§ Mr. DUFF COOPER'S STATEMENT.
§ Order for Committee read.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Duff Cooper)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
The House may recollect that when I introduced the Estimates a year ago, in referring to the dispute between Italy and Abyssinia which had recently been occupying the minds of most people in this country, particularly those who were responsible for the Defence Services, I pointed out to the House how extremely fortunate it was that no similar emergency had occurred at the same time in any other part of the Empire or the world. I said that if such an emergency had occurred, if it had coincided, it would have taxed our military resources to breaking point. The House is aware that there have been two such emergencies within the last 12 months, and it was as fortuitous as it was fortunate that the emergency in Palestine arose a few months after the Italo-Abyssinian dispute had, so far as this country is concerned, been liquidated. Had there been any emergency then, the forecast of the possibilities would certainly have become a fact and our military resources would have been taxed to breaking point.
In this connection it may interest hon. Members to be reminded of the claims that are made upon our Army even in comparatively uneventful years, or years which we consider peaceful years, such as the last 12 years that have elapsed. The incidents of which I shall remind hon. Members are quite apart from the duty the Army has to perform at all times, of maintaining order throughout our vast Empire, and apart also from those too frequent occurrences on the North-West Frontier of India, which have twice in that period caused serious anxiety and considerable casualties to the Army. That area even now is in a condition that is by no means entirely reassuring.
Let me go back for 12 years. In 1925 we were still maintaining a force of two brigades on the Rhine, and after that had 1888 been withdrawn a smaller force was retained in the Wiesbaden zone until the end of 1929. In 1927 there was the Shanghai crisis, which necessitated the dispatch to China of one brigade from India and three brigades from this country, and the calling up of the A Reserve. In 1929, when hon. Members opposite were in office, there was for the first time a situation in Palestine which necessitated an expedition of troops to that country. In 1930 there was a rebellion in Burma. In 1931 there was an outbreak in Cyprus. In 1932 there was once again trouble in Shanghai. All these incidents necessitated the dispatch of troops. In 1932 there was a moment when we had to send at very short notice a battalion to Iraq. That battalion was conveyed from Egypt to Iraq by air, and the mere presence of it prevented any incident. Then, in 1934, we sent out quite an important force to maintain order in the Saar, while the plebiscite was being carried out; and last year there were strained relations with Italy, which necessitated large reinforcements being sent to Egypt; and there was the situation in Palestine.
So during those comparatively peaceful years there were only two out of 12 in which no exceptional demands were made upon the British Army. We should be wrong to think that these crises are solely concerned with, or might solely have led to trouble with, an ill-armed and ill-equipped enemy. In one at least of them the enemy whom we were considering was one of the great Powers of Europe, fully equipped with every modern invention, and in more than one case there was an ever present danger of our forces being brought into conflict with one of the great Powers.
I mention these facts in order to impress on the House the ever present need of retaining in England a force of a certain size, which may be required when and where we cannot say, and against whom we cannot say, but, of course, sufficiently strong and sufficiently well equipped to be dispatched at a moment's notice to take on any adversary in any part of the world. It may be questioned, seeing how different are the obligations that our Army may be called upon to fulfil, whether it is wise to maintain only one Army for so many and such diverse purposes, whether the same force could possibly be equally well 1889 adapted to fight with tribesmen in the mountains of Asia and with a modern mechanised force on the plains of Europe. Of course that is a very pertinent and far-reaching inquiry, and it is impossible to reply in the affirmative that one force is equally well adapted to meet those two contingencies. We are limited by material considerations, in the amount of military equipment that we can maintain. Whether it would be possible to divide that equipment into two parts, one for Imperial service and another for short service at home and the possibility of taking part in a European war—if such a thing ever occurred, and should it be decided that we should take any part on land at all—that is an inquiry which, I can assure the House, is being closely considered by the War Office.
I will give the House two reasons why I think so great a revolution could not be undertaken at present. It would amount to nothing less than a revolution in our military establishment. It would mean the complete reform of it from top to bottom. The fact that it could not be undertaken does not prevent it being considered and possible provision being made for it should be examined.
But there are two reasons why at present, in my opinion, we could not contemplate so drastic a step. In the first place, we are engaged in making a tremendous change in the equipment of our Army. We are mechanising the Army throughout. We are applying to it in a very few years all the advance in mechanical and scientific invention that has taken place since the War. We are trying to produce in a very short time an Army as it would have been if during the last 15 years no expense had been spared upon it, and if we had been equipping it with modern equipment instead of cutting it down the whole of that time. We are doing in two or three years the work of 15 years and, if you were to superimpose on that tremendous burden the reconstruction of the whole principle on which the work is based, the load would be too heavy for those who are endeavouring to the best of their ability to carry it out.
There is one other reason why the present moment would not be an auspicious one to introduce such a 1890 change. The system upon which our Army works necessitates probably the greater part of it at most times being out of this country—an Army for foreign service. The greater part of the Army out of this country is always in India. Any such change could only be carried out with the close co-operation, assistance and good will of the Indian Government. The Indian Government at this moment is entering upon the first stages of a great constitutional experiment, and to ask them now to consider and to set in motion a vast change of their defence system would hardly be fair to a country which has so much with which to occupy her mind at present.
I say we are sufficiently engaged in the great process of mechanising the Army and, as there are always people in the House, and certainly many in the country, who are apt to doubt whether the mechanisation which they deplore is as necessary as it appears and is not being carried too far, I should like to say one or two words upon the steps that have been taken and the reasons for them. The first consideration that I should like to lay particular stress upon, because it sometimes escapes notice, is that the draught horse is gradually disappearing from use in this country and elsewhere. The Army could only rely for its supply on what is in circulation for other purposes to such a large extent that in an emergency we can always draw upon other resources. For the same reason, in our mechanical vehicles for transport and other purposes in the Army we endeavour, as far as possible, to avoid making use or inventing any particular vehicle which would be solely of use for military purposes, because we realise that we are bound to rely for reserves upon commercial vehicles, and we keep our vehicles in touch with the commercial world so that there shall not be any great shortage. Therefore, as the draught horse is gradually disappearing, it is not for us a question of choice as to whether we should mechanise but a question of absolute necessity, because we cannot any longer rely upon a reserve supply of draught, horses. Many people, naturally, regret it and they are inclined to ask whether we are not going too far. Can anyone really believe that mechanisation is being pushed forward too rapidly?
1891 The latest example that we have of modern warfare, the war in Abyssinia, was not one from which very many military lessons could be drawn, because the circumstances were so exceptional. It was certainly a war in which there seemed to be less opportunity for motor transport than almost any war in history. The difficulty of conveying mechanical vehicles over the mountainous part of that country, and the complete absence of roads, might have produced, if any war could produce, a demand for more primitive forms of traction. But, although the vehicles used by the Italian Army were not always successful, and if beasts of burden were occasionally employed, such as donkeys, mules and camels, none the less the success of that campaign, which depended more than any campaign ever could have to depend upon speed for its success—for it was essential from the Italian point of view to bring it to a close before the return of the rainy season—depended upon the mechanical transport that was at the command of the Italian Army. To take a single instance, the capture of Gondar, a very important centre. A motor column of 5,000 men and 500 motor lorries, after having covered 150 miles in Italian controlled territory, entered enemy territory and covered 220 miles in 12 days, a feat which would have been quite impossible if they had not been equipped with motor transport. Therefore, I can confidently say that such progress as we are making—and our progress is as rapid as possible—in mechanising our Army is not open to criticism. All that we have to make sure of is that we keep up in pace with similar developments that are taking place in other countries.
There is one change which hon. Members may be interested to hear about in the construction of the mobile division, which is taking place this year. I informed the House last year that the mobile division was to consist of the Tank Brigade and two brigades of mechanised cavalry, and I explained at the time that the mechanised cavalry brigade would be formed of one regiment of light tanks and two cavalry portee regiments. The portee regiment is practically the same thing as a regiment of infantry with rapid means of locomotion. In order to give a mobile brigade the necessary punch and protection that cavalry has always 1892 demanded in the past, and will in the future, it has been decided to alter the construction of that brigade and make it consist of two light tank regiments and one infantry rifle regiment, fully mechanised.
§ Mr. Cooper
The rifle regiments will be provided with light armoured scouting vehicles equipped with wireless and anti-tank equipment and the bulk of the personnel will be carried in wheeled trucks. They will be attached in turn to the mobile division in order that they may learn what their duties are with the mobile division. They will be entirely infantry regiments and form part of the regular Infantry Army. It has also been decided that in future each infantry division shall have one mechanised cavalry regiment as part of the division and that the three brigades that form a division shall not consist of three rifle battalions and one machine gun battalion but of three rifle-battalions only and that each division shall have two machine gun battalions and each corps shall have one machine gun battalion. That will reduce the size of the brigade and slightly reduce the size of the division and it will cause fewer rifle regiments to be transformed into machine gun battalions. There will be two fewer machine gun battalions and those two battalions, which would otherwise have been turned into machine gun battalions, will now remain rifle battalions and will be two battalions of the Brigade of Guards. One armoured car regiment will be maintained as part of the mobile division and one will be kept in Egypt. A new type of armoured car has been evolved and units will be equipped with it in the present year.
§ Mr. Cooper
One. A new design of machine gun carrier has passed its field trials and is now in production. The chassis of the new type of light dragon can be used for the armoured machine gun carrier. Some are already in the service. The same chassis is also being used for several other machines filling various tactical roles. The latest design of medium dragons using a heavy oil motor-bus engine has been very successful and the Service is now fully equipped with medium dragons. So far as 1893 tanks are concerned, we are very satisfied with our new light tanks. We believe them to be as good if not better than any other light tank in existence. The position with regard to medium and heavy tanks is not so satisfactory, but progress is rapidly being made and difficulties are being overcome. So far as we are aware, other countries are meeting with similar difficulties in this particular development of the medium and heavy tank, but we understand no country at present is very satisfied with such machines as they have been able to produce.
§ Mr. Cooper
No. The final design will be considered in the coming months and I hope then that a satisfactory decision will be arrived at.
§ Mr. Cooper
I cannot give the exact number but the supply is satisfactory. They are being turned out with increasing rapidity. Eight Army field brigades have already been mechanised and the mechanisation of the Divisional Artillery is proceeding. This will leave on a horse basis at home only one Royal Horse Artillery Brigade and the independent Royal Horse Artillery battery at St. John's Wood. The transport of the Royal Engineer Field Companies at home and in Egypt has been placed on a mechanised basis as have all signal units of the Regular Army.
The Army Council have appointed in the last year a new member, a Director-General of Munitions Production. I am sure that the House will welcome the spirit of co-operation and co-ordination which has decided the selection for this post of a member of the senior Service, Engineer Vice-Admiral Sir Harold Brown. He is the first member of the senior Service to be a member of the Army Council, and the Department has, during the six months that he has taken it over, done an enormous amount of extremely profitable work in the way of production. I will not go into the details of all that has been done. The Minister of Labour has on another occasion given the House some account of the various factories that have been set up in the distressed areas. Other factories have 1894 also been set up in other parts of the country, but it would not be desirable, for obvious reasons, to give a complete list of all factories and describe their situation and the various activities in which they are engaged.
I may say that the Director-General remains in very close touch with both the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health, and he does not set up a new factory without consulting them as far as possible on every occasion, placing the new factory, if possible, in the distressed areas. Some indication of the kind of work which he has undertaken and accomplished during the past six months and hopes to accomplish during the coming year may be gathered by a glance at Vote 9C, which has risen from £5,000,000 in 1935 to £9,000,000 in 1936, and which, it is estimated, will rise to £25,000,000 in 1937. Owing to the low level of armaments expenditure during recent years the extensive capacity for manufacturing munitions in this country at the end of the War had almost entirely disappeared owing to lack of orders, and it has been the duty of the Director-General and those working under him to recreate the whole of that industry almost from the beginning.
With regard to the question of profit of manufacturers, which, I know, occupies the minds of hon. Members considerably, and which was referred to more than once in the Debate last night, I can say that we have found that there is little if any desire on the part of manufacturers unduly to exploit the needs of the War Office. In nearly every case they have been willing to accept a costing Clause in their contract, which enables our inspectors to inspect their books, and they have been willing in most cases to agree to a reasonable rate of profit being laid down by the Secretary of State after their books have been inspected. I think really from the experience we have had during the last 18 months, that great credit is due to the majority of manufacturers in this respect.
Many improvements have been made in warlike stores of all kinds, and I should like to express my gratitude in this connection for the valuable help which has been freely given to us by scientists both in the Universities and the research departments of outside organisations. They have put a great deal of work and time at our disposal without any re- 1895 muneration whatever. I think that I have said enough to show that we are definitely making considerable progress in the great task of re-equipping the whole of our Army in a short time. The rate of progress will increase as progress itself increases, and in a year or two we may, and I hope we shall, be in sight of the culmination of this great task which we have undertaken.
I will leave the mechanised side of the Army and turn to the even more important human side of the Army—the question of the men behind the machines as opposed to that of the machines themselves. I will deal first with the Territorial Army. The House will remember that last year I was able to announce a great many concessions which we have decided to make in favour of the Territorial Army during the last 12 months, and it was in the hope of increasing recruitment and encouraging people to join that Army that those concessions were made. I am glad to say that the result has been extremely satisfactory. Recruiting during the whole of that period has improved, and it is still improving. In the month of January of this year the figure was 150 per cent. better than in the month of January of the year before, and taking the year to date the improvement is over 84 per cent. The result is that at the end of last month, although a great many men for various reasons left the Territorial Army during the period in question, it was stronger by 15,295 men and 861 officers than it was a year ago.
Unfortunately, however, while we have been increasing our numbers we have been compelled to increase our establishments due to the creation of an additional Anti-aircraft Division, and to the expansion of the Anti-aircraft Division already in existence. We have increased all establishments by 20,000. The House will easily calculate that, although we have increased our numbers by over 16,000, as we have increased our establishments by 20,000, we are further away from our establishment even than we were a year ago. On the face of it that is a little discouraging, but the House will realise the urgent necessity of setting up the anti-aircraft divisions, and will also realise, no doubt, the difficulty that the organisation of new divisions necessarily imposes upon those who have to provide 1896 for them. We have had to find in London and in the outskirts of London as many as 35 new headquarters. Headquarters, as hon. Members know, cover quite a considerable amount of land. They have to consist of a fairly large headquarters and a big drill-hall. The difficulty of finding such sites in London and the suburbs of London is excessive, and the result is that many of these new units are at present badly housed and crowded together, two or three having to make use of premises only designed for one. In more than one instance we have had to close down recruiting simply because there was no place for the men who were anxious to join, but we are going on rapidly with the acquisition of new premises in various parts of London, and the large amount of new premises which will be required in connection with the other division both in the Midlands and in the North.
While I am dealing with the question of the new anti-aircraft divisions, I should like to say a word on the matter that was discussed to some extent last night, and that is, the question whether the anti-aircraft ground defence should be rendered by men who are under the control of the War Office. The right hon. Gentleman opposite raised that point, which was replied to by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. It seemed to me that the case was rather given away this morning in a newspaper by overstatement. It stated that it seemed absurd to say that the men who fight an opposing air force in the air and the men who try to keep them off from the ground—the anti-aircraft men—and the people who look after the civil population, the Air Raids Precautions Department, should be under three different Ministries, one under the Air Ministry, one under the War Office, and one under the Home Office, but by mentioning the air raid wardens in charge of air raid precautions it seems to me the whole argument was shown in its essential weakness. It is very easy to say, why not let all people engaged on the same business be under the same control? That is only one way of putting the question. Surely, an equally convincing way is that all people in the same profession should be controlled by the same authority. Here are people in different professions. Here you have 1897 people who are members of the Air Force rightly under the control of the Air Force of the country. Here you have people who are soldiers and trained as artillery, and if the Territorial anti-aircraft divisions of London and the Midlands were handed over to the Air Ministry would those who support that policy say that we should hand over to them the regular anti-aircraft units, those who had chosen to serve with the field force and those now engaged in protecting garrisons abroad? These are ordinary regular soldiers, and it would leave confusion worse confounded if a large part of the Army—as that is what it would mean—were handed over for certain purposes to the control of the Air Ministry. Similarly the air raid wardens are engaged in antiaircraft precautions, their functions are obviously analogous to those of the police. They have nothing to do with military considerations whatever, and, therefore, obviously, it would simply lead to further confusion if they were handed over to the Air Ministry.
It is easy to say "Let the Air Ministry control all people concerned with air defence," but it is equally sensible to say "Let each Ministry control those whose duty naturally comes under the Ministry; let the Home Department control the civilians, the War Office the soldiers, and the Air Ministry the airmen." It is further suggested, even by those who agree with what I have said already, that the Territorial Force is not a force to be entrusted with these extremely important duties and that we should rather employ regular soldiers for the purpose of anti-aircraft defence. The first difficulty with which we should he met would be where the regular soldiers were to come from—two whole divisions. I am afraid that I can see no source of supply which would produce the necessary personnel, and I am personally equally satisfied that the Territorials who have undertaken these duties will be perfectly fitted to perform them.
We are getting the very best type of young man joining these anti-aircraft units. He is attracted by the interest and the difficulty of the work, by the training it demands and by the scientific knowledge required. All these things attract these young men, who for some reason or other, perhaps because they are not sufficiently interested in the work, have not joined the infantry units of the Terri- 1898 torial Army, but who are coming in and taking up this work with great enthusiasm. We hope that when the whole thing is completely in order, we shall be able to deploy the defences completely in a period of 12 hours. It would be very difficult to reduce that minimum even with Regulars. People who join the anti-aircraft units sign a special agreement by which they can be called up at any time, apart from mobilisation or apart from the embodiment of the Territorial Army.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up the question of dividing control between the Air Ministry and the War Office? Is the question of scientific development and technical research for defence against air attack unified between the two Departments, or is that divided up?
§ Mr. Cooper
No, Sir. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, there is a special scientific committee.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
Is any member of the War Office on that committee mentioned by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence last night?
§ Mr. Cooper
The Master-General of the Ordnance is represented on that Committee. That is primarily for the Ministry concerned. They are not directed really to the gunnery aspect of the situation but to the development of various scientific forms of defence against air attack. Last year I was asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) whether the equipping of the Territorial Army with modern equipment would proceed peal passu with the equipment of the Regular Army. I stated that I was unable to give him any assurance on that point, as we thought it essential to equip the Regular Army completely before proceeding with the equipment of the Territorial Army; but further experience has led to some modification of that decision. It has now been decided that the provision of the Territorial Army with modern equipment sufficient for purposes of training shall proceed at the same time, so far as circumstances permit, with the equipment of the Regular Army. The Territorial Army must be trained to fight with the same weapons and against the same enemies as the Regular Army, and it would be a waste of time and money to 1899 allow them to be trained with obsolete and obsolescent weapons. I hope that this decision will encourage still more the recruiting for the Territorial Army and will banish from the minds of the members of the Territorial Army any lingering doubts which they may have had, and which I have done my best to banish, as to the importance which the Government attach to them.
§ Mr. Churchill
Is the right hon. Gentleman taking into full consideration the time factor in the process of this equipment? Will the Territorial Army be fully equipped in 1939, 1940, or when?
§ Mr. Cooper
I am afraid that I cannot risk any statement of that sort. I cannot go beyond what I have said. It is our intention to give them modern equipment, and to ensure that as soon as possible they shall have such equipment with which to train. Beyond that I cannot commit myself this afternoon. There are many minor improvements that we are going to make in the conditions of the Territorial Army to meet the various demands that have been put forward, such as the free issue of shirts and socks for annual camp, where required, a long felt need, the free issue of a suit of canvas overalls, a second ground sheet in camp, and improved messing facilities. Artillery training is to be improved by the issue of battery staff vehicles and an issue of trucks is being made to Yeomanry and Infantry to enable the necessary number of mechanical transport drivers to be trained and to assist in training both in camp and out of camp. The reorganisation and the necessity for an increase of amenities is throwing an increasing burden on the funds of the Territorial Army Associations. I am glad, therefore, that it has been decided to restore to the associations the 2½ per cent. cut on all grants, which was introduced as an economy measure in 1928. There will be also a considerable increase made in the training grant this year. In regard to the construction of new headquarters and drill halls we have had it impressed upon us that the competition they have to meet in the way of institutes, clubs, etc., for young men, is becoming keener. Therefore we are going to increase the schedule of accommodation for social purposes. An amended schedule is being worked out and will 1900 be applied to new buildings, and gradually to older buildings. I hope that this decision will convince the Territorial Army as to the importance we attach to their work.
Let me say a few words about Cadets. As the House will remember, one of the first things the National Government did when they took office was to restore the recognition of the Cadet movement, which had been withdrawn from it. But in that recognition it was laid down that it did not imply any expenditure from public funds. The reason for that condition was entirely owing to financial stringency of the year 1931. It is remarkable how the Cadet movement has survived. It has survived entirely owing to the patriotism and generosity of a comparatively few private individuals. I am glad to say that we have now decided to restore all those financial aids which the movement received in the past, before recognition was withdrawn from it. A grant will be made to the National Cadet Association, who have complete control over the Cadet movement, for the purpose of administration, and there will be a capitation grant of 5s. per head for each Cadet (up to 60,000 Cadets) and £1 for every Cadet who obtains Certificate A. Camp equipment will be loaned from the War Office, free. I hope that this decision will once more bring the Cadet movement up to the size it was in the year when recognition was withdrawn. Its strength was then over 50,00o, but to-day it is only 20,000. We shall look with confidence to a great increase in numbers in the coming year.
Now I return to the Regular Army. The problem there is a much more difficult one than the problem of the Territorial Army. The problem of recruiting is not only more difficult but is an entirely different one. We can urge young men to join the Territorial Army out of patriotism. We can put before them an argument which I believe to be a very strong argument, that as they are privileged to live in the only country in Europe where military service is not compulsory they should in return for that privilege be prepared to devote some of their leisure to voluntary service. But there is no reason why a man should join the Regular Army any more than he should devote himself to any other trade, profession or pursuit, unless he 1901 feels so inclined. Therefore, we have to look for some other means of persuasion. The problem is to compete in the modern world with all the other various demands that are made upon the attention of the young man who is looking out for a profession, especially the superior glamour which, for various reasons, the two other Services possess.
We can approach the problem from two different points of view—the psychological and the practical. We can try to render the Army more popular and we can also try to render it more profitable and more pleasant. It has been suggested that a more attractive form of uniform would have some effect upon the minds of young men. As the House is aware, it has been decided that at the Coronation recruits shall be dressed in the new blue uniform which they have hitherto been allowed to purchase for themselves out of their own money, if they wish, for the purpose of walking out. On this occasion they will wear the uniform ceremonially, and if the experiment is a success I hope it may be extended further. We have done a great deal this year, and I hope to do more, in the way of publicity for the Army, both in the Press and at the cinemas. We have had a great deal of very generous assistance and co-operation from both those branches of national life, the Press and the cinema world. I am convinced that too much importance can hardly be attached to the way that the case is presented, and I have appointed in the last few weeks a new head of the Press section of the War Office, who is not a regular Civil Servant, but who has come from outside and has intimate acquaintance both with the London and the provincial Press.
Publicity and advertisement are of importance, but advertisement will be of no use unless the article that you are attempting to sell is really as good as the article with which you have to compete. Therefore, the important thing is to improve what we have to sell. I have little doubt that the main difficulty in obtaining recruits for the Regular Army, and the main reason that prevents young men from joining the Army is the uncertainty as to the career which it offers. The young men of to-day are more long-sighted and more prudent perhaps than 1902 some of their predecessors. They have been better educated. Their pleasures are of a more refined kind. Their thoughts look further into the future, and they do not envisage with any complacency the risk of finding themselves at the end of seven years thrown on to the streets, without having learned a trade and with no prospect of getting any employment; and too old, perhaps, to learn. The vocational training which we have been able to give in the past has proved increasingly popular. The demand for vocational training centres has increased every year, and the numbers trained have increased, but we have only three of these vocational training centres, and the numbers they can train amount to 3,000 a year. More have been trained this year than before, and there is a steady increase. That represents less than one-fourth of the men who leave the Army without any knowledge of any trade, and who would like to receive such training.
I have been in communication with the Ministry of Labour on this subject, and they have been most helpful and most generous in the assistance which they are prepared to give. I am very happy to be able to announce that the Ministry of Labour are putting at the disposal of the ex-service men two new training centres, one at Southampton and one at Leeds. Those training centres will continue to be run by the Ministry of Labour. Here, again, it is obvious that it is desirable that the training of the men for work and professions should be carried out by the same Department. Therefore, it is our policy that, eventually, the whole question of vocational training should be dealt with by the Ministry of Labour. Our three Army training centres will continue to operate for the present, but that is only until definite steps can be taken to hand them over to the Ministry of Labour. The result of this arrangement will be, we hope, that in years to come every man leaving the Army with a good character after six years' service for whom suitable employment is not available who wishes to go to a vocational training centre will be able to do so. That will not be possible I am afraid in the immediately coming year, owing to circumstances to which I will refer shortly, but the prospect is that in future all men leaving the Army who wish to receive vocational training shall be able to receive it. The men will be trained when they have left 1903 the Service after they have become civilians and not as hitherto during the last six months of their service in the Army. In the past those who have received this vocational training in the Army vocational training centres have been asked to pay for it whereas those in the Ministry of Labour training centres have not been asked to pay. It is an obvious inequity that those who have served their country in the Army should be asked to pay for such training while those who have not served their country in the Army should get the training free. I am glad to say that in future that distinction will not be made. The training will not have to be paid for.
§ Mr. Lawson
I take it that the practice of training the men in their last six months of Army service is to be abolished?
§ Mr. Cooper
Eventually it will be abolished. It cannot be completely carried out during the present year, but the men who go to the vocational training centres in the last six months of their Army service will, until that system is abolished, not be asked to pay, out of their Army pay, for the vocational training. Eventually they will be all trained at the Ministry of Labour training centres and they will receive their unemployment benefit and all benefits to which the men who go to the training centres are entitled.
§ Mr. Tinker
When these men leave the Army and go to the vocational training centres what conditions will apply to them?
§ Mr. Cooper
They will be entitled to their unemployment benefit and will be treated in the same way as unemployed men.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
Is there any estimate of the numbers who are likely to get work after leaving the training centres?
§ Mr. Cooper
The Ministry of Labour have so arranged their training as to meet the demands in the labour market and they have been successful hitherto in the placing of these men in employment. From 95 to 98 per cent. of the 1904 men get work on leaving the centres. It is hoped that they will be able to keep those figures up.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is there any evidence to show that the soldier would prefer to go to the Ministry of Labour centre rather than be retained in the Army vocational centre?
§ Mr. Cooper
The difference will be that the man who goes to the Army vocational centre will be receiving Army pay and will be there for the last six months of his Army career, whereas the man who goes to the Ministry of Labour training centre will not be receiving Army pay. I think in the early stages there will be a certain amount of overlapping. In the long run, I am sure that the majority of the men will prefer to receive this training for nothing, after leaving the Service, rather than be asked to pay for it in the last six months.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is it not true that the only grievance which these men have had is that at the Army vocational centres they have been called on to contribute out of their pay, but that otherwise they have been quite happy and excellently trained?
§ Mr. Cooper
Yes, that is true, but what concerns us is that so many of them do not go there at all. I am not criticising the vocational training centres in any way, but it is obvious that if we are going to have two lots of training centres in this country it is much better that they should be under the same control rather than competing with one another for instructors and in the terms they offer.
§ Mr. Attlee
Will not this mean that a man, coming out of the Army, will go into one of these training centres and by the time he goes into industry he will have exhausted a good deal of his rights to benefit?
§ Mr. Cooper
I have not gone into details as to whether he will have exhausted his rights to benefit, but it would be better for him to go into industry, having exhausted some rights of benefit, than to go on the streets unemployed. I must point out to hon. Members that I cannot answer any more interruptions on this particular point.
§ Mr. Cooper
Another legitimate grievance in the past has been that men are discharged from the Colours very often immediately on their return from a long tour of duty abroad. They have therefore lost touch with their former friends and connections in this country and are at a greater disadvantage than others in obtaining employment. We have now made arrangements that from the next trooping season when men so desire, and if they cannot be allotted to a training course, they may voluntarily remain in the Army for a period of three months after their return from abroad. During that time they will receive ordinary pay, and if they succeed in getting a job they will have the right to be immediately released.
Another grievance is the practice in overseas garrisons of holding men for an additional year beyond the time for which they enlisted as provided in the Army Act. That has naturally caused discontent. I am glad to say that with the co-operation of the authorities in India the practice will be discontinued as from the next trooping season, although we will still have the right to retain the services of such men as may be necessary should an emergency arise.
As the result of a careful inquiry by a committee, it is hoped it will be possible to make an increase in the numbers of ex-service men employed in the Civil Service. I take this opportunity of appealing to other employers of labour such as the municipal authorities to give preference wherever possible to ex-service men. I would remind them that the Ministry of Labour, the Regimental Associations and the National Association for the Employment of Regular Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen, who have local connections, are always ready to provide lists of applicants suitable for practically any form of employment.
I said we were going to make the Army both profitable, attractive and pleasant. There are several improvements in conditions which I have to announce this year. One is the provision of an increase in the Army ration to make sure that the soldier enjoys four meals a day. It has long been insisted that in the Navy the sailor should enjoy his four meals a day, including supper, but the Army has been restricted to three. When I inquired into this matter, I was assured that the 1906 strong sea air was such an appetiser for the sailor that he could not do on less than four meals. But as the sailor is entitled to his supper, whether he is on shore or at sea, I was not convinced by the logic of the argument. I am glad in this connection to be able to assure the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) that at home stations the soldiers' meals will be rendered more palatable by butter. Instead of one ounce of margarine to which a man was entitled there will be one ounce of butter, and he will get half an ounce of margarine into the bargain. It has also been decided to increase the daily ration of enlisted boys by an issue of milk or in other suitable ways, and the cash allowance for messing abroad is being increased.
Last year I announced that the ration allowance of a soldier on leave had been raised from 9d. to 1s. 11d. which, however, still left it 3d. below that of the sailor. The principle having now been accepted that a soldier can eat as much as a sailor, I am happy to say that the odd 3d. is being added to the allowance. There will also be a special increase in the daily ration of men who cannot be fed in mess. Men living outside barracks have complained in the past that they were not as well off in this respect as if they were feeding inside barracks. Steps are being taken to see that men living in married quarters, or unable for other reasons to feed in mess, shall receive a sufficient allowance of food or money to ensure that they will enjoy the same scale of nourishment as their fellow soldiers.
For many years there have been complaints not so much that the pay in the Amy is too low, but that, as it seems to the men, they do not get it without deduction. There has been a system under which men, after joining the Army, learned that they were expected to pay, out of the moneys to which they were entitled, for articles of equipment, which they were compelled to have under the regulations. I am glad to say that such stoppages from pay will in future be abolished. Men leaving this country for foreign service and needing additional articles such as a pith helmet will also have them provided.
Another important reform will be to get rid of the dissatisfaction which a 1907 young soldier feels when, on joining the Army, he finds that so much of his time is occupied not on military duties but on duties which interfere with his military training. I am glad to say that this year an additional £40,000 will be devoted to the employment of civilian staff in the performance of such duties. This staff will consist as far as possible of ex-service men, and I hope we may see more and more that these non-military duties are performed not by soldiers but by civilians.
Every effort is also being made to improve the conditions of accommodation. Wherever new barracks are being constructed they are built upon a plan that combines under one roof all the rooms which people living under that roof will require, that is to say sleeping, dining and washing facilities. So far as possible we are providing in all the new barracks and trying to introduce into the old ones sitting-rooms where the men can go and read books and papers, write letters and listen to the wireless without being under the necessity of going to the institute or the canteen. We are providing something analogous to the facilities which the officers enjoy and which men of the modern generation demand. There will be rooms on each floor in the barracks where the men can sit and enjoy their leisure. I have visited a great many of the barracks this year and everywhere I find the authorities are possessed by the new spirit. They are anxious to do everything in their power to render a barracks less like a barracks and more like a home. So many of the barracks constructed in the middle of the last century look more like prisons. There are no amenities in them; no allowance for any aesthetic consideration whatever. Gradually this condition of things is disappearing. Those concerned are fully alive to the necessity of rendering conditions for the soldier more comfortable.
It occurred to me while I was considering this problem of how to encourage and increase recruiting that it was a problem which must certainly have arisen more than once in the history of our voluntary Army. My suspicions were well founded. The worst crisis in the history of the Army from the point of view of recruiting occurred after the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. I have little doubt that it was in some measure due to the 1908 stories of massacre, suffering and horror, concerning those events, which were circulated at that time. I think it not impossible to-day that some reluctance to join the Army may be due to the publication of a certain type of work in this country in which not only the horrors of the last War are depicted in the most terrible way but the opinion is expressed that those horrors might have been avoided but for the gross stupidity of the generals in command. Unfortunately, the history of war is more often written by politicians than by generals, and very often the public has laid before it in the most attractive and convincing rhetoric the theory that even the best of the generals are not much better than fools and that therefore they hesitate to entrust their lives to them. I was interested to read the observations made by the Commission of 1861 on how to improve recruiting. They said:We are not prepared to recommend an increase of pay to the Army. But we believe that the charges known as stoppages do press heavily on the soldier. We trust that the improvements which have from time to time been carried into effect in many barracks may gradually be extended to all. It might also be a great encouragement to recruiting if a preference were given to pensioners in filling up such situations as porters and messengers in public offices and appointments in the Excise, Customs, Post Office and other Civil Departments. Although it is true that, whatever may be the period for which men are enlisted, the power to discharge them at any moment appertains to the prerogative of the Crown, it will be readily understood that young men induced at a time of great national excitement to become soldiers look but little to the future. But when at the end of two or three years, and perhaps just as they have got thoroughly settled in their profession, they find themselves suddenly discharged either without a pension or with a pension for few months only, they return to their homes, or wander about in search of employment, with a feeling that they have had a hard measure of justice meted out to them.In reading those recommendations, so much in accordance with what we are doing to-day, one may well ask why these reforms have been put off so long. The answer is simple. A study of history will convince one that it has always been the custom of the English people the moment war was over to consider that the forces which had saved them would never be required again, and they cut down forthwith the armed forces of the Crown to the lowest possible level. A few years after Waterloo, when the Duke of York died, there were not sufficient 1909 troops in England to provide the necessary numbers laid down by regulations for a Field Marshal's funeral. The same thing has happened during the past 17 years. We have only ourselves to blame. There was a general feeling in the country that war must be avoided, and a mistaken feeling that one way to avoid it was to reduce armaments. In these years, faced with this necessity, the military advisers of the Government insisted, and rightly insisted, upon such sums as were available being spent on providing the absolute necessities of military equipment rather than on improving the conditions of the soldier.
Now that these conditions are being improved, now that there is an increased prospect of a young man who joins the Army passing from the Army into civil employment, I ask hon. Members opposite to join me in making an anneal to the young men of our time to do this service. After all, in modern industry, as hon. Members know perhaps better than I do, the lives of too many of our people are monotonous; they perform year after year the same uninteresting labour in large factories, and no longer enjoy the privilege of the craftsman, of making articles with their own hands. Surely any big variation in that life of monotony is desirable from the man's own point of view. Surely it is a good proposition that he should for seven years of his youth serve in an open-air profession, which will give him many opportunities of seeing the world, and if, at the end of that time, he has a good prospect of passing into employment those seven years will not only improve his health for the rest of his life, probably "Prolong his life, but will give him memories to look back upon different from anything else he can acquire in the remaining days of his existence. I would ask hon. Members to consider, from the point of view of the welfare of their own supporters in the country, that it is not a bad proposition to put before any young men of the present day.
One word on the subject of the recruitment of officers. There has been, I am glad to say, an increase in the Officers Training Corps. The Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London have increased their artillery establishments and four new signal units, two units of ordnance, mechanical engineers, and one 1910 Army Service Corps unit have also been formed. The University College of the South West, which previously had no officers training corps, has formed an infantry contingent, and a further expansion in the junior division establishment will be made in the coming year to include a number of schools which are anxious to contribute a contingent. There has been an increase during the year in enthusiasm for both junior and senior branches of the Officers Training Corps.
During the past year I have been approached on many occasions by Members of this House, by people who have done military service in the past, who served as officers throughout the War and who, in the last days of 1918 or early in 1919 took off their uniform with a sigh of relief and hoped that they would never be called upon to wear it again. During that interval they have associated themselves with military affairs, although they have undergone no further military training. Many of these men I am glad to say, are still hale and hearty. Many of them are friends of mine in different parts of the House, and they have come to me and explained that they would like to be of some use to their country. They have asked what they could do, and I have found it extremely difficult to give them any satisfactory answer. But I am glad to say that it has been decided to form an Officers Emergency Reserve, which people of this category can join. They will not be expected to do any military training, although in some cases it will be possible to arrange within certain limits for those who desire to take a course of lectures in anti-aircraft work in order to bring themselves up to date with the latest developments and the newest inventions. All that will be required of them is that they will be prepared in an emergency to place their services at the disposal of the Government. There may be many cases where a little more experience and knowledge of military affairs will enable them to fill the places of younger and better trained men on whom more urgent demands will be made. The age for those who enlist in this reserve is from 31 to 55. They will be supplied with uniforms when they are called up. They will not be in uniform in peace time.
Also certain units of the Territorial Army have been reorganised to render 1911 them officer-producing units. They are the Honourable Artillery Company, the City of London Yeomanry, the Artists' Rifles and the Inns of Court Regiments. All these will be used as officer-producing units. In spite of this, the existing situation in regard to officers is somewhat disquieting and we desire to increase the number. I am setting up a special inquiry into the various steps which may be taken in order to do so. Amongst other things I am sure that we can increase the number who are promoted from the ranks. The right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) asked me a question at the end of the Debate before Christmas on this point, and I am afraid that I did not give him a very satisfactory answer. I have not neglected the subject since, and I am convinced that with the better education which young men of to-day enjoy more places should be thrown open to those who join as privates, and who, after a few years of training in the Army are well qualified to take commissions. The number of those who hold first-class certificates is now 18,000, and 1,100 also hold special certificates. I have no doubt that many of these men will be qualified to hold commissions.
I see that in the Amendment on the Paper I am asked to define more clearly the purposes for which the British Army exists. Three years ago I went into that subject at some length and analysed those purposes as four: the protection of our naval bases, the policing of our Empire, the defence of our country and the provision of a field force that might be called upon in an emergency. Last year I dealt again with the same subject and further expatiated on the necessity for a field force in which some people had expressed doubts. I will not repeat the arguments used on that occasion, but I hope the House will agree that those arguments, reinforced by the instances I have given in the earlier part of my speech, prove beyond a shadow of doubt that an expeditionary force of some nature must exist.
We have not to-night to consider who our enemies are likely to be, nor where we may have to meet them, still less have we to speculate upon developments in world affairs which might produce war. I am not troubled by the question as to whether we shall be fighting for the interests of the British Empire, or for the 1912 cause of collective security and the League of Nations, a query that is sometimes put as though it were a poser to which no answer can be found. For what purpose, after all, has the doctrine of collective security been developed? What is and what has ever been the main objective of the League of Nations? Surely, the answer is the preservation of world peace. What is to-day the greatest interest of the British Empire? Surely it is the same, the preservation of world peace. There is here no conflict of interests, for the interests of the League and the Empire are the same. How best they can be preserved are questions of high policy with which we are not concerned to-night. We are concerned only as to how the British Army will play its part in this great scheme of world affairs. The contribution which the British Army can make to the solution of the problem, small as its numbers may be, is not a humble ant. What has been the performance of the British Army in three Continents during the last 12 years? In China, in the North-West Frontier of India, in Palestine, in Iraq, in Egypt, on the Rhine and in the Valley of the Saar, it has stood and stood successfully for the maintenance of order and the preservation of peace. It is our duty, and it shall be our endeavour, so to equip and prepare the British Army that it may continue to fulfil this function and to render this service to mankind.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
The right hon. Gentleman has given us another of those speeches which we have come to expect from him. He has taken rather longer than usual, but, in view of the complicated matters with which he has had to deal, no one will grudge him the time he has taken. I shall have later on to refer to some of the speeches he has made outside the House, which are of rather a different temper than the one he has made to-day. The Secretary of State is asking the House for an increase in the Estimates of 7,000,000, but according to the appropriations, the increase on last year's Estimates will be £26,000,000, which means an increase of more than 50 per tent. As this is the last of the Service Estimates with which we have to deal, perhaps I may be allowed to remind the House that the Estimates for the three Defence Services are more than double what they were in 1913 1932, the first occasion on which the present Government submitted Estimates. In that year, the Estimates amounted to nearly £10,000,000, whereas this year they amount to £269,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman referred to his speech of a year or two ago in which he dealt with the purposes of the British Army. I think hon. Members, particularly those of us who are associated with large masses of people who live a very meagre life, are entitled to ask what is the purpose of this increased expenditure.
The nation is under no illusion as to the vast rearmament that is taking place in other countries, nor is it blind to the fact that, although we can scarcely be called an island any longer owing to the aeroplane having bridged the seas, there is one sense in which we are an island—we are a democracy in the midst of dictatorships and totalitarian States. I suppose the value set upon our great heritage of liberty in this country was never as great and the sense of that value never as keen as it is among our people to-day. But the understanding of the nation is one thing, the faith of the people is one thing—the purpose for which the Government can use that faith is quite another thing. I have never spoken in any foreign affairs Debate in this House, but I have attended those Debates closely, as I have the Debates on the Estimates, and it cannot have escaped the attention of any hon. Member that here and there behind the Government there are people who express open admiration for what we call outside the Continental bullies and their system. I know there are only one or two dotted about the benches behind the Government—
§ Mr. Mabane
Has not the hon. Member on his side of the House one or two admirers of the bullies of Russia?
§ Mr. Lawson
I would not put the Russians in the same category as the people who are considered, in the minds of most hon. Members to be a real menace and the cause of the greater part of this expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman tried to explain to the House that this expenditure is really needed because the Government stand for peace and general security. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to me to mix up the question of the security of the British 1914 Empire and the question of pooled security through the League of Nations. During recent years, I think there has been a dwindling of faith, as far as the Government is concerned, in the ideal for which undoubtedly great masses of men fought and by which they were sustained in those tragic and dark years, the ideal of a combination of nations which would pool their resources in order to deal with any aggressor who might seek to break the peace of the world. Although the right hon. Gentleman mentioned pooled security, he seemed rather to mix up the old idea of British Imperialism alone being one of the chief guarantees of the peace of the world, with the ideal of the League of Nations.
With regard to the large sum which we are asked to spend, I want to ask whether we are getting value for our money. I think hon. Members, particularly on this side of the House, would not be doing their duty if they did not ask that question incessantly. There are in the House now hon. Members who were here just after the War. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and the Colonial Secretary were here at that time, as were several other hon. Members; I came to the House in the latter part of 1919. Just after the War, men who had made profits out of the War came to the House in batches, and I am glad to be able to pay this tribute to hon. Members opposite, that they, equally with us, loathed the sight of those gentlemen.
§ Mr. Lawson
So much so that it helped to get that gross element out of the House. Does any one doubt that we seem to be travelling the same road now, in spite of this being a time of what I may call semi-peace? As far as one can see, there are at this time those cute, unmoral gentlemen who are rapidly making fortunes. The further one gets away from the production of goods, the further one gets away from business or the real work connected with it, the more likely one is to get the men who make money quickly. I suggest to the War Office that it is really time that we understood whether we are getting value for our money. After the War, there was, to a certain extent, a costing system in 1915 operation at the War Office. That system did not tell everything, but on looking at the Estimates for 1918 onwards, it was possible to tell at a glance how the costs were increasing.
What is the position now? Let me, as an example, take the item of Clothing in the Estimates for this year. In Vote 7, page 144, it will be seen that the net increase on last year is £322,000. Why should there be that increase for clothing, seeing that there are not a great many more soldiers this year? Since the right hon. Gentleman became Secretary of State for War, the Army clothing factory has gone out of existence. There may have been much to criticise in that factory, but it was a means of keeping checks on the people who had to supply clothing. We have no indication, apart from the general statement, of the cause of the increase in the cost of clothing. In Vote 9, page 159, Warlike Stores, there is a net increase of £4,406,000, but that is only part of the story. For warlike stores, as a whole, there is a difference beween the 1936 and 1937 Estimates of £16,000,000.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that some of the people with whom contracts are made have a system of costing and that that enables the War Office to examine their books, but I noticed that he did not say all of them had that system. I think the House is entitled to know whether those people are getting what one might term, under a system of private profits, average or normal profits, or whether they are getting excessive profits. Some indication of that would be the knowledge as to what are the increased prices that are being paid for all those articles in the making of which steel and many of the metals that are practically cornered at the present time, are used.
I suggest that hon. Members should look up the Army Estimates and Army Accounts, say, for the year 1920–1921 and they will find that it is possible to tell from those accounts the cost per day, for instance, of mechanical transport and for military personnel. We find a long list of figures there giving details of all the increases down to the most infinitesimal. I know that the War Office retain a kind of nucleus of the old costing system. I suggest that the War Office and the other Service Departments as well should 1916 restore the system of showing those costings in their explanations to the House, so that Members could see readily the items to which these increases are to be allotted. When we are given a general page like this, it tells us nothing except that we have to pay a few millions more. I know that the War Office never liked this system and I know that there were real difficulties about it, but I also know that the general economising which took place was in part responsible for its abolition, and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will take note of my suggestion. I believe there can be no accurate understanding of the elements which make up these increases in cost unless the War Office take the course I have advocated.
Incidentally I may say that there is the system by which very small amounts can be watched when it comes to the people who are only concerned with small amounts. In the Army Accounts for this year we find "losses due to theft, fraud, arson and gross negligence" set out at £29 is. 1d. and there is an item of "pension over-issued to pensioner who made false declaration of means," £3 7s. 9d. and another similar item of £16 10s. 10d. There are whole lists of items of that kind. I agree that it is a good thing that we should keep our accounts accurately and know how we are spending our money, but I suggest that it is more necessary, in the interests of the people, to keep a firm grip, by means of effective costing, upon the people who are receiving millions, than to spend time over the people who are receiving shillings.
The right hon. Gentleman devoted some time to-day to the question of recruiting. I must say that during the last year I once or twice wished that the right hon. Gentleman would make the same kind of speech on recruiting outside that he makes in this House. He made one speech which, I think, did more harm to recruiting than any other cause. I think the speech in which he talked about frightening the lives out of us, was very much misdirected and did more harm than good. But the right hon. Gentleman has made certain practical proposals. I understand that the men are going to get the blue suits for the Coronation free. He has abolished stoppages and there is a long list of other useful concessions which have been 1917 made. But I wonder why the War Office trouble to make a great song about the transference of training from the vocational centres to the Ministry of Labour. I do not think that transfer has been made in the interests of the soldier. It has been made in the interests of the War Office. The War Office has never been in love with the vocational training centres—with a few exceptions—and I am sorry to see this change. In 1924 I devoted some time to this subject. We thought then, and I think succeeding Governments also thought, in terms of extending the vocational training centres.
I do not see, and never could see, why every man who left the Army should not go through these centres. They have done splendid work. The men who have gone through them have received useful training. In some cases the soldiers' wives used to accompany them in the centres. The men spent six months there and when they left they had acquired the civilian atmosphere. They had learned to use their hands for civilian purposes at some trade, and their minds were set in civilian ways. I should have thought that that was a thing to be encouraged but now, apparently, when they leave the Army, even the proportion who have been through the vocational training centres have to face a new kind of life, without any introduction to it or preliminary training for it. I think it was my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition who pointed out that now the training will commence when the man's unemployment benefit begins to operate. Previously, a man when he left the vocational training centre had a good chance of getting a job. I remember figures being given to show the large proportion of those men who got jobs. I think the War Office have made a mistake in this respect, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to take a second look at the idea of turning men over to the Ministry of Labour and abolishing the vocational training centres.
The question of recruiting, however, goes much deeper than any of the things which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned. I have heard a good many Debates on the subject. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman say that the condition of the barracks was being attended to and that the housing of the soldiers was rapidly being changed for the better. 1918 It is desirable that, instead of compelling men to live in barracks which were typical of the early part of the last century, housing conditions in the Army should move with the rapidly-changing ideas which prevail among the civilian population. Some form of action in this matter was long overdue. There is not only the question of the actual living accommodation but there are also questions of lighting and of the general atmosphere in which the soldiers have to live. I wonder whether hon. Members have ever asked themselves why the Navy and Air Force have no difficulty in getting recruits? The Under-Secretary of State for Air yesterday thanked the country for having given him an ample supply of recruits. Why is there a difficulty in the case of the Army? Is it due to the stiffness of the Army as compared with the other Services? Is it a sense of inferiority on the part of the rank and file as compared with the officers? Is it a lack of free-and-easy relationships between the rank and file and the officers? I think the whole subject requires examination from that angle.
I was glad to hear that a number of the rank and file had gone into the commissioned ranks this year. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Had taken the examination."] That is a different matter. I think this also is a question which requires examination. I understand that 6,500 of the rank and file in the infantry, and 3,500 in the artillery, took the first class certificate last year. The first class certificate is a fairly good standard of education. It is not university standard, but it is getting well on in that direction. It is matriculation standard, I am reminded by some of my hon. Friends. The details are contained in the Army report and I ought to thank the War Office for having carried out a suggestion which was made last year by giving us a clearer indication of what this means. But why is it that there is not a reasonable flow of men from the rank and file into the commissioned ranks? I am under no illusion upon this point. It has often been pointed out that you may get a man of the rank and file who is very well educated but who is not of a fine temper and who would not be easy to deal with as an officer. I have known rank and filers who have become officers who were not easy to deal with, but I have known officers who have not been 1919 rank and filers and not so easy to deal with, either. Is it not possible in the question of recruiting that there is the same problem as the War Office have to meet in getting officers for the higher posts in the Army? There have been two articles and a leader in the "Times" dealing with the supply of officers. When the whole subject is examined it may be found that the same problem is at the root of the supply of officers and recruits for the simple reason that what is wanted is a pull to bring men into the Army. I was amused in reading these two articles when I saw the suggestion that officers should be drawn from the universities rather than from the present sources, or that a staff should be formed from which officers could be drawn for the higher posts.
I saw in a book which came out last week, "Europe in Arms," by Captain Liddell Hart, a reference to a statement made by one of our writers—I think Miss Rebecca West—in which she said that the science of war at the beginning of a war was a strict science like astronomy, but that at the end of the war it was more like astrology. That is in harmony with all the experience of the last War of both our own general staff, and the staffs of other countries. The Army is becoming extremely technical. If there was one part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which I admired, it was that part in which he moved with such ease from one arm of the Service on the technical side to another. He never seemed to have any difficulty in remembering which arm he was dealing with. As a matter of fact, when you are trying to deal with the detailed side of the forces of the Army to-day you hardly know where you are. As the Army is getting extremely technical there will probably be in the next war, if unfortunately there should be one, a greater difficulty in handling vast forces of men and machines than there was in the last War. As the rank and filer, who now has to learn how to manage a machine instead of a horse, who has to handle machine guns and guns of high calibre much more than he did before, who has to handle motor power and to know the relationship of one form of transport to another, it seems that we might get a good many more of the officers from the ranks than we get at 1920 the present time. We on this side will never feel very enthusiastic about an Army where the rank and filer has practically no chance of reaching some of its higher posts. When he does reach the officers' mess, the standard of life is almost prohibitive for him.
I have never been able to understand why the right hon. Gentleman did not settle with the Ministry of Labour, as satisfactorily and quickly as he has in regard to training, the question of depriving the soldier when he has exhausted his unemployment benefit of part of his reserve pay under the means test. I have a vivid memory of a young ex-soldier who came to see me and was indignant because he had bought an overcoat to make himself warm and respectable under the impression that he would be able to pay for it out of his reserve pay. When he received it the unemployment assistance officer took half of it into account. That is one of the things the right hon. Gentleman ought to take up with the Ministry of Labour. I am glad to see that the War Office are paying some attention to rehabilitating some of the rejects. It is a cynical comment upon our national life that it is to be left to the War Office to put men into physical condition so that they can be considered for the purpose of serving with the Forces. Nearly one out of three of these men has been refused. It is not because the Army does not get the flow of men, it is not because the spirit is lacking, but it is largely that at least one-third of the men who offer themselves are physically unfit.
We appreciate the changes that have been made by the right hon. Gentleman. They will bring a little bit of satisfaction to the soldier who is serving and the soldier who will serve. I still question, however, whether the War Office have got to the roots of the matter. If the War Office do not pay serious attention to any of the criticisms that we make they should really give consideration to the suggestion that the costing system should be reinstituted in the War Office. We on this side in the present position in which the nation finds itself, surrounded by nations that are rapidly rearming, are not prepared to give uncritical assent to the rearming of the forces of this country. We agree with its necessity if the Government are prepared to be as loyal and enthusiastic to the ideal of the League 1921 of Nations and the pooling of the forces of the nations for the purpose of securing peace as Governments were just after the War. The Government can take it for granted that we would not vote sums of money for the old ideal of Imperialism, which I rather thought roused the enthusiasm of the right hon. Gentleman; but we are prepared to support rearmament for the purpose of building up our forces so that we might play a part in a League which stands for permanent peace and for the ideal for which men live and millions died. If, on the other hand, the Government or hon. Members behind them are under the impression that they can use these increased armaments cynically for old-time purposes and ideals, I would remind them that military historians and great thinkers have always held that the most potent forces in defence are not guns or the men who go into action, but the mental condition of the masses of the nation who are in the rear of those forces. If the nation once gets the impression that it is being exploited for the purposes of a handful of rich men, or that its faith is being cynically used for other purposes than that of which they dream, it will be a most potent force in undermining the Defence Forces of this country.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton
The closing words of the hon. Gentleman's speech, from which I do not differ, can be put into a nutshell. I rather deprecate this constant harping by hon. Gentlemen of good will opposite on the suspicion as to whether the Government and those behind them are really in favour of the League of Nations and things of that kind. I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will agree that there is far more agreement between both sides of the House than might be supposed from some of the speeches, and that what both sides really feel in their bones is that the role of this country, and, we hope, of every other democratic country in Europe, is to do everything possible to bring about appeasement between the nations. But in the last resort, if that appeasement were not possible, and if any country made an attack upon, this country or, I must say, upon the general system of democratic government, the whole of the people of this country would be behind the Government in re- 1922 sisting it. May I say that the danger to which the hon. Member referred in an eloquent passage towards the close of his speech is, in my opinion, never likely to arise, because no Government, whether a Government of the Right or of the Left, will ever again go to war unless it has the whole country behind it. That is a view which ought to go out from this House this afternoon. I do not want to deal with far-off, old unhappy days, but the Government of 1914 would never have gone to war if it had not believed that it had the vast majority of the country behind it.
I know that a number of Members want to speak, and therefore I shall confine myself to a few points. Perhaps I may, in parentheses, thank the hon. Member for what I feel was genuinely intended to be a compliment to some of us in the 1918 Parliament. There was, though it was not possible at that time fully to express it, a fellow-feeling among all those in all parts of the House who had really served in the War on certain aspects of that post-War Parliament. It is not altogether easy to assess the undoubted concessions which the right hon. Gentleman has made this afternoon, nor, if I may put it so without, I hope, being in any way wounding or apparently critical, is it altogether easy to assess the value of the whole administration of the right hon. Gentleman and the Army Council. Those of us who have been urging in print and on platforms almost all the reforms which the right hon. Gentleman has announced this afternoon are grateful to hear that they are at last to be introduced—we should be ingrates if we were not—but I hope it will not be thought hypercritical to say that some of them ought to have been brought in at an earlier date. There is a tendency on the part of this Government, after it has realised the pressure of public opinion and of articles in the newspapers, and especially in powerful papers like the "Times" and the "Daily Telegraph," to announce a concession with an air of having at last arrived at a most important conclusion, though in many cases it is a conclusion which had been reached by many people a long time before.
Both sides of the House should be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for one feature of his administration, and that 1923 is his strenuous efforts to bring home to the public what, I think, is an illogical point of view—illogical even for the public of this country, which is the home of inconsistency and illogicality, where we regard illogicality as almost a natural virtue. It is illogical that those who urge that we should be the principal motive power in the League of Nations, and act as the policemen of the world, should also hold the view that it is not really anybody's duty to join the Army. I suppose it is true to say that in few countries apart from the Scandinavian countries, do we find the people placing so low a value on military service as apart from service in the Air Force and the Navy as does the average man in this country. We have this really astonishing paradox, which ought to be brought home to the public, that there is a by no means small proportion of the population which tries to force the Government to threaten each nation in turn with military action and at the same time refuses absolutely, either actively or precariously, to foster recruiting. That is an astonishing paradox and the right hon. Gentleman was undoubtedly right in exposing it. He has been criticised for so doing, and told that it was quite wrong to tell certain pacifist Bishops the truth about that matter. I hope the day will never come when a Minister of the Crown, in defence of his Department, is not entitled to tell the public if the prosperity of his Department is being hampered. I think the right hon. Gentleman should be commended.
As one who has criticised the work of the Department in some directions I want to say that I feel that the right hon. Gentleman has met with very great success as far as the Territorials are concerned, though a great deal still remains to be done. I was rather disturbed to hear how many of the 35 new headquarters which are required for the London area have not yet been provided. There are stories about, though they may be unsubstantial, that the War Office and the Territorial Association either have not got or are not prepared to exercise powers which would enable them to take possession compulsorily of property required for this purpose. If that be so it is a grievous thing. I hope that it is not so, and I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend shakes his head. In that case I hope the Department will 1924 exercise at once whatever compulsory powers they have, so that the London Territorials may be properly equipped in that respect. I believe it is the fact that recruiting has actually been held up by the lack of headquarters and equipment, and while I do not ask for any figures I would emphasise what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in a recent speech about the vast importance of obtaining as soon as possible the modern anti-aircraft guns which are required for the defence of London. The same observations apply to other places as well.
When we come to the Regular Army, there is a much sorrier tale to tell of recruiting. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough, at my request, to allow me to have a pass to go on manoeuvres, and I was allowed to talk to the officers and men, as any Member of the House would be allowed to do. In talking to them I told them that I was a politician and that I did not like discussing these matters with soldiers, but I asked them to tell me what in their opinion was the principal deterrent to successful recruiting at the present time, and almost without exception they said it was the pay and the financial conditions in the Army. The right hon. Gentleman has announced some improvement in the financial conditions of the soldiers. It is a good thing that stoppages from pay will be, as I understand, absolutely forbidden—perhaps the Financial Secretary will say if that is so or not when he comes to speak. Though the intention is excellent, regimental stoppages are sometimes a most grievous burden on the soldier, and ought to be abolished altogether. The money which was found by that system of stoppages ought to be provided out of Army funds. Though that excellent step has been taken I still do not know how far the pay and the financial conditions generally will compare with those in the Navy and in the Air Force.
While on the subject of conditions, I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he would be able to give a fourth meal a day to soldiers, but why was not that done a year ago? When we are faced with this most serious state of affairs as regards recruiting, why are all these concessions announced so late? It must have been present to the minds of the Cabinet and to the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that 1925 the general situation a year ago was at least as serious as it is to-day. True, it has become even more serious in some respects now, because I understand the gap in recruiting is even worse to-day than it was then; but even at that time, when the international situation was not all that it should have been, the importance of the question ought to have penetrated to the minds of the Government.
The right hon. Gentleman, in a passage in his speech with which I was in complete agreement, drew attention to the fact that, apparently, the prestige of the Navy and the Air Force stands higher than that of the Army among the general public. In reply to what the hon. Member opposite has said, I think it is not due, as he suggested, to some difference in the discipline in the Army, or in the relations between officers and men in the Army, that the Navy and the Air Force are able to get more recruits. I understood the hon. Member to ask how it was that the relationship between officers and men in the Army was not as happy as it was in the Navy. I should have said, on the contrary, that in the Army the relationship between officers and men was closer, and, if I may say so without appearing to criticise the other Services, of a more neighbourly character. I know what the hon. Member has in mind, that in the Navy any sailor can at any time demand to see a superior officer in order to talk over his affairs; but I think he will find that in the matter of the day-to-day relationships there is a much closer relationship between officers and men in the Army than in the Navy. Therefore, I do not think the hon. Member's suggestion, which was put forward reasonably and in all good faith, is really a sound one.
There is one thing which does discourage anyone who cares for the Army. You can see an example of it any day at Waterloo Station. The men of the Navy and of the Air Force to be seen there are splendid men, men confident and proud of their uniforms, and looking, I must say, physically fitter than the few men one sees in khaki, apart from guardsmen and men in special categories. The few men one does see in khaki look almost as if they were ashamed of their uniform. The Government, by making it a privilege to get out of uniform into civilian clothes, may have done something 1926 to encourage the idea. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing it is difficult to say, it is a question of psychology. Years ago, before the South African War, the soldier of that day—he may have belonged to the category which is sometimes vulgarly known as that of the "old sweats"—would have been seen swaggering along in his uniform. He had no inferiority complex; he was very proud of himself, there was no man in any army in Europe who was more proud of himself; and I am a little doubtful of the policy of making it a concession and a privilege to get out of uniform on every possible occasion.
There is another thing in connection with the Coronation about which I feel doubtful. I am given to understand that certain units which possess pre-war uniforms, which they have paid for out of regimental funds, are not to be permitted to wear those uniforms in the Coronation procession, and that the fiat has gone forth from, I suppose, the Adjutant-General's Department, that everybody is to wear either khaki or this new walking-out uniform. I know that members of my own former yeomanry unit, now artillery, have been informed that they cannot wear the walking-out dress, which they have worn for over 20 years, but must get the new general-pattern walking-out dress. If that be so I think a great mistake has been made. The Coronation procession ought to be made a [...]geant, and any pre-war uniforms would, in their small way, do something to help recruiting. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into this question.
In conclusion, I should like to say a word on a subject which will be dealt with much more fully by my hon. Friends below the Gangway in their Amendment. It is obvious to everybody that the Cardwell system is breaking down before our eyes. It is easy enough to make that statement, but it is far more difficult to suggest what is to take its place. I found it difficult to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman's speech exactly what are his views on the subject. The Cardwell system was created by a very great Secretary of State for War in the face of a great deal of opposition. The same was true of the Haldane reforms. Much prejudice existed in the Defence Departments and in some quarters of this House as well. After the South African War—I was in the House at the time— 1927 Lord Haldane had a very difficult task. He was criticised by many of us, and one must almost apologise for it at this distance of time. I understood that he did not have an altogether easy task in some respects in the Cabinet. He produced a number of most important changes. But for Lord Haldane's action, we should not have had an expeditionary force such as went over at the beginning of the War.
I must be very frank with the right hon. Gentleman. The time needs reforms almost equal in scope with those introduced by Mr. Cardwell and the late Lord Haldane. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman has an enemy in this House, but his greatest enemy would not deny that if anybody has the brilliant intellectual abilities necessary for carrying out a great reform of this character, it is the right hon. Gentleman. Some of his friends are noting that, after 14 or 16 months of office, he has got no further than discussing the pros and cons of the Cardwell system. I have no doubt that some of my hon. Friends will enlarge upon this point later in the Debate. I suggest that one quite small thing which the right hon. Gentleman could do as a beginning might be to replace some of the Cardwell system oversea battalions by long-service, specially-enlisted battalions. It would be an immense advantage, as I know from my knowledge of the Far East and of guerilla warfare in Palestine and elsewhere, to have a long-service battalion of men specially enlisted for service in the Middle East. They should be taught the languages and something about the customs of the people, and they would be far better than the raw troops, and in many cases the boys, who are sent out, for maintaining law and order in Palestine. The difficulties that some of these battalions have to face are enormous. They feel out of place in a country like Palestine, as they have had no experience of that sort of thing. I am disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman has not told us a little more about this matter of the Cardwell system.
Can the right hon. Gentleman not tell us whether there have been any conversations with the Government of India? I do not wish to throw any extra burden upon them, and nobody does, but if things go on in regard to the maintenance 1928 of recruiting as they have been doing, it may well be that we shall have to say to the Government of India that we shall not be able to keep up the Cardwell system and that, in concert with the Government of India, we shall have to devise some other system.
Those who have been advocating certain reforms are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for putting them into operation, but I beg him to remember the fact which has been brought home by all who have spoken on Defence, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping in all his speeches. I am sure that the Secretary of State for War is the last man in the House who needs advice in this regard, but I would point out that it is all very well to talk as though we had three, five or seven years in which to make these preparations. If there should be—which God forbid—a crisis in Europe, it is much more likely to come within the next two years than within the next five or six years, and all our long-term plans must take that point into consideration. As one who takes an interest in these things, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the concessions which he has made, and I hope that he will regard himself as only at the beginning of what is the Herculean task of remaking and reforming our modern professional Army.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham White
I will preface my short observations by agreeing in a sentence with the opening observations of the Noble Lord, when he said that no Government in this country would ever go to war again for what is known as an imperialist purpose. I cannot conceive of any Government, neither the present Government nor any other, who would do so, because they would have to carry the people with them. If this country should be engaged in a war it will be the people of this country who will engage in it, and not the Government. There will probably be agreement upon that statement in all quarters of the House. Introducing his long and important statement on Army affairs, the right hon. Gentleman gave an impressive but lamentable recital of the numerous occasions upon which the British Army had been called upon to preserve law and order and to defend life in different parts of the Empire in the last few years. He had no difficulty in carrying the House with him in the sug- 1929 gestions and proposals he had to make for securing that we have a more efficient Army for that purpose. I agree with the Noble Lord that when the right hon. Gentleman came to describe his proposals for a second Army it was difficult to ascertain just what proposals he had in mind or where we stand in that matter. The only definite proposal that we have had from the Government in that regard was in a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence when he said:All I can say is that we do not plan to have an Army on the Continental model."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1937; col. 1428, Vol. 320.]We were all glad to hear that. While I welcomed the concluding observations of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the League of Nations, when I presume he meant to relate our Army proposals to our international obligations, I had some difficulty in understanding whether we did, at some time, intend to have an expeditionary force which could be sent to act as the wing of a large Continental army. If there were any proposal of that kind hon. Members who have expert opinion would have a great deal to say about it. It seems an essential preliminary in a discussion of this matter that we should make up our minds, in relation to our obligations abroad, as to what form and what force must be employed in making our contributions; whether it should be carried out in the air or by means of the Navy or Army. It is an essential preliminary to the establishment of a sound long-term policy, and I hope that our doubts on this matter will not long remain unresolved.
I would refer in passing to a matter raised by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who asked whether we were getting value in regard to the sums of money being spent under this Estimate. That question raises the subject of the profits which are being charged on current contracts. The right hon. Gentleman said that they had not found any contractors who wished unduly to exploit—that was the expression used—the public necessities at this time. I do not think the expression "unduly to exploit" is very reassuring to the country which has to find these large sums of money. The suggestion is that there is some degree of exploitation, which is not an undue one. 1930 I hope there is no suggestion for the revival of an arrangement which prevailed in the last days of the last War, when contracts were settled on a basis of material and time plus a percentage. That led to an extreme waste of public money. Accountancy has reached a very high pitch of perfection and costing is very much more developed than it was in the last War. It is by no means impossible to devise a system of costing which would enable the nation to know precisely what it was paying people who are rendering services. Until the country is reassured that some system of that kind will be followed, nothing less than that will satisfy the public who are to be called upon to make considerable sacrifices to enable the country's necessities to be met.
I came to the House prepared and anxious to criticise some of the statements set out in the explanatory document to the Estimates, but, like the Noble Lord, I wish to express satisfaction with some of the concessions in regard to conditions in the Army, which undoubtedly have had more than anything else to do with the failure of the flow of recruits. The first step in Army re-organisation should be to improve the conditions of the men. The Noble Lord referred to financial conditions; I presume that he included conditions as to rations and food.
§ Mr. White
They are very closely re lated, because if the food arrangement is not satisfactory it makes the first claim upon the men's finances. Only when the conditions of the Army in regard to food and pay compare favourably with other Services, will it be possible for the Army to develop a steady flow of recruits. The right hon. Gentleman says in the explanatory Memorandum that:in spite of the untiring efforts of the Army recruiting staff, and the great help received from the Press, the film industry and the fruitful co-operation of many employers and public bodies,recruiting has not been satisfactory. It was altogether too early to call in the aid of the film industry and the Press, and all the rest of them, because the Army had nothing to advertise. During the last 12 months the Army has done nothing which justified the expenditure of a penny. That may not be true to-day or in the future. If the conditions which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to 1931 introduce are not very much better than the old, I beseech him to stop his advertising campaign until he has something which will justify the expenditure. He has told us what I am sure the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) heard with pleasure and gratitude, that there is to be no more margarine in the Army. There is, at any rate, to be a main ration of butter, and margarine will be handed out for supplementary purposes, perhaps for cooking.
Is no provision to be made for the supply of fresh vegetables and fresh milk? I understand that the troops seldom see such things. Another aspect of the matter is that the cash allowance which is, if I remember rightly, some 12S. a month, has to be spent in the Army and Air Force canteen. It always seemed to me that as the R.A.S.C. had to feed the Army in time of war, the R.A.S.C. should be responsible for feeding the Army in time of peace. No doubt it may be argued that it is better to leave this task to some extent to the choice of the troops and to the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes, but, if that arrangement is to be continued, it is clear that, on account of the fact that the institutes have a monopoly, and on account of the volume of business that they transact, the prices they charge are too high, and I would suggest that an independent inquiry should be made into the operation of these canteens by people who are skilled in the catering industry. I know that some 10 per cent. is returned to the unit, but that is not put into the food account; I understand that it is used for the purchase of cleaning materials, and also for sports gear, or something of the kind. That is an unsatisfactory arrangement. The profit should be kept in the food account.
I am glad to hear that something is to be done to improve the barrack rooms, but, as an indication that the conditions are not yet a subject for advertisement, I would point to the statement that quarters for married soldiers are only now being brought up to the standard obtaining in civil life. I hope that the statement with regard to the bringing to an end of the system of stoppages is final and complete, and I hope it applies to those soldiers who are serving overseas. The position of a private soldier serving over- 1932 seas, with a maximum allowance of 2s. or 2S. 6d. a day, is really intolerable having regard to the conditions of kit which have to be maintained. If a man has to buy a cork helmet, which costs, I suppose, a matter of 12s., he very probably has to live on half pay for three months or more to do it at all. I have had letters on this subject, and I brought one here with the intention of reading it, but I refrain from doing so because it would be contrary to the public interest; but the position of soldiers who are serving overseas really goes to the root of the whole business.
There can be no object in the right hon. Gentleman, or the Army Council, or anybody else setting up an elaborate machine for popularising and advertising the Army so long as it is possible for men in the Army to feel that they are not getting a square deal, that they are not getting sufficient food, that they are not comfortable. It will only be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to spend money in advertising the Army when every man who comes out of it is prepared to give it a good name, when everyone in the Army who is consulted by a pal as to whether he should join up will be able to reply, "It is a good place, come along and join" Members in all parts of the House get letters of complaint with regard to the conditions. There is one sentence in the letter I have mentioned which says that they compare unfavourably with those of the native servant. So long as those conditions prevail, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not spend a penny piece on advertising, but will withhold his operations until he can honestly say that the conditions in the Army compare favourably at least with those of the Navy and the Air Force.
I heard with very great satisfaction the statement that the Army Council were impressed with the necessity of doing something to provide employment for the soldier when he leaves the Army. The Army Council say they believe that the setting up of arrangements to extend the system of vocational training will greatly stimulate recruiting. If this House had to judge the Army Council by their success in the recruiting field up to the present time, it would not be able to-rank them very high; but I certainly agree, and I think the House will agree, 1933 with the Army Council that, if by an extension of the system of vocational training something is done to reduce the lamentable figure of 36 per cent. of unemployment among men who have been out of the Army for 12 months, it will go a long way to make the Army more popular as a career than it is at the present time. Friends of mine in Employment Exchanges have told me more than once how very disheartening it is to see the painful falling off in the morale and outlook of the ex-soldier. They have described him to me as walking down to the Exchange on the first day with a confident air and easy step, in the expectation of getting work, but, after weeks and months of fruitless endeavour and frustrated hope, his attitude is entirely changed, and he has become dejected and disappointed, with nothing to look forward to, except, perhaps, as the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street reminded us this afternoon, that when he has exhausted his standard benefit he may look forward to a wrangle with the Unemployment Assistance Board as to how much of his quarterly Army Reserve pay shall be assessed under the means test.
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street mentioned a letter which he had received, but it is not a question of one letter; this happens in thousands of cases. In many cases this £3 or £4, or whatever it is, is looked forward to by these men as something which is going to set them right, to enable them to buy something they have not been able to get for months—a new suit of clothes, or whatever it may be; and then they find that perhaps their father's allowance or their brother's allowance is stopped because they have got it. I join with those Members who have already spoken on the subject in the House in asking the right hon. Gentleman if he will not do something to see that this matter, which I regard as nothing less than a scandal, is brought to an end. The attitude of myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends towards this and other Estimates is quite clear. We have seen the lamentable development in Europe of political systems which are based, or appear to be based, on the idea that it is not necessary to be wise or reasonable provided that you are strong, and, so long as that state of affairs prevails, we believe it is undesirable to deny to any Government that might occupy those benches 1934 adequate provision for the defence of our shores.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Amery
I think that all of us who take any interest in the Army are truly grateful to the Secretary of State for the many useful minor concessions that he has announced to-day. The increased facilities for vocational training, the abolition of stoppages, the extra meal, the substitution of butter for margarine, are all admirable things. But I feel that many of us who have listened to my right hon. Friend this afternoon will have echoed the view expressed by my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) when he said we had hoped, from one with the high abilities and freshness of mind of the Secretary of State, for a more fundamental treatment of a grave and urgent problem. My Noble Friend said that the Cardwell system had broken down. It has been breaking down for a generation or more; the problem of dealing with it has been urgent for many years past. When the Secretary of State began his speech by recounting how often in the last few years our Army system was on the verge of breaking down, how it was barely able to cope with minor needs such as those which arose in Shanghai and in Palestine, and would have broken down altogether but for the fact that, through a fortunate and fortuitous circumstance, the troubles in Palestine and Italy happened not to coincide, I began to think it was a prelude to an announcement that he was introducing reforms which would give us an Imperial reserve, a margin, however small, of troops permanently mobilised and available to send anywhere at a moment of danger. He might have said a good deal more on that subject. In order to meet what was really a small local disturbance we had, amid the laughter of all Europe, to mobilise a section of the Reserve which had been demobilised, and it now depends entirely upon the Arab Committee whether we may not have to call up Section A of the Reserve again or capitulate. We are faced with the breakdown of a system which is completely out of date.
Again, we had hoped for a somewhat more concrete approach by my right hon. Friend to the problem of what the Army is for. It is true that he repeated four 1935 general purposes which he had previously mentioned—the equipment of our naval bases, the policing of the Empire, an Expeditionary Force, and home defence. But those are general categories. He did not give us the slightest indication as to how far our present system meets our requirements. Let me put our requirements in a somewhat more concrete form. We need, of course, permanent forces at our naval bases; we may have to increase them. We need a force, not only for policing the different parts of the Empire in normal times, but we need for police purposes—fire brigade purposes, if you like—an additional mobile force which, applied in time, may very well prevent a serious conflagration from spreading. We have not got it; we have never had it. Even at the time of the South African War we should have lost the situation in South Africa if India had not been able to spare a couple of brigades, and India is not so likely to be able to do that in future.
Then there is the question, of which the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) spoke just now, whether our mobilised expeditionary force is or is not intended to take part in mass warfare on the Continent of Europe. It is clear, when one looks back, that we had not a force suited for that purpose in 1914. If we had foreseen 1914, we should obviously have organised on a quite different scale, and should probably have introduced conscription. But we are worse equipped for the same type of war to-day than we were in 1914. And yet we are never told definitely whether the British Army is organised for the purpose of providing, not only the major expeditionary force which we may easily be called upon to furnish in the Near East, the Mediterranean, the Middle East or the Far East at any time within the next 15 or 20 years, but to fight some huge continental army under modern conditions. There are very strong arguments which can be applied against that. It may very well be said that we shall have what he did not have in 1914—an alternative method of helping a continental ally and fulfilling our international obligations, an Air Force equal to any that is within range of us. It may also be said with great force that a war, if it takes place in the Western Continent, is not going to be purely a Franco-German war, but a war which 1936 may vitally and immediately affect the whole position in the Mediterranean or in the East. At that moment we may need our expeditionary force in some other theatre of war, and in that theatre it is likely to be more efficient. The whole history of the British Army is that of an army which is the spearpoint of our naval supremacy, and to use it for any other purpose, merely as an adjunct to the conscript armies of the Continent seems to me to be a great mistake.
These seem to me to be formidable arguments which ought to be weighed up. The Government ought to take the nation into their confidence—otherwise they are not going to get recruits—first of all as to whether they regard their international obligations as necessarily involving use of a land force in Western Europe; second, if they do, whether five divisions are any fulfilment of their obligations or would lead to nothing but disaster and defeat; and if they are inadequate they must tell the nation that they must face conscription. I am not one of those who wish to face conscription, but then I do not believe that it is essential either to our international obligations or to our general military policy to repeat the kind of war which we waged last time and which left such ineffaceable memories in the minds of our people, memories which undoubtedly play their part in discouraging recruiting.
All these difficulties are due to the curious artificial structure with respect to terms of service which is known as the Cardwell system. Undoubtedly, Cardwell and the great soldiers who helped him, introduced a great reform, but that was 70 years ago. The conditions were very different then. We had at that time a long service army, 21 years' service, the whole of it permanently mobilised. It was a great advantage that such units as were at home could be sent anywhere abroad, but it was a great disadvantage that we had no reserve by means of which the Army could be increased. The new system was to provide a field army for home defence in case the Navy was not there, and, secondly, an additional army for India in case such a thing as the Indian Mutiny, then only 10 or 12 years old, recurred. Nothing in modern conditions was anticipated. Under the influence of recent Prussian victories it was 1937 decided to have a short service Army. It was obvious, however, that a real short service Army was impossible, because it could not provide drafts over 20 years of age available to serve in India. So an ingenious compromise was arrived at. Half of a six or seven years colour service was to be spent at home, and half in India, followed by five or six years in the Reserve. The units in India were to receive their drafts each from a unit at home, which was to be both a training establishment, and on mobilisation to provide a new army available for expeditionary or other purposes.
The whole basis of the system was a rigid parity between the peace strength overseas and the force at home, which would give you an expeditionary force for war. But there is no connection between these two things. We may well contemplate a period of years of considerable unrest and difficulty in many parts of the Empire, Palestine, the Indian Frontier and the Far East, coinciding with a period of major peace in the world outside. Yet under the Cardwell system, for every additional battalion required for policing the Empire we have to create an extra battalion here for the purpose of mobilisation. There may be peace throughout the Empire and a serious situation facing us on the Continent or in the Mediterranean. Yet under the present system there is no flexibility, no power of adjusting our expeditionary force to its strategical needs. It takes no regard for our strategical requirements. It does not provide us with a small permanent mobile reserve available to quench the flames before they get serious in any part of the world. It is a system which is almost Gilbertian in its inapplicability to the conditions of war. We must recognise the danger of war, and we have reached a time when our organisation should be such as to meet war conditions.
The Cardwell system also aimed at economy for the War Office. This middle-term service involved no pension as the old system did. The whole system was devised from the point of view of the War Office. But if you have a voluntary army you have to consider the point of view of the men. No system of service which disregards the fundamental interests of the citizens you ask to enlist can succeed. You may trim the system, improve things in little details, improve the pay, and somewhat improve the conditions, but as 1938 long as you have a period of service which no man who has any sense of the future is going to take up, you will not get the Army you want. You can get plenty of men to go into the Army in their youth for two, three or even four years, and then go back into civil life physically improved and on a parity with their competitors. You can also draw plenty of men who are interested in an increasingly scientific job like serving in the Army if it is a career. But the period in between is dead against the interests of the man himself.
It has been shown that from the beginning almost the system broke down. It broke down at the time of the South African war. I remember Sir Evelyn Wood giving evidence before the Royal Commission on the South African War that out of 100,000 men who went into the Colours on the eve of the South African War there were 40,000 who were unfit to serve. You may improve them in the Army, but if you take a physically sound man you can improve him still more. The deficiency of recruiting on the physical side implies that you are getting men deficient on the intellectual side as well. The war of the future requires men of initiative, foresight and self-reliance. I see that at the beginning of 1935 the Army was 3,300 men short of establishment. In 1936 the figure was 10,000. In January last year it was 14,000. At the end of the financial year, according to the Secretary of State for War, it will be 20,800. It is a rapidly increasing deficiency. Nothing but a fundamental reform will cope with this problem.
Is it the case that there can be no better system? There may be more than one solution. There is, at any rate, one. It was introduced in this House by the late Mr. Arnold-Forster, a Secretary of State who knew more about the Army than any of his successors. It was that the soldier should have an alternative period of service, that he should be enlisted in the first instance for a quite short period, 18 months, as Mr. Arnold-Forster suggested, or two years. At the end of that time, while the majority of these young men would wish to go back into civil life and so build up a large reserve, a small proportion would go on for career service. I believe that that is a system which would not only meet the vital needs of the man himself, but would 1939 enable us sufficiently to separate the long service Imperial Force, always mobile, available everywhere, from the force required for a major emergency. It would enable us, for instance, to increase the long service force by a division or two stationed at home or elsewhere which would be available for reserve.
What are the objections? I know the objection which caused that proposal to be turned down by the Colonel Blimps of that day, that it was impossible to make a soldier in 18 months. The War taught us very differently. The other objection was, with memories of pre-Cardwell days, that a man serving 20 years in the same battalion became the "old sweat", the shirking old soldier. But there is no reason why long service should involve long service in the same unit. The modern developments of war make the old water-tight partitions quite absurd. What difference to-day is there between cavalry riding in tanks or bustled up to the front in light motor runabouts from infantry who fight in the same conditions? You have the Army, like the Navy, becoming more and more complex every day, its tasks involving training, and there is no reason why, with a long service force, you should not give to every soldier going from one unit to another a training increasingly progressive as regards technical requirements, and at the same time take into account the fact that after a certain age he is less active. There is no reason why he should not go from light tanks to mobile field work, heavy artillery, anti-aircraft work and garrison units. It is a wicked waste of young soldiers to keep them in places like Gibraltar, Malta or Singapore, where there are no facilities for real training. Those places could be filled just as well by men of 30 to 40, or even older.
My right hon. Friend gave us some indication, as indeed he did last year, that this question was being considered, but we want action and not consideration, and the reasons that he gave for postponement did not seem to me very convincing. A change such as I have suggested would not involve any immediate alteration either in the numbers or in the composition of the units of our force at home. It need, therefore, make no difference whatever to the progress of mechanisation. Nor need it involve any alteration 1940 in the numbers of the troops in India, in their organisation in their equipment or in anything except, perhaps, their age composition, and there again the Indian Government, with federation still two or three years ahead, and to some extent relieved of urgent problems, is surely in a better position to handle that problem to-day than it will be two or three years hence. I plead most earnestly with my right hon. Friend to regard this matter not as one for chewing the cud of reflection, but as one for action. He will not disappoint the House in the least if he comes back in the spring or summer and announces a new programme of action in addition to the Estimates that he has now laid before us.
§ Mr. Bellenger
What has the right hon. Gentleman to say about the old regimental traditions of the Army? Surely they would cut across the very revolutionary change that he is advocating.
§ Mr. Amery
That is exactly what was said about the Cardwell system, when two battalions were linked together. I do not think that the change that I suggest need involve complete supersession of linking, but it would mean linking or grouping probably within a somewhat wider group of kindred units. After all, no one in the Artillery bothers about it, no one in the Engineers and no one in the Navy.
I should like to say a word about the Territorial Force. There, again, my right hon. Friend has given useful concessions. He has pointed to a satisfactory increase in recruiting, though he might have added that, even with that, we are still 6o,000 short of an establishment which in itself is inadequate. I should have liked to hear what is to be the function of the Territorials. Is it, and if so what part of it, to be a field force behind the expeditionary force? Is it to be kept intact in accordance with many pledges that have been given? With the present supply of reservists of the regular Army you may be certain that, in the case of a Continental war, the Territorial Force would be thrown in as drafts within a few weeks. We should like to know how the Territorial Force is to take part in the problem of home defence. Home defence to-day means, to all intents and purposes, home defence against air attack. No one will try to land a force against the Navy and the 1941 Air Force. It is simply a question of air attack, either directly by bombing or by the dropping of small detachments near vulnerable points. It does not require a field force, and it does not require mobility, but it does require dispersion. It, therefore, requires great numbers. Unless we face that problem seriously we shall be terribly handicapped in a war.
We want much larger anti-aircraft provision of a higher technical sort than we have. The nucleus should be Regulars, and might come from the older Regular soldiers of the long-service Army, but we want a much larger Territorial antiaircraft force, and behind that you will want your local defence—machine gun defence, smoke-screen defence, fire brigade and anti-gaswork, and for that you will want disciplined workers. Home Office organisation does not meet the case. Whether the general operation and control of home defence should be in the hands of the Air Ministry or the War Office is a matter into which I will not enter, but I am sure that the whole arrangement for ground defence should be under a single control, and should be subject to some form of discipline, otherwise you will have panic and chaos. That does not mean organisation by divisions and brigades, except possibly for administrative purposes. It means an organisation based on the real unit with which you are concerned. It may be Greater London, Crewe, Portsmouth, an individual bridge or factory or a town. We want for this purpose a much more elastic and flexible organisation that we have at present.
I feel that we are concerned at this moment with an element in our defence which is as indispensable for its particular purposes as either the Navy or the Air Force, an element on which you are spending vast sums of money, which will be wasted unless our organisation is really made to correspond to our needs. I believe we can build up, without conscription and without ruinous cost, an effective home defence. I believe we can also create a flexible Regular Army system for the defence of the Empire and, with allies or otherwise, in pursuance of our international obligations, again without undue cost, and I believe that for these purposes we can and ought to create an Army different from the armies of the Continent, but, I believe, infinitely more effective. If we are going to spend vast 1942 sums of money on equipment, what a waste to give that precious equipment to unintelligent, untrained men! We are under the disadvantage of not having a large force, but let us make sure that the spearhead of our power should be of its kind the finest Army in the world, an Army of men who have gone into it voluntarily, because the career is attractive, but who are also patriots, an Army of intelligent, self-reliant men, an Army which in the hour of danger I believe would hold its own with very much more than its own numbers in any field of action in which we are likely to bring it to the test.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Hicks
I do not propose to reply to the speech we have just heard. I feel sure that later on there will be many who will be anxious to reply to many of the points that the right hon. Gentleman has made. I would only say that an Army should not be an objective in itself. It should have a definite relationship to other things. I am of opinion that a change of international political policy will make a bigger contribution to the question of the armed forces than making the armed forces an objective in itself. I am not sufficiently skilled to go into the higher strategy. I only know as much as some experts, and I do not know as much as those who are called upon to administer and to carry out. I listened with great interest to the very comprehensive and capable speech of the Secretary of State and to his proposals for dealing with the lot of the soldier, among other things to the question of training and the various establishments that he was proposing to set up in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has had enough experience to know that the minds and muscles of individuals, say, from 18 to 25 are pliable and responsive, but after that period their muscles are not so easily applied, whatever their minds may be, so far as carrying out mechanical operations is concerned. Those with whom we have come in contact in industry who have had such training have learned what is meant by flattering to deceive. They have come out with good intentions but with very little skill and very little capacity to execute them.
On the question of recruiting, I am not so sure that the points that have been mentioned to-day are the most powerful. 1943 I believe that the mothers have a much more powerful influence over the behaviour of the boys in regard to joining the Army than the other inducements of so much per day, or sitting rooms or other things that have been provided. The mothers who have nursed their boys through childhood and early adolescence and have memories of what war means are the most powerful influence in advising their boys and, if the Secretary of State wishes to make a further appeal, he would be wise to go to the women and have a chat with them and get them to change their minds. With regard to the question of the type of soldier, it seems to me that in these days of a mechanised Army it is no longer a case of going to the countryside and getting the agricultural labourer and letting him walk about dressed up in pretty colours. It is no longer that type of man that you require. It is really the skilled mechanics that are required for the purpose of carrying out the future work in the Army. It is not the ordinary type of man with whom you are dealing, but a totally different type.
I was particularly pleased to hear of the suggested improvements in the status of the men in the Army, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) will be glad that the right hon. Gentleman has given the butter that he has so often spoken about. I am sure that there are many other things which the soldiers will welcome. I remember hearing a story of how, on one occasion, the man who was responsible for making tea in one of the boilers, served out the tea to the soldiers, and then forgot to take the tea leaves out of the boiler. For the evening meal it was to be Irish stew. All the ingredients were put into the boiler and boiled up, but when the man was about to serve out the soup, he found the tea leaves floating about in it. Thinking that there would be trouble that night if he did not give an explanation, he called attention to the matter by saying to the men: "Boys, if you find any tea leaves in your soup tonight, you will know that it is mint." He got out of trouble all right. I am sure that the soldiers will feel happy to know that, with regard to accommodation and means for recreation, there are to be improvements. I am pleased to hear of these improvements so far as the lot of the soldier is concerned, but I would 1944 ask for some consideration to be given to the industrial employés. I was glad to read these words in the Memorandum of the right hon. Gentleman relating to the Army Estimates:I would like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of, and gratitude for, the readiness and public spirit with which industry in all its ranks has met the appeal for help and co-operation. Without this response and the enthusiastic support of the personnel of the Royal Ordnance Factories, the results would have been far less satisfactory and promising.It is on that particular note that I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to assist, with other Departments, in attempting to get the recognition of pensions for industrial employés. This question was specially considered by a Royal Commission in 1931, but it had been subject to agitation long before that time. The Civil Service Commission which sat in 1931 made certain recommendations. The fact that a very large number of industrial establishments were inducing a feeling of security among their employés with regard to pensions, in the main generally contributory, was considered by the Commission, and they included a special paragraph concerning it in their report. There are in existence as far as employés are concerned certain gratuities based on years of service, and on the age at which employés are compelled to retire. I am certain that I have the sympathy of the right hon. Gentleman because I approached him while he was Financial Secretary to the Treasury, when he very graciously received me and seemed to be genuinely interested in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hacking), when Financial Secretary to the War Office, was also very sympathetic, as has been everyone whom we have approached on the matter. The fly in the ointment has been the Treasury on each occasion. We have approached Minister after Minister on this matter. It is not a party question by any means, and there are many hon. Members of this House who, if given an opportunity, would be only too willing and ready to support the appeal that these men should be allowed to come into a pension scheme. They are not asking the Government to meet the cost of the scheme entirely; they are desirous of being joint contributors and are willing to make their contribution. At 65 these men are compelled to leave the employment of the 1945 Ordnance Factory, after perhaps being in the employment of the State 30 or 40 years, at an average wage of £3 or £3 5s. a week, which is not sufficient to enable them to meet the ordinary needs of the day, and, at the same time, to put something by for old age. If they are discharged at 65 their opportunities of obtaining employment in other establishments are particularly limited. But I ask that the Minister will give not only sympathetic consideration to these men, but will help, in so far as it is practicable, to set up the committee which was advised by the Royal Commission. One of the recommendations of that Committee said:Our recommendation is that the question of bringing government industrial employees within the scope of the proposed contributory scheme should be the subject of special investigations in the near future, with a view to its adoption as soon as circumstances permit.That recommendation was made as far back as 1931, and repeated requests have been made for something to be done. Every time we have been sympathetically received. Unless these men have something to supplement the very small amount to which they will be entitled tinder the National Health Insurance scheme, it must of necessity mean that they will have to go to the Poor Law later in life. The cost of such a scheme would not be particularly large. The personnel is about 70,000, although I am sure that it has increased recently because of the activity of the Department. I do not know how long this employment will last. A number of employés may be discharged when the productive capacity of the Department has reached the limit of its requirements. In my constituency some of these men have been discharged at 61, and they have had to amble along until they have reached the age of 65, with only a small gratuity, waiting for the old age pension which when they have received it has been totally inadequate.
The various departments have received us recently in regard to this matter and they referred it to the Treasury. I was pleased to have the opportunity of appearing before the Treasury, who gave the matter sympathetic consideration and said that the claim was reasonable, but that the question again was that of the provision of the necessary money. This is a big thing for the individual, but I do 1946 not think that it is a big thing for the State. If the Government were to agree to grant this concession they would be rectifying a long-felt grievance, and would enable these industrial employés, of whom we are so proud, to end their days honourably and in comfort.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Major-General Sir Alfred Knox
I would like to say a word in support of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) said about the necessity for having a dual purpose Army. I will not go into the strategical reasons which he gave, because I realise that in the War Office we have people far more competent to deal with this matter than I can possibly be. I believe that you can never get the recruits you require in this country until you offer men a service for a shorter period to enable them to find out whether they really like Army life and discipline. I believe that the Cardwell system is absolutely out of date. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State should set up a committee to go into this whole question and give its opinion whether it is advisable or not. I know that one argument against it is that, if you are to have an Army of a longer service to serve abroad, that Army, naturally, must be better treated, and that the Indian Government, embarking on that new and expensive scheme of reform, cannot embark upon a scheme of pensions. So necessary is it, I believe, to get recruits for the Army here and to build up a reserve of short service men in this country, and, at the same time, to fulfil our military commitments abroad, that if India cannot afford to pay for it, it really becomes a question whether this country should not take on the obligation.
I would say a word of thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War for what he has done for the Army and what he proposes to do. I know that the improvements in the lot of the soldier which he outlined in his brilliant speech this afternoon will go a good way towards getting the men we want, but it will not do all, I am convinced of that. To begin with, I would ask whether the old stoppage is to be done away with, and whether the four meals a day are to apply to the Army in India or not? The 60,000 British troops in India have a much harder time than people imagine. When the British soldier goes 1947 out to India he has very little amusement. The cinemas are much dearer, and there are no ladies to walk out with, and his life is very circumscribed. The Indian ration is not enough for him to exist upon, and he has to supplement it out of his pay. Everything he uses is far dearer in India, because the Indian Government in its wisdom has put on enormous protective duties. It is not generally known that the British soldier in India has to pay duty on the Flander's poppy. Naturally, in time he wants to write home to his people and tell them what a rotten country it is, and then he finds that he has to pay two and a-half annas, 2½d., for his stamp, whereas his friends can write to him at a cost of one and a-half annas. We are told that there is financial stringency in India and that the Indian Government cannot afford these things; that there are great expenses in connection with this new constitution. But why does not the War Office stand up for these men and insist that they should receive better treatment in India? That would be the right thing for the right hon. Gentleman to do.
There is the question of pay. I believe that the greatest drawback and deterrent to recruiting is probably the long service. No one likes to find himself bound for seven or eight years, especially when, on leaving, he has to look out for a permanent job. I do not know whether it is generally known that the recruit in the Army gets 11s. to himself after stoppages are paid. He gets a little more under the new system. I have the figures which a friend of mine obtained in regard to 20 men taken haphazard. They were all employed before they joined up. Their wages in civil life averaged from 30s. to 50s. a week, and when they came into the Army, with partial board and lodging, and uniform, the cash which they actually touched every week amounted to an average of about 11s. These men, who lived in at home before they joined up, paid on an average to their parents £1 for board and lodging. The parents probably had a certain amount left after feeding the boys, which they put into their own pockets. The boys were asked how much they would like to remit home. Out of their 11s. they could not remit much. Fourteen 1948 of them did not send anything home. That sort of thing tends to make every mother a potential and actual sergeant against recruiting. She not only stands to lose her boy, but she stands to lose about 12s. a week which that boy would have brought into the common fund of the home, after paying for his own food. When we realise that these soldiers on 11s. a week are only getting about half what a female domestic servant gets, and she also gets board and lodging, it is ridiculous. If we are going to stick to the voluntary system we must pay for it. We cannot get it on the cheap.
The hon. Member for Birkenhead, East (Mr. White) blamed the War Office because 36 per cent. of reservists are out of jobs in the same year that they join the Reserve. The War Office is not to blame. This House is to blame. The War Office does its best to get people to provide jobs, and I hope that under the system which the Secretary of State has started they will be more successful; but the War Office cannot find jobs. The Secretary of State made an eloquent appeal to private employers to find jobs. The Government must set an example. They cannot expect private employers to do anything until the Government have given a real lead. Not long ago I put a question to the Postmaster-General on this subject. I asked him how many jobs for postmen and porters at the Post Office were available in a year for ex-service men. He said that 3,000 jobs were available and 1,500 were given to ex-servicemen. I asked him why he could not give all the jobs to ex-service men, and he replied that a certain number had to be kept for promotions in the Post Office. That meant that telegraph boys had to be promoted to be postmen. Why could not those telegraph boys serve for five or six years in the Army and then come back to be postmen? Every one of these jobs as postmen and porters in the Post Office ought to be earmarked for a soldier, a reservist. Other Government Departments ought to make similar provision. Local authorities ought also to give help in this direction. At the present time they pay special attention to enormously paid dustmen. A dustman with his pay is a millionaire compared with a soldier.
More and more it has been brought to one's mind that in this matter the 1949 Secretary of State has been fighting a lone hand. He has done his best. He has worked up and down the country, and the Army and everybody who has the interests of the Army at heart ought to be really grateful to him. Is he really supported by his colleagues on the Front Bench? Not long ago I put a question to the Minister of Labour. He consented to allow recruiting posters to be placed in the Employment Exchanges, and I asked whether he would allow men of suitable age for recruiting for the Army to be handed leaflets at the Employment Exchanges, not to be forced or to be argued into joining, but that they should be given a leaflet with the remark: "Here is a leaflet; will you consider it?" It could not be allowed. It is a disgrace that the National Government should allow a single Minister to fight for this absolute necessity, and leave the rest of the movement for getting recruits to a patriotic association like the British Empire Union. Every hon. Member ought to urge the necessity of recruiting and point out that it is the duty of every fit man to train himself so that he may be available to serve his country. It might be argued on the lines of collective security. He might be asked whether it is better that he should be thrown into the centre of Europe to fight, say, for Czechoslovakia, or whether it is not better that he should fit himself to defend his own Empire?
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
I cannot agree with all that has been said by the hon. and gallant Member, but before I deal with some of his remarks I should like to say a few words about the speech of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said he wanted the War Office to tell the House exactly what their position was. It amazes me that when a Cabinet Minister loses his position and he goes on to a back bench he appeals to the existing Cabinet Ministers to take the House into their confidence, although when right hon. Members were themselves Cabinet Ministers they never did that. They generally tell us that these matters are secret and that if the information gets into the hands of other countries it might be serious. Whenever those ex- 1950 Cabinet Ministers leave the Front Bench they change their attitude and tell us what ought to be done. It is hard on us to have to listen to that sort of thing from time to time.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook spoke of the advantage of short service for overseas, but the Noble Lord had already stated that he thought that for overseas there should be a long-service Army, because when soldiers got accustomed to overseas service they were the better men for it. I will leave them to settle their differences as to which is right or wrong. My point of view is that to the northener or the Britisher, India and Egypt are difficult countries, and that it would be wrong to put men to serve the whole of their time overseas. Such service ought to go round, so that everybody would get an equal share. Therefore, I take the point of view of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. The Secretary of State said the young man of to-day was quite different from the young man of 50 years ago. He has a different outlook and a finer sense of what is required for social life than the old soldier had. I quite agree with him. I should like to give a few instances of directions in which I think assistance might be given to recruiting. Practically every morning I take a walk in order to keep something like fit, and I often go along St. James's Park, and my interest in soldiers, from my own experience in the Army, generally leads me to the barracks where soldiers are being drilled. I wonder what effect such drilling has upon a young man who has come to London with the idea of joining the Army. I wonder what he thinks about it when he sees the rather harsh way recruits are treated. Times have changed, and that sort of thing happening may have the effect upon him of causing him not to join the Army. In our modern life we are more accustomed to freedom than they were in past days. We do not like the irksome task of barrack-square drill, where the slightest fault in a footstep means that a man is pulled up with a quick word of command and he is made to go over the same step again and again.
§ Mr. Anstruther-Gray
The hon. Member is referring to the drilling of soldiers at Wellington Barracks and to, the strict drilling methods. Is he aware 1951 that they never have any difficulty in getting recruits there, in spite of the fact that they have a very high standard and that men must be 5 feet 10 or 5 feet II?
§ Mr. Tinker
I am speaking of the man who is 5 feet 6 or 5 feet 7 who wants to join the Army but is deterred because of the sort of thing that I have been describing. I am only putting my point of view. There have been relaxations in many ways in the Army and I think there should be some relaxation of the stern discipline which existed 40 or 50 years ago. The young man of to-day is quite different from the old "swaddy" of those days. The men who joined the Army then were not altogether the best type of citizen At the present time quite a different type of man joins the Army, and it is well to recognise that fact.
I hope the Secretary of State will explain more clearly what the position will be when the change takes place in regard to vocational training. Will the men be treated as the unemployed man is treated or will there be something extra for them? If there is not something extra for them the benefit will not be of much use. I am not in agreement with the hon. and gallant Member who spoke last and another hon. Member, who suggested that under vocational training the ex-soldier should have the first chance of jobs.
§ Mr. Tinker
That is wrong. It means that you are doing somebody else out of a job. The Secretary of State said he hoped the municipalities would hold out some inducement to the ex-soldier in the way of jobs. I could never agree to that kind of thing, because every citizen, whether he is in the Army or outside the Army, is entitled to an equal chance of getting a job. It is wrong to hold out this sort of thing as a hope for the ex-soldier. Would it not be much better if the Secretary of State and my hon. Friends tried to alter the system and provide everybody with a job rather than say that certain people shall have jobs? Under our present system a large number of people are out of work, and we should only create prejudice and ill-feeling if we suggested that the ex-soldiers should have the jobs.
1952 The hon. and gallant Member referred to what took place in regard to the suggested distribution of leaflets in the Employment Exchanges. He said that such leaflets might be an inducement to unemployed men to join the Army. I suppose that his idea is that the leaflet should state that if the man joined the Army there would be a job for him when he came out. Imagine the feelings of the unemployed man, unemployed through no fault of his own, and who is probbably not fit for the Army, if he was to be told that if he joined the Army there would be a job for him when he came out. If we want recruits for the Army we ought to see that they are paid sufficiently to induce them to join, and when they come out we should not throw them into the world of competition without any aid. If they are deserving, let the State give them something for the service they have rendered rather than try to take a job away from another citizen. Far better results would be obtained by doing that.
I did not hear the Secretary of State mention the question of marriage. I understand that if a soldier marries under the age of 26 he does not get a marriage allowance. That should be remedied. From time to time the seriousness of the falling birthrate in this country is discussed but here you have the young soldier, probably the fittest man of all for begetting children—and I suppose between 18 and 26 is probably the best age—prevented, or if not prevented, told that if he does take a wife certain benefits will not come to him. That is a point which should be considered by the Secretary of State if he wants young men to join the Army.
Regarding the mechanisation of the Army, I have been urging on the Secretary of State for many years that he should do away with the cavalry. My point of view has been recognised by the Ministry and the Secretary of State's reference to the quick way in which the Italian troops got across the country in Abyssinia proved that the horse has become almost extinct in military warfare. I was not satisfied by the explanation which the Minister gave on the subject of anti-aircraft units and I would like him later to make the position clear. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) expressed the opinion 1953 that war, if it did come, would come within a short period. That is my view. I am afraid of what the next 12 months may bring, but if we can get over that period we shall arrive at a time when there will be no need for measures on the scale which we have been discussing to-clay. The next 12 months will be a critical time for the fighting forces. I am prepared to see adequate provision made in case war breaks out, but, as I have tried to show, better things can happen.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Mabane
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House views with concern recruiting deficiences, attributes them not to any reluctance to serve, but to the fact that conditions of service no longer bear a proper relationship to military requirements or to civilian conditions of life, and therefore, in order that these deficiences may be made good, urges His Majesty's Government to define the purposes of the Army more clearly; to reorganise conditions of service to provide a full career for those who desire service in imperial garrisons, a short-time service for those who desire to be reservists, and full facilities for those who desire to join the Territorial Army; and to increase the pay of officers and men sufficiently to make the rewards of service commennsurate with those offered in civilian occupations.Some part of my Amendment has been covered in the Debate. Recruiting is the peg on which it hangs and that is an urgent problem. We have got the money and are getting the materials, but not the men. I think it is obvious that, if we do not get the men, the material we are providing is no more than useless iron. The position of recruiting in the Regular Army was at its worst last year, when 36,000 recruits were required and 25,000 were obtained. This year 47,000 are required in view of last year's deficiency. The Memorandum of the Secretary of State, moreover, points out that the number of recruits in the year just ended would have been still less but for a relaxation in the physical standard. Recruiting in the Territorial Army is improving and will continue to do so, but most units are below strength, and the Financial Secretary will, I think, confirm the statement that in the whole Territorial Force the deficiency is 40,000 men.
These disquieting facts about recruiting present two problems which it is the duty of the House to solve. The first is to find the causes and the other to remove 1954 them. I reject utterly any suggestion that these recruiting deficiencies are due to any lack of spirit in the people. They are due to fault in the system in the Army and in the system by which recruits are obtained. In this country we have definitely preferred the voluntary system, but we must face up to the fact that we must pay for it by suiting the conditions to the men we want to get into the Army. We shall see whether the many reforms announced by the Secretary of State will provide the requisite number of recruits, but I am inclined to doubt whether they will be sufficient. If we are to judge from the Secretary of State's speech, the War Office itself does not seem particularly proud of its efforts in recruiting propaganda in the past.
But the main body of this Amendment suggests that recruits are not forthcoming, firstly, because the structure of the Army is obsolete, and, secondly, because the terms of service are utterly out of keeping in pay and in character with the conditions of life in this year of grace 1937. What we require is root-and-branch reform of the whole Army system. My Noble Friend the Member for Horsham and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) indicated the lines on which I would like to see reform, and until we get it root and branch we shall not get the recruits we require. The Secretary of State was right in saying that the Navy and the Air Force possess a glamour which the Army lacks and that there is a natural prejudice in favour of the Navy and the Air Force, who get the recruits. But the two latter Services have great advantages in that the Navy provides a career for a man and the Air Force an equipment for life, sending a man out fit to do a skilled job.
The Secretary of State made light of my suggestion that the purposes of the Army should be more clearly defined, but I was glad to have the support of the right hon. Gentleman behind me. Do the people we want to enlist really comprehend what the Army is for? They have a fair idea of what the Navy and the Air Force are for, but not so in the case of the Army. The Secretary of State last year, and indeed three years ago, said that the purposes of the Army were to provide Imperial garrisons, to defend naval bases, provide for Home defence and provide an expeditionary force for 1955 continental war. But is the fourth point a part of national policy? The time has come for a declaration on that point. It seems ludicrous to suggest either to our friends on the Continent or to the people of this country that the Army is capable of providing, or that it is the Government's intention that it should provide, an expeditionary force for the Continent. It has been suggested that six divisions would be needed for such a force. Where are they? The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) has suggested that if emergency came to-day as in 1914 there would not be six diviisions, nor five, nor four, nor three.
We should declare our purposes more clearly and remove the fourth from the list of those previously mentioned by the Secretary of State as belonging to the Army. I would prefer that we should limit our jobs and do them well, the first being to provide Imperial garrisons, the second reinforcements for those garrisons and for particular emergencies within the Empire, and the third a real foundation for home defence. If the country could comprehend that the Army was directed to those purposes, there would be a great stimulus to recruiting, and if, in the last resort, an expeditionary force were needed, it would be the more readily provided. Is the present construction of the Army suited to the purposes I have suggested? It is said that recruiting is based on the Cardwell system. To-day that system has no merits at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spark-brook has said thatthe Cardwell system was devised purely to suit the interests of the Treasury and with no regard for the soldier himself;and thatit insists on a period with the colours too short for a career and too long to give the soldier any chance in the struggle of life afterwards.It takes the soldier for six years and throws him out in his middle twenties, just when he is too late to catch up with what he has lost in civil life. The Cardwell system should be scrapped utterly. After the Boer War, it seemed, reading the military experts, that the Cardwell system was due for scrapping then, but it was given a new lease of life, and we have it with us to-day, when it is particularly inappropriate to these mechanised times.
1956 But there are alternative methods which have the great advantage of being able to provide us with what we want in the way of personnel and for strategic purposes. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook has elaborated a suggestion I was going to make, that if we recruit our Army for the specific purpose of garrisons abroad then let us have a long-term service, which will give a man a career as a soldier—a long-term service of 21 or 25 years. If that was so, we should, I think, attract in far greater numbers the sort of men we want into the Army, and, what is more, the annual addition of recruits that we require would be considerably fewer. For the purpose of providing reserves I would suggest the proposal made by Mr. Arnold Forster for a genuine short-term service of 15 months—a proposal which was approved by the House. Military authorities may say that the period is too short, but in view of our experience during the War who can say that it is too short? Those who had never served in any military formation at all found themselves at the front at the end of 12 months, and probably did not think themselves entirely inefficient as soldiers. They would certainly reject the suggestion that 15 months is too short in which to train any intelligent man to take his part in a military unit.
There is a further advantage in that particular form of service—it would have had a particular attraction in the last few years. I am not one of those who regard the Army as the last resort of the unemployed. I was sorry to hear many of the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) and I suggest that during the last few years many young men who have been unemployed would have looked forward to a period of 15 months service in the Army; they would have tried it in the hope that things might be better at the end of the term. They would not join for six years, but they might have joined if the period had been 15 months. That is the sort of advantage which a short-term service possesses. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the Territorial Force must be regarded as the first line of Home Defence, and I would suggest that it should be supported with larger cadres of regular officers attached to it for training purposes. I should like to see virtually the whole of the youth of 1957 this country regarding it as a national duty to join the Territorial Force at the proper moment in their lives. If we had an Army recruited in that way for a specific and particular purpose then, if we had to provide an expeditionary force, we should be able to provide such a force much better than by scraping together two divisions, as we should have to do at the present time.
But whilst this redefinition of the purposes of the Army and the reorganisation of the terms of service would be a very definite help in recruiting, yet they would not be sufficient without an improvement in the pay and conditions of the service. In this matter of pay and conditions I would ask hon. Members to look at Votes 9 and 10—materials. It will be found that there is an increase of £23,000,000, actually more than 100 per cent. The small experience of war I have leads me to the conclusion that personnel is the most important thing in an army. I would rather have first-class men than first-class material with second-class men. Pay and conditions are at the root of efficiency and personnel. The Amendment suggests that pay and conditions in the Army should be commensurate with opportunities in civilian life—that is for officers and men. What do the Government want? Do they want the best or are they going to be content with the second best? If they are going to be content with the second best why has the War Office such a low opinion of its own service? My view is that the Army deserves and ought to have the best. I want to bring such improvements in pay and conditions as will attract the vast middle section of our community, which at the present time is almost entirely out of contact with the Army either in the ranks or among the officers. If we could bring in that middle-class section of the population we should develop a far greater responsibility on matters of foreign policy generally than is the case to-day.
In the matter of pay, one would gather from the propaganda that there has been a great improvement in pay conditions. I would ask hon. Members to look at the papers and compare the pay Votes in 1929 with those of 1933. If they do so they will find that there has actually been a decline in the amount of Army costs, per capita, between 1927 and 1937, and also that out of the vast increases which we are asked to pass by 1958 this Vote the pay Vote shows an increase of only £300,000 on last year. I want to endorse the plea made by the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe that the private soldier is entitled to pay and conditions which are at least equal to those of the housemaid. At present he does not. I should like to see the pay and conditions in long-service enlistment of 21 or 25 years equal to those of the police, with pensions at the end of the period of service. I should also like to see more opportunities for ability to force a way from the non-commissioned ranks to the commissioned ranks.
Consider what is happening at the police college at Hendon, the quality of the young men is remarkable both in physique and ability. Why must the Army be content with a lower grade of manhood than the police? Surely it ought to have the best, that is if we are going to do anything to make it what the Army claims it in its propaganda, the finest job in the world. Why is it deemed necessary that the efficient soldier should be first uncomfortable, and, secondly, celibate? There is no effective answer to those two questions. I say little about short-service enlistment, because a very little improvement in pay would prove adequate to secure the necessary men.
As to the Territorial Force, I trust that the War Office will continue to exalt it as it has done in the last year. I should also like to be sure that service in the Territorial Army will involve no sacrifice, no costs, on those who enter it. I would like to see restored all the allowances that the men had in the past; I believe most of them have been restored, and I welcome that fact. Before concluding, I will refer to the other side of this question, that of the pay of officers, which I consider to be of no less importance and in some respects to be more important. Again, I ask the Financial Secretary what the War Office wants. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State made a jibe at those who are apt to condemn the generals, and he implied that those who are in the Army represent the first-class brains. Seriously, I do not think any one could support that as a general proposition. Last week there were published in the "Times" two brilliant articles by the military correspondent of that newspaper, and in those articles reference was made to the 1959 Haldane Committee of 1924. The article quoted the Statement of the Committee that:It is much to be desired that first-rate brains should be attracted into the Army,thus implying that they were not there. The military correspondent went on to say that:This implied the 'necessity of convincing parents that the Army provides openings for brains and character comparable with those provided in the Civil Service or in the other professions',and the Committee laid down thatThere must be real opportunities for advancement by meritand thatThe remuneration must be adequate.I suggest that those conditions are not at present fulfilled. How can the pay at present offered to officers attract into the Service the first-class brains, unless it attracts men who are prepared to pay for the privilege of serving their country? At the outset the pay may be good, for a subordinate gets £268 a year, but to what can a man look forward after serving 15 or more years in the Army? After that period of service, he is inadequately rewarded by £514 a year, including all allowances. Frankly, that remuneration is not sufficient to attract young men who are looking for careers and who compare the remuneration they would receive in the Army with the remuneration they might receive in other professions.
Sometimes, when one hears the arguments that are put forward by the War Office against increasing the pay of officers, one is inclined to think that the War Office does not want first-class men. If I may again draw on my short experience of the Army, I would say that nothing would be more important, if the great test of war ever came, than that the higher command should be composed of men of first-rate ability, for at such a time they would have it in their power to save the lives of men or to destroy them. I will refer briefly to the Territorial officers. I think the rewards for service in the Territorial Forces should be improved, for I have found, after examining conditions in the Territorial units, that there are many young men who make great sacrifices to serve in those units, and, what is worse, many young men who would like to serve in the Territorial units are not able to 1960 do so because they cannot face the sacrifices they would have to make.
I have endeavoured to indicate briefly the sort of reforms that I believe to be necessary in order to present the Army in a different manner to the people of this country—the sort of reforms that are necessary in order to attract into the Army those whom we wish to attract into it. If those reforms were introduced, I believe the position of the Army would be comparable with that of the Air Force and that there would not be deficiencies, but a waiting list. I believe that hon. Members, with one or two exceptions—I see the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir Stafford Cripps) is not present at the moment—would welcome such an event. It may seem that I am asking for a great deal, but that is not so; all I am asking comes on the Pay Vote. If hon. Members will examine the Pay Vote, they will find that there is an increase this year of no more than £300,000. Is it too much to ask for £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 for personnel when there is an increase of £28,000,000 for materials? I think it would be ridiculous for the War Office to refuse.
The only ground on which I can conceive that the War Office would be entitled to refuse the demands made by those of us who wish to improve recruiting would be that the House would not grant the money, but I believe that the House would not refuse any demand that the War Office made upon it for the provision of money to improve the pay and reform the conditions of those who serve in the Army. I feel that the House is entitled to a reply from the Financial Secretary. Unanimous opinions have been expressed on both sides of the House, indicating that the House desires the conditions to be improved, the pay to be increased and a general reform of the Army to be undertaken. If the Financial Secretary can give us some assurance that the proposals made this evening will be carefully considered, and that those which are possible will be undertaken, those of us who are responsible for this Amendment will be very grateful indeed.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernays
I beg to second the Amendment. I am sure the House will be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) for the way in which he has used his success 1961 in the ballot and for presenting to us an Amendment which is drawn in the widest possible terms. I wonder whether it is sufficiently realised with what attitude of amusement and deep satisfaction our recruiting deficiencies are being viewed in the dictatorship countries. Only last week, when I was in Rome, I was listening to a prominent Fascist talking on this subject. He said, with regard to our rearmament: "We are not afraid of your rearmament; we realise that you have immense wealth, we know you can build tanks, aeroplanes, mechanised artillery and all the machinery of destruction, but what is the use of it all if you cannot get sufficient recruits for your tiny professional Army? You may beat us on the material front, but we shall beat you on the morale front, and it is the morale which counts in the end."
My mind went back to a conversation that I had five years ago with a Nazi student at Berlin University on the eve of Herr Hitler's triumph. I remember very well his room at the University; it was bare and crude. Every article in it had some significance—the hiker's equipment in one corner, a duelling outfit in another, on one wall a great map of the German territories, with the lost ones marked in red, and on the other a full length picture of Herr Hitler, a table and two hard chairs—nothing else. Obviously he was very proud of it, and he asked me what I thought of it. I said that I thought it was very nice, but that did not satisfy him, and he went on to ask me how it compared with the room of an Oxford undergraduate. I was a little embarrassed, and I replied, "If I may say so without being too rude, at Oxford the room would be a little more comfortable; there would be armchairs and cushions, perhaps flowers on the table, and there would be books—I see that you have no books—and pictures on the mantelpiece"—and he interrupted me angrily to say, "Pictures of actresses, I suppose—you English are soft."
I thought that was the most tragic remark that I had heard since the War, because it told me that history was repeating itself, and repeating itself in less than one generation. Here in 1932 was a young German saying that the English were soft—that tragic misconception which was largely responsible for 1914. That is the idea which underlies all the memoranda of the ex-Kaiser. Bismarck 1962 made the same mistake when he said contemptuously of the British Army that he would send over a gendarme to arrest it. Here, within 15 years of a war that had ended in the Treaty of Versailles, was a young German demonstrating that all the tremendous military efforts which we put forward, all the courage and endurance of Mons, the Somme and Passchendaele counted with him for nothing. One asked one's self the question: Are we doomed in every generation to have to prove our manhood by the maiming, the massacre, and the madness of war?
If we are to escape that cycle of death, it is clear that we must show, not merely that we have the means to fight, but the will to fight. We have to give unshakeable evidence of the fact that if we are hit, it will not he a question of turning the other cheek, but that we shall hit back with quick and smashing force. Until our recruiting deficiencies are made good, there will continue to exist in the dictator countries this same insane and disastrous doubt as to our intentions. I suggest that these deficiencies in recruiting are a gap in our national life. How is it to be remedied? It is casting no aspersion on the patriotism of our youth if I say that we have to ask ourselves whether the Army offers them a career similar to that which is offered in ordinary civilian occupations.
I welcome the concessions that were announced by the Secretary of State this afternoon, but there were omissions in that speech which I regret. One was the absence of any announcement of an increase of pay. The pay of the Army is below that of other skilled professions. Admittedly, it is above what it was before the War. Before the War it was 1s. a day for a recruit and it is now 2S. That is an increase of 100 per cent., but the whole standard of life has been revolutionised since 1914. My hon. Friend has mentioned the wages of servants. I suppose that in 1914 you could get a housemaid for £18 a year. Now you would be lucky to get one for £50 a year. In 1914 a railway porter received 17s. 6d. per week. My colleague in the representation of Bristol, the hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. Walkden), who is an authority on railway matters, tells me that the minimum wage of a railway porter to-day is £2 per week. There was no dole then and the greatest recruiting sergeant was 1963 poverty. Those conditions have been changed, and rightly changed. I wonder whether the War Office understands the full meaning of the revolution. The standard of living is going up. Even the pay of the unemployed has been increased under the National Government. The residuum of society on which the War Office relies for the supply of recruits is being steadily diminished in size by the advancing tides of social problems. Something must be done on this question of pay.
I regret, too, that my right hon. Friend did not deal more satisfactorily with the question of employment after Army service. That is a question of cardinal importance. To-day there is no difficulty in recruitment for the Guards. One of the main reasons is that the overwhelming majority of them have no difficulty under the short service system, in finding employment after their tern of service. I do not think it is satisfactory that after years of valuable service a man when he leaves the Army should automatically go on unemployment insurance. Vocational training ought to be undertaken while a man is still in the Army and still in receipt of Army pay. Any other method is not merely shabby to the service man, but is, I believe, an abuse of the purposes for which unemployment insurance was instituted. Another obstacle to recruitment is the reluctance to serve abroad. That does not exist only in this country. It exists in Italy, too, in regard to Abyssinia, although there they have other methods of dealing with it. It is odd that in an Imperial nation like ours there should exist this reluctance to go abroad, but undoubtedly it is there.
How can we remedy this difficulty of foreign service? The Army, I believe, is losing good men on account of it. One way would be to reduce the length of foreign service or to grant more frequent leave, but I realise that there is substance in the contention of my right hon. Friend that we cannot place additional burdens upon the Indian Government at the inception of the new Constitution. But is it not possible, without great expense, to do what the Amendment suggests and to make a clear distinction between service in the Imperial garrisons and service at home for defence purposes? What my hon. Friend and I want may be described as an Imperial gendarmerie. Long 1964 service abroad should be reserved for those—and they do exist—who are attracted by the adventure and glamour of strange countries. In this connection I would ask the Financial Secretary whether it would not be possible to recruit for such a force outside the British Isles. From my knowledge of Australia and New Zealand, I am inclined to think that service in such a gendarmerie would prove attractive, and I think the possibilities of recruitment there might be explored. For other men who have not the urge for travel I believe that with the threat of service in India removed, the Army would take on a new and more attractive aspect.
I come to the question of amenities in the Army as a whole. Need service in the Army in these days, when life is being made infinitely more pleasant for all of us by revolutionary inventions, be quite as uncomfortable as it appears to be? I was rather horrified to hear, when I was in Africa recently, of the conditions on the troop-ships. I was told, for instance, by commanding officers that on these troop-ships the men sleep and eat in the same place and that, going through the Bay of Biscay—and I have peculiar knowledge of what happens to one there— when most of the men are sick, their hammocks are slung over the tables at which they are expected to eat next day. That is an intolerable position. I was told, too, that there is no proper ventilation in the heat. I had from officers a dreadful picture of the heat and stench of the men's quarters when going through the Red Sea. A commanding officer told me that he was really ashamed of the contrast between the conditions of the lower deck and the atmosphere of a luxury pleasure cruise in the officers' quarters. I hope that the Secretary of State will make an investigation into troopship conditions and see whether they can be drastically amended.
Then there is the question of barrack accommodation. I know that much has been done, but the progress is slow. Such barracks as I have seen are very comfortless affairs with three outside walls and no central heating, and I am told that the provision of coal is often inadequate. I know that it varies very much with each barracks, and that the commanding officer has the right to overdraw an unspecified amount, but he never knows whether he may overdraw 1965 too much and be charged for the coal. That raises another minor question, but these minor questions do so much affect the individual comfort of troops. I understand that in these barracks hot water is not laid on, and that every man has to shave in cold water. That seems unnecessary when plumbing facilities have been so much extended. I regret, too, that there is no mention in the speech of my right hon. Friend of increased facilities for marriage. The point was raised by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). No soldier is allowed to marry until he is 26, and even then only with the permission of his commanding officer. I have looked up the figures and discovered that only 5 per cent. of the privates are married on the strength. Reading as one does accounts of courts-martial, it is rather disturbing to see how many are due to desertions that can be traced directly to the fact that a man is unable to marry on the strength. I recognise, of course, that a change of regulations must increase the burden on the taxpayer, but we owe so much to our professional Army that we ought to be willing to shoulder additional burdens.
I have not time to deal with the question of discipline, but it is arguable that some of it is out-of-date. I will mention, in passing, the order that a recruit, when he goes for the first time into barracks, is not allowed leave out until he has been fitted with his uniform, which may take several days. That seems unnecessary, and makes the barracks savour of prison, which obviously is to be deprecated. No sensible plan will be in favour of making the Army a soft job, but there is no need for unnecessary restrictions. After all, war is very different from what it was a generation ago. I realised very vividly, if I may touch on a personal note, the astonishing changes that have come over warfare when only this month I found myself on the sunbaked wastes of Omdurman, which must be vivid to the memory of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I was thrilled to see the dried-up water course down which he and the 21st Lancers had galloped in the last charge of the old world. What a different Army it was! There were no tanks and no mechanised artillery. It was an affair of horses, forced marches, grave commissariat troubles, and fierce hand-to-hand fighting. A very different kind of man was 1966 needed for that kind of warfare. The War Office to-day still tends to recruit by the same methods as in 1898. We do not want that kind of Army now. In the event of another war, I understand that it would not be a question of six infantry divisions, but a question of highly organised and mechanised mobile units of great speed. For that purpose we want something more than unthinking, unquestioning obedience, something more than an individual conscripted by poverty.
The soldier is no longer the old foot slogger, the "old sweat" as he was called. The soldier is a skilled man and he must be paid and treated as such. If the appeal of the Army is properly stated and the conditions of Army life remodelled in the light of new conditions, I cannot see that there will be any difficulty in obtaining sufficient recruits. There is no scintilla of the decline of moral fibre or the decay of patriotism such as is imagined in dictator countries. We remember the sneers that were levelled at the youth of 1914. We can see him represented in the back numbers of "Punch"—a lazy, overdressed young man, prefering the then nascent cinema to service. He was clubbed in those days as a "nut" and was regarded as a useless person, but when the crisis came the "nuts" were in the first hundred thousand of recruits. So it would be again. We have to prove to our neighbours that it would be so. The only way we can do it is to demonstrate by swelling recruiting numbers that when the crisis comes if come it does, when the challenge is made, we have not merely got the money and the ships, but we have got the men, too.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Parker
We on this side of the House give a general welcome to the Amendment, although we might not perhaps word it in the same way. Much has been said about recruiting, and I do not wish to go over that ground too much. I can only say that we on this side welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has found it better to make practical reforms in order to try to persuade people to join the Army rather than to put the blame for lack of recruits on various people such as bishops, pacifists and other "bogymen." I believe that if we are to have satisfactory recruiting, 1967 and if we are to have a long-term Army, it will be necessary to make the Army a career open to talent more than it is at present. On paper the figures of promotion from the ranks appear much better than in the Navy. Three years and two years ago 13 per cent. of the commissions came from the ranks, and last year 15 per cent. That is much better than in the Navy, but at the present time 85 out of every 100 officers are going into the Army are still usually as inexperienced boys. These figures have not progressed very much in recent years. When the Labour Government were in office in 1930 17 per cent. of the commissions came from the ranks, and at that time it was the definitely declared policy of the War Office to stimulate promotion from the ranks. Mr. Tom Shaw, who was then Minister of War, said:I am not satisfied that only boys of the public school type can become efficient officers.and he hoped so to alter conditions that we should have officers drawn from rather a wider field. We on these benches are strongly opposed to a caste system in the Army, just as we are in the Navy, and I should like to read a part of a letter which I have received from a friend after I had put down that question which produced the percentages which I have given of people promoted from the ranks. The writer was an officer in the Army and took a commission from the ranks.I was most interested to see the answer given to your question the other day about the percentage of commissions granted to men from the ranks. I had never realised that it was as high even as 15 per cent. but do not run away with the idea that all of those 15 per cent. were originally drawn from the working classes or were in any sense genuine rankers. Everybody in the Army knows that a very substantial proportion of those commissioned from the ranks are so-called gentlemen rankers, often the sons of ex-officers unable to afford them the ordinary method of entry, and as such are marked down for promotion from the very beginning and with the least possible delay—whether or not as a result of previous hints to commanding officers one cannot say. In all probability these make on the whole better officers than the inexperienced and often incompetent boys who are usually drafted in, and one naturally makes no complaint of them going through the ranks first. I am pointing out how wrong it would be to suppose that the 15 per cent. quoted represent genuine rankers. Please understand that even in the ranks the most 1968 valuable asset is a public school accent if you are hoping for a commission.That is a point that has to be borne in mind when one is considering the actual figures of the numbers of officers raised from the ranks. It is worth while to examine the origin of our generals at the present time to see how far the Army is a career open to talent. Take the 17 field marshals and full generals. Ten of them are the sons of officers, nine of them married the daughters of officers or are married to titled persons, and 14 came from public schools. Of the 18 lieutenant-generals six are the sons of officers, 14 married the daughters of officers or titled persons, and 12 came from public schools. When one finds the plums going to people in those favoured positions or with that type of education one can hardly say that we have a democratic Army or an Army open to talent. If we are to have our officers recruited from a wider field it is necessary to improve the conditions for officers. There are a number of extravagancies which might perhaps be cut out from an officer's life, but I also believe that if we are to have more officers from the ranks it will be necessary to improve the conditions for officers. Take the average line regiment. A friend of mine tells me that a senior subaltern's pay after seven years' commissioned service works out roughly at about £225 a year, and he gave me as his expenses in the Army: Mess bill, allowing £2 a month for drinks and tobacco, and including compulsory subscriptions for sports and entertainments £125; laundry, cleaners, repairs and a compulsory donation to batman, about £30; upkeep and renewal of uniform another f3o; upkeep of mufti £25. This totals about £210, and leaves him about £15 a year, or 6s. 6d. a week, for expenditure on luxuries of one kind or another. That means that in practice every officer in such a regiment must have private means if he is to keep up the same standard of life as other people in the regiment.
It is most unsatisfactory that officers should be expected to have private means. They ought to be provided with a salary sufficient for whatever standard of life we may think it is desirable that they should keep up. That is essential if a fair chance is to be given to men to rise from the ranks and to live as equals with other officers. I believe it is necessary, in order to have a democratic 1969 army, that the cost of living of officers should be reduced as far as possible. We should give adequate pay for the job and there should be a greater degree of selection in promotion. In the recruitment of officers a much higher educational standard is necessary. It is perhaps rather revolutionary to say so, but I think that 50 per cent. of vacancies at Sandhurst and Woolwich should be filled either from the ranks or from the secondary schools, and that a greater proportion of men should be taken into the Army from universities. It is very difficult to get good men rising from the ranks when there are bad conditions in the ranks themselves. An improvement in the pay of the ordinary rank and file of the Army will bring in a better type of man and so provide a better field for the selection of officers later. The two go together; an improvement in the conditions for officers must be accompanied by an improvement in the conditions for men in the ranks if we are to get a democratic army, and one in which there is to be a proper avenue of promotion from the ranks to the highest position. Therefore the War Office ought to go further in the way of improving pay and conditions than they have agreed to do to-day. Only if that be done can we have a decent and proper democratic army in this country such as will be fit to defend the country.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Anstruther-Gray
I will not follow the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) into the controversy about recruiting officers from the ranks, because although I appreciate that it may have some bearing on the subject before us I do not think it is really fundamental to it. I would much rather agree with my hon. Friends the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment that the reason why we do not get men for the Army is that we have never really tried, have never made an effort to make the present or the future prospects of a soldier sufficiently attractive to compete with the other professions and services. I wonder why we have never made that effort. I believe it is because at the back of our minds we have never been able to get away from the belief that it is the Navy which will always save us in a time of emergency, as it always has done before, and that if people talk about the dangers of air attack then the Air Force is the 1970 right service in those circumstances. As for the poor old Army, that may be necessary for battles on the North-West Frontier, or needed for Shanghai, or for Palestine, but is not really vital to our existence. I believe that line of argument to be wrong.
The Secretary of State for War made a point last year, and referred to it again to-day, that the functions of the Army, besides that of defending our shores, are to defend naval bases, to police the Empire and provide an emergency expeditionary force, and that these are, in fact, equally important. In the long run that is probably true. But it is home defence that appeals to the country as being the most urgent need. The Navy and the Air Force, which are regarded by most people as the first line of defence, therefore obtain money much more easily than the Army, and steps are taken, where they are concerned, more or less regardless of cost. Although most people are anxious that the Army should obtain recruits, their anxiety is tempered and qualified by considerations of cost.
I am not saying that the Government are wrong carefully to consider the matter of cost, because while I think we shall be able to take this expenditure in our stride, it will take us all our time. It is right to look into expenses carefully, but it would be wrong to deprive ourselves of recruits for the sake of a few millions of pounds. It is wrong, for the sake of economy, that we should concentrate on recruiting downwards, if I may put it that way, rather than upon recruiting upwards. I see a danger of that. Page 5 of the Memorandum states that the increase in the number of recruits has been largely due to the lowering of physical standards in certain directions. I do not attach undue importance to all physical standards. The importance of teeth is grossly over-rated, and I do not think that short-sightedness is a very serious drawback. Nor do I think that flat feet matter. They may have done in times past, but mechanisation has changed all that.
What matters, if hon. Members will understand me aright, is the social standing of the soldier. That expression has nothing to do with class or with riches. It is vitally important that the Army should not be considered the last resort of the down-and-outs. I am not unduly pessimistic about the quality of recruits and the recruiting figures; I think that 1971 64 per cent. of recruits being in employment on enlistment is quite a satisfactory figure, but I should like to see some deliberate steps taken to raise the standard of the soldier and to make him a man who is envied because he has a good job and because it is going to lead to another good job for the rest of his life.
I welcome the improvements which my right hon. Friend has announced, but I cannot pretend that I think they will be sufficient to attract men and to give us the men we need. We need improvements much more than these, which are merely in the nature of righting wrongs, making good shortcomings and bringing the service up to the specifications of the advertisements. The improvements which my right hon. Friend has announced will prevent the disgruntled soldier from saying with reason, as he could sometimes say, that the Army is a "something rotten job." We have to make him say with reason that the Army is a "something sight better job" than this, that or the other job. I believe that the only way to raise the status of the soldier is to guarantee to men of good character a first-rate job in civil life when they leave the Service. Whether that job be in public or private employment I do not think matters very much, but the shorter the period of Colour service necessary to qualify a man for this good civil job the stronger will be the effect of looking forward to it.
On page 6 of his Memorandum, the Secretary of State for War says:During the coming year I hope to … examine whether there is a possibility of increasing the number of posts under Government for which ex-soldiers might he considered eligible.This does not go nearly far enough. That paragraph would be much better if it read that it was the ambition to increase the number of posts under the Government for which only ex-service men would be eligible. We have to make service a sine qua non for people who wish to obtain these posts which are suitable for old Service men. I am not suggesting that all ex-soldiers could or should be employed by the Government although if local authorities and local police forces would co-operate, a very much larger number of ex-service men could be employed. It is also necessary to increase the number of situations with 1972 private firms and companies for which soldiers are eligible. Those private firms and companies should be definitely encouraged or even required to fill with ex-service men. The way to do this is by extending the King's Roll.
The Secretary of State referred to the King's Roll on previous occasions, and his remarks left one with the impression that there was much to be said for the extension of the King's Roll and very little to be said against it. He has not mentioned it this afternoon, and I wonder whether the Financial Secretary to the War Office will do so when he replies. My suggestion and that of a lot of other people is to raise the percentage of ex-service men required to be employed by firms on the King's Roll, from 5 per cent. to 10 per cent., and not to restrict that percentage only to disabled War service men, but to extend it to all ex-service men and to serving Territorials. It would be necessary to couple that extension with closer supervision and inspection, to make sure that the conditions undertaken by firms on the King's Roll were strictly observed.
Finally, I would lay down that no Government contract should be given to any firm which was not on the King's Roll. I do not think that that would unduly restrict our tenders. There are something like 20,000 firms on the King's Roll today. I suppose that all of us who talk about getting employment for ex-service men lay ourselves open involuntarily to the charge that we are doing more harm than good. People may say that we make so much fuss about finding jobs for ex-soldiers that they surely must be a hopeless lot of people if it is so difficult to get employment for them when their-time has finished. A moment's reflection must convince people that that is not so. The reason why the old soldier is less likely than the civilian to get employment at the end of his time is that the civilian has spent the last six or seven years in a trade, qualifying for permanent employment, while the old soldier has spent those years serving his country instead of himself. It is up to us to see that he does not come off second best.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Gardner
The Amendment before the House is used as a convenient peg upon which to hang a hundred and one 1973 complaints. I will use it to raise a specific grievance. There is an account in fiction of how the Recording Angel dropped a tear on a recorded fault and blotted the line for ever, but there is no Recording Angel to do this in the Army, whatever the circumstances may be. It is well known that during the War thousands of recruits to the Army told lies about their age. No one blamed them for it, but nevertheless it was wrong. There is a law against it; there is an Army regulation against it; but in war-time both law and regulations were largely in abeyance. I desire now to raise the case of a serving soldier. I do not want to give his name, but he has a grievance. He was one of those lads who enlisted in 1915. He was not on the streets; he was in the service of a railway company; and in July, 1915, when his age was 15 years and four months, he joined the Army and gave his age as 19. He was sent to France in February, 1916, and then his age was disclosed to the Army authorities. He thinks his mother did it. Anyway, the Army authorities were made acquainted with his real age, and they sent him back to this country in November, 1916.
Up to that point everything was in order. He was not released from the Army, and he served for the duration of the War. In February, 1919, he was discharged, but re-enlisted the very next day. He did not go round looking for employment and, finding that he could not get any, come back to the Army, but he enlisted the very next day. He then gave his correct age as 19, and, as far as he knew, this age was accepted by the authorities without any question; they did not raise it with him. He went on soldiering, and is still serving. In January, 1936, he purchased through a newsagent a seniority list of warrant officers, and in this list he was shown as reaching the age of 40 in July, 1936. That recorded age barred his further promotion. He was not satisfied with the fact that his age was recorded at that figure, because he contends that his Army age is the age at which he re-enlisted in 1919.
Everything that he has done in the matter has been in accordance with the regulations. He brought the faulty age record to the notice of his commanding officer, and he was told that it was all according to regulations. His command- 1974 ing officer wrote to the proper quarter on the question of age, and was told that the age record was according to regulations. The Aldershot Command was appealed to, and the records were upheld. In January, 1937, 12 months after his discovery, having failed to get justice from his superior officers or from the Aldershot Command, he came to me. I had no desire to stand up here and bring his case to the notice of the House, so I tried to get what I thought was an injustice remedied by communicating with the Minister, and the Minister has replied to me that there is nothing irregular about it. If it is regular, it needs altering, because it seems to me that the contract now existing is not the 1915 contract, but the contract that was made between the Army and the soldier in 1919. The Army cannot say that they do not know the soldier's correct age, because they recognised it by sending him home from France in 1916. They know his correct age, and I suggest that it is wrong for them to assert that his age at the moment is as he gave it in 1915.
As I said earlier, it is not only against the regulations, but against the law, for a soldier to make a false declaration of age, and I think I have seen prosecutions where soldiers have given false ages, but what I want to ask the Minister is, if it is wrong for a soldier to give a false age, why is it right, when a soldier re-enlists giving his correct age, and when the War Office have official knowledge of his correct age, for the War Office to ignore the law by recording an age which is officially known to be wrong? The recruit was not advised at the time, but found it out years after. It is unreasonable that this regulation about the soldier's age being the age given on enlistment should apply to re-enlistment when the actual age is on record and is known to the Army authorities. Furthermore, what has the Minister to say about the circumstances of the case? Can he blame the youthful patriotic fervour that prompted the youngster to enlist? Can he excuse the placing of any hindrance in the way of such a soldier's promotion? He owes it to the memory of thousands of lads who never saw manhood not to excuse any such hindrance. It was not a crime in 1915 to give a false age, or, at least, it was not a very great crime. It may still not be a crime to do the same thing again. May a merciful Provi- 1975 deuce send that it be not so; may we be saved from our unreasoning selves in spite of our unreasoning selves; then we shall be spared further controversies about Army records.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Grigg
I think my two hon. Friends who put down this Amendment, and who, I am sure the House will agree, moved and seconded it in very interesting and cogent speeches, deserve our thanks, because they have centred this Debate on what is certainly the question of greatest importance in the problems of the Army at the present time, and that is the question, not of what reforms can be made in the way of inducements to recruits, but the question of what is wrong in the way of the system of service. I agree in particular with my hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment, that this recruiting problem is what he called, in, I think, a striking phrase, the real gap in our Maginot line. It has an importance in Europe and in the world far greater than can be traced merely to its military significance. It is taken as the test of our morale; and the fact that our young men are not joining the Army, although, as we all know, it has nothing whatever to do with any deterioration in national morale, is undoubtedly making a serious, a very unfortunate impression in the warlike countries of Europe at the present time.
My hon. Friends certainly put their finger on the spot when they framed this Amendment, and I should like for a moment to consider how my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State dealt with it in advance in the course of his speech. One part of his speech was, I am sure, very satisfactory to all of us. He announced a large measure of reform in the matter of inducements to join the Army which are certainly welcome, and which most of us regard as long overdue. Nevertheless, he is much to be congratulated on having been able to make these announcements this afternoon, and we should express our gratitude to him.
It is the other part of his speech, however, the part in which he dealt with the claims made on the Army in the last few years, and with the claims which may be made on it in the future, and the steps which he proposed to take to meet those claims, with which I should like to deal. He began his speech with a 1976 striking review of the calls made on our little Army in the last 12 years, and he ended that passage in his speech with the very significant, the very serious, statement that had two of these small emergencies happened to coincide it might have strained our existing Army system to breaking point. Like other Members of this House I hoped that that preface was leading to an announcement of a consideration of broader changes than any with which he dealt. Having said that our Army under the present system might have been strained to breaking point by the concurrence of two small emergencies, he went on to say—and I much regret it—that he did not think that any change of system was possible at present. He gave strong reasons. He said, for instance, that it was difficult to go in for a change in your recruiting system when you were also engaged in transforming your equipment and the whole apparatus and system by which your Army fights. He also said that without the co-operation of India the system would be hard to change, and that the co-operation of India might be difficult to get at present. These are difficulties, but I doubt whether they are comparable with the difficulties with which we shall be faced if we do not alter this system in time.
Strikingly enough, in the latter part of his speech he went on to suggest that the Imperial emergencies which we might have to face and which, as the Army is, might strain it to breaking point, were not the only tasks which the Army might have to undertake. He indicated that the Army should be able to send a field force for continental warfare. It really is extremely important that we should face the facts of our situation, facts which are well known to every foreign intelligence department, and which I can hardly believe are adequately known here. I am speaking, of course—and I must emphasise this—of readiness for action at the outbreak of war. There is no limit to what this country can do if you give it time when its spirit is roused. But when you talk of intervention in the first phase of war, you must talk of forces trained and equipped at the outbreak of war.
Judged by that criterion, how do we stand? The first point to be realised is that at the present moment the establishment of the Regular Army, owing to decisions taken by a succession of Parliaments, is nearly 40,000 below what it was 1977 in 1914. The Army is weaker now by the strength of two divisions, one division overseas and one at home, than it was in 1914. The actual figures are that at home in 1914 we had 138,00o Regular troops. In these Estimates there are 120,000. Overseas in 1914 we had 117,000; to-day the figure is 96,000. That is a loss of strength of the equivalent of two divisions since 1914 in our Regular establishment. I do not think that anybody will say that we found we had too much in 1914. Let us remember that experience when we talk of standing up to Continental obligations of the same kind at present. The second point has not escaped attention in this Debate. It was mentioned by the Secretary of State himself. It is that our Army is 21,000 at present below even its reduced establishment. That is the strength of another division gone. The Memorandum makes that absolutely clear. It is not merely the strength of a division. My right hon. Friend rightly called attention to the immense seriousness of the deficiency on officers. We are nearly 1,000 officers short.
I do not wish to exaggerate the difficulty of the recruiting question. I believe that it can be solved, and it is worth remembering that we were 11,000 below recruiting establishment at the beginning of 1914. The recruiting trouble in this country is perennial. But when you are planning the rôle of your Army at the outbreak of war, when you are considering whether it can deal not only with an Imperial emergency some distance oversea, but with a European emergency as well, you must face the fact that under our present system we are three divisions weaker than we were in 1914, a terrible loss of strength when you consider how small in any case the Army is. Yet that is by no means all the weakness to which we have been reduced by the working of our present system.
The most important feature of all in the present situation is the state of our Reserves. To make that situation clear, I would ask the House to look at our position to-day in respect of Reserves as compared with our situation in 1914. It is worth looking at because, after all, even in 1914 we did not find that we had a trained man or a partially trained man too much. I am leaving out of the calculation troops serving in garrisons overseas. I am dealing with the enrolled 1978 Reserves of trained or partially trained men available in this country at present supposing we had to go to war. On 1st January, 1914, in this country we had a regular strength of 138,000. We had an Army Reserve of 146,000 and a Special Reserve, now abolished, of 65,000, making altogether an Army Reserve of 209,000 officers and men. We had Territorials numbering 251,000 in those day and we had in addition a National Reserve, created by Lord Haldane out of the old Veterans Reserve, of 217,000 men. That makes a total enrolled strength of trained or partially trained men of over 800,000. That is what we had under the Cardwell system as Lord Haldane administered it at that time. Now, under the Cardwell system working in modern conditions, with the money that Parliament has been willing to vote for it in recent years, we have in this country Regulars, 120,000; Army Reserve, 118,000; Supplementary Reserve, 21,000; Territorials, 143,000; and a small item of National Defence companies of 6,000. That makes a total strength of just about 400,000 enrolled reserves available now —only half what we had in 1914.
I really think that situation should be faced. In 1914 we had available in this country 20,000 more Regulars than now, as well as 20,000 more overseas, and we had in addition nearly 700,000 enrolled Reserves of one kind or another. I do not wish to exaggerate the importance of all those reserves. The National Reserve was not all classified as fit for combatant duty, but certainly a good half of it was and, even if you omit the part not classified for combatant duty, you had behind the Regular Army 600,000 trained enrolled Reserves. In 1937 we have not only 20,000 fewer Regulars, but we have only 300,000 enrolled and trained Reserves. That is not the whole of the picture, because of that 300,000, 45,000, when the establishment is complete, are being taken over to the anti-aircraft Territorial Divisions, so that your real strength of Reserves available in an emergency is certainly not more than 250,000. That is the situation in which we talk lightly about undertaking responsibilites on the Continent. I believe that nothing is worse for the credit of the country than to use language of that kind when every 1979 staff in Europe knows that at the outbreak of war we could not possibly honour those obligations. What we do six months later is another affair. We can do anything if we mean to do it, but what we do at the outbreak of war depends on what is available then, and also on having reserves to maintain that force for the six months or so which will be absolutely necessary while you are developing and training additional strength.
This situation means that, if you are really going to attempt to send a field Force to the Continent in an emergency and to maintain it there for the six months during which supports and reinforcements cannot be trained, you will have to break up your Territorial formations. There is no possiblity of maintaining a field Force in action without breaking up the Territorial formations, and that against the undertaking that has been given again and again. In the second place you cannot do it without dangerously depleting your home defence. I believe that the need of troops is even greater than in 1914. The danger of air attack has considerably enlarged the directions in which troops may be required should there be an outbreak of war, yet even in 1914 we were very unwilling to let more than a proportion of troops go out of the country, and we always found it necessary to keep a considerable number of formations here. In the third place, I do not believe you could consider sending a force to the Continent without taking the gravest risks in regard to your Imperial interests. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the coincidence of two emergencies might at present strain the Army to breaking point. We had to call out Section A of the Reserve only to deal with a small emergency in Palestine, and to think of the dangers that would be incurred if we had to deplete our Imperial reserves is to think of risks which we have no right whatever to incur. The Territorial Army, if it is to come up to our expectations, which with encouragement and consideration I am sure it will, should be reserved for service in its own formations, and should not be treated secretly as in any way a reserve for the Regular Army. Its only function should be for home defence, or else to take the place of Regular formations overseas which may be needed elsewhere.
1980 The fundamental Army problem, therefore, is this problem of reserves. The Secretary of State has made proposals which will certainly give some stimulus to recruiting. I should like to ask him, however, whether he has done anything about the pay of the Army Reserve? If I am not mistaken, the pay of Section A of the Reserve was cut from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 3d. in 1931, and the pay of Sections B and D was cut from 1s. to 9d. at the same time. Have those cuts been restored? If not, I think they are the only cuts which have not been restored and, considering in particular the use that was made last year of Section A, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that the pay of all sections, particularly Section A, is to be put back to what it was, if it has not been done already; but I am aware of no announcement that that change has been made, and I think there is evidence in the statements in the Estimate that it is not contemplated in the coming year. To encourage recruiting and to build up a reserve so far as this country can on the existing system is vital, but, speed up recruiting as you may, you cannot on the present terms build up an adequate Army Reserve within a very great number of years. That I believe to be the fundamental problem that we have to face.
The annual reports of the Army show the following annual deficiencies for the last seven years, which are, after all, the years that are going to be reflected in the condition of the Army Reserve for the next seven years. The deficiencies in the Army were 10,000 in 1930, falling to 3,000 in 1933, rising to 12,000 in 1936 and to 21,000 in the present year. There is a total deficiency of 67,000, which is going to be reflected in the state of the Army Reserve on the present system whatever steps you take at present. Maintaining the present terms of recruiting and period of service with the Colours and Reserve, it cannot appreciably affect the condition of the Army Reserve before 1944.
My conclusion, therefore, is that the present system, unless drastically and rapidly amended, cannot possibly provide us with a field force for service on the Continent. I go much further. I do not believe that it is capable of providing us even with an adequate Imperial reserve. That, I believe, is the situation 1981 which we have to face. I do not express views, although very interesting views have been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, on the actual system and form of changes which ought to be introduced, but I say in all seriousness to my right hon. Friend, that his present proposals and the grounds which he gave for not going further are, in my opinion, and, I believe, in the opinion of the House, really inadequate. He may get his 47,000 men this year with these improved terms, but when he has got his 47,000 men, the problem of the Army Reserve and the dangerous situation from a military point of view will still be there. I believe that proposals much more drastic are necessary, whatever they may be, if we are not to go through a period of great danger with an utterly inadequate military Reserve.
Finally, I would join him in the tribute which he paid to the Army. I do not believe that any praise can be too high for the constancy and the esprit de corps with which the existing Army has maintained its spirit against depletion and disparagement and amid the throes of change. It ought to know that the country is really proud of it, although the country, certainly in many ways, dissembles its love, but it does come out from time to time in a very significant way. It came out in the way in which the conduct of our troops was marked in the Saar. It is evident that the country was glad to have an army of our type there. It is certain that the tide of disparagement and discouragement is now turning, and I am sure that the Army has still a vital and a splendid part to play not only in maintaining our security, but, if hon. Members above the Gangway will believe us, as we believe, also in maintaining the peace of the world.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
One advantage in speaking at this late hour is that either an hon. Member has sufficient ammunition provided by previous speakers in order to make a long speech, which I do not intend to do, or else he can apologise to the House and say that he is only going to speak for a very few minutes, and that I propose to do to-night. I was very interested to hear the speeches of 1982 the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment, and I think that the whole House will agree that they expressed their views in a very eloquent manner. I prefer perhaps the more mundane way in which the Mover made good his arguments to the rather lyrical way in which the hon. Seconder spoke. After all, it is a mundane subject—the subject of the provision of suitable forces for the defence of our country. I like to look at this subject in an entirely objective way. I am concerned with this, first of all. If my country is in danger, how can we best prevent that danger? I do not think that a standing army such as that which we are discussing to-night will entirely obviate the danger such as we know is likely to come from certain quarters. We know that in 1914 our standing Army, which provided the expeditionary force, and was a very efficient expeditionary force, was not able to protect this country, and consequently Lord Kitchener and others had to call upon young men like myself and hon. Members in different parts of this House—civilians to serve this country in its time of danger. There is not the slightest doubt that that time of danger looks like repeating itself, and, if so, are we to rely upon the same methods as in 1914 and the years before the outbreak of war?
It is obvious that we must have a certain number of trained soldiers who shall make it a profession in order to police the different parts of the Commonwealth. Let us not mislead ourselves. The Commonwealth has to be protected, and the constituent members of the Commonwealth look to the Mother County to protect them in some degree. When it comes to the far larger matter—and I believe it is the most vital subject to which we have to apply our minds the possibility of actual aggression against this country—we have to consider an entirely different force to defend these shores. It will be a civilian force. Therefore, I was very much interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane), who spoke very briefly about short-term service. My own feeling is that it is the only alternative to conscription, and I do not think that any hon. Member would have the courage to get up in this House and say that he advocated conscription even to defend these shores, although the hon. Gentleman the Member for 1983 Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) came dangerously near to that. He advocated drastic measures. What are those drastic measures? We know very well that, in view of the immense size of the armies which the Continental nations are able to recruit, we must have, if not the same numbers, considerable numbers, if we are to fight against them in the hour of our need.
§ Sir E. Grigg
Is it suggested that I am in favour of conscription for military service? If so, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that is not the case.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I did not say that the hon. Gentleman advocated conscription, but he advocated drastic methods, and it would be very interesting to hear what those drastic methods should be. I feel that if there should come a time such as that which we experienced in 1914, it would be almost impossible to deal with that aggression unless we had some form of conscription. I do not advocate that, and I do not want it, but I believe that the young men of the country, if they believe in democracy must be prepared to defend democracy if it is attacked. Therefore, I was very interested to hear the suggestion of the hon. Member for Huddersfield as to short-time service. There is nothing derogatory about serving a period of one's young life in the Army. After all, many of us did it during the last War, and although we do not want those same conditions in the future, can any hon. Member who served in the last War get up in this House and say that, if this country were in danger of attack from a foreign nation, he would not serve his country again, as he did on the last occasion? I look at what is happening in nations like Spain, and I see the wonderful courage which is shown by many of these young men and women, and, whether hon. Members agree with their politics or not, they believe that they are fighting for democracy and their country. We see these young men and women going out armed with sticks, with no idea of military training, and at times it looks as if they will be overcome. If democracy is something real, and I believe it is, it is worth fighting for, if the day ever comes. That applies to any country in the world.
I should like to make a few comments on the subject of recruiting, particularly 1984 as it is dealt with in the White Paper. It is evident to us that there is a serious deficiency in what I might call our professional force, the standing Army. That is to a certain extent due to the fault of the Government. If our establishments were up to strength the Secretary of State would be able to come to the House and get credit for it, but he is not able to do that to-day. If Cabinet Ministers are going to do their job properly they must apply their minds to this problem, which can be overcome. Hon. Member after hon. Member has suggested ways in which the difficulty can be overcome. I agree with the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) that if we improve the pay and the conditions under which the soldier serves, we shall be able to attract more recruits to the professional Army, but something more than that is necessary, something which is not so material but, I might say, spiritual. If the country, the young men —and their mothers—were told the truth and the reason why they should enter the forces and prepare themselves for any emergency, I believe the young men would be forthcoming. Obviously, we are not going to get an adequate voluntary Army unless we pay the soldiers properly. In the last War we could not get recruits for the mechanical transport section of the R.A.S.C. without paying 5s. a day. Many of us did not get that, but perhaps we were imbued with a less material spirit.
There are certain statements in the White Paper which fill me with dismay. We are told that the standard of recruitment is lower in certain regiments than it was. We are even told that men with certain defects are now admitted to the Army. If we are not careful we are going to recruit a C3 Army, just as many of our population are C3 to-day. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would be far better if he were to collaborate with his colleagues in the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health and try to make A1 men so that he could get A1 recruits? It is a shame that we have to lower the standard of the Army and introduce men who are obviously below standard, and who if war comes will not be able to stand up to active service conditions. In the last War, when the first 100,000 young men joined up, they had to be free of all defects, including eyesight defects, 1985 although at the end of the War we had to get a lower quality of recruit. The war would not have gone on as long as it did if our recruits at the beginning of the War had been under standard, as they were at the end of the War.
I have a letter from a sergeant now serving in India, who bears out what has been said by several hon. Members tonight. The things he mentions are perhaps small and do not affect the main subject of recruiting the young men required to train for emergency, but they are things worth bearing in mind when the right hon. Gentleman is considering this subject. My correspondent writes on the question of pensions. He says:Pensions are poor, even on the old scale. A sergeant leaving the Army on the completion of 21 years' service, of which 12 or 15 have been spent abroad, is lucky if he receives £1 a week pension.He compares the soldier sergeant's pension with the pension of a police sergeant. Police constables and police sergeants are paid good scales of remuneration. They probably sleep at home every night and are never asked to serve out of their own locality or their own country. Why then should their scales of pay be so different from those of men who are sent to India and have to endure the rigours of that climate? Hon. Members must agree that there is something unfair in that state of affairs. Are we wrong in inviting the right hon. Gentleman to remedy it? My correspondent mentions other "grouses." Soldiers are permitted to have a grouse. It strikes me from his letter that it is written by one who holds a first-class certificate. He knows what he is writing about. He says that every class of encouragement is given in recruiting advertisements, and he goes on to say:It is not generally known that the soldier who serves in India has to keep up as many as six suits of clothes and four different types of headwear on the magnificent allowance of 6s. a month.That is not right. He confirms what the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bemays) has referred to, namely, the atrocious conditions which our troops have to suffer when they go abroad, so far as the troopships are concerned. He says:There are many other things I could mention, such as food and accommodation on troopships, the number of years one has to wait for married quarters, and the exorbitant rates of Income Tax paid by non-commissioned officers in India.1986 I did not know that they had to pay Income Tax in India. These are things which evidently are disturbing the minds of serving soldiers abroad, and hon. Members in this House who are their representatives cannot neglect to listen to what they say. I often wonder what it was that brought millions of young men to the colours during the War. It was not a question of better pay or better conditions. Incidentally, I am glad to notice that the right hon. Gentleman is going to substitute butter for margarine. We do not want to make the conditions of the soldier such that he will not want to fight if he is called upon in an emergency. The hon. Member for North Bristol referred to cold water for shaving. Many a time I have shaved in cold water, even while I have been a civilian. I should have preferred using hot water, but providing him with hot water for shaving will' not make him a better soldier. We have to try and find some spirit with which we can imbue our young people to make them fit themselves for the emergency which so many of us fear may be very near.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Captain Macnamara
I cannot begin my speech without a word of congratulation to the hon. Member who has just spoken in appreciation of his thoroughly excellent speech. It is very difficult to disagree with anybody in this Debate, and therefore I must follow Mr. Speaker's Ruling in regard to the cut and thrust of Debate. We seem to agree with each other, and my only justification for speaking is to introduce a new element. The Amendment is deliberately drawn in very wide terms, but urges His Majesty's Government to define the purposes of the Army more clearly. I hope to tackle that question when I have said a few words on what was stated by my right hon. Friend in his opening speech. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State talked about India, and I am glad that the House has put its finger on the real problem of why the Army does not get sufficient recruits. I have long been urging, by way of question, speech or article, that the more we study the conditions of the soldier in India the more likely are we to find out the real truth about the lack of recruits. We have got to reorganise the Army in India. It has been already urged that India has her own constitutional problems at this time. 1987 We have heard that sort of thing before. You have got to reorganise the Army, and, above all, improve the conditions of the soldier.
A man who joins the Army, believing that he is going to live and be fed free, finds on getting out there that he has to pay money out of his pocket for food over and above what he is given in rations. He has to buy wood if he is to have any hot water; he has to provide himself with a mosquito net, which the doctor orders him to have for fear he should die of malaria; and he has to pay, heaven knows what, for washing. The soldier travelling from one part of India to another is put to great personal expense. He is given one rate of allowance and the officer another, but both officer and man have to use the same dining-car on the train and the same refreshment-room. Surely they should have the same allowance when they travel. So serious is this question that I would suggest that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set up a Commission to look into the circumstances in which the soldier has to serve in India. He mentioned the question of mechanisation and how the cab-horse is disappearing from the streets. If the Army is losing its horses let it lose its horse copers as well. There are a number of horse coping establishments in the Army and unless this question is tackled we shall have some scandals. I cannot see why it is necessary for an officer in a mechanised battery to have two horses supplied to him.
§ Mr. Speaker
The latter remarks of the hon. and gallant Member are not suited to the Amendment, which deals with the soldier's service.
§ Captain Macnamara
I apologise if I have digressed. I hope that the arrangements for the feeding of the soldier in England mentioned by my right hon. Friend will be extended to India. There is the question of sudden discharge. A man on joining the Army has to sign on for seven years, and five in the Reserve, and he cannot get out unless by a very difficult process. At the same time the Army can get rid of the man at any moment it likes, but if the Army has the right to sack a man to-morrow it should make some provision for him after he has been discharged. If there are in a depot 1988 recruits who are found unsatisfactory after a few days and turned out into the world, there is nothing for them except unemployment allowance. They are often in hard circumstances. They are the worst recruiting agents for the Army. If they were treated more fairly they would be more ready to give the Army a good name.
I do not know how far I shall be in order in what I want to say regarding the question of defining the purposes of the Army. I conceive our object to be to fulfil our commitments with a minimum of cost. If we had unlimited money the matter would be easy, but we are overburdened financially, and it is of paramount importance that we should build our whole Army system, define its purposes and determine the question of the treatment of the soldier in relation to the amount of money we can afford to spend. Much could be done in the way of co-ordination if we had the Estimates of the three Services presented together. We want to break down the division of them into watertight compartments. What is the purpose of our Army? We have to defend our Home land, our Empire, provide for certain internal securities, the routes in between, and certain foreign commitments, and it is the duty of the House of Commons to see that the Army is capable of performing each of these separate roles. Before we can attempt to discuss these questions we must ask ourselves whether—
§ Mr. Speaker
I think a definition of the purposes of the Army is more concerned with the provisions for recruitment.
§ Captain Macnamara
I bow to your Ruling, but it is rather difficult to discuss these questions bit by bit. We want to get a complete picture of the actual condition of a soldier's life. India has rightly been blamed by many hon. Members for the Army organisation from which we are suffering to-day, and also for the lack of recruits at the moment. In view of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I cannot say all that I wanted to say, but I do desire to bring out the question of India once more. In India we have at the moment three Armies, a covering force, a field force and an internal security force, and it is the conditions of the internal security force which should be completely altered by adopting 1989 a suggestion which has been made by several hon. Members, of recruiting a gendarmerie outside the Army, but, nevertheless, loosely connected with it. The conditions of service for such a force would naturally be very different from the conditions of the regular soldier. The men would be called upon to take on different duties. The young soldier who goes out to India in an Army organised for European war is entirely unsuitable to deal with the internal security situations which may have to be faced. I have seen a great deal of it in India, and we want conditions of service which will allow for the recruitment of an entirely different kind for this gendarmerie.
In spite of the improvement in conditions which the right hon. Gentleman has announced this afternoon I hope we shall not let this matter rest. I was most disappointed to find that the subject of India was not more strongly tackled, and I give due warning that I shall, from now on, by questions day after day, press these matters on the attention of the Secretary of State. I have rather held my hand on the subject of the conditions of a soldier in the East and other forgotten stations far away from the House of Commons. They are bad indeed, and must be improved. It is not a question of softening the soldier, but of unnecessary irritations, and these are matters which must be put right. I quite agree with those hon. Members who have supported the Amendment that we have to get the country to take the right attitude towards our military problems. We are going through a military evolution at the present moment. We have in history gone through the stage of a nation whose Army is at war, we have gone through the stage of a nation in arms, but the next stage will be a whole nation at war, if war comes, and before then we must see that our military spirit is right in order that we may be able to meet and counter any threat before it is too late.
§ 10.21 p.m.
I would like briefly to make three or four suggestions which I hope may help recruiting. First of all, I wish to back up the appeal made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays) for improved barrack accommodation for soldiers. My hon. Friend spoke of there being no hot water for the men to shave with in wash- 1990 ing rooms next to, the barrack rooms, but I know of barracks in my county where the heating arrangements in the bathroom are so antiquated that four men have to share one bath of warm water, and that is a treat which they get only once a week. My second suggestion is that, if the period of engagement remains as at present, the foreign service should be shortened so that the last year of a man's service with the Colours may be spent at home. This would mean that if more vocational centres were arranged, the man would have a better chance of going into a job in civilian life on discharge, and it would also make discharge easier and smoother. My third suggestion is that the non-military fatigues should not be done by the soldiers, but by civilians, or by Reservists who have not yet got work. Lastly, and above all, I would like my right hon. Friend to look after the wives. If he will make the married quarters more convenient and comfortable, it will be a great improvement. I know of a block in which 41 families are housed, and there is not in it a bathroom or a tap from which hot water can be obtained. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that a contented wife not only makes a happy husband and a happy soldier, but makes the best recruiting sergeant he could wish to have.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
All the hon. Members who have spoken from these benches have welcomed the various amenities, such as new uniforms and the fourth meal, which the Secretary of State for War has announced, but I doubt whether they will be sufficient to make any very substantial difference in the number of recruits that will be attracted to the Service for which he is responsible. I happen to spend most of my Recesses in Deal, and while there I go very frequently in and out of the Royal Marine Barracks. Those barracks have very few of the amenities which the right hon. Gentleman has described. They are about 150 years old, and, according to the doctrine upon which the right hon. Gentleman has acted, they are barracks which ought to repel recruits, but, as a matter of fact, there is no difficulty about getting recruits into the Royal Marine barracks for the simple reason that it is a long-service system and offers the men a career. We come back to what is, in my opinion, the essential secret of dealing 1991 with this problem. The secret of recruiting is to be found in the fact that mothers want their boys to have regular careers. Very few of us here would care to send our sons into occupations in which, at the age of 25, they would find no further opportunity offered to them, except that of having the right to go to a training centre set up by the Ministry of Labour for unemployed boys from the Special Areas. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman will be disappointed if he thinks that this plan of Ministry of Labour training centres is going to be the solution of his problem and is going to put him into effective competition with the Navy, the Air Force or the Royal Marines in attracting recruits.
This problem is bound up with the continuance of the Cardwell system. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment was very far-sighted. He saw in advance what has turned out to be the fundamental issue in this Debate. During the discussion on the Amendment itself, and in practically every speech before the Amendment was reached, there was evidence that the House has come to realise that we shall have to deal with this system itself in order to deal with all the other difficulties which lie behind it. The facts about the system are so familiar that I need not go over them again. I would merely recall that 60 years ago Mr. Cardwell, a predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman, set up a system which provided mainly for the defence of the Indian frontiers and as a kind of by-product, threw off, by means of the linked battalion system, a force in this country which could be used as an expeditionary force to go to Europe. It is clear now that this system is breaking up, and that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which dealt with this question not only disappointed but bewildered me. He almost terrified us by his account of the consequences that might follow, at any moment, as a result of this system breaking up before our eyes. He told us that if there were two comparatively small emergencies anywhere in the British Empire, it would be practically impossible for us to deal with both at once without straining our forces to breaking point, and then went on to say that his Department was so much occupied with other questions that it could not pursue this 1992 matter any further for an indefinite period ahead.
I presume that the dangers to which the right hon. Gentleman pointed are still present. We have only to look at Palestine to know that they are still present. I cannot see on what grounds he can expect us to accept the doctrine that his Department is too busy to deal with these dangers for a period which he does not indicate. The fact is that the very success of the right hon. Gentleman's efforts towards the mechanisation of the Army is hastening the complete impossibility of maintaining the Cardwell system. He mentioned that he had, two or three years ago, stated what the purposes of the Army were. He gave four purposes. The first was to serve as an Imperial police, and the second was to serve with some such sort of expeditionary force as might be needed in Europe. The other two are not of comparable importance. The point which is perfectly plain to me is that you cannot have one Army which is to perform both these functions by any sort of linked battalion system. For the Indian frontier you must, obviously, have infantry, whereas for the force that is contemplated on the Continent it is clear from the right hon. Gentlemans' account and some sentences that fell from the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence that what has been contemplated is a compact, highly mechanised force consisting of mobile divisions, such as the one the Secretary of State described to-day, consisting of tank brigades and infantry brigades of some type, although I admit I did not follow very clearly his account of what the new mobile division might be. In any case, there you have two armies of an entirely different type, and it is quite out-of-date to imagine that you can link them up in one such system as the Cardwell scheme always assumes.
I would put this to the right hon. Gentleman. I listened last year to the Debate on the Army Estimates. A great many service Members spoke of the Cardwell system, but not with the same emphasis, and to-day I noticed that everyone of them condemned it as out-of-date. Today, on a highly technical issue of this sort, there has been as great a unanimity of opinion in the House as I have ever seen, and the extraordinarily highly informed speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. 1993 Amery) and the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) were obviously received by the House as contributions which the right hon. Gentleman cannot simply neglect as if they had not been made. Debates in this House are really going to be simply in the air if, after a Debate of the character we have had to-day, Government policy is to be in no way deflected. The House has made up its mind quite clearly, and it is the duty of the right hon. Gentleman in some way or another to conform his policy to it. I think that he is making a mistake that Mr. Cardwell did not make and that Lord Haldane did not make in depending purely on his service advisers. As he said, if this is carried through it will be a revolution. I do not believe that you will ever get a revolution in military policy independently worked out by the General Staff. As a matter of fact, all the great reforms in the Army have come from civilians. Mr. Cardwell was Secretary of State for War, and most of his reforms, not only this one but the abolition of purchase in the Army, were forced through in the teeth of the advice of the General Staff. Lord Haldane's reforms were produced by civilians. Therefore, I suggest that the lesson of this Debate for the Secretary of State for War is that he must take notice of it and that he ought to deal with this matter himself. With his immense knowledge and lifelong interest in the problem, and the literature he has contributed to it, he ought to deal with it himself, and if he is not willing to do that he ought to call to the service of his staff distinctly civilian minds to work this problem out.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Sir Victor Warrender)
It often happens when Service Estimates are under review in this House and you, Mr. Speaker, decide that the moment has arrived when you should call upon the hon. Member in whose name an Amendment stands on the Order Paper, that the Debate is switched over to a topic which, although relevant to the Department concerned, has the effect of confining the Debate within very narrow limits, a form of procedure which is often somewhat irritating and inconvenient to hon. Members. To-night, however, this certainly has not been the case, for the Amendment is so drawn that it is possible 1994 to discuss a great majority of the subjects which are raised on the Estimates, though of course it has been designed to focus attention upon recruitment and conditions of service; and while it has had the advantage of not unduly confining our Debate it has had this disadvantage, that it has enabled hon. Members to make speeches upon it which in different circumstances they would probably have preferred to make upon Vote A. In any case, we have avoided being sidetracked to an obscure issue and one of minor importance. I would like, before dealing with the Debate, to say that it was clear from the speeches both of the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment that each of them had given a great deal of thought to its subject-matter, and that the Amendment and the speeches were of the very high standard which from past experience we have grown to expect from them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) asked for some definition from this Box of the purposes to which the British Army was to be put. If he had looked at the top of page 3 of the Memorandum he would there see them stated in black and white, and though I have no doubt he would prefer me to make some statement on the purposes to which the Army might be put, I am going to refrain from doing so. It is almost as impossible to describe what the duties of the British Army are and the calls which may be made upon it as to enumerate the duties of the London policeman and the calls which may be made upon him. The demands and calls made upon the British Army must, of necessity, be varied and vary with the circumstances. These are questions which concern very high policy indeed, and I do not think he can ask me to go further than refer him to the statement which my right hon. Friend makes in his Memorandum.
I would like to say at the outset of my remarks, although the point has already been made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, that it is a complete fallacy for hon. Members to suppose, as appears to be so often the case, that the Army Council is inseparably wedded to what is known as the Cardwell system. This is far from being the case, because they realise, however well this system may have served us in the past, and whatever 1995 may be its advantages at the present time, that it does involve some not inconsiderable disadvantages. I would remind the House that my right hon. Friend gave assurances in his speech that the desirability of keeping this system under review was not being lost sight of.
The journalistic conception of the Army Council is in these days very far removed from the truth. There is nothing of the Colonel Blimp characteristic about the body which administers the affairs of the Army. Let the House be under no illusion as to the weaknesses of this system and as to its advantages as well as to its disadvantages, which I will attempt to expound, and which will form the basis very largely of my reply to the Debate. The main charge that has been levelled against the Cardwell system is that it is leading to a shortage of recruits, but any system which can be devised will fail if recruits are not forthcoming in sufficient numbers. It would, therefore, be very short-sighted policy to embark upon any alternative and extensive reorganisation unless we could be satisfied that there were good prospects that a different system would, with reasonable certainty, produce more recruits and make the Army more attractive.
Let me for a moment appear in the role of counsel for the defence of the Cardwell system. I am not sure that the shortage of recruits is a responsibility which can with justice be alleged against this system. I will deal fully with the point a little later on. Whatever may have been said about it in the House, it can be said that until recent years the system stood the test of time and achieved the object which its originator had in his mind. By its means our garrisons overseas have been kept up to strength, we have been able to maintain at home a highly efficient and, I might almost say, model Expeditionary Force, and we have built up a reserve of highly trained, efficient men for the prompt reinforcement of the Regular Army; and all this for an expenditure as low as, if not lower than, any other system would be likely to require.
So far as the shortage of recruits is concerned and the extent to which the system can be blamed for the present situation, it is often forgotten that the 1996 system of linked units under the Cardwell system is not confined to the infantry of the line. The system of linked battalions is only a portion of the scheme. The arrangement regarding drafting of reserves covers the whole of the Regular Army. If a shortage of recruits were due to the working of the system, you would expect those arms of the Service upon which the system imposes the greatest burden to be the most deficient in strength. It is, therefore, significant that, although the working of the system reacts most harshly upon the infantry of the line, because of the existing excess of battalions stationed abroad over those stationed at home, and because the infantry do a longer term of service abroad than the others do, deficiencies in the infantry, upon a percentage basis, are not the highest, and are but r per cent. greater than in the cavalry of the line, and 2.4 per cent. greater than in the artillery. I am not convinced, therefore, that it can be truthfully claimed that the Cardwell system is entirely to blame for the existing shortage. Whatever its disadvantages, and I will deal with them in a moment, it has the advantage of ensuring esprit de corps in the units, and of providing a good liaison between the Regular battalions of a regiment and its county Territorial battalions, the latter being a very great asset indeed.
I want now to look at the other side of the picture. The main disadvantage of the scheme is that, in order to form a reserve and to enable men to serve a reasonable time overseas when drafted, enlistment has to be for terms of from six to eight years with the Colours. This requirement has the result that men, on returning to civil life, are rather old, and, as we have seen, at certain times find it difficult to get employment. Furthermore, unless considerable extra expense is to be entailed on the revenue, the great majority of the men are called upon to serve longer periods abroad without facilities for home leave, and there is no doubt that service abroad, in circumstances which are inseparable from life in foreign stations and often of a trying and irksome nature due to climatic conditions, is becoming, naturally, increasingly unpopular.
The alternative to the present system which has been proposed in the course of to-night's Debate, notably by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, is 1997 that a long-term foreign-service Army should be established for the purpose of garrisoning our overseas stations, together with a short-service Army at home for the purpose of home defence and to build up reserves. I would like for a moment to examine the effect of such a reorganisation. In the first place, if this scheme is to be successful, the conditions of service in the foreign-service Army would have to be made sufficiently attractive, in order to get the recruits that would be required, and without such inducements as extra pensions, gratuities, increase in the married quarters roll, and leave facilities, not to mention increased rates of pay, it would be idle to expect men to be willing to join the Service on terms of this kind. I might add that, on the basis of the number of men that we require abroad at the present time, it would be necessary to enlist between 7,000 and 8,000 men per annum. In addition, there would have to be draft-finding units at home to keep the foreign-service units up to strength. Those units would have to be large, because for medical reasons it is impossible to send a young man abroad for service in India or the Far East until he has reached the age of 20, and therefore some men would serve for two years before they proceeded overseas. Having split the Army into two sections, which would be involved in a reorganisation of this kind, it would be unwise to utilise the short-service Army at home as draft-finding units, for their efficiency would suffer very considerably. These home service units would in any case lose from 150 to 200 men to the Reserve every year if the terms of service were three years with the Colours and nine with the Reserve, and even more if the terms were made shorter. To add to that loss drafts for the foreign service Army, and the duty of training those drafts, would be imposing a strain on the home service units which they could not stand.
We must have regard to the functions which the Army is called upon to perform within the general scheme of Imperial Defence. No Army Council could possibly consider any reforms in the terms of service, or the conditions, unless those changes fitted in with the demands made on the land forces. Those demands have been stated more than once to-night. I would like to correct a statement by the right hon. Gentleman 1998 who preceded me, that the duty of garrisoning stations abroad and Royal Air Force bases was a minor duty. In fact, it is a heavy burden on the Army. To fulfil these duties, the garrisons abroad are maintained on a comparatively low level. They are not intended to be able to deal with any major emergency, and whenever a serious situation arises they require reinforcement from the forces at home. That brings me to the last and one of the chief duties which the Army has to perform to-day, the provision of a field force to act in case of need as a reinforcement at any threatened point oversea should occasion arise.
It will be seen, therefore, that an essential element in Army organisation, unless we are enormously to increase personnel, is that behind the Regular Army there should be an adequate and efficient reserve of fully trained soldiers, and that within the Regular Army there should be preserved to the highest possible degree the element of mobility and elasticity. How far is reorganisation of the kind that has been suggested going to fit in with that particular requirement? In normal conditions half the British Army serves overseas. The introduction of a long-service Army for foreign garrisons is going to reduce the number of men going to the Reserve annually to a smaller proportion. If a really short service for the Home force is to be introduced, you will have on the Reserve men of little training and consequently of much less military value on recall to the Colours.
§ Mr. Mabane
Mr. Arnold-Forster was the originator of the suggestion, Which, was approved by this House in 1924.
§ Sir V. Warrender
No one would suggest that a man who does 15 months' service in the Army and then goes into the Reserve has anything like the same military value on recall to the Colours as men who are doing the terms of service with the Colours to-day, and certainly when the 15 months service man has been with the Reserve four or 1999 five years his military value is going to be very low indeed. The Army being split in two, serving soldiers are going to be deprived of an opportunity of gaining experience and training in very widely differing terrain and climatic conditions, which is an advantage that they enjoy to-day. The Army will lose in mobility and elasticity, those essential features which are required of it. It will, therefore, be seen that, even supposing a reorganisation of this kind were to solve our recruiting problems, which is by no means certain, it would entail facing up to many other very serious complications, and although, as my right hon. Friend has said, the Army Council has had the matter under review and is keeping it under consideration, it is just as well that the House of Commons and the country should realise what is involved in such far-reaching schemes of reorganisation.
§ Earl Winterton
Both my hon. Friend and the Secretary of State have constantly used the term, "have this question constantly under review." Does that mean that there has been any attempt at a scientific inquiry, such as Mr. Arnold Forster initiated, the result of which was the proposal which he put before the House?
§ Sir V. Warrender
No, there has been no special ad hoc committee, but the General Staff are constantly keeping the question under review. The General Staff are practical men and, naturally, they keep such questions constantly in view.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
The Secretary of State told me that there was an inquiry proceeding into this matter. That surely meant something more than general review by the General Staff?
§ Mr. Cooper
The General Staff had instructions to consider it, and they are still considering it, but there is no special committee sitting. The Chief of the General Staff has the matter under close consideration and he will, if he thinks fit, report to me on the steps that should be taken and whether and when it would be advisable to set up a committee—not a War Office committee—to consider the matter afresh.
§ Sir V. Warrender
I now want to deal with the question of pay. Of course, if you increased rates of pay you would 2000 popularise any form of service, and I know of no service which considers its remuneration sufficient. I do not see the Prime Minister here, but I am not altogether satisfied with my remuneration.
§ Sir V. Warrender
In 1923 a committee under the chairmanship of the junior Member for the City of London (Sir A. Anderson) was appointed to inquire into the pay of State servants, and the Army Council submitted to that committee a memorandum dealing with officers' rates of pay. The committee, generally speaking, fell in with the views then expressed by the Army Council, which were, that pay for the lower ranks was unnecessarily high. The committee did not express any opinion at all upon the rates of pay of officers of intermediate and higher grades beyond saying that none of these Services erred on the side of paying their best men too much. The rates of pay, as a result of this committee, were settled in 1925, and after being subject to revision, in accordance with the rise and fall in the cost of living, were finally stabilised at their present level in 1935.
§ Sir V. Warrender
I am going to deal with other ranks. This Committee, in addition to obtaining the views of some Government Departments and officials, also consulted leading men in the commercial and industrial world and asked their opinions of the standard of emoluments for officers in the Army. As a result of this, it is interesting to notice that in their report the Committee pointed out that at the age of 23, the average age of entry into the administrative classes of the Civil Service, the Army officer was better off than the barrister, the solicitor or the doctor who started at that age and who without means often had to face many years of poverty and struggle without any certainty of reward at the end. The same conditions apply to-day. Although I am not going to attempt to resist the argument that increased pay will be popular and very likely attract officers to the Army, it cannot fairly be stated that the rates of pay to-day are inadequate com-: pared with conditions that obtain in civilian life.
§ Mr. Mabane
Will the hon. Gentleman deal with the point I made? I agree that the pay of subalterns compares with the pay in other occupations, but, after 15 years' service, all they can look forward to is £514 a year. Will he deal with that point?
§ Sir V. Warrender
I appreciate my hon. Friend's point. He did not take into consideration the retired pay that the Army officer gets on completion of his service. In the case of the pay in other ranks, the Anderson Committee also inquired into these rates, and, strangely enough, their opinion in regard to soldiers' pay was similar to that concerning officers' pay, in that the recommendation which they put forward was that there should be a lowering in the rates of pay for the lowest ranks. Actually the basic rate which they suggested was 1s. 6d. a day, plus a bonus of 4d. for educational and military efficiency. Ultimately, after inter-departmental discussion between the Service Departments, the basic rate was fixed at 2s. a day, with an increment of 6d. after three years' service, plus 3d. respectively for educational and military efficiency, and these rates became operative at the end of 1925. It should, moreover, be remembered that, whereas in 1923 the cost-of-living figure was 175, it is now 151, and has for some time been lower. But as far as the adequacy of pay goes, the amount to-day is better than what it was some 10 years ago.
§ Sir V. Warrender
I am dealing with the point raised by the hon. Member for Huddersfield about the soldier's pay, and am pointing out that in comparison with rates in civilian life it can be shown that the pay to-day is adequate.
§ Sir V. Warrender
The soldier gets his pay besides his rations. His rates of pay are in addition to what he gets in rations.
§ Sir V. Warrender
If the cost of living is lower, presumably his purchasing power is higher. [HON. MEMBERS: "He does not buy food."] He has 2002 other expenses. The point that I am making is perfectly fair. It tends to show that if the emoluments which the soldier receives are converted into terms of money, then, compared with wages in civilian life, the soldier is getting a higher rate of pay than is paid for similar class of labour in the outside world., Moreover, the soldier has opportunities of increasing his pay by promotion. He leaves the Army fully assured for health insurance and unemployment insurance. He also has this advantage, that although his wages are not increased in times of boom, he does not suffer from fall of wages in times of slump. I have dealt with the question of pay in this form, not for the purpose of refuting the claim that an increase in the rates would attract officers and men into the Army, but simply and solely to show that existing rates compare not unfavourably with those prevailing outside.
Several questions were asked which I will answer. My hon. Friend the Seconder of the Amendment suggested that recruits for the foreign service Army might be forthcoming from the Dominions. That is a suggestion which, not as regards long-term service but in another sense, has been thought of at the War Office. I am not sure that he will find a great many men in the Dominions who will be willing to serve for 21 years in India, but certainly as far as the possibility of obtaining recruits from the Dominions is concerned it has not been lost sight of. Many suggestions have been put forward, and what interested me most was that I hardly heard one that we had not already had under consideration at the War Office. My hon. Friend the Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays) also asked me about troopships. That is a matter which we are going into with the Board of Trade, and we hope to be able to do something towards making the conditions of life in the troopships more comfortable in the future. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] Before long.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) gave the House a complete picture in regard to promotion from the ranks. In addition to the figures which he mentioned, scholarships up to a number equivalent to 30 per cent. of each entry for the Royal Military Academy are offered for competition at each Army 2003 entrance examination. Twenty-three free scholarships are offered each year—16 at the Royal Military College and seven at the Royal Military Academy. A question has been asked about the cuts in the reserve pay. These were not economy cuts. They were related to the reductions which took place in 1925. Men who enlisted before September, 1931, still receive the old and higher rate of reserve pay. The men who enlisted since 1931 are on the lower rate. That lower rate is not connected with any economy cut. The other points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest (Major Mills) were all dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his introductory speech.
§ Sir V. Warrender
While we cannot accept the Amendment, it is not because of any hide bound objection to the points raised. I was tempted to point out to the House the serious difficulties involved in any vast reorganisation of the kind suggested by hon. Members simultaneously with the rearmaments programme, but I assure hon. Members that none of the questions brought forward has been omitted from our thoughts at the War Office.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
I want to put a point which has not so far been mentioned. The Noble Lord wanted to know why we were not getting recruits, and suggested that it was because of the low pay. Let me, first of all, thank the Secretary of State for War for deciding to do something which I asked him to do two years ago. Apparently we are right sometimes on this side of the House. The failure to get recruits for the Army and the reason for much of the unrest among the young men who will not enter the Army is this. After a man has served his term and is on reserve pay he gets only £3 6s. a quarter, and if he is also on unemployment assistance he does not draw a single penny for the first three weeks of unemployment relief after he has drawn his £3 6s. According to the regulations 50 per cent. of the £3 6s. is taken into account; that is he gets nothing for three weeks, and the fourth week he gets 7s. Such treatment not 2004 only affects the man but also his relations and the entire community in which he lives. It is said, "If that is the way the Army treats men who have served, then I will take good care that I do not enter." That is a matter which is undoubtedly affecting recruiting. If a man is in work and his father is on unemployment assistance, when the lad gets his £3 6s. pay it is taken into account and his father gets a reduction in his allowance because the lad has served in the Army. Do you expect to get lads into the Army under conditions like that? Where do you get your Army from? You do not get many from Bournemouth, or a big number from Brighton. Generally speaking, you go to the Midlands and the North of England.
§ Mr. Griffiths
There is another point I would like to make. There was a man working in the pit with me who, when the War broke out, threw his tools into the tub, without finishing the shift, and went to the recruiting station. There were scores of men who went out of the pits in that way when the War broke out. That young man was passed as A1, but he came back with tuberculosis. Since I have been in the House, he has died. He was getting a pension of 27s. 6d. a week, but when he died his wife did not get a penny, and has not received a penny since. That happened in my village, not half a mile from where I live. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has had a recruit from that village from that day to this. I am putting some facts before the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope the Noble Lord is also paying attention to what I am saying. These things are happening up and down the country, and are preventing recruiting.
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ 11.23 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir William Allen
I am very sorry to delay the House, but for some time I have been pestering the Secretary of State for War, until I believe he considers me his public enemy number 2005 one. I believe I am putting the case for the under-dog. I am in a minority, I am sure, with regard to all those who have had to deal with the court-martial of an officer who was dismissed. The court-martial was against me, the Commanderin-Chief in India was against me, different Secretaries of State for War have been against me, but being an Irishman, I said, "Let them all come!" This is a very serious matter, and its seriousness is the only reason I have risen to remind the House of the conditions in which this officer was dismissed. I ask the House whether the time has not come when something should be done with regard to a court of appeal from the Army Council.
If ever a case came before the Army Council and which deserved a hearing by a court of appeal, it is the case I am going to raise. What is the difference between an officer who is arraigned before a court on a criminal charge and a civilian in similar circumstances? The officer is tried by a court of officers, and has the opportunity of bringing counsel to that court. But if he is cashiered, he has no court of appeal such as would be open to a civilian. The civilian can go to a higher court and can have counsel there to argue his case. Not so the officer. He is finished as far as a genuine court of appeal is concerned. This officer did appeal to the Commander-in-Chief in India who decided, of course, on the evidence put before him, but there was no counsel to plead the officer's case with the Commander-in-Chief. Then he appealed to the Army Council and the documents were put before the Army Council and before various Secretaries of State for War, but counsel for the accused could not appear there either. I say the time has come when we ought to have a court of appeal for such cases.
I wish to refer to a number of illegalities which were committed from the time when this officer was first arrested until the present. The charge against him was that of issuing a document knowing it to be forged. He had purchased a motor-car by permission of the authorities in India and arranged with them that they should deduct the price of the car from his pay. In time that was all paid up and not a farthing of it was owing. But a document was issued by the agent of the motor-car company and that document had a signature different from 2006 that of the agent. That was passed on to Major Sandford, the officer in question, as an advance receipt which is quite a common thing in India. That advance receipt was demanded by the authorities. It was found that the name on the receipt was not the name of the agent of the motor-car company, and it was alleged that that was a forged document and that Major Sandford knew it was a forged document and passed it on as such. He was placed under military arrest, and there was an investigation by the Commander-in-Chief of the Western Command who was the commanding officer of the accused. I allege that the commanding officer of the accused investigated the charge and I have here documentary evidence to prove that. Here is a letter from the Western Command signed by the Brigadier-General, in which he refers to about 15 different documents. This letter, which was passed on to the civil authorities for the purpose of taking action in the civil court against Major Sandford, gives abundant proof that General Matheson was the investigating officer. That is denied by the Army Council. In order that Major Sandford might be sent forward under a different commanding officer from the one who had investigated the charge, he was transferred to the 1st Devonshire Regiment. The commanding officer of that regiment is the officer whom the Army Council or the Judge Advocate-General says is supposed to have investigated the charge. General Matheson, having investigated, then wished to withdraw, and this is the letter from Colonel Woolcombe, the commanding officer of the 1st Devonshire Regiment. It is alleged by the Judge Advocate-General that this officer was the investigating officer. The letter says:Your attachment commenced on 9th December, 1933. During that time the only correspondence that I saw in connection with your court martial was the charge sheet which I signed. I neither investigated the case nor applied for trial by court martial.If the Judge Advocate-General's department tells me that General Matheson did not investigate, I want to know who did. There is another important matter which is very irregular and illegal in connection with the proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to my question today, told me that he had written a letter to me—I am obliged to him for it—and that he had stated something about these 2007 proceedings. He told me that under Rule of Procedure No. 50, the president of the court, having signed the proceedings, that was sufficient to justify the proceedings as they have been sent to the War Office. This Rule of Procedure says:Upon the court awarding the sentence, the president shall check and sign the sentence, and such signature shall authenticate the whole of the proceedings, and if signed by the judge advocate it shall as soon as possible be transmitted for confirmation.The Judge Advocate-General, relying on Rule of Procedure No. 50, says that, as the president of the court signed these proceedings, that constitutes them a legal document no matter whether they are written in the handwriting of the Judge Advocate or whether they were typed. I think we are entitled to find out the definition of the word "proceedings" as mentioned in Rule of Procedure No. 50. Rule of Procedure No. 94 is headed "Procedings":At a court martial the Judge Advocate-General or, if there is none, the President shall cause to be reported all transactions of that court and shall be responsible for the accuracy of the record.Then there is a note which explains:The record, where no shorthand writer is present, must be taken down in a clear and legible hand. Interlineations or corrections must be avoided as much as possible. If made they should be initialled by the President. The pages should be numbered and the various sheets fastened together. Sufficient space must be left below for the signature of the President and of the confirming officer.There we have the definition of the word "proceedings" according to Rule 50, which is depended upon by the Judge Advocate-General. It must be taken down in longhand, that is the point I wish to stress, and the document in longhand must accompany the records. What happened? The Judge Advocate-General was appointed by the president, in the absence of a shorthand writer, to take down the evidence in longhand. That was correct. But he took it home and copied it out again and, not satisfied with that, he typed it or caused it to be typed. We had a third edition of the proceedings presented to the Commander-in-Chief, to the Army Council and to the Secretary of State for War, as the original procedings. I am told by the Secretary of State for War that it does not matter whether they are in longhand or in 2008 shorthand, or typed. As long as the President of the court signs them, that makes no difference, despite the fact the word "proceedings" is defined as something written in longhand. How do I know all this? I was asked by the Secretary of State for War to furnish the documents. I have had so many letters from the Secretary of State for War, and so many answers to questions which have been misleading, inaccurate, even misstatements, that I recalled to myself the opening line of a poem which I learned as a boy:Will you walk into my parlour, said the Spider to the Fly?and I was not giving up any of these things, but I have them here. The right hon. Gentleman said, in answer to a question the other day, that this was copied, re-copied and re-typed. In his letter to me to-day he withdrew that statement, but he need not have done so, because it is a fact. They were recopied, they were typed, and I hold that that typed document is an illegal document, first of all because it is not the "proceedings" as laid down by the Rule. Worse than that, it is materially changed from the original document, to the detriment of the officer. How do I know that? I have it here. The right hon. Gentleman said in his letter to me:Perhaps you are not aware that a portion of the Judge-Advocate General's manuscript after being typed was handed to Major Sand-ford's counsel as an act of grace.I am well aware of it, because it is here. It can be proved from examination by anybody that the second copy differs materially from the typed copy. I allege in this House that there are certain instructions written on the sides of that second document and the type has been changed in certain particulars detrimental to the officer. Here are the 44 pages of number two edition; anyone can see that it could not possibly be the original, because it is not on the regular Army form which is usual for taking down evidence at a court-martial. There is abundant proof that this is number two copy of the evidence, and that number three, or the typed copy, differs materially, to the detriment of the officer, from the original. [Interruption.] I would remind hon. Members that this is a very serious matter to this officer. He has been hounded out, kicked out, dismissed, from the Service. 2009 I have legal evidence that has been studied by persons of high position in the legal profession, who aver that no civil court would have convicted. There was a gentleman who sold this car and passed on this receipt. He was imprisoned by the civil authorities, and it was requested that he should be tried before the court-martial came on. That would not suit the General, because if this man were let off, there could be no precedent for trying the Major at all.
What happened? The civil authorities knew that there was no case against the defendant, and he was discharged. As there was no case against him, what case could there be against the officer who was alleged to have been accessory? It was like a man being alleged to have committed a murder and somebody being alleged to be accessory after the fact. The murderer is let off, and the accessory is hanged. That is what happened. The Major was detained in military custody illegally for six weeks and it was the duty of the civil authorities to have him before them within 24 hours, but that never happened. General Matheson decided to save him for court-martial, which was duly convened by the same officer.
One of the most extraordinary things in the whole case is what I am going to tell the House now. During the trial of Major Sandford by that court-martial in India, he was gazetted a lieutenant-colonel. What a rotten kind of officer he must have been to be gazetted lieutenant-colonel. That is what happened during the course of the trial. In accordance with Rule 21B of the Rules of Procedure, the officers composing the court-martial must be of equal if not superior rank to the accused, and I say that, since during the proceedings Major Sandford had been gazetted lieutenant-colonel, the court-martial ought, according to military law and the Rules of Procedure, to have been dissolved. I have here a statement which says that Lord Halifax and Lord Hailsham were advised that the Army Act itself contained no provision which required that the rank of a member of a court-martial should be equal if not superior to that of the accused, and that the provisions of the forms of procedure must be regarded as having no bearing on this question; and I was informed that a ruling given by Sir Felix Cassel, who was then Judge Advocate-General, in a 2010 case in 1919, was to the same effect. When I read that I wondered what was going to happen to this poor devil of an officer under a dictatorship of that kind. I say that Rule 21 B does apply, and for this reason, that it is part of the Army Act. It is mentioned frequently in the Army Act. On page 474 of the Army Act there is a statement, relating to courts-martial, in which reference is made to the Rules of Procedure, and a note on the constitution of courts-martial to which are added the words "See Rule of Procedure 21 B." Moreover, there is another Rule of Procedure which distinctly states that all Rules of Procedure shall be taken judicial note of, and that also is mentioned in the Army Act. The Army Act teems with references to Rules of Procedure—
§ Sir W. Allen
This is a very serious matter. I hold the Judge Advocate-General responsible for this officer's dismissal and disgrace on a charge that never could have been proved in a civil court. The documents in my possession go to prove every word I have said. I have said nothing for which I have not documentary and legal proof and military law on my side, and I defy the Judge Advocate-General or any Secretary of State to disprove anything that I have said.
These Rules of Procedure have been passed by this House. Are they military law or are they not? The Rules of Procedure are indissolubly bound up with the Army Act. You cannot separate them. If the Rules of Procedure do not hold good, wipe them out and begin afresh. What we want is a court of appeal from such maladministration of justice as I have described. Either that or a tribunal set up by this House to inquire into this case. The late Sir William Joynson-Hicks set up a committee of investigation to deal with the action of a policeman. What I have said is true, and it is up to the Secretary of State to see that we have a tribunal of gentlemen of repute, learning and knowledge to go into all the particulars. Do not take my word. I think I have made out a case for appeal from the dictatorship of the Judge Advocate-General to a tribunal capable of dealing with the case.
§ 11.53 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Acland
I think the whole House, or nearly the whole House, will agree that the points raised by the hon. and gallant Member are very serious points from the point of view of the officer concerned. I for one—and I think I can speak for many other hon. Members—do not grudge a single moment of the time occupied in putting the case before us. We are all jealous of the personal position and career of any officer, non-commissioned officer or private in the Army.
§ Sir F. Acland
I do not forget that matter. I listened to the hon. and gallant Member with great care. Some years ago I happened to be a member of the Army Council—almost too many years to recollect, 29 years—and being then of a more inquiring and suspicious mind than I am now I made it my business to inquire into things. I do not pretend to know anything about this case, but I have tried to get at what is the attitude of the ordinary soldier towards a court-martial. There is no doubt that the ordinary soldier, whether he be an officer, non-commissioned officer or private, would rather be brought before a court-martial than before any other court that he has ever heard of. That is a fact. I hope we shall not alter this procedure by court-martial, as it would be altered if we set up a superior tribunal to go into the facts and findings of the court itself and of the Judge Advocate-General on the points of law involved in those findings. I believe the soldier man in general is extraordinarily well content, and, although I think we were ready to listen carefully to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, we have heard only one side of it, and it would be a great mistake in the interests of the Service to alter a system which, on the whole, has the respect of the Service.
§ 11.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Cooper
I do not propose to state the case fully on the other side. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said in favour of the, justice generally meted out by courts-martial. This case has been closely gone into by my two predecessors, one an ex-Lord Chancellor, and they and I myself, who 2012 have read the case, are completely satisfied that in equity no injustice has been done. If on certain points we rely on the advice of our legal advisers, that is naturally inevitable, but, so far as the story itself is involved in the papers, we can understand it as well as any Member of the House and can make up our minds whether a man is unfairly treated, and I am satisfied that he has not been. On legal technique we are guided by our legal experts. Here is a case that has been going on for two or three years, and at this late hour the hon. and gallant Gentleman has thought fit to lay it before the House of Commons. The points that he has made are purely small points of legal technique which do not appeal to the House at all, and which can only be settled by legal experts, whether a man having taken down in longhand an account of a trial is justified in going home, making a fair copy and having it typed out. He is responsible for both documents and one is as good as the other.
My hon. and gallant Friend's point is that there is some legal technicality which renders the trial invalid. I am advised that that is not so. The other point is that in the middle of the trial, in the natural course of promotion, this officer was promoted from major to colonel and that that invalidated the trial. It would not make the least difference to the fairness of the trial that he suddenly became senior to one member of the court. Again, on the best legal advice my hon. and gallant Friend is wrong. That should not have invalidated the trial. There cannot be such a tremendous miscarriage of justice if, when the case is finally made, it has to depend on small technicalities of law which on the best legal advice do not hold water.
I thank the House for the Debate that has taken place. I do not think hon. Members desire me to reply to all the important points that have been made. All the speeches in every part of the House have been suggestive and useful and have been informed with the desire of helping me in my task of bringing the Army up to standard.
§ Mr. David Grenfell
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite based his more serious allegation on the statement that a certain general officer had been charged with the investigation, but he 2013 had deputed it to another person, who, in fact, conducted it, and that the investigation was not carried out by the officer who held himself responsible for the report of the investigation. It is a very serious thing, and if there is an answer to that, it should be given to the House.
§ 12.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
The right hon. Gentleman has told the House that the case that was put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Armagh (Sir W. Allen) was simply based upon legal technicalities. I know nothing about the case, but I did not think that that was so at all, after I had listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Quite apart from any question of rules of procedure, the hon. and gallant Gentleman said that a certain record of what had happened at the court-martial was taken down in longhand, that the person responsible for taking the copy then made a fresh copy in longhand, that his second copy was then typed, and that therefore there was a third copy. The most important point made by the hon. and gallant Member was that substantial alterations were made as between one copy and the other. As I understand it, the Army authorities, when they came to their final decision, were proceeding on the third copy, and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman is right, there was a considerable difference between the third copy and the original copy taken at the actual proceedings. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member is right or wrong, but it is not merely a technical point. If the hon. and gallant
§ Member is correct, it is a very substantial point, and obviously might involve a serious miscarriage of justice, and before we leave the case, we ought to have an answer from the Secretary of State.
§ 12.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Cooper
I have been assured by the Judge Advocate-General who reviewed the evidence, that the final copy, for which the same man is responsible who is responsible for the rough copy, signed by the same hand, differs only in small drafting points in the use of words and adjectives from the first copy. The hon. and gallant Member has argued his case on the existence of material differences, but he did not refer to a single one. With regard to the point of the hon. Member opposite, I have not rehearsed the case this evening. The evidence is very long, and hardly a month goes by but what my hon. and gallant Friend writes and raises three or four new points. Those points, I am not prepared to answer at the moment.
§ Sir W. Allen
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how it is that the typed copy in the possession of the Advocate-General's office, if it is the third copy, is marked in red, "The original"?
§ Mr. Cooper
I am quite incapable of giving any explanation of why it is in red, nor am I able to say that it is the original copy.
§ Question put, "That Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 211; Noes, 104.2015
|Division No. 111.]||AYES.||[12.8 a.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Cross, R. H.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Crossley, A. C.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Bull, B. B.||Cruddas, Col. B.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Burghley, Lord||Culverwell, C. T.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Butler, R. A.||Davies, C. (Montgomery)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Cartland, J. R. H.||Donner, P. W.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Carver, Major W. H.||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cary, R. A.||Dower, Capt. A. V. G.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Castlereagh, Viscount||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)|
|Balniel, Lord||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Dugdale, Major T. L.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Channon, H.||Duggan, H. J.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Christie, J. A.||Duncan, J. A. L.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Dunglass, Lord|
|Boulton, W. W.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Colman, N. C. D.||Ellis, Sir G.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Elmley, Viscount|
|Bracken, B.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Craven-Ellis, W.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)|
|Everard, W. L.||Liddall, W. S.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Lindsay, K. M.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Llewellin, Lieul.-Col. J. J.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Fleming, E. L.||Loftus, P. C.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Foot, D. M.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Salt, E. W.|
|Fremantle Sir F. E.||Lyons, A. M.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Furness, S. N.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Scott, Lord William|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Selley, H. R.|
|Goldie, N. B.||McKie, J. H.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Magnay, T.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Markham, S. F.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Spent. W. P.|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Mayhaw, Lt.-Col. J.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Hanbury, Sir C.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark N.)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Harbord, A.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Morgan, R. H.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A P.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Munro, P.||Train, Sir J.|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Nall, Sir J.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Holdsworth, H.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Tufnell, Lieut-Commander R. L.|
|Holmes, J. S.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Turton, R. H.|
|Hopkinson, A.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Palmer, G. E. H.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Patrick, C. M.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Peake, O.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hunter, T.||Peat, C. U.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Petherick, M.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wills, S. R.|
|Keeling, E. H.||Pilkington, R.||White, H. Graham|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Procter, Major H. A.||Williams, H. G. (Crovd n, S.)|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Radford, E. A.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rankin, Sir R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Wragg, H.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Remer, J. R.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Leckie, J. A.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Sir George Penny and Captain|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Rowlands, G.||Arthur Hope.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Grenfell, D. R.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Ridley, G.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Ritson, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Rowson, G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hayday, A.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermendsey)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Silkin, L.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hicks, E. G.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Barr, J.||Hollins, A.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Batey, J.||Hopkin, D.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Bellanger, F. J.||Jagger, J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Benson, G.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Bevan, A.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cooks, F. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Stephen, C.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lee, F.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Doggar, G.||Logan, D. G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dalton, H.||Lunn, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McEntee, V. La T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McGhee, H. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McGovern, J.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Day, H.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Dobbie, W.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Westwood, J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Maxton, J.||Whiteley, W.|
|Ede, J. C.||Muff, G.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Paling, W.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Frankel, D.||Parker, J.||Windsor. W. (Hull, C.)|
|Gallacher, W.||Parkinson, J. A.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Pathick-Lawrence, F. W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Potts, J.|
|Gibbins, J.||Price, M. P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Pritt, D. N.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. John.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]