HL Deb 03 December 1951 vol 174 cc704-49

4.12 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Home Guard Bill be read a second time. I count myself fortunate that my first speech from this Bench should be on a subject which, in its wider context, is not altogether new to me, and on which my lack of Parliamentary experience may not be as grave a handicap as it might otherwise have been. I am also fortunate in that I am being followed in this debate by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Jowitt. I do not say that because I expect him to be lenient with my shortcomings, but because I have many happy memories of his kindness and consideration when he was a Minister of the Crown and I was an official. And I also feel it is extremely lucky that I should be the first speaker to-day, because it gives me the opportunity of expressing the congratulations of your Lordships' House to the noble and learned Viscount on the honour that has recently come to him.

The object of the Bill before your Lordships is to establish the Home Guard on a strictly voluntary and strictly limited basis. I believe there is general agreement that a Home Guard would be necessary in time of war. The only serious point of disagreement, I think, arises as to the character and the scope of the measures that should be taken beforehand. As I understand it, the late Government thought that it would be sufficient if they earmarked battalion commanders and certain key personnel, and gave instructions to the Auxiliary and Territorial Force associations to get their plans ready for a complete enrolment of the Home Guard. They did not propose to do anything further, so far as I understand, until war was imminent. I cannot help feeling that that might be leaving things too late. Twice in the lifetime of many of us we have seen how short is the interval between the gathering of the storm clouds and the deluge. At the beginning of June, 1914, the international sky was quite clear. At the end of that month the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and in just over four weeks we were all plunged into the First World War. And much the same thing happened last time. The skies were pretty black at the beginning of August, 1939, as your Lordships will all remember, but, at the same time, we had had a good many alarums and excursions, and many of us who were at the centre of things at that time went off on a holiday with the reasonable expectation that we might be able to complete it. But before the month was half-way through, the storm clouds gathered; we were all recalled, and in less than three weeks we were plunged into the Second World War.

But that is not the only or even the main reason that I put forward for claiming that we must make our preparations well in advance. The principal reason is this: Governments are apt to say that they will do this or do that when war is imminent, but when the time comes they do nothing of the sort. Their whole object, and rightly so, is to save the peace, and they are reluctant, and very rightly reluctant, to do anything which might appear to be provocative or alarmist and thus bring about the very state of affairs they are trying to avoid. That is precisely what happened last time, and I will give one example. In the decades between the two Great Wars there was built up a compendious War Book. It sounds very warlike, but it was purely an administrative book. It set out all measures which had to be taken to enable the nation to pass from a state of peace to a state of war. Liter- ally hundreds of telegrams and messages were drafted in advance and catalogued. The book was divided into two parts: the precautionary stage, as soon as war was imminent, in which the telegrams were to be despatched; and the war stage.

What happened? We who had burned much midnight oil in preparing that book hoped for a clean-cut, tidy arrangement. We hoped the Government would tell us one day to put in operation the precautionary stage, so that the messages would flash all over the world on such matters as mobilisation, censorship, blockade, internment of aliens and the hundred-and-one other things. But when the time came, not a bit of it. The Government said, very rightly—one could not blame them—that we were not to do so, because it would only send the temperature up. In point of fact, the precautionary stage was never put into force. We did not pay dearly for the lack of that timely preparation because, your Lordships will remember, the first six months of the last war were six months of "phoney war," so that the fact that we had not taken precautions which the Government in peace time had determined to take was all right. But please do not imagine that the book was not a most valuable part of administrative machinery. It served its purpose admirably when the signal came. I am sorry for having taken up so much time on that point, but I wanted to show that if the Home Guard preparations are not carried some way forward in time of peace, there is no possibility of any fraction of the Home Guard being available for duty, either at the outbreak of war or for the first few weeks after war is declared. That would mean that our precious field force formations would have to be scattered all over the country, guarding against parachutists and saboteurs, just at the moment when they ought to be concentrated for early despatch overseas.

I do not propose to go through the Bill clause by clause, but may I summarise some of the salient features of the arrangements that are proposed? As regards strength, the peace-time strength is to be limited to 170,000. In the more vulnerable part of the country—that so say. the area lying to the East of a line Flamborough Head to Selsey Bill—battalions will be brought up to effective strength. That will consume 100,000. For the rest of the country, the idea is to train a skeleton on which flesh could be put if and when the need should arise. There, battalions will be recruited to a cadre strength of about fifty. That leaves a margin of 45,000 for additional strength, if it is found necessary. So far as equipment goes, every member of the Home Guard will have a rifle or a Sten gun, and in addition a certain number of P.I.A.Ts. and other unit equipment will be issued. But there is no question whatsoever of allowing the Home Guard to compete with the Regular Forces either of this country or of our Allies for any equipment that is scarce. As regards clothing, it is intended ultimately to issue uniforms to the Home Guard, but at present that can be done only at the expense of field force formations. Therefore for the moment all they are going to have I am afraid, is an arm-band and an allowance of £2 12s. a year to cover the cost of wear and tear to civilian clothes.

The age limits for enrolment are eighteen to sixty-five, but a man may carry on beyond sixty-five if he obtains permission from his sector commander. I should like to interject here the hope that the upper age limit will be interpreted very liberally. I remember during the war receiving heartbroken appeals from old friends who might have been seventy or over but who were perfectly fit to give a good account of themselves and who dreaded retirement. Engagement is for two years, and members can extend their engagement by a year at a time. Any member of the Home Guard can obtain his discharge by giving one month's notice to his commanding officer. He may also be discharged compulsorily, either because he is useless or redundant or because he is called up for full-time service with the Armed Forces of the Crown. Now may I turn to training? All members of the Home Guard will be liable to devote a minimum of fifteen hours a quarter for training or duty. The full requirements will vary according to the roles of the units to which they belong. Command headquarters, who will be responsible for supervising this, will see to it that requirements are reasonable. I would ask your Lordships to note that there are no penalties for failure to perform duty or training, except when mustered. The Home Guard is going to be administered, as was the Home Guard last time, by the Territorial and Auxiliary Force associations. The cost of the measures I have summarised will be about £2,500,000 in a full year.

There are probably many other points, both in regard to the arrangements and in regard to the Bill, which I could touch upon, but I think they are likely to emerge in the debate and I feel I ought not to trespass further on your Lordships' time. It is my belief that your Lordships will agree that this Bill, whatever criticism may be directed against its form, is a sensible and a timely measure which will give us a considerable degree of insurance for a very small premium. It is my earnest hope that your Lordships will use your great influence and example, both inside and outside this House, to encourage recruiting for the Home Guard and toromote its well-being and efficiency. It is my hearfelt prayer, as it is the heartfelt prayer of all your Lordships and of every citizen of this country, that the Home Guard which is now being raised, like the famous Home Guard of war days, will never fire a shot in anger.

Moved, that the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Ismay.)

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, if I wanted anybody to introduce a thoroughly contentious Bill in your Lordships' House I should unhesitatingly select the noble Lord on whom the task of introducing this Bill has fallen. He does it with such charm and such innocence that one almost begins to suppose that there is nothing in the Bill at all, and that it is a measure in which all good citizens ought to delight. When Dr. Johnson, once offered some roast mutton at an inn, was asked what he thought of it, he said that it was "ill-fed, ill-killed, ill-kept and ill-dressed." Every one of those epithets applies to this Bill.

If I wanted an illustration as to how ill-considered it was—and I suppose that is the equivalent of ill-fed—I should content myself with telling your Lordships this. The Bill as introduced applied only to males. Then somebody from the Opposition side of the House, bearing in mind the wonderful services that women had rendered in civil defence and other forms of activity, said: "Why not make it apply to women?" Thereupon the Government spokesman at once said: "What a good idea! Let us have it applied to women." We all know that the Prime Minister's father forgot Goschen, but the noble Lord and his associates forgot that there were such people as women. That may be a tribute to the unfailing rectitude of his conduct, but it is most surprising in a gallant soldier. I could ask for no better illustration of the fact that this Bill was never really properly considered before it was put before the House. Incidentally, one of the points that have obviously to be considered is the reaction of these forces on the Civil Defence membership. So far as I can make out, that matter has never been considered at all.

As to the form of the Bill, there sit noble Lords opposite who have harried me on this question for the last six and a quarter years. What is this? It is, as the noble Lord innocently said, a mere skeleton on which the Government can put flesh from time to time. Be it observed that there is no right to pray; there is no provision for a negative Resolution, or anything of that sort. Parliament simply entrusts to the Government of the day full power to do whatever they like. I will give an illustration. The Secretary of State for War said in his speech in the other place that it was intended that the men should serve, on an average, about an hour a week—about fifteen hours a quarter. What is the limitation he places on his powers in the Bill? Anything short of whole-time service. That might be six or even seven hours a day. When I used to say these things I had a chorus from the other side: "Put it in the Bill." This is entirely a matter of good intentions, with nothing put in the Bill at all.

I say frankly that, in my view, matters of national defence, like matters of foreign policy, ought to be outside the realm of Party controversy. But if that is to be so, it involves careful consideration and careful consultation. So far as I know, before this Bill was introduced there was no consultation with anybody at all. Ill-considered, in form bad and in substance bad. We in the late Government had realised all the difficulties. We had thought that we should perfect every preparation up to the actual enrolment. Instructions had been given to the Territorials. It is quite untrue to say that we did not intend to do anything further until war was imminent. It is truer to say that we did not intend to go further at this stage. Here there arises the delicate and difficult question of timing, on which different views are held; and some of my colleagues who have much greater experience than I have in these matters, feel that the timing of this Bill is bad. Of course, I agree that we must be prepared. On the other hand, if this plan starts badly, and goes off at half-cock, it will be most difficult to put it right again, I believe that there is a grave question as to whether this was the precise moment at which this Bill ought to have been introduced. However, speaking for myself, I am not prepared to raise controversy on that basis. The Government have considered the matter, and have come to the conclusion that now is the moment. I very much doubt whether they are right, but that is a matter of opinion. The Secretary of; State also said in his speech that he had worked out the broad lines of the regulations. Could we not have seen, or been told about, the broad lines of the regulations? Have we to take this entirely on trust, and give him immense power to make any regulation he likes, without any sort of Parliamentary control?

For the rest, I find the Bill is made up of compromises, and compromises very often prove unworkable: they are the line of least resistance that a man takes between two separate ideas. Let me take the illustration as to whether it is desirable that these people should be subject to military law before an emergency arises. I beg all your Lordships to consider what I have to say about this. In the Territorials (I think I am right, and I shall be corrected if I am wrong) we have long had the principle that military law applies to a soldier only when he is on duty; it applies to an officer in the Territorials all the time, but to a soldier only when on duty. I know very well-and anybody who has had experience of dealing with military law knows it-that, of all the difficult questions there are to decide, the phrase "when on duty" is probably the most difficult. Ask anybody who has had experience of military law: When does the duty begin? When does it end? Does it cover the period when a man is going to his duty, or the time when he is coming back from his duty? Everybody knows how difficult that is to define. Yet here the Government have reintroduced this doctrine of making these comparatively elderly gentlemen—as many of them will be; I gather that some may be up to the age of seventy—subject to military law intermittently when they are on duty. This is much more serious than in the case of the Territorials.

I will give your Lordships another illustration, from experience. Suppose that a company of these rather elderly gentlemen are going out for training, for parade, or whatever it may be, and they find themselves in a heavy shower of rain. What do they do, in practice? By common consent (I am not suggesting that they break ranks but the commanding officer suggests it, and they all do it) they adjourn to the local inn, and to the "Cauliflower" (or wherever it may be) they go until such time as the rain has abated. It is right that they should, because these elderly gentlemen would all get arthritis if they did not. They go in and have what is sometimes called a "quick one," and then they have a game of darts until the rain stops. Just consider what is to happen supposing some controversy arises in the course of the game of darts and somebody hits somebody else. What is the position then? Is that man on duty? He has his brassard on; he has put his tin hat down in the corner of the bar, and meanwhile, until the rain stops, they are all playing darts. This Bill adds to the controversy, which has already proved difficult in the case of the Territorials, who are young men, by making these people subject to military law when on duty.

Let me make one thing plain. I have not the slightest objection to their being subject to military law when an emergency arises; and I concede at once that the Government of the day should have the power to say when the emergency does arise. When the war clouds become sufficiently threatening, by all means let us say whether the Home Guard is mustered, or whether it is not—incidentally, I believe that during the last war it was seldom mustered; and when an emergency arises, then they should be subject to military law. But at the present time, when they are doing drill for an hour a week, or something of that sort, why have them subject to military law at all? —an intermittent military law which descends upon them, although it is exceedingly difficult to say when it is there and when it is not.

Now may I become reminiscent for a moment? For some reason or other—I have forgotten why—in the days of the Coalition Government a controversy arose between the W.R.N.S., on the one part, and the W.A.A.F. and the A.T.S. on the other. The W.A.A.F. and the A.T.S. are subject to military law but the W.R.N.S. are not subject to the Naval Discipline Act, and never have been. The senior officers of the W.A.A.F. and the A.T.S. thought it rather hard that their girls should be subject to military law and that the W.R.N.S. should not be subject to the Naval Discipline Act. I was called upon—though why I do not remember—to try to deal with this problem. I got the admirals to come round to see me, and very charming they looked, covered with gold lace and all that sort of thing. I put the point to them. They replied—and there seemed to be a great deal of good sense in their remarks: "We are very proud of our girls. They are a very good lot. We get only one 'dud' girl in about a thousand, and if she proves herself dud—if she deserts or goes away—what are you asking us to do? Are you really asking us to send an escort to fetch her back? It is the last thing we want. It is 'good riddance to bad rubbish.' She has gone—thank God for that! What should we do with her if we brought her back?" They said they would not have their girls subject to the Naval Discipline Act, and to this day they are not subject to that Act. This Bill has been introduced thinking that it would apply to males only, but when you have extended it, it is going to apply to females as well.

The proposal is that you should make these people intermittently subject to military law. I suggest that in this initial training period it would be very much better not to have them subject to military law at all. When you judge that the situation is getting threatening or dangerous, then have them under military law, and proper military law, and if they are summoned let them turn up so long as they are fit. But do not have this miserable compromise, that a man is not bound to come to parade unless he wants to, and then when he does come he is subject to military law whilst on duty. But that is not the end of the matter. A completely novel feature of this Bill, which has never been introduced before, is that they are not to be subject to the whole military law, but they are to be subject to military law in bits. The exceptions, to my mind, are quite startling. Will your Lordships who have a copy of the Bill before you look at the proviso at the bottom of the first page? You will see that subsection (2) of Clause 1 will make these people subject to military law whilst on duty—men and women alike℄and then comes a proviso which says: … shall not render a member of the Home Guard liable to proceedings for an offence under section forty-one of the Army Act. … What is Section 41 of the Army Act? Section 41 embraces every civil offence. Let us take a simple illustration. Supposing a Home Guard strikes his superior officer whilst on parade—that is plainly whilst performing his duty—he could be had up before the magistrates for assault and battery. The case is covered by Section 41 of the Army Act and consequently under this compromise, you would not be able to deal with that obvious ease under military law.

If I understand it aright, as you have drawn your Bill the only cases in which he does come under military law are those where what he does is a military offence without being a civil offence—for instance, a sentry sleeping on duty or something of that sort. It is no civil offence to sleep on duty but it is, of course, a military offence. That, does not come under Section 41 of the Army Act. Section 41 starts off with a catalogue of rather dreadful crimes—murder, manslaughter, rape, and any other offence punishable civilly. Therefore, the whole gamut of offences which are punishable civilly cannot be dealt with under military law. There is another illustration of a miserable compromise. You are going to make military law apply to these people intermittently but not wholly. You are going to take out huge sections of military law—something which has never been done before—and make bits of the Army Act apply sometimes to these people.

I venture to ask your Lordships to say that this Bill really has not been considered at all. As it is to-day, it simply will not work. I have given the most obvious illustration. Obviously a soldier hitting his superior officer ought to be dealt with under military law. The people you are going to have in the Home Guard are going to be a pretty good lot of people. There is no financial inducement to serve. They are people who are serving out of a sense of duty, loyalty and patriotism. They get £2 12s. 0d. a year towards a suit of clothes and they may be called upon to crawl about in muddy ditches and the like. These people will be there out of a sense of duty. If I may use the words the admirals used about the W.R.N.S., of course you will get an occasional "dud," but the "duds" will be very few—one in a thousand. Why subject these people to parts of military law? I venture to think that a far better way out is to do this. Why not say in these early stages—the stages of an hour a week training, or something of that sort—that they are not subject to military law; but when an emergency arises then apply your military law. You can define the emergency as you like and you can make it a military force. I suggest that that is a far more sensible solution than having this intermittent military law.

I want here to answer one question which has sometimes been put. It is said: "This is a voluntary Force"—and so it is. But what makes the type of people with whom we are dealing here serve is not the fear of punishment if they do not do something. They will serve because they have given their word and because they do not want to let the side down. These are not the sort of people who will cut parades unless circumstances make it inevitable. They will carry out their duties from a sense of duty, whether they are paid or not, and whether their clothes are worn in the course of it or not. That, I venture to think, is a far more potent source of obligation than an obligation imposed by law. These people will serve you; and although it is quite true that they can, if they like, throw their hands in and come out, yet they will not. In the vast majority of cases they will continue because they think it the right thing to do.

I know the difficulties of Party controversy, and I know that noble Lords opposite can, if they desire, get the Bill through in this form. But of one thing I am quite certain: The Bill in this form simply will not work. The compromise which has resulted in putting in that proviso makes it an unworkable Bill. I ask your Lordships to consider what is the use of having a military law obligation "in bits", if it is not applied to such obvious cases as striking a superior officer? And that has not been done. I would not have raised this point now but for the fact that we are taking the Committee stage to-morrow. I think it is a pity that we are to take the Committee stage without an interval, and I hope that it will not happen again. I am not making any complaint; the question was put to me and I assented, because I quite understand the difficulty about the timing. In the circumstances, however, I feel that this House is in a very great difficulty in the matter of doing its work efficiently. I think the sort of observations I have made ought to be considered in all parts of the House.

If we are to give the Bill its Second Reading between now and to-morrow I should like to ask the Government whether they could not recast the Bill on the lines I have mentioned. Until such time as an emergency arises, make the discipline self-discipline, voluntary discipline, and not discipline imposed under military law. I do not see any difficulty about defining it: define it as you like. But when the emergency comes, make it military law completely. The force should then be a part of the Armed Forces of the Crown, with a very definite job to do. But whatever you do, I urge the Government, do not attempt to have a bit of military law and leave out all the things that are most likely to be important. I have mentioned this matter now in order that it may be considered between now and to-morrow because, in my deliberate view, this Bill at the present time is impracticable and unworkable, and as ill-considered a Bill as any that I have ever come across. If the Government feel they must have a Home Guard Bill, and they think the time for it is now, well and good. But this Bill is very bad indeed, and I ask the Government to consider whether they will not recast the Bill between now and the next stage.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, I do not wish to delay the passage of this Bill, but there | are one or two points I should like to mention. The speech of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Jowitt—to whom I should like to offer my congratulations on the great honour he has received—has raised a few points concerning the stages of the Bill and recalled Dr. Johnson's remarks concerning some roast mutton. The Bill seems to have taken on the aspect of a joint of mutton. The sheep is still there, and there is even still a bit of wool—which is not an unnatural state in which to find a sheep. But the wool will have to be clipped in due course.

I wish to make it clear that in what I say to-day, I am expressing my personal opinion and not necessarily that of other noble Lords who sit on these Benches. I am sure, however, that all of us wish to pay our tribute to the Home Guard as it was. and to the services which it did—services which it will undoubtedly render again if called upon. But I should like His Majesty's Government to examine one point which may seem trivial, and that is the granting to the Home Guard of what is virtually the same uniform and insignia as those given to soldiers serving full-time in the Army. It may be argued that no serving soldier has raised this point, and that there is no evidence that he is in any way affected. I am not speaking for the Army, particularly the Regular Army, but, as many of your Lordships who have served as full-time soldiers in an emergency will know, there is sometimes a little feeling about this matter.

When a man goes into one of the Services he loses, to a large extent, his opportunities of self-expression and becomes akin to a dumb animal. When he leaves the Service and is able to raise these matters, everyone is tired and the thing is dropped. A man who puts on His Majesty's uniform for temporary service engages himself to be prepared to do a number of things. He is prepared to go where he is sent, at any time; to suffer hardship, discomfort and even, perhaps, injustice, if his superior officers deem it right. He must be absent for many months, possibly years, from his wife and. perhaps, a young family, who may not even know him on his return. He must forgo his privacy, his fireside, his meals at home, his comfortable bed with sheets, and his opportunity of taking his recreation in his own way in his own time. He must be prepared, in many cases, to see all the effort he has put in his civilian job thrown away or heavily depreciated. Finally, he has to be ready, as a normal part of his Service duty, to give his life, unquestioningly, in the proud tradition of all the Services.

The normal soldier, the decent soldier, does not want particular recognition of these things, because there is recognition enough in the uniform he wears. But it is not difficult to imagine a case where a serving soldier, returning, perhaps, from a long and strenuous campaign in North Africa or Burma, finds that his contemporary, who is exempted or has managed to get himself exempted from the Army, has had the advantage of all the things of which the full-time soldier has been deprived. In these circumstances, many members of the Horns Guard themselves feel that they are in some sense masquerading a little by wearing the uniform of an ordinary soldier. I have every admiration, not only for the Home Guard but also for the members of those other organizations—the Fire Services, the Civil Defence Services, the Royal Observer Corps and others—who have done magnificent work without wearing the uniform of any of the Armed Services. I ask the Government to look at this point to see whether they cannot find some other way of designating the Home Guard ranks, without giving them the uniform or insignia of one of the Services.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, I hope to make in a short time a practical contribution to this debate. It will be from a different angle from that to which we have already listened. I was concerned with raising the Home Guard in Scotland in the summer of 1940. I am still concerned with the future administration of it, as chairman of a county association; therefore I have been able to get a "worm's eye view", which may be rather different from the view of the noble Viscount and the noble Lord who introduced the Bill but, nevertheless, may be of value.

I cannot agree with the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Jowitt—whose elevation we all acclaim—when he said that this Bill is untimely. My recollection of the period in 1940, when the Home Guard was raised, is very clear. I remember that in the West of Scotland area, for which I was responsible, we raised 70,000 men in a very short space of time and we had seven hundred firearms—one firearm per hundred men. That situation soon improved, as a result of the importing of American rifles and the rapid manufacture of Sten guns.

It is urgent to guard against any repetition of such an error, and we should have the distribution of weapons to a potential force properly lined up. But speaking from the county level, I do not think that anything has yet been done about that matter. This Bill enables progress to be made, and I trust that early preparations will be made for the issue of weapons to the new force. It will be a large force in the East of England, and a framework in the rest of the country.

Now I should like to mention a purely Scottish point. I hope it will be borne in mind that the Territorial associations in Scotland have this year taken over the administration of the Air Force cadets. Noble Lords will recollect that an experiment was made with Scotland only, not with England and Wales, in passing to the Territorial associations the care of these Air Force cadets. Many associations have been able to assimilate that work into their structure without an increase of staff, Some have had to increase their staff, and financial provision has been made for it, but the administration of the Home Guard will be additional. Therefore I make, not for the first time perhaps, a separate case for Scotland: that if larger staffs are called for by some associations, it should be borne in mind that in Scotland, as opposed to other parts of the country, the Air Force cadets are already a charge on the time and work of the Territorial Forces associations. None the less, I hope that many associations will be able, without any substantial increase in staff, to undertake the work for the relatively small cadres proposed in all areas other than the east of England.

Then there is a point on which I feel strongly. We must not allow the Home Guard to compete with the Territorial Army. We must be sure that men who present themselves for enlistment in the Home Guard and who are in every way eligible to become Territorial soldiers carrying full Territorial obligations, have fairly placed before them the advantages of joining the Territorial Army. There should be ample scope for reaching this relatively small cadre in the Home Guard without trenching on the reservoir which is required still for the Territorial Army. I hope there will be an instruction to commanding officers and to those who approve the enlistment of men for the Home Guard to take care to avoid enrolling the type of young man who should be in the Territorial Army. With a little inducement such a man may join the Territorial Army. That does not, of course, refer to the older men.

As regards accommodation, may I make a point from my experiences in 1940? The Territorial drill halls had been evacuated by their units at mobilisation in 1939, and in the period between the departure of the Territorial Army units for the war and the formation of the Home Guard most of those drill halls—many of them, at any rate—had been taken over for the billeting of home defence troops and for other military purposes. It was very difficult to find accommodation for the units of the Home Guard which were raised in every county. I hope that that problem will be guarded against this time and that a thorough survey will be made now to make sure that accommodation is available. I have not seen evidence of this being done yet. I feel that the Bill is not untimely, in any sense of the word, if it promotes the necessary steps for the ready issue of arms and the thorough survey of accommodation.

I have no more remarks to offer. I hope those few points are practical. I welcome the Bill, and I feel the grave-words of the noble and gallant Lord who introduced the Bill should be given close regard by us all. We hope that an emergency will not come, but, if it does, it may come very quickly. Let us learn the lessons of 1940 and take this necessary step of passing an enabling Bill. The noble and learned Viscount made some important points regarding military law which deserve Ministerial answer. I observe that he did concede that the type of person who will come forward for the Home Guard will, in the main, be a good man who does not want to let the side down, and therefore the opportunities for a miscarriage of law should be slight. None the less, discipline is a point we must closely regard, and I have no doubt that it is much in the minds of those responsible for the Bill, to which I give a very hearty welcome.

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, it has been made abundantly clear that there is no Party controversy on the principle of a Home Guard in time of war— indeed, the actions of the last Government in setting up the foundations and preparing the machinery for this force are sufficient proof of that. But nothing that I have heard convinces me that the present is the best time to set up this force, or that there is such urgency as to justify our being asked to consider this Bill in what I feel noble Lords will admit is a very hurried timetable. The noble and gallant Lord who introduced the Bill said that it was essential to enrol the men of the force before an emergency arose—in other words, before war broke out. But Joes he remember the extraordinary enthusiasm with which the Home Guard in the last war was accepted, how it aroused the enthusiasm of the whole population? I was looking at the debate in your Lordships' House in the summer of 1940. On June 4, 1940, the Minister gave the strength of the Home Guard as 400,000 men, and recruiting had opened only two weeks before A month later, he gave the strength of the force as 500,000. Admittedly, those men would not have been trained if the emergency for which they were raised had occurred in those few weeks. Militarily, of course, it is desirable to have the men fully trained in good time; but what is militarily desirable is not always practicable or the most desirable policy in time of war.

It seems to me that, by enrolling men for the Home Guard at the present time, there are disadvantages, economic and psychological. Economicaily, it is bound to interfere with the production drive. The men who will volunteer will be the keen men, not only men who are probably working long hours and overtime, but also the types of men who are always to the fore in every department, in every recreation, in civil life. They will be the men who would probably have joined the Territorials, who would have joined the Civil Defence; the men who run their cricket team and their darts team; the men who are trade union officials—willing men, those who naturally take a lead, with the result that their spare time is fully occupied. Psychologically you can raise a force like this when there is an immediate threat. You can maintain its enthusiasm as long as there is a threat. But surely the experiences of the years after 1940 show that it is very difficult to retain the enthusiasm, the will to work lone hours and undergo discomfort, when the immediate threat has gone. If the Home Guard are enrolled in the early part of next year (we all hope that they will not be needed for a long time) and are asked to go on training, giving up their leisure for a long time, enthusiasm is bound to die away.

Lastly, there is the effect of this measure on the Regular and Territorial Armies. It is not only a matter of arms or accommodation. It will be within the recollection of many of your Lordships what serious effect on the Regular Forces the doubling of the Territorial Army had in the early part of 1939. That step was taken in about March or April, and it was followed within a month by the introduction of National Service and the Militia scheme. The Regular Forces had to find the whole of the staffs for the increased number of units, and many of the most promising young officers and senior N.C.O.'s were drawn away from the Regular battalions in order to provide the staffs, the adjutants, the permanent staff instructors and others for these Territorials. I cannot see how this Home Guard is to be formed in 1952 without its having a similar effect on the Regular Forces.

It will also have an effect on Civil Defence. As we are told daily in the various organs of publicity, recruiting for the Civil Defence has not gone as well as it was hoped: the cadres and establishments are not full. The Secretary of State, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill in another place, argued that it would have a good effect because it would remove the doubts in the minds of many men as to whether they should join the Civil Defence or the Home Guard. That, surely, means that the War Office are jumping in to compete with Civil Defence for the available man-power. It looks as if there were insufficient co-ordination in the various means of defence in the country, and I think the Government should give an assurance that there is no intention of allowing Civil Defence and the other auxiliary forces—the Observer Corps and so on—to suffer as a result of throwing open the Home Guard to enrolment. Subject to the fundamental disagreement as to whether this is or is not the right time to open the Force, there is no disagreement over the Bill. We all wish this new Force well, and will do what we can to make it a success.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad to be able to follow my noble friend Lord Ismay, who in the war gave me so much valuable advice and help over matters concerning the higher policy of the Home Guard. I am also glad to be able to add my congratulations to the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Jowitt, on his elevation in the Peerage. This question of the Home Guard has received a full measure of discussion, not only in another place but also outside. The main question which I have been asked was whether I thought that in the present conditions people would join the Home Guard. The short answer that I can give to that question is this: that they will certainly join once they are convinced, as I hope they will be, by the close of this debate, if not before, that there is a real national need for them to do so; and if they are convinced that the job that they are asked to do is the job that they ought to be doing, and not one that somebody else ought to be doing. They will certainly join if the proper leadership is forthcoming, as I know it will be. If anybody were to say to me that it had not worked out like that in regard to Civil Defence, then my answer, shortly, would be that I doubt whether the leadership in Civil Defence is not capable of improvement. But equally, my Lords, people will not join the Home Guard if they are given any reason to suppose that it is going to be what I may call a "Blimp's benefit" or a politicians' plaything, or easy money for people like cartoonists and Mr. Nathaniel Gubbins. I feel that it is most important indeed that we in this House should give a clear lead as to what is required of the Home Guard, and why it is required at this present time. That was why I was so glad to hear the very clear statement by my noble friend Lord Ismay who moved the Second Reading of this Bill.

It is no good regarding the case of the Home Guard as separate in any way from the whole plot of our national defence and its relation to the whole scheme of Western defence. On any ordinary operational way of thinking, this country is most certainly a rearward area of Western defence, and therefore the defence of that area has to be carried out by somebody, and by somebody (I say this partly in answer to the noble Earl, Lord Lucan) who is properly trained to do it, properly trained to take on that job in conditions of modern warfare, perhaps at the very shortest notice. In theory, the defence of this country can be carried out either by Regulars or by embodied Territorials or by the Home Guard. If the Regulars or embodied Territorials had to do that job, because the Home Guard was not in a proper state of readiness, then it would mean that we were in a very sore mess, because. as I understand it, the present plans for Western defence—I am not going into this matter in great detail to-day—demand that the largest possible number of Regular troops and of embodied Territorials should either be located outside this country in advance, or, if not, be available to leave this country at an instant's notice. Unless we want to use our Regulars and Territorials in places that are not the right places, or unless we want—as we were doing, two or three years ago when Exercise Britannia took place—to count our full-time service resources twice over, we are forced inescapably to the conclusion that, if we are to play our proper part in Western defence, the arrangements we have to make must of necessity include a properly trained Home Guard, ready to do its job at very short notice.

Looking back, as the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, did a moment ago, at 1940—which was a time when I had good opportunities for seeing what the Home Guard was really like—I entirely agree with him that there was nothing lacking whatsoever in their keenness, patriotism and spirit of service. But whether one could say that the Home Guard, so hastily enrolled and so hastily organised, was fit for battle, is quite another matter. In my judgment, for what it is worth, despite all their other qualities, they were not fit for battle for many months afterwards. Yet under the conditions existing when operation "Sealion," was arranged, in preparation for invasion in September, 1940, it was necessary that they should be fit for battle then, if the invasion did commence. So do not let us fail to profit by that experience and also by the experience which we so narrowly escaped. Let us now agree that there is an abundant case for this Bill.

Having said that, I should like to add that there are, of course, great differences between conditions to-day and those which existed in 1940. That is why, if the Government's plans are to be a success, as indeed they have got to be, the presentation of this case for the Home Guard is so important. Matters are really quite different. One could put it shortly by saying that a cold war has to be fought in cold blood. Appealing to the patriotism of large numbers of people in circumstances of acute peril, and appealing to them now, is quite a different matter. When we were appealing to people in 1940, to take a long view, it was quite right to make an appeal to the heart. In 1951 we have to make an appeal to the head just as much as we did to the heart in those days. That is what we have to do now, and, because of that, I am led to the Bill itself. This Bill is largely the original Defence Regulation of 1940. There are some alterations, as was explained in another place and has also been explained by my noble friend who moved the Second Reading this afternoon. I think that this Bill, when it comes to be put into operation, will be found to do all that is necessary for the time being. Some people, I gather, believe that it may give more power than is necessary—but that remains to be seen.

The details of the Bill, have been discussed at great length in another place, and it is almost incredible that anyone should find anything more to say about it than has been said already; nevertheless, there are one or two points I would make. An honourable Member in another place said that the development of the Home Guard direction ought to be based on past experience. But, reading the Report of the debates in another place, one found it quite astonishing to note how little any of that past experience was invoked, even, perhaps, by people who had had it. What I am going to try to do for one or two minutes, if your Lordships will allow me, is to give a little of my own past experience in some of the matters which have been the subject of debate, partly here and partly in another place. I will come, first of all, to this question of military law. I should be the last person to attempt to argue any point of law with the noble and learned Viscount who sits opposite, but I would say that the proposals in this Bill for placing the Home Guard, in certain circumstances, under the Army Act, are substantially the arrangements which were in force for practically the whole of the time during the last war, and which, I think I am right in saying, produced only 200 courts-martial of any kind from a Force which had a peak strength amounting to sonic 1,700,000 Home Guards—and that means to say that a total of about 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 people passed through the Home Guard.

The provisions for courts-martial were administered by people who took very much the same view, I should say, as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Jowitt: that is to say, they were concerned never to bring any member of the Home Guard to trial unless there was some cast iron reason why he should be brought to trial, and always, in fact, to give him the benefit of the doubt. I can go further and say that those trials, in my experience—which was fairly close—were never undertaken unless there was some reason affecting the Home Guard at large, as opposed to the individual offender, why it was right and necessary to bring the man to trial. I can also say this. My experience of Home Guards, as indeed of members of the Territorial Army and officers of the Army Cadet Force, has always been that they dislike any suggestion that their status, even their status with regard to their liability to be tried for offences, is in any way inferior to that of the Regular soldier. The noble and learned Viscount in another debate used the quotation: Lesser breeds without the law. To be regarded in any way like that, is a thing which I know the Home Guards dislike very much. They do not like to think that there is any suspicion of that sort of thing in the manner in which they are regarded.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, who is not now in the Chamber, raised the question of uniform and, indeed, some problem arises there. So long as the Home Guard officers were designated by black bands on their uniforms, there was a persistent agitation that they should be recognised as officers—as they were—and given the King's Commission. They were like the Pear's Soap baby—they would never be happy until they got it. There is a smaller point—and it is the last—which I am going to make, because this is a Second Reading debate. Although most of the Home Guard work at this stage will be I training, it is not inconceivable that there may be duties as well, and the arguments for rendering a Home Guard liable to court-martial when on duty are infinitely stronger than the arguments for rendering him liable when on training. But may I leave that question, because there may be other opportunities of discussing it more fully at later stages of the Bill? I would say one word about another matter which has not been mentioned here except by implication, and that is the question of industrial disputes.


Before the noble Viscount leaves the matter on which he has just been speaking, I should like to say that I do not quite follow his point about liability of a Home Guard when he is on training. When he is on training is he not on duty?


I apologise to the noble and learned Viscount if I did not make my point clear. Training is duty, but duty is not always training. I was referring to guard duty, and not operational training, which might have to be undertaken for some special reason.


I am much obliged to the noble Viscount.


As I was about to say, the system of co-ordination with the Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation worked perfectly well throughout the whole of the last emergency. There was constant touch, and, may I say, most friendly touch, both with the British Employers' Confederation and with Transport House, and my recollection is that there were, in fact, only two misguided and misdirected attempts to use the Home Guard in connection with industrial disputes. These two were checked in a matter of hours, with the full consent of the responsible people in Transport House. If, therefore, it was possible for over four years to keep order in that manner, and to do so with the full co-operation of Transport House, is it likely that there will be any difficulty at this time, in spite of all that was said in another place, if the same simple rules are adopted? I think not.

We come now to delegated legislation. Without going over the whole matter, may I mention one expedient which worked extremely well last time—namely, the Home Guard Parliamentary Committee, an unofficial Committee of members of all Parties in both Houses, which sat upstairs and which proved a great safety valve for discussing all those things which might have been the subject of trouble, but which were not because of the cooperation of all concerned? The existence of this Committee resulted not only in the smoother administration of the Home Guard but also in the saving of the time of Parliament. I have no doubt that if that procedure were adopted again, a great deal of the apprehension which might be felt over these matters would be met. I think my recollection is fairly clear, and I am convinced that, if these matters had not gone as well as I am making out to your Lordships. I should have had the sack from my job.

May I come to the administrative side of the Bill? I am not going to say very much on this, because my noble friend Lord Clydesmuir has said a good deal about it, and my noble friend Lord Hampton, I believe, is to say a little more. I should like to state three principles which stood us in good stead in war time when we were running the Home Guard, and which may do so again, particularly since the Home Guard is to be administered by the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces associations. Incidentally, I heartily welcome that arrangement, which I regard as quite indispensable for the proper running of the Home Guard. The three principles we tried to work to were these. First of all, we tried to make rules for wise men and not for fools. If we keep on trying to alter the regulations because some silly idiot has gone wrong, that only prevents sensible people from doing their duty without succeeding in keeping fools from their folly, and we end up with a mass of regulations and paper work.

Secondly, we should not ask the Home Guard to undertake any training or duty until facilities have been provided for them. That applies particularly to the provision of weapons and accommodation, which my noble friend Lord Clydesmuir mentioned just now—and I am glad that he did. If we have to wait, let us wait until training halls have been arranged and the weapons are there. If we want frustration, then let us start telling people to make bricks without enough straw. The last principle is that, in deal- ing with travelling, clothing and other allowances, we should see that the allowances cover the cost of what they are intended to provide. That means a regular costing system, and an honest one. I put forward these suggestions because they are things which we found indispensable for our guidance in the last war.

Strangely enough, most of the debate so far seems to me to have been about matters which worked reasonably well. I am a little surprised that no one has mentioned one thing which, in my opinion, wants a good deal more attention than all the other three things put together—that is, the question of man-power. I think it is fair to say that although this Bill provides a long-term policy, it is not a very long-term Bill, although, to my mind, it is quite sufficient for the immediate task. If we are to have a long-term policy, we have to look a little further in the Home Guard administration than the present Bill takes us. We have a man-power commitment for the Home Guard of 170,000 part-time people, mostly men, though there may be some women. I have here some figures showing the present commitments for other forms of part-time national service. They show that for Civil Defence, the Special Constabulary, the National Fire Service, and the Civil Hospitals Reserve the man-power required amounts to some 660,000. So that we have already a part-time commitment of well over three-quarters of a million men and women. That figure ought to be perfectly possible at this stage. We are still working on very wide margins, compared with the tight working there will be when the war effort is fully geared up, if it has to be, and we want to make the fullest use of our part-timers. But we may feel the pinch earlier than we think we shall. Consider, for instance, an area in East Anglia, where there are numerous bomber airfields and airfield installations. It may well be that the pinch will come in one or two of these difficult places a little earlier than might have been foreseen. I do not know, because I am not familiar with what is going on now.

There is another point that I should like to mention. The r½le of the Home Guard, as envisaged both by the noble and gallant Lord. Lord Ismay, who moved the Second Reading of the Bill here to-day, and in another place, was, largely, that of undertaking guard duties at vulnerable points. We had experience of that in the last war, and we found that for every man on duty at night we required to have eight on the strength, otherwise the men would not get their nights in bed, and agriculture and production suffered. These questions will arise very quickly. So far as I know, we have not heard much about the anti-aircraft defence of factories, and no one has said anything at all about firewatching. In the last war, firewatching was Nigger No. 1 in the woodpile, so far as the uneconomic use of man-power was concerned. I feel that the next stage in these preparations has to be a very close study by the Government of the man-power problem. I feel that it was rather a pity that the Minister of Labour did not have his name on the back of the Bill in another place, but at all events he must come into the picture at an early stage. it will be much more important for him to come in on the man-power side than on the industrial disputes side.

The reason women were not fully enrolled in the Home Guard last time was that the Minister of Labour pointed out that, if we took part-time women into the Home Guard, we should lose the equivalent number of part-time men. This was not a question of the War Office "jumping in," as the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, seemed to think: this must clearly have been a Cabinet decision. In any case, the need for a Home Guard has been accepted, and if we accept that, we accept it all the way. We cannot embark on man-power plans that have to be changed half-way through. All this trouble about man-power did not begin with this Bill, and I have been on record about this matter before, in the time of the previous Government. It began when noble Lords opposite took the wrong turning on the Civil Defence Bill, and allowed the Home Secretary to raise his private army. We must now get away from that idea, because we shall want every single part-time man and woman for National Service that we can possibly get—and private armies are not the way to deal with the problem. I have said a certain amount about that matter, not because I think it should not have gone into this Bill, but because we have had a policy which—quite rightly—goes much further than the Bill. And now, if we mean this Bill to be effective, we must, as a first step, see where it leads, and must prepare for the second step.

It may be thought that what I have said is irrelevant to this Bill: but it is not, because, as I said when I began, those who should be joining the Home Guard will certainly join much more rapidly, and will be more convinced that they are doing the right thing, if they can see the plan going all the way, leading up, if need be, to an actual emergency, which is the time when all the trouble and toil will be repaid. This Bill, if it is carried through, represents a real contribution to our national defence, and the fact that we are now calling on the Home Guard to prepare for the job that they did last time should be real evidence to the country that the Government are taking the matter soberly and seriously. I have only one further point to make. If the people who have charge of the Home Guard this time receive anything like the volume of loyalty, support and help that my associates and I received when we were in charge of the Home Guard last time, although they will not find it an easy job—it will be over-full employment for a long time—they will feel, as I did, that they have never had a job more worth doing.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, I do not propose at this late hour to detain your Lordships for long. Along with other of your Lordships, I joined the L.D.V. in the early, days and served throughout the whole war with the Home Guard. Your Lordships may recollect that during the course of the last Parliament I ventured to submit to the House the importance of reviving the Home Guard. I am very glad to add my welcome to those which have already been recorded to this Bill. I believe the Government have been wise to limit the scope of the Bill, at any rate for the present, and to proceed gradually in their conception of how best this revival can take place. Much will depend, of course, upon the response to recruiting, when recruiting is open. Here I must express some anxiety. I would suggest, from my own experience, that recruiting is likely to be good or disappointing in ratio to the speed with which uniforms and weapons are made available. I under stand that certain weapons will be made available at once, although not all that we shall want. In the days of the old L.D.V. the first response was immediate; but then the need was desperately urgent, and we were willing to put up with all sorts of makeshifts and very little in the way of equipment—we scratched along somehow. But to-day although I believe that this measure is urgent, if only as one more deterrent to possible aggression, the urgency is below the surface and not upon it for all to see as it was in 1940. From my own experience, I would stress the importance of uniforms and equipment as a psychological factor in recruiting. It is necessary to do all that we possibly can to counter the lack of stimulus as compared with that created by the urgency of 1940. We should make this new Force as attractive as it is possible to make it.

I remember very well that in the old days, when we had cast away our arm bands, our denims, our shot guns, and goodness knows what else, and when the pikes had disappeared into the limbo of forgotten things and we could appear on parade as real soldiers, armed with real weapons, the result on the morale and the keenness of the men was immediate and most obvious. I understand that at first recruits are to be issued with armbands, rifles and steel helmets. With regard to rifles, I would point out that their handling, especially if they are kept lightly oiled, as they ought to be, is very hard on civilian clothing. I have not a great opinion of the £2 12s. offered by the Government to make good civilian clothing in any one year. As to steel helmets, I should prefer to go to the other extremity and provide boots, because boots, also, are most expensive these days, and even with the light training that is contemplated civilian shoes, especially in country districts lets, will wear out very quickly. I do not think the £2 12s. will go very far towards replacing the boots, or even towards having new soles put on them. I would mention one further sartorial point—it is a small point, but I think it is of some importance. During the christening stage with armbands, I suggest that it be understood that medal ribbons are to be worn. This is a useful guide to commanding officers in assessing the previous services of the men, and it is a commendable source of pride to the men themselves. It is a small point, but I throw it out for what it may be worth.

I should also like to stress the value of adequate transport. I remember very well the difficulties we had in getting about the country. I visualise the Home Guard, when properly trained, as an intensely mobile body within the prescribed area of each battalion, especially as regards the rapid movement of the striking force or the battalion reserve. You must have immediate transport available for that. Take the wild country of the Cotsworlds, places where there may be small bodies of men. As the scheme develops you have to get them about the country quickly. There might be a report of a saboteur or an enemy agent having been dropped on the top of the Cotswolds. You must have some means of getting up there quickly. I know that first call on the uniforms, rifles and weapons of all kinds must lie with the Regular Forces and the Territorial Army, but I put forward the suggestion that the need for transport should be borne in mind.

The question of the enrolment of women has been partially settled. I may add, from my own experience, that such ladies as we had to help us at our battalion headquarters were invaluable. They relieved men who were better employed on more active duties, and they were most efficient. I am glad to see that an Amendment was put into the Bill in another place which, as the set-up of the whole scheme becomes clarified, will allow certain women to be brought in for administrative duties. There is one further point I should like the Government to hear in mind—namely, the importance later on of some system of combat schools. I am going rather far ahead, but I may not have another opportunity of mentioning this matter. We found them most valuable. When the men join the Home Guard they will soon get sick of the A.B.C. of their training. Our experience was that as they became more efficient they wanted to go further afield. They will want to learn about other weapons and make use of them, and will desire to know about real fighting from men who have fought in Korea and against guerrillas in one field or another.

I remember that during the last war, when I happened to be a member of the committee to which my noble friend Lord Bridgeman has referred—the Inter-Parliamentary Committee of the Home Guard—on several occasions I urged the importance of showing the Home Guard men really dropping from the skies on parachutes. On one occasion they took us out to some place near Windsor, and it was one of the dullest shows I have ever seen. They all came down by parachute, but the Home Guard had not the chance of exercising their own tactical skill against the tactical skill of the parachutists. Before the war one used to see pictures in illustrated papers of the Russian Army with their huge airborne displays and manœuvres. I think that was some time before we thought very much about it. If we are to face a foe, in my estimation that is the foe which the Home Guard will be up against and that is the task for which they should be trained. With the help of the Minister for Civil Aviation, I hope it will be found possible to carry out training of that sort when the basic training has been completed.

I have spoken of many things which are going to cost a great deal of money and which require a great deal of thought. They are long-term things, but they should be brought to mind and kept in mind, because if this force is going to be any good it has to be a well-trained and a mobile force. I can promise that it will be an enthusiastic force if the men are given the tools to do the job. But I realise all the difficulties in front of the Government. and I hope that when the volunteers come forward—and may there be many of them—they will appreciate, as we do, that everything cannot happen at once; and that they will show the same perseverance, keenness and sense of comradeship as did their predecessors.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot pretend that I was able to agree with every observation made by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Jowitt, in his speech upon this Bill, but there was one point in particular with which I was in complete sympathy and which has been echoed by one or two of your Lordships in the course of this debate. It is the earnest desire that this scheme should not go off at half-cock. Those of us who rejoined the Territorial Army in 1947 have rather bitter memories of enthusiasm and experience wasted upon a scheme which had not been wholly thought out. We found recruits and, indeed, old members driven away because they thought they had not joined an efficient organisation. We do not want these Home Guard volunteers joining what they think is a "Nat Gubbins Army."

I was glad to hear it emphasised by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Ismay, that in many cases this scheme will be only a cadre scheme. Let us make certain that the cadre is a genuine cadre—not just a few odd bodies scraped together, but the right men upon whose skill and upon whose training the basic organisation can be built. I must say that I very much agreed with my noble friend Lord Hampton when he said that he hoped recruits would not be brought in until proper clothing and accommodation was available. I think that is most important. That period of time while the cadres are being prepared should be spent in getting two types of men to-ether. The whole success of this scheme will rest upon the calibre and the quality of the commanding officers. Those men must be chosen without any regard to political consequences or social influences. They must be chosen wholly on their merits and on their qualifications to command a battalion successfully in a particular part of the country. The correct type of commanders must vary a great deal. The type of man who can command a battalion in the Welsh valleys is very different from the type of man who can command a battalion in the Home Counties.

The second type of man we have to get quickly is the instructor—the instructor particularly in small arms and in rifle shooting. It will be within your Lordships' recollection that at the conclusion of the war, when the Home Guard organisation was stood down, many of the Home Guard units formed themselves into rifle clubs, and they have been one of the constituent factors in the National Small Bore Rifle Association with which I myself have been connected for a considerable time and in which I know several of your Lordships are keenly interested. This organisation can offer the complete answer to the instructor problem. The Small Bore Rifle Association is a national organisation with a national headquarters and is organised on a county basis, with clubs of varying sizes throughout the length and breadth of the country. All those clubs have expert riflemen who have been in the Home Guard and who would willingly come back at once and volunteer their services as instructors, if that offer were welcome and were accepted. I know that in the early stages of this Bill's history our movement offered its services to the War Office. The answer which we received was polite, formal and not very encouraging. In the War Office there is an organisation known as the Civilian Rifle Club Committee, and I would suggest that this organisation be given more attention and more encouragement. The War Office should do everything they can to make use of this large, potential reservoir of highly-skilled and enthusiastic instructors, both men and women, in the Small Bore Rifle movement in this country.

A little help will be required from our movement itself. The question of priority for ranges must be settled. We have a large number of ranges which we share already with the Army Cadet Force and the Territorial Army, and they share theirs sometimes with us. In the course of the last two years we have lost several ranges for housing. We know that housing is a first priority, but somebody must settle that argument and decide where housing must go on and where ranges are needed. Naturally we in the movement should like to see the day when every village had a miniature rifle range, in the same way as a football field or a tennis court, because we regard it not only as first-class training from the point of view of the Home Guard and the Territorial Army, but of first-class social importance as well. Therefore we require a little help from the War Office in return. We also want more ammunition, targets and No. 8 rifles.

I welcome this Bill and I welcome the revival of the Home Guard most warmly. I appreciate that there are some administrative difficulties ahead. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Jowitt, painted a sad picture to us of his arthritic and thirsty veterans creating a fracas around the dartboard of the "Cauliflower," and I feared for one moment that he would complicate the question by asking what would happen if the fracas was caused by W.R.N.S. who are not subject to mili- tary discipline. Surely, however, these are purely administrative problems which cannot stand seriously in the way of the renaissance of this great Force. I shall be interested to hear how the Government propose to meet the noble and learned Viscount's problem, but, with great respect, it does not seem to me of the first importance, or one which will seriously impair the success of the force. I only hope that one thing will not be done which might impair the success of the force: I hope that the War Office and other Government Departments will not, by tackling the problem in a typically Government departmental way, do away with a vast reservoir of keenness and enthusiasm. This Force will come forward willingly, as it did in 1940 when the great urge was there. As has been repeatedly said this afternoon, that urge is not there to anything like the same degree. Therefore, much more sympathy, much more skill and much more administrative forethought will be required from the Government Departments concerned if Home Guard enthusiasm, experience and knowledge is not to be wasted. I very much hope that it will not be wasted.

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, far be it for me to interfere with the very happy relationship which has existed in your Lordships' House this afternoon. I share the view expressed by my noble and learned friend the acting Leader of the Opposition, that the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, started us on the right track. It crossed my mind that it might have been a good thing if we could have transferred the noble Lord to another place to pilot this Bill through there. If we could have done that, the possibility is that they would not have spent quite so much time on it as they did. I do not propose to take up a great deal of your Lordships' time, because my noble and learned friend said almost all that was necessary in relation to this Bill. I hope that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, is going to deal with the points which he raised, because they are of vital importance. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that anything and everything that can be done to prevent this scheme going off at half-cock should be done.

Reading the debate in another place, I was not inspired by the performance, even of the Ministers themselves. I came to the conclusion that this Bill was brought forward and rushed through without consultation with the other Government Departments concerned in this matter, and without any great understanding of the situation. It seemed to me that other means, such as consultations, which might have been helpful, had not been used. I felt, after reading those debates, that an impression was created that the late Government had been rather neglectful while they were in office, in not building up the man-power of the Services. It should be placed on record. I think, that at no time in the history of this country, with the exception of the time during which we were engaged in a major war, has the nation ever had the strength of Armed Forces which it has at the present time. The late Government, with great courage and vision, continued compulsory National Service. So successful was that policy, in all the circumstances, that National Service has now become a part of our national life; and there is very little criticism at the present time of the operation of the National Service scheme.

Moreover, we have Armed Forces—Regulars and National Service men—enrolled in the three Services at the present time to the extent of no fewer than 840,000. This, with the reserves which are available, means a total number of more than 1,100,000 to be called upon in the event of emergency. In addition, there is the Z Reserve, which is numbered in millions. There are, in addition, the National Service men who have already done their period of service and become a part of our Reserve Forces. That is an indication that the man-power which we have available at the present time is very large. For that reason, it seems to me that the Bill is a little ill-timed. The Bill appears to have been rushed forward, either because the new Government became a little panicky or because, feeling that they had not sufficient legislation on the stocks, they felt they had to bring some Bill forward—and this happens to be the Bill.

What is going to happen? This Bill is just a skeleton. It provides for the making of regulations. The noble Lord who introduced this Bill told us of a few of the broad regulations upon which the Government had already decided. The detailed regulations have not been con- sidered, and are not likely to be considered for some time; indeed, it was suggested in the debate in another place that the possibility is that they will not be laid before Parliament until the House reassembles after the Christmas Recess—a Recess of nearly two months. If all these matters could have been considered and every point properly tied up, the Bill, which is a non-controversial one, would have gone through without the difficulties which, unfortunately, arose in another place.

There is another point on which I would touch, and that is the question of the Territorial associations, who become the administrators of the scheme. I should like to know whether the Territorial Army associations have been taken into the full confidence of the Government. I foresee certain difficulties. In the first place, there is the question of the existing Territorial accommodation, the drill halls. The Secretary of State for War mentioned in another place that at the present time there is considerable congestion in sonic of the centres. That congestion, it must be remembered, ill be increased, in view of the fact that something like 100,000 National Service men are completing their period of service and going into the Reserve every year. That in itself is a burden which the Territorial associations will find it very difficult to cope with. If we are to add another 100,000 men there will, in view of this congestion, be very great clifficulties—particularh in the special areas which the Government are proposing for the purposes of this Bill. We are going to bring about the difficult situation to which the noble Lord, Lord Man-croft, referred: and there will be frustration and disappointment instead of enthusiasm on the part of these men who will be brought in. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, suggested that there is a danger of further difficulty if the respective Departments requiring these volunteers go into competition one with the other. That will lead to chaos—such chaos as existed in the early days of the last war.

Take now the position of Civil Defence. Here, I suggest, is a Service which should have almost first priority. How is the Civil Defence Service managing about recruits? At the present time only a trickle of recruits are corning into Civil Defence. An interview was given by the Home Secretary last week to a representative of one of the evening newspapers. In the course of that interview he indicated that, on the average, fewer than half the number of recruits were going into the Civil Defence organisation towards the end of this year as compared with the end of last year. He said that we have not yet one-third of the numbers we require. If there is to be competition between Civil Defence and the Home Guard, then it will not look very hopeful for the Government. I hope that the Government will institute an inquiry almost at once to consider bringing in the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Supply to deal with many of these labour problems. Perhaps, if it is possible, they will make some kind of allocation, or indicate a priority as between the Services which would naturally be required if the situation developed unfavourably.


May I ask the noble Viscount a question? I am sorry to intervene, but I am interested in this point, which I raised in the House during the last Parliament. If my recollection is right, I asked the noble Viscount to do exactly what he is suggesting now. I should be interested to know whether the Government put the measures in motion. I hope so.


The noble Lord should know that, because he is now in the Government. There certainly were discussions about it. They started in relation to the Home Guard and, if it has not been done, we shall have no objection at all if the present Government do it. Good luck to them!

There is one other point. I was pleased that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, referred to the very close co-operation, and indeed to the great assistance, which was given by the National Joint Advisory Council, a Council which I regard almost as the parliament of the employers and the trade union side in this country, a Council which has existed over a long period right through the whole of the last war. Indeed, Governments of all Parties have consulted it. No Government have failed to receive real assistance from this body, which indicated that the representatives of the major portion of employers and the great majority of the workpeople of this country were prepared to co- operate. What is the experience over this Bill? The day before the Second Reading of the Bill took place in another place, one section received a letter saying that there was something of this kind happening. Now we are told that the broad type of regulation has already been agreed to, but that the National Joint Advisory Council will be consulted in relation to the detailed regulations which the War Office will consider during the course of the next two months. If assistance is worth having, those who are giving the assistance ought to be brought in on the ground floor. Whilst I think that there has been a little bit of a "let down," or a "let up," in relation to this Bill, I hope that this is not an indication of what the Government's policy will be in the future, especially since, as I have said, consultations have been carried on successfully during the course of the last ten or fifteen years.

I will say no more. With my noble friends, and indeed with every speaker, no matter from which side of the House he has spoken, I want to extend my good will to this new Force which will, I hope, come into being as a result of this Bill. If there is no recurrence of the mistakes which have already been made in relation to the presentation of this Bill, I have no doubt that this Force will be a worthy successor to that very gallant band, the Home Guard, which existed during the last war.

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, I think it will be generally agreed that this has been a valuable debate, broadly speaking harmonious, and characterised, as so often in your Lordships' House, by a number of contributions by recognised authorities and experts on the subject. It will not be necessary for me to speak at any great length in winding up the debate on the Second Reading. The reasons for the introduction of the Bill at the present time have been clearly explained by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Ismay, who introduced the Bill. Those reasons have been supported by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and others, and I imagine they command general acceptance. It is really the old question of the wise and the foolish virgins. Is it preferable to take certain steps to guard against a possible eventuality, even if that eventuality does not seem immediately necessary or imminent, or is it better to sit back, do nothing and take the risk, however appalling that risk may be?

I imagine that the vast majority of noble Lords in all parts of the House would, if I may use such a word, "plump" unhesitatingly for the first alternative. After all, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Ismay, pointed out at the beginning of the debate, we cannot gamble on the chance that the next war, if unhappily another war takes place, will follow the same course as the last one. The last time, in 1939, we were lucky; we were given a breathing space of six months. But next time the course of events may be, and probably will be, very different. The enemy may well attempt, even without any formal declaration of war, to strike a mortal blow straight at our hearts by means of gangs of saboteurs. planted perhaps beforehand, in peace time, or even by battalions of parachutists, who may try to destroy vital bridges, blow up key factories and obtain possession of essential air-fields, and so hamstring our whole scheme of national defence.

The regular forces and the Territorial Army might not be available for defence against these operations. They will, I imagine, in such an eventuality be occupied with more directly military purposes, for warding off perhaps an invasion, and they obviously cannot be widespread over the countryside, guarding key points here and there. Quite a large proportion of our Regular forces at any given time, on account of our international commitments, are likely to be out of the country altogether. Therefore, unless some other body is not only in existence, but in an advanced state of organisation, there is no doubt a real danger that irreparable damage may be done to our whole national security within the first few hours of war. It is to prevent just that possibility that the present Bill is brought forward. The noble and learned Viscount (whom I congratulate upon the honour that has been recently bestowed on him) criticised the Bill at the beginning of his speech as being "ill-timed," by which I took him to mean "premature." The correct timing of a measure of this kind is always difficult and is always a matter of opinion. The foolish virgins, to whom I have already referred, thought they had plenty of time, but, in the event, it turned out that they had not.

The noble and learned Viscount, if I understood him correctly, said that the late Government had already taken first steps, which I am sure is true, and that they would have taken further measures at the appropriate time—I am paraphrasing his words but that is the impression he gave. But when exactly would they have done it? I am not making this as a Party point. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, speaking in this House on January 24 of this year, said: Up to the present, as has been stated more than once, the Government have not intended to raise or train any Home Guard, even in cadre form, before an actual emergency arises. That is one point of view which may be defended and supported, but our view has been that that is not quite soon enough; that it is surely far better to start too soon than a little too late, and that when an emergency is upon us it should not develop into something much worse before the Home Guard can be built up into an effective force for use—


May I interrupt for one moment? I do not know exactly what words I used on that occasion beyond those quoted by the noble Marquess, but certainly the gist of the argument that was presented from the Government side then was that to proceed faster with the Home Guard at that moment was to interfere with other even more urgent things. It was not, therefore, a question of wise or of foolish virgins; it was a question of one kind of wisdom as against another kind.


I do not in the least wish to misrepresent the noble Lord, and, indeed, I said myself that timing is an extremely difficult question in a matter of this kind. In fact, I imagine that in saying what I have said I am, broadly speaking, banging at an open door. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Jowitt, used some rather strong words about the detailed character of the proposals; he said they were ill-considered and bad in form, and even called in Dr. Johnson in his support. But he did not say that he intended to oppose them; indeed, I think he said that noble Lords opposite intend to give the Bill a Second Reading without any opposition at all.

As I understood him, the criticism made in this debate (criticism which noble Lords opposite are perfectly entitled to make) is directed not so much against the main purpose of the Bill but against certain detailed features. I need hardly say that the Government will give full attention to everything that has been said this afternoon. We fully recognise that in what they have said they are not actuated by any desire to impede the need for national defence; as I understand it, their main purpose is to ensure that proper Parliamentary control is maintained, and also that essential British rights and liberties are not interfered with. Those are not points with which we on this side of the House are likely to disagree. The actual, particularly detailed points were, of course, as I think the noble and learned Viscount said, mainly of a Committee stage character, and if I say anything about them now, as he himself did, it is to ensure, if I can, that any unfounded misapprehensions may be removed as soon as possible, in the hope that, in the light of such information as I can give this afternoon, the Opposition may find it unnecessary to table Amendments. It is, of course, clearly desirable, if it is in any way possible, that this Bill should pass into law as an agreed measure, and I have no doubt that that consideration is very much in the minds of noble Lords opposite.

The first point with which I should like to deal is one raised by Lord Jowitt, who implied that the wording of the Bill was of far too broad and general a character, and that far too much was left to delegated legislation. I am certain it will not be suggested that the Party to which I have the privilege of belonging and which is now responsible for the Government of the country has ever shown an undue fondness for delegated legislation. I have spoken on this subject very often in this House, and I think I have expressed myself in no uncertain terms.


One sometimes finds a great difference when one removes from one side of the House to the other. I want to keep the noble Marquess up to the practices which he used to preach to us.


The noble and learned Viscount is rejoicing in his new-found freedom. But we have always recognised, as indeed any Party with any sense of realities at all must do, that one cannot, in a modern world—I think I said this equally last week—do without any form of delegated legislation at all, and the right thing, so far as one can do it, is to consider each case on its merits. Here, we feel that there are very special reasons for the form in which this Bill has been drafted. It will involve, like, I imagine, most other military Bills, very complex military rules and regulations, each of them affecting, and dovetailing with, others, and it is clearly not possible to include in detail all such regulations in the text of a Bill. I understand that the present Bill is in that respect exactly like other measures, such as the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act of 1907 and an even earlier Act, the Reserve Forces Act of 1882, which have been preserved in consolidating legislation, the Army Reserve Act of 1950, which noble Lords opposite will remember because it was passed by themselves. All those measures were drafted, in a form very similar to this, for the reason which I have already explained; and in the past, I think, this type of military Bill has always been accepted by all political Parties as a regrettable necessity. It does include a considerable measure of delegated legislation, but it has been found impossible to avoid that.


May I say that it is not only delegated legislation, it is delegated legislation without the protection of the negative Prayer.


I was just coming, to that. The next thing I was going to say was that these rules and regulations, as they are formulated, will be laid before Parliament. As the noble Viscount has just said, it is perfectly true that they cannot be prayed against. However, they can be debated, and criticisms can be ventilated. They can be supported or otherwise by public opinion, and all that will, no doubt, be taken into account by the Government of the day. I fully sympathise with the noble and learned Viscount in regard to delegated legislation, but every Government in turn, of whatever colour its opinion, has found with Bills of precisely this character that it is necessary to adopt this particular form.


The noble Marquess has overlooked one point: in the ordinary way we can pray. A Prayer is exempted business, and therefore it can be raised at any time. But when there is no Prayer it is very difficult to find Parliamentary opportunity to raise the question.


There is not the faintest difficulty in this House.


Perhaps not, but it is not so effective as elsewhere.


The noble Viscount has only to put down a Motion at any time and he can ventilate his argument as fully as he likes. That is one of the greatest advantages of the procedure of this House. I hope the noble Viscount will take full advantage of it if there are any rules and regulations to which he feels there is valid objection. I think that is all it is necessary for me to say on that point. Now I come to another which was also made by the noble and learned Viscount, and, in fact, it was the most important point which he made. He expressed doubts as to the propriety of putting members of the Home Guard under military law except when an emergency has been declared. I think I have his point accurately.




Like the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, I have considerable trepidation in crossing swords with the noble and learned Viscount on any subject of legal interpretation, and I advance with great delicacy upon it; but I do think that, upon reflection, the House, and I hope the noble Viscount himself too, will appreciate that there are valid reasons for the proposals which the Government have put forward with regard to this particular aspect of the Bill. The Home Guard will, as we all know, in fact be members of the Armed Forces of the Crown. While actually serving, either when mustered or at any time of the performance of duty, one or another or them might well commit an offence which would be an offence under military law, but would not be an offence under civil law. To make it impossible for him to undergo a penalty for such an offence would. I feel, strike at the whole roots of discipline. Moreover, the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who has unrivalled practical experience of the Home Guard, has, in the very authorita- tive speech which he has made to your Lordships this afternoon, expressed the definite view that the Home Guard themselves would prefer this. He said it gave them a status equal to that of the other Forces of the Crown, and they attach to it, and attached to it during the last war, very great importance.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Jowitt, suggested—as I understood him—that even if one accepted that view, the proviso contained in Clause 1 (2) was not clearly drafted for the purpose for which it was intended. He said that in the form in which it is drafted it definitely will not work, and he quoted examples of difficulties which he said might arise. I thought that the noble and learned Viscount, in those examples, went a little far. I do not think that any practical difficulty would arise to the extent which he suggested. That was borne out by what was said afterwards by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who speaks with far more experience—I will not say merely than the noble and learned Viscount, but than any of us anywhere in this House—on this particular question of the Home Guard. He told your Lordships that the general provisions in the Bill as to military law were the same as in the last war, and that at that time they did work.


Will the noble Marquess forgive me for interrupting? I am sorry to keep on referring to this matter, which is really a Committee point, but the reason I do so is that we have so little time in which to consider it. Before the introduction of the Bill we are now discussing, there was nothing comparable to the proviso. What we had in the last war was this Bill without the proviso. The difficulty, I suggest, arises as to the effect of the proviso, which seems to me to knock out all the noble Marquess's argument with regard to discipline and its maintenance, and the preference of the Home Guard for being in the same position as the Regular Forces. That is all knocked out by the proviso.


I do not think it is knocked out by the proviso. I do not wish to argue this at length this afternoon, as it is really a Committee point. It is a question as to how the proviso is interpreted, and that is a matter of opinion. The proviso, I think I am right in saying, was inserted in another place.


I think not.


I thought it was. At any rate, the provisions of the proviso were found entirely acceptable in another place, not merely to supporters of the Government but to supporters of the Party to which the noble and learned Viscount belongs. I doubt very much that he has made a case that will convince the Government. But what I will assure him is that we will look most carefully into everything that he has said this afternoon, purely objectively, and see whether there is any amendment which could be made to try to meet his point of view. I doubt very much whether the drastic alteration to the Bill which he suggested would be practicable, but we will look at it and see what transpires. I am sure that he will not expect me to say more upon that point now.

The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, in a very thoughtful speech, expressed the fear that the enrolment of the Home Guard at this stage would have a bad effect upon recruiting for Civil Defence. I understood him to say that. He suggested that the Government should, therefore, make some declaration that the Home Guard was not meant to take the place of Civil Defence, but was ancillary to it, affiliated to it, or parallel to it—whichever expression the noble Earl prefers. We all know that there is, in fact, plenty of room for both these forces. For one thing, Civil Defence has its principal value in the towns, and the Home Guard has its principal value in the countryside. There is no reason why they should overlap, and I imagine that that point is already recognised by a large proportion of the British people. I can assure the noble Earl that I will have the suggestion which he has made brought to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War. There was, also, a valuable point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, as to the importance of providing arms and equipment as soon as can possibly be done, if the esprit de corps of the new Home Guard is to be maintained. That is clearly true, and I can assure him that the Government are very well aware of it. They are most anxious that these arms and equipment shall be provided as soon as it can be done. But it is, I think, well recognised that it would clearly be wrong to go too far in that direction at the expense of vital arms and equipment for the Regular and Territorial Forces. Having said that, I can assure the noble Lord that the matter is not being forgotten. In fact, it is very much in the mind of my right honourable friend.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, asked whether the Territorial associations are being taken into the fullest confidence of the Government. There is a very simple answer to that, and it is: "Yes." They are being kept in the closest touch, and will continue to be so. The noble Viscount also raised what I thought is a very important point with regard to consultation with industry. I would entirely agree with everything that the noble Viscount said in that connection. It is vital that there should be this consultation, if there is not to be an unsatisfactory impact both on the Home Guard and on the man-power situation. The House will, I am sure, realise that there was no time for detailed consultation before the gracious Speech. Political developments were rather rapid, and the Government had only just come into office. But there is no intention on the part of the Government to neglect this consultation. I hope that the noble Viscount will believe that. Indeed, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War has already been in touch with representatives of the British Employers' Federation, the Trades Union Congress and the nationalised industries, and he has had it in view to give them not only a general outline of the proposals, but details of the regulations, as soon as it is possible to do so, in order that before they are tabled the details may be discussed in draft by the National Joint Advisory Council. We fully recognise the importance, and, indeed, the necessity, of consultation before the regulations are finally drafted, if the scheme is to be a success, and I can assure the noble Viscount that we will give full attention to what he has said this afternoon with regard to this consultation.

I think I have covered the main points that have been raised in this debate, and I hope that I have allayed any anxieties that may be felt by noble Lords in any part of the House. If there are any other points with which I have not dealt, I can assure the House that they will be studied when the Committee stage is reached. But I hope that they will be rather few in number, because I have been pretty fully over the ground. As your Lordships know, the Government have already done their utmost to meet criticism put forward by the Opposition in another place. It only remains for me to say, and I say it wholeheartedly in answer to the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Jowitt, how very sorry indeed I am that the time between Second Reading and the further stages of this Bill is to be so limited. In the days of the late Government, I often expressed my dislike of a very short interval between Second Reading and Committee stage, and I dislike it just as much now. But I submit that in this particular case it is of first importance, for reasons of national security, that we should pass this Bill through Parliament and bring the Home Guard into being at the earliest possible moment. It is in that spirit that I hope noble Lords in all parts of the House will consider the measure, and will give it a Second Reading without more ado.

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.