§ 2.48 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMIAN rose to call attention to the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War relating to the Army Estimates, 1956–57 (Cmd. 9688); and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I have put down the Motion standing in my name in a conventional form as a Motion for Papers, but I am well aware that my noble friend in front of me, when he comes to reply, might perfectly well retort that I already have the Papers, so why do I ask for them now. Of course, that is true. We have a lot of Papers, and we shall spend this afternoon discussing them, and perhaps it would be sheer greed if I were to ask for more of them. So I can tell him that, just as I have made a conventional opening, I expect to make a conventional close to this debate when the time comes.
§ The White Paper accompanying the Army Estimates which we have all had does not, on the face of it, look to be one of the outstanding White Papers in the series we have had since the war. It has no striking literary merit and. unlike last year's White Paper, is not adorned with maps—I suppose that is because of economy. But when your Lordships come to look at the White Paper, and think of what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War said in another place, you will see that this White Paper represents certain far-reaching changes in the structure of the Army and in the affairs of those who are in that Service. In another place my right honourable friend said that the main things about this year's White Paper and the Army Estimates were manpower and reorganisation. So they are. But it strikes me that the changes implied in the White Paper are much more far-reaching and fundamental than one would suppose from merely reading the White Paper itself.
§ I can give your Lordships two main reasons for this. In the first place, it is evident that in the process of deciding on the reorganisation of the division there has been a clean break away from what one might call the classical three-brigade division which has been used in 'the British Army since the Peninsula War, and which was used in Continental 1193 armies from the middle of the 18th century. That is the first major change. The second is that we have now broken clean away from the short-service system which was brought into the British Army in 1870 or thereabouts as part of the reforms à la Cardwell. So we are back to the long-service system which existed up to the end of the Crimean War, but with considerable differences.
§ There are two or three vital differences between the modern long-service which we hope to get and the old-fashioned long-service of the 18th and early 19th centuries. One of them is that the man we are dealing with—the man in the ranks—from the educational point of view and from the point of view of physical fitness, is a totally different person from the Victorian long-service soldier. We are now getting the benefits in the Services of the improvements in education and health in the modern State. We are able to use a man in the Services—a man in the ranks, or a warrant or noncommissioned officer—up to his middle fifties, whereas in the old days of hard going and many nights on guard men of that sort were worn out by the early forties. We are able to use educated men even for our junior non-commissioned officers and our senior private soldiers. We are taking advantage now of conditions which enable us to go in for long service, and we are doing so in order to meet the changing conditions which demand long service.
§ Every year the proportion of technicians to unskilled men in the Army is rising in the same way as it is rising in the other Services and, thank goodness! in industry itself. It is no good trying to recruit technicians mainly on a short-service basis. They can fill in the gaps, and you can usefully use your apprentices on National Service, but you cannot build up a framework of sound technicians without an adequate long-service system such as that which has just been introduced. That is important, because we in the Army not only need to treat a man in the ranks as a member of the community in a way he was no: treated before, but, when we are dealing with a technician, we have also to treat him as a member of his trade. That is important, because that is another of the barriers between Service and civil life. There were many barriers of that sort in the old days. They are slowly being 1194 broken down, and they will have to go if we are to make proper use of the men who decide on Service or Army careers. The more those barriers can be broken down, particularly vis-à-vis the technician and his trade union relationships, the better for everyone.
§ Since we had the last debate on the Army, which was a long time ago, we have seen the new Papers about Service pay. I am not going to say a great deal, because the White Paper on Service pay was debated in the recent Defence debate and I have nothing to add to the welcome which I ventured to give that White Paper at that time. I can only repeat the point of view of the Army that it is welcome, and I have confidence that it will do the work it is intended to do. I am still not satisfied that the question of allowances was treated nearly so thoroughly as the question of pay. I trust make a plea this afternoon that that matter should be gone into, if necessary on the basis of an independent investigation of what is the real cost of the services for which allowances are supposed to be provided. I know that the War Office dislike outside investigations. I know that often they would prefer to make up their own minds as to what it costs to travel, to have a meal outside or to move furniture. But that is not always the answer. Those things, like Service pay itself, must be considered in the light of whether the arrangements are going to be an attraction or a deterrent for the young man who decides, after leaving school, to make the Services a career.
§ There are other attractions and other deterrents. Very important indeed, in these days, are the cadet forces, and it is particularly important that the organisation of the cadet forces should keep in step with the development of the secondary schools, the technical schools and the senior modern schools. I shall say no more about that now, because my noble friend Field-Marshal Lord Wilson, whom we are glad to see in the House to-day, may possibly add some words on those particular points. Perhaps it is too early to say more about the Pensions (Increase) Bill after what was said last week. I am one of those who draw a fairly clear distinction between the pensions for See-vice people and the pensions which civilians earn in various capacities. If after seeing the Royal Warrant, we find 1195 that, notwithstanding the automatic adjustment, certain pensions for Service people or their dependants are still out of line, we on these Benches must come back to it, and I can say most certainly that I am sure we will.
§ I want to say one word on the letter which was sent out by my right honourable friend just after the Army Estimates and which goes by the name of "Anti-bull"—or that was the name which the Press gave to it. I regret to say that I did not feel entirely in agreement with the War Office letter as reported in the Press. My noble friends in front of me who are Guardsmen will certainly not accuse me of an undue addiction to spit and polish or anything of that sort. But I have one or two points to make about that letter. The first may be rather a cynical remark, in the sense that that letter, if it does nothing else, will certainly find out which units are commanded by their commanding officers and which by the sergeant-major. So far so good. But the psychology of such a policy is a much deeper thing than some of the young intelligentsia doing their National Service have ever discovered. You get the young soldier with any amount of keenness and perhaps not much brain. The way he shows his desire to excel is by polishing his boots so that they are the best boots in the battalion. Believe me, things of that sort are not to be despised. What is necessary is to channel those desires to excel into worthwhile directions, but until you can do that to leave the soldier polishing his boots and showing in his own way that he is the best soldier in the unit.
§ I have probably put the cart before the horse in what I have said by not stressing two fundamental changes which I mentioned at the beginning and which are really the logical consequences of the decisions which were taken last year and announced in the Service White Papers last year, but which had not then been implemented. Those were the decisions which concern the future role of the Services in the air and on the ground. In this White Paper we have seen them implemented so far as the Army is concerned, and we have also noticed during the year the continuing shift of emphasis and importance from the ground to the air—something which was bound to come as a result of atomic and nuclear weapons 1196 and something which has been happening in the last year. An important evidence of that, I feel sure, is the appointment of General Norstad to succeed General Grünther at N.A.T.O. This is an opportunity, perhaps, of saying how much those parts of the British Army which have come in contact with General Grünther owe to his sympathy and leadership.
§ In the meantime, the leading commander in N.A.T.O. is an airman and that, I think, is almost certainly a very good thing under present conditions. As these changes go on in the Higher Command, so changes go on in the Army itself, and we find two quite distinct roles coming out. One is the role of the Army in a major war, in which it has to meet conditions of atomic warfare and conditions where it is almost certain that the decisive battles of the world will no longer be fought on the ground, notwithstanding that ground defence is essential to successful air operations and notwithstanding that the aggressor will certainly use conventional warfare if he finds it is likely to be successful. Consequentially on that, the Army is faced with the duty of taking a more and more important part in solving the national problem of home defence. That is what will happen in a major war. In so-called peace time, we have the problem, both at home and abroad, which, reduced to its simplest terms, comes down to support of the civil power in different areas, under different conditions and in different ways. Practically everything that the Army is doing now in peace time can be simplified to mean that it is really providing support for the civil power. That is what it is in Cyprus; that is what it is in Kenya; that is what it is in Malaya, and that is what it is in the training which the Army is undertaking in aid of Civil Defence at home.
§ So we now have a clear distinction, which we have not had for many years, between the peace-time employment of the Army and its employment as it is anticipated it would be in war time. There is not that link between peace and war which, in the 1920s and before, was provided by activities like frontier expeditions in the North-West of India, and so on. Those days are gone, and now we see the result of these conditions and these decisions in the impact on the division. We are told that the division is to be simplified, which is another way 1197 of saying that in future the basic formation will probably be not the division hut the brigade group. That, in its turn, is a lesson which has been crystallising ever since the early experiments with Army formations in manœuvre areas in the 1930s. In fact, it is one of the lessons brought home by the Forces, under General Gort's command in the Battle of France sixteen years ago. I have no doubt that that decision is right, but it has not been quick in coming. A great deal of thought has been given to it. The days when one could count on moving large masses of troops and large mobs of transport about on the ground have almost certainly gone, under the threat of atomic and nuclear bombs. That is why, once the division or the brigade group, or whatever it is going to be, is streamlined, we must take the greatest care to see that it does not gradually collect the barnacles which all formations collect if they are given enough time and if Ale people at the top are not sufficiency firm.
§ Perhaps this is the moment to say one word about equipment, because we are now streamlining and redesigning our equipment—and, believe me, a great deal of that is going on now, and to great purpose. There comes a time when, if we are ruthless enough, we can discard a lot of obsolete and obsolescent stores. I very much hope that that will happen—not only for the convenience of the Army but also for the sake of the taxpayer, because, whether it is in the Services, in business or under industrial conditions, if there comes a moment when you are very largely changing the type of articles which you are holding in store, you know that that is the moment when you should give your store-holding system a thorough check.
§ I am quite certain that the store-holding system in the Army would benefit by a check. I doubt very much—though perhaps I am speaking without sufficient knowledge—whether it is sufficiently up to date. Although the ratio of losses expressed in percentages may be fairly low, I doubt whether we have done anything like what we could have clone in that direction—1 am thinking of certain proceedings which have come to the magistrates courts in the county from which I come, where there are large ordnance depots. Whether I am right or wrong, that is my own opinion, and that 1198 is what I am going to suggest to your Lordships. This is the time to be really ruthless with the holding of Army stores and to take advantage of the changing stores to have a thorough check on the storekeeping system, particularly since, in these days, the new stores will probably be more valuable, item for item, than the old ones. Therefore, if they are lost, mishandled or mislaid tie cost to the nation will be a great deal more than it would be if we were dealing with the simple stores of years ago.
§ All these changes in the division to which I have referred are bound to have serious repercussions on the regimental system. This is a difficult subject to talk about, because those of us who have served in regiments are very much torn both ways. Every one of us is keen to keep regimental traditions, so far as they can be kept, and the regimental organisation. Equally, there comes a point where, if we try to strain the old-fashioned organisation and the traditions which related to old-fashioned methods of warfare, we shall reach the point where we make a nonsense. That is why I very much welcome the announcement that the present D.C.1.G.S. is to stay on an extra six months in his office in order to give General Hall, the D.C.I.G.S.-designate, time to sit full-time on this Committee, as I imagine he is going to do, and to go into those things with the expert knowledge that I know he himself possesses and with the help, I hope, of sound advice. I hope that no-one in authority will shrink from applying the recommendations which that Committee make, because I should hate to see the Army or anything else of the kind trying to prepare for modern war and at the same time trying to keep up the sort of introverted regimental museum atmosphere which always is apt to come in when one is trying to do things for the wrong purpose.
§ On that point, I wonder whether we are still quite right, under the changed conditions represented in this White Paper, in doing away so fast with the remaining second battalions. I have no doubt that the decision was right at the; time it was taken, but have a good deal of doubt whether events have not overtaken that decision and whether in these days, when, strangely enough, the requirement for infantry is coming back 1199 into its own, we can afford to part with these second battalions. I would ask my noble friend Lord Fairfax of Cameron whether he would be good enough to look at that point. In the same way, I welcome the decision to keep one brigade on an emergency footing in this country, to train for the emergencies set out in the White Paper. I wish I knew just how that brigade was to be trained in England for things like jungle-fighting in Malaya, but no doubt my noble friend will be able to tell us when he comes to reply. But the move is a good one, and it represents a real attempt—more real than I have seen for some time—to face up to the factor of the very short interval between the warning of the emergency and the emergency itself, and the need to keep first-aid formations in a high state of readiness. That is all to the good.
§ Now may I say a word about manpower and National Service. I said something just now about the increasing need for technicians and the increasing proportion of technicians in Army establishments. You can put that in another way and say that the low-grade soldier is going to be less and less useful as a Regular as time goes on—in fact, he is pretty useless now. Because of that, thinking now of the requirements in peace time, I suppose there is less and less need to rely on National Service. As I think I said in the Defence debate, as National Service shows some signs—I say "some signs"; I do not say any more—that it will outlast its usefulness for the Army in peace time, we have to turn and think of the contribution we want National Service to make for training for the next emergency.
§ May I put it in this way? At the present moment the two years' National Service can be thought to be made up of two separate elements. We give people an initial training so that they can be useful at short notice for reserves, in the Territorial Army or wherever you like. We keep them for the two years in order to supply the need for full-time soldiers in the formations in Germany and elsewhere. Those are two quite different requirements, and when we are thinking of National Service we sometimes forget that at present National Service is made up of these two ingredients and that 1200 therefore the fact that we do not need full-time National Service in peace time, or that we do not need it so much, has no real bearing on the question how far in the future we shall need national training. if we are going to employ many of our able-bodied manpower in this country on tasks connected with Civil Defence threats, atom or nuclear bombs, control of population and so forth, I certainly do not think that we can attempt to do it with formations or units, whatever uniform they wear, the rank or file of which have been collected only the day before. Even with intelligent men, that is not possible.
§ That is a problem which I think my noble friend in front of me and my right honourable friend will now have to think of a little more, in the same way as the War Office will need to go on thinking of these home defence problems. because, believe me, we are not anything like finished with those problems. I am not saying that we should have finished with them by now. There is a long and difficult road to tread, and it can he done only bit by bit, and only provided that the Service Departments can obtain proper backing from the Minister of Defence and from the Government in sorting out their problems with the Civil Departments with whom they are bound to have to work in home defence problems. That was why I was a little puzzled when I read the OFFICIAL REPORT of another place for March 15 and saw that my honourable friend who replied then for the Government on the question of a single home defence force said that this was obviously one of the problems which the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the United Kingdom Land Forces would be studying. That may be so; but it will be no use General Mansergh studying that problem unless a number of other people even more highly placed than General Mansergh are studying it too. I hope they are, and I hope (though I realise that I may not get an answer to this point) that General Mansergh has been given a definite policy on which he can base his own more detailed studies of organisation.
§ Thinking of it this afternoon, we may say that in regard to this question of home defence there is a real need to settle down to a coherent scheme; and that we are gradually doing. There is also 1201 a need to make certain that we know exactly what is the Army's potential contribution to home defence and that we are making the best use of it—not only of the Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve, but also of such organisations as the Territorial Army and Air Force associations who are under-worked at the present time, and of everybody else of that sort who is in a position to help. The team is not by any means in its real place on the ground at the present time. With the Reserve units, the Territorial units, and the Emergency Reserve units we may get the pattern of a volunteer cadre—perhaps not a large cadre, but full of keen men who are anxious to do the job—perhaps with a larger number of other people, Reservists or National Service men who have been trained in the elements of their trade, who are not wanted so much in peace-time but who are available at short notice when a threat comes which creates the need to have them embodied full time.
§ From the point of view of the Territorial Army, I think it is a good thing that in the last few months their task has become a great deal clearer than it was before. Now the units are beginning to know where they are—and it is high time. Naturally, the units in the N.A.T.O. divisions are most pleased with the result, but all the units which were not certain whether they would remain in divisions at all are also pleased that the divisional organisation is being kept, not only for the N.A.T.O. divisions but for the others. After all, the greater includes the less, and if it is likely that those divisions on the outbreak of a conflict would be used to support Home and Civil Defence, equally it is true that they would be available, given a certain amount of notice, for employment as divisions. If they are organised as divisions, they can do the other job; but you cannot organise people for a Civil Defence job and then take them to tight the Queen's battles in the field.
§ I think we should all agree that the Territorial Army is most likely to have to undertake Civil Defence when the time comes, and it is a great pity that we have not succeeded in finding a way to get what I might call the jollity of the volunteer field day into a modern Home Defence exercise. I wish one knew how to do it. There is no doubt that the jobs 1202 that the Territorial Army have to do to-day are not nearly so much fun as the jobs that they did yesterday or the day before, and if anyone can think of a way of recreating that holiday atmosphere while at the same time getting on with the job in hand, lie will have deserved well of the Territorial Army and of the country. I have only one other thing to say about the Territorial Army—namely, that I greatly hope that it will not be too long before the Government make an announcement about the officers' bounty which has been far too long delayed. Remember, the camp season, which is the crucial time for taking advantage of such decisions, will be starting in about a month from now. I hope, therefore, that we shall soon hear the answer to a question which has been asked for so long.
§ My Lords, I have spoken too long, but may I just sum up what I have already said? In the first place, the White Paper records and implies decisions on Army organisation which T, for one, think not only most welcome but most necessary; and I hope we shall not only welcome them this afternoon but make clear that we expect the lesser decisions in organisation, which are consequent on the larger decisions, to be firmly and promptly taken. Any squeeze, whether of organisation or money, is bound to hurt somebody for a short time, but if the policy is right it will not be long before the pain has gone and people concerned, whether Regulars or Territorials, will see that the changes make them more fit to do their real job, which is to be ready for battle. My right honourable friend and those with him will have to carry through these changes and at the same time will have to take care that they lose no morale in the process.
§ One way of doing so is to take everybody concerned as much as possible into confidence. Security, or the falsely imagined need for security, has nothing to match it for causing frustration, misunderstanding and bad feeling. At this stage of the Army's reorganisation I would sacrifice security so far as I possibly could in order to tell those concerned, at the earliest possible moment, what is likely to happen and why it is thought right that it should happen. Given that, I fee] that the Army, and 1203 the regiments in the Army, will be supporters of what I believe is enlightened change. I feel sure we all want to wish my right honourable friend and the Army Council the best of good luck in carrying through the work which they will have in this vital year for the Army; and likewise we should send our best wishes to the Army for the testing time it is to have during the forthcoming year. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.23 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, your Lordships will be grateful to the noble Viscount for providing the opportunity for this debate and for introducing his Motion in a speech which covered in so interesting a manner a great variety of topics. With much of what the noble Viscount said there will be agreement in every quarter of the House. For my part, I propose to confine myself to-day to a single subject: the vital and crucial question of manpower. I start on the assumption that there is, on both sides of your Lordships' House, a powerful wish to fulfil our national commitments and secure our national interest without the vexatious burden—vexatious socially, financially and industrially—of military conscription.
I was glad that the noble Viscount referred to the Committee now being set up under the chairmanship of that distinguished officer, Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Hull. The terms of reference of that Committee are worthy of your Lordships' attention. The Committee are enjoined:to examine the future structure of the Army in the light of probable commitments and in particular to examine ways in which demands for military manpower for the maintenance of the Army can he reduced, and the extent to which use can be made of civilian and outside organisations.There is the key to it all—the demands for military manpower. How can we reduce these without defaulting on the duty which we all accept? Two questions are asked nowadays: What size of Army do we need? What size of Army can we afford? To my mind, neither of these questions can be answered until we have the answer to a third: What kind of Army do we need? I believe that we have reached another historic turning point in the long and illustrious history of the British Army, a moment 1204 of change and adaptation—and the British Army has been nothing if not adaptable; a moment of transformation at least equal in importance to the transformation brought about by the tank, the machine-gun, the breech-loader and perhaps gunpowder and the longbow itself.
What kind of Army do we need? I suggest to your Lordships that the Army problem can be put as a simple equation: Quantity plus quality must equal commitments. As to quantity, the numbers in the Army are already running down. They ran down by 40,000 from December, 1952, to December last year, and the cost has been cut by about £100 million in the same period, if we exclude the important and expanding amount spent by the Ministry of Supply in connection with the Army. This rundown in numbers will be 60,000 by 1958. What of commitments? These have been drastically reduced as the tide of trouble has temporarily and locally receded in the Canal Zone, in Korea and in Kenya.
What of quality? There is general agreement on the need for smaller and better-equipped forces, mobile, flexible and all-purpose in weapons and organisation—smaller forces with larger hitting power and greater versatility. Here, I suggest, is the real key to economy with safety, which is what we need. But so far our problem is not solved. We want to save money, which means saving, preeminently, manpower. We want to rid ourselves of the wasteful and inexpedient, though still inevitable, device of National Service. We all wish this, but as things are it is not possible to solve our equation, to balance quantity and commitments without National Service, and, many hold, National Service for two years, so that the trained conscripts can take their turn in the line.
What are we to do about it? What possible ways out of the dilemma offer themselves? We could, of course, cut commitments still further. We could reduce our garrisons in Hong Kong, Aden, Jordan, Gibraltar and other places; or, as was once suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, I think in his first speech on the Army in your Lordships' House, we could look upon our divisions in Germany as strategic reserves and so save the cost, in manpower and money, of building up new units for 1205 the reserve in Britain. Should we be wise to do this? Perhaps we must cut our coat according to our cloth, but should we cut the cloth too? I have recently seen for myself how valuable, efficient and well run are the garrison forces in one outpost, Gibraltar, and I would say to your Lordships that if all the installations for the service of the forces were directed with the same skill and foresight, then the £1,500 million for defence would appear to have been spent better than some of us thought. I was profoundly impressed by what I saw in Gibraltar in the carrying out of plans first set on foot by the Administration of my noble friend Lord Attlee, and since carried into effect by succeeding Administrations.
I cannot easily see how the front-line divisions in Germany, manning the main defences, can be transmuted for economy's sake into a mobile, transferable, strategic reserve. They serve, first and last, where they stand.
There is, I know, another way out, half hinted at by some, which again I believe to be a cul de sac. This is, in effect, to "let the Army go"—to say that in nuclear war it will no longer be needed when the bombs and the missiles fly. I do not believe it. The bombs and the missiles gain no ground: if the worst clash does come, tanks and troops, as well as atomic weapons, will be needed. What is more, if the worst does not happen, land clashes are more, and not less, likely under the shadow of the "nuclear stalemate". And local and police wars, calling for up-to-date, well-equipped, mobile and modern soldiers, are with us all the time.
What, then, are we to do? I have said before in this House earlier than most (two or three years ago), and I say again, that salvation, economy and safety lie in two directions. They may seem obvious to-day, but I would say, with all solemnity now, that though the months pass those remedies remain still disturbingly remote. They are, as the Government now recognise: first, to increase the quality of the Army by a radical transformation, so that we create a really new-model and all-purpose Army, fit to fight and quick to move. I am still not impressed by the argument that the transformation will cost too much. I say rather that it costs us too much, and will go on costing us too much, not to make the transformation.
1206 Secondly, as the essential part of this transformation, we must succeed in increasing the Regular Army both by more recruits and by more re-engagements. This, I recognise and welcome—as we all do—is the purpose of the new pay and pensions arrangements. It is the hub of our problem. But will the new provisions work? As things are, I do not feel at all certain. But they must work if our equation is to be solved. What are the dimensions of the problem? We have an Army of 400,000 or thereabouts, half Regular, half National Service. We are all agreed that its commitments could be carried out by a Regular Army of 300,000 and conscription could be abolished, as we all wish. Yet it looks as if the most that can be expected by present procedures is something in the neighbourhood of the existing Army of 200,000 and the provision for that Army of a larger really long-term content. But this will not be enough. It leaves us where we are. National Service remains. The equation is not solved.
We can, of course, and must, seek economies in manpower and improvements in efficiency within this framework. There are obvious avenues of action which, no doubt General Hull's Committee will examine. There is scope for what in Whitehall (because of an earlier assignment which I was given by my noble friend, Lord Attlee, when he was Prime Minister and I was at the War Office ten years ago, to look at the possible scope for integrating certain common services in the Forces) is called, flatteringly or unflatteringly, the "Nathanisation of the Forces", the diminution of duplication over a wide range of common supply and other activitities. If Whitehall calls the "Nathanisation of the Forces" the diminution of overlapping and the integration of specific services, it may be that the phrase will one day have to be extended to the integration of the three Forces into a single Service. But that is a matter not for to-day but for careful examination in the future.
There is still scope, as the Hull Committee has been told, for some "civilianisation" of the "tail" in order to concentrate scarce resources in the "teeth." But the equation will still not be solved, the economy will still not be made, safety will still not be assured, unless we do, in fact, succeed in recruiting, keeping, 1207 equipping and transforming the new-model Regular Army which alone will do. This is the core of the Government's responsibility now. They must make their plans for the recruitment and re-engagement of Regulars work much better than at present the plans look like doing. It is above all. I think, a question of publicity and reputation, and on its answer, its full and successful answer, the economies and the efficiency of our Army depend.
Let this question of positive action, and positive action now, be examined for a moment. What are the Government actually doing in this regard? True, there are substantial increases in the pay, especially of men accepting longer engagements. I welcome that; we all do. It is a good step forward. But the pay is not everything; it is a necessary ingredient, if men are to come forward, but it is quite certain that it will not, of itself, bring, forward all the men we need. I suggest that each prospective recruit will need to have brought home to him, in some fashion, that in accepting an obligation for a period of years and in cutting himself off from the civilian life to which he is accustomed, he will in return be gaining something worth while. There must be thousands of young men who would do well in the Army and who would find the life well suited to them, but who have never thought of the Army as a career. How are such men to be attracted? How is their interest to be aroused? Certainly not by good pay alone. The Government need to make an imaginative onslaught on this difficult problem. They must be prepared to mobilise all the abundant resources of modern publicity.
During a debate in another place on March 15, the Secretary of State for War mentioned a pamphlet which had been compiled for the purpose of giving National Servicemen and their parents an idea of what their service in the Army would be like. It is called Your Son and the Army. I have a copy here. As pamphlets go, it is a good pamphlet. But the Secretary of State went on to sayWe cannot do more than publish these documents.Then he proceeded to add a plea to Members of Parliament to help to get people to read them. I hope that that is not a true index of the Government's 1208 ideas of how to put something across to the citizens of this country. We cannot afford in 1956 to act on such a perfunctory and top-hatted view of how to conduct public relations. When it comes to the great and crucial effort to attract the necessary numbers of men to the Regular Army, will they think it enough to write some good pamphlets and hope that someone will read them? I am told that when young men, newly joined for National Service. have been interviewed by a senior officer and have been given copies of the pamphlet I have mentioned, it is found afterwards that many copies have been left in the waiting room and that the street outside is littered with others. I do not know whether the information available to the War Office can confirm that, but it would not be altogether surprising if it did. Most of these youths are not used to the study of pamphlets. They probably have never read such a thing in their lives.
What is needed is to study and catch hold of those media of publicity and information which do in fact reach and attract the attention of all those sections of the public whose attention and interest it is desired to arouse. There are so many channels—the radio, television (perhaps television especially), the cinema, feature articles in the popular Press; perhaps even the strip cartoon might have its place. By a multiplicity of means, it should be possible to familiarise the public, and in particular young men and their parents, with what the modern Army is like, what it does, the comradeship and self-respect, the opportunity to enjoy many new experiences and all the while being of service to their country.
How can this best be achieved? You cannot expect a General, however great a strategist or leader in the field; you cannot expect a civil servant, however eminent in administration, to he also a master of those specialised techniques of appeal to the public mind and the public imagination. It might be worth while—and I offer this as a practical suggestion to the noble Lord who is to reply—to place this task, so immensely important to the country, in the hands of some man of outstanding qualifications in that field. During the war. when steel was a vital matter, the Government of the day called on Sir Andrew Duncan. Could we do something of the same sort here? Can 1209 we find some Andrew Duncan of the world of publicity and prevail on him, in the public interest, to transfer his activity from the commercial sphere into projecting the British Army to the British public? What the Army needs now, and perhaps most urgently, is salesmanship.
§ 3.44 p.m.
My Lords, I agree to a great extent with what the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, has just said. As he did, and as did the noble Viscount who initiated the debate this afternoon, I welcome the Committee that has been set up under Sir Richard Hull. I think. that this shows more than anything else that Her Majesty's Government are tackling this difficult question of a modern army, and it also gives us the hope that at last the dreadful burden of National Service, the principle of which we all dislike, might wet be drawing to a close. Another attractive feature of this Committee is that its decisions will shortly be announced. The General who is dealing with the Committee has only six months before he takes up his new post, and I hope that that is a hint that we shall hear the decisions of the Committee within six months.
Whatever we feel about conscription, I think we all want to see once more a volunteer Army, both Territorial and Regular, and the sooner we see it the better it will be. I should like to follow the noble Lord in talking mainly, and briefly, on how to get volunteers, rather than of what to do with them when we have got them. There are so many kinds of war to-day—conventional war, limited war, cold war, global war, nuclear war and the war of nerves, and I think we can go on thinking of a few more. How we are going to divide properly our resources and the volunteers we get must be a decision for experts.
I agree that we must welcome the new rates of pay in the Army. That is a very good step forward, but of course it is riot anything like enough. I would welcome much larger publicity, too. I think that the pamphlet the noble Lord mentioned was entitled, Your Son and Me Army. One would assume it was addressed to the fathers, and it is rather silly to give it to the son when looking for a job. I know that young men do not like to read pamphlets, but older men sometimes have a little time in the 1210 evening to read them and might encourage their sons to join. But in the publicity field it is not enough to tackle the matter just in that way. The only point I wart to mention about the rates of pay is that they must be equal to the rates of pay in civilian life. Of coarse, that is now a fact always provided that we have stopped inflation, if that is not so, we are going to get demands for higher wages, some of which will have to be met, and once more the Forces will be out of step. I hope that we shall keep Forces' pay up to the standard of civilian pay, whatever it may be horn time to time.
There are two other things which I think will help the volunteer Army just as much as the new rates of pay, and they are the accommodation of the troops and some possibility of civilian occupation when they have to leave the Army. The barracks and married quarters are the Array's home. The obligation of men in the Army is to go 7rom place to place, and, as we know only too well, they are moved all over the world rapidly and with little notice. They are not comfortable everywhere they go, and I feel it is a most important thing that, wherever they are, they should have a certain amount of comfort. The twenty-year plan for accommodation is grossly inadequate. I realise that we come again to the question of inflation and of trying to cut down public expenditure, but this problem has been with us for a very long time and I feel that the accommodation of the Army must have priority be fore any other building, otherwise we shall: not get volunteers. The problem should, have been dealt with many years ago and. I think we can justly blame both major political Parties for not tackling it before. I would ask for a shortening of [his period of twenty years, whatever the cost, because in the long run it is going to save enormously and would be economically sound. I do not know whether any of your Lordships have visited the barracks at Woolwich or any of the other older barracks, but I think noble Lords should do so, because they would then see that these barracks are a disgrace to this country. Such places are the worst possible advertisement for anyone thinking of going into the Forces.
Then there is the question of civilian occupation when men have left the Army. A few, generally those who reach the highest rank, make the Army the whole 1211 of their lives until they retire; but many join at an early age and leave the Army, as the noble Viscount said, in their early or middle fifties, when the civilian is just reaching the peak of his career; and I think something should be done to help them. Surely, in a time of full employment such as we have now, there is something the Government could suggest to help them. For instance, I suggest that there is room for some of these people in the prison services, and there must be other ways in which they could be employed. It is not enough for the Government to say that these men get a pension when they leave the Army, and therefore the responsibility of the Government is ended. I do not think their responsibility is ended there, and I should like these people to have some education during their time in the Army for civilian employment when they leave. Then, I believe, we shall see a considerable number of volunteers. We may also get more volunteers if the young man knows that if he has children they will be properly educated. I do not think at the moment they can rely on that education when they are moving from place to place all the time.
I should now like to say a word or two about the National Service men. The first thing of which I am quite certain—and I have gone into this question fully—is that they have nothing like enough to do; and I believe that there is another committee dealing specifically with this point. I feel that, to a great extent, their use in bolstering up the Regular Army and forming a trained reserve is no longer required. We have four divisions in Germany, and we are proud of that fact —we, at least, have kept to our bargain. But would those four divisions be of any real use in a global nuclear war? Those matters will no doubt be debated and discussed by experts, particularly in this committee, but I would suggest that the use of the National Service man is no longer a paying proposition.
What we want is well-equipped, mobile, voluntary forces, of the kind of size usually known as a brigade group. But it is no good just training them in this country. The danger is that we shall do too much in this country and that, when the time comes, we shall not be able to get our troops to whatever part of the world they might have to go. Are 1212 we making the most of our Commonwealth? I always come back to this point, and I always shall. We have a Commonwealth with whom we have to work very closely in time of war. Cannot we work just as closely with them in time of peace? Before I leave the topic of the National Service man, I would appeal to the Government to do away with the time which they now have to spend with the Territorial Army, which is quite useless. It is not long enough; it is no good as a revision course for National Service men, or for them to get to know the Territorials, with whom, presumably, they would have to work if there were a war. It is for that reason very unpopular with what is left of the Territorial Army.
Now just a word about the Territorial Army, before I sit down. Every time we have a debate in your Lordships' House on this subject, and every time there is a debate on it in another place, the Territorial Army gets a nice pat on the back and is thanked for all it has done. But that is just about all it ever gets. I know that it was necessary to disband Anti-Aircraft Command, but it wag done in such a muddled way that it was months before anyone knew what his job was going to be—and quite a lot of them still do not know to-day. The only certainty we have is that we have two Territorial divisions for N.A.T.O. I do not entirely agree with the noble Viscount Lord Bridgeman, that things are better, so far as the Territorial Army is concerned; I would say that they are perhaps a little less obscure than they were a year or so ago.
So far as getting volunteers for the Territorial Army is concerned, again I do not think it is a question of the fun they are going to get out of it. A body of volunteers will always get fun, whatever their job is, if their heart is in it. Looking back in history, probably early day fighting was much more fun than that in the Middle Ages; and after that we found less and less fun, so far as fighting was concerned. Nevertheless, whatever a man does in the Territorial Army, if he is given a job to do he will get fun out of it. I well remember, before the last war, how many regiments were changed. Then it was changing from something I they had known for years into an antiaircraft regiment, which, before the last 1213 war, was the lowest thing that one could be turned into. But those of us who were so changed thoroughly enjoyed it, and maybe we did not do too bad a job when the war came. It is not a question of giving the men a poor job, or a job that does not look encouraging to do: it is a question of giving them a job at all, and of giving them something to tackle which will be of use to this country if there is another war. But if they are given a job, whatever it is, I am certain that the volunteers will be forthcoming.
In paragraph 125 of the White Paper it is stated that the defence of this country is going to he the job of the reservists, mainly as infantry. I remember being told in 1938 that we—that is, the City of London Regiment—were for the defence of the City of London. But we were in France in October, 1939. That does not matter, however; we are prepared for that. What I feel the Government should do—and I sincerely hope this Committee will tackle it—is to tell the Territorial Army exactly what its job is going to be. If it has to be changed in a year or two, because tactics change and everything else changes, very well; but give the Territorial Army a job, and let it get on with that job. Then we shall have that side of the voluntary Army as full as we want it. I would, finally, repeat my suggestion, that National Service men should be in the Territorial Army properly, or not at all.