§ 2.50 p.m.
§ LORD CROFT
had the following Notice on the Order Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government whether they contemplate further cuts in His Majesty's Forces additional to the drastic reductions, including that in National Service, already announced to Parliament; to inquire whether or not Service commitments have been correspondingly reduced; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Motion this afternoon, I am deeply conscious, of course, that we as a nation are passing through a period of grave economic crisis. It is a crisis which may not be surmounted quickly and one which may well be aggravated before all our difficulties are overcome, but I am confident that we can overcome them if we put political issues and issues dividing the nation into cold storage and concentrate on a common battleground for a united people against threatened disaster. My fear, however, is that in the pressure of events, and in a desire to ease the burdens of austerities, the British Government may again be persuaded to risk the safety of the realm in yielding to political pressure, whereby we may abandon that security, that freedom from fear, which is the first necessity if we are to recover our strength as a first-class Power and our influence for peace in the world.
For some forty years of political life I have watched events from this angle of security. Although this is only a personal opinion, I am convinced that neither of the two great world convulsions need necessarily have occurred if we had been sufficiently strong in armaments and robust in policy to have made it clear that our war effort could expand into something great and decisive. I know that that would have been very expensive; but how 171 cheap compared with the results of total war even from the point of view of those who are victorious! Twice within a quarter of a century our weakness in defence and apparent love of ease encouraged an aggressor Power to think that we were feeble and degenerate, and that we could be defeated before our people had recaptured their warrior spirit or had had time to train and to wage war on a large scale.
In both those wars we had long breathing spaces—in the first, thanks to our sea power and the very fine French. Army, which held such a great part of the allied front, and the deployment in the East of the Russian Armies at the start, whilst we laboriously trained our armies of millions which were later to be decisive; and in the second, by reason of the fact that, weak though we were in commerce protectors, we nevertheless had complete command of the seas, in battle fleets and a small but superlatively trained and equipped Air Force, which together prevented invasion whilst, without any ally in the field, we gathered our strength. I submit that no aggressor would again give a year's grace before threatening the freedom of mankind. If war comes again—which, please God, it may never do—it will come like a thief in the night without warning or notice, and will, start, instead of end, with rockets and other long-distance weapons of even more violent character. And war would not take place unless an aggressor Power felt that it had some millions of men who at the pressing of a button could start to stride across maybe Europe or the Middle East or Asia and that at the start it would be opposed by only as many divisions as it had perhaps armies ready to put in the field.
I imagine that your Lordships, at any rate, will agree that Navies, Armies and Air Forces have no purpose unless they are a real deterrent to war because of their readiness to fight, to meet an immediate threat and rapidly to expand. This, I think, is especially true of the Royal Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Defence, which must be ready to go into action on the day that hostilities start, and, indeed, must be well prepared before that date. The same also applies to the Royal Navy, which has to be in constant readiness. Serious reductions to-day, which have taken place without any great warning to the Services, surely must create 172 a situation of unreadiness in the Services, and I feel that the training and efficiency of the Services cannot recover for a long time, possibly for years, after the dislocation caused by a too speedy upset of the balance of the Forces. I do not think anyone will deny that there was a great effort between the wars to coerce Governments to disarm regardless of policy. It has always seemed to me to be a little extraordinary that the critics of those days should, in later years, forgetful of their votes and by-elections, have endeavoured to place the whole of the blame for our weakness in defence on the outbreak of the war not on themselves, of course, but on the Governments of the late thirties.
To-day I doubt if anyone, or any Party in the country, in spite of differences on other subjects, will deny that in 1939 as regards our Forces we were perilously short. We appear, indeed, to have almost courted disaster. To-day, in spite of our differences on other great issues, the Government have no ground for fearing that the Opposition will make it difficult for them to act with courage and wisdom in the matter of defence. I particularly want to tell the noble Viscount opposite, who I understand is going to reply, that I have no wish to make any Party capital in offering these few remarks. I must, however, remind your Lordships that it was only in February last that after deep consideration over, I believe, many months and presumably with full knowledge of our commitments at and after that date, His Majesty's Government—if I may be permitted to say so—with considerable courage declared for National Service on the basis of eighteen months' training.
I must also remind your Lordships that in forty-eight hours (between March 31 and April 2) under great pressure from two sections of their followers, the Government decided to reconsider their plan to such an extent that the period of National Service was reduced by one third, with the consequent effect that the National Service men will, in all three Services, be one-third less trained, and to that extent so much less fit to go into action. Since then, on August 6, the Prime Minister announced the speed-up of release by 80,000 men during the financial year. This means that the most highly trained National Service men, some of whom are urgently required for the 173 training of new intakes, will be parted with several months earlier than was expected, just at the time when the Regular Army is being extended to the limit to find trainers for recruits into the Army and into the Territorial Army.
As to the Royal Navy, we learn that the Home Fleet for a period, at any rate for the time being, will, be no longer in being. I do not wish to dwell too much on that, as friends of mine who have had recent service in the Royal Navy will be dealing with the matter later. But I doubt whether ever before any British Government, after making all allowances for the extreme difficulties of these days, have, purely under political pressure, had to make such a great change of policy in the matter of defence plans in so short a time. Moreover, since the Prime Minister made that speech on August 6 there have been most ominous reports in the Press to the effect that the Government had been or were to be in consultation with the Trades Union Congress, or some other exterior bodies, as to still further reductions. Parliament, let it be remembered, was not permitted to be recalled for consultation on the crisis which affected also our defence policy. These rumours, I presume, are confirmed by the statement of the Prime Minister, in another place since I tabled this Motion, that his Governmentconsidered it right to examine the question of any possible reduction in the Forces, not only in the remainder of the financial year but also in, the period of eighteen months ending March 31, 1949The Government, he said, "have decided upon further substantial reductions in the size of the Armed Forces in the next eighteen months."
Your Lordships will recall that in the White Paper which was issued, I think, in February, the total of our Forces was estimated at 1,087,000. On August 6 the revised estimate was 1,007,000 for all three Services, and now the Prime Minister declares he expects the figure to be 937,000—a reduction of 150,000 on the original estimate. I would ask what has happened so to change the views of the Government on the situation that they risk so drastic a reduction. I would ask this: In arriving at what they regarded as the essential minimum target for safety, what is the first-line strength of our three Services? Is the Regular Army reaching its target, or is the present rate of recruiting likely to be far behind the 220,000 aimed 174 at by the beginning of 1949? From figures given to us some little time ago, recruitment in the Regular Army was good in the months of October, November and December last, encouragingly good; but I am afraid that the noble Lord who is to reply will probably have to tell us that since then it has declined seriously. What steps are His Majesty's Government taking to improve that recruiting, without which the basis of efficiency cannot be reached?
Again, we started out full of hope with regard to the Territorial Army and the Auxiliary Forces of the other two Services, feeling they would fill any gap which had been created. My information is that recruitment in the Territorial Army is far from successful and, in some cases indeed, almost a complete failure. What are His Majesty's Government going to do about that? How are they to stimulate recruitment in the Territorial Army? Can we have in the course of this debate an assurance that premises at any rate will be ready in time to receive the intake oi National Service men coming into the Auxiliary Services? Unless we can have assurances in those respects, it appears that the machine of defence set up by His Majesty's Government last summer is in process of breaking down. We have a fear that the Cabinet have forced releases upon the three Services on a flat rate or percentage basis both in men and expenditure, without perhaps taking the whole defensive structure into the picture. Can they give us a reassurance that that is really not the case and that the defensive system of this country and the Commonwealth as a whole is being maintained?
Lastly I come to the commitments for which the Forces exist. This is not the appropriate time to discuss defence in India, but I may be pardoned if I repeat what I said in 1937:If you end the Pax Britannica and the British soldier marches out of India, there will be plague, pestilence, famine and great slaughter, probably resulting in civil war.Unfortunately that is the pathetic picture to-day. I mention it to show how much we owe to the men serving in India and all through the Empire in maintaining such a wonderful era of peace as we have seen until recently. It may be claimed that by marching out of India and leaving the defence of what was the Indian Empire to forces of defence and of law 175 and order purely Indian, we have reduced our commitments by some 50,000 men, and it may be claimed also that by leaving Palestine at an early date we are cutting down our commitments still further.
But there are two big considerations to weigh against this. First of all, our commitments in Germany require at least as many troops as we previously had in India prior to the war, and these troops, so far from getting the wonderful training which our soldiers received in India on the Frontier to make them, perhaps, some of the finest troops in the world, are scattered about in Germany on police duties so that they do not receive training of the same quality. Secondly, I would remind your Lordships that there is a new situation in India. Twice, in two great wars, we have seen a wonderful contribution from India to our defence which has just turned the scale in man-power—I do not think that is any exaggeration—from defeat to victory where the scales were nearly balanced. In the last war we had some two and a half million volunteers fighting in the cause of the King-Emperor in India. What is our future position to be? We do not know. I hope and pray that those great and gallant forces in India may be once more our comrades in any future conflict. That is a possible factor—I do not put it higher than that—which must be considered in looking at the whole defensive picture because on a more restricted view I am perfectly sure your potential man-power would be on a very different basis. If your target presented to Parliament is not reached, either in Regular troops or Territorials, we are facing a new world with potential forces which may be more slender than we have possessed in the last fifty years. I ask, therefore, if the noble Viscount can tell me what is the first-line strength of the three regular Services. I think we are entitled to know the broad position. In the past we have always had this information, and as much information as we could get as to the dispositions and formations in the Services.
I ask these questions. If it is really supremely urgent to release men for industry, have His Majesty's Government considered releasing 100,000 civil servants rather than disposing of trained men in the three Services? Since we all realize 176 that the man-power question is vital to our future existence, have the Government really had an exhaustive inquiry into the question of the school-leaving age? I feel I can confidently ask this question because it concerns a policy on which all Parties are agreed. It emanated from my friend Mr. Butler, who was able to get the Bill through and on to the Statute Book. If the Government can bring in 200,000 young people who are at the present moment eligible for industry, surely that is a wiser policy than so to extend releases from the Forces as to dispose of 150,000 trained men? That would be the wiser policy, more especially since I believe the schools and teachers are not ready to absorb the increase of children. I beg the Government to look at these two points.
One last word. We all realize the vital need to conserve our productive manpower to the utmost extent consistent with security. But is world peace so secure? I know the Government cannot speak so freely on this kind of subject as they might wish, but I believe no good purpose is served by behaving like ostriches. Indeed, we are failing in our duty to the country if we do not face up to realities. We all hope it is a temporary phase, but the fact is that at the moment aggressive action of a wider and more successful character has taken place during the last two years than was ever known before. Eight or nine countries are either in direct occupation or under control, while five more are living under the threat of penetration or actual attack. Therefore, I only say this. In looking at the future defence of this country we must admit that as yet—and I am not saying more than Ministers of His Majesty's Government have said—there is no peace. Worse than that, every single effort to promote a peaceful atmosphere is vetoed and defeated. Popular movements, which are surely the greatest hope of preserving peace, are thwarted, and we find again and again that the leaders of popular Parties are arrested and liquidated. So long as this aggressive temper in some parts of the world exists, I feel sure your Lordships will agree that we must examine the future policy of defence in this country with greater care than we would perhaps if the times were normal or if we could say that the United Nations were really able to co-operate and pursue a peaceful policy.
177 For the reason I have given I suggest to your Lordships that we should be very careful not to speed up the reduction of the Forces to such an extent that the training and efficiency of any of the Forces is affected, and I hope the Government will give us an assurance that they will do everything in their power to see that as little dislocation as possible is occasioned. We offer this warning to our countrymen, as we have sometimes had occasion to do before, and trust that it will be heeded. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.11 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to support the Motion which has been moved by my noble friend, Lord Croft. I propose to deal for a few moments with the naval aspect of this regrettable reduction in the man-power of the Armed Forces. We all realize the great importance of getting as many men into industry as possible at the present time, but I am sure your Lordships will agree that any reduction of the Armed Forces should bear a close relation to our commitments. Any wholesale reduction on any other basis would be very detrimental to the country as a whole in the present disturbed conditions in the world. There have been many rumours and statements in the Press, and now a statement in another place by the Minister of Defence that practically the whole of the ships of the Home Fleet are to be laid up for want of crews. The statement of the Minister of Defence indicated that the only operational squadron in home waters was now to be one cruiser and four destroyers. I would suggest that the fact that it has become suddenly necessary to deplete the Home Fleet in this disgraceful fashion has been due to the usual muddle-headed and hasty planning which has come to be associated with the administration of His Majesty's Government, and proper regard has not been had to the effect that a speed up in demobilization would have on His Majesty's Fleet.
Even if we assume that such demobilization as applied to the Navy is in the national interest, surely it would have been far better if His Majesty's Government had prepared a plan and disclosed it to the country and the Press before embarking on this demobilization and extraordinary new organization and allowing rumours to spread throughout the world to the detriment of the country as a whole.
178 In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Royal Navy has never been so humiliated in the eyes of the world since de Ruyter sailed up the Thames in the 17th Century and bombarded our ships which had been laid up owing to the improvidence of the Government. It has been said, with some truth, that if the Russian Fleet came out again to the Dogger Bank there would be little more than a fishing fleet there to meet them.
I cannot believe that it would not have been possible to produce a plan which would have mitigated the disastrous effects of the present speed-up in demobilization as applied to the Royal Navy. It would appear that the hurried realization that the man-power of the Forces must be cut to provide men for industry has been put into effect without any proper allowance being made for the replacement, especially in the Navy, of trained men, without whom a Fleet cannot put to sea or manœuvre in safety. It is the old story of "Wait and see," which runs continuously through the administration of His Majesty's Government, due to the fact that they seem incapable of making up their minds or of coming to a decision sufficiently early and in good time, whereby last-minute panic measures would be avoided. We have seen it in the coal crisis and in the financial crisis, and no doubt it is due to the difficulty which they have in carrying along with them all the cross currents of opinion in their Party. Meanwhile, however, the country becomes day by day more confused by hasty and last-minute planning, and we are now faced with one of the most disgraceful episodes in naval administration, forced on a reluctant Admiralty by the Government in a last-minute effort to stave off the advancing crisis for which, almost too late, they are endeavouring to make provision.
I should like to put a question to the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Admiralty. Does he suggest that the Admiralty Naval Staff are in agreement with the speed-up of demobilization as applied to the Navy; and are they satisfied that the Fleet can carry out its commitments? I understand that the Training Squadron is to continue in service, but it will be of little use to train men if there are no operational units for them to go to on completion. Modem naval warfare is highly complex. It cannot be learned entirely in a training squadron, but only 179 under actual Service conditions in fully commissioned ships with a Fleet at sea. In any case, what is the condition of the Training Squadron? All these ships have, in fact, ceased to be fighting units. Their complements of trained men have been reduced to the bare minimum, and the balance is necessarily composed of men who have entered almost entirely and for very short periods from civil life. The two battleships and the aircraft carrier which are the major units of this squadron have been considerably altered for training purposes, and it would be many months before they could be refitted and re-converted for operational use.
No doubt we shall be told, as the Minister of Defence told another place, that it is the intention of the Government to recommission all these ships at the earliest possible moment and as soon as crews are available. But the damage to our prestige abroad has already taken place, and yet one more weapon besides coal has been withdrawn from the armoury of the Foreign Minister during his difficult negotiations. I understand that the crews of the Home Fleet ships have been depleted in order to allow the Admiralty to comply with the speed-up in demobilization of men in the ships abroad. I do not propose to enlarge on methods which might have been employed to prevent the immobilization of the Home Fleet, such as spreading the scheme of demobilization in the case of the Navy over a little longer period, and bringing one or two ships home at a time from Foreign Stations, but I am anxious to obtain a categorical assurance from the First Lord of the Admiralty that all the ships of His Majesty's Fleet which have been immobilized by this hasty and ill-considered plan will, in fact, be recommissioned in the shortest possible tune. I would also like him to indicate what this time may be.
The effect of this depletion in the crews of the Home Fleet will undoubtedly have a far-reaching effect. It is, of course, well known to those of your Lordships who have served in the Navy that when a ship recommissions it is bound to take considerable time before she becomes an efficient fighting unit. Therefore, a serious state of affairs is bound to exist for a very long period in a large portion of the Fleet. And what of the interference in the training of 180 young naval officers? Compared with other cuts the matter I propose to refer to may seem small, even in fact petty. I refer to the withdrawal of the Fleet minesweeper, H.M.S. "Orcadia," from use for the training of cadets at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. Surely this is a most shortsighted policy, and I feel that in any circumstances this reduction is completely unnecessary. I hope the noble Viscount the First Lord will give this matter his serious consideration with a view to early replacement.
When we look at the training position of the Navy as a whole the matter becomes very much more serious. It is obvious that continuity an training is of the utmost importance to the Navy, and yet I understand that the Portsmouth training flotilla, which is used for the training of ratings in gunnery and torpedo is also to be immobilized. This flotilla is used not only for the special training I have mentioned, but also for training officers from the various schools, such as Navigation, Gunnery, Torpedo and Signals. Perhaps the First Lord in his reply will indicate how it is proposed to carry out the continuity of training. If the training in the Navy is allowed to break down it will be years, not months, before our ships of the Home Fleet can be recommissioned and become a fighting force.
There is yet another aspect which is becoming associated with this crisis in the Fleet. Officers are continuously inquiring as to the possible effect on their careers and whether an axe is perhaps already suspended above their heads and likely to fall at any moment. I hope the noble Viscount the First Lord will be able to give an unqualified assurance that their future will be protected. Their future must, of course, be bound up in the plan and future organization of the Fleet as a whole. This plan must, of course, be integrated with that for the two other Services. The war was won by combined operations, but as yet we have heard of no over-all plan. Has such a plan in fact been prepared—a properly co-ordinated plan, including the building and replacement of His Majesty's ships and taking into account such matters as atomic warfare, rocket guns and other probable changes in naval warfare?
We shall undoubtedly see a great change in naval construction and strategy as the result of the development of atomic 181 and other missiles. It is highly probable that the battleship of the future will be a platform for launching guided missiles rather than a floating fortress carrying batteries of heavy guns, and defence will be bound up with the means of shooting down or altering the direction of such missiles while they are still in flight. We hear from time to time that the American Navy is well forward in such modern design and organization. It may well be that the necessary steps have been taken here but that for security reasons no mention has been made of them. I am certain, however, that your Lordships and the country would like an assurance from the First Lord of the Admiralty that an over-all plan, comprising the points I have mentioned, does in fact exist.
The old saying that the strength of a chain is determined by its weakest link applies to all three Services in modern warfare. Any weakness in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force will react on each one of them. I now propose to refer for a few minutes to the state of our Fleets. In 1939, with man-power in the Navy at a strength of roughly 133,000 men as against the present figure approaching 170,000 men, the Home Fleet consisted of two battleships, two battle cruisers, two aircraft carriers, six cruisers and twenty-eight destroyers. I understand that before steps were taken to implement the new speed-up in demobilization the Home Fleet had already been reduced to one battleship, one aircraft carrier, five cruisers and twelve destroyers. What of the Fleets abroad? I understand that the Mediterranean Fleet has been reduced to two light aircraft carriers, four cruisers and a few destroyers; the Pacific Fleet to two light aircraft carriers, one cruiser and a few destroyers, and on the American and West Indies station there are one cruiser and two sloops. If this was the rather miserable state of our Fleet before the speed-up of demobilization, what will be the state of our Fleets in the near future?
I propose to refer for a few moments to actual demobilization figures. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty indicated in another place a day or two ago that the strength of the Navy on March 31, 1948, would be approximately 147,000 (which included 8,000 W.R.N.S.), as against the original proposed figure of 178,000, making a difference of 31,000.
182 Your Lordships will recall that it was announced by the Prime Minister on October 21 that the demobilization of the Armed Forces was to be speeded up to a figure of 70,000 by March 31. It will therefore be observed that no less than 31,000 men, or nearly 50 per cent., are to be taken from the Royal Navy. No wonder it has become necessary to lay up the Home Fleet when such a disproportionate demobilization figure is to be levied on the Navy as compared with the other two Services. Surely His Majesty's Government have not lost sight of the fact that potential expansion and training in the Navy presents far more difficulty than in the Army and should certainly at least be given equal consideration with that of the Air Force.
It would appear that cuts in man-power have been applied without regard to the widely different factors which apply to each of the Services. It has been truly said by one distinguished Admiral who wrote a letter to the Press recently that history shows that when in the past the Navy has been reduced below a certain level it has always taken a long time before it could get back into its stride again. Our squadrons abroad are shrunk to the size of token fleets, and the White Ensign, which has been the symbol of our greatness in the world, has been all but hauled down. It is true, no doubt, that in the course of necessary reductions the number of fully-manned ships may fall temporarily to a low level, but there are some levels below which the Fleet should never be allowed to sink, a level which has now been reached. That state of affairs has been brought on by a Government which has started to economize on man-power before full consideration has been given to the man-power necessary during the transition period. For the sake of a problematical gain in man-power for the export industry, the country has been left in a position in which it is unable to defend itself at sea should an emergency arise, and for a period which cannot yet be determined. I have little doubt that the Navy will do its utmost, by intensive training and organization, to make good in the shortest possible time the deficiencies which have been thrust upon it through no fault of its own, and quickly to wipe out the shame which has been cast upon it by an improvident Government.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
My Lords, if I may I would like to congratulate the the noble Lord, Lord Croft, on having moved this Motion. It is not the first Motion he has moved this year on defence questions, which shows the watchfulness of the Front Opposition Bench on this matter. It is very inspiring to an old Service man to hear him do so, when one remembers the situation two years after the first Great War, when all Parliament was doing was to clamour for the blood of the Services. And to-day they are standing up for them in both Houses, and saying "Give them more to eat; let us look after them" and, to the men of the Services, "Are you really sure that you are quite comfortable?"—and so on. I think that is very encouraging. I have myself in your Lordships' House on several occasions preached the importance of defence; and it always revolves round the same things: anxiety about the future, the certainty that we are going to be overwhelmed in the next war before we know it has happened, and distrust of the Government's doing anything to save us.
As regards the naval part of the discussion, around which this debate has partly revolved, the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, has already ably expressed the sailors' view; and he being an up-to-date naval officer compared to myself, I shall not venture to traverse the ground he covered. Speaking as an old hand, however, I do not view these cuts in the Navy's ships with quite the same mentality. There is no doubt that the naval personnel has got to be reduced; and it is a question of whether it is to be reduced gradually, with the continual dislocation that that causes, or whether it shall be done more or less in one swoop. That is as I understand it. If the time today is a time in which we can take risks, and if the Foreign Office have advised the Board of Admiralty that it is perfectly safe to lay up the Fleet, more or less, for the next six months, then I myself should be prepared to accept it. I have complete confidence in the Board of Admiralty to-day, and I cannot imagine their being in office if they were not perfectly happy that what they are doing is safe for the country.
Yesterday, the Minister of Defence made a very important speech in the other 184 place, in which he laid down certain priorities. He put research first, as an easy winner; the Air Force beat the Royal Navy by a head, and the Army, as usual, was an also ran. Whether that is a good way to put things or not, I do not know; I do not think it is. The three Services have been comrades throughout the war, and they have the utmost respect, and I believe affection, for each other. They do not mind who wins; all they want is that the country is properly defended. In defensive measures you have two considerations. One is; are your Forces such that if war were suddenly to come we could bring them to the fighting point in time to save us, and to defeat the enemy? The other is, to what extent are our Forces a deterrent to war? I think it could be quite rightly said that the dangers facing us on the seas to-day are very small. If we were to have what might be called a one-Power standard, leaving out the United States as we did in the peace years, our Fleet would be the same size, I suppose, as the Russian Fleet. But we have not a standard of that sort at the present day, even in the Air Force, so far as I know. I think that if war broke out, the greatest danger facing us would be from the air. If the greatest danger is from the air, then, if there is to be a priority, it is right that we should have such a strong Air Force as to be a deterrent to anybody attacking us from the air. We must also remember, however, that the only thing which makes it unnecessary for us to have a large conscript army, as France did, is the English Channel. Although Britannia may now feel a little uncomfortable as regards her head, her feet are still planted in the sea; and we must not allow the air danger, great as it may be, to make us forget that long line of merchant ships, trailing home in the oceans, on which we all depend.
I would add one comment about the first priority given by the Minister of Defence—namely research. We would all agree that there is nothing more important for the three Services than research. I have said many times, and in your Lordships' House, that future wars—I said this before this last war—will be won in the laboratories of the nation. But we must be very careful how the Government use that priority. It was used in the peace years as a means of preventing anything being done for the Services. The Govern- 185 ment used to say: "Go on experimenting; do not build anything, because the scientists may change things next year." But the scientists are always changing things, and you will never have any Services at all if you start on that line; you have to go on with things as you know them, and alter them as the scientists alter them. It is highly dangerous for research to be placed first from the financial point of view, as it was in the peace years, and for the ardour of the Services in restoring their strength to be damped.
Now, I come to the Army. An Army such as we can afford is, I think, more or less the idea behind the Army's position in the order of priority. We have gone back to the old game; the Army is to be put on a financial basis, and to have so much money as is left when the Navy and the Air Force have had their demands—or part of them—met. The Army will be easy game for the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and yet if the Army is let down the sailor and the airman will have exactly the same anxiety as the soldier. The great danger we had in the beginning of this last war was the loss of France. The Navy and the Air Force could not help France; it was only the Army that could do it. If we had had a bigger and better-equipped Army in France we might perhaps have cheered the French up so much that they would not have surrendered. I do not know. We might not have lost Norway. It was the loss of Norway and France that endangered us, because we then had our sea traffic exposed to greater dangers than had ever been foreseen in this country.
I do feel, then, that it is unfortunate that we should put the Services on a priority basis. They ought to be on a strategic basis. That is the policy we want. It is not enough merely to look at the dangers that we can see to-day and say: "Well, such and such a nation might attack us and she has only got such and such weapons; therefore, we need only such and such weapons." We cannot fight, or prepare to fight, like that, because it takes years and years to arm. Some of the Services take much longer than others to arm themselves. We cannot view our strength solely from the point of view of that potential enemy, nor can we measure it by our responsibilities to the United Nations.
186 Our strength must be measured by the vast areas of sea and air routes that we have to guard all over the world, as well as by the vital importance of guarding the home fortress from all forms of attack. It may be that to-day we cannot afford fully to meet all those responsibilities. It may be that we could do so if we were willing, but it may be that the responsibilities are less to-day than they were; I do not know. But I am quite sure that, unless there is placed behind our national defence a strategic policy, based on our Imperial position and responsibilities, then we shall have no process by which the three Services can go to the Government through the Minister of Defence, as they are able to to-day in a combined estimate, and ask for money to make the country safe. I see a kind of cloven hoof in this statement about priorities—a chance to say: "Well, we will build all the aircraft we want. Now how much is there left for the Navy? Yes, they can have so much." Then, with the Army, it may be, "Very sorry; come again tomorrow." That is the way it has so often been done before, and it looks to me as if we are laying the foundation in our defence policy for doing the same thing again.
I must remind your Lordships once more that democratic Governments are thoroughly suspect over defence. They have always let their countries down—always. Never have they been ready for war; always have they been thinking of other things. I hope that this Government are going to do better. I shall respectfully hope that at least they have learnt a lesson from the past, and I feel that they must try and give the country more confidence in their defensive attitude. They are rather playing about with it, I feel. We want to have two definite statements from the Minister of Defence. The first statement which we want is a statement as to what is our defence policy, how are we going to build up our strength, and on what principles. There is one other thing which we want the Minister of Defence to tell us, and that is, how he is going to restore our strength in time, because in the pre-war years we allowed our means of arming to decay. We let our armaments firms go bankrupt and yet we took no corresponding steps to maintain construction.
187 We were very nearly done in, and, when the country got frightened and voted hundreds of millions of pounds for defence, the nation could not spend it. In 1936, 1937 and 1938 there were hundreds of millions of money voted by a then frightened Parliament which remained unexpended in September, 1939, when war started. There was £150,000,000 in the naval estimates in September, 1939, which had not been spent, because there was not enough productive capacity in the country on which to spend it. What are the Government going to do to prevent that happening again? Are they going to do anything to build up and put in reserve our armour plants, our gun plants, our optical plants, our dockyards and all the other great businesses and firms on which we are going to lean if danger comes? Are they going to do anything about that? Have they a plan worked out so that, if they reduce the Services to a reasonable level, as they now must, they can bring us back into safety if we see danger, the red light, three or four years ahead? Can the First Lord of the Admiralty tell us that there is a policy being worked out? At any rate, if the First Lord cannot tell us that this afternoon, then it is a matter on which there ought to be a statement by the Minister of Defence at an early date, because it is right that the country should know perfectly clearly. If the country were told, then there would not be this anxiety in the papers when anything happens, and everybody is frightened that they are going to be let down again. I hope that the Government will do what they can to give us, through the First Lord to-day, some assurance as to our future.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, I feel some diffidence in following the statesmanlike, excellent and constructive speech of my noble friend who has just sat down. It was a non-provocative speech and my speech is not going to be quite on those lines. As the crisis deepens and the demand arises for more men to man the factories in order to increase exports, your Lordships cannot blame the Government for doing their best to get those men if they are really wanted, which I beg leave to doubt. At any rate, the Government are said to believe that delay is dangerous, and they consider it neces- 188 sary to demobilize the men of the Fleet at considerably greater speed than was originally planned. Where I join issue is, first, that I believe there are other ways of finding men without the disorganization of the sea defences. Secondly, I am not quite sure that the men are required.
Is the country so safe from sudden attack that men can be taken from the already largely depleted Fighting Services when it would be perfectly possible to get them from other Departments of the State? What has probably happened, in my opinion, is that responsible members of the Government have had to give in to pressure from the Left. I shall be told that the chiefs of the Services are in entire agreement with this sudden change of plan. The probable truth is that for political reasons they were told that there would be no war until 1956, and then they were asked to prepare plans for speedy demobilization on that assumption. How do our politicians know that there is going to be no war? Certain members of another place have just returned from a warm reception from the Marshal of a Foreign State. That alone makes me feel uneasy as to the prospects of peace. These gentlemen and their friends have been strong protagonists for weakening the Forces. My complaint is that it is pressure from them and from those who think like them that has forced the Government to depart from their original plan. The Labour Party must remain united at any cost.
I said just now that men could have been obtained from other Departments of State. We have not heard a word about reducing the man-power of our vast administrative services or of any curtailment of our internal expenditure. Although that would be perfectly possible, I presume it is politically impracticable, because it would not suit the plans of our Communist leaders and those other foreign agents who are such a force in the country at the present time, and of whom the Government are scared stiff. My Lords, the foreign States for which those gentlemen are agents want to see this country weak on land, on sea and in the air.
My second point is this. Although the Government say they want the men, are they right? We are now passing from a seller's to a buyer's market. The policy of the Government is to close down businesses supposed not to be necessary for 189 export, and to concentrate on those which are. Owing to the refusal of the Government to interfere with the continued upward spiral of wages and prices, it is doubtful whether, with the present high wages paid, our manufacturers will be able to compete in the world markets. The truth is that our leaders have been weak and feeble in their dealings with their Left Wing tail. They know as well as I do that our Communists—and I make no apology for mentioning that word again—under orders from abroad, have succeeded in sabotaging industry and are doing their best to prevent its recovery. Yet the Government do nothing, although they should know that the country will support any action they like to take against the evil machinations of these quislings. As a result of all this there is talk of unemployment this winter. So I ask again, are these men necessary, or is it possible that they may have to join the ranks of the unemployed?
We all know that the Home Fleet, for the first time in the history of the Navy, is to be practically wiped out. It is said that when naval demobilization is completed there will not, for a considerable time, be sufficient men to provide care and maintenance parties for the ships laid up. That has been said, but I hope it is not true. It is a very serious outlook if it is true, and I hope the First Lord when he replies will give an answer to that question.
With regard to foreign stations I am glad to read that the Minister of Defence stated in another place that the Mediterranean and East Indies Fleets are to be left virtually intact, but, as your Lordships know, the West Indies Squadron is to be reduced to one cruiser. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, gave a list of the ships which are being reduced. I should like to know whether that list is correct, because I want to know what reductions are to be made in the China station and in the Pacific. With regard to this I would remind the Government that the old saying that trade follows the flag still holds good, We who have served in the Navy know that there have been occasions when the dispatch of a flying squadron to certain countries has resulted in a considerable increase in the demand in those countries for British goods. If it is the intention of the Government to remove a number of ships from foreign stations, even temporarily, a blow will be dealt at 190 our prestige which may have a resultant bad effect on our trade. I believe that there is as much importance in showing the White Ensign on the Pacific and Atlantic seaboards of South America as there is in the Mediterranean and China. I suppose the mind of the Government is made up, but it is a housand pities that other ways of finding men could not have been found. For the reasons I have given I support the Motion.
§ 3.55 p.m.
My Lords, my remarks this afternoon will deal mainly with the Navy, but many of them are applicable to the other Services. I, like the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, feel that this problem should be tackled on the broadest basis, regarding the defence of the country as a whole. Lord Chatfield, in his most masterly speech, has emphasized the importance of the Ministry of Defence tackling the problem from the strategical point of view and not as one of priorites.
I want to follow up that point, but to picture it in rather a different way. When the appointment of Minister of Defence was made after the war, I for one very much welcomed it; and one hoped that this all-powerful Minister of Defence would become the champion of the Services, that in fact he would become their Minister of Defence. But I have been very disappointed, because I do not feel that it has in fact worked out in that way at all. I do not feel that he has acted as the champion of the Services; I feel that he has not stood up against the other members of the Government who were not so defence-minded, in the way that he should have done. In fact, what I think is that we have not got a Minister of Defence at all. What we have got is a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence—that milk-and-water post which, with all due respect to Lord Chatfield, proved such a failure in the past. There is a big danger of the Minister of Defence becoming merely a Post Office, a feather bed muffling protests from Service chiefs to make quite sure that they do not reach the Cabinet. I do feel that the Minister of Defence should become much more the defender and the champion of the Services.
I listened with very great interest to the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham. He took us back in history to the laying up of the Fleet in 1666 by 191 the rather improvident Government of that time. Going a little further into history, it is rather interesting to recall that the fourth Lord Teynham was taking part in a somewhat similar debate in the autumn of that very year on the disaster which had befallen the fleet at that time. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, was asked for another assurance, and it is one which must be very much present in the minds of officers and men at the present time, particularly naval officers and men. I speak feelingly on this matter for I myself suffered under the Geddes Axe. I think that it is important that some assurance on the security of the position of permanent officers and men should be made.
I think noble Lords on all sides of the House will agree that the best answer to the present man-power shortages of the three Services is an increase in recruiting for long service. I am sure the noble Lord will agree with me that the Navy particularly must depend on the long-service rating, and I am not altogether satisfied that enough is being done to make long service attractive. One hears it said, "I have enjoyed my service in the Navy and in the Air Force." But there are certain disadvantages which naturally are inherent to service in the Forces. There is the lack of a permanent home, and the separation from wife and family. Particularly to-day when so many of the younger officers and men are married, I feel that more ought to be done to enable their families to join them in whatever part of the world they are serving, and to help them with regard to housing and married quarters, and so forth, in the ports and naval stations. I do not think that point can be emphasized enough, and it is one of the great deterrents to long-service recruiting to-day. It is true to say that the Navy can really do very little with the National Service rating who only comes to it for a period of one year. There just is not time.
I would, therefore, like to put forward a concrete suggestion to the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, which, I think, might be considered and which might well help the Navy in the interim period until sufficient long-service ratings are available. As any noble Lord who has served in the Navy or has had anything to do with it, well knows, there is no lack of young men who 192 wish to join. I, myself, have had numerous letters from young men who are coming forward for their National Service training. They write to ask me to help them to get into the Navy. Could it not be made possible to say to these young men—that is, of course, those who fulfil the standards of the Navy: "All right, you axe keen to join the Navy. Are you prepared to sign an undertaking that at the end of your year's National Service you will volunteer for a further six months or a year with the Colours?" I am not suggesting for a moment that the National Service period in the Navy should be a different period. But I do think that if this suggestion were adopted we should find that a lot of young fellows would be prepared to volunteer to serve for additional time.
Before I sit down I would like to say one word about the Fleet Air Arm. Surprisingly little has been said about this branch of the Navy either here or in another place. I would remind your Lordships that almost throughout the entire war in the Pacific the major part was played by the aircraft carriers. There were very few occasions when surface ships came into contact. I believe I am correct in saying that there are to-day only three British aircraft carriers in the whole world capable of receiving an aircraft on to the deck. I do not mean that there are not other aircraft carriers in commission—in training squadrons and so forth. But if a squadron had to land aircraft to-day there are only three British aircraft carriers in the whole world on which they could do so. As I said before, there may be aircraft carriers used for training, but they are not operational. It takes a long time to get an aircraft carrier which has been used in other ways ready for operational work. I came home from Australia last year in an aircraft carrier on which hangars had been converted into dormitories and other arrangements had been made for the accommodation of 600 Australian brides. The flight deck had been used for dances and other recreational purposes. You could not suggest that such a ship was in any way ready to meet operational needs, or that it would be useful for serious work with the Fleet Air Arm until a great deal of work had been carried out upon it.
I would suggest that in peace time the naval pilot has a more hazardous task to 193 perform than his counterpart in any other branch of his own Service, indeed, I think, perhaps, more hazardous than in any other Service, including the Royal Air Force. It is a very difficult thing indeed to put a modern fast aircraft down on to the deck of an aircraft carrier. It can only be done with safety if the naval pilot is kept in constant practice in a carrier, or is otherwise enabled to practice such landings frequently on the deck of a carrier. I think that it is little short of criminal if these young men to-day are to be kept hanging about on airfields with absolutely no chance of operational flying training afloat. I do not refer only to training as individuals, but also to operational flying training with their squadrons, for that is very necessary in addition to the practice of individual landings. Before I pass from the Fleet Air Arm I would remind noble Lords of one other matter. I think it is true that the cheapest and quickest way of sending a small air striking force (and this has been proved many times) to a distant part of the world, if some trouble should occur, is by sending a carrier with its proper complement of air squadrons. It has been done on a number of occasions, and I feel sure that it will be necessary again. That, I submit, is another reason why the Fleet Air Arm should be always up to operational standards.
That is all I have to say but I should like to end by going briefly over the suggestions which I have made. First I spoke of the danger that the Ministry of Defence will cease to be the Ministry of Defence and will become merely a coordinating body, an additional link in a chain. Then there was my suggestion about young men entering the Navy being given the opportunity of volunteering for an extra period of six months or a year, and finally I have stressed the absolutely vital necessity, for their own safety, of young naval pilots having proper facilities for practice in taking off and landing on aircraft carriers and generally keeping in training afloat.
§ 4.7 p.m.
My Lords, the question of National Service men, to which my noble friend who has just sat down has referred, is a very thorny one. I trust that the suggestion that he has made will receive the consideration of the noble Viscount opposite, although that may be rather too optimistic. I do not really feel 194 that he will get many fish in the net which he proposes to spread. On this subject, I would add that if the length of service for conscripts had not been reduced from eighteen months to twelve months we should not find the difficulty in this connexion so great as it is to-day. In fact, I think that the whole of that system may well stand in great jeopardy at the moment, as regards both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, on account of the shortness of the period of service.
If I once again confine my remarks to the Navy, I trust that it will be understood that I do not do so in any narrow-minded spirit, or with any feeling as to the claims or worth of one Service as opposed to any other. I had the privilege of serving for two and a half years in Combined Operations, and although from an entirely Naval point of view the work was sometimes rather thankless, from the broader aspect I shall never regret it. I sincerely hope that the spirit which inspired all of us, in all three Services, to work together as we did in. war will survive in peace, because it is only in this way that we shall obtain that unselfishness and efficiency which are absolutely essential in the smaller Forces of the future. Having said that, I would like to make a few remarks upon the Navy, as it-appears that at the moment we have more information about this Service than about any other. I am bound to say that this information has been somewhat reluctantly squeezed out of Ministers; but it does give us a broad picture.
It always strikes me forcibly that when this Government wish to make an announcement, if they can possibly do so in the wrong way, they do it; and thereby they harm their own case. Why could we not have been given a properly balanced statement long before, instead of hearing it first from the B.B.C. and then from the Press? Now we do know the position and it is much worse than that forecast by the Press, for however much the Minister of Defence may wriggle the fact remains that the operational strength of the Home Fleet is now only one cruiser and four battle destroyers. Of course we know that in an emergency they can be manned in two or three weeks, but even then they would not be operationally fit for some months, as anybody who has had anything to do with the sea knows. This was admitted last night by 195 the Minister of Defence, in a statement somewhat contrary to his previous statement, that so long as the ships were kept in commission they could be restored to full operational condition as soon as minor adjustments had been, completed. Of course, that is not so. They would not be operationally fit for a number of months after that.
I believe that this has come as a great shock to the nation, but perhaps it was even a greater shock when some days after the announcement made on the B.B.C. the Prime Minister, with the Minister of Defence sitting beside him, was unable to answer the question put to him by the Leader of the Opposition. As my noble friend Lord Teynham, has said, the operational strength of the Navy has never been so low, perhaps, since the days of Charles II when, as your Lordships may recollect, the Dutch sailed up the Thames and the Medway and burned Sheerness and Rochester. I do not know if the First Lord is a student of Samuel Pepys, but Pepys was Secretary of the Admiralty at that time and on that lamentable occasion wrote in his famous Diary that he carried about £300 in gold, in case he should be surprised, for (to quote):I think, in any Nation but ours, people that appear so faulty as we, would have their throats cut!For the sake of the Minister of Defence and the noble Lord opposite I hope that our people will remain as tolerant now as they were then. The assurances we have received from the Minister of Defence in another place, that this is only a temporary readjustment—and I am sure the First Lord this afternoon will repeat them—must be accepted. But whereas it is always easy to cut, it is difficult to rebuild. As The Times truly said on October 24: "It is always much easier to reduce the Navy than expand it." I hope the First Lord will reassure us once more this afternoon that it is his positive intention to see that this rebuilding is carried out, whatever may happen.
On this point there is one aspect I would like him to think over before he replies. I do not believe that in the 1947 Estimates any allowance was made for new construction. Financial cuts were imposed early in the year, then came the manpower cuts announced by the Prime Minister last week. Now, as sure as night 196 follows day, there are to be further financial cuts. Man-power is affected just as much by financial cuts as by numerical cuts; unless all other votes are reduced out of proportion to Vote A. This, I believe, is where the danger lies, for when the Admiralty are told to reduce their Estimates for next year, if not earlier, I cannot see—in spite of the assurances of the Minister of Defence—how they will be able fully to re-commission these ships in the Home Fleet without sacrificing any proposed allowance for new construction.
We must realize that the ships which make up the Navy to-day are comparatively modern, having all been completed in the last five or six years. In fifteen years time, or probably less, under present conditions, we shall find ourselves in the position of having a completely out-of-date Navy; and in the light of new discoveries that period of fifteen years might very easily be reduced. In view of the advance of science and new weapons, it is of the utmost necessity that we make a start with building new ships. I know that the short view is important, but I feel that in the state of the world as it is to-day, the long view is more important. Therefore before the noble Viscount reassures us that these ships will be re-commissioned in 1948, I hope he will be able to say that new construction has not been entirely sacrificed. I may be accused of being too previous, but it is necessary to start building because, as anyone who has had anything to do with shipbuilding knows, there are many faults and teething troubles wich may take years to overcome. In this respect the Report issued on July 16 on the expenditure on research and development does not make very happy reading.
The paramount importance of scientific research for defence purposes must be in the forefront of the Defence Minister's mind, and in one way I am glad that he made the statement last night giving priority to defence research. It appears from the figures available in this Report, however, that the estimated expenditure on defence research for 1947-48 is £42,700,000, less a small amount put aside for civil research. In view of the vital importance of this research, that does not seem to me a very large figure when one considers that £900,000,000 is the amount spent annually on the three Services. The Committee pointed out that 197 money was not the main reason for holding up new lines of research; it was lack of scientists and accommodation. I know that they expressed themselves as concerned about delays in construction through apparently meaningless priorities which had been given in the last two years. Another complaint was the rather unco-operative attitude of the Admiralty. In the past we have often led the world in discoveries and then lost our initial advantages. We cannot afford to lose these advantages again in the future. I do hope the Government will show renewed vigour and energy in this case, for our very existence may well depend on these researches. One had hoped that on the birth of the Defence Ministry a great impetus would have been given to these projects which so vitally affect the Navy and Air Force, but seven months had passed when this Report was published, showing delays which might well have been disastrous.
There is another minor point to which I would like to draw attention. My noble friend, the Earl of Glasgow, spoke shortly upon it. It was not a secret—in fact, it was announced last night by the Minister of Defence—that the West Indies Squadron was to be reduced. The area of this station is a very large one, taking in the coasts of South America and North America, and the Pacific and Altantic coasts. One of the primary duties of this squadron, which has now been reduced to one cruiser and two sloops, as the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, said, is to show the flag. Before the war there were four cruisers and four sloops on this Station. The First Lord of the Admiralty himself has said:The cause of freedom throughout the world to a large extent has been promoted and maintained by the ships of the Royal Navy in every sea.I would add that the presence of ships, and the friendliness which officers and men promote through their visits, have contributed very largely to our overseas trade in the past. It therefore seems to me to be a very short-sighted policy, at this moment of all moments, to reduce this squadron, when every method should be used to advertise our strength and presence and promote friendship in the hard currency countries of South America. If the Treasury have forced this reduction upon the Admiralty in order to save expenditure in South America, I feel certain 198 that it is a wrong decision, and that this expenditure would be repaid many times over by keeping up our prestige in those-countries. In happier days sea power and sterling were an unconquerable combination in gaining our overseas trade. Because the value of our sterling has depreciated, I see no reason why we should spurn our sea power in those areas.
In conclusion, I would say that the nation had expected great things from the Minister of Defence when he was appointed. It hoped that he would grasp the great opportunity offered him, make it plain to us that he had courageous vision, weld the three Services almost as one, and boldly fight their battles in Cabinet. But what has happened? First, there has been No 1ndication or announcement of far-reaching consequences due to new discoveries in scientific warfare which if pressed with vigour, might well save this country, if not from extinction at least from vast expenditure in the future. All. that has appeared is this somewhat alarming document to which I have referred.
Secondly—I stand to be corrected, and I hope I am wrong—I do not not feel that the present Minister has done much to lead the three Services into greater cooperation. Anyway, there has been no outward and visible sign of it. As the supply services gradually shrink, so will the rival claims of the three Services increase, and it will be all the more necessary that there should be the strong and tactful guiding hand of the Minister of Defence to deal with those claims. I feel that some of the good will which was built up between the Services during the war has, in two years, been dissipated. There must be no spirit of one Service trying to outsmart the others in any shape or form, and I hope the Minister will take note of this point and prevent anything of the kind happening. For that very reason, as my noble friend Lord Chatfield said just now in his powerful speech, it is perhaps unfortunate that the Minister of Defence last night produced a list of priorities, which will only cause fighting amongst the various Services as to their share in those priorities.
Thirdly, and last of all, and perhaps most important of all, I do not believe the present Minister of Defence has the confidence of the country or the Services behind him. Certainly his lack of courage in handling the National Service Bill, and 199 the manner in which these outs have been announced, are not calculated to inspire that confidence. Without the support of the country behind him I do not see how he can fight the battles of the Services in Cabinet. Until such time that the Minister, or any other Minister in that position, shows the courage, vision and co-operation that I have outlined, I can only think that the manner in which the defence of this country and the Empire is handled must be regarded with alarm.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, it was only about a week ago, on this year's anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, that those wonderful judges of psychology who compose His Majesty's Government decided to release the news of the naval cuts. For months past in another place efforts have been made to get the Minister of Defence to produce a White Paper dealing with naval defence and the requirements of the Navy. Right up to the present moment he has continued to refuse to produce a White Paper for the benefit of Parliament and the country showing what our naval requirements are and what sort of Navy we are likely to have. Not only has he refused that, but all the answers which he has given in another place have been extraordinarily vague and evasive. On October 23, the Minister of Defence made a statement in another place regarding the period of immobility and containing such phrases as; "It may be a matter of some months" in some cases, and that in others "It will be quite short." Then, dealing with the number of ships to be brought back to full commission, he said: "Relatively short notice" will be required, and so on. All those terms are merely relative terms, and they give the country no sort of assurance whatever with regard to the state of its naval preparedness. It seems to me that the answers of His Majesty's Government on the whole subject of the Navy have been about as vague and cvasive as they could be.
In February the Government published a White Paper relating to defence, which laid down some requirements to which the Navy and the Services generally would have to conform. It said, for instance:In Palestine the preservation of law and order and the control of illegal immigration 200 requires the presence of substantial forces of all three Services.The White Paper goes on to say:We must also continue to provide small garrisons for British Colonies.Dealing with the Indian Ocean it says:British Forces are required in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, and some Forces are also being retained for the present in India and Burma.As to the Far East, it goes on to say:We must maintain Forces in the Far East to provide garrisons for British territories, including Hong Kong and Malaya, and to assist in maintaining security.The White Paper then went on to lay down the requirements for a long-term policy. This is what it said:In the long run, therefore, the size of our Armed Forces will be governed by the degree of disarmament actually achieved"—presumably, world disarmament. May I ask the noble Viscount who is going to reply, whether he can assure us that the size of our Armed Forces to-day has been dictated by the principles laid down in this White Paper of February; that is to say, by the degree of world disarmament? The White Paper goes on to say:In any event the meeting of the following long-term commitments is fundamental to our ability to fulfil our declared intention to support the object of the United Nations.Will the Government be able to live up to that requirement? The White Paper continues:The safeguarding of communications. The safeguarding of communications is vital to the defence of the United Kingdom and to the preservation of the links of the other parts of the Commonwealth and Empire, and requires, therefore, the maintenance of forces in various parts of the world.The' Navy is presumably one of the Services which is referred to there. Can the noble Lord assure us that the immobilized Fleet will be able to discharge those requirements for, shall we say, the next five or ten years? I am perfectly certain that while it is very easy to break up a Navy, it is going to take a great many years to get it back into active commission again, and to make it operational. As many of your Lordships know, any ship which is commissioned from the start will be very lucky if she becomes fully operational in six months. That is when you are dealing with trained personnel, but when you are dealing with personnel who are only half trained, or are not even trained at all, it is going to take a very much longer time than has been envisaged so far.
201 Then there is the requirement laid down in this White Paper that we must be prepared to provide Forces for use under the Security Council when called upon to do so, and under Article 43 of the Charter we must shortly conclude an agreement with the Council for this purpose. Will this immobilized Fleet of ours be able to comply with any of the requirements laid down in the White Paper? It was only published in February of this year, and I think we should be told something about it. It is an ominous fact, and one which I think has alarmed people more than anything else, that there appears to be no settled policy in the Government about this question. On August 6 the Prime Minister in another place stated thatIt is very difficult, without creating chaos, to accelerate this run-down more than within a limited amount at one time.I have no doubt that everybody accepted that at the time when that statement was made. But here is a curious fact. It was made almost on the same day that the Prime Minister announced that the basic petrol ration was going to remain, an announcement which was subsequently cancelled three weeks later, as we all know. It has taken a few months for the Prime Minister to eat that statement which he made.
There are certain specific questions one really wants to ask. With regard to this striking force. When this wonderful striking force of one cruiser and four destroyers was announced, why was it necessary for the Government to say: "One cruiser and four battle-class destroyers?" The ordinary public in this country cannot distinguish between a battle cruiser and a battle-class destroyer. I submit that it would have been better and more impressive if they had said: "One cruiser and four destroyers." The strength of the Fleet is to be cut down to 147,000 officers and men. I' had the greatest difficulty in obtaining a report of the remarks of the Minister of Defence yesterday in another place because Hansard is not yet out, so I had to depend upon the columns of The Times newspaper. In that report it is stated that 22,000 of the 147,000 personnel for the Fleet are going to be National Service men, men only enlisted for one year. Those men will be lucky if by the end of one year they are really able to take an effective part in the ships. They cannot 202 really be looked upon as being a very great reinforcement for the Navy.
Then again it is stated that the Naval Auxiliary Forces will amount to 11,800 men. How in the world do the Admiralty or the Minister of Defence imagine that you are going to be able to train some 33,000 men in an immobilized Fleet? It is no use saying that a Fleet which does not go to sea can really train either officers or men. Ships companies cannot be trained by swinging round the hook or propping up a dock wall. I suggest that these points must be answered. How are you going to provide for the training of the R.N.V.R. divisions which is referred to in this White Paper? The White Paper says that the speedy reconstitution of the R.N.V.R. is one of the things upon which His Majesty's Government set the greatest store. You will not have very much of an R.N.V.R. unless you can train them and unless they can go to sea. There were periods before the war when it was possible to extend R.N.V.R. training to such an extent, that at times that the men concerned became "browned off" and it was very difficult to get the best out of them. R.N.V.R. officers and men under training can only take their period of training when they happen to synchronize with their holidays. Holidays are now staggered, and in any event they take place at different times in different parts of the country. Unless you have a Fleet which is available more or less all the year round, you will not be able to get very much training for your R.N.V.R. officers and men whom you must look upon for your primary reserves for the Navy of the future. Why cannot the Admiralty publish a White Paper? Are they afraid of Mr. Vyshinsky finding out too much about our Navy? What is the anxiety? Why cannot the country be told? For instance, why cannot a White Paper be published showing the strength of the Home Fleet, showing the strength of the Fleet Air Arm, showing the ships we have on foreign stations, and, indeed the ships in reserve? Let us know where we are.
What is going to happen to the dockyards? Everybody wants to know that. At the beginning of the last war it was possible to go and shoot quite a lot of rabbits in Rosyth dockyard. Are we going to reduce Rosyth dockyard again to the same state? Statements have been 203 made in the Press with regard to the future of Chatham dockyard. What is going to happen? Not a word has been said in either House of Parliament as to the future of dockyards, and yet they are vital. Once you reduce a dockyard to care and maintenance we all know how long it takes to get that dockyard up to full operational efficiency again. The same thing applies to dockyards overseas: Singapore, Trincomalee, Hong Kong, Simonstown, Malta and Bermuda. What is going to happen to all those stations? Are they all going to be cut down? Are some of them going to be put out of commission altogether?
There is a further question. With regard to the training establishments, gunnery, torpedo, signals, navigation and the like, what is going to happen? We might have been told all these sort of things in a White Paper, but we have not been told what is going to be the state of affairs. Are the gunnery, torpedo, signal and navigational schools all going to be closed down for the period of immobilization, however long that may be? Then again there is the news published this morning and confirmed by the B.B.C.—which always delights in giving us this sort of thing on the one o'clock news—that the stokers' training establishment, the "Imperieuse" at Devonport, is to be closed down and such stokers as may be under training have to be trained ashore. That does not sound a very good state of affairs.
I submit that immobilization of the Fleet is one of the worst things that has ever happened. It simply means that for a very long time neither officers nor men can possibly hope to obtain any training, and that applies particularly to the officers. After all, the officers will have no opportunity to handle ships—or practically none—during that period, and it seems to me that it is running a most appalling risk to do what has been done.
Then with regard to foreign policy. I have always said that the efficiency and effectiveness of our foreign policy depends on the state of efficiency of our Forces. If you are going to cut down your Forces, what sort of difficulties is the Foreign Secretary likely to encounter? Will he find it easier, for instance, to deal with Mr. Vyshinsky by. reason of the demobilization of the Fleet? Or will it make it easier for him to deal 204 with all the questions that may arise out in the East in the future? It seems to me that there will be a great danger in the future of the Navy being asked to carry out impossible tasks with inadequate forces.
There is one other matter to which I want to refer. The Minister of Defence said in another place yesterday that the matter had not been discussed with or accepted by the Dominion Governments, who had however been advised of the situation before the announcement in the House. One would have thought that we had learnt something in recent years. Are we really to understand that this is a unilateral decision taken by this country and that there has been no discussion with the Dominions? The Minister of Defence went on to say that "the Dominions have made no answer to notifications of reductions." He was "sure they all recognized the country's difficulties." Have we in these days No 1mperial General Staff or anything of the sort, to collect information from the Dominions as to what they think? I really feel that the country has a right to much more definite and up-to-date information than the Government have so far seemed to give. For that reason I want to support this Motion, and I hope the First Lord will be able to give an answer to the questions I have raised.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD NEWALL
My Lords, I should like to say how much I enjoyed the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, whose knowledge flows from very long experience. I hope his speech will be read by everybody, for I feel it should do great good in all directions. I do not propose to deal with the merits or otherwise of the recent cuts. We all know full well that some reductions are inevitable. There is, however, apprehension that these cuts may be made without due regard to the interdependence of the three Services, and may result in our Defence Forces as a whole being unbalanced and inadequate for the preservation of our security. Recent publicity has been focused so far almost entirely on the Royal Navy, and the Home Fleet in particular. It is really unsound to consider the requirements of any one Service by itself without having regard to our Defence requirements as a whole. I suggest that what we require, not only to meet current needs, but also to counter any 205 possible future threats, is a balanced force consisting of all arms in which we get worked out the full interdependence of the three Services. For instance, the protection of our sea communications, which obviously is one of the most vital considerations of our defence policy and concerns not only Britain but the whole Commonwealth and Empire, is a result which cannot be achieved by sea forces alone, but necessitates the closest cooperation between sea and air forces.
I think it is well to remember that the main future threat to this country and our general security will come through the air; and though there may be revolutionary changes in warfare in the distant future, for a considerable time to come the only means at our disposal for meeting it will be through the air. It will also be appreciated that such a threat would be a very sudden threat, which would immediately become a fight for our very survival. No doubt for financial reasons our Defence Forces will be less than we wish. It has always been so and always will be so. But it is vital at this present juncture to ensure that the combined Defence Force is of the very highest quality. It must be properly balanced, fully and appropriately equipped, and maintained in a condition of immediate readiness. This Force, and particularly its Air Force element, will be our shield for we can no longer rely solely on the readiness of our Fleet.
As noble Lords are no doubt well aware, we cannot count, as in the past, on a period of expansion after mobilization, and therefore our peace-time combined Forces must be ready not only to meet the initial impact, but also to continue the fight for a considerable time. For this reason all three Services, but particularly the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, require a peace-time strength largely composed of regular long-service personnel. I would strongly urge His Majesty's Government constantly to bear in mind this most important fact, and I trust sincerely that they will not allow even the present serious economic crisis to obscure from the country the very vital importance of regular recruiting in all three Services. I know it is difficult, but I am sure it can be done.
If we concentrate unduly on demobilization and releases and ignore the effects of this great exodus of skilled men from the Services, we shall find ourselves within a 206 very short time with a Navy, Army and Air Force weaker even than the most hardened advocates of reduction would regard as safe. Many suggestions have been put forward in previous debates in your Lordships' House as to how to attract volunteers for the Services. I do not propose to deal with this in detail to-day except to say: Give them amenities; provide more married quarters; and above all guarantee full and continuous employment in civil life when they leave the Services. Given these three things alone, I am sure we shall get the men. The question of men already serving on long engagements is a different question and is concerned with the pay which they receive.
Lastly, I want to say a few words regarding research and development, particularly for the Royal Air Force. I noticed in the Press this morning that the Minister of Defence had said that research was being given high priority. That is excellent and all to the good. At this time, when quantity is being so drastically reduced, greater efforts should be devoted not only to scientific research but also to the development of new types and preparation for their production, in order to maintain the high quality of the Forces. I am well aware that this will cost money, but it will be money well spent. I would like to remind your Lordships that superior equipment was one of the main factors which enabled us to defend this country in 1940. I would be very grateful for a definite assurance from the noble Viscount who is going to reply, that His Majesty's Government's advisers are satisfied that intensive research is going as it should do, that development and production of new types of aircraft are not falling behind those of other countries, and that they are satisfied with them. Admittedly, some reductions are inevitable, but there is—and I say this with full thought—genuine concern lest the result will be three separate Services cut to the bone.
Your Lordships will forgive me for one moment if I reminisce and say that in the five years preceding the last war I had perhaps as good an opportunity as anybody in this country of seeing the unfortunate results of three separate Services all fighting their own battle, struggling to obtain money, the sum total of which was not adequate. The loss of time, the loss of effort and the inefficiency resulting from that state of affairs were really appalling. They were 207 caused largely by the scarcity of money, but they were also due to the fact that nobody really controlled the three Services. We had no Minister of Defence in those days: the man responsible was merely a co-ordinator, in a very difficult position. The other cause of that state of affairs was the unwise, narrow-minded partisan outbursts from various people all over the country, and in the Press, advocating one particular weapon or another, and not looking, at the defence problem as a whole.
We now have an opportunity of considering our national defence policy and the requirements of the three Services as one whole. I trust sincerely that the Minister of Defence will seize hold of the job with both hands, and hold it firmly, though I regret to say that even now I see symptoms of that same unfortunate state of affairs as existed before the war. I hope that your Lordships' House and people all over the country will do their utmost to stop it recurring. Surely, after all our experience of the past war and the necessity of having co-ordinated Forces, not only all sailors, soldiers and airmen, but all thinking citizens will realize that it is only by a properly balanced and fully efficient Defence Force, based on close cooperation between the Services, that we can hope to preserve our security and maintain our needs for peace and law and order throughout the world.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I was unavoidably detained and could not be present when I wanted to hear the early stages in this debate, but in spite of that I would like to intervene for a few minutes. I apologize to the noble Lord who is to reply for not having had an opportunity of telling him the two points which I wish to raise. I will straight away endorse what the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said about the need for having force to back foreign policy. As my noble friend Lord Newall has reminded your Lordships, it was the Foreign Secretary who said that the carrying out of British policy depends much on the power which he has behind him. British foreign policy ideals are very important, but ideals without powerful forces behind them are positively dangerous. This has been said by many others who carry much greater weight in matters 208 of foreign policy, and in the power behind it, than I can hope to do.
We have a National Service Act under which everybody has to serve for a year, but the Services still depend mainly for their day-to-day work, their week-to-week work and their year-to-year work, on their voluntary Regular strength. I see in the papers that we have no strength given per regiment, but that regiments will have to be reduced unless sufficient recruits for the Regular Army can be obtained. The "Regular" Navy is not, I believe, in the same difficulty, but they may be one day. The Air Force also want "Regular" recruits. There has been talk about amenities and other things to induce recruits to join. I make no apology for raising the subject that I have now raised four times, four years running, in your Lordships' House. I say that there is an economic solution which would benefit the three Services equally, and it would also benefit the whole of the Civil Service of this country. If you will take this course, every man who has served three, four or five years in one of the Services can be sure of getting employment under the Government.
I will not go into the subject at length. The noble Lord who replied last time. Lord Nathan, had not consulted one civil Department, and said so. I referred to the fact that there was a Committee sitting to investigate this question. I asked if the Navy or the Army had joined in it. I also asked if the Civil Service had been included. Since that time all branches of the Civil Service have been greatly increased. I will not go into the facts which I have tried to get, to show how many recruits every year will go into these services—education, the Post Office, the Colonial Service, the police, now the railways and electric light, and, later, gas and other things. Most of your Lordships surely know that many who have risen to distinction in the past in the Civil Service—there have been a great number in the Post Office and in the Church—have served three, four or five years in one of the fighting Services. That remark applies to men from all ranks in the Services.
If the Government assured these men that service in the Fighting Services would count towards a pension in their civil service, they would secure a great many volunteers. Fifty per cent. of them should get first priority, provided they had 209 not blotted their copybook. We must make certain that men in the Regular Army are fully qualified and will be looked upon with favour in the civil services of this country and not engaged on sufferance. It must not be regarded almost a charitable act to take them on, but four or five years' service in the Navy, Army or Air Force must be looked upon as an asset. I am certain—and I know the gallant Admiral would say the same—that it is an asset to everyone. That is one point. Is inquiry being made in all the civil services? It is no good asking whether all the services have agreed. Would not this proposal be an economically good thing and an advantage for the whole country?
There is one other point. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, has asked for a White Paper on the strength of the Fleet. I agree; but before we come to that cannot we have a Navy List again? Cannot we have an Army List? Cannot we have an Air Force List? The Minister of Defence in another place spoke about one cruiser and so many battle-destroyers. I have not heard the term "battle-destroyer" before, but I daresay it is well known in the Navy. I suppose it is a new term. Cannot we have a Navy List? Cannot we also have an Air Force List, showing how many fighter squadrons and how many bomber squadrons there are? When we woke up at the beginning of the last war, we had all fighter squadrons and no bomber squadrons, and therefore the war went on. The Navy feel keen on having their ships in commission. It is bombers that will prevent the outbreak of war, not fighters, but we want both. Why should we not know the number of squadrons? Why should we not know the Army List? One of the battalions of the regiment in which I served for many years is being done away with. Well, can we not have the Army List published again so that we shall know? I apologize again for not having given notice to the noble Lord of these two points, but I was unavoidably detained.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD MOUNTEVANS
My Lords, before we hear the noble Viscount, the First Lord of the Admiralty, who will reply for the Government, I should like to make one or two comments, the first and most important being that, if the Opposition really thought the situation so 210 serious, why, oh why, are they absent from their places? Secondly, I must say how proud I am that this afternoon has turned out to be a "naval occasion." We have been taught not to go into politics, and none of the noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon has made politics part of his profession in the past. But we have seen that, unless we speak, we must accept not only that the pen is mightier than the sword but that the tongue "licks" them both, and by our silence we shall be taken as acquiescing.
It must have been with great pride that the noble Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Chatfield, listened this afternoon to the noble Earl, the son of his late chief, Lord Beatty. Concerning what Lord Chatfield said about the fall of Norway, I would point out that that was not the fault of this country; it was due to what the politicians call "the defection of France" and what soldiers, sailors, and airmen call by its proper name—"the great betrayal by Laval and his satellites." My friend, the noble Earl, Lord Beatty, spoke about the Treasury. I think there are times when acting naval officers, particularly Commanders-in-Chief, might be allowed to act a little more without being held back by a long delay that might prove fatal. I will give an example. When, as Commander-in-Chief, the Nore, I built shelters for 5,000 naval officers and men, 70 feet below the chalk—and they were so safe that the example was followed largely in different directions—the reward that the civil engineer who so loyally built those shelters got was "No further advancement." The reward that I got was the rudest letter ever sent to a Commander-in-Chief. My secretary brought it in, and he said, "After all, the Commander-in-Chief of one of the three principal naval ports should be treated with courtesy." I said, "Does it need an answer?" He said, "No, Sir, it does not need an answer; it does not have to be answered"; and I said, "Well, don't show it me."
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, who spoke about rabbit shooting in Rosyth Dockyard because it had got into such a state of decay, might like to hear that, as Commander-in-Chief, I often shot pheasants in Chatham Dockyard, and that was the one dockyard of the three that had a real air-raid defence shelter, not only 211 for the Commander-in-Chief and his staff, but for everybody in the naval barracks. Incidentally, I got another letter whilst arming for Lord Beaverbrook some thousands of aircraft producing factories. It contained a halo of gold for building the aforesaid shelters. I had the same secretary, and I said, "Does this letter need an answer?" He said, "No, it does not need an answer; it bands you almost wings," and I said, "Don't show it to me." That is the only way that we have of getting on with our jobs—ignoring the censors when we do what we think or know is right.
I feel sure that your Lordships, when you hear what the noble Viscount the First Lord has to say in reply to all the criticisms and fears expressed this afternoon, would like to hear that he, like his predecessor, most certainly has the cause of the Navy at heart. I have attended several delegations and have seen his sympathetic way of dealing with the case. He has our Service at heart. I hope the same apr) lies to the other Chiefs, the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for Air. If so, those Services are well off. One realized on the last debate on a kindred subject that the cuts were vital, that they were absolutely necessary in view of the financial state and the commitments of the country. I hope, my Lords, that you will appreciate that we are standing just where we stood in 1940, with our backs to the wall, and that the answer is not only to work harder but to cooperate better.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, we have listened to some very remarkable speeches in the course of this debate, and I am not going to complain about a single one of them. I regard this debate as being remarkable for more reasons than one. Every speaker who has preceded me has spent almost a lifetime in one of the three Services. Indeed, the debate can be described as a real combined action, bringing in some very distinguished representatives of the Services. Lord Croft, who opened the debate, has, as was rightly stated by Lord Chatfield, been keen and, indeed, almost enthusiastic at all times in his advocacy of Service matters. He was quite justified in tabling the Motion upon the Order Paper to-day. He and those who were associated with him 212 in the Army have allowed the Navy, and latterly the Air Force, to monopolize the debate up till now.
Indeed, I would like to say this, that the Navy, or the Admiralty, has been pretty well bombarded, led by that very gallant, very distinguished sailor and administrator, Lord Chatfield. Lord Chatfield's service, not only at sea, but in administration, has been outstanding. Indeed, I do not think it can be said of any predecessor of his that he occupied for such a very long time high administrative posts at the Admiralty. He was, first, Vice-Chief of the Naval Staff, then Fourth Sea Lord, then Controller, then First Sea Lord, being altogether for some twelve years a member of the Board of Admiralty. That is a record of which we are all very proud. Lord Chatfield has rendered very valuable service not only to the Royal Navy but to the State. Again, the debate has been remarkable by reason of the fact that two Marshals of the Royal Air Force have participated in it—that, shall I say, grand man, Viscount Trenchard, and Lord Newall. I am afraid that I am going to confine my remarks first to some of the general questions which have been raised, and, afterwards, to the Royal Navy, leaving to my colleague, Lord Nathan, the responsibility of replying upon the issues raised in relation to the Royal Air Force and the Army.
The debate is occasioned mainly as the result of the reduction in the personnel of the three Services. I would like to point out that the reductions in the three Services, so far announced, represent nothing more than the normal run-down from the enormous establishments which were necessarily maintained in time of war, and they do not reflect any change in the long-term defence policy of His Majesty's Government. The speed of the run-down is being controlled in relation to the current requirements of the different Services, in the light of the immediate tasks which are still imposed upon them. In listening to the speeches this afternoon, unless one knew the facts, one would hardly realize that the total strength of the Forces in this country, or serving this country, on the latest date for which firm figures are available, was rather more than 1,250,000. And, according to the figures given by the Minister of Labour about a fortnight ago, that is after the demobilization during the last two years of something like 5,000,000 men and 213 women. So, it will be appreciated that the figure which I have given is considerably in excess of what could be regarded as the normal peace-time size of the Forces.
Further reductions will, therefore, be effected as and when the overseas responsibilities and other tasks allotted to the Forces decrease, until such time as the Forces are run down to the approved postwar level. It will be remembered that my right honourable friends, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence, have already announced in another place that it is hoped to bring down the total strength of the Forces to 937,000 men and women by 31st March of next year, and that, with the exception of the Royal Navy, further substantial reductions are contemplated during the year 1948-49.
Lord Croft asked whether I could give him what might be regarded as the first-line forces in each of the Services. I am not sure whether he would include in the figure which he requires the total of men serving in each of the Forces, which, of course, would include Regulars and National Service men. For the Royal Navy, by March of next year, it is hoped that the run-down will be to 147,000, for the Army to 527,000, and for the Royal Air Force to 263,000. It is to be noticed that the run-down of the other two Services—the Army and the Royal Air Force—does not appear to be as steep as that of the Navy. I hope, in the course of my remarks, to give the reason for that. In view of the very serious economic situation of the country, your Lordships will realize the urgent need to release as many men as possible for work in productive industry. The result of this is that the Government intend to accelerate release from the Forces to the maximum extent consistent with the proper fulfilment of the tasks which remain to them, always bearing in mind our long-term requirements of Regular Forces and reserves. I was pleased to note, during the course of the debate, that such emphasis was placed upon the need for Regular Forces. I shall have something more to say in relation to that matter when I come to deal with the Navy.
It must be remembered, in dealing with the numbers of the Forces, that by March of next year the global numerical strength will still be about three times that which we had in the Forces in 1939—not that I 214 want to take 1939 figures as a basis. So it will be seen, therefore, that there is a considerable margin for farther reductions without endangering the position of the regular Forces and normal reserves. If the maximum redactions are to be achieved as quickly as possible, and consistent with the acceptance of our commitments, the effects will naturally be different in each of the three Services. In this connexion, I should like to assure your Lordships that the reduction's are in no sense imposed arbitrarily, as was suggested by Lord Croft in the course of his speech, or, indeed, by percentage cuts of the existing strengths of the three Services. They are consistent with the anticipated needs of each of the Services during 1948, with the tasks which they still will be required to carry out, and they have been kept directly related to the long-term requirements of the three Services. In making them, we have had full regard to the basic peace-time forces which, so far as we can foresee at present, we shall require when the run-down is complete.
Much progress has been made in the planning of those peace-time forces, and because my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence has come in not so much far criticism as for question, I would like to say that during the period he has occupied that position he has been very busily engaged in endeavouring to develop co-ordinated efficiency of the Defence Forces. You really cannot achieve this objective until there are sufficient numbers of voluntary Regular recruits making up the basic strength of each of the three Services. Nevertheless, very much progress has been made by the Minister of Defence in planning the peacetime forces on an all-service basis with the object of providing a properly balanced and integrated defence organization in the light of scientific and technical developments. In this connexion, as has rightly been said, high priority should be given to research and development for the Services. I would like to point out that we cannot hope to maintain all the productive capacity we employed in the peak period of the war, a point put by the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, when he raised the very important question of war potential. He will agree with the statement I have just made. It is a question of degree and importance. I assure him 215 that the importance of maintaining an adequate potential for war production is clear, and the deliberations on post-war policy naturally include a full consideration of this factor.
We have not dealt very much to-day with the question of expenditure, but I think it is necessary for me to mention that the expenditure for the three Services during the current year amounts to very little below £900,000,000, a colossal amount and a figure which I think every noble Lord will agree is an impossible sum for a peace-time Budget. The noble Earl, Lord Beatty, has referred to possible cuts. There may well be some. The figure I have just given includes a substantial amount of terminals, for after all we are just a little over two years from the cessation of hostilities and the terminals which necessarily arise from demobilization and the clearing up of many financial matters have cost a considerable amount of money.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
Can the noble Lord give us an idea of the chief factor in that £900,000,000: is it pay or personnel?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I would not like to say that pay is the chief factor. It is a factor which is very important in view of the substantial increases in pay of the Forces under the new pay code which came into operation some six months ago. On the pay side the conditions for the Forces constitute a very considerable improvement on what existed in 1939 and that is a factor with which I do not think a single member of your Lordships' House will disagree in any way. It is one of the inducements we offer to bring in Regular recruits. The basis of the pay code was fixed largely in relation to pay in industry, which I think the Forces are justified in expecting.
I propose now to turn to the position as it affects the Royal Navy, of which there has been so much criticism. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, was very pessimistic and I was pleased that he and other noble Lords listened carefully, as I know they must have listened, to the very excellent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, in which he said he was quite prepared to place his fullest confidence in the Board of Admiralty. He was speaking after a long experience. I had hoped that 216 some of the noble Lords who have served in the Royal Navy would adopt the same attitude as Lord Chatfield, for your Lordships will realize that during and since the war the building up of the strength of the Defence Forces of this country has been mainly through the operation of the National Service Acts. During the war there was little or no volunteer recruitment of adult Regulars. Indeed, in the Royal Navy, which was more fortunate than the other Services, voluntary enlistment virtually stopped between April, 1941, and April, 1946. Its only Regular recruitment during that period was 11,000 seamen boys, artificer apprentices and boy Royal Marines. Broadly speaking, the regular content of the Royal Navy now consists of men with no more than eighteen months' service and men who entered the Royal Navy before 1941. Your Lordships will see there is a gap of five years to be filled and this I am very pleased to say is being achieved by Regular recruitment since April, 1946. These men have to be trained and this makes a very heavy commitment, adding largely to our numbers afloat and ashore.
In 1945 there were 845,000 men and women serving in the Royal Navy. It will be apparent from what I have said that the greater number, in fact about 80 per cent., were "hostilities only" or National Service men. On October I the strength of the Royal Navy was about 180,000, of which 35 per cent. represented National Service entry, and under the present programme this figure will be reduced to 147,000 by the 31st of March of next year. This is where I think the Board of the Admiralty have been fortunate in obtaining a guarantee that that number of 147,000 will remain static until April, 1949, and we are hoping beyond that date.
§ EARL BEATTY
That is irrespective of any other financial cuts? I think we ought to have that clear.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
That is a promise upon which we are working. We are hoping that, whatever might be the circumstances, that promise which has been given to the Board of Admiralty will be carried out. It will be seen, then, that the naval man-and woman-power has already been reduced to just about one-fifth of the peak figure, and a further considerable turnover is involved in reaching the target for next March, when we hope 217 in relation to the 147,000 personnel that the percentage of National Service men will be further reduced from 35 per cent. to 15 per cent. There is in prospect a further reduction of National Service men by March, 1949, though we are hoping that this will be offset by the entry of Regulars, with some National Service men.
It will, therefore, be seen that the great majority of the men released were those who manned the war-time Navy on "Hostilities only" engagements. Here I would like to state in a few words that no sufficient tribute can be paid to the splendid contribution to the war effort which was made by those men and women who, though inadequately trained, rendered valiant service, and particularly those of the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Nevertheless, we have to recognize the fact that it is not possible to build up a stable peace-time Navy on the basis of short-time service. This can only be done on a hard kernel of fully-trained, long-service, Regular entries, supplemented by good reserves.
This is an important factor in considering the position which we are now discussing. I should like to point out that the additional equipment in ships makes them more complex, requiring more men and skill and much longer technical training. The modern battleship can be described as a box of technical equipment, and with radar and much more electrical equipment, anti-aircraft armament, more complex gun mountings and control apparatus, anti-submarine equipment and a progressive increase in wireless installations, that means that, however good the training is that we can give to the short-service or National Service men, it is almost impossible for the post-war Fleet to rely on them as the nucleus of the Royal Navy in peace time. The aim of the Government is to see that there shall be an efficient Fleet, manned by men who have received the training which I have described. This Fleet will take its place within a well-organized Defence Force, which will be used for the defence of this nation and the Commonwealth, if it is required.
Since recruiting was resumed eighteen months ago there has been a fairly satisfactory intake of Regular recruits into tire Royal Navy. In this respect we have 218 been more fortunate than the other two Services, for in the Royal Navy the percentage of such recruitment is much greater; indeed, we expect to have about 115,000 Regulars serving in the Royal Navy by March of next year out of the 147,000. For this reason, and in view of the demand for manpower in industry, and the likely reduction in the Defence Votes, the Board of Admiralty agreed that instead of tailing out the reduction of National Service men, it would be just as well to have one full dose of the medicine, hoping that it will bring the cure we expect. To enable the reduction to be brought about it is intended to withdraw from ships in active commission for the time being a larger number of National Service men and replace them by those who have come in under the Regular recruitment scheme. By so doing we are able to do two things. The first is to reduce the number of men and so benefit industry. That is very important. What is equally important, however, is the need to build up the post-war Fleet with fully trained Regular Service men. This is the desire of the Board of Admiralty, and it is a policy with which the Board of Admiralty are in entire agreement. There has been no pressure. We do not like cuts—no Service Ministry likes cuts—but if cuts are to be made, or reductions are to take place, then it must be left for the Board of Admiralty, the Air Council or the Army Council so to arrange the cuts that they can be made use of, as I hope we are going to make use of them in respect of the Royal Navy.
To get the accelerated movement of men started it is necessary to withdraw a substantial number of men from somewhere to provide the reliefs on foreign stations. The Home Fleet has, I think, rightly been chosen. I would like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, or, indeed, any noble Lord who has had experience in the Royal Navy, whether it is not a fact that the Home Fleet is the training fleet for the Royal Navy. Are we to bring back men from the Mediterranean, or indeed from any of the over-seas stations, or to send out raw recruits to the Fleets in those stations for training? In my opinion, the Board of Admiralty have been very wise in doing what they have done. It was considered preferable to continue the highly technical training and the experimental work already planned so that the men thus 219 trained could be used to build up the post-war Fleet. It was considered preferable to withdraw the men from a large number of ships rather than to take them from a smaller number. It is possible to keep sufficient men aboard these ships to maintain and equip them ready for immediate use whenever necessary and as soon as the full complement of trained men can be provided. From the figures which I have given, your Lordships will see that the fully-trained men when provided will be the long-service men after their full period of training.
Another reason for taking men from a large number of ships rather than a smaller number is that it is necessary in justice to the men concerned to adhere to the foreign service roster, for if this is not done men would have to be sent abroad out of their turn, which would be very unfair and might lead to difficulties. This exchange could only be carried out by the temporary immobilization by a number of His Majesty's ships of the Home Fleet. But immobilization must not be misunderstood, or, indeed, exaggerated, as it has been during the course of the debate this afternoon. The Home Fleet will be dispersed, which is not unusual; indeed, the Home Fleet is normally dispersed three times a year for the granting of leave, and remains dispersed each time for a period of from four to five weeks. It is true that vessels could summon men back, and could be ready for sea in the course of forty-eight hours or two or three days. We are hoping that some of the ships in their dispersement can be used in the event of an emergency. Some ships will be kept fully operational and others, in the event of an emergency, could proceed to sea at quite short notice. In saying this I am repeating the statement which was made by the Minister of Defence on two occasions. For others, of course, it will be a matter of months. With one exception, all the ships in the Home Fleet will be kept in commission and restored to full operational condition as soon as the manning adjustments in their complements have been completed.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
It all depends. As I have said, we are hoping, as the training is completed, to man the ships. We shall 220 have to do that on the basis of priority. It is true, as the noble Lord said, that we have withdrawn ships from certain overseas stations. The Mediterranean Fleet is almost intact. But there have been withdrawals from the Pacific Fleet and from the North Atlantic Fleet. As ships become commissioned they will be sent to the stations in accordance with priorities drawn up by the Board of Admiralty.
I think that very largely meets much of the criticism which has been levelled against the Board of Admiralty. We have had, not only during the course of this debate, but in the Press, exaggerated reports used mainly for political purposes. I am sure that the majority of the people of this country will have listened with very great interest to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, a name which is revered in naval circles. On such an occasion as this the noble Lord places confidence in the Board of Admiralty, while not knowing the circumstances but realizing that in view of the very much more fortunate position of the Navy as compared with the other Services in relation to Regular recruitment, we probably will reach our post-war Fleet very much Quicker than the other two Services might do.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
Would the noble Lord kindly say whether we will have enough men for the care-and-maintenance parties for the ships during the interim?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
The noble Earl will have listened to what I said. We have dispersed a number of these ships, retaining a substantial portion of their crews, and we are gradually building up the complements of those ships by the newly-trained men who are training at the new establishments.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
We hope there will be enough. We would like to have all Regulars, but we cannot. We are still operating a National Service Act, but we are fortunate that we have a larger proportion of Regular Service men in the Royal Navy than in the other two Services.
A number of questions have been put by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, put a question concerning the Portsmouth Training Flotilla. It still 221 remains in being. It consists of six ships and it is to continue at that strength. Later on some of those ships may be immobilized, but training will not be interfered with.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
The Training Flotilla remains in being and it will do what it has done formerly. In relation to the stoker training establishment at Plymouth, it has been changed over so that we can release the ships which are now being used for that purpose. H.M.S. "Raleigh" has become available and the stokers will be trained there. Indeed, we shall not reduce the training facilities for stoker ratings because we are anxious to get them.
§ EARL HOWE
Is it not a fact that the particular ships used, H.M.S. "Revenge," H.M.S. "Resolution," and H.M.S. "Valiant," were converted for these duties at an enormous cost not very long ago. What are you going to do with them now? Are you going to pass them over to reserve or care and maintenance, or what?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
We shall certainly keep them. It must be remembered that the figures which I have given show that until recently the intake into the Royal Navy has been very large. The total strength was about 211,000 some six months ago, and we have run down from 850,000 to the figure which we have at the present time. Therefore a certain number of training establishments will have to be closed, but that does not mean that the training of the Regular entry or National Service entry will be interfered with in any way. I have been on board the ships referred to. by the noble Earl, and I agree with him that they are too good to be scrapped in the sense that they will be sold for scrap.
The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, stated that there were only three carriers upon which aircraft can land. That is not so. There are others in addition to the three which the noble Lord has in mind. A question was also asked concerning the minesweeper for training at Dartmouth. The training requirement at Dartmouth is now being met by the flotilla stationed at Plymouth, and the intention is to send a suitable ship, a minesweeper or destroyer, to meet as far as possible the 222 duties formerly carried out by H.M.S. "Orcadia." The Director of Naval Training is proceeding to Dartmouth next week to see if there is any hitch in relation to this matter. As I have indicated, the Home Fleet will be built up once again and the naval strength at the various stations will progress as the necessary man-power becomes available.
The general aim of His Majesty's Government, both in regard to the immediate future of the Armed Forces of this country and the longer-term planning in defence, has been to retain and build up those forces which will contribute most to our military strength in deterring a possible aggressor, while at the same time giving the highest priority to long-term research and development in defence weapons and methods which will enable us both to "see round the corner" of defence developments in the present age and to concentrate the limited resources available for defence upon the most promising objectives. I can give the House this assurance. In accepting the reductions to which I have referred, His Majesty's Government have had full regard to current commitments and we are satisfied, taking a reasonable view of the future, that these commitments will continue to be met. In distributing them among the Armed Forces, full regard was had both to their respective roles in meeting current commitments and, so far as it can be foreseen, to their future roles when the present transitional phase has passed.
In considering the future of the Services, full regard is being paid to the necessity for a comprehensive scheme for the defence of the Commonwealth in the evolution of which His Majesty's Government are co-operating fully with the other Commonwealth countries. The point was put by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, about information and contact between the Commonwealth countries and the Home Country. There are liaison officers in each of the Commonwealth countries, as there are liaison officers representing each of the Commonwealth countries in this country, and the Commonwealth countries are kept fully informed with regard to the changes that are taking place.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I was hoping that I should be able to write to the noble Earl and others who have put questions about that.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
The rumours which are prevalent as to the closing of any dockyards at the present time are unfounded. The considerable amount of work which is available in refitting the Reserve Fleet, and in making good repairs after six long years of war, will keep the dockyards busy for some time to come.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
The noble Viscount mentioned cruisers and destroyers, and the Minister of Defence in another place talked about the Home Fleet being kept in commission. When will the Home Fleet be at sea? Will it be 1948?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
We are hoping that the Home Fleet will be ready for its autumn cruise next year. But this does not necessarily mean that we shall be able to commission all the ships of the Home Fleet at one and the same time. However, the complementing of ships will not be held up for that reason. Ships will be complemented and commissioned as fully trained men from the training ships are brought along.
I developed a point about getting better use of National Service ratings, but the noble Viscount has not commented upon that. Then he has given me a bare contradiction about the number of aircraft carriers, but I have received no assurance that the naval pilot is to-day getting sufficient deck training and operational training in aircraft carriers.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
With regard to the extension of the period of National Service men, it is difficult to single out one Service. It is true that the number of National Service men who at present opt for the Navy is pretty high. We have given consideration to the question, not 224 for the Royal Navy only but for the other two Services, of having a voluntary arrangement whereby an extension to the twelve months could be carried on. I would not like to give a definite reply, and I did not do so because I thought that I would make further inquiries and see what is the position. I will then let the noble Lord know.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
With regard to aircraft carriers, I think I can satisfy the noble Lord. I should not like to say that all the training facilities that I should like are available, but the training facilities and deck landing facilities exceed the three carriers to which the noble Lord has referred.
It is a matter of the lives of these pilots. If they do not get regular training there are bad crashes on the ships and fatal accidents.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I assure the noble Lord that we are not unmindful of the dangers of inadequate training of these pilots, and we shall not take any risks which are likely to add to the dangers of these very brave men.
§ 5.54 p.m.
My Lords, we now come to part two of this debate. The scene has changed from the sea and the air, and comes down to the land. I feel that the parachute has failed to open, because, after Admirals of the Fleet and Marshals of the Air Force, we come down to a mere Territorial Lieutenant-Colonel. The noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, mentioned the order of priority that was given in another place yesterday, when the Army, as usual, finished a good last. We are used to that, and in peace-time we are used to coming in a good last. But in that race, when there are four horses running, when the critical moment comes in a war we always seem to get up on the post and finish in a dead heat. It is quite time, I think, that we realized that these four horses are all owned by the same people and are all trained in the same stable, and that the sooner we give up regarding them as in competition, one with the other, the better.
It is just about five months since we were debating in this House the National Service Bill, which brought conscription 225 to this country for the first time, apart from time of war. The chief feature that the debate brought out was the great number of your Lordships who insisted that one year in training was insufficient to bring a raw recruit up to the standard required. That period still stands, and since that time we have had a speed-up of demobilization, resulting in further cuts in the Forces. At that time, about five months ago, I suggested that it was unlikely that there would be any real increase in the voluntary movement while there was peace-time conscription, unless conditions could be made very much more attractive to the recruit. We have had continual statements from His Majesty's Government, one in the gracious Speech in almost identical words with soma which were used a year ago, giving us reasons for the urgent need for a strong voluntary Force. We have had very little to implement those words; and yet it is the success of voluntary Forces that is essential to keep up the standard of efficiency in this smaller Army.
Look first at the Regular Army. We must agree that in these unsettled times, if we cannot get sufficient volunteers there must be some kind of conscription. Then we have got to have volunteers coming in as instructors for the National Service men. It is not sufficient to have the present instructors, whose time in the Army may be nearing its close. What we really need is new blood, and new blood that is both keen and intelligent. Last week I spent a few days at two training camps. I took a great deal of trouble to try to find out what conscripted other ranks felt about staying in the Army as a permanent livelihood for the next twelve or twenty-one years. It was not very encouraging.
To give an example: one young bombardier, who was called up about eighteen months ago and who was definitely keen on the Amy when he first joined, said to me that he had had every intention of staying in the Army for his full period. He was the sort of intelligent man that was wanted. But his mind had changed, and he decided that the sooner he got out the better. He showed this most strongly, for when I asked his date of release he said immediately "March II"—not just some date in March but March II, as if he wished March II were to-morrow. His reason for changing his mind, he said, apart from local conditions, was that he 226 felt the Army "makes you mentally tired and mentally lazy." The idea that a soldier is just someone who obeys orders and does not think for himself was pretty well killed during the last war, and I think it would be a pity if the good that we did in training men to think for themselves were now to be forgotten.
Again, if you look at the question of promotion, a man can get only a certain way with initiative. After that, it becomes time-promotion again. This in itself must be reducing the desire for initiative, making one become lazy. I have said before, and I am sure I shall say it again, that unless we have competition, both in the ranks and for officers, for promotion, we will never get the right type of person in. At the moment too, there is another deterrent in the Army, and that is the continuation of temporary rank. I do not think there was ever a reason for having temporary rank, but if there ever was it has gone long ago. I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply whether there is any hope in the future that we shall give up time-promotion, and have initiative paving the way to get the right people in, by having promotion on a competitive basis; and whether there is a chance in the near future of the abolition of temporary rank.
Another deterrent which I think has been mentioned once or twice this afternoon is the shortage of married quarters. We know that there are too few married quarters now, and the trouble is that other ranks and officers have to spend a great amount of their pay and allowances in rent to take quarters that are not given them by the public. Surely these other quarters should be taken up as public quarters, and the officers and other ranks charged the same amount as if they were in official married quarters. There are many other improvements which one could suggest, but what one has to think of is, that you have to make improvements that will encourage a better type of person to join in sufficient numbers. If the policy is to reduce the Army still further, then it is all the more essential to get physically and intellectually better people in the Army.
To go from the Regular Army to the Territorial Forces is even more depressing. The Territorial Army in its new form is expected, at the beginning of 1950, to take over the partially-trained 227 conscripts after their year in the Forces. The greater the cuts in the Army, the more important becomes the role of the Territorial Army; yet we have had very little lead indeed from the Government and practically no publicity whatsoever. The important fact still is, however, that at the beginning, of 1950 this Territorial Army has to take over these conscripts; that is, only just over two years ahead. In terms of Territorial drills it means that there are about fifty hours of drills in which to train instructors for these half-trained men. If this recruiting drive is put off any longer—supposing it is put off until the end of next year—that means that, if we get the people, then we have only twenty-five hours in which to train them to be proper instructors.
I appreciate as much as anyone that the present time of crisis is not the best time to pick for recruiting for the Territorial Army, but we are not asking for fantastic numbers. We are also, I would remind your Lordships, asking for people only in their spare time; we are not interfering with their work at all. If we could get one hundred instructors per regiment, or about 10 per cent. of the total number we want, then we could be ready to tackle any problem that came along. But none of this can be done without active help from the Government. It is just over six months since we in this House had the last debate on the Territorial Army, and I have noticed only two official improvements since that time. First of all, we can now have the annual bounty free of tax, which is a great concession. Secondly (I believe I am right in saying this), civil servants have now been told that they may go to camp for their fortnight, with pay. I think this is true, but it has had practically no publicity, and it has therefore not been used by other employers as an example. If we had a lot of publicity, then we should have a great chance of getting many more recruits for the Territorial Army.
I am talking a lot about the Territorial Army. I know it is not the only subject in to-day's debate, but I feel that its future is so closely allied to the whole position of defence that I believe I am in order in saying just one or two more things with regard to it. It is always the same; our troubles are mainly financial. I would like to ask for a little 228 money out of the £900,000,000 that has already been mentioned this afternoon. May I suggest three ways in which the Government could help? First of all, there is the peculiar example of the Territorial Associations who have to pay purchase tax on articles, the money for which comes direct from the Exchequer. That seems rather ridiculous, and, of course, very greatly curbs their expenditure. Secondly, there is the important point of wages for the civilian permanent staff. There is a scale laid down for them that is quite inadequate compared with the ordinary rates they will receive in civilian employment, with the result that the Territorials either get no one or they get only very secondary people. I should like to ask whether something could not be done to raise that standard of wage.
Thirdly, I should like to add what I believe someone else has suggested—not here, but elsewhere—that there should be some kind of tax relief for Territorial Army personnel; there should be tax relief to make up for their extra expenses. Ninepence per hour is quite inadequate and it simply means that really good key men who have not the money cannot join. If recruiting in the Territorial Army is necessary, and in my opinion the future policy of the Armed Forces to a very great extent depends on its success, then we must have some such attraction. I am not suggesting that we should bribe people to join the Territorial Army, but recruits should not suffer personal loss as they are doing now. I have gone into details perhaps more than I should have done and may be I have strayed from the main point, but I think that the whole question of the Forces, their responsibilities, their size, is based mainly upon the success of voluntary recruitment. There is very little, if anything, in the present attitude of the Government to ensure that such success will be achieved.
§ 6.9 p.m.
My Lords, I should also like to address you from the point of view of the Army and I should like to develop one or two points made by Lord Moynihan. I would, however, dissociate myself very strongly from his use of the expression "mere Territorials." The matters which have been touched upon appear to me to point to this question first: Is the Army in a position 229 to meet the commitments which are likely to be laid upon it? Since we last discussed the defence question generally, our world-wide commitments have been slightly clarified. The situation in India, Palestine and Japan has become more easy to understand. We are also to see in the near future reduced commitments in Malaya, in Austria and in North Italy. The problem therefore is to give the Army a long-term basis on which to meet these commitments.
If I have understood the figures correctly, in 1950 the Army will be made up of 220,000 Regulars and 110,000 conscripts, those conscripts for the first time being on twelve-months service. That gives us a total of 330,000, and I should have thought that on that basis we ought to be able to meet our commitments. Before I listened to the reassuring speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, I was going to say, perhaps a little unkindly, that I thought it was merely a happy coincidence that we were able to meet them, but now I understand it is due to the long and clearly-thought-out planning efforts oil His Majesty's Government. For the last two years I had been a little bit confused in my own mind as to whether the Government were cutting their coat to fit their cloth, or whether they were cutting their cloth to fit their coat, and, indeed, the reduction of the eighteen months' period to one of twelve months made us suspect strongly that it was domestic politics rather than strategical foresight which was influencing the planners. However, by all means, let us give them the benefit of the doubt.
That figure of 330,000 depends, as my noble friend Lord Moyniham has said, on one thing and one thing only. We have got to get the necessary number of Regular recruits, and. if that fact is not borne in mind, the whole of this calculation falls to the ground. Again, if I have done my mathematics correctly, that figure demands about 5,000 recruits per month, allowing for the normal wastage, but at the moment we are getting on an average no more than 4,000. I have not been able to examine the figures which the noble Viscount, Lord Nathan, has given to my noble friend Lord Long, but, so far as I can see, we have a deficit of about 1,000 per month. Until that point is resolved, we are getting nowhere. It is plati- 230 tudinous to say that the Regular Army, if it is going to be efficient, must be up to strength in training and organization, but, without those recruits the whole Regular Army scheme for meeting this bill collapses.
I do not want to go into details with regard to recruiting. I have discussed it in this House on many occasions. Two points which Lord Newall, I think, mentioned were the question of married quarters and the guarantee of a job after demobilization. I would like to add the matter of pay. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, mentioned the recent increases in pay. That is true, but I am certain there is going to be a further demand for increases in pay from the Forces in due course—increases in pay, that is, which are better related to the rise in the cost of living, to the rise in industrial pay, and which are not related to a purely fictitious reduction in the rate of Income Tax, and which do not result in nearly every senior officer in the British Army losing about fifty pounds a year off his pay. That is a very poor sort of increase, in my opinion.
Nevertheless, even if the Regular Army docs get its desired number of recruits, the responsibility on the Territorial Army, as my noble friend Lord Moynihan has said, is still very great. Can the Territorial Army shoulder that burden? Can it shoulder it now? My Lords, quite clearly, it cannot. I regret to have to say this—I have said it before, but I am afraid I must say it again—the whole scheme for the reformation of the Territorial Army has been a failure. I will not weary your Lordships with the reasons for it. You are already familiar with them—the questions of the choice of date, and. the various problems of accommodation, of pay, and holidays, and so on. Merely looking at the units in one's own locality, it is perfectly clear that the scheme has not been a success. What about 1950, when we have to meet this Bill? How are we going to find the Territorial Army then? It is my firm conviction that by 1950 the Territorial Army will have died of inertia.
How are we, for two years, going to maintain the enthusiasm of our regiments on a five per cent. establishment? Most of our men are old soldiers and, I may tell your Lordships, they are doing what old soldiers traditionally do, fading away. Most units have started to 231 lose men. We shall soon lose our excellent Regular cadres. Our Regular cadres have been of an exceptionally high calibre, but they cannot find houses in the neighbourhood of their drill halls. They are going bankrupt, and they will have to give up their jobs. We shall be left in about six months' time with this situation, that there will be left in units only the very few zealots who will stay on under any conditions, and the few married men to whom the great attraction of a forty-millimetre gun is that it does not nag, and it does not ask you to wash up.
I should like to ask this: Why have we got to wait until 1950 to take in the conscripts? Why cannot we make an all-out effort now to get the necessary cadres formed in our Territorial Units? A number of units could take in conscripts now. Some however will never be able to take them in, for the reasons I have given. I should like to see an all-out effort made to get the cadres up to strength, and to take in the conscripts as soon as possible. I know it is not in the National Service Act. I know that to do it now, with some units prepared and some unprepared, would be untidy. Untidiness is not one of the things which the War Office likes. I love the War Office. I think it is a wonderful institution, and I will not have one word said against it, but I think it carries tidy-mindedness too far. It is my opinion that neither Empires, fortunes, battles or even girls have ever been won by over-tidy men. I do appeal to the War Office to see whether it would be possible to take in the conscripts at an earlier date than 1950. It would ease greatly the burden being borne by the Regular Army, and it would put new life and new blood into the Territorial Army.
As Lord Newall said on two occasions in his speech, we must not regard these problems as individual Service problems; they are, of course, problems stretched over all three Services, and it is only administrative convenience that initiated this debate with a heavy naval salvo, and which has now brought it down to dry land. The first reason for our defence measures is not just to participate in war; that is only one of the reasons. The real reason is to provide an earnest of our determination to carry out the policy upon which our Government have decided. I do deplore the impression that is being 232 given of a constant chopping and changing in that policy. Not only is it bad for the morale of the men in the Forces, who get the impression that they are pawns in a game of which the Government cannot see the end, but it has a very bad effect upon our friends and allies who look to us for a moral lead.
I should like to read to your Lordships, if I might, an extract from a South American paper (and not a Peruvian paper, may I add), which I recently came across:The Defence Forces of the British Empire have always been raised upon a basis of quality rather than quantity. But, hitherto, the British have equally realized that below a certain minimum of quantity, quality must suffer.The operative word, my Lords, is the word "hitherto."
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
My Lords, I make no apology for detaining your Lordships for a few moments to discuss and continue the question of the Territorial Army, as raised by my noble friend Lord Mancroft. Your Lordships will remember that a debate took place in your Lordships' House on March 26. In that debate many of your Lordships sitting on this side appealed to His Majesty's Government to postpone the date of the reforming of the Territorial Army from May 1 to October. We warned His Majesty's Government—more than one of us; Lord Allendale, myself and others—that if they persisted in this policy, they were heading for chaos and almost disaster in the Territorial Army. Only too true were our warnings then. They have been substantiated.
I want to read, if I may, just for a few moments, what Lord Pakenham, in his reply to my noble friend, said in that debate:If I may intervene, I may assist the noble Lord. That is not correct; it will be general recruiting.A little further on we are told by Lord Pakenham that in the view of His Majesty's Government:Even May 1, and I am speaking rather carefully, is going to give us very little time.Finally, when he wound up the debate, the noble Lord told us that the Territorial Army was top priority and that His Majesty's Government meant to go for quantity as well as quality. In July, as 233 your Lordships may remember, I put a question to His Majesty's Government on the general situation of the Territorial Army—on the eve, if I may say so, of the start of activities in many areas in the country—and affecting many Associations which had disagreed with the policy of the Government with regard to May 1. I ventured to suggest that a lead must be given, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, told me that he hoped something would be done. And something has been done. A bomb has been thrown into the whole organization for re-forming the Territorial Army.
In my hand I have a letter dated September 4, in which these words are used:It is essential that publicity and recruiting do not stop between now and the arrival of. the National Service man. If it does, the volunteer now in the Territorial Army will lose interest. It is most important that there is No 1mpression amongst volunteer officers and other ranks that they have joined a force that is not progressing.The next paragraph begins:This, obviously, is not the time, to launch a public appeal of this kind.An appeal for recruits that is. Now that is exactly what those of us who know something about the Territorial Army told His Majesty's Government in March, and then, less than four weeks from the end of July, this letter is broadcast to all Associations. The first question which I wish to ask His Majesty's Government is this. Why were the Associations not consulted? It is no good His Majesty's Government saying that they did not have time. They had five weeks in which the executives of the Associations could have been consulted. In the meantime the damage has been done. Every Association in the country has read this letter in a different way, and recruiting, in fact, has been brought practically to a standstill.
Now I want to turn from that to one or two details upon which I hope that the noble Lord when he replies will be able to give answers. We welcomed the fact that in the Army Act it was laid down that the trade unions of this country were going to be asked to send representatives to our Territorial Associations. But we are still looking for those gentlemen. We know that appointments have been made. I have addressed a great number of meetings, and I am still doing so, in order to obtain recruits from fac- 234 tories. So far as I am aware, no trade union representative has yet addressed a single factory meeting on behalf of His Majesty's Government with the object of getting recruits for the Territorial Army. They are vital to our cause. While I appreciate that these appointments have been made, cannot it be represented by His Majesty's Government that these representatives should throw their weight into this work? I assure the noble Lord opposite that I know of a case where the area representative of the trade unions had not even read the Territorial memorandum sent to him by his own headquarters up to three weeks ago, and at that time campaigns had been in full blast all round London since the beginning of September.
Another point on which I wish to ask for information is this—and here I should like to remark that nothing is said about these things until we force it out of His Majesty's Government. I would be glad to be told now what is their policy with regard to petrol for officers who have already gone back to the Territorial Army? Are they to be allowed to go to their businesses in their cars and then to proceed in them afterwards from their businesses to the scene of their duties as Territorial officers; that is, using their cars to enable them to carry out their drills at unit headquarters? Not a word has so far been said about that subject. Not a word, I believe, has been said either about another matter, but I happen to know that we have at least got a concession that so far as the Territorial Army is concerned there is no such thing as a reserved occupation. Has publicity been given to that? I have yet to see it.
Again, on the question of officers. So far as I am aware His Majesty's Government have now, through the War Office, said we can go back to the old idea which obtained before the war, the effect of which is that if we have some good fellows, we can recommend them for Commissions though they may only have served twelve or eighteen months in the Army and not taken commissioned rank. We can now, I understand, put their names forward as future potential subalterns in the Territorial units. We have got to get ready by April Fool's Day, 1949. His Majesty's Government seem wedded to April Fool's Day and they bring it in whenever they can in connexion with this matter. Originally it was April 235 Fool's Day, 1947, now it is April Fool's Day, 1949. I dare say His Majesty's Government like that sort of day, but let me tell them that they are not going to fool the Territorial Army all the time. The situation is very serious and, as my noble friend Lord Mancroft has said, if this position continues we shall not have the men necessary to carry on.
Now, if I may, I want to come to the question of buildings. I do not want to go into it in all its details, but there are still units in this country whose commanding officers cannot even start recruiting because their buildings are still occupied by one or other of the Ministries—the Ministry of Supply particularly. Six months after His Majesty's Government have started this scheme, it still happens that headquarter establishments are occupied by the Ministry of Supply. Where is the common sense in that? Then there are units to satisfy whose demand for headquarters land must be acquired. I understand that there is a deadlock between the War Office and the Associations over this because the War Office will not give the price and will only employ local valuers. In consequence of that you have no willing sellers. There is only one thing to be done and surely it is up to the Government to do it—that is, compulsorily to acquire land where it is wanted and get on with the job of putting up the buildings which are so urgently required for these units.
Finally, there are just two or three suggestions which I would like to make. I think I have said sufficient to prove to your Lordships how grave is the situation in this country with regard to the Territorial Army. The first suggestion is that if this is to be a "top priority"—and I did not use those words; they were used by representatives of His Majesty's Government—the Prime Minister should make a broadcast as soon as possible so that the whole country can know where we stand with regard to the Territorial Army. Secondly, I suggest that the trade union representatives should address meetings throughout their areas in conjunction with the recruiting committees of the Territorial Associations. Thirdly, in order to stop such chaos as has been achieved, a Territorial officer should be appointed at the War Office to work under, but in co-operation with, the Director-General of the Territorial Army, 236 as we suggested in the spring and again in July. If those things are done, and done quickly, the situation can be retrieved; but, as I said in the spring and repeat to-day, the Regular Army depends entirely for its future embodiment on National Service, and unless prompt action is taken there will be no Territorial Army to work upon and the whole scheme will fall to the ground.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, this debate has gone on for a long time and if one were to attempt to summarize it, one would say that most of your Lordships who spoke were worried not so much about what was happening over the transition period of release as over the ultimate position of the three branches of the Services. The Defence White Paper which came out in February last drew a fairly clear pattern of what the Forces were going to look like and what their ultimate size was going to be. The figure for the Army has remained at 220,000 Regulars, plus one year's intake of National Service men. Since that White Paper came out, I would not have thought that the commitments of the Government had varied very much. It may be that final announcements have to be made about India, but the granting of Indian Independence was perfectly well known. It was quite clear that sooner or later some place would have to be found for our Imperial Strategic Reserve, not in India, and not in Egypt. Nothing has happened to alter the shape of those commitments, though there has been a greater stress on the need for economy. Unfortunately since the Defence White Paper came out, and even including to-day, we are still left with very little idea as to whether those long-term plans for the future of the Forces are continuing and following the normal course, or whether they are not.
I want to say that, because although I have certainly derived a certain amount of comfort from the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, it did strike me—although perhaps I am wrong—that in some parts of this speech there was more hope than belief. He used that very ominous phrase, about everything having been done "to the extent of our limited resources." When we see Hansard tomorrow, and read it at leisure, we shall find more of those phrases, and they may throw some doubt on the pace at which 237 things are proceeding. A certain amount of fog has descended over Whitehall since the publication of the White Paper on Defence, partly because we have undertaken new kinds of developments and partly because of economy cuts in other directions. I should have thought we would have heard more about the question of the tying-up of Service arrangements between the Dominions, especially since Lord Montgomery has paid so many visits to the Dominions. But nothing was said to-day except that the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, trotted out the poor old hacks of liaison officers, without any executive authority, between the Service Ministries and the Dominions. The only horse which remained in its stable was the Dominion students at the Staff College. That is not good enough. Those old horses would not have been trotted out if any real progress had been made. Of that I am confident.
Yes, a fog has descended on Whitehall! And that fog has become a good deal thicker in the last few days because of the sudden need for intensified economy, austerity and what you like. We should look and see exactly what effect that is going to have on the long-term plans. If is late and I do not want to keep your Lordships long, but surely it is plain that the need for economy was foreseen long ago. Surely when the plans for the postwar Forces were being made some idea must have existed as to what they would cost, and some idea must have existed as to whether we could afford it. It is not so much whether we can afford it, as whether we can do without it and still remain the first-class Power we wish to remain. I think we must look at it from that point of view, and not from the point of view of whether it is right or wrong to spend money on this or that. My uneasiness has not been dispelled by Lord Hall's speech. We find there is a slowing down in two directions which, from the long-term point of view, are absolutely vital—Regular recruiting and the Territorial Army, about which three noble Lords have spoken so eloquently. I. am not at all sure that the Royal Air Force is not in the same box. The Navy, evidently, is a good deal better; and thank Heaven for that. Their recruitment is good, and that is a good thing for the country.
From the recruiting figures published lately, if I do my sums right, the present 238 rate of 3,635 men for the Army which ran for the last month and includes the bounty scheme, will not build up to the proper 220,000. If that is true, there is still a need to stimulate Regular recruiting. But nothing has happened. Is the Regular soldier to be content for the next 22 years to live in battledress without the power to get an alternative uniform? The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, or maybe it was the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed to the dilemma of the Regular staff of the Territorial Army who cannot get married quarters. Those are things which can be tackled if those responsible have the will to tackle them. Here let me say that the new Secretary of State for War has a magnificent opportunity to retrieve what some people think is his personal reputation, and show himself a real friend of the Army and determined to fight its battles. If he does, noble Lords on these Benches will give him nothing but support. Perhaps we could have given more support on this occasion had the Government reverted to the old traditions and had a representative of the War Office in your Lordships' House. One may be sure that unless these steps are taken, we shall not achieve what the noble Viscount in his speech said the Government intend to achieve, the ultimate programme for the Army; Navy and Air Force. I think everything I have said applies to the Royal Air Force in much the same degree as it applies to the Army. Perhaps it is different with the Navy; perhaps in Portsmouth and Plymouth it is easier for a naval man to settle down.
I come to the important matter raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, the question of the employment of ex-Service men. We had an answer to a question on that, I think, nearly a year ago from the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in which he said the matter was still being studied. Months have gone by, and nothing whatever has happened. Something else has gone by—the Trades Union Congress, at Southport. I am not very well informed about what goes on at that conference, but I would have thought that the Government, who have certain influences in that quarter, might have taken the opportunity to raise this question and do more than is apparently being done to interest the trade unions in the employment of ex-Regular personnel. I would like to ask 239 that this matter shall be taken in hand seriously. It is absolutely fundamental to getting the right type of long-service men to spend their careers in the Services—twenty years—and to getting them in the right quantities.
I come back now to the question of changes in the slowing-down organization. One of the things, I confess, that perplexes me very much is why there should have been a change in the training at the War Office. There again, the training organization—the primary training centres and the corps training centres—was very carefully studied. It was the result of work extending over months, if not years. So far as I know, nothing has happened to make it less desirable now than it was before. It certainly has the effect of weakening the readiness for war of the field force units, because, just as is the case with a battleship, no field force unit can possibly train people and at the same time be ready for war. There again, something has gone wrong; some priority is less good than it was before. We hear a great deal about the need for research. Nobody has said yet to what degree that research is going on; and nobody has mentioned something which is just as important as research, and that is the production of equipment in sufficient quantities for trials with the troops, without which the research is useless. I do not want to mention a large catalogue of things of that sort, but I wanted to mention one or two, because they seemed to me to give clear evidence that things are not going quite so smoothly as we are led to believe.
There it is. Let us leave the transition release to go as it may. Let us in this House concentrate our thoughts on building up the ultimate scheme as it was planned—I believe rightly planned—and let us realize that when we are dealing with actual men in the Regular Forces and the Auxiliary Forces we cannot have something for nothing, however much the Treasury or anybody else in Whitehall would like to have it. I am confident we shall achieve the results if we set about the business in a realistic manner and if we are prepared to pay market value for what we want. But if we do not, then you can be equally sure that all the gloomy forebodings of my noble friends on these Benches will come true, and if they come 240 true, then the fault will lie with those who have the power to take action now. I hope they will take that action.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty confined his remarks, so far as they related to a specific Service, to the Royal Navy, and I do not think your Lordships would desire that I should in any way traverse that part of the field again. He also spoke with a good deal of precision regarding the underlying reasons for the acceleration in release and the general pattern which would emerge as a result. There again I scarcely feel that your Lordships will desire that I should enter into any discussion at this time on the broader aspects. But I think I may perhaps usefully say this. The acceleration relates, of course, to an increase in the rate of release of the National Service men. That acceleration does not have any direct bearing upon the shape of the permanent Regular Forces of any one of the three Services. By that I do not mean to suggest that the permanent shape of the Forces is not a matter of the first importance; of course it is. I may say that that matter is being considered with a view, at the appropriate time, to the formulation and the publication of a scheme showing a complete, balanced force, each particular Service taking its own responsibilities. So I may answer the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, by saying that the reorganization is not primarily based on a money basis, but on a strategic basis.
The noble Lord, Lord Newall, asked certain questions with regard to research and development. My noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has already said how much importance is attached to proceeding with research and also with development. The Minister of Defence stated in another place yesterday that the Government maintains its policy of giving the highest priority to research and development for the Services, and the development of aircraft—a matter in which I know the noble Lord takes a great interest—will have a large share of the resources. There is no thought of allowing this country to relinquish her commanding position in the aeronautical world. The country, we believe, is abreast, if not ahead, of any country in the world in 241 aero-dynamic thought and, despite limitations of resources, His Majesty's Government: will continue to ensure that the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy are given equipment of the highest quality.
We are no longer proceeding gradually by short steps in aircraft and engine development, but we are looking very far ahead. So far as aero engines are concerned, reliance has in the past been placed, both in this country and in the United States, on the centrifugal jet engine developed from the Whittle design, but new engines are coming forward, both axial flow jets and compound engines, which will represent an enormous advance over the older types. That is the information with which I am furnished, but I am bound to tell the noble Lord that in some respects it is beyond my technical comprehension, though as Minister of Civil Aviation I am learning a good deal of the verbiage, if not of the substance, of aeronautical research. I may add that there are now on the stocks new Service aircraft, both fighters and bombers, which employ the most advanced aero-dynamic conceptions, and the use of these engines when they come into service will ensure, we believe, that the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy will remain ahead of the Air Forces of the world. The noble Lord may rest assured, therefore, not only as regards research, but also as regards development.
I should also mention the questions which were put to me by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. I remember that when I was a War Office Minister he put to me the question which he repeated to-day, as to provision being made in the Civil Service for Servicemen on their leaving the Forces. I am bound to say to your Lordships that, being no longer a Departmental Minister so far as the Services are concerned, I have not clearly in my mind exactly the reasons which prompted my reply, but I do recollect that the reply was of a negative character. Although for reasons he has explained to me the noble Viscount is no longer here, let me give the assurance that I will direct the attention of the Department to his questions with a view to his receiving a full and considered reply. He also asked a question with regard to the Army List, the Navy List and the Royal Air Force List. There is a certain restricted circulation of such Lists, and I think it is unlikely that there 242 will be any general publication for a considerable time to come, if for no other reason than the shortage of paper.
I think no other specific questions were put as regards the Royal Air Force, and that the remainder of the discussion appertained to the Army, both the Regular Army and the Territorial Army. I recognize that all those who took part in the discussions have themselves played, and do for the most part still play, a really active part in the Territorial Army. I know that all the four noble Lords who are sitting on the second Bench facing me do take a really active interest, and, if I may say-so, I take an active interest myself. It would perhaps be most convenient that I should take the speeches in the order in which they were made, except that I ought to answer a general point put by the noble Lord, Lord Man-croft, when he asked whether the Army was likely to be able to meet the commitments placed upon it. The curtailments contemplated by this accelerated reduction are on the hypothesis that commitments will run down, and if the commitments should not run down as anticipated, then naturally there will be a delay in the acceleration of the release or the running-down of the Forces. The two things will be considered and worked out in conjunction.
§ LORD MANCROFT
May I interrupt the noble Lord, as obviously I did not express myself clearly? I am not concerned with the running down or release. I am anxious only as to whether we will attain the long-term figure of 330,000. Do we stand a chance of attaining that long-term target figure?
§ LORD NATHAN
On the question of the size and shape of the three Services, as I have said, the matter is under close examination and a scheme will emerge having as the underlying object that the Forces will be able to meet their commitments. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, raised the rather difficult question as to whether recruiting as at present proceeding is likely to result in the Regular Army being of the size which they mentioned. All I can usefully say upon that is that in September of last year the strength of the Regular component of the Army was about 100,000. A year later, in September of the present year, it was, I think, 154,000, and if that 243 progress should be maintained then the prospects do not seem too obscure. I am told that during the last month or two the rate of recruiting has shown some improvement. But I should be misleading noble Lords if I were to suggest that we are entitled to look upon that situation with complacency or think that it is wholly satisfactory. I am not able to make any reliable forecast, and can 'only say that the thing is moving and that it is moving in the right direction. If it does not move quickly enough in the right direction we must look at it again and see what steps should be taken to accelerate and improve the figures.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I accept the noble Lord's view of the position, but although the recruiting figures have improved a good deal the sum just does not work out, and on the present figures there does seem to be a need to review the Regular Services.
§ LORD NATHAN
I do not think I was dissenting very much from the substance of what the noble Viscount said; it was rather a matter of expression. It is moving in the right direction, and if it does not move adequately then we shall have to look at it again. The point is one of which the Government has to take cognizance, and it is a very material factor to be taken into account.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan—who, I know well, commands one of the City of London units of the Territorial Army—asked me a number of specific questions in the very interesting and informative speech that he made. I know perfectly well, and I should be the last to deny, that the situation as regards the recruitment into the Territorial Army has not been satisfactory. I am associated with a Territorial regiment myself and I have a good deal of knowledge with regard to that subject. I would not for one moment stand here and suggest to noble Lords who are interested in this subject—or to any noble Lords—that the situation is satisfactory. A great deal requires to be done before it can become so, and I will say a word or two about that before I sit down. Of course, there may be instances when a bombardier gets browned off—we have come across instances before—but I am not at all certain that the particular instance which the noble Lord gave can be regarded as typical. As a matter 244 of fact promotion—he laid great stress upon this question and rightly so—is extremely competitive and the promotion code for other ranks is not in any way based upon length of service.
On the question of temporary rank, whilst I recognize the force of the observations of the noble Lord when you are dealing with an army of a stable size and shape, as things are now temporary rank remains, at least for the time being, essential, and it must remain so whilst the Army is attaining its final shape and whilst its size and shape are in a state of flux. I feel there is great force in what the noble Lord said as regards married quarters. He mentioned not only the Army but also the Royal Air Force. Married quarters for the Forces must be dealt with as part of the general housing provision of the country, and the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves cannot be without effects upon housing. Reference to this was made by the Minister for Economic Affairs in his speech in the other place the other day. I am sorry that, for the moment, greatly though I appreciate the desirability and indeed the necessity of married quarters as an aid to recruiting, I am unable to give any great satisfaction to noble Lords on that point.
The noble Lord, Lord Croft, has given a lifetime of service to the Territorial Army. I am not at all certain that he is not now one of the very few Brigadier Generals, perhaps the only one, drawn from the Territorial Army. He has had a long, responsible, and respected career in the Territorial Army to which he has so devoted himself. He said, as others have said, that recruiting for the Territorial Force has been a complete failure. I concede that it has not come up to expectations, but I do not know that I would go as far as the noble Viscount, Lord Long. I am not at all certain that he did not to some extent misinterpret that letter from the War Office, which I must confess I had never seen until he quoted from it to-day. The underlying idea, so far as I can judge on a quick reading of it, is this: that the critical date is April, 1949—that is, nine months before the National Service men come into the Territorial Army. The suggestion underlying this letter, as I understand it, is: "Do not embark upon a great expenditure of money and a great amount of publicity now in 245 1947 in recruiting for the Territorial Army."
§ VISCOUNT LONG
May I interrupt the noble Lord? His Majesty's Government's representative on March 26 told your Lordships quite clearly that the Territorial Army had got to be recruited at once as a top priority. Either that is right or it is wrong; but it is quite clear that my remarks were based on the evidence given on March 26.
§ LORD NATHAN
The noble Viscount is more familiar with what was said on that occasion than I am. I have a letter before me, the purpose of which is to indicate that a campaign of recruiting and publicity should be a continuous campaign, running to the really critical and material date of April, 1949. I think it is better not to start the campaign too early or it might well lose momentum before the critical date arrives. It was suggested that next year would be better than this year, and I do not think that that letter goes beyond expressing that conclusion; but the response to date is admittedly disappointing. The strength of the Territorial Army at the end of September was roughly 32,000.
§ Questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Croft, have been answered by the noble Viscount, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and what I might have said has been already well covered. I desire to extend the utmost courtesy to the noble Lord, and not to omit anything which ought to be answered. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, asked a number of questions and in particular what steps are being taken to make the Service more attractive to recruits, particularly with regard to married quarters. I have already dealt with that point. As regards parades, all unnecessary parades have been abandoned—that is, such parades as sick parade, pay parade, and so on. Inspections before parades have been reduced to a minimum, and so have guard and picket duty. Fatigues, where they cannot be avoided, are organized as task work, so that when a man has finished his particular job he can go. "Request hours" are held regularly, to allow other ranks to produce constructive suggestions. Short passes have been abolished, and if a soldier is not required for military duty he simply signs out at night or at weekends. Privates and non-commissioned officers are encouraged to associate outside 246 barracks. All ranks may wear civilian clothing when off duty, and soldiers are encouraged to have visitors in barracks, and where possible a room is set apart to receive them.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I hate to interrupt the noble Lord, but I should like to ask whether it is not a fact that those concessions which have been read out represent all the things which do not cost money, and none of the things which do. May I ask the further question: How is a regular soldier supposed to get plain clothing? Is he given any coupons for this?
§ LORD NATHAN
Not being a Departmental Minister, I can not answer the question about coupons on the spur of the moment, but the noble Viscount shall have an answer. My recollection is that at the time when this matter was being discussed appropriate arrangements were made to ensure that the soldier should be able to obtain his civilian equipment and kit, but I should not like to commit myself on that matter without reference. The noble Viscount raised the question of the welfare services. There is a certain run-down in these, together with the general rundown in the strength of the Army, and the whole field of welfare in the Army is now under consideration. I had a part in the welfare work in the Army from its origins. I always held the view, and I hold it now, that the welfare work should properly be done by the regimental officer, but it no doubt requires to be supplemented by other organizations. The circumstances of the war, with a largely expanded Army consisting to so large an extent of men drawn temporarily from civilian life, were different from the circumstances applicable to the Regular Army under normal conditions. It may, therefore, be necessary to modify the very extensive welfare provisions that prevailed during the war.
The noble Viscount, Lord Long, asked about the trade union representatives on Territorial Associations. I understand that all the places which were open to them according to the proportions set out have been filled by trade union representatives; and they have naturally been invited to the meetings of the committees and sub-committees concerned. I have no reason to doubt that they are playing their part in the consideration of all matters that come up for discussion.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
All I want to ensure is that they really are playing their part, now that they are in these Associations. We welcome them very warmly and we want their co-operation in appeals for recruits for the Territorial Army.
§ LORD NATHAN
I want them to play an active part, and I hope that they will take advantage of the opportunity of doing the great public service which is thus made available. The noble Viscount asked me a question with regard to petrol. He wanted to know the position of officers living a considerable distance from their units and having to go from their offices to headquarters: would they be allowed to use their cars for this purpose? The answer, which I hope will be satisfactory to the noble Viscount, is, that Territorial officers who have licensed and insured their cars for other purposes are allowed a supplementary grant of coupons if their Territoral duties require it. Arrangements are also being made for the introduction of licences similar to the "G" licence issued to the Home Guard during the war, under which system officers whose cars would otherwise be laid up would be granted a licence as well as an allowance for petrol coupons.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
That does not quite answer my question. My question was: Will they be allowed to go to their businesses in their cars on their way to the unit?
§ LORD NATHAN
My answer is: those who have licensed and insured their cars for other purposes are allowed a supplementary grant of coupons. I give you my answer and you must place your interpretation upon it. It would be rash of me to attempt to do so. People will read what I say now, and I should not like to say anything misleading. I believe my answer to be satisfactory to the noble Viscount with regard to the purpose which he has in mind.
I have attempted to answer, in general, the specific questions that have been put to me. I hope the spirit which has animated my answers will be taken as the answer to those questions which I have not specifically answered. I 248 speak for His Majesty's Government in saying this: with reference to those men who can find such time as may be reasonably expected, I attach the utmost importance to their joining the Territorial Army, and making it into a real effective force, the framework within which the National Service men, when they leave the Regular Army, will have their life and do their training. Indeed, as has been pointed out, it would be difficult for the new post-war Army to fulfil its objects unless the Territorial Army were there as an efficient instrument and organ and to provide a home, so to speak, in which to receive them.
I believe that at the present time there are very large numbers of men who served in the war, both in the Territorial Army and outside, but mostly old comrades of Territorial Army regiments, who in this period immediately following the ending of hostilities have very naturally devoted themselves to the re-creating of their own lives, getting back to work, and courting and mating. As time goes on, I believe that the old comradeships will awaken echoes in their hearts and minds. They will want to meet again those with whom they went through experiences so novel and so memorable. They will find their old friendships and their old friends in a Territorial unit as they cannot do anywhere else. They will be providing a backing to the new generation coming along. If any words of mine could reach the old Territorials—and I speak as one who first became a Territorial forty years ago and who is still concerned in the Territorial Army—if I could influence them, I would say, "Come in, and give a hand in this vital national work."
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ LORD CROFT
My Lords, I am sure that I am echoing the views of all my noble friends and, indeed, everyone in this House, when I say that we thank the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, for the great courtesy with which they have taken part in this debate, and endeavoured, so far as it is possible from their angle, to allay our fears. Before I ask leave to withdraw my Motion, however, I must just offer two or three sentences. First of all, when the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, begs us to realize that there are 1,250,000 men still in the Forces to-day, I beg the country to realize that by March next there will be 249 under 1,000,000 men, which is a very steep decline in so short a time. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, could not give to the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, a more favourable answer with regard to employment of Service men in the civil services, when they have completed their turn of service, because I am convinced that that is the key. I have never been able to understand, with this multitude of persons employed by the State, why a man who has given splendid service in the Navy, in the Army, or in the Air Force, at the end of that long service should not find that he had the first consideration for a place in the civil Departments. I do hope that, although the answer in the noble Lord's mind was negative, he will ascertain the reason and use his powerful influence to see whether this question cannot be reopened once more.
Lastly, nothing has emerged in this debate which has convinced any of us that the world situation is so changed from February last, when the White Paper came out, that we really are justified in such a complete change of policy with regard to the numbers at that date and the next reductions which are referred to by the Prime Minister. That is what causes us alarm, although in many ways the noble Lord and his colleagues have given us some consolation. We have had the assurance that the whole question is really balanced and that we are not having a flat rate of reduction. That is something to which we attach enormous importance, and we hope that that fact will be the guiding line. It would be un- 250 pardonable to keep your Lordships another moment. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.