§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House considers that every effort must be made to encourage a larger number of volunteers to join units of the Territorial Army before the National Service men are posted to the Territorial Army; and with a view to getting recruits therefore calls upon the Government to improve its publicity and the conditions of service and amenities in the Territorial Army and to ensure that up-to-date equipment is allotted to each unit with proper arrangements for storage and maintenance.In moving this Amendment, I should like to express to the House my appreciation of this, the first, opportunity which I have had of addressing the House, and of having been chosen, by the luck of the Ballot, to speak on a subject about which I feel very deeply and which also gives me the chance of paying tribute to the great work of our Auxiliary Forces. What are the rôles of the Territorial Army? They are three: first, to provide anti-aircraft and coast defences here and by way of reinforcements overseas; second, together with the active Army anywhere, to provide a field force; and, third, to support our Civil Defence organisations against air attack. On the Territorial Army is based our whole mobilisation scheme.
How are we to attain these objectives? I suggest by a properly balanced mixture of volunteer and National Service personnel—and there must be no division between these two, as the Secretary of State for War mentioned in his speech. Their tasks are widespread and complex, 1623 but one element without the other would fail in their joint objective. National Service men, during this summer, will proceed in an even flow into the Territorial Army. Some hon. Members may think that with this steady influx of fresh blood the situation is quite satisfactory, but the National Service man only has to serve 60 days' training in four years, and three-quarters of that time, it is hoped, he will spend in training in three annual camps of 15 days each. Only 15 days more are left to be spread over four years, and it is impossible to keep a unit alive and militarily active by efforts which, however good, are the equivalent of less than one 30-hour working week a year. The continuity of direction and training, the provision of officers, both with and without commissions, must surely fall on the volunteers.
Without its pride in achievement, the Territorial unit will be sorry stuff. It was that esprit de corps which made many of the Territorial Army Regiments, at the outbreak of the last war, exceedingly loth to give up, as ordered, the "T"s we were proud to wear on our shoulders. Without these efforts, the sacrifice of young men's time and freedom in National Service will be in vain. Our mobilisation scheme may fail, and our commitments, which may horrify the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), but which are commitments of honour and common sense, will not be able to be met, either here, in the Empire or in Western Europe.
It has been the voluntary spirit of service for the public good which has already produced reasonable working cadres. If the volunteers had not provided the leadership for these cadres, it would have had to have been found from the already depleted Regular Army, whereas, up to now, these cadres, capable of strong expansion in a time of greater emergency, have not been costly. It is defence very much on the cheap. Out of Army Estimates of£341 million gross, the Territorial Army, excluding the Cadet Force, is costing less than£10 million.
But there are signals of danger. It was originally planned that there should be 150,000 volunteers, and it is hoped, under these Estimates, to maintain 142,000 this year. What are the figures? On 1st January this year there were no more 1624 than 82,500 volunteers. Compare this figure with 161,000 on 1st January, 1938, before Munich, before the doubling of the Territorial Army; it is now spread over virtually twice as many units as before the war, with all that that means in increased overheads and unnecessary expense of operation when working at less than full capacity. I am certain that the Territorial associations and the volunteers will respond splendidly to the appeal made earlier this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War when he gave notice of the various changes that are to be made in the order of battle of the Territorial Army.
What is the cause of the lack of volunteers? I think we must all agree that owing to Hitler's war we have virtually lost what amounts to a 10-year age group. The lad who was 18 in 1939 had probably not joined a Territorial unit. But by the time he came to be demobilised he was 25 or 26 years of age, had possibly married and had to face a new, strange civilian world and find a niche in it, with all the problems which an entirely new life entails. The Territorial Army, when reformed, did not draw on his age group; it drew on a much older one, and that age group is still older today. In 1947, there were many first-class N.C.O.'s and men who signed on, not for four years, but for three, and their period of engagement is almost finished Therefore, we have a good, but ageing cadre, and possibly a declining one as well.
To give the continuity of direction and training which the long-service Regular provides for the active Army, and which the volunteer must provide for the Territorial Army, the country should surely make its appeal to the best type of wartime officer, N.C.O. and man. It will not do this by offering jaunts to the seaside or lolling in comfort, though, naturally and rightly, the volunteer will require those technical amenities which he must have to do his job properly. There is a feeling in the country that all has not been well with the publicity of the Territorial Army; there is a feeling that those at the War Office have not known how or to whom to make their appeal; there is the feeling that the Territorial Army will accept anyone. Surely, in a cadre such as this, formed to inspire, direct and 1625 train, quality is so much more important than quantity.
I am glad to say that in my home city of Liverpool there appears very frequently, in the "Liverpool Echo," the following advertisement, inserted by the local Territorial Association:Lancashire wants men with character and grit. Quality not quantity. Men of Lancashire, the Territorial Army now requires a limited number of N.C.O.'s of good quality and active service experience in each unit. The object has never been to recruit numbers to reach full establishment, but to complete the instructional teams to train the National Service men. Those with the requisite qualifications apply to the nearest drill hall for information. No bedside lamps.The best recruiting agent is the man who believes that he belongs to a good unit. He gets his relations and his friends to join, and they are proud to belong to a unit that has won distinction. My old regiment, in Liverpool, in 1939, when the Territorial Army was doubled, raised its complement from 390 to 1,400 in three weeks, before we were able properly to start our publicity campaign and very nearly entirely through the recruiting done by the existing volunteers.
But if the volunteer—and by the word "volunteer" one naturally means the potential National Service volunteer as well, because, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, in due course all volunteers will have undergone a period of National Service—is to be a good recruiting agent, he must be sure that he will receive fair treatment. At present, he is worried about several things. First, he knows that certain of his friends and acquaintances who joined up in the late 30's were disabled during the last war, and do not consider that they have received proper pensions. Second, he must be certain that the volunteer will get at least as good treatment as the National Service man. Third, his wife—the Territorial Army owes much to the wives of volunteers—wants to be certain that their joint annual holiday will not be spent at his camp. Fourth, he wants to be certain that, at any rate for his service in camp, he will not be out of pocket.
This is not the right time or place to discuss war pensions, but would the Secretary of State for War say if it is true that the National Service man may be paid for the time he spends going from 1626 his home to his Territorial Army centre, for the time he spends there and goes back and shuts the door of his home, whereas the volunteer will be paid only for the time that he is at the actual Territorial Army centre? The system of grading for merit appointments, known as the star system, is a very complex one. I understand it is being reviewed. But I hope the right hon. Gentleman will assure the House that this vital factor of incentive will remain under the control of the commanding officer, whatever the difficulties may be of change of arm or transfer from the National Service to the Territorial Army.
Would the right hon. Gentleman also say what penalty will be imposed—and in what courts it will be applied—on what we all hope will be that very small number of National Service men who may not be willing to serve their country according to the law? Will he make certain that that penalty is uniformly just throughout the country yet severe enough to prevent any rift, which he has referred to, arising between National Service men and volunteers? Is it not time that the nationalised industries had some uniform policy over leave and payment while men are in camp? How. otherwise, can the privately owned industries know what is expected of them if the nationalised industries have no coherent policy for the T.A. as a whole?
Substantial advances have been made in the Territorial Army since 1939. The command structure has been improved and training emoluments have been increased. Help from the Regular Forces has improved training. Moreover, that training has provided that vital link, which was lacking before the war, in liaison between Regular and Territorial Forces. Four years' T.A. service on the part of the National Service man will bring an infusion of well-trained fresh blood, and the Territorial Army will no longer only reach its full complement when the country is thoroughly frightened.
These are great advances, but there are still some basic weaknesses. In 1939, few Territorial units had any knowledge of administration and those officers, N.C.O.'s and men who learned administration by bitter experience during the war are now older and fewer. For technical and semi-technical units that have large amounts of transport and stores it 1627 is surely necessary to decentralise equipment down to sub-units. That equipment should not be locked up in the regimental stores and located at a week-end training centre. There should be adequate accommodation down to sub-units, and a sufficiency of people to look after the equipment.
It is equally important to remember, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) implied in his speech, that the job of an Army is to fight or to train to fight, and time in issuing and handing over equipment is time taken away from training in that equipment. Time is a vital factor in the Territorial Army and it so happens that generally the most efficient officers, on whose knowledge the standard of the unit depends, are those most pressed in civilian affairs. They must be given reasonable help so that, responsible for the broad policy and training, they are able to decentralise details either to Regular permanent staff or to specially rewarded Territorial personnel.
Yet, with no such help, one unit on Merseyside has been given a week-end training centre 40 miles away, with all that that means in wasted effort and time and extra cost. In 1939, a battery quartermaster-sergeant in the Territorial Army received special pay. None such is forthcoming now. To bring about this necessary decentralisation is it not possible to provide the necessary storage accommodation and also to provide either more permanent staff, or help or some extra pay—it need not amount to very much—for purely Territorial administrative personnel? By so doing, a commanding officer will ensure that someone who is responsible for those stores and equipment, on a sub-unit rather than at unit level, is always available at all operative times.
As the right hon. Gentleman may know, the difficulty is that owing to the exigencies of industry one can never be certain in the Territorial Army whether Territorial personnel can turn up for parades in an evening or not. Therefore, it is immensely important to have someone who will always be present with responsibility for issuing sub-unit stores. It will not cost very much. In any event, the Territorial Army is defence very 1628 much on the cheap. It would be money very well spent.
There appears to be too much rigidity in planning, and too much centralisation. For instance, it has been laid down that all gunners should train at their week-end training centre. If the unit on Merseyside had to do that 40 miles away, I am afraid that not much training would be done. Apparently, the same area in square feet is allowed for headquarters, known as T.A. Centre, whether a good training area is near or whether those headquarters are in the middle of a city surrounded by a mass of streets. The announcement today by the right hon. Gentleman that Territorial Army Centres may be moved to where the volunteers are most likely to be is no doubt a step in the right direction. But I hope he will also bear in mind the need for flexibility in accommodation, depending upon the area to which he moves that accommodation. This lack of flexibility is due to lack of liaison and a misunderstanding of how the Territorial Army works.
In 1947, when the Territorial Army was reformed in Western Command, we were consulted and were given great help by senior commanders of the Regular Army, but it was too late. The framework, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, had already been decided on without consulting those who really knew how the Territorial Army worked, both in peace and in war. Such lack of consultation must be overcome, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the machinery of liaison from the Territorial Associations up to the Director of the Territorial Army could be broadened by quarterly meetings at command and district levels by Regulars and Territorials of all arms. These meetings should discuss policy, and their recommendations should receive immediate attention and action. That is the right way to give us proper value for our money. Incidentally, it is to be hoped that there will be no further change for some time in the great and important office of the Director of the Territorial Army.
The Regular soldier is now working with the Territorial in peace-time as he did in war. Together, despite difficulties, disappointments and downright discouragements—some unavoidable and some man-made—they have already achieved great, though unspectacular, things. To 1629 them the country owes a heavy debt. With greater mutual aid, understanding and help from His Majesty's Government they can, with the National Service man, build up an Auxiliary Force which will yet be the envy and the admiration of the world.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
I beg to second the Amendment.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), I must crave the indulgence of the House. I break in upon its deliberations at so early a stage only because, like my hon. Friend, I have had experience of this particular subject as a member of the Territorial Army. I should like to assure the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that my comments are meant essentially in a helpful manner and not in any critical form. I take courage in making them since he has been at the War Office only as long as I have been in this House.
Reference is made in the Amendment, and has been made by my hon. Friend, to publicity. I should like to deal with this matter because I think that in this respect we have had a lamentable failure. It is the more lamentable because there is evidence that the War Office, under the direction of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, carried out a survey of the problems involved in Territorial Army recruiting. It was quite clear from that survey where the main lines of recruitment must be and where the main obstacles existed. Yet there is no evidence in all the publicity that any attention has been paid to those conclusions. The first Territorial Army poster that I recall was of a young man putting on his gaiters, a laborious and tiresome procedure at the best of times. The second poster illustrated two persons whom, one assumed, the Territorial Army would be glad to have in its ranks. I can only describe them, as my unit did, as the burglar and the spiv.
It must be made quite plain that publicity is not just a question of putting up posters, even if they are good posters. Publicity is a question of making the right appeal in the right place. The right place, as the right hon. Gentleman has made clear, is to the veterans who fought in the last war. I submit that no real appeal has been made to them.
1630 In our publicity we must try to convince them that it is better to place their services at the disposal of the Territorial Army than to regale their friends in public houses with stories of what they did in El Alamein and on the beaches of Normandy. Quite clearly, there is resistance on their part—and a very reasonable resistance—because many of them have served six years in the Forces and they think that that is quite enough. Their reaction to all the appeals is, in fact, "Nuts," and whereas that might have been a satisfactory answer to the right hon. Gentleman in his previous office, it is hardly satisfactory now.
Secondly, there is a very formidable obstacle in their wives. They say, "You have been away for six years and you are now going to stay at home." Although there may be some men who are very pleased to find a good excuse for being away at least one night a week, there are not enough. We have got to make a real endeavour to bring the wives of the veterans of the last war on to our side. That can be done by telling them that it is better to let these men go for a short time now than to run the risk of losing them again in another catastrophe. I also believe—we have found it so in our unit—that a great deal can be done on the premises to encourage the support of the wives of the men who serve in the unit.
There is another source of recruitment to which a certain amount of reference has been made, and it was the source of recruitment of the Territorial Army before the war. I refer to those in the younger age group who are about to go up for National Service. I know that this has been discussed before in the House, but I believe that far more could be done to encourage young men to enlist in specific Territorial units before they go forward for their National Service, so that they can get ahead of the game and, as it were, peg out their claim before they go up for what must be for many of them a very real ordeal.
There is another source of recruitment which I would commend to the right hon. Gentleman, particularly because of the experience we had in 1939. I refer to the staffs. There are today many men who served in high places on the staffs and who are unable to play their part in the Territorial Army for reasons of time.
1631 Means should be found to give them staff training at the present time so that they could be called upon quickly to perform those duties in a grave emergency. If they are not called forward we shall have exactly the same state of affairs as last time. There will be a general call to the Service units for staff officers, and those of us with any experience know what that means. The commanding officer looks round to see who is least indispensable, and that person goes on the staff. The unit subsequently suffers. I am making no personal reference to those hon. Members who may have been in high positions on the staff.
The next point I wish to make concerns the question of incentive. ft has already been touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree. I hope I shall not be regarded as being controversial if I say that we must provide in the Territorial Army far greater incentive than we do at present. I am not suggesting, and no Territorial would suggest, that we should introduce the profit motive. There has never been any question of anyone making anything out of the T.A. and escaping a court-martial. Nevertheless, the principle which has already been laid down must be adhered to—that no man should lose through joining the T.A.
I am glad that reference has already been made to the question of the nationalised industries and their failure, so far, to give a lead in the matter of holidays, and I am glad the Secretary of State for War gave us an assurance that employers would be encouraged to encourage their employees to join the Territorial Army. I hope that encouragement will be real and forceful. That is all very well, but I detected in the right hon. Gentleman's speech a certain complacency and satisfaction which perhaps—and I hope this will not be regarded as impertinent—he will not feel when he has been in his office a little longer.
I am not at all satisfied with the situation which persists in the Territorial Army, nor are my colleagues. One of the reasons is that there is a growing feeling that the Territorial Army is becoming the Cinderella of the Service. It is no good claiming that that is not the case when one sees the situation which exists with regard to training conditions and equipment. In the present Territorial Army 1632 we have a completely different situation from any which has existed before. We have war-tried men who know the potentialities and restrictions of equipment. It is no compliment to them—indeed, it is the height of unwisdom—to hand out to them obsolete equipment. It is very dangerous to do so because when the National Service man arrives, assuming that he has been trained on modern equipment, he will know more about the equipment than does the Territorial who is supposed to instruct him. There is no worse situation for any instructor, officer or N.C.O. than to find that he knows less than the man below him.
Although I realise that there is a considerable problem here, I regret very much that we no longer have Regular adjutants in Territorial units. I believe some units, a small minority, have them, but the majority do not have Regular adjutants. The existence of a Regular adjutant was a most invaluable link with the Regular Army and I think the Minister would be well advised to restore the appointment at the earliest possible moment. Further, and, again, I am aware of the problems of the Regular Army, we are not getting the right standard of instructor in the Territorial Army. Indeed, we are having to instruct the instructors who are sent to us. I can understand that manpower dictates it, but it is something which does not conduce to efficiency in the Territorial Army.
I do not want to be parochial, but I must say I am very concerned with antiaircraft. Today, anti-aircraft is by no means in the high standard of training it should be in, and in view of the fact that the Secretary of State has already said that anti-aircraft work will be a high Territorial commitment, I regard this situation as very serious. There is one great problem which we, in anti-aircraft, have always had to face and that is the provision of air co-operation for our shooting. If men are to go to camp for 14 days, which is the longer period required of the A.A., to achieve their proficiency on the guns, they must be assured that, weather conditions permitting, they will be able to shoot. Today, the availability of aircraft is such that they cannot be given that assurance. It is very difficult when commanding officers are expected to take their men to camp under such restrictions.
1633 One further point remains on the question of incentives, and that is the prestige of the Territorial Army in public functions. Reference has been made to the "T" which Territorial units wore before the war. We have heard that there is a consensus of opinion in the Territorial Army against the wearing of the "T," but I honestly believe that a wise Government would overrule the view that the "T" should not be worn. I would press very strongly for the restoration of the "T" for Territorial Army units. It has been a matter of considerable pride and has been greatly valued by very many people. I do not wish to cry over spilt milk, although it was spilt from a high level, but in connection with anti-aircraft I believe that the denial of the 1939–45 Star has had a grave effect on recruitment. There is a growing feeling that A.A. is nothing more or less than Civil Defence in battle. That is not decrying the role of Civil Defence, but, on the other hand, it is no incentive for a man to join antiaircraft units.
I have noticed the absence of the Territorial Army from many great public functions. I think the T.A. should always be represented at such functions, because that is the role of the citizen army. I think more glamour should be given to the men of the Territorial Army and that the sooner the No. 1 dress is issued to the Territorials the better. I believe that what has to be done is something far more radical than has been envisaged in this Debate so far. A new spirit is required in the attitude of the Government to the Territorial Army. At the time the Territorial Army was reconstituted we heard from various authorities that a new Army was coming into being which would have three equal partners—the Regular, the Territorial and the National Service man. That is a very fine conception which I, for one, believe could be made to work, but I was very surprised today to hear from the Minister that the future plan upon which we are working envisaged the indefinite continuation of National Service.
I should like to feel that the stepping up of our voluntary force would be so successful that eventually we could dispense with conscription, because conscription is not an aspect of our Service which is in keeping with the traditions of this country nor is it economically sound. I 1634 realise that at present such a step would be impossible, but it would appear from the plans put forward this afternoon that it is the intention to base all our future organisation upon it, and that I regret extremely.
The Regular Army must have a new approach to the Territorial. I fear that Regulars today do not appreciate the problem of the Territorial to its full extent and that there is a tendency to patronise the Territorial in the presence of National Service men. If our future Army is to be effective, then all three parts must be fully co-ordinated. I urge the Minister to do everything he can to build the prestige, efficiency and traditions of the Territorial Army, because they are in keeping with the finest traditions of this country.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
It falls to my lot to congratulate two hon. Gentlemen, the hon. Member for Waver-tree (Mr. Tilney) and the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Harvey) on very earnest and well-informed maiden speeches, and I can do so with some degree of objectivity because, from the point of view of principle, I do not agree with a word of what they said. The purport of the Amendment is to call attention to the need for further recruiting for the Territorial Army, and to create a greater feeling of enthusiasm in the country for the re-organisation of our military Forces, which has been outlined by the hon. Gentlemen.
On this occasion last year we had a speech from the present Minister of Defence in which he dealt with similar matters, and at that time he outlined his scheme for a great campaign for recruiting for the Army, and held out hopes which I do not think even the most optimistic of his followers would say had been achieved. I do not think it was the fault of the Minister of Defence who was then Secretary of State for War, because I believe he put all his energy and enthusiasm and ability into the campaign. However, at the end of it there has been a comparative failure. He was assisted by a great broadcast campaign in which the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and other prominent public figures took part. It was anticipated that, as a result of that campaign, there would be an increase in the strength of the Territorial Army. If that anticipation had been 1635 realised the two hon. Gentlemen would not have had to make those speeches here tonight.
The Secretary of State for War has now been promoted to Minister of Defence, not because, presumably, of any increase in the number of recruits he was able to bring into the Forces; and we have now a new Secretary of State for War who will presumably have to begin where the late Secretary of State for War left off. Is there any reason to believe that the new recruiting to be carried on by the new Secretary of State for War is likely to be any more successful than the great campaign which was conducted last year? I pressed without any success for some figures of that campaign. I tried to get from the Secretary of State for War some figures which would show what effect those broadcast appeals by prominent public men had had upon the public.
It was thought, for example, when the Leader of the Opposition went to the microphone that that event would be immediately followed by an increase in the number of recruits; and I am quite sure that in making a patriotic appeal the Leader of the Opposition is really superior to anybody who goes to the microphone in this country. Even he, however, was not successful; and I cannot conceive that a new appeal by the Leader of the Opposition this year would be likely to have any greater effect than the one he made last year. It was recalled in the Debate on Thursday that the Leader of the Opposition during the General Election had to deny a rumour that he was dead. There are worse things than death, and one of them is to be obsolete. I do not believe that the Leader of the Opposition, if he made an appeal in this proposed recruiting campaign, would be regarded as facing the facts of the position today.
I do suggest that, as a result of the evidence we have now gathered, we have to come to the conclusion that the last recruiting campaign was not a success, and that if a recruiting campaign is to be more successful in the future a different kind of appeal will have to be made. Think of the difficulties of the Secretary of State for War. Imagine his going on a joint recruiting campaign on the same platform as the Leader of the Opposition. Imagine the Leader of 1636 the Opposition coming along and saying, "Yes, we need to strengthen our Territorial Forces—we need to increase our armed strength—because we need to fight Communism."
Surely the Secretary of State for War is hardly the person to go on a recruiting campaign in. Scotland, for example, where we are familiar with his theoretical writings which are interesting contributions to our Socialist thought. Surely it would be the crowning irony and the crowning climax if the present Secretary of State for War were to appear on platforms in Scotland to ask the working classes to join up and be prepared with military training to take part in a war against Communism.
Of course, there will be awkward questions. I want to suggest some of the questions that are likely to be asked. One of the first questions in Scotland is likely to be "How is all this military organisation going to affect the greatest problem that besets us all, the housing campaign and the housing problem?" The hon. Member for Harrow, East, used the word "incentive." What incentive is there in Scotland for anybody who is asked to join the Army at the present time? Naturally, prospective recruits will want to know what reward they are to get if they give part of their lives to the Armed Forces. I know from bitter experience the sort of problem with which people who have served their whole lives in the Armed Forces are being confronted when they come back to civil life after they have done their service for their country.
I suggest it is not a good advertisement for any Territorial campaign, for any recruiting campaign, that at the same time as recruiting appeals are being made from the platforms, outside the barracks there are people who have been thrown out of married quarters because they are unable to get homes after having given up 30 years of their lives to the people of this country. If the Secretary of State for War came to my constituency, and I took the chair for him, I know some of the questions he would be likely to be asked. I can imagine the question, for example, that would be asked by an ex-soldier who has just come out of the Army after serving six years, and who has to live in one room. What sort of incentive is there for a soldier in fighting for a home that he has not got?
1637 I want to ask the Secretary of State for War some questions about how this affects the housing problem. He said that married quarters for the Armed Forces would be available by 1955. If he is holding out a prospect of homes for soldiers by 1955, he is holding out a prospect far more optimistic than that he is holding out to any other section of the community. I want to know how these houses for the Armed Forces are to be built, and what the Secretary of State thinks about some of the figures that have been given to me today by the Minister of Works. I asked the Minister of Works how many building workers were employed on 1st January on building work for the Armed Forces. In reply, I am told that at the end of December it was estimated that there were 30,750 building and civil engineering workers employed on work for the Service Departments.
I see Mr. Speaker beginning to wonder what relevance this has to the Amendment, but I have learned from listening to the speeches of hon. and gallant Gentlemen the strategy of indirect approach. I want to point out to the Secretary of State for War that when he comes to make a great recruiting appeal on the platforms of the West of Scotland, he will be asked why there are more building workers working for the Services than there are engaged in building houses for the people of Scotland. Until we get that question answered, and until we can tell the prospective Regular, "You go and fight for your country," and tell him with security that there will be a home for him afterwards, he is not going to be enticed into the Armed Forces.
The hon. Member for Harrow. East, hoped that the Territorials would not be asked to carry out their exercises with obsolete materials, so I presume that one of the incentives for getting a stronger Territorial Force is to have the Territorials carrying out their exercises with modern military equipment. I think that the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) will agree that if these exercises are not carried out with proper modern equipment there is no justification for them. So if we are to have our Territorials exercising with tanks, what is the economic implication? I ask the Secretary of State for War if the Territorial Forces which he is to organise are to be equipped with modern 1638 tanks. It is no use having a Territorial Army exercising with tanks of 1940 vintage. They have to be modern tanks, and so all our Territorial Forces throughout the country are presumably, if they are to be effective at all, to be equipped with the latest kind of tank.
What does that mean? I will quote reliable figures from an article by Captain Liddell Hart on the cost of equipping our Armed Forces with these new tanks. He says that before the war it used to be reckoned that a tank cost about£1,000 for each ton of its weight. Costs were estimated during the war by mass production, and they rose as the tanks got bigger. The German "Tiger" of 1943 set a new level, and the tanks which all the chief Armies now use weigh 50 to 60 tons. Even at£500 per ton, the cost would be about£30,000 a piece. If we are to equip all the Territorial divisions throughout the country with tanks at£30,000 a piece, we shall have to spend a very huge sum on this new kind of military equipment. I want to know how this can possibly be done within our limits of expenditure of£780 million. That is the present dilemma.
If we are to equip our Territorial Forces or our Regular Forces with the enormously expensive implements of modern war, we can only do it by greatly increased national expenditure, which will ultimately drive this country into bankruptcy. If we go further into the problem, we see the dilemma with which we are faced: that modern war has become such an expensive thing—military equipment, new tanks, radar and everything else connected with modern war are so stupendously expensive—that if we are to arm in a whole hog way, we shall inevitably be driven to national bankruptcy.
I suggest that in these matters we are the realists, and the people who talk airily about£780 million being the ceiling of military expenditure are talking moonshine; that if we are to arm the British nation in this way, we shall get a huge increase in our national expenditure—an increase which must inevitably strike at the root of our social economy. Here I agree with the point of view expressed by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), that the choice of the Labour movement of this country has to be between Socialism and the cost of 1639 defence. That is why I deeply regret that in this Estimate tonight we are being asked to sanction£304 million.
Last year we spent£15 per head of the population on defence. This will be up this year. The calculation which I base upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer's calculation of last year works out that a man with a wife and three children, who may not have a home to defend because in Scotland we have a huge section of the population crowded into one-room and two-room tenements—has to find out of his weekly wage the sum of£1 8s. for so-called defence. That compares with approximately 2s. a week spent on housing, and the people of Scotland know that they are not going to have houses if we proceed with the economic preparations for war. We say that they are quite right, and those of us who believe that housing should be top priority put this point of view: If we are to have houses and homes for the people now, we cannot afford to squander hundreds of millions of pounds on arms, much of which will be obsolete.
I do not suppose that we shall have Territorial divisions playing about with atomic bombs, but the realism of warfare today is that we cannot ignore atomic bombs; they are here; and to play about in the old-fashioned way, organising manoeuvres and rehearsals of the last war, at a time when this imponderable factor has entered into modern warfare means that we are just playing with the whole concern. So we challenge this new expenditure on obsolete military armaments. At the beginning of this century the founder of the Labour Party was asked by the "Daily Express" what was the greatest danger confronting humanity during the next 50 years.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I would point out there were no Territorials at the beginning of this century.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
No, Sir, but the Territorials came as a result of ignoring the warning of the founder of the Labour Party. His reply was "Militarism," and he was quite right. Today, the enemy of all social progress in this country is equally militarism, and as long as the Labour Government are content to carry on where the Leader of the Opposition 1640 left off, and talk in terms of the old obsolete military terminology while trying to get Socialism at the same time, they are on the road to failure. Social services, housing, education, and all the things that Socialists try for cannot be obtained if we enter an armaments race. I say, just as did the hon. Member for Coventry, East, that we cannot have Socialism and Defence; and if we are faced with making the choice, we stand for Socialism.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Angus Maude (Ealing, South)
Once or twice in the last few weeks I have thought that one of the things which must make right hon. and hon. Members opposite regret still more the result of the election has been the continual flow of speakers from this side of the House craving the indulgence of the House while they make their maiden speeches. If I join this list this evening—and I do most humbly ask for the indulgence of the House during this ordeal—it is because the Amendment, which I wish to support, is one which I believe to be extremely important.
My hon. Friends the Members for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) and Harrow, East (Mr. Harvey), have put the case for increased recruitment and equipment with complete clarity, and I cannot say that I think their case has been in the least shaken by the comic turn of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), which I personally greatly enjoyed, because it seemed to me that he was not addressing his observations to the Amendment; his objection is to the entire defence programme of His Majesty's Government. His speech could have been as well made against the Navy Estimates, the Air Estimates or the whole of the Army Estimates. Indeed, I should have thought that the right address for his speech was that of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, because, given the foreign policy of the Government—with which we on this side are broadly in agreement—the defence commitments flow from that foreign policy as night follows day. If we are to honour our commitments overseas we must, without any question I should have thought, honour the defence commitments which flow from that foreign policy. I cannot see that opposition to an Amendment designed to call attention 1641 to the need for increased Territorial Army equipment is the platform on which the hon. Member for South Ayrshire should be speaking. His platform should rather be that of foreign policy.
We are all agreed that in the way of Territorial Army recruiting there are certain obvious difficulties, about which we can do very little. There is the aftermath of war, and National Service which takes away many potential recruits to the Territorial Army. There is also the fact that in the last few years there has been a tendency towards earlier marriage. There is a rise in the birth-rate, which means that a very large number of potential recruits are youngish married men with young families, and are not particularly anxious to give up their week-ends to the Territorial Army when they might be playing with their children.
We who have tried to recruit men have found that today there are more young married men with young children than there used to be, so that they are far more difficult to recruit into the Territorial Army. There is also what I would call the general increase in the complication of living nowadays, which means that owing to the cost of living and the difficulty of getting things done the average man is tempted to spend his weekends either decorating his house or working in his garden to cut down the greengrocer's bills. All these may seem small things, but they are obstacles which we must somehow overcome.
What are we to do about this? It seems quite clear that broadening our field of recruitment can give us only quite limited results. We could perhaps do something if we were able to relax the rule that we cannot recruit men within 12 months of their liability for National Service. Territorial Army units would welcome the opportunity to recruit deferred apprentices before they undertook their National Service obligations, which would give the units a chance of getting the same men back after their period of National Service. We sometimes wonder whether we are "selling" the Territorial Army to the National Service men while they are doing their National Service. Are we doing everything possible to get those men back into the Territorial Army as volunteers? The Territorial Army can only be "sold" to 1642 these men by Territorials, not by Regular officers, and not by civilians. It is while these men are doing their National Service that we must tackle them.
Generally speaking, though, we cannot do much in the way of broadening the field of recruitment. It is clear that we must increase the response in the field which is already being tackled. How are we to do this? Since this is not, despite what the hon. Member for South Ayrshire has said, a party matter, I shall take leave to disagree with one or two of the things said by the mover and seconder of the Amendment. I do not believe that we shall get more recruits to the Territorial Army by any likely change in pay and bounties. Nor do I believe that we shall get more recruits by any of the obvious material incentives. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree, who said he thought the new blue uniform would help. I think the issue of the No. I dress, which we do not hope for but which we should like to be given some encouraging news of—although I know the difficulties—would make a very great difference to the appeal to the civilian. and particularly to the young civilian who might join the Territorial Army.
I am convinced that the problem goes beyond the detailed appeal through incentives to the individual. The problem the Government have to solve is that of the public's view of the Territorial Army. I do not think many people really know what life in the Territorial Army is like: I do not think either that many Regular soldiers know what it is like. They find it difficult to understand that peculiar comradeship, and that peculiarly democratic atmosphere which a good Territorial Army unit can produce. I know that experiences of having Regular officers attached to Territorial Army units vary very much between arms of the Service.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Harvey) who comes from "Ack-Ack"—which is a world in itself as far as the Territorial Army is concerned—spoke with some pain of the lack of Regular Army adjutants. He had other experiences which are quite different from mine. I come from a field force unit in the London area. We have always had Regular adjutants, and they have been selected and trained with the 1643 utmost skill. They have been extraordinarily good and, while we may be peculiar and lucky in that way, we have certainly benefited.
It is the public whose attitude has to be changed, not the attitude of the Regular Army. However, the public attitude certainly cannot be changed without a clear and strong lead from the Government, because it is the esteem in which the Territorial Army is held by the public that will determine the response to its recruiting drive. We are sometimes surprised to find how complete is the public ignorance of the need for a Territorial Army, and until that need is recognised we have no hope of fulfilling our recruiting aims. Therefore, while I agree that the publicity campaign has to be carefully framed and is all-important, what we want is a public campaign aimed at building up the esteem in which the Territorial Army is held, not one aimed solely at the person whom we are seeking to persuade into the Territorial Army.
The Government should know something about this because they have used somewhat the same kind of campaign for recruiting coalminers. A large-scale publicity campaign was launched to raise the public esteem in which the coalminer was held. It is not for me to say how successful that has been, but I am sure it was the right approach. An effort was made to tell the public that the coalminer was a man on whom the prosperity and the comfort of the nation depended, that the coalminer now was a man who needed the technical skill of an engineer, the courage of a soldier, and a number of other qualities which perhaps the public had not previously been ready to ascribe to him. That was an essential part of the recruiting campaign. Something of the same kind must be applied to the recruiting campaign for the Territorial Army, because unless the lead from the Government is absolutely clear and unmistakable the public will not react.
During 1947 and 1948 we in the Territorial Army felt a little dubious about the absolute and unequivocal support which the Government were giving us in our recruiting efforts. We could see the difficulties with which they were faced quite clearly: they did not want to take too many men away at holiday time 1644 from production in order to send them to camps; they did not want to take them off industrial overtime at weekends to send them to Territorial Army training periods. But we cannot compromise on matters like that with any hope of getting anything done. We must come out and say, "We shall have to take the risk of losing production; we shall have to lose something if we are to gain anything."
If we are to get recruits we must say, "The Territorial Army and its recruitment are absolutely vital and essential to our defence. If we do not recruit those people we are sunk"—as we shall be—" and everything must be subordinate to it." We have seen that even the slightest international scare produces a slight increase in recruiting. During the Berlin blockade we saw the effects in our recruiting figures because the Government were devoting a certain amount of time and effort to impressing the seriousness of the defence position upon the public. Slightly, but quite perceptibly, the public began to react.
I will conclude by putting forward a few suggestions as to the kind of things which the Government, and particularly the War Office, might do to foster public esteem for the Territorial Army. They are not all things under the direct control of the Secretary of State for War, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to obtain the co-operation of the people concerned to get these things done. First, I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to appreciate the need for perpetual and continuous publicity. In the past the War Office has been rather oversensitive about its publicity. People come along and say, "That poster is no good; scrap it," so they scrap it. The effect of a poster takes a long time to build up, and the publicity department of the right hon. Gentleman should have the credit of their convictions and plug away at a good poster when they have it. If necessary, let people all over the country get used to a single standard poster. I do not want it to become part of the furniture of the hoardings exactly, but a cumulative effect is worth any number of separate little patchy posters which are continually changed.
Another suggestion for continuity is that instead of periodical jamborees run by boroughs and county councils, we should have a regular annual defence day 1645 or defence week which everybody knows is coming and in which the Territorial Army units of the country can all share at the same time. If that became an annual feature, I think people would look forward to it. They would begin to say, "I would not mind being in that sort of thing myself next year," and it would begin to have some effect.
Another small but important thing is to encourage local newspapers to run every week a Territorial Army news column containing all the local Territorial Army news. I do not know whether all the newspapers would be prepared to cooperate. Personally, I think they would, but such local interest and local continuity sows the seed of interest in the would-be recruit, and gets him gradually used to the idea of regarding the local Territorial Army unit as something which concerns him personally.
Then there is the approach to industry, without which we shall not get anywhere at all. Before the war a number of firms became, so to speak, godparents or foster parents to a Territorial Army unit and some good results were achieved. In some cases there were companies manned almost entirely by the employees of a single firm. There are, of course, certain disadvantages in that. If the firm simply transfers an unsatisfactory pattern of industrial relations within itself to a Territorial Army unit the results are deplorable. That, however, is avoidable. It is most undesirable that the managing director should be the commanding officer, that the senior N.C.O's. should be the foremen, and that the departmental heads should be the company commanders; but if that can be avoided—and it can, usually by having a commanding officer from outside the firm and infusing a proportion of outside warrant officers and officers—the results can be very satisfactory indeed.
Where that is not possible, if county associations can make a direct approach to local firms and give them a quota for the year at which to aim the results would be much more satisfactory than the present piece-meal approaches which have been made. I am quite sure that if a unit or a county association said to a large firm, "We want 50 recruits from your firm next year and, possibly, another 50 the year after," and the firm accepted 1646 and tackled that proposition through its works council and joint consultation machinery we might get something done. I say deliberately "through its joint consultation machinery," because unless this is done with the approval of the trade unions, we shall get nowhere. The influence of the trade unions and of local trades councils in this matter is very important.
I know that in some cases, where local union branches or trades councils are dominated or controlled by the sort of people who spend their time passing resolutions denouncing the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary as an imperialist war-monger, this presents some difficulties. But, fortunately, these cases are by no means typical. This matter is comparatively non-party. On both sides of the House we are generally agreed on the absolute necessity of recruiting for the Government are committed to it, and I cannot feel that trade union leaders on the whole can possibly oppose it.
But I do not think we have the support from trade union leaders that we might expect. It is difficult for them, I know, but the best support they can give is to encourage people, not in the top rank of the trades unions, but those who are highly influential locally among the younger people, who are influential in the firms in the area, to join the Territorial Army themselves and to let it be known widely that they have done so because they believe it is something essential which they must do for their country. The effect within industry would be out of proportion to the effect of one single recruit joining the Territorial Army. If we can get the trade union interest to show itself in the concrete form of providing recruits from the influential members of the unions, then the rank and file in industry will be very much more willing to follow.
When we have taken all these measures to increase the esteem in which the Territorial Army is felt, then is the time to go ahead with the approach which will pull in recruits; the seeds have first to be sown, however, and the atmosphere has to be created. The County of London Association have this winter introduced an extraordinarily good scheme for recruitment, but the background is not yet complete. I ask the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance that this vital task of tackling 1647 the background and of building up the right atmosphere will be pushed forward with all the energy of which his Department are capable. We shall then begin to see some results in this all important matter.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Redmayne (Rushcliffe)
Since it would appear that a very large number of maidens are interested in the Territorial Army, the House might well look forward with some dread to the number who will show an equal interest in the Navy Estimates tomorrow. As a maiden speaker myself I may, perhaps, be forgiven for riding a personal hobby-horse within certain bounds, bounds which will be closer than those of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). The majority of people in Rushcliffe, the constituency in Nottinghamshire which I have the honour to represent, although sufficiently interested in military matters, have other more pressing problems. They may be pleased, however, that I make my maiden venture on a subject in which it is perfectly possible to be constructive without being unduly controversial and so myself be earlier admitted to the honourable ranks of the controversialists on subjects in which the people of Rushcliffe are particularly interested.
No man who has for many years been a Territorial soldier and who is now member of a Territorial Association can listen to the Debate and remain silent. I have heard with great interest the proposal for dealing with the National Service intake to the Territorial Army. These problems are not new. They have been with us ever since the time of the first conception of the Territorial Army in its modern form, and I am only sorry to learn that the solution offered this evening by the Secretary of State for War is expected to take two years before it is smoothly working. The damage that can be caused by faulty methods in those two years may cause irreparable harm for many more years than two.
The success of the T.A. in its new form will depend on the advertisement that is given to it by the first National Service entrants, whose disgruntlement [could be very damaging for a very long period in the eyes of those who follow them. It is said, and rightly so, that National Service men must be posted to 1648 the unit of their arm of the service and that that unit must have its full complement of volunteers to form the framework for the National Service men. Various remedies for these two proposals have been suggested. These remedies will be completely ineffective unless we can look forward to a complete change of outlook on the whole problem.
At the risk of exceeding my maiden's licence, I must say that in my opinion—which is the opinion of many serving Territorial officers as well—in the whole plan and structure of the Territorial Army there has not been that whole-hearted drive and support from the Government which alone can command success. I will cite two examples from the very early days just after the war. In those early days a Territorial officer was expected to obtain recruits and clothe them in part-worn battledress, a reasonable measure of economy, but what a reception for that best type of battle-trained soldier he was supposed to be recruiting—a man whose whole value and skill in battle had been based on just that type of self-respect that in peace and in war is typified by being a bit smarter in mind and in body than the next man, or the next unit, or indeed one's enemy.
In those early days a newly appointed commander of a Territorial brigade—himself a most distinguished soldier, and the brigade with a great war record which entitled them to wear on their vehicles the New Zealand fern as their badge—on his first visit to his commanding officers was expected to put up his flag on the bonnet of an eight-hundredweight Austin utility van runabout. He had no false pride and did his job in the van which the War Office was graciously pleased to provide him with, but his commanding officers took a poor view of this new Territorial Army which was being launched and of the way in which it was launched.
Many of us old Territorials in the war who at least were by no means disgracing the reputation of the pre-war Territorial Army, talked long and earnestly of its possibilities in peace. We saw its faults and we believed that those faults could be remedied. But on two things in our talk we insisted, first that the Territorial Army should be wholly voluntary and, secondly, that it should have sufficient money to preserve its pride. We cannot 1649 run an army, Regular or Territorial, on the cheap.
Today many of us are concerned that the true voluntary spirit will be diluted this year. That may be a necessity under today's conditions, but we are also concerned that there appears to be no means of discipline that will ensure that the National Service man who is not a volunteer will complete his service. Many, no doubt, will do so from a sense of duty—the majority, perhaps—but many, or some, will not and, as we read it, there seem to be no means to compel them to do so.
I am sure the only proper basis for this reserve Army is a voluntary basis and that no money should be spared to make it both attractive and efficient on that basis, and that the National Service man, on completing his regular service, should have the option of volunteering for it and serving on the same terms as the volunteer. If he will not take that option, he should simply go to the Reserve and not be trained or serve until such time as it might be necessary to call him up in the event of war. In these circumstances, many will see some sense in a well presented argument on those lines, if it is presented that in the event of war the reservist when recalled—and he will be recalled to whatever unit most needs reinforcement—is in a poor position by comparison with the volunteer who volunteers from National Service to serve in the Territorials to be progressively trained in that Army and to fight, if he must fight, with officers and men whom he knows, and who know him.
Many hon. Members will know how vitally important that is but the argument needs presenting in words in the sense that it is no use being mealy mouthed about the possibility of war. We may well pray that we may never see another war but that does not absolve us from our duty to face the possibility squarely, to put it to these young men before they finish their National Service that their best alternative in their own interest and in the interests of the country is to volunteer. When they have volunteered it is our duty to give them, in the Territorial Army, the very best that money can buy.
I have said that that argument needs presenting in words. It needs presenting also in spirit in that too many of our public men in this country have in the 1650 past decried or do now decry the need for awareness of the possibility of war. It needs presenting in spirit also in that many in all walks of life belittle the needs of the Armed Forces, and, as I hear in this House, belittle the well-proved methods by which the Army achieves its ends. The argument needs presenting, and it is not presented in this country today, with one voice. If it was and if our whole-hearted intention was to make our Reserve Army a thing of national pride, if above all, and this is my point, we relied on the voluntary spirit and rewarded it, we should have no need for concern at our level of recruiting.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Strachey
We have had a notable series of maiden speeches upon this. Motion and the Amendment. Let me congratulate the hon. Members collectively, because we have all listened to them with the greatest interest. The hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), who moved the Amendment, had doubts whether there was not some complacency on this Bench as to the position which will arise when the National Service men go into the Reserve Army. I assure him that there is no complacency on that matter, and that above all we fully recognise that the voluntary effort of the Territorial Army will be, I would almost say more rather than less necessary when the flow of National Service men has begun than it was before.
I was very glad to have his co-operation and his response in my appeal to the Territorial Army associations and the leaders to work what will be a difficult scheme in a difficult period, but a scheme which will surely give them new opportunities also and new possibilities of exceedingly useful service. I agree with him that one of the important reasons for there not being even more Territorial Army volunteers than there have been is the missing age group from the war.
I agree also with him in his list of inducements which exist for the Territorial Army potential recruit. The one he mentioned, which was mentioned by other speakers as well, of the use of up-to-date, and if may use such a word, interesting, new equipment and weapons, is probably very important indeed. We do claim to have made very valuable progress in that direction at least though it is a matter involving considerable expenditure to. 1651 equip the Territorial Army, the Reserve Army of the future, with every new weapon as it comes out. He spoke of the worries of the potential volunteer. We are aware of these, and we are doing everything we can to meet them. We do try to design the allowances and the rates so that, at any rate, no volunteer will be out of pocket. If there are cases in which that is not achieved, we do attempt to look into them.
The hon. Member asked me a series of particular questions. One was whether there was not some discrimination in the allowances made for drills and the like—the expenses—between the volunteer and the National Service man when he comes in. No, it is our intention that there should be no discrimination whatever between those two classes, and I think it is very important that there should not be. The hon. Member spoke of the systems of incentives, the star systems, and asked for assurances that they would remain under the control of the commanding officers. There again, we propose no change in the existing systems. Then he asked and I think the hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. A. E. Maude) also asked, what penalties in the way of enforcement there would be for the individual National Service man who might seek to avoid his obligations of service in the Reserve Army. Regulations have still to be issued on this matter, but hon. Members who read the National Service Act, 1948. will see the maximum penalties provided for neglect of a training notice. After all, this, like any other law, is a matter which can be enforced by the courts, and if necessary would he enforced by the courts.
Finally, the hon. Member spoke of the important part—and I agree with him here—which nationalised industries could and should play in this matter of Territorial Army recruiting and facilitating the work whether of the National Service man or volunteer in the Territorial Army. It is true that the nationalised industries have not an absolutely uniform code in this matter. But, on the whole, they have been very forthcoming in slightly differing ways in helping us. We would say that they have set a very good example to the industries of the country.
The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Harvey) talked about publicity and 1652 criticised it. That matter also was referred to by the hon. Member for Ealing. South and I agreed with his view that no poster will please everybody. It is common knowledge to anyone who has experience in these matters that all forms of publicity arouse criticism, even the most successful. There is a great deal to be said for what the hon. Member for Ealing, South said in the matter of choosing the very best poster or other means of publicity which experts can recommend and then going on firmly with that bit of publicity, even though it may arouse criticism.
The hon. Member for Harrow, East was keen to see air co-operation with anti-aircraft camps so that they could do their shoots. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence that in his experience last year and the previous year, all the A.A. camps which he visited had a very full measure of air co-operation. No one doubts the importance of this, or the great importance of seeing that the A.A. Command does get the maximum amount of the most realistic practice that it can get. The hon. Member for Harrow, East raised the matter of the "T" badge. He agreed that, on the whole, the majority of Territorials do not want this; and I find it difficult to follow him in the view that we ought to force it against the will of the majority. It seems to me to be something about which we should be guided by the majority opinion.
I wish to say a word about the speech of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). He made three points which I think were substantial and upon which I ought to comment. His first point was that he thought that I and he, as strong and determined Socialists, were inappropriate people to ask men to join, say, the Territorial Army today, especially as we were asking for recruits both for the active and the Reserve Armies, in view of the fact that there was in our view an apprehension of aggression—we must say quite simply and plainly—on the part of Russia against Western Europe and this country.
With respect—and I think I can say this simply and plainly—I disagree very much with him on that point. I think that Socialists like myself and my hon. 1653 and right hon. Friends are very appropriate people to do that, because I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire will agree with me when I say that the Russian authorities today dislike—it is not too strong a word to use to say "hate"—us and all we stand for even more than they do all that hon. Members opposite stand for. I think that we must follow that in practice.
The hon. Gentleman raised the second point that it was impossible, in his part of Scotland at any rate, to ask for recruits to the Territorial Army when housing conditions were as bad as they are today. That is really a suggestion by implication that it is impossible to ask men to take part in the national defence effort because the country is not worth defending. We on this side of the House are often emphasising the defects and the blemishes which still exist in this country, but I utterly disagree with him in the suggestion that it is impossible to ask men to defend this country even as it is today and before all those blemishes, of which insufficient housing is certainly one of the greatest, have been removed. We must meet him on that issue.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
My right hon. Friend is, presumably, to make a recruiting appeal. I should like to ask him how he will appeal to the man who has a wife and three children living in one room to defend his country when we are spending 28s. a week per head on armaments and 2s. a week on housing.
§ Mr. Strachey
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's figures, but that is the point at issue. With all our defects as a country—and he and I can point them out, though some of them are being remedied—is it or is it not worth defending? I put it to him that it is. That is the simple issue.
His last point was most important. He suggested that there was a choice be-between Socialism and defence. I put it to him that a Socialist economy—an economic system in so far as it is planned—is in a better and not a worse position to maintain defence expenditure. I think hon. Members opposite will find that heavy defence expenditure such as we have to undertake today is a grievous burden on any kind of economic system.
1654 There cannot be any doubt about that. but I am sure that a planned economic system, in so far as it is socialised, is in a very much better position to bear that heavy burden than a laissez faire economy.
The speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, South, was particularly thoughtful. I have already referred to his remarks about publicity. He made other interesting points. For example, he mentioned appeals to large firms to promote Territorial Army recruiting. I was glad that he stressed the trade union aspect of that. I agree with him that this is probably a key to that question. Again on publicity, I thought that he was probably right in saying that we could learn something from the type of publicity used by the Coal Board, by which they have built up the social standing, as it were, and the prestige of that industry most successfully, in that a good deal of what we might call "build-up"—the background type of publicity—is a preparation to the direct appeal to the individual man.
The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Redmayne) made another series of interesting points, but I thought that he was perhaps a little hard on the military authorities in 1945, because they did have their difficulties and limitations in the reconstitution of the Territorial Army. If they were sometimes unable to equip that Army in the early days with new equipment, it was not altogether unnatural or difficult to understand. I have dealt with the point about the means of enforcing the training notice.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman raised an issue of great substance when he said that he did not consider that the conception of a Territorial Army in which there would be a non-voluntary element and in which the National Service man on the completion of his National Service would have an obligation for part-time service in the Territorial Army, was something on which there would be any fundamental disagreement between us. We are not in disagreement. We think that, whatever in the end the period of National Service may be, and even if it is possible, as we should all hope, that the period of National Service with the Colours can be greatly reduced, yet the conception of universal National Service with the Reserve Army through the mechanism of 1655 the Territorial Army may be a very valuable one indeed.
The hon. Member adjured us—this was somewhere near his phrase—to look the dreadful possibility of a new war in the face. I think we have to do that, because doing it is the best way and the best hope of avoiding it. We do think that, in building up that universal national Reserve Army, with, of course, its indispensable voluntary element and with the obligation for part-time training after the National Service period, we are making the best contribution we can towards looking that possibility in the face and therefore helping to avoid it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Major Fisher (Hitchin)
I ask for the customary indulgence which the House accords with such generosity to a maiden speech. All of us here, I think, have viewed for some time with great misgiving, the drop in the voluntary enlistment figures for the Regular Army, and, as it was my good fortune and great honour to serve in the Brigade of Guards throughout the late war, I hope I may be forgiven for dealing with this problem in special relation to the Household Troops.
It has seemed to me to be a very melancholy thing that two Regular pre-war battalions of His Majesty's Foot Guards have been eliminated since the war, including, as it happens, the battalion in which I had the privilege of serving for six years. Some people have in the past regarded the Household Troops mostly as gaily-attired toy soldiers who aided the pageantry of royal processions and wasted much of their time on the polish of their buttons, the shine on their boots and the set of their bearskins. Hon. Members may be aware of the three golden rules for the newly-joined guardsman in barracks. "If you see anything that you think should not be there, pick it up. If it is too heavy to pick up, paint it; and if by any chance it moves, then it must be alive and you had much better salute it.'
1656 I wish there were three such simple rules for the guidance of newly joined Members of this House. But I venture to suggest that, despite all these well-known jokes about spit and polish, and so on, no one who has fought with or beside battalions of the Brigade of Guards in time of war would deny that the high standards of duty and discipline, which are instilled into every officer and man from the first day he joins, do result in producing fighting units which rank among the best and most highly trained and efficient in the world.
It seems to me, therefore, a great pity that the number of these Regular battalions should have been reduced, as compared with pre-war, at a time when there is so much need for increased efficiency in our Armed Forces. It may be argued, of course, that reduction in the number of battalions was made necessary by the voluntary enlistment position, and, as we know, this is now very bad even in the Brigade of Guards and is still deteriorating. Before the war, whatever the situation may have been in other units, I think it is true to say that there was not the same difficulty about recruitment for the Brigade of Guards. There are, I think, many reasons for the continued falling off in the recruitment position today.
Let me say straightaway that I do not agree with the suggestion that has been made, and which I thought was even implied by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), that the appointment at any time of any particular individual as Secretary of State for War is a factor in worsening the voluntary enlistment position. It may be that there is possibly a certain amount of resentment among some officers about what they may regard as unsuitable appointments, but, to be perfectly frank and with great respect, and without wishing to prick the bubble of self-esteem of right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, I may say I think it is a fact that, so far as the ordinary guardsman or private soldier is concerned, at any given time or under any Government, he has very often no idea of the name of the Secretary of State for War, and cares less. I well remember on parades during the war asking men general knowledge questions. They hardly ever knew the names of distinguished Ministers of the Crown even at that time, with the 1657 exception, of course, that they all knew that the Prime Minister of this country at the time was my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I am by no means certain that they would all give the right answer even to that question at the present time.
There are, I think, a number of reasons for the falling off in recruitment today. One or two apply specially to the Brigade of Guards, but others have a much more general significance. First of all, in the Brigade of Guards there is the length of service term which before the war was more attractive in the Brigade than in other regiments, but which is now the same. I do not complain of that, but it may be a minor adverse factor so far as recruiting for the Guards battalions is concerned.
Secondly, there is the matter of dress which, while I have been in the Chamber, has not been very much mentioned today. The ceremonial parades, the regimental bands, the full-dress uniforms, and so on, were undoubtedly an attraction before the war, and, especially from the point of view of the wearers, the scarlet tunics in which guardsmen were allowed to walk out when off duty. It is a fact that the girls simply loved the scarlet uniforms and the guardsmen loved the girls, and, therefore, the guardsmen very much liked the uniforms which invested them with so much glamour. Perhaps that is only human nature, but I certainly think it helped recruiting.
I think a bit of glamour always does help recruiting and that it is worthy of consideration for the Army as a whole because, nowadays, the Army seems to me to be rather drab. A bit more colour would also please and cheer up the people of London who love a show. It would also attract the American and other foreign visitors who cannot see these things in their own country, but who very much enjoy seeing them here. I should like to ask the Secretary of State what his intentions are with regard to full-dress in future. Battalions of guards are existing on the remnants of pre-war stock. There are not nearly enough to go round, and what there are are rapidly wearing out. There are no signs of replacements, let alone of a complete new issue. Those are two reasons for lower recruitment—length of service and the question of dress.
1658 There are other and more serious reasons, which have a wider application. The most important is that National Service kills voluntary enlistment. Men have got to join for National Service, so they use the National Service, so to speak, as a sort of try-out period. and they do not like it. I do not think that is because of the point of view put forward by the hon. Member for Aston. (Mr. Wyatt). I do not think they dislike kit inspections, nor do I think they are humiliated by it. We have to remember that the average boy of 18 who joins up is not just untidy; he has a positive genius for untidiness, and it does no harm at all for him to have to put his kit out in proper order.
No one in my experience has ever enjoyed the initial period of Army training. It is always the worst time, and the result is that men do not sign on for Regular service afterwards. It is. moreover, the view of many Regular officers with whom I have talked, in contrast with the view expressed by the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) in the defence Debate, that National Service men have not, even at the end of 18 months, enough service to make them of much value even as Reservists. Meanwhile, we have to face the fact that there are not enough Regulars to train National Service men efficiently during the 18 months. Everyone is so fully occupied on this individual training that there is hardly anyone really ready to fight.
While I appreciate that National Service cannot be abolished at the present time, there is not one of us who wishes to see it become a permanent feature of our national life. In the interests of efficiency and fighting strength it seems most necessary to increase voluntary enlistment by every means at our disposal. And I do suggest that we cannot possibly over-stress the point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) in the Debate on defence—that is the need for better pay and allowances, especially for officers, non-commissioned officers and technicians.
I am wondering also, and I am glad here to be able to agree with the hon. Member for Aston, if it would be possible to pay Regulars at a higher rate than National Service men. If that could be done, it would be an inducement to 1659 a man to sign on for Regular service at the end of his conscription period. As the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) said, there is also need for more married quarters, of which there is a great and serious lack at the present time.
I hope hon. Members will not feel I have been too parochial in my remarks in talking about the Brigade of Guards. If I have been I hope I shall be excused, and that it will be put down to pride of regiment. But, in all seriousness, that is not a bad thing. The Germans set great store by it before and during the war. We set great store by it before the war, and we have somehow lost these county associations and pride of regiment and so on. There would be great benefit if these things were encouraged in future. I hope that these few facts and points which I have put forward with regard to Regular Army recruitment generally and the Brigade of Guards in particular may be borne in mind by the Government. After all, I am sure that it is the common desire of hon. Members on both sides of the House that we shall derive the maximum efficiency, strength and security from the large sums of money which are being spent, I think rightly, on our defences at the present time.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
In accordance with the custom of the House, I wish to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Major Fisher) on his maiden speech. It was very well delivered, full of facts, and was spoken with every confidence. I am sure that we all look forward to hearing him speak again in future Debates.
I have listened to most of the Debate today, and I have heard many of the old arguments. I should like to deal with some of those arguments. I have often heard some of my hon. Friends speaking on defence, military preparations and such matters, and I particularly have in mind my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). There are several hon. Members on these benches whose views are similar to his. I have heard them speak on several occasions with such confidence and feeling that I have sometimes wondered whether my own attitude and that of the Labour 1660 Party is right. Their speeches have attacked not merely indirect things but the general policy of the Labour Government. Sometimes when I have listened to those speeches I have felt almost abashed at the thought of contradicting the views expressed in them. Nevertheless, it is time that some of us took a little more courage, and I feel that while we are in a majority, we should be prepared on occasions to give voice to the majority viewpoint. That is what I want to do tonight with respect to the whole question of the Army and the necessity for the Army.
My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton has great principles. He is a man whom we all admire. We have not, however, reached Utopia yet. Many of us have great ideals and we are glad to have an opportunity of propounding them, but sometimes it is difficult to translate these ideals into facts. While, like the hon. Member for Westhoughton, we all desire peace, it is difficult to obtain it Oil occasions. My hon. Friend said that it was a curious state of affairs that while we are getting more and more co-operation with other countries on defence and, therefore, expecting to reduce the expense of the various nations as a result of acting in unity, the cost of defence is, in fact, increasing instead of decreasing. On the face of it, that may seem peculiar, but we live in peculiar circumstances.
In 1945, at the time of the General Election, the predominant feeling of hon. Members on both sides of the House was that we were on the very fringe of that great ideal, that peace which we all desire. We had Russia with us, Germany was defeated and the great Powers of the world had been brought together in unity. We looked forward with some degree of certainty to believing that at last we should establish peace. We went forward into negotiations with that ideal. But whatever ideals we may have had, and may have, and however good they may be, unless those people with whom we have to live are prepared to work in harmony with those ideals, then the ideals are almost impossible to attain. That is the position we have reached today.
My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton went on to ask where our line was to be. Was it to be the English Channel, on the Elbe or on the Volga? He spoke of our attitude in attempting to shift our line further forward. In the 1661 first place, we have to decide whether defence is a necessity. If we decide that it is not a necessity, then does it matter where the line is? We should need no line at all. While the Labour Government have ideals, however, they also have to be realistic and to recognise that, much as we desire peace, at the moment peace does not seem to be secure. When we talk about whether our country is worth defending it is wrong to quote one or two cases of people living in unhappy circumstances, in overcrowded conditions, and to use that as an argument to suggest that the country is not worth defending. Because we have not reached economic security, because we cannot fulfil our ideals in our own country, it is wrong to suggest that there is no place in the country worth defending. That is a silly kind of attitude.
What should we be told if we explained the position to men and women working in the factories, even to the men earning less than£5 a week or to the men and women living in overcrowded conditions? If we seek the opinion of the country we shall be told emphatically that if we, as the party in power, believe there is a danger to peace, either in the near or distant future, we must face our responsibilities. It will be a bad thing for the party if they do not face them. We shall be told that if the party governing this country believe that in the state of the world today there is some danger they must accept the responsibility placed on their shoulders, however much opposition there may be in some quarters. People say, "If there is danger see to it that, as a Government, you are prepared for it; and try to keep the peace we want." The Government must see to it, and they must make people confident that they are seeing to it, or it will be bad for the Labour movement in the future.
I do not want to keep the House too long, but there is something else I must say. We have talk of conscription and of the Labour Party's attitude to it. The Labour Party and its members believe in certain things at different times. However, times change, and as times change circumstances change; surely, as intelligent men we must take those changed circumstances into consideration. We must review the position, and consider whether, in the changed circumstances, 1662 our viewpoint ought to change. We must ask ourselves whether the change in the circumstances warrants a change in our viewpoint in regard to conscription. We must ask ourselves as intelligent men, and also as the governing party. I have never been in the Army, and I do not believe much at all in armies, for I do not believe in taking life in any circumstances. I believe, however, that there is a necessity in certain circumstances to fight for one's country.
Personally, I would rather be conscripted into the Army any time than be a volunteer, because the conscript, even though he does not quite believe in the Army, or in the justice of war, or even in the right to conscribe men, is spared the necessity of deciding whether, as a peace-loving man, doubtful of the justice of war, he ought to volunteer for the Army or not; conscription takes the responsibility from his individual soul. So I think that there are times when conscription may be a necessity, and not only a necessity but the fairest method of getting the men we want.
These matters are very debatable, but circumstances and changed times have brought us as a party to a position in which we can see the advisability of taking some action to give confidence to our people that whatever may betide we shall fight and sacrifice for peace and security. I have said before, at public meetings, that so far as I am concerned I would be prepared to sacrifice practically everything—strategic points, territory, anything—if by so doing one could feel sure of peace and security. That feeling of peace and security should be shared by all the countries of the world. It must be international before we can have the peace we want so badly. Strategic points, territory—these things are of no consequence if we can have peace and feel certain of peace, but we cannot be certain of peace until we are first certain that those with whom we negotiate have the same ideals.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Brigadier Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
I beg the indulgence of the House for this my maiden speech. I had not the intention of speaking so early in the Session, because I feel that new Members should be often seen but seldom heard. However, as the Debate is on Service matters, and as I left the Service only 1663 three weeks ago, I feel I must get up and speak for the chaps I have left behind me. I have myself suffered two alleged rises in pay and one cut during my service. There was little or no difference except that the cut cost me a little more. That is quite true, and most soldiers will tell you, "Do beware of a rise in pay, because by the time the Treasury get their hands on it, it will result in a out."
I feel that we can get a Regular Army now, if we pay adequately. For too long the Regular Army has been badly paid. That is the reason why we are not getting recruits, and why we are not getting the right type of officer or the right number of officers joining the Army. Some people think that that is not the reason. They like to think so because they do not want to put their hands in their pockets and spend money. I say that we shall not get our Regular Army unless we pay the soldier, the sailor and the airman an adequate wage—a wage that is equivalent to his opposite number in civil life.
That is what we were told the Labour Government achieved in 1945. I say that they in no way achieved that, because the Treasury eventually got their hands on the soldier's pay and would not compare the conditions properly. They said that the soldier got his rations, his clothing, his barracks; and they forgot all the things that the soldier has to do. They forgot that he works overtime and gets no money for it; they forgot that he has to sleep behind a bit of scrub or in a trench and gets no extra pay for that either; they forgot that he has to leave his family to go overseas; they forgot that he has to keep moving his children from one school to another every time there is a whim to move him. That is something that the civilian does not have to do.
The soldier has any number of inconveniences to put up with. He spends many months and sometimes years away from his family and that is worth a bit of extra money. No one is going to suffer these inconveniences unless he gets some compensation for it. I say that the soldier has not been given a square deal, and that we shall not get a Regular Army until we give him a square deal. As soon as we try to do that, and as soon as we pay adequately, we shall get a Regular Army. I think that we shall have to 1664 try that because otherwise we shall have to go on with conscription for ever.
Once upon a time an officer went into the Army because his father and his grandfather had been in it before him, and he may at that time have had a little money to back him. Some officers even used to give their pay to their batmen. Those days have gone; people have not the money now. It is no good going into the Army today purely for tradition because half that has been wiped out of the Army. One cannot guarantee that one will go to the regiment one wants to, and if one gets there, there is no guarantee that one will stay. To me it was worth a lot. I knew that I could go to the regiment of my choice, and that I could say there as long as I wanted to.
Until we can restore the prestige of the Army and pay adequately we shall not get the men. We have to remember that the soldier in modern warfare is getting too old at 40. That also applies to the soldier after he has left the Army. There are not enough jobs outside cinemas and theatres to keep the old sergeant-major with a long row of medals. The man of 40 is now finding it extremely difficult to find a job. Any hon. Member who does not believe that can go down to my constituency and see the 4,000 unemployed there at the moment; then he can judge what chance a sailor or soldier coming back, with no trade and no background, has got to get a job these days. In these days of full employment there are 4,000 unemployed in my constituency, and I say that a soldier cannot get a job there.
That must be borne in mind, because with the present cost of living, a soldier's pension is quite inadequate to keep him nowadays. There was a time when that pension with a little extra from a few odd jobs would keep a man; but now an ex-soldier has to get full time employment in order that he can keep himself with the pension that once would provide for him. Pensions and the cost of living have not kept pace. Nor has our pay risen at the same rate as the cost of living, and that must be recognised otherwise we shall not get the recruits we need.
I should also like to stress that at the moment, owing to the shortage of men in the Regular Forces, directly a man signs on again for 12 years and over, he is 1665 sent overseas again. During the last three years I have had complaint after complaint about men being sent overseas immediately after signing on. That happens not only in the Army but in the Navy as well. That cannot be remedied until we have a Regular Army large enough to allow a man to have a reasonable time at home after he has returned and signed on again. That must be done in order to keep these men in future.
There are many other things I should like to draw attention to, but as time is short I will mention only one other thing. I wish to refer in particular to the speech of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), who seems to think that men join the Army to get a house. I think the former Secretary of State for War, now Minister of Defence, rather overstated his case. There has been no rush to join the Army owing to its excellent housing situation. It is not bad; it is a great deal better than some aspects of civilian housing, but it is far from good. On the other hand, we in the Army feel that the barracks which are at present being built are over-luxurious. I certainly feel that personally.
Recently, I have seen barracks being built at Tidworth so luxurious that no soldier would ever have dreamed he would ever sleep in a 'barrack like it. The soldier needs a good barrack; he needs a place where he can sit down and rest, and where there is a fire; but he does not want a mat beside his bed, or a counterpane to go over his bed; he merely throws his boots on it. In my opinion, the soldier would far sooner have an extra couple of bob a day. In fact, the ex-soldiers who were building this barrack block told me, when I was taken round to see these exhibition barracks, that they would far sooner have had an extra couple of bob than this "pansy" array which now goes into the make-up of a British Army barrack. I saw barracks in Germany which I thought were first-class. There was nothing effeminate about them; they were good, manly places where a fellow could have quiet, could keep himself warm, and there were decent beds.
That is all the soldier wants. The soldier requires company; he likes being in a barrack room with seven or eight other chaps. Directly he is put in isolation he feels that he has gone to detention, and he does not like it a bit. I say 1666 that the soldier likes being with his pals. Before concluding this, my maiden speech, I should like to stress once more my absolute conviction that we can get a Regular Army if we pay the men adequately; if not, we shall not get the men.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
It is indeed a privilege to have listened to the maiden speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke). We listened with avidity and interest to a splendid and incisive speech which indicated that we have another informative contributor to this type of Debate. Nevertheless, I am sure that the pleasant and good-humoured way in which the speech was delivered indicates that on another occasion we shall have one more forthright debater in our midst.
I am worried because reality seems to be missing from this Debate. Before developing that, may I say that my information, from Regular soldiers and from soldiers just going into National Service, is that never before in history has the Army had a squarer deal than it has had from the Labour Government during the past five years. Conditions and opportunities for advancement have been improved under this Government.
To develop my point about reality, we seem today, on both sides of the House, to be talking in terms of 1910 and even 1810. The best recruiting officer that this nation ever had was unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Hon. Members may shout "Rubbish" or whatever they like. If they will kindly listen a moment they can shout afterwards. In the 100 years of history between 1815 and 1915 this country was at war 38 times and we fought 64 years out of those 100 years. The only time the party opposite could provide full employment was when we were at war.
§ Mr. Davies
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying that we were not at war for 64 years out of 100 in the century between Waterloo and 1914, he does not know his history.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that in a considerable number of those wars there 1667 were no more than 10,000 or 12,000 soldiers engaged? How could there possibly have been full employment because of war?
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has already conceded my point—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—which is that the system of society supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite can only give full employment when we are either at war or preparing for war.
§ Mr. Davies
Despite the scoffing, I say we have evolved by intelligent controls a system of society that is trying to work out a formula of full employment, and our victory in that direction has more or less defeated the old-fashioned method of attracting troops into the Forces.
§ Mr. Davies
Hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite can easily fill up the recruiting stations if we once again have two million to three million in the bread line, and that is the way that—
§ Mr. Davies
I will give way in a moment. That is the way in which the recruiting offices have been filled in the past. I will now give way.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
If the hon. Gentleman will take the trouble to come with me into the Library afterwards, I will prove him absolutely wrong. I will not quote the years; I will just say that at the peak unemployment figure between the last two wars, the actual graph of recruiting went down and that as employment rose—I am not making a party point the recruiting figure went up. Those are facts which cannot be refuted.
§ Brigadier Head
The hon. Member is doing me a great courtesy by giving way. What he has just said is said all over the country by no less a person than the Minister of Defence—he is always saying it. Our point is that it is founded entirely on a fallacy. If the unemployment and recruiting graphs for the period between the wars are compared, it will be found that when unemployment was high, recruiting, if anything, fell off, and that when unemployment came down recruiting rose. It is very important that hon. Members opposite should realise that, because they have been talking this rubbish for several years without ever checking it with the facts.
§ Mr. Davies
It is quite true that during the period of power of the Opposition there was mass unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] May I develop my speech in my own way? I have given way three times. At last I stab the Opposition into movement.
The reality of the situation is this: the type of man going into the Forces—I hate to be a little provocative, especially just after a maiden speech has been made—does not think it is living like a pansy to have a certain amount of privacy in modern life and to be able to live decently in a barracks. The men now coming into the Forces, after three generations of secondary education—and opportunities of advancement exist in the Forces—are very often as good as any of the men who may be commanding them. I believe I am right in saying that they are demanding a higher amount of respect than the old soldier of 20, 30 or 40 years ago. They are demanding that, and they are refusing to go into the Forces under the old-fashioned conditions.
I believe, therefore, that the low recruitment is due entirely to (1) our policy of full employment; (2) the growing standards of life not only in Britain but in various parts of the world. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said this evening—and we all agree on both sides with these three points—that there must be an improvement in conditions and in married quarters. If men are expected to serve they must be able to live decently the family life, whether they are civilians or in the Forces. That is a major problem, and one that has to be faced. Second, welfare conditions must be improved. Third, I agree with the hon. 1669 and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke), that if we want to attract men into the Army as a profession pay must be in ratio with the dignity of the job they are expected to do. I am convinced that by these methods we could attract more people into the Forces.
I am not in entire agreement with the suggestion which has been made from this side of the House that we should have a British Foreign Legion. Heaven forbid that we should once again descend to a system of society where we want mercenaries to defend this little island of ours. Our problem seems to be that we must decide what extent of burden we can afford. Whether we like it or not, Britain is no longer a great world military Power, and we can no longer carry the terrific burdens that we have carried in the past. But that does not in any way mean that we may not be effective. Our greatest effectiveness, therefore, is to carry a military burden in ratio with our national income and economic power.
As was pointed out in the Defence Debate, if we expect to get effective defence, there must be co-ordination, not only in Britain, but in the whole of Europe. I know that the situation has deteriorated, but had we been able to follow the policy laid down by the United Nations Charter, we could have had a very effective defence force for the policing of the world and the burden on the British public would have been much less than it is now. It should go out from this House to the United States of America, to fellow members in the Atlantic Pact and the Commonwealth that we are carrying a burden that is out of ratio with the size of our national income. There should be fair shares in defence as well as in other types of distribution in the world. This little country cannot continuously carry the weight of 7½ per cent. of its national income on defence while Canada carries only 1.7 per cent. of its national income on defence.
I believe the real strength of the country is to be seen in its economic power. If we have small, but effective Forces, Regulars or others, see that our industry is efficient and carry out the most modern technical advances in industry, then, if ever we do have to we shall be able to meet the shock of war. History has proved that the nations which are 1670 strongest in the shock of war are the nations with the most spanners and most sparks for power when war comes. The danger of carrying an over-burden of forces is that thereby we undermine internal standards.
Democracy is something worth defending. It has been said this evening that the prestige of the officer must be maintained; so, too, must the prestige of the men in the ranks. In passing, I would comment that Army education is quite important in the 20th century. I still believe a thinking soldier to be a better soldier than an unthinking soldier. I deprecate the neglect that seems to be indicated so far as Army education seems to be concerned. One of our great generals said to his officers:The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, and always every time, The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease. comfort and welfare come last, always and every time.I have forgotten who it was—
§ Mr. Davies
Well, I have not heard hon. and gallant Members opposite say it so far tonight. What I want to emphasise is that by means of Army education, with the type of man who is coming in from the secondary schools and technical colleges we should be able to have men in the Forces whose service will not set them back in whatever type of industry or profession they follow. I believe the time has come for a Select Committee of this House of people from both sides who have full knowledge to investigate the problems of the Regular Army as it is today. The strongest nation in the 20th century is not necessarily the nation which has the largest number of men under arms, but the nation which uses the number of men it has most effectively and which has behind them enough power and technical skill to feed those men if an emergency should arise.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Heathcoat Amory (Tiverton)
With one thing which the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) has said I am in entire agreement; that is in the tribute he paid to the most excellent speech which we heard from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke). I 1671 think that 1950 must be a vintage year for maiden speeches because when I think of my trembling mutterings on the occasion of my own, I am lost in admiration of the sang froid and assurance of the excellent maiden speeches we have heard today. I would commiserate with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West, on the effect of his latest promotion, from the Army to this House, which I am afraid has again meant a further cut for him.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State for War is not here because I feel that as an old comrade in arms of his I ought probably to congratulate him on his present appointment. Over 30 years ago he and I were members of the same platoon. As platoon sergeant it was my duty or privilege to keep a pretty close eye on the Secretary of State for War, as I maintained my vigilant watch to see that there was no "conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline." I think I can say, to the relief of the Whole House, that I can recollect no military misdemeanour whatever on his part at that time. I cannot remember whether there was a field marshal's baton in his haversack, but I can remember no signs whatever there of the seals of a future Secretary of State for War. I hope that in any success he may achieve in practising the military art at this very high level, he will not fail to pay tribute to the early indoctrination he received at the hands of his old quartermaster-sergeant.
The only points I wish to make about the broad problem are these. First, to ask whether there is enough Commonwealth co-operation in defence. I really do not believe there is. The fact that there is very close co-operation, for example, between Canada and the United States, is something in which I am sure we all rejoice. But the fact which I suspect, that the co-operation between ourselves and Canada in relation to our Armed Forces is not as close as it might be is one about which we have no ground for rejoicing. I ask the Secretary of State for War to pay careful attention to the suggestions that have been made from different parts of the House today for a bolder and more imaginative development of our Colonial Forces. I also wonder 1672 whether the time has not come for the establishment, in parallel to our national Forces of an international Western European Force under its own commander and its own officers. That seems to me the proper place for German participation in the defence of Europe.
I wish to say a few words about the Regular Army. We all agree that an efficient compact Regular Army must be the basis of our Army forces in this country. That I consider is a very generous tribute from an old Territorial officer who has recollections of, on occasions, a good deal of ribald, if friendly, denigration at the hands of his Regular colleagues. I remember an exasperated divisional commander once saying, "Well I suppose an order to a Territorial is at least a basis for discussion." With regard to recruiting to the Regular Forces, I believe that if we want the right type of young man to join the Regular Army it is up to every member of the nation to show the high regard in which we hold our Army; and that we think a little more of anyone who decides to make that his career. The tiny proportion of National Service men who at present decide to re-engage on a Regular Commission is very disappointing.
On the question of pay and allowances, it was the Minister of Defence who said the other day that Army pay was up by 75 per cent. over pre-war. But wages are up a good deal more than that. We may all have our own ideas as to the right level of Army pay and allowances, but I would suggest that the only proof of the right level will be when we get the results. And I suggest that so long as the Treasury controls the finances of this country as it does at present, there is no early risk of us over shooting the mark in that respect.
There is one burden which I feel falls very heavily today on officers, and that is the enormously high cost of temporary accommodation and moves. I do not think that has yet been fully faced. I know that hon. Members opposite sometimes think that we on this side of the House are mainly interested in the welfare of officers. That is really not fair. I would beg the right hon. Gentleman and the whole Government to remember the enormous importance of officers and non-commissioned officers. We know Napoleon's oft-quoted maxim, "There 1673 are no bad regiments, only bad officers." The opposite also holds good; where there are good officers there are always good units. Today I believe that the spirit of the Army is good. If that is so we ought to pay tribute to the officers and the N.C.Os. of our present Army; and we ought to support them in the work they are doing.
I am glad to note that in the Memorandum it says that the improvement in discipline which took place in 1948 has been continued in 1949. That is very good news, and is confirmed by what we see of the conduct and bearing of soldiers about the place. In my opinion the beret has been a success. I hope we shall not have another attack on the beret from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan). I wish to repeat what I said last year, or the year before on the subject of buttons. I consider that the metal button on a battle dress today is quite unworthy of its place. It was constructed for quite another purpose, in which it was intended to be out of sight. I am not appealing for bright buttons on battledress—that would be quite inappropriate. A decent plastic button would improve the whole outfit.
I would say one word about pay debts of other ranks in the Army. Generally speaking, if a man has been overpaid, through no fault of his own, the sum overpaid is recovered from him over a period. In practice that very often involves great hardship. If we turn to civil life we find that most decent employers if they overpay their men—
—do not recover the sum due. I know that when I raised this matter before, the Minister said it was receiving sympathetic attention, and in some cases part of the sum was written off. It is sometimes, but I suggest that rather less niggardly treatment should be given by the Army Pay Office in cases where an overpayment has been made to a man through no fault of his at all.
Then there is the most important question of civil jobs. The importance of a job in civil life at the termination of a man's engagement cannot be exaggerated. I understand from the Minister that the matter is under consideration, but I am sure that we ought to go very 1674 much further than we have gone so far. The Army is in the main a young man's job. Most men leave the Service while still in the prime of life. It is not good enough merely to give these men a chance of having an occupation for the rest of their lives. What many of them require is a chance to start a second career, with opportunities of rising to positions of responsibility.
It is important that technicians in the Army should be kept in touch with similar kinds of technical jobs in civilian life. I am not sure how that can be done, but I was much impressed by a maiden speech by the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. Orr-Ewing) last week. He spoke mainly about Air Force technicians and suggested that closer links should be made with industry. My right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) mentioned the same point. I believe that the argument is correct and that something could be achieved for instance in standardising the type of technical experience required.
On the subject of manpower, I only wish to say that extravagance in the use of manpower has always been the besetting sin of the Armed Services, although they are better than they were in that respect. That used to apply to industry also, but industry cannot do it now. The utmost vigilance and continuing pressure must be maintained to ensure that every possible economy is made in the use of manpower and that every substitute for manpower is employed, with equipment designed accordingly. For instance, I should like to see mechanical potato peelers as part of the equipment of even the most mobile sub-unit in the Army.
Some time ago we were anxious about the position of young National Service men in such overseas places as Germany. From my information, the position has improved out of all knowledge, and great credit is due to our military authorities in those theatres. Generally speaking, I believe that overseas is the best place for the National Service man in the Army today. He has better opportunities of training. He is kept more fully on the job and he gets better training in an overseas unit. Information about men in the Army being kept hanging about, which one still gets very often, always from my experience comes from people who are 1675 stationed at home. I suggest that whether a young man gets good or harm from his period in the Forces varies almost in the ratio in which he is kept fully and actively employed.
The other day I asked a young National Service man how much longer he had to serve. He said without a moment's hesitation, "Forty-six weeks, five days, 18 hours and 30 minutes." I am afraid that probably he does not intend to re-engage at the end of that time. I discovered that he was stationed at home. Some of these young men who are at home live much too much for the next weekend, just counting the moments. Then they spend a big part of their money—and they might do worse—in travelling incredibly long distances to pass a few hours at home. That is admirable from the point of view of the British Railways. There are however many young National Service men who, on the contrary, get a great deal of interest out of the Service and, in particular, out of their tactical training when they get into a good unit. I suggest that the tougher the training of that kind, the more likely they are to get interest from it.
I will say only a few words on the Territorial Army. Though I am an old Territorial Army Officer, I realise that I am out of date. The main question is whether the present system will work. We must all do our utmost to make it work. It is a great pleasure anyway to an old Territorial like myself to see the very fine chaps who are in the Territorial Army today, as officers, non-commissioned officers and men. I believe, judging from my own experience, that men who join a particular unit should, if possible, be given some kind of assurance that they are likely to stay in that unit and that, after embodiment, they will not be removed somewhere else. People do get fond of their units. In the last war our experience was that after embodiment our men began at once to be scattered to the four winds.
I want to support a suggestion made by one of my hon. Friends earlier in the Debate about the importance of officers in the Territorial Army receiving instruction in administration. We did not have such instructions before the war, though that may have been our own fault, and the result was that when we were embodied our men suffered from our lack 1676 of knowledge. I hope that matter will be attended to. There is one other point. Will the Minister assure us that he will give Territorial Army commanding officers a little more scope and responsibility? I should like to see commanding officers given rather more funds than they have at present to spend at their own discretion. They know the little things which make a tremendous difference to the welfare of their men, and it is heart-breaking sometimes to find that effort and energy which have to be expended to obtain official authority in advance for, maybe, a cupboard or the hire of a loudspeaker or a conveyance.
One small point about cadets. I read with interest the part of the Memorandum about the Cadet Forces, and it makes quite good reading, but, from my own observations, I have sometimes thought that those in charge of cadet units are straining the rules so far as the minimum age at which they can take boys is concerned. We now see tiny "little shrimps" of boys in the cadets with older and bigger ones. All experience of youth movements in general has shown that you cannot mix small boys and big boys and expect to keep both interested. If they continue to take the "little shrimps," I fear that they will not get the chaps of 16 and 17 whom they require.
Finally, I like these Service Estimates Debates because almost every hon. Member who takes part always speaks and makes his contribution from his own experience with the sole object of helping things on. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he will give his wholehearted devotion to the welfare of this great Service for which he is now responsible, he can rely on each one of us helping him forward in every way we can.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I had not intended to enter this Debate, but, as it has proceeded, I have felt more and more that I should make a contribution to it. I do not know whether it is a good thing that the Debate should be so monopolised by hon. and gallant Members of the House. I know that it cannot be avoided, but I feel that as it lends an air of unreality and takes it away from ordinary people and the 1677 soldiers in the ranks, some of us on this side ought to try to clear up the position.
We are discussing the spending of nearly£800 million, and the problem is that, even with this defence expenditure we are not at all satisfied that the Regular Army will be as strong as many would like it to be. I was,confirmed in my intention to enter the Debate when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) made his contribution. He indicated that his solution for strengthening the Regular Forces was the recruitment of Colonial people. He suggested that we should build up a sort of Foreign Legion, recruited, in the main, from the African peoples. He seemed to suggest that if there were this opportunity, we should find the Africans queueing up for the opportunity to join the Regular Forces. I am convinced that that attitude—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Alport
On a point of Order. Is it in Order, Mr. Speaker, for the hon. Gentleman to refer to British subjects as "foreigners"?
§ Mr. Manuel
There has been a complete mistake. I mentioned the Foreign Legion, and referred to a previous speech in which it was suggested that we should recruit Africans into a sort of Foreign Legion in the same way as the French nation did at one period. I feel that that type of recruitment would only come about because such people were driven to it by bad economic circumstances, and not because of any great desire on their part to come to Europe. That would be essentially bad, and I do not think that any hon. Member would wish to strengthen our Forces by that type of recruitment.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton was quite amenable to the idea of ex-Nazis, displaced persons, or people of that kind joining such a legion. Let us consider whether we in Britain would like that kind of mercenary recruitment to a stable Force in Europe acting on our behalf. I do not think it would be good at all. We then had a discourse from my hon. and learned Friend on the course of the next war. I do not think it right that there should be this inevitability complex about the next war. It is a wrong attitude altogether, from whichever side of the House it comes. He also spoke about our 1678 having a mobile striking force, and indicated how a force of 20,000 men very rapidly took control of Poland. He made no mention, of course, that this type of mobile striking force would be in competition with the atom and hydrogen bombs.
Such a suggestion leads me to believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House are adopting a wrong attitude towards the current situation. I view with suspicion the fact that the Opposition are still regarding this situation from a completely nationalistic point of view. I believe that both this point of view and that put up by the Minister—he made out a good case from the point of view of Western Union—are wrong and are no real solution for the prevention of war.
We must recognise that the ordinary methods of warfare are now outdated. We must think of a federated Europe and in terms of a police force doing the necessary work there, and not in terms of armies to be lined up against each other either in the East or West or anywhere else. I feel that we on this side of the House are giving a more correct interpretation of what our job should be. We recognise the difficult position of the Minister, but we should make what efforts we can and put out what overtures we can to secure this federation. We recognise the need for huge expenditure on defence, but our duty is to spend money to get rid of economic wrongs. When we get rid of them we shall get rid of the fear of war.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) and the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) did on the whole agree that we should have efficient Defence Forces though I did not altogether follow the process of reasoning by which they arrived at that conclusion. I was not altogether in sympathy, for example, with the view expressed by the hon. Member for Wallsend that it would be a bad thing for the Labour Party if this responsibility were not faced. I do not think the hon. Member would expect me to approve of it nor of the views of the hon. Member for Leek on the past. Nevertheless, I think it is a matter for gratification that all three hon. Members should have arrived at the same conclusion that we on these benches propound.
1679 The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has a habit of putting his finger on a rather tender spot and I think the rather synthetic smile with which the Minister of Defence listened to the hon. Member's congratulation upon his success as a recruiting agent was quite well worth watching. I was also very interested in his picture of the Secretary of State for War haranguing the masses of South Ayrshire on the virtue of fighting against Communism in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's earlier contributions towards theoretical Socialism and Communism. One hesitates as to saying what would have happened if anyone on these benches had addressed the new Secretary of State for War in those terms. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire went on to talk about the question of expense on defence preparations. We are all greatly concerned in that matter and we are most anxious to see the country get value for its money.
I want to address the House, if I may, on one particular aspect dealt with earlier, the Territorial Army. I have three fairly short points to make with regard to it. If I may start right up in the stratosphere, I suggest that it is time the Territorial Army had its own representative on the Army Council. The Director-General of the Territorial Army should have a seat on the Army Council. The Territorial Army comprises a very large part of our Defence Force, I hope that suggestion will receive favourable consideration.
Next there is the modification of the structure of the Territorial Army referred to by the Secretary of State. I must declare my personal interest here, because the unit with whom I have had the honour to be associated during the past three years is one of those to be amalgamated. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the reluctance with which these steps were to be taken, and he appealed to the loyalty and good will of all concerned. I am sure everybody will do their best to make a success of the new enterprise, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks this intimation has been made just as soon as it could have been. I agree he cannot accept personal responsibility, because he has only been in office for a short time.
The unit to which I am referring was reformed some three years ago, when its 1680 role was changed from that which it had very honourably discharged during five years of war. After a lot of difficulty in getting it started owing to the change of role—it had been an anti-tank unit and became a light anti-aircraft unit—the unit has been built up and it now has 115 volunteers which compares very favourably with many other units. The esprit de corps of the unit had been built up, and it was getting ready to face up to this task of taking over the National Service men.
I often wonder whether the people who make these sweeping changes in the order of battle quite realise the waste of human effort which it entails and the great discouragement it means to those who have given of their best to try and build up a new unit. I do not know now which of the two units is going to disappear, whether it be 349 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment or 521 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. In both cases a new unit was being built up and they are now to be amalgamated. They are in widely separated geographical areas, and this amalgamation means that a great deal of wasted energy will have been expended. I wonder whether we should have allowed so much work to be put into the building of these units before this decision was finally made. However, I am certain that all concerned will do their best to make a success of the new unit.
The next point I wish to raise concerns accommodation in the Territorial Army. It is not possible to have a good unit without adequate accommodation. Accommodation is needed for training, storing equipment and for providing the amenities without which a unit cannot be really effective. I should like to give some examples of what is happening at present. I know of one battery which is operating in one room which it gets once a week in a British Legion Club. That seems to me to be a ridiculous state of affairs. It does not seem to be possible for that battery to deal properly with its National Service men when they come in. In spite of that great disadvantage, they have recruited something like 40 men, which is a substantial achievement. I know another case where a battery is sharing a drill hall with one Territorial infantry unit, two cadet units and one W.R.A.C. unit. All that it has that it can call its own accommodation are two rooms each 10 feet by 12 feet. It seems 1681 to me that it is just "not on" to give the new National Service entry a good idea of what a unit should be under those circumstances. There is another case of a work-shop unit without any of the facilities with which to train its men technically.
We shall not get a good Territorial Army unless we deal with that first matter of providing adequate accommodation. The damage to equipment, the difficulties in training and in building up esprit de corps must be obvious to everybody. It also means that a great deal of money is wasted. I agree that there are usually extenuating circumstances. In the provision of accommodation there is a very complicated procedure to be followed. It starts from the Association and then goes to the Command and then to the War Office; then back again from the War Office to the Command and then to the Association. There are tenders and all the rest of it, and it takes a very long time to go through.
In my criticism I am not attacking any officer at all. I do not believe that there is any personal responsibility on the part of any officer in this matter, but the system just does not deliver the goods. If we were facing a real emergency, in war, the system would be scrapped. In these days we have no 10-year period in which we can anticipate no attack from any foe. We do not know how narrow the margins are. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into that matter because the system is not delivering the goods, and this is a matter which must be speeded up. There must be real urgency. There must be the kind of drive that there was, for example, in the Ministry of Aircraft Production at one period during the war whereby the goods will really be delivered.
There is another point that I should like to make concerning the period of service of the National Service men. The obligation of service which the National Service man has to put in is quite ridiculous. He has to serve 60 days which, as I understand it, has to be done in three years. He has to do his 60 days of service in three of his four years of compulsory service; that is to say, he has to do 20 days per year. He has to spend 15 of those days in camp. That leaves five days to be spread out over the whole of the rest of the year. He can do his five days 1682 either in six-hour periods which counts as one day, as I think the right hon. Gentleman has explained, or else he can do it in four training periods, which count as one day, or by any combination or permutation of those two things.
That is a ridiculously short time to be devoted to his training. I do not see how we can expect to get him up to the mark in that period of training even if the man is comparatively well trained when he arrives. In many cases, as has been admitted, the man will come from a different arm of the Service, and it seems to me to be almost fatuous to expect to make a soldier of him in that time.
What is the remedy? First, to alter the law and impose a greater obligation, but I will not go into that. The alternative is to encourage the National Service man to volunteer while he is still a National Service man, and I should like the Minister, in his reply, to tell the House how many of the first batch of National Service men who are to go out to the units in July have, in fact, volunteered. I believe I know the answer, and I think it is an answer which should be given to the House. I am told that the fault is not that they have not been told that they can volunteer but that no attempt has been made to point out to them the advantages of volunteering.
I am not quite sure what the advantages are and I hope the Minister will tell me whether I am right or wrong when I say that the advantages to a National Service man of volunteering are as follows: first, he will get a bounty. I understand the amount has not been fixed. I think it should be fixed and I think the widest publicity should be given to the amount of bounty that a National Service man will get if he volunteers for the Territorial Army. Another thing, I am told, is that he will keep any stripes he has acquired during his service in the Regular Army. Further, and this point has been partially dealt with, he is entitled to choose his arm of the Service and, I believe, his unit, subject to certain geographical limitations.
I am not certain whether all of these have been correctly stated, but I know that in one case no attempt at all was made to tell any of the young men concerned what were the advantages of their volunteering at the end of their National 1683 Service. I say "at the end," but I think they have to volunteer before the thirteenth month of the period of their National Service. I suggest that an effort should be made to bring home to them the advantages of volunteering because I believe it is only thus that we shall get them to put in the extra drills without which it is impossible to make an efficient unit.
In putting forward these criticisms I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not seeking to cast any reflection upon the Territorial Army or to convey any impression that these young men will not go into a thoroughly good show. I have always maintained that in the Territorial Army this combination of the volunteer and the National Service man offers a unique opportunity to the volunteer element to provide leadership and to influence young men at an impressionable age. A great opportunity for service to the community lies within the power of the voluntary element, because they will have these young men to some extent under their influence at this very special age. Very great work has been done by the voluntary element in the Territorial Army; I am sure that all of us in this House hope that they will continue to discharge that duty, and that they will receive rather more encouragement from the Government, along the lines I have suggested, in the work they are doing.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Moeran (Bedfordshire, South)
Like many other hon. Members on both sides of the House, I have had practical experience of the Service but in my undistinguished career in the recent war I always described myself as a professional civilian. I think that is not a bad thing because there is in the Service great danger of getting so close to things so that we cannot see the battleship for Bofor guns, and any discussion of defence has reality only if it is seen in the context of world affairs and the world situation.
Against that background I am bound to say, with all respect, that many of the contributions I have heard from hon. Members today have had about as much relation to reality as the discussion of how many angels can stand on a pin's head. We have heard talk about bedside mats and berets. but the realities of the world situation are the looming shadow of 1684 atomic fission and the hydrogen bomb, and against those risks, the foreign legion and conscription, and the rest we have heard of, have little meaning or validity.
The only defence of this country or of any other country is to master and dispel that situation which now surrounds all other situations which is that we have two great countries, the greatest in the world by material measurement, which are blindly governed by blind fear of each other—a vicious circle of fear begetting armaments, begetting fear. The only defence of this country is somehow or other to break that vicious circle, because if it results in war, which may otherwise become inevitable, whatever our Defence Forces in this country—and we can be nothing but an inferior Power militarily, even if we spend 50 per cent. of our national income on defence—we shall be dragged down in it.
I do not partake of those fears. I think they are the product largely of neurosis and emotionalism. However, we must realise that we are living in a world which is controlled by fear and which has a pre-war psychology. The Prime Minister summed up the position when he said, "We do not lack the machinery: it is the will to peace which we lack." The point which I want to make is that in that situation we have the memory now of the Kellogg Pact, when in 1928 every signatory Power dismissed force as an instrument of politics. The situation we have to face is—how can we break and dispel this vicious circle of fear begetting armaments, begetting fear. I suggest that what the world is waiting for is not big battalions but moral leadership, and moral leadership which no other country but ours can give; which no other statesmen, no other nation of significance can give; leadership which could not be provided by any other country but ours.
Although I am conscious that in my remarks tonight I am not following the tenor of previous speeches on either side of the House, and although I am only too conscious of my own lack of eloquence and experience to make these points, still I do make them because these things need to be said, and I am sure I am saying them not for myself only but for the common peoples everywhere. What we want, as I said, is moral leadership, and what the world is waiting for is an act of faith—of faith in humanity and in the 1685 future, which might break this vicious circle and this pre-war psychology and pre-war situation. Such an act of faith, as the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has suggested, would be the unilateral reduction of our own Forces, because it is useless waiting for others to give a lead; it is useless in that fear situation, that situation of neurotic and compulsive fear, waiting for other countries to give a lead, because they are waiting for us to give the lead.
A substantial reduction, as a start, of our Forces, and a diversion of them not to works of war but to works of peace, would, I suggest, show the world what a country which believes in peace can do to make a beginning. We might also make a declaration that henceforth we would devote our research into the development of atomic energy not to destructive purposes but to constructive and peaceful purposes. That would be such an act of leadership as would indeed create a new situation in which the existing international machinery would be used to enable the Powers to come together round a conference table.
I know very well the dangers of such a course, but life is dangerous anyway, and we must measure the dangers of any such course against the dangers of the alternative. If we are swept along in the current of present military fashion with other countries, that torrent leads only to an abyss; but if we can break that vicious circle, then we may have created a situation in which something new may emerge and in which other countries may follow our lead. But to be swept along by this current of increasing armaments is only to become automata, to surrender our own powers of self-control. It is the essence of that pre-war psychosis which now afflicts the world that the participant nations are unable to control their own fate.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am sorry, but the hon. Member is getting a long way from the Army Estimates. I think the general peace situation is really out of Order in this Debate.
§ Mr. Moeran
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. The point I am making is this. I know it is too much to hope, but I feel with the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South, that I should make the point that the Army Estimates are taking some£16 1686 per head of the population, and if by a reduction of that large sum we not only reduce our expenditure but divert it to such works of peace as I have mentioned, that in itself would be the largest contribution we could make to the peace of the world, and therefore to our own peace. It is with that primary object of reducing our own danger that, in all sincerity, I make this point, while conscious that the Secretary of State for War cannot at this stage accept my recommendations. But I feel it is a point which must be made in any discussion of defence. If it is too great a burden for any Minister or any Government to bear, I would remind the House that the essence of great statemanship is readiness to take new decisions.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
I do not think, after your Ruling, Sir, it would be wise to follow the hon. Gentleman in his last argument, but I would say to him that many of us are absolutely convinced that the best way of avoiding war in future is to be so strong within our economic resources that it is not worth anyone's while to attack us. That is the justification for this very large sum which we are discussing tonight. When the hon. Gentleman suggested that we should have some form of unilateral reduction of armaments but still spend what I imagine would be quite a large sum, although not what we all consider to be enough to give us the proper form of Armed Forces that we must have, I think he was falling between two stools. He does not go so far as his hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) would like, because I verily believe that that hon. Gentleman would rather we had no Armed Forces at all.
In the course of this Debate we have heard some very excellent maiden speeches from many of my hon. and gallant Friends. I think the whole House will agree that we are fortunate to have had their experience, wisdom and understanding of the problems contributed to our Debate. I was very glad to hear the short discussion on the Territorial Army and the right hon. Gentleman's answers to it. I propose now to deal with the wider questions, some of which were covered by the right hon. Gentleman in opening the Debate.
1687 Before coming to criticisms—and it is right that we should criticise, if only to help the right hon. Gentleman to give us the sort of Army we require—I wish to say one or two things about the Army as I have known it over the last year and as some of my hon. Friends have told me it exists. The Minister of Defence will remember that he was kind enough to invite some of us to go to the B.A.O.R. manoeuvres last autumn. Although I do not think anyone has said so on the Floor of the House, I should say that we saw one division, and a little more than one division, conducting themselves extremely efficiently, bearing in mind the short time many of the National Service men had had to train with their formations. We not only saw efficiency in operations and in the maintenance of tanks, vehicles and so on, but also a very high standard of morale. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) was with me and we know that a high standard exists all over the Army.
When I criticise, I do so in no mean or carping spirit; nor do I criticise what is done by officers and men; my object is to offer constructive criticism of the organisation and structure of the Army. Many hon. Members have said today and at other times that something is wrong. Sometimes they put it this way—that out of all the men, 376,000 or more, which there will be at the beginning of the next financial year and the£299 million to be spent next year on the Army, there are very few teeth showing—very few balanced formations. I think one hon. Member opposite said he thought there was no more than one division. I know the Government are so coy about these things that they would never deny a thing like that for fear of committing a breach of security, but I think we on this side of the House know that there is more than one division—[An HON. MEMBER: "Two?"]—and I think more than two.
I wish to take up one thing which the Minister of Defence said in the Defence Debate. Whatever we may know of the number of divisions outside this country, we know there is no division inside this country, and when the Leader of the Opposition said on that occasion that there were not even two brigade groups in this country, 1688 there was no denial from the other side of the House. I do not think the Government would be able to deny it. It has been said as an excuse on behalf of the Government for this pitiful state of affairs that it is becausewe have forces widely distributed overseas. We have therefore been unable to create, to the extent we should like, in the United Kingdom, the balanced formations which are desired."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1950: Vol. 472. c. 1269.]What is the situation about the number of our forces outside this country? The Army Estimates do not make it easy to find the full position. In Vote A we are told how many officers and men are outside Europe, that is, about 85,700; but I make a shrewd guess that in Europe there may be 60,000 or 70,000. That means that about 60 per cent. of this Army, this large Army, is in the United Kingdom; and yet it is said that out of the 60 per cent. it is impossible to produce balanced formations. By themselves, these figures show that there must be something wrong; but when one compares the position today with the situation before the war—and I accept what some hon. Members have said from the other side of the House, that comparisons with pre-war days obviously have their limitations—one gets this—and I would say that the contrast is so sharp that I think it will, even allowing for those limitations, accentuate the point I am making.
In 1938, only 55 per cent. of a very much smaller Army was at home, and yet, out of that 55 per cent., we managed to find three divisions at practically full strength and two divisions at a little below full strength. There must be something wrong with our Army today when we produce nothing in the way of balanced formations out of so many men.
Not only does our weakness lie in the lack of balanced formations. We are weak in anti-aircraft defences. We have entrusted this mostly to the Territorial Army, and I ask the Government if they have made up their minds that the antiaircraft defences of this country, in the sad event of another emergency, can be successfully conducted in the same sort of way as they were before; or is it not clear, as I think is probably the fact, that our best defence against air attack, and particularly against rocket attack, is by having a strong mobile striking force in conjunct- 1689 tion with our western allies on the continent of Europe, so that we can hold off enemy rocket sites and airfields.
If the Government have decided that the latter is the better course, then I imagine that the re-casting of the Territorial Army, which has been announced, will not be the last re-casting; but, be that as it may, I think that we are getting the worst of both worlds, because from what I can discover about the anti-aircraft defences, not only are they below strength in men, but they are very poorly equipped. For example, they have predictors of the type belonging to the very early part of the last war. That will not give efficiency, nor, incidentally, will it encourage men to join these units.
In the course of his able speech, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys), mentioned the question of Western Union. I do not think this is the occasion when one should discuss the many and various problems which the Government have to meet over Western Union and the North Atlantic Pact; but my hon. and gallant Friend said that these two things were important to achieve as soon as possible—standardisation of equipment and assimilation of Staff methods. I say one other thing. if we really believe in Western Union defence, some form of integration of tactical doctrine better than we have today must be attained. The Minister of Defence will recall this point if he remembers the B.A.O.R. manoeuvres.
Having pointed out what I think is wrong, and having, I hope, debunked one of the Government's excuses for the lack of balanced formations in this country, briefly to cover two points which have been most in hon. Members' minds during this Debate. The first is manpower, for the Regular Army in particular, and the second is equipment. We are all very much concerned with regular recruiting. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, who has just taken on the office of Secretary of State for War, is as concerned already as the Minister of Defence. It is, perhaps, unfortunate for the right hon. Gentleman that immediately he got to the Ministry of Food, he had to produce more food, or was asked to do so; and immediately he gets to the War Office, he is faced with the need for producing more recruits. I seem to remember reading something in 1690 his book about that "Produce More" cry.
I know the right hon. Gentleman is realistic about these things. Let me tell him that somehow more recruits have got to be produced. For many years now, the Government have been trying all sorts of measures to get recruits all sorts of methods short of increased pay. I say to them that until they have tried competitive rates of pay, they have no right to come to this House and say they cannot get more Regular recruits. They have not tried competitive rates of pay as yet, and I will now briefly give them the history of the pay problem since the war.
In the 1946 code, we were told that an attempt had been made to get rates of pay comparable with average wages in industry. This was for "other ranks." They took wage rates instead of earnings. As everybody knows, the soldier cannot earn overtime. The proper comparison is with earnings. What has happened to earnings since January, 1946? They have risen, as we have been told already this afternoon and on many other occasions, by 26s. per week on an average, but in the engineering trades they have risen by over 27s. 6d. per week. As I see it, the rates in 1946 were never strictly comparable, but even if they were, the gap has widened since then. Even allowing for the 10s. 6d. extra, given at the end of 1948, on an average there is a gap of between 15s. and 17s. We cannot hope to compete with civilian trades that way. If that right hon. Gentleman looks at the records inside the War Office, he will see that the Army are particularly short of technicians, of N.C.O.s, of good men, and, I think, of good officers, too.
If we are to have a good Army, we have got to pay more to our technicians, N.C.O.s, warrant officers, and officers. It is often said that we cannot afford it. I know there is the question of the wage freeze, but I am not going to be sidetracked on that at the moment. If we were to increase the average officer's total pay and allowances by 15 per cent. and the average "other rank's" pay and allowances by 15 per cent. overall, that would cost£12 million in the next year. In actual fact, because we would be giving this increase only to Regulars and because we would be trying in an 1691 incentive way to give the better men the increase, we would probably not incur that full expenditure. But what would happen if we were to be successful in getting more Regular recruits? We could—and the right hon. Gentleman knows this very well—reduce the total strength of the Army. If we did that in the active Army, we would have fewer men to pay, fewer men to move, fewer men to feed and clothe, less petrol to be used, fewer men to house, fewer men to equip; and these men, probably, because they were Regulars, would be better able to look after the equipment, which then might last longer.
But those are not the only economies which are possible. I think it is possible for the right hon. Gentleman to do a little more economising in the War Office; although I do not want especially to chase the War Office. I was rather surprised, though, to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he was basing his views on the secondary importance of pay in recruiting on what War Offices authorities had said. There are many estimable officers—in fact, I am sure there are a great many estimable officers—in the War Office; but some of them have been there for a little time, and it is clear that, at least until three or four weeks ago, if they had gone out and had a word with one brigadier, at any rate, one of my hon. and gallant Friends, they would have heard a lot about pay. If they had gone out and talked to N.C.O.s, warrant officers and technicians, and many middle-aged and young officers, they would have found that the view to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was not in accordance with the views of the vast majority of the Army. If the right hon. Gentleman disbelieves me, may I hope that he will visit Army units? I am sure he will, because I know that when he was at the Air Ministry he made similar visits. If he does so now, he will find out for himself what the truth is.
I now want to say one word about the War Office itself. The House will remember that the Select Committee on Estimates, in a Report at the end of the last Parliament, referred to the fact that the Air Ministry had found it wise to have a joint external and internal Air Ministry inquiry into matters of staff and control. It was recommended by the Select Com- 1692 mittee on Estimates that the other two Service Ministries should do something of the same kind with the object of simplifying control. The tendency today seems to be to build up staffs, and this leads to greater costs and uses up more and more men. Obviously, if you let the people at the centre try to control everything, they are bound to need more men and more money to help them to do so.
I ask the hon. Gentleman who is to reply whether the War Office is taking any further steps to try to cut down the numbers of its staff. If I give one figure, the right hon. Gentleman will perhaps look back with longing to the time when he was at the Air Ministry. Compared with 1939, the numbers of staff at the War Office have risen in the 1950 Estimates by 109 per cent. whereas the numbers of staff at the Air Ministry have risen by only 57 per cent. The curious thing is that since 1939 it is surely the Air Ministry and not the Army which has had the greater need to develop and to adopt new techniques. These figures themselves should, I think, accentuate the importance of this matter to the hon. Gentleman.
I come now to the balance of manpower. I hope that as the Government look into the question of trying to get more Regular recruits and trying to decide how the National Service scheme is to be fitted in with an Army consisting of more Regular recruits, they will not go on with what seems to me to be their stupid blindness to what the present National Service Army really is. We are often told that the one great, good thing about the present National Service system is that it is based on the principle of universality. Everyone, we are told, is called up. My right hon. Friend gave some figures this afternoon to show that this was not so. May I give some different figures of a more simple nature—taking the figures given by the Minister of Labour last Monday? I have worked out that of every 20 men who are to be registered during the next financial year, only nine will be called up; three will never be called up for medical, conscientious or hardship reasons; one will probably volunteer for service of his own accord. Seven will be deferred.
Working on the history of the last three years and the estimate of the Minister 1693 of Labour for the next three years, of the seven who are deferred, four will be called up later, two will be exempted so long as they remain in exempted occupations—coal miner, agricultural worker—and one will be exempted for no reason that I can find; he will simply escape. That does not seem to me to be a universal type of service: it is as selective as any form of selective National Service has even been. I am not trying to champion any particular form of selective service, but am trying to get the House to understand that it is all bunk—to put it at its lightest—to say that the present system of National Service is really universal and is not selective. It is "selective under the counter," and that is the worst type of selective National Service.
The time has come to examine carefully whether the basis of the present National Service scheme ought not to be modified. Let hon. Members think for themselves what will happen if by any chance the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War is wonderfully successful in the next year and gets 30,000 extra recruits for the Regular Army. What happens to the National Service call-up? How does he get it down? I think that the National Service scheme should be so flexible that it can deal with the right hon. Gentleman's success. Why should it not?
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain what he means by "under the counter" discrimination? It is rather a strange term to use.
§ Mr. Low
It is a loose form of words to explain a process which goes on in a manner which is not fully understood by everyone in the country.
I should like to pass now from manpower to equipment. We have been told by the Minister for Defence and the Secretary of State for War, and in various White papers, that a higher proportion of money has been spent on equipment this year than in previous years. That may be so. I was somewhat perturbed to read in paragraph 41 of the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War:This provision represents a further phase, both in modernization of the Army's equipment as a whole and also in fitting the Army to discharge its responsibilities under Western Union.1694The other half is normal maintenance of the Army and improvement of living conditions. …I am all in favour of the normal maintenance and improvement of living conditions, but in the course of the last three years we have had it proved beyond a shadow of doubt that to go on reconditioning out-of-date equipment does not give one efficient equipment and tends to waste money. Again, the same Select Committee on Estimates reported that it hoped that the Government would review its re-conditioning policy. Last year it cost£15 million. What is it going to cost this year, and what is the result of the review of that policy?
I am rather amazed, looking at some of the figures in the Estimates, to find that there is being spent on wheeled and tracked vehicles together four per cent. less than last year. That is,£1 million less. That is true, too, of guns and small arms. Are we not spending too little on new anti-tank guns? Is it not about time that we did spend more in that direction? Perhaps one of the sorriest things which happened in the history of our Army before the war was the way in which the anti-tank gun was treated. What about radar, too? Are we spending all we should on that particularly important item?
I do not want to be open to the charge of asking the Government to spend much more and yet giving no examples of the cuts I would make. I am asking for information—whether we really have what the various specious statements in the papers and the Ministers' speeches lead us to believe we have, a measure of much-needed re-equipment. It is my belief that the strength of the British Army lies as much in the quality of its equipment as in the quality of its skilled and trained men, as much in the quality and skill of its trained men as in the quality of its equipment. There must be balance between equipment and manpower. In the last three to four years, when we have debated these problems, it has seemed to me from time to time that we have laid too much emphasis on the manpower and too little on the equipment.
Anyone who has had to fight, for one reason or another, with inadequate equipment or with a shortage of equipment will know how demoralising that can be.
1695 There is nothing more demoralising than to know that you have not the most up-to-date equipment, and it does not matter very much whether it is the enemy in front of you or your friends a thousand miles away. Everyone wants to fight with up-to-date equipment, even looking at it from the most human aspect, for it gives one the greatest chance of success. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, as I think he will, will do all that he can to see that the soldiers of the British Army have the most up-to-date equipment. I am not crying for the moon, I am not expecting it all at once, but I am asking that each year a substantial and necessary step forward should be taken in that direction.
I should like also to emphasise the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), that as we improve our equipment and the skill and training in the Army we are producing the Rolls Royce type of Army. This Army of ours, when it is really skilled and really well equipped, is, as it were, the Rolls Royce which the hon. and learned Gentleman talked about. It is wasteful to use that magnificent Army in the wrong way in peace-time. I do not think, for an example of what I mean, we have yet discovered how to employ the modern unit—the infantry battalions or even the modern air force—in the rôle of maintaining law and order in peacetime. I hope the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers will give this full consideration now and in the months ahead. We have only to think back to Palestine and to Malaya. We know that wonderful things have been and are being done there, but bearing in mind the tremendous superiority we have in skill and equipment we surely could do better if we really knew the way.
I shall sum up in this way. The justification for this large expenditure of money and men in the Army Estimates is that it will enable the British Army to play its full part, with the other Defence Services of Britain and our allies in the North Atlantic Treaty and the British Commonwealth, in winning the "cold" war and preventing the "hot" war. If our Army is to be enabled to play its part in the best way with the least waste, I am sure that some changes will have to be made in the present structure of the Army.
1696 We must certainly have more Regulars as quickly as possible. If we go on as we are going now, we shall be running down and down every year. We have often heard that Russia will be strongest in 1952. It seems that if we go on as we are today, with the Regular Army growing smaller every year, by 1952 we shall be weaker and not stronger. I do not want to over-paint the picture, but right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench know that as the British Army grows stronger, and is known to be stronger and more efficient, the danger of war grows less. As the British Army grows weaker—and it will if the Regular strength grows less—and is known to grow weaker, the danger of war grows stronger. I am sure that the House has made up its mind which of these two courses it wants us to take. I ask the right hon. Gentleman in his new office to enable us to do all we can to look after the British Army, with its fine traditions, its great past, and its even greater future.
§ 11.8 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Michael Stewart)
We have heard a Debate ornamented by a number of distinguished maiden speeches, and I should like to join in congratulating those hon. Members who on this occasion have made their first contribution to our Debates. If I do not refer to some of the notable maiden speeches made on the subject of the Territorial Army, or make more than a few and particularised references to the Territorial Army. the House will appreciate that it is because that question has in the main been dealt with on the Amendment, and I am now replying to the general Debate.
The hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low) used the phrase "winning the 'cold' war and preventing the 'hot' war." I do not suppose that he likes those terms any more than I do, but they do in a rough and ready fashion summarise the two major problems that face our Army. We have, on the one hand, to keep, or if necessary to restore, the peace in a number of different parts of the world. We have to see to it that the ordered decency for which this country endeavours to stand in the world is backed by sufficient force to make the word and example of this country a reality.
1697 The performing of that task, which may be popularly described as winning the "cold" war, requires the expenditure of money and resources in certain directions. It is, for example, particularly expensive in manpower and in expenditure on movements. The other task, that of making reasonable provision against the occurrence at some future date of a much greater emergency, turns our attention to expenditure in rather different directions—for example, to the building up of effective ordered formations which will be of help to the defence of Western Europe as a whole, and to the spending of increased money on more modern forms of equipment. We have to try to strike a balance between these two matters, and I think I am right saying that there has been a tendency throughout this Debate to underestimate the importance of the immediate or, if we like, "cold" war task. I suggest it has been underestimated because the more successful we are in meeting those immediate commitments the smaller is the chance of our ever having to meet a great and terrible contingency.
I would invite the attention of my hon. Friends, who raised some of the larger issues of war and peace and defence, to this point: that when we are concerned with what may appear to them as trifling points with a particular aspect, with a particular campaign at the present time, or the location of some comparatively small force in our whole problem of defence, we should bear in mind all the time that the more successful we are in performing this immediate task of keeping the peace the less the danger that we shall ever have to think in terms of a whole world given over once again to war.
To put the matter bluntly, if this country were ever to find itself in a position where it had to abandon the Malayan Peninsula to chaos and anarchy, or to say that it could no longer interest itself at all in events in Germany, is there any doubt that to that extent the chance of sanity and reason prevailing in the councils of the world would have been reduced, and the danger of a major conflict in human society very greatly increased? I have perhaps over-laboured that point, but I want hon. Members to realise that when they set their hearts on certain objectives, with which we are all concerned—the building up of proper 1698 formations, the expenditure, as soon as we are in a position to afford it, of more money on more modern equipment for the Army—we all know that, important as those objectives are, to pursue them to the exclusion of carrying out what remains the immediate "cold" war task—
§ Brigadier Head
I think the main objective on which hon. Members on this. side of the House have set themselves is. an increase in the Regular element of the Army. Surely that objective, which is our main objective, would simplify the task of dealing with the "cold" war and would not operate against that task in any way?
§ Mr. Stewart
I was coming to that in a moment. I think the hon. and gallant Member will admit that those other objectives have been mentioned, and naturally and rightly mentioned, but we must not underestimate the importance of pursuing these immediate tasks. While I am on that point, and before I turn to the question of the Regular Army, which the hon. and gallant Member mentioned, may I deal with a matter which was raised by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) in the course of his speech? He referred to the question of reinforcements in Malaya. I should like to make it clear that, while it is reasonable to hope, and indeed reasonable to expect, that the military Forces as now strengthened will prove sufficient for the present operations, we are not proposing to close the door to a re-assessment of our requirements should circumstances arise which make that re-assessment desirable. I think that will make the position clear to the right hon. Gentleman.
I think I should add this about the campaign in Malaya. Some time ago it was very gravely in doubt whether we could get at all the support and goodwill of the bulk of the population there in the campaign against the bandits, not because they had any political sympathy with those endangering the peace in Malaya, but because the ordinary population were afraid, afraid that we could not give them proper protection if they co-operated with us.
While I do not wish to underestimate the grave difficulties that still remain in that military campaign, one notable 1699 thing has occurred over the past 12 months, that is, the change in the attitude of the general population. We are now witnessing in this month a much higher degree not merely of passive goodwill but of active co-operation. That is some measure of the success which the military operations have had so far, and it is a good augury for the success they will have in the future.
As the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) has said, whether we think of the Army in relation to the more long-term or the more immediate tasks, there is general agreement that we must try and build up the Regular forces. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate for the Opposition mentioned a number of ways in which that could be done. He asked that we should keep the status of the Army high in the eyes of the public. Is he correct in suggesting that in recent years it has had a tendency to go down? I am sure it is not necessary to urge the right hon. Gentleman to read the works of Rudyard Kipling; I am sure he has done so. if he will cast his mind back to these writings, written by one who on this matter at least was writing from knowledge, he will know that there is a constant stream of most bitter complaint against the public of that time for not according proper respect to the Army. One of his writings was quoted by the hon. and gallant Member for Colchester (Lieut.-Colonel Alport). That is only one example out of many.
I think it is partly due to the fact that this country is an island that certain episodes in our history have caused the nation as a whole never to have the affection for the Army that is accorded to another Service. Let us hope those days have now passed away. I can see no evidence for the suggestion that in the eyes of the public the Army does not stand in high esteem.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot, and many other speakers in all quarters of the House, raised the question of pay. It has become an exceedingly common practice in all Defence Debates to suggest that the way out of any difficulty is to find more money from somewhere. Indeed, that practice is not confined to Defence Debates; it is the 1700 almost invariable response of the Opposition whenever any difficulty in public administration is presented to them. The right hon. Gentleman urged that something could be done that would not be expensive, but his hon. Friends soon flung that barrier aside. We had a suggestion from the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) that would have cost, though he did not total it up, at least£10 million. The hon. Member for Blackpool, North mentioned a sum of£12 million,£2 million more than the sum, we were assured in the last Parliament by the Leader of the party opposite, would be the cost of all the measures, both civil and military, they had proposed in their election programme.
§ Mr. Low
The hon. Gentleman is being very unfair. I purposely said, for example, if he chose to increase the pay by 15 per cent. I did not say that that was the right answer, because neither my hon. Friends nor I have the available knowledge of how the pay code is worked out. It was my opinion that we wanted to reward the technicians, N.C.O.s, warrant officers and officers.
§ Mr. Stewart
But the hon. Gentleman did commit himself to a figure of£12 million, or rather less. I am pointing out first how that compares with the figure put forward by the right hon. Gentleman who was leading for the Opposition—
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I cannot allow these misrepresentations to get abroad. If the hon. Gentleman wants me to give an estimate, I think that about£5 million or£6 million on one side would solve the problem. I said in my speech, and I repeat, that there would be greater saving than that by an increase in the Regular Army—which we might not realise in the first six months. My belief is that we can increase the Regular Army and decrease the intake of National Service men at no public cost.
§ Mr. Stewart
We are now being offered a figure of£5 million or£6 million. The last pay increase for the Forces cost£12 million in public money and that sum was described by hon. Members opposite as derisory. Now we are asked to believe that a sum of half that would be sufficient to meet the problem. I am 1701 not going to deny the genuine difficulties which certain people in the Service of the Crown, in the Armed Forces, do face over their incomes. I would agree that particular groups mentioned by hon. Members opposite, certain ranges of officers, certain ranges of N.C.O.s and technicians, are faced with the problem of making ends meet, or compare very unfavourably with their opposite numbers in civilian life.
But I am suggesting that the proposals put forward in this field so far have completely under-estimated the real difficulty of the problem and have assumed that by a very moderate increase, almost a tinkering with the figures, gigantic results would be achieved in an increase in Regulars. There is not sufficient evidence to support that view. Neither can we say that if we spent a certain amount more on the pay of Regulars, that would bring in more Regulars and that we should then get rid of the National Service man. Something can be said for that point of view, but it often runs into the fallacy of the town council who decided that, as their gaol was too small, they would build a new one, using the materials of the old gaol for the purpose and, in the meantime, they would keep the prisoners in the old gaol.
§ Mr. Stewart
It is pleasant to see that the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) has decided at last to grace the Debate with his presence and has made a characteristic contribution.
I am sure we are right to look not only to the question of pay. I am not disputing its importance, but I am inviting hon. Members opposite to consider the matter a little more seriously and realistically than they have hitherto done. The question of bounties, raised by the right hon. Member for Aldershot, is under consideration. It is quite a complex problem, but I hope we shall be able to find a satisfactory answer to it.
In regard to married quarters, some calculations were offered as to the number built for men in the Services compared with homes built for the civilian population. It was suggested that if we had treated the Services as we had treated the civilian population, we should have built 1702 not 3,000 but 15,000 married quarters so far. It appeared to me that that calculation was based on the incorrect assumption that all Regular soldiers are married, an assumption that is very far from correct. It is true, of course, that there was a real difficulty shortly after the war when, inevitably, the size and location and general set-up of the Army were matters bound to be in doubt. It was not possible, immediately, to decide where was the proper place to site married quarters. That, unavoidably, gave us a late start, but it is not by any means true to say that we have not done anything in the years since the end of the war.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The hon. Gentleman asserts, without producing anything to support his assertion, that they are encouraging figures. Can he now tell us what would have been the number of married quarters which would have been the equivalent of the very poor building programme which the civilian population has had?
§ Mr. Stewart
The right hon. Gentleman might have stated more fully the basis upon which he was making his calculations. If he is looking at the number of families in the population as a whole, and the number of new homes both permanent and temporary which have been provided and the number of married soldiers—if that be his basis, I should have said that six thousand would be nearer the figure. I cannot be held to that figure, because I did not start the argument, and I have had no chance to look it up.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
Then the War Office have done half the building, and they wonder that recruiting is going down.
§ Mr. Stewart
The right hon. Gentleman is very ungrateful when I have got his arithmetic right for him. I have pointed out what were the reasons why it was not possible to have the priorities, and I am not going to repeat that line of argument now, as he did not challenge it at the time. I say that we are entitled to take credit as a result of the legislative action taken in the last Parliament, which will result in a greatly increased production of married quarters.
§ Brigadier Head
Surely the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is only fair to say that before this legislation was in 1703 troduced the Royal Air Force was away ahead of the Army in its building of married quarters?
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. and gallant Gentleman must also agree that for reasons connected with the whole nature of that Service, it is easier for the Royal Air Force to decide where to site its married quarters.
§ Mr. Stewart
I have mentioned among the incentives which will help to build up the Regular Army one which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, and that is a proper return to civilian life for the long service soldier of the Regular Force. This is particularly important, not only in getting men to enter the Army for a limited period, but in getting them to continue their engagement, if on a short engagement, and become long-service soldiers. In that field we have made considerable progress. In recent months we have steadily added to the total number of guaranteed vacancies for ex-Regular soldiers which are secured outside in the service of the Government, with local authorities, with the nationalised industries and, to some extent, in the service of private industry. So far, the full effect of this is not apparent because, in conditions of full employment such as now prevail, there is no particular difficulty presented to a Regular soldier leaving the Army in securing suitable employment outside.
The provision we are making is that, if ever at any future time that situation should alter, we can still say to the man who is prepared to take on long service that there are guaranteed vacancies for him. As we all know, it is not only important that there should be full employment, but it is very important that the population should believe that there continues to be full employment. I have mentioned, then, those matters affecting Regular soldiers.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
Will the hon. Gentleman answer one question? Has he considered what I suggested and what others have suggested; that is, countervailing economies which might be made on administrative services, on staffs, on noncombatant and semi-combatant branches of the Army, and in fact, in general on 1704 what can be called the various frills of the Army, which do not contribute directly to fighting efficiency?
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes; I will assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that I have not forgotten that point, and that I will be referring to it again before long. / had been speaking of the Regular Army. May I now say a word about the National Service men? The hon. Member for Blackpool, North, assured us with great emphasis that National Service was not universal. I must say that it seems to me to be knocking down an Aunt Sally which he himself had first put up. What did he mean by suggesting that we had under-the-counter selective service? I am bound to say, if I may borrow an expression which the hon. Member used, that to suggest we have an under-the-counter selective service is "bunk." How can it be put under the counter when he was able to set before us an elaborate analysis based on information supplied to every member of the public as well as himself? We all know there are numerous exceptions, and that a considerable body of our young men do not go into the Armed Forces, but where that happens it happens for reasons that have been debated in this House and which have been accepted by the nation as a whole.
If it is suggested that we ought to make further exceptions, then we must be told on what grounds they are to be based, and what sort of people are to be excepted. It may well be, since there are already some people who are not called up, that we ought perhaps to add further categories to those who are deferred, and possibly defer for a longer period. But we should want to know what categories are to be so added and for what reasons.
The hon. Gentleman, and I think other speakers, did comment on how the period of 18 months' National Service worked out. Here we have to strike a balance between the effect on the national economy, on the one hand, and what will enable one to make proper use of the man's service on the other hand, on the assumption—the correct assumption at the moment, I think—that one has not only to train him but to use him as a trained soldier. I see no reason to believe that if we altered the period from 18 months in either direction, we should get 1705 any better balance between the needs of the Service and the national economy than we have at present. The general opinion among those qualified to know is that in this period of service the young man does give valuable service to the Army while he is there, and that he will bring to the Territorial Army that degree of training which will make him capable of playing a useful part in that Force.
§ Mr. Low
The hon. Gentleman accused me of having invented the idea that National Service was not universal. I was only really reproducing something that the Defence White Paper states:The idea that the present principle of universality of National Service should be abandoned. …This idea is negative in this White Paper. I was really only following it up.
§ Mr. Stewart
I must congratulate the hon. Member on the triumphant, if somewhat belated, success of his research. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that in the Defence White Paper, and elsewhere, definite facts and figures are given in the light of which the word "universality" must be interpreted. I happily make him a present of the debating point which he has scored.
If I may now turn to the question of the Territorial Army and the points raised by the hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), I doubt if we could have reached a solution with regard to the re-organisation referred to any sooner. The hon. and learned Member will appreciate, and the House will appreciate, that there are a great many different co-ordinates which have to be.brought together to give one the right answer. You have to consider what order of battle you want for the Territorial Army, to what extent you are going to make up the establishment of each unit in time of peace and, on the other hand, what volunteers you have for each unit, what National Service men there are within a proper radius of the unit, and what kind of service they have been trained for. All these things have to be put together.
This meant a detailed investigation of the area around every Territorial centre in the country. I would suggest that the devoted work done in the example mentioned, and no doubt elsewhere, is by no means wholly wasted. Even though 1706 there must be some of these changes and some amalgamations, the work already done, and the example already set by unselfish voluntary service in the Territorial Army, will not go to waste and will bear its fruit in the character of the men who have been influenced by that example.
Then, with regard to accommodation, I think we may claim that in recent years considerable progress has been made in providing proper accommodation for Territorial units, partly by the use of powers of compulsory purchase, partly by building, partly by conversions and adaptations. The hon. Member for Blackpool, North, asked about volunteering by National Service men, and the answer, I think, to the rhetorical question which he put is exactly what he expected. At present we have no knowledge of people now doing full-time service volunteering for the Territorial Army. I would agree that we must try to put before them, in more emphatic and definite form than we have done so far, what are the advantages to be obtained—advantages to themselves and to the community—by entering upon voluntary engagements.
§ Mr. Stewart
We are in agreement as to the actual position. I think we all know that young men of this age are not in the habit of looking very far ahead.
§ Mr. Stewart
"Let Us Face the Future" was addressed to people of voting age. I think we may reasonably accept that whether these young men who are actually doing their National Service with the Territorial Army will volunteer, will be largely determined by how they find life in the units, and what sort of welcome they get there. My own conclusion, from the number of Territorial units which I have visited while I have been in my present office, is that there will be, despite the misgivings which I think many people have, a genuine determination to make these young men welcome, and to create an atmosphere in which they will be glad to take on a voluntary engagement.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
May I follow up the point. I do not think there is any controversy. There are certain definite advantages to the National Service man in that he can retain any rank that he has in the Regular Army. I should have thought that was a strong point.
§ Mr. Stewart
I thought I agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman on that point. I have spoken of the Regular Army, National Service and the Territorial Army. A number of hon. Members took up the question of colonial troops. I ought to mention that the reduction in the number of troops to which reference is made in the Estimates does not include any reduction in the number of Gurkha troops, and includes only a small reduction in the number of African troops—and that in relation to a body of African troops engaged in a particular task which is now coming to an end. Indeed, in general this reduction is due to the disappearance of certain tasks for which certain rather specialised types of troops were required.
There is, however, one real difficulty about increasing the size of the colonial Forces at the present. Notable services have been and can be rendered by colonial troops, but the body of colonial Forces is of somewhat specialised forces capable of being used, for example, in certain parts of the world. At the moment we find it rather better to use the available resources to increase our general forces than to increase somewhat specialised forces.
The hon. Member for Blackpool, North, mentioned equipment—particularly, I think, equipment for anti-aircraft purposes. It is to that purpose that priority for expenditure on equipment is given at the present time. Hon Members will find on looking at the Estimates that there are certain types of equipment on which less is being spent this year than last. That is simply because in certain fields we have spent to a point at which another claimant for priority comes in, and at the moment the chief claimant is anti-aircraft equipment—in which term I include radar.
As to the re-conditioning of equipment. including vehicles, up to a certain point it is proper to pursue the policy of continuing to re-condition—particularly when we bear in mind that it is important not 1708 to interfere with the country's export programme, on which the strength of the whole economy depends. After a time that process of re-equipment by reconditioning ceases to pay dividends, and we must therefore expect as time goes by to see less spent on that and more spent on the provision of new equipment.
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the point, can he reassure me in the matter of radar and wireless, in which there is such a sharp fall.
§ Mr. Stewart
It was that to which was referring. Signals and wireless equipment are one matter on which we have spent to such a point that other claimants for priority come in. Radar equipment required for anti-aircraft purposes still occupies the first priority position.
Some reference has been made to the War Office and headquarters staffs, and to a variety of administrative economies that could be made. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield reminded me of that a short time ago. The House will like to know that it is proposed to hold an inquiry in the War Office comparable to that held in the Air Ministry, and while we have every reason to believe that we shall get useful results I would urge the House to realise that we cannot expect from it some miraculous reduction and a great saving in money. I would invite the attention of hon. Members to the very considerable reduction in Vote III, the number of civilians having fallen from 8,750 to just over 7,000, as between the year just ending and the year about to commence. That is the last of a series of reductions that have occurred in recent years.
As to what have been called the frills of the Army—those things which do not directly contribute to fighting strength—surely the more mechanised and modern forces become the more people we are bound to have who, although not contributing directly, nevertheless really do contribute to the Army's fighting strength. An army with vehicles and modern equipment cannot do without a considerable body of services, all the men in which could be said not to contribute directly to the fighting strength. We have looked again and again for unnecessary 1709 frills, and I believe that there is remarkably little which would merit that description. I am not prepared to accept the case of the field bakery—
§ Mr. Stewart
I cannot charge my memory with them at the moment, but I should hesitate to say that they do not contribute directly to the efficiency of the Forces. I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman is well aware that one of the big problems in certain hot climates is the prevention of infections of the skin. It is perhaps a major health problem in hot climates.
§ Mr. Stewart
We ought not to consume the time of the House in pursuit of the mobile bath unit and the field bakery fascinating though such paths may be. We have searched very diligently for any particular administrative economies that might be made.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) declared with great emphasis that the military machine was always asking for more. He did us less than justice, for this time we have asked for less than in the previous year. I think that his general argument was replied to effectively by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay).
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
The hon. Gentleman spoke of including in possible frills various mechanised services, presumably corps like the R.E.M.E. and the R.A.O.C. Those corps were very far from my mind. What I thought of as frills was something which has no particular skill, the Pioneer Corps, which did not exist before the last war. It is a new corps. Is it necessary in peacetime? What about the Army Catering Corps, with its expensive headquarters? Could not it be made a branch of the R.A.S.C.? What about the Army Educational Corps? It has swollen to an enormous size compared with what it used to be, and it does not add to fighting efficiency.
§ Mr. Stewart
I was coming to the question of conditions of service which will take up some of the points of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I think that he will agree that where any particular 1710 service is developed to the point where it is desirable to have a separate corps, as in the case of the Army Catering Corps, no one would wish to be doctrinaire on that matter. It is a question of assembling facts and evidence from experienced people. From time to time we have considered whether a new corps should be created, or whether one of the existing corps should be destroyed, and we endeavour in the light of the available evidence to reach the most economical conclusion. I shall, as always after a Debate of this kind, review in the light of what has been said these administrative questions which are constantly under our eye.
I am surprised that he should have described the Army Educational Corps in these terms, more particularly at a time when we have a large number of National Service men in the Army, and after a period when the education of the whole nation was seriously impaired. We have now reached in the Army the position where we are taking in the young men whose education has been seriously interfered with in the war years. Several compliments have been paid to the improved morale, discipline and spirit of the Army, and I am grateful for them, but you cannot maintain a record like that unless you do preserve these welfare and education services which paid such very good dividends in the improvement of health, morals and general welfare of the troops in Germany two or three years ago.
Several hon. Members have dealt with the general conditions of service. Hon. Members opposite are inclined to place great stress on what is called "spit and polish." There are important reasons for that, but I would invite them to consider this: in the last generation the difference in education, general outlook, and way of life between officers and men has narrowed, and general standards of public health, decency and behaviour have greatly improved. It is not necessary, to preserve decency and cleanliness, to have some of the rigid and inflexible rules which may have been necessary one or two generations ago.
May I also say that I would agree that the considerations I have advanced have sometimes led me and some of my hon. Friends to underestimate the importance 1711 of maintaining proper standards of cleanliness and discipline. What I am hoping we may now do, in all quarters of the House, is to approach this question in the light of the facts of modern life and see what is the proper balance between reasonable freedom and the preservation of reasonable standards of smartness, cleanliness and discipline. I have formed the impression, in the many visits I have paid to units in the past two years and a half, that there is a great deal less unnecessary chivvying of men about, and that we have managed still to preserve proper standards of cleanliness and smartness. It is a matter on which I shall always be glad to receive the opinion and experience of hon. Members.
The hon. Member for Blackpool, North, said it was right to criticise but that he criticised in no carping spirit. It is right that my right hon. Friend and I should be criticised. But if we criticise, we should not moan. We all know that we have to face certain things in the Army today that we do not like. It is no good, because we do not like the idea of National Service, talking as if it can never be made a success, and as it the Army is likely to be ruined if there is National Service. There are some things we have to face. We cannot spend as much on the colourful side of the Army as we would like. It is important that we should none of us do anything to create a general atmosphere of discouragement.
Let us remember, at least, what we have managed to do. In many parts of the world we are restoring, or have restored, and are keeping peace. Our example is one of the main things which has made possible any project for the combined defence of Western Europe. We have carried through very notable measures of reorganisation, of which the reorganisation of the Territorial Army, mentioned earlier this afternoon, is an outstanding example. We are discovering, for the first time in the history of this country, how to make a form of 1712 National Service and the provision of trained Reserves work. I do not think, added together, a few years after a war, that these things amount to a record of which any Government need be ashamed.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
May I ask my hon. Friend if he could get on record the figures of recruitment during the period of unemployment, to illustrate the difficulty we are meeting? I was challenged from the other side of the House tonight and told I was wrong, but I have now taken the trouble to find out the figures. They illustrate that unemployment in 1931—
§ Mr. Harold Davies
I consider it is important that there should be on the record the figures of recruitment during the period of unemployment. From the 1936 Army Report, I have seen that unemployment in 1931 was—
§ Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Major MILNER in the Chair]
§ ARMY ESTIMATES, 1950–51
§ VOTE A. NUMBER OF LAND FORCES
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 467,000, all ranks, be maintained for the safety of the United Kingdom and the defence of the possessions of His Majesty's Crown, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1951.
§ To report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]
§ Resolution to be reported Tomorrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.