§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I ought to apologise to your Lordships for doing this double act, and perhaps, in particular, for disappointing those of your Lordships who thought that I had finished when the House adjourned; but I shall not cause them discomfiture for long. In the White Paper on The Future Organisation of the Army it is pointed out that the new arrangement. of grouping the regiments by brigades is to be purely administrative and not in any sense operational; and the necessity for that, in so far as it affects the Regular Army, one can, of course, well see, because, as the noble and gallant Field-Marshal pointed out a few minutes ago, the three or four battalions constituted in a particular brigade may at a moment of necessity be situated anywhere on the face of the globe.
But though that may apply to the Regular Army, it does not apply to the Territorial Army, the units of which are, for the most part, static except at the time when mobilisation is taking place. I therefore venture to hope that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to preserve in being the Territorial brigades and divisions which are at present constituted upon a more or less geographical basis, even though it may be necessary to make some minor alterations in the layout. It would, I suggest, be a great pity to break up those existing formations when it is not easy to see any direct reason for so doing.
There is another question, an answer to which I do not expect even in my most hopeful mood this evening but to which I think we must have a reply before very long. It is a matter referred to by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman in the course of his speech, and although he gave reasons which I fully accept for the difficulty of precision in this particular matter, none the less, I think it is obligatory on the part of the Government to give at no very remote date some more specific indication of the role, in general terms, which it is intended that the Territorial Army should perform in the unhappy event of war. I realise that it would be difficult to give detail, and that 452 the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will not be able to do what one of your Lordships, in a moment of aberration in talking to me the other day, called "dot the t's and cross the q's" at this particular moment. But we have to remember this: that the abolition of the compulsory Reservist training for National Service men has inevitably caused a certain depletion in the ranks of the Territorial Army. It has, of course, the advantage now of having produced once more a body of a homogeneous nature.
But if we are to get suitable recruits to fill the vacancies, then I urge that it is only fair that they should know, in general terms at least, the kind of task which is going to be required of them in the event of hostilities. Are they to be civil defence? Are they to be home defence? Or are they to be a potential element in an expeditionary force? It may be that the answer is that they are to be two, or even three, of those things, but they ought to know, because they must feel that they are being given proper training for the sort of work which they are going to be asked to fulfil. Therefore I hope that that matter may be considered and answered before too long a time has gone, because I am quite sure that there is at the present moment uncertainty, and that that uncertainty retards recruiting and, at the same time, impairs efficiency.
The Territorial Army has one dominant need, and I regard this White Paper as some further evidence that the authorities in whose hands it lies to fulfil that need are taking at present a more imaginative and sympathetic view than has always been the case in the past. The Territorial Army's need is that it should not only be regarded, but should be seen to be regarded, as an integral and indispensable part of the Armed Forces of the Crown. During the war, the War Office, with its usual verbal felicity and inventiveness, coined the expression, "a prime mover" for a vehicle which was capable of moving under its own power and did not require any form of tractor to give it mobility. In my submission, the Territorial Army desires and deserves no more than this: that it shall be regarded as an intrinsic part of a prime mover, the Army as a whole, and not as a mere trailer to be towed along behind without power or direction of its own.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I welcome this debate this afternoon, and I am glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, put his Motion on the Order Paper. I feel that if the House had adjourned for the Long Recess without discussing the important Papers that are now come before us, we should have been doing far less than our duty. I am also certain that the Army, and a large number of people interested in the Army, will read with considerable interest the results of our deliberations.
We are now about half-way through the debate, or perhaps a little more, and we have had a number of interesting and constructive speeches. So far as I can recall, there has not been one case in which any noble Lord has attempted to raise points of detail which we feel should not have been raised. Such matters of details as have been raised have been well worth while. For my own part, I would say that the Government's plan, or the War Office plan, as a whole, having regard to the Government's intentions which the Army have to carry out, is as good as we could expect. There are one or two points that I should like to criticise later on, but, broadly speaking, I think we could not have expected a much better plan than they have evolved, having regard to the intentions of the Government.
Now what are these intentions? First, the testing of and the ability to deliver a nuclear deterrent; and, secondly, the provision of well-equipped forces, ready to play their part as elements of an international force, and in defence of British overseas territories and interests. To some extent, of course, although those two functions are complementary, they are also, as we have heard from many speakers to-day, competitive. My noble Leader, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has drawn attention to two very serious aspects of the Government's policy. But, accepting for a moment those two premises, and accepting that the nuclear deterrent has to be provided, I would ask the Government to set a ceiling to the amount that we are going to spend on the nuclear deterrent, and to provide a floor for the amount we are going to spend on what are called (rather, I think, to the dismay of the noble Viscount. Lord Bridgeman) the normal forces of this country.
454 In my view, there are three main reasons against what The Times calls jettisoning pretty well everything else in blind faith in the bomb. There are three main reasons against the policy that The Times has criticised in that way. The first main criticism of it, I would say, is that we may overstrain ourselves financially and go to the wall, as earlier empires have gone before, because we could not afford the military measures which we were taking. The second objection to the course of spending vast sums on the nuclear deterrent is that, in my view, it is a weakening element for people to think that somebody, or something, will defend them rather than they themselves. This again has led in the past, particularly in the case of Rome, to the collapse of great empires. It does not seem to me to matter whether the force you believe will come to your assistance, and upon which you can depend without doing anything yourselves, is a human or a mechanical force. The idea in people's minds that the "push-button" deterrent can, in fact, take the place of the normal forces, is one which I think we should discourage, because I am quite certain that, in the final resort, any country has to defend itself with all the forces at its disposal; and it cannot depend upon "push-button" methods.
The third objection, I would say, is that it is devastating to the morale of the Army to live in a period of such uncertainty as we are now going through, when officers, warrant officers, N.C.Os. and men do not know what is going to happen to them, and when they see large numbers of their comrades going out in the prime of life to civil life, having to abandon the careers that they have chosen. The fourth objection to it is because the policy may be fruitless anyway; and we may find that we have depended far too much on the nuclear deterrent and have not the normal forces to meet the dangers which may eventuate, particularly having regard to the fact that we form part of the N.A.T.O. resistance to aggression, and also that we have commitments in various parts of the world, which have to be met by the ordinary normal forces of the Crown—your Lordships will notice that throughout I have avoided using the word "conventional" which attracted the displeasure of the noble Viscount Lord Bridgeman.
455 I must say that the Government's judgment in this matter is of paramount importance. Here on these Benches, as in fact on the Back Benches opposite, we do not know all the facts and the factors which the Government have to take into consideration. That is why, to some extent, in defence debates, and in debates on the Army, Navy and Air Force Estimates, we are always at a disadvantage. The Government can always say, "Of course what you say is perfectly true, but you do not know all the facts," and for this reason we have to depend to a very large extent in these debates on the Government's judgment.
Quite frankly, however, I am not by any means satisfied with the Government's judgment. Over the last few years the Government's judgment does not seem to me to have been one upon which a reasonable man could rely with any certainty. Take, for example, Suez. It has become almost improper to mention the word in this country; but Suez. as we know, through no fault of the Armed Forces, was a deplorable incident in our history. Take the handling of the economic situation, about which we heard yesterday. That does not inspire any confidence in the Government's judgment. Over recent years there have been a series of problems which have been handled by the Government in what we regard as a doctrinaire fashion; they seem too often to have been blinded by prejudice. That. I think, is probably the reason why The Times to-day says that it hopes that defence expenditure will be determined by what is militarily necessary and not by what is politically expedient. The inference is that the Government are determining defence expenditure, as my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough said, not by what is militarily necessary but by what is politically expedient.
So I would ask the Government this question: whether they will try to restore confidence by giving an assurance to the Army that the present structure is likely to last, at least for some years to come. I think that is most important. I know the difficulties. I know that the Government may well say "We do not know what the future is going to bring." But you really cannot pull up the roots of the Army every few years and have a look at them; you must allow them to 456 develop and to create a fine and fruitful plant. You must encourage stability in the Army in that way.
As to the strength of the Forces, we are told that they are to be 375,000 by 1962, and that we are going to rely on voluntary enlistment. The War Office were good enough to give my noble friend Lord Pakenham, who in turn has been kind enough to hand it to me, a statement showing the Regular Army recruiting for the last eight years. I notice that over those years, starting in 1949, the annual total of recruiting for the Regular Army has been down as low as 14,000. That was in 1949. It was 43,340 in 1952—the highest year—and for the last four years, not counting this year, the figure was between 21,000 and 32,000. Unless there is to be an enormous spurt in recruitment, these figures do not give us any confidence that the voluntary system will provide the men we want. My noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough has already made that point. It is dangerous to rely upon the voluntary system if you have no belief that the voluntary system is going to provide the men you want.
What are the Government going to do if the voluntary system does not provide the necessary recruits? The noble Lord, Lord Templemore, in a very interesting maiden speech, speaking on behalf of the cavalry, said, possibly rightly, that it was very difficult in a period of full employment to obtain the numbers that we required by voluntary methods; and both he and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, asked whether the Government were prepared to take the necessary measures to encourage recruitment. Lord Bridgeman instanced a number of means by which he hoped that such recruitment could be obtained, as did the noble Viscount, Lord De L'Isle,
VISCOUNT DE LISLE
I do not want to ask a leading question. but I hope the noble Lord will tell us, before he finishes this part of his speech, whether he thinks the Government ought to have done away with National Service or not. It is important, I think, and I should like to know.
§ LORD OGMORE
I myself am doubtful about it—I am not speaking for my Party on this matter. To be candid, 457 I am doubtful. I am making no Party point on this, because I do not think we ought to make Party points on a matter of this kind. I think we ought not to fool ourselves about it. We ought not at this stage to go to the country and tell them that it is all right; that we can get quite enough people from voluntary recruitment and that we do not need National Service any more and shall never need it any more. Quite frankly, on the basis of facts, I cannot see how we are going to get the recruits by the voluntary system.
I was interested to hear what the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, said, and I nape that the Government will take notice of it. I sincerely hope that the Government will obtain the recruits that they need from the measures that he proposed. But if they do not—and the country had better know this now—who ever is in power, it will be necessary to have National Service again, either by selective call-up or otherwise. We must face that fact and make no bones about it. It may be necessary for a Labour Government to do it; they are no more able than anyone else to conjure "Private Atkinses" out of the air; so the country should be told now that that is a possibility. I may say that no one can hope more than I do, as an old volunteer, that the voluntary system will succeed. I will leave it at that.
As to the changes themselves, so far as they affect me personally and my own regiment, the Welch Regiment, and its sister regiments of Wales, I must say that we are very much relieved and are very glad that the Government have brigaded the three Welsh regiments of the line in the Welsh Brigade, and that they have not touched the Welsh Guards. We have only four battalions of infantry, so that if there had been any diminution in the numbers we should have felt it most unfortunate. To us, these regiments represent the ancient martial tradition of the Welsh, and in them we see enshrined the military virtues and the hardihood that have perpetuated the Welsh as a nation and enabled their soldiers for many centuries past to play a substantial part in Britain's wars. As I have said, we should have felt any diminution to be a serious blow to the national identity and pride which these regiments exemplify.
458 I should have thought that the idea of having a Welsh Brigade, a Highland Brigade, a Lowland Brigade, and a North Irish Brigade, was a very good one. I like the flavour those Brigades connote, and I do not altogether agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Wilson, on that point. The sole criticism of the method of the Government that I have to offer is with regard to the bands. It might be thought by those who have not served in the infantry that this is a small point, but in fact it is a very big point to the infantry.
Under the present system there NI, ill be one regimental band for each brigade depôt, and two, or in some cases three, bands will have to go. This, to the Welsh regiments, is particularly unfortunate. I need hardly remind your Lordships that the Welsh are a very musical nation. To us, music is not just "noises off"; it is part of our existence. We feel that to be deprived of our bands is a hard blow. In the case of the Welsh Brigade only sixty men are involved. I would say that bandsmen, as such, are not necessarily likely to be re-enlisted as soldiers of other types. A bandsman is a bandsman, and nothing else. If he is not a musician in the Army, he will probably go and be a musician somewhere else.
These bands, moreover, give colour to the regiments. They are an aid to recruiting, and as the regiments are so often abroad in foreign stations, they serve as a link with the civilian population. The bands play in the centre of the town; they play at fêtes and so on; they are a way in which the regiment can help the civilian population, whether at home or abroad, to enjoy itself, and they can make a contribution to the life of the locality. That fact cannot be over-stressed, because it is an important point. The drum and bugle bands do not suffice for this purpose. As the three regiments of the brigade—four in some brigades—will be scattered, what is to happen to the bands? One can just imagine the case where one regiment is in Cyprus, another in Hong-kong, a third in Germany, and the fourth (if there is a fourth) in Kenya. What is the band—a sort of peripatetic musical force which journeys round the world? What sort of saving would there be in moving bands of thirty players round the world by air to serve the various 459 regiments? There would be no saving in that.
Whilst I appreciate the suggestion made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Wilson, I myself cannot feel that it would be any answer to increase the band by a third, because there would still be the same problem of transporting the bands around the world. I remember that, before the war and during the war, Regular Artillery officers (in those days they used to subscribe to the band) used to complain that they had been in India ten or fifteen years and had never heard their band play. They said they had paid all those years, but had never heard the band play once since they left the "shop". That is the sort of problem that will arise, accentuated when there are regiments of different origins. So I cannot believe that the whole scheme will fall down, or even have to be adjusted, to allow for a few regimental bands. I believe that the total number of men involved is about 900. I cannot really believe that the Government, spending these enormous sums, can truthfully say, "We cannot make a saving anywhere else and we must do without bands. If we have bands, another couple of infantry battalions must go." I cannot believe that it is impossible to effect a saving in some other direction for this important purpose with regard to the infantry.
My Lords, I should like, in conclusion, to say one word about the Territorial Army, upon which the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, has spoken so eloquently. I entirely support him in his desire for a statement at an early date on the rôle of the Territorial Army. I think it is most important. They must know exactly what is expected of them, and it is too bad to keep them hanging about, as it were. I have heard it said in Wales, in my part of the country, that they believe the Royal Air Force made a very great mistake in doing away with the auxiliary air squadrons. They feel that this was due to an inability on the part of the Royal Air Force to appreciate properly the sort of service the Royal Auxiliary Air Force was able to provide in the links forged by the Auxiliary Force with the local population. I am glad that the War Office have not fallen into that trap, and I am glad that the Territorial Army 460 remains and is to be maintained as an integral part of the Army.
My own division, the 53rd Division, is one of the two referred to in the White Paper. It is now one of those which is assigned to the aid of N.A.T.O., and we see that we are to fall back and form part of the general Territorial Army, with the rôle of the Territorial Army, whatever it may be, as a whole. My own battalion, the 6th Battalion, Welch Regiment, I am glad to say, has been restored as an infantry battalion after many years; so it does look as if the War Office and the Ministry of Defence are fully aware of the great importance of the Territorial infantry.
I hope that in the era we are now coming into the War Office will realise that the Territorial Army on a voluntary basis is quite different from one in which large numbers of men are there because they are National Servicemen and who may, indeed, be rather reluctant soldiers. These are volunteers; and we who are old members of the Territorial Army, who served in it when it was a Territorial force, know that you cannot treat volunteers in the same way as National Servicemen. They are there because they want to be there, and, as we all know, the spirit is a remarkably fine one. But it does mean that orders and regulations, and so on, issued from on high are sometimes to be tempered with common sense; and it also means that the War Office must at all times realise they have, or soon will have, a fully volunteer force. For instance, the question of selection of annual training sites is a most important one. In the old days we always, if possible, had the annual camps somewhere near the seaside for obvious reasons. That sort of consideration will come up in the future with regard to the Territorial Army.
All of us on this side, I am sure, would wish to join in wishing the Army, whether Regular or Territorial, the greatest success in its new rôle. We are sympathetic with those regiments that have been amalgamated, but we are quite sure that the spirit of the British Army will be as fine in the future as it has always been in the past.
§ 6.18 p.m.
My Lords, I wish that I could rise and give unqualified support to the noble Lord who will be 461 replying to the debate, and to his right honourable friend, on the new skeleton framework, outlined in the three White Papers, of the new Army that we are to see in the future. On listening to your Lordships' debate, initiated by my noble and gallant friend Lord Bridgeman, I cannot help feeling that many of us will have still more doubts than we had on reading through carefully these three White Papers. I address your Lordships only because I suppose of your Lordships I am of the nearest age to the sort of man that the noble Lord will be asking to join this new force.
I am perfectly willing to agree that this skeleton framework has not been brought out of the cupboard in Whitehall by the noble Lord's right honourable friend, although other gallant and noble Lords have suggested that this might be so. I am willing to believe it is a new framework designed to meet the situation as it is to-day, in the time of the megaton bomb. But I wonder whether this new framework will really meet these demands. I feel that the framework has been designed—and we should congratulate the noble Lord's right honourable friend on the sympathy with which he has designed it—but the body which is going to be hung upon this frame is a new and streamlined body. That streamlining of the body consists mainly of asking men who have been dedicated to the service of Her Majesty's Forces for many years to retire voluntarily.
That body consists now of something like 373,000 troops—that is, officers and men of all categories. The streamlining will mean asking a proportion of these men to resign. Some may not wish to resign. On the other hand, I think we can fairly agree that they are being compensated as fairly and as humanely as possible in these times. I fear that there may be many—and especially in the more senior N.C.O. category of men in the Regular Forces—who would be only too pleased to resign, and the noble Lord's right honourable friend may be faced with a flood of resignations from first-class senior and junior N.C.O.s who, in the future, in only three years' time, will be needed to be the backbone of Her Majesty's Army.
Out of that 373,000 total of all ranks, we are told, in paragraph 51 of the Defence White Paper, that 164,000 men 462 are Regulars of all categories. But, looking at the very next paragraph, we see that, out of that total, only 80,000—that is, rather under half—are serving for more than three years. That is a very small percentage of what the Army calls a real Regular soldier, the sort of man who would be required in the near future to be the body on this skeleton framework to which I have referred.
Furthermore, on page 14 of the Estimates, paragraph 90, we see that the Army received its share of National Service men to the extent of 111,000. That was in 1956–57. Next year there will not be another 111,000, nor in the year after; it is finished. In two and a half years' time, something in the region of 300,000 men must be lost, if my mathematics are correct. I agree that some will probably have signed on this year, but, I fancy, not very many. In three years' time there will be a severe shortage of the right type of young man who has gone in compulsorily through National Service. Referring to paragraph 43, page 6, of the Defence White Paper, I agree that we shall have a big saving in first-rate men who are being used to train these National Service men. In all three Services, it is said that there are 150,000 men so engaged, presumably as instructors and in all the ancillary departments that are involved with National Service training.
Could we say that, possibly as far as the Army is concerned, 70,000 men may be saved? I believe that, when this saving has been made, it will be essential that regiments, many of which have seconded those men at great sacrifice to themselves, should be able to receive them back again to their own units. I hope that some appreciation can be made of the almost back-breaking, heartrending service that these men give in the training of National Service men; and possibly, when that time comes, after phase one of the run-down, the noble Lord or his right honourable friend will be able to make an appreciation of the efforts that have been made by officers and N.C.O.s in units to make this National Service programme possible and as popular as it has been in times of peace.
Those 70,000 men, approximately, will be available for the "teeth" arms. We 463 sincerely hope that this skeleton framework and the streamlined body put upon it will make an effective percentage increase in "teeth" arms, as opposed to the service and supply arms, which are, of course, essential in their own way. But, going straight back to recruiting and after hearing what noble Lords have said, and especially the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Jeffreys, and the noble Lord, Lord Templemore, in his excellent maiden speech, I cannot believe that some of these initial plans for this skeleton framework will help recruiting. I cannot believe that to use the knife or the axe on units which are already going concerns and have been made so by the care and the trouble of their officers and men and by the spirit and the traditions which have been built up in their counties or in their unit towns is the right way in which to go about increasing recruiting.
I beg to refer your Lordships, without wishing to weary you, to what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Jeffreys, said with regard to the battalions of Guards in London. It is impossible to get recruits for a fine unit, even so fine as Her Majesty's Brigade of Guards, if you are going to make those men stand on guard duty week in and week out. If that should be done, as I believe it inevitably will should these cuts take effect forthwith, it must have a bad effect upon the recruiting rates of even Her Majesty's Brigade of Guards, and we shall see a run-down in those battalions which will make the position in three years' time even worse than it is to-day. As regards the new brigade set-up for the infantry regiments of the line, I should like to welcome that, as I know noble Lords would like to; but would it be really effective in a recruiting drive when we need new members in these brigades? The regiments are there, the regiments have their traditions, and most, in fact, if not all, of those regiments will be so brigaded and will, under their own auspices, be able to obtain their own recruits. I cannot believe that the simple replacing of a cap badge with a brigade cap badge will bring in any new recruits.
It may seem at this late hour not important to talk about cap badges, but, for the soldier, there is absolutely no doubt that if you remove or in any way tamper with his cap badge, there is trouble. It happens when troops are 464 posted from one regiment to another, as indeed used to happen during the war. There was always trouble over the man's cap badge. I think that the idea of changing to a brigade cap badge—unless there is anything to the contrary in what the noble Lord who is to reply will say—should be reconsidered if possible, by the noble Lord's right honourable friend. It is a fact that to-day regiments which have the greatest traditions and about which we have heard this afternoon, are the regiments that are full of recruits. Those are the regiments that will go on being filled with recruits. Should the roles in these new times be varied or changed. I believe that a regiment which is a good regiment can forthwith change its role, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Templemore, and I think it could probably be carried on right through the Service. After all, there are new techniques required all the time and a good regiment will be able to find men who can take on these new techniques that are required.
If these new recruits are to be obtained—and they should be needed very soon indeed; I fancy in a shorter time than most people would think—something must be done to encourage recruiting. I have said that I do not believe that changing the cap badge will help recuiting. Men want a smart uniform—we have heard that referred to to-day. All in all, the battledress is probably the best dress for working and for military duties. The No. 1 dress is a new dress for Her Majesty's Forces. There are many doubts about this No. 1 dress. When we saw it for the first time at the Coronation it looked, from a distance, a smart uniform and it had smart equipment to go with it. But will it really stand up to the test of military duty? The No. 1 dress is supposed to be a ceremonial dress, and is also to be used for smart occasions whilst a man is in barracks and when walking out. I doubt whether the quality or the cut of that dress will in fact stand up to hard ceremonial wear, and I hope that Lord Mancroft's right honourable friend will be able to give an assurance that the No. 1 dress will be of the best possible quality that can be obtained.
I should also like an assurance that it is going to be issued in much greater quantity than it is so far. The noble and 465 gallant Field-Marshal has suggested that men may be able to buy their own No. 1 dress or equipment, as indeed happens to-day, especially in the Territorial Army. For £14 it is possible to buy a tailor-made No. 1 dress—anti a very smart dress it is. It should be possible, when this No. 1 dress is issued, for men to be able to buy their own private walking-out dress at possibly a cheaper price; and one can foresee that a colonel of a regiment would be able to authorise certain differences, certain regimental monograms and so forth, as part of that No. 1 dress.
One thing that a soldier really likes when walking out is to be different from the other soldiers, for whom he has words that many of your Lordships know only too well. Even with a battledress one can do the most extraordinary things with an iron, a certain amount of weights and so forth, and blanco and toothpaste, in order to make it entirely different from that of the next-door man; and when a whole unit does that, it makes an esprit de corps for some extraordinary reason which should not lightly be put aside.
Attraction No. 3 for recruiting is, I believe, sport. Whatever else happens. I am certain that the noble Lord's right honourable friend must see that it is possible for all ranks to carry on sport of all sorts. One of the things that the young man who is wanted in the Forces wishes to do is to ride a motor bicycle too fast. Sooner or later he will be in trouble—in fact, it is usually sooner—with Her Majesty's police force. These young men must have a chance to ride motor bicycles, to drive racing cars, it may be, to play cricket and football and to swim. Anything in competitive sport should be encouraged to get the right type of recruit. As your Lordships see in the Sunday newspapers every week, it is difficult to get into a high-class professional football team. At any rate, it should be made extremely easy to get into a first-rate international Army football team. That would be a big draw to the right type of recruit, and I hope that everything possible will be done in order to foster sport. I know that there are Army societies of all sorts which foster sport, but there is still plenty that could be done to be of assistance, so that, 466 especially, international sports can be competed in.
Next, we have heard about barracks and barrack conditions. Those are being improved, and we must congratulate the noble Lord's right honourable friend for the improvements that have been made. I have seen some of the Tidworth and Aldershot barracks that have been newly constructed and they are magnificent. The Army want more, and more must be done to refurbish and replace the old London barracks if troops are to be kept here. According to the Army Estimates, twenty-two sites are under construction and fifteen new sites are being embarked upon between 1957 and 1958. Would it not be possible to raise that number to twenty? That would make a further and a concrete start towards helping to obtain the new recruits that we wish for.
My Lords, possibly the most difficult problem for the Army to-day—or, from the officers' point of view, to satisfy men to-day—is the problem of food. It is becoming more and more difficult to recruit suitable and competent staff to deal with food in bulk in Army units, and to compete with the sort of food that to-day "Mum" is able to produce with her gas stove. I think it is almost impossible for the average, well-trained maybe, Catering Corps sergeant and his assistants—who, after all, are probably largely fatigue men of one sort or another—to provide the sort of food that is required. Some units can do it, others cannot. Those responsible, if only in a small way and for a small amount of food in a unit, are getting headaches galore. I believe that the Women's Royal Army Corps will be able to provide a big help in that direction, and that within that Corps there should be specialised units—cookhouse units which could be merged into a particular unit. That system worked magnificently with the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the war and, by and large, the quality of a cookhouse which was run by a good A.T.S. sergeant-major was much higher than the quality of a cookhouse run by one ordinary Catering Corps sergeant-major, if one was lucky enough even to have one.
I can see no reason, in these times, why the Women's Corps should not be completely integrated within the Regular Army. If any of your Lordships doubt 467 that that can be done, it is well worth referring to the exploits of the Israeli Army in their Forty-four hours to Suez, the book which has recently been published. I understand, if that book is correct, that practically all the services—the feeding service especially—were run with great success in the most difficult circumstances by Israeli women volunteers. Something will have to be done, and I hope that the noble Lord's right honourable friend will be able to show how feeding can be brought up to the standard that the modern recruit and the good type of recruit expects at home. It is difficult enough in an hotel. How much more difficult is it in an Army cookhouse!
We have referred to bands; but I think it would be worth remembering that the Russians pay the greatest attention to bands in their forces. Although their music may be somewhat different from what one is accustomed to hear from a regimental band in this country, I understand that their bands still go into action with their hordes of infantry, and they create quite a fervour the night before their attack. I have had this information from members of the Gloucestershire Regiment—of course, that referred to Chinese troops trained on Russian methods. They make practically a religious fervour of the music that is played by their bands. I cannot help thinking that it would be a great mistake in any way to cut down the good feeling and the sense of esprit de corps which, without doubt, is created by having a regimental band; and if in this brigade group any colonel is able to find young men to raise a band, then he should be given every encouragement and opportunity and grant so to do.
My final point on recruiting is about publicity. It is not good enough nowadays for Army recruiting staff to go round to the police stations and pin posters upon the wall. We need much more publicity than that. There must be a highly skilled and trained staff of men going into the schools, which obviously will be the first place for recruiting, and into the factories—in fact, anywhere where there are young people gathered together who would come forward to join Her Majesty's Forces. One of the most obvious ways of recruiting is on television, and the Forces must take time on the 468 Independent Television and, if possible, on the B.B.C. to "put over" recruiting. There is no doubt that television is having the biggest effect on careers, on knowledge and on the learning on all kinds of young people in this country; but, so far as I know, little has been done to show Army or Service films on television, except as news films.
Films of our Forces in action are the kind which have the greatest interest to young people in the country to-day, and I hope that every possible effort will be made to publicise the new life that will be available to young people in Her Majesty's Army; for, after all, there will be a growing number of young people leaving school—more than ever before—who will have to ask themselves or their parents: "What am I going to do now?" I believe that a great many young people will decide, particularly when industrial work becomes more competitive and repetitive—frankly, boring—that the Army will be the life for them. That idea only wants "putting over" to them. There will be the Territorial Army to compete with, but I believe that Her Majesty's Regular Forces should be well able to compete in the manpower market.
If the noble Lord's right honourable friend can give some assurance on these six points, which I do not think would be too expensive to the taxpayer, or, at least, not so onerous that they cannot be met, I believe a very big fillip will be given to recruiting in the near future. But if these things are not done, I cannot but conceive that there will be a serious run-down, hastened by the weakening of the regimental tradition. I cannot but see that happening, if the policy on the lines propounded by the noble Lord's right honourable friend is really carried out. I beg him to reconsider some of the proposals he has put forward.
§ 6.43 p.m.
LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL
My Lords, like many of your Lordships, I should like to express my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Bridgeman for putting down this Motion so soon after the publication of these two most important White Papers. I would begin by expressing a point of view slightly different from that of my noble friend Lord Jeffreys, with deference to his long experience. I believe that we in the Brigade of Guards are prepared, 469 when it is really necessary, to take our share in the difficulties of the rest of the Army. Nobody enjoys losing battalions, and I entirely agree with my noble friend that the loss of these two battalions will make the problems of the public duties of the Brigade of Guards much more difficult; but I am quite certain that the Brigade is sufficiently resilient to meet the situation and that, with careful rearrangement of the stationing of battalions—which obviously will have to take place—the results will not be so serious as has been foretold.
A great deal has been said in this debate about the difficulties and problems of these amalgamations, but little has been said on the spirit of determination, which I know exists in a large number of units, to make them work. In this connection I should like, if your Lordships will allow me, to quote from a letter which some of your Lordships may not have seen, as I believe it was published only in Scottish papers. It is from the Colonel of the Seaforth Highlanders and the Colonel of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, and says:It would be an admission of failure of our two regiments, with our great records, if we cannot produce between us an even better regiment in the end; and we are, therefore, determined that a union between us can, and will, be made a truly happy 'marriage'.I am sure that that statement expresses the feelings of a large number of the regiments which will be affected, and of those in them, from the colonels to those serving in the ranks.
One section of the Army has not been mentioned at all in this debate, yet by their nature they are going to suffer very severe cuts as a result of the amalgamations—I refer to the administrative service. They will also have a problem in re-adapting themselves to a much smaller framework and, in many cases, working in much more closely with a larger number of civilians—which obviously will not make things easier for them. But I am quite certain that the difficulties will be overcome. On the question of compensation, there is nothing that I want to say, except that I entirely agree with what other noble Lords have said; that the proposals are fair to the three categories of people mentioned in the third paragraph of the White Paper.
470 However fair this compensation may he, it is not a substitute for finding employment for the officers and other ranks who will have to leave the Service. I know that my noble friend who is going to reply has been in close touch with the Ministry of Labour, and that a scheme is now being worked out for the solution of this problem and that the Regular Forces Resettlement Service has been set up under the chairmanship of Sir Frederic Hooper. A most satisfactory aspect of it is that I understand he is quite convinced that one of his most important tasks will be the canvassing of industry to make sure employers realise the quality of the people whom the Army will be able to supply.
The problems of the employment of officers and of other ranks are quite different. The record of other ranks employment is good, and almost all are absorbed into industry quite soon after they leave the service. But the full employment of all these extra men who will be coming out cannot be taken for granted, for there is a tendency for the pensioners to have a better record of quick employment than the younger men. Here the attitude of the Trades Union. Congress will be extremely important. I know that in the past they have done a great deal and have come a long way towards accepting the Army standards of craftsmanship as qualifying with their own standards; but more than now exists is needed to make sure that the retired other rank gets the full advantage of his skill in his trade.
The figure which I now give is quoted only from a newspaper. and I stand subject to correction, but I believe that in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers some 23,000 men will become redundant. A very large number of these men will be craftsmen—not craftsmen just in the Army sense of that word, as denoting junior rank, but actual craftsmen in various forms of engineering. I think it would be an excellent thing if the local branches of the National Association for the Employment of Ex-Regular Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen were helped to get into the closest touch with branches and lodges of trade unions in their areas to make sure that these men were taken into industry—where there are certainly vacancies—at the level for which they are qualified by their craftsmanship.
471 For the officers, the problem will be more difficult, because the majority of officers who will be leaving have not craft skills of that type. There was an article in the Economist on the 13th of this month which I think was fair, but too optimistic in its assessment of the employment prospects. It did not take full enough account of the impact on the market of the large number of officers who will be coming out. I am extremely glad. as I mentioned before, that the Ministry of Labour have already started dealing with this problem. I am sure that my noble friends will not mind if I put forward one or two points which I think are of great importance in this connection. The most important thing is to make certain that the officer does go into a job for which he is fitted—I do not mean merely that he should not go straight out and start a chicken farm, but that in going into industry itself he should select something which he can do.
I believe that advice boards are already being set up, composed (at least, I think they should be composed) partly of representatives of industry and partly of Service people. People from industry should certainly be on these boards, and I think it is important to have a number of people who realise the experience and the probable knowledge of the officer himself, so that they understand the background of his problem. And they must realise that it will be a slow business. It means interviewing each officer individually, and working through with him the various possibilities of employment, cutting them down gradually until finally coming to one type, or possibly two types, of job which he could probably do. These boards, I think, should exist overseas as well as at home, so as to give the overseas officer as good a chance as possible of finding a job on his return. This stage must then be followed up by a course of instruction into one or other of a group of industries—heavy and light engineering, insurance and such like—to give these officers a knowledge of the job they are going to do. These courses, I understand, are not difficult to start. I am told that the Polytechnic, in Regent Street, is already running one, at the request of the Officers' Association, for senior officers, going up, I understand, to the rank of Admiral, and it is proving a great success.
472 There is yet another possible opening for the employment of officers, and that is in the teaching profession. As your Lordships are well aware, there is a great shortage of teachers, especially teachers of mathematics. A number of officers will be coming out of the Royal Engineers who hold science degrees. These men are graduates and, speaking from what I know of the method in Scotland, I would say that there is no reason at all why they should not go to one of the teachers' training colleges and into teaching. They are graduates; and therefore there is no reason at all why the profession should fear any dilution or any lowering of its standards. They are as highly qualified as any other graduate going into the teaching profession. If these schemes are worked out fully and sympathetically, I think it will do an enormous amount to help these officers to find satisfactory employment.
Recruiting has been mentioned several times, but there is one aspect which has not, I think, been mentioned in this debate so far. I mentioned it myself on another occasion, but on rather a different line from what I am going to say now—I refer to the question of pay. The pay of the Army is always difficult to assess as compared with pay in industry. There is no doubt, as your Lordships know, that when young men get together they start comparing the size of their wage packets. And it is what is actually inside the wage packet that counts. if the soldier thinks for an instant that a great deal of his pay is in free housing, free food and free clothing, that does not increase the size of the pay packet in his eyes. Whether it would ever be possible to make the two packets—those of the soldier and of the civilian—look the same, I do not know. Obviously, there would have to be some sort of arrangement, because equal pay packets, with half the necessities of life provided free in one case, would not be a practical proposition.
Another incentive to recruiting, I am certain, is bound up with the question of amenities in the barracks. That, I know, is a matter which is going to be mentioned by at least one other noble Lord, so I will say no more about it now. But there is one aspect of it about which I am not entirely happy. In the Memorandum on the Army Estimates, paragraph 34, there is mention of the possible 473 stationing of Forces in East Africa. Although I know nothing at all of the plans, I have seen in the newspapers some talk of Mackinnon Road. Now Mackinnon Road, though it is undoubtedly very suitable as a stores depôt, is not, in my opinion, a suitable place to station troops. It is in a completely waterless area. There is a piped water supply, and I believe that that has now been made more satisfactory than it was. But there is no possible kind of outside amusement for the families of troops; and if you are going to keep soldiers on the long-service engagement, you must realise that their families are an extremely important factor.
As I say, I do not know what the plans are, but I would suggest that the vicinity of Nairobi would be a much better place in which to station troops. I know that area; I have worked out training schemes and found training areas there, and it is extremely good. I do not think that the question of distance would be so important. If Nairobi is at too great an altitude for troop carriers to land, perhaps it would be possible for the airlift to be organised to put down troops at sea level at Mombasa.
One final aspect of the recruitment of officers which came to my notice the other clay is that boys are despondent at the shape in which they see the Army now. I should like to say in the strongest terms I can, that. I think this attitude is absolutely wrong. The Army is not going to become a few dozen i "push button" experts. The Army s going en, and there will be just as good prospects—in fact, I would say that at the moment there are better prospects of a satisfactory career than there have been for a very long time for an ambitious young man—and not necessarily such an ambitious young man. I think that it would be of great help if this reorganisation were reinforced by some statement from the Government doing away with this idea that these cuts are merely the beginning of further cuts. The Army has been re-shaped and the Army is going to retain that shape for some considerable time to come.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, let me assure your Lordships that my contribution will be brief and will deal with one point only. Before I deal 474 with that one point, I should like to remind your Lordships that two or three weeks ago we had a debate on the Air Estimates, in which noble Lords forecast, some with optimism and some with pessimism, the terms of compensation for redundancy. Let me say at once that I feel that, by and large, those terms are fair and just.
The one point I wish to deal with concerns the amalgamation of two regiments. I believe that the general overall plan for the reduction of the infantry of the line is sound, and it has been labelled as such by your Lordships, endorsed by the Press and the public, and, most important of all, as we have read from outside and heard from several noble Lords to-day, it has been accepted in the proper spirit by the units affected. My noble friend Lord Nathan, dealing with the position of critics, said that the critics were those who lived in the past; that it was the young who had the future and they took no exception to the amalgamation proposals. That was a bold point. Applying the noble Lord's views to the future, I would ask Her Majesty's Government for reconsideration of one amalgamation: that of the Royal Scots Fusiliers and the Highland Light Infantry, which has been described widely in the Press as illogical, inexplicable and unworkable. Let us look for a moment at that descripton.
I think that the description "illogical" is justified on examination. In all other amalgamation proposals, except one, there is a common territorial boundary, and in all of them, including the one I have spoken about, there is some local affinity between the two areas. In this amalgamation there is no common factor at all to be found except, as has been said, in the brass button. On one side of the Clyde there are the Highlanders and on the other side the Lowlanders of Galloway; there is Glasgow and Galloway, town and country. The Highland Light Infantry are surrounded on three sides by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and on the fourth side by the Cameronians. The Royal Scots Fusiliers are surrounded by the Argylls to the north and west, by the Cameronians to the East, and by the King's Own Scottish Borderers to the South. Then there is a question of dress. One regiment has the kilt and the other has the trews. What 475 complication is there to be if both exercise a self-denying ordinance—
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I withdraw that at once, if that is so. So there is no conflict on the nether garments. It is about the only place where there is no conflict in this proposed amalgamation. The Colonels are convinced that this arrangement will not make a happy marriage. Taking Lord Nathan's point again, and looking at the future, I should say that the recruitment of officers is going to suffer. Young men are not going to go into this one amalgamated regiment; they will choose to go into the Argyll's, the Black Watch, or the K.O.S.B., according to their locality. For the future, while the Government are so intensely anxious, and rightly anxious, that we should recruit sufficient long-term service men, we are deliberately prejudicing the prospects in this one amalgamation.
There are three alternative possibilities. The first would be for the Royal Scots Fusiliers to be amalgamated with the Scottish Rifles. They have a common boundary, they are both Lowland regiments and they have much the same seniority. The second would be for the Highland Light Infantry to be amalgamated with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders almost surround the H.L.I., for the Argyll and Sutherland's territory includes Renfrewshire, Dumbartonshire, and Stirlingshire. In fact the H.L.I. are a small enclave in Argyll territory. The Army Council, however, have already committed themselves by telling the Cameronians and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders that they are not to be amalgamated, and I doubt whether the Army Council would go back on their word—indeed, it would be difficult for them to do so, however desirable the course I have deployed might be.
If that is so, there remains only the third course—that would be, to allow the regiments to remain as they are and 476 accept the fact that there should be sixty-one battalions instead of sixty. I do not know what the solution is, but I do know that this is one blot on an otherwise good general scheme. I know that to-morrow the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, and the Secretary of State for War are to receive a deputation of Members of another place. Could I say this to the Minister? It is always a temptation for Ministers and Service chiefs who have architected a big and finely designed scheme to feel that that scheme must not be altered: to feel a sort of personal pride in it, and that it must be forced through in the shape in which it has been submitted and made public. It is only natural for all of us to be a bit stubborn sometimes, and a little what is called "tough" when schemes which we have proposed are criticised and great pressure is 'brought to bear to have them altered. But I know that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State for Air are efficient and big men. It is not toughness and stubbornness that makes them big men; it is gentleness and consideration of the other point of view, and an endeavour always to meet, where possible, the other point of view. Though I do not expect the Minister to-night to be able to make any declaration on this question, I think it is not unreasonable to ask him to say that the door is not closed and that the Ministers who have architected this great deployment of our military forces are, in their wisdom and with their breadth of vision and character, willing to consider the modification, where necessary, without any loss of pride but only gain for the efficiency of the whole of their plans.
§ 7.12 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I should like to speak briefly on one or two aspects of this new policy, which in the main I support fully and cordially. It seems to me that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has undertaken a greater task than was embodied in either the Cardwell or the Haldane Reports. He has been required to reduce, quite arbitrarily, one part of the Army, that is to say, officers, warrant officers and N.C.O's., while increasing another part, the Regular other ranks. He has been required, in fact, to carry out two tasks pulling against each other. In taking on that organisational paradox 477 without resort to half-measures or timid compromise, I feel that those responsible have done well, by the Army and by the country. I still feel that the success hinges, as many noble Lords have said, upon recruitment, and of course my right honourable friend is more conscious of that than anyone. He made a point of it in the interview he had some nights ago, when he replied to the professional despondency of his questioners quoting recent recruiting figures, by pointing out the uncertainty in the Army in the past few months as to its future. I am sure that he was justified in making that point. But also submit that there is not much to inspire actual buoyancy at the moment, and that recruiting remains the major challenge.
I am one of those who believe that the brigade cap badge will adversely affect recruiting. I appreciate the Government's desire to widen regimental loyalty into brigade loyalty, and the logic behind that desire. But I very much doubt if it can harmonise with their other declared desire of maintaining regimental traditions; in fact, I think it is almost bound to work counter. I spoke the other night to officers of an infantry depôt near my home in Yorkshire, who have had a most succesful record of late in recruiting in Sheffield. They were quite unanimous in their opinion that this new measure would harm the recruiting effectiveness of the Army generally in our part of England.
I have a point of detail, and I hope it is permissible. Moreover, I do not know if there is any Rule of Order which protects your Lordships from hearing four cavalry officers in one evening. I take a slightly different view from that taken by my noble friend Lord Templemore on the question of amalgamation. We have heard a great deal to-day about the matrimonial problems of regiments. My belief is that the marriage between the 4th and 8th Hussars is certain to be a happy one. My own anxiety refers only to nomenclature. The 8th Hussars will be the last Irish cavalry regiment to be amalgamated and I hope sincerely that the Irish connection can be maintained. Among other things, it appeals, and can go on appealing, to the Roman Catholics in Southern Ireland, who join this regiment in large numbers. I think I must declare an interest—-possibly two interests—in that I am an 8th Hussar and also, as a devout 478 Anglican, I have the greatest respect for the fighting qualities of Roman Catholics.
Noble Lords have spoken about uniform, and all I want to do is to support their views as strongly as I can. It is important to restore (and I use the word "restore" advisedly) the feeling in the Army of being an elite element of the nation. But the real recruiting draw will be exerted by Service conditions. I want to add only one thing to what has already been said in great detail and with great pungency by my noble and gallant friend Lord De L'Isle. I have one proposal to submit that I do not think has been put up before.
The life and health of a unit are built to a considerable degree round its messing; and the morale of a unit is often directly linked to the standard of messing—and I mean the messing in the officers' mess, sergeants' mess, corporals' mess, and most importantly, the men's mess. I should like to see instituted a grant for messing, issued to commanding officers, fully accountable, but destined to reinforce the totally inadequate P.R.I. funds which, at the moment, have to be raised by the unit itself. In this I would again lay emphasis on the men's messing. In my military experience, and from visiting units since I was a serving soldier, I have been struck by the extraordinary differences in messing between one unit and another. Recently, in Rhine Army in Germany I saw one unit which had merely a noisy, bare N.A.A.F.I. and another which had a sort of a club, run by the W.V.S., where there was a gramaphone, carpets and armchairs, places to write letters and even an "Interflora" system open to the troops. The difference in comfort was extraordinary. I am sure your Lordships will be in agreement when I say that it is wrong that there should be "haves" and "have-nots" as between units in our own Army, serving in the same sort of theatre. I should like to see this plan considered, because I feel that it has practical and useful possibilities.
There is one other aspect affecting recruiting. It is not mentioned in the White Paper, and it is, in fact, outside the sphere of my right honourable friend, but I believe it has great bearing on recruiting and I mention it briefly without any particular apology. Such work as I have done with the British Legion in 479 recent years has made me conscious of the limitations imposed by law on the natural sympathy of local pensions officers towards old soldiers down on their luck or suffering misfortune which is traceable, but not always actually provable. to war service. There is an impression—these are hard words. I know—dating back many years that this nation has no time for its old soldiers once they cease to be battleworthy. Since young men will not go into the Forces if they have evidence in their family, or even in their street, of callous treatment of friends or relatives after service, I feel that this point is of the greatest importance. I can think of no heavier drag on the recruiting effort now required.
There is one paragraph of the Defence White Paper, paragraph 44, which I feel positive will bring the greatest encouragement to units in every branch of the Army. That is the paragraph which deals with the increased employment of civilian labour. I have always been quite flabbergasted to read in the Press of units which have to find or invent work for the troops to do. It comes under the generic name of, I understand, "bull" It is a name which I never heard in my own Service, fortunately—perhaps because I was serving in efficient units. My only experience is a wide memory of commanding officers, squadron leaders and company commanders, frustrated beyond self-expression by the impossibility of training their whole unit at the same time, due to unavoidable extraneous duties such as cooking, coal-heaving and barrack repairs, and odd jobs of a hundred different kinds. I myself believe that all barrack maintenance, as opposed to military maintenance, should be placed in the hands of civilians. It would be done more efficiently; it would relieve the troops for full-time training and it would bring greater contentment and efficiency to every unit in the Army.
I appreciate that this is a debate on men and weapons, and not on strategy. But the men and weapons required depend on the overall strategy, and I cannot feel that it is altogether wrong to make a brief reference to this matter, and to air my views upon it. We are gearing our whole defence to a new type of Army, and I hope that we are also gearing it to a new type of strategy. I was disturbed lately by a Government 480 reference to one strategic term which seemed to me to be used in a completely outdated sense. "Defence in depth" was spoken of as being in hundreds of miles whereas, I think, "defence in depth", if it is to mean anything whatever in this atomic age, and the age of guided missiles, must be reckoned in thousands of miles. If we stick to the old scale, we shall tie down our military and political strategy to old ideas. It will prevent any measure of disengagement in Europe such as I hope to see, and such as I think feasible, and even vital, to the new theories of defence which are being developed and which are described in these White Papers. It is no good reducing our Army, as we are almost all agreed that we must, and at the same time pretending that the new, smaller Army can stop the Russian military monster if it sets out to drive through Europe to the Atlantic seaboard. Our thin khaki line, the whole N.A.T.O. line, would be swept away like chaff. What this whole policy requires is a disengagement, the two antagonists stepping back from the Iron Curtain on both sides, to establish a kind of glacis, across which, or on to which, either Army would venture at its peril—at the peril, that is, of nuclear retaliation.
My Lords, I realise that this has been less a speech than a series of rather scrappy comments, but that, I feel, must often happen at the end of a debate where so many authorities have already spoken and left so little to say. What I regret most is that I seem to have expressed my doubts without expressing my admiration for this brave new policy. I do admire it, and I hope it is plain that my words have been dedicated to the hope that it will prove as sound in wind and limb, and in application, as it is in conception.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, when one comes in towards the end of a debate, it is extremely difficult to avoid being repetitive, but some of us feel very strongly on what might be regarded as small, unimportant points, but which are, of course, extremely important to those affected. So whereas seven or eight speakers make a point, it can only help the cause if the ninth speaker rubs it in a little more. So I ask your Lordships' indulgence if here and there I touch upon points which have already been covered.
481 I do not know whether some of your Lordships noticed the latest tradition to be under the fear of destruction—Nash's glorious terraces in Regents Park. It seems to me that, in times when we appear to be deliberately destroying traditions in architecture, drama and such like, we can draw comfort from the fact that at least in this sphere there is a recognition of the value of tradition—a rearguard action to retain those traditions of the British Army around which so much of our history has been made. My mind goes back to 1922, when my own regiment in the Indian Army had to face amalgamation with a famous unit, and I recall that for a day or so we glared at each other in resentment. But it was all put behind us very quickly, and I would agree with, I think it was, the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, who emphasised the fact that sometimes these amalgamations profit, rather than lose, in the process.
As an officer of the Indian Cavalry, it is in any case wrong for me to enter the ring in a contest concerning the British infantry. But it so happens that my father started life in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and I feel that perhaps I should say what I believe he might have said. I am not going nearly so far as the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, to propose possibly three alternatives. I think it is very wrong indeed to sow this doubt in the minds of officers and men who may have to face an irrevocable decision. It is not quite fair to them. Equally, I could remind myself that perhaps the Highland Light Infantry are recalling today that Welsh commentary about the mountain sheep being fleeter, and the valley sheep fatter, and adding, "We of the Highland Light Infantry, therefore, deem it neater to carry off the latter". I would say that if this decision is irrevocable, the way out might be for the War Office to have second thoughts, and to agree to one more battalion of British infantry.
I have only one or two small reservations to add about bands and badges. As regards bands, I fully support the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. As I see it, a brigade band which has to go perhaps from Germany to the Middle East, to the Far East, and back to the home centre, is in danger of becoming a kind of elevated E.N.S.A. party. As to badges, noble Lords have stressed the effect on 482 recruitment, and that kind of thing. I should like to draw attention to the practical difficulties. Is the brigade badge going to be a kind of synthesis of all the regimental badges concerned? If so, it is going to look rather like a Christmas tree. One can think of certain cases where embodiment of the badges would look like a Zoo. On the other hand, is the alternative going to be a complete cut away from the past? In that case the Yorkshire Brigade would presumably adopt a cricket bat as a badge emblem. I make this plea. There is no sense in this brigade badge, even from a practical or psychological point of view.
Having said that, I think we should pay our tribute to a band of officers in the War Office who have given fair and sympathetic handling to as difficult a task as any band of officers has ever had to face. With regard to compensation, I looked up the terms which were offered to Indian Army officers in 1947, and I came to the conclusion that the War Office and Treasury between them had based the present concessions on those former concessions. An Indian Army colonel, ten years ago in 1947, received £4,125 at the age of forty-four. To-day an officer of the same rank and the same age is to receive £8,640—just double. So, allowing for the rise in the cost of living. I do not think that we have any valid complaint as to ungenerous treatment. nor do I think that the officers concerned are prepared to say that they have been cheated in so far as compensation is concerned.
So I am not going to be concerned any more with the fait accompli and I turn to matters of the future. I would touch on one aspect of recruitment which I do not think has been mentioned. Many of your Lordships have stressed the recruitment of the man. I want to refer to the recruitment of the future officer. In these new measures we acknowledge, in some sense, a debt to a certain type. The regiments have in the past thrived in the knowledge that there would be at their disposal a number of a particular type of young men, members of whose families had served in those regiments before them. They should be able to continue to thrive in that way.
But there is one factor that weighs heavily in the ability of a young officer to continue to be able to hold out hope 483 that his son will be able to carry on the good work, and that is his means to educate his son. It seems that another tradition of ours may shortly be assaulted—I refer to the doubts as to the continuation of the public schools. Assuming that they survive, I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that the most certain of insurance policies to take out to ensure that the future officer of the right type comes forward for the Army, would be a generous tax-free allowance of about £200 a year for every child between the age of eight and eighteen to cover his education. That would compare, I think, with £70 at the moment which is subject to tax.
My Lords, I pass from small points of administration to something rather more fundamental—I refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, mentioned and what my noble friend Lord Bridgeman referred to in opening the debate, and that is some doubt as to whether the whole structure of the Army is satisfactory to meet its future purposes. I would draw your attention to paragraph 8 of the White Paper on Defence, issued in April, which defines our tasks under two headings: first to play our part with our allies in deterring and resisting aggression—in other words to be ready for the war of the guided missile and the megaton bomb, in association, as my noble friend Lord St. Oswald has reminded us so vividly, with an effective trip-wire over on the other shore; and, secondly, to be ready to defend; British Colonies and protected territories against local attack and to undertake limited operations in overseas emergencies. The operations may be limited but they are very frequent these days.
I do not know whether Her Majesty's Government had in mind any order of priority when they put those two tasks in that order. I personally would place both of those aspects of the task on an identical level. I would remind your Lordships that in the last ten years there have been no fewer than seven occasions meriting the label "operations," from Korea down to British Guiana. In not one of those operations could it be said that the great modern edifice of scientific war, with all its emphasis on higher mathematics and technology and invoking the brain of Harwell, has been 484 other than redundant. I can quote occasions when the aircraft used have, in fact, been too good for the job. So when, in the White Paper, Her Majesty's Government take the credit for increasing the ratio of the "teeth" arms to the administrative arm, I trust that the day-to-day demands of the small wars are going to be borne in mind.
In meeting these demands, if it is in order for a comparatively junior officer to issue a note of warning, I would make this submission and in doing so ask the noble Lord who is to reply for clarification on this issue of the rôle of the central reserve. It is a point that the noble Viscount, Lord De L'Isle, and others have referred to. Command Paper No. 150 on the Army Estimates, in paragraph 57, says that the central reserve is to be organised for either limited or global war. I believe that that dual responsibility, involving as it does a wide range of training for very different conditions, imposes an almost impossible task. The same paragraph goes on to say:It will be our policy as the overseas garrisons are reduced to ensure that the elements of the Central Reserve can be moved to any point of danger where they may be needed by air.That idea is reinforced in paragraph 33 of Command Paper No. 124, which speaks of the growing capacity to send reinforcements rapidly from Great Britain.
My Lords, there is the conception: a central reserve which can either take its place in global warfare or be ready to be moved by Transport Command to meet any contingency which our enemies could think up for our annoyance. It looks very neat indeed on paper, but, if I may be permitted to introduce psychology into warfare, it cuts across important psychological factors. A man flown from England, even if he arrives in the theatre of war before the man who is in the area already, is not going to be so useful or so effective. When the modern "Fuzzy-wuzzy" gives trouble, it is easy enough to bring him to his knees with attacks by Venom fighters and follow them up with troops flown in from a distant reserve. But the psychology of the matter is not so much that the man has been beaten in battle as that he feels he has been cheated of a battle which, in his belief, he might have won; and though, 485 indeed, the immediate effect may be satisfactory, it may not last.
If you want to avoid trouble for the future and insure for the future, you have, submit, to fight these particular enemies in their own way, only tight them just a little hit better. That involves local forces, well trained, well equipped, and, above all. well led by officers who, in every sense of the word, are specialists. And you do not find specialists of that nature in the central reserve. In former clays the purpose of a reserve, as I see it, was to provide an expeditionary force for Europe; but to-day the expeditionary force is already on its ground—four divisions in Germany. I submit that that lends weight to the argument that the reserve may be regarded as available for these constant demands of the conventional war.
At the same time, if what I have said makes sense, I would indicate that we could, with advantage, afford to disperse that central reserve to a certain extent. Paragraph 31 of Command Paper No. 124 reminds us that now we have a Commonwealth strategic reserve made up of British, Australian and New Zealand forces. It is in the extension of that kind of technique in strategy, with locally-placed reserves trained and acclimatised to local conditions and local situations that perhaps there is some answer to this mild dilemma. I would ask for an assurance from the Government that they are balancing these constant demands against the more massive requirements of global strategy and the deterrent. I think it was the late Gilbert Murray who said:If there is slave raiding in Africa, piracy in the Yellow Sea, if there is plague in China, if the pilgrim routes to Mecca are endangered, if the buoys in the Persian Gulf are badly placed, at once Great Britain is expected to attend to the matter, and Great Britain always accepts the responsibility.My Lords, I think it would be a sad day if, in continuing to accept this responsibility, Her Majesty's Government were to find that the men who had to do the job had been swallowed up in the atomic artillery of the future or as interplanetary pilots in the war with Mars, which presumably will never come.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ LORD MATHERS
My Lords, as the noble Lord sits down may I take one minute to endorse what he said about the undesirability of the amalgamation of the 486 Highland Light Infantry and the Royal Scots Fusiliers. I have discussed this. and it is the only amalgamation I have heard that is seriously criticised. The opposition to it is intense from both sides; I can confirm that, and I ask the Minister to note that. Indeed, my informant, from the side of the H.L.I., said that they would rather have the regiment abolished altogether than be merged with the Royal Scots Fusiliers. And so far as the Royal Scots Fusiliers people are concerned, I have been told that they say most emphatically that the amalgamation as proposed will not work.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ LORD FREYBERG
My Lords, I did not come here prepared to speak to-day, but we have heard a great deal about reorganisation and very little about the effect this change will have upon our tactics. I am interested and glad that this reorganisation has received such a good response. I am only doubtful on one count, the tactical value of the brigade group. We win our wars, certainly against the Germans, by pinning the enemy on to the ground and then breaking their resistance by massed artillery fire. The brigade group can neither pin nor has it the artillery necessary to break their resistance.
I speak with a certain amount of experience of the brigade group. For two years, 1941 to 1942, in the Western Desert you heard of nothing but columns and brigade groups; and disaster after disaster followed. We had defeats: we lost Tobruk; we lost Mersa Matruh; we lost thousands of unwounded prisoners—and a great many Generals lost their jobs. On October 3 there was a complete change of command in the Western Desert. I went to see the Army Commander (and he. in his book, says that I looked very unhappy), to find out from him whether he intended to fight the battles as brigade groups or as divisions. He gave me the assurance that he was going to fight as a division and, furthermore, that he was going to adopt Rommel's plan of permanent corps. That was twenty days before the Battle of Alamein.
On October 3 (and the document is in the collection of documents of the New Zealand Government) I cabled the New Zealand Prime Minister and said that the benefit we had got from the changeover of command was that they 487 now insisted that divisions must fight as divisions and not as brigade groups. They had gone even further: they were fighting as permanent army corps. And I ended by saying that the result of this simple decision would be evident in all our future battles. Twenty days after that, on November 3, ten days after the start of Alamein, I wired the New Zealand Government and said that I had been in the front line and how well we were doing. I said, "The enemy has now been broken, through our massed artillery fire in the last ten days". I then said, "I know that it is rash for anybody to make a forecast in the Western Desert, which has produced so many difficulties and disappointments, but, for what it is worth, here is my opinion: the Germans are broken; they will go back to the frontier, and in certain circumstances we shall get them right out of Africa". That telegram is an official document with the New Zealand records.
My Lords, I agree with the general terms of the White Paper. I beg to support it. I am only doubtful about the value of the brigade group. I wonder how it will be received in places like New Zealand and Australia, whose Forces fought in the Western Desert and not in North-West Europe.
§ 7.47 p.m.
My Lords, I know that the House wishes to hear the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, as soon as possible, and I will therefore not take longer than is absolutely necessary. The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, to whom I listened, as always, with much pleasure, has instituted a custom which, within certain limits, might be agreeably followed in your Lordships' House, asking himself what his father would have said and then offering those hypothetical views to your Lordships. My father commanded the 2nd Life Guards, and I can imagine what he would have said: that I had no right to be speaking in a military debate after a military hero like General Lord Freyberg, V.C., or a debate in which another holder of the Victoria Cross participated, as well as a Field Marshal, and Sir Winston Churchill's Commanding Officer.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. used an expression which Sir Winston Churchill used himself in this kind of 488 connection, "other Paladins". I feel very humble in taking up your Lordships' time at all. I did have the experience as a small boy, of being brought up within the atmosphere of the 2nd Life Guards to the extent of regarding the 1st Life Guards as "not quite", and "The Blues" as definitely "Non-U"—though that was before that expression was coined. Two wars have passed since then, and these little differences, I suppose, have been more or less overcome, and we can face these amalgamations and formations of groups with a certain confidence that in time to come any sentimental troubles will be cured.
I feel that we are all very much indebted to the noble Viscount Lord Bridgeman, not only for giving us the chance of discussing these vital questions but for the thoughtful and, as always, thoroughly expert speech that he has delivered. If I may say so, he made only one remark which I hope perhaps, when he says the last word, he will recall. There was a somewhat slighting reference to "Irish militiamen". I do not know quite whom the noble Viscount had in mind or how far back he was going, but I felt all that was put in very much better perspective by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, when he made some very feeling references to the valour of Irishmen a little later. I have one or two brief points to put to the noble Lord who is to reply, and then, before I close, I should like to submit a short thread of argument.
The first two or three points must be a little disconnected. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, was unfortunately prevented from being with us, and he asked me to put a question to the noble Lord which he had himself intended to put. He recently visited Shrivenham, which I believe has also recently been visited by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. He hoped that the noble Lord might say something which would give still more confidence to those in the Army who are trying to secure a higher position for science within the military ranks. I understand (I hope I am not breaking a confidence) that the Chief of the Imperial General Staff informed the Commandant that he was out to make science education popular in the Army. I hope in the deepest sense that that is the object of the noble Lord and his colleagues. I expect the noble Lord will have some 489 thing emphatic to say on that. I know that, in view of his recent visit, he is qualified so to do.
There have been many strong points made by my three Front Bench predecessors from this side of the House—the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, speaking as always with much shrewdness of analysis, and the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, who has given many years of devoted service to the Army both in peace and in war. I do not know whether there are any noble Lords of the seniority of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, who has recently been in camp. If not, I feel that we on this side of the House have an advantage over noble Lords on the other side. The noble Lord looks so young after his experience that it does not surprise anybody when I mention this. It is something of which we have every right to be proud. I think the noble Lord spoke to us this afternoon as someone who is in close touch with the living Army, and he spoke, no doubt, in consequence of that.
There is a general issue upon which I will not dwell, though I cannot refrain from mentioning it yet again because it is right that all who speak from this side should express disquiet. On the whole, in these Army debates we try to keep to detail. In a way, I think that at times we keep to too much detail, leaving the wider issues sometimes for the Defence debates. All my three noble friends from this side of the House have, not unnaturally, fastened, I think properly and rightly, on the first leading article in The Times to-day. Some of your Lordships may have read a very lively but disquieting article by the Political Correspondent of the Observer on sunday in which he said, referring to the Defence programme of the Government:It can be said that Mr. Macmillan and Mr. Sandys who still stand by the original programme are now practically isolated.Your Lordships may say that the Political Correspondent of the Observer is not necessarily behind the scenes, but that statement has been made; and in view of what The Times says to-day, we cannot treat the situation just as one where there are differences—no doubt friendly differences—of emphasis between colleagues. So far as we can make out, there is a 490 crisis in the defence set-up on the highest level.
I realise that the noble Lord who has many preoccupations may not have been present at those critical talks. Perhaps the Leader of the House has attended them but, unless he is able to deny what we see in the Observer, The Times and other papers, it will go out to the world that there is a very critical situation on the highest level of defence planning.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS AND LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE EARL OF HOME)
My Lords, to put the mind of the noble Lord and the mind of the world at rest, I may say that it is a complete fabrication. There is no split at all.
I, of course, take the word of the noble Earl—as applying to the leading article of The Times?
THE EARL OF HOME
As applying to any suggestion from any quarter that there is any split of any kind within the Cabinet.
I am afraid that, although I am not old in politics, I am too old to be very much impressed by that statement.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Oh!
I am afraid that I am never impressed by the denial of a split. A split does not occur until somebody resigns. But right up to the time of the split it is the duty of those concerned to say there is no split.
THE EARL OF HOME
Shall I say, to be more specific, that there is no difference of opinion within the Cabinet on these matters of defence?
That is a very important statement to have drawn from the noble Earl who leads the House. I am very glad, in my humble way, to have been instrumental in producing a statement which flatly denies the opinion which is being widely propounded by non-Party organs of the kind I have mentioned.
That is the feeblest of interjections. I said it was propounded by these organs. I was raising it so that the noble Lord could deny it. It has been now denied by his Leader, the noble Lord perhaps being regarded as being unworthy of such an onerous task of making a denial.
§ LORD MANCROFT
If the noble Lord was raising that to be helpful, I must say I greeted that sentiment with some doubt.
I was raising it to give the noble Lord a chance, which he has now taken, in his usual gifted manner; but, if he is anxious at some time or other to address the House, no doubt he will wish me to proceed. That is important—I am not denying it at all—and the world will now sleep more easily to-night.
But let us now pass to the question which the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord De L'Isle, was the first to raise, and in a sharp form, though it has been raised by many other speakers since. The noble and gallant Viscount referred to the "three R's." I think they were reorganisation, resettlement and—was it recruiting?
The noble Viscount, I think, rightly referred to the first two as being dealt with more or less satisfactorily by the Government plans, and I do not want to take up much time now quibbling over those; but obviously a good many points could be raised, and some were pertinently raised by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. The only remaining point with which I wish to deal is recruiting. When that question comes up, my mind turns back, perhaps a little naturally, to the first time that I had the honour of replying as the Under-Secretary at the War Office, in 1946, when the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, tabled a Motion to call attention to the recruiting position for His Majesty's Forces. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, spoke with brilliance and charm, as I think I said at the beginning—and I was rebuked by the New Statesman for saying it. I say now, to make amends to the noble Lord, if I spoke sharply to him just now, that I do not think the years have withered the infinite variety of his brilliance and 492 charm. I am not trying to catch any more interjections from the noble Lord because I might mistake them for irony.
I will therefore remind the House, in just two or three sentences, of some of the proposals made at that date by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman—I will not mention them all. I think, in fact, they are the same proposals as have come up in Army debates for the ten years subsequently, and they have come up again, in one form or another, to-day. We have heard some particularly expert suggestions, some of them of a fairly minute character, from the noble Earl. Lord Bathurst; but, by and large, we are back where we always were on the old question of pay, barracks, married quarters and, above all, jobs after service. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, said something about this. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote, from an old debate, a part of his speech, which is well worth reading. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 143, col. 168.]We must decide now that those who join the Regular Forces can be given, if they wish it, a life career in the service of the State.The noble Viscount said that in 1946. It has been said repeatedly since. I am not quite sure how the House as a whole would feel as to whether we have achieved that object. "Not perfectly" would be the view of noble Lords, I expect. It has been treated as a kind of target by noble Lords from that day to this, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will say something fresh on that subject, though it may not be easy for him to do so.
The fact is that all these devices, which in one form or another have been brought up to-day, except where they are devices, so to speak, to prevent things from getting worse, are devices which were sympathetically considered by the Labour Government and then, during the last six years, by the Conservative Government. I am afraid that I would apply to the recruiting performance here these words (I know that National Service has cut across it) with which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, began his speech in 1946. He said on that occasion, over ten years ago (Col. 176):My Lords, I am afraid that it has been perfectly obvious that so far as the Army is concerned the present recruiting campaign has failed.493 That was his view in 1946, and I do not think it is too much to say that, taking the eleven years that have passed since—and I distribute the responsibility equally; I shared in it as an Under-Secretary for War at one time—the words used then by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, have been proved accurate. If we failed then to get the recruits that we required, I cannot see any evidence to suppose that we now have a better way of obtaining them.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, gave certain figures that the War Office had supplied. I will just run rapidly through the figures of the total of Regular Army recruiting. They were 14,000-odd in 1949; 16,000-odd in 1950; 16,000-odd in 1951, 43,000-odd in 1952; 32,000-odd in 1953; 29,000-odd in 1954; 28,000-odd in 1955; 21,000-odd in 1956; and for the present half-year they are 13,000. I do not want to quibble over details, and, of course, there are many circumstances which have to be allowed for in the reorganisation. There may be nothing at all in these figures, with National Service cutting across the whole situation, but if we are setting ourselves up to secure a Regular Army of something like 160,000 to 170,000 in a few years from now, there seems to be no evidence in any Defence Paper that we shall attain the figures. Simply as a proposition and as a prediction, it would seem almost certain that we shall fail. To put it bluntly, I think we shall fail if we follow any methods that have either been adopted or seriously suggested in the past.
The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, candidly faced the situation that would arise when he said that this Government must have recourse to other methods, whatever form they may take, to improve recruitment. That must be the position of anybody who accepts responsibility for government in this country or who hopes one day to share in it. But which of us really supposes that, once conscription in fact has been abolished, it will be reintroduced in peace time or will be reintroduced at all except under the threat of another war? It seems that if the recruiting campaign fails, then the whole strategic plan of the Government and of the country will fail with it. So we come down to recruiting as the core of the whole issue.
494 I will say only two or three words more before I close. We have all heard almost every year that recruiting for the Army should be considered from the point of view of a guaranteed career in the service of the community in some shape or form, but we must give the Army a higher status if we are going to secure any more recruits. It is not a question of getting a few more or of preventing the figures from dropping; it is a question of getting vastly more than there are signs of obtaining at the present time. In practice, I would say that there is only one answer to that—publicity. If the House asks how much is spent on publicity, the answer given to me by the War Office was that, taking it all in all, in 1957–58 (when the figure was considerably increased) the total spent on Army publicity by the Central Office of Information was £275,000; by the Stationery Office, £29,000; and by the Army itself, £219,000, making something over £600,000. If you take the publicity for the Regular Army, as distinct from the salaries of the public relations staff, and entertainment, travel and various other items, you find that in 1956–57 Regular Army publicity cost £21,000. Let me be fair about this. In 1957–58 it totaled only £40,000—against an Estimate, I suppose, of £400 million. Taken in those terms, the figure is almost negligible. I suggest that something totally different has to be attempted and that a sum of money several times larger will have to be set aside if we are going to make a success of recruiting.
Some years ago I was asked to be the chairman of a recruiting sub-committee in the War Office. Of course publicity was considered then, but it was always a question of money, and the subject was never regarded as being on a high enough level to obtain the kind of funds available. I recollect what the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, was good enough to say, and in spite of my waspishness I hope that he accepted it in his usual kind mood. He, said at the end of his speech in 1946 (col. 180) that he wished usthe very best of luck in our dealings with the Treasury, because it is there that the major attack must be made, and there that the answer to this problem is to be found. The noble Lord must by now, I think, be quite clear where he can look for allies.I will say to the noble Lord that he can be quite clear, when looking for any 495 allies in any efforts to obtain these extra sums to raise the supply of Army recruits, that he need look no further than these Benches. I have not consulted other noble Lords before making that statement, but I know that, looking around this House, we are entirely united in our anxiety to help the Army; and I feel that the noble Lord, when he rises to reply, can speak to a House not of political partisans but of those united in their desire to see that the British Army achieves an ever stronger position in the life of Britain, because we all look to the Army to look up to and enhance the wonderful traditions of the past.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, my noble and gallant friend Lord Bridgeman, who opened this debate with such an authoritative speech, originally put down his Motion on the Order Paper to concern himself solely with the Army Estimates. He later added the two White Papers and one statement which has subsequently been published, and it is upon those documents and that declaration of policy that most of your Lordships' remarks have been directed this evening. I will do my best to answer the points that your Lordships have raised. These three documents are of great importance and complexity. I think that the complexity of the proposals put forward has explained to your Lordships why there has been the delay, for which Her Majesty's Government have apologised to your Lordships and to the country on more than one occasion. The reasons are now clear, and I can assure my noble and gallant friend Lord Jeffreys that the reasons were not dishonourable proposals by the Government to spring a surprise on the country at the last minute just before we were going away for the holidays—nothing could be further from the truth.
In the defence debate I ventured to offer two suggestions to your Lordships concerning these proposals. I said that I thought that compensation must be fair, not only in the eyes of the public but in the eyes of those who were going to receive it, for the practical reason that a disgruntled ex-Serviceman makes a very poor recruiting officer. The second idea that I advanced then was that the changes which were going to be brought about should be brought about in such a way 496 as to trample as little as possible upon those regimental traditions and loyalties upon which so much of the morale of the Army is based. I suggest—and I think that your Lordships' remarks this afternoon bear me out—that we have achieved both these objects. The compensation scheme was generally acceptable to your Lordships as not only generous but, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, as indicating that the Treasury and the Ministry of Defence are indeed true allies. We have honoured an obligation which I am sure the country wished to be honoured. The compensation scheme has been a difficult scheme to work out and a most complex one. I do not pretend that there are not anomalies here and inconsistencies there, and we may be able to straighten out a few individual cases. But by and large, I believe the scheme is good and just and is acceptable to the country.
Resettlement occupied many speakers this evening. Resettlement plans have been announced in great detail by my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour and National Service. The Advisory Board under Sir Frederic Hooper, with Sir Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman as his director, is, I believe, an earnest of our intentions. We hope that it will be a success. The way in which we propose to choose men to leave is by asking them to volunteer. It is not a foolproof system. the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, criticised it but did not put forward any better plan. There may be one, and, if so, we shall move to it; but at the moment this seems to us the best, but not an infallible plan. In the end, however, the War Office will have to control the numbers to make sure, as the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, hinted, that we do not get too many of the wrong class, trade or age group going out and unbalancing the Forces.
I can assure my noble and gallant friend Lord Bridgeman that Her Majesty's Government take this matter very seriously, and we shall do all we can to make certain that these officers and men are properly resettled—and not on chicken farms, as has so often been mentioned this evening, but in worthwhile jobs. I was mentioning this very point at a meeting which I was addressing the other evening, for I know that chicken farming has become a sort of peg on which we hang this idea. It was not until some time later that I 497 discovered that the chairman himself kept a chicken farm. Her Majesty's Government will do and are doing all they possibly can, but the Government alone cannot solve this problem. What is required, as has been frequently said this afternoon, is good will on both sides of industry and of employers in every kind of commercial, professional and industrial field. It is very encouraging to find a number of people of good will in all walks of life, big and small, who think they may have suggestions and jobs to offer and who are coming forward to make their suggestions. It is the attitude of the public towards the men who have had their careers prematurely ended which will determine the measure of success of our resettlement plans. Her Majesty's Government have complete confidence in counting on the generous and willing help of all who can assist.
The next topic which has occupied your Lordships most this afternoon has been the subject of regimental reorganisation. Whatever was done over this was bound to cause tears. Whatever policy had been decided on was obviously going to have its opponents. I think we have great sympathy with the point of view put forward by my noble and gallant friends Lord Jeffreys and Lord De L'Isle, from their own regimental point of view. We all sympathise with them, and feel for them too. But the fact is that since the war we have been trying to bolster up a system which could barely be made to work, and I believe we were risking making the young soldier cynical about the regimental spirit and thus defeating our own object. So we have made this plan. It has been well received on the whole, and the skill and impartiality of the Army Council have been recognised. Traditions have been respected wherever possible. After all, the changes and reductions in the infantry, although they are considerable, are part of a continuous evolution in the organisation of the infantry which has gone on since the Army was raised. I believe that the reasons for the reductions are understood and accepted, even though they may not be much liked.
There is one amalgamation in particular which I know has caused much trouble. I refer to the amalgamation of the Highland Light Infantry and the Royal Scots Fusiliers. Here I owe my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye an 498 apology: I misheard him and thought he said that both regiments wore the trews. I thought it had slipped his memory that the Highland Light Infantry, which used to wear the trews, has gone back to the kilt since 1947. We are now at one. Most speakers on the subject were at one in not liking the amalgamation of the Highland Light infantry and the Royal Scots Fusiliers. The Scottish amalgamation has been particularly difficult. At present there are ten regiments, four in the Lowland Brigade and six in the Highland Brigade. The recruiting figures unfortunately show that it is not possible to sustain this number, so the Army Council decided on the reduction of two regiments. Nearly half the Regular recruits come from the Glasgow area. On the trend of the recruiting figures, it would have been fair to reduce the size of the Highland Brigade more than the Lowland Brigade. Another factor was that the best size of brigade for drafting and posting is three or four regiments. Colonels of regiments in the Lowland and the Highland Brigades were given an opportunity to discuss means of making reductions and submitting their recommendations.
As your Lordships will know, the Highland Light Infantry is a City of Glasgow regiment, and it follows that if a regiment is to be transferred from the Highland to the Lowland Brigade it should logically be the Highland Light Infantry. Both regiments draw the bulk of their recruits from the Glasgow area, so that the most logical solution to the problem is the amalgamation of the two regiments in the Lowland Brigade. Logic does not always make for happiness. I appreciate the points which the noble Lords, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, Lord Mathers, Lord Birdwood and others have made. Any other amalgamation of any two Scottish regiments would have caused equal trouble. But I am not pretending for a moment that this is an ideal or thoroughly acceptable amalgamation. I can make no promises this evening except to say that I am well aware of the heartburning which this amalgamation has caused. I have put the reasons for it frankly before your Lordships and I hope you will bear them in mind. I promise to bear your Lordships' suggestions in mind and see that they are conveyed immediately to the proper quarter. I am afraid that I cannot go further.
499 I turn now to the cavalry, in which we have several dashing and gallant officers. There was a particularly gallant speech by the noble Lord, Lord Temple-more. I am sorry that he was not able to stay until the end of the debate—he told me why—because I should have liked to congratulate him in person on a very fine speech, particularly as his father was kind enough to congratulate me on mine; and I have much greater cause than had Lord Templemore's father. The cavalry are slightly different. May I put before the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, and other cavalry officers what is behind this. The cavalry had already been drastically reorganised in the 1920s, and this was borne in mind when the new organisation was discussed; but, of course, the amalgamation of cavalry regiments is equally painful. It has been less complicated because there are fewer territorial affiliations.
We decided to keep as entities the Dragoons and Dragoon Guards, the Lancers and the Hussars. Within these categories the selection of regiments for amalgamation was done by eliminating those with the best claim to remain independent. The first with this claim were those regiments which had already been amalgamated. Other considerations were recruiting figures, and the retention of the two regiments which opted for mechanisation nearly ten years ahead of the remainder. Virtue sometimes does have its reward. The noble Lord, Lord Templemore, mentioned two other possible roles for the 7th Hussars. Frankly, I was not very enthusiastic about them and I wondered whether his regiment would be either.
I should like to emphasise the point about the cavalry and I do so because of a particularly distressing letter which appeared in the Manchester Guardian on July 29, signed by "Cavalryman", which has had wide circulation, particularly in cavalry circles. This letter seriously suggested that the amalgamations had been brought about because the Committee consisted of certain distinguished cavalry officers all of whom were determined, bluntly, to "work a fiddle" so that their own regiments were not touched. That is such an ignoble and unworthy thing to say that I have thought fit to mention it and to say that nothing could be further from the truth. The 500 reasons for the amalgamations I have given. The final answers were "vetted" by the Army Council, and if personalities came into it at all—and not the sensible reasons that I have given—I have already pointed out that the 4th Hussars is one of the regiments which has been amalgamated.
Lord Stratheden and Campbell read us an extract from a letter about Scottish amalgamation which I thought set the tone of what I am certain will be the spirit behind these amalgamations. May I read your Lordships an extract from a letter which I personally received from an old brother officer who served with me on the divisional staff of a regiment which I must obviously disguise:As you know, we are to go in with the Loamshires. I suppose this is logical and inevitable, but none of us pretends to like it. The Loamshires were always a rum lot, but I suppose it might have been worse; Sappers or Scotsmen or Lord knows what!However, the point is not to moan about the past but to get on with the job of making our new regiment the best regiment in the British Army as soon as we possibly can; and this we propose to do.I think that that will be the spirit of most of the amalgamated regiments. I hope that there will be a great deal of looking forward to the day when the new regiment is formed, instead of looking back with regret because the old regiment is changing its identity.
Mention of badges occurred in nearly every speech which was made this afternoon. There is a cynical but very amusing little article on this subject by Peter Simple in the Daily Telegraph to-day. I disagree with it profoundly. I think that these things are most important. Though they may seem to the outside world a little trivial, to the Army they are extremely important. This question of a common cap badge I know has caused much trouble. One of the things we have been trying to do is to do away with the difficulty of changing regimental badges every time a man changes his regiment. Shortage of regiments and shortage of battalions has meant that changes came too often. A man would be posted to another regiment, it might be the Gloucesters or the Suffolks, although preferably in his own brigade, but the change was still there. We hope that the problem of changing badges when there is cross-posting between regiments is now eased. It is an attempt to 501 get the best of both worlds and save too many changes, thereby enabling officers and other ranks to get the benefit of cress-posting within the brigade organisation, so that a man can get on more quickly and have more opportunities than otherwise.
The question of new titles, new badges and uniform to be worn by new regiments was also raised in the debate. This is a matter for the regiments themselves and for their colonels. The War Office, of course, is available to assist, if needs be, and to referee should there be any dispute. The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, raised the question of names. I hope that imagination will be used in some cases where names are not easy to find for amalgamated regiments and that over-cumbersome titles will be avoided. The Yorkshire Post has published an interesting suggestion for a title for the new Yorkshire amalgamated unit. They suggest that it should be known as The Princess Royal's Own. I express no opinion on that matter—it would be most improper for me to do so—-but it strikes me as something which is worth considering.
Many noble Lords have raised the question of bands. I agree with much that has been said on the subject and that hands undoubtedly have an effect on morale. This decision with regard to bands has been taken with great regret. It is purely a manpower decision and it will effect a very considerable saving of manpower. If, by any chance, the manpower situation should improve—as we hope it will—we should be able to look at the band situation again. I do not want to close the door definitely on that matter.
I turn now to the important question of the Reserve Army, on which both the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, went into some detail. No one cart forecast accurately the course of any future war, and it is essential to have a reserve available which can meet unforeseen eventualities. The country's insurance in this respect consists of the Army Emergency Reserve and the Territorial Army. Its role, therefore, is to provide the nation's reserve of organised and disciplined manpower in formed units, trained to fight in any emergency or to 502 take part in home defence. Now that part-time training for National Servicemen has been suspended, the Reserve Army is once more, in effect, a volunteer force. Because it is deployed all over the United Kingdom it is able to make the fullest use of the volunteer spirit throughout the country—which still, I am happy to say, exists in great strength—and can provide a valuable steadying influence in time of national crisis and a reserve to deal with the unexpected.
The main task of the Reserve Army remains that of home defence in all its aspects, but some parts of the Reserve Army will still be needed to reinforce the Regular Army overseas. The reduction in our Regular forces, in fact, gives increased importance to this aspect. Clearly, certain adjustments will be necessary in the Reserve Army as a result of the change in the shape and size of the Regular Army. But, as your Lordships understand, the titles of units in the Territorial Army will not be affected by amalgamations which will take place in the Regular Army. This new shape has not been fully worked out. I can assure the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, that the divisional organisation as we now know it, is likely to remain for some while; but if the Regular Army should go over from the divisional organisation to the brigade group organisation, I imagine that the Territorial Army organisation might well follow suit. There is now great need for new recruits for the Territorial Army, and I am glad to say that they are coming in well. In February of this year the number was 580. Now we have switched to an entirely volunteer force and you can notice the change, for whereas in February the number was 580, last month it was 1,500.
While talking about the need for volunteer recruits of this sort, may I also mention the Women's Royal Army Corps, to which the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, referred? There have been suggestions in the Press—notably in the Sunday Press—that the Women's Services are a waste of time and money and should be disbanded. The policy of Her Majesty's Government is exactly the opposite. We wish to have more recruits in all three Services. There is a great deal of work that they can do. There is an increasing number of jobs which Service women can 503 do as well as men. And the important factor of morale enters into this. In stations abroad, the presence of British girls sharing the work of the Servicemen in foreign countries undoubtedly has a very beneficial effect on morale.
Will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting him? Do I understand that the Women's Royal Army Corps are responsible in any way for cooking and maintenance services for the serving Army? I think that that is not so. If it could be so, and they could take over cooking or those other sorts of services for which they have special knowledge, I believe that it would make them that much more valuable.
§ LORD MANCROFT
We are seeing whether there is not an extended range of duties which the W.R.A.C. can take over. We are going into that matter very carefully.
Perhaps the most important point in the debate with which I am now left to deal is the question of recruiting.
VISCOUNT DE L'ISLE
Is the noble Lord going back to the question of the balance of the home and the overseas establishments?
§ LORD MANCROFT
I was not going into that matter in great detail, but I shall touch on it shortly. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, read out a passage from a speech which I made in your Lordships' House on this subject some ten or eleven years ago. It was remarkable to me that I found that I agree with nearly everything I then said. That seldom happens.
I think all your Lordships who have spoken have expressed concern about the way in which Regular recruiting is going, and whether the Services are attracting sufficient men to enable them to build up the all-Regular Forces of the kind which we set out in the Defence White Paper. This applies, of course, particularly to the Army. Her Majesty's Government are well aware that there has been a sharp fall in the rate of Regular recruitment over the past months. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, asked me for figures. They are to be published in detail to-morrow, but I can give them to him in advance. He will not like them: I certainly do not. The first figure 504 I will give him is of 1,890 in June. Before that, in January, February and March, there was an average of 3,300. I am sure that the noble Lord will not like that. But it is not really surprising, when the radical changes in policy of the kind we have been discussing, of the kind set out in the Statement on Defence, are announced. I do not think these figures are a reliable guide to the future. I believe that when the new policy is fully understood, the trend can be, and will be, reversed
I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, when he criticises the timing of the visit of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff to Sandhurst. It strikes me as being the correct time—a time like this when there is doubt and anxiety—for someone with the authority of the C.I.G.S. to go and explain what is in the minds of those in control of the Army and in the minds of the Government. What is essential to bring home is, first, that the new Forces will still have tasks to perform that are vital to the interest and security of the nation. The second point is that the Services still have a place of honour and distinction in the life and society of the country. I believe that these things, intangible though they may be, count quite as much in deciding men to make their career in the Armed Forces as do more material conditions, such as pay and conditions of service.
I am sure that there is not much use thinking that we can bribe men into the Forces by lavish rates of pay. We may get the men, but would they be the right men? Would that policy attract the people we want? In any case, to bribe by higher pay would be extravagant. We must spend our money with discrimination in the way we think will do the most good and, in particular, give attention to pay and standards of living in comparison with those in civilian life. As your Lordships may be aware, I am chairman of a small committee, consisting of my three colleagues in the Service Departments and other officials, to inquire into the whole, question of recruiting. There is no "gimmick", no one trick we can pull out of the hat to bring recruits pouring in. All the old things we talk about—the education of children, barracks, breaks in service, smarter uniforms, exciting sport, better food, more money for publicity, science (which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, mentioned; and I entirely 505 agree with his remarks)—all these add up to something. If there should be some panacea" some new idea, which would bring in recruits, then we should like to know about it. But I do not believe that such an idea exists. I believe that only a combination of all these things, carried out with vigour and enthusiasm, will give us the results.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, if there is no panacea, and if the other measures have not been successful in the past, is it not dangerous for the Government to pin their whole policy on the fact that we intend by recruiting to get a voluntary Army?
§ LORD MANCROFT
I do not agree with the noble Lord. These things have not been tried vigorously enough in the past, and they have not been tried with an. Army that is going back to an entirely voluntary basis. I believe that change to be al'-important. The change has been quickly reflected in the Territorial Army recruiting figures, and I believe that if we carry out our policy of reviewing the whole question with vigour and enthusiasm we shall get recruits.
§ LORD OGMORE
May I ask the noble Lord whether it is not misleading to use the Territorial figure? Is it not the fact that Terirtorial recruiting has always gone up in. May and June, because of the proximity of the annual camp?
§ LORD MANCROFT
Of course it does. They are seasonal figures, and I would say that this is also reflected in recruiting for the Regular Army. I believe that, with the Regular Army going on to a voluntary basis, we shall find an increase in recruiting. But we are not relying primarily on that, or on any one thing. We realise that the recruiting campaign must be pursued with the utmost vigour and by everybody. What it amounts to is that the Forces must have a fair deal, and this Government are determined to see that they get it. Times change and the Services change with them, but their job, which they have always carried out with distinction, will be as vital in the future as in the past, and that is what recruits must be made to realise.
We believe that the challenge of these new techniques and new weapons, combined with the old sense of service and tradition, will attract men of sufficient 506 quality and in sufficient numbers to give us the Forces we need. These will be entirely voluntary Forces, to which most of the men who join will be able to devote their lives. They will thus be far more effective, man for man, and more attractive as a career to the potential recruit, than the present mixture of long-service, short-service, and National Service men can ever be, in spite of the excellent contribution which National Service men have made and continue to make.
All this is not to say that Her Majesty's Government are under any illusion about the formidable nature of the task which they have set themselves. I want to put that before your Lordships as plainly and as bluntly as I can. I accept that point, which has been made by every noble Lord this afternoon. We are determined to do whatever is necessary to fulfil that task. We are devoting intensive study to the whole problem of recruiting. I have occupied an unconscionable amount of your Lordships' time and have tried to answer as many questions on important matters as I can. I know that in seeking to achieve the success to which I have been referring, and upon which the Government place so vast an amount of importance, we can rely on the full support of Parliament and of the country.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords in all parts of the House for the way they have supported this debate during the last six hours, and I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Mancroft for the detail into which he has gone and the care he has taken in answering all the points made this afternoon. I should like to associate myself with everything he has said about the noble Lord, Lord Templemore. Beyond that, I know that he would agree with me that I should make no more comment on his speech to-night, and that we should read it carefully in the OFFICIAL REPORT in the morning.
I hope that my noble friend will leave the debate realising how intensely anxious we all are that this reorganisation, having once been decided on, should be a success. We have shown him plenty of green lights, a few amber lights, and, I admit, one or two red lights. I know that he will realise that we shall follow 507 the progress of this reorganisation sympathetically, we hope helpfully, and certainly with the greatest possible attention. The conventional weapon of a Motion for Papers seems to me to be a particularly inaccurate one tonight. We have discussed three Papers; we have been able, within the range of the Motion, to include two more, and therefore I know that your Lordships do not wish me to ask for any more of them. At the same time, I must say to your Lordships, and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, that I do not withdraw anything of what I said either earlier this evening or ten years ago, except, of course, one thing—that is, my Motion for Papers, which I now beg leave to withdraw.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.