§ Order for Committee read.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Strachey)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
In presenting the Army Estimates of last year, my predecessor began by reviewing the commitments and responsibilities of the Army. Unfortunately those commitments, though they have changed somewhat in the past year, have on balance grown rather than diminished. Our major new commitment has of course been the necessity to despatch to Hong Kong such reinforcements as would secure that Colony against the threat of external aggression. That responsibility has been discharged. Fortunately the threat did not materialise. We clearly do not wish to retain large Forces permanently in Hong Kong, but I cannot yet say when the situation in the Far East will allow us to return any of the troops 'stationed there to the United Kingdom.
The greatest problem which faces us in the Far East remains the campaign in Malaya against the organised terrorism, sabotage and murder which have as their object the disruption of the orderly life of the territory. Here the Army is acting in aid of the civil power. This is a campaign which has no fixed front but consists for the most part in isolated actions against bodies of terrorists whose tactics are to strike and then disappear deep in the jungle. In such a campaign there is no likelihood of spectacular successes on the part of the Army which could change the situation overnight. It is only by means of concerted action of all forces, civil and military, that progress is likely to be made.
In this difficult role the Army continues to play an essential part with great resolution, gallantry and efficiency. The House will have noted the recently announced plans to reinforce this theatre by the return of the 26th Gurkha Brigade together with additional air Forces. These 1560 moves exemplify the Government's determination to spare no effort to eradicate terrorism and protect the life of the territory. The return of the 26th Gurkha Brigade will enable pressure to be maintained on the terrorists and at the same time will enable units to be withdrawn from operations for rest periods to a greater extent than hitherto.
Such constant and arduous operations as this cannot be sustained without appropriate provision for recuperation and re-training, and we shall now have the margin required to achieve this. We shall give the closest attention to the wellbeing of the troops engaged in this campaign. Unfortunately, their living conditions in many cases are primitive, and we hope to make progress in the construction of permanent accommodation during the year. For instance, the leave centre at Penang is being considerably extended and improved. Finally, I should like to assure the House that every suggestion for re-equipment or other forms of assistance, for example, for training facilities, which is made by the local commanders will receive the immediate attention of the War Office.
In the Middle East also a material reduction of our garrisons has not yet been possible. The withdrawal of our troops from Greece has been offset by the need to reinforce Somalia during the transfer of administrative responsibility to the Italians. We also had to reinforce Eritrea during the recent civil disturbances and our garrisons are still required in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. We do, however, hope and intend to reduce the Middle East garrisons and return troops to the United Kingdom as we can, including some units which should become available when we have handed over in Somalia. In Europe there is no change in our occupational responsibilities.
The tendency for a new overseas commitment to appear whenever an old one has come to an end has been most disappointing. It is this tendency which has largely precluded the building up of higher Regular Army formations in the United Kingdom. But that remains our aim and we hope to make progress towards it during the coming year. It is in this connection that I want to turn to the two main problems of organisation which face the Army this year.
1561 The first problem is the organisation of the active Army, involving the relationship between its Regular and National Service elements. The second problem of organisation is the size and the shape of the Territorial Army and Supplementary Reserve which together form what might be called the Reserve Army. Let me deal first with the problem of the active Army. We are now emerging from the post-war period and we are reaching comparative numerical stability after a period of sharp decline. After all, as little as three years ago the strength of the Army was 862,000 all ranks. Since then some 923,000 men, including Regulars, have been released; some 341,000 have been called up under the National Service scheme and some 110,000 have been recruited on Regular and short service engagements or granted Regular commissions. The net result is that the total strength of the active Army today is 373,000.
Hon. Members will recall that the original intention was for the Regular element of the active Army to undertake our overseas commitments and to provide the Home base and training organisations; and for the National Service element to undergo intensive training, and thus provide a reserve against an emergency. The immediate post-war tasks were three; first, to reduce the Army from a strength of some three million, as it was at the end of the war, to whatever size proved necessary to meet its commitments; and this involved the release of all men called up prior to the operation of the National Service Act, 1948. The last of these men will in fact be released by the end of June, 1950. The second task was the reconstruction of the Regular Army; and the third task was to prepare for the introduction of National Service men into the post-war Army structure, including in particular their transfer to the Territorial Army or the Supplementary Reserve after their period of service. The first task has been virtually completed. The second task, namely the building up of the Regular Army strength is one of the two key problems of the present and the immediate future; for on our ability to solve this problem largely depends, it seems to me, the solution of our other problems.
I turn to the first problem of building up the active Army by means of Regular recruiting. The cessation of commis- 1562 sioning and enlistment during the war left the Regular Army very depleted. In 1946 the other rank Regular strength was down to some 100,000. Moreover large numbers were due to complete their engagements shortly. The build-up of the Regular Army which had to be achieved was therefore very considerable. The process started well. The strength increased from 100,000 in April, 1946, to 178,000 in December, 1948. But since then the build-up has gone much more slowly. We have just had a surplus of recruiting over discharges but it has been a much smaller surplus and the net result on 1st April, 1950, will be a Regular strength of some 185,000 men.
Again these figures conceal a difficulty, that the short-service element in the Regular Army today is no less than 40 per cent. in the case of officers and 16 per cent. in the case of other ranks. This short-service element was introduced to provide during the period of reconstruction experienced officers and N.C.O.'s of at least two years' service and preferably with war experience. But the reservoir for short-service personnel is drying up. The other-rank short-service entry is due to close down in July, 1950. Thus we have succeeded in substantially increasing the numbers of the Regular Army, but not enough.
It is this fact as well as the undiminished burden of our overseas commitments which compels us to use National Service men, not only at home, but in all overseas theatres, including the Far East. They have done splendid service, but the disadvantage of the use of National Service men, especially in distant theatres, is very great. Trooping for such short periods is costly and inefficient: National Service soldiers cannot be expected in their 18 months of service to make a contribution to the need for more senior N.C.O.'s and there is not enough time to train them for the more highly-skilled trades in which we are very short. Finally, frequent moves upset the training and efficiency of both units and individuals.
Yet in spite of these disadvantages the help which the National Service men can give to the Army to meet its overseas commitments is indispensable and their use quite unavoidable, until and unless either our commitments decrease or we can increase substantially the numbers of 1563 new Regulars. Therefore we are driven back to the conclusion that one key to the problem is to increase the size of the Army's Regular component. If this could be done our other problems would become solvable.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
Is it not a fact that some of these young men, before they have completed six months' service or reached the age of 19, are sent for service abroad?
§ Mr. Strachey
I cannot give the exact figures to the hon. and learned Gentleman without looking them up, but we do use National Service men during their 18 months of service in overseas theatres, as I have just said.
The average pre-war recruiting figure between 1930 and 1937 was about 25,000 men a year. The post-war figures have been as follows: 1946, 28,000; 1947, 39,000; 1948, 32,000; 1949, 21,000, including short-service men in each case. Recruiting then started to fall off towards the end of 1948 and dropped sharply in 1949. Of course, in comparing the pre- and post-war recruiting trends, we must remember that today we are recruiting direct from civilian life mainly from those below the age for the call-up for National Service. This group in fact has produced the bulk of the total Regular engagements; unfortunately only about 1½ per cent. of National Service men have been rejoining as Regulars. In the current state of a high level of employment it is not unreasonable to believe that recruiting direct from civil life may stabilise itself round about an annual figure of 20,000 or less unless something very definite can be done in the matter.
On this basis the prospect is not good. As well as the falling off in Regular recruiting, we face a run-down of Regulars during the next three years, due to men completing their initial engagements. Moreover, the standard engagement has changed from seven years Colour service to five years, so that 1951 and 1952 will see a double run-out of men to the Reserve and also a heavy run-out of short-service men. The net effect of all that is that the forecast strength, on the basis of present recruiting, of Regulars, including short-service officers and other ranks, is as follows: on 1st April, 1950, 185,000; and on 1st April, 1951, 1564 178,000; with a probable further slow decline in the following two years. These figures may be measured against a requirement for the active Army of some 350,000. And there is little prospect of any very marked reduction in that total requirement up to 1953, at any rate.
These forecasts make it clear that unless the Regular strength can be substantially increased there is no immediate prospect of reducing the use of National Service men to help fulfil the Army's commitments. Yet to do that would be the way to get back to the original conception of National Service as a relatively brief period of intensive training preparatory to a man joining the Territorial or Reserve Army. Thus, whichever way we look at the matter, it is Regular recruiting that emerges as a key factor in the situation.
In order to prevent the actual falling off of Regular strengths, we should require direct recruiting from civil life at a rate of some 30,000 men a year. To continue a satisfactory build-up, the Regular Army would need some 35,000 direct recruits a year. Unfortunately, the indications are that recruiting figures like these, which are appreciably higher than the pre-war average intake, are unlikely to come of themselves. There is one other way, it is true, in which we may check the decline and eventually increase the strength of the Regular Forces, and that is by increasing the number of long-service men who contract for 12 or 22 years' service with the Colours. At present 15 per cent. of the Regulars are contracting for 22 years and 10 per cent. for 12 years. If those figures could be changed to 20 per cent. and 30 per cent. respectively, we might at least maintain the present strength in the Regular Army and improve its quality with an intake of only 20,000 men a year. Therefore, urgent measures have been put in hand to investigate what practical steps can be taken to increase the number of Regulars who contract for longer periods. It is as yet too early to say what the result of those investigations will be.
I find that the War Office view is that there are three factors which govern the size of the Regular Army. The first factor is the terms of service in the sense of the duration of Regular service. The second is conditions of service, and the third is the rates of pay. Expert opinion 1565 is, I find, that the second of these factors—namely, conditions of service which includes such matters as married quarters, barracks, dress and avoidance of continual moving—is on the whole the most important single factor in making the Army an attractive career.
The House is aware that great efforts to improve conditions of service are being made, but the House will also be aware that this is a long-term problem the solutions of which are inevitably expensive. I have little doubt that accommodation both for single men and married men is the most important factor of all. The House knows that we are making determined efforts to complete married quarters. The figures are as follow: in the past financial year, we have completed just over 1,000 new married quarters at home and overseas; in the coming financial year, we hope to complete 1,700 married quarters at home and overseas; in the financial year 1951–52, we plan to complete 1,400 married quarters at home and a substantial number, which we cannot give yet, overseas.
This programme is designed to provide married quarters for every entitled officer and soldier in the United Kingdom by 1955. The overseas problem is complicated by the uncertainty as to our future overseas commitments. To cover the gap which exists between now and 1955, we have introduced emergency schemes, for example for the hire of furnished flats and houses, and by these schemes we have already provided 2,000 married quarters.
The third factor in making the Army an attractive career, is, of course, the rates of pay. In the opinion of the War Office authorities this factor is not, on the whole, as important as conditions of service. Here also, as the House knows, any attempt to increase markedly the number of Regulars by increasing pay would be an expensive matter, and the Estimates which I am presenting this afternoon are not small. To sum up, all we can say is that today the Government are paying the closest attention to this key question of increasing the size of the Regular Forces.
I now turn to the question of the organisation of the Reserve Army. The House will recall that the immediate post-war reconstruction of the Territorial Army and the Supplementary Reserve was on a 1566 voluntary basis. It was intended as a first stage in the creation of the Reserve Army of the future. Now we have come to the second stage of that process. In July next men will have completed 18 months National Service under the Act of 1948, and they will begin to flow into the Territorial Army and Supplementary Reserve. Their statutory liability will be to serve for four years with one or other of these Forces. The Territorial Army, as re-organised, is essentially a framework of volunteers designed to receive these National Service men.
From July onwards, the Territorial Army will face the task of assimilating this inflow of National Service men and creating our Reserve Army out of a combination of its volunteers and these National Service men. This will be no easy task. To fulfil it, there are three basic requirements. The first is to produce at the end of four years, when the Reserve Forces will have been built up to their full strength, a balanced Reserve Army with units reasonably complete to their establishments. The second requirement is that for that purpose we must ensure that the right numbers of National Service men are allotted to the various Territorial Army units—who live within reasonable distance of a Territorial Army centre or drill hall—so that they can take part in the life of that unit and help to build up reasonably complete Territorial Army units. This is necessary so that these National Service men may be encouraged to become the Territorial Army volunteers of the future for their particular units.
The third requirement is that we must seek to ensure that the National Service men can use the kind of training which they have received in the active Army when they pass into the Territorial Army or Supplementary Reserve. For example, we must seek to ensure that a National Service gunner can join a Territorial Army gunner unit; a National Service R.E.M.E. can join a Territorial Army R.E.M.E. unit, and a National Service infantry man can join a Territorial Army infantry unit, and so on.
In order to tackle this triple problem, the War Office has for many months past been conducting an investigation into what can be done on the one hand to adapt the Territorial Army structure to the inflow of National Service men, and, 1567 on the other hand, to adapt the inflow of National Service men to the structure of the Territorial Army. To that end, the War Office has made a detailed investigation into the manpower position of every Territorial Army unit throughout the country. They have reviewed the number and the character of the National Service men who will present themselves each year on release from the active Army within the area of each Territorial Army unit. They have also reviewed the power of each Territorial Army unit to attract volunteers, judged on the basis of its past record. On this basis, they can form an estimate whether any particular Territorial Army unit can be expected to reach a sufficient strength to form an effective unit of the new Reserve Army.
It might be thought that this was all the information we needed in order to decide on any necessary modification in the Territorial Army's structure, but that would not be so. For example, let us say that a given Territorial Army unit needs 500 men in order to constitute an efficient unit of the Reserve Army. Let us say that 100 volunteers are in sight and that 400 National Service men will be living in the area of the unit. At first sight, the problem seems to be solved, but this is to neglect the third of our requirements. Let us say that the Territorial unit in question is an infantry unit; but that, of the 400 National Service men who will return to live in its area, there may be 150 gunners, 100 R.A.S.C. men and only 150 infantry men. Unless we are willing to remuster the 150 gunners and the 100 R.A.S.C. men into the infantry, and thus fail to make use of their National Service training, we are still faced with our problem.
I am accordingly advised that we must face some readjustment of the Territorial Army structure, in order to get the best use of the trained manpower available from July next in the building of our Reserve Army. Before going on to give the House some account of this proposed readjustment, I ought to deal with the question which may be in the minds of some hon. Members. Why, they may ask, was not the Territorial Army, when it was reconstituted after the war, so organised as to take this problem in its stride? The answer is, I think, that the size and shape of the Reserve Army was then uncertain. The period of National Service 1568 was undetermined and the period for which the ex-National Service man would remain in the Reserve Army was also uncertain. On the other hand, it was necessary to reconstitute a volunteer Territorial Army so that there should be some organised body to receive the National Service men passing into the Reserve.
I now come to what is proposed in order to make the best possible use of the National Service men as they pass out of active service. I am sure I do not have to tell the House that the experienced officers have only made these proposals for some modification in the structure of the Territorial Army with utmost reluctance and after a most careful examination of each individual case. Such officers would be the last men to under-estimate the importance of the long and valuable local traditions of the Territorial Army. They are acutely conscious of the value of these traditions, especially for a body like the Territorial Army, which has always been on a voluntary basis and which will retain an indispensable volunteer element. These officers have been loth to recommend a change in the functions or character of a unit which has had a long and distinguished history. They have been equally loth to amalgamate units which have their own traditions and loyalties, and, in fact, they have cut down to the very minimum these necessary changes.
Nevertheless, the opinion of these experienced officers, after prolonged study of the question, is that some changes in the structure of the Territorial Army are absolutely indispensable if the Territorial Army is to fulfil its vital new rôle of providing a framework, or backbone, for our Reserve Army. It is for this reason that we do not hesitate to appeal to the goodwill and loyalty of the Territorial Army and the Territorial Army and Air Force Associations. After all, the purpose of the Territorial Army has been to provide the country with the most effective military Force possible in any given circumstances. I am sure, therefore, that we have only to convince the Territorial Army leaders, the county associations, and all others who have given such loyal service to the Territorial Army that the changes are indispensable in the national interests, in order to evoke their whole-hearted co-operation.
1569 Fortunately, the changes in the structure of the Territorial Army are not as far-reaching as might have been feared. The vast majority of Territorial Army units will continue to function in the rôles and in the places to which they are now accustomed. I cannot, of course, detail to the House this afternoon the individual changes which are proposed. Briefly, they involve a reduction in the number of major units of the Territorial Army—of lieutenant-colonels' commands—from 583 to 507. This reduction by 76 units still leaves the number of Territorial Army units, the House will observe, substantially above the pre-1938 figure, which was 350. Of the 76 units removed from the Territorial Army's Order of Battle, about one-half will be amalgamated with existing Territorial Army units, while about half will be transferred to the Supplementary Reserve. Full details of the individual changes proposed will, of course, be published and they are now available in the Library of the House.
In addition to these 76 major changes, there will be some 600 minor changes and moves. It is impossible to generalise on the nature of these minor moves or changes. Each problem is essentially a local one, and different solutions have therefore been sought, and, I hope, found, to fit each particular case. These changes are all under discussion between General Officers Commanding-in-Chief of the Home Commands and the Territorial Army and Air Force Associations. Perhaps the best summary that can he made is that these changes will usually involve moving the Territorial Army Centre, or drill hall, to some new area nearer to the centre of gravity round which live the new National Service men and the potential new volunteers for that unit. It must not be thought that all these indispensable changes in the structure of the Territorial Army are unpleasant necessities. I will give one example of a good effect. It has been possible to group certain brigades together in Scotland to form a reconstituted 52nd Lowland Division. The absence of this Division from the Territorial Army has been much deplored in Scotland in the past.
This is only one side of the indispensable process of building a Reserve Army. It is not only proposed to adapt the structure of the Territorial Army so that it may best receive the quantity and the type of 1570 man flowing into it from the National Service Scheme; it is also proposed progressively to adapt the type of National Service man flowing in. When a man is called up for National Service, we have to decide in what arm he shall serve. In future, we shall take into account the character of the T.A. units based on the town and district from which he comes, for he will return to these units probably at the end of his 18 months' service. Thus, if there is a gunner unit and an infantry unit in the man's town, we shall seek to make him an infantryman or a gunner during his period of service, rather than post him to the R.A.C. or R.A.S.C. Thus he will find his natural place in the Reserve Army in his own area when his 18 months' service are done.
Of course, there will be other factors to take into account. We cannot only think of the Territorial Army's requirements. If a National Service man on call-up has special technical skill or aptitude, or a strong personal preference this will have to be taken into account. There should still be, in the majority of cases, particularly for men who came from the larger cities, much freedom of choice; for the larger cities provide a wide choice. of Territorial units to which the men may return. Finally, we will still guarantee to boys who qualify for a particular arm by service with the Territorial Army or the Cadet Forces before their period of National Service, that they will he posted to the arm of their choice.
I must make it clear, however, that it will be a year or two before the full effect of these proposals for fitting the flow of National Service recruits into the Territorial Army structure can be fully felt. Until then a relatively high proportion of what is called "rebadging"—in other words, reposting—men from one Arm to another on transfer to the Territorial Army or Supplementary Reserve will be inevitable.
I turn to the question of the future character of the Reserve Army. The National Service men entering the Territorial Army will be joining units which have already been raised on a voluntary basis. The existing volunteers have the primary role of training the new corners. Yet many of the new entrants themselves will be men of high skill and powers of leadership. In fact, we are looking to these new National Service entrants to 1571 be the Territorial Army volunteers and leaders of the future. Therefore, there can be no question of a Territorial Army divided sharply into two classes—volunteers and National Service men. After all, in due course the whole Territorial Army will be composed of officers and men who have served their period of National Service.
Let me here say a word about Territorial recruiting. As the House knows, we badly need more volunteers for the Territorial Army. Nevertheless, it would be quite wrong to under-estimate what has been achieved in this direction. If we ignore the age group in the pre-war Territorial Army equivalent to the age groups which have been discharging National Service obligations since the war, we have very nearly as many volunteers in the Territorial Army now as we had between the two wars. This reflects great credit on all those who volunteered in the post-war period and who have worked so energetically in forming units and reconstituting the Territorial Army. What we need today are more Warrant Officers and senior N.C.Os. preferably with war experience. We need another 8,000 men of this sort and we are asking employers not merely to give such men an opportunity to join the Territorial Army, but to give them positive encouragement to do so.
I should now like to say something about the Supplementary Reserve. I have already said that some of the units will be removed from the Territorial Army Order of Battle and transferred to the Supplementary Reserve. One reason for this step is that in some cases National Service men will be returning to homes too far away from any Territorial Army Centre for them to take part in the life of the Territorial Army, and to take part in regular evening drills, etc. The Supplementary Reserve used to consist largely of technical units, such as railway operating and port operating companies and like companies in which in many cases, men were called upon to perform exactly similar tasks in war as they were performing in peace, and constant weekly training in new weapons or as members of a weapon team was not necessary. We now propose to expand the scope of the Supplementary Reserve to include a number of non-divisional 1572 and line of communication units which have hitherto been raised within the Territorial Army.
In the Supplementary Reserve a man will normally perform his liability of 60 days' training in four annual camps of 15 days each, with his unit, whereas in the Territorial Army he will generally perform that liability in three annual camps of 15 days each, and the remaining 15 days' training will be taken at week-end camps or by attendance at drills; four drills being equivalent to one day. I should here mention that no 1949 National Service man leaving the Army from 1st July this year onwards will be required to attend camp this year. This enlargement of the Supplementary Reserve complements the modification in the structure of the Territorial Army of which I have informed the House. Together they should enable us to provide the number of units planned for the Reserve Army, including A.A. Command. On the whole troops in field force and A.A. Command formations will be drawn from the Territorial Army and the extra-formational backing on the whole from the Supplementary Reserve.
Let me attempt to sum up again the object of the proposed reorganisation of units of the Reserve Army. The reorganisation is intended to enable us to marry up our Territorial and Supplementary Reserve units which are characterised by their volunteer cadres and their strong territorial and traditional basis, with the trained manpower of National Service men as it begins to flow into the Army from July onwards. I know that those who have planned this reorganisation would be the first to say that it will involve many difficulties and cannot be expected to run smoothly from the outset in every case. Nevertheless, they are convinced, and they have convinced me, that it forms the only sound basis on which we can build the Reserve Army.
I have devoted the main part of my speech to these problems of organisation, the first the organisation of the Active Army, and the second, the organisation of the Reserve Army, for these issues face us immediately this year. I must not end my speech without saying a word about the present tasks and responsibilities of the Army. The Army today bears the responsibility of having entrusted to it 18 vital months in the lives of many of the 1573 young men of this country. My predecessor in office made this matter of the welfare and morale of the National Service men his immediate personal concern. He lost no opportunity of achieving direct personal contact with these young men and he has told me, as he has told the House, of his efforts to see that their time, their energy and their enthusiasm are used to the very best advantage. I shall do my utmost to continue my predecessor's notable work in this sphere.
Nor would I like to end this speech without pointing out to the House the great efforts at economy made during the past year. In spite of the fact of the major new commitment in Hong Kong and the heavy continuous commitment in Malaya, there has been no Supplementary Estimate during the past year and the Estimates for the coming year are down by£5.7 million. In fact actual gross Army expenditure is down by£14.6 million for the appropriations in aid, mainly from the sale of stores, are now beginning to tail off. Such a result would have been quite impossible without the most rigid economy, especially as a substantial provision has been made under Vote 7 for re-equipment and research. It would be idle to conceal from the House that this last will be a continuing commitment in the coming years.
I repeat that I have thought it better to concentrate in this speech on one or two main issues. This has inevitably meant the exclusion of many important points which will no doubt arise in the course of the Debate. My hon. Friend who has been working on these problems for two and a hall years will reply to the Debate. No one can mistake the fact that the Army is still fully extended in discharging its numerous and heavy responsibilities. These responsibilities are of two kinds. The first and most immediate, the present overseas commitments; the second—less immediate, but no less indispensable, the task of preparing a force, in the form of both an Active Army and a Reserve Army, a force which can play a worthy part in ensuring Western Europe against attack.
Either task, without the other, could, perhaps, be performed without the need to call upon the appreciable part of the national effort and resources which, I am well aware, are represented by these esti- 1574 mates. But in combination, these tasks cannot be undertaken at any less cost: in fact, taken together, they undoubtedly engage all the resources of the Army in men, material and money. Nevertheless, sustained as it will be by the support of Parliament, the Army is undertaking, and will discharge, its heavy, dual responsibilities.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)
The right hon. Gentleman has been in office for a bare three weeks. To have to introduce the Army Estimates after such a short tenure of office and such short experience of the subject must be something of an ordeal. He must have been making a speech which very largely depended upon the work of others and for which he has had no responsibility. I will try to bear that in mind. It is some encouragement to us on these benches to find the Secretary of State for War stressing and underlining the very arguments which we have been emphasising during the last four and a half years.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State for some more information on the subject of Malaya. No doubt he is aware of the widespread anxiety which has been caused in Malaya by the answer given by the Minister of State for the Colonies on the subject of military reinforcements. The right hon. Gentleman has not entirely removed that anxiety from my mind by what he said this afternoon. We want to obtain an assurance that if more troops are required they will be sent, and that the War Office, at least, will not regard the present forces which we have deployed in Malaya on these operations as necessarily the maximum. I attach some importance to that question, and I hope that whoever replies will make a particular reference to it.
The Memorandum issued on the Army Estimates is, in some respects, the most candid we have ever had from His Majesty's Government. I must quote again— they were quoted several times on Thursday—the words which it used, and which are frank to the point of brutality. In paragraph 7, page 4, the Memorandum states:Moreover, the Army can never be fully efficient and the National Service men be properly trained and economically employed unless the Regular element is appreciably increased.1575 The right hon. Gentleman devoted the last part of the first part of his speech to this very subject. But upon that point he seemed to be pessimistic, almost defeatest, and this passage, which was so widely quoted, goes to the very heart of the matter which is before the House this afternoon. The most expensive and the least efficient way of organising military defence is by employing large numbers of short-service men. I think we all agree on that. The larger the number of long-service men the cheaper and more efficient will be the Army. This applies—and I think the Secretary of State was also on the same point which I want to reinforce—to all periods of service. The soldier who originally enlists for five years with the Colours and for seven years with the Reserve, or vice versa, and who re-enlists for a total period of 12 years is a great asset to any Army. But those who enlist after 12 years for a further 10 years, making 22 years in all, are not only an asset but are of incalculable value to an Army. It is from these soldiers that the bulk of highly trained and senior noncommissioned officers of the Army are drawn.
To employ short-service men is undoubtedly a very expensive way of filling the ranks. There are only a few months in which a short-service man can be described as a trained soldier. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) has said—and it was not disputed—the National Service man could put in only two or three months in Malaya as a fully trained man. The point I am making, that it is expensive and inefficient to have such a large proportion of short-service men in the Army, is generally acknowledged. The White Paper on Defence used the words:All will agree that as many as possible of our peace-time defence responsibilities should be met by Regular Forces.I am, frankly, disappointed by the rather hopeless attitude the Secretary of State adopted towards this problem. We have not seen the worst of it yet. Apart from the disquieting information that 40 per cent. of officers are on short-term engagements, there is also the fact that a little more than a year ago National Service men were serving for 22 months while most of those who are now coming out have served 20 months. From now 1576 onwards we shall come back to the exact period of 18 months under the National Service Act. So this problem will be more acute.
But, far more serious than the present position—and I do not think the Secretary of State brought this out—is the trend of recruiting. If we look at the years 1947, 1948 and 1949 and take all three Services together, the figures are really startling. In 1947 the figure was 95,500; in 1948 it was 67,200; in 1949 it was 52,200. Recruitment in the last quarter of 1949 was at the annual rate of only 37,800. The figures for the Army alone are 40,500 in 1947, 33,900 in 1948 and 23,800 in 1949. The last quarter of 1949 shows recruiting for the Regular Army at a rate of only 17,000 men a year.
If I may put the subject in a pictorial way, and describe the Regular Army as "the thin red line" and the National Service Army as "the thick blue line," it is, unfortunately, true today that the thin red line is getting thinner. Consequently, the thick blue line will have to be made thicker if we are to keep any kind of efficient Army. This trend is the reverse of what is desirable in the cause of efficiency and economy. I think we all agree on that. In 1948 and 1949 we were led to entertain some hopes that increased recruitment and decreased commitments would help towards the solution of our problem. We hear this afternoon that there is no great decrease in the commitments which the Army have to fulfil. On the other hand, we have this very serious present position and much more serious tendency which the figures I have just quoted seem to show.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) warned the Government, in the clearest possible terms, about three years ago, of where we were going to get in this matter. Hon. Members opposite should read those words. My right hon. Friend described the Government as:… planless in the grip of a situation which they had not foreseen. …REPORT, 30th July, 1947; Vol. 441, c. 504.]
The predicament is quite clear.
I must now turn to suggestions for reversing the trend. I believe it is possible to do so, and to make the thin red 1577 line, that is the Regular Army, thicker by taking action. This is not primarily a matter of money. We have now reached a point where I believe the increase in efficiency, by making the thin red line thicker, will be quite striking, and at quite negligible cost.
How is recruitment to the Regular Army to be increased? I hope hon. Members opposite will forgive me if I start upon matters upon which the Secretary of State was silent. We frequently hear, in industrial Debates, that men are willing to work and give their labour for the community because they derive satisfaction from serving their fellow men. How far these statements make a contribution to industrial relations or how far they are acceptable to employers or to the trades unions is another question. Nevertheless, this moral, spiritual and patriotic impulse is latent in people's hearts. I think that is beyond argument, but, unfortunately, it generally comes out only when great national danger is undergone and when perhaps survival is at stake.
If we are to fill the ranks of the Regular Army, the first step must be taken by public opinion. It must be shown that service in the Army is regarded by everyone as a noble calling, involving personal sacrifice, hard discipline and often death in the cause of the country. By various means public sympathy has been enlisted, and very rightly, for our Police Force. The same sympathy and understanding must be built up with respect to our Armed Forces. Whenever disparaging remarks are made about the military or the military profession—and they are not infrequent—damage is done to the public interest. There are many ways in which public opinion can be improved upon this point. One of them is by hon. Members making speeches themselves on the subject, but another one is by hon. Members keeping silent upon the subject.
Quite apart from these matters of public opinion, some of the panache must be restored, and military bands and uniforms have a part to play. This is one of the reasons why the selection of Service Ministers is so important. The idea is to try to find men who have had experience not only in war but, if possible, in battle—men who have been able to 'absorb, during their lives, some 1578 part of the military philosophy which is necessary, and who understand, in action, the values of discipline and morale. It is most important to stress this. So much for the moral or impalpable side of the subject.
I turn to the material side, and first of all to pay and allowances. I think I am right in saying that the general argument which was advanced by the Government in 1945 was that at that time Service pay and allowances put the material lot of the married soldier roughly at the same level as that of the industrial population, taking into account the other concomitant advantages which the soldier gets with his pay. At that time industrial earnings were about 114s. a week. Since then, largely as a result of inflation, the average industrial earnings have gone up to about 140s. a week, whereas Service pay has remained the same, except for the increases which were announced on 24th November, 1948, and which had the effect of increasing the pay and marriage allowances by about 10s. 6d. a week.
If we accept the Government's own thesis that military and civilian pay were not widely different in 1945, on their own showing there is now a difference in favour of the civilian and to the disadvantage of the military of about 15s. 6d. a week. If these calculations are incorrect—and I do not think they are—I hope they will be corrected. These differences, very large though they are, will become still more marked by any examination of the rewards which senior non-commissioned officers or skilled tradesmen get in their military profession compared with the comparable rates earned in civilian industry.
I am very much disturbed by the very small numbers who reengage after the 12-year period which I have already mentioned. The total numbers of men involved are very small—perhaps 5,000 or 6,000 a year—but the payment of bounties to those who continue after 12 years would pay a very handsome dividend to the Army, not only in efficiency but also in economy. It is from this class that the senior noncommissioned officers are generally drawn. I hope that on this subject His Majesty's Government have studied the system of re-engagement bounties applied by the United States. I am not suggesting that their system is exactly applicable to our 1579 problem, but it might be as well to take a leaf out of the book of those who have at least successfully solved their own problem.
I believe the United States system is something like this: Men engage for 3-year periods at a time, and if they reengage after any of those 3-year periods they get a small bounty. This seems to me to be a much more successful way of promoting the flow of long-service men into the Army than to give bounties, as happens in some cases, when men leave the Army, which is the British system. I think there are lessons to be learned. At any rate, the United States have now got, roughly, one million men in the Army and Air Force, and 400,000 in the Navy, all drawn by voluntary recruitment, I think, and, as far as I know, the National Service Act is in abeyance, at least temporarily. The Americans have also made a special point of regarding service in the Army and Navy as a life career. Many men in the United States serve for 30 years, and are permitted to serve beyond that time is the circumstances of the men permit.
Every hon. Member—and the Secretary of State has referred to this—is aware of the problem of married quarters, and will know what a great encouragement to Army recruiting would result from any contribution which the Government are able to make in this direction. I have something to say about the past record, and I am not surprised that the Secretary of State has been silent upon this. If the problem of housing is acute in the civilian field, it is still more acute in the Army. Instead of giving some preference to the Service housing problem to assist recruiting, the Government have put the Services at a heavy disadvantage compared with civilians.
The total number of married quarters constructed for all the Services between the end of the war and the end of 1949 was 3,000 whereas if Service married quarters had been built even at the civilian rate—that is to say, doing no more than putting the married soldier on an exact equality with the married civilian—then in the same period 15,000 would have been built. That is the number which would have been built if the rate of building of married quarters in the 1580 Army had been comparable with the rate of civilian building in a not very glorious housing programme. In fact, 3,000 have been built. Is it surprising that the Government see the recruiting figures fall?
Yes. In this country there are only 3,000. The present programme shows some realisation of the mistakes of the past which the Government cannot possibly escape. As I have calculated, it will be at least five years before the back lag is overtaken. It is something which is now beginning to be tackled for the first time.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
The right hon. Gentleman's statistics are very intriguing. He talks of married quarters in the Army. Surely they are built only for a certain time, whereas civilian housing is for a long time. But will right hon. Gentlemen bear that in mind?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am talking about the housing of Service men. I do not know that the hon. Member's knowledge of this subject is particularly valuable. As men leave the Army other men take their places.
Finally, on this aspect of the subject, I believe that if we still adhere to the total period of service with the Colours of 22 years—it used to be 21 years when I was a soldier—and we do not attempt to increase that, as the Americans have done, we should at least give to those who complete their 22 years some positive guarantee of civilian employment at the end of their service. I believe the Secretary of State will get a lot of voluntary help in this matter if he asks for it from industry, because the numbers are not unmanageable. That is a piece of policy which I believe every hon. Member on this side of the House would support.
To sum up, if we are to solve this problem, the gravity of which we all agree, we must first of all make the call of soldiering, the profession of arms, more highly respected than it has been in our country, certainly during the last year or 1581 two. If not, we shall not get the necessary recruiting nor will the standard of military discipline which is necessary be maintained.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Shinwell)
We have done more in matters like pay than was done before the war.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The right hon. Gentleman is now going back to the material rewards, if I may say so, whereas what I was talking about in this part of my speech was the respect—and I really know about this—paid to the uniform and those who wear it. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am making no party point when I say that between the wars—after 1918 and certainly since the last war—the general move of public opinion has been rather against the military profession.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman; normally I should have left the point to my right hon. Friend, but I think the right hon. Gentleman's remark reflects on the three Services—[HON. MEMBERS "No"]—or at any rate, so it appeared to me. Even if it applies to the Army, the application could be to the three Services. What the right hon. Gentleman suggests is that we on this side of the House have failed to pay the proper respect to the military. I can assure him that that is not so. Indeed, in pay, accommodation and the like we have paid more respect in the last two years than was shown in the years before the war, when pay was extremely low.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The right hon. Gentleman seems very sensitive on this point. I never suggested for a moment that he has not—
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The right hon. Gentleman's contact with the Army as Secretary for War for a year or so and now, in his position as Minister of Defence, has made him unusually belligerent. It is really quite a relief to find somebody on those benches breathing fire and thunder.
I was talking about the move of public opinion against the military profession. I do not wish to attach it to any party, but just before the last war and since the last war it has been a popular thing rather 1582 to look down upon the Services. I am not putting the blame on to the right hon. Gentleman. Of course, it would be quite wrong for him to express that opinion; he would do just the opposite. Nevertheless, it is a fact. In wishing to ridicule people, how often did he describe them as "Colonel Blimps"? That kind of attitude towards the military profession has not tended to make it popular. Hon. Members opposite should, on this occasion, search their hearts to see whether they have been guilty of any of these criticisms and, resolve, not to make them in the future.
Apart from this point, we must try to bring Army pay more into line with civilian conditions. Third, more attention must be paid to married quarters. Fourth, we must, I suggest, consider a sensible system of bounties for men who reengage after five or seven years or after 12 years, because that will perhaps pay the biggest dividend in efficiency, both military and financially. These changes will cost money which we cannot afford unless, at the same time, it is possible, by increasing the flow of men into the Regular Army, to reduce the intake of National Service men.
I was very surprised by a remark which the Secretary of State made and which seemed to convey to the House the impression that all the National Service men found their way into the Army. The fact is that about one man in two is selected for service with the Colours, and I think that is shown by the figures given by the Minister of Labour on 13th March. In this coming year the numbers due to register in the relevant age class, which is 1932, amount to 292,000 whereas the yield in National Service men is only 132,000. Does the Minister of Defence dispute those figures? If the idea of any selective National Service is repugnant to anybody in the House he should note that selective National Service is already taking place, but instead of taking place upon a universal system it is taking place by exemptions and other deferments which are much more questionable than an openly selective system.
Now I want to say a few words about the equipment of the Army. I do not want to deal with the subject of the Territorial Army because there is an Amendment down on the subject in the 1583 name of my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), and in the short time at my disposal I do not want to say very much about that. It was, however, rather astonishing to listen to the almost nursery description which the Secretary of State gave about how the structure of the Territorial Army requires alteration if only gunners come out from National Service in a place where there are only infantry units. The realisation which is now borne in upon him that the real solution of this administrative difficulty is to allocate the recruits into the various Services, so as not to create this problem when they have finished their National Service; the realisation that it is simply an administrative fact, is rather exhilarating, but it has taken him rather a long time to find it out. Does the Minister of Defence wish to interrupt again?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The point was sufficient to occupy half the speech made by the Secretary of State. He made the point. If it was jejune, it is a little odd that His Majesty's Government have taken four years to find it out.
As far as I can find from the Army Estimates, we are reducing the sums spent on equipment in spite of the exhaustion or approaching exhaustion of our war stores. That reduction, which is a very small one overall, is in face of what was said in 1948 and 1949. In 1949 the Explanatory Memorandum said, on page 9, paragraph 49:The need for new production was brought prominently to notice in the summer of 1948, as a result of the change in the international situation, when to meet the situation"—the language is not very felicitous—additional expenditure was authorised on armaments, vehicles and stores to improve the position. As existing stocks deteriorate further expenditure on new equipment, vehicles, etc., will have to be sharply stepped up.As far as I can find from the Army Estimates, a slight fall is estimated in 1950 by comparison with 1949, and that seems to be quite contrary to the expressed intention in the previous document. I hope we shall have some further information on this subject. The figures are on page 124 of the Army Estimates.
1584 There is one particular matter upon which I should like some more information, and it is in regard to items under the heading, "Warlike Stores; Signals and Wireless Equipment." In 1948 the provision for that amount, if I am correctly informed, was£3 million. In 1949 it was£1,625,000. In 1950 it is to be£1,200,000. As signals and wireless equipment are such a vital factor in modern war I hope that whoever is to reply for the Government will give us some more information about this very sharp reduction in this particular department and, if possible, reassure me by giving reasons for it.
Now I turn to the question of vehicles. I suppose it is true to say that since 1945 we have had the policy of not providing the Army with new vehicles but of reconditioning the old. That, no doubt, has saved the country a lot of money, and, therefore, was a proper policy to pursue. However, I noticed that in the Report dated 14th December the Select Committee on Estimates appeared to think that that policy should now be reversed. The Committee appeared to suggest that, far from its saving money, too much money and work were being spent on the reconditioning of old vehicles which were not worth the trouble and the money, and that it would now be more economical to buy new ones. I should like some more information on that subject because the appropriation covers no less than£26,200,000. It is, therefore, an important matter.
In conclusion, we all seem to agree that the core of our problem is to increase the Regular Army in the ways that I have described, to make service in the Regular Army more attractive, and to fill its ranks by more recruits; and that all this will, admittedly, cost money. It is our belief on this side of the House—and many of us are in fairly intimate touch with Army affairs—that these changes would lead to very great economies in the Army, at negligible cost now and afterwards at positive financial saving. That is our belief. The change-over, we think, could be effected at practically no cost to the public purse now—if, of course, we accept what is happening de facto, that National Service becomes, pro rata, rather more selective as we try to build up the number of Regular recruits.
1585 For those who think that armies are unnecessary—and I believe there are one or two hon. Members who do—I would say that the whole course of military history has proved that armies are necessary to defence and to victory. Modern wars will probably not differ very widely from past ones in that respect. In peacetime we have commitments different from those of almost any other nation. They are commitments which can be fulfilled proficiently only if we have trained soldiers on long-term engagements, who can be used in the four corners of the world, commitments which are necessary in the protection of the British flag and British citizens.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) has said very much today with which we would disagree, except that rather strange passage where he seemed to think that the natural revulsion that people have after a great war from things military, was in some strange way attributable to the machinations of the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I got the impression that the right hon. Gentleman thought that because some members of the Labour Party make speeches attacking military service, they have made the public dislike the Army. There is, however, one point on which I should like to take the right hon. Gentleman up, and that is the question of sending more troops to Malaya. That is a very strange idea, because it is not more troops that are needed in Malaya but a larger and more proficient police force. What is going on there is really in the nature of a police operation.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I did not say we should necessarily send more troops. I asked whether, if the local authorities considered that more troops were required, they would be sent, or whether we were going to regard the present military force in Malaya, as the Minister of State for the Colonies said, as the complete maximum.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I should say we should regard it as the complete maximum, because if we are to do any good we must have men trained in police work. I did have the privilege of going out last year 1586 with an Army unit looking for bandits, and I must say that I thought that, apart from looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, it was about the most hopeless task one could possibly think of for soldiers, unless they were trained in police work. Unless they are, they have very little chance indeed of catching the right people, or even of knowing whom they are looking for at any given time. It is much more a matter of getting a larger police force in Malaya than it is of sending out more battalions of Guards, who,. however worthy their intentions may be, really cannot be very successful because of the very nature of the operation.
The right hon. Gentleman—very properly, I thought—drew attention to the fact that, of course, the central problem with regard to the Army today is that of recruiting Regular soldiers. It is obviously impossible to do without conscription at present, and I myself doubt whether it is desirable to eliminate conscription altogether. I do not believe, in fact, that four or six months' service in. the Army does anybody any harm at all, and as conscription is serviceable in producing partially trained reserves who can be called upon in time of war and who do not have to go through all the elementary processes of Army training all over again, I think it is probably very useful to have it. If all the men in the Army were Regular soldiers I believe that it would not effect a greater reduction than about 10 per cent. in the numbers required to carry out the present commitments of the Army. So one should not imagine that the raising of Regular soldiers to a sufficient number to eliminate the necessity of conscription would necessarily save a great deal either in manpower or in money.
I think there are two main bars to Regular recruiting. One is material, as the right hon. Member for Aldershot pointed out, and the other is psychological. It is, of course, quite true, on the material side, that whatever is said about equating the rates of pay of soldiers and civilians, they are not, in fact, equated at all. Even a six-star soldier—and one is supposed to be very proficient indeed to be a six-star soldier—gets only£155 per annum plus his keep, and that is not a great deal of money. Of course, it can be said his keep is worth another£3 a week, but the natural retort 1587 of the soldier is, "Give me the£3 and let me decide how I will spend it." It is not of much value to work out that his breakfast is worth 1s. a day, say, and his lunch 1s. 6d., because the soldier would prefer to have the cash to manipulate himself.
I can see, as I think we all can, that it is not possible to have a great increase in pay in our present financial situation. It is, however, gratifying to see that we are going to save something like£10 million in soldiers' pay in the coming year. So it may be possible to do something with that saving. The principal suggestion I should like to make about raising the pay of Regular soldiers is, that the pay of conscripts, of National Service men, should be reduced, and that the pay of the Regular soldiers should be increased by virtue of the reduction made in the National Service men's pay.
National Service is undertaken as a national duty. Somebody who is called up by this means does not go into the Army because he deliberately chooses to go into the Army as a career. He is, in fact, performing a national service for the period for which he is required in the Army. On the other hand, the Regular soldier is undertaking the job as a profession, as a long-term career; and it is not fair that the Regular soldier should get only the same pay, certainly for the first 18 months of his service, as the conscript who is there to do National Service on an involuntary basis.
During the coming year the pay and marriage allowances of other ranks will amount to just over£50 million. National Service men at the moment in the Army amount to about a half of the total strength, so I think it would be safe to say that the National Service men's pay and marriage allowances, in so far as they have marriage allowances, would amount to£20 million out of the total of£50 million. If we were to take£10 million off the National Service men's total pay it would reduce their share to£10 million and we could increase the Regular soldiers' pay from£30 million to£40 million.
If, in addition, the Treasury were to agree to hand back to the Army, say, a half of the savings anticipated in pay this year, it would amount to about 1588 £5,000,000, and we should be able to increase the pay of the Regular soldiers by 50 per cent. straight away. The 50 per cent. increase in pay, although it would not necessarily mean that Regular recruiting would go up to the heights which we would like, would, I think, be bound to have some effect on regular recruiting. It would mean that the rate of pay of the six-star man would go up to something like£225 a year—a great increase over£155 a year. It would mean, however, that the National Service man would have to go down to 3s. a day on first entry and up to, say, 5s. or 5s. 6d. a day after he has finished his first six months' period. So much for the material bar to Regular recruiting.
I think that it is equally important to get right the psychological side of Regular recruiting. What prevents the conscript from signing on for a Regular engagement? National Service ought to be a great advertising period for the Army to attract a conscript to take on a Regular engagement; but it is universally found that very few conscripts do in fact sign on for a Regular engagement. because by the time they have had 18 months' service they are fed up with it, and do not want to do any more. I think that it is reasonable to ask oneself why this should be so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am afraid that it is not for pacific reasons, as some hon. Members sitting below me would like to imagine.
The first reason is perhaps that the conscript knows that he would not get an immediate increase of pay by signing on for a Regular engagement. He would continue on the old conscript pay, so there is no particular attraction on the pay side. Secondly, he is put off by a great deal of what goes on in the Army. The general atmosphere is not conducive to making people feel that they are being treated as human beings.
There are still far too many pettifogging regulations in existence in the Army of the kind which have been popular music-hall jokes for the last 50 years, and they are still quite real. I was horrified quite recently when I went to a unit near Salisbury to find that the ridiculous game of laying-out kit in an exact way on a bed, according to certain measurements laid down by the sergeant major, was still going on. Knives and forks had 1589 to be pointed in a certain way and everything had to be adjusted to a pattern laid down in a most bone-headed manner by some company sergeant major. It is insulting to human dignity to be required to lay one's tooth-brush on a bed at a certain angle. It is too ridiculous to expect grown-up men to accept that sort of thing in 1950 with any equanimity.
There is a whole series of things like that. It would be interesting to know whether, for instance, the same system with which some of us were familiar when going on sick parade still operates in the Army. This was the system that when one felt ill one had to get up earlier than usual—about six o'clock in the morning—parade outside the barrack-room and stand in the cold for about three quarters of an hour until the sergeant-major or sergeant marched one drearily across the barrack square to the sick room. This arrangement was designed to prevent people reporting sick unnecessarily—I imagine to make them die in their beds. It is not conducive to an atmosphere in which people believe that they are being treated as adults.
Then there is the system of raising complaints. There can be nothing more undemocratic than the Army system of making a complaint. When a man is marched into a room with another man shouting in his ear about a foot behind him and he is then required to stand smartly to attention, every thought is driven out of his head, and on being asked what it is he has to say, he cannot possibly remember. Then there are all sorts of things like fatigues around the barracks, peeling potatoes, and cleaning out the lavatories. I believe that some attempts have been made to introduce potato peeling machines, and that is a very good advance. I believe also that there is some attempt to recruit civilian labour to do some of the more menial tasks in barracks, and I think that could be more widely advertised and more vigorously pursued in the matter of recruitment.
One of the complaints which many conscripts have—and which I think is quite reasonable—is that when they draw their pay at the end of the week—and this is a fair point which can be made against me for trying to reduce it—they 1590 find all sorts of charges to pay, such as barrack-room damages. This is to guard against some mythical glorious "night out" when every window in the barrack-room is going to be smashed, and one has to insure against it over a long period by reductions from the soldiers' pay. It is time that type of deduction was eliminated.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I think that it is only fair that I should say that never in my experience has any one been charged barrack damages against a future event. What one is charged for are the things that it is proved one has broken oneself.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I myself have been charged against a future contingency. I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that other people have also been charged in that way. Also one should not charge soldiers, for instance, with the cost of "blancoing" their belts. To make people blanco their belts at their peril and then to make them pay for the blanco is a refinement of torture which seems to be quite unnecessary.
Again, during his period of service the National Service man—I think these figures are pretty accurate—has, after he leaves his basic training unit, an average of three postings. Within about a year or 15 months a man serves in three separate units. That is really two times too many. It may be unavoidable to move him once or twice, but to move him three times is, I think, quite wrong. What happens is that the units concerned are in a constant state of flux; there is an atmosphere of instability, and, to put it no higher, the battalion football team is always having to be rearranged to the annoyance of those who support it. All this is very disconcerting and does not help to build up a good battalion spirit.
I am told that the average number of postings in the Middle East is nearly four times during a period of National Service. That means that a man is sent round about once every three months, each time just as he has got used to a dew unit, and he does not like it. There are a lot of rude words used about this type of activity in the Army. When a man comes to consider signing on permanently, he has all these things in the 1591 back of his mind, and he does not propose to be mucked about like that in the future.
I think that another drawback to recruiting is the fact that we have not yet produced on a large scale a new uniform. At a unit I visited recently most of the men were wearing blouses which did not match their trousers; they were all different colours and different types of material, and were never issued so that the wearer had trousers and jacket of the same material; they were either of different materials or of different shades or of different textures. The result is that a man who is not an officer cannot take a pride in his uniform because it is not really like a uniform; it is not a thing of which anybody could be proud. Naturally, the National Service man feels that if that is the sort of uniform he is to have, he does not propose to be seen out in the town wearing it when he is with his girl; he would rather get back to civilian life. It is about time that we produced a proper Service dress, either of the sort we had before the war, or of a sort which can be worn far more often than anything that is produced today.
Those are only some of the things which could be done, on both the psychological and the material side, to improve Regular recruiting. Unless we do increase the number of Regular recruits coming in every year we shall never solve this problem at all, and every year for the next 20 years, when discussing these Estimates we shall hear that the Secretary of State for War still has not got enough recruits, that he still having to juggle with the number of men he calls up each year; and we shall still have suggestions for selective drafts, and other things of that kind, until we get Regular recruiting up to a level which will allow us to reduce the period of National Service to around six months.
Every attempt should be made to examine all these questions. It would be really worth while having a commission to go through the Army merely to examine what psychological irritants there are, quite apart from the question of material defects. If we can do that, we can create the right approach in the public mind, and particularly in the mind of the National Service man, so that he feels he will have a reasonable time in 1592 the Service and will be treated like a human being. Then we shall be able to solve this problem of Regular recruiting.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Alport (Essex, Colchester)
If I do not follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) but confine myself, to the best of my ability, to the broad issues which seem to lie behind the Army Estimates, I am sure the House will attribute this to my inexperience, and will accord to me that indulgent hearing which new Members are accustomed to claim on such occasions as this.
I feel, if I am right in understanding the procedure, that the Army suffers a distinct disadvantage in having its Estimates debated before those of the Navy. One of the clearest lessons I learnt when serving at the War Office was that the best argument to advance when approaching the Treasury for approval for expenditure for some improvements in Service Departments, or for the introduction of some new item of equipment, was to prove that the Navy already possessed it. One could be certain that if, by some odd chance, the Treasury approved for the Army an innovation which was not already accepted practice by the Navy for many years past, their Lordships at the Admiralty soon enough found out and set about remedying this infringement of their prerogative by demanding and getting similar concessions for the Senior Service, whether that Service deserved it or not.
Therefore, in any examination of the finances of the Army the approach of a soldier is apt to be diffident, and even furtive, and any suggestion by him that the Army is getting more money than it needs, or that the money it is receiving is not being properly and economically used, tends to savour of desertion in the face of the enemy. Indeed, there have been many occasions on which I have heard the financial departments at the War Office referred to in terms beside which the epithets used for the Germans or the Japanese during the last war would almost appear as terms of endearment.
At the same time, study of the Army Estimates does bring to anyone's mind the question whether, for the very large sum of money which will be debated when the detail of the Estimate is before the House, the Army and the people of 1593 this country are getting full value for money. I suggest that a point worth considering, even at this early stage, is a comparison between the number of men which were being estimated for in 1948–49 and their cost with those which are being regarded as essential during the forthcoming year.
In 1948–49, 415,700 men cost us£305 million; in 1950–51, 356,000 men are apparently to cost£299 million. This means that while the manpower, and therefore to some extent the effectiveness of the Army, has been reduced by 15 per cent., the cost has fallen, according to my mathematics, by only some 2 per cent. I cannot believe that this discrepancy can be explained away, either by rising prices or by the elaboration or maintenance of equipment. It seems to to provide pretty reasonable grounds for concluding that, to some extent, these very large sums of money, which bear very heavily on the taxpayer, are not being used as carefully and as economically as possible.
If I were basing this argument merely on the figures set up in the Estimates I would hesitate to advance it, but I represent in this House a garrison town which has military associations stretching away back into history. This year, Colchester celebrates the nineteen hundredth anniversary of its foundation. During the greater part of two milleniums there have been quartered in Colchester soldiers of many different ages and different armies: the Roman legionaries, the Danish Grand Army, the Conqueror's Normans, and Cromwell's New Model, end the soldiers who went to fight at Blenheim, Waterloo, Mons and Alamein. We in Colchester like soldiers, and we think we understand them. As a senior officer told me not long ago, in his experience there is no town where the atmosphere of friendliness and understanding between civilians and military is greater than in Colchester.
Therefore, in making any criticism, I do not do so with any sense of that feeling prevalent elsewhere, particularly in those years before the war, and not least—if I may say so—in what might be called Fabian circles, so well reflected by the lines:It's Tommy this an' Tommy that, an''Chuck him out, the brute!'But it's saviour of 'is country' when the guns begin to shoot.1594 Money spent on providing soldiers, serving and retired, with the decent conditions to which the hazards of their calling entitle them, is in no way grudged. Nor for that matter is money spent on ensuring efficiency of their equipment. But money wasted, and, what is even more important, human time and talents wasted, is something which must be grudged. My impression is that there is a feeling, among both civilians and soldiers, that under the present organisation and administration of the Army there is both waste of money and waste of manpower. I believe that this is reflected in the Estimates as they are presented to this House for the forthcoming financial year.
Let me give two examples to illustrate my argument. The first is a local one and the second is taken from a much wider background. I am informed that recently it was decided to end the normal civilian contract for the provision of bread for the garrison and to establish in Colchester an R.A.S.C. army bakery training unit. This latter is intended to provide bread for the garrison and at the same time to give facilities for training National Service men as Army bakers. The effect of this can be judged very simply by the fact that, whereas six civilian bakers were previously employed in this work, at present some 30 Army Service personnel and civilians are being used for that purpose.
According to my experience, field bakery units are not required in peacetime. I do not believe, in fact, from a military point of view, that there is any necessity for this change of organisation or for the maintenance of this particular type of unit. If the full bakery units are required on mobilisation, surely there will be no difficulty in obtaining them through the normal method of conscripting or obtaining as volunteers civilian bakers or civilians with bakery experience and welding them into units in the R.A.S.C. If the idea is to train National Service men for a trade after their release, surely it would be far better for them to be released three or six months earlier, so that they could be trained in their civilian trade in civilian environment and according to civilian methods, and at no cost to the taxpayer. If the idea is economy, then the Minister will find that the experiment, so far from producing 1595 economy, ended in an additional drain on public funds.
From a purely training point of view, 18 months is far too short a time for a soldier in a technical corps to learn the basic training of his arm without wasting his time trying to master a trade which he could far better learn in civilian life. It seems to me to point to faulty administration, and it is also an example which, no doubt, can be emphasised by other examples of the same sort. It is also a waste of manpower which we can ill afford, according to the views expressed in this Debate by the Secretary of State for War.
Let me take my second illustration. I notice on Vote A in the Estimates there is an injunction to reduce the Colonial and Gurkha troops from 82,500 to 69,200. This appears to me inevitably to involve a further reduction of the contribution made by the East African Colonies to local and Imperial defence. We are told in the Statement on Defence for 1950 that the basic problem inherent in the future of the Colonial Forces is thatthe cost, even of the forces required for internal security, is often beyond the means of the Colony.This appears to me to typify the narrow approach which the Government have made since 1945 to the whole problem of raising Colonial Forces.
It would be perfectly possible to raise on a volunteer basis, for employment in the Indian Ocean area, certain units from East Africa. We must never contemplate using African troops in Europe—not from any prejudice of colour but for the simple reason that African troops from Central Africa would not be able to withstand the rigours of European winter. It would be possible, therefore, to enlist troops for this formation to take part, as part of the Imperial strategic reserve for the Indian Ocean area to the strength of a division at least, and the cost of the employment of a brigade of this division in Malaya would be substantially less than, say, that of the Brigade of Guards even from the transportation point of view alone—that is, merely having to move the reinforcements and the original formation from Mombasa to Singapore instead of having to bring them the whole of the way from this country.
1596 From the military point of view it would, in my submission, be far more appropriate. In the first place, it would release European formations for service in Europe, and in the second place, East African troops have experience of, and aptitude for, jungle warfare. Thirdly, by maintaining—and this seems to me the most important point of all—a strong permanent East African force with operational and overseas experience, we would have an adequate basis for expansion in the event of a future war, a basis which we so sadly lacked in 1939.
I am well aware, having served for four years over there, that the African formations serving in Burma in the late war showed certain defects in training and organisation, but this certainly can be explained by the breakneck speed at which our expansion took place. Hon. Members will appreciate what I mean when I say that one battery armed with 3.7 howitzers in 1940 was expanded by 1944 to form a complete divisional artillery and its corps elements, an antiaircraft brigade, a heavy anti-aircraft regiment, coastal defence units for the East African Coast, and the training depots required to maintain these formations in active operations. The dilution was equivalent to pouring a bottle of whisky into the Thames, and then expecting a satisfying drink as a result.
The general conclusion of experienced officers was that the standard of performance, in spite of those disadvantages, of the East African troops in 1939–1945 was at least as good as that of the Indian Army in the first World War and that should another war occur, provided that there are sufficient Regular cadres available and sufficient operational experience can be obtained, East African formations could reach as high a standard of performance as that which enabled the Indian Army to make such a splendid contribution to the war effort between 1939 and 1945.
I therefore suggest to the Minister that these delays which have taken place should be subject to an investigation by him as a matter of urgency, and he should consider the creation of a permanent East African formation voluntarily enlisted for service in the Indian Ocean area, and that the cost of this should be borne by the Imperial Exchequer. I am quite certain that such a formation would form a 1597 valuable addition to the structure of imperial defence, and would, in the long run, provide for a saving on the expenditure by this country upon defence.
I do not want the House for one moment to think that my proposal is merely to replace expensive European units by cheap African ones, although there is no doubt the latter would be cheaper from the point of view of equipment and maintenance. I am convinced that such a proposal would be of great value to the Colonies concerned. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) speaking in a similar Debate last year said:Indeed, I would say that experience in military service has proved the most effective method of education. The African who has served in the Forces is an admirable influence when he gets back to his village."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 1471.]I would say without hesitation, from such experience as I have had, that the Army made a greater contribution to the improvement in education—and indeed to the improvement in health—of the Africans of East Africa in the five years of war than had been made in the normal course of events during a good number of years previously.
It was the custom of the Colonial Office to take senior warrant officers and N.C.O.s from the King's African Rifles and give them influential appointments in their tribal organisations. There was no doubt that their training in responsibility in the Service was of the greatest value to them in civilian life afterwards. I note that Mr. Alan Wood, whose name has been mentioned in this Debate already—here the Minister will be on very familiar ground—writing in the newspapers recently, said that one of the assets in respect of the groundnut scheme was the knowledge, the skill and the delight with which Africans from primitive tribes learned to handle heavy machinery.
It is sad to us and to those officers who had experience of African formations during the war, that the lessons which we learned very well indeed should have to be learned so shortly afterwards and at such very great cost. The African is capable of handling, and being trained to know, the most up-to-date weapons which are required for the normal field formations. There is no doubt that with continued operational experience he 1598 would be a source of manpower in East Africa and a valuable addition to our defence resources.
I regret to have worried the House for so long on this subject, but I can assure hon. Members that this project, which has been so half-heartedly touched upon in the past, merits further consideration, not only to assist us in the difficult manpower problems we have to face but as part of the general development of Colonial Territories. The experience of providing not only for their political organisation but for their own defence seems to be part of the process towards eventual self-government.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Parker (Dagenham)
It is a very great pleasure to be able to compliment a new Member of this House upon his maiden speech. I do so this time not only by paying the customary courtesy to the hon. and gallant Member for Colchester (Lieut.-Colonel Alport) but by adding that it is a very real pleasure, because the House of Commons always appreciates contributions to its Debates which reveal special knowledge, and contain practical suggestions on the subject under discussion.
I want to deal with the particular problems of the conditions of boys' service in the Army. The problems relate also to the conditions of boys' service in the other Services, and any solution in connection with this service in the Army would be bound to affect boys' service in those other Services. However, this Debate is connected solely with the Army and I shall therefore concentrate my remarks.
There is a large number of boys under the age of 17½ in the Army. I would also classify as "boys" those of 17½ and over who are under the ordinary call-up age, of which there is a considerable number in the Forces. Their problem is somewhat different from that of the younger boys under the age of 17½, but some of the problems affect boys of all ages right up to the actual call-up age.
Most of the boys under 17½ are in special Army schools, where they are trained for different types of specialised services in the Army. So far as I can gather, most of that training is highly desirable and, on the whole, is very good. There is also a small number of boys scattered among the adult Services, as 1599 band boys and so on. The most serious problem is that when boys join the Service, both when under 17½ and when upwards of 17½, they do so not only for the period of their boyhood but for a longer period, stretching well into their adult life as well. Normally they sign also for a further 8 years, plus four years' reserve, or for a full 12 years of service. It is very wrong that we should ask small boys to sign away not only what they are going to do with the rest of their boyhood but with the whole of the earlier period of their adult life.
Many constituents have come to me, not only parents, but young men who are themselves in the Service and who signed on as boys. They very much resent, now that they are adults, that they have to serve in the Army in a form of employment they dislike. They feel that they have been persuaded to sign on when they were young and not responsible for their actions, and when they did not really know what they wanted to do. There is very real resentment among these young men, who feel that the best years of their young adult life are being given to a job in which they are not interested when they would rather be learning some trade which they want to follow for the greater part of their lives.
Youngsters sign on for a number of different reasons. A very large number of them come from orphanages. They join up because they have no home life. Perhaps the headmaster may have made the suggestion to them when they were of an impressionable age. We cannot pretend that at that age they will know what they want to do in their adult lives. Many others come from unhappy or broken homes. There are cases in which youngsters have been brought up by relatives, the mother or father being dead. The youngster feels that he wants to be no longer dependent upon his relatives. He is anxious to move out from their home, and so he joins one of the Services.
A very large number of those who join up do so from a spirit of adventure, which is in itself a good thing. Boys aged 15, 16 or 17 often have rather fancy ideas about what adventures there are going to be in the Army. After a short time they get very disappointed because they find that the adventures are not what they expected. It is unfortunate that much 1600 Army propaganda appeals to this spirit of adventure and that when recruits get into the 20's they feel rather differently about these things. They feel that they have been caught by propaganda which was of an unfair character.
What is the problem? There are at the present time 3,433 boys under 17½ years of age in the Army. That is perhaps quite a small number, but let us remember that when they get into the adult Army many of them are discontented because they feel that they have been got into it on false pretences, and they form elements of discontent. They tend to discourage adults from coming into the Army. I would therefore reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt). The problem therefore requires to be solved not merely because of the youngsters in the Army but because of its effect upon general recruiting. There is also the larger problem of the boys of 17½ upwards who join whilst still immature without really having made up their minds' in an adult way.
I should like to raise the whole question from the moral and political point of view. It seems to me that from the point of view of the rights of the individual and of treating adults as real citizens, we have not the right to recruit youngsters into the Forces and to get them to bind themselves for very long periods of adult life when they are not adults. That is very wrong. I particularly appeal to the Secretary of State who has written a good many books on political philosophy, to consider this matter. He himself has said that a Socialist society is one in which there should be full freedom for the adult individual. Here is a way in which he can carry out his ideas in his office. Something ought to be done to deal with the problem by this Government. This form of recruitment is very wrong in our present form of society.
I want to make some suggestions for dealing with the problem. First, it is reasonable that if a boy wants to enter an Army training school he should stay in the school and the Army for the full period of his boyhood. I do not think there is now any case for having any boys in the forces who are not going through army training schools or special youth units. If they want to sign on as youngsters, I suggest that they should not be asked to sign on for more than three 1601 years after the period in which they reach 17½. They should enter for their boyhood period and three years from then; after they have been in the adult service for a year, if they want to sign on for the full period of service they should be permitted to do so. It is wrong that young boys and also those joining at 17½ should 'be expected to sign on for the whole period up to 30 years of age. It would however be right and reasonable if they entered at 17½ for a year and then after due consideration signed on for the full adult period.
I have had a very interesting letter from a man who has been connected with the training of boys in Army education schools. I wish to draw to the attention of the Under-Secretary some of the points he raises. He says:I do not deny that 'boy service' may be a useful means of augmenting the flow of regulars into the army and I know the system produces some well-trained technicians who do well in the service. Also I have no complaint with the large army schools at which most of these boys are trained. But there are one or two points which to my mind need serious attention.These boys sign on while they are only children. Often they can have little real say in the matter or are easily swayed by the family. Yet once in they cannot get out. It was my experience that many of them as they began to grow up loathed the idea of continuing in the army. Some developed obvious potentialities for other careers. Yet they are virtually slaves; the only ways of getting out, I believe, are by 'buying themselves out' (impossible on their tiny pay) or by behaving so badly or so stupidly that the army dispenses with their services….The bulk of the boys are at proper army schools where they receive a very good training but a minority are stationed among various units, at regimental depots, where they are trained as bandsmen or 'drummer boys.' These lads live in close day to day proximity with adult troops. They are subjected to considerable moral risks, and the stunting effect on their general mental and moral development is serious.These points are based on the experience of someone who has actually been engaged in training boys in the Army.
I ask the Secretary of State to consider if something can be done to overhaul the present conditions of recruitment of boys into the Army. Not only would elementary justice be done to a great many young men who at present feel that they have been got into the Army under false pretences, but this reform would assist recruitment for the Army as 1602 a whole because general recruitment would be helped if these elements of discontent were removed. I therefore ask the Secretary of State to look at this problem, although I fully realise that it will have to be solved in the other Services as well.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
I should first like to join with the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) in congratulating my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Colchester (Lieut.-Colonel Alport) on his admirable maiden speech and on some of the very admirable and valuable points which he raised. I am quite sure that those of us who are interested in matters of defence and of the Army hope very much that he will in future frequently contribute to our discussions.
The amount we are asked to vote in these Estimates is some£299 million, which is less by approximately£5 million than the amount voted last year, but, as we were reminded by the Secretary of State, it is still a very large sum. Paragraph 18 of the White Paper states that His Majesty's Government are satisfied that the money will be spent to the best possible advantage. I wish we could all be equally satisfied on that point. Last year some of us raised the point whether we were getting value for money, and I think that this year many of us will feel some doubts whether we are now likely to get value for our money.
I suppose that we are expected to take the Government's word for this, but we are given far too little information about the Army generally, its strength, distribution, organisation and readiness for war. We do not ask, and we do not expect, to be given all manner of confidential plans and particulars which might be useful to an enemy, but we ask to be given some of that elementary information such as I have mentioned and which we invariably got in pre-war years and which, if the Government have any doubts on the matter, they may be perfectly certain that the intelligence agents of foreign powers have in the very fullest particular. We ought to have very much more information.
There is not even a monthly Army List now. The monthly Army List at least gave us particulars of units, their stations and distribution, and I do not imagine 1603 that it was an extraordinarily expensive production. I cannot think why we should not have it now. If I am correctly informed, the Navy once again has the Navy List, and I hope the Under-Secretary will tell us why there should not now be a monthly Army List. We should know quite a lot more about the Army if there were such a publication.
Once again we have a newly appointed Secretary of State for War, one who has never at any rate shown, openly or publicly, the very smallest interest in the Army of any kind. He cannot be expected to have any knowledge of the Army. He will only be able, as no doubt he did today, to speak from a brief, and he will be probably unable, as his predecessor was, to answer the simplest question about the Army without being coached in it by some staff officer.
What are the main tasks of our Army today? We are not told in the Army Estimates, but I suggest that the first and most important task is Western European defence, and Western European defence must, and does, include home defence; and second, as we are told in the White Paper, is the occupation of what is described as the vital strategic area of the Middle East and the maintenance of our positions in the Far East and in Africa.
As to Western European defence, paragraph 4 of the Statement on Defence says that an overall strategic concept has been drawn up and endorsed. A great many of us would like to know exactly what that means. Does it mean that a definite plan has been made specifying the contingents to be provided by the Powers respectively, and the tasks of those contingents? Such a plan is vitally and urgently necessary and, in my submission, it should be agreed upon and worked to. Further, our contribution to such a plan should be not merely one of equipment and stores, as we have been told is being made, but of fighting Forces.
In speaking of our contribution I would ask whether anything has been done as regards the standardisation of equipment between ourselves and our Western European Allies. I need scarcely say that if equipment is standardised, its supply, the supply of ammunition, and of supplies generally are greatly simplified. I am far from saying that it is an easy thing to do, but I hope the matter has 1604 been considered and that some progress may have been made towards it. Since we are to act as one alliance, has anything been done with regard to assimilation of staff methods? Certainly between ourselves and the French they were very different in the past. Again I do not say it is easy but, if they could be assimilated, it would make for much easier co-operation between ourselves and our Allies, though I would not for a moment think of attempting to lay blame on anybody for not doing this.
I suggest that as regards our contribution of fighting Forces, we must set an example to our Allies and take the lead by providing a British contingent consisting not merely of so many thousand men—which is about all is voted in the Army Estimates—but of organised, trained, well-equipped units and formations, ready to take the field without undue delay. It is common knowledge that units at home at present, although nominally part of our active Army, actually consist of little more than cadres, cadres of instructors who are Regulars and a lot of recruits in all stages of training, from the extremely elementary up to the slightly less elementary, and that those units are in consequence quite unfit and unready for service.
It is, in fact, an utterly unsound system and it is urgently necessary that the system should be improved by the creation of training units. They can be called training units or training centres, but training units there must be which are not part of the active Army, as are the present so-called Arms Basic Training Units. These training units should be again created and no man should be posted to a Service unit until his recruit training has been completed with one of these training units.
I would give the example of the Guards Depot which is the most old-established training unit in this country and is universally acknowledged to be by far the most efficient training unit in this country and, probably, in the world. It is largely so because, wisely, it has been left free from interference and suggestions by various people with new ideas of their own at the War Office. It remains almost the only purely training unit. The efficiency of the Brigade of Guards is due largely to the training of that unit, and if something on those lines were formed for 1605 the rest of the Army, the training and efficiency of the Army and its readiness for war would be greatly improved.
As is recognised in the Memorandum, the Army can never be fully efficient unless there is a strong Regular element in it. Regulars should not only form the bulk of the Service units but they are necessary also as instructors for National Service men and, incidentally, for Territorial units. Yet, as the Memorandum again states:These figures reveal a serious situation and unless the downward trend can be arrested, the problem of maintaining an efficient Army will become increasingly difficult in 1951 and 1952.I suggest that any measures in hand which are referred to in the Memorandum are inadequate. The measures detailed by the Secretary of State today are, in my humble opinion, not unsound but inadequate, and far more effective measures need to be taken, and taken quickly, if we are to have anything like the necessary numbers of Regulars in our Army. We cannot afford to wait until 1951 or 1952 and see whether the Army runs down to next door to nothing.
I was glad to hear from the Secretary of State that the situation with regard to married quarters is being dealt with. It is not before it is time. Other further measures I would suggest must include—in spite of what the Secretary of State said—improvement in the pay of Regulars, particularly of officers—especially senior officers—and non-commissioned officers. There must be abolition of the iniquitous system—because that is what it is—of taxing allowances by which quite a number of officers are worse off today, not only in the value of their money but in actual receipts, than they were before the readjustment of pay. Allowances are given for a special purpose, such as the provision of a house or lodging or some necessity of life. To pay the allowance, which may or may not be adequate for its purpose, and then to deduct Income Tax from it is utterly unfair and wrong. All these things, and many others, rankle with the Regular soldier, let there be no mistake about it.
Other measures which should be taken include a guarantee of employment by the Government for men when they finish their time. Further, good Army 1606 service—emphasise the word "good" because I mean really good—should count towards the pensions of those who go to Government services such as the Police and the Post Office. Then there should be serious consideration of the use of bounties, referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). This method has been used before in our Army when we have had a shortage of soldiers and it might be used again with great advantage. Further, I suggest that soldiers should be given a decent dress. Why should the soldier be practically the only man in the Kingdom who has not a best suit, and who has to live and work and sometimes to sleep in his Service dress?
Then there is the matter of retired pay and pensions, grievances over which form a very strong deterrent to young men from becoming Regulars. Let there be no mistake about it, young men do look ahead; and these two matters are a deterrent especially to those who may be sons of officers who have retired under the 1919 Warrant, which guaranteed a rise or fall in their rates according to the rise or fall in the cost of living. But when they hear that their fathers have been broken faith with, as they have been over this question, they are not encouraged to try their own luck in the Regular Army. All these and many other matters must be inquired into and action taken on them, not far ahead, but in the very near future.
Some of the matters which have been raised today—for instance, economies in Headquarters staffs and training and maintenance establishments—are referred to in the White Paper. Some of them were mentioned last year, perhaps not in identical words, by the then Secretary of State as being inquired into; but nothing has been done. Certain of the improvements I have suggested would undoubtedly be expensive, particularly the increase of pay for certain Regulars, but economies can be made—this suggestion also was made last year—in non-combatant and semi-combatant branches and services which do not contribute directly to the fighting strength and efficiency of the Army.
One example would be the bakery, which was mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Colchester. There are many other things on which 1607 economies could be made, and I suggest it is not a question of whether a service is desirable—for many of them are desirable—hut of whether it is essential to the fighting value and efficiency of the Army. Economies might properly be made in a good many services which are not essential in this respect.
The Secretary of State spoke of problems of organisation, and dealt with the form of the organisation into units and the organisation and the training of recruits, but he said nothing of the higher organisation in formations for Western European defence or for Mid-Eastern and Far Eastern commitments and duties. He spoke of preparing a force for Western European defence, but he does not tell us what has been done in this direction. He is still talking of "inquiring" and "considering" the various matters, but we are not told that anything has been done since last year, when his predecessor was inquiring and considering what should be done in various directions.
Nothing whatever has been said about Empire co-operation. Everybody must realise how important is the co-operation not only of the great countries of the British Commonwealth but of the Colonial Empire also. Where should we have been without their assistance in the last war? An improvement could be made upon the arrangements then in force in that there could be definite agreement beforehand between the Governments as to what should be the measure of assistance those Governments would give to us and what we might legitimately and properly expect from them.
There is the further question, which was referred to again by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Colchester, that when considering our Eastern commitments we must remember that we have lost the great, well-organised and gallant Indian Army. What are we to have to take the place of that Army, which was of such great value to us in two great wars, in the Eastern theatre? It is quite possible that some assistance might be looked to from Pakistan but, as my hon. and gallant Friend has mentioned, there is the question of the role of West and East Africans.
Last year I asked this same question about the Indian Army and its substi- 1608 tutes and suggested that we might look to Africans for assistance. It is stated in the White Paper on Defence that Colonial Budgets can only with difficulty meet the cost of their internal security. It would be a very good investments, however, for us to organise and to pay for the organisation, not of a lesser number, as is, apparently, now proposed, but of an increased number of African troops, to go some way towards making up for the loss of the Indian Army. That would be to the advantage not only of this country and of the Empire, but would be very greatly to the advantage of the West Africans themselves.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Does the hon. and gallant Member propose using these African troops in operations in Europe?
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
No, certainly not. I definitely said that they were to take the place of the Indian Army in operations in the Middle East and Far East.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has treated us to some views about the atom and hydrogen bombs. I do not know whether I am doing him an injustice, but I think he has suggested that those two bombs are such very terrible weapons that it is not really worth while thinking about any other methods of defence. There is no question that the atom and hydrogen bombs are terrible weapons, but they are very much more terrible if they are entirely unresisted than if some action is taken with a view to minimising their possible effect.
The late Mr. Baldwin spoke some years ago of our frontier being on the Rhine. It may have to be even more distant now. One of the measures we most emphatically ought to take is to keep the starting or launching points of aeroplanes and rockets at as great a distance from our shores as possible. It would be a very serious matter indeed for us if they were to be on the shores of the channel. Not only do we want to keep those starting points at a great distance; we want to keep the starting points for our own aeroplanes and, perhaps, guided missiles as far forward as we conveniently can. I do not propose to say anything about the Territorial Army, for the same reason as that put forward by my right hon. 1609 Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), because it forms the subject of an Amendment which is to be moved at a later stage of the Debate.
I hope that the matters of higher organisation and of organisation into formations and by units, will be seriously considered by the War Office. They have given no sign whatever at present of considering this matter. I wonder very much how many divisions or equivalent formations we could put into the field. Should I be very wrong in saying that the number is, possibly, one? It is not very much more than that, and if we take no part, either by our example or in taking the lead, in Western European defence, the other nations who are nominally with us in that defence will not take very much part in it either. It is of the utmost importance that we should have a plan, that we should work to that plan and that our troops are organised so that we can take an effective part in that plan, not only in the air and by sea, but also on the land.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
I have been attending these Debates for some five years. The argument always seems to go in much the same circle. If I may so put it, we have certain commitments and, of course, those commitments cannot be reduced; they are commitments that require 350,000 or 400,000 men; only about half, or less than half, that number can be found by Regulars and that proportion of short-service men and Regulars means an inefficient Army. Of course we would like to have more Regulars, but we know we are not going to get them; therefore, we are going on having an inefficient Army and so we are not going to be able to fulfil the one commitment that really counts, that is, to provide the divisions that are necessary if Western Europe is to be defended.
I would like to try to find some way out of this. We have talked about how we can get more professional Regular soldiers. I hope we shall try to. We shall not get a large increase. If we avoid the anticipated reduction, we shall be doing quite well. It seems, therefore, that we have to think in terms of reducing our commitments. If we do not reduce those commitments, we must fail on the one vital commitment, which is the safety of Europe.
1610 What are the Colonial commitments, and how can they be got away from? It seems to me that the hon. and gallant Member who made such an admirable maiden speech, the hon. and gallant Member for Colchester (Lieut.-Colonel Alport), provided a solution and I am very thankful to find another enthusiast for raising a Colonial Army. Whatever may be said, our Colonial commitments are not anything like what they were before the war. They have not been increased but have immensely decreased. True, we have trouble in Malaya; true, we have an additional commitment in Hong Kong, but what have we lost? First, Palestine, which was a very heavy commitment indeed. I know that India had value as a great reserve, and so on; every commitment has value; otherwise, one would not be committed to it. But India was something which involved troops and no longer involves troops. The Egyptian commitment, too, has gone, and, of course, far and away the most important commitment of all was Italy. While we had Italy in Africa we had to have in Africa an Army capable of meeting another European army. That has gone. Nowhere in our Colonial Empire or in the East do we now have to contemplate meeting another European army. The sort of menace we had to face before the war has gone. We have a problem in the Colonial Empire which can be met by raising troops which are suitable for that job, that is to say, Colonial troops.
At present, we have the Guards Brigade engaged in hunting bandits in Malaya. I do not say they do not hunt bandits very well, and that they are not doing very gallant service; I have no doubt they are. Equally, I have no doubt that a Rolls Royce would work admirably as a delivery van, but it is the wrong sort of machine to use for that purpose. For this sort of semi-police occupation we ought not to commit the elite of our Forces. It is said that the Colonial budgets will scarcely pay for the existing Colonial Armies. Why should they? /f we—this Parliament, this Budget—are to be relieved of this commitment, which we are finding it progressively more difficult to maintain in terms of manpower. why should we not pay for a very much cheaper method of meeting that commitment, that is, provide a subsidy to the cost of the Colonial troops? It is admirably 1611 put by the hon. and gallant Member for Colchester. I hope I shall find someone with the same views as I have on another matter. We cannot get the recruits here in England for a Regular Army. In Europe there are men of first-class fighting material who would be only too anxious to volunteer if they were given the chance. Why not give them the chance?
§ Mr. Paget
Ex-Nazis if my hon. Friend likes; I do not mind in the least. When one has a totalitarian Power the ordinary man in the street has, perforce, to follow the politics imposed by that Power and it is a lot of nonsense to talk about ex-Nazis, as it is to talk about ex-Communists somewhere else.
§ Mr. Paget
On another occasion, perhaps, but not now. Since these Colonial commitments are condemning us to an inefficient Army for the protection of our first commitment in Europe, for heaven's sake let us get recruits where we can find them, in Germany if you like, in Central Europe. I do not mind if they are people who were once Communists or Nazis, or anything else. I believe they are good material which can be brought together under British officers to form admirable units, and I would like to see a number of brigades raised and maintained in the Middle East, as the French did. It seems a sensible thing to do and a thing I would like to see done.
§ Dr. Morgan (Warrington)
I am rather intrigued by my hon. and learned Friend's argument, and would like to know a little more about it. Do I understand him to advocate the formation of a Colonial Army, from among people who have no vote, who have no property and are living in destitution, as in the West Indies?
1612 What does he want them to join the Army to fight for?
§ Mr. Paget
I think the answer will be that if they do not want to join the Army they will not, but we know perfectly well that wherever we form an Army in Africa, which is the place under consideration, we have queues of recruits. It is something which the native population are most anxious to join and there is never the slightest difficulty in getting them. I was not talking of raising a Foreign Legion in the West Indies, but I was saying that as everyone agreed we cannot get the recruits here in Britain why not accept the good fighting material which is most anxious to volunteer in Central Europe? Form them into units in the Middle East under our own officers, and there you have some first-class fighting material which will relieve us of these commitments and allow us to have a Regular Army back here in England
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
The hon. and learned Member would not suggest, I imagine, using these foreign legionaries as professional instructors of our National Service men in this country? That is one of the great reasons why we want the Regular troops.
§ Mr. Paget
I never suggested that. They would not come to this country at all. They would be mobile units which could be switched where required from whatever place we decided to make our base in the Middle East, in just the same way as the French handled the same problem. Their presence would enable us to get rid of the commitments which cause us. by over-dilution of National Service men, to have an inefficient Army here.
If we got rid of our Colonial commitments by transferring thereto a foreign legion and to an expanded coloured Army doing, broadly, a gendarmerie job, I believe the present force of 180,000 Regular troops to be quite sufficient for our purpose in this country. We need, broadly speaking, six to eight first-class mechanised and armoured divisions to meet the danger in Europe, and these could be organised out of that number of men. Let us consider for one moment what is the military problem we are up against in Europe. The Russians have, in their zone of Germany, a force estimated at 25 to 30 fully mobilised divisions. Of those, about 12 are probably armoured.
1613 There are various degrees of armour and it is not easy to compare divisions precisely, but that is the order of the force that we have to meet. We, the Americans and our other Allies in the Atlantic Pact, have to provide the sort of force which can hold up that immediately ready Russian force for at least sufficient time for the French, Belgians and Dutch to mobilise. That requires highly skilled professional troops.
En the initial stages of a war a conscript Army forms practically no protection. I believe that this idea of the levy en masse, which is the real basis of the idea of conscription, is obsolete. Look what happened in 1940. The great German victories were won by about 40,000 troops. In the battles of France only about 40,000 Germans actually fought; the others had a walking-on part. In Holland we saw that a force with a mobilisation strength of about 400,000 was forced to surrender inside a week by a force of under 20,000. That is the measure of the superiority, in the early mobile stages of a war, of highly trained and equipped professional soldiers over the levy armies. It is therefore completely essential that such a highly trained, highly armoured, highly equipped force should be in existence, and to it we must make our contribution.
The second task of holding lines will depend upon the French, the Belgians and the Dutch having time to mobilise. I do not think that there is much likelihood of our being able to use reserves if we do not hold the Russians in the initial phase, because there will be nothing to defend. In any event, the great pool of reserves for the Atlantic Pact is American. In the same way that we used to be the reserve of Europe so America is now the reserve of the Atlantic. We have to hold the ground for the American troops to be able to come. What, then, are our jobs? We require, first, a Colonial Army, stiffened with a mobile foreign legion to cover our Colonial commitments. Second, we require our professional Army to be exclusively committed to Europe, because we cannot fulfil that primary commitment with an Army which is in Hong Kong or French Indo-China. It must be committed here and go nowhere outside Europe.
Third, some garrison forces are required to cover our own country and to 1614 prevent weak airborne landings or anything of that kind spreading too much. I believe that to be the function of conscription. I would have a six months period of conscription in order to form garrison battalions. I would form them and train them locally where the people in them live. I would keep the formations in which they were trained as Territorial formations with a garrison function for the next five or seven years, or whatever period is selected. So far as training is concerned, I should make them a commitment not of the Regular Army but of retired officers and N.C.O.s. They would be fully adequate to do the job which is necessary to create garrison troops, which is what would be required. Out of those garrison units one would train and create divisions when a war was going on but they would all have to be re-trained all over again. That will happen in any event when our present or future Territorial Army is mobilised.
I suggest that these are the general concepts by which we can get out of the hopeless task of committing our Army to commitments which involve a dilution that imposes perpetual inefficiency, which makes our Army incapable of fulfilling its primary commitment. When one attempts to talk in practical terms about this type of problem one tends to he misunderstood, and for that reason I state that we want in Europe not another war but peace. Our every experience of the Russian, however, indicates that the most likely way of getting peace is to make it clear to the Russian that he will not get away with anything if he goes to war. Our hopes of peace are proportionate to our capacity to resist, and I believe that the weakness, the power vacuum, which is stretching from the Elbe to the Atlantic, is a threat to world peace. It is for that reason, above all others, that I desire to see a really efficient Army capable of meeting the Russians on level terms
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. McKibbin (Belfast, East)
I crave the indulgence of the House, as this is the first time I have had the honour of speaking here. I am particularly interested in the question of voluntary recruiting for the Territorial Army in Northern Ireland. We have not conscription, but that is not our fault, because when the 1939 war broke out we asked for conscription, as we wished to 1615 take our full part in the war. For reasons far too controversial for me to go into here, we were refused. So we cannot depend on any intake of National Service men, and all our people in both the T.A. and the other units must be volunteers.
1 have the honour to command a battalion of the Army Cadet Corps, the object of which is to provide pre-service training for boys between 14 and 18 prior to going into the Services. But there is no compulsion whatever for them to join the Forces when their training is finished. Bearing in mind the fact that the population of Northern Ireland is only 1,400,000, I am very proud indeed to say that we have over 50 units of the T.A. in Northern Ireland, plus seven battalions of the Army Cadet Corps, all of whom are volunteers. In addition, we have to find recruits for our own three Regular battalions, "The Stickies," "The Faughs," and "The Skins." The hon. and gallant Member for Colchester (Lieut.-Colonel Alport) is probably the only person in the House who knows who "The Stickies" are, because they are stationed in Colchester.
I am not suggesting that all these T.A. units are up to strength. They certainly are not, and I have always been searching for reasons why we cannot get more volunteers. During the war I gave a lift to an English corporal who was serving with his regiment in Northern Ireland. He was full of grievances. He was married—that was not the reason he had grievances, I do not mean that—but he was married, with two children. He had been conscripted and was serving on ordinary Army rates of pay. His younger brother, who was not married and who was working in a munitions works, was getting between£17 and£20 per week. That was one of his principal grievances, that his younger brother would not give him anything out of the£20 a week which he was earning. I give that only as an example of the kind of unfairness which I believe is one of the principal reasons why we do not get more volunteers, either for the T.A. or the Regular Services.
I pointed this out to a high ranking officer at a T.A. meeting and he said that we did not want the sort of people who joined the T.A. for money. This officer was a very old man. He was a bachelor 1616 he had fought in the Boer War and his ideas had become, I presume, somewhat atrophied I did not fight in the Boer War, but I did to a certain extent in the 1914–18 war, There was a certain amount of sport then to appeal to the adventurous. But that appeal would not be of much use in future wars, where some man, or even a girl, can sit on the other side of the world and press a button to start some missile on its way which will blow us all into oblivion. There is not much sport about that to appeal to anybody.
The ideal way, of course, to get over the difficulty if war broke out would be to conscript everyone and let them work at a soldier's rate of pay whether they are in the Army or in a reserved occupation. But I realise that that would never work here. I would not want it to, because, thank Heaven we still have some freedom in this country; in fact we have more freedom than any other country in the world—no matter which Government is in power. The suggestion I would make is that on mobilisation, those in the Regular Services and the T.A. should have their pay stepped up to the same basis as those in reserved occupations. If a guarantee were given to this effect and also if it were guaranteed they would get their jobs back, I believe there would be no shortage of volunteers at all. The gratuity which an ex-Service man gets is a mere pittance compared with what a worker in a reserved occupation can save.
I brought up this suggestion at a free-for-all talk in a barracks in Belfast, organised by the B.B.C. There were all sorts of people present; troops, members of the public, trade union officials, everybody—and they could say what they liked on the question of why there was a shortage of volunteers for the T.A. My suggestion was received by the troops with great enthusiasm, but it was cut out of the broadcast, like a lot of other sensible suggestions made by the troops themselves.
There was present a trade union official who was an ex-Service man and a great friend of mine. I suggested that he should reply to the question. He said that the B.B.C. had stated that one could only use the microphone once and he had already spoken. He then sat down, and so I never got an answer. It was a very 1617 clever way for him to get out of it. The point I make is that it would only cost big money if there was a war. It would not cost any more if there was no war. On whatever else we must economise, we cannot afford to economise on the Fighting Forces. It is no use building up a Welfare State if in the process we sacrifice the means of protecting it.
The final suggestion I would make is that the T.A. pay should be tax free. There should be no Income Tax on it, even if the pay is less. There is one example I have in mind. I was given£22 to go to camp. I thought that this was excessive; I did not ask for it, and I did not want it. However, I took it, and used it for the purpose of hiring buses to send the cadets to the nearest sea-side town after they had finished for the evening. It was a useful thing, and got them to come to camp. The next year I did the same thing. Then the Income Tax man came along and I had to fill in a form. The result was that between Income Tax and Super Tax I was left with£12 out of the£44 that I had already parted with for the buses.
These petty economies do not help recruiting. The idea of giving a thing with one hand and taking it away with the other is absolutely wrong. It always seems to me perfectly scandalous that a private soldier should be given a pension after 22 years' service and when he comes out of the Army, and gets into some other business that brings him up to the Income Tax level, that most of it is taken away again. If a man who has given 22 years' service, a great part of his life, is to be given something, it should be given freely with both hands. There should be no Income Tax levied on pensions.
I wish to thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for having listened to me so patiently.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I am sure I speak on behalf of hon. Members of all parties when I say that we are delighted with the maiden speech delivered by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McKibbin). He brings to this House a feature of our Debates which is very welcome, that is, a grain of humour, and we shall be glad to hear him again and again.
1618 I have heard many Debates in this House on this subject; I have tried to follow the trend of our discussions from last Thursday when we dealt with Defence, because the Debate today has ranged itself round the very same subject. I must confess that I have listened to some speeches today which I never anticipated hearing from hon. Members on this side of the House. I shall, however, come to them later on.
The strange fact to me about the vocabulary of the military class in every country is that they are always talking of defence. It is clear, I think, that all the great powers are preparing for war in the hope that it will not occur. I suppose if I were in Moscow or Washington tonight they would also be talking of defence. Why do they misuse the English language in this way when in fact what they are doing is preparing for another war? As I said, none of them desire a war; but they forget one important point, namely that whilst Governments provide money for equipment and instruments for fighting purposes there will always be a group of military-minded gentlemen in every country who will pull the trigger and see that those instruments are employed. They will find some excuse to start a war. If I had my way I should not deal with the problem in this fashion. I would say to the military class in my country, "There is so much money for you to spend; do your best with that sum; it is all you will get." Until Governments and Parliaments come to that view, we will never stop the appetite of the military machine. It always demands more.
I come now to some of the remarks made in this Debate. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) talked about the Atlantic Pact and Western Defence. As one who knows nothing at all about military affairs—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.") Why should I know? I have a very sound policy about wars, and it is that those responsible for the quarrels should fight them out themselves instead of calling upon other fellows to do their foul work for them. As I said, the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield talked about Western Union and the Atlantic Pact. On that score I would ask the Minister how it comes about that the more the nations come together to the defence or Western Europe, the weaker we seem to 1619 become, and the greater the cost of armaments.
That is a strange and anomalous state of affairs. I should have imagined that having got France and the Scandinavian countries and the might of the United States of America together to defend Western Europe, the cost of armaments in my country would have been reduced proportionately. That, however, is not the case. The more the nations come together to defend Western Europe, the greater the increase in armaments. I am told that this is not the end, and that the£799 million we are now spending will be as nothing in a year or more.
I should like the Minister to answer another question. How comes it about that the greater the support we get from foreign powers to meet our commitments the greater is the number of soldiers we require to carry out those commitments? I do not understand the contradiction. I thought that the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) was a little critical of military conscription.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
We have a strange state of affairs here today. We have Conservative Members opposite criticising military conscription because it does not work—
§ Mr. Lyttelton indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
And we have Labour Members on this side of the House supporting military conscription. It is a new form of Socialism to me to have a Member of the Labour Party supporting military conscription.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
But the Social Democratic Federation never made headway in this country. I would venture to tell the hon. Gentleman, because I was in the Labour Party before he was born, that if those of us who stood on public platforms 30 or 40 years ago had delivered speeches on the lines of those uttered by my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) today, there would have been no Labour Party and no Labour Government either. The right hon. Gentleman opposite complained that 1620 there was no public opinion in favour of the Fighting Services. He suggested that we should employ bands and wave banners—that we should sound the trumpets and the kettledrums and blow the clarion call in the streets so that people could be roused to join the Army and fight.
The fact is that the people of this country have suffered two wars and they have had enough of it. No amount of radio propaganda or bands and banners will arouse them. They do not want another war. They are not quite sure which is the next enemy they will be asked to fight. One hon. and gallant Member mentioned Mr. Baldwin—I think I was here at the time—as having said that our frontier was on the Rhine. According to some speeches here today, our frontier has now been pushed from the Rhine as far as the Danube. In the end, I suppose it will reach the banks of the Volga. I should like to ask the Government how can they expect to get more recruits for the Regular Army when conscription takes a large number of the very same young men who might otherwise join as volunteers? They cannot have it both ways. The last war ended nearly five years ago, and the comparison made now of our fighting strength is not between that of 1950 and 1938 but between 1950 and the war period.
I heard on the radio yesterday that most amazing story in the history of the British people. We were told that we are to enrol women into the fighting services and to call one of them a brigadier-general. I should like to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether there is anything to prevent one of the new women soldiers becoming a field-marshal?
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Michael Stewart)
At present there is a limitation governed by the terms of the announcement which my hon. Friend has quoted but who am I to set limits to the future?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
That is, of course, no answer to my question. If Stalin reads the speeches of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and my hon. Friend the Member for Aston, I am sure that he will collapse in the Kremlin. I would ask my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton where he gets his information when he talks of 15 divisions of 1621 Russian troops on the Eastern side of Germany. There was an article in yesterday's "Observer" by some gentleman telling us all about the strength of the forces of Russia. I thought that nobody could get hold of the secrets of Russia. Where do these gentlemen get their information? I have found out long ago about this military business that there are people in every country—and there are such people in my own country—who play upon the fear of the masses and find an enemy at every turn. Who was our great Ally five years ago? Why, Russia. What a grand fellow Stalin was then, and what splendid soldiers the Red Army possessed. Yet now, the hon. Member for Northampton is expecting a war with that Army.
§ Mr. Paget
I really must protest about that. I made it clear that I thought that the way not to have a war with Joe Stalin was by being in a position to resist him. I thought that the Baltic States rather demonstrated that. They did not want a war with Stalin, either, but they chose the wrong method.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
If the hon. Gentleman can collect the foreign legion from the coloured races of Africa mentioned in his speech and march them right to the banks of the Volga, I am sure that the Red Army would collapse like nine-pins.
A large number of people of this country are very sad about our commitments, because everything that is said by the Government Front Bench in support of military expenditure is to the effect that we must carry out those commitments. I had been in this House for 20 years before I knew that the British Government from time to time was maintaining a garrison, I think, of 30,000 British troops, on the banks of the Nile. The British public has never been informed where our troops are stationed all over the world.
I am opposed to all this expenditure for one simple reason. Some people have come to the conclusion, and I respect their views, that the only way to prevent war is to prepare for one. I have travelled over this country and many places abroad, and I have met all types of people. I once met Gandhi, who showed mankind a better way to avoid war than the generals. I say again, that once a Government produces the 1622 instruments of war, somebody will use them. Hon. Members know as well as I do the present economic conditions of our country with the cry for houses coming from all over the land, and then we talk of building barracks and still more barracks. It simply means that the more barracks we erect the fewer houses we build. Finally, hon. Gentlemen know my views. I speak about war and peace wherever and whenever I can, and I am very proud to stand here tonight, having been elected nine times by the people of Westhoughton because I advocate those eternal principles laid down in the Sermon on the Mount.