§ 2.48 p.m.
§ LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL rose to draw attention to the need for improving the conditions, including the amenities, of Service life for officers of the Fighting Services; and to move to resolve, That it is in the national interest that conditions should be so improved as to ensure that an adequate number of suitable young men come forward annually with a view to making the Services their life career, as well as to encourage officers now in these Services to continue in the honourable profession of Arms. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Motion covers a subject of the greatest interest and importance because, for the first time, commissions in the Fighting Services are freely open to all, and a Regular officer's life has become a real career. If an individual, by his efforts, can succeed in obtaining a commission, it is, I suggest, up to the nation to recognise his merit and to make the profession of arms a worth while one in every way. This Motion is in no way critical, and I hope that nothing that I may say will be considered as being so. I therefore hope that the noble and gallant Earl the Minister of Defence will be able to accept the Motion.
§ The Motion is worded to cover the three Fighting Services. The conditions in each Service differ considerably. Each has its own problems, and I have no doubt that they will be dealt with by noble Lords who have knowledge of them. To appreciate this problem one must glance back at the mode of entry and conditions in the past, in peace time, up to the outbreak of the last war. In all three Services, broadly speaking, if a parent was not able to afford to send a boy to a public school he was not able to afford to start him as a Regular officer. There were, of course, exceptions, such as the cadet scheme in the Army and similar schemes in the other Services; but, by and large, if a parent could not do that, that was the position. And not only was he faced with the preliminary education expenses, but there were also substantial fees at the Service colleges. Then, particularly in the Army, some sort of allowance had to be made to the young officer.636
§ The result of this situation was that the Services were not generally looked upon as providing a real career in the ordinary business way. Indeed, in a number of cases the officer had no intention that it should be so, and he left comparatively early, having enjoyed a life of reasonably hard work, with great facilities for outside interests and, what was perhaps more important, great scope for variety, in both general and Service experience. As typical of this, there was in the Navy the possibility of service in such as the Yangtse gunboats; and in the Army, in addition to service in India, an officer could get himself seconded, more easily than he can now, to one of the Colonial or similar forces, with a great deal more benefit to his pocket. I do not know whether it is generally realised by noble Lords that an officer who now serves with one of the Colonial forces has to pay the full United Kingdom rates of income tax on his pay. Whatever may have been the merits or demerits of the old system that I have described—and it certainly had some good points, particularly the spirit of independence and initiative which it encouraged to thrive—it is, I think, generally agreed that the present method of entry, which is a result of the last war, provides a fairer and more comprehensive way of selecting future officers. I am not sure that it is universally agreed that the Navy was altogether wise in abandoning the early age of entry of, I think, thirteen.
§ One cannot consider modern conditions in the Services without touching on the effect on the ordinary unit of National Service. It is a subject of great importance, and one which received a great amount of careful preliminary study and preparation to make it a success. I have no hesitation in saying that it is, so far as anything can be, a complete success. The continual intake of keen young men is undoubtedly adding a great deal to the interest of the Regular officer. There are, of course, some disadvantages, one of which is the considerable increase in administrative paper work which the officer on the level of a company commander, as well as the unit commander, has to undertake. There is also this comparatively minor difficulty: that because of the shortness of his service the young National Service officer is not in a position, until very near the end of his time, 637 fully to carry out the duties of a subaltern. That means that the captain, his superior, probably has to do a certain amount of his work, which is the exact reverse of the tendency of the policy in the past, whereby a junior officer was expected to do and at intervals often did, the work of his next higher in rank, to the benefit of both his interest and, of course, his training. One of the results which I hope will emerge from this debate will be suggestions not only as to how the best qualities can continue to be produced in present conditions but also how we can ensure that officers stay in the Services long enough for these qualities to hear fruit.
§ The problem is intimately linked with the changes in the way of life of the community. In considering it, we must be sure that the rent dies fit the new circumstances, and that we are not led into a nostalgic longing to re-create the past, because that would be both wrong and futile. Mechanisation, combined with high taxation, has had a very great impact on the Services, especially the Army. To the civilian, mechanisation or the coming of the car, brought much more scope in regard to the use of his leisure time. To the Services, and particularly the Army, mechanisation, or the substitution of the motor vehicle for the horse, had to a certain degree, the opposite effect. From the recreational aspect, the value of the charger to quite a large number of officers was very great, and in winter time horses from mounted units were made available to unmounted officers completely free of cost, except for their keep and their insurance. That was an advantage to the officers, and also relieved the pocket of the taxpayer.
§ I realise, and am glad to recognise, that facilities are made available with a great deal of thought and care for the recreation of officers, but these are provided, I think, entirely from non-public funds, such as N.A.A.F.I. profits and that invaluable source of finance, the Nuffield Trust for the Services. These facilities are of no use when a unit is suddenly moved away from its station; they just lie idle and the money that has been put into them produces no result. It is to ease these unexpected and, one hopes, temporary difficulties that I put forward the plea for the provision of public funds as an interim measure to help in these conditions. It may be argued that the post- 638 war increases in the emoluments of officers have to some extent provided compensation for those difficulties. It is true that the young officer, provided that he is single, can now live on his pay; but among married officers, particularly within the middle ranks, real hardship exists. Basically, this is the outcome of the 1946 code of pay and allowances. The result of the adoption of this code was, and still is, that for anyone living a soldier's life there is very little difference between the total emoluments of married and single men. The single officer is relatively better off than before 1946, and the married officer is worse off. On the one hand, the barriers to early marriage have largely been removed, but at the same time the financial position of officers has been worsened. In this connection, the taxation of married allowances still rankles among officers, and they are by no means satisfied that the continued high rate of taxation was taken fully into account when these allowances were fixed.
§ A comparison between the officer and the civilian in these matters raises a wider and more difficult question: that of the relation as a whole of the Regular Services to civilian careers and occupations. There is no doubt that it is wrong to attempt to equate such detailed matters as pay, allowances and so on: the factors on which the emoluments of officers are based differ so radically from those governing other salaries. Particularly is this so in the case of married officers. Service life is, and must he, such a corporate existence that an officer's family, as well as the officer himself, when not on duty, must live at a standard which is unique, except possibly in the Foreign Service, when serving abroad. This point cannot be over-stressed. If marriage allowances can be proved to be insufficient to maintain this standard, there can be no satisfactory answer but to increase them.
§ The problem of the married officer is made infinitely more difficult by the cold war. Many of its effects have been discussed in your Lordships' House and in another place, so I do not want to do more than mention the problem of separation which, in the unstable conditions of the cold war, is largely inevitable, with, of course, its consequent evils. I do, however, want to concentrate on one of the financial difficulties which 639 could be alleviated, if not removed: that of Service children and the problem of maintaining continuity in their education. Noble Lords may well say that this is no new problem, and that it arose in the past whenever an officer was posted overseas. Yes; but how different it was then! An officer, if posted overseas, would go probably to one of the well-organised cantonments in India, or to a garrison in some large town or thriving industrial city, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, or indeed Cairo, in all of which places there were comparatively large British populations, and, up to a certain age, school facilities were available.
§ Now, the situation is very different. The officer will be posted to the jungles of Malaya, or the barren Canal Zone, or the forests of the Aberdares, as a rule at very short notice. The shortness of the notice is not anyone's fault; it is inevitable. In these conditions, the officer can tackle the problem of the education of his children in one of two ways. He can park his wife and children at some spot at home, and make up his mind to a prolonged period of separation, or he must send his children to a boarding school, while his wife tries to follow him and, at the same time, keep in touch with her children. The first alternative, even if it were really feasible, cannot, I submit, be accepted as a policy. The officer is thrown back on the second alternative as the only acceptable solution of the problem, and in this case State education is not really possible. So, willy nilly, he has to send his children to a private school, with their ever-increasing fees; and, moreover, he has the problem of the dual establishment to face, especially during the holidays.
§ What can be done? We all know that Her Majesty's Government, and all Governments, are in favour of the provision of better educational facilities for children, and the need is urgent. Provision of educational facilities in kind is a slow and difficult business. It can be done, as is shown by the two colleges (I think there are still two) set up in Germany. But to establish something of that sort a large and continual concentration of troops is necessary, with, possibly, the addition—as there was in the case I have mentioned—of something in the nature 640 of the Control Commission in Germany, which, unlike the Army, was comparatively static and likely to provide a large number of pupils. The real remedy, and the only one which would be both immediate and practical in its effect, would be special education allowances—of course, under certain conditions—to officers with children of school age.
§ My Lords, these are the three points which I have tried to make. First, Regular commissions, now open to all, must be made a worth-while and satisfying profession to those who, by their own efforts and merits, succeed in obtaining them. If they are not, and if our attitude does not move with the times and changing circumstances, we risk the premature loss of a number of good officers, and also face the danger that there will not be forthcoming a sufficiently large supply of young officers. The second point is to improve the lot of the married officer by an increase in his marriage allowance to bring it up to a level which will enable him to meet the expenses which he must incur if he is to live up to the standard expected of him. The third point is to grant a special education allowance to those with children of school age. These three measures could improve the prospects of officers, induce them to remain in the Services and, in the case of married officers, remove the hardships which undoubtedly exist, thereby adding immeasurably to the stability and the well-being of the Services. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That it is in the national interest that conditions should be so improved as to ensure that an adequate number of suitable young men come forward annually with a view to making the Services their life career, as well as to encourage officers now in these Services to continue in the honourable profession of Arms.—(Lord Stratheden and Campbell.)
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, this Motion appears to be prompted by the existing shortage of Regular officers. In the last statement on Defence we heard that the Army was short of its requirements by some 3,000 Regular officers. That struck me as a refrain I had heard often in the past. Almost for so long as 641 I can remember, the Army has found difficulty in filling its commissioned ranks. Throughout the period between the wars various attempts were made to improve the attractions of the Service, but most of them were overtaken by some economy drive or financial crisis before they could have any effect. Even as late as 1937–38, the Army was 1,200 officers below establishment. The officer establishment in that year was 13,000; therefore the shortage then was in almost the same proportion as it is to-day, when there are 3,000 officers short of an establishment of 36,000. So this is no new problem.
During all the years after the First World War a hopeless struggle was conducted by the Army to return to the conditions of before 1914. The noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, talked of moving with the times. It took the Army a long time to realise that times were changing. The attractions of life in the Army in the golden days before 1914 could not be repeated in the twenties and thirties. There was no longer a life of leisure and leave and a high standard of living, which those who joined the Army in the early part of the century expected and got. The Army was still conducted on the basis that officers were expected to have private means, and the class of people who had private means was getting smaller year by year. I think that was the basic came of the difficulties in filling the officer establishment, and I believe that is the basic cause to-day.
But the attraction of life as an officer in the Army does not lie only in the financial rewards. Admittedly, considerable hardships are suffered by many married officers whose service, by the nature of things, has to take place mostly abroad. But certainly a young officer considering entering the Army with a Regular commission thinks of other things, too. He looks for a life that is going to give him plenty of interest and activity and some variety. That is probably one of the main advantages that life in the Services has over many civilian occupations. There is great variety in the places where one serves and in the kind of work one does. When there is a shortage of officers, that variety is much more difficult to achieve. A shortage of officers sets up a vicious circle. In units which are below establishment, commanding 642 officers are reluctant to allow officers to go away on extra-regimental employment, and instead they keep them to serve in the units. Therefore there are fewer opportunities for the young officer to get experience outside the rather narrow limits of regimental soldiering. So to the outside world life for a subaltern appears to be a narrow, routine-ridden life, bounded by the rather petty everyday duties of the unit. I am sure that is one of the factors that deters young men from wanting to join the Army.
At the present time we have the cold war, which nobody could call a matter of routine. On the contrary, there are considerable hardships and dangers, but without the corresponding element of glamour that there is in war service. Today the Army is suffering under that: disadvantage. There are limited opportunities for officers to broaden their minds and experience by service outside their own units. I should like to ask the Government whether they are satisfied that sufficient encouragement and opportunities are given to officers now to follow some of the by-ways of soldiering that used to be open to young officers, certainly until the last war. Are there exchanges between different arms and services? Are there exchanges with Commonwealth Forces? Are there opportunities for secondment to Colonial Forces? In that connection, I wonder whether the Government are satisfied that they are getting the quality of officers that they would like coming forward as volunteers to serve in the Colonial Forces. Do the Army allow officers extended leave to take a degree at a University? That used to be allowed to young officers and I think there is no doubt it was greatly to the advantage both of the officers and of the Service.
Are they encouraged or allowed to study languages? I have heard that there is a marked lack of encouragement to officers to learn the Language of the country in which they are serving, so as to qualify as interpreters. Indeed, I am told that officers are discouraged from mixing with the inhabitants of the countries in which they live. In the old days, one of the great advantages an officer had was that he could learn the language of the country in which he was serving: he could learn Arabic in the Middle East, Cantonese if he was in 643 Hong Kong, or German if he was serving with the Army of Occupation in Germany. He could qualify for language study, and if he passed an interpretership he got a reward, either in the form of a money grant, or additional marks for the Staff College examination. I should like to know whether the Army still attach importance to the study of languages. If they do, it may be worth quoting an instance of what happened to one officer in the early part of the last war. He was one of only two officers who qualified as an interpreter in Persian, and when the war broke out he had great hopes of making use of this special knowledge. The first posting of that officer in the war was to Iceland. I hope the Government will make full use of the qualifications and special abilities of any officers in regard to their knowledge of languages. There should also be opportunities for officers to gain experience in some of the administrations of countries where the Army is serving. Can they be attached or seconded to some semi-civilian administration? This sort of thing broadens the officer's mind and improves his usefulness to the Service.
Promotion prospects represent one of the factors that influence men in deciding whether to go into the Services. Nowadays it is no longer possible for things to happen as they did between the wars, when officers served for seventeen years before they reached the rank of captain, because there is time-promotion to the rank of major—I think it is thirteen years, but I am not sure. An officer arrives at the rank of major at the age of thirty-three, or thereabouts. What are his prospects beyond that? I looked at the current Army List and it appears that in the Royal Artillery the chances of a major being promoted to lieutenant-colonel are one in six. This means that five out of six officers are not going beyond the rank of major. They reach that rank at thirty-three, and they may continue to serve until they are forty. That is then a dead end. I wonder what the Government have in mind to offer these officers in the way of future employment. Obviously, the structure of the Army cannot allow of an unduly large number of senior officers, and we cannot expect the Army to create many more posts for lieutenant-colonels. I 644 think the Army has a serious responsibility to offer these majors who are not going to be promoted beyond that rank good employment for the remainder of their active lives.
I hope the Government may be able greatly to expand the use of retired officers re-employed in military or semi-military posts; and also that they will use their influence with employers in civil life to assist officers who are nearing middle age to get employment. I know that the Ministry of Labour have had an appointments office for a long time, but I know, also, that they have found great difficulty in persuading civilian employers to take on these officers in positions for which their abilities qualify them. The standards of civil life and those of the Army are different, and the precise qualifications required are also different. This has always presented a serious problem. I believe it to be one of the most serious problems, and, in improving the conditions of the officer. I feel this is one of the directions in which the Government should do their best to improve his prospects.
On the question of pay and allowances, the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, said that the Army must move with the times. I do not think it is any good for the Services to try to compete with the opportunities and salaries offered in civil life. I doubt whether any wholesale increase of rates of pay, even if it were possible, would provide the answer. But certain things do need attention, and one is the necessity for officers to spend their own money on doing their jobs. For a long time it has been the case that in certain jobs officers feel that they must spend more on their unit than the official allowances permit. I can remember long ago that naval officers used to spend considerable sums of money on the smartening-up of their ships, because the official allowances were insufficient.
I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a case reported in the newspapers a year or two ago, although I have not given the noble and gallant Earl notice of this matter. In The Times of December 3, 1952, there was a fairly full report of the court-martial of an officer charged with fraudulently misapplying public property. The officer was dismissed the Service as a result of the trial. 645 He was the embarkation staff officer, New York. In the course of the evidence it came out that this officer, who was a captain, was not paid the cost of living allowance for New York, and, having to live in that city, he was in considerable financial difficulty. His job necessitated his being at hand at the port to meet distinguished officers and others, to provide transport, and so on; yet the economy cuts took away his military transport. It was admitted by the witnesses for the prosecution that he had not misapplied this money to his own purposes; he had spent none of it on himself. He had spent it purely on oiling the wheels of his job. That, no doubt, is a case of an administrative slip or some administrative fault. But that is not the only case about which one hears of the payment to officers serving abroad of allowances which are quite inadequate to maintain the standard of the country in which they are living. I have heard that it also applies to military attachés in foreign capitals. Now that so many officers have to serve abroad on international staffs. I hope Her Majesty's Government will err on the side of generosity when it comes to the allowances and the imprest accounts for the jobs; because if young men who might become officers get the idea that one is always having to put one's hand in one's pocket to run the job as one thinks it should be run, it is a deterrent. I hope the Government will pay some attention to that matter.
The rates of pay for officers look very good on paper. A Regular second lieutenant now gets something not far short of what a captain used to get just before the war—a second lieutenant on joining, as against a captain who had ten or more years' service. It sounds very good. Moreover, marriage allowance, though it is not a large sum, is payable to any officer over the age of twenty-five, and even those under twenty-five who marry can get the same rate as warrant officers. That is an improvement on the days when no officers under thirty could qualify for marriage allowance. No doubt those rates of pay are considered adequate and can be proved to be adequate for an officer to live on his pay without private means, so far as the official standard of living can be calculated. I should like to ask the Government, however, whether they are satisfied that officers are not 646 required to spend money on other things. When an officer is serving in a unit he has to adopt the same standard of living as his brother officers. If in that particular unit it is required that all officers shall live at a certain standard and shall have certain articles of uniform or clothing that are not in the Regulations, it is impossible for that officer to refuse to buy them, and it means that he has to spend money on them.
I have heard it said on good authority that in some regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps an officer who applies to join is asked whether he is prepared to keep a horse; whether his parents will pay for him to keep a horse so that he can hunt. That really is living in the past and that is the reason so many prospective officers abandon the idea of the Army as a career. To my mind, it is the duty of the Government to take the strictest line with the unofficial expenditure imposed on officers. For an Army to be efficient and for a unit to be well officered, it is not necesary that they should live at the standard at which their fathers and grandfathers were accustomed to live when they had private means of their own.
That brings me to the "meat" of the whole problem, which is that if the Army is to get an adequate supply of good material it must give up the idea that entry to the commissioned ranks is restricted to certain classes—the classes who have money of their own. Applicants for commissions are chosen, I think, in the first six months of their National Service; in other words, they are chosen at the age of eighteen. To my mind, at that age it is in many cases impossible to judge whether a young man is going to have the qualities required in an officer. Eligibility for a commission should not stop when a young soldier enters the sergeants' mess. Selection should not be confined to the first year of a man's service, and there should be no question in selection other than a man's fitness and ability to lead his fellows. If that principle is adopted, I believe there will be no difficulty in finding quantities of first-rate young men from whom the Army would be well officered.
§ 3.38 p.m.
My Lords, I rise in support of the Motion of my noble friend, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, and, in accordance with the custom in 647 your Lordships' House, declare my interest in that I am a serving officer myself. I will confine my remarks to the aspects of the problem which are in my own knowledge and experience, and I shall refrain from advancing claims for colonels or benefits for brigadiers. I have not the great experience of our Service leaders who sit in your Lordships' House, and I cannot, perhaps, even claim equal technical efficiency with some of the ex-Service Members of your Lordships' House, because, at the recent contest at Bisley when your Lordships' shooting eight was soundly defeated by another place, I regret to say I got the bottom score. Perhaps I shall do better with the new rifle.
Nevertheless, I may fairly claim to have first-hand knowledge of the particular problems we are discussing to-day, as affecting the Army. In consultation with my contemporaries in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, I have found that their problems are very similar. We are all on the same side in this question. These problems are continually in the minds, as I well know, of the military and political chiefs of the Services. I do not think, however, that the people of this country are aware of the seriousness of these problems or of their effect on efficiency in the various Services. After all, it is they who have to find the huge sums required for defence, and they quite rightly expect to get proper value for their money; and if we cannot give them proper value we must tell them why.
I wish to look at this matter entirely from the aspect of efficiency and to disregard any sympathetic consideration. It has been said that there are no bad soldiers—only some bad officers. It follows that if you cannot get good officers or keep what you have got, you will have bad soldiers and the job will not be done properly. That is why, in the Services, we have always insisted on very high standards, particularly in the quality of leadership. The war had two particular effects on the officer problem in the Services. One was good and the other was bad. The good one was that it showed a large section of the community what Service life was like. At the end of the war a great many young officers could sample for a short time the better side of Service life—the comradeship and the fun of the 648 little communities of the ship, the battalion or the squadron. I am glad to say that a number of excellent war-time officers stayed on with Regular commissions—otherwise we should be in a very much worse way than in fact we are.
The bad effect was the severe gaps in the ranks of the Regular officers; and this naturally affected the junior officer much more—and the junior officers now constitute what is called "the middle piece": those who are now the captains, majors, and lieutenant-colonels. These are the men who are most closely concerned with the two big military problems we are up against: first, the operational, administrative, garrison and training duties all over the world; and secondly, the training of the National Serviceman. These are two full-time jobs, often demanding far more hours in the day than there are, and leaving little time for relaxation and personal interests. If this were not enough, there is the serious shortage of N.C.O's, particularly seniors, as a result of the same difficult conditions, which throws a great deal of additional work on the officers. As has been said already, whereas before the war officers were being constantly trained and practised to do the job of the rank above the rank in which they were actually serving, nowadays they have often to do the job of the rank below them.
It is for these middle piece officers, particularly those who are married, that I am primarily concerned. I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden, gave your Lordships such a clear picture of the difficulties. I should say here that I am a bachelor; and according to my own definition, if your Lordships are prepared to accept it, I have graduated from the middle piece. I would not lay any claim to being of the "upper classes," but perhaps I may claim to be in the "upper middle class." The vast commitments of the Services, in particular in the Army, to-day make life extremely difficult and very expensive for the married officer who rarely spends more than two or three years in one place or, in so far as the Army is concerned, in one country.
Under conditions of full employment in the country, with what appears to be a growing appreciation of the value of ex-Service officers in civilian life, there is a definite inducement for them to leave the military profession and take civil employment which affords a livelihood within 649 the income offered. When it becomes impossible to live within a Service income, even by scraping and reducing standards, this inducement becomes a necessity; and there is therefore a tendency for married officers, prompted by their wives and family considerations, to be constantly looking over their shoulders for such an opportunity. This cannot fail to distract them from putting their heart and soul into the job—and that is what, in present conditions, we must demand.
The junior officer, too, is affected because he sees these conditions in which the married officers find themselves, and is beginning to wonder what sort of state he will be living in when he is married. He sees their struggles to keep up these standards—standards which are expected not only by their brother officers but by the men and the families of the men whom they command. He knows of the difficult decisions which have to be made over the education of the children. In that connection, though much has been done to improve the provision of schools overseas they are certainly not yet adequate. Parents who frequently serve abroad often consider boarding schools desirable, but they are hampered either by their inability to pay the fees or by difficulty in obtaining financial aid from local authorities, because they are so seldom resident in any one place. They suffer, in addition, the great disadvantage from the point of view of scholarships, in that local authorities are not prepared to give assistance in the form of bursaries and scholarships to students who are not resident in the area for two years; so that, there again, the married officer suffers under a great disadvantage.
There are, of course, stations where no families can be accepted, where separation is inevitable; and there are stations where, as has often happened of late, a family succeeds in joining the husband and father, setting up a home with all the expense involved, only to see him sent off elsewhere, on some emergency move. Such conditions are inevitable; it is nobody's fault; but, more than anything else, I think that that is encouraging officers to look for work outside the Service and at the same time discouraging young men from coming in. Another factor is the question of the provision of married quarters. Here I wish to pay tribute to what has been done by past 650 Governments and the present Government, in the face, sometimes, of apparently insurmountable obstacles, in the provision for Service families of accommodation—not, perhaps, enough, but accommodation of some sort what ever the standard. That has been done during conditions of acute national shortage of houses and of building materials at home, and insecurity abroad Now that these conditions are easing, at any rate at home, I put in a plea that houses that are built for officers should be large enough for a family man, with reasonable provision of such amenities as garages and telephones (the things that we now indeed regard as necessities) again because the officer will do so very much better a job if he has them.
Now may I say a few words about the junior officer? He is in the majority of cases not troubled by the difficulties that I have mentioned because he is not married. He usually enjoys service overseas if he can stay long enough in one place to develop his interests or take the opportunity of benefiting from whatever local facilities are open to him. But he needs leadership and encouragement from his seniors just as much as his men require these things from him, and he does not get it from an overworked and worried commanding officer or company commander who may be considering leaving the Service as soon as he can qualify for the minimum pension.
Here I should like to mention what a lot has been done in all the three Services by the various branches that deal with welfare matters. I have seen a great deal of it since the war and been associated with it. A great deal more, I am quite sure, will be done. And yet our cadet colleges are not getting enough vacancies filled, and the best National Service officers, whom we should like to retain as Regulars, invariably leave for civil life as soon as their time is up. This is partly due to the frequent movement of units and individuals as a result of present conditions, but I think it is far more due to the fears of parents that the Services do not offer a reasonable career for the married officer, a fact which is borne out by what the young officer can see for himself. I know the Service Departments will do much more yet to encourage junior officers to make the Service their career.
651 I was most interested to hear some excellent suggestions from the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, who himself has served and takes such a great interest in military affairs. I should like to add to what he said a word on the exchanges of officers with the Dominion armies. At the moment, it is done at the staff colleges of the three Services in all the Commonwealth countries, and here at the Joint Services Staff College and at the Imperial Defence College; but in the Army it is not done, so far as I know, with the actual units. I am sure it would be a grand thing if some of our younger officers could serve for a tour in the battalions of the Australian, New Zealand, Indian, Pakistani and Canadian Armies, and some of their opposite numbers come over to this country. It would be a splendid thing, in keeping up the tremendous spirit of partnership which has grown up in two great wars, and it would also facilitate the interchange of ideas and methods. These are only details and can hardly affect the main problem, but I am certain that, if conditions of service for married officers can be improved, there will be a notable increase in Service efficiency, which is so closely related to morale. We do not ask that our married officers should be better off than their civilian counterparts, but we do ask that conditions of service should be as good as those for other servants of the Crown who serve their country, both at home and abroad, and at least approach a little closer to the conditions offered in commercial life, particularly abroad. I sincerely hope that the Government will see their way to giving assistance to these officers, who have such a great job to do under such difficult conditions.
§ 3.55 p.m.
My Lords, I rise with some diffidence to address your Lordships, for it is the first time that I have had the honour of so doing. I hope that I may also ask for your sympathy at having to follow such a remarkably forthright and comprehensive speech as that which we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow. I hope that your Lordships may agree that twenty-six years of consecutive Regular service is some basis for speaking, and my service did cover that period of time, 652 and, in fact, ended only four years ago. Since then, I have received a communication from the War Office telling me that I have now passed the age of recall, even for the Regular Army Reserve of Officers, on the ground of age. I must admit that it was the first time in my life that I really began to feel my age.
It is a little difficult to put forward any new point that has not been mentioned by noble Lords who have already spoken. It is, perhaps, rather a pity that in the list of speakers this afternoon there is such a predominance of noble Lords who have served in the Army, as opposed to the Navy and the Air Force. Had it been otherwise we might have got a somewhat wider picture of the whole matter. It seems that there is a wide measure of agreement and sympathy in this matter, and the mover, the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden, has, I think, in mentioning primarily the question of married officers, put his finger on the key to the matter. A young man who joined the Services, say, twenty-five years ago, often felt that if after some time, for any reason, he seemed to be unsuccessful, he could at least resign his commission and still be young enough to enter the world of business or commerce, and to make a life for himself by the time he got married. Now, a young man must make up his mind what he is going to do, and stick to it. Quite a number of them begin to hesitate about entering the Services because of the question of what will happen when they get married.
That is really the key to the matter. These men know from their elders that, as has been said, as long as the present state of tension exists—and one cannot really reasonably think that it is likely to change in the foreseeable future—they may be posted at short notice to all parts of the world. Therefore, the whole picture is a new one, and bears no relation to the conditions of service of twenty-five years ago. The young man begins to wonder what will happen if he wants to get married; what will happen to his wife and children; and so he consults with his parents. Perhaps his father was a Service officer himself, and he says, "Well, it was all very well in my day; things were different then, but I should be a little bit careful if I were you"—or words to that effect.
653 If the young man felt even that he could serve on well into middle age, past the stage where his children were costing a great deal of money, he would probably feel happier about the situation. But as has been said already, I think by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, the retiring age for the different ranks is low, compared with that in industry and commerce. In industry and commerce, a man of sixty is not looked upon as an old man, but in the Services he is looked upon as very old—indeed, it is only in the very top ranks that he can continue to serve at that age. He is much more likely to find himself looking for a job at fifty, or perhaps before; and nowadays to go out into the world and look for a job between the ages of forty-five and fifty is not a particularly pleasant experience, especially for a man without very great qualifications behind him. In that respect, I think the Navy and the Royal Air Force score, to some extent, since, their work being more technical, their officers may be able to obtain employment where tie Army officer would find it more difficult to do so.
Having tried to make that point, perhaps I may now pass on to another, upon which the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, has already touched briefly—namely, tie question of encouraging or allowing officers to learn languages, in order to keep in touch with the forces of other countries. If and when a state of emergency arises, we hope that we shall have allies, and if we have allies it is not at all a bad thing to be able to speak their language and to understand something of the system or systems under which they work. I believe that of late there has been a scheme for encouraging officers to learn to speak Russian. I am extremely glad to hear that. In my subaltern days the number of officers who spoke any foreign language was exceedingly small. I can remember only one or two cases of officers going on attachments and taking language leave, as I think it was then called, or getting a grant for doing so. I believe that there is no grant for French—at any rate, there was not then, though the practice may be different now. The result, in those days, was that if they did speak a foreign language or took the trouble to learn one, officers were inclined to be pushed into some species of specialist appointment from which they sometimes had some difficulty 654 in extricating themselves later. That, however, is not an important point; it is just one of the matters to which perhaps the Service Chiefs and the Departments concerned could apply their minds.
Finally, I would mention that in one of to-day's evening papers there is an excellent article on almost exactly this subject, though it deals mainly with the recruitment of ether ranks and the retaining of N.C.Os. It is an article in which a sergeant of the Regular Army states categorically that in lye years he had only three weeks of his wife's company, and that on the strength of it he proposed to purchase his discharge, which he is now permitted to do. That means that an excellent non-commissioned officer will probably now be lost to the Army—not the sort of thing that we can afford. Of course, as has been said already, to have Services at all is expensive, but to have inefficient Services—which must follow from inefficient officers—is a downright luxury which, in the present: state of our economic affairs, this country can hardly afford.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
My Lords, in rising to support the Resolution so ably proposed by my noble friend Lord Stratheden and Campbell, it gives me, particular pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham on his able, excellent and knowledgeable Maiden speech. It gives me particular pleasure to do so, because not only did. I know his father but the noble Lord himself is a brother officer of mine and has had a great deal of experience in a. branch of the Service in which I myself served. I hope that we shall have the pleasure of listening to him in your Lordships' House on many occasions in the future.
My Lords, there is a real need to-day for improving the conditions and amenities of present-day officers. It is only necessary to look back to pre-1939 conditions, and, still more I would say, to pre-1914 conditions, to realise how life for officers in peace time has altered—and not for the better. Certainly in the past officers received less pay: in pre-1914 days they received very much less pay. But the value of money was then much greater, so what they did get went a good deal further. Moreover, there was not the crushing taxation of to-day on 655 their pay and on their private means, if they had any, and there were some little privileges which they enjoyed. For instance, as was stated by my noble friend Lord Stratheden, in the hunting season (that is to say, the non-training season) on payment of a small sum for insurance they could have permission to hunt Government horses: thus, both officers and horses got exercise. In the case of officers it was very beneficial exercise because, quite apart from pleasure, hunting promotes physical fitness and, what is very important for officers, a quick and sure eye for country. To-day, there are no horses; consequently, that privilege has completely passed away. Then, there was leave—providing not only for recreation and sport but, in some cases, a chance to attend to property or business, as the case might be. That often meant travel, and the broadening of mind and outlook which follows from travel. Now there is very little leave, and, if there were leave, many officers would not be able to afford it.
There is also much service abroad nowadays. There always was service abroad, but in pre-war days, for instance, in Egypt or India, there was reasonable accommodation to be had. We talk a great deal about the rights of the Egyptians but, with the exception of some very old ones in Cairo, the barracks in Egypt were built for our troops; and they were pretty good ones. In the old days, too, married officers could get accommodation for their wives and families within a short distance of the barracks (I am speaking of when serving abroad), and there was plenty of recreation. Equally, fares home—a very important thing for married people—were not as impossibly high as they are nowadays. With your Lordships' permission, I will refer later more particularly to the difficulties of married officers which have been alluded to, I think, by every speaker this afternoon. But, as other noble Lords have said before me, I believe that those difficulties are undoubtedly causing many good officers to leave the Services. I will merely add that the only overseas station where there is good housing for all ranks is in Germany. Whatever else we may think of the Germans, they housed their troops well, and we are now reaping the benefit of what they did for their troops before 656 the war. At home, many of our barracks are bad and out of date, and I should say that none are worse than those in the London District. In all these respects, and in many others, I hope that the Government will be able to afford some improvement. If we are to keep good officers now serving, and are to attract to the Services really good young men of the right type, we must effect some improvement in conditions.
Both the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty have explained in recent months that such young men as are wanted are not coming forward now for Regular commissions; and they are unlikely to be forthcoming in sufficient numbers unless they are offered better conditions and amenities. I am not suggesting that officers should have a soft and easy life. All officers must, of course, keep fit and be prepared to undergo hardships when necessary; but a life of constant discomfort and hardship is quite another thing. In peace time, their normal life should be reasonably comfortable and should not be lacking in amenities.
Whilst speaking of deterrents to Regular service I must allude once more to the treatment of ex-officers as regards their retired pay. As was made clear in a recent debate in your Lordships' House, there has been a failure to keep faith with officers who retired under the terms particularly of the 1919 Warrant and Code. The Government have not fulfilled their contract that retired pay should not only fall—as it did—but should rise or fall according to the rise or fall in the cost of living. This failure to fulfil a contract has had on the older generation of ex-officers—and they still have some influence—the effect of making them discourage the younger generation from coming forward for Regular service as we should like to see them do. Let us consider what can be done to ameliorate matters.
We have to recognise that in the Services nowadays, as has been pointed out by Lord Stratheden and Campbell, and by Lord Lucan, a considerable number of officers to-day are of a different class and type from those formerly serving, though I would say that there is still a very considerable number of the old type. But neither the old type nor the new have much in the way of private means, and 657 both classes, particularly in fighting units, need some pleasures and amenities and not merely a life of drudgery. They need some attractions to help to give them that self-respect, that pride of regiment, thatesprit de corps, which have done so much in the past to make the great spirit that existed, not only in the Army but in all the Services of the Crown. If that spirit and the qualities of officers of prewar days are to be preserved, we must do what we can to give them a better time nowadays.
There is, of course, the cold war—we all realise that, and it has been mentioned by several speakers this afternoon—and international difficulties are apt to produce not always desirable, and sometimes almost active, Service conditions. But something can be done to mitigate those conditions. It was formerly possible, as I have mentioned, for officers to hunt Government horses. Could not some use now be permitted of Government motor transport, which has taken the place of the horse; and perhaps permission might be given for officers to draw petrol at reduced rates? I suggest that such privileges might he granted to officers for private and recreational purposes. No doubt, strict conditions would have to be laid down, but I suggest that it might be possible. Then it is important that officers' messes should provide not only good fare at moderate prices, but also comforts and amenities, which can do much to give officers a good standard of life. The old Regent's allowance was introduced for such a purpose. Could not a Regent's allowance, on a scale more in accordance with present-day prices and requirements, be now granted to officers' messes? And could not messes on land of all three Services be granted the privilege, which is enjoyed by naval messes afloat, of drawing liquors and tobacco duty-free, or at least at reduced rates of duty? That would make a great deal of difference. I suggest, further, that amenities for junior officers—perhaps in the form of more facilities for taking part in sport and games at Government expense, or with Government assistance—might be granted.
Whilst it is desirable to improve amenities for all Service officers, it is the married officers who particularly need assistance to enable them to keep up a 658 reasonable standard—that is to say, a standard creditable both to themselves and their units—and at the same time w maintain their wives and families. I would urge that it is necessary that such a standard should be maintained, not only by officers but by their families also; and that it should be a standard of self-respect, of a high sense of duty, of good manners, and of good appearance. A man's appearance is often a good guide to his feelings: if he looks, as he should look, like an officer of Her Majesty's Services, and if he looks like a leader and a commander, he is apt to feel that way. Certainly the converse is true: if he looks like a hard-working and excellent little City clerk, he is unlikely, in most cases, to be a good leader.
I strongly urge, therefore, that the appearance anti the amenities of officers —and I refer particularly to married officers—are matters which should not be omitted from consideration at any time. These things are necessary if, as leaders and commanders, officers are to set the right example to those under them, and, what is not unimportant, to maintain the credit of their units. It is difficult for officers to live up to such a standard if they are chronically hard up, and have always to be thinking of where the next sixpence is coming from to clothe and feed their families and to educate their children. One thing that should be done, I say emphatically, is to give lodging allowance tax-free to those entitled to it. Mention has already been made of marriage allowances and I agree with what has been said about them. But I think the charging of tax on lodging allowance is even more scandalous their it is in the case of marriage allowances, because lodging allowance is what the, Government gives to an officer in place of the accommodation which it ought to give him free, and tax-free, in barracks. If that lodging allowance happens to be extended to the extent of covering a man's family, the principle is absolutely the same. This was always done in the past. It is one thing to give a lodging allowance which in gross looks perfectly adequate, and quite another to deduct tax from that allowance and leave a sum which is not sufficient to provide an officer with suitable accommodation more or less in the vicinity where he has to do duty.
Next, I would mention the case of officers serving in Colonial corps, a matter 659 which has been mentioned by one noble Lord to-day. Taxation on the present scale of their pay and allowances is a new thing, as also is taxation of lodging allowances. Officers serving in Colonial corps seldom get back to the United Kingdom, and to the conditions which United Kingdom taxation is supposed to provide for all taxpayers, and it is wicked and wrong in every sort of way to tax them while so serving at British gates on their Colonial pay and allowances. I say that adequate married quarters ought to be provided, and also adequate allowances, in kind or in money, but certainly free of income tax. There should, in fact, be an increase in marriage allowances. In this connection, however, there must be one condition on the side of the Service and the Government. I do not think that marriage at a young age should be recognised for allowance purposes. It is not desirable—let us face the fact—to have serving a large number of very young married officers. It is far better that they should get experience before they are given assistance to be married, because these are marriages which they really cannot afford, and they have no experience of the duties and problems which will arise. So I think that young marriages ought to be discouraged.
As mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, it is married officers in what is known in the "middle piece"—majors and lieutenant-colonels, particularly—who are most deserving of assistance, and who, in far too many cases, owing to financial difficulties, difficulties of education and constant separation from their families, are leaving the Services prematurely. I have heard of various cases —I heard of one only the other day. An officer with considerable prospects, after coming back from a long period of service abroad, had been offered an extremely good appointment at home, but declined it. He said that he was going to leave the Service because it was his experience that in nine consecutive years he had a total of two years with his family. I think that is a very hard state of things, and I know that a great many officers are leaving the Service prematurely. If these good officers are to be retained, they must have assistance. Apart from personal assistance, there must be assistance as regards their children's education. In the case of officers serving 660 overseas, whether or not their wives are able to be with them, the children must be left at home or sent home to be educated; and this, apart from other disadvantages, is very expensive. I suggest that in such cases there should be a special education allowance for children of school age. Finally, I would repeat that for all officers, married or single, there must be adequate facilities for recreation and amenity. Unless these conditions are improved we shall neither get adequate supplies of suitable candidates for Regular commissions nor be able to retain a great many good officers who are now serving.
§ 4.23 p.m.
My Lords, I am sure we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, for initiating this debate at short notice. We listened, too, with great pleasure to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and I hope we shall have an opportunity of hearing him again on many occasions. The noble Lord expressed regret that the Navy and Air Force were poorly represented in the debate. I am afraid I am fighting against odds of ten soldiers to one sailor; nevertheless, I will do my best. The noble Lord made a pertinent comparison of the ages at which most serving officers have to retire and make themselves a new life. In this connection it may interest your Lordships to know that I joined the Navy in 1912, one of a term of cadets seventy-five strong, and to-day only one of the seventy-five is serving.
As your Lordships may suppose, I wish to say something from the naval point of view. In the main the difficulties of naval officers are similar to those of the other Services, but many people do not realise how completely the structure of the Navy has changed in the past twenty years, particularly since the last war. During the 1914 War and immediately afterwards a large proportion of officers and men were serving afloat in large units —battleships, cruisers and the like. To-day the number of large ships in commission is small, and the air arm of the Navy has grown out of all proportion, so that we have thousands of officers and men serving ashore at naval air stations, at bases for small craft and in barracks. Perhaps the Navy has been rather slow to adapt itself to this change on the 661 welfare side and in providing marred quarters for shore-based officers. Married lines have been part of the Army for a hundred years, but they are new to the Navy, and a great deal has to be done to catch up with the other two Services in this respect.
On the whole, single officers in the Navy have little to complain of. They get that well-known perquisite of duty-free tobacco and liquor, which is greatly appreciated. But the married officers are worse off, particularly those who are still serving afloat. Naturally their ships are mobile, and it is an extraordinarily difficult problem to make reasonable arrangements for wives and families to follow them and spend some time with them. In these enlightened days, I feel that a little more latitude might be given in allowing wives and families to have transport on board Her Majesty's ships on suitable occasions. After all, Wrens are frequently carried on board ship and the days ridiculed in Ian Hay'sMiddle Watchare gone for ever. As a matter of fact, my last job in the Navy was to bring home 600 brides from Australia in an aircraft carrier—I hasten to add that they were not my own! But that shows what the Navy can do for ladies in particular circumstances. I think a great deal more could be done in giving adequate local overseas allowances. In the Far East, where it is essential for even civilians in junior appointments to have two or three Chinese boys to look after their establishments, married officers often find that their allowances do not anything like cover such requirements. Many of the Dominions give income tax concessions to officers serving overseas. In the case of Australia, I believe that officers serving overseas are entirely free of tax, and I think much more could be done in income tax concessions for our officers.
There are two other matters I should like to mention before sitting down. I know that a great deal is being done already for officers serving in London, in the Admiralty and other Service Departments. It seems to me that the time has come when at least the Sea Lords, the members of the Army Council and the members of the Air Council should be provided with official residences in London where they can entertain, in the way that officers are able to do in the commands at naval ports, where suitable facilities are provided for them. I understand 662 that a start is being made in that direction, but I believe a great deal more could be done. The noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, mentioned the subject of allowances for the education of children. In my view, that is an excellent suggestion. I see no reason why some form of bursary should not be provided to help the officer who has to keep two homes going and who, when his child reaches a certain age, must send him or her to a boarding school in this country. We are losing many promising young officers through the influence of wives, who have thoughts of their growing families and the feeling that they will not get a good start in life. This great problem must be faced at once, so that those officers and their families may feel that everything possible is being done to help them in their difficulties and to give them a square deal.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
My Lords, many of your Lordships have already dealt with most of the points that I was going to raise in this debate. Hardly a day goes by that we do not read in one newspaper or another of the coming of some gallant officer to disaster due to financial reasons. I do not say that officers are getting into trouble more than they did in the old days but more prominence is being giver to their cases. Therefore, one cannot help asking whether there is not something wrong on the question of pay—and the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, quoted the case of an officer in America. A new corps has been established since our day—namely, the Royal Pay Corps. I have not given the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, notice of this question, but I should like to ask him whether he is satisfied that the Royal Pay Corps are pulling their weight, and keeping the officers and N.C.O.s up to date in regard to their allowances. My information is that officers entitled to allowances are often not informed about them; and that when they are informed, or read about them, they have to fill in form after form—not an unusual occurrence some years ago—and unless the right form, the blue, yellow or white one, is filled in, they do not get their allowances. That is not very encouraging to the subalterns. My noble friend has moved this Motion to ascertain what steps can be taken to encourage young 663 officers to stay in the Service. My first point is whether we cannot get a little more collaboration between the Pay Corps, the Treasury, and the serving officer.
I come now to the question of married officers. I could not agree more with noble Lords who have suggested that there should be some form of allowance for the education of the children of serving officers. I would far rather money were spent in that way than on sending young officers away on language courses. I say that because I am sure that our married officers are finding it most difficult to maintain their establishments and also to educate their children. When we see senior officers retiring, can we wonder that junior officers decide it is better not to wait in the Forces, and that the best thing to do is to break for cover and get a job in civil life? That is the view of many of these young and gallant officers. They come out and go into the Territorial Army.
Units are suffering from the attitude adopted by some young officers: "We have only to do so many years in the T.A., and we need not worry too much about the T.A. spirit." I am sorry to say this, but it is true of many units. They put only as much as is necessary into their T.A. service, because they have been "browned off" by seeing what has gone on when they have been with the Regular units doing their National Service. To me, it seems rather tough that our officers should be asked to do many years of foreign service (and I shall have something to say about that in a few moments), with perhaps eighteen months or two years with their wives, and yet since 1946 their allowances have been taxed. Surely, it is not asking too much to suggest that we should revert to the position that existed before 1946 in regard to allowances, and that they should be free from taxation. As I understand it, Germany is treated as a home station, and yet officers under the rank of lieutenant-colonel do not get leave warrants in the same way as they do in this country. They have to pay for them, and, indeed, have to pay for the transport to and fro of their families whenever they come on leave. Many of them cannot afford to do that, and they do not come home on leave. Surely, if it is a 664 home station, these facilities should be handed out more freely than they are at the present time.
I turn now to the question of amenities. I was one who was fortunate enough before the First World War practically to horse myself out hunting on Government remounts, at £2 apiece per year. I did very well out of it, and I enjoyed myself immensely. I agree that the day of the charger has gone, but it seems strange to me that when we want to give these young officers tuition, other than in playing ping-pong or bumble-puppy or something of that sort, they are not put on a horse. Indeed, that is what the Government did in Germany until a short time ago, but for some extraordinary reason these officers were suddenly told that they could no longer hire a horse; they had to purchase it and keep it themselves. I am told that the saving to the Treasury was not much more than £10,000. Surely, that was an amenity which was worth a great deal to our officers in Germany. I appreciate that there are schemes which enable them to go to Austria to learn to ski, which calls for great courage and coolness. But how many more officers could go if they had a little additional money? Why we should do away with the horses, I cannot understand.
To come back now to this country, what is there here for younger officers to do? I realise that they have to work. The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, said that they do not get all the amenities they had before the last war. What can officers do, even if they have an antiquated car, with petrol at 4s. 3d. a gallon? Far better to let them have a little cheaper petrol, and let them carry on some outdoor sport which entails real exercise and calls for guts. But not a bit of it. So far as I can see, barring that great institution the Boot and Saddle club, for which General Heath has done so much and which has brought about such excellent results in the way of horsemanship, racing and hunting, encouraging young officers, nothing is done. Surely something of that sort could be brought back into the life of every unit. The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, will remember that before the war most units had their own dog carts, for which you paid a small price and which took you to your shoot or hunt or wherever it may be. 665 Now there are not even motor brakes for these young subalterns, some of whom are in outlandish places. I was told by the commanding officer of a place in Northern Ireland that there is practically nothing for his subalterns to do. Surely, if we could let them have their horse before the war we could now let them have the petrol and give them amenities in the way I have suggested.
I am certain that there will be no improvement so long as we cheesepare—and we always do. In peace time the first thing to be cheesepared is the Army and then the Royal Navy. Then, when war breaks out we say, "Grand fellows. Give them everything they like." It is a great creed. We are in the position to-day that if we go on at this rate we shall not have the future senior officers. Therefore, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will accept the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Stratheden and Campbell, and that some real steps will be taken to see that these young officers get a fair and a square deal. If they do, I am confident that we shall get the best out of them in the years to come.
§ 4.42 p.m.
My Lords, I rise to support this Motion wholeheartedly I consider it to be one of great importance. I do not expect that as a result of any short remarks I make to-day my name will be given to a small group of houses, and I fear I have no easy formula with which to solve this rather difficult question.
§ LORD MATHERS
May I interrupt the noble Viscount? He clearly refers to a speech which I made yesterday. May apologise for the maladroit remarks I made about his family name? I had in mind only his illustrious forbear, and I am afraid that, like another notable person, I had forgotten the Goschen of the present-day.
The question appears to be divided into two. First, it is a question of attracting young officers into the Army, and, secondly, of holding those we have. The two lines really come together at a later stage. An important factor in the question of attracting young officers into the Army is what they see and hear from their old school friends who have joined regiments in various 666 parts of the Service. They hear what goes on, and then make up their minds whether or not they will go into the Army. It is up to regiments themselves to try and get the right type of officer. We all know that that is so. But they must demand for these officers some definite hopes that when they are off-duty they will have some amenties, and that when eventually they get married they will have the necessary conditions to help them on their way.
We all know that in the normal way the Regular officer goes to Sandhurst, but there is another way in which we can get Regular officers—the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, mentioned it—namely, through National Service. The noble Earl said—and I do not agree wilt him on this point —that at eighteen years of age a man is too young for us to tell whether he will make a good officer or not. I do not agree with the noble Earl there, because, after all, it is done at Sandhurst at about that age and has been done for many years. I had a little experience of that, for from 1937 to 1939 I was instructing, first at the Royal Military Academy al Woolwich, and then at Sandhurst. There is no doubt that we have had extremely good officers from the National Service. Another way in which to get Regular Army officers is from men who take a three years' Service engagement and then take on for Regular service. Towards the end of his three years' engagement a man may become an N.C.O. and do very well; he may become interested and like the Army. When he takes on, he may say to himself that he wishes to put in for a Regular commission. Well, he cannot do that straight away. I am informed by the War Office that it is possible for him to put in for a short-service commission, and if he is considered fit to carry out the duties required of him it is possible for him to get a Regular Army officer's commission so long as he is under the age of thirty. I understand the age differs slightly in different arms of the Service, but the upper age limit is thirty.
As to the rest of the arguments which have been adduced, I find myself in much the same position as the noble Viscount. Lord Long—so many points have been put forward so well. To return for one moment to the subject of the Regular Army officer who rises from the ranks, the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, whom I should like to congratulate on his maiden speech, brought up the question 667 of N.C.Os. At the risk of being told that N.C.Os. do not actually come within the scope of this Motion, may I say that I believe N.C.Os. do come into it, because not only do we need the good N.C.Os. as N.C.Os., but we need them also as a source of new officers. N.C.Os. get to hear of the way in which officers live; anyone who has been in the Service knows that it is not long before anything which goes on amongst the officers in the officers' mess is repeated all the way round the battalion. Therefore, conditions for N.C.Os. do come within the Motion. If N.C.Os. could see that conditions are likely to be good for them if they take Regular commissions, another source will be available from which we may get officers.
The interchangeability of officers between Commonwealth and Colonial Armies has been mentioned by several speakers. I am certain that there is a great deal in that. It widens the mind of the officer who goes away; he learns new methods, meets fresh persons and finds how to get on with various people. In any future contest officers will be made to work with different Commonwealth and Colonial troops, and if they have personal knowledge of those Armies, and if they pass it on to their friends, it will be of immense value. I should also like to see more interchange of officers between the three Services. I know there have been schemes, but I am not certain how much interchanging is done nowadays. I think, however, it is an extremely useful, and, for Army officers at any rate, an entertaining thing to do. I myself once travelled some 7,500 miles as a guest on board a cruiser. I was the only Army officer on board and was put down as "embarked infantry." I certainly learned a great deal. In view of the fact that all three Services have to work so closely together, I think this is a most important point.
The question of the learning of languages by officers has been brought up. I am very keen about that subject. I have suffered from not being able to speak languages. When the British Military Mission was in Greece we found great difficulty because British officers were unable to speak the language. Some tried to get along with ancient Greek but found it was not quite the same thing.
668 When we were in Trieste it was impossible to find a single British officer who could speak either Slovene or Slovak. After all, not many people go to Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia. There were 5,000 British troops there, yet we could not find anyone who spoke those languages. As to marriage allowances, I concur in everything that has been said. These allowances should be free of tax, as they used to be; it would mean a great deal to the officers concerned. The lodging allowance, about which Lord Jeffreys spoke, is a most important matter. I have nothing more to say. I have done little more than reiterate what other noble Lords have said already. The whole question is one which I hope Her Majesty's Government will take very seriously. I am sure they will do so and will produce an answer to this problem.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, I am sure we shall all agree that the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, has done well to bring forward this Motion to-day. Although it is a feature of this House that speakers often display a close personal acquaintance with the subject under discussion, yet this debate has been remarkable for the very close knowledge which noble Lords have shown in what they have said this afternoon. I think we should be grateful also to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for having, perhaps, originated the idea of the Motion. At the same time we shall all wish to congratulate him on his new appointment and wish him the best of luck in it. Then we come to Lord Windlesham; and although I have not the same regimental reason, so to speak, as Lord Jeffreys or Lord Goschen in congratulating him, may I be allowed to do so no less sincerely. I hope that he will come to your Lordships' House often and assist us in debate on this subject.
As your Lordships will realise, this Motion has not been put down in my critical vein. What it does is to repeat the hope that…conditions should be so improved as to ensure that an adequate number of suitable young men should come forward annually…and so forth. I think it was deliberately drawn so as not to blame this or any other Government for not having done things which, perhaps, they might have done, but merely to put it on record that certain things should be done because 669 conditions as they are to-day demand a very special effort. Then again, although this Motion is drawn largely from the point of view of officers, we ought not to think only in terms of officers, to the exclusion of other ranks, if only for the reason given this afternoon, that in these days the only way for a young man to get a commission is by going through the ranks. If service in the ranks is not attractive it is not likely that a young man during his time will be drawn to it, or will form a very good impression of Service life and be ready to make commissioned service his career. Therefore, although we have been talking largely of officers, we must think of the position of other ranks in these days, because the one is consequent upon the other.
Much ground has been covered this afternoon, and I do not want to repeat what my noble friends have put so clearly. I think all noble Lords who have spoken have put the facts of the case; and having listened to them, I can think of hardly anything which could be contradicted by anybody, on either side of the House. Eveything that speakers said was factual, and where opinions were given I think they were little in dispute. Lord Lucan, for instance, quoted the fact that we are now 3,000 officers short. He mentioned this in connection with early retirement. Lord Jeffreys and Lord Long spoke of the spirit of the Army—that intangible thing so easy to lose and so hard to recapture. Lord Gifford quoted the case of the Navy; and although we have not so far had the good fortune to have a Royal Air Force speaker this afternoon we may yet do so. I am sure that on general grounds everything that has been said about the Navy and the Army would hold good also for the Royal Air Force. Lord Long reminded us how hard it was for anyone, officer or anybody else, with poverty knocking at the door, to do his job properly and to keep away from those temptations which those of us whose lot has been cast in fairer ground have never experienced and can hardly realise. Lord Long also mentioned the most important point about the repercussion of the officers of the Regular Army on the Territorial Army—and he might have added, on the reserve forces generally. He also mentioned (perhaps I may come back to this point again in 670 a moment) this very important question of the disappearance of horses and the totally different treatment of the motor car by the Service authorities.
Lord Lucan said that this problem is a continuing one; that the fact that it is of special importance at the present time ought not to blind us to the equally important fact that it will always be with us, so long as economics are with us; and that therefore Ike problem has a past, just as it has a present and will have a future. Although we may be told that certain concessions in certain respects are to be made to certain people, I think we should probably be quite wrong in supposing that they will dispose of the problem, either now or for the future. The problems will not be solved merely by making temporary adjustments, though they may make the problem a little less serious for a certain class of people. These problems are part of the changing economic situation of the country. They happen to be aggravated by the fact that now, owing to world conditions, the Forces of the Crown and the individuals concerned are far more unsettled than ever they were, at any rate in peace time.
Those of us who can cast our minds back to the conditions after the First World War in Ireland, or to service in Turkey—or Mesopotamia, as it was called then—will agree with me, I think, that the conditions under which soldiering had to take place were as a mere fleabite compared with the conditions under which the Services have to, work nowadays in places like Egypt, the Canal Zone, Korea or Malaya. The problem of education was far less acute then than it is now. The conditions under which families lived were, for various reasons, far less aggravating, and caused far less domestic disturbance than they are doing now. I believe that one can get a just appreciation of this problem only by looking back for a moment. Many of us have lately read that extremely interesting book The Reason Why. I am sure that we should all be grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, for having allowed his family papers to be used in that way. Of course, that book has a distinct effect, in its time, on the problem we are talking about now. No one would expect any Government of the day to be particularly 671 tender to officers who had a great deal of money to spend on buying commands in good regiments. Equally, no one would have expected the Government of the day to take any real notice of the affairs of other ranks so long before even the germs of the Welfare State were there. It needed twenty more years to go by before anything of that sort occurred.
Now let us turn for a moment to the period after the First World War. It is true that, with taxation higher, and as a result of some of the disturbances, in the so-called peace time, in Ireland and Turkey, those problems began to be felt. But taxation was still relatively low; the hardships were still relatively mild, and the economic margin under which most officers lived was still big enough to cushion any of these effects which, as I say, were then only just beginning to be felt. But the elements of the problem were there at that time, even if they did not arise in public debates such as this debate in your Lordships' House to-day. I myself had seven years in the Army as a married officer. During that time, I had to move house five times, or, at least, to live in five different houses. On not one of those occasions did the allowance amount to anything like the cost of the move, but no one suggested then that I, or anybody like me, should be the object of public, or even private, sympathy, because it was quite well known that one was living on a wide enough economic margin to be able to take up the slack if one did not spend so much money on horses, or whatever it was.
None the less, as I say, the germs of this trouble were present at that time. The horse, which so many have talked about this afternoon, disappeared just about the beginning of the Second World War. It was wholly because of the Second World War, when no one could play games and everybody had to fight the King's battles, that the effects of the horse's disappearance were not fully realised by any of the people concerned. After the Second World War, the real trouble began to emerge. As the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden, has said, the work is harder; the business of dealing with the National Service intake in 672 certain parts of the Army, in the primary training units and other places, can be real drudgery. It is just as much a full day's work as if the officer were a clerk in a bank or in an insurance office. Work goes on from day to day and those generous periods of leave which were referred to by some noble Lords are now impossibilities, even if the money which the officer has would pay for a leave of that sort—which we all know it will not.
All this, I am sorry to say, was made worse, and not better, when the late Government came in, because—and this is the only word of criticism I want to utter this afternoon—they were responsible for taxing allowances. Those allowances were given, as I have always understood it, because an officer was put out of pocket for certain things that he had to do as part of his duty, and because it was felt that he should be fully reimbursed. That, I suggest to your Lordships, was a very serious error, and one that has had grave repercussions. I hope that before long it will be corrected.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
Would the noble Viscount allow me, as one who was rather concerned in that matter, to say one word? When that decision was taken by the Government, by the financial authorities, it was a time of rising basic pay all round to the officers. We should still submit that at that time the overall effect was a substantial benefit to the officers concerned.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
What the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, has said is perfectly true, in the sense that that was the intention. What I am saying now is that I do not think that that intention was carried out. I well remember the argument at the time, but the effects were not good, partly because no one can really tell the effect on an officer's taxed income if he has to buy out of a taxed income things which should be tax-free.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
I am sure we recognise that in the very difficult circumstances of that time there seemed to be a certain rough justice in it. That officers in the Army, as well as other classes of the community, should bear their contribution to the national taxation was urgently required then.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
Of course I agree with the noble Viscount that the officers should bear their share, but it is not always necessary that fair shares should be equal shares. The effect of what the last Government did was to place on the officers an unfair share of taxation, and unreasonably to reduce the real emoluments to which they were entitled. I realise that that is a matter of opinion: the noble Viscount has his and I have mine.
Anyhow, these things happened at a time when taxation was very high, when costs were rising; and they continued to rise for some time after the period about which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, and I have both been talking. Of course, this situation hit all the professional classes, but, for a number of reasons, I think it hit those in the Forces a good deal harder. First of all, private income was diminishing. That economic cushion, as I have said, which existed between the wars had almost gone, because of high taxation and estate duty. Early retirement, of course, which the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, mentioned, was a factor which was always there. But the fact that saving was quite impossible, and that dis-saving, to make both ends meet, was much more the order of the day, made the prospect of early retirement for the officer less well off even more gloomy than it had been before, unless something could be done to guarantee him a job for the rest of his useful life—that is to say, to the same sort of age at which he would retire in the Civil Service or in business. I should be the first to admit that a good deal has been done, but I do not think that everything has been done: there is still a great deal more to do. If not, there would not be so many elderly officers—and Regular officers at that—on the books of the Officers' Association.
Then there is the question of education. A good many speakers have stressed that, and I do not want to repeat it, except to remind your Lordships that this problem of education becomes more serious in proportion as officers are more unsettled and are taken out of what we used to call their peace station. That means, of course, that the officer has to live a bachelor life in the mess and the family is living —heaven knows where! It is largely a question of hit-or-mass as to what accommodation the family can get if the parents 674 of either the officer or his wife are not still living, and whether they can get any accommodation at anything like the rate of lodging allowance which is given. I want to come back for one moment to this question of allowances. After all, allowances are meant to represent money which the State should pay for certain things that happen to an officer or his family through no fault of their own; and these allowances ought to meet actual costs. I think Lord Lucan mentioned that point. Let me put it this way. Suppose you have to have a house which costs more than your lodging allowance. Let us assume that that is inevitable, even though every effort has been made to find a house which comes within the rate of lodging allowance. Remember, my Lords, the difference has to come out of the officer's taxed income.
Take again the question of entertainment. I know that that does not affect every officer, but it does more often than may be supposed. Take the depot of a county regiment. Let us suppose that great efforts are being made to stimulate recruiting and to get the civic authority interested in the welfare of the regiment and the provision of recruits. Let us suppose the mayor s invited to lunch. It is much more likely than not that the cost of that entertainment will fall squarely on the taxed income of the officers, through the officers' mess funds. If a military attaché comes down to look at some particular unit or some particular scheme, it is more than likely that the commanding officer will be out of pocket over the entertainment. If the unit wants to achieve the object of the exercise it cannot give the visiting diplomat a bottle of "pop" or the mayor a plate of span). One can multiply these instances time without number. I do not mean to do this at this fairly late hour; but I think your Lordships will agree that, unless these matters come under constant review it is, as so many noble Lords have stressed this afternoon, going to be increasingly difficult for all classes of officers in the Services, particularly married officers. I do not think that we shall ever get anything like a proper solution to this problem unless those who advise Ministers are prepared to face up to the true costs of officers in the Services which are supposed to be met by allowances. This is a problem which I believe to be the most serious of the problems we have talked 675 about this afternoon. I believe that if an improvement can be made in this respect, those who are able to effect it will do more to clear up petty worries and troubles, financial and otherwise, than anything else that anybody can do.
Some of your Lordships may have read the recently published book on the life of Mr. Bevin, and will have been struck by the account given of the fights which he carried out on behalf of the dockers just after the First World War. If you read the book you will remember that a great deal of his fight was connected with proving that the notional figures of what it cost a docker, or whoever it was, to live, had no relation to real practice. When he had proved that those notional figures had no relation to real practice, and that the money could not buy the things which it was supposed by the economists to buy, his case was won. I quote that only because I think the position of officers is very much the same. If anybody really set out to prove that the notional costs, on which allowances—or pay, if you like—were based in Government Departments, bear no relation to the cost, or to the money which officers have to pay to do those things outside, a great deal of the battle would be won. The trouble is, who is to take the part that Mr. Bevin took in regard to the dockers? The matter is far from easy; it is bound to be difficult. Without casting any aspersions on any of the people in Whitehall who have to manage these things, it can never be easy to try to represent two people at once. The officials in the Treasury who have to do with these things have, quite rightly, to think of the national economy; but, in present circumstances, they have to do fairly by the officers. Keeping up your wicket against yourself is not a very easy operation—at least, I should not think so.
I can offer one other reason why this is becoming difficult. As modern society is organised at the present time, almost every class of person except Army officers has its own pressure group or professional association, or whatever one calls it. The custom of the day and age is that when a group of people, such as railwaymen, civil servants, or local government officers, feel that they are being "done down," that the time has come for an improvement in their conditions, their 676 association goes along and makes representations. That is the way things are done. We have to remember that that is not the way in which the affairs of an officer can be treated; they have to be dealt with in a different way. They have to be dealt with inside Whitehall, because the idea that officers, or any of the men who wear Her Majesty's uniform, should have an association to press their case is unthinkable. But, although it is unthinkable, we must not forget that everybody else is doing it, and we must constantly remember that the way of treating this matter must be absolutely different. We must deal with the affairs of people in the Services just as if a professional association were clamouring outside and carrying on a publicity campaign on their behalf.
These are difficult times and Ministers are very busy. They have a great deal to do. They are expected to spend a great deal of time in Parliament, particularly in another place. They are expected to fly around the world at the shortest notice, and they are expected at short notice to entertain visitors who fly to this country. Sometimes one wonders whether they have enough time to spend with the "backroom boys," to ask them exactly how they arrived at their costings. I feel that in so many cases, particularly over allowances, if an independent inquiry were allowed to be carried out the results, the figures arrived at for allowances, would be very different from the figures arrived at to-day. That is a job which I am certain can be done by no one but Her Majesty's Ministers.
May I repeat, very shortly, that this is a continuing problem, although it is aggravated particularly by the special considerations of the time in which we live. Because it is a continuing problem, any lean years which we allow to occur can never be made up. If we are short of intakes at Sandhurst in 1953 or 1954, it means automatically that we shall be short of the right type of commanding officers fifteen to twenty years later. If the mistake is made now, there is nothing that this or any other Government can do about it, because the locusts will have eaten the years, and it is impossible to restore them. If your Lordships look at it in that way, do you not think it worth while taking a chance on whether any concessions made will have an undesirable repercussion on the Civil 677 Service or the Colonial Service, or anybody else? After all, what is at stake, the provision of the right people to lead the Forces of the Crown, is infinitely greater than what is at stake in the possibility that a case might inadvertently be made for someone else to come and say, "Me too!"
§ 5.20 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to say a few words on one or two points which I think may be peculiar to the Royal Air Force. Everything I have heard so far applies, very generally, I believe, to that Service. The first point I should like to mention concerns something which I consider may act as a deterrent to the right type of young man coming forward to join the R.A.F. and become an officer. I refer to what I would rail the unnecessary amount of muddled thinking and talk which goes on to-day about guided weapons. We hear talk to the effect that guided weapons will completely replace the piloted fighter. That, no doubt, will be so in due time, but I do not see the fighter forces being done away with within a generation—if entirely by then. Nor do I see the striking power of the R.A.F., their capacity to carry on an air offensive, being done away with and replaced by guided missiles. I do not think that these weapons will replace the long range bombers—which probably will carry guided missiles— within two or three generations. And I do not believe that long coastal reconnaissance or transport operations will ever be replaced by guided weapons. But I feel that the talk about these weapons may well deter the keen man, who wants to join the R.A.F. and to fly, from entering the Service. Therefore, it is important that these things should be properly explained to him.
Leadership is an invaluable quality. In whatever sphere of war we take to-day, it is still the prime quality, and we must have it. In some cases there may be something in the mind of the suitable type of young fellow which makes him think that, having regard to the plethora of scientific and technical details with which people in the R.A.F. are concerned today, technical efficiency is more important than good leadership. That is a matter 678 which must be borne in mind, and the young fellows must be told clearly that it is not the case that technical efficiency is more important than good leadership. In view of all the technical matter which has to be dealt with, there are very specialised units in the Royal Air Force, and often the type of officer to be found in such units does not have the quality of leadership which we need to maintain the full esprit de corps and the fighting spirit of the Service, and which we look for in our general duty officers. This state of affairs has brought about the heyday of the catering officer, the personnel officer and so on. It further dilutes the responsibility of the commanding officers, and it may well be a deterrent and a handicap to commanding officers who are full of initiative and thrust.
I do not wish to take up much of your Lordships' time, but I feel that I must say a little on the subject of pay, although I know it has been talked about a good deal this afternoon. With your Lordships' permission, I should like to quote, almost verbatim, a paragraph from a letter which I have received. The writer states:Underlying all these causes is the simple fact of financial inducement. The impoverishment of the erstwhile officer class and the lower standard of Service life, the comparatively good opportunities in industry, the difficulty of educating children and the relationship of risk to reward: all these have set in motion a cycle of events that is draining the best class of officers away from the Services and replacing them with the technically educated, less responsible professional officer, who is encouraged to marry young and regard his Service life as a means to his own livelihood rather than the end in itself. Better pay and allowances will not, of course, attract by themselves the right type, but it is their declining value and attractiveness that has started the corresponding decline in the standard and number of good officers entering the Service. Thus, raising their emoluments is the first means to the end of improving officership in the Service and increasing the recruitment of good potential officers.And I think this is an important point:Unless the facts are faced and something practical is done about them, the eventual result will be that the fighting efficiency of the Services will be drastically reduced.I think that is very true. In conclusion, I should like to say how pleased I ant that this Resolution has been put down to-day, and how strongly I support the views which have been expressed.
§ THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE (EARL ALEXANDER OF TUNIS)
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have no reason to complain that this Motion has been placed on the Order Paper, and still less of the manner in which it has been presented to your Lordships by the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon. Apropos of those speeches, I should like to pay my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, on the excellence of his maiden speech, which we all much enjoyed listening to. We hope he will join in our debates in future on many occasions.
This matter of the conditions of officers is one which I have constantly in mind, and I know it is the subject of anxious thought and careful study by my three Service colleagues. No one knows better than I do the heavy responsibilities which officers have to carry on their shoulders, especially under the difficult conditions of the present times. Before I address myself to the terms of the Motion which the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden, has moved, however, I would ask him to consider this matter in relation not only to those who hold Her Majesty's commission as officers, but as a matter touching the efficiency and welfare of the Armed Forces of the Crown as a whole. It would, in my judgment, be a mistake to leave out of account changes which have occurred in our whole social structure, and, more important still, in the social structure of the Armed Forces themselves, if this were to lead to the conclusion that it is only the officers who should benefit by increased amenities. I am glad to say that this matter was pointed out by two previous speakers, the noble Viscounts Lord Bridgeman and Lord Goschen, who drew attention to the problem in much the same terms as I have done now.
I do not think that the officers of Her Majesty's Forces will cease to be respected because their standard of living is no longer so greatly superior to that of their subordinates. I feel sure that they will continue to inspire the confidence, the respect and the affection of their men as they have always done, but it is my experience that this will be due to their professional competence, enthusiasm and powers of leadership and command rather than through a higher standard of living, with greater facilities for social amenities and 680 pleasures. I think that probably answers Lord Lucan and Lord Thurlow, who asked questions in that respect.
Let us consider for a few moments some of the circumstances which have brought about a change in the conditions of Service life and which have led to what may be regarded as a worsening of the amenities for members of the Armed Forces and their families. The international situation and the demands of the cold war have obliged us not only to maintain much greater forces than this country has ever contemplated before in time of peace, but have also obliged successive Governments to come to Parliament for powers to impose conscription on the whole of the youth of the nation for two years of their active life. May I remind your Lordships of the figures of the active strengths of the Armed Forces at the present time. The three Fighting Services amount to about 860,000 men and women, Regulars and National Service men. We have an Army of 450,000 as compared with an Army before 1939 of about 200,000, and if we compare that figure with the size of the Regular Forces before 1914 the difference, in only forty years, is even more striking. Furthermore, £1,636 million, which was the size of the Defence Budget last year, takes up a far higher proportion of the national income than it has ever done before in time of peace.
Then again, as noble Lords have pointed out, a far larger proportion of our Armed Forces are serving overseas in places where the climate is far from pleasant or is, in other respects and for different reasons, unattractive. And some of those regions where nature is unkindly are precisely those where our troops find themselves engaged in arduous and disagreeable operational tasks. I drew attention to this in the Statement on Defence which I presented to Parliament last year, when I recalled the difficulties which arose from hostilities in Korea, cold war conditions in Europe, anti-bandit operations in Malaya and continued unrest in Kenya. I might have mentioned as well the very large commitment which arises from our Middle East defence needs, especially our position in Egypt, resulting, in tying up a large number of our men in the Suez Canal Zone. I pointed out that nearly all combatant units of the Regular Army are serving 681 overseas and that two-thirds of the married personnel are now separated from their families.
I deplore these conditions and yield to none of your Lordships in a determination to bring them to an end, or at least to alleviate them as soon as ever we possibly can. But these conditions are not of the Government's choosing. They derive directly from international tension, which the Foreign Secretary is at this moment in Berlin doing his utmost to relieve. They arise also from unrest and subversive movements among the indigenous populations in some of our Colonial territories. In pre-war days, as was pointed out by the noble Lords, Lord Stratheden and Lord Jeffreys, in India and Burma, and other places, like Singapore, not only were our troops able to enjoy unrivalled opportunities for training, games and sports of all kinds, but they and their families led happy lives in very pleasant climatic and social conditions. Particularly was this the case in the hill stations in those countries. In the Navy, too, there is now less real sea-going life than before the war, particularly for senior officers, and more shore appointments with heavy administrative responsibilities. The Navy experiences a higher proportion of overseas service than before the war, and there is greater separation of all ranks from their families. But against this we must not forget that the Navy now offers a much wider field for the adventurous young man—in the Feet Air Arm, the Submarine Service, Anti-Submarine Service and in many other ways—and I am sure that it will continue, as in the past, to exercise a strong appeal to the youth of the nation.
It is far easier, however, to put one's finger on the difficulties, and to show causes for them, than it is to find means to solve the problems which undoubtedly exist in all three Services. As I have tried to point out, most of these drawbacks and disadvantages come from the wide deployment of our forces all over the world, and from the unpleasant not are of some of their tasks. For all these reasons it would be wrong for me to hold out any bright hopes of a quick and easy solution to these problems until the world situation shows a marked change for the better. But I have no wish to paint the picture in sombre colours which 682 over-exaggerate it. I have given these facts and figures solely to reduce to realistic terms the questions raised by noble Lords in this debate. In spite of these difficulties and problems, the Regular officer's career in all three Services still has its attractions: and although there is keen competition from industry and the professions, I am glad to say that the Services' appeal to officers of the right kind is still strong.
Let me now say something about pay. I do not know whether it is sufficiently appreciated what special consideration is given to the married officer by the grant of marriage allowance—an advantage which he would be unlikely to enjoy in civil life—though I do not pretend that a Service officer's emoluments enable him to maintain a standard of life equal to that which he enjoyed before the war. I would, however, remind your Lordships that we have recognised recently, and have introduced with effect from March 1 of last year, what is known as married (unaccompanied) rates of local overseas allowance, to enable a married Service man separated from his family to take part in the social life of the duty station to which he is accredited, and to share in the amenities and recreations there, without feeling that he is depriving his family at home of an adequate contribution to their maintenance. The level of officers' remuneration, which was raised in 1950 to take account of prevailing conditions, is constantly under review whenever there are changes in conditions of service generally which call for an adjustment. There is one easement which has been introduced by all three Services, and that is in tae form of a hiring scheme, whereby furnished family accommodation at stations where quarters are not available may be rented by individual officers. Since 1949 when the scheme began, some 2,000 such hirings have been taken up for which the officer himself pays only the normal quartering charge.
With regard to the expenses to which officers with children of school age are put in connection with educational costs, we realise only too well that if the education of children is not to suffer by reason of the frequent moves to which the head of the family is liable in the course of his Service career, provision must be 683 made for the boarding education of the children. We are most anxious to help in this matter, but I can assure noble Lords who have studied the problem that it is not at all an easy one to solve. It is a complicated problem, and I will not go into it now. There are, however, many citizens of like standing in civil life who find themselves in exactly the same position, although not always to the same extent as the married Serviceman, who, owing to frequent changes of station, and what is called displacement or movement, finds himself in rather more difficult circumstances in regard to the education of his children. Many of the Serviceman's difficulties stem from the fact that nearly all the Services are overseas and are committed to various obligations in different theatres of war. One really cannot believe that those conditions will exist for ever, or for very long; and when we can secure an easing of tension, and an easing of some of our world-wide commitments, which we never had before, and can bring some of our Service people home, then many of these difficulties with which we are now faced will disappear.
I turn now to what can be done in the way of improving facilities for leave and recreation, a subject which has been touched by many noble Lords this afternoon. In the Canal Zone, in particular, the situation has been such that it has been impossible for officers and other ranks to take their leave locally. It has, therefore, been necessary for the Services to organise alternative methods of taking leave each summer, and in 1952 and 1953 a Cyprus leave scheme was operated, which we hope will, if circumstances permit, be continued this summer. Under this scheme, all ranks and their families in the Canal Zone are given the opportunity of spending fourteen days or three weeks in a Cyprus leave camp, with free travel both ways. Again, a scheme for cheap air travel home has also been in operation since June, 1952, under which officers and men are able to spend their annual leave at home in this country at specially favourable rates. Both these amenities, which have been greatly appreciated, have had to be confined to Forces serving in the Canal Zone, because of the unpleasant nature of their service and the particularly irksome position in which they are placed.
684 I have the utmost sympathy with those who complain that the displacement of the horse by the internal combustion engine has done away with one of the most enjoyable of all amenities. But let us not forget that the petrol engine has also made its contribution to a wider and more enjoyable life in the Services. Within limits, official motor transport is made available for recreational purposes, and the Services claim that games and athletics are organised on a far better and broader basis than they ever were before. I mention that because both the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, and the noble Viscount, Lord Long, and also, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden, called attention to this question of motor transport. I repeat that, within limits, official motor transport is made available. We must also take into account that in some stations abroad motor trips can be taken to places where there are winter sports, and where ski-ing can be engaged in. In the old days, of course, that was not possible.
In general, I can assure your Lordships that my Service colleagues and I are in no sense complacent and content with things as they are to-day. At the same time, I feel that it would be wrong to let your Lordships think that there is any immediate prospect of a substantial betterment of these conditions so long as the governing factors remain unchanged, although undoubtedly conditions and amenities for officers will tend to get better and better, as has been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow. I can assure your Lordships that we who are responsible for the Services have these things in mind, and that we will do our best to improve the lot both of officers and of other ranks. In this respect, I feel bound to remind the House that there are economic and financial limitations to what we can undertake to do. As I have already mentioned, the nation is bearing a tremendous load of Government expenditure. A Defence Budget of £1,636 million a year does not give much scope for expansion or the spending of money on what, if we are honest, we must admit to be additions to comfort and amenity, rather than to the stern necessities of Service life. Noble Lords are constantly urging on us, and quite rightly, the need to reduce our commitments, to retrench our expenditure and to ease the burden of taxation. We 685 must give heed to those demands, and see that, so far as is possible, we limit the load of the taxpayer. Nevertheless, this debate has served one very good purpose. It has shown the serving officer that noble Lords are interested and anxious with regard to his welfare, and that he is not forgotten. It has also shown that we on the Government Benches are in full sympathy with the officer situation; that it is not forgotten and is constantly in our minds.
I should like now to try to answer one or two questions which noble Lords have asked, and which I have not been able to answer in the context of my speech. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, asked whether there were any exchanges or secondments to other units, and so on. I can assure him that there is a healthy scheme of exchanges and secondments, both to the Colonial Forces and, of course, to N.A.T.O. staffs. There are military missions, there are training schemes and also a valuable secondment to the Ministry of Supply, where officers have an opportunity of getting in touch with industry outside the Services. As regards the question of the retired major, the situation is this. Schemes have been introduced to offer continued employment to retired officers. For example, provision is made for suitable majors who have not been promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel but for whom there is useful employment. There is now a scheme for such officers to continue serving until the age of fifty-five years, whereas previously they would have had to retire at forty-five. Lieutenant-colonels and above who have been retired from the Army can obtain employment in military posts as civilians. Of course, this does not embrace all retired majors, and it is perhaps comparatively few majors who can take advantage of it. But within our abilities we have this scheme to try to help as many retired majors as we can.
Another question asked concerned the promotion of officers in the Services, and I should like to mention these figures because the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, was wrong in one statement he made, to which I will call attention in a minute. In the Royal Navy the chances of promotion are 686 these: one in two can become a commander, one in four a captain, and one in ten a rear-admiral. As regards the Army, promotion to major is automatic, provided that an officer remains physically fit, passes his promotion examinations and, of course, is recommended as a good officer. An average of 65 per cent. of majors become lieutenant-colonels. The figure of officers who join the Service and reach the rank of lieutenant-colonel is much nearer one in three than one in six, as the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, suggested in his remarks. I have come to the end of the remarks which I wish to make to your Lordships this evening. This debate has brought forward some very good suggestions and ideas, which I welcome, and I assure your Lordships that they will be examined and that due attention will be given to them. With those remarks, and in these circumstances, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden, will not press his Motion.
§ 5.56 p.m.
LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, there are one or two points I should like to make. The first is that it was never the intention to imply that the welfare and amenities of officers were something quite separate from those of the other ranks. In fact, I myself have spoken in your Lordships' House on that subject. But the welfare of officers is sometimes apt to be forgotten, and this Motion was drawn up to rectify that. It is most satisfactory to hear that these easements are being made, such as hirings and the additional facilities for leave. It is, however, disappointing that the noble and gallant Earl cannot give concrete expression to his interest by accepting the Motion. It only remains for me to thank noble Lords who have come forward to support the Motion, and to ask leave of your Lordships to withdraw it.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at three minutes before six o'clock.