§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The purpose of this Measure, which is a very short one, is important as I will clearly show. It is to extend the period of National Service with the Colours from 12 to 18 months, and to reduce the period to be spent in the Reserve by National Service men thereafter from six years to four years, but not to reduce the total number of days to be spent in active training during their period of reserve from 60; to adjust the limit of the age of call-up of medical men and dentists in order to meet some of the new conditions operating with regard to their professional training, and to include a provision which is a part of the 1947 Act, with regard to future decisions of the House, which was omitted by inadvertence from the Consolidation Measure of 1948.
In presenting this main proposal for the increase of the period from 12 to 18 months for National Service men I would, first of all, ask the House to remember what was the basic case in 1947 for introducing National Service. The basic purpose of introducing National Service at that time was to enable the Forces to build up, over a long term, reserves which would be available in the case of an emergency of the kind which would be expected in modern conditions of war. As we now know, there might be no breathing space and no period of deteriorating relationship; if there were a war it would most likely break out suddenly. The basis of National Service, in that respect, depended to a very considerable extent on how far we could rely on the build-up of the Regular Forces, having regard to the circumstances which arose as a consequence of the war.
Some of the things I have to say have been said before in Debate, but they must be put on record in introducing this Bill. In the first place, it must be remembered that for at least six years during the war, and for a short time afterwards, there 2007 was no Regular recruitment at all in either the Army or the Royal Air Force, and that those men—almost without exception—who completed their normal contract of service at some time during the war or immediately afterwards, had to be released. Therefore, there was an abnormal run-down of Regular Forces. That, together with the general demobilisation plan, which worked smoothly, but which involved the run-out of a very large number of war-experienced men—skilled and semi-skilled, but all experienced—was bound to create a position of great unbalance in the Forces.
Yet it must be said that, in spite of this fact, the actual figures of recruitment to the Regular Services since the end of the war in 1945 have been quite remarkable. We gave some of the figures in a Debate on 23rd September, but I should like to give the total figures as they are up to date: 247,775 men were recruited in the three years since the war compared with 209,000 in the three years from 1919 to 1921.
§ Mr. Alexander
If hon. Members will allow me to make my speech in a reasonable way, all the points they raise will be dealt with.
§ Mr. Alexander
That is for all the Services. They were very good figures in comparison with our experience after the first war. They were astonishing in relation to the absence of unemployment during that period, a period in which there was a very great drive indeed for industrial occupation and employment. But favourable as the figures appear to be on the surface, they were vitiated by other factors in the situation. They included a large number of short-term bounty enlistments. Out of the 247,000, 55,000 were men who re-enlisted for short periods varying from three to five years. As some of them were enlisted as early as 1946, some of those short-term bounty men will begin to run out of their engagements in 1949.
I should also mention that while the general figures for the whole period, in 2008 total, can be regarded as somewhat satisfactory, nevertheless in the middle months especially in 1948, there was a fall away in the rate of recruitment to the Regular Forces, which did not promise well for what we had been relying upon to support the National Service scheme by a steady rebuild-up of the Regular Forces. I would only say that while the figures tailed off badly in March, April, May, June and July, in October, before any announcement was made concerning any changed pay or conditions, there was a very encouraging improvement—not as great as we want, but it was very encouraging—since we enlisted into the Regular Forces in October a total of 7,300.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Can my right hon. Friend break up those figures into the three Services?
§ Mr. Alexander
Most of these figures have been given in previous Debates. I do not want to take up too much time with these details at the moment, but if there are any special points about which my hon. Friends want to know, I will arrange to have them looked up and the information can be given later in the Debate.
In consequence of what I would call these vitiating factors, the actual rate of recruiting overall has not been sufficient to replace the wastage of Regulars and skilled and experienced war service men in time to cover both the need for overseas commitments and the training cadres to deal with the National Service intake—and not only the National Service intake, but the comparatively high rate at which Regular recruits have been received.
In the next place, I recall with gratitude that when we introduced the 1947 Measure in the very early part of the year the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition described the action of the Government as courageous. [Laughter.] I do not think that is a matter for humour, because the right hon. Gentleman meant it. He said it in the light of a great and lengthy Parliamentary experience, that the like of such action has never been attempted by any previous Government. Therefore, he said it was courageous. As events have turned out since then, the Act of 1947 has proved to have been absolutely essential. In adopting such a drastic course and introducing National Service in peace-time to deal with our 2009 defence position, it must be obvious to the House that if we were to make it work smoothly and successfully, it was necessary to carry the majority of opinion in the country with us.
I have no need to apologise for any of this, nor do I want to stand in a white sheet in another respect. The House will remember that there was very strong opposition to the 1947 Bill for a variety of reasons. That opposition was very strongly pressed in Parliament, and industrial leaders whom I consulted privately made known to me that from their point of view it was very doubtful whether at that time we could really afford the longer period of 18 months. In the light of the facts as they were then, we took the decision to reduce the period from 18 to 12 months.
§ Mr. Alexander
I think rather longer than the consultations between the right hon. Gentleman and his Chief Whip over the kerosene tax in 1937.
§ Mr. Churchill
Would the right hon. Gentleman mind repeating the end of his sentence? I did not hear it.
§ Mr. Alexander
I said that it probably took me longer than it took the right hon. Gentleman in his consultations with his Chief Whip over the kerosene tax in 1927, I think it was. [Laughter.] Well, there are occasions when we all have to refresh our memories. I have been in the House a good many years with the right hon. Gentleman, and I have paid great attention to what he has said and done in the past as well as the present. I remember a speech which he made in 1937 on the National Defence Contribution, in which he referred at great length to his experience over the kerosene tax. I remember that quite well. The decision which we took in 1947, in the light of these facts, enabled us in our judgment to get on the Statute Book in peace time the principle of National Service for a firm period, with the maximum support possible in the country. For that I make no apology.
We have since been faced with new factors which have compelled the reexamination of the position. In introducing the amended period on 7th May, 2010 1947, I gave to the House a warning that if, contrary to our hopes and expectations, the international situation deteriorated, the Government would have to reconsider their plans in the light of the new situation. I say that we have since been faced with new facts which have compelled the re-examination of the situation. After a great war it has always been difficult to make accurate forecasts of a kind which enable one to make adequate plans both for short and long-term requirements.
It is absolutely necessary to keep such matters under constant review and to adapt a policy to changing circumstances. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There is a little irony in those "Hear, hears," but I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite who feel like that, that there was another side to that question between the wars. There was another kind of fixed policy—that is, fixed arbitrarily. There was a period when it was expected that on no account would there be a major war and when it was assumed that one could base one's plans accordingly. But we have not on any occasion made such a decision since the recent war. The result of the action taken by Governments between the wars on that basis was not ultimately proved to be in the best interests of the efficiency of the Services for defence.
I would mention some of these new factors. I have referred to one already; that is the tailing off of recruitment particularly in 1948. I would add the accelerated unbalance in the Forces which was occasioned by the special reductions in the numbers in the Forces caused by the financial pressure later in 1947. The Prime Minister, speaking in the Debate on the State of the Nation in the first week of August, 1947, pointed out that we had to take these drastic measures at that time because of the financial situation, and that it would involve an actual turnover of men in the Services from 1st January, 1947, to 31st March, 1948, of something like 830,000 men. In consequence, the state of unbalance was much aggravated. Another factor to which I have already referred is the expected additional run-down of Regulars in the short service bounty sections which commence next year.
Thirdly, the new situation we have to face is caused by the continuous delays 2011 and disappointments in settling the final peace treaties in Europe and the failure in the United Nations Organisation to make substantial progress with those questions which would enable us to rely upon collective security of the kind that we all hope for and strive for. I need only mention the failure to get agreement in the Atomic Energy Commission, the failure to get agreement in the Military Staff Committee with regard to the provision of the collective forces of the United Nations to resist aggression, or the failure to get agreement in the commission dealing with conventional arms and disarmament.
The fourth thing to which I draw attention is the development, since the date of our introduction of the Bill, of high tension internationally, and the fact that in 1948 that tension tended to increase even more sharply. Up to the period ending December, 1947, there was always a hope that we could come to a perhaps fairly speedy understanding in the matters which were outstanding.
§ Mr. Alexander
Up to December, 1947. I remember that was the occasion of the breakdown of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Moscow.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
Before the Minister deals with that, will he explain the necessity of 18 months training in order that these recruits might be made efficient? It was the main point of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman when the Bill was first brought in.
§ Mr. Alexander
If the hon. and gallant Member will restrain himself with patience, I think he will find that all those questions will be dealt with before the speech is finished.
I come next to the fact that it has been proved that we shall need to go on maintaining forces on overseas commitments for some time to come which we had hoped could have been either substantially reduced or liquidated. In the condition of the Forces which I have described, there is undoubtedly a special need for the use of National Service men, during their service with the colours, in supplying a part of these overseas forces to meet our commitments. If we were 2012 reduced to the position of 12 months' service in the present circumstances of the Forces, it would be possible to use these National Service men only in the one area of Germany, in the B.A.O.R.
The sixth thing I mention is that in the present state of affairs in the world there is the possibility, the danger even, of new commitments. That has been illustrated by what has happened in Malaya and by the increasing menace in the Far East generally. With the additional new commitments, such as Malaya, and the growing sense of threat felt by all Western Europe, it became essential, as the Lord President of the Council announced on 14th September last, to arrest the rate of run-down of experienced men in the Forces by retaining for an additional three months all those who were then serving. It is, of course, within the knowledge of the House that the demobilisation of the men whose service was thus extended commences on the 14th of this month. But the commitments remain and they can only be met by using National Service men in the more distant theatres as well as in those nearer home.
It is quite plain that this cannot be done inside a period of 12 months' service because, if we take the Army alone, bearing in mind the necessary basic period of six months to cover preliminary training and corps and unit training, with only six months remaining the men would not be able, with their leave and their passages, to give more than three or four months' effective time overseas. It must be remembered, also, that we have to maintain a large proportion of our Regular Forces in overseas stations, and the result is to throw a great strain upon the Regular training cadres here. I think that with the extension to 18 months we shall be able to relieve the situation in both directions—to have more National Service men in the overseas stations and to use some of the more skilled or intelligent of the National Service men as junior instructors in training the others.
The effect at 1st January, 1950, of the running down in 1949 of the Forces, if we were now to adhere to the period of 12 months—and I think this ought to be put to the House—is that in the Army we would be placed in the position—I cannot give a firm estimate because I do not know what recruits there will be in the next 12 months—of a possible total of 2013 195,000 Regulars in the Army and 100,000 to 110,000 National Service men. This would involve demobilisation, in the 12 months, of something like 240,000 men from the Army. In the Royal Air Force we should reach, by January, 1950, about 127,000 Regulars and about 40,000 to 50,000 National Service men. That would involve the demobilisation of 115,000 men from the Royal Air Force in 12 months.
When we consider what the position then would be, in the light of our having to maintain our overseas commitments, it can be seen that the Forces would be very severely handicapped. For all these new reasons and the effects which would result, His Majesty's Government consider that the Measure now laid before the House is the very minimum course we can take to meet the Services' manpower position.
From time to time there have been references from all parts of the House to the fear that in the Services there was a considerable misuse of manpower—in or out of the Services. That has always been a concern to us because it is from the National Service men that most of our Regular Forces of the future will be recruited. The importance of the impression which is made upon young men's minds when they come into National Service need hardly be stressed. There has been some evidence that in the arrangements for the National Service man in the Services after the period of all his basic training is completed—and I submit that that has been excellent in all the Services; all the first three months basic training has been really excellent—the conditions have left a good deal to be desired.
The Government have held their own inquiries into this matter and they say to the House, quite frankly, that as a result they consider there has been considerably more misuse of manpower than there ought to be. Steps are being taken to correct this as far as possible. In defence of some of the units and staffs concerned, it has to be remembered that they have been in a very difficult position because of the extraordinarily rapid turnover in the Services during the last few years. I do not propose to say more in detail about this, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, who will be 2014 answering later in the evening, will be giving more information on the subject.
I wish to put to the House a few particulars as to how this matter will affect the general arrangements for call-up. In 1949, 1950 and 1951 the net numbers expected to be available for National Service respectively are 165,000, 200,000 and 215,000, accompanied by a fairly steep rise in maturing deferments. It is proposed that, if it is found to be necessary, we should continue the practice of deferring one normal quarterly registration in each of the years 1949, 1950 and 1951. I say "if necessary" because it is quite possible that in 1949 such a deferment may not be necessary since there is a lower net number of men available for call-up.
This process reduces the number which would be called up in each of the years from the net total available by about 35,000 a year. It results in raising the age of call-up which this year stands at 18 years three months—as a result of the first registration which was cancelled—to about 19 years, which level will be reached in about three years' time. It is not that there is any particular virtue in keeping the age fixed at 18. Hon. Members will recollect that in the Military Training Act, 1939, the age of call-up was 20. There are some advantages in raising the age, as young men may be, perhaps, a little more mature when they are called up.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
This is an interesting and important point, but it is not quite clear to us. Is there any sort of programme from which these young men will know when they are to be called up—at 18 and a quarter, 18 and a half, 18 and three-quarters or 19?
§ Mr. Alexander
There will be an early announcement in every case. [An HON. MEMBER: "We know what that means."] I do not believe there has been any complaint in the country whatsoever—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—on the amount of notice given. I say frankly to the right hon. Gentleman that there are two things which have to be done, and done as soon as possible. The first is that in the fitting of the present situation into the new decision for 18 months service we must all have a new adjustment, so as to ensure that young men called up before 1st January, 1949, will 2015 not serve beyond 30th June, 1950; and at the same time there will be an estimate made of the rate at which the National Servicemen will be required to be taken in, and a registration in each year may need to be suspended, and the longest possible notice will be given for that.
§ Mr. Eden
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question, an answer to which is absolutely vital to our understanding the scheme at all. He argued a case for 18 and 19. I am not arguing the merits of the ages 18 and 19. What seems to us essential is that these young men should know when they are to be called up—whether at 18 and a half or 19. This is not a party question. We are all receiving letters from all parts of the country asking when our young men are to be called up.
§ Mr. Alexander
The right hon. Gentleman knows the situation. I have explained it before. It is necessary in present circumstances not to take in, in a particular year, the whole net number available for call-up. That has to be adjusted from year to year according to the needs of the situation. It may depend to some extent upon any changing international circumstances and upon the growth of the Regular Forces and their ability to train a given number. It may also depend upon something equally important, and that is the financial provision we shall ultimately be able to make for the Defence Forces as a whole.
§ Mr. Alexander
Hon. Members will not face up to the facts. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I will tell hon. Members what I mean by their not facing the facts. The first point is that some are constantly pressing for more and more and more expenditure. It is being done continuously, this pressing for more expenditure. But the other fact that hon. Members have to face, is that the future security of this country will depend also upon its power to win economic recovery. As I have said to the House on previous occasions, we have to steer a very difficult course between the two main risks, the economic risk and the military risk.
§ Mr. Alexander
I have given the House all the information it can expect to get on that point. The only other way to answer would be to say that we fix a fixed age all the way through. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that in the present circumstances it is not possible to do that, and that we must have the amount of flexibility required to meet changing circumstances as they arise.
I turn next to the point in the Bill with regard to the change in the period of Reserve Service. There is to be a reduction from six years to four years. I have seen it mentioned in one or two places that this reduction from six to four years is proposed from a political motive. I assure the House that that is not so. Under the new scheme National Service men leaving the Forces will, of course, have had a longer period with the Colours and will have reached a higher state of efficiency and training, which was the point mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor). By concentrating Reserve service into four years we shall have a smaller Reserve Force, it is true, but a more efficient one, and the refresher training given during the period of Reserve service will be of a more intensified character than otherwise would have been the case, because we are keeping the number of days for training at 60 which is the same as would have been covered over the six years. Men who have completed their Reserve obligations will, of course, still be available to answer a call-up during any period of emergency.
The other point I should like to mention, concerns the adjustment in the Bill in the age of call-up of doctors and dentists. In the Act as it stands, a doctor or a dentist who is undergoing training for special qualifications may, at his own request, be called up at any time before he has reached the age of 30. Otherwise, the upper age limit is the same as that for other men. But in war time the medical course lasted five years. It is now increased to six years. Some of the young men after their war service are taking a longer time than five years. We therefore desire to put the maximum age at 30 so that they will all be able to be treated on a fair and equitable basis.
2017 I have already mentioned the fact that Clause 4 amends Section 61 of the National Service Act, 1948, which provides that the Act shall cease to have effect on 1st January, 1954, unless a later date is substituted by Order in Council. Section 27 of the National Service Act, 1947, made the necessary provision, subject to affirmative Resolution by both Houses, but, unfortunately, in the process of consolidating the National Service Acts in the Act of 1948, it was inadvertently omitted.
In the light of the facts that I have placed before the House with regard to the Forces and the changed circumstances, I say again that I make no apology for introducing this Bill. It cannot be expected that it will be a popular Measure, but it would, in our view, have been unpardonable for this or any other Government to fail to bring in the Bill in view of the present situation. However unpopular at first sight, the Bill may appear to be, I do not believe that it will be unacceptable by the country. I am reminded—and I often quote the right hon. Gentleman—of what he once said:It is given to quite a lot of simple folk to know every day what is their duty.I believe that when the country understands—as I think they do understand in the changed circumstances—how necessary it is to increase the period of service in order that we may make provision for meeting our overseas commitments and getting back from the present state of unbalance to a better state of efficiency in the Forces, the country will accept it and back us up.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
The right hon. Gentleman has had a somewhat churlish ordeal. Part of the House was unsympathetic towards him on account of his mistakes and another part on account of his virtues. He will excuse me if, this afternoon, it is upon the mistakes rather than upon the virtues that I am forced to dwell. Our position in this matter is unchanged. We have this Bill before us, and we have not altered at all our view as to how we should vote upon it. We support this Measure for increasing the National Service to a maximum of 18 months.
2018 I must admit that one has a feeling of going over the same course again; it all comes back to one, when one sees this Bill. We all remember the resounding phrases with which the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Labour, whom I see in his place, convinced us in 1947 of the need—the imperative need—of this Measure and of the period of 18 months' service as the foundation of our Army once the war-time powers had lapsed. We remember how, 48 hours later—perhaps it was even less—for reasons which it would take long to explain but which were only too obvious at the time, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence found himself unable to carry out the policy that he had urged upon us on its merits, and came forward to reduce the period from 18 months to 12 months.
Today, he comes forward again with a veritable galaxy of party troops gathered behind him—their names are on the back of the Bill—and says that it is absolutely necessary that the 18 months be restored to this Measure on which we shall rely after the war-time powers have lapsed at the end of the year. The whole story constitutes not only an error in judgment, but, I must say, a lapse from public duty under party pressure. We do not know—although we arc going to vote in support of the right hon. Gentleman today, if a Division is called—whether in a few days' time he will not make another pirouette, and tell us that all the arguments which he used were untrue or invalid, and that 12 months is the only right solution of the Service difficulties at the present time. We have no knowledge, any more than we had last time; nevertheless, we shall give our support to the Measure which is proposed.
It is said, in excuse for the erratic and contradictory policy which has been followed, that the foreign situation has become worse and that the danger of war is nearer. The right hon. Gentleman did not dwell too heavily upon that; but that is in all our minds. He dwelt rather on the temporary downward fluctuation in recruiting in the summer months of 1948. After all everyone knows that if we had moved into a greater assurance of permanent peace, then the arguments which he used on the second occasion when he proposed a period of service to the House, would have had a greater applicability than they have now.
2019 But I do not agree myself that the foreign situation has changed in the period of which we are speaking. Once the expansionist ambitions of Soviet Russia were apparent, and once the armies of the democratic Powers had dispersed to their homes without any clear understanding being reached between East and West, it was certain that a period of grave anxiety lay before us. The only outstanding new facts in the world situation were and are the atomic bomb and the increasing willingness of the United States to help to defend the liberties of Western Europe. So far as the period since the right hon. Gentleman last introduced the National Service Bill is concerned, these are alleviations and not aggravations—they are, indeed, tremendous facts—and our salvation depends upon them.
The atomic bomb has, of course, been the vital factor in our security since the early days of this Parliament. We have lived under its protection. The uncertain question has been: What are the intentions of the group of oligarchs in control at the Kremlin? All this was before us 18 months ago when the Minister of Defence reduced the period of service which he had carried in the House, from 18 months to 12 months. All this was before us——
§ Mr. Alexander indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Churchill
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I know about this, and in its precursory period, it was always before us when we were colleagues together in the National Government in the later stages of the war. All that we have seen since, are the various manifestations of the forces and factors that are at work. They are alarming and sensational symptoms but the causes have not changed. The root causes have not changed, as we knew them two, three and four years ago, and the Government are well aware of this. There is, therefore, no reason for saying that the new change now proposed by the Minister of Defence from 12 to 18 months' service is required by the darkening of the foreign situation, and I am glad that he did not stress it unduly. The basic facts have not altered.
I must go back a little this afternoon and put this matter in its proper setting and perspective, because events happen from day to day but they all happen as 2020 a result of long chains of causation which one must bear in mind if one is to see where the next link comes in or closes. At the end of the last war, to avoid the lamentable mutinies and disorders which marked the months following the first World War—thank God they were avoided—the Coalition Government adopted a scheme similar to that enforced by me when I went to the War Office in 1919, when the mutinies were at their height. That scheme was based on the principle of releasing first those who were oldest and had served longest, or on special arrangements for wound stripes. It was a principle that commanded the respect and the sense of justice of the rank and file. I pressed it upon my colleagues in the Coalition and, after careful consideration, it was universally endorsed.
By the winter of 1945, however, economic conditions were such, and the hope of revival with American aid in that short interval was so bright, that it seemed most desirable not to keep large numbers of men and women standing about idle—they were idle in Germany, in France or here at home—just as there were far distant theatres where, either through lack of shipping or through local disturbances, evacuation could not be carried out in the strict order of priority which was the right principle. Therefore, in October, 1945, I advocated here at this Box that the Government should amend their policy and cut down redundant personnel to a level which would leave the Navy at 150,000—I see that the permanent figure is now fixed at 140,000 and I do not quarrel with it—the Army at 1,000,000 and the Air Force at 400,000 men. This, at the time, would have been a wise, sensible and far-seeing measure, and it might markedly have helped our recovery after the war.
In late 1945 the morale of the Army was good—far better than after the first World War—and their relations with the Government were good. They voted for the Government, the great majority of them—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] And sorry they are about it now.
§ Mr. Churchill
I wish I could have an opportunity of affording the proof. That, however, is a date upon which it rests 2021 with the Prime Minister to advise the Crown. In 1945, however, as I say, the relations were good, and in my opinion the Government made a mistake—a view which I expressed at the time because I do not try to be wise after the event—in not taking advantage of the situation. I think they made a mistake in believing it necessary to adhere pedantically and rigidly to the scheme of demobilisation to which we have all agreed. But the Government did not take my advice, and the result was that throughout 1946 and a large part of 1947, many hundreds of thousands of men were kept uselessly with the Colours, instead of being able to return to industry where labour was urgently needed.
This policy gravely injured our economic revival and it imposed upon the taxpayer a fruitless charge—I cannot estimate it exactly—of many hundreds of millions of pounds. When giving my figures for the Navy, Army and Air Force—150,000 for the Navy, 1,000,000 for the Army, 400,000 for the Air Force—I naturally allowed a wide margin, and I carefully safeguarded myself by saying that I spoke without knowledge of any later changes in the foreign situation, and that the Government must put that first.
However, during a period when there was no urgent sign of the approach of danger, whatever latent facts may have existed, the Government kept great numbers of men with the Colours who were not needed. They might have come home a year earlier—[An HON. MEMBER: "Who says so?"] I say so. But since then, as danger has grown—or, at any rate, as the situation has become more alarming—they have cut these numbers down far below the figures which I thought they might prudently have attempted to reach in 1945 and in the beginning of 1946. There has not been the slightest foresight in this matter; in fact, our policy has been attuned with extreme refinement and nicety to run in exactly the contrary direction to the normal course of events.
After a great war—and we, unhappy generation, have seen two in our lifetime—when a whole nation had been mobilised, the first task before a Minister of Defence is to have a good plan made for a peace-time Army, having regard to the anxious and disturbed conditions 2022 which undoubtedly follow a vast struggle. Such a plan must provide first, for garrisons abroad; second, for the creation of a moderate permanent establishment with strong cadres at home, and, thirdly, the means of expansion in time of danger or war.
The failure to make this plan is the root of all our troubles. That is the fact. I shall speak today only about the Army, although the Bill deals with all the Services. The Navy has little need of National Service; the. Air Force cannot use it even on an 18 months' basis with any great advantage. However, I do not wish to go into those complications today. The Navy and Air Force are different problems. I say that the time to lay down the plans for the post-war Army and to decide the scales of that Army, and to shape the units and formations of that Army, was during 1946. As the vast war-time army melted away, such structural elements as were indispensable to the new Army should have been carefully, and even at very high cost, preserved.
I do not say for a moment that this would not have been expensive, but the savings which could have been made by a more rapid run-down in the first 12 months after the war, would far more than have paid for the necessary special measures which had to be taken to induce the necessary key men to re-engage for a lengthy period in order to form the cadre and structure of the much smaller peacetime organisation which had to be created. I do not say that the numbers of the peace-time Army should have been as high as I stated in October, 1945, when many of my hon. Friends thought I was running a risk in giving actual figures. I thought they might be considered as an intermediate stage. But within those figures, or lower figures, it should have been possible to create a strong, lasting structure and to adhere to it in steadfast manner, however the winds might blow.
Alas, instead of trying to reach a permanent foundation for our Army, and, indeed, for the Armed Forces, at this stage, the Government drifted with events, swayed this way and that way by the gusts of the storm—and there are fierce gusts in the times in which we live. When the period of economic and financial stringency came along and frightened them out of their wits they 2023 began to issue a succession of orders to diminish the numbers of the Armed Forces. What are, I believe, in the latest jargon called "the ceilings," meaning the top numbers of men you may have, were altered so rapidly and with such inconsequence that the Army authorities, still more, the Naval and Air authorities with their far more complicated organisations, had no means whatever of making any plans; as soon as one plan was made, it was swept away by further changes in the total strength to be permitted. In consequence, the war-time Army melted away without any peace-time Army arising from it, as one might imagine the new Phoenix springing up from the flames which had consumed the old.
The introduction of compulsory military service of 18 months in 1947 was a courageous and necessary Measure, and one which will lastingly stand to the credit of the first Socialist majority that has sat in this House of Commons, but the change to 12 months 48 hours later was an entirely different conception. It threw all the ideas again into the melting pot. It must be remembered, however, that we have not yet used the National Service Act of 1947. I understand that it comes into operation only on 1st January, 1949. In the meanwhile, the Government have acted with their war-time powers. These war-time powers gave them ample and, indeed, plenary authority and discretion in regard to the use of manpower.
They have even, in the industrial field, done what I never believed would be possible until this class war, namely, introduced industrial conscription in time of peace—introduced it, but have not gone very far with its application. They have power, authority and complete control over manpower, power to delay dismissals from the Forces, power to call up, and so forth, but with all this power at their disposal, they have not been able to make any plans for the creation of an effective military system, based upon units and formations, which can grow, ripen and mature with every month that passes.
We cannot possibly make an Army apart from formations and apart from units, and time is needed, as with plants, for them to gather their full strength and splendour. Since 1945, the Government have not only had no 2024 defence plans of their own, but by their irresponsibility and constant changes have deprived the Service Chiefs of the possibility of making, let alone carrying out, any reasoned plan for the re-establishment of our Defence Services on an organised system.
I have drawn attention before to the repeated shifting of Ministers at the Air Ministry and at the War Office. There have been three Secretaries of State for Air. The third sits opposite me now, and I valued greatly the friendship of his father. There have been three Secretaries of State for Air and three Secretaries of State for War in the last three years, and none of these was, I think, specially picked for his knowledge, ability or experience. At the Air Ministry we began with Lord Stansgate, whom we knew well in this House as Mr. Wedgwood Benn. He spent the great part of his tenure at the Air Ministry trying to get rid of our interests in Egypt—"liquidate," I think, is the proper expression. After that came the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), who was also absent on diplomatic work for a very large part of his time. Now we have the present Air Minister, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson), who has not been there long enough to accomplish anything on which he can be judged, or even really to look round the Department and its establishments with any thoroughness. Three Air Ministers in little more than three years.
The same thing happened with the Army. I must admit that there were rapid changes in the Army during the war in the Secretary of Stateship, but there was always a pretty steady control from the Minister of Defence and the Chiefs of Staff over all the Armed Forces. Continuity was not lacking, but continuity has not even been possible to conceive at the War Office during the last three years. The first Secretary of State for War was my right hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). I will only say that he was a man generally liked by all who knew him. He had at least one qualification in having been a driver in the Royal Artillery in the first world war. But, apart from that, and with great respect to him if he is in the House, one cannot feel that he was in 2025 all ways equal to the enormously difficult task which lay upon him of bringing home one vast Army and making a peace-time permanent Army out of its elements. The Prime Minister evidently reached that conclusion when, after 14 months of service, he removed my right hon. Friend from his post and replaced him by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger).
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
May I correct the right hon. Gentleman? I did not ask for my right hon. Friend's resignation. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) desired to retire.
§ Mr. Churchill
I thank the Prime Minister. Naturally, we cannot always tell what lies behind a Ministerial resignation, but I am quite sure that if my right hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street felt himself in any way unequal to his task, he would be the first man to come forward and lay down a highly important and remunerative public post. As I say, after him came the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw. This was somewhat unexpected to those who had read his regular column in the "Daily Mirror"——
§ Mr. Bellenger
It seems that the right hon. Gentleman is in need of constant correction. I did not write in the columns of the "Daily Mirror."
§ Mr. Churchill
I am ready to withdraw the words "Daily Mirror" and to substitute the words "Sunday Pictorial." I should not like to have a dispute on any such matter. The right hon. Gentleman served with the Expeditionary Force which was safely evacuated at Dunkirk. As I have already said, this again was a somewhat unexpected appointment. I none the less gave as much support as I could to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sure he tried his best. However, in this case am I right in saying that the Prime Minister took a more severe view? Fifty per cent. of bullseyes is not a bad average. The Prime Minister took a more severe view and dismissed the right hon. Gentleman in arbitrary fashion, so I hear, in October, 1947. It must not be an unmitigated reflection upon the right hon. Gentleman, because the time for this change was influenced by other considerations.
2026 The present Secretary of State for War, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) had shown that he was a failure as Minister of Fuel and Power, but he was bound to maintain his popularity with his party by being specially vicious and insulting to his Parliamentary opponents.
§ Mr. Churchill
Phrases which he used have run all over the country. The "tinker's cuss" was a household word, and he has made that homely and necessary instrument of an honoured profession common to the daily usage of all classes in the land. He had, however, undoubtedly gained political popularity with the Left Wing of the Socialist Party, those gentlemen below the Gangway who attend in ever smaller numbers and with ever less enthusiasm every week. A place had to be found for the right hon. Gentleman at short notice. This struck the knell of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw. He was the man for whom the bell tolled. The appointment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham to be Secretary of State for War compares very well with the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) to represent us at the United Europe meetings.
We all understand the difficulties of a party leader in these times when he has not only to conduct government, but to preserve general good feeling among all his supporters. In these appointments I must say it seemed to me that the Prime Minister put party first, party second and party third and national and even international affairs were included, for the completion of the narrative, amongst the "also rans." I thought the appointment of the present Secretary of War was surprising. I believe the Army is better entrusted—[Interruption]. I know the right hon. Gentleman's good points as well as what everybody knows. I believe that the Army would be better entrusted to men who are not engaged in the most bitter strife of politics. Nor should the War Office be regarded as a receptacle for Ministerial failures. However, a change was made, and we now have the right hon. Gentleman endeavouring, on the one hand, to rally the whole nation in a recruiting campaign, and at 2027 the same time pouring out taunts and insults on the majority of his fellow countrymen.
I am one who holds that Parliamentary Ministers have a great part to play in the organisation of the Defence Forces. We all remember the unique contributions made by Mr. Cardwell and Lord Haldane to our military system. It would not be fair to lay the blame on any of the Ministers who have flitted through the Service Departments in the last three years. Not one of them had a chance to master even the rudiments of the problem which is vast and intricate and requires long study and much knowledge. I have shown already how the tasks of the Chiefs of Staff were rendered impossible by the rapid changes of plans and of "ceiling," and how uncertainty was prolonged and even deepened by the proper introduction of the National Service Act and the sudden and unforeseen alteration of the period of service. Not only the Chiefs of Staff but the political Ministers themselves were rendered quite powerless to comprehend the problem by the brief period during which they each held office.
The responsibility—and I regret to put this in a pointed way to the right hon. Gentleman—rests upon the Prime Minister as the first Minister of Defence for some time, and upon the present Minister of Defence, but especially upon the Prime Minister, who gained a practical knowledge of the problem during the five years of war, and who also had a distinguished record as a regimental officer. The burden lies upon him for the lack of planning and for the lamentable situation in which we stand today in the Services.
In making an Army, three elements are necessary—men, weapons and money. There must also be time. The Government have had three and a half years—certainly three effective years. Three years would not be enough to make an Army from a defeated and demilitarised nation, but it is quite enough to make an Army of whatever size may be chosen, out of a nation whose mighty Armed Forces are mobilised but which are being demobilised, and which has a vast surplus of experienced commanders and trained technicians. There is no reason why these three years should not have given us a moderate Army. I say a moderate or 2028 even a modest Army, for I have never urged gigantic figures for a permanent peace-time Army in this country. It could not be done with all the other burdens we have, but there is no reason whatever why these years should not have given us a moderate and highly efficient Army, including an effective field force. There has been the time; time has not been lacking.
Let me look at the three elements, one by one. Take, first, weapons, with which I include many forms of equipment. We are told there is a great shortage of weapons and equipment, that what is available is not balanced and that we cannot efficiently arm such formations as we have. We are told that we cannot give what is required for, and what we have promised to, our Allies on the Continent. We are warned that it would be a detraction from our export capacity to set the war factories even moderately in motion again. When I laid down my duties as Minister of Defence in July, 1945, we had a vast supply, a measureless supply, of equipment and weapons of all kinds. These were continually being brought up to date under the hard pressures of war.
What has happened to this enormous mass of material? I ask the Prime Minister: where are the rifles which, on V-E Day, armed 4,600,000 troops and Home Guards of this country alone? Are they in oil? Have they been reconditioned? Are arrangements made to keep them fit? There is no difficulty in keeping rifles. They do not go sour, like milk. They can be put away in oil, and can be left for 20 or 30 years and can soon be made efficient again—you never know when you might want them. We all remember the quarter of a million American rifles which were such a godsend to us in this country in 1940. They were nearly 30 years old. In addition to these 4,600,000 British home rifles at the Armistice, there were all the rifles surrendered by three million German who surrendered in two or three days, at the end, to Generals Alexander and Montgomery.
The same is true of other forms of equipment. What has happened to those latest models of tanks, of which great numbers were being turned out by our factories at the end of the war? No doubt better ones could now be designed. I have long experience in this matter, and 2029 I can assure the House that it is most improvident to get rid of the vital weapon you have, until you have a better one to put in its place. What has happened to the enormous masses of artillery of all kinds, especially anti-aircraft guns, and, so far as the Continent is concerned, I would say especially, of anti-tank guns? These comprise scores of thousands of weapons which would not become quickly outmoded and which do not spoil. Of course they require a certain expense to look after, but they do not spoil.
After the First World War, when I went to the War Office I put away all the medium and heavy artillery that had been made and everybody completely forgot about it. It cost hardly anything to keep, and then it came out and was of great use and value when we had to make provision for the defence of this country against the possibilities of invasion in 1940 and 1941. Have these great masses of cannons been properly conserved, and not left to rust and deteriorate like the rows of motor vehicles which, I am told, are being left to rust and rot away as they stand unattended in car parks along the autobahns of occupied Germany?
What has happened to the countless thousands of tons of ammunition which, at the end of the war, lay in our bases overseas, or in depots in this country and along our country roads? What has happened to the material of all kinds which was being turned out, after the war had stopped, by our own factories as a legitimate method of bridging the transition period from war to peace? I ask the Government: is it not a fact that great masses of material were taken out to sea and sunk?
§ Mr. Churchill
I do not know why the hon. and learned Member should have wished to prevent me stating a case. After all, men cannot be trained without weapons. The proposal to increase the period of service to 18 months is a serious one, and should be considered in all its bearing on the Second Reading. The idea that by preventing chunks of the subject being discussed the House will be able to arrive at a just conclusion 2030 is a profound illusion which only masters and captivates inferior minds.
§ Mr. Churchill
If there is a shortage of rifles they cannot be trained. Nothing is more vital to the self-respect of a soldier than to have his rifle and bayonet, by which he can defend his life and honour. I was saying: is it a fact that great masses of material were taken out to sea and sunk? I want to know. We are told that great quantities of arms and ammunition of all kinds were given away or sold to foreign States. I am not speaking of anything done under the Brussels Agreement, but preceding that. Three or three and a half years have not sufficed to enable the Government to make a plan or scheme for the Army, but they have been ample to enable them to dissipate immense quantities of munitions of war which they inherited from their predecessors—a great inheritance which in this, as in other fields, they have certainly not increased.
I come next to the question of money. It is not true that money has not been provided to make a good Army. In the present year the House voted [...] than £692 million for the three Services, of which £305 million are for the Army. Far greater sums were provided and spent, as I hold, lavishly and needlessly, in 1946–47, but in the Estimates for 1948–49, £305 million are provided for the Army. What have we got to show for it in effective fighting power? By this I do not refer to the hundreds of thousands of recruits, or to trained and semi-trained individuals. What have we to show for it in organised and equipped formations that can be sent abroad, or brought into action in this country if need be? The Government hide themselves in these matters behind the pretext of military security. They refuse information in a manner which no Government have ever done, even on the verge of the two Great Wars through which we have passed.
There is no reason why the House and the country should not know, for instance, as much about our military resources as is known by the general staffs of foreign countries. We are told that we cannot 2031 have a Secret Session, and it is suggested that there would be leakage, and leakage of a particular kind; but in this case when, outside the House altogether, we have a highly organised Communist Fifth Column, small in numbers but active in all parts of the country, in our factories, in our trade unions and in our camps, it is inconceivable that the Soviet Government should not have got a very accurate measure of immediate British resources.
The only people who are not informed are the British nation and their Parliament, the House of Commons. We have a right to know as much as the Kremlin knows at this point. Before the last war I had to state some facts about our weakness in the air which had come to my knowledge. I do not think this did any harm when one looks back on all that happened. However, no statements have been volunteered by the Government to the Opposition. There never has been a time when a more complete gulf has existed between the two parties so far as national questions common to us all are concerned. Nevertheless, it is impossible for many hon. Members not to become aware of many facts which are, no doubt, also known abroad.
I say that the Government's refusal to give further information on the true state of affairs to the House and to the country is due, not to a fear of the knowledge that it would give to our potential enemies but to a fear of the exposure of their own mismanagement and incapacity which would be patent to all the world and would naturally have an effect on their political position at home, as well as undoubtedly, a disheartening effect on our friends abroad. In my view, within the limits of what one is sure a potential enemy knows, it is right that Parliament should insist on a proper account of how the immense sums of money it has voted have been spent and what are the results which have been achieved.
I shall judge my duty on these issues from day to day, and I may find myself forced in the near future to make some statements to Parliament of a limited though definite character not only on Army matters but on the position of the Royal Air Force. I shall make these statements which, according to the best of my knowledge, I believe to be true, 2032 but today I will content myself with pursuing the theme, in the very few moments during which I shall further burden the House, of value for money, which is the corpus of my argument against His Majesty's Government this afternoon. For this purpose I shall again go back to the past.
It is, first of all, necessary to remember that the Government have one substantial advantage in the making of a good peace-time Army from the fact that they have cast away our position in India. To maintain 50,000 or 60,000 men as we have done for nearly 100 years in India has been an extraordinary strain upon this island. It is like holding a dumbbell at arm's length. Hon. Members should try it and imagine the strain over 100 years. The Indian garrison greatly affected the whole of our Army system and it enforced the principle of long service—seven years with the Colours and five with the Reserve or even eight years with the Colours and four years with the Reserve. This prevented the accretion and accumulation of the large reserves which the shorter periods of service render possible in Continental countries, and on which expansion power in time of war depends. From this heavy and exacting burden, the Government have freed themselves.
Therefore, for purposes of home defence and of maintaining a potential expeditionary force, and of making plans for doing that during the life-time of the present Parliament, the Government have far greater facilities than any of their predecessors. What have they to show for the money they have had and the war-time compulsory powers of calling-up and prolonging service which they still employ? What have they to show? The Liberal Government which declared war in 1914, had prepared six divisions and a cavalry division for immediate transport to the Continent. These were well-trained Regular troops who acquitted themselves in a manner which has rendered their story famous. This force and, in addition to it, our garrisons in India, the Far East and elsewhere, were drawn from an Army which comprised 250,000 Regulars, 145,000 Army Reservists and 60,000 Special Reservists, a total of about 455,000 men, as a result of which seven divisions were sent abroad equal to anything that the 2033 Continent could produce, or, perhaps we might even say, superior. The latest figures for our Forces under arms at the present time, those of 1st October, show that our Army consists of 174,000 Regulars and 245,000 National Service men and women, a total of 419,000 with the Colours. That is not much less than the total figure of those we mobilised in 1914, including the Reserves.
Let us now look at the financial side. In 1914 our Army cost us £28,885,000. That was the amount of the Army Estimates in 1914. It represents £76 million at the present day purchasing power of money. I am making a fair comparison. This year we have voted no less than £305 million for the Army, or four times as much as in 1914 at present rates. [Interruption.] I have made allowance for the value of money and therefore the £28 million is represented by £76 million. I have made full allowance for the value of our money which the Government have so grievously reduced. [Interruption.] I give hon. Members opposite the benefit of their crimes as an excuse for their other crimes. The sum of £28 million was equal to £76 million now, and now we have voted £305 million which is four times the purchasing power of the money voted in 1914. Surely the House is entitled—nay, it is bound—to ask: What have we got to show for it? I ask the Prime Minister that question. I see that he is likely to reply.
§ Mr. Churchill
I hope he will, because we should very much like to hear him. I ask him: Can the Government now produce, with four times the comparable money voted in 1914, an efficient and well-equipped Force of six or seven divisions, be they infantry, tanks or parachutists, a Force available either for an emergency on the Continent or for home defence? Can the Government produce with four times the money, the Force which was produced by the Liberal Government in 1914? Can they produce a half of it? Can they produce a third of it? Can they produce a quarter of it? I will not go any further today, but I say that with four times the money and unlimited control of man-power, the Government are unable to produce even a quarter of what was available for emergencies in 1914. Here I am speaking 2034 only of the Regular or Field Forces. In Mr. Asquith's and Lord Haldane's day—now nearly 35 years ago—before the first World War, we had, besides the Expeditionary Force I have mentioned, 14 Territorial infantry divisions, which in a year became good troops. According to the Government's present plan the Territorial Army is not even to be fully constituted until 1954—six years hence.
Where is the money going? What has been done with the 420,000 of manpower? What are the Government doing with these hundreds of thousands of men already at this moment serving with the Army? What fighting formations have the Government got to show for this? Men, money, weapons: the Government have had them all. We have had many muddles and much mismanagement since the end of the war, but making all allowance for the immense difficulties which any Government would have had to cope with, I say this is a shocking scandal. Nothing, I believe, compares with the mishandling and squandering of our resources which characterise the administration of the Defence Services. Should war come—which God forbid; and it does not depend on us whether war comes; less than ever in our history does it depend on us; it depends on events largely beyond our control, and on decisions and factors which are inscrutable—but should it come, I say, on the Second Reading of this Bill, that a terrible accountancy will be required from those to whom Parliament has accorded, in time of peace, unparalleled resources and unprecedented power.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
I beg to move, to leave out "now," and at the end of the Question to add, "upon this day six months."
There are many reasons why this Bill should be rejected, including the following: the proposal to take our boys at 18 and 19 years of age and send them to any part of the world; our economic position; the alleged manpower shortage; Ministerial pre-war statements; and the need to call a halt to world war preparations. Thirty years after the "war to end war" and three years after the termination of hostilities in the last war, we are presented with this proposal to take our boys away from their homes and send them to any part of the world.
2035 I do not want to get involved in personalities in this Debate, but the reference by the Leader of the Opposition to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) was, to say the least, most unbecoming. My right hon. Friend is a man with a great record—as great a record as the Leader of the Opposition—which will bear comparison with any other person's record as far as his duty to his country is concerned.
On 8th May, 1939, the Prime Minister said:Our Navy, Army and Air Force are officered on a class basis.That still applies. The Prime Minister quoted a letter he had received from a widow, and finished by saying:They have two boys; and now these boys are going to be conscripted. It is a terrible thing that is going to happen to mothers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1939; Vol. 347. c. 150–1.]That still applies, although it is ten years since that was said. Since then we have been through another war, and are preparing for yet another, and people are rightly asking: where and when will all this stop?
Prior to the war we obtained an assurance, which continued well on into the war, that no boy under 20 years of age would be sent abroad. For a long time, even during the war, that assurance held good, and then the age was reduced to 19. When we were in a very desperate position in the war, and it was proposed to reduce the registration age to 17½ in order that training could start at 18, I remember very clearly the opposition of some of those who now have the audacity to support this Bill and to make these proposals. Unless Ministers have greatly changed there cannot be unanimity on this Bill.
Changes in the call-up were announced in 1946, 1947 and 1948. We are now to have another change. Do Ministers realise the effect all this uncertainty will have on a boy's life and on industry? Do they realise its effect on boys because of the failure to be able to concentrate, particularly when being trained as skilled engineers? Do they realise the effect of this uncertainty upon the employers? Three years after the war we are told that this is only an emergency Bill. We well remember the same phrase being 2036 used in 1938 and 1939. In the main, it is the working class of this country who pay the price—through uncertainty, disappointment and frustration.
Most of the leading Ministers have never served in the Armed Forces. Had they done so they would realise what a terrible blow the announcement of the postponement of demobilisation was to our boys. I know what action was taken in 1918 and 1919 when many of us were serving in France and Germany. The Army of Britain still suffers from the legacy of the mobilisation of certain types of people in our country, who could not and did not serve in other ways. From the day I joined the Army at Warrington Barracks, my experience was the most humiliating I have ever had. In the main, that legacy, which we inherited through the generations, still prevails in the treatment of the people to whom we belong. I remember Lord Beveridge, Sir George Bailey and Jack Little investigating the misuse of manpower during the war. What a sorry story could be told about the experience of those three people who conducted that investigation.
This is now announced to be a new deal for the R.A.F. Is there to be one for the Army and the Navy? No doubt those will be announced in the near future. But we have heard it all so often before; each year there has been an announcement of this character, but there has been no fundamental change in the treatment of the other ranks serving in the Army. Last Saturday an important steel worker said to me: "We cannot get the boys now. Ask them down there in Parliament next week whether they want production or whether they want armies." Those engaged in mining and agriculture are to be deferred until they reach the age of 26, and then they are no longer liable for service. Is the construction and erection of power plant important? Are pottery and cotton exports important? Is the boat race important? One would think so, when one compares it with the treatment given to association football players.
If there is a shortage of manpower, can we afford to maintain approximately twice as many men in the Forces as we had in 1939? In 1939, we had approximately 480,000 men in the Forces. Now we have approximately 786,000 plus an increasing number engaged upon aircraft 2037 and other supplies. That number is at least 229,000. Does our economic situation justify the employment of that number of men in the Services and in the supply industries? The manual workers are working harder and faster than ever before. They are making the greatest contribution to our economic recovery. But they need reinforcements, and they will ask for them.
Where is the manpower to come from if this large number of men is to be called upon to serve in the Forces or the supply industries? When these boys have completed their training and finished their time, they will return to jobs which, should an emergency arise, may be reserved occupations. Is that a good policy? Will this have been money well spent if boys who have been trained and who have served for 18 months, are placed in reserved occupations? Most of us are saying that an emergency will not arise, but should it arise, taking even the most pessimistic view, what is the value of spending millions on the training of these men and then putting them in reserved occupations?
Displaced persons are being brought to work here from all over Europe. Americans are serving in the Armed Forces here and their wives and families are being brought to this country. All this is going on at a time when our boys are called upon to leave their mothers and girls at home in order to be sent to all parts of the world. I say without hesitation that that is not Labour policy. Where a second nationality is claimed—and this is a terrible indictment against the Administration—the call-up is suspended until the age of 21. Yet our boys are to be called up at the age of 18 and sent to any part of the world. Can anyone justify that differentiation in treatment between those who come from other lands and our own boys?
Many times before the war I sat in the old House of Commons and heard denunciations of military service and conscription by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministers. I could not compete with them in their denunciation and invective. They made me feel a very mild young man, generous and moderate. I thought that they meant what they said. Almost every leading Member of the Government was loud in his opposition to 2038 conscription in peace time, in 1938 and 1939. Now they propose to extend conscription. [An HON. MEMBER: "Guilty men."] Do not say too much about guilty men. There has been enough provocation this afternoon. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but let them laugh at this. Who was responsible for spending £150 million, in another part of the world which has never been forgotten, with unnecessary loss of thousands of lives?
§ Mr. Churchill
I am hoping—I am believing—that the day will come when the efforts I made in those far-gone years will be considered to have been wise and right.
§ Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)
Is my hon. Friend not aware that on 16th July, 1918, the War Cabinet adopted a memorandum by Balfour, the Foreign Secretary, pointing out that if Czarism were restored in Russia, the result would be a deadly danger to the British Empire—because a Czarist Russia would join the German autocracy to "do us in" in a world war—and that the right hon. Gentleman did his best to produce that result?
§ Mr. Churchill
The ignorance of the hon. Gentleman does not even let him know that it was the Social Revolutionary Party for which we were endeavouring to secure victory.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Is my hon. Friend aware that on 5th November, 1919, the present Leader of the Opposition admitted in the House of Commons that his purpose was to restore Czarism in Russia?
§ Mr. Smith
We will continue. We have also read, "Dinner at the White House." 2039 I was saying that practically every leading Member of the Government had opposed conscription in peace time. Now it is proposed to extend conscription for at least another six months and also to give the right to send our boys to the jungle and elsewhere. I want to ask what are they to defend when they are sent to other parts of the world?
I address my next remarks to my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House. A few months ago, great controversy raged in this House over the death penalty. I respected the hon. Members who were involved, but I could not agree with them. I saw Members of the Government—to their credit, not many of them—discuss this matter outside and they decided to abstain from voting. Others voted for the abolition of the death penalty. How dare the same people who were engaged in that controversy, vote tonight for sending our boys of 18 to other parts of the world?
The misuse of manpower in the Army is a major scandal. If it were a case of the misuse of money, then a tribunal would have been appointed long before now. [Laughter.] Hon. Members should not laugh too soon, because what was said about guilty men applies equally to some other people. Some of us can look everybody straight in the face with regard to this matter. The Army continues its traditional policy of special treatment for other ranks, of humiliation and frustration for the men. Everyone who has served in the ranks of the Armed Forces knows that that is a statement of fact. This is 1948, and, relatively speaking, the Services are again given a blank cheque, while industry is urged to increase production. The emergency training colleges, much to the credit of the Minister of Education and his Ministry, are now able to train competent teachers within 14 months. I have no hesitation in saying that, with modern methods, men can be trained to serve efficiently in the Armed Forces in 12 months. Anyone who is a student of military affairs knows that this increase of six months is required for overseas service.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
On what military experience is the hon. Gentleman basing a statement of that sort?
§ Mr. Smith
I remember when methods of training were not nearly as good as they are today. Some of us were trained in six months. We then joined the Machine Gun Corps and were afterwards trained in France to be tank drivers. We learned the mechanism of the internal combustion engine. All that could be done in a relatively short time, provided that the men had a reasonable standard of education before they went into the Forces.
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me what experience I had. I cannot help being the age I am. My crime in the past was that I was too young. The main purpose of peace-time conscription is to build up large reserves so that they will be available when required. We are losing millions of pounds and thousands of production hours by present methods. As I said earlier, if an emergency arose, such as some people visualise, there would be reserved occupations. Men engaged in engineering, in the aircraft industry and in other industries would not then be available, even though all this money had been spent on their training. Will our economic position stand that kind of thing? In my view, it is urgently necessary for us to reduce min commitments in all parts of the world.
On 8th May, 1939, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:If lives and bodies are to be conscripted, money and wealth also must be conscripted.A little later in the same speech, he said:The Navy, the Army and the Air Force should be democratized— … they should cease to be class forces and become truly democratic forces.Further on still, he said:One might even say that those who are asked to defend this land of ours should also own this land of Ours."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1939; Vol. 347, c. 113–115.]If it was right to say that 10 years ago, then it is a thousand times more right to say it at the present time.
2041 Our boys may be sent to Malaya. I want to ask what for? The conditions of the people in Malaya are simply terrible. The death rate and the maternal mortality rate are far higher than in other parts of the world. I am not prepared to risk the life of one boy by sending him to places like that. A sum of £30 million of the hard-earned wealth of this country was spent before the war on that mighty bubble of impregnability, Singapore. A terrible prewar indictment can be built up in regard to the pre-war aristocratic parasites who lived in Singapore and in other parts of that island. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to laugh at a serious statement like that, but the same sort of policy was applied in this country until the growth of the trade union and Labour movements prevented such people from exploiting our own people in the same way.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
Having lived in the Far East for a number of years, I agree that a certain number of people did live there as parasites, the same as they do in Moscow, London, or any other city. But the majority of them worked hard and did a lot for this country, and they should be appreciated.
§ Mr. Smith
We are not talking about other parts of the world now; we are talking about Malaya. If hon. Members opposite doubt what I say, I would refer them to what the Rt. Hon. Malcolm MacDonald said on 27th April, 1948. If they still have any doubt, let them ask the Librarian for the book written by the "Daily Express" Correspondent telling of his war experiences in Malaya. What I am saying is nothing compared with the black indictment contained in that book.
I was saying that the pre-war aristocratic parasites daunted their wealth in the face of the poor natives who had done harm to no one. How can anyone hope to send our boys out there to protect conditions of that kind? The present policy is as out of date as the policy pursued in the past with regard to Ireland and India. We cannot treat people in that way; people will listen to advice and to reason——
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. and gallant Member should not be so clever with interruptions of that kind. We have already paid very dearly for that kind of policy, and we do not propose to pay any more for it. For the policy which has proved so successful in India, we have to thank my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who, as the result of long, patient, and careful work behind the scenes, was able to bring about a solution of the Indian problem with the result that the Indian situation has now reached a satisfactory stage.
The Secretary of State for War recently visited the war graves. Those hon. Members—I do not include those who have served in the Armed Forces—who have been laughing and "yah-yahing," should visit the war graves about which I am going to speak. If one lands at Calais and goes along the French coast, visits Etaples, then goes along the Doullens Road—some of us who were there for many months know what it means—then goes to Arras, Cambrai, Ypres and Paschendaele, one sees evidence of the mass murder of youth which took place between 1914 and 1918. The same thing happened again from 1939 to 1945. We are asking not only this House, but the whole world, when is this ghastly murder of man going to stop? It will never stop unless man is determined to take action against the forces which start it.
We will start today by making it clear that, as far as we are concerned, we are not prepared to risk the life of one boy of 18 by sending him to any part of the world. George Lansbury may be dead, and some of us may have differed from him with regard to his experience concerning certain countries, but his spirit is alive in the country today. As a result of the experience of the last war, it is more alive today than ever. Mr. Harold Lockett, President of the North Staffordshire miners, recently attended a conference in Poland which was attended by miners from all parts of Europe, and on his return, a number of hon. Members of this House, including myself, were privileged to meet him. He told us that nearly every one to whom he had spoken was very concerned about the worsening international situation and wanted to know what we were going to do about it.
Here we are today, with the old game starting in the Ruhr, with industries being 2043 rebuilt, with repudiation of pledges given in the last war. The same game is started in regard to the Italian colonies and the rebuilding of German heavy industry. The French people are being played about with and are disappointed and discouraged, and theirs is a country which has been invaded three times in 80 years.
I saw the cream of my generation cut off in the flower of their youth. I came home and was determined to play my part in order that no future generations should have to pass through a similar terrible catastrophe. So I went into the Brotherhood movement, the League of Nations Union, the trade unions, the Co-operative and other movements. Nobody took any notice, and we drifted and drifted until we found ourselves again, in 1933 and 1934, in a situation which some of us had faced before many other people. Then, again, in 1939, our people were called upon to fight the greatest menace that has ever confronted mankind. We remember our lads going over night after night and the promises that had been made to our generation. Now, people throughout the world, and the British people in particular, are saying, "We want to be friends with all the others; we have nothing against one another. Therefore, why should our boys be torn away from their homes?"
There is something fundamentally wrong with what has been taking place, and, therefore, we are called upon to assert our real manhood—we, who have risked our lives in France, Belgium and Germany and have heard our boys, night after night, risking their lives in the last war—and we say that it is time that we who are privileged still to live, should be prepared to use the last years of our lives in order to prevent future generations having to pass through what some of us have endured on two occasions.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? As a fellow-soldier with him in the first war, may I say that we appreciate very much his spirit, but we should like to ask him one question before he allows his genuine emotion to run too far ahead of his reason. May I assure him that there is nobody who took part in the first war who does not feel as he does about the dead? But, had we been prepared 2044 before 1938, had America been prepared, had a Bill such as this—[Interruption.]
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the hon. Gentleman to refer to my hon. Friend as one of the murderers? I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to give a Ruling that it is out of Order.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Further to that point of Order. The hon. Member on this side did not refer to the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter). That is not correct.
§ Mr. Baxter
The hon. Gentleman was good enough to give way to me, and I do not wish to take part in a scene in the House. I merely wanted to ask him this question: If we had been ready on the last two occasions, would there not have been a war, and why should we not be ready this time, so as not to have another war.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I was just finishing. I shall ask the hon. Gentleman another question before I reply to his. On whose shoulders does he place the responsibility for that situation?
§ Mr. Baxter
It is very widespread, but, as far as this country is concerned, I place it upon the party opposite at the time when they were in office.
§ Mr. Smith
I shall quote to the hon. Gentleman something that was said by the Prime Minister of that time, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford, on 29th June, 1936. The right hon. Gentleman said:I usually find myself on these discussions upon questions connected with foreign affairs in very general agreement with the right hon. Gentleman and very often with the views that are expressed from the official Opposition benches."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 29th June, 1936; Vol. 328, c. 122.]In 1938, the present Leader of the Opposition said:So far as this country is concerned, the responsibility must rest with those who have the undisputed control of our political affairs. 2045 They neither prevented Germany from rearming nor did they re-arm ourselves in time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th October, 1938; Vol. 339, c. 366.]If the hon. Gentleman wants the final indictment, not from a Socialist or pacifist, but from the man who has more responsibility for creating international tension than any other man in the world, I refer him to a passage about the unnecessary war in his book, "The Gathering Storm," which reads:There never was a war more easy to stop. It is the unnecessary war.In conclusion I want to say that the British people, the Russian people, and all the other people, whose skins may be black, white or yellow, are all praying tonight that men throughout the world will take a stand similar to the one we are taking here. If anyone has any doubt as to what the American people voted for in the recent election of the new President of the United States, I would remind them that it was proved beyond doubt that the election campaign was conducted upon a peace programme, to which we also want to make our contribution from this House. Therefore, I have no hesitation in moving the rejection of this Bill.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I hope I shall not engender too much heat in discussing what we all feel to be an extremely difficult problem. I was very disappointed this afternoon in listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I felt he would have had something to say about the 18-year-olds, but not a single word came from him. I have listened to him in this House on a number of occasions when he has defended the shareholders, the miner owners, and steel manufacturers and all those whose private interests he believed were in danger. Presumably, it all fitted in with his theme song, "Set the people free." I wondered whether this afternoon I might have heard a word from him about whether or not the boys who have no vote at all should be considered in our calculations.
I oppose this Measure, and I support the Amendment for its rejection, on a number of grounds, and I ask the House to consider with me the reasons for these objections, which I believe to be valid. 2046 First, the extension of the present 12 months' service by six months will spread the expectation of war. In 1946, when I moved an Amendment to the King's Speech, I made the statement that military conscription was likely to stimulate rather than discourage military preparation. Is there any Member of the House who can say today that that is other than true? As a matter of fact, when that scheme was launched, it was like a spanner thrown into the international machinery. The international situation has deteriorated ever since. The Minister of Defence this afternoon made a statement, if I understood him aright, that we now have the possibility and danger of new commitments. How will that be received in the world? Will that not call forth counter measures on the part of potential enemies? Will not the fear which it creates goad the potential enemy into hostile action? I warn my hon. Friends on this side of the House that unless some definite halt is called to this step the nation will stagger and stumble into war.
My hon. Friend referred to the boys of 18 being sent long distances. My second objection to this Bill is that it is detrimental to the moral welfare of young boys of 18 for them to be sent to any part of the world without limit. Lord Montgomery has told us that at present the National Service man can be sent to Germany, Austria, Trieste, Malta and Gibraltar. Now, apparently, there is to be no geographical limit to the moral dangers to which our youth are to be subjected. I, like many other hon. Members, receive letters from constituents. I received one this week from an ordinary working woman who has a boy aged 18. She wrote:I like thousands of other mothers, have tried to shield my boy from moral wrong and I feel much concern at these lads being snatched, when still in their teens, and thrown into moral danger. So many of our lads have been protected in good homes from as much wrong as possible and some have attended their place of worship.She concludes by asking me to do all that is possible to bring about the rejection of this Billfor the sake of parents who are anxious about the moral welfare of the 18-year-olds.We have heard not a word from the other side of the House about the moral effect of this proposal.
The right hon. Member for Woodford spoke about extravagant expenditure. 2047 This is not the only country which is involved in extravagant expenditure. Our armaments budget is £692 million for 1948–49. I work that out at £1,895,890 for every day of the year—nearly £2 million a day at the present time. That is equivalent to 5s. 2d. in every £1 of taxation which is collected. That does not take into consideration the National Debt, which has gone up from £7,000 million before the war to £24,0000 million today, which is the equivalent of another 3s. 1d. in every £1 of taxation which is collected.
Our social services are much less in proportion. The Minister of Defence talks about keeping a balance between our economic system and our needs for Defence. I think he has been knocked off his balance already and that the two are out of proportion. It is surprising to me, if expenditure at this rate is regarded by the Leader of the Opposition as being extravagant, why he was prepared to come here recently and support an additional £8 million for the extension of National Service for three months and a further £12 million in increased wages and improved conditions. I believe that financially it is quite ruinous to our economy that we should continue in this way.
Another objection I have to this Measure is that it will jeopardise our chance of economic recovery and will have a detrimental effect upon training and industry. A friend of mine who has been engaged in important educational work wrote to me yesterday. He has had many years of educational experience. He wrote to tell me that during the last few months he had visited several factories to consider the training within industry scheme. He assures me that in all the factories which he visited the knowledge that they will be called up at 18 has a depressing effect upon the boys' training and is a very serious interference with their efforts to study, in view of the feeling that it is a waste of time. If that is the effect of one year's National Service, how much greater will the depressing effect of 1½ years be?
I offer some evidence from Birmingham industry. There, in Birmingham, with its more than 1,000 trades, industry is considerably affected. Indeed, not very 2048 long ago an industrialist who is the President of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Walter Higgs, a former Conservative Member of Parliament for West. Birmingham, addressed a meeting of the United Commercial Travellers' Association. This is what he had to say on 11th September about National Service—I quote from the "Birmingham Post"—One of industry's greatest problems arose from compulsory National Service. Two-thirds of the men called up did not go back to the industries in which they had been trained after they had completed their service. That was a very serious loss in that it obliged industry to start afresh with the training of new men.And what of the waste of time in the Forces to which reference has been made? Many of these men could be performing valuable work in the interests of the country. Some hon. Members may have read the article by the Headmaster of Shrewsbury in the "Sunday Observer." In it he speaks of two lessons being learned by these men. I quote his words:The fact is that the National Service man has so far learned two lessons very thoroughly indeed, to scrimshank and to expect that when he returns to civilian life he will be paid trade union rates for doing as little in a day as he did in the Army. That the whole of the population of this nation will have spent a year at an impressionable stage of their lives learning these two lessons is a horrifying thought.And indeed I would say that if we add another six months it is a terrifying thought.
But what do the military authorities care about all this? Only during the last week I had the unpleasant duty of calling to see a constituent who had lost a boy in the East. That boy was not a conscript. He had joined the Regular Forces for seven years. Having been in for three and a half years his parents tried to buy him out, because his mother was ill. I tried to assist them. But the military authorities said, "No. This man is a fitter. That is banned. We cannot allow it." And so it was refused. He was 21. Within a few days of the receipt of the letter from the War Office the father wrote to me and said, "They could not release him because they could not do without him, but I am afraid they will have to do without his service now." In the letter which he wrote that boy made it clear that they had nothing to do at night but drink. He said, "Friday night 2049 is drinking night." He goes on, "and the men are becoming confirmed boosers." I think it is tragic.
I protest that men should be thrust at a younger age into this kind of condition, when they are able and qualified to render great industrial service which will help towards the recovery of the nation. But what can we expect from the military authorities? I say, with all due sense of responsibility, that I have read very carefully the remarks of Lord Montgomery and I believe that never since the passing of Hitler and Mussolini from the world scene have we seen the ideals of militarism more blatantly proclaimed.
§ Brigadier Peto (Barnstaple)
Is the hon. Gentleman maintaining that Lord Montgomery is trying to become a Hitler or a Mussolini? Or is he trying to make out that Lord Montgomery is very largely responsible for the saving of his own skin?
§ Mr. Yates
I did not make any such remarks. I will explain to the hon. and gallant Member that Lord Montgomery, in his Press conference, spoke about what he believes to be the ideal of National Service, the training for the cadet, from National Service to Civil Defence and the Home Guard—his conception of militarism from the cradle to the grave. He said this, which was reported in the "Star" on 29th May:I hold strongly that the man is still the first weapon of war, and to get success in battle the first thing is to get men who have morale, with the light of battle in their eyes, and who are trained to fight and kill.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members say "Hear, hear," but if it had been a Russian general they would have said something altogether different—or if anybody else had said it. And indeed the American General Charles Scott, is reported to have said:We have got to teach these men to kill without compunction, and, if possible, get a little fun out of it. This is a killing game.It seems to be a sort of military conception and I say that Lord Montgomery and those who think with him——
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
Would the hon. Gentleman allow me to ask him a question? I am sure that, being a fair-minded man, he will answer it. Does he think it fair to attack a distinguished 2050 soldier in this House when that soldier, when he spoke on that occasion, was carrying out the policy of the Government? Is he attacking Lord Montgomery or the Government?
§ Mr. Yates
I am criticising the Measure which has been brought forward by the Government, and I assume that the Government have had advice from their military chiefs. I am saying that utterances such as those which Lord Montgomery has made, and is responsible for, show a conception that I believe to be definitely wrong. It is not a question of pacifism or non-pacifism. It is our conception of international citizenship and I say that that kind of training is quite wrong. When the noble Lord says that they should be trained with the light of battle in their eyes, I would refer him to the words of one man, I think it was the American Lowell, who said:These things shall be,A loftier raceThan e'er the world hath known, shall riseWith flame of freedom in their souls,And light of knowledge in their eyes.
§ Mr. Yates
Where are all the Churches in this matter? Where are the Christian Socialists? Have they no contribution to make? I would say to my hon. Friends on this side that as sure as night follows the day, we shall regret the action which has been taken.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite can say that what the Government have done will be a great blessing and that it is a courageous action. I yield to none in my admiration of the great social programme which the Government have made possible. I think it is a marvellous monument that they have erected in the social sphere. It is only on this issue that I feel deeply that the Government are wrong, and I ask my hon. Friends to join with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), myself and 2051 others in registering our disapproval to the Government and saying, in the interests of international humanity, "Halt this programme and this policy." Let us be imbued even this day with the words of the great poet Shelley who, many years before the first world war, called upon the people of England in those famous words:Oh cease. Must hate and death return?Oh cease. Must men kill and die?Cease, drain not to its dregs the urn of bitter prophecy.The world is weary of the past.Oh might it die or rest at last.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I will endeavour to follow the two hon. Gentlemen who have just spoken and whose sincerity none of us doubt, although we may consider that they are very much mistaken in their views. I cannot possibly compete in the class of emotional oratory to which we have been subjected during the past hour or so. I will endeavour to approach this problem a little more from the practical than from the emotional point of view.
I would say to those hon. Gentlemen straight away that I answer their question quite simply in this way: we, all of us and all the peoples of the world, hate war, and I make no exception of myself in that respect. We all of us look to a world organisation to prevent war. When we have a world organisation with armed forces upon an international basis at its disposal to prevent war in any quarter of the world, war will cease forever. It has not been our fault that this situation has not yet been brought about. I want to go one step further and to say that if the people of Russia were able to speak their own minds in this matter they, too, would say that there should never again be war. Unfortunately, they are forbidden to do so, as are many of Russia's satellites in Eastern Europe. It is the fear that those conditions might be imposed on this country that makes me support the Bill.
I would like to take up one point made by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) in regard to training. I respect his view, he having been a soldier and having fought in the first world war. I had the great honour and privilege not only to command but to train armoured 2052 brigades and I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the situation is now entirely different, for the simple reason that practically everything depends today upon wireless. Even an infantry platoon depends upon communication by wireless. It takes six months to train a man to use wireless, apart from all the other specialised tasks that he is asked to perform in these days. I am now talking of the conditions in which I have had to train men who had done their preliminary training. We were working seven days a week without any holiday, and it took 18 months to fit the men to go and meet a highly-trained organisation like the Germany army. That is as far as training goes.
I would like to know from the hon. Gentlemen what their argument really is. Are they suggesting that we should have no army, or an inefficient army? I would gladly give way if they would answer that question. They must want one or the other. There is no answer from them. That puts the whole thing in a nutshell. They are committed to an army. They admit that by their silence. I, therefore, say let us have an efficient army and not an inefficient one. Poetry has been quoted from the other side. I also will indulge in quotation:Making mock of uniforms,That guard you while you sleep,Is cheaper than them uniforms,And they're starvation cheap.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I will not continue that argument, except to say that the hon. Gentleman was talking about a very great soldier who is not capable of coming into this House and defending himself. I am here to defend him. I have had to suffer from this sort of thing from hon. Gentlemen opposite for 25 years. I am now in a position to answer back.
On this side of the House we are all profoundly disturbed at the condition of affairs as they exist in the Armed Forces of the country today. We are not altogether satisfied with this belated repentance on the part of His Majesty's Government. If they had struck to their 2053 original intention, the situation, especially in the Army, would have been, in my humble opinion, very much better than it is at present. From the evidence at our disposal, it is clear that all is not well in the Army at the moment. I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate that the initial training is of a high standard. I do not think that it could be bettered, but from there onwards the whole thing falls down. That is not the fault of the ordinary regimental soldier but of the rôle which is being put upon the Regular Army at present. Owing to the large number of duties, the wide area over which its units are scattered, and the various fatigues which they have to carry out, they are unable to train their men in the subsequent unit training which is so vital, if they are to be an efficient part of an efficient Army.
I have been reading the last Debate that we had on this matter, and particularly the remarks of an hon. Gentleman opposite who suggested that I was saying that all it was necessary to do was to train the units in order that the staff might get experience. I did not mean that at all. I meant that the ordinary elementary training has to be utilised and practised upon a unit and formation basis, in order to make that training effective. Without the unit training on top of it individual training is of little effect.
I have said before in this House, and I say again, that some of the higher ranks of the War Office, civil servants, and some hon. Members of this House, still have at the back of their mind a fundamental error. They believe that we can pour a man into a battledress and that he then becomes a soldier. It is vital that realistic training, with live ammunition, should be carried out at all stages, right from individual training up to divisional training. So far as I can gather, there is no collective training of that nature being carried out at all in the Army, except in very rare circumstances. The Americans are doing it more than we are.
Now I will come to the question of who is to train the men when they are called up. Up till now, National Service men have been serving in the Army for two or two and a half years, and it is on those men that we have to rely in order to train the new intake. In the 2054 Regular Army, more than 50 per cent. of the men are under 20 years of age. Who are going to be considered fit and able to train these men when they are called up? If the pledge of the Government is kept that no National Service men will be kept in the Army beyond a certain length of service who are serving previous to this Measure, so far as I can see there will be no one left in the Army for this purpose.
§ Mr. Braddock (Mitcham)
Why, then, does the hon. and gallant Member support a Bill to keep men in the Army for six months longer, when he knows perfectly well that the Army is incapable of looking after them when they get there?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am grateful for that interruption, which will make my speech a little longer. I was going to explain, if the hon. Member will possess himself in patience. If he has heard me speak before, he knows that I do not make a remark like that without following it by some ideas of how the problem can be solved. So far we have not had any solution of the problem from the Government, but I am going to suggest a solution. To my mind it is that we must attract back into the volunteer Regular Army a percentage of the highly-trained men who left it fairly recently. That is point number one, and number two is that we must attract into the voluntary Army a greater number of recruits than is being attracted at the moment, even if it be by proposals for better pay than we have seen put forward by His Majesty's Government. The Government have to face this problem and find a solution. If my solution is not the best, let us hope they will find a better one.
It is quite evident that the Army will not be able to cope with the total number of men who can be called up under this scheme. I ask the Minister who is to wind up this Debate what is to happen to the balance and how it is to be decided what is to be the balance, that is to say, how are they to decide who is to be called up and who is not to be called up? I understand that there has been a temporary solution to the problem by raising the age limit by three months in successive years, but I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that cannot be continued indefinitely. Sooner or later the right hon. Gentleman and the War Office will come up against this problem. I 2055 hope we shall hear, when the Minister winds up, what are the proposals of the Government in relation to this matter. I have certain ideas on the subject which are semi-formulated. I will not produce them at the moment, because I am not certain of them. It is not my job, but I am asking about this because I should like to know the view of the Government.
The original idea of the part-time commitment of National Service men was to be in order to create a Reserve which could be brought up to a state of immediate readiness if required. In May, 1947, the right hon. Gentleman said that this was a long-term policy. At that time, although I disagreed with him, the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly justified, possibly, in his own mind in saying that the policy was a long-term policy and there was no immediate hurry, but he cannot say that today. I very seriously suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that that particular policy has no longer any practical effect at all, and he will have to think again on this matter.
The reduction from six months to four is perhaps a sop to back benchers and I have no strong views on that. I should like to know, however, if the 60 days' training are to be compressed into the four years. If so, that is all to the good. I think the men will benefit from it and it is an excellent idea. This, of course, is all dependent on the voluntary response to the Territorial Army, but that has not been very encouraging. Again, we ought to hear from the Minister what further steps he proposes to take to try to increase voluntary recruitment to the Territorial Army. It is really no good the right hon. Gentleman saying, for six days in the week, that in which he does not believe and on the seventh completely contradicting it, because everyone in the country can see straight through it. That does not conduce to confidence in the one Minister who has this vast responsibility in his hands.
A minor point I wish to put is to ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into the question of the nomenclature which is adopted at the moment for the various types of soldier enlisted into the Army. The time has come when we should consider this on a practical basis. We have the Regular soldier volunteer, the National Service Regular for 18 months, 2056 who is a compulsory Territorial for four years. It is the most awful mix-up of terms, and the War Office, if they cannot produce anything else, might produce a little sanity into this. I do not know what is wrong with the old-fashioned word "militia" which would cover the National Service man all the way through his service. It is nonsense to call him a Territorial, because the fundamental basis of that word is the voluntary aspect.
The wastage of manpower in the Army is one of the things I fought tooth and nail the whole time I served and sometimes made myself unpopular for doing so. The reason is that the Army is established for fighting a war in the field; it is not established on the basis of living in barracks. That has been the fundamental fault all the time, because in barracks troopers and private soldiers have to carry out duties for which there is no counterpart in the field, such as keeping the grass in front of the barracks mown, keeping the passages washed and all the chores which have to be carried on unless the place is to become a slum.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman very seriously that this should be gone into. Consideration is long overdue. Why cannot the barracks be looked after in the same way as Ministry of Health offices are looked after? Why not have an army of charwomen and pensioners to do various chores as civilians, so that the soldier can devote the whole of his time to training or to sport or recreation? Any soldier will bear me out in saying that the bugbear of the Army is fatigues. One can never get a whole platoon or a whole regiment on parade because the men have to carry the meat or the milk.
The Government must make up their minds about the manpower ceiling, because no one in the War Office or anywhere else can start to plan effectively until the Government answer that question in their own minds. Having answered it for themselves, let some of those who have to do the planning know the answer at the earliest possible moment. Then we shall have some practical plan produced, which will work. In addition, the Army wants a clear directive. It wants to be confident that the plans issued to it will not be altered within six months. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that reorganisation on 2057 the basis of any new directive which is issued takes a very long time. What has been happening in the last few years is that just as people who have worked very hard have reorganised on a new basis, down has come a new order. Very often the old ones going up from the bottom and the new ones coming down from the top have met in the middle and there has been chaos. I implore the right hon. Gentleman to see that whatever decisions are taken are adhered to and that there is continuity of policy.
We supported the Government on the 18 months' provision in the original Act, but, as if to teach us a sharp lesson for so doing, within 48 hours it was thrown back in our face. I hope our palms will not be smacked again for supporting the Government once more. The existence of a Socialist Government and a Conservative Opposition means that whenever the Socialist Government does anything which is considered to be for the benefit of the nation it can rely absolutely on the support of the Conservative Party. I hope that on this occasion we shall not be let down; such methods do not encourage confidence in the Minister.
I had a sneaking regard for the right hon. Gentleman all through the war and I have a very great respect for him now. I say to him, however, that, great patriot as he is and great co-optimist as he is, I am not so sure that, as the result of six years of strain during the war and of Anno Domini, it might not be a very good thing for the nation, which he loves no less than I do, if he were to give way to a younger man who might be better able to carry out the grave responsibilities of his office.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I should like to compliment the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) on having devoted at least part of his speech to the actual merits of the Bill which is before us. I think that so far he has been the first speaker to spend any time on the question whether we should raise the conscription period from 12 to 18 months. The Leader of his own party spent no time whatever on the proposition. It would be tempting to follow the excursion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) into the realms of strategy, foreign affairs and general 2058 matters of defence were it not for the fact that so many other people wish to speak. I propose, therefore, to cut down my remarks to the briefest possible time.
I think we can all be agreed, except, perhaps, for the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence and the Leader of the Opposition, that it is nonsensical to say that either the three months' delay in demobilisation, or the increase of the National Service period from 12 to 18 months, has been caused mainly by the deterioration in the international situation or by the bad outlook and the danger of war. Even if there had been no trouble in Malaya, and it had been possible to withdraw our troops from Trieste and Greece and to reduce much more their numbers in the Middle East, the delays in demobilisation could possibly have been postponed, but not indefinitely. Despite the fact that we have not been able to reduce our commitments as much as we would have liked, the Bill, nevertheless, would have come before Parliament in a few months' time, if not today.
When the Minister of Defence, over 18 months ago, defended the reduction in the period of conscription he said that the reduction depended upon two major conditions; first, a reduction in the size of our garrisons in our overseas commitments; that has been only partially fulfilled. The second condition, a far more important one, about which not very much has been said today, was that recruiting for the Regular Army and Air Force should reach the pitch necessary to provide the minimum requirements of trained and long service men to deal with new intakes and fulfil our overseas commitments. This second is the paramount condition, but one which the Government have failed lamentably to execute. If, by voluntary recruitment, the Army had reached the size of 240,000 or 250,000 Regular long-service men, and if the Air Force also had been up to scratch with volunteers, we should not be having this Bill today. It has very little, if anything to do with the international situation. This fact is proved by figures.
I want to concentrate particularly on the Army because in peace time, it is our vital force for fulfilling overseas commitments and maintaining our garrisons. The figures which I shall quote are available to everybody else, and have all been published in a number of Parliamentary 2059 answers at various times. On 1st January next, as we have been told this afternoon, the Army will be made up of 177,000 Regular soldiers and 241,000 National Service men, or a total of 418,000 men. That figure is quite sufficient to fulfil our present-day commitments. But if the National Service Act were not amended today, and assuming that voluntary recruitment was maintained at the present rate, the figures on 1st January, 1950, would be something like 190,000 Regular soldiers and 115,000 National Service men, or a total of about 305,000. Even if the international situation improved, that number would be manifestly too few to fulfil our commitments.
Under the Measure which is before us today the number of Regular soldiers will, of course, remain the same on 1st January, 1950. The intake of National Service men, however, can and will be increased, because there will be a longer period in which they can be trained, sent overseas and, at the end of their service, help to train later intakes. Their numbers will be increased to about 190,000, which means that, by accepting the Bill today, instead of an Army of 305,000 men on 1st January, 1950, we shall have a total of about 380,000. It is purely because of this difference in numbers of 70,000 that we are being asked to pass this Bill to lengthen the period of conscription from 12 to 18 months.
I do not want again to go into all the arguments about the difficulty of sending overseas for a long period a man who is serving for only 12 months. That has been thrashed out many times in the House and the reasons must be obvious to everyone. What I do say, however, is that when some of us supported the Government when they wished to reduce the period from 18 to 12 months we were quite right in doing so, and the Government were correct then to introduce the shorter period. It was far better to set a low target to try to stimulate the working out of schemes to reduce the length of service. At the time we voted for the shorter period we were entitled to assume that emphatic efforts would be made by the Government to step up Regular recruiting to the required level. We were entitled to assume also that energetic steps would be taken for the elimination of the waste of time about 2060 which we have heard today from the Minister of Defence and from the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing.
I want to stress the importance of economy in the use of manpower. When manpower is tight, it is absolutely essential to get the maximum use from the units at our disposal and to employ them in the most efficient and economic manner possible. Without wishing in any way to insult or derogate Field-Marshal Montgomery, I must confess that as long as he was Chief of the Imperial General Staff I always had an uneasy feeling about the whole question of economy in manpower because, so far as I remember, it was never his habit to economise in this direction. He always considered that the wisest and safest thing was to build up the maximum force possible in order to obtain an overwhelming preponderance over the enemy, and he has never got out of that habit.
§ Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to interrupt. I happen to know something about this. Within the units under Lord Montgomery's command during the war, there was the most rigid economy.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I do not want to go into a long argument with the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) on this point, but I think that on the staff I was rather lower down in the hierarchy than he was, and we were always having newfangled and additional arrangements added to our staffs and sections which perhaps he did not have in the exalted spheres in which he moved. At any rate, I believe that until the present Secretary of State for War came into office very little had been done about the elimination of the waste of time in the Army and the observance of proper economy in this respect. I should like to compliment him on the energy which he has displayed in going about the country and really setting in motion measures to this end.
We were also entitled to assume, at the time when we supported 12 months as against 18 months, that the Minister of Defence, being at the head of a coordinating Ministry, would in fact do some co-ordination, but up to date, so far as I am able to discover, we have not yet even had co-ordination in common user services for all three Services. We 2061 have not yet got to the stage where even the doctors or chaplains are pooled between the three Services. How we are going to economise in manpower in the widest sense if we do not have common user services, goodness only knows. There is a tremendous field in that direction which has not yet been explored.
We were also entitled to assume at that time that the Government would introduce a special Class A Reserve of the type which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) advocated. I hope that now he is closer to the seat of operations than he was in the past he will be able to secure this special Class A Reserve. That Class A Reserve might have produced 25,000 to 30,000 men who could have been made available for Malaya. Those men, with the extra recruits who could have been obtained if the Government had set about it in the right way, would have made this Bill entirely unnecessary.
We are brought back to this rather pathetic fact that the whole of this elaborate machinery for dislocating the lives of young men for an additional six months is necessary because we have failed to bridge this very narrow margin in the Regular Forces of only a few thousand men in all. We are obliged to support the Government today because of these failures and because of this deficiency of which I am now speaking; but we must only do so conditionally, and the condition is that the Government and the Minister of Defence really get down to the job of building up a Regular force of the right size and eventually cutting down the period of conscription. On 7th May last year the Minister of Defence said that the reduction to 12 months meant thatWe shall be saving money at the rate of many millions a year on the number of conscripts called up. …He went on to say:The cost of the Forces will be very much cheaper."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1947; Vol. 437, c. 551.]I think the House ought to know how much, if any, the increase in cost will be as a result of this new Measure. We have not had the slightest indication on this point. It may be that there will be an elaborate system of deferment, which means that more people will not be called up than were originally planned for under 2062 the 12 months' period, but we are entitled to know some facts on that particular aspect. Quite apart from direct cost, it is unquestionable that that increase in the length of the call-up will add a burden to the industry and the economy of our country of a very serious kind indeed. It is tragic that this is going to happen because we have not raised the Regular Army and the Regular Air Force up to the right peak.
I believe that it is possible now, and it was possible before, to give really substantial inducements for Regular recruiting which would obviate all this apparatus which we are discussing this afternoon. Last week the Government announced increases in pay of some £10 million or £11 million a year. These are pathetically inadequate. The high-ranking officers are the technicians in this matter; they are, so to speak, the engineers in this particular sphere of our life. The opinion of all high-ranking officers, I believe—and it should not be brushed lightly aside—is that voluntary recruiting would be substantially raised if there were a sufficiently high increase in the rates of pay and if, of course, the level of the conditions in the barrack rooms were substantially raised, perhaps in the manner mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing. The Government should also emphasise their intention to make ready and available married quarters, particularly for N.C.O.s and junior warrant officers.
I believe that could be done, but in this respect it is important to remember that every time we get a Regular soldier in the Forces we can do away with not merely one but two or three conscripts. The reason for that is that we then reduce the number of conscripts who have to be trained, and they become less of a burden. It would be well worth spending an extra £30 million, £40 million or perhaps even £50 million a year on pay for the regular Forces, and in bettering their conditions, while at the same time saving the enormous cost in the civil sphere arising from increasing the length of conscription. I do not know exactly to what extent the rates of pay ought to be raised, except that they ought to be comparable with the best obtainable in similar jobs in civil life, and that applies particularly to technicians of all kinds.
2063 In a Defence Budget the cheapest item is always the men. Tanks, guns, aeroplanes and such like cost a tremendous amount of money, and that is the answer to the right hon. Member for Woodford who asked why the cost of the Army had increased so much since 1914. It seemed an astonishing question to be asked by a man of his experience, who was apparently surprised to learn that we have rather more than rifles in the Army now. As the cost of the men is so much smaller proportionately, it is well worth while spending more money on them to get the Forces up to the right size. I think we could certainly get a quarter of a million recruits in the Regular Army by this process. We have got 180,000 now, and we could certainly increase that number by that process. It would be a great deal cheaper in the long run.
Such an arrangement, plus a special Class A Reserve, plus economy in the use of our manpower, should enable us to shorten the conscription period from 18 to 12 months, and perhaps even lower than that—to four or five months. Apparently the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing disagrees with me, but I believe it is far better to have a higher proportion of professional and Regular soldiers and long-term Service men with a much smaller proportion of conscripts, than the other way round. We should be much better off by reducing the length of time in which we have conscripts in our hands.
I am not objecting to the conscription principle. I do not think it does anybody any harm to do four or five months' service in the Army. I do not think it would ruin anybody's morals, as has been suggested. It might even, in some cases, improve their morals, and it might give them a little more civic sense than some people possess today. We could also utilise them as Reserves for later years. We could give them basic training, but we should not clutter up our effective units with them today. I strongly urge the Government to act in that direction.
In conclusion, I agree that it may not be altogether the Government's fault that we have not been able to build up our Regular Forces, because in times of full employment it is difficult. When one's attitude towards Regular soldiers is that they should be paid very little—we have 2064 always paid very little—it is also hard to know exactly what level to bring them up to in order to obtain the right number of recruits. From now onwards, having passed this difficult period, we should concentrate on increasing our volunteers and lowering the length of the conscription period.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)
I am delighted to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), who has said a number of things with which I agree. In the course of my remarks I hope I may persuade him to vote against this Measure for the reasons which he himself gave.
The House will have seen the Amendment in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), my colleagues and myself, in which we put forward our reasons for wishing to reject this Bill. I want to make it quite clear that although, like the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), I respect the views which are put forward by pacifist Members of this House, I cannot possibly accept them, because the pacifist argument always resolves itself into an argument against the existence of military forces of any sort. That is not what we are discussing today. Secondly, I cannot accept the argument put forward by what are commonly known as "fellow travellers" because those are the people who do not want to see conscription in this country, although they are prepared to see it in Russia. I can say, however, that the "fellow travellers" have fallen into the trap, for I am claiming, and I hope to demonstrate, that conscription is weakening our Defence Forces; therefore, the "fellow travellers" should be supporting this Bill.
For the last 18 months an argument has been going on between the Government and the Conservative Front Bench about the period of National Service. What we have got down to now is not the question of the period of Service but the principle upon which our Defence policy is based. I suggest—and this is the Liberal view—that while conscription is accepted as a permanent factor for our peace-time Armed Forces it will have the most serious repercussions on the efficiency of those Armed Forces. 2065 One can demonstrate without a doubt today that conscription means weakness and not strength. So long as the Government have the power to compel men to go into the Forces, there is no inducement whatever for the Front Bench, the Treasury, or the Minister of Defence to improve the conditions and the pay of the Regular, professional Armed Forces. There is no need to; they get the men handed to them on a plate. All they have to do is to come to the House and get more men by passing a Bill like this. If the Government had to go into the labour market and compete for men for the Armed Forces we should soon find that pay would go up in order to get the men.
The Government's mental approach to this question was amply demonstrated by the Minister of Defence himself when he made a statement last week about increased scales of pay and allowances. I said then that all the Government were attempting to do was to try and remedy certain existing hardships instead of designing a policy which would attract more people into the Regular Armed Forces. Having now seen that statement in black and white, I can only say that I repeat what I then said. So long as we have that mental approach on the part of the Government we shall not get improved conditions in the Armed Forces to the extent that will attract volunteers into them.
We had that fundamental approach demonstrated by the Minister of Labour. In the Debate on the National Service Bill, he said:The voluntary scheme has not proved sufficiently effective, despite the attractions of improved conditions, and the prospects of advancement that are open to the voluntary Service man now as compared with before the war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1947; Vol. 435, c. 1673.]That is not the comparison to be made at all. That shows the fundamentally wrong mental approach to this problem. What is the use of comparing the Army of 1948 with the Army of 1939? The true comparison is between the Army of 1948 and industry of 1948. Until we can get that over to the Front Bench, we shall not get the volunteers we require.
Between June, 1946, when the White Paper was produced, and last week there had been an increase in industrial wage 2066 rates of 11 per cent. definitely and probably of 15 per cent.—11 per cent. to April—but there had been no increase in the basic pay of the Armed Forces. How do the Government expect to get recruits when they let their industrial wage rates run away and then suddenly, after two years, decide to remedy certain existing hardships for the Forces? They will not get recruits that way. I think it is a miracle that they have obtained so many recruits when that policy is being pursued.
I suggest—and we have said time and time again—that this is an argument about a wage policy. If the Government are to give priority to the Armed Forces and if they think that the international situation is serious enough to warrant priority being given to them, they have to halt their industrial wage rates and bring their military wage rates slightly above them in order to attract and induce people into the Armed Forces. I am not saying that pay and conditions can do everything, but I do say that better pay and conditions will increase the numbers in the Regular Forces. Take the allowances which have been announced for officers for instance. I have had letters already from Tripoli and one of them—this was from a Liberal, not a Conservative; he is a captain in the Armed Forces—said, "I am now quite convinced that the Socialist Party is out to break the Regular Army." [Interruption.] I am sorry if hon. Members opposite do not agree, but that is the impression which is being created, rightly or wrongly. May I say why? It is because these allowances are subject to tax. In April this man is losing supplementary marriage allowance and will be worse off than he was before.
It is not good enough. It is not the way to get proper Armed Forces. Again I say—and this is one aspect of conscription—that so long as the Service Ministers can compel people, so long as we give them the power to compel people, so long as right hon. Members above the Gangway, on the Opposition side, support that policy, there will be no improvement. If the Opposition are going to support the Government every time they ask the House to take the line of least resistance, we shall get nothing done for the Regular Army, Air Force or Navy.
§ Earl Winterton
Perhaps the hon. Member for Northern Dorset (Mr. Byers) will permit me to interrupt. If he will look at the speeches made from above the Gangway on this side of the House, he will see that we have said exactly the same things as he is saying on the subject of pay. I thought it was rather unfair of him to suggest that we have not done so.
§ Mr. Byers
I think the noble Lord will not say I have said anything to suggest that he has not pressed the claims of the Regular Army. What I was about to say was—is it not logically his duty tonight not to support the Government, because he is supporting them in their line of least resistance? It is an amazing thing; if the Conservative Party really believe in the welfare of the Regular Forces, why are they supporting the Socialist Government, which wants to take the line of least resistance? That is my reason for voting against this Bill. I want to put the Government slap up against it and to say to them, "You have got to do something; you have got to design a new policy; I am not going to give you more time; you have 13 months." They have the National Service Act of 1948, which comes into operation on 1st January, 1949, with the 12 months' period.
§ Mr. Byers
It can be. While we continue to give the Government what they seek, we cannot expect them to do anything in the way of designing a policy. Behind our backs they are chuckling and saying, "We have always got the Tories; if we want another six months, that is all right. They will give them to us." That is a fantastic situation.
The second aspect of conscription is that the Regular Forces—and I think this is a vitally serious matter which has been mentioned time and time again—will continue to be preoccupied with the training of conscripts to the detriment of their own operational and technical efficiency. It is not a question of having an Army of a certain size or an Air Force of a certain size. We have to have quality, too. We have to have efficiency. So far as I can see, we are in a very unsafe position today. We shall remain in it so long as we have this high proportion of conscripts in the Armed Forces.
2068 There are two ways in which we can raise men—by voluntary recruitment or by conscription. In both ways we can get the same size of Forces, I think. One is more costly than the other. But there is only one way in which we can get quality, and that is by designing a system for the raising of voluntary Forces. I am not asking for the immediate abandonment of conscription over night. I made that clear in a speech I made during the short Session of Parliament. What I am asking for is that for which we asked two years ago. We said the Government had two years to re-orient their policy. We demand that in the next 13 months the Government increase the voluntary element in the Armed Forces so that, without increasing the total numbers in the Forces, they can work up the numbers of volunteers and work down the number of conscripts. That is the basis for a plan.
The conscript element should be eliminated purely on the technical grounds of efficiency. I do not think we shall be safe in this country until the Government have done that. What worries me is that no effort is being made by the Government at all for the solution of the problem. It is no use the Secretary of State for War grinning at me. [Interruption.] He is not? Then he must be looking glum. I am glad my argument is coming home to him. I do not know whether it is because of the Secretary of State for War, but we are on a basis of two years' conscription at the present time. The situation is deplorable. We are coming down to 18 months' service. It is not a question of going up to 18 months' service. I suggest that it is not so much the period of service that matters, but the number and quality of the men.
We have to take a difficult decision, and the Government ought to bring in a comprehensive plan to work up the voluntary element and to work out the conscript element at the present time. It is quite clear from what the Minister of Defence said that they are aiming at having an Army—as was stated in the last Estimates—of 345,000 men in March. The hon. Member for Aston said 380,000. I do not mind what the figure is. The point is that we are to have a conscript element of from 150,000 to 180,000. We are going to have a very high conscript element. How can we say that our 2069 Forces are proficient when we have that percentage of conscripts? That is the argument for increasing the voluntary element. That is the argument for improving the conditions and pay for the men of the Regular Forces.
Then there is the Royal Air Force. In the last Estimates the total was given as 226,000. Now we are to have a Regular element of 127,000, and a conscript element of 100,000. I defy anybody to have a proficient Air Force with a conscript element of 100,000 out of 226,000. Something has to be done to increase the voluntary element and decrease the conscript element.
As I say, quite apart from the proficiency angle, there is the angle—and this is the point I want to make—of the equity of all this. The Minister of Labour said 18 months ago:We consider that compulsory National Service is not only necessary to ensure speed, but is also the most democratic way of providing the Forces required. We think today that the responsibility, the duty—I think one might almost say the privilege—of taking part in the defence of our country should be spread over the whole of our young men, irrespective of their class or their occupation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1947; Vol. 435. c. 1675.]Is that happening? There is registration of 327,000, and we defer 110,000. The Government are going on deferring that number. We are getting to the stage when we shall have to defer 150,000 out of 300,000—one in two. When we get to that stage we shall have to reconsider the whole principle of the thing, because it will no longer be equitable. That is why I suggest that conscription is not only inefficient but inequitable, and wasteful of manpower. A large number of people are required for the training of the conscripts. There is a big turnover in manpower. All that is instead of having a professional Army and Royal Air Force which provide a real career.
Therefore, I want to demand reconsideration by the Government of the fundamental basis of the whole manpower policy in relation to Defence. It was absolutely staggering to hear the figures from the Minister of Defence today. He said that by 1st January, 1950, if we were to have 12 months' conscription, we shall have 195,000 Regulars in the Army. We have 186,000 Regulars in the Army today. Is 2070 that the size of the increase they are looking forward to in a period of 18 months? I know there is wastage, but the Government are sitting down and saying that this is planning, and that that is the figure they have accepted. I should be ashamed to come to that Box and say I could make up only 9,000 in 12 months
§ Mr. Alexander
The hon. Gentleman has no right to say that at all. As a matter of fact, the Regular recruitment for the Army is much the most satisfactory in the three Services. In regard to the run-down, the heavy run-down which I explained today, it is necessary to have the figure at 195,000, because there will be a heavy wastage of skilled men who have stayed on for the time being. I have already explained that. Even allowing for the continuance of at least the present intake and, perhaps, something better, it will be seen that most Governments that have preceded the present Government have done much worse in this matter.
§ Mr. Byers
Not the Liberal Government. Does the right hon. Gentleman not see that if he accepts that figure of 195,000 or 200,000 and expects it will be a figure of 345,000 for the total of the Army, we are landed with 18 months' conscription for about the next 10 years? What effort is being made to increase the Regular content of the Army? The figure of 195,000 is not enough. Yet the right hon. Gentleman is to be satisfied that by 1st January, 1950, he has got 195,000.
I say once again that the whole basis of the manpower policy, and the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Cabinet as a whole, have got to be reviewed now. It is totally unsafe to go on with this high conscript element in the Royal Air Force and the Army. The Royal Navy have seen the sense of this argument and got rid of the conscript element, and I do not blame them. For these reasons we shall vote against this Bill, and I hope that we shall have the support of everybody in the House who has the welfare of the professional Armed Forces at heart.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
Let me say at once, in the few moments that I shall speak, that I give my wholehearted support to this Bill. I am convinced, and 2071 have always been convinced, that the defence of the realm should be the responsibility of all the citizens of the realm. I cannot think for a moment that any man would argue that the bulk of the nation should enjoy security, skulking behind the patriotic efforts of a small and purely voluntary Army. I do not want to go into the questions that have been raised with regard to the possibility of resting our defence on a purely voluntary Army. I try, in so far as I can, to be at least a comparatively humble man, and can only envy the arrogance of those who, without a tithe of the expert knowledge which must be at the disposal of the Government, play with figures in that airy way and draw dogmatic conclusions from them.
The powers taken in the previous Acts and asked for in this Bill would not be requested unless the Government were profoundly convinced of their imperative necessity for our defence and protection in the state of the world today. I am not convinced, even with respect to those who speak with far greater authority than I command, that a comparatively short period of service necessarily gives us an inefficient defence force. Perhaps, hon. Gentlemen might refresh their memories with the recollection of the experiment made by what was called "The Spectator" Experimental Company not many years ago, which produced a very high state of proficiency in six months. Perhaps, they may also refresh their memories of what was done by the Germans and the French with one year volunteers for armies that reached a very high state of proficiency.
The real point which I want to emphasise is the misuse of the manpower of the Army. I do not want to labour that unduly because it has been candidly recognised by the Minister of Defence, but I think that it is a very fundamental point. He should recognise that if we are going to take these young men away from their work at the lathe and in the shop and interrupt the studies of so many of these young men at a very formative state in their lives, we must be absolutely sure that we give them something in their period of military service which will send them back into civil life better than they would have been had they not had that period in the Army. It is a very grievous thing that 2072 the headmaster of a great public school should be driven to write the letter, as to the frustration of the period of military service, which has been read this afternoon. That letter does not stand alone. I do not want to argue from the particular to the general, but there is a large volume of informed criticism of the sense of waste and frustration—of what is generally known in the Army as "mucking about"—in this limited period of service, and that we are often sending these young men back much worse for their period of military training and not better.
I would not attempt to emphasise that point but for this fact. I have had a considerable experience, because I served for 25 years with the Defence Forces, and my own unit, which I commanded, was mobilised during the last war. I could tell the House some almost unbelievable stories of the time that can be wasted even in war training and in a country which was supposed to be a much more military country than this country. It was borne in on me then—and I must emphasise it to the Minister of Defence—that in this limited period of training of a body of men who are a cross-section of the whole community there should be three fundamental principles: feed them well, work them hard and keep them interested. There must be a certain amount of fatigues, but it is not the fatigues which are demoralising so much as waste of time and hanging about, or, as I have already said, "mucking about," which eats into the hearts of these fellows who have come up keen and energetic and are sent back disgusted and unhappy, and, I am inclined to say, sometimes almost demoralised as a result of their period of service.
I would ask the Minister of Defence and, more particularly, his colleague the Secretary of State for War to regard this as fundamental. If this is not regarded as of first importance, I am convinced that all the advantages that ought to flow from this Bill, and the common acceptance of the democratic principle of defence may be largely impaired unless the period of service is kept up to the highest pitch of energy and efficiency.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I can agree with the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) to a certain extent. In any large organisation, whether a 2073 Government one or, especially during a war, a private enterprise one, there is bound to be a wastage of manpower, but little is heard of the wastage of manpower in industry, especially during a war, when employers hang on to their employees when someone else is paying the wages. We are, therefore, inclined to see the problem of the Services out of its true perspective.
Under the present system of a 12 months' period of conscription, the soldier—and I can speak best for the Army—has to undergo a very intensive training. When the decision was taken by the Government last May to cut down the 18 months provision for National Service to 12 months, steps were immediately taken in the War Office to make the system of training conform to that limited period, and I believe that system has already been put into operation. The somewhat elaborate training system, such as corps training during the war, has been cut out, and the men have their basic training of roughly 10 weeks and then go straight to their unit, where they remain until the end of their conscript period.
I would say in answer to the hon. Gentleman that he and others must not continually harp on something which is not true, at any rate to the same extent today as it may have been some time ago. Let us consider the establishment of the units in the Army. A war establishment always has to provide for a surplus in the event of casualties. In peace that is no longer true. I believe that the establishment today in the Army unit is only 80 per cent. of the war establishment, so that today the Army unit has to work with four-fifths of its war establishment on which is based the whole of the structure of the Army, because, obviously, the Army has to be prepared for one thing only—war.
It is true that today many of the troops are doing guard duties and what are really police duties. I submit to the House that this is not so expensive as some hon. Members make out. I think that the expenditure, enormous though it is today in order to try to prevent war, is much cheaper than allowing war to overtake us, as the Conservative Government did in 1939. We were then immediately involved in a cost in money and manpower which was simply enormous and which has left us today 2074 in a position in which we are hard put to it to make both ends meet, whether in the Services or in civil economy.
§ Brigadier Peto
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House which way he voted in May, 1939, about National Service?
§ Mr. Bellenger
In 1939, I did not oppose the Government of the day, and that is one of my strong points which I offer to the House. I have been entirely consistent on this question of National Service ever since the first Militia Act was brought in. I could not support the Government, but I did not vote against them.
I would suggest to some hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), that we have to examine this matter from the angle of realism rather than that of wishful thinking. In particular, I address my remarks to him and to those who support him in his Amendment tonight, because he and I have been soldiers, and during the last war supported conscription. Therefore, the principle which he has fixed in his mind, as it is fixed in my mind and those of others, is that in an emergency there is only one fair way of providing a Defence Force in this country and that is by sharing the burden equally among all classes of the community.
I would urge him, although I sympathise with him very much, to allow his head to take command over his heart and to use reason in this matter. If the Government, with the knowledge which they have of all the facts, tell us that the situation is so desperate that the only way to protect the country against something that we cannot always define too clearly but which so many of us know quite well, is by a Regular Army, then I say to him, and to others of my hon. Friends who may be persuaded to vote for his Amendment, that they must do their duty and give the Government the opportunity of building up the Regular Army by maintaining conscription until sufficient Regular troops are available to meet our peace-time requirements. I support the Government tonight on this Bill, but I am bound to tell them that I do so not without qualifications. I shall inform the House later in my speech what those qualifications are.
2075 I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition is not in his place. I understand that he is engaged on other important business. I did tell him that I should make reference to some of his remarks this afternoon. I am not concerned with those little pleasantries in which he indulged for a quarter of an hour on whether the bell tolled for me or for any other of my colleagues, but if he uses that illustration in condemning my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for changing his Service Ministers so frequently, I am bound to remind the Leader of the Opposition that he himself is not entirely guiltless in this matter. I seem to remember that, at the outbreak of the war we had Mr. Hore-Belisha as Secretary of State for War. True, the Leader of the Opposition was not then in the Government; Mr. Hore-Belisha was appointed by Mr. Chamberlain; but the present Leader of the Opposition came into the Government immediately after the outbreak of war. Now, what happened under the right hon. Gentleman's own administration? First of all, Mr. Hore-Belisha was displaced. I do not know whether any bells tolled for him on that occasion, but he was displaced and in his place was put the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden).
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
I would point out that Mr. Hore-Belisha left the War Office before my right hon. Friend became Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I quite agree, and I am about to show the right hon. Gentleman's own record in this matter. I said that Mr. Hore-Belisha was appointed by Mr. Chamberlain. But what happened when the right hon. Member himself was in charge of the Government? We had a series of Secretaries of State for War; the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) and Lord Margesson. And what happened to Lord Margesson? Was there any more ruthless displacement of a Secretary of State than the Leader of the Opposition's dismissal of Lord Margesson?
§ Mr. Bellenger
That may very well be. It is for every Prime Minister to choose his own staff. I am not querying that at all. I do not disagree with my hon. Friend when he says that it was right; it may have been. I am only reminding the House that the dismissal of Lord Margesson took place to the great astonishment of Lord Margesson himself, who, so rumour tells us, was informed by his own Permanent Under-Secretary, Sir James Grigg, who was put in his place. Now, it is true to say that the Leader of the Opposition kept Sir James Grigg in office for some years during the war, and I shall not query whether that was a wise appointment or not. All I say is that it does not lie in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman to twit my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister because he, in his wisdom or otherwise, has decided to change his Service Ministers. I have never had to choose a Government of my own—although, of course, I always live in hope—but I am quite certain that the job of the Prime Minister, in choosing his Government, especially his first Government, is largely a matter of trial and error. I do not know whether I was an error, but I was certainly on trial.
The proposals of the Government must be examined to see whether they will achieve the end which the Minister of Defence outlined today, and with which I think we are all in agreement: the maintenance of the Armed Forces of the Crown in a fit state to meet any challenge of aggression, from wherever it may come. In examining the increase of conscript training from 12 to 18 months we must ask where those conscripts are going. They are not going into the Navy. It is remarkable that the Navy should be able to recruit up to its full establishment, or near about, by the voluntary method. On what is that method based? There is a lesson to be learned from the Navy's recruitment. In spite of all their press-gang methods of the past, the Navy have a tradition on which they can build generation after generation to man their ships. Are these conscripts going into the Air Force? I do not think so.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Not to the same extent. But I think the Air Force today is in a much worse position as far as recruitment is concerned. If hon. Members with 2077 more experience than I of the Royal Air Force would only concentrate on that Service they might elicit a little more information from the Government to show whether the Leader of the Opposition is right in threatening in the near future to make one of his pre-war style speeches on Defence—to which many of us listened. I, myself, think that the Royal Air Force is in a parlous state. I do not say it is any real fault of the Secretary of State for Air. He has done his best, but he is fighting against odds which he cannot overcome. Conscription is not the answer to his problem—not even 18 months or two years of it. He knows that he must have the highly-trained technicians, whether they are in the air or on the ground, who simply cannot be trained in 18 months, or even in two years. His problem is somewhat similar to that of the Army, as I shall show in a moment, although at present it is far more intense.
We are left with the Army. How many of these conscripts are going into the Army? I venture to suggest that after a couple of years the ceiling—we have been talking of ceilings today—for National Service men in the Army will not exceed many more than 100,000; allow 40,000 for the Air Force: that is roughly 150,000. What is to happen to the balance of the 200,000 eligible for call-up in 1950 and the 215,000 eligible in 1951, as the Minister of Defence told us to-day? He gave a clue when he said that the age of entry would be progressively raised from 18 to 19 years of age. I am not at all sure that I agree with that, but of course the Government are faced with the difficulty that there will be more men eligible for conscription than can possibly be dealt with by the Regular Forces as constituted at the moment.
What does that mean? It will mean the breaking of a principle, the only principle on which I have supported conscription: universality of call-up and equality of sacrifice—because it is a sacrifice for a large number of these young men. Many will be successively deferred and will be in a chosen class. That will probably be done by raising the medical inspection standard so that there will be more rejects. If we are to have conscription it must be the same for everybody—"the duke's son, the cook's son and the son of a belted 2078 earl": everybody must play his part. I believe that at present, as the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) said, there is a lack of balance because we have not sufficient Regular troops, which will seriously affect our conscript system. I say in all friendliness to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence—for he and I have co-operated in these matters—that I do not think he really knows the problems in the Air Force and the Army so well as he knows those in the Navy, which has no conscription problem.
We have been told that conscription is for two purposes: for building up our reserves and for overseas' garrisons. I have no objection to young men serving abroad; I think it will do them a lot of good, so long as they are properly looked after. Many of them will be better looked after in the Services than they are at home, where they are running wild, as our courts so constantly remind us. However, it will be a costly matter. Also, it will be undesirable to send National Service men farther East than the Middle East. I see that 13,000 of them are East of Suez today. The job of garrisoning Malaya is not the job of the National Service man: it is the job of the man highly skilled and highly trained in jungle warfare. If we have to do that—and I say to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) that unfortunately we have to—it is the job of the Regular soldier and not of the National Service man. The Regular soldier and not the National Service man should be sent to Hong Kong, Singapore and those parts of the world.
I agree that conscription will enable us to build up trained Reserves so that, in the event of an emergency, we can quickly mobilise some divisions to serve as an expeditionary force or to defend this country. Members opposite have said a lot about the 18 months' period of service, but the main purpose of conscription is to "find the bodies," as they say in the Army, for garrison duties overseas, rather than to build up trained reserves. The average time spent in training a soldier and sending him overseas ready for battle was from between eight to 10 months during the war. In that time a man can be trained to fight the enemy.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
It depends upon the arm of the Service for which the man is being trained.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I agree, but a lot of men are still wanted for the infantry. It is true that we had an intensive system of training during the war, but there is no reason why we should not have that same intensive system today, providing that we have the Regular Army, which is the hard core of the problem, without which the whole scheme falls to the ground. The Leader of the Opposition, on the last occasion we were discussing this question in relation to compulsion for service overseas, said that this was not the basis upon which our Army or any army could be indefinitely maintained. We have it out of the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman that conscription cannot indefinitely provide the trained forces in the Army.
I am not convinced that we cannot solve this problem of recruiting for the Regular Army. When I was at the War Office, I set up a Committee under my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman) to examine the matter in great detail, and we came to certain conclusions, the question of pay being one of them. Members who talk about the insignificance of the pay increases are really chasing a will-o'-the-wisp, because if we are to pay the soldier his real value, we shall have to make considerably larger advances than at present, which the country simply cannot afford. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has warned the country in his White Paper that we have to call a halt to this inflationary spiral, and it is no answer to this problem for hon. Members to say that all we have to do is to pay the men more.
As I have said, the Navy have been able to recruit their men for years past because of the traditions they have built up. I believe I am right in saying that the Brigade of Guards recruit their 12 battalions almost entirely on the voluntary system. They can do that because they have a tradition which encourages and induces many young men who are not afraid of the Army to join up. They also have a system of welfare which looks after the men when they leave the Army, with the result that many men who have served their time can be sure of entering the police force and many other forces of the Crown in a civilian capacity.
2080 We have to solve this problem of recruiting in a variety of ways, and housing is one of them. The Services have never had their full quota of houses under the Estimates which have been presented year after year. We have always concentrated on the civilians, and the Services have not been getting their fair share. In France, General de Lattre, the Chief of Staff to Field-Marshal Montgomery, was able to create, away from the towns, something like 47 light camps which I have seen myself, in which to train young men as soldiers. I am not at all sure that, even in these cramped islands, we cannot do something better for our troops than to put them in old barracks dating back to the Crimea. I stress particularly the question of providing a post-war career for the soldier, because I am sure that the young men would come into the Army if we could guarantee them a well-paid civilian job at the end of their service. After all, why are we nationalising so many of our industries, if we cannot provide jobs in them for those who have done their duty in the Armed Forces? We should take our courage in both hands and offer jobs to these men.
After the first world war the German army was limited to 100,000 men, and those who fought against the German army at the beginning of this war know what a fine fighting machine it was. The National-Socialist idea in Germany created a feeling among the young people that by joining the army they could fight for Germany, and Germany was able, on that limited army of trained officers and N.C.O.s, to build up an army of hundreds of thousands. We do not want to go in for vast numbers of partially trained men, but, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, to provide a machine which is capable of rapid expansion at the right moment. I think I am right in saying that approximately of every two cadets who go to Sandhurst one will reach the rank of lieut.-colonel. That is far better than anything Members opposite managed to produce before the war. The same thing applies in the case of warrant officers and N.C.O.s. No one can say that the Army is a bad career when officers can rise to the rank of lieut.-colonel within about 20 years and receive the pay and pension that goes with it.
2081 One matter that has been touched upon only lightly, which has a bearing on this Bill, is the heavy charge for re-equipping the Services. The Leader of the Opposition taunts us for a lack of rifles, machine guns and cannons in store in grease-proof paper. He is entirely wrong about that. But what happened in 1940 when the Home Guard were set up?—they might have had to fight with pikes. For 10 years before the war the Regular Army never exceeded about 130,000. The right hon. Gentleman is partly responsible, because he was Chancellor of the Exchequer at a very crucial period, for the depreciation in the morale of the Regular Army before the war. Mr. Sandys, who used to be a Member of this House, challenged Mr. Hore-Belisha, then Secretary of State for War, about what he alleged to be the lack of air defences for London. How many guns were there to defend London in 1939? Was it, as the right hon. Gentleman said, 100 per cent., 50 per cent., 33⅓ per cent. or 25 per cent.? Or was it much more than seven per cent.? How many of the troops who went overseas went short of equipment in those days?
If the Army were called upon to do battle today, they would be in a better position to face the enemy than they were in 1939, despite the fact that we have armed so many of our associates—Denmark, Holland and others—with equipment from our vast resources and have cannibalised Class B vehicles, which were of American manufacture and for which we could not get spares from America because of the dollar situation.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer rose——
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am sorry, but I must conclude. Even though I have a great deal of evidence I could produce, I realise that there are other Members who have sufficient knowledge to be able to contribute to this Debate besides myself.
I believe that too often we look at Defence questions in a vacuum. Can the House or the country really imagine that we can continue forever to call up young men from our civil economy for 18 months' service, to police the world, and not feel the brunt of it somewhere? We shall certainly feel it in our pockets. The re-equipment of the Army alone will probably cost £1,500 million, spread over 2082 five years. We must balance all these factors. I agree that the Government are in a cleft stick. They must find troops during the period while they build up the Regular Forces. But do not let them be under any illusion: I do not think the country will give them carte blanche for ever. I know the Bill is limited to five years, but I must point out—in parenthesis, as this is really a matter for a foreign affairs Debate—that the United States of America, who are part and parcel of the system of Western Defence, cannot expect to buy her security merely with dollars. America must produce some of the men, too. I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, who is probably as aware of this as I am, and the Government, to impress on America that she must provide more than material or money. America must provide men, too.
Tonight, I feel compelled to support the Government, although with much regret, in their demand for an increased period of National Service. I urge, however, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in 1946, that this should be the maximum period, that it should be reduced as time goes on to a point which, while it will not dispense entirely with conscription—I do not believe that is possible—will mitigate the hardship which is being imposed on the country by the Bill.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
In considering this Bill it is necessary to point out that whether or not a better scheme for the Forces might be evolved, it provides for the present depleted ranks of the Services to be made up, without undue delay, to something like an adequate number of at least moderately well—trained men. I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) in what he said except that I entirely agree with his remarks about the virtues of the voluntary system. As a guardsman myself, I welcome his statement about the Brigade of Guards, but I would point out that the welfare of the men is looked after by the officers of the Brigade and not by any other organisation, whether inside or outside the Army.
The hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) talked once more about relying on voluntary service. It is no good talking about that at this time because 2083 if we tried that there would be a period when we should have no men in the Forces at all. We are weak enough in all conscience now, I do not think commanders of the war period would agree that conscripts, once they had had their training, were inferior to Regular troops. I agree that we must have National Service, and that everyone ought to play his part in serving the country. The Bill would be very much better if the period of service were to be two years instead of 18 months; especially would this be so in the case of the Royal Air Force, as was urged by Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Portal in another place, only last week. It is something, however, that the Government have recognised the complete inadequacy of the one-year period of service, which merely provided a number of partially trained men who were constantly passing through units which were never really constituted as units at all.
Parenthetically, I must point out that no information is given to us on a great many points, particularly about the number of units and formations to be maintained, and their organisation or establishment. I hope very much that there will be no question of trying the old trick, when numbers are short, of reducing establishments so that they correspond with whatever the available numbers may happen to be and then claiming that all Forces are up to establishment. That trick has not been unknown in the past, to my certain knowledge.
It is certain that the present scheme, whatever else it may do, cannot fill the ranks of the Territorial Army until the latter part of 1950. In view of the important part which the Territorial Army must play, or should play, in our scheme of national defence it is essential that something should be done about Territorial Army recruiting in the near future. Is it not almost certain, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw said, that there will be, not only the year after next, but next year, a not inconsiderable surplus of manpower? I suggest that in order to absorb that surplus a certain number of men who are due for call-up should be permitted to volunteer for service with the Territorial Army for the 5½-year period. The class which I suggest might be particularly suitable for service 2084 under Territorial conditions would be university students, apprentices and other learners in various trades, who would be able to continue their education or training, as the case may be, while serving under Territorial conditions. These conditions as regards the amount of training might very well be stiffened in order to provide for an increased amount of training for these volunteers.
There should be one further condition, namely, that any such volunteers in the Territorial Army should be required at the commencement of their service to do at least two months, or, better still, three months, whole-time continuous training, in which they should learn the elementary part of their work before continuing the rest of their service under part-time, Territorial conditions. I should add in proof of such a necessity that a great difficulty about training Territorials in the pre-war days was that there had to be a continuous attempt to teach men to run before they could walk; that is to say to give them more advanced forms of training before they had been given any instruction in elementary training and discipline.
I know some of my hon. Friends have doubts as to the possibility of carrying out such a scheme, and they fear that such difficulties might be too great. There may be difficulties, but not I think serious ones and I am quite sure that they could be overcome. It would be necessary, no doubt, to have boards before which these candidates would appear, and the main qualifications for acceptance would be, in the first place, occupation, for instance, students, apprentices and the like; and, secondly, education and intelligence, because a dull and uneducated man would not quickly become efficient under Territorial conditions. There is one more thing I should like to say regarding the Territorial Army—that if the total length of part-time service of a National Service man in the Territorial Army is to be revised to four years, at least the same number of days of part-time training, which is 60, as laid down in the principal Act to be done in five years, should be carried out in those four years. That suggestion has also been made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) and a very sound suggestion it is.
I hope the Government will give consideration to the scheme which I have 2085 outlined. It would not conflict with the general scheme, and it would produce recruits for the Territorial Army in the near future quite apart from the cadre of trained men. That would be a great thing for the Territorial Army. We are not going to get any recruits apart from the cadres until the middle of 1950 under the main scheme. This suggestion is not made in any sort of way with a view to crabbing the Bill. I believe it will be a great improvement, and it would provide men for the Territorial Army in a comparatively short time. It would also go a long way to meeting the complaints and objections, which I believe nearly every hon. Member receives at different times from parents and from industry as to the interruption caused by whole-time service of the studies of university students and the training of apprentices and other trainees.
My principal object in intervening at all in this Debate was to speak on this matter of Territorial recruitment. I would add that the Bill makes no attempt to deal with the shortage of Regular personnel both in the Army and the R.A.F. I do not believe that the necessary Regular personnel will be obtained so long as the Regulars and the National Service men are serving side by side until the pay and allowances of those who are making the Service their career are made very definitely better than those men, who are compulsorily serving for the minimum period possible. I hope this matter will receive attention. It is very necessary, and I hope also that it will be possible to persuade the Treasury to abandon their time-honoured custom of whittling down every increase of pay, which may be given, by taking away what is given in the form of taxation and deductions.
I would only add one word on the question of the Reserve. A large reserve of trained men is absolutely necessary for mobilisation. The Government have placed an obligation quite recently, as to call-up, on all persons who are pensioners. Surely there should be an adequate period for Reserve service. I do not think that the period of part-time service to be spent with the Territorials by National Service men is sufficient in the way of Reserve service, and there should be a further period of Reserve service when the men would be liable to call-up. There should 2086 be that liability not only for the National Service men under this Bill, but also for the demobilised men of the war period.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
The Debate today has been well balanced and the contributions have been on a very even keel. I am glad of this opportunity to say a few words in explanation of my attitude to this Bill. Previously I have always opposed National Service and conscription and my opposition has been based on a fundamental principle. I always took the view as a Socialist—and I do not say others are wrong who may differ from my point of view—that so long as we had in this country capitalist Imperialism that sought to retain possessions abroad by the exploitation of native labour and by placing garrisons in those areas to hold them down, as well as the exploitation of man by man, I could not support any form of military service or any form of conscription.
With the coming in this country of a Labour Government, with its gradual retreat from Imperialistic possessions abroad, by genuinely trying to create in Colonial countries some form of native rule that will eventually take over and run those lands, then as a Socialist I took a fundamentally different view of National Service. I believe as a Socialist that if we are creating in this country a national economy, striving gradually towards a Socialist state of society, not only must we transform the whole economy from private to public ownership, but at the same time every individual in this country has a responsibility to defend that Socialist economy.
Never having been a pacifist, approach this problem in a different way from the pacifists. I do not say that in a derogatory sense, because I have the greatest admiration for those who think that life is too sacred to take and that nothing but evil comes from force being used. I can see that I could quite easily evade the issue. I could do as hon. Members have done previously, fail to vote, or take a line that appeared to be popular at the moment and seek to shield myself behind the fact that I have no real ideas, intentions or principles in regard to the Bill. 2087 I have never sought the easy way in life. I have never been cowardly in my approach to the things in which I believe. I have tried to reason this out in my own mind over a long period of time. When I was a member of the Independent Labour Party, I was more free and easy and had no accepted responsibility for any form of political life. We could tip and run as the opportunities occurred. That is very nice in public life. It is a very safe line. Many a time I had doubts about the line, although they did not come to the stage of forcing me to make any effective change.
However, the Labour Government have come to power, and in spite of the greatest difficulties and the mass attacks upon them from every angle, they have stood by what I regard to be the main principles of a Labour and Socialist Government. They based their defence of this nation after the war on co-operation with other nations. The United Nations was created, and in the initial stages all the nations which belonged to that organisation accepted what we called collective defence in order to restrain or punish aggressors. If there had been world acceptance of that point of view, we could have got to the stage where only very small Armed Forces in this country and throughout the world would have been necessary.
However, I see the position as a realist. I am bound to say, in fairness and not in a pious manner, that if there has been a threat to peace, it has not been through the failure of the Labour Government. They have genuinely applied themselves to the creation of a world where the hand of friendship and co-operation is extended between nations. If it is the case that a nation still belonging to the United Nations is pursuing a policy which is not open war but is based on over-running other States, and if it has got to the stage of internal infiltration and external pressure, we must regretfully accept that the world has been divided into two. If we are honest and reasonable beings, we must face that. Having faced the situation of the world being divided in two through no fault of our own, we must then say to our people, "Is there anything in the country—in, your Socialist economy and your plan for the future life of the people—which is 2088 worth defending?" I get the response that there is.
The next question is, "If there is anything which is worth defending in this country, are we prepared to defend it?" As a Socialist, I reject the theory that we must depend for our Armed Forces on "dead-end kids" and unemployed men who are forced into the Armed Forces. No Socialist has the right to talk about the principles and high ideals of a Socialist society and then delegate the task of defending it to those who are at the bottom of the social ladder by reason of overcrowding in their homes or dissatisfaction in their surroundings through unemployment, while the high-principled people sit back. I accept that if we are to create and build up a Socialist society, we have a right to face up to the responsibilities of the defence of that society.
What other policy is there? There is the policy of those hon. Members who stand as pacifists and say that in no circumstances are they prepared to fight. I am prepared to accept that coming from them, but the people who say that they are Socialists must face up to this situation. Elements are thrown together in opposition to this Bill which have absolutely nothing in common. There is the pacifist who has the genuine hallmark on him, but there are others such as the members of the Communist Party and the "fellow-travellers." What is their line on this? Their line is to welcome a strong military Russia and strong satellite States, but to come to this House and cause discontent about the creation of our Forces in order to weaken this country. For example, we know that the Communist Party are not opposed to conscription, to the 18 months' service, and to the call-up at 18. I have here a pamphlet, published by them, called "Towards a People's Army"—a pamphlet which costs 6d. This pamphlet states their attitude in 1946 to universal military service and the call-up at 18. and it says:It will take at least 18 months to train a man.The pamphlet goes further and says that there should be a two-year period for cadets. It also advocates three and a half years' service. I admit that this policy is in 1946 and is a bit out of date. In one place the pamphlet says that the British people are proud of what they did for the physical defeat of Fascism 2089 and were fitting Allies for the Armies of Marshal Tito. I have no doubt that that pamphlet will have been withdrawn by now. I know how quickly they are withdrawn and I always take the precaution of getting them when they are hot from the oven. This pamphlet states in black and white that the Communist Party stands for the 18-months' period, two years for an Army cadet, call-up at 18, and it also says that it will take at least 18 months to make an efficient soldier and that the Communist Party stands for military conscription of the whole population of the age of 18.
Why, then, do Communist Members come here and put down their Amendment? They base it on the foreign policy of the Government and try to ensure that the Army shall not be used for the purposes for which the Government want it to be used. We are not a satellite power, and because we are not going to be a satellite Power but an independent Power, pressure is applied in this country. The Communist Party says in its Amendment that it is disturbed about production. That really is laughable.
The Amendment continues:this aggressive policy not only conscripts the youth of Britain, but militates against the economic recovery of this country, thereby worsening the conditions of the common people.It is laughable for a party that is doing everything in its power to cause discontent against the Government, to attack the Government in every way, to try to falsify the position throughout the country, to impede production, then to come along and say, "We are anxious about the recovery of this country." This is contrary to the exhibitions we have had in France and elsewhere of efforts to break the national economy. I cite this to show that there is a true and a fake line of opposition to this policy. Therefore, I have taken the line which I believe is the appropriate one from a Socialist point of view in these circumstances. Since the Government have asked for 18 months' service from the youth of the country, I am prepared to support them in the Lobby tonight and to defend my action and attitude anywhere in this country.
There may be points of detail. For instance, I would have made the 18 months elastic so that when conditions economically compelled a certain relaxation, we could have it. Also, I hope that shortly 2090 we may get some evidence, absent today, that the Soviet Union are changing their attitude towards the other countries of the world, because in common with every other Member of this House I regard war as a great catastrophe for humanity. Therefore, I do not want to see war coming to this country.
On the common basis of National Defence, I say that in the event of aggression by a powerful State like Russia—not only Russia, for all the satellite Powers have their armed forces with officers from Russia who are training those forces and consolidating them into one huge armed block—in the event of war coming, which God forbid, if the threat comes that, say, Russia tries to over-run other countries, then one asks the natural question, "Are we capable of defending ourselves alone? Are we to be taken on singly, country by country, annihilated and put under?" This division of the world being an accomplished fact, the rest of the democratic world, if intelligent, must get together and present the maximum amount of force. If I know that seven men are coming to my house to attack me, and I have 14 neighbours, would it not be intelligent for me to mobilise the 14 neighbours to assist me to repel the attack? Or should I, as a single individual, allow myself to be over-powered?
This is not only a question of sentiment. I could propound the sentiments which have been expressed today as capably as many other speakers. I am in sympathy with them. I wish we were living in a world where there was no thought of war, where brute force had been annihilated, where men might be free to build up a happy society, where we could vie with one another to create a better State than in other lands. But, as realists, we recognise that here we are in this divided world, though not divided by our wish. We must get together with those who will agree with us and form a united defence in the event of a threat to peace.
Further, if we get together and build up our united force at this stage, it may be that this combined with a spirit of toleration and propaganda, may yet halt the danger of war. For if there is evidence of weakness, hon. Members can be sure that the Stalinists will act. Their record has been such that one knows, 2091 without any bias, that if they can find a weak opponent, they will engage and conquer him.
It is not only a question of Armed Forces being necessary in a crisis and for only external defence. It may be that, with the aid of internal Quislings, insurrection can break out in this country, and we may be compelled to use force. We must make up our minds whether what we stand for—the democratic State—is worth defending, or whether we have a right to hand it over to any totalitarian Government that comes along and seizes power.
For my part, I have reasoned it out from the beginning to its logical conclusion. Although it may seem unpopular I am satisfied that, if one goes into the heart of this country, puts the case to the people, stands up and defends the right of this Government to use the Armed Forces for the purpose laid down by the Government, the people will back us. One of the greatest dangers in this country today is not the internal Quislings but those who call themselves democrats and yet are afraid to stand up and expound this point of view to the people and to defend it to the utmost. I am glad to have had this opportunity of stating that case which, from a Socialist point of view, is unassailable.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
We have all listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) who, I am sure, meant every word that he said. I differ from him in only one respect, his reference to the retreat from the Empire. Had the troops and aeroplanes been in Malaya a few months sooner, there might have been fewer casualties among our people. We have responsibilities in our Empire, but I do not think he was referring to that point.
This has been the most extraordinary Debate because, except for the hon. Member for Shettleston and the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) no one has spoken in favour of the Bill, and it is strange that the House is so divided on it. I have great reservations about this Bill which I will try to explain. I had hoped that the winding-up speech for the Government tonight would have been made by the Secretary of State for 2092 Air, but I understand that the Secretary of State for War is to carry out that task. Knowing that the Air Force is receiving priority in men, materials and money, I should have thought it would have been opportune for the Secretary of State for Air to have replied. He does not get the publicity which the right hon. Gentleman gets, but I am happy that we have a good Secretary of State for Air——
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
Maybe I am lucky. Nevertheless, I should like to see him replying tonight in order to give the Air Force point of view on some of these matters, and I do not mean that with any disrespect to the right hon. Gentleman. The Government must be taken to task about the necessity for the Bill at all. They have made a complete mess of it. The Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister are primarily responsible. It may lead us into great trouble. I believe that when the Bill becomes law we are in for very serious difficulties with the Air Force. I will try to explain why.
As to what happened prior to 1939—I do not want to become involved as the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) did in the rights and wrongs of 1939—I do not think my party was free from blame, but the Opposition then did nothing but obstruct. But it should have been a lesson to everyone and we should not repeat the mistakes of those years. We must face realities and deal with them as they come along in the individual Services and not by treating the three Services as one single Service so far as conscription is concerned. We all know that this country has no territorial ambitions. Nor has America. We are peace-loving nations. We have a habit of winning wars when other nations attack us and so we need to be sure that we are not taken unawares. We are within our rights in seeing that the country is efficiently armed. We can only be efficiently armed if the planning is correct.
I am alarmed at the muddled thinking that goes on, regarding the three Fighting Services, and particularly about the Army and the Air Force. Napoleon said that God was on the side of the big battalions. He was a very acute student of war but if he were alive today, I am sure that he 2093 would not apply that maxim to air warfare. Our Air Force has always been built and operated on the basis of quality rather than quantity. I well remember when I was a Regular officer, in the middle 20's, that the total number of personnel was something like 26,000. The estimates were about £15 million a year. Although aeroplanes were not nearly as complicated as they are now nevertheless our squadrons were situated in India, there were a good number in the Middle East, and they were able to put on a good display at Hendon every year. Costs have gone up and it now costs a large sum of money.
It has been shown time and time again, in the Battle of Britain as well as throughout the war, that quality will beat numbers. If we have an efficient, small Air Force we have flexibility. We can move the Air Force about, with all the ancillary gear that goes with it. The squadrons can be moved and can be efficient wherever they are. If we have a big Air Force we shall probably come unstuck, as the French did in the early 30's when they had the biggest air force in the world. It rotted away, and in the end their air force was not worth anything at all.
Britain is a very small country with about 46 million people who are highly intelligent and have great technical ability. It is situated on the edge of a number of small nations. It is for that reason that we have accorded the Air Force the utmost priority. This is where I would like to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite not to treat the Air Force as another army but to treat it on the merits of the case. When right hon. Gentlemen are considering rates of pay let them not apply to the Air Force necessarily the same increases as to the Army. That is not done in the case of the miners. If we want coal we give the miners extra rations, build extra houses for them and put extra goods in the shops. It is in the national interest to get coal. If we want a good Air Force we must apply the same principles to building it up. We must pay the men the money that they really deserve, and recruits will then be forthcoming.
I am applying my remarks to the Air Force because I know very little about the other Services. The Air Force must avoid a large turnover of unselected personnel. We do not want the Air Force 2094 to be clogged up with a large number of men who are not adequately trained. When the Bill came before the House in May, 1947, I said that if the Government had carried the Bill through in its original form of 18 months I should have voted against it. I do not like the idea of conscription. This is my own view. The Government switched back to 12 months because they could not make up their minds. I voted for the longer period. My view is that if we are to have conscription, the minimum period in the Air Force should be from two to three years to obtain efficient airmen and efficient officers. Any shorter time is highly dangerous. The 18 months are more dangerous to the Air Force than are the 12 months because we shall have trained regular N.C.Os., technicians and officers concentrating upon training conscripts for another six months when they ought to be gettng on with their proper duties.
I imagine that national service in the Air Force was accepted by the chiefs of staffs and their advisers because of the poor recruiting. This matter has been discussed at length. More must be done in the way of providing houses and giving the men more pay and allowances. I am constantly writing letters to Ministers and asking questions about rates of pay for all ranks. It is disgraceful to accept men who are no good at other jobs in civilian life. We want the good types, and we shall not get them unless they are satisfied that they get sufficient remuneration to keep their families as they want to keep them.
The Government should try to eliminate constant postings and to make the Service more attractive, if they are to get the right type of man to come in. Quite a number of National Service men are carrying out their service loyally and willingly, but they are swamped by the great majority who look upon their National Service as 12 months or 18 months of prison. They do not want to do it and they are not interested to any great extent. After a few months they say to themselves: "We will make the best of it," but they are not really interested. They look upon their service as a disagreeable interlude in their lives.
The German Forces before the war liked this sort of conscription. It suited their mentality and they thrived on it. The German is always pleased when he 2095 is told what to do, but that does not suit British people. I am sure that one volunteer is as good as three conscripts. While conscription will be of some value to the Army—I cannot assess how much—it is a dead loss to the Air Force. We need the utmost keenness among the men, for otherwise the maintenance of the aircraft will suffer. An aircraft today is a very complex affair. The various trades involved in maintaining an aeroplane to fly in all weathers at high altitudes and at great speed require to use the utmost skill. Already aircrews are worried about the serviceability of their aircraft. Recently we had the case of an airman who set fire to a £50,000 aeroplane—he was a National Service man—because he disliked being a conscript. He said he did it only to get his own back on the Service.
We have to consider whether the National Service man can be trained to give valuable service in the R.A.F. in the time provided. Personally, I do not think so. Otherwise we shall have men coming into the lowest trade designation and we shall have an inefficient and enormous reserve built up behind the Air Force. I should like to see a good deal done to smarten up the uniform. The "Manchester Guardian" said yesterday that it was all very well to put somebody into battle dress with badges on a black beret and five rows of ribbons. That did not look too bad. But the ordinary ranker, wearing his battle dress, is an entirely different matter. I never felt comfortable in mine when I had to wear it. Perhaps I am of the wrong build. A good uniform, rather like that of the Guards, the Marines or the Navy, would count for a lot. I ask the Air Ministry to see whether they can produce something which is better than the existing battle dress.
We heard recently of the suggestion in another place by the noble Viscount, Lord Portal, for a ballot. I am not going to say that I agree with it, but it is something which should be considered. I definitely rule out conscription for the Air Force unless it is for a period of two to three years. Then why not have a ballot? If we cannot, why not place all the National Service men into the Army? The Navy does not want them, neither does the Air Force. They could serve their National Service period in the Army 2096 and, if they want to continue and make the Service a career, could then opt to go into either the Navy or the Air Force after completing their National Service, from which they will benefit. By this means we shall be picking the best of the National Service men who want to take up the Service as a career. This would result in more efficient service.
I am concerned, too, that when all these men get into the Air Force there will not be the equipment on which to employ them. God knows there are few enough fighters, and I am quite sure that the Russians and the others involved in the "cold" war know perfectly well that if tonight Bomber Command telephoned its various squadrons and said, "Put every heavy bomber into the air," tomorrow it would be lucky if it could muster 60. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell me I am wrong, but it is alarming, with the amount of money which is being spent and the amount of time taken in training men and running the Service, that we have so little to offer. That was what my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was saying this afternoon. I am convinced that we are not getting value for our money as far as the Air Force is concerned. That is why I was hoping at Question time today that the Prime Minister would agree to a Secret Session to discuss these matters in considerable detail but, apparently, that is not to be.
I want to make one or two remarks about the Air Force as opposed to the Army. The Air Force is a new science, a new profession, and every job requires considerable training. Its men are specialists, whether they fly an aircraft or maintain engine or radar apparatus. It has a new tradition to frame. It has a different outlook to its task to that of the other Services. I do not know why, but it has. It is something which has grown up in both wars. It has a very great professional pride. In the mess it is the normal thing to talk shop—which, perhaps, is not done in the other Services—because it is such an interesting subject. It also makes the greatest demands on its members, not only in wartime, but in peacetime also. Apart from bullets, aircrews take the same risks—and, probably, more—in peacetime as in actual war.
The rules which are applied to the great conscript armies are totally inap- 2097 plicable to the Royal Air Force. That is as true of the Air Force as of the Bar or the Royal College of Surgeons, for it is a highly specialised service. Failure by the Government to realise this will prove a hideous waste of public money and will produce a force which will fail when put to the test. I am loathe to say that in this House, and I beg the Government to examine this matter carefully and in considerable detail. We are heading for trouble and for that reason, to make my protest against 18 months' conscription in the Air Force, I shall abstain from voting on the Bill.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
In the very long period I have been in this House I have never seen so many political somersaults as on this military conscription issue. First of all, I am unable to understand how it comes about that in the King's Speech at the opening of this Parliament, about a month ago, although many other Measures were mentioned, there was not a word about this Bill. The Government must have known when they drafted the King's Speech that they intended to bring in this Bill in about a month's time, yet they did not mention it in their programme for the present Session.
The Minister of Defence and his colleagues argued eloquently some time ago that 12 months was ample to train a young person into a good soldier, and we were all invited to vote for 12 months on that assumption. The other argument put forward then was that it was cheaper for the nation if only 12 months were spent in training than if 18 months were spent in doing so. The third argument was that we must, above all, take into account the economic situation of the country. Those were the three arguments which induced the Government to alter their own opinions by reducing the 18 months to 12 months. All those arguments have now been brushed aside.
But, of all the somersaults I have witnessed in my 27 years' membership of this House, none has been so complete as that of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). Let us see how far the hon. Member has travelled in a very few years. I was here when he delivered a speech in May, 1947, and many hon. Members now present were also present then. This is from HANSARD 2098 of 6th May, 1947, and it is now only December, 1948:I rise first to state that I am opposed to conscription. I would also like to explain that at the General Election I gave an undertaking that I would oppose conscription in every shape and form, and I believe in redeeming the pledges that I make to the people in my area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th May, 1947, Vol. 437, col. 279.]
§ Mr. McGovern
I have stated that I have changed my mind, because there is no virtue if a person cannot change his mind according to the necessities and circumstances of the time. Since then I have been before my divisional Labour Party and I am addressing two meetings on the next two Sundays and will accept responsibility for the change in my attitude. The change in attitude is correct as the hon. Member states, but in these circumstances of today, I think I am justified in making that change.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
Every hon. Member, indeed every politician, is entitled to change his mind. Even the Leader of the Opposition has changed his mind many times. But let me warn the hon. Member of where he is going. He warned us that we were keeping strange company on this issue, but he will be buried in the arms of the Tory Party tonight when he votes for this Bill and that is doubtful company, anyhow. As the hon. Member said there are some people in this House who do not mind condoning militarism in Russia, but they are opposed to it here. Let me make myself clear. I am opposed to militarism of all kinds everywhere, because the modern curse of the human race is militarism and, if I understand the history of nations aright, there is nothing that rots a nation more than conscription. It has rotted Italy, it has rotted France, it has rotted Germany, and, if one reads what transpired in another place the other day in a Debate initiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, one would begin to think that the rot is setting in in this country also. As a House of Commons, we have to be very careful what we are doing.
I cannot believe that an extension of military training from 12 to 18 months will frighten the enemy of which hon. Members are talking. The Minister of Defence talks of an emergency and said that we have to base all our preparations on that imaginary 2099 emergency. Will he be good enough to tell us what is the emergency which the Government fear? I think we are entitled to know what it is. What annoys me, above all, is that I have seen in the Press today that while we are calling upon our boys of 17½ and 18 to be conscripted, the American nation, with a population of 150 million, with wealth untold, with power and finance such as the world has never seen before, will only call up 5,000 of their men in February next year. If we are tied to America militarily, financially and economically, if they have their troops and aircraft on our soil and intend turning this country into a base for operations in an emergency, surely we should not exploit the lives of our boys to a greater extent than the Americans do. There ought to be some measurement by which our boys are called up in proportion to the American contribution to meet the emergency.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the introduction of military conscription in peace-time by the Socialist Government was a credit to the Government. I never believed that the day would come when a Labour Government would be saved by Tory support. The reason why the Leader of the Opposition is pleased with what is being done in this Bill is that, unfortunately, my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench are doing this job almost better than he would have done himself. [Interruption.] Of course, the right hon. Gentleman always apprehends a war.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I should like to be allowed to deliver my own speech. The hon. Gentleman almost makes me nervous with his interjections.
This, of course, is the slippery slope to totalitarianism. The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) said 18 months is not enough and that we ought to train these conscripts for two years. A few weeks ago I said in this House that once we agreed to 12 months the proposal would be made in due course to increase the period to 18 months. Once we pass this Bill, if there is another change in the generals at the War Office, we shall be 2100 asked a few months hence to increase the period to two years, and then to three years, so that in the end, as in Mussolini's Italy, almost everybody will be put in military uniform.
Let us see what we have done since this Parliament commenced. First, there was the introduction of military conscription; then direction of labour and a great "to do" about Civil Defence in case of an emergency. Later, there was the recruiting campaign in which my right hon. Friend the Minister of War took part. I believe it was a failure because he took part in it. We then had a Bill to recall Service pensioners, and we are also postponing demobilisation. Last of all, we have this Bill. To me that is the road towards the totalitarian State.
I am here to protest, therefore, in the name of the private individual against these inroads into his life by State action. The hon. Member for Shettleston says that as we have a Socialist State we must defend it. Let me tell him that if Socialism requires the support of guns and bayonets, then Socialism will fail. I say more, if Socialism cannot live without bayonets, Socialism does not deserve to live. No "ism" deserves to live if it rests on force, as the hon. Member suggests.
I have to conclude in a few minutes, but I must say I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition can honestly take the line he is taking on this issue. I have here a copy of HANSARD for 1920 when he was Secretary of State for War, when he was delighted to stand at that Box to say he was proud to abolish conscription in this country. What a somersault there!
Let me conclude by saying, once again that I do not believe my Party was ever established to undertake this sort of work. I have been in it probably as long as most. I would not be a bit surprised to find that I have been in this Party longer than anybody else here. If those socialists of 40 or 50 years ago could come to life again and see and hear what my right hon. Friends are saying from that Front Bench today, they would begin to wonder what on earth had happened. The hon. Member for Shettleston talks of changing his mind. Let me remind him, as he knows better than I do, that there are some principles which are eternal. They never change, however much he might change.
§ Mr. McGovern
Is it not the case that, during his period in this House, the hon. Member was an Under-Secretary in a previous Labour Government; that that Labour Government were maintaining troops in India, Egypt and all over the world; and that he took office and did not dissent?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
There was no opportunity of dissenting, anyhow. In conclusion—[Interruption.]—if the House would like I will pursue the point; there is no argument about it I hope—I say that this Bill ought to be rejected. Let me say this to every Member of Parliament elected for the Labour Party at the last Election: if any one of us had said to the people at that time that we would support conscription and direction of labour, I am not so sure we should have been elected to Parliament at all. For that reason, for the sake of the rights of the individual against the power and might of the State, using young fellows as if they were clay and Ministers regarding themselves as potters, I oppose this Bill. I trust that what we have said will induce a number to come to the Lobby with us tonight to protest against this very doubtful Measure.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
After 44 years and eleven days in the House of Commons, I frankly admit I am in some respects old-fashioned, and I shall be very old-fashioned tonight by doing a thing which is almost unique in these days—that is, not making a set speech but dealing with the points which have been made in the course of the Debate. I shall have a few questions to put to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War.
Before I come to those questions I would like to make a few preliminary observations. Perhaps I might say, I think with the assent of both sides of the House, that the hon. Member who has just spoken—the hon. Member for West-houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies)—spoke with his usual perfervid sincerity which we all admire. In fact, in his closing words, at any rate, he made a most powerful attack upon the Government. Indeed, I would say of the whole Debate that it has been a very interesting one on a high level. It is not likely to compete in public notice with the evidence given in another place by a certain gentleman 2102 which will appear in the Press tomorrow. If it were not for the most unfortunate fact that the two things have coincided, I think the Debate would have aroused a considerable amount of interest on the part of the public. Before coming to the points that have been made in the Debate I should like to make a few preliminary observations. As has been said by more than one speaker, including my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, it is no secret that the Navy does not want compulsory service and makes little use of compulsorily enlisted men. This Bill is, therefore, almost wholly applicable to the Army and to the Royal Air Force.
In order to understand the Bill and the reasons for it, and to consider it properly, we have to take into consideration the circumstances which have brought it into existence. I begin by saying that when the Government took office in 1945 we had a magnificent Army and Air Force—perhaps even better than we had at the end of the 1914–18 War. The remarkable feature of the Debate, the almost unique feature, is that, so far as I know, not one speech has been made in wholehearted support of the Government. The Minister of Defence himself, with all his Parliamentary ability and all his popularity, gave the impression, at any rate, that he was not wholeheartedly in favour of the Bill. It is hard to remember an occasion quite similar to this one.
Now I say that at the end of the 1945 War, had the Government shown any sense of urgency or, indeed, responsibility, when they took Office in July, 1945, they could have formed from those two Forces—from the wartime Army and the wartime Air Force—a good, highly trained Regular Army and Air Force by offering sufficient inducements to the officers and men to serve in them; in other words, had they, as they ought to have done, put them on a higher comparable—and I deliberately use the word "comparable"—pay level than that in any civilian occupation. Or they could have continued a system of compulsory service which would have made sense. I say "higher comparable pay level." I would challenge anyone opposite to deny this fact: if we increase the wages of miners because they are in a dangerous and necessitous occupation, what justification is there for not paying men in the Services, who undergo far greater dangers 2103 than any miner, the same rate? The Government could have done that. That is one action they could have taken. The other action which they could have taken was that they could have adopted a system of compulsory service which, I say deliberately, would have made sense.
The Government took neither action. They funked a decision on peacetime conscription, and then at long last they took one, and then ran away from it. I charge them tonight with the result of their action, which is to have muddled and mangled the defence system of this country. That is, indeed, the charge that has been brought against them from both sides of the House. I should like to say why they did not take that decision. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who always are ready to howl at anyone on this side when he says anything which they do not like, will not howl at my next sentence, because I am quoting statistics and not making any comment on them. The first reason why they did not take that decision was that the Government and their supporters contain a greater number of former pacifists and conscientious objectors than any body of similar numbers anywhere in the country.
§ Earl Winterton
I was about to say that I am making no charge against them on that ground, but, not unnaturally—and this is my reply to the hon. Lady—right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who were not prepared to fight in 1914 hesitated to compel others to fight in 1946. They know that is true, every one of them. I am very glad to realise from their most unwonted silence that they agree that this is a fair charge. For that reason, they hesitated to come to any decision. However, at long last, after managing to swallow their scruples—never a very difficult thing for the Socialist Party to do they brought in the original conscription Bill. A short time afterwards, as a result of pressure upon them, or as a result of their conscience becoming again acute, they—I think the correct term is regurgitated—they brought up their scruples which they had swallowed and reduced the period of conscription to 12 months, thereby making no sense of it at all. Today, the period of vomiting 2104 being over, they once again come back to the point where they are prepared to swallow their consciences. I could enlarge upon that subject. What a fantastic situation it is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who were not prepared to fight in 1914 are prepared to make others fight by compulsion in 1948. What a situation for the country and the Government.
§ Earl Winterton
I support them because, unlike hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am always prepared to support my country. I support them for perfectly logical reasons. I was always prepared to fight for my country. I am charging those who were not prepared to fight when in a position to do so and who are now prepared to make others fight against their will. Could there be a more illogical situation?
The other cause of delays, hesitations and qualifications in the Government's defence policy is that they and their supporters hated to have to admit this most sinister fact, that there has been such a quarrel between the twin enemies of capitalism—the Soviet Communists and the Socialists—that each hates the other more than they hate the wicked capitalists. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I am stating a fact, and they know it. This hatred may easily plunge Europe into a third world war. Not unnaturally the Government hesitated, in view of that situation, to face up to it because it is in bitter contrast to the statements of the party opposite for over 50 years past, first at street corners, then in halls and, finally, in this House, that wars were made by capitalists and imperialists; that the workers in this country wanted to hold the hands of workers in every other country in brotherly love. What a comment this Bill is on the slogan of the old Socialist Party, "Workers of the world unite."
I am not in the least doubt that hon. Members opposite like the talented Member who writes the Parliamentary report in the "Tribune," will not refer to the unfortunate and sinister fact that what is the trouble in the world today is that the Socialists and Communists want to be at each others throats and want 2105 to start a third world war. They will not mention that in the "Tribune." That brings me to the point why, with all its imperfections, we on this side of the House support the Bill. In my opinion, it makes the opportunity of war more remote.
§ Mr. Beswick (Uxbridge)
Would the right hon. Gentleman also object if the commentator in the "Tribune" said that for the first time in the history of this House the right hon. Gentleman had not made a set speech?
§ Earl Winterton
I do not know what the hon. Member is talking about. I was dealing with the sinister fact—and hon. Members opposite may laugh at it or at me; they are welcome to do so, but they know it as well as I do—that the fight today is between the Socialist Governments of this and other Western countries and the Kremlin. That is the reason for this Bill.
A deliberative Assembly such as this House is inclined to attach over-importance to the effect of discussion and debate in international relations. I think the Government would agree that what really matters is not what Mr. Molotov or the Foreign Secretary say in their speeches against each other, whether one or the other wins; what matters is the force behind both. It is because the Government realise that they must try to make that force effective that they have introduced this Bill tonight. This issue was dealt with in a very roundabout fashion by the Minister of Defence, but that is the whole object of the Bill.
I now wish to ask one or two questions on the speech of the Minister of Defence. He began his speech by calling attention to what he described as the improvement in Regular Service recruitment in the last three years compared with the three years before the last war. He said that 247,000 men enlisted for all three Services in the period 1945 to 1948, as against only 219,000 in the same period before the war. However, he afterwards admitted that of those men enlisted in the 1945–48 period, 55,000 were short-term bounty men, so that the real comparable figures are 192,000 and 219,000. That cannot be a state of affairs which the right hon. Gentleman could consider satisfactory. I do not want to pursue that point further, because we all accept the necessity——
§ Mr. Alexander
In giving the total figures, I gave the figure of 55,000 short-term men. Some of those are serving for five years.
§ Earl Winterton
But it does make a difference to the comparison between the two periods. Although there may be a difference of opinion between us on that, we both want to see an improvement in the figures.
There are other matters arising out of the speech of the Minister of Defence, which I hope the Secretary of State will elaborate. He said—and I took down his rather strange phrase—"There is considerably more misuse of manpower than there should be." He did not go on to elaborate that, because he had a lot of other matters to deal with and his time was limited, but I hope that the Secretary of State will tell us what he meant. I should also like to support my hon. Friends in the contention that the problem of increasing the numbers in the Regular Forces might easily be solved if the Government were to adopt for the Services the same method they adopt for civilian Departments and have what may be vulgarly termed the "chores" carried out by civilian labour. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will also deal with that.
Another matter which is of immense importance, and which I cannot sufficiently emphasise, is the position of the young men who will become liable for service. My hon. Friends were obviously disturbed, and I thought many hon. Members opposite also seemed disturbed and inclined to agree with the comment from these benches on the very meagre nature of the information given by the Minister in that respect. For instance, he said that the age of call-up—and again I took down his actual words—in three years' time might be 19. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that is a very vague statement when considering the future of these young men.
We really should be definitely told what the age of call-up will be. It is a very serious situation indeed for these young men who have to consider their careers. I must make it perfectly plain, on behalf of my hon. Friends and also, I imagine, on behalf of a good many Members opposite who are supporting the Government against their own dissidents, that we support the Government 2107 only on the understanding that these conditions are clearly laid down, because we cannot interfere with the future of a young man in this way by not allowing him to know what the period will be.
I now wish to press home a point which was made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. He has been constantly attacked because, it was said, he had recommended a more rapid demobilisation than the Government were prepared to accept, and then attacked the Government afterwards because of their change in policy. My right hon. Friend has made perfectly plain what his original figures were in October, 1945, and had they been accepted we should not now be in the difficulty we are in today. The Government have given no answer to that at all. Another point he asked about, on which a point of Order was rather unnecessarily raised, was what weapons this new army, which is in a sense a new army, will have. He asked where were the rifles, artillery and anti-tank guns, and above all he asked—what I have been constantly asking from these benches in the past—what was the objection three years after the end of the war to telling us, to quote his phrase, "What organised and equipped formations there are in the Army." We have never been given any information on that matter. We do not know, three years after the war, what these formations are, or whether they exist at all.
As usual when my right hon. Friend speaks on defence, there were jeers from Members opposite, although of all people I should have thought that he is the last to be jeered at on this question. He quoted the position in 1914 as compared with the position today. I should like, as one who was an opponent of the Government in office in 1914, to say that they sent overseas at the commencement of the 1914–18 war, at infinitely less cost than the Army costs today, the finest equipped force ever seen. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication that there is any formation in the British Army today, let alone in the Air Force, which can in the slightest degree compare with the Expeditionary Force of 1914?
I turn now to a point made by the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates), who 2108 seconded the rejection of this Bill. No one objects to his enthusiasm for the cause of pacifism today, but I must say I thought it most regrettable that he should choose this occasion to make an attack on Lord Montgomery. Surely, if an attack is to be made it should be made upon the Government, although it is only fair to say that when I drew the attention of the hon. Member to the matter, he said that it was his intention to attack the Government and not Lord Montgomery.
§ Mr. Yates
I think I made it perfectly clear that I was quoting from a speech by Lord Montgomery, in which the ideals of militarism were proclaimed. I was opposing that, as I was entitled to do, but I was making no personal attack on him. I lost two brothers in the first World War, but I have no desire to cast any reflection on any soldier, whether he be in a great or a lowly position.
§ Earl Winterton
That is a perfectly satisfactory explanation. I said, and I think the hon. Gentleman agreed, that the responsibility for military policy must rest with the Government and not with generals.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), who speaks with great knowledge and authority, as one who commanded an armoured brigade in the war, completely answered every objection from the benches opposite to the increased period of service when he said that even in 18 months it was very difficult to train men in any armoured formation.
I now come to the very interesting and important speech made by the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers), who had a very distinguished career as a soldier in the last war, and whose views are entitled to consideration. I have considerable sympathy with the hon. Member, because it has been constantly urged from these benches that it would have been better to have had a highly paid professional Navy, Army and Air Force. Where, however, I differ from the hon. Member is in believing that at this moment—and I was not convinced by any argument he used to the contrary—it would be possible to scrap conscription and, by increasing pay, attract sufficient officers and men to the three Services.
§ Earl Winterton
It is only fair to say that I myself, on more than one occasion, have said that if we provide proper pay and conditions for the Services we should get all the men we want, but the hon. Member and Members opposite must remember that in this time of grave national emergency it is desirable to have a national Army in which all men of military age can serve—[An HON. MEMBER: "What for?"]—Let the hon. Member ask the Government. They know what the Bill is for.
§ Earl Winterton
I was not referring to the hon. Member. Someone else below the Gangway called out "What for?" and I said that a national Army is required at the present time.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), who is not in his place at the moment, but who speaks with authority as a former Secretary of State for War, said the country could not at present afford adequate pay for a Regular Army. That may be so, but as the Government, very wisely, are still trying, according to the best of their ability, which is not perhaps very great, to induce men to join the Regular Army it is desirable that pay and conditions in that Army should be at least comparable to what they are in civilian life. I use the word comparable though I do not think it is a very accurate term, because nothing can be comparable to the danger which a man in the Services may have to undergo.
I do not want to stand between the House and what we art all looking forward to—the delectable treat of hearing the Secretary of State for War address this Assembly—but I must say a word about the Minister of Defence. I am sure he will not mind me saying what I desire to say. He is a most popular figure in this House, greatly regarded for his personal qualities, but the feature of this Debate has been that there has not been one single hon. Member on either side of 2110 the House who has said one word in defence of the Minister of Defence. Nobody has a word to say to support him for having at first been in favour of 18 months' conscription, then, as a result of pressure by back benchers, reducing, as my right hon. Friend said in 48 hours, the period to 12 months, and now once again going back to 18 months. I will put it in this simple form—the Minister of Defence is indefensible, or, alternatively, I shall make use of some 18th century doggerel and say that the feature of this Debate has been:The Minister whom nobody can defend He will carry the shame of it to the very end.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Shinwell)
The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has been unusually amiable tonight. In the course of a speech lasting 30 minutes or thereabouts he has succeeded in insulting the Government only five times. That is a very modest effort on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. It is true that he succeeded in asking a few questions, and in due course he will be favoured with the appropriate answers.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is necessary to furnish the right hon. Gentleman with the answers, because it is obvious from his speech that he is in much need of enlightenment.
There is a simple issue before the House. The principle of conscription is not in question. That matter was resolved rather more than a year ago by this House when, after much controversy, and, indeed, a heated discussion, it was decided by a majority to accept the decision to impose National Service at the beginning of 1949. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) and others of my hon. Friends have raised the question of conscription. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton has declared that this is a matter of high controversy. It was always so. Even as far back as those pioneering days of the Labour movement 45 or 50 years ago with which he was to some extent familiar it must not be assumed that the Labour movement was united on that issue. There were 2111 elements in the Labour movement in this country, as well informed and sincere as those of my hon. Friends who take what might be described as the extreme pacifist view, who held contrary opinions and advocated the conception of a citizen Army on the assumption, not altogether ill founded, that everybody in the State should at some time or other undertake some form of State service.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Men put that idea forward who were not very far removed from the principles and views held by my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), people like H. M. Hyndman, Harry Quelch and Will Thorne. I merely mention the matter in order to show that this controversial issue is not by any manner of means new. As I have said, the issue for the purposes of this Debate is not in question. All that we are considering—it is a very narrow and limited issue—is whether or not it is desirable in present circumstances to increase the period of National Service from 12 to 18 months. On that issue the Government are convinced that, having regard to the run-down of the Army and the Air Force and the constant turn-over—[Interruption.] This is a serious matter. May I remind hon. Members opposite that we did not interrupt the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) when he was speaking.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is a right hon. Gentleman entitled to say that you do not matter?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I withdraw, Sir. If it is thought that I was referring to you, I withdraw unreservedly. If it is thought that I refer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford equally I withdraw. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford has appealed to his supporters to give me a chance. That is an irresistible appeal.
§ Mr. Shinwell
As I was saying, because of the run-down of the Army and the Air Force since the end of the war, the frequent turn-over of men, the frequent postings, the effect of demobilisation, the trend of Regular recruitment over and above that, our overseas commitments and the garrisoning of overseas stations, and last but certainly not least—I must emphasise this point—the need, once having accepted the principle of National Service, which the House did more than a year ago, for providing facilities for training those men while undertaking National Service, the Government are convinced that the extension is necessary. I have put the broad points before the House.
In the course of this Debate the right hon. Member for Woodford indulged in certain animadversions upon the Government and upon some persons associated with the Government. It is a strange characteristic of members of the Tory Party that they regard themselves privileged to criticise in the most abusive and unseemly fashion Members of the Government, but when members of the Government hit back, nobody squeals louder than right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Nobody can accuse me of squealing when I am attacked. I am so familiar with it.
§ Mr. Shinwell
But I give hon. Members this solemn assurance, that as long as they are disposed to indulge in personal attacks upon people like myself, they must take what is handed out to them in return. Having said that, I come to the right hon. Gentleman and his alleged case. I say "alleged" advisedly, because the right hon. Gentleman occupied almost an hour and hardly referred to the Bill at all, except to say that he was in support of it. Why he was in support of it, however, so far we are unaware.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If I may be allowed to say so, if the right hon. Gentleman attached a little more importance more frequently to what the Government say, it would do him a lot of good, and also his party. The right hon. Gentleman made a startling allegation about our 2113 lack of unpreparedness—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I mean, lack of preparedness. The noble Lord said, he was not making a set speech, and he repeated himself a good deal; and I also have no set speech. A slight mistake is nothing. The right hon. Gentleman alleged that we were now in a state of unpreparedness, and he contrasted the present situation with the situation in 1914. There was an omission from his speech—not a single word about the situation in 1938.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Not a single word about 1939. And why? Because nobody has more experience, and indeed bitter experience, of the result of lack of preparation before 1939 than the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Perhaps we had better not delve too deeply into the secrecies, the mysteries, the intricacies of the situation that confronted the right hon. Gentleman when he assumed office in 1940, although he was well aware of what was going to happen. Did he not frequently indulge in his characteristic abuse against the Baldwin Government and the Chamberlain Government when he sat on the end seat below the Gangway? I am consoled in the abuse showered upon me and my hon. Friends, because I remember it so well in another connection. The right hon. Gentleman is quite happy when he is abusing somebody. He has always abused Governments and personalities. But we will let it go at that.
Now I come to 1914. The right hon. Gentleman brags about the situation then. He knew about the situation in 1914 and I shall tell the House why. He was a member of the Liberal Government and, what is more remarkable, he was a Service Minister in that Government. In a speech which he made in 1936 the right hon. Gentleman commented upon the situation in 1914. He spoke just now of lack of preparations, no proper formations, no organisation, the absence of units and all the rest of it.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Member is going to get it all. The right hon. Gentleman said:What a thing to see the roads of this country covered with the volunteer youth of the nation drilling for a year with nothing but broomsticks and wooden muskets"—that was in the early stages of the first war—and what a much more terrible thing to see those who were in the fighting line, in the trenches, under a continuous bombardment with batteries behind them that were limited to firing one round per battery per day."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1936; Vol. 309, c. 2011.]
§ Mr. Churchill
And even below that unfortunate level, the right hon. Gentleman and his Government stand today.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I accept the challenge wholeheartedly. We have no broomsticks at our disposal, nor have we any wooden muskets.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Ask the right hon. Gentleman about tanks, not only before the first world war but before 1939.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Hon. Members opposite had better quarrel with their leader and not with me. Lack of preparation, forsooth !
The right hon. Gentleman then got on to another horse of a different kind. He complained about the frequent changes amongst Service Ministers. Whether they are frequently changed or not, the right hon. Gentleman said they were no good anyhow. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Just a feeble "Hear, hear"? I expected louder applause after that observation. The right hon. Gentleman commented that we were not appointed, myself in particular, on grounds of public interest, that our appointment was not dictated by public considerations. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. He is in the dock now, not I. No doubt he will furnish a reply. Was the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) as First 2115 Lord of the Admiralty and the appointment of Mr. Duncan Sandys as Minister of Works dictated by public interest?
§ Mr. Churchill
To the best of my belief and on my personal honour, those were the right appointments at that time, having regard to all the circumstances.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If the right hon. Gentleman says that on his personal honour that was the position, I accept what he says; but equally he must accept the opinion of the Prime Minister that when he makes appointments, they are dictated by public considerations.
The right hon. Gentleman has enunciated tonight a new doctrine which startled me. He enunciated the peculiar doctrine that a member of the Government who is connected with the Services, because he is connected with the Services, must be very particular indeed not to attack his political opponents in the country. That was the doctrine he enunciated—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]. That is what he said. He taunted me and others, myself particularly, with having made bitter attacks on members of the Tory Party and the Tory Party in general. I am going to give him my reply as firmly as I can. I would rather deprive myself of the honour of being Secretary of State for War than forego the right to tell the truth about the Tory Party in this country.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say I had no ability whatever, but if I can have it both ways that rather indicates that, although not of a high intellectual order, at any rate I am not without guile. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that I only want it one way—the right to tell the truth about the Tory Party, and Heaven help them when that truth is told.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Someone wants the Bill. Let me remind hon. Members that the right hon. Gentleman was so hard up for politicians and alleged statesmen at the War Office during the war that he actually appointed a civil servant, Sir James Grigg, instead of a politician. He 2116 could not get a politician from his own coterie, or among the hordes of Tories, who all regard themselves as being possessed of great ability and great quality. He had to satisfy himself with a civil servant, who did very well in the circumstances; he was a very able man.
The right hon. Gentleman has been attacking us because of lack of preparation. I referred a moment or two ago to the speeches he made from the end of the Front Bench above the Gangway. I used to enjoy them immensely and I had a lot of sympathy for him, if he will allow me to say so without condescension. He had a lot of courage, and that is his great quality. We know he has great qualities; no one will deny that. He does some silly things occasionally, but, if I may use a vulgar expression we have him "well taped." He has much more courage than a lot of those feeble supporters who bleat whenever he gets on his feet and pretend that it is applause. I warn him that he had better be careful, for they would like to get him out if they could. But he is too astute for them, much too astute for them. When he stood below the Gangway and attacked the late Mr. Baldwin and the late Mr. Chamberlain and said such rude things about people on this Bench—not Labour men, but Tories of his own ilk—this was after he left the Liberal Party some years ago—he actually demanded a Parliamentary inquiry——
§ Mr. Shinwell
I wonder why the right hon. Gentleman sought to criticise us. But there it is, we have to put up with him occasionally.
Somebody suggested that I should deal with the Bill. I want to put the plain facts as regards the Army. I think hon. Members have been quite right to comment rather more emphatically about the Army than the other Services, first of all because the Navy is not troubled unduly, and secondly because the Air Force, although in a quandary as regards personnel, is not quite so hard hit as the Army in existing circumstances.
The position is this. We have been planning. Hon. Members say that there is no plan, but of course there has been a plan ever since the end of the war. We have been planning for a peace-time level. That was essential. Our intentions were honourable; we were not looking 2117 for another war. Circumstances have been against us, and it has been necessary to revise our views from time to time; but having regard to the speed of demobilisation, the run-down and various other factors which were operating, we discovered that, with the trend of Regular recruitment and the intake of a certain number of men in 1949, we shall be left with round about 300,000 men at the end of the year. Clearly that means an unbalanced and ineffective force. I am bound to tell the House that. We do not want the Army to be unbalanced, and we certainly do not want it to be ineffective. On the assumption that we have got to have an Army, let it be an Army which is efficient, compact and worth while.
Of course, the Army has changed a good deal since the days when the right hon. Member for Woodford was First Lord of the Admiralty—I mean before the first world war. Indeed, it has changed considerably since 1939. The right hon. Gentleman talked about brigades, divisions and all the rest of it. He spoke for the most part about infantry brigades and divisions—but not highly mechanised as they have to be now, and, what is even more important, without a sound administrative backing. The right hon. Gentleman, with his military experience, will admit that a brigade is not of much value, however highly trained, unless it is fortified by a sound administrative backing. Surely, this is understood even by hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite who pride themselves on their military knowledge. I am sure they will agree that it is no use talking about the situation now in comparison with what it was before the first world war. It is quite different.
When hon. Members comment adversely on the position of the Army and say that we have not got a worth-while Army, that the Army is not capable of presenting a front to a possible enemy, let them not forget that we have vast overseas commitments. I shall not discuss the reason for that, because it is not appropriate to this occasion.
§ Mr. Shinwell
India is out of it now, but we have got the Middle East, Trieste, Austria, Malaya, the B.A.O.R. and East 2118 Africa. All these garrisons have to be provided with men, and I ask hon. Members to take note of the fact that for the most part these elements are self-contained; that is to say, they have all the administrative backing that is necessary. There may be gaps here and there; there may be defects, but for the most part they are self-contained and self-sufficient. If the 176,000 men whom we have overseas were brought to the United Kingdom and reorganised, we should have a very strong striking force, but as it happens we must have them overseas, Therefore, when hon. Members say that the Army is not worth while, not efficient and not compact enough, they should take account of these rather peculiar circumstances which are operating at the present time.
§ Mr. Churchill
Can the right hon. Gentleman mention the organised field formations which are available in this country as a general Reserve?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am extremely sorry. I know this point has been referred to before—this demand for more detailed information—but I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that it is quite impossible to furnish the information. Even if that information were furnished it might very well be misleading. It might misrepresent the actual position. In our opinion it is undesirable to furnish the information at this time and we may have to consider whether at any time it is desirable to disclose all the facts.
I have already given the information that 176,000 men are overseas. Taking the three Services, we have more than 200,000 men overseas. That represents a very strong fighting force. For the most part, these are fighting soldiers. Of course, there is the administrative tail and I agree that perhaps one of the difficulties of the Forces is that there is more tail than teeth, but that can only be regularised when we are able to increase th,2 Regular element in the Army and Air Force.
§ Earl Winterton
May I ask a question about these organised forces? We are constantly asking whether the right hon. Gentleman cannot be a little more explicit. What is the reason for refusing this information? Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that the Kremlin does not know what troops we have?
§ Mr. Shinwell
The noble Lord must not ask me questions about what the Kremlin knows. I am not in the confidence of the Kremlin. Indeed, I would say this to the right hon. Gentleman: he said some strange things in his speech which rather indicated that he knew more about what was going on in the Kremlin than I do. We never know what is in the right hon. Gentleman's mind:… and still the wonder grew,That one small head could carry all he knew.I am anxious to respond to the requests which have come from all quarters of the House for me to say something on what is really a vital issue, and that is what is called the misuse of manpower in the Army. With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his knowledge of my inability and incapacity and the like, may I say that I have endeavoured, since I have been at the War Office, to address myself to what is undoubtedly a vital issue—the question of the proper use of manpower.
The House is entitled to know, when we ask for men, that they are being used efficiently. We have no right to come with Estimates for the three Services, for expenditure, or Supplementary Estimates for additional expenditure, without being able to demonstrate that we are making a serious effort to see that our men are being used wisely. I have had some investigation conducted into this matter. For the purpose of greater accuracy, I have committed these points to writing and, if I may be allowed, I would like to inform hon. Members of the position.
The broad lesson which may be drawn from the investigations to which I have referred may not perhaps be of general application, by which I mean that there are patches in the Army and Air Force, some good and some not so good. It must certainly not be assumed that everything is bad; there are lights and shades and, therefore, while the lessons we derive from these investigations cannot be regarded as of general application, we must remember that the main body of the Army must train itself for war, and of course it is obvious to everybody that that is the purpose of it. Whether hon. Members like it or not, that is its main purpose, to train soldiers for war, if it 2120 should ever occur. I hope it will never occur.
The British Army of today, for several reasons—I am very frank with the House—is receiving less training than it should and could have. I am sorry to say that, but it is true. A negligible amount of soldiers' time in units is wasted in the sense that they are doing no work of any kind at all. Nearly everybody is engaged on a task of one kind or another, everybody is doing something; the question is, are they doing the right thing? An appreciable amount of time is misused, due largely to out-of-date barracks, lack of labour-saving tools and equipment and so on. I must say I cannot accept any responsibility for that, and neither can my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) or my right hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson).
Here let me digress for a moment to say to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that I regret very much what he said about my right hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street. He certainly was a private soldier in the first world war; but, after all, that is no reason why he should not occupy a public office at some time.
§ Mr. Churchill
It was meant wholeheartedly to be a tribute, and it was accepted in that sense by almost everyone in the House except the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am within the recollection of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] When the right hon. Gentleman referred to my right hon. Friend as being a driver in the Army in the first World War, there was a lot of jeering on the other side.
§ Brigadier Head
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the Secretary of State for War to accuse our side of the House of jeering when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford paid a tribute to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester-le-Street? Is it in Order for the Secretary of State for War to say that we jeered, when we on this side of the House appreciated what my right hon. Friend said?
§ Mr. Churchill
I am anxious to hear the serious part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which, I understand has been written out for him beforehand. We have only a few minutes left, and I should like to listen.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that my speech was written out by myself. This is probably not altogether customary, but I do not allow people to do jobs for me that I am quite able to do myself. On the question of accommodation, no one is more conscious than I am of the need for improving accommodation. The barracks accommodation is not very satisfactory; the marriage accommodation is most insufficient; and not until we get matters right have we the right to ask men to join the Forces and to be entirely contented while they are in the Forces. The same applies to the absence of labour-saving tools and equipment. For example, many in the service still have to occupy much of their time peeling potatoes. When we purchase a few labour-saving devices the time spent on a great many of such chores will be saved. But we cannot get them. There is a demand by the civilian population just as there is by the Services.
But this does not apply to the whole of a man's service. In the first period intensive military training is given, and he does the minimum amount of chores. That means that in the first four months of basic training the men are happy, are quite content, are doing a worthwhile job; but, thereafter, there is a steady deterioration. I am sorry to say this. That is not so much the case in B.A.O.R. On the Rhine the men are kept up to pitch, and are being intensively trained for the most part, and are quite contented. Where, however, men are not receiving the full amount of military training—field exercises and the like—there is a sapping of what is called their morale, and we have in some way to improve on that position. The lack of purposeful and systematic training brings with it a deterioration of morale and spirit. With regard to the provision of amenities and so forth, I am all for improved amenities having a place in the military profession as they have in civilian occupations. The outstanding 2122 fact is that if the soldier is continuously and usefully trained and employed, he will regard his service in the Army as worth while.
I could go on at some length dealing with these matters, but I must now turn to another aspect of the problem—the relationship between officers and men. Here again, we must be frank. The relationship between officers and men and between warrant officers, N.C.Os. and men is not as satisfactory as it might be. I have had several examples of it myself. In the Regular Army of the past, man management has been an art and an object both to the young officer, warrant officer and N.C.O. in his military training. Relationships have varied from corps to corps but they have been well-established and, from the earliest days of the British Army, have been based on devotion and staunchness in action. These are, I believe, two fundamental problems, and the answer to them must be found.
I am going to make an excuse for the position of the officers. The officers are heavily encumbered by administrative and office work connected with their units. It is far too much for them. This arises from the need of administrative controls applicable also to civilians—ration cards, clothing coupons and the like. It also arises from the constant interchange of personnel within units which demands heavy documentation and record, and there is some evidence that the posting system both for officers and men needs overhaul. This will give some indication of the result of the investigations. I can give hon. and right hon. Members a solemn assurance that it is the intention of the Government to use every possible device to improve upon the present position. The actual detailed instructions that have been sent out I cannot give to the House, but I hope that from time to time I shall be able to furnish information which will, at any rate, indicate that our intentions are sound and that improvements have resulted.
I come to the final point; that is, the question of whether we should rely entirely on a Regular Army. If we had a large enough Regular Army there would be no need for conscription.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am asked "How large?" I am not prepared at this stage to give the actual figures because we are in a state of transition. With our present overseas commitments it is quite impossible to forecast for a long way ahead. The right hon. Gentleman has used such language himself in the past. I have it all here. Let us consider the position about Regular recruitment. The fact is that, on the whole, we have done very well. We have, as the noble Lord the Member for Horsham agreed, actually recruited 247,000 men since the end of the war. As the Minister of Defence said, haying regard to full employment, this is not at all bad. I believe it is a fallacy that, merely by raising the pay, we shall enlist a large number of men. The fact is that it is more the conditions
§ and amenities in the Army and the contentment that arises from happy relations in the Army that will induce men who are called up under National Service to remain as Regular soldiers. That is all I want to say to the House.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have said more than the right hon. Gentleman agreed with, I gather. If at any time he feels that he would like to have another go, I should be glad to respond.
§ Question put, "That the word "now" stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 338; Noes, 51.2125
|Division No. 26.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Cluse, W. S.||Gibbins, J|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Cobb, F. A.||Gilzean, A.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G||Collindridge, F.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)|
|Albu, A. H.||Comyns, Dr. L.||Glyn, Sir R.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.|
|Allen, A C. (Bosworth)||Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Grey, C. F.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Corlett, Dr. J.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Grimston, R. V.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E||Gunter, R. J|
|Awbery, S. S.||Daggar, G.||Guy, W. H.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Daines, P.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Davidson, Viscountess||Hale, Leslie|
|Balfour, A.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Deer, G.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Barton, C.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V H.||Delargy, H. J.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Diamond, J.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Digby, S. W.||Harrison, J.|
|Bellonger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Benson, G.||Donner, P. W.||Haworth, J.|
|Berry, H.||Donovan, T.||Head, Brig. A. H.|
|Beswick, F.||Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)|
|Binns, J.||Drewe, C.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Hicks, G.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Dumpleton, C. W.||Holman, P.|
|Boothby, R.||Dye, S.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Eccles, D. M.||Hope, Lord J.|
|Bowden, Fig. Offr. H W||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||Horabin, T. L.|
|Bower, N.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Hudson, Rt. Hon R. S. (Southport)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bramall, E. A.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Hughes, H. D. (W'Iverh'pton, W.)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Farthing, W. J.||Irvine, A. J (Liverpool)|
|Burke, W. A.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Foot, M. M.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Janner, B.|
|Callaghan, James||Fox, Sir G.||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Castle, Mrs B A||Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||Jeffreys, General Sir G|
|Champion, A. J.||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Channon, H.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Jenkins, R. H|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Freeman, J. (Watford)||Johnston, Douglas|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S||Galbraith, Cmdr. T D||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Gage, C.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt-Col. G.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Morrison, Maj. J. G (Salisbury)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Mott-Radclyffe, C E||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Keeling, E. H.||Moyle, A.||Steele, T.|
|Keenan, W.||Murray, J. D||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Kenyon, C.||Naylor, T. E.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife. E.)|
|Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Neal, H (Claycross)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|King, E. M.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Strauss, Henry (English Universities)|
|Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Kinley, J.||Noel-Baker, Rt Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G||O'Brien, T.||Summerskill, Dr Edith|
|Langford-Holt, J.||Odey, G. W.||Symonds, A. L|
|Lavers, S.||Oldfield, W. H||Taylor, C S. (Eastbourne)|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Oliver, G. H.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Leslie, J. R.||Paget, R. T.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Levy, B. W.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Palmer, A. M. F||Thorneycroft, G. E P. (Monmouth)|
|Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Pargiter, G. A||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Parker, J.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Paton, J (Norwich)||Tiffany, S.|
|Lipson. D. L.||Pearson, A||Titterington, M. F|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Peart, T. F.||Tolley, L.|
|Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Logan, D. G||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Low, A. R. W.||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Turton, R. H.|
|Lucas, Major Sir J||Popplewell, E.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Lyne, A. W.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Ungoed-Thomas, L|
|McAdam, W||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|McAllister, G.||Price, M. Philips||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|MacAndrew, Col. Sir C||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|McCallum, Maj. D.||Proctor, W. T.||Ward, Hon G. R.|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Pursey, Comdr. H||Watt, Sir G. S Harvie|
|Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Raikes, H. V.||Weitzman, D.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Ramsay, Maj. S.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|McGovern, J.||Ranger, J.||West, D. G.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Rayner, Brig. R||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E)|
|McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Rees-Williams, D. R||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Reid, T (Swindon)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Maclean, F H. R. (Lancaster)||Rhodes, H.||While, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|McLeavy, F.||Robens, A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W|
|MacLeod, J.||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)||Wigg, George|
|MacPherson, M. (Stirling)||Robertson, Sir D (Streatham)||Wilkes, L.|
|Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Rogers. G. H. R.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ropner, Col. L.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Williams, R. W. (Wigan)|
|Marples, A. E.||Sanderson, Sir F||Willis, E.|
|Marquand, H. A.||Scott, Lord W.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Scott-Elliot, W.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Shackleton, E. A A||Woodburn, Rt. Hon A|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Sharp, Granville||Woods, G. S.|
|Mellor, Sir J.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widness)||Wyatt, W.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. Helens)||York, C.|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Shephard, S. (Newark)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Moody, A. S.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)||Younger, Hon Kenneth|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Morris-Jones, Sir H.||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Simmons, C. J||Mr. Snow and|
|Mr. George Wallace.|
|Bowen, R.||Kendall, W. D.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||McGhee, H. G.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Byers, Frank||Manning, Mrs, L. (Epping)||Scollan, T.|
|Carmichael, James||Messer, F.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Mikardo, Ian||Silverman, S. S (Nelson)|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Nally, W.||Solley, L. J|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Stokes, R. R|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Swingler, S|
|Fernyhough, E.||Piratin, P.||Thomas, D. E (Aberdare)|
|Forman, J. C.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F||Timmons, J|
|Gallacher, W.||Pritt, D. N.||Wadsworth, G|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Randall, H. E.||Williams, D. J (Neath)|
|Granville, E. (Eye)||Rankin, J.||Zilliacus, K|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Richards, R|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Mr. Yates and Mr. Walker.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Tomorrow.—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]