle of last summer. I put it to your Lordships that that is the position and I hope the statement will be either confirmed or denied. If the position is better than that, no one will be more pleased than myself, but I am not encouraged to think that it is very much better. This is a most important matter and I make no apology for labouring the point. You can have conscription, you can have a Territorial Army or any Auxiliary Forces you please, but the Regular, long-service men are the backbone of the Armed Forces. They provide the permanent staff to train the non-regular forces in peace-time and they are the nucleus for expansion in war-time. In fact, if His Majesty's Government decided to open recruiting for the Territorial Army tomorrow (and I hope it will be the day after to-morrow) it would be extremely difficult to find adequate permanent staff to start off the Territorial Army units in the way in which they should be started.

So the problem a very important one. It involves also, as I think I said before, a long-term policy because the recruit, whether he be officer or other rank, who joins the Army to-day does not become fully proficient for a good number of years. Your company sergeant-majors are the result of fifteen years, service, as are your company commanders. Your unit commanders (and it is much the same in the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force) do not emerge until twenty, twenty-five or thirty years after they have joined. Therefore any shortcomings in the present recruiting policy, whether it be in the case of officers or men, will not be felt during the lifetime of this Government or the next; it will be felt far in the future. That is why I want to say as much as I am saying this afternoon.

I wonder very much what is happening. There does not seem to be a great deal of publicity either about the actual state of recruiting or about the steps which are being taken to remedy the shortage. We have had some publicity about the recruiting marches. I do not know how much the Central Office of Information is taking a hand—I have not noticed it a great deal—and still less do I know how much the B.B.C. is taking a hand. I do not believe that the B.B.C. has any expert commentator on the Armed Forces in the Home Service. Although I am perhaps not the most regular of listeners, I have very little reason to suppose that any attempt is being made by the B.B.C. to come to the help of the Service Departments in this matter. We are still suffering from the tendency to say that the Forces are only news when things are wrong. I would like to say—and I say it advisedly—that it is a very great pity that some of the people who rush to be soldiers, friends when events occur like the recent mutiny do not find it advisable to be soldiers, friends more consistently, and, let me say, to be friends of the good soldiers and not of the bad soldiers. We get a continuous stream of articles dealing with the seamy side of events in the Services. There was one which I am going to quote, although the writer belongs to my own school of political thought. Brigadier Maclean wrote an artier on October 7 last and either the News Editor or somebody else headed it "Forgotten Army Sulks in Japan" or words very like these. The impression that the Forces are a set of disgruntled and grousing people, which is the appearance given in the daily Press, is not in the least a true one. I am not saying that instances of discontent do not occur, because we all know they do, but it is a very great national disservice that time after time it should be made to appear that nothing goes on in the Services except discontent. Why should anybody join if he is made to believe that that is what he is coming to?

So far these recruiting marches seem to be the chief means of trying to get people into the Army. They may make, it I am any judge, about ten per cent. difference in the numbers of recruits coming forward, but I hate recruiting marches anyway. I believe they are an eighteenth-century method of tackling a twentieth-century problem. Of course I may be wrong, and if I am wrong and His Majesty's Government really want to stick to recruiting marches as a means of recruiting, then may I make a suggestion? The Army is not the only place where recruits are short; there is another army which has just lost its private army status—namely, the coal miners. If recruiting marches are all right for the Army, would it not be also right to get some of the coal miners (who I believe do not work every day of the week) and send them round with one of the famous colliery bands in order to attempt to attract recruits to the mines? That makes just about as much sense to my mind as the other does.

The whole thing is really an economic problem and recruiting marches are, to my mind, an advertising mistake, because they are an attempt to advertise goods without being certain that the goods are for sale as offered. It will not do much good to advertise until we are quite certain that we know what are the reasons why people are not joining. The recruiting march is not a remedy at all; it is a palliative. I am therefore doubtful whether the problem has been really faced. This tendency has been going on for months. The graphs which I am sure they keep in the War Office will show quite plainly what the tendency is, where it is going and what the cumulative shortage is. There has been plenty of time to see the way the problem is going, and I do not think it will right itself. In recent days I have tried quite hard to see whether I can myself put my finger on the causes and I cannot say that I have been able to come here and say: "This is what you ought to do; if you do it I think it will be all right." I wish I could, but I cannot.

There is, I think, a definite background to the whole of this problem. Let me try and put it as shortly as I can. Nobody really knows yet what the Army is going to do or to be in peace-time. We have asked in this House many times that we should be told, and I believe the country wants to be told. We still have hopes, but we still do not know. I would remind you of what my noble friend Lord De L'Isle said last time we debated this subject in this House on July 24. The next thing is that, rightly or wrongly, there is a feeling in the Army that people who join up do not as a rule get a square deal. This again is important because as I see it, although I may be wrong, if we have compulsory enlistment in the Forces we shall look much more for our recruitment to those men who decide to stay after having given the Army a trial than to the number of people who join deliberately as a career, those who come from the members of the old military families. Therefore, we have to see to it that the men who come into whichever Service they choose find the goods as advertised, and that they decide that it is a place where they will be properly done by. We must give the objective, and we must establish the good will.

Equally important—I will not say too much about it because I believe it is going to be referred to later—we must decide now that those who join the Regular Forces can be given, if they wish it, a life career in the service of the State. I cannot think—although I am no judge—that that is very bad Socialism. A planned career of State service does sound quite attractive when put from some points of view, but the times are past when we get a man from civil life and keep him for six, twelve or even twenty-two years and then leave him to sink or swim in finding his employment for the rest of his life. Furthermore, it is not to my mind in the least necessary that we should do that. The Army is not only the concern of the War Office or the Navy that of the Admiralty. The Armed Forces are the concern of the State, and when the number of State employees is going up by leaps and bounds—and will continue to do so as long as His Majesty's Government remain in office—there can be no reason whatsoever why service in the State cannot be offered to those who join the Regular Forces, and whether they serve the King in a red or black coat ought to make no difference at all. The local authorities are also people who can, and in some cases do, employ large numbers of ex-Servicemen. I think I am right in saying that the only really good record—and it is a good record—is possessed by the General Post Office. That record can easily be copied by lots of other people if they have the will.

With regard to pay, I do not want to say a great deal about that, but I would point out that the smallest anomaly, the smallest injustice may do harm and far out-balance any good that could be done by a really sound pay code in general. Questions of pay should be constantly watched. The motto in the Service Departments and in the Treasury must be that the soldier should never get the worst of the deal, and that should be the case at every level. I will not say any more about that, and I will turn to that very big group of subjects which includes leave, welfare and overseas service. A good deal of parade has been made of so-called reforms which are going to cut red tape and give the soldier his freedom. As I ventured to say to your Lordships before the Recess, there has been no corresponding provision for the money which will have to be spent. As a result, certain things have been put before the public as things that are going to happen. We were led to suppose that the idea of signing out from barracks was going to be abolished, that the soldier could walk in and out as he pleased. In a great number of regiments in the Army the permanent pass system for men of good conduct was instituted before 1914. It is no good parading that sort of thing. Nothing will do any good unless the Government decide to bring the barracks up to the standard where these things can happen.

I will give you an example. It was said, I believe, by Lord Montgomery that he would like to see a state of affairs where every soldier had his bedside lamp and people could go in and out of barracks when they liked, early or late, perhaps drunk or sober, in company or alone—I do not know. That is a good thing, but the fact of the matter is that it cannot happen until each man has got separate accommodation, because the Commanding Officer of a unit, in commanding that unit, must always favour the people who come in early and sober and make rules to protect them against people who act otherwise. I simply instance that to show that none of these things can come true until a very big building programme has been undertaken, and if the soldier thinks that he is not going to get his bedside lamp perhaps during his present tour of engagement, who am I to say that he is wrong? On the other hand, if this matter is really tackled and the troops can see signs that these things are happening, then it will be a very, very good day for His Majesty's Forces.

I was rather troubled on this same subject by one other thing—I am afraid I did not give notice to the noble Lord that I should raise it—and that concerns a small paragraph in the Secretary of State's reply over that intensely deplorable matter, the Malayan mutiny. In that reply it was said that the conditions in the camp were partly due to the transition from war to peace. I could not quite make out what was meant. It read to me rather like charity covering a multitude of sins. I would like to say that the question of scale and provisioning for camps in India was all worked out in great detail by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, and all the conclusions of the Munster Report apply equally, I think, to places like Singapore. If that remark does mean that the amount of money and the provisioning for troops in peace-time is on a lower scale of money and priority than what was agreed by the late Government on the Munster Report in war-time, then I think it is a most serious state of affairs. All these welfare problems are not complicated; they are straightforward honest-to-God matters of money, procurement and priority. We have not heard about the programme for married quarters. We do not know whether the married soldier is being treated as well as, or better, or worse than the married civilian. What we do know, unless I am very wrong, is that the issue of sheets to single soldiers has hardly begun, if it has begun at all.

I could go on for a very long time on matters of this sort, but I shall only mention one more and that is the recruiting offices. If we are going to advertise the Forces by recruiting offices let us have properly painted offices, staffed by properly paid people and in the right business situations. I have spoken too long, but I would ask these questions: What are our real plans? What has been financially sanctioned and is going to happen, and what has not? What are the priorities that are being given in money and material to do right by those who come to join the Forces? As I have said, I do not look on this as a matter merely for the Service Departments. It is for the Service Departments to put their case, and I honestly believe that that case has been put. It is for other Departments to find the money, give the priorities, allocate building materials and all the rest of it. It is also, I suppose, a matter for His Majesty' Government at large to decide the Services, position.

I do not want this Motion to be construed as one more shot at the Aunt Sally, which the Service Departments are. I want to put it rather as a point to His Majesty's Government as to whether they are going to call on the Civil Departments to play their part in this problem. If they do, I am not saying it will come right quickly—I do not believe it will for a second—but I am saying that we shall turn the corner and things will come right. If they do not, I cannot see how our Regular Forces—except the Royal Navy, recruiting for which is going so well now—are going to be able to meet the commitments which our present foreign policy will impose upon them. I am certain that the noble Lord who, I believe, is going to reply has these matters very well at heart, and although perhaps I ought to apologize to him for putting this Motion so soon after he has taken office, I do not really feel very guilty, because if his record in this House in this Session is anything to go upon, it will be only a very short time before he is thoroughly acquainted with the whole problem. I look upon this as a really serious matter and as a problem which will not improve by keeping. I beg to move for Papers.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, I am very pleased to be able to address your Lordships on this most important subject, and I think that we ought all to be very grateful to the noble Viscount for introducing it. He has spoken to you as a senior officer, with the weight of all his experience in these matters, and I cannot help feeling that it is always difficult and dangerous to intervene in a debate on subjects such as this, in view of the wealth of knowledge upon them which is possessed by your Lordships. I am speaking merely as a regimental officer in the recent war, but I think that such officers had very good opportunities of forming a judgment on what junior officers and other ranks really wanted. If I speak mainly with regard to the Army, it is because I served in the Army, but I think that my remarks refer to all three Services.

To start with, I would say that however hard His Majesty's Government wish to work us, however many Bills they bring to this House for consideration, none of their measures will be of any avail unless we have arrangements for an adequate defence of this country. We often hear the phrase "permanent peace." That is something of which the whole world stands very greatly in need, but it is not here yet, and unless we can work out a satisfactory plan for recruitment to the Regular Forces, we in this country are going to be in a very difficult position. Let us look at a few of the reasons for the obvious reluctance on the part of some of the young people of this country to join the Forces, for I feel that, with the possible exception, as the noble Viscount has pointed out, of the Navy, there is a definite shortage of recruits. To my mind the reasons for this are not far to seek. We have had six years of war, during which vast numbers of us have been serving in the Forces, and I think that, for the time being at any rate, we feel we have had enough of it. It is no good putting up a poster bearing the words: "Join the Army and see the World." We did join the Army; and did we see the world? Amongst great numbers of us, also, there is an inherent dislike to too much discipline and too much regimentation. The six years we have had of that sort of thing have been quite enough.

The ordinary man in the street remembers the Army as it was in war-time, and does not realize what an enormously different life the peace-time Army gives, or will give once it has a chance of settling down to its peace-time work. Then, again, we are not a military nation at heart. I do not think that there is any other nation which would come forward with more fervour when the call to arms is sounded, but, if there is no call, then we like to forget about military subjects. These difficulties could be counteracted by His Majesty's Government: if they were determined to make the life of the Serviceman sufficiently attractive. The problem is, how are we going to do that, and how are we going to get these volunteers who are so greatly needed? We have had, during the last few months, two White Papers dealing with scales of pay—one for officers, and one for other ranks. Both of these have shown an enormous improvement in the matter of remuneration, compared with the state of affairs that existed before the war. But I have one main criticism to make—namely, that although Service pay is going up to a scale comparable with civilian pay, no consideration has been given to the question of the standard of living or as to how the standards permitted compare with the standards of the public generally. The noble Viscount has already referred to that important matter.

In what I am going to say next, I shall probably be very unpopular with Regular soldiers. We still see that promotion is going to be made on a time basis; that is to say, it is to be awarded in consideration of length of service rather than of merit. I think it will be found that a lot of volunteers are being lost because they know that in the Services they would have to wait a long time before getting promotion. This time basis seems to me to be one of the main deterrents to potential recruits—especially in the case of officers. Good men see that they have to wait just as long as less experienced and less hardworking contemporaries. I have been a Territorial officer and I have had Regular soldiers under me, and the fact which I have just mentioned seems to be an ever present consideration with them during their service. Now., although that system may work in peace-time, it did not work in war. While I sincerely hope that we shall be only training our new Army for peace and not for war, we have, nevertheless, to consider and plan Army training with the possibility of war in view. The noble Viscount, in speaking of this, has asked if we may have a full policy regarding the training for civil employment in the Army, and if we may be assured that this training is going to fit a man for a job after he leaves the Army. Not only has he to be trained for a job, but he must be passed out fully qualified to do it—qualified to such an extent that he will be accepted for membership by the trade union concerned.

These are the days of mobile warfare. Wherever there may be warfare of any kind, it will tend to be more and more mobile. That means that the Army is going to need ever younger and more active men This will result in men finishing their time in the Army while still in the early forties, or even before that. It is therefore vitally important that training for peace-time occupations should be an integral part of their life while they are in the Army, and that every effort should be made not only to fit them for civilian employment but to see that, so far as possible, such employment should be guaranteed.

What has been done since the war has finished to encourage volunteering? No decision has yet been reached as to the future of the Territorial Army. No decision has been reached about the permanent Regular Army. I should like to ask the Government whether we could not have an announcement of these decisions, and quickly. There have been statements by the C.I.G.S. of plans to improve vastly the lot of the young soldier, but it is most unfortunate that these statements have been put out in such a way that they have been caricatured by almost every cartoonist in the newspapers. But they foreshadow a better time for the soldier, and I think that the most important point which has been stressed is that relating to the freedom he is to have in the time when he is not engaged on his military duties. Why should not a soldier at six o'clock in the evening, or at any other time when he has finished his peace-time military duties, go out in mufti and return in time for his next parade. I should like to know if there is Government backing for this proposed freedom, or is this merely something that the C.I.G.S. wishes to do. If we have not Government backing for it at the present time, can we have it?

I see in the Press that one of the Commands—I believe it was the Western Command—has started work on the lines of these suggestions. Only some of them; and there was the promise, if they were successful, that others would follow. That sounds as if there is no Government backing behind it. It is just a trial on the part of certain senior officers. A great amount could also be done by good Press publicity. I think that we should give confidence to the volunteer, to show him that if he joins the Forces he is not only doing a good job of work for his country but is doing a work that is at least equal to anything in civil life. More especially, I would ask that while he is in the Forces his time should not be wasted.

I would like to add a few words about conscription. Conscription has never yet been necessary in this country in peacetime, but much as I should like to consider that we are at peace now it is very difficult to do so. And it may be necessary to have conscription, at any rate for a few years. Personally, I believe that one and a half or two years in the Forces by boys of eighteen or nineteen will make them realize that the Army is not such a bad place after all, and that at the end of their time they will be quite prepared to join as volunteers. What is really wanted is a quick decision on conscription, and at least a ten-year plan for the Regular Army. We should also be told how the Territorial Army is to come into the picture. I know that this debate is on the Regular Army, but the Territorial Army is a distinct part of the whole system and cannot be left on one side. I believe that the voluntary system will work, but all these delays are not going to help.

One final point: may I ask that while the men—especially the young men—are in the Forces, their time should not be wasted. Even now, time and time again, I hear of men in the Forces sitting down or doing nothing but completely unnecessary fatigues. That is the sort of thing that puts people against the Army. They are given a good job to do in the war. In peace-time give them an equally good job, or training for peace-time occupations, that will keep them busy—not building a wall to take down the next day. The longer these improvements take, the longer it will be before we can get the voluntary system working, and the longer before we get adequate defence of this country. I have asked His Majesty's Government questions and I apologize for giving practically no notice of them, but I do feel, from what has been said already on this subject, that there is no doubt in the minds of all your Lordships that the sooner we get an answer to these questions the better it will be.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, I am afraid that it must be perfectly clear that so far as the Army is concerned the present recruiting campaign has failed. The serious repercussions which that failure must inevitably have on our foreign policy are obvious, and I am certain that your Lordships are grateful to my noble friend for allowing us to examine shortly some of the reasons for that failure. The last speaker suggested, perfectly properly, that one of the major causes was a natural post-war apathy. I think that that is accepted by everybody, but I think that our examination should go a little deeper. I hope that I shall not get into trouble as a perpetual grouser with my noble friend Viscount Bridgeman when I raise a few complaints. I do so in the best possible spirit.

The recent improvements, long overdue and very welcome, which the Chief of the Imperial General Staff has put forward are interesting from one particular point of view. They are aimed at righting a grievance which has always been most noticeable in the public mind. I do not believe that in his heart the soldier objects to discipline and necessary restrictions to freedom which he regards as inevitable to his calling. It is the unnecessary restrictions and discipline to which he objects, and improvements put forward by Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery show appreciation of that fact. I do not believe that they will have any serious effect on discipline, and I do not think that discipline will be affected if the soldier has only two hours in which to consider the possible parentage and ultimate destination of the General who is to inspect him instead of the usual seven days. It is that contrast between the freedom which the man has in civilian life, and has learnt to regard as his right, and the unnecessary and incomprehensible restrictions of military life which cause the Army to be unpopular in the public eye. The Army can no longer afford to be unpopular. There are some things which must puzzle the ordinary civilian spectator. What civilian firm, bank or insurance company, having selected some promising young official for further training, with a view to promotion and more important work, will so arrange affairs that that official will lose a considerable amount of his pay? That is what appears to be happening to certain senior officers who are selected to attend the Imperial Defence College.

Recently, something more serious happened which must have a very deleterious effect on recruiting. I refer to the Court Martial in Malaya. This is neither the time nor the place to discuss that, but I must say that I thought the solution to the difficulty a little cowardly. Very convenient legal difficulties at the last minute have enabled the Secretary of State to reach a decision which really evades the correct issue. Nobody suspected anything of those irregularities when the matter was first raised. The effect on the Army has been seen at once; the mutiny at Dartmoor is an illustration. In the mind of the potential recruit is now the suggestion that he does not receive, and will not receive, if he gets into trouble in the Army, the same high standard of legal protection that he has fought to get, and expects to find, in civil life. The Malaya incident was a spectacular case. Everybody knew about it. How many cases occur (the man may ask) of which nothing is known? My experience of military life gives me a completely contrary picture. I have always found that there was no better system. A man in trouble has no better chance of getting away with it than under military law. That is my impression; but that is not the impression of those outside the Army, who have studied this case. May I humbly suggest to the Government that they should now consider the Report of the Committee, presided over by Mr. Justice Oliver in 1938, on the whole question of military law, which was published as Command Paper Number 6200?

I endorse the remarks made by the last speaker on employment after service. I think it a most shameful reflection when I read every morning in The Times that pitifully long list of able experienced young men searching with all their hearts for employment. Mention has been made of employment in the Civil Service after military service. Before the war there was an arrangement in Germany, I believe, whereby a certain fixed percentage of jobs in the Civil Service were guaranteed to Servicemen after they had finished their time with the colours. I should like to see a permanent scheme whereby any man leaving the Services is guaranteed employment, and does not have to have it found for him, after six months it may be, through some charitable or Service organization. I was very pleased the other day to observe the arrangement that has been come to between the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the various technical branches of the Services. I hope that that will be extended. I should like to see much closer liaison between the regimental depots and the local labour exchanges. I should like to see some permanent scheme worked out. I should like to see officers seconded to business and industry six months before their time is up, so that they can go straight in partially-trained to a proper, decent job. This matter cannot any longer be left to a haphazard scheme, though the figures produced in another place recently show that it undoubtedly still is a haphazard scheme.

I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me if I suggest to him that among the difficulties which he has to meet in this recruiting problem is one for which the Government and their supporters are responsible. For many years some of the extreme supporters of the Socialist Party have made it their business to bring the profession of arms into disrepute. The long policy of propaganda, aided and abetted by their most skilful publicists, has done a certain amount of damage. Mr. George Bernard Shaw persuaded the British private soldier that he was a match for anything except the War Office. David Low, in a brilliant series of cartoons, suggested to him that the senior officer on whose leadership his own and eventually the country's safety would depend, was a bigoted and incompetent dotard. Professor Joad went so far as to suggest that it was morally indefensible to fight for one's King and country. Any of your Lordships who were connected before the war with recruiting, either for the Regular Forces or Territorial Forces, will remember the violent and extremely efficient opposition we always received from Socialist: councils. It is therefore not surprising that the potential recruit hesitates to adopt a calling which the Government and their supporters have for so long taught him to regard as a slightly ridiculous, if not indeed discreditable profession.

I do strongly support the argument put forward by the two previous speakers that the support of other Departments is required by the War Office, particularly with regard to housing. Your Lordships will remember that we discussed this matter in some detail on a Motion brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, on May 7, with regard to the question of divorce and separation in the Forces. It is perfectly clear that one of the major grievances at the moment which deters a man from joining the Army is inability to lead a decent, normal family life. This is a question of accommodation, of shipping, of transport and many other things, with regard to which I will not weary your Lordships to-day because we discussed them at great length on that occasion.

This is a very important point. The noble Lord, I think, should remember that it is not his own Ministry we are attacking in this case. It is the other Ministries who control priorities of labour and so on. Surely, I would urge in conclusion, it is clear that the real root of the whole matter is finance. We debated this question at great length on a Motion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, on March 20, when we discussed the rates of pay in the Armed Forces, and the then Under-Secretary of State for War, Lord Nathan, was at considerable pains—very naturally and properly—to equate and to compare the various rates of pay in the Armed Forces with those in civilian life. That is obviously not good enough. That equation has failed. It is no good offering a potential recruit the same amount of money as he can get in civilian life. He wants some extra compensation for the lack of freedom he has got to expect in the Services. He wants an extra inducement. That may almost savour of bribery, but to test the truth of it you have only to speak to the first young soldier you meet going home after the House has risen and ask him if he is going into the Regular Forces when he has finished his term of conscription. The answer will inevitably be "No." If you ask him why the answer will inevitably be "Cash." That is the reason and the major reason. It always will be.

The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, made it quite clear that this was not a matter which, of course, can be laid at the door of the War Office. He said it was not the fault of the War Office. As one who is a junior officer compared with the noble Viscount, I find considerably more difficulty than he does in getting my tongue round the expression, "It is not the fault of the War Office." But I agree with him, and I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, that he can rightly take it as a compliment to himself and as a mark of the esteem and affection in which he is held on this side of the House, that on the first occasion of his answering a major debate he has not himself been personally attacked. But I hope that he will not take it as a precedent!I would conclude by wishing him and his colleague the Secretary of State, the very best of luck in their dealings with the Treasury, because it is there that the major attack must be made, and there that the answer to this problem is to be found. The noble Lord must by now, I think, be quite clear where he can look for allies.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened to this debate with very considerable interest. I want to touch on two points only, one very shortly, and one in rather more detail. Both have already been referred to by noble Lords who have spoken. We are well aware of the fact that recruits are not coming into the Services and that there are a number of points which militate against recruiting. One of the two main questions which occur to me is this: What are the Services going to do in the future if these men do not come forward? The other is: What chance have men who join the Services of getting definite employment afterwards? I believe that is the key to the whole problem. I should like to say that this can be regarded as one problem. It is a Service problem as well as one affecting the whole nation. I might say that it is more a national problem. I would draw attention to the fact that a fortnight ago in the Sunday Times there appeared a letter headed: "The national Service." The question really comes back to this: What are the men, who join the Services now, going to do after their term is up?

The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft said this afternoon that the Army is getting younger and younger; the Services are getting younger and younger, and the nation is getting older and older. It is clear that the shortage of recruits is bound to get worse owing to the amount of employment available, and the man-power required in business, and in all the Government services. That will inevitably mean a smaller number of men available to go into the Services. I would ask once again: Would not a thorough investigation into what I call the short-service system, which has been referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, be of inestimable value? It is the young men we want to get into the Army. Outside of conscription for two years, or one and a half years in future, we want men to enter the Services for four, five or six years. Would it not be of benefit to the nation to take men—as I have advocated in your Lordship's House—into the Services as a necessary qualification before they can get permanent Government employment or employment in the L.C.C. or semi-municipal employment? Is that not possible?

Let us consider what was said the other day with regard to the Civil Service and also with regard to the teachers. The suggestion is that after a man has passed the book examinations, and before he takes up the teaching profession, he should do three or four or five years service with one of the Services, and at the end of it be guaranteed a post in the teaching profession. Should not the same apply to the municipal service and the Civil Service? Such a scheme would benefit the Civil Service and the teaching profession as well as the Services. There is nothing in the Services to-day which has not got its counterpart in civilian life. I believe in that way you would get an enormous number of people who would voluntarily join one of the Services for three, four, five or even going up to six or seven years. It is the young men we want in the Services. I suggest you would get them if they were guaranteed employment in one of the Government services, municipal services or in big business, as was done before the war; in other words, let us have an extension of the short-service system that was adopted by the Air Force.

There has been a Committee dealing with this matter. How has that Committee got on? Have the Navy and Army joined in that Committee? Last May I asked the noble Lord who then represented the War Office in this House if he had not asked any of the Government Departments outside the Services whether they were interested in the matter.

A year or eighteen months ago Lord Selborne introduced an Amendment to the Bill relating to teachers, superannuation, to the effect that no man who went away from the teaching profession for up to five years for any recognized Service employment: should lose his superannuation rate. In moving that Amendment in this House in December, 1944, he said he hoped noble Lords would be pleased by this step forward of the teaching profession in the short-service system. I believe that if the future of the man who joins the Service was guaranteed, and his training there was looked upon as an asset and an extra qualification, recruiting would be helped.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, I have only a few remarks to make. I hoped a live sailor would make some remarks from the naval point of view, but I would ask your Lordships, indulgence if a moribund sailor speaks to you. One speaker said that the Army could not afford to be unpopular. I suggest it should be said that: the nation cannot afford to have an unpopular Army. It is a national thing. One of the reasons why the Navy has not the same difficulty is that, besides being a smaller Service, it can offer security to a great number of men who join it. They learn a variety of trades, and we at one time suffered from too much security. We had so many counterparts of the old soldier. Their greatest a ambition was to be Captain of the Head, and they knew just enough to keep out of trouble. They were a damper on the young petty officers, and set a bad example to the younger men. They suppressed zeal, and were generally a nuisance. We have straightened that out.

Now there are a good many men who reach the end of their time and who have a good pension, but what could be more wretched than seeing a sergeant or a petty officer or that: sort of man going out into the labour market handicapped by his service and getting into some lower grade. It has a tremendously bad effect. When the coal strike was on several naval battalions were mobilized, but as they came from South Wales they were no use because petty officers were getting lower positions in the trades round there than the men of whom they were supposed to take charge. They had spent many years in the Service, and then had to go out on a lower rung. The value of security is tremendous, for a man can look forward often to a pension at the end of his time, but if you are going to throw him out after six or seven years without any prospects he is not likely to join the Service that lets him down in that way.

I have been a supporter of Lord Trenchard ever since he started urging that there should be a short-service system liberally introduced into the Navy as well as in the Air Force. Then these young men could go out and be guaranteed a job, if they behaved themselves, in the Government service. Nothing could more strengthen one's affection for a Service than some such system as that. Particularly I should like to see in the Church young men who had served some time in the Service. They could go out and among themselves carry on the tradition which they had been taught. I am perfectly sure at the present time that some of these clubs formed by young officers will have the most beneficial effect on their own life. As to the jeering at the Services, and the caricatures, if we had listened to Colonel Blimp a little more we should not have been so unprepared as we were when the crash came. I know myself that as young men we were only too anxious to go on with the regular service, but now as they cannot get any firm idea of what their future will be, men reluctantly go out. Many of them are young men, just married—just the type that we want in our family life. In many cases men who have shirked have got into good billets, while their brothers and cousins have been away. I have had the pleasure of turning down three or four such men. I always ask what their war service has been, and if they say, "We were in a sheltered occupation," I always cross my pencil through their names and say no more.

We could have the most magnificent Service in peace-time if we could only promise these men that they will, on leaving the Service, have some occupation guaranteed to them. Then they could come in and be happy. We should not always have these upsets in the Service with all the good points ignored and all the bad ones magnified.

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that on all sides of the House your Lordships are grateful to my noble friend Lord Bridgeman for raising this debate on this very vitally important subject. The field has been very fully covered, but it seems to me we are never going to get satisfaction on this important matter until, firstly, we decide which came first—the chicken or the egg. Our Imperial and foreign policy must depend to a very large extent upon the man-power we can get for our Forces, but equally the numbers required for the Forces depends upon the policy. What we are really waiting for is for the Government to be able to tell us what, in terms of man-power, will be required for our Imperial and foreign policy commitments and our United Nations Organization policy. At the moment it is quite clear that in two out of the three Services the voluntary engagement system is failing.

My noble friend Lord Bridgeman spoke about the Army, and said he thought the Air Force was in a somewhat better position. I would remind your Lordships of the very serious words spoken at a Press Conference only on September 10 last by Lord Tedder, when he said, as regards the Royal Air Force on which we had to depend so much for our defensive and offensive action in the last war: We have a race with time to fill up with volunteers before the drain out of our wartime personnel reduces the whole Force to impotence.… The result of the recruiting schemes so far are gravely disappointing and we are in danger of losing the race. So, taking the words of the Chief of the Air Staff, serious and well-thought-out words, as regards the Air Force, we are facing a position where the regular R.A.F. engagement is not within sight of providing the minimum number of trained men necessary for backing the untrained drafts called up for national service.

It has been said by other speakers that the Services have to compete with civilian life in attracting men into the Services. At the present time there is a shortage of skilled tradesmen in nearly all branches of civilian industry. This an exceptional condition which might not last for ever, but at the moment the Services have to compete with that shortage of skilled men in civilian trades. Wages are high, and the policy of full employment means that there is little fear of unemployment in civil life. There is an enormous advantage for the civilian, which was touched upon by the noble Lord, the advantage the civilian has with regard to housing. It seems to me there are two needs if the voluntary engagement system is ever going to succeed in this country. The first is that Service life is well thought of by the rest of the community as well as by those within the Service; and the second is that there are proper retiring conditions and civil resettlement prospects. As regards the first, until the Government declare their peace-time policy as regards continuation or not continuation of compulsory service I do not think we shall get voluntary engagement as a popular part of our national life. Young men do not like the continuation into peace-time of the military call-up system, and it has undoubtedly a wide and regrettable effect on the question whether young men should adopt a Service career as a permanent career or not.

Broadly speaking, I think the new Pay Code, with certain exceptions upon which we touched in our last debate, gives a reasonably comparable standard of life, taken in real values of accommodation, food and money, to civilian life. But we are not at the present time in normal peace-time. We have that boom in industry about which I spoke just now, with the rather exceptional conditions; and also within the Services, as noble Lords who are interested in these matters know, there are exceptional conditions. There is transition going on in the Services themselves from war to peace, and I believe there must be a greater elasticity in conditions, and special concessions made now in the Army and Air Force if we are not to lose the good effects which the Pay Code has had. Things which may seem small in detail to some of us, but which are vitally important to the men in the Services, need attention.

The first and most important, I am sure, is housing. There is a high degree of instability within the Services at the present time, and particularly in the Royal Air Force. Frequent postings are inevitable, and officers and other ranks, particularly the married ones, are put to very serious expense by the frequent moves which they are forced to make. I would like to suggest that representations should be made by the Service Departments to the Treasury for special and temporary allowances to meet the high cost of these frequent moves during the transition period when men in one group are being demobilized and it requires men from another group to be sent to replace them. As regards married quarters, undoubtedly officers and other ranks living in are very much better off than married officers and other ranks living out. The former pay a very reasonable rent to the Government for their married quarters, but the latter go into districts almost always overcrowded and have to pay fantastic rents in competition with those who are getting much higher cash benefits than they are, rents which are totally unmet by the rent allowances given, to married officers living out. I suggest again that the Treasury should be asked to help meet the difference by authorizing local concession allowances for rents during this transition period according to the difficulties in any particular district to which an officer or man is posted.

I know I am asking for a good deal in asking the Service Departments to approach the Treasury for more money, but when I think of the White Paper on Defence, which could, I think, be termed "A Bill for the Relief of the Chancellor of the Exchequer," who will only have to overcome one Minister now and give a global sum for defence Which will then be allocated amongst the three Services, I am sure the Service Departments could approach the Chancellor for concessions now. Then I believe there should be a hostel for junior officers and other ranks married and serving in the London area. It is a great need, because they cannot possibly compete with the rents which are charged in the London area, even if they can get the accommodation. With the War Office, the Air Ministry and other units in London it is necessary that considerable numbers of young men should serve in the London area. The Departments cannot assist in that without Treasury sanction, but I do hope the Departments will make a concerted approach to the Chancellor on that.

The Royal Air Force needs re-engagement N.C.O.'s and experienced men, particularly technicians, probably more than either of the other two Services. It would be an exaggeration to say that any of our recent accidents are directly due to shortage of skilled ground personnel, but it is not an exaggeration to say that maintenance and safety in flying are seriously embarrassed by the shortage which at present exists in various technical trade groups. I do feel that the factor of separation from families is the most serious deterrent to the re-engagement of these technicians in the service. I want to ask the noble Lord who replies if he can give the House some information on the priority that the Services are enjoying as regards labour and materials for married housing in this country. I would like to know if the Services are being given any money on this particular vote, and, further, if they are not being given any money, whether the Service Departments are satisfied that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Works are giving them adequate priority in labour and materials for the married quarters, because housing of married men in the Services is just as important as housing of married men in industry.

The next question I would like to ask relates to prefabricated houses. Are the Services getting any prefabricated houses? There is no reason at all that I can see why the Service Departments should not put up prefabricated houses in the same way as local authorities. Are the Services getting an allocation in relation to the total supply available for the whole community? Overseas the housing position for married men is getting worse. I would like to ask if the Government have authorized the expenditure of money and the priorities necessary for overseas building. Very often the material question does not enter into the picture, because local materials can be used for housing construction overseas; but what is required is the clearance financially from this country. I think it is generally agreed that good living conditions are as important as pay, and I know that the Royal Air Force is working on post-war stations, within the limited resources available, which will have those improvements which we consider necessary for the modern soldier or airman, such as better barracks, etc. I hope we shall receive some assurance from the Minister that the Services are being given the necessary money for the reconstruction of old barracks and the construction of new barracks.

I want now to say something quite briefly about this question of red tape which has been touched on to-day. I would like to say that, so far as I am aware, the Royal Air Force has got the minimum amount of red tape and has had the minimum amount of red tape in the past. Perhaps it is that the Army is now following the good example set for many years past by the Royal Air Force. I think that on this question of parades we must be a little careful. A good many of us think it is not a case of abolishing unnecessary parades but that in some cases there have not been enough parades. Abolition of unnecessary parades does not mean no parades at all, and it is a truism to say that a well-drilled and well-trained unit is always the happiest and most efficient unit. I believe it is dangerous to foster the feeling abroad by public speeches and in certain sections of the Press that all parades are unnecessary and bad.

I hope we shall continue to take a balanced view of this problem and try to avoid enticing men into the Services by painting pictures of a wonderful effortless, lounging life—a pleasant existence with not very much hard work, and with officers who are hesitant to give orders due to the power of Parliament and the Press being with men in the ranks and not being vested in the proper authority. Perhaps I exaggerate a little, but I believe it is an important point. As one noble Lord said, do not let us frame our policy for the bad and difficult soldier; let us frame our policy for the average soldier, who is a really good fellow and who will accept the necessary amount of discipline which is required in a good unit, although he will, quite rightly, object to unnecessary restrictions.

I feel I cannot let this opportunity pass without giving my own view of something which was said by my noble friend Lord Mancroft. He was talking, as he was perfectly entitled to do, of Court-Martial procedure and he mentioned this recent case, saying he thought the War Office—I presume he meant the Minister—had had the good fortune to get out on a legal quibble. I must say that do not think—and I am sure the noble Lord will not mind my saying this— that that is quite fair. Courts-Martial are referred to the Judiciary. In this country the Judiciary is separate from the Executive; it is not concerned with politics or swayed one way or the other by any particular opinion. The Judiciary gives its view based upon the law as Parliament has passed it, and it is the duty of the Executive to take the advice of the Judiciary on the law. I cannot believe that the Secretary of State for War—though he is not of my political persuasion—would have veered at all from his duty of accepting the advice of the Judiciary, and I am doubly sure that the Judiciary would never be swayed by anything except the correct interpretation of the law as they saw it.

I want to mention one anomaly. Plain clothes privileges have been spoken of to-day, and quite rightly, as they are appreciated by the men in the Services. But there is a widespread grievance in the Services that while, on the one hand, plain clothes privileges have been introduced, on the other hand the issue of coupons is inadequate to allow them to buy plain clothes outfits. I hope that the Services will ask the President of the Board of Trade to co-operate in issuing an adequate supply of coupons and thus assist the recruiting campaign.

I have touched on matters which may appear to be matters of detail, but they loom very large in the minds of Service men. I feel that if this debate to-day has focussed the attention of the Government upon some of these problems it has achieved something. We are fortunate that the debate is going to be replied to by the new Under-Secretary of State for War, who, I am sure, carries with him into his high office the good wishes of members on all sides of your Lordships, House. If he will reply to those points to which he can reply today, and if he will take note of the other points made by noble Lords to which he cannot reply today, I am sure that my noble friend Lord Bridgeman will feel that his action in initiating this debate has done good within the Services.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord who initiated this debate and to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, for their good wishes. I think I shall need them. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, was kind enough to say that he thought I should soon, become well acquainted with these subjects. At the moment that possibility seems somewhat remote, but time will show. I am afraid there is no short cut to a thorough appreciation of these subjects. There are immense masses of detail which have to be mastered, and the Under-Secretary (or for that matter, the Secretary of State) who in the end does the best service to the country is die one who understands all aspects of his job—a task which takes some time.

May I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, for the manner in which he dealt with the observations regarding the recent trial of the paratroopers which fell from the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft? I feel sure we all regret that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who cares so passionately for the Army and whose speech contained so many helpful suggestions, should have let slip observations of that kind. As the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, explained, the decision was taken on the advice—the objective, impartial advice—of the Judge Advocate-General, and it would be an insult to the Secretary of State and to the Judge Advocate-General to cast any reflection on a decision so arrived at.


My Lords, may I interrupt for a moment? I would like to apologize at once if I have given that impression. Of course, nothing was further from my mind than to cast any such aspersion. I hope the noble Lord will allow me to say that. The impression I intended to give was that I thought that it was regrettable that the decision was eventually taken not upon the same points as those which had originally attracted public notice.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I am anxious to be with him on all these matters, especially in view of the manifest interest and expert knowledge he has displayed. The House will perhaps forgive me if I do not take each speaker in turn and reply to all his points. I will try to reply, if I may, to the general line of argument advanced by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and, as I proceed, to take up other points which were brought forward. If at the end I do not seem to have covered as much ground as I should have done, no doubt noble Lords, either to-day or an a subsequent occasion, will ask for further information.

I recognize, as I think we all do, the seriousness of this occasion. First of all, I desire to join most heartily with the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, in emphasizing the necessity for voluntary recruiting for the Regular Services. Whatever view we take of the overall manpower position—a position which shows more than one disquieting feature from the angle of the Services—the necessity for voluntary recruiting stands out. Again the necessity is obvious whatever the decision on the conscription issue—a point which, I may say, is overlooked sometimes even by the best friends of voluntary recruiting. There appears to be a widespread belief at the present time that conscription should provide the Services with all the man-power they require, and that in consequence voluntary recruiting is unnecessary. There has been no sign, I hasten to say, of any such belief in your Lordships, House, but it is, I think, one which is fairly widely entertained in the country.

As your Lordships are aware, nothing could be farther from the truth and nothing could be more unsound than the view "If they want me, they will take me." Whatever may be the overall picture of man-power, and whatever may be the decision on conscription, I think we all agree in this House that voluntary recruitment alone can provide the essential framework of the Services. The whole fabric of the Fighting Services depends on the Regular volunteer, and the conscript, as noble Lords are all aware, can be no substitute for him. The Regular alone can provide the non-commissioned officers to train the conscript intakes and the key specialists and technicians on whom the efficiency of the Services so largely depends. Further, our garrisons abroad will in future have to be found largely from Regulars, owing to the shortness of the time which men called up in the future will have available for service after completion of their training period. A shortage of Regular volunteers to-day would soon place our whole defence scheme in jeopardy. That is the considered view of the Government, which indeed squares with everything which has been said in this House.

Your Lordships will particularly want to know from me to-day what is the present position as regards recruiting. It can only be described as serious. There was little or no Regular recruiting for the Army and the R.A.F. during the war, so that those Services are now faced with the need to make up the backlog of those six war years. An ambitious recruiting drive was launched in May of this year, as your Lordships recollect, and you will want to know the result up to date. For the Navy, where regular recruiting for certain branches continued throughout the war, the position is reasonably satisfactory.

But the Admiralty are aiming at achieving still better figures; they are never content with the good, they always desire to do better. For the Army there has been some talk of a target, but I understand it is better to refer to a quota against which figures of recruitment can be measured. To compensate for wastage and run-out, a monthly intake of Regulars of the order of 4,000 a month would be required in normal times to sustain a Regular Army of some 250,000, a number that I take for purposes of exposition. At the moment the Regular content of the Army is, of course, far below this number, and we accordingly require something distinctly above 4,000 a month to build up to the required number and to sustain it—something between 4,000 and 4,500. This, therefore, is the kind of figure—whether you call it the target or not, although we are rather chary of calling it that—against which our Regular recruiting must be measured, although nobody would expect it to be achieved straight away.

The figure for September for Regular enlistments from civil life for the Army was 1,868, or somewhat less than half the quota. Re-enlistments from within the Service, which have averaged 200 a month throughout the summer, might theoretically be added, but I am informed that it is a fairer comparison to leave them out. Therefore, the right comparison is 1,868 against 4,000 plus. The story in the case of the Royal Air Force is similar, and in the period from April 1—a date which I am told is the correct one in their case—to August 31, only some thirty-two per cent. of their planned programme was achieved, although there has been a distinct improvement as time has gone on.

I am bound to admit, speaking solemnly and carefully for the Government, that these Army and Royal Air Force figures are decidedly disappointing. They have fallen considerably below the the levels for which we hoped. It is early days yet to talk of complete failure, and it is permissible to point out, in the case of the Army for instance, that the monthly figures have steadily improved from the appallingly low level to which they had sunk by May, when the recruiting drive began. The figures are figures for Regular enlistments for the Army from civil life, and they are as follows: May, 1,203; June, 1,396; July, 1,541; August, 1,626, and September, 1,868, an increase of rather more than fifty per cent. since May. We must be thankful for small mercies in the shape of an upward gradient, but few of us will deduce from these figures any foreseeable prospect of achieving our aim unless some quite new factor or totally new atmosphere is introduced.

I will say this for the Government: that we are under no false illusions and we are not indulging in any wishful thinking on this subject. If I said that we had the matter under active consideration I would rightly excite your Lordships, derision. At the same time, as many of your Lordships are aware, it is not usual to reveal in public—although I do not know that there is any great secrecy about the matter—the precise form of Governmental scrutiny to which an issue of this kind is being subjected. I will content myself with saying, and saying with emphasis, that the whole question of the approach to voluntary recruiting is being studied afresh in the light of results up to date, and studied intensively. The review is already proceeding, and the suggestions which have been made here today will, of course, be examined very carefully indeed.

Perhaps at this point we might together see whether we can reach any common agreement about the factors which are affecting recruitment. The War Office have recently caused an extensive investigation to be carried out which covered a considerable number of persons in a variety of categories, in order to discover the reasons why men were unwilling to join the Regular Army. The examination of these results is still in progress, but I can give certain indications flowing from them. Out of 3,000 replies a few more than 1,000 have been examined and analyzed with unavoidable haste. So far as we have gone it seems clear that in the case of those who have already served, and of the young men between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, the main recorded deterrents to recruiting appear to have been two. On the one hand the many restrictions associated in people's minds with Army life, and on the other hand separation from families. One or other of those factors was mentioned by more than half of the pre-call-up youths, and by more than three-quarters of the soldiers who had already served. Other factors were mentioned, but I will not attempt to give them in any order because the returns are so incomplete. They are as follows: loss of personal freedom, interference with life career—a point which many noble Lords have stressed to-day and which in my innocence of the subject seemed to be the most fundamental of all—lack of privacy and home comforts. The investigation also suggests that the new pay terms are felt to be reasonable and are not a severe handicap in the recruiting campaign. I do not want to lay too much stress on that conclusion because the issue of pay is referred to by quite a number of youths, although by very few soldiers who have already served.

Let us just consider very briefly what is being clone—I will not say by the Government, but what is being done by the nation under the lead of the Government. I would like to say one or two words about four subjects: (1), the abolition of petty restrictions; (2), leave and overseas tour; (3), accommodation and married quarters; and (4), post-Service employment. Before coming to them in detail may I say just one general word in advance? I fully agree with everything that has been said here and elsewhere about the necessity of making conditions in the Service attractive, but it seems to me that running through the remarks to-day there was a note which I heartily echo and which represents the present mind of the Government. I have in mind the fact that the Army can never be made relatively attractive in terms of comfort when you compare it with civilian life. It is always bound to be a hard life, and I speak as one whose own constitution was unequal to the strain. It is a life subject to discipline, which may be found irksome. We are determined—and I know the House is heartily with us—that it shall not only be a full life, but it should appear to be a full life to the young man anxious to take responsibility, to exercise skill, to do a technical job and to develop his powers, whether they be physical, mental and, I do not apologize for saying, spiritual. The Government are determined that life in the Services shall in very truth be a full life for a man and a citizen. In saying that I am still looking, of course, at the matter from the point of view of attracting the individual who has his own career to embark upon and his own life to live. Of course, there is also the appeal to patriotism which can never be neglected.

May I suggest that perhaps it is going to be easier in the future than it has been in the past to make that appeal a convincing and universal appeal. What I have in mind—and I am not trying to strike any controversial note here—is that running throughout our whole political history, even before the rise of the great Party to which I belong, you find a clash between the militarists and the anti-militarists. Going back into the last century, you find it in the long and strenuous controversy between Palmerston and Gladstone. I take this illustration, because I feel that no noble Lord will consider that I am attempting to allocate praise or blame to existing political organizations. Wherever you look in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries you tend to find the conflict, but it does seem to me that, at the present time, that issue is dead. With regard to this matter we, in this country, can forget our own past and other people's pasts as well. I say that as one who is not, in any way, ashamed of his own past in this connexion. We can all concentrate on the fact that to-day the adequate defence of this country is recognized as essential not only to our own preservation but to the peace of the world.

Having said that, I will now touch briefly on a few aspects of the practical approach that is being made by the Government to the question of improving conditions of life in the Services. As the House is well aware, the C.I.G.S. has recently made public statements regarding the intentions of the War Office to make improvements in the conditions of life of the soldier. I was asked, in the most thoughtful speech delivered by Lord Moynihan, whether the statements by the C.I.G.S. had the authority of the Government. The answer is that they were not checked and weighed like a Ministerial statement, but, in principle, they not only have the approval of His Majesty's Government, but behind them is the enthusiasm of the Government. I hope that the noble Lord will regard that as a sufficient answer to his question. As your Lordships are aware, many petty restrictions are to be removed, and, where possible, unnecessary parades are to be eliminated. I am bound to say, in fairness to the other Services, who may, not unnaturally, wonder whether I am forgetting my duty to act as their spokesman also, that many of these changes have been effected already in the Royal Navy and in the Royal Air Force, and have been in existence in those Services for some time.

I will not detain your Lordships by going in detail into the questions of leave and overseas tours. This matter has been dealt with more than once in this House already. But I do want the House to believe that the Service Departments are fully conscious of the importance of regular leave and of keeping the length of overseas tours to a minimum. In the Royal Navy the tour is dependent upon the time a ship can spend abroad without refitting, which is normally about two and a half years. In the Army, it is planned that the overseas tour shall be from three to three and a half years, and the overseas tour of the Royal Air Force has already been reduced to two and a half years.

We come now to the question of married quarters. Lord Balfour of Inchrye and other noble Lords, including Viscount Bridgeman, have expressed curiosity as to what kind of priority was being given to these matters. They have asked whether the Service Departments get adequate priorities. I have been only a week at the War Office, but already I feel as though I had been there all my life, and I can assure your Lordships that we do not consider that we are getting adequate priorities. We shall continue to press for more and better priorities, certainly for as long as I am at the War Office and, I should think, for many years after I have ceased to darken its doors. Of course, we would like to see better priorities, but I would disabuse the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, of any anxiety which he may feel lest perhaps there has been some further cut by the Treasury of estimates already passed. As noble Lords are aware, original estimates are always pared down before they are finally co-ordinated. Apart from that, there has been no cut of the kind which the noble Lord seems to have in mind.


My Lords, may I interrupt to ask the noble Lord if he can give us any information as to what the view of the Government is with regard to the use of prefabricated houses at garrison centres? Is there any possibility of a quota of these buildings being allocated for this purpose?


My Lords, I understand that no prefabricated houses have been allotted for this purpose, and I am informed that we do not desire to make use of them. That, however, is a matter which we could, perhaps, go into in more detail on a later occasion. Now, I will just give the House one or two figures in this connexion. The Army already has some 13,600 married quarters for other ranks. Approval has been given for the provision of a further 1,000 married quarters and these are now in, course of construction. Abroad, although there is no real problem in occupied countries, the situation is inevitably difficult in other areas in which garrisons were not previously located permanently. Authority has however been given for communal camps in the Canal Zone in Egypt, while in Burma and Malaya the first quota of semi-permanent married quarters has been authorized to meet interim requirements. Noble Lords will be aware that the problem is particularly acute in the case of the Royal Navy, for whom provision of married quarters has recently been approved for the first time.

I wish now to add just a few words about post-Service employment, to which Tremendous importance—and quite rightly in my view—has been attached during the debate. It is primarily, of course, a matter for the Ministry of Labour, with whom the Service Departments are in close touch. In answer to the question raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, I would emphasize that the three Services are co-operating in their approach to the Ministry of Labour on this subject. For the Army, there are at present four Civil Resettlement Units. From the long term point of view, Resettlement Advice Centres are planned overseas and in the United Kingdom. I shall, I hope, not be running beyond the book when I say that we shall have to return to 1:his subject, in this House and elsewhere, many many times in the future before we have thoroughly threshed it out. Suggestions which have been made in this connexion to-day appear to me to have great cogency, at first sight at any rate. In this whole question of what we can ensure to a man who joins for what is called a long-service engagement, but what may, in tact be a very short-service engagement if you take into consideration his whole life, we must aim at finding some way of providing him with better training and a more secure future than has hitherto been possible. I speak in very general terms, but I am simply giving your Lordships my own reactions in coming to this question fairly fresh.

I will not—for, as I have said. I do not wish to detain the House—reply at great length regarding the actual recruiting staffs and premises. It is true that, during the war, a number of veterans were, at one time, employed, and it is true that hitherto it has been difficult to get hold of adequate and sufficiently attractive buildings. All that is now being Corrected. We are overhauling the recruiting staffs and we are doing everything we can to make sure that the premises offer much greater attractions than they have done hitherto. As regards the matter of recruiting marches, I gather that the noble Lord who is so extraordinarily well-informed on these matters is not, for once, on the target. I understand that the recruiting marches to which he refers are not recruiting marches in the ordinary sense. They are really intended to bring the Army, in an attractive way, permanently before the public mind. They are not intended to produce short-term results. But we do feel that, in the long run, nothing but good will come from, for example, the Army Mechanised Mobile Column.

The noble Viscount also asked what part the Central Office of Information is playing. I understand that an important part of the campaign has to devolve upon them. They arrange the commercial publicity on behalf of the Service Departments, and -the Director General of the Central Office of Information acts as Chairman of the Inter-Service Committee formed to co-ordinate publicity measures. The publicity campaign has been carefully planned and co-ordinated. It embraces all the usual media, including Press Conferences, Press visits, news stories, broadcasting, display advertising, posters, exhibitions, window displays, trailer films, news reel features and illustrated pamphlets—and yet, my Lords, I do not think that it has been a great success. Speaking as one who until a week ago was a stranger to these fields, I cannot honestly say that I had hitherto been made very recruiting-conscious by this well-intended publicity. And I do not know how many of your Lordships feel that they have been made very recruiting-conscious in the last few months. On the other hand I wonder how many of us, whether as Ministers or private citizens, can say with our hands oil our hearts that we have altogether pulled our weight and done as much as we should have liked to promote recruitment. Here and now I do want to emphasize on behalf of the Government how welcome will be any noble Lord, irrespective of Party, who throws himself into this recruiting campaign.

The Government on their side are fully aware of the seriousness of the recruiting position. We in this country are passing through a grim and rather disappointing phase of world history. The Government desire to make it plain—we think it is our duty to make it plain—that in spite of the sufferings which humanity has just undergone, in spite of all the constructive thinking for peace that the last twenty-five years have witnessed, in spite of the developments of science (including the atomic bomb, whether you count that as a good or a bad thing) no prospect can be seen of doing away with the Fighting Services. We are therefore determined to maintain them on a scale sufficient for the needs of national defence and in order to fulfil our commitments to the United Nations. We on these Benches—and I do not doubt that it is true of many other noble Lords—remain unrepentant in our passion for peace, and more determined than ever to strive ceaselessly for the outlawing of war, but we have no intention of allowing the course of events after the last war to repeat itself or the strength of our Armed Forces again to be whittled down to the point where we should be unable to defend ourselves or exert a proper measure of influence on the side of peace and justice in the world. No country has any reason to fear a strong Britain. Many countries have had cause to regret a weak Britain. If it has served no other purpose—and I believe that it has served many more purposes than one—this debate should have been immensely useful in helping to convince the House that the Government are solidly behind the Services; and in that I know that I carry all your Lordships with us.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, certainly if this debate has served no other purpose—and I agree that it has served many—it has called forth a most frank and informative speech from the noble Lord opposite. I feel that that speech will make a very good starting point for attention to the improvements which I gathered from him are under consideration by His Majesty's Government. If the tone of that consideration follows the tone of the noble Lord's speech we on this side of the House have good reason to feel that a solution to the problem is in sight. In saying that, I do not want to suggest that the solution is quite in sight yet. We on these Benches are interested and glad to hear that a fresh scrutiny is being made. I will not attempt to draw the veil aside from that scrutiny, but I believe that it is on the highest level. We hope to hear how it is progressing, and that it will be possible for this House to be taken further into the confidence of the Government at the appropriate time.

It was interesting to hear that the analysis made by the War Office of the reasons why young men do not join the Army coincided so closely as it appeared to do with the views expressed from these Benches. I would make only one point on that, in reference to the restrictions. It may be in a vicious circle, or in a beneficial circle, but it is not always realized that restrictions are worse as soldiers, behaviour gets worse and become easier as the soldiers, behaviour improves. The peace-time quarters of the soldier will go a long way to solve this problem of petty crime. Reference has been made to 13,000 married quarters. I am not sure whether they are available for occupation; last time, I heard that the A.T.S. were occupying some of them. It is not at all clear to us on these Benches why prefabricated houses have been rejected. I should have thought that any house good enough for the civilian population was right for the Army. We shall have to revert to that shortly, because it seems that there is room to do something in that direction. I hope that the Service Departments will go on pressing for married quarters, and that they will get them. It is not sufficient to press; it is necessary that something should come of the pressure, and I hope that it will.

Now, we come to what I regard as an especially interesting point made by the noble Lord. It is that the time is past when there are two main political views about the necessity for the Army. Most sincerely, I hope that is right. I agree with the noble Lord that there is good reason to believe it, but the test of that view is Quite clearly the degree in which regular members of the Forces are absorbed into civil life after they have done their service. Until we see those elements, to which the noble Lord referred, welcomed back with open arms in civil life, I shall not believe that the community of thought behind the Front Bench is quite what we should like. When we see it I shall believe it.

I do not want to say much about recruiting marches, except that long-term plans may not be much good unless the short-term picture is all right. Circuses may be all right to attract young men, but, as some of your Lordships have tried to show, it is the more humdrum things, such as bread, which matter. I will not waste your time any more. We shall watch these points very closely. We shall be only too anxious to help the noble Lord opposite, whenever he feels that our help may be of use, but we shall continue to pay attention to these matters until the time comes when we see that: recruiting for the Services is going the way that it should, for the good of the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.