§ 3.18 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, this Bill has been introduced to meet a special situation which we must all hope will not last for very long. Of the three main clauses of the Bill, the first two give powers to the Government for a short period. The power to retain National Servicemen under Clause 1 for a further period of six months will run out, with the National Servicemen, in a little over a year from now; and the power under Clause 2 to recall National Servicemen for six months to the Colours during their three-and-a-half years' part-time service will run out in 1966 or thereabouts. The only clause which has any long-term effect is Clause 3 which provides for the creation of Territorial Army Emergency reserve. The powers under the first two clauses are permissive only.
589 It has already been announced that, provided the international situation does not deteriorate, it will not be necessary to retain any men who are due to leave before April 1 this year; thus the effect of this clause is very much less than was feared when the contents of the Bill were first made known last year. And the Government hope very much that it will never be necessary to invoke Clause 2 at all—although this will depend to some extent on the success of the "Ever-readies", as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War has nicknamed the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve; and I hope that your Lordships will do everything to encourage the "Ever-readies."
I think it is necessary for me to make these observations at the outset, so that your Lordships can get this Bill into proper perspective. It is not—apart from the "Ever-readies"—a long-term measure; nor is it a measure by which the Government hope to raise and maintain a larger standing Army. The Bill has been severely criticised in another place as being designed to achieve the Army's ultimate manpower target by a form of selective service; but this is really not so and, apart from Clause 1, which will have the effect of maintaining the strength of B.A.O.R. at its present level for a very short period, the Bill is designed as an insurance policy against recurring bouts of international tension; and, as I have said, I hope very much that the Government will not have to use it.
Why then must we have Clause 1 of the Bill? I think it may help if I take your Lordships back a few years to the Government's decision to abandon conscription in favour of smaller all-Regular Forces. If the Government had not taken that decision in 1957 there would have been no need for this Bill to-day. Though some of your Lordships—and I see that the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition is one of them—may regret that choice, the great majority of your Lordships will not regret the decision to abolish conscription. Few would prefer to see wholesale conscription in place of the very limited and temporary measures provided for in this Bill.
Good progress has been made since 1957 in building up an efficient all-Regular Army. Of course there was 590 always a risk—and the Government were well aware of it at the time—that the Army would, for a short while, run dangerously low during the transition to all-Regular Forces. But, my Lords, conscription is so wasteful, so harmful to the morale of a Regular force, and such a drain on the country's manpower resources that the issue for the Government was never really in doubt. Conscription had to go. And I am quite sure, even with the difficulties we are faced with to-day, that it was the right decision. What has happened, of course, as your Lordships know, is that the critical stage of transition for the Army, by an ill-chance which none of us could foresee, coincided with a period of heightened tension in Europe. It is therefore only prudent to take steps to check for the time being the run-down of the Army, and to fill out, as it were, the trough, so that the strength and effectiveness of our contribution to N.A.T.O. is not lessened at a time of danger for the Western Alliance.
Your Lordships will recall the interesting debate that we had on N.A.T.O. about a fortnight ago, when the need for the Government's support of the Alliance was warmly endorsed in this House. This Bill has been tabled in response to that need. A return to conscription would not meet it for, quite apart from the wasteful and disruptive effect which I have already mentioned, there would be a long delay before new recruits, taken fresh from civilian life under a new National Service Act, could be turned into effective fighting soldiers. Moreover, unless it were a form of selective service, conscription would give us far more men than we need. What we require are a relatively few trained men now, and the Government believe that this Bill represents the only practicable way of finding them.
It might be argued that the Army has reserves of trained manpower which it can call upon for just this sort of situation. But this is not so. Power to call out the Reserve Army lies in the Army Reserve Act, 1950. This makes it necessary to have a Proclamation declaring "imminent national danger and great emergency" before the Reserve Army can be called out. A small part of the Reserve Army—that is, the Army Emergency Reserve Category I and Section A 591 of the Regular Reserve—can be called up without Proclamation; but even in their case the Act lays down that there must be "warlike operation in preparation or in progress" before they can be called out. And, in any event, to a considerable extent the first of these reserves is designed for quite different requirements. My Lords, there is tension, but we are not on the brink of war. If we called out reserves under the Army Reserves Act that would be the precondition. The result would inevitably be to increase tension still further, when all our efforts should be directed towards reducing it.
What else could the Government do? It has been suggested that all the Army's problems, both in the long term and short term, would be solved by reducing our commitments overseas and by transferring men from the overseas garrisons to B.A.O.R. I touched on this argument during the debate on N.A.T.O. a fortnight ago, and I do not want to go over that ground again to-day. But, as I said then, and I must say again, our troops abroad in different parts of the world are there in fulfilment of Treaty obligations, particularly to S.E.A.T.O. and C.E.N.T.O., or to safeguard our vital interests in areas where our N.A.T.O. Allies cannot help us. While the cold war is being waged in so many parts of the world we must not weaken our position abroad; and to thin out our overseas garrisons would seriously unbalance them. This would not be in the best interests of the Western Alliance, even to remedy the shortages in B.A.O.R., and I believe that our Allies in N.A.T.O. are coming increasingly to recognise this.
Another objection to this idea is the purely practical one that the process could not be completed in time to produce the numbers and types of men we need in Germany by April of this year, and so the Government have decided on the permissive measures in the present Bill. They retain trained National Servicemen for a short period in the place where they are required. They supplement this by providing for recall for a similar period, if it is absolutely necessary, of National Servicemen who now have a part-time liability before they join the Army General Reserve. 592 Lastly they allow the constitution of a new reserve from T.A. volunteers which, if it succeeds rapidly, may obviate the recall of part-time National Servicemen altogether. Additionally, this course contributes to the long-term solution of our Army Reserve problems.
As I have said, these main features of the Bill lie in Clauses 1, 2 and 3. Clause 1 gives the Secretary of State permissive power to retain for a period of up to six months National Servicemen now on whole-time service with the Army. Unless the situation worsens in the meantime, no men due for release before next April will be retained. From April 1, however, it will be necessary to hold most of the men serving in B.A.O.R. So far as can be forecast at present, something like 15,000 men will probably be affected in all. The actual figure depends to some extent on Regular recruiting. It should be possible to release on their due dates those serving elsewhere—that is, outside B.A.O.R.—and due to go in the early release groups; but later in the year, when there are fewer National Servicemen available, it will probably be necessary to retain most men, wherever they are serving, and to transfer them to B.A.O.R.
My Lords, the Government fully appreciate that to keep men on for six months more than they thought they would have to serve is bound to cause dismay and be regarded as unfair to those who are affected. Of course, any form of selective service is unfair, but I do not think it can seriously be suggested that the Government for that reason, ought to retain more men than are strictly necessary; and the Government would certainly not have taken this step had it not have been essential. We will, however, do everything possible to soften the blow. In the first place we will give as much notice as we can—the aim is to give at least two months. Warning notices have already been sent to men of the first two release groups, but, of course, statutory notice cannot be sent until the Bill receives Royal assent.
Secondly, retained men will get more pay. From the date when they would have been released it is proposed that they should receive the rate of pay laid down for men on three-year Regular 593 engagements, together with marriage allowance at the highest rate drawn by Regulars. This means that after deducting what he has to provide for his wife the soldier will have 40 per cent. more in his pocket than he has at present. In addition, the families will remain eligible for National Service grants adjusted to meet their new circumstances.
Finally, special arrangements have been announced for dealing with compassionate cases and cases of genuine hardship. Under the compassionate heading come the cases which concern a man's dependants, very often because of ill-health. Personal hardship concerns the soldier as an individual; for instance, where he has made arrangements to take up a job in civilian life which he would lose if he were not allowed to leave the Army. There is already a well-established system for release on compassionate grounds where, for example, a reasonable period of compassionate leave is not adequate to meet the case.
For men retained under Clause 1 these arrangements will be extended and will cover also hardship cases. If a compassionate or hardship case is perfectly straightforward it will be considered by the branch of the War Office experienced in this sort of case who have been doing it throughout the period of National Service and it will be dealt with immediately. But more difficult cases, less straightforward cases, will be referred to the Advisory Committee which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has set up, though he himself will continue to be responsible for deciding whether or not to grant release. Sir Reginald Denning, the Chairman of the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association has agreed, as your Lordships know, to act as Chairman of the Advisory Committee, and he will be helped in this by representatives of education, industrial management, and the T.U.C. I think I ought to say that the Government are extremely grateful for the public spirit of those who have agreed to serve on this very important Committee.
The Committee will be guided by the principles governing appeals on grounds of hardship under the National Service Acts, but they will not be bound inflexibly by them. They will interpret their terms of reference generously, and 594 I hope that it may be possible to go considerably further in granting release in cases which would not qualify for compassionate consideration on grounds of hardship under the National Service Act. In this way the powers under Clause 1 will be operated as fairly as possible and in such a way as to cause the minimum amount of distress and hardship to those men who are affected. But I think I must add that the Government have a general responsibility to ensure that men in sufficient numbers are retained where they meet a military necessity.
Clause 2 gives the Secretary of State permissive powers to recall for up to six months Army service any ex-National Serviceman during his statutory three and a half years' part-time service. Men retained for six months under Clause 1 will not be liable for recall under this clause. Nor will men who volunteer for a pre-Proclamation liability in the Army Emergency Reserve or the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve, who are provided for in Clause 3. The need for Clause 2 arises because there is a limit to the period during which men can be retained under Clause 1.
The limit is set by the fact that the last National Servicemen are due to compete their two years' whole-time service in October-November this year. And so the power to retain men will cease to be effective six months after that, somewhere about May next year. But we shall then still be in the transition period when the Regular Army is being converted to an all-regular basis. We shall still be building up and there may very well be shortages in particular corps. Furthermore, the Berlin crisis has taught us that we must be ready to reinforce the regular Army with trained men for short periods of international tension not amounting to circumstances in which we could call out the Reserves under the Reserve Forces Act. It is the Government's duty, I think, to take this measure which will provide a reserve of trained manpower which can be called upon at short notice to meet sudden bouts of international tension.
The power to recall men under Clause 2 might conceivably be used when retention under Clause 1 was still in force, but it is unlikely that the powers will have to be used this year while 595 National Servicemen can be retained under Clause 1. By early 1963 there will be rather more than 100,000 part-time National Servicemen liable for recall under this clause, but we do not expect ever to have to call upon more than a fraction of this number. If the clause ever had to be invoked (and in view of the welcome which has been given to the "Ever-readies", which I shall be coming on to in a moment, I hope that we shall never need to invoke this clause), the individuals to be recalled would be selected to fill vacancies in corps for the types of men the Army was short of at the time.
Like retained men, those recalled would receive as much notice as possible of their recall. But the sort of situation we must plan for arises from circumstances outside our control and may well build up suddenly, as for example happened last summer. In such circumstances it might be necessary to call on men at short notice. But if so they will be able to appeal on compassionate or hardship grounds, and their calling-up papers will advise them how to go about this. If their problem is really serious and urgent, the authorities concerned, probably Record Offices, would have the power to grant immediate postponement of call-up for up to 56 days to give them time to put their house in order or for their appeal to be considered. Compassionate and hardship cases would be dealt with in exactly the same way as I have outlined under Clause 1, and in particular the Advisory Committee would still continue to function. Recalled men, like retained men, would qualify for Regular rates of pay and marriage allowance. They would also receive a tax-free gratuity of £20 to compensate for expenses caused by the disturbance of recall.
My Lords, I have already said that we may never need to invoke the powers under Clause 2. This is mainly because of Clause 3, which provides for the creation of a new Volunteer Reserve within the Territorial Army. This step has been widely welcomed. It is being taken primarily because the Reserve Forces were designed at a time when it was impossible to foresee the conditions which have been brought about by the cold war, and they are not really suited 596 to them. We need to be able to strengthen the Army and increase its deterrent force during periods of tension not amounting to war or the imminent danger of war.
The organisation and effectiveness of the Reserve Forces is now being examined against the background of modern requirements. But obviously this is a complicated process, and one that will take some time. The Government are satisfied that the creation of the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve is a necessary first step towards a new and a long-term conception of the reserves. Details of the scheme have already been announced. They provide for the Reserve to be created within the structure of the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army Advisory Council has been consulted at all stages and has greatly welcomed the idea.
It will be necessary to restrict the Reserve to properly trained men if it is to be immediately effective in times of need. Commanding Officers of Territorial Army units will therefore be free to select from among the volunteers we have good reason to believe will come forward, and no one who is not an ex-National Serviceman will be eligible unless he has served at least one year in the Territorial Army, has attended one annual camp and achieved certain standards of efficiency. A part-time National Serviceman may join the "Ever-readies", but he must first become a volunteer of a Territorial Army unit. If accepted as an "Ever-ready" he will not be subject to recall under Clause 2 while his "Ever-ready" liability remains. I hope that a large number of National Servicemen will choose this form of Reserve service. The establishment of this Reserve will be based on the requirements of the Regular Army from time to time, and at present we are thinking in terms of a total of 15,000 men or thereabouts. Men will in the main be called up as individuals and not as units, though I hope that it may be possible in some cases to form sub-units.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, may I ask the First Lord whether the Territorial "Ever-readies" will count against the establishment of the Territorial unit to which they are attached?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
They are additional to the establishments which are already allowed. Volunteers will be able to sign on for a year at a time and will be able to resign at three months' notice. At any time during their contract they will be liable to be called up to serve with the Regular Army, at home or overseas, for up to six months. For this they will be paid a taxable bounty of £150 for each completed year during which they accept the liability to call-out and perform the requisite training. In addition, they will be paid a tax-free gratuity of £50 on call-out and will come on to the appropriate Regular rates of pay and allowances. I think this new Reserve is an imaginative step which will both serve to strengthen our readiness to take effective action in times of tension and also to encourage recruiting to the Territorial Army.
The remaining clauses of the Bill, Clauses 4 to 8, and the Schedule, contain mainly secondary and consequential provisions, and I need not weary your Lordships by explaining them in detail. I would mention just one other point, arising in Clause 5, which provides for the application of existing legislation to all categories covered by the Bill so far as reinstatement in civil employment and other civil interests are concerned.
My Lords, it has been suggested elsewhere that this Bill has been introduced to make good recruiting deficiencies. That is not so. Recruiting is going well, and the Regular Army should be able to meet all normal commitments. It has been demonstrated to us only too clearly that it must also be ready to meet short periods of abnormal tension, in circumstances in which the normal reserves cannot be used. The Government are convinced that the proposals in this Bill are necessary and the best that can be devised to meet the difficult situation which we face at present without disproportionate efforts and economic disturbance. Elaborate measures have been devised to ensure that any undue hardship which would be caused to individuals will be avoided, so far as possible, and I hope that those who will, very naturally, be disappointed at having to serve a slightly longer period will gain some comfort—and pride—in the knowledge that they are performing a service to their country which they, and 598 they alone, can give. I hope, too, that your Lordships will feel able to support this very necessary Bill this afternoon. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Carrington.)
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, referred to the N.A.T.O. debate that we had some weeks ago. That debate was being held when the tension over Berlin had at least disappeared from the headlines of our newspapers, although the feeling of tension still existed in Berlin. We are now having this debate on this Bill with every sign of increased tension over the air corridors to Berlin, and I think it again stresses the fact that we have faced, and will continue to face, threats by the Soviet and that we must have the ability and the courage to stand up to them.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, to whom I am grateful for the manner in which he introduced this Bill, gave us a great deal of detail. I believe it must have been an unpleasant task for him, because I am sure that the noble Lord is an honourable man, and in my view this Bill is both dishonourable and unjust. I believe it goes against all the principles of equality for which Parliament passed the National Service Act, 1948: that all young men, irrespective of position or class, should serve in their country's Forces. In many ways the Title of this Bill is dishonest also. It is called an Army Reserve Bill. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, Clauses 1 and 2 are definitely concerned with selective conscription; they are dealing with men who have been called up previously under the National Service Act. If this Bill is to be passed, I hope that at least we shall give it an air of truth and respectability by changing its name.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, stressed the importance of this Bill to bolster the position of the British Army of the Rhine in our contribution to N.A.T.O. I must say that I wish that on the list of speakers there were the five noble Lords who, only last week, visited the British Army; I am sure they would appreciate it if I said how
599 much we enjoyed our visit to the Army. In spite of their many difficulties, particularly in manpower, we found the Army in great heart. Many of the conditions, particularly relating to marriage accommodation, are rapidly being improved, and I think that the Government, the Ministers and the Service officers are to be congratulated on what is being achieved in that field.
The British Army of the Rhine is part of the shield forces of N.A.T.O. General Norstad has repeatedly stated the purpose of these shield forces. It is, as I understand it, that if there were an act of aggression these forces should be able to fight conventionally in the pause in which the statesmen may have the last opportunity to bring sanity to bear. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, in the N.A.T.O. debate read a statement that had been made by General Stockwell, to the effect that the British Army contribution had too great a reliance upon nuclear weapons. It was with that statement in mind that I went to see the Army last week. I must say to this House with all possible sincerity that I am now convinced that the British Army in Europe, in N.A.T.O., would be unable to fight a battle of the pause. I believe that numerically they are not in a position to maintain that pause, particularly in the area in which they are based.
Why has this position come about? Is it not a fact that when the Brussels Treaty was signed we undertook to put into N.A.T.O. at least two full divisions of between 60,000 and 70,000 men? It is true that the N.A.T.O. Council have agreed that for various reasons, we should reduce that number of men to 55.000. Have we in fact maintained those 55,000 men in Germany? As I understand it, the peace-time strength of the British units in Germany is in the region of 56,000 men. I believe that during 1961 that strength was reduced to 51,000 men. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said that this Bill is necessary to bolster up the figures. But there is every indication that the Forces that will be available in Germany will be further reduced to 49,000.
This is a sorry story. How can we expect our military commanders to carry out a declared N.A.T.O. and 600 United Kingdom policy, that of having a strong conventional force with small reliance upon nuclear weapons, when we do not provide the manpower to carry out that policy? Those are the figures. It is difficult, having been to Germany, to know what sort of information one can give in a public debate. But there are various arms of the Services that are in most difficult circumstances. As one who was in the Royal Army Service Corps during the war, I was most conscious of the part that we played in giving mobility to the Army. Mobility is a vital factor in modern war. The R.A.S.C. provides that mobility. If I tell your Lordships that the Royal Army Service Corps is deficient by 28 per cent. of its peacetime strength, does that indicate that the military commanders have been given the mobility they require? Yet that is the situation in the British Army of the Rhine to-day. The Royal Engineers also have a high deficiency, some 15 per cent; while in the Royal Signals, it is 28 per cent.
In the Royal Army Medical Corps, too, the situation is serious. Their peace-time establishment of other ranks is 1,330; they have a deficiency at the present moment of 521. In the case of doctors, their officers, the peace-time establishment is 238, and they have a deficiency of 56. My Lords, I shall not quote the position of the "teeth" of the British Army, but I became aware that a certain tank unit had tanks off the road because crews were not available. Is this the situation in which we should place our military commanders? Is it fair to them? How can we expect them to carry out the declared policy of their overall Commander, General Norstad?
My Lords, how has this situation come about? I think it is due to the decision taken by Her Majesty's Government in 1957, when they said that they would place greater reliance on nuclear weapons—the deterrent—and that they would reduce their conventional forces—their soldiers—by abolishing National Service. They thought that in this way they were going to save money, but, as events have proved, it has become extremely costly. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said it was not the case that this Bill was necessary because we had not attained our target. I think it is true that yin 1957 the statisticians told 601 Her Majesty's Government that, on the trends and information then available, they would get 165,000 men by 1962–63. The statisticians have proved right: the men are coming forward at about that rate. But, as I understand it, in 1958 the Army based its plans not on 165,000, but on 182,000. But, my Lords, if it is based on the 182,000 men, and if, as I understand it, the Army now consists of 210,000 men, and there is this severe strain in B.A.O.R., what is going to be the position if the numbers come down to 165,000 or 182,000? I strongly suspect that the Government, seeing this desperate situation in B.A.O.R., and realising that they are getting, say, 165,000 Regulars but that a Regular force of that size is not sufficient, have adopted this desperate means of providing new reserves.
My Lords, this Bill is patently unfair to the men involved. First of all the men involved in both Clauses 1 and 2 have fulfilled their contracts under the National Service Act. They are now being called upon, at relatively short notice, to carry out a further six months' service. I do not believe that the British soldier would complain seriously if he were being called upon to perform an extra service in a period of tension. It is not the first time the length of service has been extended. But in this particular case it is indiscriminate. You are taking men of a certain period, and yet you are releasing people of the same period because they are in a different part of the world. You are keeping men who may be married, with children, or men who may have a first-class job waiting for them which it is important that they should take up in good time; and yet you will be releasing other men who could more easily have served the extra period. I do not believe there would have been criticism among the soldiers if they had felt that those who were let off National Service—was it in 1959 when the Government decided that 60,000 men should not be called up?—were to be called up to perform their duty. But that is not the case. You are holding back men who have completed their contract, and I think that that is regarded in the Service as grossly unfair.
I think the men covered by Clause 2 are in a worse category. I understand from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, 602 that these men may not be called up, particularly if there is a good response to the "Ever-readies." I wonder whether he has real evidence of that. If he has, I am sure it will be welcomed by the people concerned. But, based on the figures I have given, I gravely suspect that it will be necessary to call up these men. I do not know when the Government expert to get their 182,000 Regulars—maybe in 1964, or 1965—but if the Army is based on a requirement of 182,000 men, it is obvious we have to find at least 15,000 to 20,000 troops to make up the difference between the Regulars and the force that is required. Therefore, I strongly suspect that in Category 2 the Government will be calling up 15,000 to 20,000 men. Obviously, the Government would like time to make up their minds whether these people are required, but I would make the point that, if you are going to call up men in Category 2, it is only right and fair that you should give them as long notice as possible so that they may be able to put their house in order and make the necessary adjustments. I am sure you will find considerable hardship, not only family hardship, but financial hardship, being experienced by the soldiers who are called upon to undertake this extra service.
In regard to the "Ever-readies", I think there is some merit in this idea, although I am not so sure whether, in the military context of to-day, when what really matters is what forces you have deployed at a given moment, you will have the time in which to put in your reserves. It is true that these reserves are envisaged to be called up only if there is a period of tension, but I doubt very much whether you would be able to get these men forward in much before seven to ten days of call-up. Therefore, these men are not likely to be available to reinforce units that are under pressure—not fighting units, but I refer to units under pressure of duty. This Bill, I am convinced (and I am sure this view is held by many people; it was taken, I think, by two or three Members of the other place, who are normally Government supporters) is unfair and unjust to the people concerned. I would also say that it does not make adequate provision for the manpower that the Army needs.
What is the answer? Well, I do not 603 think we should have been in this position if the Government had not made a miscalculation in 1957. I think there is much merit in having a Regular Army. But instead of making a sudden cut-off of National Servicemen from a form of Regular and National Service Army, whereby you created this big gap, I think it would have been much wiser to have had a gradual tail-off of National Servicemen in the Forces.
My Lords, when we come to the Committee stage we shall try to examine the various categories of men who will be called up. We shall not be in any way obstructive. We realise that the Government need this Bill. They need it very desperately, as the figures I gave earlier would indicate. But we on this side of the House resent this Bill, particularly my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who had much to do with the bringing forward of the first Bill for National Service in peace-time. It was a Bill that was based on justice and equality. We resent this Bill, because it is using the mechanism of that National Service Act in an indiscriminate way.
We feel that these soldiers, perhaps 40,000 men in one category or the other, will have very little opportunity to put their case, other than on compassionate grounds. These men are being called upon to bear a burden, due to the miscalculations of Ministers. We believe that this burden was brought about by the 1957 White Paper. The architects of that policy should recognise their errors in this matter and, considering the burden that will be borne, I think they could at least be honourable and should resign from the Government.
§ 4.2 p.m.
My Lords, before I start on the remarks which I wish to make on the subject of the debate, I should like to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, who is to reply to the debate, since as I have already told him I am unavoidably prevented from remaining to the end, much as I should like to. I should specially like to remain, because the noble Lord who is to reply is a professional in these matters, with a distinguished military career, and I am sure that when he replies he will do so 604 with a full knowledge of his profession, which is not always the case with some of the speakers on these matters in your Lordships' House and elsewhere.
I am particularly sorry that I shall not be here, because I shall in fact be on my way to Paris. It is not often that the British Press gets an unasked for bouquet, but your Lordships may have read the other day of the French Senator who, having become involved in a fracas, was struck firmly on the head with some form of club. It did not seem to hurt him at all, and it transpired that his hat was stuffed full of newspapers. He proudly announced, "I used British newspapers, because the newsprint is so much better." If, therefore, there are any newspapers missing from the Library later this evening you will know where they are; they will be in my hat.
My Lords, on this matter which we have before us this afternoon, I have it on the authority of my noble Leader to say that generally speaking we support the Government in this Bill. We do not like it very much, but I do not believe that the Government do either. Noble Lords on my left certainly do not like it, as we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who I think was generous in saying that he felt it was an expedient and that perhaps the Government themselves were not particularly happy about it. That is what we feel, and all we hope is that the provisions of the Bill will be reasonably and humanely applied, as I am sure they will be. I very much hope that the War Office will address themselves to this particular aspect of the matter, because it is fair and right that they should.
On the other hand, much play has been made in certain quarters about the grave hardship which will result from the clauses of the Bill assuming, however, that hardship will result in every case. There I personally do not agree. I believe that if it were possible, and obviously it is not, to canvass the views of the people affected by this measure, it would be found that quite a number were in fact perfectly prepared to stay on. It is a point which we might consider. Hardship will strike in places, but by no means everywhere. I believe there is a feeling, particularly among those who have not served very long in the Army, or among those who served 605 compulsorily in indifferent units where they were not happy, that the Army is a frightful place. But not everybody thinks so, by any manner of means, and I believe that some of these men will accept it with equanimity, if not in some cases with pleasure.
It has been said, for instance, that for many of the men who will be returning it will cause financial hardship, perhaps to their families or dependants, where they will be needed as the wage-earner, to help a relative who is sick, and so on. Actually, the pay in the Army at the present moment is very much better than it was, and a soldier can send home virtually all his pay, if he wishes to. He can live free. He will be housed, fed, clothed, kept warm and everything else; and get his games for practically nothing. If he likes to retain, say, three-quarters of his pay, he can easily do so in the same way as a man in industry can. It is always thought that when a soldier gets his pay he spends the lot, but he does not need to. He can exist without that.
I had some doubts in 1957 as to the advisability of the measures taken then, but now I think that we must look at what is happening at this moment. Admittedly, there is the Berlin crisis and there have been other factors which produced the state of affairs which exists in February, 1962. I think there is no advantage in going back to what should or should not have been done in 1957. Admittedly, with foresight, the Government might have acted differently, but it is not given to any of us to know exactly what is going to happen in five years' time, and I believe that in the conditions which exist to-day the Government have made a pretty good guess.
In any case, what are the alternatives? Obviously, there is selective service and, as the First Lord has already said, Clause 2 to some extent constitutes selective service. I am by no means an expert on these matters, but I am given to understand that, apart from being unpopular, selective service is expensive. Therefore, for that reason perhaps the Government considered it and rejected it. Then comes the question of cutting down our commitments all over the world, with the idea of keeping the Rhine Army up to strength. Here we go into the realms of politics, as 606 opposed to purely military matters, but I believe that our commitments to our Allies really must be honoured if we are to keep our standing in world affairs. Cutting down the garrisons in the Far East or Middle East to reinforce Rhine Army is, I believe, militarily not very sound. It could be dangerous. And how does one know where trouble is going to blow up? For instance, there was Kuwait not so long ago. A situation blew up there, and we were able to deal with it, so far as I could see, very effectively indeed. Suppose we had not been deployed in the way we were, and suppose it had not been possible to get those forces there. A different situation altogether might have developed. I think that was a case where it was seen that our forces were, in fact, properly deployed.
At this point, having so far spoken in agreement with the Government, I must put forward a few small suggestions. I wonder a little whether the War Office, the Army Council and the C.I.G.S. should not have another look at what we have in Hong Kong and in Libya. I was in Hong Kong not so very long ago—several of us were there, including the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, who is sitting beside me now—and I must say that I doubt a little whether infantry and armour can really serve any useful purpose other than possibly in terms of internal security. But if it were a case of holding the Occupied Territories or the over-running of Kowloon, they certainly could not do anything. Air superiority would go at the first moment, and it would really be a question of trying to delay the Chinese until the United States Sixth Fleet in the Korea Strait, and the carriers of that Fleet, came within range. Infantry and tanks against that sort of attack really have not a chance. With artillery properly sited, minefields and, above all, flame throwers—which I advocated years ago in your Lordships' House, although whether anybody read that Hansard I do not know; I suspect not—we might be able to hold the Occupied Territories for a few hours, perhaps two or three days, and by this means save manpower. The conventional troops at present in the garrison could become available for elsewhere, though not in bits and pieces. Possibly the War Office will think about that.
607 Again, there is the brigade group (it may be a brigade; I am not too sure) in Libya. What their operational rôle is, and what the likelihood is of their being needed at short notice, I am not too sure, but I believe doubts have been expressed by, among other authorities, the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton. In Cyprus, Malta and Gibraltar, I do not think it is possible to cut the garrisons down; I think they are down to rock bottom now. In Cyprus we have only a skeleton force left; and the position is the same in Malta, where the Royal Malta Artillery have taken over to a large extent. I therefore do not believe that any economies can be made there.
The present shortage in Rhine Army, if I might concentrate on that a little because some of us were there last week, is in the neighbourhood of 9,000. The worst shortage, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has pointed out, is in the Royal Army Medical Corps and in the Signals. These two are basic services; they are extremely important. You cannot have two more important services. Even in peace time, the Royal Army Medical Corps, besides being greatly under strength, is being increasingly overworked by the influx of married families, and when the married quarters situation improves, as it will—as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has already said, it is in hand and is going very well—and as more and more families pour in, these doctors are going to be placed in a worse and worse position, because they are responsible for the married families as well as the troops. The establishment must be filled up, and the problem of providing an inducement to bring more personnel, officers and other ranks, into the Royal Army Medical Corps must be tackled. This is basic, because if the troops think that they are not going to get looked after they will not like it. It is one of those things that they must have. They must be able to feel that the Army Medical Corps is up to strength, efficient, and able to work. Also, in peace time they want their families looked after. I feel strongly about this, and I think that the staff of Rhine Army felt equally strongly.
I have spoken chiefly on the point of Rhine Army, but at home—and very 608 near home—at the Guards Depôt at Pirbright, there are to-day 1,400 recruits and 140 families. If one calls that another 500 people, that brings the number to about 2,000, and last week there was one medical officer in attendance. Admittedly one was sick and the establishment is for two, but even so, running on one doctor for 2,000 human beings seems to me to be a bad idea and bad publicity for the Army. I hope that the War Office will look into this question of the R.A.M.C. most seriously. I am aware that the shortage of doctors in this country is terrible, and that it is the same in civil life. I know that the National Health Service would not work without the Pakistanis and so on; but something must be done about it. The Army must have medical services.
The Signals are almost as bad, and I was horrified to find that they were very greatly under establishment. The Chief Signal Officer of Rhine Army said that it was due to people like Standard Telegraph giving great financial inducements to young men of 19, and that they thus got the boys who normally might have come to the Royal Corps of Signals with the idea of being trained and going out again to the Post Office. I said, "Surely you have men who hope to go to the Post Office afterwards?", and he said, "No; they never even get to us in the first place". The Signals situation is very serious in Rhine Army, and, I should think, elsewhere, probably. On a static station, such as Malta or Gibraltar, it is quite different. They rely on the civil communications to a large extent, as we did during the war. But for the 1st British Corps, who expect to move every 48 hours, signal communications are of basic importance. I know that the War Office are vitally interested in this matter, and I hope that the Government will equally realise its importance. These gaps must be filled if Rhine Army is to be 100 per cent. efficient. It may be that one day we shall came to integrated services with the R.A.F.—in some cases, possibly, even with the Navy. But with the Royal Air Force, where signal services, supply services and the like can be pooled, this would bring about a greater efficiency and a saving in men. But I should rather wait for the Defence debate before going into that in more detail.
609 Before I leave that point, I should like to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has already said, that our little party received tremendous hospitality from the Commander-in-Chief Rhine Army, Sir James Cassels, and his staff, and from all the units we visited. They were kindness itself. They gave a very good impression. When one has borne the heat and burden of the day for 26 years one develops a good "feel", and I never received a better "feel" than I did there. Everybody was cheerful and things worked very well. There was no atmosphere of strain, which is a sure sign of an efficient staff or an efficient unit. In Berlin, it was exactly the same. We visited only two battalions, the 60th and the Welch Regiment. I personally was with the Welch Regiment, to which my noble friend Lord Ogmore also belongs. They were kindness itself; they showed us everything. I spent a most enjoyable and instructive half hour in the sergeants' mess, where I have always thought you hear much more about Army matters than anywhere else.
There is one more suggestion that I should like to make to the Government before I resume my seat. Previously in your Lordships' House, when discussing Army matters, I have talked about the size of staffs. My Lords, this is not the view of a disgruntled regimental officer who is "agin" the staff. I was on and off the staff for years, at all levels, and I have seen both angles. It is a matter not only of saving manpower but of increasing the efficiency of the people concerned. The bigger a staff the more inefficient it is. They get in each other's way; there are too many people. What is worse, the junior officers can never take a decision; the matter has to go up higher. If you are a captain, you have to pass it on to the major; if you are a major, you have to pass it on to the colonel; until, in the end, the thing is overtaken by events and nothing happens at all. But if you have a small staff, the more junior members of it have to take a decision. That is very good for them. Also, there is the fact that if two, three, four or five officers are taken out of a big staff, you may say it is a negligible matter; but it is not. It goes back along the officers all the way down, among drivers, clerks, batmen, and the rest of them.
610 During the war they had some expert "empire builders" who were marvellous at making staffs grow. They usually succeeded in producing a "co-ordinated section", but goodness knows what that was! I remember that when I was in the Middle East at G.H.Q., the Commander-in-Chief had two lieutenant-generals, fourteen major-generals, and goodness knows how many brigadiers, of whom I was one. Staffs grow in the most extraordinary way, and one was there long hours doing nothing. An officer in my Branch wrote a rhyme and pinned it up in the office of the General Staff. It said:How does the busy little 'G',Employ his working day?By getting all the files from 'Q'And passing them to 'A'!When the war started there were four staff officers at Headquarters, London District. There were the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, myself, and two others. At the moment there are at London District a Brigadier (Chief of Staff), three first-grade Staff Officers, four second-grade Staff Officers, and five third-grade Staff Officers. It is a little difficult to believe that their commitments have gone up four or five times. I know that the Woolwich Garrison has been included in the London District. On the other hand, the number of Household troops are rather fewer in the London District, and it is difficult to believe that the commitments have gone up that amount. On the other side of the picture the Staff Officers are trained men, and in an emergency, on the expansion of the Army, those men will be valuable. I appreciate that. But we are talking of manpower this afternoon, and they also account for clerks, drivers, and everyone else. One really wonders whether a good look at the war establishments and peace establishments of the staffs is not a little overdue.
My Lords, that is really all I have to say. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the First Lord, spoke (and this was another of his remarks which I thought he put extremely well) of the dangerous transition period between conscription and the volunteer Army. It was foreseen, I think, but exactly how dangerous it would be no one could tell. It was hoped that the transition period would not be aggravated by a crisis, but un- 611 fortunately that is not what has happened. The Berlin crisis is there. There was air corridor trouble last week, and that is still going on. That crisis is there, and therefore it is aggravating the situation, and the Government have had to do something, which I do not think they really very much wanted to do. But they have done it, and so far as we are concerned they have our support.
Let us take first things first. The calls of industry are of great importance; that is incontestable. I am in industry myself, and I would not deny that for a moment. But where will industry be when the Armed Forces have disintegrated, perhaps in defeat?
§ 4.25 p.m.
My Lords, I cannot say that I welcome this Bill, but I shall support it. As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said, it is one that is absolutely essential. This Bill is really steering a path between two things: between going back to the old way of complete National Service, and selective National Service. Now, selective National Service is, as I believe and have been told, unfair. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that this Bill was worse than that; and from the point of view of causing hardship I would agree with him—there is no doubt about that at all. I do not think there is any doubt in the Government's mind or in anybody else's mind, that hardship will be caused by this Bill; but that is something that has to be put up with. Selective call-up would have caused equal hardship; and nobody wants to go back to complete National Service, or, as it was originally called, conscription.
I think that everyone agrees that the Regular volunteer Army is the Army to be aimed at. The officers who command any formation or unit are certainly convinced on this subject, and I think most of the rest of us are as well. This Bill, as I said, aims between the two, and it will cause hardship. It causes particular hardship to those men in National Service who have had their service deferred in order to get special technical qualifications, or educational or university degrees. In their cases the situation will be difficult. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, that it will not cause 612 hardship to everyone. When I was in Germany recently I met one or two of the men; but we did not talk to the same people all the time. We each went round in our own way, and visited various units, but I met one or two National Servicemen who merely shrugged their shoulders and said: "Well, that is that." Another one complained bitterly about being kept on for a further six months. He said that he did not know whether his job would be kept open for him. T asked him who his employer was, and he said: "Oh, my uncle." So I said: "Well, surely you can fix him." But there is no doubt that hardship will be caused; let us face that fact. However, I believe that less hardship will be caused by this means than if we had to start up something new, such as a selective call-up, which has also been said to be unfair.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that recruiting is good. I believe it is. But there is one thing which frightens me. When this Bill goes through and is an established fact, the young men of the country will say: "Oh, that is splendid. Now they will get the men they want by this Bill, so there is no need to volunteer." This is a very dangerous possibility, and the Government must therefore take steps to see that recruiting pressure is kept up.
I have been told on several occasions that the actual publicity about this Bill has been very badly put over, and I feel that for that the Government must take responsibility. My own view is that it has not been very well done, though I recognise that it is a very difficult thing to do. How can the Government put across the details and explain them to everyone? They have to rely on Press reports, which sometimes get a little garbled. A great many people in this country, I feel, do not understand what this Bill is all about. They understand the headlines in the Press all right, but I do not believe that the reasons why the Bill has been introduced, and the way in which it will work, have been put around sufficiently for people to understand. It makes it no less hard for the people who are going to be retained and called up, when those at home do not understand what it is all about.
When I was in Germany, there were not too many "moans"—I rather 613 expected more. The first one, of course, was about married quarters, but, as the noble Lords, Lord Shepherd and Windlesham, have said, steps are being taken to put that right. At the minute, there are long waiting lists, and men who return home, whether they be National Service men who are not going to be kept on or Regular soldiers finishing their time, continually complain about these married quarters. Again it is a question of seeing that it is widely known that a great effort is, in fact, being made. Although I did not see one, I believe that the caravans being used as temporary accommodation are quite good; yet still people come back and spread complaints around. We have to get that matter straight.
Another reason why men coming back from the Army into civil life spread it round among their friends that the Army is not much good is because many of them were bored. There are several reasons for this, but to my mind the chief reason is the lack of training areas in Germany. This is not a debate about Army training—I am glad that we shall be able to return to this question of the shortage of training areas—but I am certain that this lack does have an effect on manpower.
Possibly I am talking too much about Germany, and forgetting other stations; but, as I have just been there, Germany is naturally very much in my mind. But men serving in England also get extremely bored, because here again training facilities are not very good. There is too much of what my noble friends Lord Carrington and Lord Windlesham will remember — "bolt-rattling", which is one of the dullest forms of individual training. If men have to do that the whole year, because there are no forms of higher training available, they do not care for it. I was talking to an officer seconded to the Parachute Brigade and I understand from him that the Parachute Regiment can get as many men as they want. The reason for that is not only the extra pay of 6s. a day but because the Parachute Regiment appeals to the sense of adventure. This officer was telling me that after a year's training a parachutist is able to come back and tell his friends that he has been in exercises in North Africa and in Cyprus. It is a great thing 614 to be able to tell that to his friends and girl friends, and this kind of adventurous training has a great effect on the well-being and good form of the men.
One reason why recruiting is not good, I am certain, is that the modern generation do not much like any form of discipline. I hope that the Government and the War Office will press on with what I consider to be extremely important—the training of boys in apprenticeships. I understand that in 1955 there were about 4,500 enlisted boys in various schools, and that the number is now getting on for 12,000. I believe that if more schools could be opened—I do not know whether that is possible—it would be a good thing. But I certainly trust that the War Office will do all they can to get more boys into the Army. As a rule, an ex-boy soldier, if he makes the boy's period, is a jolly good soldier. He has had a good grounding. I know the school at Aborfield, but there are many others, including the Outward Bound and Adventure schools. In these the boys learn discipline at the right age, and when they get into the Army, they keep it.
I met several ex-boy soldiers in Germany. I asked one sapper how long he had served and when he told me, I said, "You look too young for that". He explained that he had served in the boy service. I asked him whether he enjoyed being in Germany and he replied, "Yes, very much, but now I should like to go farther afield". There was no question that he had the right spirit, and I am certain that many of the men are the same. I feel that if we can get more boys in the Army schools it will be all to the good.
As to the Bill itself, the First Lord has told us that it provides for three different types—the man who is going to be retained at the end of his National Service, the man who can be called up during part-time National Service and the Territorial reservist. I do not think that there is anything I want to say about the first type of service other than what I have said about the hardship. The second type is more difficult; but the third, I am convinced, will go extremely well. I am certain that the Territorials will greatly welcome this and enjoy it. The Advisory Council, about which the First Lord has told us, is 615 important. He also told us that the Secretary of State said in the Committee stage in another place that he was going to make the grounds for release from call-up in Clause 2 wider than those under the initial National Service Regulations. I think that normal cases must be dealt with by the Department of the War Office which has done so well in this matter for a long time now.
Another point I should like to make about this is that, where men are called up (what I am saying now does not concern Clause 1 but concerns Clauses 2 and 3) and particularly if they are called up in a hurry, there must be no repetition of what happened the last time our Reserves were called up, at the time of Suez, when, through rather stupid red tape, family allowances were not paid straight away and not for some time. I believe, if my memory serves me, that the then Prime Minister had to look into the matter himself.
Surely, in a matter like this it must be right to pay the families of the men called up straight away and to argue about it afterwards. Do not let us have any red tape and forms to be filled in sent backwards and forwards, as happened before, as we all remember. I ask the Government to make quite certain that everything is laid on in regard to that. I understand they will be administered by their territorial parent units; but it is something which has slipped up before now. When a man is called up in a hurry, or even not in such a hurry, if he knows that his family is going to be looked after and that there will not be a period when his wife will want for money, and things like that, whether he wants to go or not he will do his job in much better heart than if he has financial worries about his family on top of his call-up.
I have only one other point to mention. Many men are going to be either retained or possibly called up. All those men are going to do a really good job for their country. Surely it is up to us and up to the management and owners of businesses and production units—in fact, any employers—to do the best we possibly can for these men. As I say, they are going to do a job for this country and they must be looked after by employers.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I should like, first, to associate myself with what has been said in thanks to the Government for making possible the visit we paid to the British Army in Germany last week, and, if possible, through Ministers, to the officers and units who were our hosts. They were extremely kind to us; they were very frank with us and told us a great deal about their position, and I think we got a pretty full view of what it is. I shared the impression of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, that, given the job they have and the men they have to do it, everything is going as well as could possibly be expected: it all fits; it smells right and it smells good. In short, this Army is clearly a going concern, within its own limits.
Those limits are rather curious. It has been fitted into a very new and even unprecedented framework. It has been given the job of defending Western Europe in that top, flat bit of Germany against a possible attack by Russian Forces; and it has been given the men and the weapons to do this. The plan it has come up with is the only possible plan it could come up with, and nobody could devise another. But one must realise that it is a completely new plan in the history of warfare, and that it is affecting the whole manner in which the Army is arranged in peacetime. It is into the context of this plan that we ought to fit the Bill before the House to-day, when we consider whether it is a good one, whether it is enough, too much, too little, or whatever it is.
I should like to relate to your Lordships a conversation I had with a soldier. I do not need to say what sort of unit he is in, because the point is valid whatever the unit might be. I said to him: "What did you do in Exercise 'Spear-point'?"—which was the last big training exercise held by the British Army in Germany. He said: "The first thing that happened was that they came and said, 'You are nuclearly struck; you are dead.'" I said to him: "What did you do then? Did you go to bed for the rest of the exercise?" He replied: 'No; we carried on with our assigned rôle." I then said: "That is very strange, because, if there were a war on, you would not really be able to carry 617 on after you had been nuclearly struck." He said: "No". He then thought for a bit, and said: "Perhaps it was a joke; maybe they did not mean it." This is a trivial story, and no doubt it is not indicative in the least of the way that exercises are conducted by the British Army in Germany; but it illustrates the basic dilemma bedevilling the whole strategic situation in Germany.
We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and others about the units which are under strength. We have heard about the good progress in married quarters. But whether the target is reached is a less important question than whether it has been put in the right place. This Army Group is facing Russian Forces which are at present nearly twice as strong as it is, and could, I believe I am right in saying (it is set down in publications) be reinforced at an estimated rate of five divisions a day. What is that Army Group to do? There is only one thing it can possibly do: it must retreat to the nearest convenient obstacle, force the other side to concentrate and then loose nuclear weapons on it. The effect of this is that it is being required to live up to a war plan of which the first result will be the elimination of the front 2, 3 or 4 million of the civil population that the Army is there to defend. Nobody likes this, and it is contrary to the whole strategic concept, which perhaps it is better to consider in next month's Defence debate. But in considering this Bill one should not forget the framework into which it has to fit.
In a way, it seems to be an effect of this that so much attention is being devoted by the War Office and the Army to family quarters and to making life pleasant for the wives. That Army knows really that if it is ever required to fight, the whole game of Western civilisation is up, and, therefore, it is concentrating on staying there and looking real. There is a basic obsession with chintz: we saw miles of Her Majesty's chintz wherever we went, and it was very good chintz; there is a sort of conflict on between Mars and Mammon—if you do not have conscription, then you must have temptation instead. There are these rises in pay, and wherever one went one saw vast estates of houses going up. Indeed, the actual dispositions of the British and the German units at 618 the moment, back where they are in the rear, are to a certain extent dictated by a preference to be in which barracks. I had the impression—whether it is the right one or not, I do not know—that if the Army has to move forward, the first thing that will happen is that the British and the German units in it will have to cross in order to get to their assigned places in the battle line, to such an extent does the need for present quarters in a volunteer Army under the threat of nuclear war dictate the planning and disposition of this Army. Though I speak as an amateur, I am disposed to question whether this is the correct way to go about things.
This situation is not in any way remedied by the present Bill that is before us; and it cannot be. I am not sure how it should be remedied. It has been suggested that troops could be found elsewhere and could be brought back. One looks around the world and sees that of all our Allied nations we are alone with Canada and Iceland in not having any form (apart from this Bill) of compulsory service. What it is found necessary to do in every other nation in the Alliance may not for ever be found to be imposible in this country. But this, again, is a matter for the Defence debate that we are to have.
In arguing as I am, in general, that this Bill is insufficient to bring the Army up to and beyond the strength laid down, I am not going back on the position which I have put to your Lordships so many times—that the only way out of the dilemma is disarmament—most of all when disarmament talks are about to begin. Nor do I accept the proposition that we must arm in order to disarm; that we must arm to parley in order to get disarmament. I think that every effort possible should be devoted by the Government to the overall purpose which alone can save us in the next twenty years—that is, disarmament. But while that is going on, it would be no contradiction if we should seek to get the British Army in Germany into a position where it could look as though it could fight a conventional war. At present it does not look as though it could—not because it is a bad Army, not because it is an inefficient Army and not because it is wrongly arranged, but 619 because it is too small and has not enough conventional artillery.
Looking very far ahead, what do we envisage doing with our Army if we do get disarmament? It would be natural if there were pressures from some sectors of opinion, and possibly from the Army itself, against disarmament, simply on the basis: "Now what are we going to do? We are trained for this. Are you going to throw us on the labour market?" I wonder whether it is realised in the country, and by the Government, how much work there will still be for the technically trained soldier in a disarmament situation Obviously, there will be whatever United Nations police force comes out of the arrangements. There will be a place for national armies and there will be a place for our Army in that police force. Probably it would be able to keep all its national traditions; regiments would maintain their identities but would serve under the Secretary-General of the United Nations, or whatever setup is established, instead of under the C.I.G.S. But they would still feel and act like soldiers, and there is no threat to them professionally. Again, it is not generally realised what an extremely technical job inspection for disarmament will be. There is going to be a need for many thousands of people, even tens of thousands, who understand what military power is and what weapons are—in a word, people who know one end of a gun from the other. Obviously, the best people for that are soldiers, and especially technically trained soldiers. This, however, is looking very far ahead.
I should like to wind up by picking up two remarks by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when he introduced the Second Reading. First, he said that he thought the Army, as strengthened by this Bill, would be sufficient for all normal commitments. I should like to ask specifically: what on earth is a normal commitment for the British Army of the Rhine? Is it ensuring its own food supplies? It is not policing the German population. What else is it doing? The only commitment I can think of which the British Army of the Rhine has is to repulse a conventional attack by the Russian Army across the Elbe. It is quite clear that that Army is not sufficient to fulfil that abnormal 620 commitment, and that this Bill will not make it so. Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that this was a very necessary Bill. That is something I accept. I think it is very necessary, in the same sense as if you have to feed ten people for a week, one currant bun would be very necessary.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I will not attempt to follow the theories of the noble Lord who has just sat down, but on the question of disarmament I should like to point out to him that in 1949 (I think it was) all the nations of the world were quite prepared to enter into disarmament, but Soviet Russia completely refused to co-operate. If we have disarmament it must be on all sides.
§ LORD KENNET
May I interrupt the noble Viscount to remind him that in 1955 it was our side which broke up the disarmament talks?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
But the reason was that Soviet Russia refused to agree to a system of inspection.
To return to the Bill, I entirely agree with Her Majesty's Government that this Bill is necessary. We obviously have to bridge the gap while our recruiting builds up for the Regular Army. I understand that at the moment our recruiting is going extremely well. I agree that there will be some hardship, but under the compassionate clause I cannot see that any man who would suffer real hardship will be retained.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, called it an unjust Bill. But, after all, the Labour Government were behind conscription, and I cannot see that full conscription is any less unjust than this Bill. The alternatives are full conscription or selective conscription, and I personally should regard those as far worse than what is proposed under this Bill. I should like to ask the Minister who is to reply (it is probably a stupid question) whether it would have been possible to retain the Regulars serving on six-year or nine-year service engagements, because I am sure that a great many of the Regulars, who, after all, have their heart in the Army, would have been prepared to sign on for an 621 extra six months or so. We should then have had the advantage of having fully trained men. Probably the Minister has a good reason why that is impossible, but it appears to me to be quite logical.
Recruiting in the welfare and affluent society is, of course, a very difficult matter. As the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, said, many of the young men to-day do not like being ordered around. I do not think that the problem of recruiting is entirely one of pay, because I was visiting the British Army of the Rhine last week, and the conditions of food and pay—in fact the general conditions—are now so good that I cannot think they really enter into the matter. It is true, as has been mentioned, that we have in the B.A.O.R. a great shortage of married quarters, but I understand that by 1963 that shortage will be entirely corrected. We now have this system of multiple hirings—in other words, renting flats—which is growing at a great rate, and we also have caravans as a temporary expedient. As we have also heard, the great trouble in the British Army of the Rhine is the shortage of specialists—drivers, signallers, doctors and so on. I believe it has been suggested that we should take these specialists from some of our garrisons overseas and draft them into the Army of the Rhine. I should call that a very bad policy, however, because it would serve only to unbalance our forces in those other areas.
I congratulate the Government that any National Service men retained are to have the same pay and perquisites as Regulars now serving on a three-year term, because wherever I went in the Army of the Rhine, whether it was in a sergeants' mess or talking to the ordinary man, they all had this great complaint that they thought it extremely unfair that a National Service man should be so badly paid compared to the Regular. I would ask Her Majesty's Government that in retaining certain National Service men (which is dealt with in Clause 1) they will try to absolve from further service those men who have young children, because a man who is worrying about affairs at home cannot be a good soldier. I think it extremely important to try to make that exception; and, obviously, the longer the notice the Government can give when a man is to be retained, the better.
622 Then, my Lords, I would congratulate Her Majesty's Government on Clause 3. I think that the creation of the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve—as some people call them, the "Ever-readies"—is an excellent idea, a very original idea; because, as we all know, our ordinary reserves cannot be called up apart from a Proclamation, which could be issued only if we were at war or about to go to war. There is only one point regarding this new service, the "Ever-readies", which I should like to raise. I wonder whether, with the great complexity of modern armaments and training for modern warfare, the Territorial Army can adequately train men to handle these extremely complicated weapons, especially when it comes to artillery. They are completely beyond me, and require such technical knowledge, such an extremely high standard of mathematics, that I should have thought they would involve extremely extensive training.
While I was on this visit to the British Army of the Rhine I was very impressed by the high state of mobility; the whole army, right down from corps headquarters to battalion headquarters, was geared up to be highly mobile. But I wonder whether our grand strategy throughout the world, our global strategy, is so geared. We hear a lot of talk these days about conventional warfare, though in my view that is daydreaming. I cannot foresee conventional warfare in Europe. I think you will have either no war at all or the real thing. And if we have the real thing it will happen so quickly. An artillery brigade's target will be in its area for only two or three seconds; the whole thing will be so incredibly quick that the greatest stress in our Services must be on mobility.
I am rather worried, too, that we appear to have so many bases throughout the world. I quite agree that they are necessary, for prestige purposes, in the cold war. But I think that, if it comes to a world war, the fewer bases, to a great extent, the better. We are now building up this great base in Kenya, but if we are not going to control the politics of Kenya is that base going to be of great use to us? I rather think not.
I only hope that we have extremely strong liaison between all three Services 623 to-day, because the sea is the only real medium where we can be completely mobile. In the future we shall probably have space platforms, but until we have them the sea is the only place where we can have a really mobile base—and probably the First Lord has some ideas on that. I feel, for instance, that in Hong Kong, where I think we have 10,000 troops and 4 aircraft, the forces are completely unbalanced. I should like to think that wherever we have troops they should be entirely co-ordinated with the Air Force and the Navy, so that in the event of a global war our bases could move, because I believe that fixed bases would be knocked out straight away.
I should like to make one or two points before they slip my memory because we shall not be having a Defence debate, I suppose, for quite a time, and probably I shall have forgotten them by then. But while I was in Germany one or two commanding officers told me that they were very short of suitable transport for recreational purposes. For instance, they have very great distances to travel in Germany, and they say that if they want to take men to a cinema or a football match, or if they want to take one of the wives to a hospital they do not have suitable transport. It appears to be in short supply.
Other noble Lords have spoken about the lack of training areas. That is so, but I am afraid the position will get worse as the German Army grows, as it is growing. On paper it is 12 divisions but when it is up to full strength the training areas for us will become fewer. It is hopeless having an Army if you cannot train it; and if you cannot train your Army it is bad for morale. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will put every pressure on the German Government to try to ensure that we are not too much cut down in training areas. I was in Berlin and I was extremely pleased to see the very high morale of our troops in Berlin. The morale of our troops all over Germany is high, but I would say that in Berlin it was extremely high. I suppose the reason is that they feel that they are doing a very useful job, as they are; they are right up in the forefront, in the limelight. The other point is that they have excellent quarters; they have plenty of room, 624 plenty of married quarters, which is a great help to morale.
I think that everything else I was going to say has already been said, so I will not go into that. I should, however, like just to thank our hosts of the British Army of the Rhine through this House; we were received extremely well and we really had a most instructive time, and I think all of us were much impressed by the high state of efficiency of our Army. I thing that, without a doubt, it is the best trained Army in N.A.T.O. I support this Bill. I realise it is only a stop-gap measure. It is, of course, no solution to our long-term problems. Our long-term problems, as I see them, are adequate mobility and we shall probably have to do some redeployment of our Forces in the world. What I do not want, as I have said previously, is to see specialists taken from garrisons in other parts of the world to feed the Rhine Army. That is only jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. I hope that this Bill will bridge the gap; and with recruiting, as I understand it, going so well now I think that in a short time everything will be satisfactory as regards the shortage of specialists in the British Army of the Rhine. I would repeat that I support the Bill.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I must apologise to the House for coming in to speak at this moment in this debate when I had intended to sit right through the discussion, but I have already explained to the noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, how impossible it was for me to remain, for reasons which they know and which were important. I must be quite out of court from the point of view of what the noble Viscount said just now—that he would not speak about things which had already been spoken of by so many people before. May I apologise in advance if I perchance, in my awkward position, say some things which have been said before?
I was very glad to hear the report of the noble Viscount as to what view he formed of the efficiency and keenness of the British Army of the Rhine, and that accords with what has already been reported to me by my noble friend Lord 625 Shepherd, who was on the same visit to the British Army of the Rhine. I hope that we shall say nothing at any time in these discussions of the emergency measures which the Government have been introducing which would tend to damp down the general spirit of the British Army of the Rhine. I must say, however, without having to go back and search at length the White Papers on Defence individually, that I remember sufficient of them to be able to say to the noble Lords opposite that I am in the mood of "I told you so". At least I forecast the position on more than one occasion. We are facing to-day (if I may adopt the formula of other people in the past regarding different crises) what may be called the economic and military consequences of Mr. Duncan Sandys. Things have never gone right since the White Paper on Defence of 1957.
Here we are, about four-and-a-half years later and in this position, with a temporary proposal made by the Government. They cannot avoid making it—in contradistinction to what I think I remember hearing the First Lord of the Admiralty say before I left for my other engagement, namely, that this is not really necessary to deal with the present situation, but is something in hand for any further event that may happen. That is what I thought I heard him say. But as I see it, this is something so essential that this Bill must be given a fairly early passage on to the Statute Book because otherwise you cannot deal with the situation now. And the situation, I believe, has been put from our point of view by my noble friend Lord Shepherd, who spoke of the actual figures of B.A.O.R.
Nor was I relieved about the general situation when I read, say, the leading article in the Globe and Mail from Toronto only a few days ago as to what is likely to happen in Germany, what may be the commands to be issued by General Norstad for the future, what are to be the movements of British troops, what differences and alterations may have to be made in the alignments which they have to defend, and what are to be the increases of the German personnel to be put in their place. There is not any doubt at all that the Government are proposing something as an emergency measure now because it must be done. 626 And I must say that I feel very unhappy that we, having been in this matter from the foundation of N.A.T.O., should be in a position, apparently, of at least nearly falling down upon our commitments in N.A.T.O. and seeming, in the eyes of the world, not to be doing our fair share. I think there is a certain amount of struggle in these proposals of the Government to try so far as possible to avoid creating that impression, but the situation is grave.
I refer to the figure which has been mentioned from time to time of the strength to be aimed at in regard to the Army. The figure most constantly now in our minds is 165,000. It was mentioned at one time during the discussions on the White Paper of 1957. But the real people who have to do the job in the Army, those leading the Army, have never accepted that figure as a possible one to carry out the commitments laid upon them. There was some sort of agreement that they could do better with 182,000 rather than with 165,000, but 165,000 seems to have become stuck in the minds of Ministers, largely from the kind of total Army strength that we used to have in normal, long-period peace times. Is there any comparison between the state of the world to-day and in those days? Is it not natural that the people who have to be responsible for the training, the transport, the actual strategy and tactics of an army in a world as tense as it is to-day, feel that they should be properly provided with the margin required to meet that kind of situation? Little thought seems to have been given to that grave problem since the 1957 White Paper. Without going into the details of it, I want just to leave that thought in the minds of the Members of your Lordships' House.
Take the alternatives which have from time to time been proposed from different sources, sometimes hinted at here and there by a Minister, sometimes by prominent members of my own Party, that you could perhaps meet this situation by reducing your commitments abroad. You have to be exceedingly careful about that. On this point my own personal impression—I speak for myself—agrees with that mentioned by the First Lord of the Admiralty, namely, not merely that we have a desire to be present in defence of A, B or C of British interests, 627 but that, for that purpose, we ought to provide our necessary and responsible proportion of the personnel and expense. I personally agree entirely that you have to be exceedingly careful how far you reduce your present fairly low contribution to those commitments abroad. There might be a rearrangement here and there, sometimes to suit a particular matter which arises, but I think you have to be exceedingly careful about it.
When we come to deal with the proposals themselves, there are a number of matters in relation to the Bill that occur immediately to me. What to-day is the state of the British Army as a whole? You have not yet got your 165,000 men. With regard to what the noble Viscount said just now as to the reported encouraging state of the figures for recruiting at the moment, I think he will find, if he looks back over the last four years, that all the time these figures have been fluctuating. It is: "To be or not to be"; "To be or not to be"; "To be or not to be", all the time. Moreover, when you come to deal with this recruitment about which we hear a great deal, if you are going to have any increase in National Servicemen, both in personnel and in matters involved in their training and their transport, you cannot have your 165,000 men in the Regular Army without having a proper training staff within what will be your overall numbers. You cannot have a properly trained Army unless they are trained sufficiently long; and your net availability in personnel has to be taken after that commitment has been assessed.
What are the figures available at this moment? Would you put them at 130,000 or 140,000? Surely, that is your maximum at the present time. Let us face it. You are relying upon getting, it may be in twelve months' time or a little over, 165,000 men. What will be the availability for B.A.O.R. and all your commitments in the world of actual serving personnel, allowing for those in training and those in the pipelines? I recognise that what we call the pipelines are more speedy than they were: you can move people more rapidly if you are quite sure that every Army unit concerned is going to have a proper service of transport planes of sufficient capacity. But you must always have the pipeline. Therefore, I 628 think you have set your target far too low. I know the difficulty of getting the men, and I know what it is costing to compete against constantly rising wages in the industrial market. That is one of the matters I referred to when we were discussing this subject in general. You have not an easy task, nor can you have any great confidence in the quantity of Regulars you are able to keep year after year on that basis.
It is not surprising to me, therefore, that the leadership of the Army, who know what they are talking about, always had a different figure in mind even from the 182,000; so far as I understood, it was nearer 210,000. I can be corrected if I am wrong, but I think that is the truth. If you are going to have to aim eventually at that figure, as experience may prove to be necessary, then you will have a tough task to enlist the men. So far as I can see, this Bill does no more at present than arrange for the retention of men who are in the last stages of their National Service. When that is finished, what do you do next? I think the First Lord of the Admiralty said that he hoped it would not be necessary to call up any of those National Servicemen who are at present performing their reserve duties only. What do you do next? Are you going to put all your money on getting the "Ever-readies" available in time for that? Is the situation going to be fully understood, both by employers and these key men, whom we all will admire and who we hope will come forward? Can you guarantee that you are going to get the number of men you want if you have to say, "We want to be able to transfer you to B.A.O.R. whenever we are short of our need"? I should like that made pretty clear. Put the case to both employer and employee if you want to get this scheme really going.
But in this matter of arranging for national defence, you can always set your standards too low and follow the old programme of "Too little and too late". Many times in this House I have said, and I shall say again, that I have never yet known a Conservative or a Liberal Government in my day and generation (I am 76) to be ready with sufficient forces, estimated at the minimum, to support the overseas policy that 629 they are actually pursuing in the world. That is my experience over a long life. There it is. In the conditions in which this is being carried out, surely great hardship is going to be involved.
The proposals which the Government are making for dealing with the hardship are, to my mind, rather shattering. In the first place, apparently, a man who at the end of his two years National Service is told he will be required to be retained beyond the time for which he was called up, may for either business or professional reasons find this highly inconvenient. He may be one of the section of young people who study at colleges or universities in preparation for entry into the professions, science or teaching and so on. Arrangements will have been made, and there is a good deal of hardship to those young people. It is likely there will be a good number of that category, because many of the people who have been granted permission to delay their professional training for their normal life's vocation are just the men who are to-day finishing up their National Service.
Then, of course, there are the usual kind of hardship cases which arise for family reasons, and that kind of thing. All these men can do is to ask permission from their commanding officer, and it is he who decides whether the case is sufficiently powerful or strong to be referred. And how is it going to be dealt with if it is referred? It is not going to be dealt with by any kind of independent court or tribunal. I suppose it really comes down to this, that the Secretary of State for War, or whoever is the head of the particular Department which is concerned in the matter, must take the responsibility of a personal decision in every case. Is that so? Can we know this? Is the only aid he can call upon that from an advisory committee? I think it is very unfortunate that this kind of matter has to he dealt with in this way. In any event, I want some more details as to how exactly the Government think this is going to work.
I should like to give notice to the First Lord (because I am sure that he will be in charge of the Committee Stage of the Bill) that, unless we are reasonably satisfied with the reply on the Second Reading to-night, it will almost inevitably be necessary for us to pursue the 630 path of putting down Amendments for both Committee and Report stages. I am very concerned about the position. One hopes very much that the signs of "cooing", as we sometimes call it, from Moscow may be made more firmly than they have turned out to be in the past. I cannot say about that, but certainly having regard to the situation the world over, in South America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Far East, Vietnam, Laos and in the Middle East, there are areas in which we cannot for one moment let up on our keenness in observing events and taking all steps necessary to deal with them.
We know that in 1957 the country grasped at the turning away from National Service; it turned away from it under the promise made by the 1957 White Paper, that men could be recruited to take the place of the National Servicemen and there would be an immediate actual saving of money, of £100 million, for the period 1957–58. Yet here we are to-day with a far higher defence bill in the national Budget than we have ever experienced in our history, and we have this sort of problem being put up to us for settlement in present circumstances.
I am sorry to say I feel that I have rather let the House down through having to attend an official engagement. I do not wish to detain your Lordships, but I will look carefully at these matters during the Committee and Report stages. In the meantime, I do not think I shall want to divide the House to-night. I do not like dividing on Second Reading art at any time in this House—it is not a very good precedent—although the matter has been divided upon in the other place. But I will watch this matter with very grave concern, and I do not want the Government to be under any misapprehension as to how seriously we regard the situation.
§ 5.35 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, in rising to reply to this very telling debate, I am fortified by a great part of what has been said, on both sides of the House. I am also mindful of the very considerable honour of following the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition, who for five years was Minister of Defence and for five years of war before that the holder of that most honoured 631 office in the country, now occupied by my noble friend who opened this debate.
My noble friend and I have listened to a good deal of criticism of the Bill. It would be untrue to say that we were dumbfounded to learn of its existence: "pained but prepared" would be a better description of our attitude. I know he will recognise with me that the overwhelming proportion of that criticism was constructive, always so long as one includes in that category everything that was really intended to be purely constructive!
Most importantly, a valuable area of common ground and common resolve has been marked out, by one speech after another. I am certain that Allies and potential enemies alike will read the Record of our debate as one more means of gauging the determination and temper of our country in an age of danger. It is, of course, the mission of both the Government and the Opposition to measure up to that danger; and, so far as our attitude to it is concerned, there has been nothing this afternoon to dishearten our friends or to embolden our foes. In the matter of our preparedness, I hope soon to allay some of the anxieties weighing upon the noble Lord Lord Shepherd, and perhaps any others whom, with his bodeful words, he may have affected.
The purpose of the Bill and the sequence of measures proposed to achieve that purpose have been described by my noble friend, and attack has been directed mainly at the first two measures—those affecting National Servicemen. Attack has been on the grounds of unfairness in selectivity and discrimination, as between some National Servicemen and others. The measures are, by their character, open to such attack, and we do not flinch when those attacks are launched. Nor do they shake our conviction that the measures are right and justified, and the best available to meet the conditions and the need of our time. What has been heartening is to hear noble Lords on Benches behind us and in front of us declare, and reiterate, the view that service, even involuntary service, in the Armed Forces of the country is in itself a privilege and not an imposition.
632 My Lords, there are, as we know, delicate electronic devices which can suppress any rough or unwelcome sound from a passage of music, and perhaps even from a political speech. But I do not think your Lordships will accuse me of having listened to the debate through such a device if I describe the background of opinion in those terms. As citizens of this country, at least as adult citizens, we share a common duty for its defence. That duty is divided among individuals. But it cannot, in the nature of things, be exactly equally divided. To those who are young and nimble, it falls to face discomfort and danger; sometimes to meet it, at closer quarters. There are compensations to being young and nimble, and thus more liable to a dangerous rôle in defence of your country; compensations which some of us might even exchange for our present ungainliness and disengagement from the guns.
So, when noble Lords say, as they have repeatedly said, that hardship will strike as a result of these measures, I think it is right that it should be said, and that it should be said in Parliament. There is that aspect. But I hope and believe that the young men on whose behalf these noble Lords are speaking, are not saying that quite so persuasively to themselves—at any rate, not many of them; not those who have seriously thought over what it is they are being asked to do.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, in view of the thesis of the noble Lord about hardship on a few, would he agree, first, that it is impossible to have a balanced force in the British Army without selective National Service, and, secondly, that it is necessary to have selective National Service in order to get balance?
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I do not know what the noble Lord means by a balanced force. A balanced force, as I understand the term, does not come into this context at all. A balanced force—a term with which I have been coping in the last few weeks—means a force with balanced arms, balanced weapons, and no vacancies in any particular arm. Is that the term to which the noble Lord is referring?
§ LORD OGMORE
No, my Lords, I mean a force which is ready to fight as 633 a force if necessary, and which has the necessary services as well as the teeth, in order to enable it to do so. At the moment the British Army has not got these.
LORD ST. OSWALD
No, my Lords, I am sorry. I cannot accept that selective service is the answer to that. I am sorry; I do not understand the noble Lord.
LORD ST. OSWALD
If the noble Lord has read the Bill and has listened to the debate, and will even listen to me, he will learn what we think is the immediate answer, or what we hope is the answer.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord was talking in the long term. I am sorry if I have continually mistaken him, but I think he was talking in the long term. There is no question of selective long-term service being envisaged in this Bill.
What these young men are being asked to do is to make an additional contribution, six months out of their lives, to prevent a war; to prevent a war which might destroy their country and consume their families, which in fact, according to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, would be bound to do exactly that. Measured against that, the price is not high, and I do not believe that it is reckoned any higher among the majority, the thinking majority, of those to be affected. I doubt very much whether they are expressing such thoughts to visiting Members of Parliament, or even to each other. That is not the way, in my experience, in which soldiers talk in or out of battle. I have never heard a British trooper deliver anything resembling Henry V's speech before Agincourt, in any sort of vernacular. But I have seen more than I can number respond to the spirit of that speech, a spirit which had to come from within.
In the summer of 1950 the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues in the Labour Government knew that they could count on that 634 spirit and its responses. Perhaps the noble Viscount himself, with his great experience of Service Ministries, knew better than any among his colleagues. And quite rightly, without hesitation, the Labour Government did, by and large, what we are doing to-day. Of course, politically and administratively, it was rather easier for them, since abroad there was a shooting war to be dealt with, and at home the war emergency had not been declared at an end. And they had an Army of 375,000, of whom 184,000 were National Servicemen.
But when the noble Viscount says, as he said a minute or two ago, that no Tory Government have ever been able to meet a war emergency with the troops in hand, then I hope he is not suggesting that the Labour Government, with all their advantages at that time, were able to do it. Because, in fact, they found it necessary; and they did not shrink from recalling men (selectively), retaining men (selectively again), and retaining also National Servicemen. For how long? For an extra six months. Have the members of that Government ever suffered from a sense of the injustice they perpetrated on those selected? If so, they have suffered silently.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, is it not a fact that when we kept back the National Service, we not only had a cold war in Europe but a fighting war in Korea? When we kept those men back we were at one time releasing a lot, particularly Regulars, as well as holding some back. There was equality for all.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, the noble Lord is mistaken. His Government of that day retained some and recalled some, selectively, according to the units in which they were serving, or the units on whose reserve they were.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I have listened very carefully to what the noble Lord has said. Surely he has forgotten the history of that time. The whole situation in Europe and in the world outside was dangerous. I myself introduced the National Service Act in 1947. We could not have done any of the things that 635 we did, to make possible our contribution to the Korean conflict, which was made on behalf of the whole world for freedom, unless we had invoked that National Service system which I produced in the other place. Therefore, the noble Lord is not comparing like with like.
LORD ST. OSWALD
In fact, my Lords, I thought for a moment that the noble Viscount was echoing my own words and sentiments. I was certainly not arguing that they did the wrong thing. I was arguing that they did exactly the right thing. But I believe that it is possible to compare like with like, in so far as they, with the enormously larger immediate Army to call upon, were still obliged to take the sort of measures, of a different nature but the same in degree, that we are taking.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
But the position is this. The present Government gave notice in 1957 to the whole of the people liable to be called up, that it was bringing National Service to an end. The whole country understood that. The men who went in in the last year or two understood that they were the last men to be called up for National Service. The conditions are no different, therefore, in regard to what the policy of a Government ought to be. The noble Lord is not, in my view, stating the case quite fairly.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I am certainly trying to state it fairly and, so far as I can see from his last remarks, the noble Viscount was, in fact, arguing that conscription should not have been dropped.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I hope, as I said, that the noble Lords have never felt any regret at the measures they took then, which I insist were a form of selective service, selective recall and selective retention. Certainly, I agreed with it then, and I have never disagreed with it. But in fairness I think they must not expect us to beat our breasts when we, in our turn, confront another situation of 636 menace and meet it with the same decision.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, if necessary will the Government do the other thing that we did then? We not only extended the service of the National Servicemen in those circumstances; we extended the service of Regulars at that time. We have heard no mention at all of that in connection with this Bill. Now that you are offering much better conditions of remuneration and the like, are you going to let men out from Regular service, while you keep in, under terms of hardship, men who have to go as soon as possible to earn their living?
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I am also coming to that point.
My Lords, after that little exchange my ears are attuned to any dissentient murmur from any quarter of the House.
LORD ST. OSWALD
But my impression is that it is not the matter of the length of service required from a young man—30 months instead of 24—which causes concern to some noble Lords, but the dislocation of his immediate prospects, in his home life and in his employment, occasioned by the unexpected prolongation. I am right, it appears. Then perhaps I could repeat certain assurances given by my noble friend, and even add to them. As he said, supposing that there is no worsening of the international situation in the meantime, those National Servicemen due to leave between now and April 1 will leave as anticipated. Only those due to leave after April 1 need prepare themselves for an extra six months in the Army; and, of those, about 15,000 are likely to be affected under Clause 1, the retention clause. It is hoped, as my noble friend said, that Clause 2, the recall clause, need never be invoked, as it should be obviated by the effects of Clause 3, when "Ever-readies" are enrolled. Everything we can think of that is also practicable will be done to minimise hardship in the event of retention or recall.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, could I ask the noble Lord a question? You are going to call up the Clause 2 people into the Forces—you are making them 637 (shall we say?) Regular soldiers, serving soldiers—and you are going to have the "Ever-readies", except that if you have the "Ever-readies" you do not need the Clause 2 soldiers. If that is the case—and the "Ever-readies", we presume, will be training with the Territorial Army—is it a fact that these National Servicemen in Clause 2 are training with the Territorial Army now?
LORD ST. OSWALD
Really, my Lords, I do not think the matter is as complicated as that. There will be no need to call them up so long as there is a sufficiency of "Ever-readies" who can be called up. If there is not a sufficiency of "Ever-readies", they will be called up. Is that not plain to the noble Lord?
LORD ST. OSWALD
First, the longest possible notice will be given—at least two months in the case of retained men; secondly, they and the recalled men (if any) will be on Regular Army rates of pay, which will mean that an average soldier, as my noble friend explained, will be receiving a 40 per cent. increase on his National Service pay after an allowance has been paid to his wife; thirdly, the Harship Advisory Committee will have been set up to study individual cases; and, fourthly, there will be provision for up to 56 days' postponement of recall, under Clause 2, in case of any serious difficulty. The noble Viscount asked me to go into details of the method, I think, by which my right honourable friend would consider appeals. I fear that I must fail him in this; I cannot tell him the actual details. But he knows, of course, about the board which has been set up; and, so far as I know, everyone is satisfied as to its composition and as to the identity of its chair, man.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
But, my Lords, it is not in any sense a body to consider all cases which feel that they ought to be considered. First of all, the commanding officer can block an application, and can send up only two, three of four. Then, 638 when they come up, they are met not by a tribunal but by an advisory board. Where does the Minister come in? I want to know exactly what they are doing.
LORD ST. OSWALD
There are two separate questions there, both of which I was trying to answer, although I realised that one I was not going to be able to answer fully. The first question was where exactly my right honourable friend would come into it. All I know is what is printed in the Bill, that the final decision will be his. The board will be in an advisory capacity to him. In the matter of the appeals going forward, I can give the noble Viscount some satisfaction. I can give him the assurance that no appeal will be held up by a commanding officer so long as it is supported by some evidence. Moreover, I can give the further assurance that men will be retained only for strictly military reasons, and will be only the number strictly necessary.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, from that may I take it that this matter is to be decided by the Minister? In other words, if a soldier is dissatisfied on the facts known to himself and thinks he has not been propery treated in the unit and that his case has not been allowed to go forward, has he a perfect liberty to write to his Member of Parliament and have his case submitted through his Member of Parliament to the Minister, and will the Minister thereupon act on that? Am I to understand that?
LORD ST. OSWALD
No, my Lords. His route is through his commanding officer. So far as I know, hardship is not connected with whether or not he dislikes his commanding officer. Hardship is in the context of how much his home life is going to be affected by his retention.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
But, my Lords, if the commanding officer rejects his application, what recourse does the man have?
LORD ST. OSWALD
I assume that, like many soldiers, he will write to his Member of Parliament. Surely the noble Viscount and his noble friend do not need me to tell them that. My Lords, all those retained or warned for retention will have advice incorporated in their calling-up papers on how to appeal on 639 hardship grounds. In assessing a man's appeal, consideration will not be given to the fact that he is a good soldier. He will not be kept on, that is, because he is more useful to his unit than another appellant.
My noble friend Lord Goschen asked me about the claims of National Service officers and men who had made arrangements to start or resume studies at universities. I can also give him the assurance that every consideration will be given to their claims that they should not be retained in the Army beyond the date when their studies should begin. My noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard asked what discrimination would be given to a man with children. I can reassure him that, when there are two men for one post, if one of them is married and the other is unmarried, the unmarried man will be taken—and, naturally, the existence of children will further strengthen a man's case.
My Lords, those safeguards and considerations will minimise but they will not prevent dislocation in individual cases. Everything that is said to remind us of the sacrifice that these young men and their families are making for our common defence is worth saying. It would be very wrong for us to take it as a matter of course. I think it is natural and to be hoped that they, when it is over, and even during its course, will feel some pride in the extra bit they did for their country when it was needed.
It has also been argued by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard that we should have left the National Service man alone, let him go home, and kept on or recalled the Regulars, in the required numbers, as was done in Korea, and as in fact the noble Viscount suggested a minute or two ago in his intervention. My Lords, I do not think so, for reasons additional to those given by my noble friend in his opening speech. For mine, I must return briefly to that prediction on the manner in which our universal responsibility is bound to be shared out unequally. There are some—and, happily, it looks as if there will be enough of them—who voluntarily accept or seek a larger share of danger and responsibility than others in our defence. They are the Regular soldiers, and we owe them much. They give up, not two 640 years of their lives to our protection because they have to by law, but six, nine or more years, by their own wish. To regard them, on such an occasion, as the willing horses on whom we can always load another sack would be, I think, as unwise as it would be unjust.From him that gives you can always take a bit more.The noble Lord, Lord Taylor misquoted the same line, in another context, last night, and I am always happy to follow him. But that proverb seems to me a dubious dictum at the best of times, and I would say demonstrably unsound in this application. The whole pride and assurance of the Regular soldier is that he gives his service of his own free will. If, once freely given, that service is arbitrarily extended, the pride is likely to turn sour and the assurance to dwindle, and I do not consider that in the least unnatural. In saying that, I do not want to fly under false colours, as bestowed on me, by implication, by Lord Windlesham half an hour ago. I do not want to suggest that I was ever a Regular soldier, or that any recruiting sergeant would have looked twice at me. But I have served admiringly by the side of some Regular soldiers, and I speak from directly communicated knowledge, though not from my own.
My Lords, this is not an original situation, one that no Government has had to cope with before. Thirteen years and two months ago, the National Service (Amendment) Bill was given its Second Reading in your Lordships' House. By a curious chance, it was introduced by the then First Lord of the Admiralty in the Labour Government. He used these words to introduce it—and I now quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 159, cols. 947–8:The Bill is short but vitally important, both in its defence aspects and in its very close effects on the lives of many thousands of young men in this country. Its principal provision is that National Service men called up under the Act after January 1, 1949, shall serve for eighteen months with the Colours instead of twelve months, as in the present Act. The reason for the change is that if this step is not taken the country will be unable to meet its defence commitments during the next few years …Then, a few lines further on:Apart from the question of disorganisation, we rely upon National Service men to bridge the gap between our requirements in trained man-power and what can be provided from the Regular Forces.641 My Lords, that was the attitude of the Labour Government at that time, and it is our approach to-day.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, that was my attitude. I do not think the noble Lord was quoting the First Lord of the Admiralty at that time.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, it does not sound like it. That happened to be a Bill for which I was responsible.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Then I am sorry; that is different. But the whole point, if I may explain the situation, was this. There were naturally very long debates on the question of introducing the principle of National Service in 1947. I had "eighteen months" in the Bill originally, but under very great pressure, and because we wanted as much unanimity as possible, we reduced the period, during the passage of the Bill through the House, to twelve months. I warned the House at that time that I had done that in order to meet the wishes of the House, but that if a situation arose—as I believed it might well do—which required that I should extend the period by statutory order, I had included the proper clause in the Bill to make that possible. I have nothing to apologise for.
LORD ST. OSWALD
Believe me, I was not asking the noble Viscount to apologise; nor have I at any point in this debate. If I gave that impression, I was expressing myself very badly. I certainly see nothing to apologise for in that Bill. As a matter of fact, I was not aware that such form of warning had been given. But, in my contention, it still amounted to an extension of National Service by six months, and therefore, given a situation where it was required, the Labour Government were prepared to do that.
My Lords, that was not the only occasion on which that was done. A few months before that another extension of three months had been announced, 642 with very little warning indeed, and was referred to in the debate on October 28 of that year by the noble Lord, Lord Wilson. I quote from his speech in Hansard [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 159, col. 107]:I happened to be in Germany visiting my Regiment at the time that the decision was taken to extend by three months the length of service. Extraordinary precautions were taken to ensure that the information did not reach the troops before the announcement was made in another place by the Minister of Defence. That was at 5 p.m. German time. The result was that men who had taken leave of their Commanding Officer that morning for discharge and were due to get on a train for home that night, went back to duty. The decision was taken by the troops in a spirit which I am sure your Lordships would commend. But the fact remains that it has left them in a state of uncertainty as to their future.I am still not blaming the noble Viscount; and, so far as I was able to find, the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham (as he was then), in winding up for the Government, made no reference to this piece of direct evidence, suggesting that even that most compassionate of Peers was not unduly taken aback by the hardship involved in this particular instance. What is significant, and what I think we must admire, is the spirit in which the troops accepted their disappointment, even though many of them must have been serving, in that event, for several years. It would be very wrong to trade upon that good nature and stoicism, but it would also be wrong to discount it, or to ignore the fact that the service which soldiers give their country is important to them, as well as to the country. This extension was made necessary by the Berlin Airlift, and was accepted as necessary by the Opposition of the day.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, explained to me that he would have to leave. I will not follow him in detail into the questions he raised, but I was grateful for his description of the high morale of B.A.O.R. I think that those who were on that delegation would wish me to say how happy I was to hear that General Jim Cassels became an object of admiration to all of them, as, indeed, he has been to me for many years. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, also suggested that we should thin out our overseas garrisons in order to reinforce B.A.O.R. This has obviously been considered, but it has 643 been found that that would unbalance them and would do precisely what our enemies wished in those other parts of the world. In those parts of the world our opponents have the initiative, in that they can "turn on the heat" in Europe or in the Far East at will; and in the context of the cold war, it would be both wrong and impracticable to weaken our overseas garrisons to remedy shortages in B.A.O.R. The other substantial objection to this process is that a reduction of overseas garrisons of this nature could not be carried out in time to produce the required numbers and types of troops by the time they are needed in Germany in April of this year.
The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, raised the question of the need for employers to co-operate with the Government to deal fairly with men who are required to perform service under the Bill, whether retained or recalled National Servicemen, or as "Ever-readies". I endorse all he said, and I add only two things. First of all, as announced in another place the Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State for War met representatives of the employers and the T.U.C. some little time ago and explained the proposals in the Bill. These talks were aimed at securing goodwill on both sides of industry, on which, in particular, the success of the voluntary "Ever-ready" scheme so much depends. Secondly, as my noble friend has already said, Clause 5 of the Bill provides for the application of existing legislation to all categories covered by the Bill so far as reinstatement in civil employment, and other interests, are concerned.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, seemed to me to say that the basic dilemma of N.A.T.O. was represented by the soldier in an exercise who had been told he was dead, and found that he was really alive all the time; but I found it very difficult to follow that. If that is the major difficulty in which N.A.T.O. finds itself, then the situation seems to be fairly healthy.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, it is not the dilemma which N.A.T.O. as a whole faces; it is the dilemma which the British Rhine Army itself faces.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I am afraid that still does not alarm me very 644 much. The noble Lord also asked me directly what was the normal commitment of N.A.T.O. As a matter of fact, that was not the phrase used by my noble friend the First Lord, as he thought. The short answer is that in times without tension it is carrying out a policy laid down by the Standing Group of N.A.T.O. When tension arises and things begin to look tough, then reinforcements have to be sent out. This is understood by our Allies and SACEUR.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, should I be right in assuming that the policy is that the Army in Germany should resist the threat of conventional aggression by conventional means?
LORD ST. OSWALD
The purpose is that they should be able to face aggression, and I can assure the noble Lord that they are. I am sorry that they give another impression to the noble Lord, but we are certain that they can.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, can the noble Lord be truly certain that an Army of 11 divisions is capable of resisting aggression by an Army of 20 divisions?
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I am not going, to enter into a discussion on strategy from this Despatch Box, even if I were able to do, but the noble Lord is overlooking the fact that N.A.T.O. is regarded as a peace-time Army which will be reinforced in the event of the threat of war.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, but the number of divisions would not be increased at a change from peace status to war status.
LORD ST. OSWALD
The noble Lord will not expect me to give figures of what we expect or intend to have. That would be quite improper.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, on that matter the noble Lord has been forestalled many times over the last ten years. The figures have been published again and again.
LORD ST. OSWALD
I am not sure how authoritatively they have been published. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in a long and forceful speech, spoke of manpower shortages in B.A.O.R. I do not know where he got his figures but I can assure him and the House that they are exaggerated.
LORD ST. OSWALD
Yes, my Lords, the strength of B.A.O.R. at the present is 51,000, and the measures we are taking, with the help of the House, will enable us to keep up that figure for the rest of this year.
LORD ST. OSWALD
Yes, my Lords, the noble Lord's figure of 49,000 is wrong. The noble Lord thought that we are taking desperate means. I think that he confuses short-term means with desperate means. We are not desperate. We believe that we are doing the right thing at the right time. We have always said, and my right honourable friend in another place has said it repeatedly, that if our calculations were not right—and they depend on the "Ever-readies" enrolling, as we fully expect them to do—then we shall think again.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to get a complete check on this figure because my noble friend is very careful about his figures. He has made inquiries, but he cannot, of course, say what he has been told, because that is not done. I understand that the Government will maintain the 51,000 by retaining 9,000 men, and if they were not called upon to stay on, then the strength would be reduced to 42,000.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I repeat what I have said. The present strength is 51,000 and the measures passing through the House now will enable us to keep up that strength until the beginning of next year.
I come to another matter. The noble Lords, Lord Shepherd and Lord Kennet, touched on this in slightly different ways, but I will take it that their joint anxiety was that B.A.O.R. would be unable to fight a conventional campaign. I think that is the burden of what they were saying. That is not so. B.A.O.R. is trained in both conventional and nuclear warfare and in the event of an attack would fight for a limited period without recourse to nuclear weapons. This is in accordance with the N.A.T.O. doctrine which envisages 646 that, in the event of aggression, conventional forces would enforce a c, "pause". This "pause" is the heart of N.A.T.O. strategy, as your Lordships know. As to exactly how long B.A.O.R. could fight without using nuclear weapons—that clearly depends on circumstances: the weight and nature of an attack and other factors, of which I am sure noble Lords will be well aware. I do not know whether I have set the fears of the noble Lords at rest, but I can tell them that our plans are accepted by SACEUR because our Allies recognise that our overseas commitments, which are not matched by the other countries in the Alliance, necessitate our keeping troops overseas in other parts of the world, and that those plans provide for reinforcements from the United Kingdom to back up B.A.O.R. in an emergency.
The noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition asked about Army strength as a whole. I think that the good news I can give him is that recruitment last year was 25 per cent. up on the year before. The noble Viscount said that this Bill does no more than arrange for the retention of men in the last stages of National Service, and he went on to refer to Clause 3. In fact, this clause goes further and looks to the future. I would say again that we have great confidence and great hopes of the "Ever-readies" and of the willingness of men to serve in them. When the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked a question about the "Ever-readies", I muttered an observation to my noble friend, but indistinguishably, and I am not sure that I put it clearly enough. The fact is that the "Ever-readies" enlisted will be additional to the peace-time ceiling of Territorial units. That is different from the establishment, as the noble Lord will appreciate.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I appreciate that. I am much obliged to the noble Lord. That is what I asked the First Lord.
LORD ST. OSWALD
There is the argument, formidable enough when pressed by the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition, that we should never have let conscription go. In his opening speech, my noble friend briefly, but just as formidably, to my mind, set 647 out the case against conscription: wasteful, harmful to the morale of a Regular force and a drain on the country's manpower resources. We could have a speech on each of these, but we are not going to. It is moving to be reminded, I know, of what conscript Armies have done for us, particularly in two world wars. It is undeniable that those conscript Armies fought well. They also fought wastefully. They were the very expression of cruel and stupefying waste, as any war is bound to be in some degree. Our conscript Armies have been men ready to die for their country—many of them dying for their country. What we need is an Army of men determined that the enemy will die for his country—or for his leaders' misconceived principles or ambitions—and able to impose that result.
I have continued, with the help of interruptions, longer than I had intended to, but I should like to say, in ending, that we believe this Bill is the right Bill for the time; it has been carefully thought out and confidently presented. But there is always something inhibiting in the fact that decisions of this nature are taken by older men and carried out, sometimes in discomfort and danger, by younger men. But that has always been so, and most of us have been at the receiving end, so to speak, in our time. Should your Lordships pass this Bill, it 648 will mean that a number of young men, about 15,000 in all, will spend six months longer than they wish to away from their homes. There can be few of us in this House who cannot match their experience from our own, in terms of rather more than six months. I think of my own experience as fairly typical of those who served in the last war. During four and a half years I was posted away from this country in the Middle East and Far East. My brother served for a similar period overseas. So did hundreds of thousands of others, without repenting it or resenting it, then or now.
All I would claim, on the strength of that undistinguished contribution, is to ask a purely rhetorical question: should we not have been giving better, more effective service to our country, and to the world, if our contribution had prevented war, instead of winning it? It was not our lot to play that particular, bloodless role in history. That is the contribution that these young people of to-day can make; that is the opportunity they are offered. It is open to your Lordships in this and subsequent stages of the Bill to persuade them of their opportunity, and to inspirit them in their task.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at twenty-two minutes past six o'clock.