§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:in the opinion of this House, it is essential that adequate arrangements should be made for the comfort and contentment of the troops and suitable facilities provided for their education and vocational training.I am sure the House will feel more friendly disposed to me if I state in advance that I am not going to delay the proceedings unnecessarily, but I have a duty to perform. Before I come to the subject of my Amendment I want to make a statement on the Estimates to which we have had our attention called to-day. They show that there has been a very considerable addition to the numbers of men in the Service and a very considerable additional range of age and physical condition in that large mass of serving men. We also know that there is a very wide educational divergence between the units now serving in His Majesty's Forces. In approaching this problem we have to realise that many of the men who have joined the Forces under war-time conditions have proved their capacity and have attained considerable standing in civil life before entering the Army. Many others were interrupted in their progress towards their later stations in life. Sometimes they were students at a university, while others were in stages of apprenticeship. Others were qualified for service in 404 the respective profession which they had chosen. Then there were many men skilled in industry.
One of the subjects of our discussion has been the right use of those men who have been trained, craftsmen and others, and who have been called to military service, but whose services have not been fully used and whose skill and mental capacity have remained more or less dormant because of the difficulty of putting every man into his place—as the Secretary of State for War said, putting the square peg into the square hole and the round peg into the round hole in every case. It is impossible. There must be in the Army a very large number of men who have not been able to settle down for reasons of temperament, age or outlook on life. It is therefore far more necessary that we should provide for them.
The Amendment I submit to the House calls for greater attention to welfare, education and occupational training for the troops. The men who are in the Army are men who have left home, and men who still look backward towards their familiar ways of life, and who, when they look forward, look forward to the resumption of those habits of mind and relaxation to which men have been accustomed at the end of their day's work. But Under these conditions of segregation, in military units, under military discipline, men have to obey orders and follow, not the dictates of their own tastes, their own ideas, their own sense of pleasure and satisfaction. They have at all times to be amenable to the orders conveyed to them in the units in which they serve, and they have to make the best of every opportunity provided for them when off duty and when their time for recreation comes. I think the biggest problem in the Army is the problem of leisure, of the right use of leisure. It is very difficult to fill in this gap between periods of work and periods of rest, and the men who are limited by circumstances, who are divorced from their home associations, who are not permitted to indulge in their individual pursuits, have to be catered for specially.
There are, in my opinion, not sufficient facilities for the expression of individual tastes, for the development of individual qualities and for the indulgence of those mental interests which make life bearable, which make life more profitable and 405 which make life more a matter of satisfaction. There is more boredom, there must be, and monotony, in military routine, and it is as a counter to that in the first instance that we require the services of welfare to be built up and maintained. I am very glad to hear today that much work is being done, but I would like to call attention, first of all, to what I regard as the essentials of welfare. The first need, the foundation of all human welfare, is health and physical fitness, and the essentials of fitness are good food and healthy exercise and proper period's of rest. As regards the men in the Army, I will say nothing against the food. I think this Army has been fed better than any Army in the history of this country. As compared with the civilian population they have had both in quantity and in the quality of the food supplied to them, slightly the advantage of the civilian population. That is as it should be. These men are young. They are called upon to exercise very strenuously. Many of them are in the early years of maturity. They grow very rapidly. One of the things that has pleased me more than anything is to find ample evidence of good health, of development, on the part of these men who have left their homes, who have been subject to military routine and discipline, and the care of their officers and the attentions of those who have provided welfare and recreation for them.
That foundation having been accorded to them, there is something more than mere food and drink in welfare. There is the provision of interests, mental interests. We have to be amused. Even Members of Parliament benefit considerably occasionally from the things said in this House which bring into play a latent sense of humour, and we find the tasks of legislation considerably lightened in their effect upon our health and happiness because we are a people fortunately, though we are not given credit for this throughout the world, with a sense of humour. We are amused at simple things. A joke, a song, a cheery whistle, a caricature in words or in line, enlists a human attention of all our people. In the Army, as anywhere else, a collection of Britishers will always find comic or humorous interest even in the most tragic surroundings or in surroundings of the greatest danger. I have found that to be the case among working men, sometimes in the most unwholesome 406 conditions. It is good to find that in the Army our people are not only allowed, but encouraged, to express their humour, and that their sense of humour is stimulated. From my distant—I might say, my nodding acquaintance, for sometimes I do nod over these programmes at midnight by my own fireside—that I am satisfied that this innovation, provided by Ensa and other organisations of that sort, have been an indispensable agent in keeping up the morale of the people. When people have to live uncomfortably, far away from home, with their minds on the troubles of those whom they have left behind, concerts of this sort help to maintain their spirits and their morale.
I have listened to community singing, and here I think the Army is missing a great chance. Those who, like myself, have heard the Russian soldiers and the Bulgarian soldiers singing on the march, and soldiers of other nations singing under military conditions, may well be surprised that somebody, not necessarily a musical genius but with an understanding of what singing means to men who live and work together, should not have done something about this. The old sea shanties are an example of the effect of music on the minds of men who work together. We have a heritage of the finest songs in the world. English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh songs are unequalled. I do not know why the Army has not been taught to sing, in suitable harmony for a thousand voices, these beautiful songs. It would be of infinite advantage to morale, and would have great possibilities for the improvement of physique. There is nothing better than singing to keep the spirits up. In my country we have a saying, "Singing in the storm: that is the best kind of song." When things are dark and there is no external aid to happiness, you can sing through the trouble. I would like, in addition to the concerts, to have men taught to sing in lusty harmony, with the treble cadences of the A.T.S. joining in. To play in games, and even to watch games well played, has a spiritual influence. We have improved very much. We have a sense of satisfaction at seeing a job of work done, and football, cricket and all games out of doors should be encouraged. I know that they are encouraged, but facilities are not afforded to every unit in this country. In addition to the outdoor games, we have during the period of the 407 war the hours of black-out, when more games should be provided indoors, and there are wet days when out-of-door games are not possible. These are entertainments, some kind of body, soul and spirit building, which we ought to develop to the utmost, which I do not think has yet been reached.
The need for the provision of snacks and extras in the way of food and drink has been brought to my notice. All young people have always wanted that sort of thing, and they always will. They always want the extra cup of tea or the bun and the cigarette. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction in the Army that N.A.A.F.I. is still engaged on profit making. The system of demanding the highest price for the goods at N.A.A.F.I. causes a good deal of discontent, and it does not make for welfare and good feeling. I commend this question to the Minister. I would emphasise the 5th and 10th Report of the Select Committee on National Expendiutre, and I believe that these recommendations will receive attention. There is a great opportunity in this Army of ours. I refuse to believe that our young men to-day are inferior to their fathers and grandfathers. They are not. Their very appearance belies that, but their minds are not being fully occupied. Education should be much more encouraged and promoted in the Army. Again I speak of something about which I know. I left school with my full-term instruction ended at 11 years of age. I made a short cut through education from different vantage points, with many gaps between, and I am satisfied that for the men in the Army both class and private instruction can be developed to a far higher standard than has been the case in the past, with infinite advantage and a steadying influence. Give the men plenty of work and interesting subjects to tackle, and we shall have most beneficial results. The men will be far better soldiers, but even more important is that, while you teach the civilian to be a good soldier, you can also teach the soldier to be a good civilian when he comes back. There ought to be far more special instruction and an improvement in the provision of books. Paper is not plentiful, and good writers are not always available, but there are men who can write books and primers on subjects intelligently, and 408 these should be provided for the Army and instruction given so that the time may be fully utilised in building up the character and understanding of the men who will be the citizens of this country in the future.
I saw something of the work—and I want to pay tribute to it—of Major-General Willans, whose lamentable death on active service in Libya we all note with regret. We desire to pay tribute to him as head of both the Welfare and Educational Organisations of the Army. We are pleased to note that the Secretary of State is planning to appoint a successor. May I make a suggestion? It is that he tries to find a good man but does not give him the two responsibilities. Let him appoint the best man he can to look after the welfare section and find an equally good man, if he can, to look after educational activities. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman refer to the Violet Markham Report. Has he put all the recommendations of that Report into operation?
§ Mr. Grenfell
In pre-war days I was permitted to see much of the work done by the Army Educational Corps. I read and examined hundreds of papers of candidates who were trying for their 1st, 2nd and 3rd class certificates. They were very good in their way, but I think the time has now come for progressive measures, for a little imagination, a little width of vision and a little recognition of the special obligations of the State to the men who are not soldiers except in the sense that they had acknowledged their patriotic obligation in this world of disorder and are playing their part accordingly. We must not let them be without the very best kind of education, and I would like the Secretary of State to make up his mind to infuse some young blood into what are called the "high-ups." Get some younger men, men with broader ideas, who have a high standing in the educational world and are perhaps more acquainted with the educational activities of civil life.
One other thing. These men are good soldiers; they are going through their training willingly and are working tremendously hard. There is no desire to shirk. But they are looking forward to their return to civil life, and their minds are not void of ideas as to the kind of 409 civil life to which they desire to return. They are just as political as other representatives of our race, just as much as our coalminers, steel miners and farm workers. The temporary soldier must get the best instruction on all problems relating to the post-war period. He should be instructed on the subject of post-war reconstruction and be encouraged to study the Beveridge Report. I was sorry to see an impediment in the way of studying this Report some time ago, and I hope that has now been removed. Many of these men may not come back to play their part in civil life, but let those who do return come back on equal terms with the best of us, feeling that their time in the Army has given them an opportunity to exchange views.
I do not think there is much wrong with the general education in this country. I saw in an article in a newspaper last week that Mr. H. G. Wells was almost offensively bitter on the subject of our educational achievements and our educational system in this country. Mr. Wells has said some wonderfully good things, and I do not think his advice has always been wrong; but I do not think our educational system, about which he was a little bitter, is entirely wrong. We must, however, acknowledge that the world has changed, that this war is a portent of change, that conditions will come in which we shall demand and require, if we are to live, a higher standard of intelligence and understanding from our people.
Let Army discussions be as free as possible. Let our people be taught how to speak. One of the weaknesses of our educational system is that we have never been taught to speak well. There is no organised effort to teach us how to speak. I remember that when I was in Soviet Russia in 1925, I heard school children there speaking far more freely than the children in this country. I knew that should a war come the Russians would be, as speakers, far superior to us. They would talk the heads off the Germans. The victories they have won show that they have talked to each other with some purpose since 1925. The world must learn to talk. It is better to talk about your differences, to sharpen your intelligence by talk, than to blunt your sense of right and wrong by strife and war. I hope that our Army will be allowed to talk freely, that men will go to talk to them, that good books will be published 410 for their direct benefit, so that the soldiers, having performed their soldierly duties with credit to themselves and to the nation, will come back and play an equally creditable part in rebuilding society.
§ Colonel Medlicott (Norfolk, Eastern)
The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) has performed a valuable service in bringing this matter to the notice of the House. By his speech he has shown that he takes a sympathetic and understanding interest in the welfare of the men in the Services. The Markham Committee's Report on welfare in the Women's Services said, in regard to welfare, that it is a word of varying significance which covers a large and ill-defined field of social activity. Those of us who have had practical experience in the Army welfare organisation know how true that is. There are some who regard welfare as being a matter mainly concerned with canteens and dart-boards, but on the other hand, there are those who regard it as something which is very near to the very root of morale and fighting efficiency. Upon whom does this responsibility rest? I suggest that it rests primarily, and indeed at all times, upon the regimental officer, and that nothing should be done to undermine or indeed to qualify that vital principle. In normal times before the war, the Regular Army could be counted upon to look after the welfare of its men. The Regular soldier's interests were in Army life and his family were safe in the care of the various regimental associations. But I venture to suggest all that has changed, probably for an indefinite time, and that the type of Army that we have to-day, which is primarily an Army of civilians in uniform, may continue throughout perhaps the greater part of this generation.
I should like to refer to the increased emphasis that must now be placed upon the role of the Army by the coming of the airborne type of warfare. The balance of importance is being shifted back on to military grounds, and the fact that vast airborne armies can now be transported in a very short space of time means that the Army will have to play a vital part in the defence of territory, and that means that we shall have to face keeping up a standing Army ready for instant action for as long ahead as we can visualise. That means that the conditions of to-day will continue, and we shall need a large number of men—whether they will be 411 recruited by voluntary means or by some form of national service we cannot foresee, but it must mean a large and well equipped Army which will consist substantially of men serving for a short time and coming in from civilian life for that purpose.
Therefore it is clear that the welfare, or well-being, of large numbers of men is going to be a very important task which the War Office will have to deal with for a long time to come. There are certain matters which are essential to the well-being of the soldier—good food well cooked, adequate pay and allowance, suitable accommodation, good clothing, an intelligent standard of discipline, an interest in method of training and the possession of equipment and arms in which the soldier has confidence. These are all matters primarily of staff work and regimental administration and, whatever may have been our shortcomings in the past, of which many of us have to bear our fair share of responsibility, I think it Can now be said, especially in the light of the achievements of General Montgomery's Army, that in staff work and regimental leadership the British Army is the equal of any in the world to-day.
There is, however, a vast field of interests and of needs outside those that I have mentioned, and these all have to be taken into account in considering the well-being of the soldier. I would place first and foremost his interest in the well-being of his family. This, I believe, comes first in the minds of the vast majority of serving soldiers. Secondly, he is interested in the possibilities of employment after he leaves the Army; thirdly, he wishes to have opportunities of continuing if possible in his trade or of learning a new one, in other words vocational training; fourthly, many soldiers desire to improve their general education and to extend their knowledge of current events, which is amply demonstrated by the popularity of the A.B.C.A. He is desirous of obtaining legal aid where he has got into a tangle with his private affairs and, lastly, he is interested in entertainment and sport.
If anything, over-emphasis has been placed on the need to entertain men with variety shows. There are so many of these variety shows that they cease to he variety and become monotony. I have 412 found in my own work in the Army Welfare Organisation the immense interest which men will take in tasks to which they can turn their own hands. I visited a unit which was in as remote a site as could be found in this country, just before Christmas. The men had made with their own hands enough toys to provide an ample supply for the children of all the married men in the unit. They had done it by collecting driftwood from the shore and by using damaged petrol tins. The results of that activity were much more important and beneficial than any amount of artificial entertainment which could have been provided.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman seriously suggest that in the region over which he has the oversight there is an ample sufficiency or even an excess of entertainment for the troops?
§ Colonel Medlicott
I have not gone as far as to say that. There is only a limited amount of entertainment available and only a limited amount of material for vocational or educational training. All I would suggest is that in deciding which of these is to receive priority we must not be led into thinking that all the soldiers all the time want ordinary entertainment. I merely suggest that we should place more emphasis on the men who want to look ahead and to spend their time in training themselves for the post-war period.
I purposely placed some emphasis on the importance of the soldiers' interest in the welfare of his family, and at this point I would like to pay my tribute to the work of General Willans, whose death we all so deplore. General Willans was a most remarkable man, and produced amazing results in the time he was Director of Welfare, and he will be very difficult to replace. The matters which I have just touched upon come within the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Welfare and Education over which General Willans presided.
I want to make what I hope is a constructive suggestion. Stage by stage as the war has proceeded the various subjects that we have been discussing have been dealt with under the Directorate of Welfare by creating branches of that Directorate. There have been entertainment officers, cinema officers, A.B.C.A. officers, 413 and so on. Each one has been provided with an appropriate staff, and this has been repeated at Command headquarters and in some matters it has been carried down to regimental headquarters. All this is very proper and helpful, but I suggest that the time has now arrived for a similar strengthening of the machinery for dealing with the soldier's personal and family troubles. A legal aid department has been set up, and it has made wonderful inroads in the mountain of accumulated cases which existed. I think that it will be found, however, that a large percentage of those cases are of the matrimonial character, concerning divorce or separation. It is quite proper that these matters should be cleared up, but I would in passing like to touch upon a suggestion made earlier that consideration should now be given to extending legal aid to officers. I am not going to express an opinion upon the merits of the suggestion, but I should like to make one remark upon the practical machinery. I believe that the legal aid scheme has resulted in 3,000,000 men becoming potential clients of the legal profession. I am a member of that profession in peace-time, and I really cannot see how the solicitors' profession, certainly, can cope with any more work at the moment. Solicitors have made an immense contribution to the national effort. The numbers who are serving and the numbers who have been killed are quite extraordinary, and although solicitors are anxious, I am sure, to do even more in the national effort, it is no use putting on to the profession more work than it can do. We shall only get back to the position which existed two years ago when there was a mountain of cases with which no one was able to deal.
What I do suggest is that more should now be done to deal with the family and home problems of soldiers—not so much in those cases where the home is being broken up by divorce as where there are other difficulties. There is a vast field here awaiting attention—difficulties with landlords and with hire-purchase and other creditors, housing problems, the care of children where the wife has died and further help in the home where the wife is ill or otherwise occupied. These are matters which are vital to morale, and I suggest again that it is useless to provide a lot of entertainment for troops if they, or some of them, are racked with anxiety about their home problems. I only wish 414 that some part of the money spent upon entertainments could have been available for these really pressing problems. I speak from practical experience. Entertainments and lectures can do a great deal to raise or maintain morale, but a sense of injustice or a feeling of anxiety about affairs in the home can destroy morale, or lower it, ten times as quickly. Already there are many organisations dealing with soldiers' family problems—the British Legion, the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families' Association, the Incorporated Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Help Society, Citizens' Advice Bureaux, the W.V.S. and many local committees and regimental and other associations, as well as the Army welfare officers themselves. While they are all doing a very valuable work I urge that some measure of co-ordination ought to be brought about.
In the case of canteens, the great voluntary bodies, such as the Y.M.C.A. and the Salvation Army, have already coordinated their work by conferring together on the Council of Voluntary War Work, and that has brought about an immense saving of time and labour, and I think it is now urgent that a similar body should be formed for the associations dealing with soldiers' legal, personal and family problems. There need be no loss of identity on the part of those organisations, no giving up of valued traditions. I suggest that not only should the initiative in this matter come from the War Office but also possibly some financial aid, which would put this coordinating body on its feet and in a position to face the immensely increased problems which demobilisation will bring.
I conclude as I began by re-emphasising that welfare is the responsibility of the regimental officer. To that I would add that it is also the responsibility of the sergeant, who occupies a very important position between the officer and the private and can do a vast amount either to assist or obstruct the passage of welfare facilities to the other ranks. On the matter of the responsibility of the officer, John Buchan has an apt word. He says of Cromwell:His regiment was his family; their prowess was his; his honour was theirs; he had no interest beyond their welfare. With such a spirit in their commander, small wonder that a new type of fighting force was born in England.415 That is still true to-day. We have an immense number of young officers who are trying to live up to that tradition of leadership. Welfare organisations and the Army welfare officers are an auxiliary service to assist in this primary task of the regimental officer. I suggest that there is a vast fund of experience and skill possessed by these voluntary organisations and welfare officers. The War Office can perform a useful, indeed essential, task at this stage if they will try to bring about some means whereby the work of those valuable organisations can be better co-ordinated and their skill, experience and good will placed even more readily at the service of the regimental officer, in his task of maintaining the well-being of the men for whom he is responsible.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken has had a unique experience in supervising welfare in the Services. I know well of the excellent work he has done. In regard to the Select Committee on National Expenditure, the Sub-Committee on which I happened to be, visited practically every Command in the country. We have issued two Reports to Parliament on these questions of N.A.A.F.I. and welfare generally. I would ask the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment to direct his attention to Report No. 10, which gives the replies of the War Office to the recommendations, and I think he will find in that Report answers to two or three of the points which he raised.
I find it difficult to speak about General Willans. He was a great personal friend of mine, and I do not think the country realises the tremendous loss it has suffered. He was a man of vision, and he did something which will last a long time in this country. He had sense enough to realise what the Scottish people have always known, that education is nothing more than wanting to learn. There is no end to it. General Willans and I were together the night before he flew off, and we were discussing the use that could be made of his ideas upon demobilisation. He was interested not only in vocational training, but he wanted to direct the attention of men to the openings that were available and to prevent them from being disappointed. He wanted to direct them and help them in their work. He was full of 416 all that subject. Some of us feel rather strongly about this matter. He was the 49th staff officer killed in an air crash—valuable lives thrown away. I would like to see an inquiry to find out why it happened so often. We cannot afford to lose men of that kind.
The Secretary of State may like to consider whether the time has not now come to divide the two branches, education and welfare, which are very different things. We have reached a stage now at which the organisation wants strengthening. There were plenty of men who realised what the post-war problems mean. I believe that the Secretary of State would have great assistance from universities and from others who could recommend men who have this knowledge. I am sure the desire to learn by the Army, and indeed by all the Services, is almost insatiable. We have a great responsibility in this House. We have taken a lot of young men away from what they were going to do. We are suffering from the last war. Why are these benches filled with old people like me? Because the men who would otherwise have been here were killed in the last war. Now we have another war. Therefore education is of primary importance, and there is such an opportunity in the Army to-day to learn together and to think together.
I know the Secretary of State has this very much at heart. I know through going round with the Select Committee that I have not met one single general officer in command in this country who does not attach the highest importance to this work. There is no question of being close about money. All the money wanted ought to be used. It is absolutely futile, as has been said, to throw away money in paying the expenses of a lot of old men and women who are too old to be called up and yet are still in the entertainment world. You do not want to go to a garrison theatre and see chorus girls of 60. I feel that that is all wrong. All the money spent on that would be far better spent, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, in helping the men to play for themselves. How many actors are in the Army now? Dozens of them. If you want to put on a play in London, you can hardly cast it, because the actors are all in the Services. Why not let the Services have their own entertainments and have, as in the last war, regimental concert parties and the rest of it?
417 We have not got very much time, and time is very precious, and the opportunities for raising this matter in Parliament are very small. I hope it will go out from this House that the time has come to have a Director of Education and a Director of Welfare for the Army. No one, unless he is unique, like Harry Willans, can do it, and even he began to feel the burden of doing the two things. You have many willing workers in the country, but the officers and non-commissioned officers of he Army are the backbone of the whole thing. I feel the time has come when his question of the application of education to our post-war demobilisation must be tackled. The right hon. Gentleman must, I think, bring from the universities and elsewhere as many people to help him as he can. And let this House not stint one penny in helping that forward.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
I think we are all indebted to the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) for raisins: this question and for drawing attention to what, as every speaker has said, is a very important aspect of Army work and an aspect which is, from the point of view of publicity, sadly neglected. I would like to say that I do not intend to be controversial. In particular, I do not intend to mention the vexed subject which we discussed the last time Army education was mentioned, namely, the subject of a certain Report of which we have all heard a considerable amount recently. I wish, however, to mention three specific things on which I would like some information from whoever replies. The first thing I wish to refer to is the lack of personnel in the Army Education Service, do not know whether hon. Members realise—I speak with a little experience, as I have myself been in that Service—that there is one officer, one full-time officer, for every 15,000 men, and I do not think that can be considered a very great number. But it may be said that much of the work is done by volunteers. That is correct. You get an officer who is supposed, among his other duties, to look after the education of his unit, but I submit that there are two defects in this.
The first is that the officer has plenty of other work to do and may not have enough time to devote to education. The second is a difficulty which does not occur in every unit but can occur in some, and I think it should be mentioned. A com- 418 manding officer may appoint an officer for whom he can find no other work to be education officer, instead of choosing the officer best suited for the job. I hope the War Office will see that, wherever possible, the educational branch have a say in the appointment of these voluntary officers to each unit. If the number of officers available is insufficient I hope that use will be made of N.C.O.s and even of privates, especially in serving on regimental committees. Certain regiments have such committees, and I hope that they will be made universal. It is not necessary always to have an officer in charge. In the Canadian Army the welfare and education officer, who I think has been already referred to to-day, was when I saw him a gentleman known as Private Bickersteth. He was in charge of the whole service. He met General McNaughton and discussed matters with him on equal terms, although his only rank in the Service was that of private.
I wish now to refer to the question of illiteracy. I was once ordered to make a report on the number of people who could not read or write in the division to which I was attached. You may say that 39 was not a very great proportion out of 15,000 men, but remember that those 39 were men who either could not read or could not write or possibly could do neither. I got all the facts, as a result of a great deal of trouble on the part of all the people concerned, and I sent them to my superior officer. Nothing happened. Indeed I was told months afterwards that the only thing that could have happened was that arrangements could be made for voluntary tuition for these men by any people who might be kind enough to give it, at a time convenient to themselves. It is obviously undesirable, from a military point of view, that a soldier should be unable to read or write. It is unfortunate that an Army should find in its ranks men, who might be sent out as messengers, on important duties, who could not read or write. A proper training should be given to those men.
Finally I want to pay a tribute to certain organisations which have not yet been mentioned. I refer to the local education authorities and the universities, which have played a very important part in the whole Army education scheme. I do not know whether Members realise the tremendous work that they have had to do 419 as a result of this scheme. Let me give one example. The education authority of a large town in the south-west of England was asked to provide tuition, involving the use of equipment and technical instruments, for nearly 1,000 men from one division alone. It made all these arrangements—it was only too willing to do so. Then that division had to move to another area, and the whole of the work went for nothing. That is inevitable in war-time, but some tribute should be paid to these organisations, and in particular to the universities, which provide the majority of the lecturers to go round to military units. I think that sometimes, if a lecturer asks, he should be paid a little more than the almost insulting sum which is now paid to those who lecture to our troops. I know that we frequently speak for nothing. We do not expect payment, but some people expect rather more payment. I have had it said to me by certain people, "We know what payment we would get if we went elsewhere to some other organisation, and we do not really think we can travel all this very long distance for £1 or 30s."
There are still some people in the Army—not in the War Office, but many commanding officers—who do not yet realise the value of education in their unit. I would say to them, first, that it has a semi-military value; there is the value of education in map reading in English and, indeed, in German which is carried on in many units. Secondly, it is training leaders. Where do our officers and N.C.O's. come from. They do not come from the men who can shoot the straightest or run the fastest. They come on the whole from the men who are the best educated and have been taught to think for themselves. The Army Education Corps is performing a service in educating these men which will help to do something that everybody who has the welfare of the Army at heart wishes to do, and that is to train more and better soldiers as rapidly as possible.
§ Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas (Portsmouth, South)
My work has been principally concerned with the Dominion and Empire Forces on leave. Reference has been made to the need for co-ordination, and I should like to pay a tribute to the Joint Empire Societies War Hospitality Committee under Field-Marshal Lord Milne, 420 which has the task of co-ordinating all the Empire societies—the Royal Empire Society, the Victoria League—which has done such good work with the King George and Queen Elizabeth Clubs—the Overseas League, and Lady Frances Ryder's Organisation, which specialises in organising private hospitality all over the country. All these are pre-war Empire societies and were doing good work both for Dominion and Empire visitors in peace time.
I would also like to pay tribute to the Empire Rendezvous, under Miss St. Ledger Hill, which, incidentally, has also been looking after some of the Americans, although that is not in the curriculum. If these societies had a little more money available they could do a great deal more. As it is, they have to raise the vast majority of what they spend, themselves. I also pay tribute to the various Empire clubs, like the New Zealand Forces Club, the Australian Boomerang Club and, above all, the Canadian Beaver Club, as well as to the various Canadian organisations, such as the Knights of Columbus, the Canadian Legion, the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A. and the Salvation Army, all of whom have taken over large hotels and made them available to the Canadian troops at a charge of 2s. 6d. a night for bed and breakfast, and look after them in every possible way. The Canadian Auxiliary Services have done a marvellous work, particularly at the week-ends, for the thousands of Canadians who turn up on leave and have nowhere to sleep. They arrange accommodation and direct the men to wherever they should go.
One thing I discovered from my experience, in going round the clubs and hostels, is that the men would far rather go to a place where there is dancing than to one with a higher standard of comfort, but where they do not provide any amusements. If you provide dancing for troops on leave it keeps, them out of the pubs and off the streets and gives them a chance to make friends, and it keeps them happy. There is one thing, I think, of which the British public can be very proud, and that is, that since the first Dominion troops came over here, there has been more private hospitality offered to Empire troops than could ever be used. There is no excuse for any Empire officers, men or women to imagine that they cannot have private hospitality in any part of the country. If only they take the trouble 421 to go to the authorities or one of the Empire societies it will be arranged for them, and at short notice, too. At one time the market was rather affected by troops from one of the Dominions accepting private hospitality and then not turning up. That, as I say, had rather a bad effect until the authorities concerned took appropriate steps and it was put light. Now we have no more trouble with any of the Dominion troops in that respect.
One happy result of this private hospitality is that once an Empire Service man has been to a British home he almost invariably gets adopted and returns to it on his succeeding leaves. He just says he is coming home. There are one or two difficulties that Empire societies are having at the moment, and one of them is in connection with catering. We have far more troops to look after than before, and although we can draw rations on the number of meals served, if you turn down 50 per cent. of the people who want meals you still cannot get the extra rations for the next months. Another difficulty is the staff problem. We are continually having staffs called up and it makes it almost impossible to expand, even with the aid of voluntary help. Accommodation for Dominion officers in London is now much better than it was, and I think we ought to thank some of the better known clubs, like the Constitutional, for having put bedrooms at the disposal of Canadian authorities for their officers when on leave and also the private persons who have done the same thing when there has been no other place available. If any hon. Members of this House would like to see something of what is being done for our Empire volunteers, or to go round the clubs and hostels I shall be very pleased indeed to take them and let them meet the men. I suggest that they should try to come along on a Saturday night to Overseas House where we always have 500 to 600 Service people, of all ranks, from all parts of the Empire, dancing happily together and meeting and making friends. I am quite sure that when the war ends and our Empire volunteers go home again, they will take back with them many happy recollections of the friendships they have made here and that their many true friends here will deeply regret their departure.
§ Mr. William Brown (Rugby)
I hope that the Members who have taken part in the discussion on the Amendment will not think it discourteous of me if I do not follow them on the many points they have raised in connection with the welfare of the troops. I sympathise deeply with the views which have been expressed. At least two of those speeches were remarkable contributions and in particular I would like to felicitate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Norfolk (Colonel Medlicott) on an extraordinarily good contribution to this problem of Army welfare.
I want to raise one point only and I hope not to detain the House for more than a few minutes. It is with regard to the chronic waste of man-power within the Army. What I have to say concerns the Army Pay offices, the Ordnance depots and the Royal Engineer services. In all these establishments there are mixtures of military, civilian and A.T.S. personnel. The uniformed people, for the most part, do precisely the same work as the civilians. The civilians, however, are not recognised as being on war service, and when their appropriate age category is called up, they are sent into the Army just as if they were working in ordinary civilian life.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but perhaps unwittingly I misled him. His remarks in regard to man-power do not properly come under the heading of welfare, and he should speak on the main Question, to which we shall revert.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Mayhew (East Ham, North)
I want to ask, in the first place, whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will consult with the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for Air with a view to considering the advisability of inserting in the pay-book of every Service man and woman the name and address of the wife or husband respectively and whether they are co-habiting or are, legally or otherwise, separated. A great deal of unhappiness is being created by bigamy. I should be 423 grateful if my right hon. Friend could approach the appropriate religious authorities with a view to their demanding that any Service men or women contemplating marriage produce their pay-books and prove whether or not they are married. This is a serious matter. It is a very personal matter, and Service men and women might, at first, resent my suggestion, but I think that on reflection they would not do so, because there is no excuse for anyone sailing under false colours.
The other point I want to raise concerns young wives and expectant mothers who have neither homes nor furniture. I ask whether there is any possibility of hostels being opened where young wives and expectant mothers could go, where they could have decent living conditions, companionship, and a matron to help and advise them until such time as housing accommodation can be found for them. I am sure local authorities do everything they can to assist the S.S. and A.F. Associations and Welfare Officers in helping the wives of Service men to get accommodation, but accommodation is very limited, and I think it is a very great grievance at the present time on the part of Service men who are ordered abroad at short notice. Their wives are left with nowhere to go. My third point is that the War Service grant is being cut. I understand that three months are allowed for a soldier to make an increased allotment. Without disclosing information which would be useful to the enemy, I think it can be said that it takes considerably more than three months to get a reply from the Middle East. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would consider an extension of the period, particularly where no answer has been received.
§ Mr. Sexton (Barnard Castle)
We all pay tribute to the Forces and the wonderful work they are doing and wish them God speed in the future, in the severe task that lies ahead of them. On the welfare side, in industry, especially during the war, much time and thought have been expended on the welfare of the workers in the factories, which is all to the good, but we should like the same welfare work to be extended to the men in the Forces. It is just as necessary to look after their interests as it is to look after men serving in the factories. Sometimes there are brought to our notice small but very irri- 424 tating grievances. We should see that soldiers when training have the best conditions we can give them. Owing to the exigencies of training and the difficulties of billeting, with units scattered up and down the country, it is pot possible to give them all the home comforts they have left, but men in the Forces have pointed out to me that six months had elapsed since they were served with a blanket, that the blanket they got had never been washed, and they were not sure it was clean when they got it, and that three months had elapsed since the straw of their palliasse had been changed. Small things like these irritate men, most of whom come from decent homes where they would not stand conditions like that. In our welfare scheme for the Army let us attend to these trifles, because trifles after all make perfection.
Then there is the question of isolated units living in remote parts. I live in one of those remote parts and have come across quite a number of units. I want to pay my tribute to the inhabitants of the villages nearby and of the organisations in the villages which are trying to attend to the welfare of the men who are thus scattered abroad. The question of leisure has been mentioned in the Debate—the question of being "browned off." My opinion is that that is where education would come in. I want the men to have their recreations and entertainments, but I want them to have something which is more abiding and will be more effective for their future lives on the lines of the educational classes which are going on in some parts of the country. We must remember that most of the young men and women who are in the Forces are really young. Many of them have had a very moderate education. They had to break off school at 14, and now is our chance to give them the added education which we expect to be given to everybody after the war. We are not going to have the school-leaving age at 14; we hope to carry on education to 16, if not to 18.
We have made a start in the Army, and I am grateful for that start, but let us improve on it and give as great facilities for education as we can. This education in the Army will help to prepare the men and women for the post-war period. We are looking forward to that time and they are looking forward to it even more than we are. When they come back to peace- 425 time and ordinary civil life, it will be all to the good if they have had a little more preparation through the Army educational classes, for he who is not prepared today will be less prepared to-morrow. I believe that the whole House and the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the education of these young people is a vital factor in helping them not only to fight well now but to fight the problems of the future.
My last words are for a section of the Army who have not, I think, been mentioned in the Debate and whose welfare we must really take to our hearts. I refer to the men who are prisoners of war. It may be said that we cannot do very much for them, but let us do what we can right up to the limit. They deserve all and more than we can do. These men may have a long time on their hands and their minds may be directed towards the period after the war when they may consider taking up different occupations or professions. Some are studying for professions and I am proud to say are passing university examinations from their prison camps. They are to be praised for that, and we must go on helping them through the Red Cross and other agencies by sending them all the material in the way of books that they want so that when the war is over their training will carry them into whatever vocation or profession they have chosen. These men will be trebly trained when the war is over—trained in war, trained in the value of the humiliation of prison, and trained on the broad plains of freedom, which we expect they will travel when this war has been won.
§ Major Neven-Spence (Orkney and Shetland)
The hon. Member will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks, but I want to go back to an earlier speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for East Norfolk (Colonel Medlicott). He made an admirable speech on the subject of welfare, more particularly the welfare of soldiers' families. His speech touched a chord in my memory as well as in my heart, because it is a subject with which I had a great deal to do in a practical way a good many years ago. Welfare in the Army is very easily run in peacetime, when there is the regimental organisation behind it, but it is a different matter now. The Amendment refers to the contentment of the troops. There 426 is an enormous number of married men in the Army, and if a married soldier is not a contented soldier, he is not a good soldier. That goes without saying. I am not at all happy about the present state of welfare among soldiers' families. It badly needs looking into. I have picked out three practical points which have come to my notice, and I should like my right hon. Friend to look into them to see whether he can do anything. Anybody doing welfare work among soldiers' families will know that there are three things which are causing a good deal of worry. One has reference to the funeral expenses when a soldier dies, another is the question of the medical care of a soldier's dependants, and the third one is the burning question of prams.
I understand that if a soldier who dies is buried locally, no charge falls upon his widow or family, but it is another matter if the body is sent home. Then the expenses have to be borne by the family, except, I think, that a grant of £7 10s. is made. That is not enough, because it may not anything like cover even the rail expenses of taking the body home. Why not deal with the thing in a practical way? Where the family cannot be induced to allow burial to take place locally, the authorities should bear the expense of sending the body home. What actually happens is that the £7 10s. is "nobbled" by the undertaker. That is a ramp and a racket, and it ought to be looked into. I do not think they ought to be allowed to charge more than £7 10s. for the whole business, but actually they take all that money, and very often a good deal more, because the dependants have to pay other expenses as well. A quick remedy is wanted here, and I hope we shall find one.
As to the medical care of dependants, I think the chief worry of the serving soldier is the doctor's bill. The man may perhaps have been earning £5 or £6 a week in civil life, but in the Army his cash earnings may not amount to more than £2 or £2 10s. I know that he gets a lot of other benefits, but he has not enough money to meet the charges which arise when there is sickness in the home, and when soldiers cannot pay these bills it causes them tremendous worry. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he might steal a march upon Sir William 427 Beveridge and arrange forthwith to have free treatment for all dependants. It would be a tremendously popular thing with young married soldiers. All his dependants should be "on the panel" from the day a man is called up.
On the question of prams, there are thousands of soldiers' wives with babies, but they have no prams. It reminds me of a notice in the window of a shop which I pass every day: "We have goods, but no paper." Here we have babies, but no prams. We want more babies. Babies are like ash trays—you cannot have too many of them about the house. It is no part of my right hon. Friend's duty to get prams, but I think he has some responsibility to see that when there are babies there are prams to put them in. Are these women supposed to be Red Indian squaws and to carry their babies about, like papooses, on their backs? The position is intolerable, and it ought to be put right very quickly. The cheapest pram costs £8 10s. What soldier's wife can afford to pay £8 10s.? If she gets the pram on the instalment system, it probably costs £12. The type of utility pram which is sold to-day should not cost £2 to produce, and I should not be a bit surprised if it cost less. It should be possible to sell those prams for £5.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
This is not a matter within the control of the War Office.
§ Major Neven-Spence
I was going to suggest that my right hon. Friend should make some arrangement by which the serving soldier could go to his C.O. and get some sort of coupon to enable him to get a pram at something like a price he could afford to pay. There are many other things in connection with welfare. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Norfolk said there was a vast field here to be worked, and he was right.
I do not want to say anything against the welfare organisation of the Army. It has done magnificent work for the troops, but the family side has been left out. I ask the Minister to scrutinise the people he has at the head of the welfare organisation to see whether they are qualified to tackle this work in the way it ought to be tackled. I recommend him to take a leaf out of the airborne division, which is running an absolutely first-class show for 428 soldiers' dependants through the welfare division. It is all done by voluntary subscriptions. It is most unfair that the expense should fall upon these people; the State should bear a proportion of it. I hope my right hon. Friend will look into the matter and see whether some of these grievances can be put right.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
I will not attempt to follow in the wake of the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken, either in chasing perambulators or trying to persuade the Secretary of State for War to look after the babies. I rather think that that is somebody else's responsibility. I want to raise a very important subject upon which I have addressed a few Questions to the Secretary of State during the last month or two, concerning N.A.A.F.I., not so much about the profits it has been alleged to make, but what it is, actually able to do with the profits for the men in the Services.
I do not think my right hon. Friend quite appreciates what some of the N.A.A.F.I. canteens are like. One or two of the modern N.A.A.F.I. canteens are very good, but others are thoroughly miserable holes. In fact, some of them are almost like dungeons. I remember the Fifth Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure and the Tenth Report, and I am inclined to the view that my right hon. Friend believed that some of us who have been criticising N.A.A.F.I. and its operations wish to bring down the prices of commodities there, and so create a black market of one kind or another. It is not true. My right hon. Friend has not got down to the fundamentals of what the soldier needs most at the end of his day's duty. He likes to spend an hour in some quiet corner, some retreat or somewhere where there is a little comfort provided for him in his leisure. He likes a little bit of something different from what is provided through the ordinary rations out of the quartermaster's stores. In visiting many of the welfare centres, I find that the soldier expects some kind of supper at a low price, because he has not a lot of money to spend. I found one a few weeks ago where there were seven different sorts of suppers-available, but not one of the prices was over 6d. The maximum price for each of these suppers was 6d. It is a voluntary organisation, it is true, but when I consider the same kind of thing pro- 429 vided by N.A.A.F.I. I find that Spam and other commodities are being retailed to soldiers, if you actually measure it out in terms of value, at 5s. a lb. It is not fair. N.A.A.F.I. has no right to expect that a soldier, when he is simply asking for two or three slices of Spam on a plate, two or three slices of bread and butter and a pot of tea, should pay 10d., 1s. or 1s. 2d.
§ Mr. Walkden
I am concerned with the men who have 2s. a day and who have to measure out their halfpennies and pennies. When you have spent your 1s. 6d. in the kitchen you probably give a 2s. tip, which is as much as these men get for a day's pay. I do not think the welfare officers, I do not think those who advise the right hon. Gentleman, quite appreciate the effect it has on the soldier. If the Secretary of State will really get down to the prices charged by N.A.A.F.I. he will do much during the next few months if he will cheapen the prices of the tasty bits to be found on he menus available for the soldiers at the end of the day.
There is another issue which has loomed very largely in the picture which I put yesterday. The Financial Secretary said there were various difficulties concerning shipping problems and other issues concerning the granting of leave to men from the Middle East. It may be that we shall not have an opportunity of discussing issues like this with the right hon. Gentleman for many months, and I suggest to him that he will have to be making preparations for some of our men being given a measure of leave as in the last war. This is an entirely different war from that of 1914–1918. He may disagree with me. He may dissent from my point of view. I was one of those rankers in the last war who spent practically three years in the Middle East. The Bishop of London and other distinguished people came out to see us. It was a very anxious period. We did not get a chance of getting home. When the Government decided in 1918 that some of our men were to be given leave, only four per company, or at least as transport or shipping space would allow, all the visits by the bishop and other distinguished people to the men in the Middle East were as nothing in relation to that cheerful message which came 430 through regimental orders. My right hon. Friend may say that we shall need every man at his post during the next few months. That is perfectly true. But has he considered what is happening in regard to shipping space? It is not his responsibility, I know, but soldiers' wives and relatives of soldiers do not feel at all happy when they learn that ships are being used to transport oranges from South Africa which could possibly accommodate soldiers, if only two or three men per company. I do not wish to enter into an argument as to whether the Food Ministry should have the balance of shipping space or whether it should be the War Office, but I do say to him that if he wants to comfort and cheer, and stimulate the feelings of the troops, especially men who have been out there for three years, some a little longer than that, he will do a very fine thing if he draws up plans, within the exigencies of the Service, and makes some pronouncement which will at least comfort the womenfolk with the belief that, as far as is humanly possible, leave will be arranged for these men. I do not think that the Financial Secretary did justice to my Question yesterday. Even though nothing can be done during, say, the next month, I am convinced that preparations can be made which will satisfy this very urgent demand among the womenfolk, who want to know what can be done and who are writing to Members of Parliament.
Will the Secretary of State consider also the question of free legal aid to the Services, under the Welfare Department? He has refused to give any help to those above the rank of sergeant. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Norfolk (Colonel Medlicott) said there were something like 3,000,000 cases. I would point out to him that he is talking about cases in this country. Has he considered the difficulties of men in the Middle East and other theatres of war? There are many officers and others above the rank of sergeant who have not the least opportunity of seeing anybody on legal matters, and who have no free legal aid under the welfare organisation. It has been laid down by the War Office, with, I believe, the assistance of the Law Officers of the Crown, that nobody above the rank of sergeant shall have legal advice unless he pays for it, and as many of such people cannot buy advice they simply do not get it. Many of the young officers have never 431 had an opportunity to earn a single penny. They have all the problems of the average citizen. They are entitled to the same kind of assistance as is given freely to men up to the rank of sergeant. I feel that if the right hon. Gentleman examines this question, these officers will express their gratitude. There are other matters that I would have liked to mention I there had been time, but I will merely express the hope that the Secretary of State will deal with those I have mentioned.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
At this late hour I do not intend to trespass for more than a few minutes upon the time of the House. I would like to take up a point which was raised in the earlier part of the speech of the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden). He was talking about N.A.A.F.I. prices and the quality of the food. I would like to reinforce what he said. I have heard on a number of occasions that the quality of the food in the N.A.A.F.I. establishments is not all that could be desired. Yesterday an officer came to see me in the precincts of this House, and he brought with him a specimen cake, as an example of the kind of thing which was sold in N.A.A.F.I. canteens. He mentioned that the only other article of food in the particular N.A.A.F.I. with which he was concerned was an ordinary sausage roll He suggested that I should bring that cake into the House to show to hon. Members as an exhibit. I would have done so had it not borne so close a resemblance to an infernal machine. It was solid, small and heavy and it was not at all the kind of thing that the troops would find tasty or satisfying even at the end of a heavy day. I hope that the War Office will look into the question of the quality of food sold in N.A.A.F.I. canteens.
The other point I would raise is the question of films. The Secretary of State in his admirable speech to-day, which I thought commanded the general approval and sympathy of the House, referred to films for training. I should be out of Order if I talked about training on the Amendment. I would like to say something briefly about film apparatus for recreation and education. I understand that there is a shortage of film apparatus. Whereas the administrative arrangements are good in the way of distributing such films as there are—and the films, I believe, 432 are of first-class quality—very often units cannot demonstrate these excellent films because there is not the apparatus available. I am referring to the 16 mm. film and also the larger size of film, I believe the 35 mm. In both cases the apparatus is in short supply and anything that can be done to stimulate the production of this apparatus and its distribution to Commands would, I know, be appreciated.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson
I am sure that the House will agree that we have had a short but most interesting Debate, together with two very striking speeches, which were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) and the hon. and gallant Member for East Norfolk (Colonel Medlicott). A number of questions have been asked as to the work which has been done by the Army Welfare and Educational Department, and a number of suggestions have been made with which I do not propose to deal, but I assure the hon. Members who made them that they will be given the careful consideration of the War Office.
My hon. Friend who opened the Debate, in his very thoughtful speech, stressed the importance of dealing with the problem of the welfare and education of the soldier, not only from the present point of view, but with regard to the situation that will exist after this conflict has ceased. I can assure the House that, in building up from the ground the great armies that are at our disposal today, we have been concerned, not only to organise and train our officers and men and to inspire them with the offensive spirit that alone can make victory certain, but also we have sought to cater for their human needs, physical, mental and moral. We have sought to make welfare concerned with their well-being in the truest sense of the word. Our Army to-day is composed of millions of young men and women drawn fromall ranks of society, and we seek to make them, not only good soldiers, but also good citizens. We not only seek to develop their qualities as soldiers, but also their qualities as citizens. We must realise that when our troops have carried out their task of defeating the enemy they will return home with the intention of playing a vitally important part in our national life. If that be so, it would be folly to under-estimate the importance of the welfare and educational activities that the War Office is seeking to carry out throughout our Armed Forces.
433 I hope that I shall be forgiven if I have to give a certain number of details and statistics, because I want to take this opportunity of presenting as complete a picture in the shortest possible space of time of the work that the Army Welfare and Educational Department has carried out in recent months. As the House will know, the welfare organisation of the Army is controlled by a directorate, working under the Adjutant-General. At each Command there is an honorary command welfare officer who is assisted throughout the Command by county and local welfare officers. In the unit there is also a unit welfare officer, who is, of course, only working on a part-time basis. All these welfare officers, county and local, constitute a kind of network of contact both with the civilian population and the various units in their area. It may interest the House to know that there are 1,310 of these honorary county and local welfare officers, including 120 women welfare officers who have been appointed in recent months to help in the welfare work for the A.T.S. I can say in all confidence that these honorary welfare officers deserve great praise for the work they are doing.
The welfare officers themselves are also a link between the soldier and civilian and are performing a very useful service in keeping in touch with soldiers' wives and families and helping in domestic difficulties. They are also responsible for the private sports equipment supplied from civilian sources, in addition to the sports equipment that is supplied from regimental funds. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Gower that much has been done, and is being done to-day, to encourage sport among our troops. In fact, I do not think they require much encouragement, because one of the characteristics of our nation is a love of, and interest in, various types of sport. A similar organisation has been established overseas but obviously the same opportunities for welfare activities in theatres of war are much more restricted than at home. I would also like to point out to the House that the welfare amenities that exist are available for Allied and Dominion troops and that welfare officers have done much to organise hospitality for the large numbers of troops who have come to this country from Canada and the United States.
434 I would like to say something of what has been done during the past year to cater for the physical well-being of our troops, especially those who have to travel from time to time. Attention has been called in this House to the need for hostels. I find that hostels run by voluntary organisations are now available for men and women in the majority of the large towns. There are 433 hostels in the provinces, with 17,200 beds, and 55 in London, with 6,500 beds, the average charge being 1s. per night. For the A.T.S. there are in London 12 hostels, with 505 beds, and in the provinces 87 hostels, with 2,330 beds. We heard a good deal about lack of amenities at railways stations, and it was quite true that in the early days of the war those amenities were not there. But today we have canteens and rest rooms open at most of the main railway stations. Dormitories are available at 70 railway stations, and special arrangements have been made for members of the Women's Services who are stranded at stations. Arrangements have been made to earmark accommodation in the neighbourhood of the great stations.
With regard to canteens and institutions, in addition to the N.A.A.F.I. canteens, to which every unit over a certain strength is entitled, there are about 4,000 canteens in this country and 123 in the Middle East. All these canteens are run under the auspices of the Council of Voluntary War Work, but in addition, there are approximately 1,500 canteens run by independent organisations. There are also 1,486 mobile canteens in this country and 36 in the Middle East. These mobile canteens, as I know full well, do extremely good work at isolated stations. I think the House will agree with me when I say that we owe a real debt of gratitude to the voluntary organisations which are doing such splendid work in catering for the needs of the men and women of our Services.
May I pass to another aspect of physical welfare which I would call rehabilitation? This work is carried out both at the hospitals and at military convalescent depots. The treatment is in two stages. In the first, special remedial treatment is given in the physiotherapy department of the hospital, consisting of massage, exercises, radiant heat, and ultra-violet ray. When hospital treatment is no longer necessary and the patient is capa- 435 ble of tending to his bodily needs, he is sent to a military convalescent depot. Here he is subject again to military discipline, but his physical fitness is restored by means of graduated exercises and training, and it is not the orthodox physical training instructor who is employed, but a physical training instructor who receives special training in remedial exercises and medical gymnastics. There are 13 military convalescent depots in the United Kingdom with a total accommodation of 11,078 beds for soldiers. For the rehabilitation of cases of neurosis, a military unit consisting of 200 hospital beds and 600 convalescent beds has been established outside Birmingham, but in addition, we have been experimenting with what we call physical development centres, and great success has attended the establishment of two of these centres for dealing with men with remedial defects such as curved spine, flat feet, etc., and with men who were physically underdeveloped when they joined the Army and who, even though in medical category A.I., are not really fit to undergo the rigours of primary training.
May I give the House some figures? At one centre, out of 3,040 capable of being upgraded, 2,375 were upgraded after treatment. Of this number, 1,917 were upgraded to A.I—that is to say, about 80 per cent. At the other centre, out of 1,137,962 were upgraded, of whom 881 were upgraded to A.I. As a result of this success it has now been decided to establish four other centres each capable of handling 1,500 trainees every two months. I know the special interest that many of my hon. Friends have in this subject of rehabilitation and I for one believe that the work we are carrying on along the line I have just indicated will have a long-term value in dealing with the problem of disability after the war. Incidentally, I hope it will be possible for hon. Members who are interested in the problem of rehabilitation to pay a visit, if they desire, to one of the centres to which I have just referred.
May I now pass for a moment to what I may call mental well-being—education? The real test of education is always the desire to learn more. The system that we operate is controlled at the War Office by a Director of Army Education. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich 436 (Mr. Dugdale) referred to the Army Education Corps. It would, perhaps, be foolish for me to deny his suggestion that we have not as many education officers as we should like to have, although of course we have instructors who are not commissioned. We have, for example, Army Education Corps Warrant Officers and sergeants who are in sole control of educational activity, for example, in the Antiaircraft Regiment, in training units, detachment barracks, hospitals and convalescent depots. But, even so, I agree that there is a case for saying we ought to have more instructors. Although quite a number are being passed through the Army Education School at Wakefield—several hundred each year—we are confronted with the problem of man-power in respect of educational activities, as in respect of other sides of our Army life, and that to some extent has limited our freedom of action.
The Army Education Corps is recruited mainly by the transfer of suitable officers and other ranks from other arms of the Service. They have to undergo a short course at the Army School of Education before they are posted. In the unit, just as there is a part-time unit welfare officer, there is a part-time unit educational officer, and it may be that there are cases where the best type of officer has not been chosen for this very important work. As time goes on, we may be able to improve that situation. In most units there is a small unit education committee composed of officers and other ranks interested in education. As far as the A.T.S. are concerned, all Army educational facilities are available to members and, in order to-foster education in that corps, there are two A.T.S. staff officers and an A.T.S. staff education officer at each of the Commands.
May I say a word about the assistance that we are receiving from civilian sources. The Central Advisory Council was created at the end of 1939 to bring together the civilian educational resources of the country and place them at the disposal of the War Office. This Council co-ordinates the activities of 23 regional committees covering Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Each committee serves the force stationed within the normal extra-mural area of the university or university college in which it is centred. On the regional committee are representatives of the universities, local education authorities and 437 other organisations interested in adult education, such as the Workers' Educational Association and the Y.M.C.A. It is this body which has supplied the Forces with the civilian lecturers and teachers who are helping us in many ways. I should like to express our appreciation of the valuable assistance which the Central Advisory Council and its regional committees have given in the educational work of the Army.
One or two of the practical things we have been able to do may interest the House. In November, 1942, in spite of the changed strategic situation necessitating an intensification of the training of our forces at home, the Army Council decided that the educational side of Army life should be given high priority. It was consequently decided that there should be three hours compulsory education a week in home commands to be given in training hours. The scheme rested on three objectives. The first was the teaching of military subjects to educate the man as a soldier. The second was to educate him as a citizen. For this purpose the instruction has been based on an interesting series of pamphlets called "The British Way and Purpose," four of which have been issued. No. 1 deals with "What is at Stake, Parliamentary Government, Local Government, Law and Justice"; No. 2 with "Britain at Work, Special Services, Education, the Information Services"; No. 3 with "Growth of the Empire, the Dominions, India, the Colonial Empire"; and No. 4 with "Britain and the United States of America, Russia, China and the United Nations."
§ Mr. Henderson
They have been issued to the troops. The third' objective will be to take in a wide range of cultural subjects to educate the man as an individual.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
There seems to be some anxiety as to what is to happen to these pamphlets, whether they will conflict in any way with the A.B.C.A. publications.
§ Mr. Henderson
The pamphlets are specially selected for instruction during the three hours' compulsory educational framing that is to take place each week. The A.B.C.A. discussion period is quite apart from the three hours' educational training and there should be no question of conflict between the two or of withdrawal from one in favour of the other. This scheme, as far as I can see, has been extremely successful, although it has not yet been possible to carry it out in full. It is interesting to note that "The British Way and Purpose" is universally adhered to. It is interesting to note, too, that it was decided not to depend on officers as instructors but to find suitable personnel from other ranks. The success which has attended this search for other ranks instructors with the greatly increased interest which has resulted throughout the Army at home in adult education in citizenship, is one of the most encouraging features of the scheme. The one compulsory A.B.C.A. period per week during training hours has continued and is continuing to-day. The discussions are based on the fundamental principles of free discussion of the subject under review. My hon. Friend talked about teaching people to speak. There are two methods by which we shall hope to do that. One is the A.B.C.A. method and the other is the discussion group to which I will refer.
A.B.C.A. discussions are free discussions. A man can say within limits anything he likes—he can express his views. Two publications, "War" and "Current Affairs," are issued week by week as my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich knows. "War" and "Current Affairs" are issued in alternate weeks, and they form the brief for the officer or other rank who leads the discussions. Discussion groups have been very popular, and more recently they have received additional impetus as a result of "British Way and Purpose" pamphlets. The number of groups has increased considerably. I cannot give definite figures, but one Command reports a total of 4,313 informal talks and discussions for the period November, 1942, to February, 1943. I will give a sample from a list of the subjects: post-war reconstruction; capitalism, town planning, the second front, "Have we any use for poetry?" "Is there equality in sex?" I think the House will agree that there is 439 a fairly wide choice of subjects, showing no attempt to restrict soldiers in discussing controversial subjects.
§ Mr. Henderson
That would be a matter for the men themselves. They could express their view both for and against, which is the real object in these discussions. This has been a great success on a voluntary basis. Brains trusts, dramatic and play-reading societies and music, all play their part in the soldier's life. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower said he was not very satisfied with the provision of books for the troops. There is no doubt that reading is very popular with all three Services. The main source of supplies is the post office scheme. Gifts of books can be made through any local post office. Any hon. Member who has books to spare can take them to his local post office and they will find their way to troops either in this country or abroad. Since it came into operation two years ago great numbers of books and magazines have been supplied, enabling the Services Central Book Depot to despatch during 1942 to all three Services at home and overseas no less than 975,000 books and 5,100,000 magazines. I should like to express our grateful thanks to all those who have contributed books through post offices. I am sure their generosity is appreciated by all ranks of the three Services. In addition, more than 1,000,000 books have been purchased by units through the Services Central Book Depot.
A word as to the Forces Book Club, which was formed in almost the last year. This seeks to provide a regular supply of good intensive reading. In fact 10 books a month are chosen by a board composed of officers of all Services, and these parcels are sent every month to any part of the world for a yearly subscription of £3. From August to the end of 1942, 6,000 subscriptions from units have been received. This means that during the 12 months 720,000 books will be supplied. I think the hon. Member will agree that in toto that is a very fair picture as regards the supply of books.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
Can the hon. and learned Gentleman say how the books that 440 are given through post offices by the public are selected and distributed? What is the method?
§ Mr. Henderson
I think the officials in charge of the Services Book Club do the necessary selecting and, if necessary, the throwing out of books that ought not to be passed on.
§ Mr. Henderson
I had better have notice of that Question. That is rather a fast one. As to vocational training, a wide range of classes is provided by way of evening schools and correspondence courses. Soldiers attending evening classes and courses numbered 6,900 in September and 13,600 in November. The subjects taught included welding, economics, languages, such as French, Spanish, and Russian, building construction, bookkeeping, carpentry, engineering and engineering drawing. As regards correspondence courses, there is payable on enrolment a fee of 10s., for which the student may take any of the approximately 140 courses in such subjects as accountancy, engineering, law, secretarial work and stage management. In addition there is a postal study course which has been very popular, provided in such subjects as chemistry, mathematics, music, shorthand and economics. Between September, 1941, and August, 1942, there were 11,500 enrolments for the War Office vocational correspondence courses and 7,000 for the postal study course.
We have also had 5,299 classes during the last quarter of 1942 for handicrafts. One Command reports widespread enthusiasm for handicrafts because of the genuine opportunity it gives for self-expression, apart from its utilitarian value. Our difficulty there is the limited supply of controlled materials, although the Commands generally report little difficulty in obtaining the tools for handicraft subjects, which include basketry, boot repairing, carpentry, general leather work, plumbing, and wood and metal work and, for the A.T.S., dressmaking, plastics and cookery.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am afraid I am not in a position to say anything, but I will certainly undertake to look into the matter 441 myself and will communicate my discoveries, if any, to my hon. Friend. Some reference was made to E.N.S.A. entertainments. In addition to E.N.S.A., we have Service concert parties, of which 1,189 have been organised by units and formations. We have a central pool of entertainers with a war establishment of 100 artists. E.N.S.A. has sent 211 concert parties on tour. It is only right to pay tribute to the splendid work which E.N.S.A. has carried out in seeking to bring entertainment to the troops in this and other countries. In addition we have a large number of voluntary parties, nearly 600. The question of cinema projectors was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). Approximately 22,000 live and cinema shows were given to troops in home Commands last year. By December, 1942, Army cinema sections in home Commands were giving nearly 7,000 shows a month, which reveals a rather satisfactory situation in relation to cinema entertainment. As to wireless sets, there are approximately 25,000 sets in use with the troops, both at home and overseas. It is hoped to supply a further 17,000 sets to cover requirements to the end of 1944, and of these 5,000 will be distributed to troops at home, and the other 12,000 will be for the troops overseas.
I wanted to say something about the personal assistance we give to the soldier in his private affairs, but time will not permit. Something has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Norfolk about the legal aid bureaux. I think he will agree that allowing for the limitations that exist, these legal aid bureaux have done extremely good work. Although it is not possible to give the figures of all the cases dealt with, over 1,000 legal aid bureaux are at present in existence. Some 8,000 cases have been passed by them to the legal aid bureaux at Command. There is a full-time legal aid staff at Command, and in each unit there is voluntary work done by officers with legal qualifications, and there are 1,000 such separate legal aid bureaux. I think our thanks are due to the legal profession for their co-operation in the scheme, because where we have not been able to secure an officer with legal qualifications we have had to call on local 442 civilian lawyers to give their assistance. I think that thanks are due to them for that assistance.
A large number of cases have arisen where we have attempted, through our welfare officers, reconciliation between husband and wife. In about 20 per cent. of those cases so far investigated, reconciliation has been effected. To that extent I think it is very useful social work. As regards the air-raid inquiries scheme, we found that soldiers were getting worried because they heard there had been an air raid on their home town, and they did not know what was happening. The principle of the scheme is that an officer and regular staff, working in close collaboration with a welfare officer, are always available at bombed centres, and I would like to pay a tribute to the hon. and gallant Member for East Norfolk, because he was one of the pioneers in this work in the Command in which he is responsible. I think he will agree that it has served a very useful purpose. The Command officers of soldiers whose relatives have been killed or injured or evacuated as a result of bombing are informed by telegram. In appropriate cases the Command officer then sends the soldier home on compassionate leave. We have had 14,000 inquiries in the past year from soldiers who had lost contact with relatives at home through not getting letters. We have been able to give them information about their relatives, and to that extent have helped to make their minds less disturbed.
One more point on this problem. As I know from my post-bag—we are making no complaint about it—in response to appeals on the ground of domestic hardship, most of which have come from Members of Parliament either to my right hon. Friend or myself, releases for a short period have been granted in 10,300 cases, posting nearer home has been granted in 3,800 cases, and men have been retained in the United Kingdom in 1,892 cases. The whole idea that the War Office had no heart may have been true in the past. Certainly it is not true in the present. One more point relating to moral welfare. The hon. Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan) and another hon. Member raised the question of young soldiers' training units. I think my hon. Friend has had actual experience of the unit that was at Pontefract, and that has now been moved to another part.
§ Mr. Henderson
These units were started because we found that a number of youths from 19 to 21 when they came into the Army were not amenable to ordinary military discipline, and were prone to commit offences for which, although they were trivial in themselves, the only punishment in the Army was detention. It was thought that sending these young soldiers to detention barracks, where they would associate with the more hardened offenders, was not the best way of tackling the problem. An experimental unit was started near Pontefract where soldiers up to 20 years of age could be sent for training if the commanding officers of their units thought that more suitable than detention. These units are not punishment camps, and soldiers are not sent there under sentence, except in certain cases where sentence has been suspended. While soldiers are undergoing the course full privileges are allowed, and leave is granted in the ordinary manner. The course consists of strict discipline, with attention to each individual case, and especially to each individual character. No soldier is ever given up as a bad job—or very rarely. The experiment has been a great success, and the results have been so valuable that two similar units have been started in the Eastern and South-Eastern Commands. The number of successful cases is 953, and the number of failures only 83.
Reference was made to detention barracks, and whether we are seeking to bring in any reforms for segregating the various categories in detention barracks. Some reforms have been put into operation. Detention barracks are divided into two groups, A and C. In group A there are two categories: the young soldier serving a first sentence or a sentence of less than 28 days in one category, and, in the other, the trained soldier or a soldier serving a sentence of 28 days or more. Group C barracks are for all soldiers serving sentences of imprisonment, as opposed to detention, and also for habitual offenders. The idea is to separate the more hardened offenders and those serving longer sentences from first offenders and those serving light sentences. A policy of training in the detention barracks has been carried out 444 under the Director of Military Training, and the syllabus includes training instead of more penitential tasks. Very valuable work is being done, and I feel sure that it will be approved by the House. I have tried in my survey to give as complete a picture as possible of the education and welfare activities of the Army. Much more could have been said if there had been time, but I hope I have said sufficient to convince the House that there are solid grounds for satisfaction with this vital branch of Army work, and that it is being done in a proper spirit of understanding and sympathy on the part of all concerned. Splendid work is being done, which all ranks, I feel, regard with real appreciation, and which merits the approval of this House. The War Office recognise their special responsibility for the uniformed citizens under their control, and it is the constant endeavour of my right hon. Friend and of all associated with him at the War Office to discharge this responsibility to the satisfaction of the Army and of this House.
§ Mr. Grenfell
In view of the minute and reassuring reply of the hon. and learned Gentleman, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Deputy-Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Mr. William Brown (Rugby)
I feel that I ought to apologise for rising at this hour, when the House is tired, and when, indeed, I am so weary that I find it difficult to be controversial. That is almost unprecedented. However, the House will bear witness that, if I have not spoken until now, it has not been for want of effort. I really tried to get in earlier today and I apologise for talking now. I want to help the Secretary of State for War to do three things—to save £2,000,000 per annum of public money; to set free a whole Army division of wasted men; and to put the out-stations of his Department into order. The Secretary of State for War, like myself, is an ex-civil servant. If he does well in his Department, it reflects glory on the institutions with which he and I are associated, and if he fails, it does discredit to us, and therefore I want to help. In the area Pay Offices of the Army, the Ordnance Departments, the Record Offices 445 and the Royal Engineers Services there are at the moment something like 40,000 officers and men of active military age who are engaged upon work that could just as easily be done by women, or by men over military age. There are also 5,000 officers ranging in rank from lieutenant to brigadier occupied in work which, again, could just as well be done by women, or by men over military age. I am told that there is no less than a whole division of men of fighting military age who could be spared from that work and set free for the purposes of the Army and thereby help in the solution of the manpower problem to which the Financial Secretary recently referred.
It is not only that we have a very large number of men and officers in jobs that could just as well be done by women or by men over military age, but this type of labour is less efficient in certain respects than civilian labour. Where this work is done by civil servants, they receive a maximum of 16 days' leave per annum, and where it is done by officers, the amount of annual leave involved is 36 days of a year, plus occasional week-ends. Far fewer working days are put in by the military officer than is the case with the civilian personnel, and the result is that the officer is less effective from the point of view of labour than civilian personnel would be. But it is not only that the military officer attends on fewer days of the year. He does not attend as much during the days when he is there, because the officer and the ranker are subject to certain drillings, guard duties and so on which have the effect of taking them away from these clerical operations for a certain period each day. My staff have made the estimate that something like 4,000 posts in two out-stations alone, the Ordnance Depots and the Army Pay Office offices, could be abolished if the staff employed consisted of civilians, and were fully effective, instead of consisting of officers of military rank who are withdrawn for all sorts of military duties and whose rate of annual leave is much greater than that of the ordinary civil servant.
It is estimated that something like £2,000,000 could be saved by the substitution of civilian for military personnel in these areas. If you take the various grades of civil servants and compare their rates of pay with the rates of pay of those of military rank, it will emerge that, rank for rank, the soldier costs very much more 446 than the civilian when account is taken, not merely of pay, but of allowances, food, uniform, and military passes on the railways and so forth. Every soldier that the War Office employ where they could employ a civilian represents an added charge to the State.
I would have liked to have spoken on this subject at much greater length. It is becoming a standard joke among the 70,000 or 80,000 civilians in War Office establishments that the best way to avoid military service in Britain is to become a uniformed officer in one of these establishments. It is a case of joining the Army and not seeing the war. These officers doing civilian work in the War Office are now in the only firmly reserved occupation. We have been told by the Minister of Labour that all other occupations have been de-reserved, although periods of deferment may be granted. This is the one safe civilian duty—although it is done by the military—which is still reserved and in which a man is safe from real military service. I hope the War Minister, with his respect for the Civil Service which I know he will never forget, and his responsibility to the taxpayer—after all, he was once secretary to the harshest Chancellor of the Exchequer of our day, the late Philip Snowden—will take in hand without delay this question of the chronic waste of manpower within the establishments in the War Office. It would save the money of the Exchequer and provide another division for the Army, if he would see that the work was done by men over military age or by women. I beg him to do so, and I warn him that if he does not, he will not only incur my severe displeasure, but I shall return to this matter again and again as opportunity occurs until this shocking waste of man-power is brought to an end.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
I will detain the House for only a few minutes. I want to ask one question, and make one point. I want to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he can say, either now or at some convenient future date, one or two sentences to illuminate a little further this vexed minor problem of the post-war functions of the Home Guard. When this question was last raised in the House he said that the recent speech of the G.O.C. London District had been misrepresented. If he says that that speech 447 was misrepresented, he must know what was in the mind of the G.O.C. London District, and I should be most grateful if he would explain a little further, because if words have any meaning at all, what the G.O.C. London District was reported to have said meant that the Home Guard were to be used in some way after the war to discipline civilians. I do not want to suggest anything sinister like strike-breaking or anything like that—which has been suggested—but I should be grateful if he would clear up the point, because there is widespread interest in it, and feeling about it, in the Home Guard throughout the country.
This is the point I would like to make. I want to traverse one argument used by the right hon. Gentleman in his able and interesting speech earlier to-day. The right hon. Gentleman is, as we know, the doting parent of A.B.C.A.—
§ Mr. Driberg
Then the heavy father. I hope he will never be tempted to infanticide by the occasional ebullitions of adolescence. But it did seem to me that in one passage of his speech he was a little less than fair to education, welfare, and kindred subjects. He fell into the growing Ministerial habit of what I can only call juggling with unreal priorities. There was a good deal of that last week. The right hon. Gentleman said that the first and main job of the soldier is to fight and that the first and main job of the Army is to train the soldier to fight, which is quite correct, of course; but he thereby relegated to a secondary and subsidiary position such questions as welfare, education, and so on. It seems to me you cannot really draw up priorities in such matters any more than you can say that the soldier's first business is to fight and, therefore, his food, his health, his boots, are subsidiary and secondary. The whole thing is integrally associated and you cannot separate one thing from the other without decreasing the efficiency of the Army. I am not, of course, suggesting anything absurd and extreme, such as lectures in the front line all the time, or 448 anything like that, but I do want to resist any tendency to push education or welfare into the background in the right hon. Gentleman's mind, or in the mind of anybody else in the War Office, because I am convinced that both ancient and modern history have shown that the soldier fights best when he knows what he is fighting for and when he is convinced of the justice of his cause.
§ Question, "That Mr. Deputy-Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Colonel CLIFTON BROWN in the Chair]