HL Deb 13 July 1960 vol 225 cc231-84

4.18 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I had intended to take the opportunity of this debate to make a further plea for two sections of the community who must seem, to many of us at any rate, to have been cruelly treated under the Welfare State, which benefits so many others. I refer to Army officers who qualify for pension under the 1919 Code, and those widows of retired officers to whom the noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, has just referred. But I had heard, like him, that this subject is to be debated as soon as the House meets after the Recess, and I think it would be better that we should all reserve our fire until then.

The subject about which I wish to address myself to your Lordships for a very few moments to-day is not that, but a matter of more general character which might, I think, seem more appropriate for a Defence debate but which has become, I believe, of yet greater urgency because of developments which, as the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, rightly said, have occurred since our last debate in this House on Defence a week or two ago. It has a bearing upon what the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, have already said, and it may, I believe, be held to be of the first importance.

Indeed, in one sense, it calls in question the whole policy on this subject in which the Government are engaged. Quite briefly, what I have in mind is this. Do the Government not think—and do your Lordships not think—that the time has come to reconsider, or at any rate re-examine, the whole question of the continued reduction of the number of infantry battalions in the Army which appears still to be going on? Not many days ago—about a fortnight I think—we had a debate on Foreign Affairs, and in the course of that debate we had an unequivocal, and I thought most heartening, declaration by the Leader of the House to the effect that, following the Russian sabotage of the Summit and Disarmament Conferences, this country must henceforward look first and foremost to its own security.

With that, I am sure, we all, in every part of the House, agree, and the more so because since then the situation, as I see it, has continued steadily to deteriorate. There is the growing crisis over Cuba, with the increasing tension arising from it between the United States and Russia, a crisis in which we, too, are directly concerned owing to the confiscation of the Shell refinery. Then, there is the further incident owing to the shooting down of a second American plane by the Russians: there are the ever more menacing speeches by Mr. Khrushchev on this and other subjects: and finally, in addition, we have now the appalling debacle in the Congo, which has filled us all, I am sure, with horror. The collapse of law and order and all civilised government in large parts of that country may well threaten the peace and security of the whole of Central Africa, where we have ourselves ultimate responsibility for the security of hundreds of thousands of our own fellow countrymen and an even larger number of loyal Africans.

Not many months ago I made bold enough to say in a debate in this House that the mot d'ordre which had come from the Accra Conference was to make the white man "scram out of Africa", a phrase used by Mr. Tom Mboya, and to warn your Lordships that if African agitators succeeded in that, the Western world would have gone far to lose the cold war itself. I got the impression, rightly or wrongly, at that time that there were many noble Lords in this House who thought my remarks were absurdly exaggerated, if not definitely hysterical. But would anyone treat such a possibility so lightly now? Would anyone be so certain that in a few months', or at any rate a few years', time, British troops will not be needed to protect British lives and property and, what I repeat is equally important, the lives and property of the loyal Africans in our territories?

Here agree profoundly with what has already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton. I hope it will not happen; we all hope it will not happen. But will anyone say it is impossible? And yet, only last week, just at this moment, with the sky darkening day by day and when the Russian attitude is becoming more and more menacing, I attended the last parade of one of the best battalions of the British Army, the 3rd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, before it was disbanded. It was a battalion in which I had the privilege of serving as a young officer in the First World War, and no doubt I felt the sadness of that occasion more for that reason. But I could not help feeling, as I watched those red coats moving slowly away under the trees, for the last time as a battalion, what a queer moment it was to be disbanding our best troops.

Clearly, this is not a time for panic action; but, equally clearly, I think it is a time for realistic thinking. And certainly it is no time for complacency or soft speaking. The Prime Minister, not long ago, in a phrase which your Lordships will all remember, said, "There ain't going to be no war". I should personally still agree with him—if by that word "war" he meant those vast world-wars, such as some of us have known twice in our lifetime. I should agree with him, and for a very simple reason. Hot world wars with modern weapons have become too dangerous, I believe, for even power politic-ridden States, like Russia, to embark on. But, equally, who can doubt that, over wide areas of the world, the crust of civilisation is quaking and shuddering and that the elemental fires which boil and flame beneath are being exposed?

Is this a moment, my Lords, to reduce our defence forces still further—or, at any rate, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, said, those particular forces which are necessary to maintain law and order in those far off but vital parts of our Commonwealth and Empire? Is it not rather a moment to tell the British people that, even if it means sacrifices—and it may well mean sacrifices—we must now take the necessary measures to ensure security for ourselves, our fellow countrymen in the territories for which we are responsible, and the loyal local inhabitants of those places? Otherwise, ultimately, make no mistake, both they and we shall perish.

I know very well the difficulties involved in reversing, halting or even slowing up any policy which has already been decided on—difficulties of money, difficulties of manpower, such as those which have already been referred to by other speakers, or difficulties of both those characters. But I submit to the House that the position has materially changed since the decisions to reduce the Army were reached, and I feel the time has come when it is essential for all of us in this country to approach these difficulties in a spirit rather of surmounting them than of acquiescing in them. I agree very strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that we cannot afford to take risks. Moreover, the spectacle of us disbanding our best battalions at this particular juncture cannot but seem very strange—indeed incomprehensible—both to our friends and enemies. There is one thing that is very certain. The Western Powers, if they are to survive in this cold war, must at this juncture not only be resolute but be seen to be resolute, if further deterioration is to be avoided.

I should like, in conclusion—this was the main thing I rose to say—to revert to the speech of the Leader of the House in that Foreign Affairs debate to which I referred at the beginning of my remarks—and to remind noble Lords of exactly what the noble Earl, Lord Home said. I will quote his actual words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 224, col. 758]: …first priority must be given to security". And he added, referring to the recent threat of force, by the Easternbloc[col. 758]: the defences which guard the Free World must be geared to that threat, and there must be no chink or crack in our defence shield. Those were wise words, and they have been reinforced by every noble Lord who has spoken in the debate this afternoon. I appeal to the Government most earnestly—in this matter, above all others—to show by their acts that they mean what they say.

4.29 p.m.


My Lords, this debate is taking place very late in the year, and I am beginning to wonder whether we are debating this year's Estimates or, perhaps, even next year's. We have listened to a very powerful speech by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and I certainly support all that he has put forward.

I should like, in the first place, to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the new pay and pensions code which was issued in the White Paper of February last. I would say that very great efforts have been made to bring the Forces into line with other occupations and to attract the best kind of man to the Services, and I entirely disagree with the views of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, that the pay is bad as compared with civil life. I am sorry the noble Lord is not listening to what I am saying. Perhaps be would pay attention for one moment. I was saying that I entirely disagree with him in his remarks about the pay of the Services being poor. I think it is extremely good; and, what is more, those who retire from the Service in future can now look forward to increased retired pay, together, as we all know, with a terminal grant. On the other hand until there is equality of retired pay for officers and equality of pensions for officers' widows, the position will not be satisfactory. I do not propose to go further in this matter today, but I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give it their earnest attention—indeed, I propose to raise the matter a little later in the year.

I should now like to turn for a few moments to our strategic reserve. We are devoting a great deal of time and thought, and so on, to it, but all this will undoubtedly be wasted unless the plans include complete arrangements for the conveyance of adequate forces instantly to any trouble spot, not within a week or so but within a matter of hours. That is absolutely necessary. I should like to ask the Minister who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government whether he can give an assurance on this matter, and perhaps enlarge on the arrangements that have been made and make it clear that swift action is now possible.

As a member of the so-called "senior Service", I turn with some temerity to the question of whether, under modern conditions, the tank can retain its former relative supremacy in battle. No doubt the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who is to speak a little later, will say that I am wrong. However, I take courage from the fact that the First Lord of the Admiralty is to reply to this debate. I think it is true to say that the anti-tank homing missiles are now becoming cheap enough and, what is more, good enough to be turned out in sufficient numbers for the Army to be radically re-equipped with weapons of this kind within the next two years. I suggest that in a comparatively short time these weapons could alter the whole balance of the conventional battlefield as we know it to-day, and reassert the importance of the machine gun and field artillery. On the other hand, I understand that it is still the official Western policy to place great faith in the use of the normal heavy tank. The Russians are reported to have 50,000 tanks. They are also reported to have—and we know they have—quite a large number of cruisers. But Mr. Khrushchev has said that these cruisers are out of date. Perhaps the tanks are becoming out of date, too. May we not be approaching the time when the short-range light homing missile will provide the complete answer to the tank and put it out of business?

I also feel that there is a great danger of going too far in the direction of atomic weapons. The modern Army must, of course, be ready to fight with tactical atomic weapons, but it may well have the effect of reducing conventional fire power. Why is this so? It might mean that, unit for unit, a modern formation would not be able to hold its own in conditions of major conventional warfare against an equivalent formation equipped with conventional fire power on the old and larger scale. The question is: are we striking a proper balance in that direction? May I again emphasise that Army equipment generally must always be related to the need of even greater mobility. That is of great importance. I would say that the key problem is to be able to intervene rapidly at a distant point and to build up units quickly; and that means the development of new equipment in terms of "easy loads" which can be moved quickly, not only by air but also by sea transport. I think it is true to say that it takes about ten years from the first stage of a new idea to the daily use of a piece of new equipment in a unit. I hope that in the future it may be possible to put these new ideas into effect more quickly than in the past, so that our Army can be kept up to date with the very latest weapons and equipment and ready for immediate action.

My Lords, there is no doubt that we are reaching the state of having a very fine long-service professional Army; but the wind of change is also blowing through it and new ideas are forming daily. I trust that all the new developments in guided missiles and atomic weapons will be adapted for Army use at the earliest possible moment, and that the inevitable time lag will be reduced so far as possible.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has left the Chamber because I should have liked to deal with some of his remarks. He speaks with such great authority that it was quite clear that he carried with him much of the feeling of the House on both sides. But I should have liked to ask—indeed, this is a question which the Government have themselves attempted to answer—what measures he would take, and anyone now would take, to make the country, as I think he wants to do, face up to its responsibilities.

The disbanding of a regiment, sad though it may be (we can all understand that feeling), may or may not be a harmful thing from a national standpoint. We are faced with a situation in which, whatever we do, we shall not have enough troops or equipment to do the job. I think that, on the whole, on present form, the Government are likely to get somewhere near the target they have set themselves; and the only possible alternative by which the manpower can be greatly increased and we can retain a greatly increased number of regiments is to return to National Service. I believe that if anyone is going to advocate a course of this kind, which implies that the country must face its responsibilities, it is also his responsibility to say what steps should be taken, and whether National Service should once again be considered.

In my view, the answer does not he in a return to National Service, but lies in the direction which the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and my noble friend Lord Nathan have all supported—that is, in the transport of our troops to whatever part of the world and whatever theatre of operations they may be needed to act in. This is the possible danger and tragedy of Africa. Again I found the words of the noble Marquess a little frightening. The example of the Belgian Congo is, of course, an illustration of how not to do it. It is an example that I hope we in the British Commonwealth shall successfully avoid. But the fact remains that during this dangerous period it will be essential, not necessarily in British territories but perhaps in others, to see that we get the best use we can out of our manpower.

I make no apology in a debate on the Army for bringing up the subject of Transport Command and military aircraft. I think it is one of the unfortunate aspects of our Service debates that, although we have a general defence debate to begin with, we inevitably see the respective Service Ministries concentrating on their own responsibilities and not thinking enough, because they do not want to tread on other people's toes, in terms of the overall picture. If there is one thing the Army ought to be doing to-day, it is to demand a proper and co-ordinated transport policy from the Royal Air Force. That is one thing which, quite clearly, is lacking. I will not go into the reasons why the Royal Air Force has not been thinking in these terms. Of course it is not only the responsibility of the Air Force itself; it is a matter far the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But there is no clearly framed policy for air transport for the British Armed Forces; and nowhere has this been more clearly shown than during the Suez and Jordan operations.

It is depressing to think, as we have now been told, that transports which can carry the kind of equipment that might be needed in an emergency—heavy equipment: in fact, everything short of a tank—will not be available before 1965. I hope that when the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty comes to reply he will tell us why the Government, during these crucial three or four years, from 1961 to 1965, in which our Armed Forces are likely to be in some respects at their lowest ebb, are content to wait to acquire a suitable aircraft to perform in the strategic rôle, when there are available in the world, in the shape of American aircraft, suitable machines for this particular job.

We would all rather see our forces equipped with British weapons and British equipment of all kinds, but we have accepted the principle of interdependence. We know that the safety of the Free World will depend upon the maximum use of its resources, and maximum co-operation, and to me it is inexplicable that we should have to wait during these years, when we might buy the C.130, which I have mentioned on previous occasions and which would very largely meet the needs of the Army at the present moment. That could be made available for us to buy or to manufacture in this country; and, incidentally, it would provide the employment which the Britannic so far is failing to provide in Belfast, because it is not yet going into production. We could be manufacturing the C.130, and I am told that it could be available for operational service in the course of the next two or three years. This seams to me to be such a piece of elementary common sense that I cannot see the flaw in the argument. I hope the noble Lord the First Lord will tell us.

We know that the Britannic is a very fine aircraft. The only trouble is that it does not exist. When it does, it will no longer be such a fine aircraft in comparison with other aircraft which will then he available, and which may have a performance 200 miles an hour better than that of the Britannic. It is no good our planning the perfect Army transport aircraft if it is not to be available when we need it, and I would suggest that it is time the Army pressed their demands much more strongly. What is needed is a type of aircraft that will not only have a very great range—2,000 to 3,000 miles—but is capable of landing or taking off from soft fields. This must mean that, whatever aircraft is used—and I am surprised, again, that the Army do not press harder for this—there must be some principle of blown flaps enabling aircraft to land at much slower speeds and in fields (in the case of the C.130, for example) of little more than 500 yards, without runways. I regard that as a primary requirement. In fact that is the only reason why I have intervened in this debate to-day.

I have referred to inter-dependence. May I again refer to the Commonwealth? Can we not, in these matters, attempt to get some standardisation within the Commonwealth? If Australia is using a particular type of aircraft, could we also not use it? I sometimes wonder whether, despite all our fine words in regard to Commonwealth co-operation and inter-dependence, the Generals, the Air Marshals and the Admirals, who meet and co-operate so well during the day, do not go quietly back to the spiritual colour of uniform in which they are embedded, unable to think in wider terms. I would appeal to the First Lord, who has to change the colour of his uniform very frequently, to give us some encouragement in this matter, particularly in regard to the achievement of a co-ordinated and properly planned policy for transporting the Army to its operational fields. I believe that if we get that from him we shall see a sign that has been very much lacking in Government policy lately; and I hope, therefore, that he will give us an answer on the possibility of a substitute for the Britannic.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend, Lord Teynham, has left us, but when he spoke he took my name in vain on the matter of anti-tank homing missiles and whether there was not room for more of them in the Army. My noble friend asked if I agreed. I did agree with him, and from what I know of the position I do not see that there is any difficulty whatever in the production by industry of a sufficiency of those weapons. The only thing that is needed is for those in authority to make up their minds and sign the order for them.

May I come back to the terms of the Motion put down by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan? At the time it seemed a pity that this Motion should have been put off for so long, but I am quite sure, since it has been before the House, that it is none the worse for having been kept. A good many things have happened and are to happen and we need to discuss them before the time comes for the Recess. Nowadays, when we are discussing Army affairs it is just as well to try to be certain of exactly what are the limits of authority of the Secretary of State for War. Those limits are rather different from what they were in the old days. As I understand it, they do not include many matters like global strategy or aircraft or guided missiles belonging to the Ministry of Aviation. I imagine that they really cover items which are included in another volume—the Army Estimates, at which we in this House do not often look.

Now—and I think it is a very good thing, too—the matters under his authority have been increased by the transfer of certain functions from the Ministry of Supply back to the War Office. But, as was said by my noble and gallant friend Field Marshal Lord Harding of Petherton (whom we are all so glad to hear), the main problems for the Secretary of State for War are really three: first, to recruit enough Regulars for the Army; secondly, to equip those Regulars; and thirdly—and I put it in this way—to complete the thought on what our second-line forces should be like and should be ready to do; and, having completed that thought, then to reorganise them to match.

Several noble Lords this afternoon have reminded us that we are now set on the course for all-Regular forces, and failing another war—a war which Heaven forbid!—It may be well-nigh impossible to retrace our steps and go back to National Service. My noble and gallant friend Lord Harding of Petherton touched upon that, as did the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. But—and I have said this before in this House—I believe it would be the greatest mistake and calamity if we took the view that in no circumstances could we revert to National Service. That would not be putting first things first. I believe that the things which ought to come first are to have certain minimum forces to perform the tasks which the Government wish them to perform, and, if it turns out that, having tried all avenues and turned all stones, we cannot produce enough Regulars to do the job, then to face the facts and—however politically or materially unpleasant it may be—to consider the reintroduction of National Service as something which we should do only in the last resort but which none the less is a possibility.

This question of realities, I think, is one which to any one of us who has taken part in a war, and particularly in operations like Dunkirk in 1940, comes home very strongly. It entails keeping in mind the immense difference between having an order of battle on paper and having sufficient men to fill that order of battle; it entails providing sufficient weapons to supply the war outfit for it and (what people do not always realise) sufficient reserves behind that order of battle to enable the Army to stay in the field. Everybody knows that at the time of Korea the infantry battalions which were sent out there were made up of detachments of six or seven or ten different units; in other words, the system had broken down temporarily. The King's Shropshire Light Infantry, which comes to mind, had troops of all the other light infantry regiments in them, and that meant that the Service battalions of the other regiments at the time could not have been put into the field. Therefore, to that extent the order of battle was an illusion.

I feel that, in any debate of this sort, we in this House should set our faces against illusions of that kind. For all that my noble friend Lord Onslow said—and I hope that my noble friend Lord Carrington will be able to say a little more—we are still not in the manpower situation where we are away from the illusion. The figures have been quoted this afternoon by several noble Lords. I am not a complete pessimist on those figures. One has to remember that every long-service man who is recruited now counts as two or three of the National Service or short-term men whose engagements are running off; and therefore the number of man-years, for what that is worth, is a good deal better. But I think we are fully justified in taking the view that, if these figures are right, they are only just right and there is nothing to spare, even assuming that those figures of 160,000 or 180,000, when calculated a few years ago, were really related to the order of battle. So if we want to avoid the reintroduction of National Service, we are faced now with an all-out effort in every direction to encourage recruiting for our Regular Army. After all, if we take the figure of 200,000, the maximum number which has been quoted this afternoon, in relation to the total number of registered people in employment, it is not terribly high.

I am going to disagree slightly with the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, over pay, because I have the feeling that the pay at the moment is high enough for requirements. Other things are not right. Pensions for those who have retired and for widows are certainly not right. But that is a thing, as other noble Lords have said, which is going to be debated later on in the year; and I think that all any of us wants to do this afternoon is to put our noble friends on the Front Bench under notice that we shall come back to this matter at the proper time, which I think will be then.

One matter which has not been mentioned so far is the question of career, the career of the soldier. I come back, as I have done many times in the past, to the proposition that we shall never be right in our attempts to recruit soldiers unless we can give them a guaranteed career until the retiring age of 65, not in the Forces but in some other part of Her Majesty's Services. I am certain that it can be done and that the thinking man of the type we want to recruit will be greatly influenced if he can be told that he has a career ready for him if he wants it, and if he behaves himself, right up to the age when he becomes entitled to the old-age pension and other benefits of that sort. Why on earth in these days should we offer a man we want to recruit for Her Majesty's Forces different terms from those which we offer the Civil Service and the National Association of Local Government Officers? My Lords, it makes no sense.

There are various other things that I want to suggest. One thing I hope (and, again, I have said this many a time) is that we shall stop using the words "conventional forces" about our famous regiments and so forth to which we want to recruit people. That expression, I am certain, is thoroughly bad public relations, because it must raise in the mind of the up-and-coming young man the idea that we are inviting him to take part in some outmoded organisation supported only by "Blimps" like the noble Lord who is now addressing your Lordships. That cannot be right. We must aim our publicity and our nomenclature of our Forces nowadays to attract people who are likely to possess the spirit of adventure.

We must push on with the matter of married quarters. And here I should like to welcome what my noble friend Lord Onslow said. I was not very convinced by what he said about uniform, and I state only a fact when I say that since August 4, 1914, the Territorial Army has been asked the whole of the time to walk out in the dress in which it is supposed to fight battles, and the Regular Army has been asked to do the same thing nearly the whole time. That is a fact which no one can controvert, and I shall leave it at that. I want to say one thing about the inducement to Regular soldiering, and that is this. I think that in the Army we shall have to move nearer to the practice of the Navy and the Air Force in having a bigger proportion of serving men starting as boy entrants. It seems to me that in these days, when we have over-employment and also when a higher proportion of the soldiers we want are needed to train for a specialist career, as in the Navy and Air Force, we cannot go wrong by increasing our boy entrants; and if we want to spend money in that way it will be money very well spent. So I hope we shall move a little further in that direction.

I am not going to say a great deal about weapons for the moment, except in very general terms. I feel that we are now getting to the end of a cycle of development in Army weapons. Although the question of weapons is largely out of the hands of the Secretary of State for War, being a matter more for the Minister of Defence, and also one that has to be decided in N.A.T.O. circles, we shall be justified now more than we have been in recent years in going to production and spending the money. I believe that we are much safer than we have been for many years past in going to production now; and, of course, if we do not go to production now, then I must go back to what I said earlier on about realities. The Army will not be a reality unless it is armed.

Same noble Lord earlier in the debate talked about "teeth and tail". There, I think, we are rather in danger of not using the right words. We are apt to use the word "teeth" for the old horse, fool and guns, and the word "tail" for the Royal Army Service Corps, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and all the rest of them. I believe that to be wrong and poor public relations. In these days a field formation must have its R.A.S.C., R.E.M.E. and Royal Army Ordnance Corps, just as it has the horse, foot and guns. Those people, therefore, are "teeth" and should be thought of as such. The "tail" are the people not in fighting formations, and the fewer of those the better.

Now, my Lords, we are in a position at the present time where, so we think on these Benches, Her Majesty's present Government may last for a few more years yet; and, therefore, an opportunity exists for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War to sit down, take his time, and get these things right. If he is to do that, then he and the people in the War Office must be left alone to do their jobs. I want to put to noble Lords a proposition which I believe is becoming more and more true: that the Army is not being run by those people who are supposed to run it. The frustration and "back-seat driving" from extraneous quarters such as the Treasury is, I believe, becoming more and more, and not less and less. The number of staff hours employed developing ideas or plans which are "shot down" is becoming more and not less. I believe that this is due very largely, though by no means entirely, to the three-year tenure of Staff officers in the War Office. I believe that this period is too short. No one would seriously suggest a three-year tenure for someone like Sir Brian Robertson with British Railways, or any of the other nationalised industries, or with a big company, in industry. It would be said, "The time is too short for the individual to get a grip, and to put through his ideas".

One therefore gets a state of affairs in which for two years out of three the machine is not working, and the War Office is not being run by the people who are thought to be running it because the Staff officers are coming in or going out two-thirds of the time. That, I believe, has caused not only delay in developing ideas and in carrying through reforms, but also a great deal of waste of time and money. I myself know of certain instances of very heavy "write-offs" caused by a change in plan which I should have thought unnecessary. However, that is something not so much for this House as for another place, and I would suggest that honourable Members in another place, if they chose to put these matters under review by the Select Committee on National Expenditure, would be doing quite a good day's work, and would provide some very valuable support for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War. My Lords, the Secretary of State for War has at the moment, I think, an opportunity which has not fallen to the lot of any Secretary of State since the late noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, in 1939, before the war. And he, at that time, had an opportunity which had not fallen to any of his predecessors since the time of the noble Lord, Lord Haldane.

Now may I come for one moment to the question of the second-line forces. Here I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Harding of Petherton—rather more than I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. As most of us know, plans for the Territorial Army have been developed and are likely to be announced fairly soon. It will no doubt be wise not to attempt to discuss the matter too far in this House until we know what those plans are. Then, no doubt, we shall all wish to discuss them, and no one more, I should think, than the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, whose service to the Territorial Army—50 years of service—is so well known. In any case, if, by chance, the new plans affect the Territorial and Reserve Forces Acts (and I have no idea whether they do or not) we shall have to discuss them in this House, whether we like it or not. It would be wrong, therefore, to take up your Lordships' time by saying a great deal to-night. All I will say is that I sincerely hope that these changes which are being made are the result of a definite plan, based on real thought, and not just a transitional arrangement such as the Territorial Army has had to put up with during recent years when, for a number of reasons on which I do not think your Lordships need me to spend time, various expedients, such as civil defence, were brought up as things that the Territorial Army might do.

The Territorial Army, my Lords, is not merely a second-line organisation which we need to take the place of our Regular Forces, should they have to go out of the country, and which, therefore, as I think my noble friend Lord Harding of Petherton said, must be in a proper state of readiness. The Territorial Army— and the cadet forces, too—are part of the shop window of the public relations of the Regular Army, and unless they are properly looked after and given a worthwhile job, they will not merely be ineffective in themselves but will also have a bad repercussion on all these vital plans for completing the strength of the Regular Army. Up to now, the Territorial Army has not really known what it has been expected to do—certainly not since the two divisions came out of the N.A.T.O. order of battle. Its members have been invited to take part in civil defence—and I am bound to say that I have very little time for the way in which that idea was put over. There again, as I see it, the fundamental mistake was in categorising civil defence as something separate from national defence as a whole—which, to my mind, it manifestly is not. So they were asked to do, as it might be put, a lower-grade job. That situation ought never to have arisen.

To me, the position is almost the exact apposite: the Territorial Army is there to fight the Queen's battles; to take part in operations of war, if they are called on to do that, as properly trained formations. But the greater includes the less, and any trained formation, be it Regular or Territorial, must be able, if called upon to do so, to take part in civil defence operations or to aid the civil power (although, of course, that is not a function of the Territorial Army as such), or anything of that sort. I am not suggesting for a moment, that we should now say that the Territorial Army should not do civil defence. That would make no sense. I would put it in the way that I have done: that it is one of the functions of every trained formation to be able to do such things when the occasion requires.

I do not think I need trouble your Lordships any further. As I have said, I feel that both the Regular and the Territorial Army are to-day in a more critical state than they have been for some time. But I also feel that my right honourable friend has opportunities which have not lain at the feet of either himself or his predecessors for an equally long time. I hope that the measures which are to be taken will be taken with the idea of producing a really efficient force, with the proper reserves behind it, with no fudging of figures or concealing the fact that our readiness for war is not all that it might be. I hope that we shall take a great deal more trouble, not merely in advertising but in the public relations of the Army. Advertising is getting better, but advertising and public relations are not the same thing. The advertising is not always quite as good as it might be. Two or three years ago I saw a poster, designed to encourage Regular Army recruits, showing two well-turned-out soldiers being looked at by two Teddy boys, with two Chelsea Pensioners in the background. At first sight that poster looked quite all right, but might it not at second sight appear that the Teddy boys, pointing to the Pensioners, were saying to the Regular soldiers, "That is how you will finish up if you join the Army"? My Lords, let us think of these things carefully and see to it that we offer the Regular soldier a career which is not only made out to be attractive but is genuinely so.

5.9 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will not consider me out of order if I say something to-day about the East African Land Forces—that is, the local forces raised and recruited in East Africa for service there. I have read through this Memorandum which your Lordships are debating, and I have found no mention in the text of the East African Land Forces, although there is an acknowledgement of the assistance which the Army has rendered forces in East Africa. There is, however, in the map at the end, a bracket showing them with the United Kingdom Brigade Group, which is being built up in Kenya. Therefore, I consider—and I hope that your Lordships will agree—that I may discuss in this debate the affairs of the East African Land Forces.

The King's African Rifles, who are the backbone of the East African Land Forces, have had a long and distinguished career. They have not only been responsible for the internal security of the East African territories for the last fifty or sixty years, but have also played an important part in both world wars. In the Second World War, tens of thousands joined voluntarily. From Tanganyika alone, 80,000 recruits were accepted, and they fought in Ethiopia, Madagascar and in Burma. After the war, they reverted to the small number of battalions which had previously existed, but they continued to be administered and commanded by the War Office. That was all right for the time being. The Colonial Governments, of course, paid. But as costs went up the Colonial Governments began to brindle a bit. There was a tug-of-war between the Colonial authorities and the War Office about both administration and costs.

The War Office laid down certain standards of equipment which local opinion considered to be unnecessary. The Colonial Governments did not see why every Askari should be issued with a gas-mask. And the book-keeping insisted on by the War Office was so cumbersome that they had to employ a large number of British N.C.O.s and warrant officers to keep the accounts. The Mau-Mau operations intervened during the interesting discussions we were having, and the King's African Rifles were fully employed in dealing with the Mau-Mau troubles. But afterwards, when the British Forces were first reduced and were then to be removed altogether, it was decided that the King's African Rifles, or the East African Land Forces as they became known, should revert to the Colonial Governments, who would continue to pay for them and would also be responsible for their establishments and their administration.

No sooner had we arrived at that decision than a new decision was made to station more British troops in East Africa as part of the strategic reserve. So the G.O.C. found himself wearing two hats—a white hat in his r ôle as Commander of the British troops and a black hat with white spots in his rôle as Commander of the African troops. A new event has taken place this month. I believe that from July 1 Her Majesty's Government have taken over the responsibility of paying for the East African Land Forces. Whether this comes into the Army Estimates or not I do not know. Perhaps the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admir- alty will deal with this when he answers this debate. The administration has reverted to the War Office, and I very much hope that the War Office will take local opinion about the standards of equipment required and the organisation required for the particular purpose.

The r ôle of the East African Land Forces has been laid down to be the defence of East Africa and internal security. Never before, perhaps, were they so badly needed, and it is rather distressing to me to learn that, out of six battalions of King's African Rifles now serving in East Africa, one is to be put into a state of suspended animation, or disbanded, because part of it formed the garrison of the Mauritius which is no longer required. This is not the time, I believe, with events along the East African border and danger in East Africa itself, to have any reduction in the six battalions of the King's African Rifles in an area the size of Western Europe with a population of 20 million people.

It is important that the Africans should be allowed to be trained to be officers. I think that a very sensible thing has been done in bringing back the rank of native officer or Effendi, holding a Governor's Commission, which is given to soldiers who have served for a long time and have shown themselves to be good leaders; who are fit to become officers but have not the qualifications to go to Sandhurst. They command platoons and assist the company commanders in looking after the welfare of the Askaris, which is sometimes a complicated matter, owing to the personal problems surrounding their several wives and large families. I believe that it is generally accepted that East Africans can now qualify to go to Sandhurst. In fact there are five candidates there at present—two Europeans, one Pakistani, one Goan and one African. I very much hope that the number of Africans will be increased.

One thing we have to make sure of in the leadership of these African troops is that the officers are leaders they are prepared to follow. Their splendid record has been a tribute to the leadership they have enjoyed in their history up to date. I myself have had the honour to serve in the King's African Rifles, and I have great confidence that, whatever they may be asked to do, they will remain a loyal and disciplined body of men. I commend them to your Lordships' House.

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord who moved the Motion dismissed the Memorandum we have before us as no more than a "shopping list". I do not entirely agree with his description, since I found it rather instructive. It may be that my many years on the General Staff have accustomed me to the rather abridged and terse form of writing in which it appears. I believe that the lack of padding and verbiage in it has much to recommend it.

I should like to take up a few specific points under the different headings in the Memorandum. Under the heading on page 4, "Training and operations", there is a paragraph on the subject of Libya and training facilities in that country. Five or six years ago, when the situation in Cyprus had not developed to any great extent, I advocated in your Lordships' House entering into an agreement with the Government of Libya to obtain the area round Tobruk and El Adem for training. In fact, I hoped that the Middle East base might have been established there, rather than in Cyprus. I still hold the view that it would have been better there and I am glad to see that the authorities seem to be making increased use of this area, which is suitable in every way, except for families, which certainly would be a difficulty that would have to be surmounted.

The next paragraph on page 4 refers to Malta. During the last war I spent a year in Malta, at the end of 1942 and beginning of 1943. One of my recollections is of a certain amount of ill-feeling which was engendered between the Army and the Royal Air Force at the time of the bombing of the airfields, because the Army had to do a lot of work in the way of filling up bomb-holes and other menial tasks, which amounted practically to coolie labour and which the ground staff of the R.A.F., mostly technical personnel, could not be spared to do. The Army did not like this at all. I remember well that the 1st Battalion of the Royal Hampshire Regiment—and there was no better battalion in the Army—lost 48 men on Luqa and Safi airstrip during that time, and they resented this very much. I do not know the position in Malta now, but I hope there may be some idea that some of the duties of that sort on the Island of Malta in future will be taken over by the Royal Air Force Regiment. I can assure the noble Lord who is to reply that the Army did not like it, and it led to some friction, though the Governor at the time, Lord Gort, was able to pour oil on the waters—and it needed quite a lot of oil.

I come now to the paragraph headed "All-Regular Army". Section 25 refers to amalgamations and disbandments. Those of us who were Regular officers with many years' service regret this sort of thing on emotional and traditional lines. But I really think the War Office and the General Staff have done it very well. I do not think they trod on people's toes more than they could help, and I believe that the voices that were raised most shrilly against amalgamations were often of those who had contributed least to the history of their regiments. Disbandments are always sad, and I was particularly sympathetic to the "cri de coeur" that came from the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, a few minutes ago when he spoke of the farewell parade only a week or two ago of the 3rd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. If I may be allowed a personal note for a moment, may I say that that was the battalion which I joined 38 years ago, and which eighteen years later I commanded for a short time. Therefore, I was as much affected as anybody by that disbandment, and I think the noble Lord who is to reply will feel very much as I do. But I also think that these matters are not gone into gratuitously by the War Office and General Staff; every aspect of the matter is considered, and if it has to be done it has to be done, and emotion should, as far as possible, be left out of it.

A little further on we come to "Officer Career Structure". I should not venture into this (it is a complicated matter, and I am not well up in it as one has to be all the time to know about it) but I see one sentence in paragraph 40 where it is stated that promotion to major will be by selection. In my day it was by selection and also by promotion examination; an officer had to pass his promotion exam and be recommended by his commanding officer. I hope that that is still the case, because I believe that selection on its own might lead to certain dangers. I feel that some form of examination as to an officer's technical and professional ability should be added to the other qualifications he needs.

I would also ask the noble Lord whether, as in the old days, the qualifying by art officer in the Staff College examination— though he is not necessarily selected for the Staff College; only qualified—makes his promotion examination to the rank of major unnecessary. It used to, and I think it was a good idea, because the Staff College examination standard was considerably more difficult. It therefore followed that the greater was greater than the less, and it saved the officer sitting for two examinations. As I say, I hope the system still exists, and that if promotion examinations are the order of the day they will contain a proper practical examination, as well as a written one. The practical promotion examination in my day was a farce. It consisted of a day in the country based on sandwiches, flasks of port, and shooting-sticks. Everybody knew everybody else. It was all the greatest fun, but it really served no useful purpose. I was grateful at the time when I was a candidate that that was the basis; nevertheless, in these days, when the Army is not as it used to be—halftime pay for a half-time job—but is now a proper professional Army with full-time pay for a full-time job, the professional qualifications of an officer should be gone into thoroughly before he is promoted.

Last of all, I should like to say one or two words on weapons and development. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, in his speech commented on the fact that there was still no replacement for the Vickers machine gun and the Bren. Admittedly the Memorandum says that "they are to be replaced", but I do not quite know what that means. I imagine that trials have been carried out, but perhaps the noble Lord can tell us whether or not the replacement is in production. I sincerely hope that it is. The Vickers machine gun, having served us well in two wars, is now definitely at the bow-and-arrow stage, with its slow rate of fire and its great weight—and any of your Lordships who have had the pleasure of carrying the tripod for any length of time will know what I mean.

Finally, one of the most important parts of equipment in the Army, including the infantry, is wireless equipment. Those of us, such as myself, who were getting a little old when the war started and were not used to wireless found it difficult to pick up the procedure; but now I am sure that all those in the Army are conversant with it, and, therefore, the question of equipment, as opposed to the users, seems to be most important. Army communications are as important, if not more so, than they ever were, and particularly, as we have heard this afternoon, in view of the desirability of mobility. Mobility will depend on communications, and the communications will, in turn, depend on the equipment. I am sure that the relevant Departments of the War Office have this matter very much in hand. I have nothing further to say, and I hope I have not kept your Lordships too long. I, for one, feel—though I may be a little prejudiced, having served much of my life on the Staff—that the General Stall of the Army have these matters in hand.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, on the last occasion I addressed your Lordships on matters relating to the Army one of the more popular newspapers gave my remarks a certain amount of publicity under the headline, "Ranker Peer Defends 'Bull'". I have no reason to apologise for being a ranker Peer or for defending "bull", because I did qualify my statement on that occasion by defining "bull" as smartness of appearance. While I am the last person to advocate the tedious business of whitewashing coal or polishing boot-polish tins, of which some of your Lordships may have had experience, I see no harm in a man having to press his trousers or polish his boots.

We are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for this interesting and informative debate. I should like, first of all, to say a word or two about accommodation. This is a most important part of the problem of the Army, both to-day and for the future. I was a little perturbed to read in a Sunday newspaper a few weeks ago of an instance where some barracks recently completed at Colchester were said to have been found not to be big enough to contain suitable administrative offices. I do not know whether that statement has been verified. It was in one of the more popular Sunday newspapers, so possibly the facts may be wrong. But I hope that we can have an assurance from Her Majesty's Government that barracks which are being built to-day will have sufficient accommodation, not only for those who live in them but also for administrative offices, if it is necessary to include them in the barracks themselves. If this newspaper report is true, it is certainly rather disturbing, particularly as I see that the amount which is voted in the Army Estimates for 1960–61 is a total of £470 million. That is a great deal of money. I certainly do not begrudge the spending of it, because I believe that it is necessary to have a well-trained and well-equipped Army, particularly as the international situation to-day is not very happy.

I should like to pay tribute to the speech of the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton, to whose words we always listen with the greatest respect. There are probably few people in this country more qualified than he is to speak on Service matters. I was particularly struck with his remarks and the remarks of my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, on the Territorial Army. It must be borne in mind that the Territorial Army is comprised of volunteers who give of their own free time after they have completed their jobs in offices, factories or shops. Therefore, it is incumbent upon any Government to make sure that they are well equipped. Only the other day I was talking to a very good friend of mine who is a junior officer in one of the leading London armoured divisions. He told me some disturbing stories of inadequate equipment, of scout cars which kept on breaking down—and they have a very good maintenance section in that unit—and of wireless sets which are out of date. It is very discouraging when you get these breakdowns on manœuvres. They are costly and also detrimental to morale. I should like to reinforce the pleas that have already been made from all parts of your Lordships' House on the absolute necessity of seeing that the Territorial Army—and I have myself had a few years' experience in the Territorial Army—is properly equipped.

Satisfaction has been expressed in paragraph 44 of the Army Estimates on recruiting for the Territorial Army, which has 20,000 more men than last year. That is fairly satisfactory, but I contend that it is not satisfactory enough. Unless and until personnel in the Territorial Army are well equipped with good equipment, recruitment must necessarily be limited, because there is nothing more detrimental to morale than using out-of-date equipment. The ending of National Service will be viewed by many as expedient. I think that on the whole it is a good thing. It is good for the economy of the country to have a well-trained Regular Army, and, of course, we must have the men. I have found from experience that National Service gives a man character, and whatever the detriments of National Service (and all National Servicemen, myself included, have their grumbles, some of them justified, some of them not), it has done a great many young people a lot of good. Therefore, while I agree with the ceasing of National Service, I recognise that there will be mixed feelings about it.

One subject which I do not think has been touched upon to-day is education. If we are to have an adequately sized Regular Army, with family men who have children of school age, we must have an assurance that the Army schools are going to maintain their standards. The standard of teachers in our civilian schools has been questioned on occasions, although I believe that our teachers, whether Army or civilian, do a fine job. But when a man is suddenly posted from, say, Tidworth to the West Indies or Malaya, there must be some assurance that his children are going to receive as good a standard of education as before. I should like—and I am sure your Lordships will agree—an assurance from Her Majesty's Government that the Army schools will continue to maintain their high standard.

Something has been said about public relations, and I agree entirely with the sentiments of my noble friend Lord Bridgeman. I should like to see more opportunities and more publicity given for the general public to see Army camps; for the Army to have more "At Home" days and "Family" days. They should not be "laid on", as one sometimes suspects is so, when everything in the garden is made to look rosy—though I do not think that that applies as much now as it used to. But it is essential that the parents should be given an opportunity to see how their sons are faring. I know of one unit where the commanding officer writes to all the parents of the men in the unit, giving a progress report of how their sons are getting on. I believe that that kind of thing would be great incentive to recruiting, because it would keep parents in the picture.

I had the privilege of being one of a delegation from both Houses of Parliament to visit the Intelligence Corps depot in Sussex the other day. I was most impressed by the calibre of the men in that unit and by the training they receive. Of course, the Intelligence Corps is a unit where educational standards are rather higher than in many Army units, but certainly the training which these men were receiving would be the envy of many people in civilian life. In conclusion, I should like once again to reinforce the need for the Territorial Army to be properly equipped, and for every incentive to be given to those who give of their own free time, apart from their normal businesses, to do their bit to see that our Army is strong.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, in view of the fair number of speakers who have spoken to-day I will be as brief as possible. First of all, I should like to refer to one aspect of our B.A.O.R. forces, and that is with regard to our guided-weapons regiments. The 1958 Memorandum mentioned that the training of two surface-to-surface guided-weapon regiments was proceeding, and that on completion of their training they would be sent out to join our forces in Germany. The 1959 Memorandum mentioned that one guided-weapon regiment equipped with Corporal missiles was to be sent out in March of that year. This year's Memorandum, so far as I can see, makes no reference whatsoever to any further deployment of our guided-missile regiments. Under "Weapons and Development", paragraph 59, there is only a mention that during the coming year there will be a second Royal Artillery regiment which will receive the Thunderbird surface-to-air guided weapon.

During the Defence debate, on February 29, the Minister of Defence referred only to the fact that there were now two guided-weapon regiments equipped with Corporal missiles, but he did not say where the second unit was. Are we to understand that this second unit has, in fact, joined the first one in Germany, or is it still at Larkhill or some similar place? On March 9 the Secretary of State for War confirmed (and this point was also mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow) that during the coming year we should be receiving the Honest John, which is a free-flight type of rocket; in other words, unlike the Corporal it has no guidance system. The range is also, I believe, less. He also mentioned that the Royal Artillery would receive a new type of howitzer. However, in this year's Memorandum there is no mention whatsoever of the training of further units in respect of guided weapons or non-guided roakets.

It is encouraging that the Defence White Paper of this year refers to the testing of the Blue Water missile at Woomera in Australia. In reply to a Question in another place on July 5 the Minister of Defence stated that a missile (in fact it was the Blue, Water) was being considered by this country and by the Federal Republic of Germany for joint development, I appreciate that it would be contrary to normal practice to ask my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty to state when we can expect this missile to be in production, or when it can be deployed or, at least, dispatched to units. But possibly he could give the House some information regarding the future position of our surface-to-surface guided-weapon and missile regiments. I make a difference here because some of the missiles are guided, and, as I say, the Honest John is not.

The training which the two guided-weapon regiments have been able to carry out on the Corporal missile will certainly be very beneficial to them, should those units be re-equipped with a less complicated type of solid-fuel missile. The Honest John has a solid-fuel type of sustainer motor, and so has the Blue Water. Are we to assume, therefore, that both these surface-to-surface guided-weapon regiments to which the Minister of Defence referred earlier on this year will be equipped with the Blue Water missile? Also can my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty give us any indication with regard to the training of the Royal Artillery regiments that are to receive the Honest John missiles?

That brings me to the question of the establishment of the guided-weapon regiments. Like other members of a Parliamentary party which recently visited the Royal Artillery guided-weapon range in the Outer Hebrides, I was a little perturbed at the fact that the establishment did not allow for any reserves in personnel for these regiments. As your Lordships are well aware, the personnel must be highly trained; there must Abe perfect teamwork and each member has a specific duty. There can be no interchangeability of personnel. That was stressed to us. Each member of the team has a specialised job. A number of us were led to wonder, if these units carry no reserves, to what extent such a unit could be crippled by the hazards of war-time conditions.

Finally, I should like to make a few remarks on the Outer Hebrides missile range itself. It is not mentioned in the Memorandum, but it does serve for training and serves, I think, a very useful purpose indeed. It was certainly a most interesting and enjoyable visit and I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, is not in his place; I think he would certainly bear me out when I say that. We could not have been more kindly received by the officers and men of the Royal Artillery who were there. I think I speak for all when I say how impressed I was by the efficiency, which was very apparent, of the officers and men who are there for the purpose of firing these Corporal missiles. Also I must say that the briefing which we received there was a most comprehensive and enlightened one. Quite a number of members of this party asked questions on matters which were of particular interest to them, and the answers were always readily given and most enlightening. The permanent staff comprises 130 officers and men. This may not have anything to do with an Army debate, but a number of your Lordships are interested in the employment question, and therefore no doubt will be pleased to know that this unit gives employment to 60 civilians drawn from the local population, a not inconsiderable number, when one considers the sparseness of the population there.

I feel sure that a number of your Lordships will recognise that, in spite of such facilities as fishing and boating, it is indeed a desolate area. But the morale of the troops is very high indeed. All of us were pleased to note that fact. One must also say that the relations with the local inhabitants seem to be extremely good. I know that at one time there was a question of friction, but now the relations seem to be extremely good. There are such limited facilities there for recreation and so forth (though I believe that some of the troops are looking forward to the opening of the causeway from Benbecula to North Uist, for I am told there is an extra nub there) that I should like to ask whether Her Majesty's Government could give serious consideration to a request, which I believe they have already received, that four free travel warrants should be granted per year to personnel serving there. I know that there is also the facility for members of Her Majesty's Forces up there to telephone their friends or relations on the homeland; but a further free travel warrant would please them immensely.

Could Her Majesty's Government also give a certain measure of priority to the request for married quarters at Benbecula? This may appear to your Lordships to be a small point, but every little grain of sand and drop of water make the mighty land and the mighty ocean. At present there are only three officers' and seven other ranks' married quarters. I believe I am right in saying that these are to be increased in number to six for the officers and ten for the other ranks. But if anything can be done to hasten the provision of such married quarters I should certainly be much obliged to Her Majesty's Government.

Lastly, I should like to ask the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can give the House any information about any steps that may have been taken by Her Majesty's Government to encourage members of the N.A.T.O. Alliance to use the range. I believe that conversations have taken place with the Americans, and I know that the unit itself would certainly welcome the use of the range by members of the N.A.T.O. Alliance, because it would assist in familiarising such members with our weapons drill and procedure, and it would also assist in bringing the members of this Alliance closer together.

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, nearly every noble Lord who has spoken has stressed what is, in general opinion and in my opinion, the most important aspect of this debate—namely, the strength of the Army. I entirely agree with the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Harding of Petherton, in saying that the figure should be much more like 200,000 than the 165,000 or even the 180,000 which have already been talked about. It is no good just saying a figure and leaving it there. As has been indicated, it is also extremely important to get the feeling across to the country that the Regular Army has to be brought up to this figure, and by that means to help the spirit which encourages recruits to come forward. Actual recruiting figures are extremely difficult to handle. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, stressed the actual strength of the Army as shown on the paper of the recruiting figures in May, as 137,000. Of course, that is just the figure of Regulars on that day, and there are still National Service men there. I think it is a dangerous figure to take as a working basis.


My Lords, could the noble Lord suggest what other figure there is? After all, that is the only figure for Regulars that we have. So far as I am aware, there is no other figure.


No; but the noble Lord took that figure and left it at that. In dealing with that figure, one has to do some sums afterwards, some of which are based on fact and some on informed speculation on the figures that have been shown to be averages over a number of years. I will not trouble your Lordships with them, but, working on those figures and taking them at the worst in each case, the figure of 165,000 will certainly be arrived at. Of course, that is not nearly enough. It is slightly encouraging to note that the figures for recruiting in May have at least equalled the equivalent month last year. Up to date they have all been well below that. In May, they were practically the same. As I ventured to say to your Lordships three years ago, I think there is hope that the actual ending of National Service will mean a large intake in recruits. It has certainly happened in the Territorial Army. Since National Servicemen were removed from part of the units, recruiting has increased enormously. Of course the Regular Army is not an exact parallel, but I think the same feeling will be there—that once it is purely voluntary there will be a greater inclination for people to come in.

Apart from that, it is difficult to do more than speculate, because so far as I can make out, any statistics that there, have ever been bear no relationship to what happens about recruiting. There have been attempts to relate it to unemployment or to increased emoluments. Those things have happened for a short time, but apparently they do not have any permanent effect. But there is no doubt at all that living conditions and everything related to them do have a great effect, and a great deal is being done about that. In paragraphs 47 to 54 of the Memorandum, there is a most impressive list of barracks and married quarters which are being built, repaired and restored. But that is alt in the future and all rather "jam to-morrow". There is only one actual concrete fact—namely, that four new barrack blocks in Aden will be ready for occupation by September. Knowing the normal hazards and delays of building programmes, I wonder whether, when he replies, my noble friend will be able to say, in fact, that the barracks will be ready in September. I sincerely hope that they will be.

Another most important aspect of the men enjoying their time in the Army is the question of discipline. I am certain that after the war a great deal of nonsense was talked about modern young men who would not take-discipline. I am quite certain that discipline of the right sort—that is, discipline which is obviously improving the efficiency of the unit—will always be accepted, however strict (and when I say "strict" I mean strict without being absurd) it may be.

Coming on from that is the question of resettlement. The resettlement of other ranks has been so far comparatively simple and there has been no great problem there, though I think it would possibly be an advantage if more could be put across as to all the jobs a man can get into on leaving at the age of 26 or 27, which he does. The problem concerning the officers, about which all noble Lords who took part in debates in the period of 1957 and since were extremely worried, has proved itself to be a less formidable one than was expected. For that, I think we all ought to pay a tribute this afternoon to Sir Frederic Hooper and his Committee, which did a magnificent job of work. Their Report, which is only up to 1959, is well worth reading and a very human and informative document. As that Committee have started a record of employment for ex-officers, I think it should be more obvious now to officers that they have a more reasonable chance in—fact a 90 per cent chance is one of the figures given in the progress report—of civilian employment on leaving the Army. That is a most important matter to make quite clear to these officers when they are being asked to join.

Before I sit down I want to touch on the Territorial Army. I am not going to say anything about the possible reorganisation, of which rumours have been plentiful. But last week, as chairman of an association, I went to visit a battalion which was doing the new civil defence training; and I may tell your Lordships that I was most impressed. It was a camp at Millom in Cumberland, and I saw the 4th Territorial Battalion of the King's Own Scottish Borderers. They were having extremely interesting individual training in rescue work as a result of an "air raid", or something like that. It was very well organised and well done by the permanent staff of the camp, and all ranks were finding it extremely interesting.

But, more than that, what was satisfactory was the unit and formation training which was going to be done in the second week, so bringing out quite clearly that the Territorial Army were to be used as formed units—one says in aid of the civil power, but it is not; it is in aid of the civilian organisation. There was no question of taking the men away and using them as additional wardens or anything of that sort. They were being used as units, with their signals being almost the most important to reinforce the civilian communications.

In addition, at that camp—and I should like to give a bouquet to Her Majesty's Government for this—the position showed that all that has been said in the past about tents and discomfort in Territorial camps has obviously been taken to heart. It was pouring with rain, as usual, but the tents had tent boards and the men were all sleeping in camp beds. All the men's tents, dining tents and store tents had floors of concrete flags. It is really astonishing, but there was not a single complaint at that camp about conditions of any sort, and I think that that was a heartening thing to see. If the reorganisation of the Territorial Army can keep up the spirit that certainly exists in it now, Her Majesty's Government will have achieved something really great.

6.6 p.m.


My Lords, we have kept reasonably near, I think, to the original subject of this debate, which was the White Paper, the Memorandum, on the Estimates. On the other hand, my noble friend having widened the terms of the debate, we have had some useful contributions on the bigger problems of manpower and defence. Before dealing with the two most important subjects, which seem to me to be manpower and recruiting and weapons and development, I should like to welcome the remarks made by two noble Lords, Lord Ogmore and Lord Twining, about the Colonial Forces. I think it is legitimate to complain that the Secretary of State has barely done them justice in this year's Memorandum. Much more of great interest to the public and of great value could have been said about them. We do not need to look very far to see the urgency, the intense urgency, of training native soldiers as officers, in whatever country it may be—Malaya, Africa, the West Indies or anywhere else. I think also that we might have heard what the Government's plans are for making more use of the manpower of the Commonwealth territories. It is a big subject. But I think it was announced that the old West India Regiment was going to be re-formed, and that is a step in the right direction. But it seems to me that much more could be said on the subject.

The question of the abolition of the Ministry of Supply and the reversion to the old methods of supply and production of weapons for the Army was also mentioned. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, was wholly glad about the change, and it is easy to see that there are certain advantages; but I think one should remember that there is something to be said on the other side, too, I believe the danger should be pointed out that Services may indulge in a certain amount of wasteful ordering from industry if they are allowed carte blanche within their own sphere. I, personally, had an example of that during the war when a weapon which the Royal Air Force wanted for ground defence could not be put into production because there was no capacity. On the well-known methods of the "old boy net", it was discovered that there was spare manufacturing capacity, but it was earmarked for one of the Services. The end of the story was a happy one, but it illustrated to me the benefit that would accrue if all ordering of weapons and equipment for the Services were centralised and standardised.

On the question of recruiting, many noble Lords have dealt with the subject, and many ideas have been put forward. My noble friend Lord Nathan thought that increases of pay had an important effect on drawing recruits: other noble Lords thought that that was of lesser importance. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, in fact thought that the soldier was pretty well paid now. There were other suggestions made, too. One was that the uniform was an important factor. That is a proposition that I have never been able to believe: that the uniform is going to attract men who would not otherwise be attracted to the Services. That is the point. We know that there is a regular section of the young men of the country who are attracted by a Service career and who more or less will join whatever are the conditions, but we also know that that is not sufficient. We have to appeal to a rather wider section of the population than that, and so we have to think of something else. Then there is the question of the raincoats and the suitcases, which is quite a good thing; but that was a recommendation of the Grigg Committee two years ago, and it seems to have taken quite a long time to get through the "pipeline", as it is called.

There is also the question of discipline and Service conditions, and your Lordships will remember that the Grigg Committee went into that very thoroughly. They thought that the problem of Service discipline acting as a deterrent to possible recruits would disappear with the ending of National Service, because they thought that it was the National Serviceman who more quickly took a dislike to Service discipline. But, my Lords, it is the young National Serviceman whom we now want to persuade to come in as a Regular recruit, so surely we must take account of how much the life in the Army is going to deter him from joining up.

I wonder whether the noble Lord who is to reply can say, though I have not given him any notice of this, what steps the Army Council are taking now to remove some of the known and admitted shortcomings in the internal administration of units. I know that a year or two ago they picked on one unit of the Army—the 42nd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery—and apparently set out to make that a model unit. It was published that the commanding officer was put in touch with local sources of advice, including, I think, the Plymouth Technical College; he got work-study advisers to his unit; and he took his officers to lectures on work-study at the local college. Finally, according to the published information, they cut down paper work in the unit by 25 per cent; they cut out six unnecessary moves in reporting on motor transport; they abolished cookhouse fatigues by employing seven civilians; they reduced the number of guards so that men had duty only once a month instead of once a week; they speeded up the laundry service; and they cut the time of pay parades from half an hour to ten minutes. The commanding officer said: The whole object of this was to free the men for their real job—soldiering. A man does not join the Army to peel potatoes and clean cookhouses. He joins because he wants to be a professional soldier. My Lords, what is the present position in the Army as to attempts to achieve that object, in the case of every man who joins as a Regular for long service? Can you tell him with your hand on your heart that he is going to be employed as a professional soldier throughout his career, and are you therefore facing the need to spend money on getting outside labour, possibly civilian labour, to do many of the domestic chores that have to be done in barracks? Because that, I am sure, is a part of discipline that is going to be very hard to eradicate from the Army unless there is a strong lead from up above.

A number of noble Lords who have much more experience than I, have expressed uneasiness about the state of weapon development in the Army. They have pointed out that weapons are mentioned in the Memorandum but that it is not always clear whether the weapons have reached the troops or whether they are merely under development or under trial. My noble friend Lord Nathan said that in the ordering of weapons and equipment the best is the enemy of the good, and he added—and here I cannot agree with him—that that is a weakness peculiar to the present day. My Lords, that has always been the shortcoming of the Services, and of the Army in particular—that the General Staffs are allowed too much freedom in stating their minimum requirements. They are allowed to get away with modifications, delays and re-designs, so that year goes after year, and still the weapon does not reach the troops. That is a thing that I hope the Secretaries of State have always in their minds, and I hope they will persuade their Army Councils to insist on such a system of provisioning as will ensure that the weapons get there quickly. Even if they may not be the best possible, it is better to have an Army equipped with them than not equipped at all.

In the issue of the Sunday Times of only a month ago there was a very disquieting article by the Defence correspondent headed, "The Arms we have not got". I do not want to go into detail on that, because no doubt the con- clusions that this correspondent came to may be controversial and may be contested; but the burden of the whole article was that the Army—and he accused all three Services of the same thing— …appears to have expended far too little thought on the possibilities of the new age in war. The truth is"— he goes on that senior officers in the three Services have wholly failed to keep pace with the demands of a rapidly-changing technology of war. The senior Service officers of the last fifteen years were educated in a traditional way in a world that knew no rockets, had no radar and was virtually innocent of electronics. It is probably too much to expect of them that they should be able not merely to keep pace with the staggering speed of present developments but also to apply them to strategy and tactics. That, it seems to me, is a very serious accusation against the Services.

My mind goes back to a visit I paid a few years ago to the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham and to a subsequent letter I received from the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who was then answering for the Services. He said: Every year some fifty young officers of all arms pass out from Shrivenham into their units with degrees of London University, either in engineering or general science. … Their influence is bound to be felt more and more. The C.I.G.S. has laid it down that every senior officer … is to visit Shrivenham and see what it is doing. Courses are also being run for Brigadiers and above in nuclear science. In this way any possible prejudice on the Dart of a few senior 'die-hard' officers against the scientific approach to Army problems is being combated. I looked through the Army List to see how many officers with the distinction P.T.S.C. after their names are holding senior appointments. I came on two directors in the War Office of branches dealing with weapons and equipment and a number of military attaches abroad. That is all to the good—but how are we going to get officers in the crucial posts at the top of the Army who know something, about science? Many noble Lords will have read the pamphlet called The Two Cultures by a distinguished writer and scientist. His experience, he says, has been that people of equal intelligence on the arts side and on the science side simply do not speak the same lanuguage. In a fighting service that depends on technology, if there is that state of affairs among senior officers surely it is very dangerous.

Eighty years ago it was possible for Gilbert to poke fun at the idea of Major-Generals having any modern knowledge. Your Lordships may remember the following: I'm very well acquainted too with matters mathematical, I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical, About binominal theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news— With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse. That was an elaborate guying of Lord Wolseley's idea of modernising the Army and giving Army officers wider experience and knowledge. I hope that nowadays nobody would dare publish anything like that guying of the scientific approach among Generals—but I hope that the Government will assure the House that they are doing all they can to make it impossible.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps it may seem rather odd for the First Lord of the Admiralty to be answering for the Government for the Army, particularly in the presence of a distinguished ex-Secretary of State for War, whom unfortunately we have not heard this afternoon, a distinguished General and Field-Marshal, and a number of other noble Lords who have spent a lifetime in the Army. But we are rather used to this sort of anomaly in your Lordships' House.

I am reminded of this because I remember very well how the noble Lord, Lord Cilcennin, and I have spoken on this sort of occasion; and I know that your Lordships will share with me the sense of shock and sadness at the sudden death of Jim Thomas, as we knew him better. For many years he was First Lord of the Admiralty, and I do not suppose that anybody could have been better loved or respected in the Navy and in the Admiralty; and not only there, but also among all his colleagues and. I think, his political opponents. He served the Navy and the country with great devotion and often, as I know, in considerable pain. I know that your Lordships will forgive me for paying this very inadequate tribute to someone who was a friend of everyone in your Lordships' House.

I think that this has been one of the best debates on the Army we have had for some years. There have been notable contributions from almost every noble Lord who spoke, particularly, if I may single them out, by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and not least by the noble Lord who introduced the Motion. I assure him and the noble Lords who spoke that what they said will be studied, and that I will draw the particular attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War to the speeches that have been made this afternoon.

The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, started by speaking of the rÔle of the Army, and I should like to begin by saying a word about that. I am not sure if I got an entirely clear picture of the rÔle and character which the noble Lord believes the Army should have; but from what he said I think it is true to say that there is a fair measure of agreement between us. He briefly mentioned the nuclear side of our defence policy, and I do not think that we agree on that. But he laid stress an the importance of having enough conventional forces: and here we are at one. My right honourable friend the Minister of Defence put the matter succinctly in his White Paper this year. This country", he said, makes an important contribution to the preservation of peace by strengthening the nuclear power of the West. This is only one component of the deterrent. Because of the need to meet local emergencies, which could develop into a major conflict, conventional armed forces are a necessary complement to nuclear armament. Of course, we would also agree that those conventional forces have got to be up-to-date and as mobile as possible. I can assure the noble Lord that we do not envisage having large bodies of troops in static situations. On the other hand, we do not underrate the continuing value of deploying the Army all over the world on the pattern vividly illustrated in the appendix to the Memorandum on the Army Estimates of my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for War. There are. I suggest, two main aspects to this deployment: first, the units contributing to what Whitehall jargon now calls "a military presence"—when I was a soldier it was called simply "troops on the ground"—in those parts of the world where we have bases to protect or interests to defend; secondly, the units available as a strategic reserve which can be rapidly moved to any part of the world threatened by trouble. The Army must cater for both these rôles, and I do not accept that there is any confusion of thought about them.

Of course, we could often do with more men in particular places. That has probably always been so, in both peace and war. But what we have to do is to strike a continual balance—between, for example, what it would be wise to keep in the vast area east of Suez beyond the over-flying barriers of the Middle East, what we need in Germany in order that B.A.O.R. can make an effective contribution to the shield forces of N.A.T.O., and what we ought to have, either elsewhere overseas or in this country, for the purpose of rapid reinforcement. We believe that we are maintaining a satisfactory balance between all these requirements.

May we take a look for a moment at the Far East. We have our garrison in Hong Kong, where its presence contributes to the confidence of this prosperous Colony on the very brink of Communist China. In Malaya and Singapore there is a division: its task is to help, if necessary, in the external defence of our new Commonwealth ally, Malaya while the 28th Commonwealth Brigade Group, which later this year will come under the command for the first time of an Australian brigadier, has been engaged in operations against Communist terrorists. In addition, our forces in South East Asia would, in the event of aggression, be ready to act under the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty of 1954. In the Arabian Peninsula we have troops on the ground at Aden and Bahrein ready to deal with any trouble in an area of vital political and economic interest to this country. In East Africa we have a brigade group, which is part of the strategic reserve—available to move to the Far East or, as was necessary two years ago, to the Middle East, or elsewhere. I can assure your Lordships that our reserves, whether in East Africa or anywhere else, are in a proper state of readiness.

In the Mediterranean our most important commitment has been the Cyprus garrison. On this garrison has depended our ability to use what the Middle East troubles of recent years and our commitments in C.E.N.T.O. have shown to be an indispensable base for air and military operations. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the Government have now achieved a settlement in Cyprus, which we are confident will mark the return to the happier situation which used to exist in that island. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the fine work the Army has done in Cyprus during the last few years, sometimes under the most difficult and unpleasant conditions.

As for the British Army on the Rhine, we are keeping to our strength of seven brigade groups, and we shall certainly do everything we can to ensure that our forces continue to contribute to the vigour and strength of N.A.T.O. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, asked about General Stockwell's future responsibilities as deputy to SACEUR. Perhaps I could mention here that with his responsibility for advising SACEUR on matters of organisation, equipment and training, he will certainly be concerned with the S.H.A.P.E. mobile force.

In this country we maintain the rest of the strategic reserve, and from what has been said in two earlier debates this year about Exercise Starlight I, the House will know that we have been testing its mobility. While I am talking about the strategic reserve, perhaps I might respectfully take the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton, to task about something he said. He told us the story of the Blues coming home the other day and then returning rather quickly to Cyprus; and he suggested that this will have created a rather bad effect on recruiting, and perhaps on morale. While, of course, it would have been preferable to give the regiment a period of stability at home, we have to remember that it is the armoured car regiment of the strategic reserve, and that when the Cyprus situation took longer to clear up than we had either hoped or envisaged, it was necessary and normal to move the Blues back to the island. Surely this is exactly the kind of emergency commitment which the units of the strategic reserve are designed to meet.

I have reminded your Lordships of what the Army is now doing all over the world because the significant feature of the last twelve months or so has been the absence of extensive operations by our military forces. This does not mean any reduction in the value of these forces, as Korea, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus and various parts of the Middle East have all demonstrated since the end of the war. But, as the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said in a most forceful speech, the present situation has its dark and rather anxious side. That is why the Government consider it essential to maintain two things: first, our clear and continuing readiness to defend our interests; and secondly, the strength of our alliance in the conventional as well as the nuclear sphere. I can assure your Lordships that the Government do not underrate in any way the Army's rÔle in this respect, and I hope that what I have said underlines the importance we attach to the present tasks of the Army and its world-wide deployment.

I have spoken of the Army's rôle and its commitments, ranging from Western Europe to the Far East. But many noble Lords, and in particular the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore and my noble friend Lord Stratheden and Campbell, have expressed concern that the figure of 165,000 men will not be sufficient for the Army to discharge its tasks. I should like to make two points about this. First, the Government's views on this have not changed over the past year. The target which the Army has been set is to reach a volunteer strength of 165,000 by 1963, when the last National Serviceman will have left. In the view of the Government, this is the figure which will enable the Army to meet its commitments, as we now see them.

Secondly, we do not, as the House knows, regard 165,000 as providing the ultimate ceiling. It would not provide that stability which is necessary for a peacetime Army dependent upon volunteers. So we have the higher target figure of 180,000, which will make it easier for us to provide our contribution to N.A.T.O. forces in Germany, and to maintain the strength of units overseas and of the strategic reserve. I shall go more closely in a minute into the problem of recruitment, but I would just say here that the latest recruiting trends indicate that the strength of the Army will rise to about 180,000 in due course, although there may be a short period when manpower resources will be slightly stretched.

I should like now to say a word about present trends in recruiting, about which there has been a great deal of concern. It is true, of course, that there has been a decline in the recruiting level during recent months, but the latest figures suggest that the pay increases introduced last April are helping to check this decline. Even during the disappointing months we were encouraged to find that an increasing number of recruits were signing on for nine years; and comparing the recruiting figures for May, 1959 and May this year, the percentage of recruits signing on for nine years has risen from about 28 per cent. to 37 per cent. I think your Lordships will agree that that is encouraging.

I think I should quarrel, too, with the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, though very gently, about what he said on the question of pay—other noble Lords have already taken this up. He said that the private soldier's pay to-day, even though he gets food, clothing and accommodation free, is a poor inducement to recruiting. He quoted the figure of £4 17s. 6d. as the private soldier's basic pay. That is correct for the newly joined recruit. But the private soldier who joins on a long-service engagement and becomes a tradesman has the opportunity of earning up to nine guineas a week—and this even without promotion. I think that these terms are attractive enough to the man looking for a worthwhile and well-paid career. Like the other Services, the Army has to compete with industry and commerce for its skilled men. The recent pay increases were made particularly attractive to technicians by awarding them selective increases in the new scales. It is encouraging to see that a good number of prospective Army entrants wish to join the fighting regiments; but we do need recruits all round, and especially in some of the administrative and technical supporting Services, because in this complicated technical age technicians of all kinds are indispensable to a properly balanced Army.

There has also been an encouraging increase in the number of officer entrants, though of course we should like to have more. Sandhurst entrants rose from 350 in 1959 to 430 this year. In addition, the Army introduced last October a new scheme for direct entry of officers from universities without service in the ranks; and this has meant that their number has been doubled. It also underlines the extent to which the Army, like the other two Services, are anxious to get intelligent and well-educated young men.

I should like now to say something about officers' careers. The new arrangements announced by the Minister of Defence earlier this year will give the young man who is thinking of becoming an Army officer a clearer picture of what his career is likely to be. He will have the chance of either a career to about 55 or the opportunity to retire, with a pension, at the age of 37; that is, at an age which will make it very much easier for him to find other employment on resettlement. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, asked me about Shrivenham. As he knows, since 1946 some Sandhurst cadets have gone to Shrivenham to take degree courses in science; and I can assure the noble Earl that this scheme is working very well, and that those who have passed through this college are now reaching positions in the Army of great importance. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, mentioned the need for the modern professional officer to be properly qualified for his promotion to major. I can assure him that this is so. An officer, before he is selected, must have qualified in both oral and practical examinations, and the noble Lord was quite right when he suggested that the staff college examination, being of a higher standard, would exempt an officer from having to do the ordinary examination.

So much, my Lords, for material improvements. We are also very conscious of the need to put across the true image of the Army. A good many of the features which my noble friend Lord Onslow brought out in his speech—new barracks, new uniforms, and so on—will help to do this. But, more important, the Army is now feeling the effect of the huge re-equipment programme which has been under way over the past three years. These new weapons for the Army's task to-day, and in the years ahead, will help to create a clearer picture of the more powerful all-Regular units of the future. My right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for War, has recently visited a good many local authorities, industrialists and educationists, with the object of explaining why they should encourage their young people to make the Army their career. I should like to add that the Government are glad to have been able to obtain the services of Sir Frederic Hooper as adviser to the Ministry of Defence on recruiting publicity.

But there is another aspect to this problem—and here I agree with what my noble friend Lord—Bridgeman has said. I do not think that we should foster the image of a modern Army dependent on the creature comforts—of which, of course, as my noble friend Lord Onslow said, the Government are quite rightly trying to give the soldier his fair share. There are still exacting tasks for the soldier to take on, whether patrolling in Malaya or in the Aden Protectorate, or on exercises in all climates in all parts of the world. In whatever arm the soldier is, the qualities he needs to-day, as always, are courage, initiative and a taste for a hard and often dangerous life. I am convinced that it is this side of the Army service which appeals most to the recruit. I think your Lordships who have first-hand experience of this will know how the morale of a unit would go up when they thought they were doing something worthwhile. Patrols are only one facet of the Army's job. A trained, well-equipped and balanced Regular Army is indispensable to the defence of our interests. It is the r Ôle of the Army as a whole which is so important in this uneasy world; and we must try to put this over to the people of this country.

Several of your Lordships—the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and my noble friends Lord Bridgeman, Lord Auckland, and others—have spoken of the Territorial Army, and have emphasized its continuing importance. Last year was a good recruiting year, with a net increase of some 20,000 in the Territorial Army's strength. As your Lordships' know, its organisation and the effect upon it of the ending of National Service are being studied now, and I hope that I may fairly soon be in a position to give your Lordships a fuller account of the Government's plans.

A number of your Lordships have also raised questions about re-equipping the Army, and although my noble friend had a certain amount to say in his speech, I think I ought to answer some of the questions which have been asked. My noble friend Lord Teynham has suggested that in to-day's conditions the tank may be becoming obsolete. I do not think I can agree with him. It is generally accepted that the Army must be flexible and properly balanced for a variety of tasks, and so far as can be foreseen, while we have infantry we must have tanks to protect them. The Government have already made it clear that the Conqueror would very likely be the last of the heavy tanks which we produce, but we certainly see a continuing need for a medium tank, and we are continuing with its development.

The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, mentioned anti-tank weapons. First, I must say that he is wrong to suggest that we are simply toying with Malkara. A number of them have already been ordered, and a larger number will be ordered later. Malkara is air-portable and a most lethal and accurate weapon; and we expect it to be operational in about eighteen months' time. All in all, this weapon will fit in very well with the concept of a mobile strategic force. The noble Lord also mentioned the question of an infantry anti-tank weapon—he was referring, I think, to the Vickers Vigilant. There are, in fact, several possible weapons of this kind which are being considered, but I can say that we have ordered 100 Vickers Vigilant anti-tank weapons for assessment by the infantry. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, asked about the replacement for the Vickers machine gun. The FN gun is already in production in Belgium, and I am glad to be able to tell the noble Lord that it is much lighter than the Vickers. It has already had its technical trials, which it has passed successfully, and trials in the hands of our own troops are being undertaken this year. If they are successful, we hope to be introducing the gun into the Army in 1961.

Several of your Lordships, and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, have referred to the importance of having enough aircraft to lift Army units in an emergency. We had, I remember, a full discussion of all this when we debated the Air Estimates a month or two ago. I must say that I thought the noble Lord—although I agree, as a rule, with much of what he says—was unduly gloomy this afternoon about Royal Air Force Transport Command. After all, there has been a great increase, both in number and in quality, of this Command. We have in service now the Hastings and the Beverley. At the end of next year the AW 660 will come into service; and by 1965 or 1966 we shall have sufficient Britannias in service to meet the Army's needs. In addition, of course, R.A.F. Transport Command have the Britannias and Comets for troop transport.

As to helicopters—that is, Army helicopters, quite apart from the R.A.F. Wessex, which will take the place of the Whirlwind—the Army at present has a number of two-man Skeeter helicopters and will have in addition, the P.531 helicopter. The War Office have ordered 44 of these helicopters which will be of great value for communications and local tactical use. I must say that I share the noble and gallant Field Marshal's horror at his story of being unable to obtain a helicopter for the duty he was performing for the War Office. I only wish he had rung up the Admiralty. The Royal Navy would have been very glad indeed to provide him with one.

I hope that I have covered the main points on re-equipment which have been made. There is one more. The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, asked me about the general progress of guided missiles. The first Corporal regiment is already operational in Germany, and the second is now trained and ready to join it as soon as accommodation is available. The Honest John and the 8-inch howitzer units will be additional. The equipment is becoming available this year, and training has already started. Before I leave this subject, I think I ought to say that the Army's record is not as unsatisfactory as some of your Lordships have tried to suggest. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said that the only things that we had had were the F.N. rifle and the new wireless sets. But the Thunderbird guided missile, the Mobat anti-tank gun and the Saladin and Saracen armoured cars are, I suggest three striking examples of the new and excellent equipment that is now in service with the Army.

The noble Lord, Lord Twining, had some interesting things to say about the East African Land Forces, and your Lordships will have been very glad to hear what he had to say because he is a great expert. I am pleased that he is satisfied that the recent arrangements by which the Government (and by "the Government" I mean the Colonial Office) accept financial responsibility. There are obvious military advantages in keeping these forces in East Africa under War Office control, and I know that the War Office will take account of local opinion in the sort of cases that the noble Lord had in mind. The result of the new arrangements will, I think, be a significant relief for the budgets of the Colonies concerned.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, raised a number of points. Most of them I have tried to cover, but he asked particularly whether a decision was about to be reached on the question of a campaign medal for the Arabian Peninsula. I have recently looked into this and I am well aware, because I have answered on this subject before, that it is one of those matters which have had to be discussed at some length between the Services; and it has taken a long time. I think I can say, however, that we expect the matter to be settled in the fairly near future.

The noble and gallant Lord, and also my noble friend Lord Teynham and the noble Marquess, referred to the subject of retired pay and pensions. As the noble Marquess said, there is a Motion down in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, calling attention to this subject as it affects all three Services. I do not think, therefore, that I should try to go into any detail this evening. But perhaps I may say this. I believe that it is right, and probably inevitable, that successive Governments have based their approach to this problem on the fact that pensions, whether of the Services or of the police or of the teaching profession, are related to the contract or terms of service upon which a man has entered and completed his career. At the same time, the Government, from time to time, have done what they could to relieve hardship created by a rise in the cost of living, by introducing special pension increases. The latest increase of this kind was given last August, providing for increases ranging from 4 per cent. to 12 per cent. for officers' retired pay and an increase of 10 per cent. in widows' pensions. As I say, we shall be debating that at greater length this autumn.

The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, asked about travel warrants from North Uist. I will certainly draw the attention of my right honourable friend to this, and also to the question of married quarters at Benbecula. The range at North Uist has been offered to other countries and we should welcome their using it. The noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, was sceptical about the barracks at Aden being finished in September. I am assured that there is every prospect of their being so. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, asked what was to be done to overcome petty disciplinary restrictions. This was taken up by the Army Council several years ago. I do not think it is a subject for regulations, but it has been made known to all commanding officers that minor and unnecessary irritations must be kept out of unit life. But this does not mean—and this will please the noble Lord, Lord Auckland—that slackness should be brought in.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he means that domestic fatigues in Service camps are to be done by civilians?


I do not know whether that would be a minor irritation. I must have notice of that question; I could not answer it off-hand. I am sure that the Army, as well as the other Services, would be very happy to use civilians wherever possible.

My Lords, as is usual on these occasions, I am afraid I have not succeeded in answering anything like all the questions which have been asked, although I have managed to fit in quite a few. I will, of course, write to noble Lords on any questions which I have omitted to answer. This has been, so far as the Government is concerned, a debate of considerable interest and great use, and I assure your Lordships that it will be read with great interest by all those concerned. I hope your Lordships will go away with the conviction that the condition of the Army is sound. At the present time we are going through a period of transition—transition to an all-Regular Army, highly trained, well equipped and mobile. New weapons are coming in, new uniforms, new buildings. The recruiting picture, although not as bright as we should like, shows an encouraging increase in the number of those who are joining for the longer term of engagement. None of us can doubt that the Army to-day and in the future will, if the need arises, do its job as thoroughly and efficiently as it always has in the past.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether provision is being made for new Army schools in relation to the new barracks which are being built? I do not expect a full answer now.


I will certainly look into that. I hope the noble Lord will not think me discourteous for not answering all the questions that have been put, but this is not my Department and I cannot be expected to know all these things. I will write to the noble Lord.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, before my noble friend Lord Nathan brings the debate to a close, perhaps your Lordships would permit me to say how grateful I was that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, made reference to this most regrettable and early passing of our friend Lord Cilcennin. I was at the Admiralty for a great number of years, and I could not have expected to find anyone superior to him in his assistance to me for so many years in the war, both as Civil Lord and later as Financial Secretary; and all the great experience he had obtained before in acting as Private Parliamentary Secretary in foreign matters brought a great deal of additional knowledge to his aid. I should like to pay a great tribute to his memory to-night. In the middle of a very serious war period, he succeeded at the Admiralty my noble friend Viscount Hall, whose labour knowledge had been of untold value to me in dealing with the labour problems of the day. So he had the difficult task of looking after the shipyards of this country. He gained a reputation and achieved a success in those difficult times that I could never possibly repay. His personality and charm, of course, are common knowledge to all of us, and I am sure that all my colleagues on these Benches will want to be associated with the tribute paid by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.


My Lords, on behalf of the Liberal Peers, I should also like to join in that tribute. Although I had retired many years before he was in office, I met several senior officers who had served with Lord Cilcennin, and I was very impressed—I can use that word advisedly—by the respect and affection which he had inspired.

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, I share the regret and the shock at the death of Lord Cilcennin. I very well remember when he first became a Member of another place, and from the beginning he made his mark as a young man then of charm, ability, good humour and skill in the art of politics. I share the regret which has already been expressed.

As the First Lord of the Admiralty has said, we have had an interesting debate. I am glad to think that the noble Lord opposite appears to be as well able to speak for the Army as he is for the Royal Navy. He must have taken a great deal of trouble to put himself in a position to speak for another Department with the skill and particularity with which he has done, and I, for my part, as I am sure are all your Lordships, am grateful to him for that and for the courtesy to us all which that indicates.

There is nothing controversial to be said in a concluding remark such as I am making now. I should like to refer to a matter raised by the noble and gallant Field Marshal. In the first place I should like to correct any misapprehension on his part as to what I may have said as to the numbers of the Army. He seemed to think that I was satisfied. I merely wished to say that the Government had established a floor. I worked on the footing of that floor in my figures, I said nothing about the ceiling. The noble and gallant Field Marshal referred to the spirit of adventure in the Army. I share that view to the full, and I have some association with efforts in that direction because I have been concerned with the expedition to which he referred, the British Pakistan and Nepalese expedition to Annapurna.

I was Chairman of the Mount Everest Foundation, and in that connection had a certain responsibility which brought me in contact with the War Office. In past years the War Office had been most forthcoming in helping these expeditions, which are, I think, a powerful influence and advantage. On this occasion the War Office looked to me as if they were withdrawing. I therefore communicated with the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and pointed out to him what his predecessors, including the noble and gallant Field Marshal, had thought of the expeditions; and I then learned that the War Office were supporting this expedition in every way except financially, which they had done before. Apparently, some difficulty had arisen with the Treasury, which did not now think that adventure ought to be supported by public funds. I think it was a mistake. I regret that the Army was not able to make its contribution in finance, and I had to find it out of the resources of the Mount Everest Foundation.

I should like to say to the noble Lord opposite, as well as to the noble and gallant Field Marshal, that Colonel Roberts, the skilled and able leader of that expedition, and the band of martial men of the British, Pakistan and Nepalese farce who succeeded in attaining the heights of Annapurna 2 and Annapurna 4, performed a feat of climbing two of the most difficult mountains in the world. They deserve every credit for that. I believe it is of lasting advantage to good spirit between the forces of different countries, as well as of great advantage to those who are concerned personally. I hope that the noble Lord may find it possible to convey to the Secretary of State for War an indication of the desirability of supporting adventure amongst the troops. In saying that, I once more thank the noble Lord, and beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.