§ Order for Committee read.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Duff Cooper)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
It will be within the recollection of the House that it fell to my lot only two years ago to introduce the Army Estimates. I then prefaced my remarks by attempting to give some account of what, in my opinion, are the purposes for which the British Army exists. A good deal has happened in the intervening two years, in the realm of politics and in the realm of science, but I think that the reasons which I then gave for the existence of the British Army remain unchanged. I then said that it existed for four purposes—to protect our naval bases, to police our Empire, to defend our shores and to provide a force which in an emergency may be called upon to fight somewhere outside our Imperial boundaries.
I said at the time, and I have been criticised for saying it, that all these functions were of equal importance, but surely where all functions are essential to existence there can be no question as to which is the more important. I am inclined to think that my critics have fallen into the error of confusing the meaning of the word "importance" and the word "urgency" It is just as important that a man's heart should continue to beat as it is that he should keep his head upon his shoulders. The urgency of one necessity, however, may considerably outweigh the urgency of another. A man on his way to execution would be foolish if he were to worry seriously about the state of his heart, whereas a man afflicted by heart disease would be equally foolish if he were to take elaborate precautions against having his head cut off. It is perfectly true that some of these purposes present a more urgent complexion at the present day than do others, but they are all vital to the continuance of our State.
The invention of flying, which has worked a tremendous change in every form of human activity and especially in 2347 all questions of defence, has not, I think, affected the purposes for which our small British army exists so much as many people believe. One of those purposes is home defence. As the House is aware, not only do the coast defences represent one of the responsibilities falling upon the British Army, but also the land defence against air attacks has now been imposed upon the land forces of the Crown. In that respect the responsibilities of the British Army at home have been increased rather than diminished by the invention of flying.
There is, however, a school of thought, or a school of doubt, which holds that owing to this new invention it should be no longer necessary for us to maintain in this country a force for service abroad. I believe that in the eighteenth century it was rather one of the tenets of the Tory party to restrict all our interference in European conflicts to naval aid or to subsidies. Some people are inclined to return to that theory to-day, and to say that we should restrict any part that we may ever take—which God forbid we should ever have to take—in a great war again to the naval and air arms, and should maintain an army solely for police, Imperial and home defence purposes. This is a question so important that if it were decided in a different way from that which now guides the policy of His Majesty's Government, it would entail a complete alteration of all our military preparations from top to bottom. It is a question so important that I think it only right that we should consider it before proceeding further with our Army Estimates. It was raised in the debate on defence by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) who put the case very clearly. He expressed the doubts which exist, and although he did not himself go so far as to answer the question, he put those doubts in a manner which, I think, demanded a full reply. Those doubts have been raised in other quarters.
In the first place, it must be obvious, from our recent experience in the past year, that there must be some forces at our disposal which we can send out of the country in case of emergency. During the last six months, as the House is aware, we have been obliged, in support of collective security, to send out to the Mediterranean an armed force. The 2348 money which that force cost the country was voted practically without dissent in this House, and the policy has Certainly met with general approval. I have not been pressed, and I do not expect I shall be pressed, to give any details as to the size or allocation of that force, but need make no secret of the fact that even the provision of such a force, for a danger that was not extremely imminent or extremely grave, has severely taxed our military resources. We must work on the assumption that it would be perfectly possible for two such emergencies to occur simultaneously in our wide Empire. Another difficulty of the same sort might very well have arisen in some other quarter of the world and we might have been called upon at the same time to send overseas another important armed force which, in our present condition, I will not conceal from the House, would tax our resources to breaking point. Therefore, that consideration alone—the possibility of two emergencies occurring simultaneously not only in different parts of the Empire but in different parts of the world—would be sufficient to justify the imperative necessity of maintaining at home a force that can be sent abroad.
I do not want to avoid the doubts which my hon. and gallant Friend and others have expressed. They are whether, if we are again involved in a Continental war, it would be wise for us to limit our contribution to the Naval and Air Forces. I can assure the House that if we could so limit our contribution, that decision would come as a great relief to the Army Council and to those who are responsible for equipping our Army. But there are no two opinions among those on whom these responsibilities rest, that we could never proceed on the assumption that in no future conflict on the Continent we might not be called on by the Government of the day, whatever that Government might be, to send at very short notice a well-equipped force to take part in modern warfare against forces equally well equipped.
It was said in the leading article of the "Times" this morning:For more centuries than need be counted the destiny of Northern France and of the Low Countries has been held vital to the security of Britain.That situation has not been changed by modern inventions. It was Napoleon 2349 who said that Antwerp in the possession of a hostile nation was like a pistol held at the head of Great Britain. The result of new inventions is that that menace is greater than it was before, because to-day it is a double-barrelled pistol. It is not only a base for shipping and submarines, but is also a taking-off ground for aeroplanes. The invention of flying, so far from rendering us more immune, has robbed us of a great part of our immunity. The sea, as Shakespeare said—The silver sea, which serves it in the office of a wall.serves no longer in that office. More than ever we are part of the Continent of Europe; less than ever can we rely upon any special advantage from our insular position.
My hon. Friend pressed the point the other evening as to whether the question of speed had not materially altered the strategical considerations to which I have been referring, and whether it would be possible or not to transfer an Army to the Continent in time to be of any service. There are two answers to that question. The first is more practical and the second more speculative. The first is that if any Allies whom we might have secured were aware that such a force were coming, it would materially alter the whole of their action in the early days of the conflict and they would then be prepared to take a stronger and a bolder line, and to hold positions which they knew were shortly to be reinforced. The second consideration, as I have said, is more speculative. It is that these modern inventions—mechanisation, flying and the rest of them—have not so far produced a situation, and do not appear to be going to do so, in which land forces are put at a great disadvantage by their immobility. On the contrary, the mobility of the infantry is being increased all the time.
In the manoeuvres of the Russian Army last summer, a very interesting experiment was tried. A large body of troops with full equipment was transferred from one scene of the mimic war to another by aeroplane. A very interesting cinematograph picture was produced, and one could see 1,200 men descending simultaneously by parachute, and such heavy weapons as tanks, not to mention machine guns, being conveyed simul- 2350 taneously with the men to the scene of battle. I do not pretend that we are as up-to-date as that; but I would suggest to the House that the tendency is to show that we have not yet come to the end of developments of this nature and that the result in the long run may prove that, so far from our being handicapped in any way by our position in the mobility of infantry, the mobility of infantry will be so enormously increased that the need for it and the efficacy of it will be just as great in the future as it has been in the past. That I would say is the strategic reason why we cannot give up the possibility of, and abandon preparations for, sending a field force abroad.
Then there are political and psychological reasons. So far as we can see into the future, if ever we are involved in a war again on the Continent, under whatever Government it may be, it will be a war according to the policy which now has the support of the vast majority of our people, a war on behalf of and in support of the principles of collective security, that is to say, it will be a war fought with Allies, and I hope many Allies. Certainly if it were known that our contribution towards such a war was to be limited solely to naval and air action, it would immediately spread a considerable feeling of despondency among any potential Allies. It would lessen the strength of that principle of which we are trying so hard to increase the strength, the principle of collective security. It would diminish to a considerable extent the authority of the League of Nations. That is a psychological effect.
One of the great horrors of modern warfare is that warfare to-day is no longer an affair of small professional armies, as it was in the 18th century. It is warfare of whole peoples, and it will always be impossible for this country and for any democratic country to enter into a war unless it has the whole of the people behind it. When the whole of the people approve of the principle of a war —most of us can remember when they did so—they will not be content, the manhood of the nation will not be content to stand idly by and watch other countries fighting with the whole of their manhood for a cause in which we equally believe. For the large majority of our young men, able-bodied and of military age, there would be no place in our Navy, and sufficient aeroplanes could not be manu- 2351 factured or sufficient instructors found to fit them to serve in the Air Force; but I do not believe that they would accept the role of walking idly about the streets reading the news of how other countries were shedding their life's blood and throwing away the whole of their manpower in support of a cause which was ours as much as theirs.
I have attempted to convince the House that we must continue on the assumption that troops may be needed again to take part in a great war, if such a great war should ever occur, wherever it may be fought. The development of modern military affairs tends steadily in one direction. No serious student of warfare can have any doubt that in the future machinery will play a continual and ever-increasing part in military affairs. To many that is an unpleasant thought, but it is more than a thought; it is a fact, and a fact that nobody can get away from. The next war will be a war of machines, and men, save in so far as they serve to operate those machines, will be useless targets for the enemy. The great problem of mechanisation, to adopt modern machines for this fearful purpose, is the problem or, rather, the dilemma of being neither too soon nor too late in your decision. A new invention is produced which is going to have a tremendous effect. If you immediately seize upon it, develop it, invest in it before any of your competitors, you are incurring the risk that in a very short time, as usually happens, something better will turn up, some improvement upon it will be invented which will render what you have bought extraordinarily soon utterly out of date. That is one danger. The other danger is that if you wait too long everybody else may be equipped with this machinery before you have any of it at all. Therefore, the problem is to decide at the right moment. There is no problem, whatever the matter in hand may be, that is more difficult to decide than the question when to strike.
I have been often asked in the House questions by hon. Members who are, naturally and rightly, anxious about the adoption of an anti-tank gun, and I have been obliged in the past to put off these questions with the assurance that our experts are doing their best by research and inquiry to find out what was the best gun that could be produced. To-day, I 2352 am glad to be able to assure the House that those researches have, terminated and that a decision has been taken. The length of the research has been very largely due to the fact that an effort was made to find a gun which could combine the two most desirable features, mobility and efficacy—a light gun, and at the same time a powerful one. The decision has eventually been reached that such an ideal gun does not exist and that therefore it is better to have two weapons, an anti-tank rifle and a small anti-tank gun, the gun not so extremely heavy that it cannot, be easily moved, and the rifle one which can be carried by one man. That is the decision that has been made and that invention has now been completed. We are satisfied that the gun which has been decided upon is probably the best in the world, and the issue of it to the troops will take place with the least possible delay.
It has already been announced that eight cavalry regiments are to be mechanised in the coming years. That is in addition to the two which have already undergone the process. Here I should like to pay a tribute to the spirit in which this decision has been accepted by the cavalry regiments concerned. There is no country where the love of the horse is more profound and more widespread than this country, and there is no army in which tradition and sentiment count for so much as in our small regular Army, composed of old regiments, with old traditions. Both these influences act together in the mind of the cavalry man when he is asked to give up his horse, because all the traditions of the regiment are bound up with their horses. It is like asking a great musical performer to throw away his violin and to devote himself in future to a gramophone. It is a great sacrifice for the cavalry men, but it has been accepted in the very best spirit, practically without. protest, by all the regiments concerned. I heard the other day of an officer who was particularly devoted to horses and had expressed in the past his greatest contempt for every form of machine. He was a fine authority on horses, and was much consulted about horses. Within a year of his regiment being mechanised he has become an equally expert authority on motor cars, so that he is now consulted by the same friends upon the internal difficulties of their cars. That is an 2353 illustration of the spirit—the right spirit —in which these reforms have been accepted.
The House will also be aware that an announcement was made before Christmas that it has been decided to reorganise the Infantry Brigade, so that in future instead of these being four mixed battalions there will be three rifle battalions and one machine gun battalion. The rifle battalions will be armed with rifles and with the new Bren machine gun which is shortly to be constructed in this country, because we consider it to be the best light machine gun available. They will also be armed with mortars and with the new anti-tank rifle. The machine gun battalion will be fully mechanised, that is to say all the men will be carried, and it will be equipped with the new anti-tank gun and with heavy machine guns, carried in armoured carriers. Each battalion will include a reconnaissance company, which will be equipped with a new type of scout car.
Further, it has been decided to combine the present Tank Brigade with two mechanised Cavalry Brigades into a mobile division. The Tank Brigade itself will be refitted gradually during the present year with the latest Mark V and Mark VI type of tank, while the older form of tanks will be got rid of. In addition three new tank battalions are to be created, apart from the mobile division. One separate tank battalion exists already, so that each cavalry division of the Field Force may have a tank battalion of its own. So much for the mechanical side of the Army.
I will now turn to the more important side, the human side, because the best machine in the world is of no use unless it is manned, and manned with the right sort of man behind it. I will deal first with the recruiting position, which I do not disguise from the House is very bad indeed. At the end of the coming financial year, according to calculations, we shall be 10,000 below strength. That is a very serious matter. Some of the causes of it are fairly obvious. The first is one which none of us should regret, and that is, the increase in employment. When men can find a better job they are less likely to be inclined to join the Army. The second cause is also one which is not altogether a matter for regret, and that is that during the last, 50 years there has been a steady improve- 2354 ment in the standard of living of the people, in the standard of housing and many other things, and it has not been possible, owing to the very strict economic, supervision under which we have been proceeding, for the Army to keep up to the general improvement in the standard of living. The housing of the troops, for instance, as I have said many times in the House, is still terribly behind what it. ought to be. We are including in the Estimates this year £500,000 in order to improve that standard, and in the White Paper which we have been debating a very much larger sum has been promised for the same purpose. That will do something.
Another small but very important reform is this. There is no better recruiting officer and no recruiting officer perhaps so useful as the contented soldier, what I should prefer to call the happy warrior. Hitherto our men when they have been on leave in their own homes have been granted what has been termed a subsistence allowance. They have been allowed, according to the strict rules of mathematics, exactly the sum which it costs the Army to keep them when they are in barracks. The House will readily imagine that the sum which you spend when you are keeping 2,000 or 3,000 men in barracks does not go very far when it is divided up among the men and each is given his share. It works out at 9¾d. a day for each man. The result has been that many men have come back from leave before their leave was finished because they found that they could not keep themselves on their subsistence allowance. I am glad to say that we are increasing that this year to ls. 11d., which is a substantial increase of more than one-half. There may be many other ways, and I am prepared to consider any other way that can be suggested, for improving the conditions and rendering more pleasant and more cheerful the life of the soldier. I read only a few days ago an extremely interesting article in the "Royal Engineers' Journal" for this month, in which some very revolutionary proposals were made. Hon. Members opposite may perhaps be surprised to learn that I am never afraid of revolutionary proposals. I often think that their adoption may prevent a revolution. It is said that modern man dislikes living in barracks at all, and it 2355 is even suggested that it might be possible for soldiers, like other workers, to return to their own homes after their day's work, but I can foresee difficulties in putting into force such a proposal. Indeed, like many other modern proposals it is really reactionary, because in the past, long before there were any barracks, soldiers lived in lodgings and were summoned together by the bugle each morning. That was the real original purpose of drums and bugles. But even such revolutionary proposals are worth considering, and some good may be drawn from them, and I shall be grateful if during the Debate any hon. Member can make any interesting suggestions or constructive proposals for the improvement of recruiting.
There is another cause which, I am sure, has had a great deal to do with the badness of recruiting at the present time. There is an opinion held by some people that because war is a bad thing and peace a good thing, a man who is a soldier and who makes himself ready to take part in war is doing a bad act. I shall not weary the House by showing how many fallacies lie between that premise and that conclusion. To say that because war is bad, therefore the soldier is bad, is like saying that because crime is had therefore the lawyer is a bad man. I am sure that the majority of hon. Members do not lend themselves to that opinion, but there are extreme pacificists, and I see in his place the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), who definitely takes the view that it is wrong in any conditions to fight. With all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, his opinions are not widely held in the country. I do not think they are the opinions held by the official leaders and Members of the Labour party or by the Members of the Liberal party. When hon. Members opposite were in office they supported the armed forces of the Crown as they would support and maintain those forces to-day if they were in office again. Their opinions on this question do not differ from ours. They deplore and hate the idea of war as much as we do, but they recognise the sad necessity of maintaining our forces in a state of readiness to take part in that fearful emergency should it arise. I would appeal to them to use their influence to combat this idea, which 2356 is the result of muddled thinking on the part of a number of people, that because war is bad, it is therefore bad to be a soldier.
To-day when there are still numbers of young active men unemployed and living on the dole, what better advice could be given to them than that they should join the Army? There they would find the opportunity of a healthy, open-air life. They would be well cared for and well nourished, and, in addition, they would have facilities for education. I do not know whether hon. Members have studied our educational figures. They show that the number of soldiers holding first-class and special certificates is increasing every year. Soldiers, after they have spent the active years of their life in the Army—a healthy occupation and also one that is helpful to the country—are more likely than others to find good employment. Our vocational training centres are doing a wonderful work. During the past year 3,065 men passed through them as compared with 2,536 in the previous year.
I should like to see these figures further increased. I should like, if it were possible, to take steps to increase the vocational training centres and to see more men passing through them. It is particularly satisfactory to find that, of the men who come out of the vocational training centres, over 76 per cent., according to our latest figures, find immediate employment. It does not follow that the other 24 per cent. do not find employment also. The 76 per cent. are those who find employment immediately and as to the others it is not always possible to keep in touch with them or to know what becomes of them. I suggest to hon. Members opposite and also to my own colleagues on this side that, in addressing meetings in their constituencies, they ought to do everything possible to encourage recruiting for the Army, on the ground that there is no better way in which young men can spend the active years of life and no way in which a young man is more likely to improve himself physically and mentally for the future.
So far, I have confined myself to the Regular Army, and I now wish to say something about the Territorial Army. Recruitment for the Territorial Army is an even more urgent and serious problem 2357 than recruitment for the Regular Army. We are 40,000 under strength at the present time and, here again, I do not think the causes. are far to seek. Frankly, we have not encouraged the Territorial Army. In fact, I am afraid we have done a great deal to discourage it. After the War, when the Territorial Army was reconstituted, a bounty was given of £5 a year to all trained men and £4 to recruits who did their full military duty. In 1922 when there was a wild demand for economy that £5 was reduced to £3 and in 1927 the £3 was reduced to 30s. That could not be called encouraging.
Then with regard to the Territorial camps—and the, camp is to the Territorial the chief object of his existence as a Territorial—it will be remembered that in 1931 a decision was taken in the height of the economic crisis to abolish the camps for 1932. I do not apologise for that policy, because I was a humble Member of the Government at the time, hut we thought that the urgency and danger of the economic situation was such that it mattered even more than the future of the Territorials. It was natural that there should have grown up in the minds of the Territorials themselves a feeling that they were not wanted, that they were only being tolerated and that they were not regarded as a vital and integral part of our defensive scheme. But they are indeed an integral part of that scheme, and when I say that, I mean that they are so much a part of the whole that if they were withdrawn the whole would fall to pieces and we would not have a defence scheme at all. I am glad to be able to do a little this year towards improving the lot of the Territorials. In the first place, I am glad to announce that the full £5 bounty will he restored, which means that the trained man will receive £3 proficiency grant, 10s. for weapon training allowance, and 30s. for extra drills. A recruit will earn £3 10s. in all, and the concession made last year to instructors and specialists will be continued. A Territorial Army instructor who is also a specialist will be able to earn in all £6 10s. a year, in addition to the usual pay and allowances to which he is entitled when in camp, or attending courses. Further, the arrangement made last year whereby, in the case of a 2358 certain number of drills, travelling expenses were paid, will be extended so that Territorials will receive for all their 50 drills full travelling expenses under the conditions already laid down.
There is another matter which has long been a source of discontent among the Territorials, and that is the question of the marriage allowance. In the Regular Army it is our policy to grant the marriage allowance to no soldier under 26. That will continue to be our policy and it is, I believe, a sound policy. We do not wish to encourage young soldiers serving in the Regular Army to incur the responsibilities of matrimony before that age. But the Territorial soldier is in a different position. We are in no way responsible for whatever responsibilities he may wish to incur. We are in no way responsible for his private life. He is his own master. All we know of him is that he is a man who is good enough to devote some of his leisure to serving his country. When such a young, man marries he, unlike the Regular soldier, is obliged to set up a home and that home has to be carried on while he is in camp. Therefore, I am glad to say that it has been decided that all Territorial soldiers who marry over the age of 21 will receive the full marriage allowance.
These concessions concern only the private soldiers and the non-commissioned ranks, but I felt that the picture would be incomplete unless we could do something also for the officers. I do not think that the majority of hon. Members have any idea of how great are the sacrifices which the young Territorial officer makes on behalf of the cause in which he believes. These young officers are not rich men. They are poor and, generally, they are just beginning arduous careers which make great demands upon them. They have small salaries and short holidays and service in the Territorial Army means for most of them giving up the whole of their holidays. What that sacrifice is especially to some of the young men who are married can easily be imagined. The pay which they receive goes a very short way towards paying their expenses. All that many of them ever hear of their pay is a letter from the Inland Revenue demanding the Income Tax which is due upon it. In addition the majority of young officers have to put their hands into their own 2359 pockets before the end of the year to meet their expenses.
I have sought for some way of assisting them and the way which I have discovered is this. At present the sum of £1per head is allowed for officers while in camp for a fortnight. I am glad to say we are going to increase that to £5. It is not a great sum and nobody will get rich upon it, but I hope it will just make such a difference, in a large number of cases, that at the end of the year the young officer will not have to pay for the privilege of serving his country. Another discouraging factor which the Territorial Army has had to face is the fact that they are so ill-equipped with the necessary weapons which, in real warfare, they would have to use. There is nothing more disheartening to a man who is taking part in a field clay than to know that a white flag represents a machine gun and a green flag represents a tank and something else represents an antitank gun and so on. In those circumstances men have the uncomfortable feeling always hovering over them that they are only playing at being soldiers. I am glad to say, although there is no large provision in these Estimates, that it has been decided, in connection with the White Paper, to make a very considerable annual advance for the explicit purpose of re-equipment. It is intended, as well as re-equipping the Regular Army to improve the present inadequate equipment of the Territorials, so that they shall not lack the weapons necessary to make their manoeuvres and their exercises more of a reality.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Will my right hon. Friend say whether that means that the re-equipment and reconditioning of the Territorial Army will in fact be carried out pari passu with that of the Regular Army?
§ Mr. COOPER
No. If I were to say pari, passu, that would be deceptive. It is the intention to spare no time and effort to re-equip the Regular Army to the very highest and most efficient point possible, but while we are doing that, we are not going to lose sight of the Territorial Army. We are going to do what we can, without interfering with the re-equipment of the Regular Army, to bring the Territorial Army gradually up to date, 2360 in order that they may not be quite unprepared when their turn comes to be fully equipped.
I would make an appeal, not only to hon. Members, as I have done, on behalf of the Regular Army, but also to employers in the country, who can do more than anybody else in recruiting for the Territorials. We have recently been set a very fine example. Lord Rothermere, a gentleman with whom I have not always seen eye to eye, has made the announcement that he will give to every young man in his employment who joins the Territorial Army two weeks' full holiday in order to attend his camps, and full pay, without allowing it in any way to interfere with such holiday as that employé would otherwise enjoy. If other employers were to follow that example, it would go very far towards solving our difficulties, and I sincerely hope they will.
The difficulties which the Army always has to face in this country belong to its history and have always been the same. The Navy has always made a stronger appeal to the imagination of our people. I do not grudge it; I do not wish to change it. The Air Force has all the glamour of novelty. The Cinderella of the three Services is the Army. She will never catch up in popular appeal or make up for the start which her rivals have had, but I would suggest to the House that there is a romance about the Army too, which they should not lose sight of in their recruiting endeavours. When you look at the map of the world and see how much of it belongs to the British Empire, and how vast and widespread are our possessions, and think that in all those Colonies, in nearly every Continent, there are small bodies of British troops doing their duty-, plain Englishmen, wearing the King's uniform, carrying with them wherever they go one of the principal English characteristics, good humour, I think the romance of the British Army becomes more apparent.
There is, I would remind the House, a particular kind of purpose which they can serve and which the Air Force never can. I would describe it as the presentation of force without the application of violence. I was told only the other day that in Egypt, when some excited students were noisily demonstrating, a small body of British soldiers, half-a-dozen men 2361 with a non-commissioned officer, in the natural course of their routine duties were obliged to walk through the crowd. The crowd, impressed by their phlegmatic determination, calmly made way for them. They passed through without any disturbance and left behind them a sobering effect, which no tear gas nor bombs could possibly produce. It was just the same last year in the Saar. There an ugly situation was dealt with without a single casualty or unpleasant incident, simply by the presentation of force without its application, by the sight of these powerful, determined, but good-natured and friendly soldiers. Personally, I contemplate the vast conscript armies of Europe without admiration and without envy. I would rather have our two small voluntary Forces, the Regulars and the Territorial Army. These are great possessions. No other country has anything to show that is similar. They are a great and real possession, our heritage. I think we should be proud of them and show our pride by being worthy of them.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I believe this is the third speech in which the right hon. Gentleman has introduced these Estimates in connection with the War Office. Each of those speeches has had its own peculiar distinction, but I think perhaps the most distinguished speech he has made since he came to the War Office is the one we have had to-day. If I may say so, I thought the first half of that speech, in which the right hon. Gentleman further underlined what he considered to be the function of the Army in the case of international trouble, will cause some controversy in Service circles generally, and I shall have to ask some questions of him later on that particular point. But while I think the Service Members of the House were gripped by his recital of the technical facts of the Army, the House itself really was drawn to him when he began to deal with what he described as the more human side of the Army.
I do not know whether or not the right hon. Gentleman rather unconsciously overstated what he wanted to say when he said that there were those in the general Labour movement who seemed to convey the idea that because a young man joined the Army he was necessarily a bad man. I feel that I must join issue with 2362 the right hon. Gentleman upon that point. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) can speak for himself, although he holds particular views of his own on this question, but I believe that, irrespective of his own views, he would agree in paying tribute to the conduct of these men. I would say that that was rather a far-fetched statement, it strikes me, for the right hon. Gentleman to have made in respect to that matter, particularly in view of the fact that there are a good many ex-service men sitting opposite him in the Opposition ranks. As a matter of fact, year after year one of the first things that I have done, when the Estimates have come out, has been to ask at the Vote Office for the report on the British Army. Last year I made the suggestion that the War Office might take some steps to illuminate the figures that one finds stacked under various appendices in this book.
I have always been proud of the fact that we could have such a large number of working-class men, because that is what the bulk of the Army is, living under somewhat abnormal conditions, segregated in the main from the rest of their fellows, who could conduct themselves on such a very high plane year after year. I question very much whether you could get 160,000 men in any other walk of life, in any class of society, that could generally show such a high standard of conduct as you have revealed in this book, and I note with pride, because, as I say, these are working-class men in the bulk, and some of them are from our own households, that it is stated:that only six Penal Servitude sentences of three years were awarded…and discharges with ignominy have dropped by 42 per cent. since the previous year. It was found possible to close the Military Prison and Detention Barracks at Stirling in October, 1935. The only establishment of this kind now in use in the United Kingdom is that at Aldershot.I repeat what I said last year, that for intelligence, standard of conduct, and general bearing as good citizens, we could not desire anything better than the standards revealed in this report concerning the Army.
The right hon. Gentleman was, of course, alluding to the question of recruitment when he spoke the words to which I have objected, but there is really 2363 nothing the matter with recruiting. What is wrong is with the persons to be recruited. I have seen all kinds of statements—and I read the article to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded—as to what could be done to encourage recruiting. As a matter of fact what really is wrong is the physical condition of the people who ought to join the Army. There were 68,000 who offered themselves, and of those only 28,000 were accepted. This is what the report says:In general terms the present situation is that if three men come forward to enlist, one is rejected at sight, the second is rejected for physical, mental, or educational reasons, and the third is finally approved.I think that is a terrible state of things. I do not know who fixed the standard of what was called C.3 during the War, I do not know what the particular attributes or signs were that made a man C.3, but apparently the Army has no doubt about a C.3 man. He is "rejected at sight." We have been pointing out from these benches for several years now that the policy which the Government were pursuing as a whole was leading to just this kind of thing, and I will take the liberty to read a paragraph from the report of the Commissioner for the Special Areas which has been read before in this House. If this state of things is to continue, the Government can use what means they like for recruiting purposes, but until they deal with the social and employment conditions in the country, they will do nothing at all in reality to further recruiting. One would have thought that the Commissioner for the Special Areas had this point in mind. He says:Many of these young persons have done practically no work; they have been brought up in a home where the father 'has been continuously out of work, and they have little or no conception that a man's ordinary occupation should be such as will provide the means of subsistence for himself and for his family. They have seen their own families and their friends kept far years by the State, and they have come to accept this as a normal condition of life. It is hardly surprising in the circumstances that young person, with this background and upbringing should be ready victims of all manner of demoralising influences. In short, these young men. present in my view the most tragic aspect of the problem of the Special Areas and one fraught, with great danger to the State.2364 I venture to quote that in order once more to draw the attention of the Government to, and to give point to, the fact that when we have asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with a situation of this kind he has been a kind of iceberg. If he had only been as generous and warm in dealing with this subject some years ago as he was the other night when he was speaking on defence, he would have had the human material for defensive purposes without any trouble.
The Secretary of State for War is really asking an increase of some £6,000,000 on last year's Estimate. I expected he would have spent a little time explaining why, when the Government had issued a special White Paper dealing with defence and foreshadowing a great deal of extraordinary expenditure, there is an increase of £6,000,000 in these Estimates. I know that there is £1,750,000 for emergency purposes. Incidentally, the right hon. Gentleman made a statement about the emergency which led one to believe that the troops were sent away as part of a considered scheme of full security. I did not know that. I should like to ask whether the forces that were sent with their supplies were sent in consultation with the rest of the nations in the League of Nations, or whether there was a consultation with the chief nations which are members. The general impression is that these forces were sent and this money spent simply as part of the ordinary Imperial Defence, and that we took no note of anyone else but simply acted on our own initiative. Apart from the special emergency, there is an increase of over £4,000,000. In the Memorandum the right hon. Gentleman says that that is part of the general refitting foreshadowed last year:The Estimates which I now present to the House provide for a further instalment of the programme for bringing our military preparations up to date for which provision was made in last year's Estimates.That is true, but last year we did not have a White Paper on defence which foreshadowed past expenditure. I thought that, apart from the normal needs of the Army and the other services, we were to have Supplementary Estimates which would give us a sort of balance-sheet for the extra expenditure. I think that the real reason is that the War Office, in view of the coming expenditure, has taken the opportunity of grabbing as much as it can 2365 almost without respect to the needs of other Departments. The abstract in the Estimates shows that the extra expenditure is spread over practically every item in the various branches of the Service. There is an increase of £2,000,000 for mechanisation. In Vote 9, page 187, there is an increase of £1,000,000 for motor-wheeled transport. That is in pursuance of the plan of increased mechanisation. I take it that this motor transport refers not to tanks or anything of that kind, but purely to wheeled transport which will substitute horse transport. It is remarkable to note, however, that there are still 13,000 horses left in the Army. One can understand cavalry officers having a strong sentiment for horses, but there is an item for remounts which leaves the cost for that item practically the same as it was last year. The remounts are still to cost £91,000 as against £92,000 last year.
How does the War Office square the fact that while there is an increase of £1,000,000 on wheeled transport, there is still to be the same cost for horses? The right hon. Gentleman has spoken about recruiting. It is interesting to note that there is little more expenditure on remounts than there is on recruiting, for which a sum of £82,000 is provided. Why is there this item of £91,000 for horses that will probably never be wanted? I do not take kindly to mechanisation. I do not understand its terms. I was familiar with the technical terms used in the private quarters of a battery subsection, but I do not understand the terms used in a mechanised unit. The War Office has a good deal to explain in these two constrasting items. If the Army is not careful, it will be not only an example of advanced mechanisation and modern organisation, but it will be a kind of museum of species that are dying out. The question of the continuance of the number of horses is getting serious. I see that at Weedon Equitation School there is an increase of £1,000, and that for £21,000 the Army is training 38 men to ride horses which will not be wanted. In the Royal Tank Corps, however, 550 men we re trained at a cost of £47,000.
I think I know the truth about all this. It is that the Army has had an opportunity of using great sums and so, irrespective of the need of the various branches of its organisation, it has simply shoved money away without regard to 2366 business values. This is an indication of what is going to happen. If they see hundreds of millions coming along they will feel that it is a case of making hay while the sun shines. I feel that the House and the public will require to be given some stronger reasons why this sort of thing should continue than those which appear on the surface. The right. hon. Gentleman told us that one of the main functions of the Army in the future would be to supply a sort of expeditionary force. The Prime Minister was here when he made that statement. Is that just the Army view, or is it the considered view of the Committee of Imperial Defence? That is a question which should be fairly and squarely faced.
We are considering these Estimates in vacuo and it is difficult to relate the forces one to the other. The right hon. Gentleman gave eloquently-expressed reasons why he thought that the Army in the future will have to supply an expeditionary force. On the other hand, there are those who strongly hold the view that if there is any money going it is the Air Force which ought to get the advantage of the extra millions to be spent, and the view of the right hon. Gentleman is very strongly contested not only in Service circles generally but, I should say, in every part of the House. Therefore, I say it is very important that he should tell us whether he has stated simply the Army view, or whether that is the view of responsible and detached persons who have considered the matter.
I was very much struck the other night with one point that seemed to emerge from the Debate on Defence. The Debate did not seem to make quite that contribution that we had expected, but one thing which did emerge was the assumption in the mind of the Government and the House generally that, in the event of international trouble, this country will some day have to supply an expeditionary force, because the Government undertook to consider the suggestion about setting up a Ministry of Munitions, and that seems to imply that in the long view we are preparing for the despatch of an expeditionary force. In these Estimates there is a very pointed and able statement about the value of the factories and workshops belonging to the War Office for the supply of explosives, guns and other 2367 things, and particular note is made of the high technical skill to be found in those workshops and factories. I spoke about that recently and I think the House, and probably even some Service Members, would be amazed if they were to know of the achievements in radiology of the War Office and some other branches. I suggest that if the Army, the Air Force and the Navy need supplies the only way to save this country from exploitation and from plunder is for the Government to do its own work, after taking possession of the works and factories necessary for the purpose. If the Government cannot give us effective defence or cannot give us peace at any rate it can make sure that the nation shall not be plundered in its need and extremity.
There are statements in the Press to the effect that the expenditure foreshadowed will amount to round about £200,000,000. I must say that when I read the White Paper I got the impression that it will be much more than that. One thing from which we can be saved is the knowledge that the hard-faced men will once again make plunder out of our difficulties and our troubles. In view of the fact that the Government are asking for an increase of £6,000,000—£4,000,000 net, almost—on an Estimate of £50,000,000, and with the knowledge I have of the conditions prevailing in some parts of the country, I feel that I should be unworthy of my place here if I did not protest against the free and easy manner in which we are increasing this expenditure in contrast with the treatment meted out to great masses of our fellow citizens during the past few years.
In the Debate in the fore part of this week we on this side were twitted, as we often have been before, with subordinating national interests to political expediency. If that had not been the case in years gone by with Members many of whom now sit on the Government Benches, this country would have been in a much happier position to-day. When, earlier this week, we were discussing the need for increased expenditure on defence, my mind went back to the days of the Government of 1948-1922, the Government of the hard-faced men, those who gave Parliament such a character that we would almost like to forget 2368 that Parliament. Then we learned of the people who, during the War, had plundered the country, had been veritable jackals in taking advantage of the nation's needs. And so to-day, when we are discussing this large expenditure, which is only part of the great expenditure foreshadowed, we on this side take the opportunity to say that while we have never been opposed to an Army, efficient to fulfil its functions in this country and all its duties in every part of the British Empire, we do object to an increased expenditure which does not seem to be called for—at any rate upon this particular Vote—at a time when great need exists among masses of our fellow citizens. One old saying which is heavy with truth has come back to me during the past week. It is the piece of advice given many centuries ago:Make friends with thine enemy quickly whilst thou art in the way, lest he turn again and rend thee.I believe that if the soldiers of the Great War could have made the Treaty of Peace we should not have had the Treaty which is in existence to-day and which has caused such endless trouble, and that Europe would not have been in the present turmoil. In my final word I would urge upon the Government that if, 20 years ago, we missed the opportunity to take that wise advice, which might have given us something like a permanent peace we should, if we pass this expenditure to-day, do so on the understanding that the Government will use all the means at their disposal to make expeditionary forces unnecessary and the functions of the Army much more limited than those laid down by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I am sure that the concluding words of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) will find agreement in all parts of the House. It is the desire of all of us that it may not be necessary for an expeditionary force again to leave our shores. I think the whole House will have listened with the keenest interest to the survey which the Secretary of State made in introducing his Estimates. I have seldom, if ever, heard a more comprehensive and more attractive method of putting the needs of the Army before this House. I want to put before him points 2369 which may be considered of some value. Every hon. Member will agree that so long as we have overseas commitments we must be prepared to reinforce our overseas garrisons. That fact has contributed in no small way to the increased Estimates this year. There are certain points in the Memorandum issued by the right hon. Gentleman which have, nevertheless, caused a certain amount of disquiet. He alluded to some of them in his speech. The decline in recruiting is most alarming. Hon. Gentlemen have spoken about the number of rejections. I do not know whether the percentage of rejecttions is unduly high, but the fact that the Army is short of 10,000 recruits must make the task of providing drafts for India and places like Malta and Egypt extremely difficult. The right hon. Gentleman did not touch on the increase of four battalions which is foreshadowed. it seems rather hazardous to suggest four battalions when the existing forces are short. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us whether it is intended to make new regiments or whether the four battalions are to be alloted to the existing regiments. The House ought to know about that.
On the question of encouragement of recruiting, there are several reasons that might be put forward to explain the present shortage of recruits. The right hon. Gentleman noted the pacifist feeling in the country. There is no doubt about that, and in many ways it is desirable, because we all wish there were no need to have these large forces. The peace talk which goes on seems to have given the impression that the soldier is a bad man, and it is awfully difficult to convince even the people whom we know well that a young man has, by joining the forces, an opportunity to improve his education as well as his physique. If one could guarantee employment after the young man left the force, that would be a great stimulus to recruiting. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about vocational courses. We know how valuable they have been. I have seen some of the work that has been done by the men, but I believe that only one man out of eight now takes those courses, and I hope that some way may be found of increasing the number of men who pass through the vocational centres.
The next point I would touch upon is perhaps a matter of some delicacy. I 2370 have often wondered whether the larger and brighter tattoos are in the best interests of the Service. Everyone knows what influence the tattoos have upon the young of the country who see those magnificent shows. Although I do not want to stress the point, it seems to me that those shows are getting almost too large and occupy too large and important a place. I am wondering whether, at a time when we are living almost in a state of emergency, we can spare so many men to be taken off their duties, in order to provide the wonderful entertainments at Aldershot and elsewhere. The right hon. Gentleman foreshadowed the provision of a new light machine gun for the Regular Army. I hope that the distribution of that gun will be expedited, because there is nothing more disheartening or disappointing for an individual soldier than to use a gun which, in the opinion of the authorities and of himself, is obsolete. I trust that it may be possible to expedite the delivery of the weapon.
The question of the vulnerability of ordnance stores in places like Woolwich is also raised. I know that a Commission has been sitting for some time to consider whether it is advisable to move the ordnance stores from Woolwich in the near future, but, with modern aircraft, places as far away as South Wales, or even Northern Ireland, would still be vulnerable. Nevertheless, in Woolwich and in Chatham we are concentrating in a very vulnerable area an important part of our defence Forces. I have seen in these Estimates that an extra and considerable sum is proposed to be spent on new building work at Woolwich.
Following upon what was said a moment ago by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester-le-Street about 'horses, I would like to observe, as an old cavalry officer, that one sees the passing of the horse with great regret. Money is so urgently required in these days, however, that an expenditure of over £20,000 a year upon Weedon seems excessive, in view of the fact that only a comparatively small number of men are passed through the school of equitation in a year. When we take into consideration the fact that eight cavalry regiments are to be mechanised this year, the time seems now to have come for reconsideration of the position of the school of equitation. One 2371 recognises the great value of equitation and the way in which officers and other ranks are trained, but the money might be expended in a more profitable way.
These Estimates will be largely increased by the Supplementary Estimates before the end of the year. I know that it is difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to give any precise information, because so much depends upon the European situation, but we are unfortunately committed to a large expenditure. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, in co-ordination, with the other arms, will see that everything is done so that the utmost economy in the expenditure is observed. The outlook abroad is not a pleasant one at this moment. Willingly or unwillingly, we are compelled to increase our expenditure, because our commitments are great. I hope that the few remarks which I have made and the points which I have raised may be dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman in his reply.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Sir HUGH SEELY
I should like first of all to congratulate the Secretary of State for War on the very clear statement that he made in presenting these Estimates, and because of the lead that he has given to the Territorial Force. It is something, when increases of expenditure are being made and have to be faced in these troublous days, that we should be giving back to the Territorial Force some of the cuts that were made and which undoubtedly did harm to that Force. In his opening remarks, the Secretary of State dwelt rather vaguely—in fact he did not add anything to what was said in the White Paper and in his own paper—on the question of forces going abroad. I do not want to exaggerate this point, or to say that there is a likelihood that an expeditonary force will be used, but one has to realise at this time that that may happen. I am not satisfied that any statement we have had, either in the Debate on the White Paper or to-day, has dealt with this very difficult question.
In the Debate on the White Paper, my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) asked a question on this point and received an answer from the Home Secretary which turned it off by referring 2372 it back to the White Paper, which is merely back to where we are now, and that is that the force should be ready to proceed overseas wherever it may be wanted. The money that we are spending now on the Estimates is not necessarily for dealing with what might be an expeditionary force. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) said that speed was to be the primary thing. I cannot see how this element of speed is being brought into modern conditions. I am not speaking of mechanisation, but of the way we are to use it, and whether it will be a force that you can use immediately. In the Debate last year a very pertinent question was raised as to what would happen if we had to send an expeditionary force abroad. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) said:We could not send, I venture to say, six divisions, we could not send five, we could not send four, we could not send three, without, prolonged delay." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1935; col. 77, Vol. 299.]When that point came to be answered by the then Financial Secretary to the War Office, he said:I can only say…that it is not in the public interest to give such information. Obviously, we cannot go into details of mobilisation, but I can say this, that at the present moment the process would take longer than was the case in 1914. "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 193.5; col. 959, Vol. 299.]Although, as has been agreed in these Debates on Defence, speed will be the greatest factor, I cannot see that we have advanced at all from the position which was admitted at that time, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said that there would be very great delay before we could even put three divisions into a Continental war.
As I have said, it is no use our blinking our eyes to this question. We on this side do not grudge the spending of money if it going to be well spent and if it is going to be spent for defence, but a great deal is being spent. This is the fourth consecutive year in which these Estimates have gone up, and they have gone up, not merely, as used to be the case, on the question of pay, but they have now gone up on munitions and wheeled transport. There has, of course, 2373 been a large increase as compared with last year, but it is interesting to look at the figures of the year before. For gun ammunition, the figure was then £680,000, and it is now £2,235,000, or nearly four times as much, while in the case of motor transport the figure, which then was £193,000, is now £1,086,000, or practically five times as much. Are these increases which we are now voting for these warlike stores going to be really for defence, or to meet the need which may arise in the event of our having to use an army in an international war abroad?
I know that, as in the Debate on the White Paper, there is a sort of idea that £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 is not much in comparison with £100,000,000 or £200,000,000, as long as you are getting your defence, but it is our obligation, not only to see that the money is spent well, but to see that we do get this defence, and I do not feel that we have had any definite statement of policy, or that we can see from the Estimates signs of a definite drive towards dealing with this question of our having to send troops into a continental war. I am not talking of sending troops to Shanghai or Egypt, of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, but of this question of emergency, which, after all, is a question of life and death for this country. Like others, I do not believe that our defence can rest only on the Navy or on the Air Force; I think it is most probable that we shall always come back in the' long run to the Army, which is where you get the greatest number of men, who eventually win the war.
There are one or two disturbing matters that were dealt with, I will not say lightly, by the right hon. Gentleman. On the question of recruiting, it is appalling at this time to see that we are 10,000 down. I have seen it stated that something like 26,000 men are leaving the Colours, and only 19,000 recruits are coming in, so that in that respect we are faced with a difficult position. I should like to point out one way in which this difficulty of recruiting is having a rather serious effect. One is apt to say that the Territorial Army is the second line of defence, but there is one side of the Territorial Army to which no real opposite number exists in the Regular Army, which is the first line of defence. That is as regards air de- 2374 fence troops, because these are practically all supplied by the Territorial Army. It is a serious matter when one finds that, while the establishment for adjutants numbers 22, the actual strength is 20, and that in the case of officers, while the establishment is 593, the actual strength is only 423.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I hope the hon. Member will not anticipate the Debate that is very shortly to take place on the Motion which is to be moved as an Amendment.
§ Sir H. SEELY
I will not continue except to complete, if I may, the point I have been trying to make as to the seriousness of the question of recruiting, by mentioning that, while the establishment is 16,000 men, there are only 4,800 actually there. If war were imminent, this is as much a first-line defence, of this town particularly, and of the country as a whole, as any that there is, and it is very dangerous that it should be so much below strength.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think that any question of that kind must be raised on the Amendment which is shortly to be moved.
§ Sir H. SEELY
Of course, I bow to your Ruling. I fully agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we have to get up to strength in the Territorial Army. I had hoped at one moment that he was going to offer a prize, as has been done elsewhere, perhaps out of his own pocket, for something that we might suggest to him as a means of increasing this recruiting. As I have said, he has done a good deal to-day towards helping it. There is one thing that I think will still always help in making it more attractive. It may seem difficult at this time to talk of putting the Army back into brighter and better uniforms, but I am certain that, until it is made more attractive, recruits will not be obtained.
The right hon. Gentleman, the Financial Secretary and myself come from the same regiment. It recruits at Nottingham, which is a very large recruiting place, but it has fallen off a great deal lately. That is not entirely due to the Army being thought the wrong thing for a man to go into; that is not the real reason; but undoubtedly there is quite a strong feeling that a man gives up rather 2375 too much freedom when he goes into the Army now. Undoubtedly our ideas have altered on the question of freedom and the way in which we like to spend our money, and there is a difficulty in getting even people who have for generations been sending some of their sons into a regiment to do so now, because they feel that they are going to give up their life and not to have so much freedom. I feel that a great deal can be done towards making it more attractive to join the Army, and it can be done from the regiments themselves, and not necessarily by mere advertising and trying to get people in under a false pretence. Many questions will arise on these Estimates, but we on these benches feel strongly that, while this money has to be voted, because there is a danger which we are not going to shirk, we want to see that it is voted for purposes of real defence, and is not merely added to the Estimates without our getting what we need.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
I am sure, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I shall not be transgressing your Ruling if, in congratulating my right hon. Friend on his most lucid and attractive exposition of these Votes, I congratulate him with particular warmth on the assurance he has now given that the Territorial Army will be enabled to play its proper part in the defence of the country. I think that what he has said in that Connection has won universal approval in the House, and will come as a great relief to the Territorial officers and men throughout the country. My right hon. Friend issued a challenge to the House to bring forward proposals, however revolutionary, and he promised to give them fair and patient consideration. I believe that the time has come for revolutionary proposals with regard to the whole organisation and structure of the Regular Army. That organisation, in its essentials, has not been changed for over 60 years, since Mr. Cardwell abolished the old long-service system and introduced the existing system of service and the scheme of linked battalions under which, as the House is aware, every unit, in the infantry at any rate, that is sent abroad is balanced by a corresponding unit at home, which receives the young recruits, trains and matures them for service overseas, and, on mobilisation, takes 2376 in the reservists, and so, with the young soldiers and the reservists, completes a unit to take the field in an expeditionary force.
That system had many advantages of convenience over the old long-service system which preceded it. It is very neat, simple, and, from the point of view of peace administration, workmanlike. Nevertheless it suffers from certain fundamental defects. It is based on no consideration whatever of the strategical needs of this country. The expeditionary force which it can mobilise is fixed by the units stationed abroad, and the number of those units has nothing whatever to do with the strategical problems that may confront us, whether in Europe or in other parts of the world. Again, under the old long-service system, we always had a considerable number of units available to send abroad at a moment's notice without mobilisation. Under the Cardwell system we have no such force; we have only one British expeditionary force, to be mobilised more or less rapidly—and I am afraid nowadays very much less rapidly—adapted in no particular, either as to internal organisation or as to numbers, to the strategical problems of this country.
I remember that before the War some of us repeatedly asked why it should be six divisions—why not 60, why not one? The answer given by Lord Haldane and his successor was, "This is the Expeditionary Force which is secreted as a by-product of the Cardwell system." That is the fundamental vice of our system—it bears no relation to our military needs in war. It is a peace system, not a war system, and even from a peace point of view it has one grave defect. The period of active service, namely, seven years, is very convenient from the point of view of the War Office, but it is by no means a convenient system from the point of view of the man who is going to join the Army. It is much too short for a real career. On the other hand, it brings the man back into civil life much too late for him to be able to catch up with his fellows. I admit that a great deal of excellent work is done in the Army in order to train men for civil life afterwards, but none of this can quite compensate for the fact that the man comes back into civil fife much later than others. While, therefore, the period is 2377 not long enough for a career, it is too long to give a man a chance of getting in on an equality with others in civil life. These essential weaknesses of the Cardwell system confronted us long before the Great War. The only Secretary of State for War, in the long line since Mr. Cardwell, who had the courage and insight to taokle this problem was the late Mr. Arnold Forster—in my opinion, at any rate, far the ablest and most clear-sighted Secretary of State that the War Office ever had at its head. From both those points of view, recruiting and strategical needs, he brought before the House and passed, though in the expiring days of the Balfour Government, a reorganisation under which the soldier would have the option of a quite short period of service, 15 months with the infantry, and a much longer period of nine years as a minimum, enabling on the one side a very large number of short trained men to pass to the reserve on mobilisation and, on the other, enabling the building up, apart from mobilisation, of a permanently mobile force of some two divisions. In that way his scheme would have provided us with two divisions available on an emergency anywhere. They could have been kept here or anywhere else, while on mobilisation the scheme would have given us a force of something like 300,000 men. That scheme, if it had only been persevered in, would have put us in an immensely stronger position in the critical months at the outbreak of the Great War. It might have altered the whole character of the War. Unfortunately his successor, Lord Haldane, with many great merits, had not the courage to face the reluctance of the then Army chiefs, with the one honourable exception of Lord Plumer, to experiment as boldly as was involved in having a 15 months service in the infantry.
The point to which I wish to come is that the need for some such reorganisation is far greater to-day even than it was in Mr. Arnold Forster's time. The recruiting problem is again terribly serious. You are not going to affect it much by little changes in uniform or little additions even of more comfortable housing accommodation, though those are all to the good. I believe you have to change it fundamentally by offering the recruit the alternative of a short service 2378 which does not interfere with his prospects of civil life if he finds he does not care for soldiering, and a service which offers him a vista, as the Navy does, of a life-long career. From the point of view of strategy, surely the events of the last few months should have impressed on us the vital importance of having at any rate a small expeditionary force available at any moment for sending anywhere, whether to the Mediterranean or to the Middle or the Far East. It could be stationed here or it could be stationed from a. strategical point of view with great advantage in Palestine. Wherever it was stationed it would be available when needed. Trouble may arise in any part of the world. It is not the magnitude of the force despatched that matters, but the element of speed and the importance of being able to send a force the moment disturbance occurs, or even before disturbance occurs. As for the problem of an expeditionary force in Europe, that raises very great issues. It is, at any rate, possible that in a European campaign our most effective contribution would be in the air alone, or in the air and in certain technical services. On the other hand, if we do send an expeditionary land force abroad we are not again going to have years in which to build it up. If we contemplate that, again I say we shall have to think of something substantially larger than the six divisions of 1914, something less fully trained but at any rate numerically larger, something much more like the contemplated expeditionary force under Mr. Arnold Forster's scheme.
That is the strategical aspect of the matter. But the whole problem of the Army is also modified from the tactical point of view. The Army of the future is not going to be divided into the broad categories of infantry, artillery, cavalry and sappers. A great part of them will be technical, mechanical men, specialists, skilled men. What you want is a system under which you give some elementary military training to a large number, but build up a highly skilled force of specialists. In the war of the future you will never be able again to mass vast armies in the front line. Under the menace of the air they will never be able to be supplied. The front line of the future will consist of small forces of highly self-reliant, highly trained skilled men, well equipped mechanically. All that fits in 2379 admirably with our voluntary service as against conscription. On the other hand, just because the air can over-leap the front line, you will have innumerable vulnerable points, vulnerable not only to air attacks but to the dropping of small forces from the air. The other day the Russian Air Force transported a whole bridgade of artillery, machine guns and everything in aeroplanes.
You cannot overlook the possibility of such action, and therefore, behind the front any point of any importance will require some sort of military defence. That implies very considerable numbers of less completely trained men. There again is another reason for reconsidering the organisation of our forces and the system of recruitment and training. We shall want an Army in many respects trained much more like the Navy, that is to say, with a general preliminary training in military service, mainly in the infantry, followed by increasing specialisation. That specialisation, I believe, will also involve an increasing freedom of transfer between what are at present distinct and watertight branches of the Army. You want to make a career for the skilled man right through. These things will, I believe, be far easier to work out in a voluntary Army like ours than with the great conscript masses of the Continent. The conditions of modern warfare, the demand for mechanical equipment of all sorts, make in favour of a small army of skilled men with the necessary accompanying background of less skilled men. The plea that I would make—I do not expect my right hon. Friend to answer a point like that necessarily in the present Debate—is seriously to go into the whole problem of Army service and Army organisation. We need a fundamental reorganisation of what Mr. Cardwell gave the Army 60 years ago, and it is in that sense that I have responded to the challenge that my right hon. Friend threw out just now.
§ 6.25 p. m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I do not intend to be led into a long debate with the right hon. Gentleman over long versus short service. I am very largely with him, but it is no use applying his arguments and his brains to that question 2380 unless he realises that there is one definite, irremovable drawback to long service, and that is that, the longer you obey orders and never think for yourself, the more brainless you become. The best people, the best soldiers, the best officers are those who think for themselves. We had a most excellent speech from the right hon. Gentleman in opening these Estimates. I have listened to speeches by representatives of the Army for 30 years and I thought it the most beautiful presentation that I have ever heard. Then I hated myself for thinking it. If the right on. Gentleman really thinks like that, if that is all he is thinking about at present, worse still, if that is what the Army Council are really applying their great minds to at present, may the Lord have mercy on our country. It was exactly the same speech, though more beautiful, as might have been made five, 10 or 15 years ago. There was no change. There is change in this world. There are three very great changes, and not a word was said about them. Speed, the imminence of danger and co-operation are the three things that I would have the Army Council think of. Have they considered the possibility of being attacked without warning? That has changed everything. We had time to send an expeditionary force across to Belgium in the old days. We had time to mobilise. We shall have no time. Have the Army Council thought of that, because it alters all your arrangements. That is one element of speed that ought to be considered by everyone who has the safety of the country at heart.
What are the new arrangements? Is the man looking over the anti-aircraft gun to fire when he sees an aeroplane, or is he to wait for orders? What is he to do?' Has that been considered? What are we to do if we are bombed to-night? What is the Army going to do about it? That is one way in which speed comes in. Another thing is speed of movement of the Army itself. Our dear old Army is still going on as it went on in the Great War, still having its parades, learning to. march, learning to pack its haversacks, some learning telephony, but not many. How far are they meeting the new demand for speed? When will the right hon. Gentleman be able to say that every man, non-commissioned officer and officer can ride a motor bicycle? How long will it be before he can say he can drive a 2381 car? What are they learning? They are learning vocational training so that when they get out of the Army they will be of some use in civil life. Are they learning anything to make them some use as soldiers? It is becoming a skilled trade now. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken never said anything more sensible. It is becoming a trade where you have to learn an enormous number of things, and first of all how to use those machines which get you away quickly and get you there quickly.
In the War we had to recruit specially from the mines in order to get people to teach the Army how to countermine the German positions. I do not suggest that the Army should learn that now, but that is merely one of the hundred things that the really skilled soldier ought to know. You go on having parades, and you have in these days tattoos, when the Army pretends that it was born 300 years ago, held at Aldershot to bring in some money for widows and orphans. It is childish to spend time upon things like that, when half the education of the world is being left out of the Army. I hope to see in the Army a man trained to know all about internal combustion engines, about telegraphy, and telephony, and even trained to fly an aeroplane. When such a man returned to civil life again he would be a far more useful man, and would far more easily find a job than would be the case at the present time. Those are the elements of speed. Both right hon. Gentlemen were so much impressed with those pictures of the Russians dropping an Army on the other side of the lines and bringing tanks and guns and what not. I only hope that the Russian Army is as good at fighting as it is at propaganda. They have done propaganda very successfully to convert the right hon. Gentlemen.
The other real danger from the point of view of speed, is the speed of the aeroplane and the height at which it can travel, both those things render the aeroplane immune, provided it has command of the air; provided one side or the other, in any theatre of war, get control of the air through speed of travel, and they should be able to travel 20,000 feet up and come back from the clouds, like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), who, I hope, is none the worse. These things have made a revolution in war- 2382 fare. I am not going to talk about getting control of the air, as that would not be appropriate to these Estimates. But you want the control of the air. Have not the Army Council considered the possibility of not having it? How is an Army to move by day at all? What is the effect of a hostile air force in control of the air? You may say at once that it is difficult for an air force, even the most accurate air force, to bomb trenches and dug-outs. As long as you keep an army in trenches and dug-outs by day, and move it by night with lights out, you can get about slowly, but have the Army Council considered the whole new problem of how to move an army at all if you have lost control of the air? If you move it, you must move it from wood to wood or from hiding-place to hiding-place by night. I should have liked to have heard the views of the right hon. Gentleman, even though they were erroneous views, for then I could have been certain that the problem was being faced.
The next and most vital problem which has not been considered is the fact that this country is in imminent danger. I do not say that any of us in this House are scaremongers, but every year since the Great War we have known instinctively that we were perfectly safe and now we do not know it. Even if there is only one risk in 20 of war within the next five years, you must take that danger into account, and not all the other functions of the Army you have been considering year after. year throughout the centuries. You talk about sending an expeditionary force abroad, about the importance of the Army to send an expedition to Malta to put barbed wire all round the island. You talk about the usefulness of expeditionary forces for everything on earth except the one thing—how can your army defend this country against Germany? It is no use talking about anything else. The defence Services in this country have put this country into such a position that we are in danger, and unless you visualise the real danger, and not conjure up imaginary wars against Italy, Japan, Russia or the United States of America, unless you apply yourself to the one problem of how we are to save England from Hitler and all that Hitlerism means, you are not serving our country and you are not 2383 serving the estimation in which the Army will be held by this people. It is all very well in times of peace to change from a long service Army to a short service Army and vice versa, when here and now there is a definite danger. How are you going to meet that danger? That is a new point. Has it been considered? I am certain that the Admiralty are resolutely looking across the oceans and away from inland waters altogether. But the Army never thought of the Baltic, the Kiel Canal, Stockholm, Finland, Estonia, or any of our Allied league? We shall not want the Army in this country if we get command of the air, but we shall want it elsewhere.
That leads me to my third point. You have forgotten speed, you have forgotten the imminent danger, and you have forgotten co-operation between the various members of the League of Nations. I know that it is fashionable on those benches to deride the League of Nations, the little nations, but the real reason why so many people, perhaps not in this House but outside this House, welcome the League of Nations is because the proper use of the League of Nations will guarantee all our safety. We are not thinking, as Rothermere and Beaverbrook would have us suppose, about our glorious duty of fighting for somebody else—not a bit of it; but we are thinking how best to defend primarily this country. If there is to be co-operation against this deadly enemy, if you are to have that co-operation, are you planning for it? What have you done? What have you done to see whether and upon what terms the League, or the War Office, if the League approves, can get co-operation with Scandinavia? I daresay that the War Office may not be aware, but they ought to be aware of the fact that the Swedes are the only people who have ever conquered the Germans. They are the only people who have never been defeated, and they are the finest soldiers in the world. I would sooner have a Swedish General and a Swedish Army to command me than I would have an English or a German. [An HON. MEMBER"You were not in the last war I"] How about Russia? Are we to draw up all our plans for the defence of the League of Nations or the defence of France, I do not care which it is—I hope that you 2384 will not include the defence of Austria—in vacuo without consulting other people, and saying what each partner in this joint enterprise ought to contribute, is willing to contribute and ought to pledge itself to contribute.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the Russian Army is about 100 per cent. better than the old Tsarist Army ever was, and I would far sooner have it on our side than the Tsarist Army as it was in 1914. The French, as ever, can bear the brunt of the Army. The Swedes can bear their share, the Russians can bear their share, and so can the Turks, who would be willing enough to go to Egypt to-day and save us some expense. But if you are to consider the duties of the Army in the future, is it not childish to go on considering those duties without reflecting upon the contributions of other people or how you are to give the greatest possible support to whatever joint scheme is put forward? To say that there is no danger to-day and that we dare not lay plans because it would be too rude is absurd. You have to lay plans. You need not do it publicly. You can make these plans privately. The right hon. Gentleman opposite is a Cabinet Minister now, and the Cabinet must speak about these things. Is he standing up to the Army Council? When I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) the other day I said to myself "He is the only Member of this House who dares to stand up to Admirals and Generals." Can the right hon. Gentleman opposite stand up to a General? That is a question which we are all asking ourselves to-day. There are three revolutions, and the Army Council have not reflected upon one of them—surprise and speed, one enemy and no other enemies, co-operation and pooling between the various people in danger from that enemy.
I will touch upon the shortage in recruiting. It would be out of order to say anything about the Territorial Army, but I am certain that if the aristocracy of this country would do their duty and become officers in the Territorial Force we should have very little difficulty in getting the recruitment of the rank and file. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there is no shortage of 2385 recruiting in the police force. The police force is a more dangerous career than the Army. Lord Trenchard aroused great dissatisfaction on these benches because he was trying, so we thought, to restrict the recruitment of the police force to the leisured class and public schoolboys. So many people were getting into the police force that they were trying to cut it down, not on an intelligence basis but on an education basis. There is not the slightest doubt that if they wanted 10,000 recruits for the police to-morrow, they could get them inside 24 hours. The restrictions and tests which have to be gone through in order to get into the police force are far higher even than they are in the Air Force, and yet they get the recruits.
You do not get the recruits in the Army for two reasons. One, that the English working classes hate leaving home. Many of us were torn from our homes and our mother's apron-strings and sent to the public schools, but the working classes never leave home until they get married, and then often they have to go on living at home. They are horribly shy of being sent among strangers. You will always get in the Army a certain number of adventurous spirits, those people who run away from school or get on board ship, but you have to make the Army in some way more attractive to people who are not dare-devils, and who dislike the society of rather violent colleagues. The objection of the ordinary man to going into the Army is certainly not that it is dangerous or that barrack life is unpleasant in itself, and certainly not that the career, whether long or short, is not attractive to the average Englishman. I am always asking my unemployed why they do not go into the Army, and the answer is always the same—they do not like the company. They are shy—and I do not blame them. If you take into the Army rather poor characters, you are always going to frighten off just those people that you want to get in. I wish there could be an entrance examination for the Army. It would not restrict the number of applications; in fact, I believe, it would increase them. There must be some means of eliminating From the Army the bad hats and the crooks who are taken in unknowingly, because people who get into all sorts of trouble very often join the Army—
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
Does the right hon. and gallant Member suggest that the Army should be recruited from theological colleges?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Certainly not Roman Catholic ones, but the type of men which followed Cromwell. I think that you should recruit the ordinary respectable, British working class, and you will not get that class if you take in people queer in the head, who ought never to be in the Army, because by taking in this kind pf recruit you deter other people from coming in. The shortage of recruits is serious, and will not be made good by giving higher wages. It is much more likely to be made good by lowering the age at which marriage is allowed and by enabling more men to be billeted outside; by going back to the individualistic system much more. That is the best way of improving the situation. You can recruit by taking in some of the refugees from Germany, who would make excellent fighters, and in the distant parts of the Empire you could recruit some of the coloured people. If you want men there are a hundred ways in which you can get them. But what we want are not just brainless men but people who are skilled, intelligent mechanics, who know their job, who can use their brains and the machinery which is put into their hands; and when you have an Army recruited in this way you will be able to defend this country.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
The House always enjoys listening to a speech from the very original mind of the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I agree with some of the things he has said, and disagree very much with some other of his observations. It is hardly in the interests of peace that he should ask the Secretary of State for War definitely to name a country which we may have to fight. These, problems can be worked out in the War Office in secret, but they should not be published abroad, and I hope that we shall not have to fight anyone, especially the country which the right hon. and gallant Member mentioned. He expressed an idea, with which I thoroughly agree, that the pictures we saw of the manoeuvres at Kiev, in which whole armies were being transported by aeroplanes and landed by 2387 parachutes, were excellent propaganda but nothing else. We cannot take such things as that into serious consideration yet. I spent some years in the Russian Army, and I know that they are past masters in the art of propaganda. I do not think that the present Russian Army, although I have not seen it, is any better than the Tsarist army or anything like as good, but that, of course, is a matter of opinion. The right hon. and gallant Member spoke of what we used to call "spit and polish." That has declined a great deal lately, and the right hon. and gallant Member will find that officers now are much more progressive and are trying to train their men intelligently, thinking less about appearances. The right hon. and gallant Member rather condemned tattoos, but I would suggest that tattoos, besides being a most stimulating recruiting agency, are also bringing large funds to military charities, and that they are not a bad thing in their way. If the right hon. and gallant Member will agree to let us have conscription such provisions for stimulating recruiting would be unnecessary.
I want to say a word about the Cardwell system and recruiting. It was a matter of astonishment to me that during the two days' Debate on the Defence proposals, not a single speaker mentioned the shortage of man power for these new schemes. We talked about machinery but nobody mentioned the problem of getting the men to work the machines. Surely that is important. We may not have another chance as in 1914, when another Power stepped in and gave us 18 months in which to prepare a brand new army. We shall have to supply an army at once in order to save bloodshed and end the war more quickly. I was rather disappointed to see in the White Paper that the Cardwell system is to be continued, for the four new battalions proposed are merely to balance out the number of battalions abroad and the number of battalions at home. The system was produced 66 years ago, in 1870, in order to provide drafts for battalions abroad. I believe that there are 45 battalions in India and 20 in coaling stations abroad. We have to keep 65 at home, each home battalion being linked up with one abroad. But the disadvantage of this is that we get no reserve for our home army. If you 2388 are going to have seven years with the Colours and five in reserve you do not get sufficient numbers in the reserve to build up a proper expeditionary force which you may want on mobilisation. I do not agree that it is right to keep battalions at home fully mobilised. Units must be completed with reservists before being sent abroad.
I should like to ask whether it has been considered possible to do away with the Cardwell system, or, if not, to modify it. The late Sir Charles Dilke proposed that we should have a long-service army in India and at home have two years with the Colours, the men then going to reserve for 10 years, or having an opportunity of volunteering for eight or 10 years in India, at the end receiving a pension for life. I do not know whether such a system is possible. No doubt specialists and experts would find a lot of difficulties, but it would enable us to save money and at the same time build up a reserve of trained men in this country, which is what we want. The figures of recruiting at present are really very alarming. I think it is a question whether you would not attract more recruits if you took them at an earlier age. It is done in New Zealand and in Russia. There is no doubt that a deterrent to recruiting is the fear that the Army is merely a blind-alley occupation and that a man does not get a chance when re-entering civil employment. Vocational training has done a great deal to help, but it is only a small proportion of men in the Regular Army who get this vocational training. If we were to take men for the Army from 16 to 18 years of age or from 17 to 19 years of age, I think they would stand a better chance when they return to civil employment than those who now retire at 23 years of age.
These are some of the points I want to make, and I would suggest in all humility that if politicians on all sides were to talk a little less about collective security and more about the defence of our own Empire we should get more recruits. Speaking for myself, I do not intend to go abroad and die for collective security, but I am perfectly ready to fight for the vital interests of our own country. A plain man like myself is more attracted by the idea of defending our Empire than of defending any abstract idea.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. SORENSEN
I have no desire to disturb the pleasant atmosphere in which this matter of life and death, mostly death, has been discussed, and it is gratifying, particularly to hon. Members opposite, to find that there is apparently so much unanimity between the two sides of the House. I am sure that the party on these benches, just, as much as the party opposite, recognises the need of national defence, but at the same time it should be understood that, there is some difference of opinion inside the Labour party as to what precisely is the best form of national defence. We all admit that it is a duty resting upon any member of any community to preserve the community with its qualities and characteristics. The community called Britain has undoubtedly certain qualities which are not possessed by any other community in the same way throughout the world, and it is our duty, our communal responsibility, to preserve the qualities which are peculiar to our own land. That is why I rather disagree in some measure with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) when he says that war settles nothing. I am certain that war has settled a good many things in the past, and if war takes place in the future, as many obviously anticipate, in the near future or in the far future, I am certain that it will settle something. It will not settle any moral principles; wars do not necessarily settle any moral principles; but it will settle something. If I were to emulate a previous Member of this House, take up the Mace and brain the Prime Minister I should settle something, I should settle the proceedings for the day.
Violence has settled a great deal in the past and the employment of organised violence is likely to settle a great deal in the future. I would agree, too, that a virile people must defend itself and that there are certainly worse things than war. Degeneration is certainly worse than war, and if there develops in this country an evasion of responsibility for military, naval and aerial defence merely because of a diminution of consciousness, then this country will be much poorer than if it were prepared to the teeth to take part in some future war.
I can understand, therefore, the passionate earnestness of supporters of the Government when any question of war 2390 is to be debated. I was very much impressed by the serried ranks of Conservative Members and their few allies during the Debate on the defence White Paper. One could feel that there was a note of complete and almost vehement sincerity, a brooding atmosphere of solemnity which no one could mistake. One felt that this afternoon. When hon. Members opposite discuss questions of war, defence, the Army, Navy and Air Force, they really feel that they are discussing something that is near to their hearts, something of supreme importance to which they must devote their highest attention and their most earnest consideration.
As I listened to the discussion to-day I could not help feeling that perhaps the Secretary of State for War and others who have supported him have not gone far enough. It is quite obvious, if we are to assume that the Army must be fully prepared for all contingencies, that we must anticipate that principle which has in some measure been rejected this afternoon—the principle of a conscript Army. Personally I think that it would be undesirable to have a conscript Army under any Government other than a Labour Government. To be logical my hon. Friends who support military defence are involved in the principle that if it is fair to have military defence it is fairer to spread the responsibility over the whole adult population than to rely on what hon. Members must admit is the mean subterfuge of hunger in order to drive men into the Army.
If we are to relieve the economic burdens that rest on the working class we shall face an even lower measure of recruitment than that which prevails at the present time. If we are going to take away that powerful stimulus we must be thrust back on the principle of collective responsibility. Still further I want the House to recognise that much should be done in order to encourage more men to join both the Regular and the Territorial Army, and one means by which we might attract a certain number who are not now attracted to the Army would be to announce that compulsory church parade would henceforth be abolished. I am sure that a large number would immediately rush to the recruiting office. We must recognise that to-day if you put it to the vote among recruits whether 2391 they should attend church parade or not, honestly not more than one would attend. On the other hand, it may be felt necessary by the Cabinet and the War Office that there should be a religious department of the War Office and that the chaplains are necessary to add to the efficiency of organised violence. Questions which I have addressed to the Secretary of State for War in the last few days lead me to believe that he contemplates increasing the religious department of the War Office precisely because it is adding to the efficiency of the War Office, just as the acquisition of more ingenious equipment does.
Third, we should recognise that if we are to take the effective measures which are implied in the solemn discussions which we have had to-day and during the week there must be no financial restrictions whatever. I was impressed by the remarks which fell from the lips of a political neighbour of mine, the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), when he said that when they have spent all that they can they will have spent much less than we need. He was saying that in respect of the alleged sum of £300,000,000 which we are to spend in the next few years on defence. That seems to me to be quite logical, and I rather expected that the Secretary of State or someone representing the War Office would assure us that all that was possible would be put at the disposal of the War Office so that there should be no stinting in the direction of making the Army as efficient, effective and, indeed, as defiant as it could be.
If, therefore, it be recognised that all must be for war before anything else, that we must concentrate on the military machine, devote to it our supreme attention, then I would suggest that the sooner we recognise that that indicates a deliberate organised retreat to the jungle the better. Indeed that is recognised. Glancing at to-day's paper I saw that a well known barbarous ecclesiastic, or, shall I say, a well known ecclesiastical barbarian, speaking in Madame Tussaud's a short time ago, declared that the British tiger should have a new set of teeth. Certainly the prospect of any tiger having a new set of dentures is curious, but mixed metaphors are more or less characteristic of ecclesiastics when 2392 they start to mix their religion with practical affairs. But obviously the intention of the gentleman was that we in this country must assume the role of the tiger, that the tiger's fang and the tiger's claw were far more effective in the world than the text and precepts of the Christian religion. I can understand his logic, and the sooner we recognise that it is logical the better.
We must appreciate this fact at the present time. We are still living, most of us, in an atmosphere very much akin to the odours and mists of the jungle. We are still able to believe, in spite of all our past experience, that war is the supreme game of life. It may be so. If it is so we are victims of our own spurious analysis, we are being hypnotised by our own illusions. We know that if war can settle who can knock who's brains out, it settles no moral question, it settles no social question, and, if pursued as it is being pursued to-day, will undoubtedly lead to the total and complete ruin of Europe as a whole. We have reached a stage now when this deliberate and solemn consideration of all the devilish paraphernalia of war has so hypnotised us that we cannot conceive of any other way of life than the way which must imply military, naval and aerial means, and as other States are doing that to-day, each one concentrating on developing this institution of destruction, the only possible consequence is bound to be the wiping out of Europe altogether before many years have passed by.
The right hon. Member for Epping said in the Debate on Tuesday that he was quite sure hon. Members would give their right arm if by that means we could secure peace. I beg to suggest very humbly that that is not true. I beg to suggest that if hon. Members were prepared to give their right arm or even less, their profit, it would be possible by such a sacrifice to face whatever took place if we relinquished the whole of our defensive forces forthwith. For the worst that could happen is the possibility of death and the loss of profits. Only if men and women in this country are prepared to face that possibility shall we be able to strike out at that evil institution which holds the world in its grip at the present time. There is no other way out than to shatter these false gods of militarism and Imperialism. The only 2393 way is to undermine the edifice on which is founded the logical consequence of predatory Imperialism.
I earnestly trust that all will be done in order to make those who are in the fighting services as comfortable as possible. They are human beings like ourselves, and I appreciate their sincerity and earnestness. I know that I am in no way superior to them. Therefore, we owe it to them, especially if they have been driven there by hunger, to see that they have not only some comfort for their bodies but stimulus for their minds. But we have to release them as well as ourselves from the position in which they are placed, the position of being ultimately the first victims to be sacrificed at the altar of this god of Moloch which rules the world to-day and against which only a few voices are raised. Though my voice be faint I would raise it in this emphatic and sincere assertion. Only in so far as we undermine the very foundation on which militarism is based shall we be able to release the world from the fear, suspicion and gathering hatred which threaten us at the present time.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Major P. S. SHAW
I rise with some diffidence as this is the first time I have had the privilege of speaking in this House. I would, therefore, ask the indulgence of the House if I overstep the bounds of order. The first point I would like to suggest is that we have always based our campaigns on the previous campaign. In the South African War we commenced very much in the same way as we had carried on in the Sudan.
In the last War we started as though we were fighting the South Africans, and this was all the more extraordinary in that our attaches, who had been watching events, had laid down that three things were absolutely necessary. First, there was the necessity to increase our firepower by machine guns. Secondly, there was the need for field fortifications. Thirdly, it was necessary that we should acquire guns of big calibre. For some reason or other, either because of lack of money or lack of foresight, we did not bother about these matters.
At the present time I think we must assume two things. The first is that next time we go to war—and I sincerely hope it will not be for many, many years—we 2394 shall have to expand, and that quickly. The second thing is that if we are going to expand, we must expand first of all from the Regular Army and then from the Territorial Army. I suggest that as we have them at present the establishments of the Territorial Army are not at all suited to the Cardwell system of expansion. If we are to expand, one thing is absolutely essential, and it is that there should be more instructors. The expansion will have to be rapid, for time will be a big factor, and we must remember that the next war will not be so static as was the last one. Consequently it will be necessary to have a very much higher standard of training. I remember that when I was at the Military College, Lord Roberts gave us a talk in which he prophesied two things, first, that the next war would be against Germany, and secondly, in a few remarks concerning the Territorial Army, in which he said that there was the finest body of men one could find anywhere, he claimed that the trouble would be to get them on the road. We all know that one prophecy came true, and I am not at all certain that if the last war had not been static we should not have found very much more difficulty in getting the men on the road.
I think we must devise a system of more intensive training. When I was in the Tank Corps we discovered that there was a shortage of instructors and we started a system of instructional classes. In the end the training of the Corps derived considerable benefit from the increase of the number of instructors. But it is not only a question of the training of the Territorial force. I suggest that the composition of the Territorial force ought to be somewhat changed. A mobile machine gun corps should be formed, the reasons for this being two. First of all, it would greatly and immediately add to the fire power of our regular forces when sent abroad. Secondly, the mobile machine gun corps would be able to appear with the tanks, either via the water or by men landing from the air, because concentration could be effected more quickly. I suggest that the Territorial Army should be run on more technical lines, and that the men in that army should have a training which will be of use to them in civil life.
There is one other question which I consider to be very serious at the present 2395 time. The Territorial Army is not equipped with modern weapons. This has a very depressing effect on the troops, and, moreover, if the troops are not equipped with modern weapons it is impossible to train them, for the tactics of any weapon are governed by its characteristics, and unless men can be trained with modern weapons they cannot be properly trained in the tactics of those weapons. I would also suggest that the armoured car units in the Territorial Army require much more attention. The time when those units will be used, and used most effectively, will be at the beginning of a campaign, and it is, therefore, essential that they should be armed with the necessary armoured cars of an up-to-date type, because it is a highly technical and very difficult matter to train these troops.
This brings me to another question concerning tanks. I was glad to hear the. Secretary of State say to-day that our tank units are to be increased. When I started my service I was a cavalry man, and I fully realise what a wrench it must be to those regiments to have to hand in their horses; but I also realised during the last War how hopeless was the task of the cavalry. I am perfectly convinced that the role of the cavalry is still as important to-day as it has been throughout the ages. What has really happened is that barbed wire and machine guns have done away with the horses, but the tactical rôle of the cavalry still remains, and the cavalry will still be wanted for reconnaissance, for sharp actions and for pursuit. Therefore, I think it is essential that we stop experimenting with tanks and armoured vehicles and get down to tactics. We should issue the weapons and get on with the job.
In conclusion, I would like to make one or two remarks about recruiting. I am certain that the Secretary of State has done more good for the recruiting of the Services to-day than has been done for a long time. The whole question is simply one of the feeling that "It is not done" to join the Army. We ought to counter this propaganda which has been going about, and we ought to devote the whole of our time to seeing that the right feeling is disseminated. I firmly believe that we are now living in a period in which we see the reactions 2396 of the Great War. We know that the reactionary period after the Napoleonic wars lasted for 30 years. I believe it is the job of this great Empire or ours to carry through this reactionary period and to see that the peace of the world is maintained. I believe it is a very much higher thing to do that than simply to sit down and say that one relies on peace, and peace alone.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. EDE
I am quite sure the House would desire me to express to the hon. and gallant Member for Wavertree (Major Shaw) our congratulations upon the speech which he has just delivered. He spoke with a great wealth of knowledge on the subjects with which he dealt, and I am sure that when he approaches the House in that spirit we shall always be glad to hear him. I may say that I entirely agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in the earlier part of his remarks. I joined the old volunteers in 1899, and in those days we had a wonderful movement which was called, "Prepare to receive cavalry." As we were marching round the drill hall, the captain gave that command. We then formed a company, right or left as the case might be. The next order was, "In the flanks." We fixed bayonets, the front rank knelt, the rear rank stood, and then we did some mimic volley firing. I recall that in the 1900 camp, when we were somewhere near Emperor's Hill at Aldershot, one of the staff officers rode up as we were going through and said, "That has all been wiped out; we have found that is not the way to win the resent war." From 1900 to 1914 we trained the army to win the Boer War in less time than it took us. I am not at all sure, especially after listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) the other afternoon, when he told us of all the things they wanted at the beginning of the war and had not got, that we are not engaged in the interesting intellectual pastime of winning the Great War in less time than it took.
I am sure that the next war when it comes—and I regret to find that this afternoon, as on Tuesday, what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) called doom-like inevitability, is in the atmosphere—will be won, 2397 as all wars are won, by the surprise which some officer of genius is able to bring. Consequently, I am not interested in some of the things that are said in dm White Paper and that are fundamental to the discussion this afternoon. I do not think that of necessity we shall get the best advice by having the highest ranks in the advisory parts of the army filled by people who have all come from one college. I am sure that the man who will win the next war will be a person who will not have borrowed his ideas from the old generation, apart from finding his way through them and round them. To employ for preparations for the next war somebody who possesses the imprimatur of those who took a long time to win the last one is not of necessity the best way to deal with the matter.
I was also surprised this afternoon to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he wanted the contented soldier, and, waxing very poetical, the happy warrior. I recall a day in July of 1918 when the officer then commanding me asked me what was the spirit of the troops. I conveyed to him as boldly as I could that they were grumbling about everything, about himself and myself and everybody else, and he remarked to me: "Do you not know, Sergeant-Major, that the more they grumble the better they are as troops." I replied: "Well, I think we have the best regiment since the battle of Hastings." I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman if he looks back in history will find a time when the British soldier ever was contented. It is not in his nature to express content, but let somebody from another regiment suggest that his regiment is not all that it ought to be, and there will be the most lurid remarks—which could not be mentioned in this House but might be privately communicated behind the Speaker's Chair—as to the reasons for thinking that the very misery of his regiment makes it a better one than any other.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do something to remove the uneasiness that some of us feel at the calm assumption that was made on Tuesday by the right hon. Member for Epping, and has been made again this afternoon, that all these preparations are aimed at one nation, and one nation only. It may be necessary to prepare for war against a particular nation, but I cannot help think- 2398 ing that what the right hon. Gentleman said to-day in giving the instance of the Low Countries and Northern France was the thing that was obviously uppermost in his mind, and it ought to reassure the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) and give him no cause for misgiving. I do not understand the references of the Secretary of State for War to collective security. I can find nowhere in this Debate or in the debate that we had on Monday or Tuesday any indication that we know what our liabilities are under collective security. It seems to be the logic of the remarks that we heard from the right hon. Gentleman that we are so much in favour of collective security that we intend to arm ourselves to enforce it. The words "enforce collective security" are to be found in the White Paper, paragraph 10. I cannot understand what the enforcement of collective security means. I could understand granting or accepting collective security, but to "enforce" it is a word that seems to be entirely out of place. It is like the case of the famous head master who announced the text:Blessed are the pure in heart.and then said "Boys, be pure in heart, because if you are not I will flog you till you are." Can it be suggested that we are going to enforce collective security on people? I gather that what the Government mean is that they are so much in favour of collective security that they will arm themselves until they will be independent of it, so that if collective security is demanded for other people they will be able to afford it whether other people come in or not. It seems to me that there must be a contemplation that other people will do the same. Everybody then will have so armed themselves to enforce collective security that nobody will feel secure and the thing will have disappeared.
Let us look at the position in which we are in this House compared with the position of a certain Balkan State where last November the Speaker of the House desiring to rule a Member out of order took aim at him with a revolver. It was not Holles who rushed to the Speaker of this House and held him in the Chair, but a large number of Members from all parts of the House who sought to deprive him of his weapon. Ever since the Speaker of the House has been provided 2399 with a guard, whether to guard Mr. Speaker or in order that he should guard Members is not quite clear. We all know that the rulings of the Speaker on matters of Order are accurate, and if they are aimed at a particular Member they are not merely accepted by that Member but by the other Members of the House; but if to enforce a ruling the Speaker were to take aim with some missile weapon, great as the respect of hon. Members would be for him, they would be edging away for they would probably feel that, capable as you the Speaker might be in merely directing words at a Member, they would not like to take their chance that he would necessarily hit the man at whom he aimed the bullet.
§ Mr. EDE
He does not enforce collective security. He enforces the order of the Chair. If we expect to get peace from arms we are bound to be disappointed. There is nothing in the history of the world that can make us think that we are going to get the peace that we all desire merely by building up armaments, but we have to deal with the world in which we live, and in this world it, is necessary that there should be an armed force under the control of somebody that could speak with authority for the collective conscience of the world. I do not believe that these national armaments are going to get us near to that.
There is one point mentioned in the Memorandum circulated by the right hon. Gentleman in connection with the Estimates to, which I would call attention, and that is the question of Army discipline. I do not think that sufficient attention has been given to a real analysis of the kind of material that we shall have in any Army that we may have to put into the field in the future. The Army that we had in the late War consisted, 2400 at the end, of four elements. First, there were the men who were time-serving soldiers when the war broke out, the professional army, who had a standard of discipline that was the finest in the world of its type. Secondly, we had the Territorials, men who had given up for years their Saturdays and their holidays to equip themselves for the task that they had undertaken, men who were drawn into the Army and whose relationship with their unit was quite a different one from that of the regular Army. Then we had the men of Kitchener's Army, who came in at the beginning of the War with a very different spirit from either of the other two. Lastly, we had the men who were brought in under the Derby scheme and the various conscription schemes.
I well recollect that a staff officer, at the beginning of 1916, came to the unit with which I was connected and complained that there was not enough crime, that the sheets did not show a sufficient amount of crime and that therefore discipline must be bad. He was probably an officer of the old regular Army and was trying to judge the men who had come into the Army with a far different spirit and from far different causes than the regular soldiers. He was judging them by the standard of the men he had known. What he regarded as crime it was very difficult to understand. I recollect a serious consultation as to what one ought to do with a young sprig from the university who had jumped on to an adjutant's motor bicycle and ridden it round a French village. I could not imagine any regular soldier doing such a thing. It was difficult to find what crime could be alleged against him for doing what he did, but everybody agreed that it must be regarded as subversive of military discipline. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and those who have to deal with this matter will see that the Army Council and those responsible have some concern in that respect with regard to any expeditionary force that we may have to send out. I hope that we shall learn something from the lessons of the past.
The Prime Minister was right when he said that people are very wrong who think that because we love peace we should hesitate if the necessity arose. I am sure that in any future war in which we may be engaged with allies this coun- 2401 try will play its historical role and that it will be the unwavering determination of the British rank and file not to be beaten that will see us through any great cause to which we are attached. I believe that the last War was won in March and April of 1918 when the British rank and file, who ought to have been down and out by all the rules of the game, refused to be beaten and carried on, with the discipline that they had gained in peace, with the fabric of the Army until it could be re-established. I believe that in future the cause of freedom will win if we depend upon that spirit, and I hope that those who are responsible in high command for fashioning the Army that we have to rely upon will not forget the spirit with which they have to deal. The Army is something more than a collection of men. Its value depends upon the spirit of the men and their determination that they will not be beaten.
Allusion has been made this afternoon to the expense incurred at the School of Equitation at Weedon. At a meeting of the Estimates Committee yesterday we considered the question of that school and various other schools of the Army and I said to the Estimates Committee that it is still thought that no man can be an officer until he has learned to wear spurs. I hope that that is not really the feeling of the Army Council and that some of the things said by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme will sink in, and that probably crossed spanners may be regarded as a more effective decoration for a man's arm in these days than crossed swords. We have passed the time when we can expect to find salvation by continuing old methods. I wish to express my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman not merely for the fact that he has introduced these Estimates in so lucid and careful a manner, but for the fact that he has sat through the Debate since and listened to the remarks of Members of all parties with regard to them. I think that in these days, when we do not often get such courtesy, the House of Commons ought to express its thanks to the Minister both for having opened this subject to us in a manner which we can all understand and for remaining to hear the views of other hon. Members upon it.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Major Sir RALPH GLYN
I congratulate the Secretary of State for War on his speech in introducing these Estimates. I am sure that the House has never had a more satisfactory statement on the Army since the days when Lord Haldane introduce his great scheme. There is one subject of great importance which it would be impossible, I fear, to raise on any of the Votes and to which I wish to refer. It is the question of why the War Office should have to present to Parliament an estimate for such an enormous sum by way of non-effective charges. This year it amounts to £8,500,000. In the course of this interesting Debate little has been said about the high command or the officers of the Army. Those who served during the War will remember that there were many instances of estimable persons, of a somewhat advanced age, being put in charge of commands, although, through no fault of their's, they had never had the chance of exercising troops in any large number.
I venture to suggest that the Secretary of State should consider some way of dealing with the pensions system in the Army so as to remove it from this Vote. I submit that he ought to get from the Treasury power to pay officers, up to field rank, at a higher rate and to eliminate pensions altogether. At present, there are officers who would, themselves, say that they are "just hanging on for their pensions." They have lost their energy and their interest. It is inevitable that, in some cases, officers will get stale because they are engaged in the same task year in and year out. When they reach a certain age and find that promotion is still far off they are bound to lose interest. If the essence of modern war is speed, you ought not to have a commander in the field over 52 or 55 years of age, because, above that age, a man's brain cannot work quickly enough to deal with modern conditions. I suggest too that brigadiers should seldom be over 47 years of age. We have to bring our minds back to the days when the British Army was commanded by people like Wolfe and by Wellington when he was a young man. They were active-minded, able to follow events quickly, and the men had confidence in them.
Furthermore, if you pay your officers better and eliminate pensions, you will 2403 make promotion from the ranks easier. An enormous number of very capable men are serving in the ranks who could not afford to take the ordinary Army pay as commissioned officers while looking forward to pensions but who could rise from rank to rank if the pay was on a higher scale. Again, it confuses the mind of the public to read that the Army is spending, as in this case, £48,000,000. The public naturally presume that that is being spent on war materials and on the actual work of the Army whereas £8,000,000 of it is going in pensions, children allowances and things of that sort which are quite apart from the ordinary services of the Army. I do not think that any other country associates its pensions scheme with its Army Estimates. In order to draw a true picture the Estimates ought to contain of course the pay of the Army and also half-pay but not these other sums.
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman could do something in this way which would help younger men to attain high command a little quicker than they do now. If we are to make effective use of the expensive machinery with which we are about to equip the Army, we ought to take some step in that direction. Old brains are unable to grasp new problems. One remembers in. the last War the man-power that was wasted in unnecessary raids and the tests which were supposed to keep up the moral of the Army and the general officers who seemed to pay more attention to being properly saluted than to the question of whether their men were happy and contented or not. I do not blame those officers. They had lived in a time when that sort of thing mattered and they were suddenly placed in a situation and faced with conditions which they were unable to grasp. Our Army may be small, but I agree with the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that we have the best rank and file in the world. If you are going to spend money on the Army it is worth while spending sufficient, in each grade from subaltern to lieutenant-colonel, to make the pay comparable to that in other professions and if a man is not going to be a success in the Army, let him leave the Service while there is time for him to do something else. Do not let him remain in 2404 the Army under the hypnotic influence of a pension at some future time, when he is doing no good for himself and probably very little good for the Army.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. COOPER
It will probably be convenient if I reply at this stage to some of the points which have been raised during the Debate. It has been an interesting Debate and I think there has been, underlying it, a measure of agreement among all parties in the House. The criticisms and suggestions made have all been useful and instructive. I propose shortly to reply to some of the questions put to me. Many of the speeches did not ask questions and therefore do not call for any reply, although they expressed views which were well worth hearing. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) expressed disappointment that I had not stated more specifically the causes of the increase of £6,000,000 in these Estimates. It is mainly due to four causes—first, preparations for the emergency; second, increase in warlike stores; third, the restoration of the cuts which was not allowed for in last year's Estimates, and, fourth, the considerably larger provision for the Territorial Army, the reasons for which I have already explained.
Several Members touched on the White Paper and the policy there outlined. I made no reference to anything contained in the White Paper because, strictly speaking, we are dealing only with these Estimates, and they were drawn up quite apart from the White Paper and have no, relation to it. The hon. and gallant Member for Tonbridge (Lieut.-Colonel Spender-Clay) asked me about the four new battalions. There is no provision in these Estimates for them, and therefore I do not propose to deal with that subject and indeed I would hardly be in order in doing so. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street also raised the question of Weedon and the general question of the amount which is still being spent on the maintenance of horses in the Army. Other hon. Members, including the hon. and gallant Member for Tonbridge and the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), also mentioned that question. We are at present in a period of transition. The hon. and gallant Member for Wavertree (Major Shaw) in a very successful 2405 maiden speech was perhaps the only Member who had a good word to say for the horse as being still of some use in a military force. I was rather glad that the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) was not in his place, or he would not have allowed the hon. and gallant Member's statement to pass. I think this is the first time for some years that we have missed an oration on this occasion from the hon. Member for Leigh against the horse, and I can only conclude that we have not had it on this occasion because he feels that the battle has been won and his adversary destroyed.
Transference from the one system to the other must be a gradual process, and it is natural that expenditure upon a system which is gradually being abandoned should appear, at first sight, to be both large and unnecessary. But as I say we cannot change over in the twinkling of an eye. The change has to he made slowly, and when a large establishment like Weedon is gradually being reduced, the expense appears to be greater, in proportion to the work that is being done, than it was before. When we were turning out a large number of highly trained officers from the equitation school, it seemed more reasonable that we should be spending a considerable sum upon it, than that we should be spending a much lesser sum now, when we are turning out only a small number of officers. The overhead charges and the upkeep, however, remain the same although the establishment is being greatly reduced. That is one of the reasons why the figure appears so large at the present time. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street also asked about remounts. We have recently set up a committee at the War Office under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to go into the whole question and to see whether that expenditure cannot be reduced. It is possible that we shall be able to consider the future of Weedon at the same time.
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street and others notably the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) asked questions which, if I were to answer them fully, would take me into realms where I have no business to stray—into the realms of foreign affairs. I was asked 2406 how far the action which was taken in the special emergency in the Mediterranean this year had been planned with other nations and how far collective security was working on a collective basis. The expenditure was entirely due to the foreign policy which we were following, the policy of sanctions but the immediate cause of it was the threat which we ourselves incurred in following out that policy and therefore there was no consultation or talks with other nations who were acting with us. I think it was the hon. Member for South Shields who asked how the collective security system was working. I am pointing out that in this particular emergency we did not take action in consultation with other powers. We took action because we were threatened, owing to the policy of sanctions which was being followed.
The hon. Gentleman will, no doubt, remember that when we with other nations imposed sanctions upon Italy, we got the whole of the blame. Attacks appeared on us in the Italian Press which, unlike our Press, is the mouthpiece to a large extent of the Government. These attacks included threats of what they were going to do and how they would attack our possessions in the Mediterranean and certain countries for whose external defence we are responsible. Therefore it was our obvious duty, in support of the policy of sanctions and collective security, to take measures to defend ourselves against such attacks. We did not consult with other Powers and there were obviously no reasons why we should have done so. I can assure the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme that there is no secrecy and nothing to conceal. We are not making any secret military plans with other Powers in the League of Nations, and the reason is that we, unlike the hon. Member for South Shields, are not preparing to fight any particular nation. It may be that one nation seems to be preparing to fight and is a greater menace than another, but at present we have not entered, and it is not our policy to enter, into any military conversations, because we still assume that all nations will behave in a civilised manner. When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman asks me, "Are we prepared to be attacked without any warning?" I say, "No, we are not, and we do not intend 2407 to be." We still believe, and we hope to be able to continue to believe, that civilised nations will behave in a civilised manner. A man cannot go about prepared against assassination. We must carry on our normal lives, assuming that murder will not take place. If we go about in coats of mail, with pistols in our pockets, prepared to defend ourselves to the death, then indeed we have gone back to the jungle. We have not yet reached that stage, and I hope we never shall.
The hon. and gallant Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) asked me about the lack of strength in our anti-aircraft defences. This is a new development, and we hope recruiting will improve considerably in the near future. I did not quite understand his plea for full dress. He reminded me that I had the honour at one time to serve in the same regiment as himself. He said the lack of full dress discouraged recruiting, and that in Nottingham, whence recruits for this regiment were largely drawn, recruiting had recently fallen off but he seemed to forget that the regiment in question still had full dress and was still wearing it. I am therefore unable to follow the logic of his argument.
The hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) and the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) both suggested to me that it was time to inquire at any rate into the Cardwell system, if not to revise it or abandon it. I have not been in my present position at the War Office for very long, but I am prepared to consider the possibility that that system, which has been in existence for so long, might well be inquired into at the present time. I think there was an investigation very shortly after the War, and I am not sure that that inquiry was not made by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), but I will certainly look into the matter and see whether the time has come for a further inquiry.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe also suggested that younger recruits would be a good thing, but I am afraid that that is not a suggestion which is likely to prove very helpful. We take boys of 18 now, and very often, as I know from the many 2408 passionate appeals for their release that come before us, even that age is not satisfactory to many people. Even at 18 it is impossible on medical grounds to send them abroad, because they are not strong enough to stand the climate. Younger recruits therefore, even from that point of view, would be impracticable, and I think at the present time that 18 is young enough.
The hon. Member for South Shields appeared to be under the impression that all the heads of the War Office came from the same college. I think he was thinking of the additional members of the Joint Planning Committee who are to pass through the Imperial Defence College. I am not sure be quite realises what that college is. It is actually a course of one year which officers from all three Services, and from the Civil Service too, take. I do not think he need be afraid that the fact that they pass through the extra course intended to broaden their minds, to insure that they shall not look at questions from the merely Army, Navy, Air Force or even Civil Service point of view, and to let them see the whole picture—I do not think he need fear that that will tend to stereotype them or produce men of only one type.
The hon. Member also, I think, before he finished his comparison with your contemporary, Mr. Speaker, in the Hungarian or Rumanian House of Commons, saw that he was really on the wrong track. He said that the Hungarian Speaker must have resorted to a revolver. No such thing could be imagined in this House, because we are so accustomed to the system of collective security in which we all live that violence very rarely occurs. But there have been unfortunate incidents when force has had to be used, and that force does lie behind Mr. Speaker's words, although none or very few of us—I hope none of us here at present—have ever gone so far as to render the application of that force necessary. But then is the force there, just as there will be in the future, when collective security is what we all hope it will be and when force will never need to be applied, because once the League of Nations says it must be so, so great will be the strength behind that word that it would be folly and waste of time and energy to defy the force that could 2409 be brought to implement it. I think I have answered all the questions of which I have taken note. I should like to thank hon. Members in all parts of the House for the interest and the constructive part which they have taken in the Debate, and I hope that, they will now agree that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, should leave the Chair.
§ Mr. SMEDLEY CROOKE
May I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State a question? My right hon. Friend may remember that last autumn I submitted a scheme to him for raising and establishing a defence force. He was kind enough to give this matter his consideration, and in time he wrote to me, after getting advice from his officers, and said that at the time there was no necessity for forming a defence force. In view of what has happened quite recently, I want to ask him if he will do me the honour of reconsidering that scheme. I have re-submitted it to him, but my right hon. Friend has not had time to look at it. Will he do me the favour of looking at this scheme once more, in view of what has happened in the last few days, to see if he does not really consider that a defence force of that kind would be very helpful and indeed necessary just now?
§ Mr. COOPER
I shall be very glad to look at it again. As a matter of fact, the subject with which my hon. Friend was dealing has been under very recent consideration at the War Office, and we hope to reach a decision very soon. I am sorry not to be able to make an announcement on the subject to-day, as a decision has not yet been reached.