§ 2.42 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN rose to call attention to Army problems; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I think it has been agreed through the usual channels that in discussing this Motion we may debate matters affecting the Army and Air Force (Annual) which is down for its Second Reading this afternoon. If, by the leave of the House, we can do this, it will mean that we shall not seek to discuss the Bill on Second Reading. I think that 970 such an arrangement—which, as I have said, has been agreed through the usual channels—will be for the convenience of your Lordships. Before the Recess we had a debate on Defence which we, for our part, kept on broad lines. Now I should like to come into a rather closer focus, as we debate the actual problems affecting the Army. I think it will be found that form on these Benches has been fairly consistent over the last few years. We have awaited the publication of the Army Estimate; and their introduction in another place, and of the Memorandum which usually accompanies the Estimates. Then, when we have seen the course which the debates have taken in another place, we have reverted to the matter in your Lordships' House.
§ I should like to spend most of my time to-day on two main subjects—namely, the Reserve Forces and Regular recruiting. First of all, I should say that I believe the announcement made on the introduction of the Army Estimates in another place regarding the reorganisation of the Territorial Army represents a marked step forward in the re-direction of the Territorial Army. However, as noble Lords who will be speaking later on in this debate will deal with the Territorial Army, I am not going to speak long on this matter. Although I welcome the new arrangements, for a large number of reasons, I feel that it is a great pity that those arrangements should have been left until the eleventh hoar—because they have been left until the eleventh hour. The War Office have been "up against it." They had a "dead-line" date when the first of the National Service men called up under the present Act begin to come into the Territorial Army. Everything had to be ready for them on that date. If I am not mistaken, the Territorial Army Director in the War Office had to work in a great hurry. Yet, as I understand it, nearly all the work which has been done in such a hurry in the last few months could perfectly well have been done a year or two ago. Let me give the reasons why I think that was not done a year or two ago. The first is the constant changing of the Director of the Territorial Army. We raised that matter last year but it was not until this year that those of us who are outside the War Office were able to see the full damage which has been done by these constant and avoidable changes.971
§ In the second place, I think it would have been a great deal easier for the War Office to forecast what was required if they had been prepared to work in closer association with the Territorial Army and Auxiliary Forces associations over matters of detailed planning. Here again I am not going to say a great deal, because my noble friend the Earl of Limerick will be speaking to your Lordships later on this point. Whereas, under both the last Government and the present one, there has been a general atmosphere of cordiality between the War Office and the associations, I think it is fair to say that the associations have not been associated in the detailed planning, and that if they had been associated the War Office would have had information about population, recruiting potential and other matters of that sort which in fact they did not get until in the last six months they changed their policy and went out to look for it. If they had co-operated more closely with the associations, they would also have discovered that there are two quite distinct problems in recruiting for the Territorial Army and Reserve Forces. One problem is the recruiting of the fighting units—the cavalry, armoured corps, infantry and artillery—and the other is the recruiting of the technical units. The first need to be recruited on an area basis, whereas the technical units need to be recruited on a functional basis, by co-operation with the large firms and public utilities. Little work has been done on those lines so far. I have fairly good reason for saying that the liaison between the War Department and the Ministry of Labour and National Service could have been a great deal better. If it had been better, it would be much clearer now which technicians who are recruiting into the Territorial Army are going to be allowed to go to war with the Territorial Army and fight the King's battles. I shall return to that point in a moment.
§ This problem of technicians is one which has assumed much greater proportions since the last war, and I do not think its importance is fully appreciated by those who have to deal with it now. The result is that there is a great deal of tidying-up left to do. That is one of the reasons why I welcome the policy, which was announced at the same time as the Army Estimates were published, to raise new units on a Supplementary Reserve 972 basis instead of on a Territorial Army basis. I welcome that very much, because it is an approach to realism. Even before the war the Supplementary Reserve was recognised as being a suitable way of raising the number of technical units. It also provides a way of dealing with those people who, for various reasons, find it hard to come to the weekly parades of the Territorial Army—people who may live a long way away from the Territorial Army centre, people who have to work at hours which do not correspond to the times of the Territorial Army parades, and so forth. Now at last in this proposal for a Supplementary Reserve we have what looks like being a workable basis, and I am glad to see it. However, I do not think the details given in another place and in the Press announcement were very full, and therefore I have given notice to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, that I should like him to tell us, if he possibly can, a little more of what is required of the Supplementary Reserve and how it is intended that it shall work.
§ Whether we are dealing with the Supplementary Reserve or the Territorial Army, this problem of occupation remains. I hope that the new Secretary of State for War will apply himself to the task of coming to a workable agreement with the Ministry of Labour and National Service. To my mind, this is one of the largest tasks remaining to be done, in so far as we are concerned with non-Regular Forces. The whole of our order of battle and our war establishments are now stiff with technicians of every sort. The Army cannot work without technicians, and yet they are the people who in the ordinary way would be in reserved occupations. So far as I know, and so far as anybody knows outside Government circles, no agreement has yet been reached as to the number of technicians who would normally be in reserved occupations but who are to be allowed to mobilise with the Forces, if mobilisation has to take place. I want to make it quite clear to noble Lords opposite that until that matter is settled, and until it is known what draft, so to speak, the Service Departments are to be allowed to make on industry in respect of people who would otherwise be reserved, it is no good thinking that the Army or, for that matter, the Navy or the Air Force, can mobilise in such a way as to be fit for battle.973
§ I will leave that matter and turn for a moment to the handling of the announcement of the changes in the amalgamations in the Territorial Army. Part of that was very well clone, but part of it, I am sorry to say, was not so well done. The Territorial and Auxiliary Forces associations received the news on exactly the same day and at the same hour as the Secretary of State for War gave it to honourable Members in another place. That was a very good piece of Staff work. Unfortunately, however, the Staff work was not good all round, because the colonels of regiments, who were equally concerned and whose good will ought equally to have been sought by the War Office, were not told until two or three clays later—they had to "fish and find out." I am bound to criticise that, because if the Staff work was so good in informing the associations, with a little thought and care it could have been equally good in informing colonels of regiments. As it was, the handling of the matter resulted in colonels of regiments being antagonised, instead of the first approach being made to obtain their cooperation. That was unfortunate.
§ The last matter regarding the affairs of the Territorial Army about which I wish to speak is the question of pay and allowances. It seems to me—and this, I suggest to noble Lords opposite, is important—that the understanding in relation to anybody who volunteers to join the Territorial Army or, for that matter, the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve or the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, ought to be this: that whereas no one expects a volunteer to make money out of joining the Reserve Forces, equally no one expects a man to be out of pocket through belonging to those Forces. Until that proposition is accepted and the Reserve Forces are administered with that in mind, we shall have constant difficulties. I feel it is for this reason that a document known as the Hamlyn Report was submitted by the Council of Territorial Associations to the War Office some weeks ago. I apologise to the noble Lord opposite for not having given notice earlier that I was going to raise this point, and I shall understand if he is unable to answer it to-day. However, I should like to ask how far consideration has been given to this very detailed report regarding the economics 974 (if I may so call then) of the Territorial Army.
The next matter with which I should like to deal is the Regular Army and the Memorandum on the Army Estimates. I do not much like the way the problem of the Regular Army is handled in the Memorandum. If noble Lords opposite have the Memorandum in their hands, I would ask them to gave their attention to paragraph 7. There it says:
Measures already in hand to improve conditions of service should help to achieve the desired increase in Regular recruits: other measures are under consideration.
I want to ask noble Lords opposite two things: first, why they think the measures in hand should result in more Regular recruits—because I am unable to answer that question unaided; and secondly, what are the other measures under consideration? We should welcome some amplification of those closing words of paragraph 7 of the Memorandum. I do not like the word "should." I have seen that word used so often in official language to mean: "We hope this is going to happen, but really, between you and me, we know quite well it is not." I am sorry to think that Mr. Strachey should have joined the ranks of the "shoulders". What the Memorandum on the Army Estimates might have said hut, so far as I know, did not, is that until this problem of Regular recruiting is solved there will always 'be too high a proportion of the Regular Army—not necessarily too many people, but too high a proportion—employed on training and, therefore, not a high enough proportion employed in field formations such as we are required to place at the disposal of Western Union.
§ That brings me to the question of equipment. I feel that we ought to sound a note of warning over if is question. Our figures for equipment this year are lower than they were last year. If we take, for example, the figures for the provision of signal and wireless stores we find that for 1950-51–that is, the prevent Estimates—they are down to £1,20,000, as against £2,960,000 in 1948-49. That may be all right, but those of us who know anything about the Services between the wars know well that one of the methods of achieving so-called economies, a method approved by the Treasury, was to run down store margins—the margins for mobilisation. 975 Here we are faced, not only with a reduction in the figure presented in the Estimates for equipment but also with a situation in Malaya that I do not think the Government entirely anticipated. The quick way out, of course, would be to draw on one's store margins to meet the needs of Malaya, and not to replace those store margins, even though they were an integral part of out contribution to Western Union. We must be certain that we have not fallen into that danger, and that our contribution to Western Union is safeguarded, from the point of equipment, and has not been prejudiced by anything that is happening in Malaya and, indeed, anywhere than in Western Union.
§ I also feel concerned about the Regular Reserve. That is the most important part of the make-up of our Armed Forces. It is now down to the very small total of 35,000. There have to be incentives to join or rejoin the Regular Reserve. Before the war, by publicity methods, and other means, there was a great increase in Regular reservists—so much so that there were over 100,000 of them, all people who had been trained for between five and seven years. I wonder whether the Government are doing enough to stimulate recruiting in Regular reservists. Your Lordships will recollect that the pay for a Regular reservist has never been increased since before, I think, 1914, and certainly not since before 1939, and that does not seem to be quite the best way of going about the matter.
§ Now let us come to this problem of Regular recruiting. It is a very serious problem and, of course, it is not helped at all by the failure (as we discussed in the Defence debate) to make, as we think, proper use of Colonial man-power reserves. I will not go into that matter again at length because time is short, and my noble friend Lord Swinton said all that there was to be said in the Defence debate. I want merely to recall your Lordships' attention to what was said then. The problem of Regular recruiting is the key to every other problem. It is the key to the National Service men; it is the key to the Far East; and it is the key to the problem of our proper contribution to Western Union. In what I am going to say now I will try to be as helpful as I can. We all know that there is a dilemma which the Government are 976 feeling, and which no doubt any Government would feel. They have to deal with this situation of the difficulty of Regular recruiting, and to deal with it in such a way as not to increase Government expenditure. We on these Benches have at least the same concern as noble Lords opposite to keep down Government expenditure, so we must all see whether there is any way of stimulating Regular recruiting without a large increase in expenditure. I would remind your Lordships, however, that increases in the rates of pay of individuals and increases in total Government expenditure are not entirely the same thing.
§ Of course, these difficulties over Army pay are largely the result of inaction in the past, because there is a tendency—and as I want to be quite fair I am not going to suggest that the tendency is entirely confined to Socialist Governments—when times are relatively good to neglect the important matter of keeping the emoluments of the Services in line with the cost of living, whichever way it may go. When a Government neglect that, it means that they are piling up trouble for the future, because when things get really bad there is a bigger leeway to make up than there is in those industries where pay is related to the cost of living—and this is a case in point. The result is that, although the cost of living has risen, and although as we heard in previous debates the general rates of wages have risen by 23 per cent., very little has been done correspondingly to deal with the lot of the Regular Forces. The Regular Forces consist of men who are just as much individuals as engineers, electricians or boiler makers, and the cost of living falls equally on the just and the unjust. It is falling very heavily indeed on the Regular Forces of all ranks to-day.
§ Now let us consider what is the way out. It is easy, of course, to point—and quite just to do so—to the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Act which was passed into law last Session. That Bill was welcomed from these Benches and, so far as it goes, it is all right, but it is a long-term scheme, whereas the need of the individuals is felt now. From what I have heard I should say that although an increase in pay would obviously be greatly welcomed by many people in the Forces they would not put it as the first or crying need. I believe—and I am talking now more about the other ranks than for the 977 officers—that the crying need is a guaranteed job. I do not mean only lower-grade jobs, such as messengers or uniformed postmen; I mean guaranteed jobs such as the ex-officer, mechanist-sergeant-major or any other tradesman can settle into. I do not believe that very much has been done in that direction. It is true that the White Paper said that steps had been taken and that they were encouraging, but if those steps mean merely that the employment exchange managers have been told to concentrate on the ex-Service matt, that is not enough. We want a guaranteed job of the right grade for any body who finishes a pensionable term of service with a good character, and we want the full co-operation of the Civil Service in this matter.
§ I now come to allowances, and here I want to come hack again, as I did with the Territorial Army, to a principle, the principle that if an allowance is given to cover the cost of a particular form of service then it should in fact cover it. At the present time, although a great many young married officers are in quarters, one finds cases—I heard of one yesterday in Aldershot—where young married couples are obliged to take lodgings at from five to six guineas a week. They receive the normal marriage allowance of 18s. 6d. a day, which is taxed. The taxation of allowances has completely upset the basis upon which they were given. Therefore we see the position that officers or other ranks who are entitled to a quarter and who cannot be given a quarter are being paid that much less than the rate which His Majesty's Government have covenanted to pay. That cannot be denied. I suggest certain lines of quick action: clear up this lodging position and give the guaranteed job. If I am asked to suggest things which can be done without raising the rate of pay and without disturbing national economics, or causing undesirable repercussions, I think it will be agreed that I have suggested some and I hope that they will he seriously considered.
I will not take up the time of the House too long, but let me come back to another point which I do not think the old-fashioned ones of us fully realise; and that is the change which has occurred in the Army during the last thirty years. Of course, there are certain things which do not change, and which must never change
—things like discipline, the Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty, the obligation to go anywhere and co anything within twenty-four hours of are clay. But having said that, then we must think of all the changes which have taken place—and there have been a great many. As the Army becomes more mechanised and as we have National Service—which, thank goodness, is breaking down the barriers between the Armed Forces and civil life—so we find that there is a greater need for interchange between the Services and civilians. Because of the greater need of interchange (it comes out mostly in the technical branches, and I will not go further than that because other noble Lords are to speak on medical matters) it does not make sense if the terms given to technicians of all sorts in the Forces are markedly different from the terms given to those same technicians in civil life. In the Memorandum on Army Estimates, that matter was recognised in one small way. If your Lordships will look at paragraph 15, dealing with education, you will see that it refers to:
A system of secondment for civilian teachers to Army children's schools overseas.…
That is a very small step, and I quote it only because it illustrates the principle which my noble friend Lord Webb-Johnson and other noble Lords mentioned on the Defence debate, and which comes up again here. It is a principle which is sound in essence, and which could be given effect to more widely than it is now. Therefore, I welcome that straw which shows the way the wind blows.
§ I am not going to say much about National Service, because at this time there is little which we could properly add to what has already been said. The key to the solution of National Service problems lies in the proper treatment of the Regular Forces. In my observation, the improvement in the way National Service men have been handled during the past year has been very marked. That is due to the fact that the Regular Army has settled down, and commanding officers have made their influence felt. A great deal of the National Service grousing and grumbling has therefore disappeared, and if we want to get full value and avoid any nonsense such as sending National Service men to Malaya the way to achieve it is to deal with 979 the Regular Forces on the lines I have suggested.
§ There are one or two minor points which arise out of the Army Estimates and the White Paper issued with them. I would like to know, for example, exactly how the proposed Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps is going to work with the Voluntary Aid Detachments, particularly in war-time There was some rough handling of the Voluntary Aid Detachments in the last war, and it would be as well if we could be told how the Voluntary Aid Detachments would work in hospital in war-time and how it will be affected by the formation of this new Corps. I should also like to know how the Women's Royal Army Corps is going to be affected. Secondly, as to Civil Defence, I am not going to add anything to what I said on the Defence debate, nor am I going to take anything away. I will say merely that I am glad to see that liaison arrangements are featured in the Memorandum. I hope that in those liaison arrangements, and in such combined exercises as may be held, the accent will be on the Anti-Aircraft Command.
§ Those, I think, are all the general points, and now I should like to turn to the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill. We shall have a few Committee points which, if I may, I will discuss with noble Lords opposite. I think that so far as the Bill is concerned it only remains for me to mention the Second Schedule. The Second Schedule is interesting because if I am right—and I think I am, because I have had the advantage of discussing the matter with the noble and learned Viscount—this repeal of Ancient Statutes represents the first fruits of the Statute Law revision scheme recommended by Sir Granville Ram's Committee, who appear now to have arrived at the jungle of Service Statutes. I want to say how delighted I am that they have started to tackle this subject. I hope that, having put their hand to the plough, they will not turn back until the whole of the Service Statutes are properly consolidated.
§ I was slightly puzzled by the reference in the Second Schedule to what appears to be the prevention of poaching. The Explanatory Memorandum did not tell us that poaching is now covered by later Game Acts. Of course, noble Lords 980 opposite will realise that we are always very careful about the interests of the land owners! But I feel that we should be sure that military poaching is not, by the provisions of the Second Schedule to this Bill, made easier than it was. I apologise for having taken up your Lordships' time for so long. I repeat that I think that the Territorial Army, though by no means out of the wood, is now being handled on extremely good lines. I wish I could say as much about the Regular Army, for I feel that we are still dealing with the problem on what I might call a "should" basis—things "should" be all right, with a bit of luck. There will not be any luck, and the situation will not be all right, until the problem is tackled from the only standpoint which is likely to produce success—namely, what is the economic road, and what are the economic inducements necessary to persuade the right people, technical and non-technical, to join His Majesty's Regular Forces? When that problem is faced I am confident that things will come right, because the interest which the country takes in the Regular Forces is certainly not less—so far as the Army is concerned it is a great deal more—than it was a generation ago. But until that day comes we shall still remain in a state of false hope, and we shall not give our commanders the wherewithal to succeed in places like Malaya. Nor shall we be able really to fulfil our commitments such as those to Western Union. It is my earnest hope that this matter of recruitment to the Regular Army will be realistically tackled. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.17 p.m.
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, for having initiated this debate. I propose this afternoon to deal mainly with the problem of the Territorial Army and more particularly with the recent amalgamation. I should like, however, to refer first for a few moments to the Regular Army and its present position. I do not intend to stress the point which has been raised often from these Benches with regard to the undesirability of peace-time conscription—especially after the recent Election, when the vast majority of the electors showed clearly that they were either in agreement with His Majesty's Government and the Chief 981 Opposition that conscription was necessary at the present time, or that this question was not uppermost in their minds. We do, however, still feel that it is only by strong voluntary Forces that this country can build up the strength necessary to resist aggression. But irrespective of our political leanings, I think it is our duty—the duty of everyone here—to help, I hope constructively, certainly not always destructively, to see that the present arrangement is working successfully.
I should therefore like to give two reasons why I feel that the present system is not entirely satisfactory. First, in the Regular Army the majority, and in the Territorial Army the whole, of a volunteer's time will from now onwards be taken up in training National Service men. I believe that that is the main reason for the lack of recruits in both the voluntary Regular Army and the Territorial Army. This, of course, is a vicious circle, because it is through the lack of recruits that National Service men must take their place in Regular regiments in a few months in positions which before the war it would have taken many years for a voluntary Regular to reach. The result is a certain amount of inefficiency in these ranks, and the Regular Army has to spend all its time in training and looking after these people who are not really fit—not through any fault of their own, but purely from lack of time— to do the jobs given them. I can see only one way out of that position. If the Government car not produce some brilliant new ideas—which they have not yet done—for recruiting the Regular Army, then I think the only answer is to reduce the length of National Service to about six months, and to place a much heavier responsibility on the Territorial Army. If that is done, it will be possible at least to form proper training regiments which can deal with the National Service man, thereby leaving the majority of the Regular volunteers to train themselves.
In those training regiments, there could be expert people who know how to train. I think that is essential when the National Service man is taken in. If proper training facilities are available for them during their time in the Regular Army, then those training regiments can well look after the National Service man, even during his time in the Territorial Army. That would release the great majority of volunteers to train themselves. I would 982 repeat what have said once or twice before: that unless the voluntary Regular man is trained to a standard at which he is fit to fight a battle, he is no use at all. A system of that kind would do one thing at least: it would allow Regular volunteers to be sent abroad, and keep the National Service men at home. Whatever we Territorials think, the Regular Army must Dine first, and the Regular Army must be efficient. Efficiency does not mean just numbers. It is only if the Regular Army can look after its own training and bring it up to the requisite standard that that Army will be efficient.
The only other point I want to make in regard to the Regular Army is on the question of leadership. I am not referring to leadership inside the Army—I think that is as fine as it has always been in the past. What I am referring to is leadership from the Government. Since 1945 there have been as many Secretaries of State for War as there have been Directors of the Teritorial Army. The latter, at least, have come with fine reputations and have left us, all too soon, to take on more important positions. Can one say the same of those people who have come to the War Ministry? Cannot we have someone who really made a success of the job he held before coming to take over this most important position? I am not a great historian but I believe it was Frederick the Great who said that:An army, like a serpent, goes on its belly.I wonder what the present Secretary of State for War did before he came to his present position, to prove that a practical possibility.
May I now turn to the Territorial Army, and particularly to the amalgamations. We in the Territorial Army have all realised that something of the kind must take place, but what we have not understood is why in 1947, when the future of the Territorial Army was not bright, all these Divisions were formed. That seems to have been the time when far fewer regiments, which could really be built up, should have Seen considered. The amalgamations undoubtedly brought hardship arid disappointment to many people, and I think we should attempt to right these wrongs now, and reconsider some of the steps that are being taken before it is too late. I am going to ask the noble Lord opposite, who is to 983 reply, a number of questions. I have given notice of nearly all of them. I know that I cannot have answers to them all to-day, but I sincerely hope that at least full consideration will be given to them. At this point, I should like to express pleasure at the fact that only a few days ago the noble Lord came to my own drill hall. We can see that, at least in your Lordships' House, the right interest is being taken in the Territorial Army.
The first question I should like to ask the noble Lord is one which I referred to him in detail. It concerns a regiment which is being amalgamated in Hereford- shire. It is only one example. Apparently in this case information that this amalgamation was going to take place was received by one of the two regiments some considerable time ago. It might have been mere chance; it might have been a clever working-out of what was going to happen; but it looked very much like a leakage of information, so that one side knew, not a week or two but a month or two, before the other, and therefore made particular arrangements. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether that is a fact. Has there been any leakage of information or is it mere luck? Many minds would be put at ease if they knew that there had not been any leakage of this kind. I do not think there is anything worse than your neighbour knowing something which is of vital importance to yourself, before you yourself know it.
Now about amalgamation itself. A certain number of surplus ranks, particularly of senior officers, can be retained for a period of up to six months. I ask, when does the six months start? Does it start from the date when the announcement was made in another place; does it start from the date of amalgamation, or does it start from the last date—that is to say, September 30 of this year? It makes a little difference—not very much, because the principle is wrong. I believe that unless that principle is changed, the Territorial Army will lose some of its most important members. May I take my own regiment as a simple example? We are one of the amalgamating regiments. We are the lucky ones: we are the senior regiment and we take over a sister regiment that we ourselves formed in 1938-39. It is not so easy for them. 984 We welcome them and we hope it will be a success. But let us look at what happens. The surplus ranks of a regiment of our kind—I think this applies to all regiments in the Territorial Army—joined the regiment either because they had been in it for many years before the war, or because their friends were in it. If we turn round to them now and ask: "Will you go elsewhere?" I think they will reply: "No, I do not want to. If I cannot stay where I am, then I would rather go out altogether." We cannot ask them to take a lower rank, because they have already done that. Of all the officers in my regiment, apart from myself, only two are holding the ranks which they held during the war; the others are holding lower ranks. It would be grossly unfair now to turn round and say: "If you stay in this regiment, will you take a yet lower rank?"
I should like to remind noble Lords that these men have had years of experience in the Territorial Army, and then served seven years in the war. They are the perfect people to train the National Service man when he comes. And yet you are asking them to do what I consider to be the impossible. I think an answer to this problem is to be found in this way. Where there is a desire to retain a number of surplus ranks—in our case, we have five majors instead of three and eleven captains instead of six—could they not be held, not on war establishment, but on the financial sum allowed to the regiment? Hardly any regiment in the country has its full quota of subalterns, and if a regiment were allowed to take its financial ceiling as the standard, I think it would be found that in no case would it be exceeded. We are not asking the Treasury for anything extra. If we had our full quota of subalterns the Treasury would have to give us the money. I am asking that these people should keep their ranks only in those regiments where there has been amalgamation, and that no other ranks of the same standard be given until vacancies occur.
I am asking that these men should be allowed to remain in the Territorial Army as an indispensable portion of that Army. If you refuse to allow that, you may well be starting a good deal of trouble among some of the most senior ranks of the Army, and at this stage I do not think we can afford to do that. 985 This question of rank is important to the individual. I hated the system which existed during the war and under which an acting or temporary rank was granted; and then because a man was ill or something happened outside his control, his rank was reduced. These people have all accepted a reduction in rank. Have they now either to go to a regiment where they are not known, or take an even lower rank? This is a very important point and I should like to stress it to the best of my ability. Naturally, exactly the same considerations apply to the other ranks and the senior N.C.Os., if there are surpluses there.
May I now make one or two other points in general about the National Service man? What is the decision with regard to bounties to be given to the National Service man who volunteers? I do not expect him to get the same as the Territorial. I do not think the Territorial gets enough, and, in passing, I should like to remind your Lordships that the Territorial Army officer gets nothing at all. But if the Territorial Army volunteer gets twelve pounds, I think the National Service volunteer should get in the neighbourhood of ten pounds. Do not give him less than that, otherwise there will be no incentive at all. Now may I return to an old favourite of mine—namely, the question of the seventeen-year old? I am convinced that if we get boys of seventeen into the Territorial Army we shall do more for the Territorial Army than would be possible in any other way. My own desire is to see them come in at seventeen, with a promise of, say, six years' service, and then to say to them, "You need not go through your National Service." I know I am in a minority with regard to that matter, but I think that is the answer. If that cannot be done, will you let them come in at seventeen years of age and serve for a year as volunteers in the Territorial Army? I think we shall make them so keen about it that when they have finished their National Service they will come hack to the Territorial Army, anxious to serve their part. Do not let us forget that probably they will come hack in considerable numbers as young officers. It is eleven years since a seventeen-year old was allowed to volunteer for the Territorial Army. I think that is much too long. Once more, 986 I should like to ask whether consideration could not be given to that proposal.
Finally, the Government can help considerably in the administration of the Territorial Army. There are hundreds of silly little ways in which we are held up by inconsideration, or by explanations not being given as to why things happen as they do. I am going to give just one example. I am sorry to be so personal this afternoon, but I happen to have a regiment, and naturally I know much more about it than about any other. We are going to a place called Towyn in Wales for our camp this year. After the disaster of last year's camp which was extremely badly administered, last September I took the trouble of going to see it. One of the interesting points about Towyn is that the camp is a mile and a half by railway from the firing position. There is no bridge over the canal or river, and by road the distance is four and a half miles. The bridge is being rebuilt, but it certainly will not be completed this year and probably not next. The railway goes straight past the camp, bun does not stop at the camp. There is a quarter of an hour's march to the station, a quarter of an hour's march back for lunch, a quarter of an hour's march back again in the afternoon, and a quarter of an hour's march back to camp in the evening. That is an hour's march each, day. Marching is not the job of an antiaircraft gunner at camp. If he has to learn to march, we can teach him in the drill hall. We want him to fire guns at camp—that is what we go to camp for. And yet for an hour each day we have to go marching.
The local R.E.s have already volunteered to put up a platform, to make a station and do anything we want at the bottom of the camp in order that the train can slop and so that we do not have to march. So far as f can see there is no reason why the train should not stop: it is a special train for the troops. But apparently our friends in British Railways have said that it will be dangerous. I do not know where the danger comes in. I would trust my R.E.s to make something strong enough to support the ordinary Territorial volunteer and even the National Service man. That is just one example. Can we be told whether there is a reason why this can not happen? So far as I know, this matter has gone right 987 to the top through Army channels, and has come back again—and you know how long that takes. But the answer is that the British Railways will not allow it. May we please be told whether there is a reason? If there is, and it is a good one, we shall understand it. If there is not, can we please stop the train at Towyn? There are hundreds of other problems that the poor commanding officer, through his brigadier and through his Group, sends up to the War Office, but they all come back and never do we get satisfaction. I think the real answer is that a trade union commanding officer is needed. Let us get together and get something done. This is an appeal to the Government. Even on these Benches, where we do not like conscription, we want to see the thing work. We want to help in any way we can. We want to see the defence of this country as strong as possible and ready for action whenever the fight may come. That is what we are here for. Can we have help in these administrative details? I assure your Lordships that we will do all we can, both on these Benches and in the Territorial Army, to see that these things are done.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, this is the last occasion upon which we shall debate the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill with the Army in its present shape. Next year's debate will give us an opportunity of seeing how the revolutionary changes which will by then have taken place in the Army have worked out. But, changes though there undoubtedly will be, the backbone of the Army, as it is to-day and as it will be then, remains the Regular Force. Therefore, although I am myself a Territorial officer, I make no apology for returning to the problem of Regular recruiting, which has been touched upon by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, and by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan.
In the thirties the average intake of Regulars each year was about 25,000. We now want about 30,000 a year, but we look like getting only an average of about 20,000; so there is a shortfall of nearly 10,000 a year, which is extremely serious. Not only is it serious, but it appears that we are beginning to take it for granted. We can take it for granted, however, only 988 if we are prepared to re-model our entire plan for the Regular Army on an intake of 20,000 a year. That, I submit, we cannot possibly do. We have discussed in your Lordships' House on many occasions the reasons for the lack of Regular recruits. We all know them by heart now—lack of housing, boredom with soldiering after the war, the desire for a civilian life, pay, conditions of service and so on. I think we have now to decide what steps we can take from a short-term point of view to get over this immediate difficulty. I was appalled to see raised in another place in the debate on the Army Estimates the old canard that if we only wait for a little unemployment we shall find that the recruits will come rolling in. That is most pernicious nonsense. We have only to examine the figures for unemployment and the figures for recruiting before the war, and we find that they bear no relationship whatever to each other. It is no way of helping to solve this problem to bring forward again that old, time-worn theory.
I am relating this problem specifically to the Army because, although the difficulties which I have mentioned apply to all three Services, the problem is actually quite different for each Service. The Navy has hardly any trouble at all in getting recruits, and the Royal Air Force has but little. It is in the Army that the difficulty is greatest. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, has mentioned housing. To do them credit, the Government have, I think, done the best they can. But this again is a long-term problem. It will take many years before we can build all the houses that are needed for married quarters and other accommodation in the Army. I cannot even pretend that if a Conservative Government were to be returned to-morrow, with the resulting enormous increase and improvement in the housing programme, we could honestly say that this problem would be immediately solved. But there are certain grievances which we can take action about now. I was very glad indeed to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Bridge-man, mention resettlement. It is a matter which I have ventured to raise on many occasions. I am shocked to a degree to discover the number of my contemporaries in the Services, aged thirty-five or thereabouts, who are now leaving the Service. When I ask them whether they are dissatisfied with the Service they say: 989 "No, of course not." They are as devoted to the Service as they were the day they joined, but, as they point out, wives and children cannot be fed and clothed on devotion. They feel there is no future for them in the Army.
What it amounts to is that nine out of ten men who join at the age of eighteen will be thrown out on to the scrapheap of unemployment by the time they reach the age of fifty. That is inevitable if the pyramid of promotion is to be maintained. The Government are well aware of this, and again, to do them credit, they have taken the best steps they can to tackle the problem. But the situation is very different now from what it was when this problem first arose, because officers are no longer the millionaires they were supposed to be in the old days, and they hesitate to take up a career which is liable to be cut short when they reach the age of fifty. No doubt your Lordships will remember the discussion there was in this House during the debates on the Companies Act over the age of retirement for company directors, and how we put in Section 185 for special leave to be taken to extend the age. If your Lordships will get hold of any bundle of company reports you will find that almost without exception every director on reaching the age of seventy is asking for a special resolution to enable him to continue to serve on the board of his company, Your Lordships did not wish to see these directors thrown out at the age of fifty, but that is what we are permitting in the case of men in the Service, and there seems to be a tendency for people outside to regard the process with equanimity. I say that it is bad for the Services and bad psychologically that the Government should ask a man to make his career in the Services, knowing that they will be finished with him when he reaches the age of fifty.
I appeal to the Government to give this matter fresh consideration, and to see whether steps cannot be taken to guarantee to all men joining the Army fixed employment when they come out, at whatever age it may be. The problem is the same for other ranks but it is especially difficult for officers. I ventured to give your Lordships an example a little while ago. It was that of a brother officer of mine who commanded a regiment and who on leaving the Service spent nearly nine months trying to find suitable 990 employment. He had left the Army with the rank of lieutenant-colonel at the age of fifty. The only job offered to him after a long search was that of driving a laundry van in Hythe. He turned the job down, and he was criticised in local circles for "having ideas above his station." That may well be. But if the Government are going to insult a man by suggesting that having commanded one of His 'Majesty's Regiments for three years he is not fit for a job of equal status in civil life they will not improve the prospects of getting men for the Army. This sort of thing is psychologically wrong. At the moment, I am afraid we are only tinkering with the matter. What we must do is to guarantee a future for those joining the Regular Army.
My noble friend Lord Bridgeman dealt with the question of pay, and I echo his provisos about increases. Certainly it is not possible now to consider increases of the size which I should like. I believe that we should not merely bring Army pay up to a level of equality with that in industrial life—I think we should make it much better. But that, I admit, is out of the question. It cannot be done at the moment. I think, nevertheless, that we are inclined to forget the difference that has again appeared between civilian and Army remuneration. I remember the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, explaining to us in a committee room in another place some five years ago the new pay code. He was at pains to show how an attempt had been made to equate the pay of the Service man, taking into consideration his allowances and benefits, with the pay of his brother in industry. But the rates of pay of the two have not kept pace. On my reckoning the average rate of pay for the man in the Service is at least 18s. a week less than that of his brother in industry. If that disparity continues, not only will the Service fail to attract recruits but it will steadily lose the few good men that it has. That will be a disaster, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, as chairman of the Liberal Party, will be the first to agree.
I have made a few calculations on this matter, and I offer this idea to the Government. If the Regulars are worth more than the National Service men to the Army they should be given that advantage in cash. It is true that they 991 already receive some slight advantage in allowances. If the Government deducted 15s. a week from the National Service man's pay it would give a total of something like £14,000,000. With that they could add something like 12s. 4d. per week to the average weekly pay of the Regular soldier. I suggest that that is worth considering. The Regular is worth more to the Army than the National Service man and he should be paid a little more. The House, as usual, seems to be fairly full of Marshals of the Royal Air Force, and Admirals of the Fleet, so it is with considerable trepidation that I say that if soldiers are in shorter supply than airmen and sailors, why should they not be paid a little more? One has to pay more in the open market for rare commodities, and I suggest that as soldiers are now rare commodities they should be paid a little more than sailors and airmen.
May I say, in conclusion, how pleased I was to see in a modest corner of one of the papers the other day the programme which the Government have drawn up of band parades, tournaments and various military displays? Two years ago, the Government would have been sneered at for doing that—except from these Benches. We should, no doubt, have read condemnation in the New Statesman and Nation of the state of affairs which counters atom bombs and hydrogen bombs with band parades. I say, however, that the Government are perfectly right to revive something of the colour and glamour which is the substitute that the Army has for the attraction of the Navy and the Air Force conditions of service. People join the Navy or the Royal Air Force, but they join a certain regiment of the Army. The Army as a Service—let us he frank about it—cannot compare with the other two Forces in its general attraction; but individual regiments can. The noble and gallant Earl, Lord Wavell, has on many occasions made the point that such regiments as the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards and the Household Cavalry can get more recruits than other regiments because they have something to put "in the shop window." The most effective recruiting poster I have ever seen is the new one for the Household Cavalry. It is purely sentimental; its appeal is purely one of glamour; there is no reality 992 about it whatsoever. Yet I believe it will pull recruits in better than any list of terms of service. I believe it is a far more effective poster than the general Army one of two young National Service men looking over the side of a troopship pulling into Port Said. To judge by the happy expression on their faces, it must be their first visit to Port Said!
I would ask the Government to do what they can in regard to these small things, such as Number 1 dress, which are usually pooh-poohed and laughed at by the realists, but which, to those of us who have to try to get the men into the Army, count every time. These things do not cost a lot of money. To raise the pay of the soldier by the sums I should like would cost so much that it is out of the question. But the little things I have mentioned mean a great deal to the men who we want to recruit. We hear too much of the suggestion that men can go into the Army and receive trade training before they go out and get a good job in "civvy street." The Army is not just a steppingstone to "civvy street." We do not want to regard the Army as a steppingstone to anything. We want to persuade men that the Army offers them as fine a career as they can find in this country. At the moment, it does not look as if we are making a great success of it.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, we have heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, the speech we should expect from a man with his wealth of experience, a speech packed with useful ideas on the subject of the Army. With your Lordships' permission, I will deal merely with the Regular Army and leave to my noble friend Lord Pakenham the problems of the Territorial and Reserve Forces. The question of Regular recruiting is a very old one. We can agree with noble Lords opposite that it is the most serious problem facing the Defence Services of this country. After any war, the problem of rebuilding the Regular Forces is a complicated one. For a number of years there has been virtually no enlistment on normal engagements, so there is no question of expanding recruiting suddenly. That would lead to an abnormal number of entries in one year and a correspondingly excessive number of discharges a number of years hence. The position of 993 the Regular Army has to be built up gradually into a balanced structure of age groups and ranks, and the engagements must be staggered to allow for an even outflow in subsequent years.
Since 1946, the process of reconstruction of the Regular Army has gone ahead, and I think it should be known that a fair degree of success has been achieved in the process of rebuilding. In 1946, the Army found itself short of both officers and men, and out of balance both by age groups and between arms. The other ranks' strength was down to 100,000, and included in that figure were a large number of men who were shortly due to complete their engagements. By the end of December, 1946, the combined strength of Regular and short-service elements in the Army was 130,000. A year later it was 160,000; and at the end of December, 1948, the number was 178,000. Up to that time, recruiting on normal engagements had been nearly up to the pre-war average of 25,000 a year. In fact, when the considerable number of short-service engagements is added, the intake for the Regular Army was well above the pre-war average. So far, reconstruction was going well. Then, as your Lordships are aware, 1949 saw a considerable falling-off in recruiting, and owing to the high rate of run-out during that year the total strength increased to only 181,000; and by April 1 of this year the Regular strength was approximately 185,000. However, these figures conceal some weakness, in that the short-service element comprises a large proportion of the total, and a number of short-service men are due to finish their engagements in the near future. So, as your Lordships know, the intention that the normal commitments of the Army should be carried out by Regulars and that National Service men should be trained as Reserves for war-time expansion has not been achieved, and National Service men are serving all over the world. We have had admirable accounts of the way these men are performing their service, but nobody pretends that it is an ideal system, and so we come back to the main problem of how to raise the strength of the Regular Forces. As I have said before, that is a very old problem.
If I may introduce a personal note, may I say that I can never remember 994 a time in the twenty years between 1919 and 1939 when there was not a chronic shortage of men in the Regular Army? Those were the days of skeleton units and sub-units, when men carried coloured flags on manuœvres to denote sub-units, platoons and sections, when there was great difficulty in persuading Regulars who were in the forces to reengage for the complete term of long service, and when, once a year at the beginning of the trooping season, the Regular battalions at home forming the Expeditionary Force were completely denuded when they had to send their drafts to make up toe strength of the battalions overseas. There is nothing new in the problem. There is a new factor since the war, however, in that the National Service scheme is operating, and therefore the only recruits who can join the Army on normal engagement are the young men below calling-up age for National Service. These men are in fact providing the great bulk of normal enlistments into the Army, and from the National Service men only 1½ per cent. are joining on Regular engagements.
The noble Viscount mentioned the question of specialists and artisans. That is a big problem in itself. I think that the problem of converting the Army from a manual to a mechanised basis is not fully solved by the trace training of boys, but the training of boys as tradesmen is a hopeful means of remedying the situation. The immediate aim, as several noble Lords have said, is that we must find such inducements as will attract both the young men from civil life and the National Service men to take up the Army as a career, and to reverse the present trend of enlistments. The first remedy that comes to mind is the matter of pay. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said, that soldiers should be given a rate of pay corresponding to their value to the country, the question of inter-Service pay has to be treated as an inter-Service matter. Moreover, any general increase of pay is a matter very closely affecting the national economic policy.
§ THE EARL or LUCAN
The matter is engaging the attention of the Government all the time on the subject, but at 995 the moment I can add nothing to what has been said by members of the Government. Other considerations enter into the question of a choice of career. I feel that a young man considering whether he should take up the Army as a career would ask himself, among other things, under what conditions he would be spending his service. He would want to know what were the prospects of advancement and promotion in the Service, and the prospects of resettlement in a good job when he returned to civil life. I would like to deal shortly with those conditions.
I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who referred to the difference in conditions in the Army over the last thirty years. When I think of the conditions of the men joining in 1918 and 1919–the conditions of barracks, food, canteens, recreation and so on—the Army of to-day is quite unrecognisable. But more is being, done all the time. Admittedly, the question of housing, both for the single men and for married men, is not as satisfactory as we could wish. If I may be allowed another personal reminiscence, I remember that a year or two before the war my office was filled with plans of beautiful barracks that were to be built to replace the 150-year old places in which the troops were having to live. The war came and put an end to all those plans, but improvement is still continuing in barracks, provision is still being made for married quarters and, in fact, the five-year programme which is just starting will, when it is completed, meet the full requirements for the married men of the Army.
With regard to prospects, any man who has the capacity when he joins the Army can rise to high rank in it: he can rise to commissioned rank, warrant rank or non-commissioned rank, and he can serve, I think, up to thirty years. Then there is the question of resettlement in civil life. If your Lordships will bear with me, I would like to give some up-to-date details of what has been done in the field of resettlement. This matter is being gone into in great detail by inter-departmental committees, and as the Memorandum shows the results are extremely encouraging. In the home Civil Service 15 per cent. of annual vacancies are being reserved for ex-Regulars in the executive 996 class; 10 per cent. are being reserved in the clerical class, and in other classes—those known as departmentally recruited —there are some 7,000 vacancies, including some 3,000 postmen vacancies, reserved annually for all three Services. In 1948 no fewer than 10,500 ex-Regulars of all Services were placed by this means in the Civil Service. The National Coal Board have agreed to accept every year 6,500 physically fit men under the age of thirty-six. Then, although no final agreement has yet been reached, there is hope that the Railway Executive and the London Transport Executive will find reserved places for ex-Regulars.
The Ministry of Labour are approaching industry generally with a request that vacancies in the proportion of one in twenty of the annual intake be reserved for ex-Regulars. If this approach is successful there will eventually be two and a half vacancies for every Regular leaving the Service, which will allow a considerable choice of occupation. The Ministry of Education are considering recognition of personnel of the Royal Army Educational Corps, and it is hoped that the fire services may accept a number of Regulars trained in the Army Fire Service. As regards medical personnel, negotiations are going on with the Ministry of Health for the recognition of skilled categories of the Royal Army Medical Corps personnel under the National Health Service Act. So far as industry is concerned, the trade unions have agreed to recognise nearly a hundred Army trades, which cover some 20,000 Regular army tradesmen.
Of course the majority of Regular soldiers do not come into the category of skilled tradesmen, and for these men there is a training problem which is being tackled by the Services. Courses are being run to fit men for civil life, both in the Army and outside it. In the Army there are correspondence courses, there are prerelease courses at the Army college and pre-release attachment to potential employers in industry. Outside the Army there are courses sponsored by the Ministry of Labour, and others arranged direct with employers. I believe the prospects for those training schemes are good. May I quote the results of the first course held in 1949 under the Ministry of Labour? Ninety-three officers and other ranks attended, and all but seven were placed in executive jobs. Of those seven, 997 four refused on ground of immobility. Opportunities for agricultural training are provided, but so far the opportunities exceed the number of applications. Concessions have been given by some local authorities for ex-Regulars to deduct their period of service from their normal age to make them eligible to sit for competitions. Negotiations are proceeding with local authorities generally with the idea of allowing Regulars, while still serving, to pass the entrance and promotion examinations of the National Joint Council of the local authority. Finally, the Minister of Labour is negotiating with a number of industries with a view to making concessions for Regulars. Progress has not reached a stage where anything final can be stated, but the list of industries with whom negotiations are in hand is as follows: gas, railways, London Transport Executive, chemical, electrical and cable, inland waterways and docks, iron and steel, civil engineering, cotton spinning, stone masonry, boot and shoe, and paint and paper trades.
Mention was made by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, of the difficulty of the ex-officer, and there are special problems connected with the retired officer which do not occur in the case of the ex-other rank. But it should be pointed out that officers who serve to the age of fifty qualify for retired pay, and a retired pay of some £650 a year at the age of forty-eight—at least, that was the age when I retired—is no negligible sum. I have detained your Lordships rather a long time, but I hope that enough has been said on this question of resettlement to indicate that many different spheres have been and are being opened up for the employment of the ex-Regular. The Government's aim is to secure a relationship between Service and civilian life which will provide the opportunity of a Continuous career through the Services and industry.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ LORD WEBB-JOHNSON
My Lords, I have a special responsibility, as Chairman of the Army Medical Advisory Board, for the efficiency of the Royal Army Medical Corps. I have spoken in your Lordships' House on this question more than once, and I trust that I shall not he regarded as unduly impatient or importunate if I speak again and expect to receive some direct information. I have not given notice of the particular 998 points to be raised because the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, in the debate on Defence, gave a promise that points raised in that debate would be answered in the course of this. I pointed out then that in regard to the.supply of specialists to the Army there was a very real difficulty and problem, and that it was likely to be overcome only by integration of the Army Service with the National Health Service and by second vent of officers in that Service into the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, since that proposal was put forward officially as a recommendation to the Minister of Defence, to the Secretaries of State, and to the Cabinet, many posts have been filled without any such obligation of secondment. However, I hope that to-day we shall receive some information about what steps have been taken towards this end.
As has been emphasised throughout the debate, the real problem for the efficiency of the Royal Army Medical Corps, like any other unit or carps in the Army, is fundamentally the efficiency and strength of the Regular officers and men. To bring that strength up to establishment is becoming a more and more difficult problem, because the sands are running out, and by reason of age retirements the officers are running out. Many officers are remaining in the Corps only because there is a ban on retirement, and when that ban is lifted the true situation will be revealed. But the present situation is serious enough. The establishment of R.A.M.C. officers is 915, including long-term and short-term commissions. The deficiency in that 915 is 342; the deficiency in the number of long-term officers is 10 per cent.; the deficiency on short-term commissions is 64 per cent., and the overall deficiency is 37 per cent. These are figures which I have not given to your Lordships' House before, and I do not propose to repeat any of those which I have given on other occasions. But I thought those figures were serious enough to make your Lordship realise that the Royal Army Medical Corps is in danger of running down far beyond a chance of recovery unless drastic steps are taken to remedy the situation As has been emphasised by many speakers to-day, the only remedy is the improvement of terms and conditions of service. It is a comparatively easy matter to determine how remuneration in the civilian National Health Service and remuneration 999 in the Royal Army Medical Corps can be brought within reasonable comparison of each other.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ LORD CALVERLEY
My Lords, my friend Lord Webb-Johnson will not expect me to follow up the points he has made. He is a master of his subject and I am speaking as a layman with regard to conditions in the Army. I was much concerned the other day when it was announced that there were 7,000 conscripts who have deserted, but I then remembered that not so long ago the figures were nearer 17.000. Whenever I sat on the Bench in my capacity as a magistrate, there was nearly always a deserter appearing before me, usually a smart young fellow between the ages of eighteen and nineteen, and I found, on looking at the figures, that I was in danger of getting the matter out of focus and of imagining that thousands of young fellows who had been conscripted had deserted. In 1942, we had in my community of 300.000 inhabitants, 592 young fellows brought before the magistrates for desertion. Incidentally, many of those men were taking a post-graduate course in one of the finest educational buildings in the West Riding. Many of them were ex-Borstalians who were following up their studies when not in prison. But last year there was a remarkable fall in this figure. Instead of 592 there were, during 1949, only seventy-three young fellows who came before the magistrates for desertion. This certainly helped me to gain a proper focus and to realise that the Army was not going to the bad. There were only two deserters from the Air Force; the rest were from the Army. We get very few deserters from the Navy. I was struck by the fact that out of those seventy-three, thirty-nine were between the ages of eighteen and nineteen.
I speak as one who served as an Army welfare officer for ten and a half years. I never wore uniform, and therefore was able to get a better approach to the soldier—and even to a field-marshal whom I had the privilege of addressing. I could make these approaches much more freely when not in uniform. I have wondered, and I should like to ask my noble friend who is going to reply to the debate, whether it is considered that eighteen is the proper age at which to 1000 conscript a young fellow into the Army or the Air Force for eighteen months. It is a great break, even though the period is only eighteen months, in the life of a young fellow. I wish it were possible for us not to have to send young conscripts at the age of eighteen to Malaya or to similar fields of battle. The noble Lord, Lord Killearn, is, I understand, going to take part in this debate and it may be that he will have something to say on this subject. I know many mothers and fathers would have greater peace of mind if His Majesty's Government could find it possible not to send young soldiers to such places as Malaya but to man our defences out there with more seasoned soldiers.
I spent a great deal of time last week in visiting various establishments. I went into one employing 3,500 skilled engineers. It is one of nine firms who altogether employ about 35.000 engineers. I was asking how, since the Army is so largely mechanised, they were getting on with the job, as so many of their young people who would be taking a course in a technical college have to leave for a time to go into the Armed Forces. I asked the chief shop steward to tell me frankly what the position was. He was an old soldier and he said: "We have got to accept conscription as the most reasonable method of raising the man-power for the Armed Forces, but the ideal would be to let these young fellows finish their apprenticeship and go when they are twenty or twenty-one."
I must say that I liked the factual way in which this shop steward, the elected convener in that huge works, looked upon his task. He emphasised the fact that, since modern warfare is so largely mechanised, conscripts should be able to enter the Forces in such a way as not to interfere with their technical training. Most of these young fellows have had three years' apprenticeship; it would be desirable for them to be used in the mechanised sections of His Majesty's Forces, so that they may come back to their civilian work when they had finished their term of service not "browned off." One young man told me that he had been "browned off" because his whole time in the Service had been spent in the cookhouse. He was a young man who had had nearly four years' training in a very efficient engineering shop. I know that 1001 in another sphere—that is to say, in prison—a job in the cookhouse is regarded as being very desirable. But it is not so in the Services—at any rate, for a young man with technical training. Many men would be spared a feeling of frustration if their technical training could be properly employed. I know something of the conditions and wish to pay my tribute for much good work done. Take a camp such as Catterick, which is the No. 1 camp, and far superior, seeing that it is in the North, to anything they can pm on in the South. It is true that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, did mention Aldershot.
§ LORD CALVERLEY
That is open to doubt. What I wished to impress upon your Lordships was that here was a shop steward giving his considered and positive opinion of the benefits which might accrue from conscription. When I heard the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, talking about the Territorial associations I could not help feeling that the average Territorial association is a closed shop except to county people and their like.
§ LORD CALVERLEY
They are in Yorkshire. They are too respectable. If you were to get into the Territorial Associations a strong force of shop stewards to give their ideas, you would not only arouse interest but you would get more recruits for the Territorials.
May I interrupt the noble Lord? May I ask whether he is not aware that there are many trade union representatives on the Territorial associations? They are welcome members, and their assistance in many cases is considerable.
§ LORD CALVERLEY
I also remember that in the old days very few trade union officials were invited. I agree that when they were invited they were rather suspicious and wondered what they were going to he "let in" for.
§ LORD CALVERLEY
This is a serious point. If you could get hold of a few shop stewards, your Territorial Army 1002 associations, instead of being so highly respectable, could be made into a live contact between the people and themselves, and so you would get more people into the Territorial Army. So much for shop stewards.
Then I went to the education officer who is in touch with altogether 35,000 engineers. He himself is responsible for apprentices to the number of 3,500. He said that the period of service could be of real value if the Army Council—and he emphasised the point—could ensure that these young fellow; were given a job to which they were best suited. I agree that in many cases that is already done. Only last week some hard-bitten men—they were nearly all chief constables—took a sort of refresher course at Catterick. They left enthusiastic about the way in which everyone, from the commanding officer of the camp downwards, was doing his utmost to make the best of the raw material which was being sent. Without exception, they have said openly that, taking these young conscripts in the mass, they were a fine type of young Britisher. From the commanding officer downwards they were all very proud to be associated with them I want to make that point.
I then went to the managing director of this great concern, and he agreed that it was necessary that he should lose some of his men for eighteen months. He said, "Eighteen seems to he the age when there is the least possible upset in a chap's life, although twenty-one might be better. But my own son will go and I hope he will benefit." The point is that these young fellows cal benefit if only they take it in the right spirit. The reason why as a layman, am intervening like this in a Service debate is to try to emphasise that point. I wish my voice could go further than these four walls, because this managing director, an old Service man, gave me his considered opinion. He said: "Public opinion is not fully informed. Sometimes it is misinformed on this old subject as to why we need these men in the Armed Forces of the Crown." We should find some new method of advertising. I was glad to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, when he pointed to that attractive poster of the Guards. It would be better if the Army Council were less orthodox in their approach to methods of advertising. It 1003 does not always go down well to see a poster depicting a nicely groomed young chap of about nineteen with too much lather on his cheeks or too much oil on his hair making it so glitteringly sticky. The point I should like to press upon my noble friends is that the Army Council should take notice of the fact that the average parent does not realise the vital necessity of keeping the Armed Forces, both Territorial and Regular, up to the finest and most efficient concert pitch.
Going about or passing some of these barracks, I am glad to see that married quarters are being built in a greater measure than I have seen during the last ten or fifteen years. That, again, is all to the good for those men who are on the strength and want their wives and families to live with them. I do not apologise for my intervention this afternoon, and my reason for speaking is to say that we should not look upon conscription as an unnecessary evil. As one young fellow said, "It is the most reasonable way to ensure filling up the ranks from all sections of the community." There was the public school boy who said: "Father, I am very glad that I have done my eighteen months. It has been of great value. And the beds at Catterick are far softer than they were at the school you sent me to." I myself have felt and tumbled on the beds at some of the public schools to which noble Lords opposite give their patronage and to which they send their sons, and I want to say that the beds are harder at Eton than they are at Catterick. There is no doubt about that. There has been a revolution in catering for the men's comfort. In fact, there is a danger that they may be pampered. I realise from personal knowledge that there has been a transformation, and that the Army Council have been, as it were, dragged to the penitential form. They have a far more intelligent and informed outlook on what these young fellows need, and I hope they will carry on the good work.
§ 4.39 p.m.
THE EARL OF LIMERICK
My Lords, in speaking to-day on the subject matter raised by my noble friend Lord Bridge-man, I should have preferred to speak from the cross Benches; but the physical gulf between these two sets of Benches is 1004 smaller and more convenient for the purposes of to-day. My task is more limited in scope because the only section of the community for which I have a right to speak is that body of men, that collection of experience, represented by the members of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces' associations all over the country, about which in a minute or two I shall have a word to say with regard to the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Calverley. As your Lordships know so well from your own experience, we are servants alike of the Reserve and of the Auxiliary Forces of the three Regular Forces. It has been felt, since the days of the great Lord Haldane, that some such organisations represent an essential link between the Services and civil life without which the inconvenience, the expense and perhaps the inefficiency of running Auxiliary Forces would be too great.
To-day, of course, we are concerned above all things with doing our best to make a success of this National Service Act. The considerations are new; they mean many novel factors in national life, and I do not think that the Army Council or the Air Council, and certainly not the Council of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces' Associations, would claim that they or we know the answers. Therefore, my Lords, in the usual way we shall study the problems. We have in fact been studying them in one shape or another since just before the end of the war. It is one of our functions to tender advice. Another of our functions, when a decision has been taken by the Services, is loyally to do our best to carry it into execution in so far as the civil administration is concerned. I was glad to note that my noble friend Lord Bridgeman mentioned the close co-operation with the War Office and I should like to add a word in reinforcement of what he said. Neither for them, nor always for us, is our work entirely easy, but if I wanted to bet on a sure thing I would certainly start by picking a horse called "Co-operation"; and I can assure your Lordships that, particularly in the more recent days, it has been a very great pleasure to us serving on the Council, and on the various associations throughout the land, to know and to feel day by day in our work that there is in the War Office an understanding of and sympathy with the problems arising in civil life. I hope that we on our side have 1005 shown ourselves equally willing to understand the problems of the Department.
If I may, I would make one or two remarks anent those of the noble Lord, Lord Calverley. I confess that I was in some doubt as to whether his main complaint was that, taken by and large, our associations were too respectable, judged by North country standards, and whether he suggested that a lowering of cur standards—presumably to those which he advocated for the North country—was desirable. Or perhaps the noble Lord was being a little more serious. If so, perhaps he will allow me to suggest to him a study of the actual composition of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces' Associations in their modern guise, which is not new. I would point out that their composition is settled not by themselves but by the Army Council and the Air Council, and that it has been the subject of very careful scrutiny in recent talks. Moreover, there is a body called the Territorial Advisory Committee, sitting in and co-operating closely with the War Office., on which, I am glad to say, two members nominated by the Trades Union Congress General Council sit. If, with the knowledge and consent of the Army or Air Council, any of us on associations can devise and ensure closer co-operation with trade unions, or with employers' organisations, it is not only our duty but our pleasure to do it. As we know, the National Service Act has raised a host of new problems. I do not think any of us pretends, as the noble Lords opposite have already said, that we like all of the Act. But there it is; we will do our best with it, and if experience suggests modifications no doubt opportunity wilt arise for reconsideration by an amending Act.
We know that the British Nation is peculiarly apt in times of peace to react against military thought, and that atmosphere has of course been accentuated, and properly so, for a time by the rival calls of the nation on men, money and materials. We, whose hobby-horse is the Auxiliary Forces, and who do our best to ride it on a difficult course, have not hitherto complained about that point of view. But a time must come—it may already have come—when the emphasis needs shifting a little. We can do very little to shift that emphasis, and I add my voice to the many that have already 1006 been raised, in this House and elsewhere, to the suggestion that the shifting of emphasis is a Cabinet duty, whenever they judge the time opportune: the lead must come from the top.
There is one facet of this National Service Act which needs a little examination. Now, for the first time, we have roughly 100,000 private microscopes, in as many households up and down the country, turned on the Regular Services, for the most part on the Regular Army. Those microscopes, used by the members of the family of every boy taken under the Act, are turned fairly closely on the Fighting Services; and therefore from now onwards, building up to 1954 when the total number of microscopes will have risen to some 400,000, there will be formed a public opinion for or against the value given for taxpayers' money used by the Fighting Services. As we know, they are no more masters entirely of their own house than we as individuals can be. There are external forces playing on them, and on all of us, all the time. I am not suggesting, therefore, that if occasionally the microscope shows up something which is not always entirely attractive it is the fault of the Services. That is far from my mind. I am suggesting, however, that the sort of experience which our young men get in the hands of the Regular Services is going to be as never before a factor in forming public opinion for or against the Fighting Services. That can be an immensely important factor. As for the young men themselves, I know we are at one. It is impossible to overstress the importance of the preconditioning which they receive when they are doing their eighteen months' full-time service arid before they pass on transfer to their four years' Reserve service. If their experience is good, if in their opinion (and at eighteen or nineteen they are fully entitled to form one) they are sensibly used, if they are given a reasonable break, if they are given a reasonable training, if they fed that they are part of something which really makes sense, then we have a reasonable expectation that on transfer to the Reserve we on the civil side shall be able to make a successful appeal to a large enough number of the right type to form a long-service element in the Territorial Army. I leave the Special Reserve out of this because different circumstances prevail.
1007 There is also, of course, the fact that many of these lads will have decided, on representations made to them in the last three months of their full-time service, to join a Territorial Army unit. We look to the Regular Army to put the case to them and to give them the right experience. If it should so happen that the Regular Army, whether or not through their fault, has been unable to turn out these lads in a really co-operative frame of mind, then I say in all seriousness that I rate very low the likelihood and the ability of either Territorial commanding officers or Territorial associations turning these young men into volunteers to take on the full Territorial Army obligation. If that were to happen on a great scale, we should have to take a very grave view of the prospects of the ultimate success of the National Service Act in forming a Reserve Army.
I should like in a moment or two to revert to the Regular Army, in reinforcement of much that has been said by noble Lords this afternoon. But before doing so, may I say one word on the recent work done by the War Office, mainly through the Director of the Territorial Army and his staff? I have referred to the very welcome full co-operation which we have enjoyed, and now I should like to make specific reference to their work in connection with the reorganisation of the order of battle. Of course it was right to start something in May, 1947. Two years had elapsed, enthusiasm was waning; we had seen it all a generation before. Something had to be done. The only thing was to start again those units which had existed before. But there was no National Service Act, no logical or statistical basis on which to frame a thoughtful long-term scheme for a Reserve Army. That had to follow. So under great pressure of time, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, has said, it fell to the lot of the present Director of the Territorial Army to formulate a basis of ascertainment, collect his figures, and then formulate a logical scheme for long-term building up of a stable, balanced order of battle,
Such a plan means changes. All changes in which local sentiment and personal effort are involved are apt to be painful; and some are very distressing. Even I, after the old war, was caught in a somewhat similar way to that which 1008 has been mentioned already by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan I would suggest that any organism justifies itself only by changing to its environment—I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Webb-Johnson, will not dissent from that. It is therefore part of our function to co-operate readily when a well-explained, sensible reason for change is shown to exist, when it is handled in a sympathetic way, as I submit this has been handled, and when the maximum number of people (almost the maximum—perhaps not the associations all the time) are taken into confidence. I submit that we should not look this gift horse in the mouth, but that we should try to lead it into the straight, and let it have a good run.
May I now revert for a moment to the Regular Army, on which, as is generally agreed, the whole situation depends? I do not know whether it is sufficiently recognised throughout the country that circumstances—notably the National Service Act—have wished on to the Regular Army a quadruple job. In effect, we are asking the Regular Army to be a sort of finishing school, asking it to be a sort of youth club, asking it to do its obvious duty of running an active Service at home and in various parts of the world not at war. We are also asking it to run a particularly difficult war in Malaya. Even if our Regular Army were filled to the desired point numerically, and by categories of long-service men and technicians, should we not say that it had its hands pretty full? But we know that it is short of long-service members in certain categories, short of technicians, and that it is in fact running the show with (I think I am right in saying) over 50 per cent. of National Service men. Surely that is a task which is too great. Therefore, if there are any defects in the results achieved by the Regular Army in dealing with the National Service man—and I think there are—I should be the last to blame the Regular Army, which I suggest is over-extended in every sense.
There seems to be singular unanimity in diagnosing the disease, and I hope that noble Lords opposite will be able to help us when they reply by making suggestions for the treatment and for the cure. Arguments put forward this afternoon for the improvement of the Regular Service suggest that on the whole it is the conditions of service which are the most important. The Secretary of State for 1009 War in another place stressed that very point in part of a long and, if I may say so with all humility, very lucid statement which traversed much of the ground which has been covered in your Lordships' House this afternoon. Few of us aspire to Cabinet rank; perhaps even fewer achieve it. As a backbencher, I feel diffident in doing more than adumbrate the general proposition that there should be unflagging search for instances where money can be saved—not ably in the Service itself, on administration or other matters—and so applied for the betterment of conditions of service. Or it may be that, in the wisdom of the Cabinet, it will be found that opportunity arises, here and there, even to consider pruning another Department in order that we shall do that which we dare not, I submit, leave undone—that is, make it possible for the Regular Army to be thoroughly efficient to cover all the tasks laid upon it, thereby fulfilling the fourth of its functions, which I have left to the last.
That brings me back to the only subject on which I have a right to speak—namely the provision of the necessary officers, warrant officers and N.C.O.s to help the Territorial Army, and in a different degree the Special Reserve, to achieve the efficiency necessary for the maintenance of our Reserve Army. We hang everything on to our Regular Army, and therefore my plea, in support of pleas which have already been made by noble Lords this afternoon, and in support of the remarks made by the Secretary of State for War in another place, is for better conditions for the Regular Army.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, I wish to make only one point, which arises out of the reference in the opening speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, to the effect which events in Malaya are having on the available man-power and resources of the Regular Army. I am sure your Lordships know the part which the Gurkhas are playing in these troublous times in Malaya. Everybody knows that the Gurkha troops are particularly well qualified for this kind of extraordinarily difficult warfare. I believe we have at present eight battalions of Gurkhas in Malaya. I speak only from my recollection of the arrangements in regard to the allocation of Gurkha 1010 battalions at the time of the transfer of power in India. My recollection is that under the arrangements then come to, the Government of India were to have twelve battalions and the British Government were to have eight—a total of twenty battalions of Gurkhas. I am quoting entirely from memory. If that is so, and we now have our eight battalions in Malaya, I suppose that uses up our quota.
The reference made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, to the effect of the events in Malaya on the aspect of available man-power, provokes me to ask whether, as these Gurkha troops are so especially well adapted to this type of warfare, it would not be possible somehow to increase the Gurkha man-power available for use by us in Malaya. I do not know the answer to that question, but it is well known that there is a large reserve of man-power in Nepal, and that one of the principal exports from Nepal is that of Gurkhas for army service abroad. I feel I am justified in putting this point to your Lordships in order that it may at least be seriously considered, if it has net already been considered, as maybe it has. My question is, therefore, whether it is not possible to increase the number of Gurkha troops we can employ in the present warfare in Malaya.
§ 5.4 p.m.
My Lords, we are nearing the end of an interesting debate and I think the House will be grateful to my noble friend, Viscount Bridgman, for raising this Motion. My noble friend opened the debate in a thoughtful speech in which he dealt with the Territorial and the Regular Armies. In my few remarks I propose to deal mainly with the Territorial Army, about which I feel better equipped to speak, but there are a few points which I should first like to underline about the Regular Army. Through a number of speeches there ran the theme that we must do something to improve Regular recruiting, that the deficiency seemed to be caused by the economic conditions of the Regular officer and soldier and that we must make sonic effort to improve these conditions. In his able and thoughtful speech, the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, whom f should like to congratulate on his first speech from the Front Bench, took trouble to outline to the House the steps which have been taken in the matter of 1011 resettlement, and on a number of points his answer was convincing. Yet there remains the difficulty that the percentage of National Service men volunteering to transfer into the Regular Army is very low—as he himself said, as low as 1½ per cent. It is possible that some of the steps he outlined have not yet had time to tell, particularly the hope for an improvement in the future in the provision of suitable jobs at the end of a period of Regular service.
I echo what has been said by several noble Lords, that the whole defence scheme hangs on the contentment and efficiency of the Regular Army. I am an enthusiastic Territorial, but, as the noble Earl, Lord Limerick, said, the success of the Territorial Army depends to a great extent on the efficiency of the Regular component which is helping to train it. Therefore, we come back to the need for a thoroughly adequate and happy Regular Army. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, stressed that point also and brought out the minor, but none the less important, point of walking-out dress. I believe it would have a good effect on the Regular Army soldier if the provision of such uniform could be speeded up. The noble Lord, Lord Webb-Johnson, repeated the point he raised in the Defence debate about the steps the Government propose to take in regard to the Regular component of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He gave figures that were rather alarming, if it is really the case that there is a danger of that famous Corps running down so low. I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, replies he may be able to say something that will re-assure the House on that matter. It is a difficult and complicated subject, but, none the less, we feel that some answer is due to the noble Lord.
The noble Lord, Lord Calverley, out of his experience as a magistrate of long standing, spoke of the type of men who are deserters and also referred to the composition of Territorial Army associations. Here I am on ground with which I am familiar, and I should like to say that trade union representatives are made very welcome in the associations. Speaking from my own experience in Scotland, I can say that they are most useful members and we have had a great 1012 deal of help from them. Along with trade union representatives, I have spoken on a number of platforms in order to persuade both employers and employees that the Territorial Army is organised on a good system. We have had good help from them and we welcome it. We have also had their help on the Advisory Committee of which the noble Earl, Lord Limerick, out of his wide knowledge, spoke. Finally, the short but extremely effective intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, is one to which I hope it may be possible for the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, to reply. It is a question with which the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, is well qualified to deal, as he has recently seen the difficulties of the employment of our National Service men in such areas as Malaya.
I speak mainly on the Territorial Army because this is indeed a critical and decisive year for the Territorial Army. The effort to combine the compulsory system with the voluntary system comes to its crux this year, when the National Service men come out of the Army. We must all give our utmost help to make the scheme work. If the scheme fails, a really serious situation will arise in this country: of that, there can be no doubt. But it must not fail. We are set a difficult task. We are experimenting with something new in this amalgamation of the man who is compelled to serve and the man who volunteers. To give an example of the difficulty of the task, I should like to descend for a moment from the general to the particular, because I happen to know the particular case well. The diversity of the task which the Territorial associations have to face in raising a Territorial Army compared with prewar is not always realised.
To give an example: in one county in Scotland, Lanark, before the war we were responsible for raising three major units—namely, a yeomanry regiment, an infantry battalion (the Cameronians), and the 52nd Divisional Engineers. Now, under the most up-to-date scheme—which I may say is a distinct improvement on the battle order we had earlier—we have to raise eleven units. We have the headquarters of an armoured brigade; a yeomanry regiment, less one troop; a heavy anti-aircraft regiment; a field regiment, R.E.; an infantry regiment, less two companies; an anti-aircraft company, 1013 R.A.S.C.; an artillery company, R.A.S.C.; an amphibian company, R.A.S.C.; a beach maintenance workshop unit, R.E.M.E.; a beach reconnaissance section, R.E.M.E.; and a field dressing station, R.A.M.C. Whereas before the war we had no women at all, we now have to raise three W.R.A.C. units. I may say that our experience in regard to their recruiting has been proportionately better than in regard to the recruiting of men—they have recruited very well. I bring this out to show how every association which has within its boundaries a large population has a much more diverse task to carry through than formerly. We do not grumble at having to do this task, but we make it clear that it is no easy one. For example, in the matter of accommodation the new types of units mean a diversity and enlargement of accommodation. Now I should like to pay tribute to the efforts that have been made to decentralise the power for giving authority that accommodation should be provided. A notable improvement has appeared in the last few months in this matter. While I am not prepared to say that it has gone far enough, it is a great advance on the older system. Commands have now been given more power than they had in the past.
The new battle order, as my noble friend Lord Bridgeman said, is a distinct advance on the previous arrangement. I feel, with him, that it has come rather at the eleventh hour, and that work at high pressure in the War Office and in the Territorial associations has been occasioned in the last six months to get it ready for the target date, and that it might have been possible to start much earlier. None the less, it has now been carried through, and from the administrative point of view it will make our task easier. I would most warmly support the decision to raise again the 52nd Lowland Division in Scotland. That is a decision which has given satisfaction in the Lowlands, and throughout Scotland. I see already that quite a number of the units entitled to wear the divisional badges are doing so, and morale has proportionately increased on that account. I am sorry it was decided after the last war not to raise that division, because I think recruits were lost during the period when it was not in being. Nevertheless, it is never too late to mend, 1014 and I am glad that the Government have decided to re-form that division once more. I should like to pay tribute to the work of the present holder of the office of Director of the Territorial Army and Cadets. He has had a most difficult problem in the last six or eight months in the work on the new battle order, and he has shown great imagination and activity. We have been troubled in the past with promising officers who held this post being whisked away on promotion to other positions. I can only say that I hope it will not happen in this case. In fact, I should like to see that post carry once more the rank of lieutenant-general, as we should then have less chance of losing first-class officers.
From words of praise I now come to words of anxiety, and. I hope that the noble Lord in his reply may be able to enlighten us a little or these points. In the financial provisions of the Estimates for the Territorial Army, 1950–51, there is shown an overall reduction of £1,500,000 compared wilt 1949. I should like to know whether the reduction of over £1,000,000 on building and lands means that the Government believe that the problem of the provision of accommodation is well on the way to being solved. I have already said that I think matters have improved a great deal, but I still know of much to be done, and I am anxious about the apparent provision of £1,000,000 less for the item of building and lands. In particular, I have in. mind married quarters. Noble Lords who spoke earlier referred to the necessity of adequate married quarters being provided for the Regular staff. I hope this cutting down of the Estimate will not re-act on the provision made in that respect. On training, also, I note that a saving of £250,000 is to be made. I am rather surprised that that should be possible in this year, when the National Service men come forward. Again, there may be an explanation, and I hope we may have it. Broadly speaking, it should be our principle that the volunteer officer or soldier in the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces should not be out of pocket. My noble friend Lord Bridgeman asked earlier if it would be possible for the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in his reply to tell us anything about the Hamlyn Report. We set a good deal of importance on that Report.
1015 As this is such a decisive and important year, it is necessary to provide a background so that the whole country may be with us and behind us in our effort. All classes of the community must be enlisted to our support—the employers, the trade unions and the National Service men's families: they can help a great deal. If they find that their son on coming back from his time in the Forces is going into something that is "a good show" they will be enthusiastic about it too. We want it to be felt by the men and their families that this four years' obligation is not a tiresome task to which to come back, but is a happy opportunity of coming into the Territorial Army, which has done so much for the country in the past and can offer a good time to the man who belongs to it. The right atmosphere must be created, and I confidently expect the Press to co-operate fully in giving that atmosphere. I can say with some knowledge that the B.B.C. are cooperating and, in consultation with the War Office, are devising suitable and attractive programmes to give the right background. Something very useful is also being done at the other end. Before the man leaves the unit to go into the Territorial Army he is issued with a booklet. I have a copy of the booklet here, and I understand it Will be in general issue by all units before the man leaves. It seems to me to go on very sound lines. It is a booklet which asks the questions the man himself will be asking, and then answers them fully. I will read out the questions asked in this booklet and your Lordships will see that it is on practical lines. This is called: Your Service in the Territorial Army or Supplementary Reserve, and there is an injunction at the bottom to "Keep it in your paybook" and not lose it. The questions are:What does the law require me to do? Why do we need a Territorial Army and Supplementary Reserve? What unit do I go to? Can I choose my unit? What do I have to do in the Territorial or Supplementary Reserve? What arc my liabilities for active service? What happens if I miss my training? Can I serve as a volunteer instead of as a National Service man?"—that is a very important point indeed—What privileges do I have if I join the Territorial Army as a volunteer? What are my duties as a volunteer in the Territorial Army and my liabilities for National Service?I should like to commend this booklet, and I hope it was right when I was told 1016 that it is to be issued to every man before he leaves the Regular Army and goes to the Territorial Forces, for I think these are exactly the questions which the men are asking, and the answers provided will be very helpful.
At the other end of the scale we must provide a really good welcome for these men. We must make them feel that they are coming to a body in which they are truly welcome. I have finished my remarks, and I hope that when the noble Lord. Lord Pakenham, replies he will be able to deal with the few points upon which I have expressed anxiety. This question has been debated to-day in the friendliest spirit, because it is outside all Party considerations, and we all want to contribute to what must be made a success, as I am sure it can.
§ 5.22 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF CIVIL AVIATION (LORD PAKENHAM)
My Lords, I wholeheartedly echo the closing words, and indeed, many other words, which fell from the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir. I agree with him entirely that this subject has once again been debated in a spirit far removed from Party controversy. I am sure that the noble Lord himself, whom I followed with great interest, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who initiated the debate in his usual knowledgeable and constructive way, will agree with me that the debate would have been worth while if only for the contribution of the noble Earl, Lord Limerick, which will be followed with the closest attention everywhere. Lord Limerick offered as an excuse—if one were needed—for not sitting on the cross-Benches that it was easier to talk to me from where he now sits. I accept that as a reason for vacating the cross-Benches, but after his speech to-night I see no reason why on some such future occasion he should not position himself behind us. Although, as I understood him, he disclaimed any possibility of achieving Cabinet rank, I know men—and I speak from first-hand experience—of inferior "timber" to himself who have achieved that status. I feel that the noble Earl has not perhaps said the last word to himself about his position in this House.
THE EARL OF LIMERICK
Perhaps the noble Lord would allow me to remind him that there is a control on the sale of timber.
But all sorts of controls are being lifted. Noble Lords are now much freer to move—not from this side—than they were. A great many contributions have been made of substance and weight, and a number of points have been brought forward to which an answer should be given. Perhaps the House will bear with me if, before proceeding to the more detailed issues, I state in broad terms the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards the Territorial Army at this time. I would underline, of course, what has been said earlier by my noble friend Lord Lucan, whom I heartily congratulate. I should like to echo all that Lord Lucan has said about the overwhelming importance we attach to the Regular Army, but I believe that at this stage of the debate the House will allow me to add some words about our broad standpoint in regard to the Territorials.
Of course, when I am dealing with the Territorial Army, I will never forget, and nor I think will any noble Lord here be inclined to forget, the Cadet Force. I am sure that the House thoroughly endorses the words in the White Paper about the military value of the Cadet Force. I would only add to those words my own view, shared I expect very widely, that the value of the Cadet Force is not only military, for that Force embodies also a civic value of untold significance for the future citizens of our country.
I confess that I seldom look back on my past utterances, in this House or anywhere else, with any marked satisfaction; I refer to them as seldom as possible. I am gratified to find, however, that the last time I had the honour of addressing your Lordships as Under-Secretary of State for War (that was on March 26, 1947) I informed the House that the Government had reached the conclusion that within the area of our military thinking the Territorial Army should occupy a much higher place and enjoy.a considerably higher priority than in pre-war years. I repeat that sentence to-day, and I am sure I carry the House with me in giving it even greater emphasis, if possible, than I did three years ago.
At that time, as the House will remember, we were all agreed that speed of mobilisation and preparedness had come 1018 to be even more important than in prewar years, with the natural implication that as the nation could not remain permanently under arms we required a Territorial Array properly trained and organised, and able to take the field at very short notice. To-day, I suppose that the necessity for speed in all these directions is still more obvious than it was three years ago. None of us in this House is an alarmist, but it would be wishful thinking to pretend that the international situation is any more promising: than it was at that time; that the dangers of external aggression—which I am afraid to-day can come from only one quarter—are any less pronounced, or that the duties of the Government and the people for creating and sustaining adequate defences are any less dominant in the minds of any of us. Alike for strategical, economic and social reasons, it is clearer than ever to-day that the adequate defence of this country without a strong and enthusiastic Territorial Army is riot only difficult but impossible.
There are, as the House is aware, a number of principles underlying the Reserve Army that we are in process of constructing. The first is obligatory in the light of the fundamental requirements that I have just mentioned. The Reserve Army—that is, under the new arrangement, the Territorial Army plus the Supplementary Reserve—must consist of a large force of well-trained reserves, prepared to operate, whether at home or abroad, at very short notice, and organised as a balanced force in respect of all necessary arms of the Service. In our actual plan, the Territorial Army will provide mainly the field force formations and units of Anti-Aircraft Command, and the Supplementary Reserve the backing of Corps, Army and lines of communication troops. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridge-man, asked for a little more information than had been previously given, and I feel that I should say at any rate that much.
A sound Reserve Army might, however, be organised along these lines without subscribing to three farther principles which have always distinguished our Territorial Army in the past, and which we intend to apply, making the necessary adjustments in the new and still more urgent circumstances of the present and future—I refer to the voluntary principle, 1019 the traditional principle and the territorial or local principle, all three of which can be distinguished theoretically but in practice must be taken together. The Territorial Army of the past consisted of volunteers—that is, of men who had not only chosen freely to join the Territorial Army, but had chosen which unit to join, and had been governed usually in that choice by all sorts of local considerations, including the traditions of various units open to them and close to their place of abode.
As regards the future there is no disguising the fact—and no one in this House will wish to escape it—that some new elements enter the equation. We require a Reserve Army considerably larger than in the past. That is the brutal fact. Its division into arms and character in other respects cannot be left to chance, but must be made a matter of central planning. The officers in the War Office who—subject always to the approval of the Secretary of State—have drawn up the blue print, have been faced with certain intractable realities which they have had to harmonise, so far as possible, in the interests not only of solving a statistical sum but of providing a human, and therefore effective, answer. On the one hand they have had the requirement, a Territorial Army and Supplementary Reserve of so many thousands of men with so many in each arm; on the other they have had the sources of supply, actual and potential. Supply starts, of course, on paper as a global mass, but its wants can be sub-divided in at least three ways.
First, it can be sub-divided into volunteers and National Service men who have not volunteered. Secondly, it can be subdivided into large numbers of comparatively small groups of men—this is the problem before these officers—covering the country, each group being built round a Territorial Army drill hall except those who live so remote from any drill hall that they be drafted for the most part into the Supplementary Reserve and whose training is confined to the annual camp. Thirdly, we can sub-divide the total, not into volunteers and National Service men nor by proximity to centres, but by the training they have received in the Regular Army. The perfect answer would give us on paper the exact Reserve 1020 Army we require, with every man, apart from the Supplementary Reserve, able to find and join a unit close to his home. On paper, in this Utopian picture, the unit of the Territorial Army and Supplementary Reserve would at the same time prove to be one in an arm of the Service for which he was already trained. And in the perfect world the units that would so emerge would include all those already established, and would above all include without fail all those with long and famous histories and great traditions.
Such a solution would exist, as noble Lords are well aware, only in heaven. Quite apart from local considerations, perfection is obviously impossible. I will mention one simple illustration. The regiments of the active and Reserve Army do not always balance, and they can never be exactly similar. For example, the proportion of A.A. units in the Territorial Army is much higher than in the active Army. Again, the active Army requires 4,000 more Royal Armoured Corps and 10,000 more Royal Signals, but about 18,000 fewer of the Royal Artillery (Field Branch) than the Territorial Army. Yet again, some of our most famous Territorial and yeomanry regiments may find themselves in areas where the flow of National Service men will be inadequate without amalgamation to make up their numbers.
These highly expert officers who have drawn up the new plan have been faced with a tremendous problem, a colossal jigsaw puzzle of 10,000 pieces, few of them interchangeable. They have gone to immense pains to study the situation in every local area. There has been a suggestion that they might have been started off on their task a bit sooner. However that may be, I think it is generally agreed that they have taken immense trouble in the time available. I think that the Director of the Territorial Army and his colleagues will draw great comfort—though the director is, I believe, a man of strong mettle, who does not look for comfort in the performance of his duties—from what was said by various noble Lords this afternoon, and perhaps particularly by what fell from Lord Limerick. There is no factor over which these officers have taken more trouble than the adjustment of existing, units in the light of the calculated inflow of National Service men. The big 1021 decisions, such as the amalgamation of units, have had to be made centrally. I do not think anyone questions the minor changes; for example the local moves within a county have been passed by the G.O.C.s of the various Commands for discussion with the associations. I felt that Lord Limerick paid a very balanced compliment when he said that there had been a "maximum of consultation, or at any rate almost a maximum." But I suppose that in this life anyone responsible must be content with a tribute of that character—it is not often that one gets as much, though I know the noble Earl is ready to offer his thanks where he thinks them due.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, was perhaps a little more critical, but he seemed to put his finger on something which did not go according to plan when he mentioned the late hour at which colonels commanding and colonels of regiments received the news of the reorganisation of the Territorial Army. There, undoubtedly, was something which went a little astray. They were to be informed on the same day—and I do not say that none of them was; but it seems that some of them, through some technical mishap, were not informed; and I take it on myself from this place to extend the regrets of my right honourable friend to any who did not receive the news as soon as was hoped.
The real problem, which is more important than the question of the time at which the information about the plan was received (though I do not under-estimate the desirability of getting that right), is whether the plan is a good one. I am bound to say that I hope I shall leave this House to-day convinced that in all the circumstances it is remarkable that no criticism has been brought against the scheme. These officers have striven for the closest possible approximation to what I have called the perfect answer, which I would re-define thus: the provision of the new military requirements by adaptation of the existing Territorial Army with the minimum of disturbance or interference with local feeling and tradition, and with the greatest possible use of the training given each individual man during his period in the Regular Army. And, running like a thread throughout it all, alike in the broad conception and the detailed pattern, has been the determination of all 1022 concerned to preserve the voluntary spirit and to give real meaning to the claim, paradoxical though it may seem in terms of mere statistics, that the Territorial Army of the future, as of the past, is to be first and foremost a voluntary organisation.
In this connection, let me say at once, on behalf of the Government and, in particular, of my right honourable friend, that the Territorial associations are all-important. I recognise, as I believe the associations do, that certain decisions will in future be taken centrally, and have indeed had to be taken centrally in recent times, though in the old days such decisions might have been left to the associations. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, for recognising that wherever possible decentralisation was being applied. The noble Lord, Lord Calverley, whose speech I enjoyed—as I always do enjoy his forthright contributions—took the view that these associations were a little too respectable. I do not know that there is any justification for that suggestion, but in the past it has sometimes been argued that they were somewhat elderly. If I am not running beyond my instructions, that is the sort of criticism that I, in my experience, would be more inclined to make of them. I have not observed any particular defect of that kind in recent days, so perhaps it is not as prominent as it was. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, is fully aware of the fact, as was pointed out to him in the course of the discussion, that the trade unions are represented on the associations, and, indeed, have been for some time.
§ LORD CALVERLEY
I wanted to emphasise that point. I have been present at Labour delegate meetings when it has been difficult to get men to serve, simply because, as I frankly said, they were suspicious. I put it as bluntly as I could in order to get such a perfect reply from the noble Earl, Lord Limerick.
Then information has been exchanged and honour is satisfied. All is now for the best. All suspicions have been dispelled.
I know perfectly well what the noble Lord means: that where you have two trade, unionists in a large association, as may be the case, 1023 they may wonder how they will be received. Therefore it is most important that a little extra trouble should be taken to make them feel thoroughly at home. I have not had any case brought to my notice where they have not been made to feel properly at home. I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Limerick, would agree that if such cases were proved, where not sufficient welcome was given to the trade union representatives, steps should be taken to put that right. As I say, I have not come across any such case, but I entirely appreciate the motives which have led the noble Lord to allude to that point. Passing from that element of controversy, on behalf of the Government and my right honourable friend I should like to assure the associations of our sincere gratitude for what they have done. I hope that the Press will make sure that that message is carried far and wide. I assure them also of our view, which is also of course the official War Office view, that their responsibilities will not be less but greater in the future. In my visits I have come across cases where the associations have begun to wonder whether they can be of very much use. That idea must be dispelled. They must realise that their opportunities will be wider and the calls on them will be greater than in the past. In theory, you could design and organise a Territorial Army from the centre only, making no use of representative local bodies, but in practice, you would cut away your local roots in one fell swoop. You would lose your finest instrument of local appeal and you would fatally undermine the voluntary spirit, wrapped up as it is inextricably with these concrete expressions of voluntary action and local opinion.
Before coming, as I soon will, to the detailed points raised, may I turn to a still broader aspect of the voluntary spirit in the Territorial Army of the future? The heart of the unit is its long-service volunteer element, providing the leaders, trainers and administrators. We have been building up this volunteer element over the past few years, ready to receive the National Service men. I have paid a tribute to the associations; I pay one now on behalf of the Government to all those volunteers who have given up so much of their time during the past few years, sometimes when the prospect did not appear to be very stimulating. With that 1024 I couple the sympathy of the Government, which I hope will reach them, to all those who have done this, only to find, as the day to which they have been looking forward approaches, that their unit is to be amalgamated with another unit or they are asked to go, as a matter of national duty, to the Supplementary Reserve.
The whole future of the Territorial Army depends on maintaining these volunteer cadres in a vigorous, healthy spirit and expanding them steadily as time goes on. In this vital sense, the Territorial Army will stand or fall by the numbers, quality and keenness of its volunteer men and women. Let us, however, at all costs, avoid the heresy—it has not been ventilated this afternoon in your Lordships' House—of dividing the Territorial Army or any unit of it between the volunteer and the National Service man. The one is complementary to the other. It is from the National Service man that the future volunteers, officers and men, will be drawn. The National Service man is not just a means of filling up unit establishments. He is a citizen, a human being and, among other things, as I have said, the potential volunteer of the future upon whose efficiency and enthusiasm the whole scheme hinges. In all the Territorial Army units I have visited, and certainly in all the speeches made this afternoon, this point is firmly grasped, and much careful and in some cases much anxious thought is being given to bringing about the desired unity between two elements that on paper start as distinct. Therefore I felt a great deal of force in what the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, and the noble Earl, Lord Limerick, said about the great responsibility of the Regular Army for seeing that those who enter the Territorial Army come in with a good impression of Army life. That. I felt, was very well said. We are all agreed also, I hope and believe, that the National Service man, as again has been said this afternoon, must be given a fine welcome when he arrives. That is the beginning of wisdom. But this welcome, I strongly suggest, must not confine itself to the first few days in the shape of a great jollification when he arrives; it must run on until the newcomer is thoroughly settled down and until he has come to take such a pride in his unit that he begins to talk of welcoming the next arrivals.
1025 Let us exclude any thought of defeatism over this problem. A commanding officer who felt that way would obviously be unfit for his job. But, at the risk of striking a jarring note, I would venture to deprecate any blind optimism, however worthy its source. It is no good taking the line: "We shall get all the men we really want as volunteers, and get them quickly. Of course, there are some who will be antagonistic, but they are no good to us." That is not the slightest use, and it is no good supposing that all or most of those who intend to volunteer will do so at the moment they are released from National Service. That is my strong personal conviction. I think that a great many men will shoulder their responsibilities in a loyal and patriotic spirit, without having the time or the extra enthusiasm to come forward as volunteers. That is something which we must face. A great many who will eventually volunteer will hold back and watch the unit pretty closely before they commit themselves to the step. It is not going to be a case, therefore, of D-Day, but of Y-Year. I entirely agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, when he said that the year upon which we are now embarking is going to be the most critical year of all.
Every unit no doubt will tackle the problem in its own fashion. Some will be able to do more than others on the social side. Some people say they like to run a club into which the ladies can be invited during the week, so that, when the men have finished their drill, they can repair to the recreation room, or a room of that sort, and enjoy themselves with their wives and ladies. Others see certain dangers in that approach and prefer to invite the ladies only on certain selected days. In many of these matters there is obviously much room for local wisdom and discretion. I am sure we have got to bring the women in (I said that three years ago) and to get them keenly interested, whether you ask them every evening or on some particular day. We really should leave these matters to the units. Some will find that they are able to take with them a large number of National Service men to camp—a most important point, I think—though no National Service man will be obliged to go this year. Some will not be able to take very many. But all, we will agree, should concentrate on convincing patential 1026 volunteers and everyone else that in this first crucial year the particular unit in which the men and women are being asked to serve does, in fact, offer two things—a warm and friendly fellowship to all who join it and. above all, a professional military standard which will justify every member of it in the conviction that he belongs to a "first-class show" and is giving up his time and energies lo work and training of real value to his country.
Now let me come closer to some of the points raised. I have been given notice by nearly all the noble Lords who spoke of some of the dings that they were going to say. The House will perhaps forgive me if I take a certain amount of time in dealing with the points raised, though in many cases it will be to allude to them all too briefly. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and also the noble Lord, Lord Glydesmuir, asked about the Hamlyn Report. That is being considered in the War Office at this moment. I cannot say more except that it will obviously be considered with extreme seriousness. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, raises the question of reserved occupations. I quite agree that this question of reserved Occupations in relation to both the Territorial Army and the Supplementary Reserve is fundamental; it is something that simply must be cleared up one way or another. A very big review is going on now, and I cannot say more this afternoon except to indicate that, broadly, the same principles will be applied to do Supplementary Reserve as to the Territorial Army. The noble Viscount perhaps will not press me too hard, because I do not think any valuable purpose would be served by throwing out hints and suggestions in public. It would be more satisfactory if he and I could have a word together and I could tell him how things are going.
The noble Viscount also touched on the question of Colonial troops. I do nit think I need add to what my noble friend Lord Alexander said in his anthoritative speech a few weeks ago. However, it may be that the noble Viscount is still under the impression that in a military sense the Colonial troops have been reduced in 1027 number. In fact, the reduction is, I think, mainly in labour units, either from Mauritius or East Africa. There is a considerable reduction in locally-enlisted personnel from Ceylon, as well as this decrease of 6,000 Mauritians and 3,000 East Africans who were in fact in labour units. As the noble Viscount said recently, nobody in the Government under-estimates the contribution that the Colonial troops made during the war, and the simple question is: given these limited economic resources of which we are all so well aware, is it more economical to use Colonial troops or not? Is it more economical to try and spread our resources in that direction or not to do so? At the moment, the Government have no closed mind, and the decision taken is the one of which the noble Viscount is aware.
The noble Viscount raised the question of the fall in the Reserve. I am afraid it would take rather too long to give an answer in full, but may I indicate briefly the heads of the reply? There is no evidence to prove that up to the present insufficient financial inducements are offered. As regards the Supplementary Reserve, we must recall that that has been restarted only recently on a pre-war basis, so we have not sufficient experience on which to go. Sections A and B are, of course, confined to soldiers performing their statutory period in the Reserve after Colour service. These Reserves are naturally empty at the present time, because during the war there was almost no Regular recruiting and, therefore, there are no soldiers now being added to this Reserve. That brings us to Section D. That is restricted at present to 600 men, mainly technical tradesmen—that restriction is for financial reasons. It is felt that there is little point in paying people considerable sums to join this Reserve while there are still 3,000,000 Z reservists remaining. As they get older, the arrangement will be reconsidered. Finally, Section E, as the noble Viscount is aware, is open on a voluntary basis to pensioners who have completed their full twenty-two years' service. The 1948 Pensions Regulations carried an obligation to recall, and therefore Section E is rapidly becoming an anachronism. I hope the noble Viscount will accept that as, at any rate, a summary of an answer.
1028 A number of other points were also raised by the noble Viscount. Perhaps he will allow me to select one or two which I think have not been touched on in previous debates. He would like to know about the Q.A.R.A.N.C., the Royal Army Nursing Corps. It is the senior women's corps in the Army, and is directly descended from the nursing service organisation formed by Florence Nightingale in 1852. It consists of officers who are trained nurses responsible for the nursing of men, women and children in the British Army in all parts of the world, and also in certain places of civilians employed by the Army. There are at present only thirteen members of the V.A.D. employed in military hospitals: eleven of these are employed on nursing and on other duties and two on dispensing. All V.A.D.s who are within the prescribed age limits will be eligible for transfer to the other rank element of the Q.A.R.A.N.C. Perhaps I could communicate further details to the noble Viscount—unless there is some very important point.
The noble Viscount expressed the hope that in Civil Defence exercises A.A. Command will be well represented. I do not know that here I can satisfy him as much as I should wish, and I might even cause him to change his mind about the necessity for this. The War Office exercise "Britannia" which was held in May, 1949, examined the problem of Army assistance to the Civil Defence forces. As a result, Home Commands, other than A.A. Command, have made plans to provide mobile columns to assist the Civil Defence forces where necessary. The noble Lord, Lord Calverley, has left us, otherwise I should have said a word or two with reference to a point he raised. The consideration I should like to lay before the noble Viscount is that in war A.A. Command itself will not be able to perform Civil Defence tasks, because at the crucial time the Command will be actively engaged against enemy aircraft. Nevertheless, its communications may be made use of for Civil Defence purposes, and wherever it is appropriate in the light of that factor, representatives of A.A. Command will be entitled to exercise it.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
May I just interrupt for a moment? I am afraid I did not make myself sufficiently clear. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, that it is not the function of A.A. Command to assist Civil Defence in the way that has been suggested—I very much doubt whether it is the function of other units, but that is another matter. What if was anxious about was that A.A. Command should co-operate in exercises to test methods of warning and communication, in the way the noble Lord explained in his last remarks.
Then we are at one, because where it is appropriate they will he invited. I would point out that the C-in-C, A.A. Command, was among the general officers who attended exercise "Britannia" last year.
The noble Viscount raised two other detailed points upon which I should like to touch. He has already taken the opinion of the Lord Chancellor and there is therefore no need for me to confirm his view that the Second Schedule of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill is indeed designed to facilitate Statute Law revision. I will not go into the reasons why it has been selected. But this Schedule deals only with one small corner of the Statutes to which the noble Viscount has referred. As to other Statutes which the noble Viscount no doubt has in mind, I am glad to tell him that a Bill to consolidate these Statutes is in hand. He will get his way in the end, and I do not think that the end will be long delayed. But I hope he will realise that it would be rash of me to give any firm undertaking that he will see results by midsummer, which, after all, is not far away. Perhaps the noble Viscount will allow me to communicate to him the answers to some other questions which he raised, for I must now turn to other speakers.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, was kind enough to thank me for my own continued interest in the Territorial Army. I appreciate that. I hope that he will not think that I am repaying good by evil if I express regret at his criticisms of the Secretary of State for War. It is a free country, and this is a free House of Lords. The noble Lord must express his own views as he wishes, and of course we shall do the same. For my part, I think that no Secretary of State for War has ever 1030 been so badly treated by the Press as the present Secretary of State. I have never seen anything so disgusting in a newspaper as the coupling of Mr. Strachey's name with that of a certain individual. In all the circumstances, now that my right honourable friend has been installed for some weeks and has made a good start in the House of Commons and elsewhere, I would venture to ask the noble Lord himself whether, as a keen Territorial officer, he does not think that perhaps the best thing would be to forget past arguments in this connection and to back up the present secretary of State in what he is trying to do to achieve our common purpose. I have known Mr. Strachey for a good natty years, I do not think anyone has ever doubted his absolute fidelity to his own conscience, his mental capacity or his capacity for hard work. He has great intellectual steadfastness, and I have always found him to be a man with a highly developed sense of trying to arrive at the truth. That has been my personal experience of Mr. Strachey over a good many years. I hope that that may assist the noble Lord to take a more dispassionate view in the future.
Following on that remark, I should like to say how valuable I feel it is that we should have someone like the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, who comes here on occasions like this and speaks of what he knows at first hand about the Territorial Army, for which he has done so much. I feel that his contributions on the subject always, as on this occasion, add greatly to the value of our debates. The noble Lord raised one particular problem about amalgamation, about which he felt there had been some leakage. I can assure him that there was no leakage. I have taken a lot of trouble to go into that matter, and I can only assume that there was some intelligent surmise. I hope the noble Lord will believe me when I say that that has not influenced the result and will not do so in any way. The matter is under consideration, and I have no reason to hold out either encouragement or discouragement to the noble Lord about the result. He can be sure that it is one of the matters upon which local consultation is now taking place, and that it has not in any way been pro-judged by reason of someone "beating the gun." I hope that that will remove any doubts from the mind 1031 of the noble Lord. He, further, raised the interesting question of whether present surplus ranks could be preserved provided that the financial ceiling was not exceeded. The War Office recognise the advantages of this suggestion. We are examining it in detail. It raises very delicate issues and I am afraid that I cannot give any snap answer today. I can, however, assure the noble Lord that this is a matter which is being taken most seriously.
Yet another question raised by the noble Lord concerned the bounty for National Service volunteers in the Territorial Army. The War Office are in entire agreement with the noble Lord about this, but the matter is now under discussion at inter-Service level, so I cannot say any thing absolutely firm upon it. All I can do is to express something more than sympathy for the point of view of the noble Lord. I am afraid that I cannot help him over the matter of the seventeen-year-olds. Indeed, I do not suppose that he really thought I should be able to do so. He has raised it in practically every debate we have had on these matters, and no doubt he will raise it in many more. Frankly, the general view is that it would interfere seriously with the Cadet Force. I think the noble Lord will have to do a great deal of pioneering work before he convinces any large body of responsible opinion that he is in the right over that matter. He told us very vividly the story of Towyn Camp. I can only assure him that this is a case which will be carefully examined. There has not vet been time to go into it, as I am sure the noble Lord will fully understand.
The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, spoke of the Regular Army, which was also dealt with by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, though I do not think the noble Earl dealt with Lord Mancroft's suggestion that the pay of National Service men should be cut and the saving applied to increasing the pay of the Regulars. I should be interested to know—though, perhaps, it is idle curiosity on my part, and I will not press it—whether the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, supports that proposal. I think that very few people would be found to be in favour of it. I made a few inquiries when I was visiting certain units of the Regular Army and in my experience the regular N.C.O.'s are unanimous in disliking the idea. They 1032 feel that it would have a bad effect on morale and the general attitude of the National Service men—quite apart from the question of whether it would be keeping faith with them. The noble Lord will perhaps not expect me to encourage him in this connection.
Lord Mancroft spoke as wittily as ever, but I felt that he was a little hard at the end of his speech in suggesting that the Government and perhaps others—perhaps even the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman—were talking too much about resettlement; because in these debates noble Lords have always stressed, and very rightly stressed, the importance of seeing that there is a career for the soldier after he finishes his Army service. Lord Mancroft seemed to be taking us to task on the ground that we are using the Army as a stepping-stone. I thoroughly agree that in the circumstances of to-day there is no profession nobler than the profession of arms in this country. But that does not mean that for everyone joining it the Army can be a life career, or that a man going into it should necessarily contemplate it as a permanent career, I hope that the noble Lord was not speaking too seriously when he seemed to suggest that some of us, in all parts of the House, were spending too much time on the question of how to train the soldier for the remainder of his natural life after he leaves the Army.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I am sorry, but I fear that I could not have expressed myself clearly. All I was seeking to do was to criticise one small item in the means of recruiting which the Government have been employing recently. I said that I thought that in this too much stress was put on the facilities which the Army provide for fitting a man for earning a livelihood quite soon in "civvy street" by engaging in a trade. I should like to see more emphasis on the Army as a career in itself and not as a stepping-stone to some other means of earning a livelihood. I quoted only one specific instance in which this appeal was made. I was not making any general criticism.
I agree that it is a question of striking a proper balance. From these Benches, and from the Benches opposite in the last few years, one point which has constantly been 1033 emphasised is the necessity for making the man who joins the Army feel that when he leaves he will have a reasonable chance in civilian life and reasonable security of employment.
The noble Lord, Lord Webb-Johnson, raised an issue about which I could say something concrete to-day, but I am sure he will not feel I am running out on the undertaking given by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, if I say that I have not yet anything definite to report. The matter is regarded as one of real urgency. It is past the stage of "being considered." It is even past the further stage of "being examined," which I think is technically a little further on. I can only say that the kind of consideration now being given to it is exactly the sort of consideration the noble Lord would expect, and I am quite ready to tell him of what it consists. I am not ready to make any kind of pronouncement, but I should be surprised and disappointed if the remarks of the noble Lord had not played their part in producing a helpful result in this very important matter. I cannot say more to-day, but the noble Lord will have every opportunity for casting stones at me if nothing is done in this matter by the time we next come to debate it.
§ LORD WEBB-JOHNSON
My Lords, I feel I must express a little disappointment at the noble Lord's answer, but still, he buoys me up with expectation. Of course, most of the dust that has no doubt accumulated since a less definite answer was given some sixteen months ago must have been taken away if the noble Lord is bold enough to stake his reputation on my being satisfied in the near future.
But I have not staked the noble Lord's reputation, which would be a very much heavier stake! He will have an opportunity if nothing comes of it all, and I only hope that in the event my words will prove true. I agree with the noble Lord that the whole question of the Royal Army Medical Corps is something which should have the highest priority in the thoughts of us all. The noble Lord, Lord Calverley, has gone, so I will not pursue further his remarks, though I doubt whether many of us would support his criticism of the age of eighteen for calling up for National Service. After all, there is a widespread 1034 and pretty liberal system of deferment, and I have not come across any young men who would seriously argue that it would be more pleasant or valuable if the age limit went up to nineteen or twenty. I should say that eighteen commands the general assent of the country, so long as we have a good system of deferment, which gives scope to those in special positions.
I come now to the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Limerick. I think I have already indicated my gratitude to him for his approach. He made one point which I should like to take up. He said, as we should all say, that we must make sure there is absolutely tic waste of manpower in the Regular Army; if we are going to talk about economic stringency, we must,make sure that there is no conceivable element of waste. A high-level Departmental Committee went into this problem in great detail some time ago, and it has been examined at high level three times within the past three years. In case the noble Earl thinks that these examinations are without result, I would point out that during the financial year 1949–50 a cut of approximately 20 per cent. in the number of Staffs was made, enabling the return in one year of over 1,000 officers and 2,000 other ranks to regimental and other duties, so that these inquiries bore that among other valuable fruits.
The noble Earl, Loaf Killearn, has gone—no, he has moved, following the trend suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Limerick, at an earlier stage, though I still hope for a kind of zig-zag movement. I should like to pay tribute with him to the work the Gurkhas have done in Malaya. All the Gurkhas available, except for small numbers in the training and recruiting organisations, are either in Malaya or on their way from Hong Kong. We are bound to a total figure of 10,400 by tripartite treaty between Great Britain, India and Nepal. That sets the limit, so at present I cannot hold out any hope to the noble Lord, but what he has said will be carefully considered.
Anything the noble Lord says on these matters usually finishes by attracting a great deal of attention. Whether he will succeed in 1035 this case I cannot say, but it will be studied with particular care.
The noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, made a number of points with which I have already expressed agreement. He will forgive me if I select one or two points and reply to others, if necessary, by letter. The noble Lord asked me about the reduction in the Territorial Works and Lands vote of £1,250,000. This reduction is illusory to the extent of £800,000, which is the provision for new married quarters transferred to Vote II this year, and the rest of the savings arise from a smaller and more realistic provision for the purchase of land, which is a slow process. Moreover, the recent changes in organisations and dispositions of units have entailed changes in the building plans, but nevertheless it is true to say the rate of building has not decreased compared with last year. I can give the noble Lord that assurance pretty firmly. The noble Lord alluded to pamphlet No. 5995. As he suggests, copies of this pamphlet will be issued to all National Service men finishing their time in the Regular Army. I know that the hard-working and much criticised gentlemen who produce these pamphlets will be grateful for what the noble Lord says.
I am in the hands of the House and if I have not covered some issues—
I raised one other financial question, but perhaps the noble Lord may wish to reply by letter. I said that the training grant was reduced by £500,000, and wondered whether adequate provision was being made for the National Service men coming in. If the noble Lord would rather write to me, I should be quite happy.
I should like to give the noble Lord an answer to that point. The forecast last year was optimistic, and therefore the figure has been reduced to a more realistic one: but the actual expenditure will not be less. As I said earlier, the National Service men will not be required to go to camp this year and that enters into the calculation.
Before I close, I should like to make this addendum to the general statement I made at the beginning. There is a serious overall shortage of about 6,000 sergeants in the present volunteer cadres. 1036 If this deficiency is not made good before the National Service men join the Territorial Army in any numbers, there is grave danger that many Territorial units will not be in a position to train National Service men in the best and most effective way possible. The seriousness of this situation is frankly admitted, and I would ask through this House for the fullest co-operation, here and in the country, to put the position right.
We, not only in this House but throughout the country, can discuss these matters to-day in a more objective spirit than perhaps ever in our nation's history. I am not meaning only that the Parties are not opposed to one another, but that almost everywhere there is general agreement about the ideal. I am not denying that we have still a few conscientious pacifists in Britain. I do not think we ought to deplore that fact, because in one sense we are all pacifists, and I am sure that noble Lords who have seen much more of war at first hand than I will be the first to say that war is a detestable business, and in that sense there is always sympathy for the man who makes his conscientious protest. On the other hand, we still have in this country a few Colonel Blimps—the gentlemen who go about in and out of season applauding the performances of the Army, and occasionally calling attention to their own great achievements in the field. Those gentlemen also play their part. But if we take the country as a whole to-day, I think we can say that we all detest war, but we recognise—I am speaking only of the Army to-day, but every other Service is equally in mind—that the Army to-day is the main instrument of a national foreign policy that places peace as the first and greatest priority. Therefore, we in this House, and people in the country, desire to encourage and do honour in every possible way to those who join the Army as volunteers, whether it be the active Army or the Reserve Army, or who, if they find themselves there through the operation of National Service, prove themselves, as these young men are proving themselves everywhere, loyal and patriotic soldiers.
To-day the discussion, as in some other debates, has turned a good deal on economic motives and on ways of increasing economic attractions or diminishing the 1037 economic disadvantages of Army life: but I am sure I have the whole House with me when I say that we desire to appeal above all to the spirit of self-sacrifice and self-abnegation which has always characterised the British Army. If we are to appeal successfully to that spirit, we must prove to these young men that we, as a country, do attach the greatest importance to what they are doing, whether in the active or the reserve Army. We all desire to raise the status of His Majesty's Forces. We in the Government are ready to do anything in our power to further that end, and I need hardly say we are willing to have the closest and most active discussions with noble Lords wherever they may sit. In that spirit this debate has been conducted. It was in that spirit that it was initiated by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and in that spirit I desire to close, affirming on behalf of all your Lordships that we in this House stand for success, progress and great happiness to every soldier whether he be a member of the active or the reserve Army.
§ 6.24 p.m.
My Lords, I am sure my noble friends would wish to join with me in saying how grateful we are to the noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite for the great trouble they have taken in answering the points we have raised., Although I do not want to risk courting an invitation to change my place in this House, I feel that we should put on record that we have reached a great common factor of agreement in this debate—to be more concise, I feel that we are almost entirely agreed about the state of affairs. If there is still any disagreement between us it is as regards the urgency that is felt about improving matters, particularly for the Regular Army, and about the likelihood of the present measures which the Government have in mind succeeding. We have some doubts in certain directions. Those doubts do not appear to be fully shared by noble Lords opposite, which perhaps is not surprising. None the less, we are glad to receive the information that has been given. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan (I should like to associate myself with other of my noble friends in congratulating him on his first speech from the Government Front Bench) gave me a good deal better news than I expected 1038 about the resettlement of soldiers in civil life. I only hope hat I was right in thinking that those matters are tied up not only with the Government Departments and nationalised industries but also with the trade unions and people like the Civil Service Clerical Association. I rather gathered from the noble Earl's speech that that is so.
I was also glad to fear from the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, that progress is being made on this question of reserved occupations—the technicians. If I may reinforce that point, I feel that until it is realised that the Army will want a number of those people no solution that makes sense will ever be achieved. We were given a certain amount of news of Colonial troops and lass Z reservists. There, again, I feel there is a difference of opinion. On this side of the House we feel that the balance of argument is more in favour of using Colonial troops and less in favour of relying much longer on Class Z reservists. However, I feel that we can leave the Regular Army at that.
When we come to the Territorial Army, I should first of all like to welcome what the noble, Lord, Lord Pakenham, said about the Army Cadet Force. I did not refer to it in my speech (perhaps I should have done) and my reason was that we had no comment to make on the way the matter was being handled. I think the War Office and the Government are paying all the attention we could expect to the Army Cadet Force, and I am certain they are getting full value. I welcome the noble Lord's words of approval. I am also grateful for the news he gave about the Supplementary Reserve. When we come to the Territorial Army we realise—particularly my noble friend Lord Limerick and I, who are on the Territorial Advisory Correnittee—that these matters are under very urgent discussion; and for that reason we have refrained from asking too strongly for definite replies this evening. But time is getting very short. As the noble Lord opposite knows, unless all these anomalies, the bounty and so forth, are settled by the time the first lot of National Service men come in, we shall make a false start, which is the one thing we all, on both sides of the House, desire to avoid. Therefore, while realising the difficulties, we must reserve the right to revert to that matter again if we do not get good news before 1039 the time the National Service men come in.
In the same way we must reserve the right to refer to this very urgent question of medical officers in the Forces. The Territorial associations, as is known, already have an age limit, and I should like to associate myself with my noble friend Lord Limerick in what was said about the trade unions, because I feel certain—I am speaking now as a member of an association—that there is the utmost readiness to welcome any member of a trade union. When we come to shop stewards, a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, a little more consideration may be necessary in trade union circles, but I leave that to noble Lords opposite. I will not delay your Lordships any longer. We have, as I say, reached pretty fair unanimity as to what the problem is. If we differ over the steps to be taken, it is simply because we feel that the only way to tackle this problem is to face matters as they are, and not as we hope they will be or should like them to be. Whatever tributes we pay to the patriotism, the self-sacrifice, the loyalty and the endurance of all the King's soldiers, whether Regulars or Territorials, we must never allow that aspect of the soldier's life to blind those in authority to their duty of attending to his economic welfare. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.