HL Deb 27 November 1962 vol 244 cc1105-31

My Lords, as your Lordships know, the Army and Air Force Acts, 1955, brought to an end the procedure of, annual Army and Air Force Acts and introduced a system of continuation annually by Order in Council for a maximum period of five years. The Acts came into force on January 1, 1957, and would have expired on December 31, 1961, had they not been extended by the Army and Air Force Act, 1961, subject once again to the annual Order in Council procedure. The Continuation Orders which we are now discussing are the first made under that Act. They are also the first to come before your Lordships' House since 1960. The reason for that is that last year no Orders were necessary, since the 1961 Act itself provided for continuation until the end of this year.

As well as extending the Army and Air Force Acts, the Army and Air Force Act, 1961, made a number of amendments to those Acts. One of the measures introduced by that Act was aimed at reducing the wastage rate among recruits. The measure was recommended by the Select Committee to whom the Bill was committed. As your Lordships will recall, at that time more and more recruits were taking advantage of Section 14 of the Act to buy themselves out. They could do this in their first three months for £20, and in 1960 the proportion who did so in the Army had risen to 14 per cent. We told the Select Committee that we believed that some of the men who took their decision in their early days acted on impulse, and that if they had stayed in the Army longer they would have changed their minds. The Select Committee therefore decided to give the Army and Air Councils power, in the 1961 Act, to prohibit the exercise of the right to formulate discharge for up to two months from the date of a recruit's attestation. The Army Council imposed an eight-week ban in August, 1961.

This was not, of course, the only measure aimed at improving the situation. But the combined result of everything we did bas been to bring the rate of discharge by purchase by Army recruits down from nearly 14 per cent. in early 1961 to something over 10 per cent. in 1962. There has been some offsetting increase in wastage from other causes, but overall there has been a gain to the Army in 1962 of some 600 men.

Another important innovation in the 1961 Act was the provision in Section 19 for punishment by forfeiture of a sum from pay. This measure has been welcomed by commanding officers and has worked well in practice. It has proved particularly useful in the case of junior N.C.O.s who previously could be awarded no more than a reprimand by their commanding officer.

Turning to the question of Army discipline, during the last twelve months for which figures are available 28 officers were convicted by courts-martial. This is, in fact, eight higher than the number in the previous year and it represents about one officer in 700. In the same period there were 2,343 courts-martial convictions of other ranks. This is rather less than the previous year, when the figure was 2,664, but the decrease in number is almost exactly matched by the decrease in the strength of the Army between the years. Nearly two-thirds were military, as opposed to civil, offences covered by Section 70 of the Army Act. There were in the past year 37 appeal petitions to the Army Council under the Courts-Martial (Appeals) Act, 1951. Three convictions were quashed. The rest were refused or only partially quashed. The Courts-Martial Appeal Court considered 16 applications and granted leave to appeal in five cases. One of these appeals was granted and the conviction quashed. The remainder were dismissed.

The standard of discipline in the Royal Air Force also remains of a high order. In the year ending September 30, 1962, there were, on average, only 2.69 courts-martial for every 1,000 officers and airmen serving in the Royal Air Force, which is slightly lower than even last year's figure of 2.7 per 1,000. There were seven petitions to the Air Council against sentence, all of which were rejected. There were also seven appeal petitions against findings. One led to the conviction being quashed because of misdirection at the trial, and in the remainder six leave to appeal was refused by the Appeal Court. So much for discipline, my Lords.

I said in the course of our debate on the Address earlier this month that the Army's recruiting figures in recent months had been extremely encouraging. The Army reached its minimum all-Regular strength of 165,000 men in August—about four months before the date which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War had set for it. So the Government's confidence in our ability to raise an all-Regular Army had been borne out; and I am sure that noble Lords, on whatever side of the House they sit, and however sanguine or gloomy they may have been earlier on, will share the Government's satisfaction that this first goal has been reached. But we are not slackening our efforts, and already since August another 4,000 men have been recruited. In fact, in the last ten months we have recruited 25,300 men from civil life, which is 26 per cent. above the corresponding figure for last year, and 53 per cent. above the figure for the year before that. I think that is a very welcome sign not only that our Press and television advertising campaigns have been successful but also that the Army itself is proving an attract- tive career; and in the long run it is this, the contented recruit, which will count for most.

The task of making the Royal Air Force an all-Regular force is now all but complete. For all practical purposes the Royal Air Force is now manned with Regular airmen and is generally up to strength, except in one or two trades; and recruitment of airmen has been excellent in the past year. During the year ending in September, 1962, we recruited a total of 14,572 men, youths and women, compared with 12,474 in 1961. Various factors (the main ones are the completion of the change to all-Regular manning, and alterations in the tasks to be done; for example, the rundown of the Thor stations) mean that we shall not need so many recruits in the Royal Air Force in the future. In the coming year vacancies in the ground trades will be very limited and we shall take substantially less than we recruited in 1961 and 1962. We expect no difficulty in recruiting all the men we want and the competition for vacancies should allow us to be very selective.

My Lords, that, in broad outline, is the purpose of these two Orders. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Army Act, 1955 (Continuation) Order, 1962, be approved.—(Lord Carrington.)

2.58 p.m.


My Lords, I am much obliged to Her Majesty's Government for agreeing to the procedure, which I think is for the convenience of the House and which allows us to have a small autumn debate on defence. And in the light of the figures the First Lord has given us, it is, I think, clearly desirable that we should have an opportunity for this sort of interim discussion.

I should like to congratulate all those concerned, even including the Government, on the encouraging recruiting figures. It is extremely satisfactory and a great relief that we have attained what is now called the "minimum target". This, of course, puts us in the difficulty we are always in in this matter, because the Government are extremely elusive When it comes to the question of establishing how many troops and how many people they really want in the Forces. We have long suspected that the number they want is always the number that they get at a particular moment. I cannot go fully into what the First Lord has been pleased to call the "numbers game", but the fact remains that 165,000 is nothing like enough for our needs, and that it has long been apparent that planning of our Regular Forces has been based on a need for 180,000. I would ask the First Lord, when he comes to reply, what the present target is. Is it 180,000? Obviously, the ultimate test must be how many we get, but I think it would be useful to know what the Government really hope to get and now believe that they are going to get. Certainly I cannot rest content with these particular figures. I am sure that the Government themselves are not content.

It is, incidentally in passing, satisfactory that recruiting now into the Royal Air Force is so satisfactory. We know that the Royal Navy, which does not come into this matter, never has had much trouble, and for quite a while the Royal Air Force has been fairly free from difficulty. The point is important, because the moment we get ourselves into a position of having more men than we can take, it is going to make it very much easier to raise standards, and this will in turn reduce wastage.

I would turn, as the noble Lord, the First Lord, would expect, to a subject about which the Government may also be a little sensitive: the position of the "Ever-readies". It may well be that the "Ever-readies" will fade from view, that they will never play the important part envisaged when they were first brought forth from the Government's hat as a sort of conjuring trick to solve our problems. But according to the information I have seen, recruiting for the "Ever-readies" is rather disappointing. We were extremely doubtful as to whether the "Ever-readies" ever would succeed in meeting the particular need that the Government had for them, but if there is a need for them it must be in the course of the next few months, especially after National Service has run out; and from the information we are getting it looks as if the figures are not encouraging. We should like a frank statement from the Government as to how they now regard the scheme. I am sure it is one every noble Lord would wish to encourage, but at the same time it is not, I am afraid, going to be as satisfactory as we had hoped.

May I turn to one aspect of recruiting and that is the recruiting of junior leaders and boy soldiers? Like others of your Lordships, I am in the habit of giving lifts to men from the Services, and often in the past one has picked up National Service men only to find that they were counting the days till they could get out of the Army. Three times in the last two months by chance I have given lifts to boy soldiers, junior leaders, apprentices, and I have been immensely impressed by the enthusiasm they have shown. On one fairly long car journey I picked up three boys bound for Penzance or somewhere like that on an initiative test, and they talked continuously about how marvellous the life was, how keen they were on their prospects in the Army, how satisfied they were with the training, the education, the officers and the N.C.O.s. It was a pæan of praise of such a nature that I made a mental note that I would raise this subject in due course in the House. I gave a lift only the night before last to yet another boy soldier who almost sat down to try to write my speech for me, because he felt it was such a marvellous thing.

There is no doubt that the Army are on to a very good thing here, and they are running it extremely well. They have obviously picked the right officers and the right places—one of the places I have heard about was Arbourfield—for running it. Many of these boy soldiers come from homes with Service backgrounds; their fathers have been in the Army and are glad to see their sons go into it directly, rather than that there should be a period between the time they leave school and the time they join up. There is no doubt that it is infinitely easier to absorb the boys in this way and give them prospects.

I am wondering whether the noble Lord has any figures on wastage; he may not have them now; I would not press him on this point. He was talking about wastage and the examination which has taken place, and I am sure the Army and Air Force operational research people have looked into this question. I am wondering how far we can pinpoint the places where wastages occur and those aspects of recruiting where the minimum wastage occurs, and whether it would be possible to reinforce the success where it exists.

I do not know whether the Army training of junior leaders is an expensive way of recruiting, but we must remember that in the process better citizens are being produced, because, quite apart from military training, these lads are getting a great deal more education. Many of them are taking the relevant Army examination and doing the G.C.E. work which, in fact, because they were "browned off" at school, they did not do; and when ultimately they retire from the Army, perhaps after many years' service, they will be the more valuable to the community. I would regard this as a wholly satisfactory field in which to see further development. At the present moment, I am told, they are in fact over-subscribed—my information, again, is only from the boy soldiers to whom I have given lifts—and possibly desirable applicants have to be turned down.

I would turn now, after these pleasing, and, I hope, encouraging remarks, to the question of our strength and our capacity to meet our needs. We had a Question just now from the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, which I must say was not given a very satisfactory Answer by the First Lord. The point is that we know it is not possible to give a satisfactory answer; that we are still below strength in our commitments to NATO, although it is encouraging to note from the figures that the strength of the British Army of the Rhine has gone up quite considerably and that the situation is not so dour as, in some ways, it was only 12 or 18 months ago. We have been told that it will be possible to reinforce and bring it up to war strength.

I would ask the Government what they think might have happened if something had gone wrong at the time of the Cuban crisis. They may well think that in those circumstances, if things really had gone wrong, the nuclear exchange would have been such that any question of military operation would have ceased to be of significance. But we have also to bear in mind that it is at such times that there is a danger of some more brinkmanship that it is just at that moment when the West is tensing itself and then breathing again, having secured a breathing space, that something might happen—after all, it is what the Chinese have been doing in Asia—when we should not be ready and our forces would not be up to the strength which the Supreme Commander, General Norstad, has insisted they should be. It really is not good enough that our strength there is still below our original undertaking at the time when the agreement to introduce German rearmament was produced. I would even go so far as to say that I think it has an affect on our relations within Asia, and that (though this may be too far-fetched) it may also be affecting not only our relations with the European Defence Community but our efforts to get into the Common Market. I hope that the Government will see whether they cannot do something about a situation which they know as well as we do is held to be a failure on the part of this country.

I should have liked to ask the First Lord how long it would take, in the estimate of the Government, to bring our Forces up to what is called war strength. If it is a matter of days, or a week, or what have you, I do not think it can be good enough. We must, of course, note that France is not playing her part, and (although this does not arise strictly from the debate,) it is worth noting that there are only two French divisions committed to NATO although there are other divisions in metropolitan France. But the argument is still the same. It might well be that we can encourage them also to produce a properly deployed shield, one able to play the rôle that General Norstad expects.

Might I digress briefly at this moment to refer to the Royal Air Force? We have heard encouraging figures about recruiting, but we are still not satisfied that the R.A.F. can meet all its obligations in the mobility field. This is a matter in which I know the First Lord is himself personally interested; particularly from the naval point of view, he is concerned with this question of mobility. But we are beginning to hear again the rather depressing rumours that we heard about the Belfast. I still maintain that the Government made a mistake in ordering the Belfast instead of a different type of aircraft, and in not getting it more quickly, even if they had to manufacture an American type under licence. Has the order been placed for the O.R.351? I do not think that it has been yet. How long is to elapse before we see it? We shall on a later occasion probe more fully into this question of aircraft supply. It is always a depressing story of delay. Year after year we have been talking about the Belfast. I scarcely like to raise the subject, we have talked so often about it. But we still have not got it. I suppose we shall hear the happy phrase "the mid-'sixties", and that we may see it in 1965. I am sure the House will agree that this is fundamental to the world-wide situation and to the strategy that we have to pursue. It was certainly of importance in the Kuwait operation, and there may be other operations in Asia where extreme mobility may be of equal importance.

In passing, I wonder whether the Government would throw a little more light on this controversy that has boiled up over Kuwait. I do not wish to pursue all the arguments that were vigorously deployed in another place on the subject. Nor can I quote from the honourable Member who raised them; but they came from what I should regard as a pretty authoritative source. There have even been suggestions that there should be a Select Committee to look into the Kuwait operation. I will not pursue that aspect now, beyond saying that I think the Government ought perhaps, in order to resolve the doubts that have been expressed in another place, and, indeed, in The Times and elsewhere, to publish a rather fuller statement on the Kuwait operation: a statement less of a congratulatory kind—although I think there is much for congratulation—but one which would make it possible to set at rest any anxieties as to where our readiness, preparation, heat discipline, and so on, may have fallen down. I put this point quite seriously. I do not wish to harass the Government unduly on it, but certainly some quite serious accusations have been made.

While considering the position in Asia, I think we have to recognise that there may be several commitments and obligations landed on us at short notice. We do not know what is going to happen in India; nor do we know how serious and how continuing a particular demand might be. In the brief discussion we had on

Defence during the debate on the humble Address in reply to the gracious Speech I referred to the need to be able to hold those areas in Asia which may at any time be threatened. One thing that is essential, if we are to do this, is mobility, both air and naval. In passing, I would ask: is this surely not the worst time for the Government to pursue the idea of reducing the size of the Gurkha Forces?

My Lords, we have raised on a number of occasions this question of manpower. One thing we need is manpower. We have deployed ourselves as fully as we can into the nuclear deterrent. I do not propose to pursue that question to-day, beyond saying that it is doubtful how relevant it is to the sort of situation that we may at any time encounter; and the saving that may be made from cutting down on the Gurkhas must surely be quite small in comparison with our overseas expenditure in other fields. It seems to me that this is really one good card that we have to play, and that, so far from cutting down, we should even be considering expanding. I urge—it has been urged by noble Lords on both sides of the House, and by honourable Members in another place—that we should reconsider our policy. Why, in fact, has it been decided to carry it out? Could the First Lord tell us why this policy has been put forward at all? I certainly hope that there will be no reduction of this particularly valuable and superb force.

There is only one other point that I should like to make: again it raises a big issue. I refer to the question of Service integration. I should not have raised it now were it not for articles that have appeared in the Press and are likely to lead to continued speculation. It is quite possible that some who have advocated Service integration will now complain that the Government are introducing Service integration in a particular way and that, as usual, they will ruin whatever they set out to do. But I am still a believer in a need for much greater Service integration. It seems to me that this has been forced on us in our debates. It is no coincidence that in discussing these two Orders we prefer to condense the subject into one. Although not in itself a reason for integrating the Services, it does suggest that integration is a natural development.

We have had a fairly detailed report in the Daily Express (not necessarily what the Government or the Opposition would regard as the most reliable of newspapers) on this matter, and we should like to know more about it. This is a matter which will call for the most enormous care and extremely good public relations. We know the difficulty that the Government have had in regard to integrating particular regiments. If they are going to introduce any real integration of the Armed Forces, it will not be a question of "tribal" resistance but something much more pressing. I would urge the Government, if they are proceeding on those lines—they may not wish to say much about it to-day, although I do press the First Lord on it—to consider these proposals not merely from the point of view of their own intrinsic merit, but also from the point of view of getting them perfectly understood by those who may well be affected.

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, we on this side of the House are most grateful to my noble friend for his speech this afternoon. It was a speech that would have been a very good foundation for an interesting debate. I feel I should express the feelings of disappointment on this side of the House because noble Lords opposite and in other quarters have not taken part in this debate. It is true that we have a Defence debate annually, but events move so fast that I think it is right—and I think we are now fortunate in this repect, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said—that we should have this interim debate on matters of defence.

My Lords, before dealing with the points I wish to make, I should like to pay a tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I know that Leaders of the three Parties in this House did so last week, but this is a subject with which he was very closely connected, and I would pay a tribute and express regret, if I may, on behalf of those noble Lords who have accompanied him on many visits to the Services. We also regret the death of a squadron leader. It is regrettable that the tragedy did not end there, and perhaps the noble Lord when he replies could give us some information as to what aid in the way of pension will be available to the parents of the squadron leader who died, because it is a case in which two children are now left without parents.

My Lords, we had a big debate last year in which I had the honour of moving the Amendment on this side expressing lack of confidence in Her Majesty's Government's defence policy. I then deployed figures in relation to the tremendous cost incurred by this country in the production of weapons. I must express some surprise that the Government thought it fit to leave the announcement of the discontinuance of Blue Water until Parliament went into Recess. We well know that the Army set great store by this weapon, but now it has gone and is not to become available to the Army. I hope that it will be possible in future for the Government not to treat Parliament in quite the same manner.

Since we had our last Defence debate much water has flowed under the bridge. We have had the threat to Thailand; the threat to Kuwait; the Cuban crisis; and what is now obviously an unresolved border war between India and China. These incidents focus our attention upon those particular trouble spots. I have just come back from Asia and I must warn the House that the tensions, the pressures of Communist China are in fact being built up and are in no way being relaxed. I think we should view with considerable concern the heavy infiltration of Communism in Burma, particularly when we see India threatened in the North. Therefore, I would suggest that between now and our next defence debate the Government should carefully consider what are going to be the basic requirements of our defence forces in the coming years. More and more am I becoming convinced that we must develop our conventional weapons. Certainly we must increase our mobility to such an extent that we can give aid wherever troubles may arise, particularly in Asia.

The next matter I want to raise is one of considerable delicacy, and I have given notice to the noble Lord that I would raise it. It is true that to-day our Ministers are not only becoming more and more involved in the expenditure of public money but are becoming closely connected, as they must in order to perform their duties, with industry and trade. I raise this particular point m this Service debate because I feel that certain Service Ministers might well be placed in a position of dilemma. In fact, a year ago it might have been said that what I raise is a hypothetical question, but with the appointment of Mr. Watkinson to the Board of a well-known and respected company I think the issue now comes before us.

Ministers in the past have had to make decisions as to the purchase of weapons or as to the cost of other developments; in recent years they have had to play a greater part in decisions as to expenditure on research. But in recent years—and I think it is right that they should have done so—they have become the spearhead in a sales campaign for the sale of our own products, particularly of weapons and aircraft. These Ministers, by the very nature of their duty, have placed before them facts, specifications and all the details relating to a weapon, equipment or aircraft or other items. It is also true that Ministers to-day, particularly the Minister of Aviation, are endeavouring to bring about co-operation between countries. For example, there is the supersonic aircraft which we hope to see developed by a French company and a British company; and there is talk in to-day's newspapers of possible co-operation between a United States company and British industry for the production of a new freighter aircraft. It is obvious that these Ministers will have information available to them which from a commercial point of view, will be of considerable secrecy. I think the point is therefore raised whether when a Minister leaves office, having been intimately connected with these affairs, he should, or under what conditions he should, take up an appointment with a commercial company.

As I have said, he may, in the case of aircraft, have laid before him in considerable detail information from two or three different companies. Therefore, I should have thought it would seem very hard to the other companies concerned should that Minister, with that information before him, then take up an appointment with one of the competitors. I do not think there is any doubt that when one becomes a director of a company one has very immediate loyalties to that company and its shareholders. There are many prominent people in public life who are directors of a number of companies. No doubt throughout their period of office they face this difficulty as to where their allegiance and loyalty lie. There is often a conflict concerning what should be done, what information should be passed, what advice should be given. Obviously, in the case of a Minister, when information is laid before him in the national need and for the national good there should be special consideration.

My Lords, I would ask the Government whether they will give this matter further consideration. I think that Ministers should be given some guidance in this matter. If the Government feel that guidance should be given, I hope that it will be given publicly; and I would suggest to the noble Lord that consideration of the position may be a matter for which a Select Committee, perhaps of both Houses, could be appointed. It is often said that justice must be done, but above all else it must be seen to be done. Certainly Ministers are meant to be impartial in their decisions and I think that equally that impartiality should be seen and understood.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point I should like to ask him whether he appreciates—I am sure he does—that a Ministry like the Ministry of Defence does business with a very wide range of firms. To say that when a Minister leaves office he should not accept a directorship in any firm which the Ministry has dealt with would really be tantamount to saying that he must not accept a directorship at all. I would hope that the noble Lord would feel that one can trust to the good sense and, indeed, the integrity of ex-Ministers, and not make too sweeping a quest in this regard.


My Lords, I am most grateful for that intervention. I certainly have not said that when a Minister resigns he should be precluded from taking up a position on a board. What I am asking the Government to do is to consider the whole aspect. I would say that it is not a question of Ministers only; it could well apply to some of the senior officials and officers of our Services who have from time to time left high commands and high appointments to take up positions in industry. I should like to leave it there if I may, but I hope that the Government will give this matter most careful consideration.

My noble friend dealt with Kuwait. Considerable concern has undoubtedly arisen from rumours that have been printed in the Press, and which in some respects were deployed in another place last week. I have read the Minister's reply most carefully, and I could not help but feel that it was evasive. We are being asked to agree to the Government's conception that we should retain and maintain the central reserve in the United Kingdom, and that this should be deployed to the four corners of the world in the event of trouble, irrespective of climatic conditions, and I feel that we should be satisfied that all possible arrangements are made to ensure that these troops are properly serviced when sent out of this country to fight under conditions like those in Kuwait.

I was reading of the quantity of water that our troops require in Kuwait. Like a number of others, I served in the desert during the war, and for long periods we were able to fight and work on half a gallon of water for all purposes: drinking, cooking and servicing our vehicles. But we were able to do that only after considerable acclimatisation. When troops are put into a place like Kuwait, when the heat is really beyond description, it is obvious that until they are acclimatised they will require considerably more supplies, particularly of water and salt, than would otherwise be required. There have been these rumours and disquiet, and I would support the plea that has been made by my noble friend, that a Report should be available for Parliament to study.

I again congratulate the Government, and support my noble friend, on the recruiting figures. The figures are far better than we anticipated at the beginning of the year, and I hope that this trend will continue, because although my noble friend felt that 180,000 was the figure at which the Government were aiming, I am sure the Minister will agree that there are many who believe that the Army really requires a figure of approximately 200,000 to 220,000. Could the noble Lord when he replies give us some idea of the operation of the Army reserve? Could he tell us how many National Servicemen were in fact retained, and how many were recalled? My noble friend spoke of the disappointing results from the Ever-Readies. I am sure the House would appreciate having an idea of the number who have actually enlisted, and also of how their training is proceeding in the Territorial Army.

May I raise one question about the Singapore Joint Command? As I understand it, very shortly the overall Command will come under Admiral Luce, who I think is now the senior Admiral in the Far East. The noble Lord told us of the date when that will come into force. I understand that in Singapore the Admiral will have his headquarters at Phoenix Park, and that all the other services will be spread out over the island. Since integration is so much in the air, I wonder whether the Government would agree to bringing the three offices—Army, Navy and Air Force—under one roof in Singapore. The island is not very big, but transport is not easy and I think there would be considerable advantage if we could bring these Services under one roof. Certainly I am sure there would be considerable advantage in Singapore if we could streamline the general servicing of the Forces. At the moment, as I understand it, the three Services are supplied separately, but much of their work is the same and I think there could be considerable saving, particularly in manpower, if we brought the servicing arrangements in Singapore together, as I believe is done in Aden.

Then there is the question of the Singapore base, and the proposals for Malaysia. At the present moment Singapore is the place on which a British contribution would be based, if operations under SEATO were conducted. I understand that if Singapore comes into Malaysia—and this we should all welcome—this may well raise a difficulty about the use of Singapore as a British base for SEATO operations. I wonder whether the Minister can give us some information on this matter, because if we did not have Singapore for this task it is very difficult to see where a further base could be provided.

On the Army education service, I believe it is true that this is to be an all-officer service and I think this is to be welcomed. I believe that 800 officers will be involved. Can the noble Lord tell us how many of these officers are now serving overseas? I have always been very impressed with the education service provided by the American forces. It is concerned not only with the provision of education for the lower ratings, shall I say: it provides opportunities for officers and men to obtain university degrees. I should like to see our education service built up, and I wonder whether it will be possible to get the universities to take a greater interest in Army or Service education.

My Lords, I also share the view of my noble friend in regard to the Gurkhas. These soldiers have played a very notable part in many actions, particularly in Malaya. If we wish to bring British troops home to play their part in Europe, I certainly think that we should use the Gurkhas to the maximum in providing the necessary forces in Singapore and in Hong Kong. Therefore, like my noble friend, I deplore any suggestion that these valuable battalions should in any way be reduced. In fact, I would suggest to the noble Lord that we resurrect that wonderful battalion and regiment, the 1st Fijians. That par ticular unit played a very fine part in Malaya, and I think would again be very useful in the Far East, where many of our Forces are in fact carrying out internal security duties. I think that is about all I wish to say at this stage, my Lords. I would again congratulate the Government on the success of their recruiting campaign. I hope it will continue and that when we have our Defence debate next year we shall have reached the target which they are setting themselves; and I personally hope that it will be nearer 200,000 than the 165,000 or the 185,000 now proposed.

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, I should not have intervened at all but for the words (So which one can take no exception) of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, concerning the subject of Ministers' taking directorships. The point I should like to submit to your Lordships is this: that there is nothing new in this, and [that in fact the reverse process has been going on for many years, in that those who have been in industry and have special knowledge of a particular industry are sometimes suddenly transferred to the ministerial sphere. I know, of course, that immediately that happens it is incumbent upon the individual who has become a Minister to divest himself of his financial connections with the particular industry with which he may be associated. My Lords, you can divest yourself of your financial connections, but you cannot divest yourself of your knowledge. It has happened to noble Lords on the other side of the House, and it has happened to noble Lords on this side of the House. It happened to myself once: that is why I raise it.

One day, I found myself a director of various aircraft concerns. The next day I happened to find myself Under-Secretary of State for Air. Naturally, I divested myself of all my financial connections; but when Mr. Chamberlain (who was Prime Minister at that time) had asked Mr. Kingsley Wood to go to the Air Ministry, I do not think he was aware of the connections I had with that particular industry. So I said to him, when I had explained my position, "Sir, I shall quite understand if you wish to withdraw your offer to me". His remark to me was, "I hope you will be that much more useful, because you know about the industry".

My Lords, I submit that a Minister who goes into industry, even though he may have to deal with those who, the week before, were his colleagues, uses Ms knowledge with integrity, with care, with judgment and with impartiality. If it happens when somebody becomes a Minister from private life, it equally happens when somebody goes into private life from being a Minister. It is that reverse process, which has been going on for many years past, of which I would remind your Lordships. It has worked successfully in the past, as I know; it is working successfully at the present, and it will work successfully in the future depending upon the integrity of the individual, which remains unsullied at present and will, I am sure, continue to do so in the future.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, this debate is ranging very widely indeed. The noble Lord would not have intervened but for the speech of my noble friend: I would not have intervened but for his speech. Much of the problem that arises comes from within the Conservative Party itself. If in fact it would publish its ac counts, the source of its revenue, then so far as the public is concerned there would be much less disquiet. There is a feeling among the public, and it is a feeling in which I share, that many concerns make very heavy donations to Tory Party funds, in exactly the same way as they place investment within their own industry, in order that the machine of government may be used to the benefit of their industrial or commercial concerns. When the public sees that persons from industry, as the noble Lord himself has said, take Ministerial positions and then, from Ministerial positions, go back into industry, then to be associated with the Departments with which they were associated as Ministers, it is not the best thing from the point of view of the public. I would not have intervened, as I said, but for the speeches that nave been made; but the real purpose of my intervention is to point out that the remedy is within the Conservative Party itself, and in the publication of its sources of revenue.


My Lords, I wonder how anybody in this House can possibly think that the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down had any reference to the matter before the House.

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, in this debate so far the still small voice of Civil Defence has not yet reached the microphone. A short time ago the Cuban crisis came on, and one noticed that con sciences were pricked here and there by the obvious dangers. I heard of a family abroad (I think it was in Canada) who immediately spent £100 on food to replenish their stocks. I heard of another good lady at home who went out at once and bought tinned tongue. I find that the latter incident illustrates more the attitude at home towards Civil Defence than does the incident in Canada.

As your Lordships know, there has lately been started a new scheme for Civil Defence. We hope very much that it is going to succeed. We must remember that Civil Defence is the plinth on which all these other defence affairs stand. They are all based upon this question of Civil Defence; and if we talk about the Army, the Navy and the Air Force without remembering that Civil Defence has to be carried on at home, we shall surely go sliding into a very deep abyss. However good these young men are who are taught at the school—and they are admirable—I hope they are taught Civil Defence; and I also hope the First Lord will be able to tell us how the new scheme for Civil Defence is progressing.

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, I think we all ought to be grateful for the speeches made by the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Shepherd, who always contribute greatly to our debates on defence. They have asked me a number of questions which I will do my best to answer. It is perfectly true that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was courteous enough to give me notice that he was going to raise the question of directorships being taken by ex-Ministers; but, used as I am, after seventeen years in your Lordships' House, to the rather wide interpretation of the Rules of Order, I must humbly confess that I did not come to the House prepared to deal with the finances of the Conservative Party on the Air Force Act (Continuation) Order. I do not think I can really take the matter any further. Your Lordships will remember that the Prime Minister answered a number of Questions in another place, and answered them very fully, and I do not think I have anything to add except perhaps to say that I have no doubt that the points which have been made by all your Lordships this afternoon will be noted in the right quarter.

First of all, I should like to say a word or two about a subject which both noble Lords opposite raised, the question of Kuwait, because there has been some criticism of our preparations for these operations. Much of this criticism has been put forward in an entirely constructive spirit and the Government are, and should be, grateful for it; for in all operations we must learn by experience and, of course, we had very little experience of mounting an operation of this kind before this occasion—an operation in which a comparatively large number of troops had to be flown in from a con siderable distance at short notice. Of course, this is the sort of operation which we may have to face more frequently in the future. I do not know; but I quite agree that we roust be prepared to meet them.

At the same time, my Lords, I must say I think a great deal of the criticism in the case of Kuwait and the stories which we have heard of heat exhaustion and so on have been exaggerated. It is, of course, true that there were cases of heat exhaustion but, as the then Minister of Defence said in July, 1961, the number was, in fact, surprisingly small. There had been on average only twelve cases a day evacuated to hospital, which amounts to well under 1 per cent. of the total forces engaged. There is certainly no evidence to support the contention which I have heard that the casualty rate was as high as 10 per cent. though it was certainly higher than 1 per cent. in certain small units. But there is no question of the effects of the heat prejudicing the ability of the force to carry out the task it was set to do. This has been confirmed by the reports of the commanders responsible for the operation.

Of course, no operation ever goes off without hitches, as any of your Lord ships who had any experience of fight ing in the last war knows—indeed it would be a miracle if one did; and, of course, there were lessons to be learned from Kuwait. We have looked at these to see how we can profit from them. One result is that we are arranging exercises in peace time in different parts of the world both to accustom our troops to fight in different climates and in all sorts of conditions and to learn further lessons for the future. We are placing more emphasis on training our men in the special disciplines necessary for hot climates; devising new rations containing a more suitable diet for these con ditions; developing improved goggles and headgear and investigating other means of fitting men to withstand climates to which they are not accustomed. In all this we are taking full advantage, through the Army Medical Advisory Committee, of the advice of eminent civilian consultants, and the Army's own medical authorities are in constant touch with the fundamental research being carried out by the Medical Research Council. In short a great deal of effort is being put into this question of acclimatisation. The lessons of Kuwait—which I ought to emphasise was an extremely successful operation—are being absorbed and as a result, our preparedness for these operations in the future is steadily growing.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, spoke about B.A.O.R. Our actual Forces in Germany to-day are over 54,000 men—which is not far short of our commitment to provide 55,000. Although this number may fall slightly next year when the last National Servicemen go for good, we have pledged to build up to 55,000 as soon as we can. As I said, recruitment to the Army is going very well indeed. In an emergency B.A.O.R. could be built up to full war strength in a matter of days by the despatch of reinforcements from (this country for whom heavy equipment is already stockpiled on the Continent. This summer we had some exercises with troops to see if our needs were being met and these were very successful.


By heavy equipment, does the noble Lord mean vehicles?


Yes. As part of this reinforcement plan, units and individuals will be posted to Germany to bring up the administrative elements there to full strength. So much for the manpower so far as B.A.O.R. is concerned. But equipment is also coming along. For example, the up-gunned Centurion is already in service; the Chieftain is now undergoing trials; the Wombat anti-tank gun will be in service this year; and trainling has already started on the Vigilant, among many other new developments. Of course we should like larger conventional Forces, a bigger Army, a bigger Air Force—and I certainly should like to see a bigger Navy. But, as I said in my reply to the question which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked earlier this afternoon, it is all a question of balance, we cannot hope to match either the Russians or the Americans in scale.


One thing we can do is to give up this ridiculous nuclear H-bomb and use the money and resources so saved on conventional forces.


It is extra-ordinary how far-sighted I must be, because I was coming to this point. The British nuclear force makes a significant contribution to the Western strategic deterrent and I know that when the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Ogmore, were talking about B.A.O.R. and conventional forces, always at the back of their minds was the idea of giving up a British contribution to nuclear deterrence. Our deterrent would inflict destruction greater than any advantage an aggressor might achieve by his aggression. It adds to the credibility of the Western deterrent in that it reduces the possibility of a Soviet miscalculation that the Americans might not use their nuclear power to defend Europe. And if we were to scrap it we still could not increase our conventional contribution sufficiently to make any appreciable difference to the balance of military power in the West.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked about the Gurkhas. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War said in another place on November 7, Her Majesty's Government do not propose to take a decision about the future of the Brigade of Gurkhas before next year. I can assure your Lordships that before any final decision is reached every possible circumstance and condition will be taken into account. The two main factors in taking a decision on the future of the Gurkhas are the recruitment of British soldiers and our future commitments. As your Lordships know, recruiting has been going very well, but we cannot yet be certain how our future commitments will develop. That is why we have not yet reached a decision on the Gurkhas. I can, however, give your Lordships an undertaking that we are determined that we shall have enough manpower, whether British or Gurkha, to fulfil our future commitments. Her Majesty's Government are fully aware of the long and loyal association of Gurkhas with the British Army. I can assure your Lordships that we have no wish to abandon these close ties. We shall continue to keep in the closest touch with the Brigade of Gurkhas and with all concerned with their well being.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, also asked about how the Army Reserve Act has been working out. Your Lordships will remember that this Act provided for the retention and recall of National Servicemen and the formation of the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve. With improvements in Regular recruiting it was, in the event, necessary to retain only 9,200 National Servicemen and not the 15,000 at first envisaged. Of these about 2,000 have not been required to serve the full extra six months. Out of 2,413 appeals against retention 627 have so far been granted.

Recruiting for the T.A.E.R. has been slower than was hoped but has made steady progress since it was started last April. I might say that the importance of the Ever-Readies will certainly not be diminished by the success of Regular recruitment. They will still be needed to reinforce the Regular Army in situations of difficulty and emergency. There are now 137 officers and about 3,500 other ranks. A soldier in the T.A.E.R. is necessarily a member of a unit of the Territorial Army and he normally trains with his unit in the ordinary way, but in some cases it may be necessary for him to train with a regular formation. To become an Ever-Ready, that is, a member of the T.A.E.R., a soldier must have served at least one year in the Territorial Army and have attended at least one annual camp. He also has to be recommended by the Commanding Officer of his TA. unit, who would of course take account of the man's efficiency and level of training. It is planned to send about 200 Ever-Readies to do their annual training camp in the Far East next year.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, also asked me a number of questions about the new Unified Command in Singapore, which was announced in this year's Defence White Paper. The new organisation will in fact come into being tomorrow. The problem of accommodation for the Unified Command has been a difficult one, as I think the noble Lord knows, since the existing three Service headquarters are located in different parts of Singapore Island. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord that the ideal solution would have been for the Unified Commander's staff and the staffs of the three Service headquarters to be located in one place, but this would have meant very heavy expenditure in the provision of new office and other accommodation. In the circumstances a compromise solution has had to be adopted. The Unified Commander will be accommodated in Phoenix Park and, although the three Service headquarters will remain in their existing locations, the Service Commanders will have their offices in Phoenix Park and will divide their time between Phoenix Park and their own headquarters. Hong Kong is, of course, part of the operational area of the Unified Commander and will come under his command.

We had to examine the possibility of extending joint Service arrangements in Singapore of the kind which has proved so successful in Aden, and various proposals resulting from this examination are now being considered. Unfortunately, however, the main centres of activity of the three Services in Singapore are so widely scattered that the possibilities of one Service carrying out administrative functions on behalf of the others are much more limited than they are in Aden, where the geography of the base lends itself to this kind of thing. However, we have already moved a bit in this direction in Singapore, where, for example, the Army and the Royal Air Force hospitals operate on a geographical basis, taking in patients from all three Services. The same is true of the children's schools run by each of the three Services, which take in each other's pupils according to the area in which the children live.

The noble Lord also asked me about our position in the Singapore base when Greater Malaysia comes into being. Perhaps I may remind him of the joint statement by the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the Federation of Malaya, issued on November 22 of last year. Paragraph 6 of that statement, which is the relevant passage, reads as follows:— In regard to defence matters it was decided that in the event of the formation of the proposed Federation of Malaysia the existing Defence Agreement between Britain and Malaya should be extended to embrace the other territories concerned. It was however agreed that the Government of the Federation of Malaysia would afford to the Government of the United Kingdom the right to continue to maintain bases at Singapore for the purpose of assisting in the defence of Malaysia and for Commonwealth defence and for the preservation of peace in South East Asia. Thus we shall continue to enjoy the use of the Singapore base even after Greater Malaysia comes into existence.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for the public tribute he has paid to Army juniors and for the way he went out of his way to say it, because I think it is a most deserved tribute. The apprentice and other boys' units are proving an extremely popular form of entry into the Army. The number of applicants who are coming forward are many more than we can take, and as a result the Army can afford to be very selective. For example, junior leaders and apprentice schools were all full for the autumn term which has just started. I am afraid I cannot answer the question about wastage in these schools, but I will certainly draw the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War to the noble Lord's suggestion that there may be a possibility of extending this scheme, as it has been so successful.

The noble Lord also asked me about transport aircraft. I agree with him very much, as he knows, about the importance of mobility. So far as the Belfast is concerned, we expect to have ten of these aircraft in service in the mid-1960s, but as I think I made clear to your Lordships earlier this year, this is the total requirement which we can foresee at present for these strategic freighters. As regards the OR.351 replacement for the Beverley and Hastings, the question which we are at present considering is whether or not we can get co-operation from other countries who are interested in the same sort of aircraft. The Government are convinced that it would be right to wait until we are clear about this. The replacement will not be needed for about five or six years—that is to say, in about 1968.

The noble Lord also spoke about the higher organisation for defence, suggesting that it ought to be more closely integrated. This is a matter which, of course, the Government always have under consideration, and I would entirely agree with the noble Lord that the three Services should get as close together as possible in the planning and execution of operations. If the noble Lord has a plan of development to put forward, alongside Mr. Chapman Pincher's plan in the Daily Express, I should be very happy indeed to examine his plan and consider it with the other proposals which have been, and no doubt will be, made on the subject; but I do not think that I can say any more about that this afternoon.


My Lords, it is not my plan or Mr. Chapman Pincher's plan, but the Government's plan we want to hear about.


My Lords, I have just told the noble Lord that he is not going to hear about it this afternoon.

The noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, rather unexpectedly intervened on the Army and Air Force (Continuation) Orders to talk about Civil Defence. I think your Lordships will agree with him on the importance of Civil Defence and I know how much he personally has done in his own county for Civil Defence. I am sorry to say that I am not armed with the facts which will enable me to answer him this afternoon, but I will write to him and tell him how the new scheme is getting on. I will also write to any other noble Lord who has asked questions which I have not had time this afternoon to answer.

On Question, Motion agreed to.