§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Hitchin)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House, while appreciating the spirit in which volunteers in the Territorial Army are attempting to meet the formidable task which confronts them, urges His Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to remedy the present serious shortage of personnel and up-to-date equipment in the Territorial Army.If in peace-time the Army has often been the neglected Cinderella of our Defence Forces, I think the Territorial Army, at any rate since the war, has tended to become the Cinderalla of the Army as a whole, and yet it lies at the very root of our whole military tree and on its base the entire mobilisation structure of the whole Army depends. With the recent introduction of the National Service Act, the composition and character of the Territorial Army has been radically altered.
Its rôle also has changed with the passage of time, because hon. Members will recall that it was Lord Haldane who created this force as a defence force for our own islands, but today it seems to be designed, as to a great part of it, as a supplementary field force to fight overseas. It is difficult to get an answer to the question of how many divisions are earmarked for overseas commitments; whether four or five divisions I am not sure, but, at any rate, it is something of that order. So far as its home rôle is concerned, that depends on a Government decision with regard to the Home Guard.
770 I must reinforce the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) because it impinges so much on the Territorial Army responsibilities at home. My view is that the Home Guard and Civil Defence might in some measure be integrated, and that the organisation of this dual purpose force should be commenced now, at any rate as far as the senior ranks are concerned. It does mean that, in addition to helping to meet overseas commitments, the Territorial Army will also have a commitment for home defence, and that makes it doubly essential that the Territorial Army today should be brought up to establishment and full efficiency, whereas, in fact, no one can say that it really is up to that standard.
The effect of the Government's action has not been to increase the size of the Territorial Army so much as to improve its future quality and experience through the lengthening of the conscript period. In fact, as the Secretary of State himself readily admitted, the increase in the numbers of the Regular Army at the present time has caused a corresponding standstill in the Territorial Army strength. The strength of the Territorial Army at present is about 97,000 men, 80,000 of them volunteers and approximately 17,000 National Service men— about one-sixth of what it ought to be. If five divisions are required for our overseas commitments, and we estimate a division as consisting of 20,000 men, plus a further 15,000 for army and corps troops, the number required immediately would be something of the order of 175,000 men.
We are, as it were, 75,000 men short already, even if the remainder of the Territorial Army divisions, which are not earmarked for overseas commitments, are totally disregarded, which they cannot be. It may be said that there are the Z reservists—40,000 for Anti-Aircraft, and 80,000 for the remaining branches. In my opinion, they will be no great help in a military sense to the Territorial Army. I appreciate that they may be a help ultimately, because some of them may sign on, and I hope very much they will. The Secretary of State expressed that hope in his speech, and I hope he is right.
771 From a military point of view, I do not think that 15 days on a once-for-all basis can possibly be enough. Out of those 15 days, one day will be spent getting there, one day going home, there will be two Sundays on which they will probably attend church parades, and, in all probability, one of the remaining days will be so wet as to be almost useless from a training point of view. That means, in effect, that the period will be reduced to 10 days of effective training. Although I appreciate full well that the call-up is limited to the Territorial Army for the duration of the camp, nevertheless, from a military point of view, I do not think it is very valuable.
I assume that the 80,000 Z men will go mainly to the five divisions which have this Continental commitment in order to bring them somewhere nearer to their proper war strength. These Z men are a stop-gap until next year when the National Service intake will have brought the five overseas divisions up to war establishment. By that time, they should be, at any rate numerically, ready to fight. So we see that the Government are banking on no war before 1952. But, even then, we have only five Territorial divisions and the remainder are still in skeleton form.
I shall leave the question of the Anti-Aircraft Command, if I may, entirely to my hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) who is to second this Amendment, and who is himself a commanding officer of the Territorial Army in that particular branch and is a great expert on the subject. I think it is clear, or should be, to all of us that there is now, and will be for some considerable time, a very great need for men. Over and above those I have mentioned, it seems to me that they will have to be found from volunteers.
Before coming to the general problem of recruitment, I wish to say a word about the officers and non-commissioned officers. In this connection I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton), has left his place, because I fear that, on this subject, I shall be in conflict with him. I do not know whether his contribution to the debate was intended to be serious, but, if it was, I am only thankful that, so far as I am aware, it is not official Government policy, because my impression very strongly was— 772 I hope I am not exaggerating it—that he wanted field-marshals to be paid at the same rate as private soldiers, and the education staff in the Army to be the most important of all. I do not believe that on that basis we shall win many wars.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. Gentleman misunderstood the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton). He wanted the pay of the private soldier raised to that of the field-marshal.
§ Mr. Fisher
I am all in favour of raising pay; I thought he was seeking to bring it down.
At any rate, on this question of the officers, I think that, unlike the Secretary of State's Memorandum, which gave some of us a good deal of anxiety with regard to the Regular Army—a matter which has been dealt with by my right hon. Friend—the quantity of officers in the Territorial Army is not a very worrying factor. But it is extremely important —and I am sure the House will agree with me in this—to maintain the quality of the Territorial officer. I always like to think that there was something in the old saying of the great Duke of Wellington, that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. But whether that is correct or not, I agree with the underlying idea of that old thesis, namely, that an army can easily be made or marred by its officers. Leadership, courage, dash, and so on, have so often turned the scale of battle, and turned what looked like defeat into a great victory.
The N.C.O.s are, of course, scarcely less important. Some hon. Members opposite, though I hope not many, may not particularly like the old-fashioned robust patriotism and militarism of the late Mr. Rudyard Kipling. I believe he is very unfashionable now, but in my opinion his was not a bad fashion. However, I think most of us would agree with him when he said:But the backbone of the Army is the Noncommissioned man!What about the backbone of the Territorial Army today? I believe it is only about a third of the proper establishment. If so, that is a serious matter. They are the instructors in individual training and teachers of weapon training and drill which are the basis both of military 773 efficiency and of the essential discipline of any unit.
I do not know whether more may be provided for the Territorial Army by the Regular Army. It is extremely unlikely because N.C.O.s. of the Regular Army are too busy already training conscripts in Regular units. Nor can we expect many more officers and N.C.O.s. with war experience to come forward, because they believe, not unreasonably, that they did their bit in six years of war. One cannot blame them. Most of them are married now and have children, and they are not getting any younger.
Another point of which we must not lose sight, and which is very important, is the county pride and the essentially local associations and the great traditions of various Territorial Army units. I think I said in the debate last year that pride of regiment whether in the Regular Army or in the Territorial Army is an absolutely vital requisite, because it is the firm foundation and inspiration on which training, fighting and everything else is based. Not less important is the team-work and sense of comradeship that exists among men who have lived near each other and have known each other all their lives.
It is for that reason that the new London Plan is in many ways rather a good one, because it earmarks men to serve in units in areas where they normally live. At the same time, in some cases that does tend to destroy the regimental traditions which are perhaps even of greater value than local associations. Will the Z men, for instance, be called up to the London Rifle Brigade or to units of that sort? Will they have the green berets of the Rifles? Will other Z men have the traditional dress and badges of the particular units to which they are assigned and which they would be extremely proud to wear?
I hope I am not harping too much on this haberdashery, but it is important psychologically. I remember during the war that the Guardsmen had high set peaks to their caps and they were suddenly issued with those dreadful fore and aft things. They were frightfully insulted. It did make a big difference to them. These dresses are features of many old regiments and they should be preserved whatever the future structure of the Territorial Army may be.
774 One must remember—and it is really rather importaut—that we are entering today a completely new era in the Territorial Army. We are changing its whole character. In the past it has been an entirely voluntary force. Every man has been a volunteer making his personal contribution and getting absolutely nothing for it, giving up his leisure time from a sense of duty and patriotism. Now we have added to this voluntary element the National Service element. The new arrivals have a statutory obligation to serve and, therefore, they have a slightly different approach to the Territorial Army. Perhaps they have a slightly less interest in it at the beginning. It is important to recognise that change in the Territorial Army. I do not quarrel with it. In the circumstances perhaps it was inevitable. It is a completely new situation, and it will obviously create its own problems.
The old voluntary atmosphere is fast disappearing. It may never have been outwardly super-efficient, but it did work. It produced the result in war and that is the main thing. This volunteer spirit, which used to be the life blood of the whole thing, and, indeed, the very soul of the organisation, is now in effect only its bones, and in future it will be the National Service men who will provide the flesh and blood to clothe the skeleton and bring it up to its required strength. It is very important that we should ensure that, at any rate, it is not different flesh and blood when we see the result.
There is a real danger here, which we ought to recognise, that the transfusion may destroy altogether the old volunteer spirit. If the volunteers are merely cadres for the conscripts—the Secretary of State himself used that very word —I think there is real danger of taking the whole heart out of the volunteer system. There is also the danger that the potential volunteers may say, "It is not necessary for us to volunteer to serve any more. The National Service men will man this unit. We are no longer required." That is the sort of atmosphere we must avoid. I think it is already a deterrent, and it might very well become a serious deterrent indeed to voluntary enlistment. I am sure the Under-Secretary of State recognises the danger, and will mention it to his right hon. Friend. I 775 am sure the Government will do their best in the matter.
I have been trying to think how the Government could give encouragement to voluntary enlistment. This is not a party problem, and I am sure there will be many suggestions from both sides of the House. I should like to make a few Suggestions before I conclude. The first relates to conditions of service, and under that heading there is the question of pay. We should recognise that we have always been getting the Territorial Army on the cheap. It is defence on the cheap. The Estimates show that the Territorial Army training costs something less than £4 million a year, whereas the total Army budget is rather over £400 million for the forthcoming year. That is rather less than 1 per cent. and it is very little to be spending on the training of the Territorial Army.
It may be that we have gone too far in this direction. The volunteers do not expect to make money out of it, but we should make certain that they are not out of pocket. Are the travelling expenses adequate in all cases? I merely ask for information. Is the training pay and bounty on a reasonably generous level? It may be that we can afford to be a little more generous to those men who give so generously of all their leisure time for the defence of their country.
On that point I want to mention again —I know it has been mentioned a lot in this House—the question of security of employment. That is a subject which is talked about a good deal by hon. Members opposite, but I should like to know whether the volunteer is really secure in his job when he goes to camp. The Z men recalled this summer are safeguarded, but surely it would only be fair and logical to give the same protection and security to the volunteers. Surely a man should not be deprived of his own holiday with his family just because he is prepared to go to camp for a fortnight for the sake of his country. That would seem an unreasonable proposition. I realise there may be difficulty with small employers, but if so could not the Government give a helping hand here? Do the nationalised industries set an example in giving time off and pay? I do not know; I am only asking. I believe some do and some do not.
776 I should like to quote the Secretary of State, speaking in the Army Estimates debate last year. Speaking of the volunteer and the National Service man he said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 1651.]I quite agree, but in that case on what principle is there now to be discrimination in favour of the Z man and against the volunteer? It is not a very good way of getting the Z man to volunteer, for he sees that he will be worse off if he does volunteer. It is a short-sighted point of view, and I ask the Under-Secretary of State to suggest to his right hon. Friend that he should look at this matter again. Certainly it seems most unfair and it will not help voluntary enlistment.
Could the Government give a positive lead here to industry? At present there is no uniformity in industry on this issue; one employer follows one practice and another employer takes a different view. Some employers encourage their men to go to camp; others positively discourage it. The truth is that there has been no real lead from the Government in approaching industry to get a uniform and satisfactory solution to this difficulty.
The next point I wish to make is one of importance. When the men get to camp are proper arrangements made? I do not mean, of course, the provision of feather beds and reading lamps; nobody who joins the Army wants or expects those things. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Well, they did not expect them when I was in the Army. But the fact remains that many camps are miles from anywhere. That is inevitable. There is absolutely nothing for these chaps to do in the evenings and, after all, one cannot train for 24 hours a day. We should think about giving them some relaxation in the evenings when they have done their day's work. I do not know whether film units could be provided for these very remote stations but, if so, I would say, "Please let it be a good film," because a very bad film or a very out-of-date film is worse than no film at all.
Another point in connection with the period spent at camp is that the equipment must be up to date. That is essential. I know that we have been promised that it will be so, and I hope very much 777 that the promise will be fulfilled. It is very important that it should be fulfilled Another point which may seem rather small but which is worth making is this: could there be more civilian assistance in fatigues, such as potato peeling? The National Service men and the Z men will volunteer only if they have plenty of equipment on which to train and the minimum of fatigues on which to waste time.
That will be quite an important point when the Z men and National Service men consider whether they should volunteer. In war time, men know perfectly well that they have to do their own fatigues and they get on with it, but if we want people to volunteer for the Territorial Army then we must make it attractive for them to do so. At any rate, we must make them feel that they are not wasting their time; and as the main part of their Territorial service is in camp, I think the conditions of camp will be an important feature.
I believe that the percentage of National Service men who volunteer for the Territorial Army varies from unit to unit. It varies, I believe, between 15 per cent. and 25 per cent. according to the different units. In his opening speech the Secretary of State said the figure was something like 20 per cent. overall. On one thing all units from which I have heard are agreed—that those who volunteer are of an extremely high quality. Our job is to create conditions in which a higher proportion of them will want to sign on.
The last point I would make is perhaps the most important. Can we give some really inspiring leadership to the Territorial Army in order to stimulate voluntary recruitment? I do not believe there has been any real lead in this connection from Government level.. No doubt I shall be taken to task here by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I listened to his speech in the debate last year with great interest, as I always do, and I noticed that he said —and he may say it again today; I do not know—that nothing could be done to meet this point and that even the Leader of the Opposition, with all the power of his appeal for sacrifice which has been so successful on many occasions in the past, had been unsuccessful when he broadcast 778 about recruitment to the Territorial Army.
That may be true; it is always difficult to assess the results of these appeals; but at any rate 1 should have thought the circumstances had completely altered since then. The nation is now far more conscious of its danger than it was at that time; the issues are clearer and the need is much better known. Hon. Members will recall that only a year ago when we were engaged in a General Election campaign re-armament and war were not the main issues. I think that that applies to hon. Members on the other side of the House as well. Even foreign policy was a secondary issue, and really that election was fought almost entirely upon domestic policy.
Today that situation is changed. Everyone is acutely aware of the danger. Our own men are fighting and dying in Korea. We are, in effect, at war, although, fortunately, it is a localised war. Though by no means desperate, our situation is certainly very grave indeed, and I am sure the people are well aware of it, and I am quite sure that they will be ready to respond to any appeal and play their part. So let us have an enlistment campaign, and an appeal to the highest qualities in our people, which are sometimes rather dormant in most of us. I am sure it would cost little to organise a campaign of that sort in comparison with its potential value. Quite apart from its being useful for the Territorial Army, it would stress to the public the need for defence, and, therefore, in that way, would be in line with general and agreed policy.
The campaign should be directed, in my view, not only to the potential recruits for the Territorial Army, but also to the public as a whole, because I think that one of the important things to do in building up the Territorial Army is to build up also in the public estimation its value and prestige and importance. So I ask the Under-Secretary of State for War when he replies to consider some of these suggestions. I hope there will be many more. I am sure there will be from other hon. Members, and I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State will welcome them from both sides of the House. I can assure him that I put mine forward certainly in no party spirit, and, indeed, in no spirit of criticism, but simply in an attempt to be helpful.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think the House is glad that my hon. Friend has used his good fortune in the Ballot to initiate this discussion on the particular problem of the Territorial Army. The Secretary of State for War himself devoted a considerable part of his speech to the Territorial Army, and I was particularly interested in that part in which he discussed the structure of the new Army since it was re-formed in 1947, and it is on that particular point that I want to cross swords with him in what he said in his speech. This Amendment calls attention to the serious shortage of volunteers in the Territorial Army. It was the Minister of Defence himself, in the defence debate, who said:I must also emphasise that… the need for volunteers for the Territorial Army is now as great as, or even greater than, ever."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 417.]So the Minister of Defence has emphasised that there does exist this shortage of volunteers in the Territorial Army. What I should like to do is examine the present position and also make some suggestions on how we can overcome this shortage of volunteers.
The first thing that I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will do—and I hope that he will ask the Secretary of State and the Minister of Defence and, indeed, the Prime Minister and all his Ministerial colleagues to do the same— is to show more demonstratively appreciation of the hard work which the Territorial Army has done and is doing. For four years now those officers and men in the Territorial Army have been working under considerable difficulties, with small numbers and very often a shortage of accommodation and equipment, and they do feel, in many instances, that there has not been public appreciation of what they have been doing. I realise that the Secretary of State for War has very heavy responsibilities at the moment and that his time is fully occupied; and, besides, the Territorial soldier does not want to be smothered with false praise. But he does his job better, I am quite convinced, if he feels that the Government and the people of the country appreciate what he is doing.
That feeling has become particularly prevalent, I think, during the past few 780 weeks because of the additional task which the Territorial Army has been given to do in connection with the Z Reserve call-up. The Territorial Army, I am quite sure, will carry through that task very ably, but nevertheless it is a considerable undertaking. I rather regret that when the Prime Minister announced this task in the House on 22nd February, he made no mention of the burden put on the Territorial Army. The task of training and administration one can easily recognise, but I do not think it is fully appreciated what effect this will have on the Territorial regiments until one goes into the details of it.
We spent several days recently—as was right—discussing the problem of the Z men. We have not discussed the effect on the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army has been organised for something like four years, and the men have been working together, getting to know each other and assimilating the best regimental traditions, as well as getting the spirit of the regiment. In a fortnight they are asked to absorb 300 or 400 men whom they have not seen before. Hon. Members opposite talk about dilutees, but this is dilution on a scale of one for one, and obviously it will affect the whole life of the regiment, however much they welcome these men.
These recruits will arrive at very short notice, and they provide a problem of another kind for the Territorial Army and for the men commanding it. Many Territorials have joined in lower ranks than they held in war-time. The Territorial Army is to have Z men in their war substantive ranks. Will a commanding officer promote men of his own regiment and then have a regiment top-heavy in its officers and N.C.Os., or will he place the Z senior N.C.Os. and officers over them and have some resentment in his regiment? That is the type of problem with which the Territorial Army will have to deal when having this intake of Z reservists. If the Territorial Army has to make an additional sacrifice because of the Z reservists, I hope the Prime Minister will make public the appreciation of the Government to the Territorial Army for what they have done in the past.
In regard to the strength of the Territorial Army, there is rather a strange sentence in paragraph 36 of the Memorandum which the Secretary of State for War has issued in connection with the Army 781 Estimates. There it states that on 1st December, 1950, the volunteer strength of the Territorial Army was 77,206. If we turn to the Memorandum which the Secretary of State provided in connection with the Estimates last year, we find that the Territorial Army strength a year ago was 82,533, or a fall of 5,000 men. It is rather difficult to reconcile the figures which the Secretary of State has provided for us on this occasion, and perhaps the Under-Secretary will explain a "rise" of minus 5,000 men.
The other thing which we should notice is that there has been no great rise in the figures for the Territorial Army volunteers since the outbreak of war in Korea, and when we compare that situation with that obtaining in 1938–39, it is very remarkable. We should have some explanation of that.
What is the target for the Territorial Army? The Secretary of State said this afternoon that it was 100,000 men by 1954. Three years ago the then Secretary of State for War, during the campaign for volunteers, said the target was to be 150,000 men for 1948. What target is the Secretary of State aiming at now? The mark of the failure to attract volunteers into the Territorial Army is to be found by comparing the figures of 1939 and 1951. If we look at the figures for the summer of 1939, it will be seen that just over 320,000 men were going to camp of their own accord.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Surely that was because the Territorial Army was doubled under the Hore-Belisha scheme?
§ Mr. Heath
I quite agree, but it was doubled and the men were there. If we take the summer camp this year, we find that in the Territorial Army with the Class Z men there will be something like 200,000 men. Everyone of the 320,000 men was a volunteer, but of the 200,000 men in camp this summer only 77,000, or whatever was the figure the Under-Secretary produced, will be volunteers; the rest are there compulsorily. That is the true judgment of the inability to get volunteers into this post-war army. In the present short-term situation which the Government face, they are in the position of wanting the men, and the men are not there voluntarily.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
Surely the hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that they were all volunteers. Was there not an arrangement by which, after the militia training of six months, men had the choice of joining the Territorial Army, so that although in a sense they were volunteers, they were rather impressed volunteers?
§ Mr. Heath
On my recollection that was not because of the militia system in 1939. The figures which I have given, I am assured, are the figures of the volunteers in the summer of 1939.
May I turn to the long-term position, having emphasised the shortage of these volunteers. It seems to me that the Government are relying too much on the National Service men. There is a tendency in all Government statements on this matter to rely rather too much on the National Service men. I think that the National Service scheme, as it has worked so far, has worked admirably, and that nothing could have been smoother than the way in which the National Service men came into the Territorial Army for the few months of last summer when the scheme was working. The highest praise is due to the War Office and to the Territorial Army Director, in particular, for the way in which the scheme was worked out. I think that in the coming months the scheme will continue to work smoothly, but that does not alter the fact that too much reliance is being placed on the National Service men.
The figure given by the Secretary of State of 20 per cent. volunteers coming into the Territorial Army from National Service was most encouraging, but at the end of three and a half years that gives total figure of volunteers of only 80,000, and that does not add to our total strength because of the reduced number of National Service men coming in compulsorily. All it does is to add to the total figure of volunteers those who are directed. I hope that he will make that plain. If we are to take the Secretary of State's target of 100,000 volunteers, we have to add on the 80,000 who volunteered for the Territorial Army. It seems that the total volunteer force has to be much more in the nature of 250,000 if it is to satisfy the needs of the Army both for the field forces and A.A. Command.
The other long-term point is the question of senior officers and N.C.Os. In 783 four years we have lost the first main intake of senior officers and N.C.Os. who have done their time and left the Territorial Army. The second intake is coming along. In five or eight years, where is the remaining intake to come from? We are going to obtain senior officers and N.C.Os. from National Service men who only cover an age group of 18 to 25, which is training up to the corporal or bombardier level. Then we are going to have a large gap, which cannot be satisfied by National Service men for probably 15 years. That is a very serious problem. My comment on the policy so far is that it is failing to produce the number of men wanted by the Government to train this summer, and that in the long-term it will not produce the number of volunteers wanted and will leave a large gap of senior officers and senior N.C.Os.
I now turn to the remark of the Secretary of State that in this post-war world he had tried to graft on to the National Service structure the old volunteer structure. I think those were his words. I believe that is the explanation of the failure to obtain volunteers. What has happened is that the National Service edifice has completely overwhelmed the idea of a volunteer Army. It has not been grafted on in any way. That would have produced the result I have suggested. What has happened is that the emphasis has been placed on the National Service man, and this conception has to be altered before we shall get volunteers. There is an interesting paragraph in the Memorandum, paragraph 14, which says:In the past year the Territorial Army has continued the training of officers and other key personnel as instructors in unit volunteer cadres for the reception of National Servicemen.All the emphasis is on the Territorial Army as a framework or skeleton whose aim and purpose is to help the National Service man. I suggest to the Under-Secretary that he cannot attract volunteers by an appeal to become part of a skeleton, because nobody likes to volunteer on that basis, not even the Under-Secretary himself. The major thing which the Secretary of State should do is to reconsider the conception of the post-war Army and to revert to his original phrase of grafting National Service on to 784 a volunteer Army. A volunteer Army it must remain if it is to be successful.
In my last few minutes may I point my argument from the instance of A.A. Command? That command, as the Secretary of State has said, is of the first importance for the defence of this country. Again, if I may quote the Minister of Defence, he said with regard to A.A. Command:We must maintain this part of our defences at the highest possible state of readiness, both to safeguard the country against air attack, and to protect our fighting units and lines of communication."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 415.]It is essential for our industrial and civilian morale to have anti-aircraft absolutely ready at any moment. Moreover, we cannot mobilise our field force formations unless we have adequate air protection. In the Estimates it is stated that the first purpose of the Territorial Army is—To provide the bulk of the anti-aircraft and coast defences of the United Kingdom and the reinforcements in those Arms required overseas.So it is laid down there that the first priority of the Territorial Army is to provide the men for Anti-Aircraft Command.
What is the position, first, as far as the men are concerned? We know from the published figures-in 1941 to 1942 that at the peak of the last war there were 341,000 men in Anti-Aircraft Command. I quite agree with the Secretary of State that it is a vast drain on the manpower of the country. I suggest that the only way that drain can be reduced is by so improving equipment that we can reduce the number of men required to operate it. Taking the rough figure of 300,000 men today, first, we know that we have a small Regular element for anti-aircraft. Secondly, we know that the Territorial Army, taking a strength of 77,000, may have between 35,000 and 45,000 men in A.A. We have been told that the Z men will provide 40,000 for anti-aircraft. That gives a total of between 75,000 and 80,000 men. That, surely, is only a small part of what is obviously required for the A.A. defence of this country? I suggest that the only way in which that number can be increased is by a large number of volunteers who must be obtained in the way I have described.
If we take the part which the National Service man can play in A.A. Command, 785 it is not as great as in the field force. Moreover, the Secretary of State has said that a large number of those men have to be re-badged. In any case they come from other arms. That gives a position in which the National Service man requires more training than the Z reservist who has more experience and fundamental knowledge of anti-aircraft, which a large proportion of National Service men have not got. Moreover, A.A. Command is a very technical arm in which rapid advances have been made and will be made in the future. So I suggest that the position there requires the utmost attention. More volunteers can be obtained from that large group who did their service between 1946 and 1949 and have no part-time obligation. Only by obtaining such volunteers can we fill the gap in A.A. Command.
I want to ask one or two questions about equipment, because the volunteer is unhappy unless he has the equipment he requires. Can the Under-Secretary assure us that all the up-to-date antiaircraft equipment which will be required this summer will be available for dealing with the mass of National Service men that we are to have? In the defence debate the Minister of Defence spoke particularly of the supply of radar and of guns. His notable omission was the supply of predictors. Can the Under-Secretary tell us the position regarding these? Anti-Aircraft Command should get the priority which it ought to have for new buildings, both operational and training. Is this Command getting that priority in its share of the amount to be spent on building?
I should like to add a word about Z reservists. This may have a very great effect on recruiting. The Secretary of State said that he hoped that the Z men would come into the Territorial Army. The T.A. will be judged on what happens in the camps this summer when the Z reservists are there. The Under-Secretary's Department also will be judged by what happens at these camps. The 15 days' training can be of considerable use, but only if the administration at the bottom is sound. The utmost use must be made of the 15 days—14 days is not good enough; travelling time must be cut down to a minimum, as must the time which is spent on kitting, documentation and so on. I am not assured that that is sufficiently understood at the camps to 786 which the Territorial Army will go or by those in command.
It is easy to understand that when a person's day-to-day task is to carry on the routine of a Regular regiment or of a camp, he does not necessarily quickly adapt himself to a situation in which he has to work full out all the time for 15 days; but that is what the Territorial Army wants, and I believe it is what the Z reservist wants also. He will not go away happy or satisfied unless he is kept busy on good training the whole time he is at camp. That, I am sure, is fundamental. Unless there is proper administration, kitting, good messing, equipment and the necessary training instructors, there may be the greatest disaster, which will reflect not only on the Territorial Army, but also on the War Office, and undermine the morale of large numbers of men and families. I urge the Under-Secretary to ensure that there are the necessary drive and imagination which are obviously required to ensure that everything that is needed is done for those 15 days in camp.
I should like to mention four points of a general nature. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher) has referred to holidays and protection for volunteers in their employment. This protection was refused—I think, most unwisely—by the Government on the Bill we discussed last week; it was said that they did so on the recommendation of the Territorial Associations. I ask the Under-Secretary whether that was, in fact, the case. I, as a commanding officer, have never been asked for my opinion about it, and neither has any other commanding officer I know in the Territorial Army. I do not find one Territorial Association which has been asked, and I have been on the general purposes committee of a Territorial Association for the past two years.
I ask the Government seriously to reconsider this, because I believe that the Territorial Army itself wants this protection and will feel very strongly about it in this year's camp. It was said that to grant this protection might have an adverse influence on employers because they would not help the men with their training during the rest of the year; but there is no difficulty with employers, for training is done in the evenings and does not affect a man's work. That argument, therefore, is fallacious.
787 The second of my four points concerns finance for the Territorial soldier. He does not want or expect to make anything out of the Territorial Army, but at the same time he should not have to suffer financially; yet that is what a good many officers and men are doing at present. Their evening allowances are not sufficient to recompense them for the expenses they have to incur, and I ask that this matter should be given adequate consideration.
As far as accommodation for the Territorial Army centres is concerned, I am disappointed that in the Estimates this year there is an increase of only some £200,000. Could not those buildings be taken in hand and money be spent on them so that the Territorial Army would have proper accommodation? Lastly, I ask that the traditions of the Territorial Army be respected, because even today there are attempts made to remove those traditions, which have lasted for so long and contributed so greatly to morale.
I sum up by saying on this question of obtaining volunteers for the Territorial Army that I ask the Government to reconsider the whole conception of the Territorial Army and turn it into a voluntary army in which the emphasis is on "voluntary." I ask the Government to give leadership in this matter. I want the Under-Secretary to make that extra appeal to the country, to stump the country if necessary, saying "Go into the Territorial Army." I want to see the Minister of Labour doing that. If he supports the re-armament programme, why should he not go about telling people to go into the Territorial Army?
In 1938 it was about 180,000 and in 1939 it had gone up to 320,000. Why cannot that be done today, if it is necessary? I believe it is. I cannot believe that the spirit of voluntary service which has lasted for so long in this country and has carried the Territorial Army through since long before there was a standing army—going back more than 400 years to the days of Elizabeth— cannot be re-kindled to bring volunteers back, and I urge the Government to do everything possible to ensure that.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)
The House will support me when I say that the tone in which the hon. Member for 788 Hitchin (Mr. Fisher) introduced the Amendment is very much appreciated on this side of the House. At last it seems we have arrived at the stage in which these important matters can be discussed in a less partisan atmosphere than has surrounded some of our discussions on other aspects of defence during the past few weeks. The hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath), if I may say so without being patronising, also made a very useful contribution in seconding the Amendment. One point in particular which was made by him was his comparison of the success of the voluntary recruiting campaign in the pre-1939 period with the relative lack of success that has attended the recruiting campaign since 1945.
In my view there is a very simple explanation of that. I think both he and the hon. Member for Hitchin overlooked the very important fact that since 1945 the Territorial Army, for the first time in its history, had to recruit at a time when there was compulsory National Service. That is a problem the Territorial Army never had to face before, and I suggest that it makes a difference in our approach to the problem if we bear that fundamental factor in mind. The existence of compulsory National Service at one and the same time as a voluntary force, is almost inevitably bound to act to the detriment of that voluntary force. It is in the nature of things and, therefore, I deny the validity of the argument that whereas before 1939 the Territorial Army —after the alert of September, 1938, we must not forget—had, without any competition from compulsory service gone up to 320,000 men, there is something very radically wrong with the Territorial Army at present.
I do not know what the latest figures are. I have no doubt the Under-Secretary of State will give them, but if we assume that the figure for the Territorial Army at present is somewhere in the nature of 90,000 I submit that that is not really too bad considering all that the Territorial Army has had to contend with since 1945. Full employment and compulsory National Service are two factors which have had a serious effect. What is the aim of the Government? It seems to me that the Government have in mind a reserve Force constituted of about 100,000 or 110,000 volunteer Territorial Army men and about 350,000 National Service 789 men—a ratio of one T.A. volunteer to every four National Service men.
That seems to me to be about the right and reasonable figure in our present circumstances. If these circumstances change radically, the figure may of course have to be changed, but so far as it is possible to envisage the constitution of a reserve force without economic collapse on the home front, that is something like the figure which is being aimed at. If that is so then the figure which we have reached of 80,000 or 90,000 men in the Territorial Army represents a substantial step in the required direction.
The hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Amendment raised a number of points with which there is no time for me to deal. They made a valid point when they talked about the county tradition and the regimental tradition. The hon. Member for Bexley will agree that it is not a very satisfactory state of affairs when we look at some of the T.A. units in London and see them described as the 954th Light A.A. Searchlight Regiment or designated by some other fantastically large, number with a mere technical description of the kind I have mentioned. It is unfortunate that some of the old titles are falling out of use.
I should like to see some of these units designated not by something which looks like a code number in a War Office letter, but by a name that means something to the people living in the neighbourhood. When I was young and lived in the North of England every child at school knew the name of the local Territorial Army unit, and always used to say that that unit round the corner was the best in the British Army. That kind of sentiment, if anyone likes to call it that, is valuable, and we could with advantage do something to revive it if we got away from some of the titles now being given to what are otherwise admirable bodies of men.
The main point with which I wish to deal is the argument brought forward by the two hon. Members who have immediately preceded me, that whereas there is some degree of statutory protection for the National Service man there is none for the Territorial Army volunteer. That is, on the face of it, an anomaly. Although it was the subject of discussion in a previous debate, the fact that hon. Members opposite are again raising it tonight shows 790 that what was said on that occasion by the Government spokesman has not sunk in as well as it might have done. So far as I have been able to ascertain from inquiries in the local Territorial Army units in and near my constituency, the employers of Territorial Army volunteers are on the whole behaving extremely well.
Some hon. Members opposite look surprised that there should be a tribute from this side of the House to the contributions which employers are making to members of the Territorial Army. In every case which I have been able to investigate among local units in my constituency responsible officers have assured me that local employers behave very well. In every case the concession made by employers to the Territorial Army volunteer far and away exceed what is the statutory minimum in the case of the National Service men.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
There was no suggestion from this side at any time that the employers are not behaving well. The proposal is that the volunteer should have a guarantee and there seems to be no objection to that at all. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will say whether he agrees with it?
§ Lieut-Colonel Lipton
So far as I can see, this guarantee is completely unnecessary because the Territorial Army volunteer is getting much more than the statutory minimum provided under legislation affecting National Service.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
Is not the danger that a minimum always becomes a maximum and that in fact people would be adversely affected if given this guarantee?
§ Lieut-Colonel Lipton
I was about to come to that point which I think a valid one. My hon. and learned Friend is quite right: that would be the almost inevitable consequence if we imposed any more obligations on employers which are not already on the Statute Book. I am surprised at hon. Members opposite who seek to impose another statutory obligation on employers where the facts do not prove that it is essential in the national interest. With such knowledge as I have been able to obtain, I am convinced that the imposition of a further statutory obligation on employers who are already doing more than they need, would have 791 the reverse effect to that which hon. Members opposite have in mind.
It would not do the units any good at all, and the officers with whom I have spoken do not seek this particular additional provision or protection. If they thought it would help their units they would not be backward in saying so. The range of my inquiries has been limited but I have not come across a commanding officer in a Territorial unit or any adjutant responsible for day-to-day administration who has suggested that it would be to the advantage of his unit to impose this additional statutory obligation on employers.
§ Mr. Heath
Would the hon. and gallant Member explain how it is that the volunteer is getting more than the Z man or the National Service man is getting, because I am afraid that that is not true. Most of the nationalised industries are giving half. They give a week's leave for camp provided the man takes a week of his holiday. That is only half what the National Service man and Z reservists are getting. The Territorial Army men are obviously prepared to make the sacrifice. It is the other volunteers we want who will not sacrifice their holiday with their wives and children.
§ Lieut-Colonel Lipton
If any difficulty arises in the case of local units in my constituency over employers not getting a man away to camp, it is always resolved as a result of a friendly discussion between the commanding officer of the unit and the employer concerned, who come to an amicable arrangement about it. If we attach any importance to the voluntary principle, we should hesitate long before we accept even the departure from that principle which is inherent in the argument that some further concession should be demanded from the employers over and above what they are generously offering in so many cases now.
It should be remembered that this is not merely a question of the annual camp. One hon. Member said that, of course, during the year the drills took place in the evenings, so that there was no difficulty in that respect. I am sorry to have to differ. There are lots of men whose working time is not from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They have to get time off if they want to attend drills in the evenings, because the 792 drills overlap their working time. Circumstances may often arise when it is necessary not only to ask the employer to make a concession at the time of annual camp but to allow not infrequent concessions, changes of duties, and so on, to enable, for instance, the bus driver who works for London Transport, to go for evening drill. That may mean altering someone else's duty turn. This point must be borne in mind.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest that this matter has not been carefully considered in association with the workmen's organisations and the employers. I have reason to believe that the National Joint Advisory Council which is, I suppose, the supreme body for joint consultation, has discussed this question on more than one occasion and unanimously come to a conclusion which differs from that argued by hon. Gentlemen opposite tonight. I do not know about committee members, but I understand that most chairmen of T.A. Associations who have been consulted are also opposed to the imposition of some additional liability upon employers.
§ Mr. Redmayne (Rushcliffe)
The "hon. and gallant Gentleman has quoted commanding officers of, I suppose, major units, and also chairmen of Territorial Associations. Would he say how many units and how many chairmen he refers to, because, as far as I can see, his points are not related to the truth at all.
§ Lieut-Colonel Lipton
I have made it clear that, unfortunately, my association at the moment is limited to the few units in or near my constituency. There are not more than three or four of them. I have had no personal conversations with chairmen of T.A. Associations, because I do not move in such exalted circles. I am still waiting to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite quote one example of the chairman of a T.A. Association who advocates what they have suggested.
§ Mr. Redmayne
I can give the hon. and gallant Gentleman the very information that he wants. The Nottinghamshire Territorial Association, with the full support of all commanding officers of major units, of whom the chairman is Major-General Sir John Whitaker, who was Director of Military Training during the war, has put forward this case with the very fullest support.
§ Lieut-Colonel Lipton
The hon. Gentleman has quoted one example. If hon. Members opposite cannot rustle up more than one chairman of a T.A. Association in support of their argument, then they must think again. There is no evidence whatever that the men serving in the Territorial Army want this concession. No evidence has yet been supplied to the House. I say most emphatically that, if we impose on the employers in this regard, it will operate to the disadvantage of many of the men now serving, whom hon. Members want to help and encourage.
There are other points with which I would have liked to deal, but I shall content myself by concluding on this note. We all want to preserve the voluntary principle as far as possible, and it might well be that, if and when the Government are able to announce the end of compulsory National Service, there will be a very considerable inflow into the Territorial Army. I am quite sure that, if it were possible for the Government to announce that, if there were 300,000 or 400,000 volunteers for the Territorial Army, it would be possible to do away with compulsory National Service, there is a very good chance that that response would be forthcoming.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
I am sure that, whatever the House may think of the views of the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) about statutory holidays for the volunteers, the House as a whole will agree with him in what he said about the importance of local titles for different Territorial Army units.
I do not want to take up the time of the House for more than a few minutes, but I should like to make three points. The first is a plea that in any year there should be a graded bounty. The second is that, in the years when Z reservists are called up, there should be an increase in the bounty for volunteers. The third is a plea for the reconsideration of the officers' messing grants.
The volunteer is the basis—or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher) said, the bones of the Territorial Army, and I should like to agree very much with the hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) on the importance of clothing these bones with sinews and flesh. 794 The Secretary of State for War this afternoon took that line himself, and told the House that we, alone of all countries, have to rely on a Territorial cadre to train National Service men. It is very essential that we should not kill the volunteer spirit, but that policy is not helped by giving a bounty to Z reservists which, in these days of inflation and a fall in the value of money, comes very near to the bounty of the volunteer, who must give a great many drills during the period of training.
That policy is not helped either by giving holidays to Z reservists and denying statutory holidays to the volunteer. I agree that many employers have been very helpful to the volunteer. My own experience—and I do not want to be partisan in this matter—is that one of the worst employers in that connection is the Co-operative Society, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will take the advice of the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton and urge the nationalised industries to have a co-ordinated policy and at any rate, give their own volunteers equal treatment with Z reservists.
§ Mr. Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
Will the hon. Gentleman permit me? On this matter of asking employers to be forced into the position of granting paid holidays—and I am putting this in no partisan spirit—would that not involve repaying the employer in the case of a small firm, and would not that have to come out of State funds?
§ Mr. Tilney
I think there are difficulties there, and I shall come to that matter in a minute.
The main support of a T.A. unit is the man or N.C.O. who appears night after night and week after week, the man who can be relied upon to appear on Monday or Wednesday, or for Sunday training, which is so important in the Territorial Army. The basic bounty is for 30 drills, and the man who turns up night after night receives that and another shilling per drill for the next 30, but after those 60 drills there is no increase in his bounty at all. I urge the Under-Secretary of State for War to consider the value of giving a graded bounty of at least 1s. per drill for any performed over 60 so as to give an incentive to the N.C.O. or man who is the bulwark of his unit to attend the maximum number of drills.
795 I realise, as the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) pointed out, the difficulty of small employers giving statutory holidays as well as time off for camps. I suggest that in the years that the Z reservists are called up there is much to be said for giving an increase in the bounty payable to the T.A. volunteer to recompense him for the lack of those statutory holidays. I hope the Government will consider that most carefully.
Finally, I want to deal with the position of the T.A. officer. In 1939, he was given a £4 messing grant. The amount is the same today, despite the fall in the value of money, and that grant, of course, is given to his unit and not to the officer direct. Meantime, however, the bounty for the other ranks has been greatly increased, so much so that, after allowing for tax, a warrant officer, Class 2, with special allowances and a maximum bounty, gets as much as a captain during his 15 days' camp; and, of course, a subaltern gets very much less.
In these days of high taxation and with national incomes spread so much more evenly, I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will consider the case for giving officers an increase in the messing grant, because it is essential that officers should feel that in giving their service to the Territorial Army they are not suffering a financial burden.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Michael Stewart)
We are all, I am sure, indebted to the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher) for raising this subject on the Amendment, and I would agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) that we are indebted to him also for the spirit and general tenor of his remarks. We must all readily consent to the view that the Territorial Army is of first-class importance in virtue of the fact, which the hon. Member mentioned, that its rôle in mobilisation today makes it a fundamentally essential part of our home defence.
Everything that my right hon. Friend said earlier today about the dangers wrought in the position of this country owing to the methods of modern warfare, and all that he emphasised regarding the fact that we must now pay much greater 796 attention to what is happening on the Continent of Europe and must realise that our defence is so much more bound up with the European countries, simply underlines the need for us to have forces ready within a very short period of the beginning of mobilisation. That hope, of course, cannot be realised without an effective Territorial Army.
The other fact that makes it important is that it is one of the most striking manifestations of the voluntary desire of the people of this country to take part in their defence. I concur entirely with the emphasis laid by the hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) on the importance of realising that the Territorial Army is primarily a voluntary force. It is quite true—and it would be quite idle to pretend the fact was not there or to neglect the administrative consequences that follow from it—that there is to be a very great infusion into the Territorial Army of people who are not volunteers.
But what we hope—and this is not the first time I have said this—is that volunteers will not be merely a cadre or skeleton but that they will be a source of continual example and inspiration to the National Service men. We hope they will evoke from the National Service men the same concern for voluntary service and draw from them an increasing number of volunteers. What we hope is that in that mixture of the National Service element and the voluntary element the volunteers will infuse the National Service men with their own enthusiasm.
All this will be of added importance this year with the call-up of Z men. I think the hon. Member for Hitchin seriously under-estimated the value of the training we shall be able to give. But I do not want to rehearse the arguments that we have dealt with fairly recently in this House. I only ask him to reconsider what he said on that matter and to ask himself whether he has not written down far too severely the value that will be obtained out of the Z men's training.
But, as he rightly pointed out, all this is going to impose a serious additional burden on the Territorial Army. I say most emphatically that we do recognise what a large demand will be made on their enthusiasm, and how much the success of the whole Z call-up will depend on the co-operation of the Territorial 797 Army and on the extent to which it is given. We believe, with complete confidence in view of the past record of voluntary service by the Territorial Army, that all the help and enthusiasm we can ask from them will be forthcoming.
It has been suggested that the Government ought to show more strikingly their appreciation of the Territorial Army. Hon. Members will remember that not so very long ago there was a highly organised campaign for recruiting for the Territorial Army. During that time I think it was made very clear indeed how much importance both the Government as a whole and those Members of the Government individually who took special part in the campaign do attach to the Territorial Army. Hon. Members from all quarters of the House, as suggested, did stump the country in support of Territorial Army recruiting.
That campaign did not get us to the target that was set at the beginning, though I am bound to say quite frankly, being wise after the event, that it was imprudent to set for that campaign a target figure as high as was set. But if we did not get that target figure we did make a very substantial advance in the figure of Territorial Army volunteers. We secured the real purpose of the campaign of bringing the Territorial Army to such a size as to play the essential part in the national defence which we now require of it.
I am not sure how far this will command the agreement of the House, but I think it is true to say that enthusiasm for any organisation, Territorial Army or otherwise, is not always best shown by frequent "splashing," if that is not an irreverent word in this connection. I am inclined to think that what we ought to do now, after having had that campaign some little while ago, is to proceed on steadier but ultimately more remunerative lines. The real duty before the Government today is to provide in those matters that have been mentioned in this debate—equipment, accommodation and conditions of service generally—the atmosphere in which men who are in the Territorial Army will feel, not in virtue of this, that or the other speech which has been delivered, but in virtue of the fact that they know how the Government treat the Territorial Army, that the Government have a proper regard 798 to these things. That, I think, is the way in which we ought to proceed.
Therefore, without depreciating too much the importance of the periodic special mentions of the Territorial Army's value, I should like to lead the debate on to the more prosaic lines of equipment, accommodation and conditions of service. Before doing so, I should like to make this one remark. I do not think it tells us very much to compare the crude figures of Territorial Army volunteers now with Territorial Army volunteers before the war. The conditions are totally different. We have now the whole atmosphere of National Service which is bound to affect the number of volunteers. Further, we have, in my judgment, a community which is very much more alive and has a much more highly developed social sense than it had before the war.
Consequently, the numbers of the different types of voluntary service, other than service in the Territorial Army, in which citizens are interested, have greatly increased. We live in a busier and more zealous community, and it is harder to find people who, with the best will in the world, have the leisure for any one particular form of voluntary service, than it was in the past. Therefore, I do not think those casual comparisons get us very far.
With regard to equipment, I can most confidently assure the House that for the Territorial camps this year there will be all the equipment that is necessary for them to do their work efficiently and well. As the House is aware, our object is to see that the Territorial Army is equipped in time of peace with the weapons it would have to use should war come, or, at any rate, the weapons it would have to use in the early stages of such a war. But, as is also well known, the rate of invention today is much faster than it used to be.
As the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) was pointing out in another connection, there is on the horizon a fresh generation of weapons; he applied it to tanks, but it applies universally. Consequently, while those units of the Regular Army, on whom the first burden would fall in the event of mobilisation, will be equipped with the latest weapons, necessarily units of the 799 Territorial Army, not coming so immediately into the line of mobilisation, would be a little behind those units of the Regular Army. Subject to that inescapable proviso, we have seen that the Territorial Army is properly equipped.
The right hon. Gentleman raised another point about Territorial Army camps, and I should say that the experience of the last two or three years of our Territorial camps is extremely encouraging. Men from every kind of unit and of all ranks have come back feeling not only that it has been an attractive time, but that their time has been thoroughly well used. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a point about forms of entertainment in camp. I do not think that is a point which arises in very many camps. Indeed, I think he himself had in mind particularly those in the more remote areas, but I will see whether anything can be done to meet that particular and rather specialised problem.
With regard to accommodation, before the war there were some 1,300 Territorial Army centres in this country. Though, fortunately, not a large proportion had been put out of use by enemy action during the war, we have had to add 370 centres, which have been constructed. In order to obtain the number we need, there remain to be added some 200 new centres, and in regard to these we have reached the stage of construction, or of planning, or of negotiation for the site. I think we have shown that we are in earnest in this matter by using our powers of compulsory purchase.
The House will appreciate that if we want to get a site for a Territorial Army centre, it is not wise to use powers of compulsory purchase if we can at all avoid it, because the Territorial Army depends so much on the good will of the people in the locality. When the local associations, which are the bodies most likely to know what is wisest in such a matter, have desired us to do so, we have used compulsory powers. That has been done in nearly all, but not quite all, cases. By that and by normal methods of negotiation, we have built up a quite a formidable increase in the number of Territorial Army centres.
The position with regard to accommodation is not as good as that of equipment, but we have made considerable 800 progress and it is steadily improving all the time. I do not feel that it could be contended that anyone has been discouraged from joining the Territorial Army as a volunteer because the Government had not done enough in matters of either equipment or accommodation.
Now let me turn to conditions of service. First, let me deal with the point about giving the volunteer in the Territorial Army the legal protection which the National Service man enjoys. It is common ground among all of us that we want to increase voluntary recruiting in the Territorial Army. If there is any point of difference between us, it is solely whether this step is well conceived and will contribute to that end.
I ask hon. Members who have so far disagreed with the Government's attitude in this matter to accept that there is no point in dispute about the end to be achieved. They question the wisdom of the Government's method. They must accept that we question the wisdom of the line they take. It would be undesirable if, out of mere habit, this question were allowed to become a party issue, because it is not the policy which is in issue, but the best method of achieving the given end. If we looked at this along party doctrinal lines, we might well find ourselves on opposite sides on this question.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead) rose——
§ Mr. Stewart
I know that the hon. and gallant Member may want to say something about camps, but perhaps he will make his point later. The situation of employers with regard to the Territorial Army differs a great deal from one firm to another. One employer may find it difficult to meet the man's needs about camp. He may do his best to try to make that up by being helpful about letting the man away early on training nights. An employer can make a difference in many ways to an employee who is a member of the Territorial Army. It is not only the question of the period of annual camp; it is a question of the whole atmosphere.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer rose——
§ Mr. Stewart
I know by the attitude he is adopting that the hon and gallant Gentleman has made up his mind before he has heard what I have to say. That 801 is the kind of thing that makes it difficult to co-operate in these matters. What is at issue is not only the camp, but also the whole attitude of the employers towards the treatment of their employees who are in the Territorial Army. What we say, as a result of widespread inquiry among the majority of these volunteers, is that they do better by simply enjoying the good will of their employers, as they do at present, than they would if a statutory obligation were imposed on their employers.
For example, in one unit the commanding officer consulted a series of men whose immediate reaction was "Whatever you do, do not do anything to upset the good arrangement we now have with our employers." In face of that, one would certainly think twice: it cannot be taken as an obvious or axiomatic thing that we ought to impose this legal restriction on the employer in view of the fact that a particularly large number of men in the Territorial Army do not want it and would regard it with alarm as endangering the good position they have built up already.
Further, there are recognised channels of obtaining opinion in the Territorial Army as a whole on this matter. I do not think it would be wise if we begin to bandy the names of chairmen of the Territorial Army Associations across the Floor of the House, for if hon. Gentlemen are going to start that, I am in a position to keep up the game and return every one they serve. I earnestly hope that the argument will not be conducted on that basis. We have the Council of the Territorial Army and Auxiliary Forces Association, which considered this matter.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am coming to that. They definitely took the view which the Government are now taking. I am bound to say that there would be considerable legal and administrative difficulties in doing as some hon. Gentlemen have suggested, but the Government would earnestly consider surmounting those difficulties if they could really establish that the Territorial Army itself wanted it. It would not be wise to face what in any case would be a difficult task and one which might create difficulties for em- 802 ployers, and what, to the best of our knowledge, the majority of the Territorial Army do not want, and which would be regarded with alarm. The matter was considered by the Council and there was no doubt what their view was.
The hon. and gallant Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low) asked how long ago the council met. It was a considerable time ago; it was on the last occasion they met, and, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, it is not a body that meets frequently. Since then there have been consultations with the representative chairmen in the Commands and their opinion is unanimous that it would be undesirable to proceed in this matter. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have a great interest in this, as have many hon. Members on this side of the House, and have close personal contacts with the Territorial Army, and it is because of that that they have come to hold the view that they do in this matter. All I am asking is that, in the Cromwellian phrase, they should "bethink themselves they may be mistaken."
Further, it would not be wise or responsible for the Government, having, as they have, proper and recognised channels for sounding opinion in the Territorial Army, to set those aside, which is really what we should have done if we had attempted during the passage of a recent Bill to introduce legislation of the kind that was being urged. If we could have it established that the general opinion is not what I believe it to be on good evidence and with good grounds for so believing, then I agree we should have to consider the matter afresh. But on the present evidence that does not arise.
§ Mr. Stewart
The opinion of the representative chairmen did relate to the present situation. The opinion of the Council did not, and indeed could not in view of the time when it was taken. I think that the hon. Gentleman exaggerates the extent to which the introduction of 803 the Z men really affects this problem. The problem that relates to the employer remains the same.
§ Colonel Clarke
I gather that the hon. Gentleman thinks that, while it would be desirable for employers to give a full alternative period of holiday, it might prejudice some employers against the Territorial system generally if that were insisted on by the Government. But in cases where the Government is the employer itself—in the case of nationalised industries, for example—why should not the Government insist that they give the full period?
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not see why we should impose on a nationalised industry greater statutory obligations than are imposed on a private employer. If it is to be said that it is the business of a nationalised industry to have special restrictions and legal liabilities put on it in order to help national ends—one can argue that, and that is what the hon. and gallant Gentleman is arguing—it would be impossible when one is considering such matters as the costs, prices and profitability of a nationalised industry to judge them on the same basis as one would judge private enterprise. I invite hon. Members opposite to think out the implications of that.
On the whole, the nationalised industries have behaved extremely well in this matter of the treatment of the territorials, but some of them illustrate the difficulties of proceeding too far by legislation in this matter. Some of them have statutory obligations to go on providing a particular service in almost all circumstances which they might find it difficult to fulfil if they had this other statutory obligation imposed upon them as well.
What one really wants is to enable the employers to have a certain amount of give and take and to be able to say to the volunteer "I cannot, for reasons which you know very well and which are connected with my business, give you the total which the law would require me to give you if you were a National Service man. On the other hand, there are a number of other ways in which I can treat you with more consideration in regard to the Territorial Army than the law would strictly require me to do." Very often this is how the 804 good employer behaves. We should get the matter out of proportion if I continued on this particular point.
§ Mr. Redmayne rose——
§ Mr. Stewart
I am sorry I cannot give way. The hon. Gentleman has made a great many interventions in the course of the speeches but we cannot discuss this problem indefinitely and that is what we are in danger of doing.
§ Mr. Heath
I think we are all agreed on the importance of this matter, and the hon. Gentleman has rested his case on the fact that the majority of the Territorial Army do not require it. We on this side take the view that the Territorial Army would prefer it. Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to take this back and ask the Territorial Associations as a whole to consider this matter in the light of the present Z call-up, and ask their commanding officers to get the real feeling of the men in the regiments about this problem, and then reconsider it and make a decision?
§ Mr. Stewart
I think we want to go back right down to the men themselves. I should like to give an undertaking in rather more general terms. What I will do is to take whatever steps seem best and most appropriate to ensure that we are really in touch with up-to-date opinion in the Territorial Army on the matter, but I trust that hon. Gentlemen realise that I am not giving a guarantee that legislation would immediately follow opinion, because there are quite serious administrative difficulties in doing anything of this kind at all. What I was saying was that really that question did not arise until we had settled the question of what the Territorial Army wanted. I hope that Members who have contacts in the Territorial Army will not give countenance to the idea that here is something which the Territorial Army is crying out to have and the lack of which is seriously hindering recruiting, but which the Government are refusing to do out of obstinacy. The facts do not support that. If Members should create an impression of that kind, they would be doing the Territorial Army and the nation a considerable dis-service.
One hon. Member raised certain questions about the bounty. The bounty is, in a sense, graded—a man does get more 805 or less according to his efficiency. Fundamentally, it was suggested that this principle should be carried somewhat further. I will look into that, but it will be appreciated that it is undesirable to make alterations in such matters too frequently. I shall have to look at it with that quite considerable caveat in mind.
Reference was made to messing and to entertainment. We want to avoid, as far as is possible, too many different ways of making money payments to what is a voluntary body. Its members are very proud to belong to that voluntary body. It is quite reasonable to say that when a man gives up his leisure he should not be out of pocket as well. It is true to say, with one possible exception, that there is no reason to suppose that those serving in the Territorial Army are out of pocket. The hon. Member laid his finger on the point, which is the one exception, the question of messing and entertainment. That, again, is a point to which we shall have to give our attention to see if it is possible to meet it.
Finally, let me say a word on the conditions of service which are a little less tangible—the preservation of the tradition of local regimental affiliations. We have had to make a great experiment with them recently in the great reorganisation of the Territorial Army which has been carried out. I think everyone was surprised how smoothly that reorganisation was effected. It says a great deal for the public spirit of all concerned that it has been possible to make it work so smoothly. It meant for a number of people in units a good deal of heartburning, but it was generally recognised that if the joining together of the voluntary and National Service elements was to be done—and it is essential that it should be done—the reorganisation of the Territorial Army was an essential step.
I think that at least one result of having' National Service men in the Territorial Army will be that it will increase the number of people in any particular locality who know a bit more about their Territorial Army units. One result of National Service men being in the whole-time Army is that the public have begun to take an interest in the life of the Regular soldier, an interest we all ought to have taken a long time ago; and the same will be true of the Territorial Army. I can see emerging something that can combine the efficiency of organised National Service and 806 the zeal and enthusiasm that comes from voluntary associations. The hon. Member for Bexley spoke in approval of the London plan, and I look forward with pleasure to attending next Sunday the ceremony in my own borough in that connection.
Finally, what success the Government are or are not having lies in the figures. The hon. Member for Bexley was puzzled, not unnaturally, about two sets of figures in two successive Memoranda. The fault lies in the Memoranda. That for the earlier year includes the Women's Services, and that for the later year does not. To the figure of 77,000 in this year's Memorandum there must be added 4,300 National Service men who have volunteered and are now properly classed with the volunteers, and to make the figure comparable with last year, 12,000 in the Women's Services, all of whom, of course, are volunteers, must also be added.
The figures are not as large as we could wish, but, on the other hand, they should not be read too discouragingly. We shall not have quite the same stream of men who are complete volunteers once National Service gets under way. The correct place must be given to those National Service men who become volunteers and take on the added obligations of a volunteer. So far we have had 4,300, or rather more than one-fifth of the number eligible, and the proportion of National Service officers, although the numbers are much smaller, is somewhat higher. It is a proportion of about 25 per cent.
The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) complained that my right hon. Friend this afternoon had mentioned only one figure, that is, married quarters. I am surprised that this much more significant figure of National Service men turned volunteers did not stick more firmly in his memory, as it has apparently with many of his hon. Friends. It should be remembered that this figure of volunteers is given for a short period and before the men have attended annual camp, which is often one of the strongest recruiting agencies and one of the most popular elements in the life of the Territorial Army.
While it would be unwise to draw too many conclusions from what is only a period of a few months, I trust that I 807 have made it clear to the hon. Member for Hitchin, who moved this Amendment, that in the things that really matter, like equipment, accommodation, conditions of service and so on, the Government have shown and are showing that they are mindful of the great services rendered to the nation by the volunteer members of the Territorial Army; that they are anxious to encourage them in their work; and that the actual figures on the whole justify that contention.
§ Mr. Fisher
In view of the Under-Secretary's not unsympathetic reply, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I think this is one of the few occasions on which when starting a speech, it is out of order to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken, but I hope it will not be out of order if I congratulate the Under-Secretary on the lucid way in which he has answered the debate on the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher). It was of the quality we expect of him, and for it we are very grateful, although not necessarily always agreeing with what he said.
The hour is late and I am well aware that to hon. Members who are waiting to speak, any speech is always too long. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] My diagnosis has not been faulty. Nevertheless, there are one or two observations I should like to make, and I will try to be as brief as I can.
I listened with interest to the speech of the Secretary of State for War, and I think he will agree with me that it was not immensely informative. I do not think that any telegrams will be buzzing to and from foreign embassies tonight. Nevertheless, he told us certain things, which I, for one, was glad to hear. He did not trumpet very loudly the achievement of the War Office in getting transport down by 20 per cent., which is really a very great achievement. I congratulate the War Office, and with it the right hon. Gentleman, on that achievement.
I do not propose tonight to attempt to cover all the main questions regarding the Army, because that was done by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). He 808 went over the ground with all the rapidity of step and sureness of aim of the ex-rifleman. I should like to refer to one or two points some of which were omitted from the speech of the Secretary of State. He mentioned the question of B vehicles, or soft vehicles or lorries, to use a more Parliamentary term. I feel some disquiet over this question of B vehicles, or soft vehicles or lorries. So far as I know we are making no new ones, and are concentrating on re-building old ones. I have seen a few of them, and some are very wobbly. I believe there has been quite a bit of trouble about soft vehicles in Korea, where they have been breaking down a great deal more than they should.
Nor do I like the idea of impressing vehicles. I had some experience of impressed vehicles at the beginning of the last war when we were what the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) rather euphemistically called a "leopard brigade"; we were to spring from our position towards the sea in buses which were called "Lily Belle," "Sunshine," etc., and were painted all colours of the rainbow. Luckily, we never had to use them. There would be, of course, many different types of impressed vehicles, and the spare part problem becomes acute. I hope the Government are urgently going into the question of manufacturing and producing new soft vehicles, because it is a matter of great importance.
The next point about the right hon. Gentleman's speech with which I want to deal is one of omission and it concerns the 10 divisions, or their equivalent, mentioned by the Minister of Defence. The Secretary of State did not mention these 10 divisions, although these are the Army Estimates, but I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that, as everybody throughout the world knows, they are not really 10 divisons at all. It is no good our deceiving ourselves about it—and the Secretary of State appreciates the position, too. I am not quarreling with the word "equivalent"; it is not a bogus word, but is perfectly fair. Nevertheless, part of these divisions consist of battalions away in Malta or Gibraltar or a brigade in the Middle East, all added up and divided by three—and so we have 10 divisions. I do not quarrel with the arithmetic, but what I point out is that we have not 10 divisions and we must not pretend that we have.
809 My quarrel is not with that, however. The Minister of Defence told us that by April of this year we shall have 430,000 men in the Army. If the 10 divisions were up to strength—which they are not —then with all their bits and pieces there would be 20,000 men per division. That comes to 200,00 men. Thus, 230,000 men in the Army are not in divisions at all. The figures are—20 men in the fighting formations, 23 outside them. Despite the problem of dispersion and other difficulties, I believe that is a lamentable state of affairs, and I feel that many hon. Members opposite think the same as I do.
I know that comparisons are odious, but may I remind the House that the Minister of Defence told us that the Russians had 175 divisions and that they have 2,800,000 men under arms? A little mathematics gives us the result that they have 16,000 men per divisional slice. We also know that there are 11,000 men in a Russian division. Thus, a simple process of mathematics shows that they have 11 men in the fighting formations to five outside them. We have 20 in and 23 outside.
Take the German Army, when they were at their peak during the war. They had 300 divisions and seven million men under arms. That gives us 23,000 men per divisional slice. Using figures which are the least favourable to my argument, that gives a figure of 15,000 in the division and 8,000 outside. Thus the comparison is 15–8 for Germany; 11–5 for Russia; and 20–23 for Britain. I know how difficult this problem is, but the position still is not good enough. We have not heard a word from the Secretary of State about this important problem—how we are to tackle it, how we are to improve the position and how, for our very considerable expenditure of manpower, we are to get more fighting formations on the ground. For that, after all, is what we want.
I read through the Estimates and the right hon. Gentleman's Memorandum with some care, and there are, indeed, an immense number of points on which one could talk until well into to-morrow's debate. I do not intend to do that, but when I read the various pronouncements, I found many subjects—welfare, pay, organisation—hundreds of things on which I should like to comment. It is 810 very easy to get lost in this vast expenditure of money and manpower.
In attempting to find which of these elements was the most important to talk about, I reminded myself—and the whole House will agree with me—that the function of any army is to fight. In order to do that, it must be well trained and organised, but what is most important, the private soldier has to be good. In fact, the private soldiers are always good, and I recall a remark made by Field-Marshal Montgomery in Cairo a few days ago. He said that the private soldier bears the heaviest burden in war and it is he who carries us all to victory. That is eternally true, but one other point is that the private soldier must be well led.
However good may be the private soldier, he cannot be better than his officers, and if any hon. Members opposite doubt it, they will find that every private soldier will say, "One cannot put up a good turn with a dud officer." War is a very unpleasant thing, and when bits of metal are flying about—as hon. Members who may never have served in the Army will know from air raids—the instinct of the human body is to lie down, and stay down until it stops. But in a war, men have to do very unpleasant things, and the responsibility for showing courage and skill, as well as initiative, under such circumstances, lies on the officer and particularly the junior commanders. The responsibility on those men has greatly increased.
When Marlborough went to war, the brigade was en masse,and the commander could almost shout so that everybody heard, but today troops are widely dispersed, and there is far more delegated responsibility. It has increased in a way which would not be recognised by officers of previous times. One has to remember the importance of the company, platoon, and equivalent commanders. If they are not good, we can pour money and men into the Army and it will all be in vain, we should have wasted our manpower, as well as our money, to say nothing of our industrial effort.
Bearing in mind the importance of officers today, I felt some disquiet when I read—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington referred to it—that the Minister is still not satisfied with the Regular officer situ- 811 ation, with the comparative dearth of candidates of high quality for Regular commissions. I make no apology for mentioning that again, because there has been ample time for hon. Members to have forgotten it. The Minister said that the matter was receiving his constant attention, and that he hoped the better pay and conditions of service would help.
In attempting to find the most important single matter in these Estimates, I picked on this question of officers, and hon. Members will, I hope, agree that it is vitally important to the Army. In fact, the whole of the rest of my speech is confined to this problem. Not only is there this shortage today, but there is practically no Regular reserve of officers. In addition, we have before us the necessity for expansion as and when Regular recruiting improves, which it shows signs of doing.
The officer shortage today is worse than it looks, because it is a concealed shortage. The right hon. Gentleman has put a stop on officers going out of the Army, but that operates only for about 18 months, and it will cease about the end of this year. If we are not careful, there will then be a further run-out of officers. In addition, since 1945 a large number of good officers have left the Army because they were dissatisfied with pay and conditions. I do not want to go into that matter, because I do not want to make this debate controversial; but I think that the Government were late in putting up the pay.
What is more disquieting about this shortage is that officers are not joining at the youngest age. The entry and exit figures for the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst for 1950 were: 482 passed out; requirement, more than 600. In the same year, there joined in January, 305, and only 203 in September. So 500 will pass out, and I would say that the requirement is about 700. The requirement must be going up. What the House has to consider seriously is why this is happening. I would point out that the best young men of the country are now being called up for two years. The National Service men are magnificent material. This has in effect turned the Army into a kind of national university. If we handle and train these men badly, that is a rotten introduction to life. If we turn them out well, it is a good intro- 812 duction to life. I suggest that the influences of that period will come inevitably, whatever hon. Members may think, largely from the standard of officer.
Why is there this shortage of officers? Some of my remarks may appear reactionary, but we had better face the facts. The first point is that many of the old attractions and amenities of the Army have gone. In the past, many officers joined because they liked an open-air life, and they liked sport. There is nothing wrong in that. Many officers enjoyed riding, or falling off, horses. The horse has disappeared from the Army. It occasionally makes an ignoble appearance on the men's plates at dinner to vary a monotonous diet. Again, officers joined the Army for comradeship. When a man joined a regiment in, say, the 'thirties, he stayed in that regiment, whether officer or man, undisturbed. I know that is difficult now, but cross-posting is a big deterrent to recruiting. The Secretary of State for War ought to read an article on this subject in the R.U.S.I. Journal by a very well-known officer. Although it may seem trivial to hon. Members, if a man can be sure of staying with his regiment, that is something immensely important to him.
Also, in the old days, under the Cardwell system, an officer— and this applies to a large extent to other ranks, too—knew where he was. He knew that for half his time he would be at home, and for the other half abroad. Nowadays, he may have an almost indefinite period abroad, with short periods at home. A large proportion of the officers who joined the Army in the old days—and hon. Members opposite may be shocked by this, but let us face the facts, as they say, or the future—had private means. They have not now. It may be a good thing or a bad thing, but they have not, and that again is a factor. Lastly, officers are considering what is going to happen to them when they finish. I was very glad to hear the Secretary of State's statement about the prolongation of service; in fact, I had a note on that matter for my speech and have crossed it off, so I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his psychic power. Nevertheless, it is a big consideration.
What can be done now that many of the attractions and amenities have disappeared, to get officers in and stop 813 their leaving? It is a question of vital importance. I have already mentioned cross-posting, and I now turn to the very vexed question of pay. I know that here I am on very controversial ground, especially since pay has been increased, I say to the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) that I cannot agree with his recommendation regarding pay. I do not know whether he had his tongue in his cheek when he said that we should reduce the gap between field-marshals and private soldiers, but I would point out that a Member of Parliament today has the equivalent of a gross rate of something like £1,500 a year and the man who works the lift in the House of Commons has about £5 a week. Considering what the hon. Member said, I wonder how he justifies that differentiation in pay. It is hopeless to think one can telescope pay together and be democratic. That is not the way the world works, and it is not the way to get field-marshals—or Members of Parliament.
I am not advocating more expenditure on pay, but I am suggesting to the Secretary of State this question: Have we got the emphasis of this enormous lump of money in the right place? We are going to have a mass of material and equipment. Ought we to have a little less of that and put a little more on the essential element, the officer? For unless the officer is good, all that equipment may well be wasted.
I have no quarrel about the bachelor in the Army. He is all right. It is the married officer who is the problem. He has got to educate his children, to live in a quarter outside barracks, and to move his wife about, goodness knows where. I believe the War Office worked out the minimum essential expenditure for the various grades. What the War Office works out as a minimum is not exactly a life of wine, women and song. The sum—I think I am right—for a captain with a wife, one child, and no Government quarter, was about £800 a year. He now receives £790 a year, so if he lives as per War Office he is a tenner a year overdrawn. But it is only fair to say that after four years he gets £820 a year, which leaves £20 a year for wine, women and song.
I am not saying that the officer is badly paid; what I am saying is that unless we offer sufficient attraction to get good officers, we are going to waste an awful 814 lot of money and effort. Say there is a war. Our main effort in Germany is the provision of three armoured divisions. This captain we have been talking about may well command a squadron in one of these divisions. The deployment, use and manoeuvre of these machines depends more on the squadron-leader than is the case with either aeroplanes or ships. This man has the command of 16 tanks. They cost £30,000 each. Therefore, under his charge is about £500,000 worth of equipment—or put another way, of British industrial effort. It is crazy to pinch and scrape over getting good chaps for the job when that equipment may be wasted if there is a faulty decision or he fails in battle.
My next point is this: What happens when the officer comes out? Pensions I know are a very difficult problem. The gross pension of a major is £475 a year. In the old days he possibly had some private means, he got a little house at Camberley or Cheltenham, and was all right. He is not all right now; he has to find a job, and a major retired is not an easily employable man unless he has some particular skill. I am not arguing necessarily for a higher rate of pension. In the Civil Service a man gets a gratuity when he comes out of a year's pay of the rank in which he served. If one were to give a flat gratuity to everyone who earned a pension of, say, £1,000, it would not cost an immense amount, but it would mean he could buy a house on a mortgage or start a small enterprise, and I believe it would have a big effect in allaying some of these doubts regarding his life at the completion of his service.
There is still the problem of the boy who is thinking of going into the Army. I do not know anything about the propaganda in the public schools—when it was mentioned, one hon. Member mentioned Dartmoor as a recruiting ground, which I thought was not very helpful. I have always suspected the propaganda of the War Office since they issued that poster "Join the Army to fit yourself for a better life in the future." We must remember that parents today will go to a great deal of hardship and sacrifice to give their boys a good education. It is becoming increasingly difficult for them, especially if they want to send them to public schools.
Might one not broaden the base of entry to the Army, and also produce a 815 greater attraction to the young boys, by something on the Dartmouth lines as an alternative method of entry? A large number of scholarships would be given, the boys would have a very good education, it would interest and attract the parents, and I believe it might have a big effect in increasing the number entering. I give that to the right hon. Gentleman as a tip—and we have not given bad tips from this side over the past few years.
§ Brigadier Head
My idea was that there would be the normal entry to Sandhurst, but that in addition there would be an alternative method of entry through a public school run rather on the lines of Dartmouth. I believe it would be a big attraction to parents, and would also broaden the opportunity of entry.
I give these suggestions about the serious officer situation, but even if they were adopted and worked splendidly they would not have much effect for the next year or two. The Army will have to carry on for the time being with the officers it has now, and if it is going to expand, as we hope, the Secretary of State has to remember that he has to make the fullest use of the limited numbers available.
What follows is rather a quisling speech, for I was a staff officer myself for great part of my service. I am going to attack the General Staff. It may be dishonourable, but this represents not only my own opinion but the opinion of a large number of officers on the staff as well. Far too many officers in the Army are now on the staff. Far too little has been done since the war to reduce the number. One of the reasons, much overlooked, for this is the increase in the number of levels in the staff.
Between 1930 and 1939 the staff was arranged on four levels. I am talking about the War Office. There was the director, a major general; the Gl, a full colonel of battalion, quite a chap (I apologise for the slang, but he was very fully qualified and had probably passed the Staff College and commanded a battalion); the G2 a major—about equivalent to the modern G1; and the 816 G3. Four levels, four people to decide things, four desks for the files to go up and down. Since then levels have bred like rabbits. Now there is a director, a major general, director, brigadier, brigadier on the staff, deputy director brigadier, deputy director full colonel, colonel on staff, Gl, G2 and G3. That means more levels, more typists, more clerks, more messengers carrying files around, more delays and less responsibility for individual officers. In my opinion, that is one of the main causes for the large number of officers in the War Office.
It is right to support these remarks by figures, which I have taken from this year's Estimates and the Estimates for 1938. I should like to be fair to the staff and must point out that the Army has now to deal with the National Service men. That is some excuse for an increase, but not of this size. Directors major general—today, 22; in 1938, 15; directors grade B—today, 12; 1938, none; brigadiers—today, 6; 1938, none; deputy directors brigadiers—today, 25: 1938, 5; deputy directors colonels—today, 10; 1938, none; full colonels—today, 12; 1938, none—though I am coming to that—grade one staff officers —today, 172; 1938, 50, but they were all full colonels.
The total of War Office staff on these levels is today 259 and in 1938 it was 70. That is a very big disparity, even taking into account National Service. This is the case not only at the War Office; it has spread right throughout the staff hierarchy of the Army. In 1940 I was brigade major of the 20th Guards Brigade, an independent brigade with no division behind it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington, who was Secretary of State for War at the time, may remember. As a matter of fact I think he saved our lives.
§ Brigadier Head
A mistake for which my right hon. Friend was not removed from the War Office and anyhow it was less disastrous than the Groundnut Scheme. The point I was about to make is that we had no division behind us and we had seven officers on our staff. The 5th Infantry Brigade of the Second Division of B.A.O.R., with a division behind it, has 14 officers. The number has doubled in ten years.
§ Brigadier Head
Yes, 14. That is right, and my figures can be challenged. Let us take Aldershot division. In 1935 that division normally had 11 officers, but I will be fair and say that when it went on manoeuvres and had three brigades brought in, they went up to 20. It was then considered big. But the Second Division in B.A.O.R.—granted they have additional administrative responsibilities in Germany—has 84. That is a lot too many.
The question has not been properly tackled in my opinion. I could go on. At one command headquarters I have a personal friend, a major-general, General Staff—no names, no pack drill—and he has a B.G.S. (Operations), B.G.S. (A. and Q.), General Staff Officer Class 1 (Operations G.S.O.1 (Training), G.S.O.1 (A. and G.S.O.1 Q.). Then there is the G.S.O.2 level and the G.S.O.3 level. Quite a family tree. All he has in his command are a few training establishments and a few odd Territorial units. He is an able man, he likes shooting, and he gets a lot of it.
This sort of thing does need tackling. There is a serious shortage of officers, and it must be dealt with. I know there are difficulties, but there are too many levels, too many people checking other people. There is too much supervision and too little delegation of responsibility. It is fantastic in peace-time and especially now. Able men who did a great job in the war are being checked and supervised, and if the House will bear with me for a moment, I should like to give two instances of this kind of thing.
There is a commanding officer I know who is covered with D.S.O.'s—I must not be too explicit otherwise he might get into trouble. He commanded a brigade with great distinction during the war, and is now commanding a battalion in Germany, where he went recently. There is a rule in B.A.O.R. that you can have 10 per cent. of soldiers' wives out there, living in quarters. This particular commanding officer was under the 10 per cent., and had a quarter and a wife he wanted to put into that quarter. Could he put her in? No. He had to refer it to brigade, from where it went to division and eventually to the Rhine Army, round and round the Rhine Army and back again, with permission. Why could he 818 not have put the wife in and issued a quarterly or monthly return that he was keeping under his 10 per cent. limit? It is fantastic to think that things are still being referred up and down to goodness knows who. I will read what he wrote to me about another subject; it shows that I am in improper touch with a Regular officer:Last year, I wanted to move the bar out of my Sergeants' Mess ante-room into a little room alongside to make it just that much less inviting for them to drink too much.This is a thing which would appeal to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), who I notice is not in his place. It was a sensible idea I think. He goes on:It had to go through the following channels: (1) Garrison Engineer; (2) D.C.R.E.; (3) S.O.R.E.2; (4) C.R.E.; (5) C.E., Division.He adds:The ruddy thing' is movable, too.Does it make sense? There is too much of this checking; and it is not only frustrating to individual officers, but it is duplicating work, increasing the number of officers required and causing a big wastage when officers are in short supply.
I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to institute a really searching inquiry into this question of too many levels, too much supervision, and too many officers on the staff. That is part of the answer to overcome this officer shortage. I entreat him not to leave it too late. Some of us have given lots of tips in the past, and they have not been bad tips, but if I may say so, the Government have never had the full value of putting their money on them because they have left it so late that the odds have shortened and the subsequent benefit has been much smaller.
I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should treat this particular officer problem as a matter of urgency. The outstanding thing—and I apologise for speaking so much about officers, although I believe it to be the most important single point in the Estimates—is that the right hon. Gentleman has got the best of the young manpower of England, the majority of which is going into the Army. He has an immense amount of money. Sir John Fortescue, who is the Army's best historian, always said that in war time the British nation got a far better Army than it ever deserved and he was of course, referring to the fact that the Army 819 is habitually starved and under-nourished in peace-time. Today, it is neither starved nor under-nourished, and it is the right hon. Gentleman's duty to fulfil the task of constructing a first-class Army, and it is our duty to harass him in every way until he fulfils it. I am sure the House is united in the hope that the task will be fulfilled.
§ 11.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
I am sure we all listened with very great pleasure to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head). I feel that the Estimates today have been rather a cheering experience. For years we have been told that we have not got an Army, but that we hoped to have one some day. Now, for the first time, we have got it. We have to consider whether mat Army is the right one and fitted for its purpose. Therefore, I am going to ask the House to bear with me a little, while we consider the Russian Army, which it might be called upon to meet, because it is only right in considering the nature of our Army that we should find whether our organisation is right.
The Red Army is a mass Army. It has a tremendous number of divisions. Its divisional slice, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, is 16,000, but that is not the whole story. Its division is about 11,000 as against our 18,000 or 19,000, but the fire-power of the Russian division is equal or superior to ours. Not only is there much less "tail" outside the division, but there is much less "tail" inside the division. Indeed, in the Russian Army rather more than a half—I make it something like 60 per cent.—actually deliver fire. In our Army, the equivalent is one in 10. In the Russian Army, it is rather more than one in two.
That great disparity is accounted for very largely by the fact of the Russian bulk service. For instance, they have no records division at all. There is no record of any individual Russian soldier in the Army. Nobody knows whether he is wounded, killed, or still serving. He is not recorded. He is just an individual. He is just a unit. Again, they have almost no medical services. They have only about one-third of our signals, with the result, of course, that they cannot exercise anything like the tactical control in battle 820 that our commanders can exercise. They have less than one-third of our transport. Sometimes this may be good, and sometimes it may be bad.
Another service they do without is training. They have very little in the way of training establishments. The Germans were constantly taking prisoners from Russian assault troops in attack whose total service in the Russian Army was two or three days. As the Red Army advanced they impressed people and put them in the front line after two or three days' training. The training they were given was how to use their personal weapon, and the essential lesson that if they went back they would be shot. To those who talk about Malaya, I would point out that a lot of these people were under 18.
The Russian Army during the war was something like 90 per cent. illiterate. Their junior officers and N.C.O's. by our standards, lacked training, intelligence and education. They were entrusted with no initiative whatsoever. Rigid compliance with orders was what was required. Field-Marshal Montgomery had an experience of this. He was asked to dine with Marshal Koniev, but was held up by a sentry. When Marshal Koniev arrived he was also held up. He sent for the officer of the guard, and the sentry was relieved and another replaced him to allow them to go through. It was explained to Field-Marshal Montgomery that no Russian soldier was given two orders, and so the sentry who had been told to let no one through had to be relieved. That is a true story. That is the sort of rigidity with which their army works.
They achieved considerable strategic mobility. They were tough and they improvised, living on the country and impressing the local population as porters. By human porterage they made good a lot of the transport they lacked. In each village it was possible to see a row of people carrying things to the next village, and the people of that village carrying them on to the next. That is the picture of the Russian advance. Although they had strategic mobility, they were incapable of tactical manœuvre. They lacked the training and the command organisation necessary to alter their dispositions under pressure. In attack, they could not depart from the planned manœuvre without falling into confusion. When one 821 point in the Russian defence went, the whole defence went because they could not readjust their deployment to meet the new emergency.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Can we be told whether we are discussing the Russian Army Estimates or the British Army Estimates?
§ Mr. Paget
I am discussing what we may have to meet. Given time to build up an attack, the Russian attacks carried tremendous power. Mines were no obstacle; they did not bother to clear them. But their attacks carried no element of surprise. They were tremendously vulnerable once they had lost momentum, not because they ran out of supplies but because they lost contact and control. Time and again when their attack lost its momentum it suffered disaster through counter-attack. Indeed, we have seen that happen in Korea in a Communist attack. It came down with power and then it recoiled, because it got into confusion all by itself. When the present counter-offensive by the United Nations forces started, they went on for days without finding the enemy. The enemy had recoiled from nothing, because they had lost their cohesion in the advance.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour recently pointed to the narrow industrial basis upon which this, great number of Russian divisions was based. But the military basis—the basis of maintenance, movement and administration— is even narrower. It is one thing to have 175 divisions; it is another thing to be able to move, maintain and sustain them in active operations. These are things which we have to consider.
The Red Army might be likened to a big clumsy heavyweight. His blows are signalled, his hands are muffled in gloves, and when the blow comes, it carries tremendous power with it, destroying anyone who is foolish to stay in its way. That sort of boxer can be defeated by the little Japanese wrestler, who has control of his limbs and of his fingers. This conception of a small, compact, controlled, lithe and agile force should be the basic conception of our Army. That is not the case today, and that is the complaint which I am making.
In our Army the man who delivers the fire—the gun crews, tank crews and riflemen—represents rather less than 10 per cent. of our total numbers. As I have 822 already said, the Russian equivalent is 60 per cent. We are essentially a Gideon army, in which the actual fighting is left to a few, but we are still organised as if we were a mass army. The delivery of fire-power, which is the end and object of the whole war effort, is left to a residue. Of course, in the days of Wellington that residue of fire-power was the great majority of the Army. Today it has sunk to 10 per cent., but it is still the "left overs." We do not seem to realise that the men who do the actual fighting are the men on whose performance, quality and morale the whole war effort depends.
Reference has already been made by some hon. Members to the tank section commander, but let us consider the platoon commander. He is not merely the commander of 35 or 40 men, but is the director of the war effort of 1,000 men, 500 in the Army backing up his platoon and another 500 in the mines and factories equipping them. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, I suppose, be shocked if he were told that the director of the war effort of 1,000 men was earning one-third of the pay of a National Health Service dentist. The combat commander ought to be a selected man. He ought to enjoy the pay, privileges and prestige, but on quite a different basis to them, of the R.E.M.E. officer, or the Pay Corps officer, simply because the combat officer bears a much greater responsibility to the nation.
What of the ordinary rifleman? He requires just about the same amount of manpower to support him as the mediaeval knight required in history, but there is this difference between them: the mediaeval knight had to win his spurs, whereas the rifleman is required to have only a negative qualification—insufficient intelligence to be allocated to R.E.M.E. What we must have is a combat rating similar to the air-crew in the Air Force. Combat rating, like that of the air-crew, must be based upon the principle of pay and privilege for the responsibility of delivering the fire-power of the Army. I want to make it quite clear that there is no question of danger money in this proposal. The platoon runner may have just as dangerous a job as the platoon rifleman, but he does not have that responsibility for delivering the fire-power. This must be built up into a combat rating 823 based on responsibility and it should, in general, be a volunteer rating.
May I digress for a moment to say that this conception of combat personnel in the modern mechanised Army should apply not only to our own Army but to that of Europe? It is fantastic to form Italian divisions. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), writing the other day, commented that whilst some of us might have some doubts as to which side a German Army might fight on, none of us had any doubts about the Italian Army. It would never fight for anybody. I do not think any of us has any doubts about that. Yet in order to build up these liability troops, we are wasting the productive effort of the American and British people and all the people who are equipping them. That is a lunatic thing to do.
That does not mean for a moment that the Italians cannot make a great contribution to the war effort of Western Europe. They are excellent mechanics, they are just as brave as the rest of us, they make splendid supply troops, but they happen to lack that quality of aggressiveness which goes to make combat troops. We in the West have greater numbers than the East, if we use them; but those numbers are useless if we do not give the right people the right things to do. That is all I have to say about the aspect of combat rating.
I would say a word about the command organisation, on which I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton. Command organisation always tends to grow. We had the great example of that in Sicily. At that time we had Eisenhower's S.H.A.E.F. command, which alone numbered 30,000 men. Below him there was Alexander's command. Below him there were two Army staffs, and then we had five corps staffs—all to handle seven divisions. In Normandy it was not very much better Let us put the contrast to that. When von Manstein was commanding the German Eleventh Army in the Crimea, his army staff was under 100 and his corps staffs were under 20. Yet nobody could say that the Germans did not exercise effective command control.
Again, take the question of supplies. If we are to be mobile and active, that 824 must be considered. It must be considered in the light of what we can possibly do without, what we cannot risk finding in the country where we are campaigning or on the field of battle. The attitude of what we can do without must replace the staff-minded attitude which always is for having everything that could possibly be wanted and hanging it on the wretched soldier. Scharnhorst, a great staff officer, once said that every infantry man should carry an axe because he might want to break down a door. That always seems to me to be the perfect example of the staff mentality. They never seem to realise that everything one hangs on to a soldier is at the expense of the one commodity which is likely to run out, and that is human energy.
I remember in the last war an airborne section which had to give ground for lack of ammunition, but I never found any formation having to give ground for lack of food and water. Yet how many failed in their tasks from sheer exhaustion, from having to carry two hundred rounds of ammunition and three days' rations, when the average amount of ammunition used in a day in battle is 10 rounds? Nowadays, supplies can be brought up by jeep or by aircraft.
Under the influence of fear—and everyone in battle experiences fear—the working of the adrenal gland, when a man is frightened, has much the same effect on human muscles as extreme exhaustion. There is the example of American troops who, landing on the beachhead at Omaha, collapsed under the weight of their packs on the sand, and were drowned by the incoming tide. Under the influence of fear they could not move with the weight. That is an extreme example, but it happened, and it is something we should bear in mind. Any scientist who can invent a pill to control the adrenal gland may find that he has done more to increase the war potential of his country than the inventor of the atom bomb, because he would just about have doubled the fighting power of the Army.
But this Scharnhorst idea goes on. For instance, cooks and runners are still required to carry rifles and ammunition. Of course, they may have to fight—true enough—but by the time they get into the fighting there will be plenty of rifles and ammunition lying about whose owners 825 have no further use of them. Philip of Macedon's Hypastides, the Scots at Banockburn "walking light as air" because gillies and porters carried their weapons, the Light Brigade in the Peninsular War, all found this of great importance. But, always the staff comes in and begins to load up the soldier.
And what goes for the human animal goes just as much for vehicles. They pile on anything which might be needed, from refrigerators upwards; and the result is that one blocks up the roads so that nothing can move. That was the fundamental mistake in Korea. The Americans were not beaten by superior numbers of Chinese, and they were not held later for that reason, nor can they be, on the communications available to the Chinese. They were beaten by superior mobility. The Americans lost their mobility of supplies, and the Chinese, who still remember how to use their legs, beat them. How much transport can we do without? Twenty per cent. may be a good start, but it must improve.
Another thing is that we should learn to live off the land where we find ourselves. One of the first things we ought to do is to set up an organisation in Germany, where we might have to campaign, which would be responsible for knowing and informing the Army of the location of all civilian food and fuel supplies in an area where the Army might move. We ought to have exercises in which we move our troops without carrying food, leaving them to buy that in the districts through which they pass. That is how the Russians worked it, and we shall have to see to what extent transport can be saved and, what is more important, the blocking of roads and communications can be avoided.
Here are three general problems, the question of combat personnel being no longer a residue, the question of command, and the question of supply. I would ask my right hon. Friend—and this is the burden of my speech—to set up a committee similar to that set up by Lord Haldane, under Lord Esher, to consider the necessary reorganisation of the Army. I would say that this committee should essentially have a civilian chairman, because it is a fact that the Army has never been willing to reform itself, and that you can never get soldiers to slash establishments. You must have a civilian chairman. That committee 826 should take advantage not only of British opinion, but of expert German knowledge. After all, Germany had a pretty good army, and that army had experience of fighting the sort of war for which we have to prepare. We hope that that war will not happen, but we have to prepare for it. That experience and knowledge should be made available, and should be considered by such a committee.
Service chiefs have a technique for dealing with a civilian Minister. He is flattered. He is made to feel that he is the head of a great service. He is made to feel that he is an initiate, and his ego is inflated by that sense of initiation. His conceit is enlarged by the contempt with which his Service chiefs treat the opinions of his critics. These critics are treated as though they do not understand, as though they do not know. "We, the initiates, are the ones who know what common sense is," they hint. Thus, subtly, the Minister is led on to dispose of non-technical opinion. When he has done that, he has lost the foundation for any opinions of his own which he might be tempted to have.
One has seen that happen. The Minister becomes the mere trumpet of his technicians. It is only exceptional Ministers, such as a Haldane or a Churchill, who are able to confine their Service chiefs to their technical functions. Such Ministers enjoy the real respect of their Service chiefs. I hope my right hon. Friend will be among their number, and that he will insist upon the reforms which are as necessary now as they were in Haldane's day. He has proved himself to be a very good Minister, both at the Air Ministry and in his present office. The Party opposite never did a greater disservice to this country than when it hounded Haldane from office by vile personal attacks. Let it not repeat that effort.
§ 12 m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
We have listened to a very interesting speech from the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). That is nothing new, because he always does make interesting speeches in debates on the Army Estimates and on defence. I agree with a great deal of what he has said, and I shall be touching upon some of the things he mentioned during the course of my speech. I disagree in part 827 with one thing he said—his reference to the Italian Army. There are of course Italians who would be better employed on lines of communication, but do not let us forget that there have been and are some very fine fighting divisions from the north of Italy.
It is very difficult at this late hour to say anything new, and to a large extent I shall be emphasising what has already been said, with other examples. I divide my remarks under the headings of manpower and equipment.I want straightaway to do as others have done, and that is to attack the War Office. This is the time to do what other right hon. Gentleman would have liked to do if there had not been a war on our hands. I believe the right hon. Gentleman should set up a commission of inquiry to go into the whole of the organisation of the War Office, and I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Member that there should be a civilian chairman and, if necessary, a German staff officer to give us the benefit of their experience.
Let us remember that the War Office organisation started on a ration box under a tent; it has been built up from that over the years. It would give any really high-class business man a fit if he went into that office and saw how things are run. The duplication that goes on is fantastic, as is the refusal to delegate responsibility without having somebody else, almost like a Gestapo, watching to see that a person does not overstep by 6d. when he has under his charge vast amounts of equipment and money.
An appalling habit has grown up in the Army, not only in the War Office but in staffs. When a staff officer has been given a job to do, in five minutes he has collected another staff officer and a couple of clerks to help him. Before you know where you are he has set up another department and made himself essential so that he cannot be got rid of easily. I know of a specific example of that occurring in the War Office within the last six or eight weeks.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low), who so ably did the job of B.G.S. to a corps in Italy, can give an example of how that corps H.Q. was increased after the war by about 2½ per cent., although one would have thought it would have been 828 reduced. That has been going on all over the country. I want to add my plea to that of others. Something must be done. The figures given by the hon. and learned Member of the German H.Qs. are perfectly true. They operated their corps H.Qs. on a staff of 20, and I should imagine our corps H.Qs. are somewhere in the region of 150 or 180. I have forgotten for the moment what the numbers of my brigade H.Q. were, but I know there were a lot too many people running about the place.
Then there is this question of the shortage of officers. I have only one remark to add. It is essential to make up to people, and not only officers, some of the "perks" they have lost through the disappearance of the horse from the Army. Something should be done to amuse them in their spare time. But there is another point to which the right hon. Gentleman should pay particular attention. A supporter of his Government, a member of the teaching profession, put this to me: "Can you explain why all my bright boys who have joined the Army are made either clerks or sent to the Army Education Corps? Do the fighting units not want any intelligent people at all?" That is very largely true. It is a fact that wants watching very carefully.
Manpower in the Army is stretched to the limit. There are large numbers of men in the pipe-line because we are so widely dispersed. There are large numbers whose time is occupied at base installations. I agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) about the recruitment of colonial forces not only because they are required to assist our manpower, but for their own good as well. I hope that decisions will be reached soon about the manpower in colonial territories. There are in East Africa men who, properly led, could be just as good as their counterparts in the Indian divisions which we have now lost. Provided that the reason why is put to them, they would be fighting as well in Malaya as any of the Indian troops fought in the last war.
I want to say a word about the Home Guard. I hope that after the Recess we shall be able to have a fuller Debate on this subject. I do not accept the pretext given by a noble Lord in another place, as one of the chief reasons for not embodying the Home Guard in any form, 829 that it would be an intolerable commitment on the Regular commands. That was casting his mind back to what happened in 1940. We are not in the same situation now, because we have experienced Home Guard men who are quite capable of taking over the training, and in addition we have men who fought in the Army who will be too old to be called up but could easily serve as instructors for the Home Guard.
I want to support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said in regard to the formation of a cadre. It is vital, to avoid all the enormous difficulties experienced at the beginning of the last conflict, that a cadre should be recruited forthwith, and that others should be informed that if they are willing they will be considered as potential members of the Home Guard.
It is particularly vital in view of the possibility of airborne invasion. We must not forget that the Russians were playing with airborne mass landings before the last war. They have vast quantities of aircraft. Let the right hon. Gendeman be prepared for the argument, generally put over by a staff officer, that we cannot land airborne troops unless they can be immediately supplied and reinforced. That is a valid argument if we are dropping in enemy territory. It is not valid in a country such as this country at the moment. It matters not the least to our potential enemy that the whole of his force is wiped out. They have German officers as their advisers. They will see that Napoleon, the Kaiser, and Hitler failed because they did not occupy this island.
It is our bounden duty to make it impossible for any airborne landing to survive its period of weakness during the first 48 hours. If they know we are prepared to eliminate them in the first 48 hours, they will not come. It would not be difficult to arrange that, by dispersal of arms and recruitment of a Home Guard mobile column. But there is a grave temptation if matters are left as they are at this moment. I trust these words and what my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington has said will be taken to heart and that something will be done to recruit the Home Guard at the earliest possible moment.
830 I now wish to refer to equipment. If we are to grapple with superior numbers, we must have three things: a high standard in training in tactical manoeuvre, a withering firing power and extreme mobility. Is the present Army being organised on that basis or not? Is there any suggestion for issuing a quick-firing carbine to the infantry in place of the old rifle? If, for security reasons, the right hon. Gentleman does not care to reply to that, I do not mind, but I hope he will make inquiries and, if it is a question of coming to a decision, then for Heaven's sake come to a decision and get them issued to the troops.
I hope he will make inquiries in regard to multiple rocket launching. Again, if it is a question of decision, I hope a decision will be arrived at at an early date. If a decision has been reached, how soon can we hope to see them issued?
The other day I asked the right hon. Gentleman a Question about the medium machine gun. From a picture I saw in a magazine I understand that there is such a thing as a modern medium machine gun, and that the infantry are reluctant to accept it until they are certain it is as reliable as the Vickers. It is time we had a lighter machine gun. I do not know whether anybody can remember what it is like to hump the tripod of a Vickers. I wonder if we cannot have a machine gun which is just as reliable as the Vickers, a machine gun which has no stoppages and can be easily humped from one place to another.
In regard to the infantry weapon, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will resist the argument of the average staff officer, that if we give the infantry too many quick-firing weapons, we shall not be able to supply them with ammunition. We shall not of course be able to supply them with ammunition if we go on using the old-fashioned methods. If our enemy has paramount air power, we should not be able to have streams of lorries on the roads, as we had in the latter days of the war in Italy and other countries where there was no enemy air power. There is such a thing as the air drop, and we have been foremost in the field in regard to air supply. I believe that the difficulties of soft vehicles, bad roads and air attack can be solved by night drops from the air. I think this is vital; otherwise we should not be able to contend with the 831 preponderance in numbers with which we might be faced in any future war.
I want to emphasise what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) said about soft vehicles. Apart from jeeps, are we producing good new soft vehicles? Have we arranged about the interchangeability of spare parts? This has been under discussion, to my knowledge, for seven or eight years, and it is time somebody arrived at some conclusion about it and something was done.
As to training, it is no good senior officers imagining that all that has to be done is to produce large quantities of soft vehicles and tell the infantry they are available and then expect the infantry to get into them and move at speed. They must be trained first. When I had the good fortune to train a brigade in England, and had time to do it, we were able to move infantry and be in the vehicles and on the road within 20 minutes of the order being given. I was given a battalion in the Italian campaign which I was told would be moved by lorry on my order. I gave the order. They "embussed" and moved off, but it took them five hours to get on to the road. That is the difference between thinking you have what you want and ensuring that you have it. It is essential to have the vehicles at the time of training and the men must have the highest possible type of training in these vehicles.
We want to get the infantry division trained to move, to "debuss," "embuss" and change position in the same way as the motor battalions were trained during the war. There will be tremendous objection from certain high-ranking infantry commanders to a remark such as this. But I am certain that unless it is done and the infantry is made far more mobile than it has been in the past, unless it is given overwhelming superiority in fire power and has what my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington suggested, an armoured assault vehicle to get it to the objective through areas drenched by heavy defensive fire, it will not be possible to compete with the vast numbers we might have to meet.
I happened to have had the good fortune to experiment with the first "degutted" Sherman tank, known as "Kangaroo." In the first action in which they were 832 used we had two battalions carried forward, and we only suffered two casualties out of those two battalions, and they were only wounded. They were drenched by mortar fire and D.F. artillery, but there was not a man scratched. They were carried to the objective at the speed of the tank. They did not have to wait for us, nor we for them, and the tank moved at a speed compatible with the terrain. I would like to know whether there is such a machine in production now, and, if not, why not. These are subjects dear to our hearts, and I apologise to the House for having spoken so long.
The right hon. Gentleman has in his hands the making—though not entirely— or the marring of the finest fighting material in the world. There is no greater fighter than the British soldier, but he must be properly led. It is vital to fill the gap in officer material, and everything in the power of the Secretary of State must be done to achieve this. I hope that this money we are spending will be well spent, that every penny will be scrutinised, and that material will not be bought to be sold again to other Powers if it is not surplus to establishment. Let us not forget that establishments are altering quickly. All of us would like to know that the right hon. Gentleman is making searching inquiries into the sale of Government equipment. I hope he will realise that he will get support, not only from this House but from the nation and the British Army, if he makes it abundantly clear that he is fighting for the ordinary private soldier who is to undergo the greatest strain to which any human being can be subjected.
§ 12.20 a.m.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
I trust my hon. and gallant Friend will forgive me if I do not follow him, because the hour is late and I want to address myself to only two points. The first is the question of getting officers, which the Secretary of State says is such a difficult problem today. I believe the fundamental question is that of pensions when they leave the service. I was a Regular soldier for 12 years before the war and I meet officers in the Service clubs and so on. They point out to me that the pension of a substantive lieut.-colonel today is, as it was before the war, £600 a year gross. They point out, as my hon. and gallant Friend the 833 Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) suggested, that before the war, by the time their families were educated, they could live quietly in the country and "get by," on a pension of £600 a year. But they cannot do that today.
Today, the cost of living having gone up so much and with taxation much higher, they are financially, on their pensions, in much the same position as a skilled workman living in a council house in receipt of perhaps £8 or £9 a week net wages. That is the equivalent. How can one expect a parent to send his boy to Sandhurst when he knows that if he makes good—and it is only the exceptional officer who can ever hope to reach the position of substantive lieut.-colonel—he has the prospect of being retired at the age of 45 or 50 on the equivalent of £8 or £9 a week.
I look at it now as a parent. My father, my grandfather, my great grandfather spent all their lives as Regular soldiers. I started mine in that career. I have two boys. Am I going to put my sons in the Army under these conditions? If they are clever enough, as I hope they will be, they will do something better than become Regular soldiers. If they do not prove themselves sufficiently clever, I shall have to put them in the Army as I was put myself. It is a very sad point of view for a parent who wishes the Army nothing but well, but I think that is the opinion one is forced to take.
I now want to address myself to the second of my two points, of which I gave the Secretary of State notice. This is the question of awards for gallantry, with special reference to Korea. I trust the House will not say this is a very unimportant matter and that it is wasting the time of the House to raise it at this hour. It is, however, particularly concerned with the question of morale, and as everybody who knows anything about the Services agrees, morale is all-important. I think it was Napoleon, or someone who was a very much better soldier than me, who said that morale is as to material in war, as about five to one.
It is quite obvious that something has gone very far wrong. The information I have received in answer to Questions and information that the Under-Secretary has been good enough to get me, shows an 834 astounding thing today. After eight months fighting, with over 600 casualties, only two men in the ranks have received awards for gallantry in Korea. One warrant officer has received the Military Medal and one corporal has received the Military Medal. One knows, if one has had any experience in these matters, that to have a few men wearing decorations for gallantry is enormously appreciated in a unit, and is a great encouragement and a great spur to other individuals to do likewise.
What is so scandalous is that the officers have got decorations but not the men. Two battalion commanders as long as three months ago—two lieut.-colonels —have received the D.S.O. Perhaps as I was a battalion commander and received this award myself, I might be permitted to say that it is quite wrong that battalion commanders should get awards for decorations, and company commanders and other officers, if similar awards do not percolate to the men in the ranks. Every senior regimental officer who has received an award knows that it is only by the gallantry of the men under him that he has been able to qualify for it. I remember the difficulties we used to have in the last war in getting awards for men in the ranks. The recommendations were put in, but by the time they had been considered and the award had come out, the man concerned had either died or had been wounded and left the unit, so to all intents and purposes the result was that he did not get it.
I remember the embarrassment we officers felt in going round wearing these ribbons when the men did not seem to be getting their decorations. We felt that they thought we used to write citations about each other and did not look after the deserts of the men. Why is it that from the information I have received from the Under-Secretary, 16 men have been recommended for the awards of the D.C.M. and the M.M. but only four have been given, and no decision has so far been made about the others? The Under-Secretary states that, in the case of one brigade, four recommendations are still awaited at the War Office. In the case of the other brigade, where 15 officers and other ranks have been recommended, he states that none of these recommendations has reached the War Office. For Heaven's sake, has not the Commander-in-Chief on the spot power to make these 835 Awards? Why have they to go to the War Office? It is a crying scandal.
I asked the length of time it took for the decision to be made in the case of an officer who on 19th February, according to the Under-Secretary, was awarded the Military Cross for a deed that took place on 22nd September last. I really think it is a positive scandal that these decorations do not come through until the men are perhaps dead or have gone home. Why cannot the Commander-in-Chief make the decision on the spot within a matter of weeks or a month? It is a positive scandal that after eight months no soldier in the ranks, except in the two cases I have mentioned, has received an award for gallantry, while two battalion commanders have got the D.S.O. and two other officers the M.C. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into this matter.
§ 12.30 a.m.
§ Lord John Hope (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
I want to say something in defence of the man who has been under fire from both sides of the House, the staff officer. Nothing I shall say will in any way conflict with the thoroughly justified condemnation of what is going on, by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) and by others on both sides. It would be a great pity, however, if this debate came to an end without this matter of the staff officer being dealt with in its proper proportion. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton, in his brilliant speech, said something with which we all agree—that the private soldier, although he is the man who wins battles, cannot do so unless he is well led. I would go further and say that he cannot win unless he is well staffed.
With that in mind, I want to ask the Secretary of State whether anything has been thought out in terms of refresher courses for reservist staff officers. I believe that such courses would be most valuable; otherwise it may be the case, if and when there is a rapid expansion of the Army in terms of new divisions, that there will not be the staff trained to staff these divisions, which could easily lead to disaster. After all, a good staff can make troops that are not absolutely top-notch win battles, but no troops, however good, can win battles if the staff work is bad.
836 It is a sad thing how easily and quickly the gap between the regimental soldier and the staff officer widens. There was distinctly bad feeling between the two at the beginning of the last war. I know that quite well, because I was a regimental officer at the time and thought nothing of the staff which I considered was making bad plans to my detriment. Later on, when a staff officer myself, I realised how misguided I had been in those earlier years. This thing is not new, and even at this late hour I hope the House will forgive me if I remind them that even as long ago as Shakespeare's time staff officers came in for criticism. In Henry IV we find this:… for he made me mad,To see him shine so brisk, and smell so sweet,And talk so like a waiting-gentlewomanOf guns and drums…and but for these vile gunsHe would himself have been a soldier.That idea of the staff officer still exists, and it is with that in view that I ask whether any steps are being taken to see, if this nation is called upon to spring suddenly to arms, that her fighting formations are going to be as well staffed as they possibly can be.
I want to make one other suggestion to the Minister in this connection. Would it not be possible to look into the question of staff initials? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) quite rightly mentioned the benefits that would accrue from the standardisation of armaments between the nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I would suggest that this also applies to a parallel staff organisation. From my own experience I know that our own staff designations are so complicated as to make the whole business of staff co-operation needlessly difficult. Starting from the departments of A.G. and Q.M.G, we get a whole complexity of initials. There is a D.A. and and Q.M.G. and A.A. and Q.M.G. Then we have D.A.A. and Q.M.G. and D.A.Q.M.G.—I was one myself—and D.A.A.G. There are plenty more. The system is very cumbersome and difficult for an American staff, for instance to understand. It is worth looking into to see if it can be improved.
In conclusion, I want to refer to something which happened in the House last Tuesday. I have given the Secretary of 837 State notice that I felt I ought to raise this issue, but I do not do so in a cantankerous way. I think it is a pity that at Question Time on Tuesday the Secretary of State found it necessary to take cover behind what he called his "advisers." The House will recall the occasion, when the right hon. Gentleman was asked Questions by several hon. Members about the policy of young boys being sent to fight in Malaya. In two columns of HANSARD it is recorded that on no fewer than four occasions the Secretary of State "passed the buck" to his military advisers.
I will give examples:The number of months training I will certainly consider with my military advisers, but they are convinced that the present regulations are correct.A moment later he said:I think it is a question of training rather than of age. I repeat that we certainly must not send men abroad who are inadequately trained, and that my advisers are confident that that is not being done.A little later he said:We can consider this matter, but it is the firm view of my advisers that this is an adequate basic training.On the fourth occasion he said:I think the matter is rather one of training than of age, but I am advised that the training is thoroughly adequate for the purpose."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 226–7.]I know that the right hon. Gentleman's advisers are there to advise him, but the point is—and the Secretary of State knows it perfectly well—that the Minister is the man who has to take responsibility. I do not know whether it is a good thing or not for this House to be told what the Service advisers have said. I think it is probably wrong that the House should be told it, for obvious reasons. The House will no doubt recall that we were not told what advice the Government had been given in the matter of conscription, when they made that muddle, ordering first one period and then another. If we are to be told what advice the Service advisers have given when it is convenient for the Minister to accept it, then let us also be given details when the Minister has rejected the advice of his Service advisers. On the whole, however, I think it is better to avoid mentioning people who cannot speak for themselves.
838 Although according to the letter of the law the Secretary of State could say he was justified in using those sentences, he knows as well as I that the effect of saying continually, "My advisers 'agree with me about this," or "My advisers say this," inevitably suggests to the House that he is in the hands of his advisers. It is a pity for a Minister ever to do that. It is particularly unfortunate when that Minister is at the head of a Service whose basic and fundamental tradition is that where responsibility lies, it must be fairly and fully accepted, without qualification, for good or for ill.
§ 12.39 a.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
There is no criticism of the military machine that I can make in this debate which would be more devastating than that which has been made by people who apparently have given their lives to the military machine and who know it from the inside. I know nothing that could be regarded as less likely to bring recruits to the British Army than a copy of HANSARD reporting speech after speech of hon. and gallant Members who know the Army and who have given us such descriptions of it in this debate.
The Duke of Wellington, who has been quoted rather frequently in the debate, once referred to the military profession as a "damnable profession." I have come to the conclusion that it is also incompetent, for that was the substance of the very able speech by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head). If one-tenth of the argument he adduced is right, then we are governed at present, at the top, by a bureaucracy and oligarchy bound up by red tape, which cannot make decisions and is apparently incapable of running the gigantic machine on which we are spending—or being asked to spend—£305 million.
If the picture presented by the hon. and gallant Member is right, then we do not deserve to have any recruits. It used to be said that the fool of the family went into the Church, but one hon. Member thought tonight that the fool of the family now went into the Army. We have had some very candid views from hon. Members opposite who have spent many years of their lives in the Army, and because of their arguments we ought to think twice before handing over this gigantic sum of £305 million. We are 839 asked tonight, "How are we to get more recruits?" and in that connection I would remind the House that in previous debates here I have tried to argue that, in the post-war years, this problem would be insoluble. We cannot get recruits so soon after a big war, especially at a time when there is full employment in the country.
I do not want to be accused of saying, "I told you so," but it is true that the prophecies I have made in four successive debates each year on this recruiting problem have proved correct. We shall not solve this problem because people do not like the Army any more; they are not attracted to the military machine now; the ordinary man shuns the imbecility of modern war. That is why the recruiting campaigns have not succeeded, and are not likely to succeed.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
If the hon. Member believes that proposition, how does he reconcile it with the fact that when the pay went up the recruiting rate more than doubled?
§ Mr. Hughes
The recruiting figures may have doubled, but, double or not, one can double a figure which is so small as to be ridiculous. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What are the figures?"] I have asked for the figures, and cannot get them, but I suggest that if the recruits were pouring in as a result of the increased pay, we should have heard of the fact by way of voluminous reports; and those we have not had from the Secretary for War.
But I have some figures which I will give to the House. An hon. Member who complained of the lack of recruits said there was a slump in recruiting following the invasion of Korea. Is there any wonder? The recruiting figures relating to Korea prove that my argument is correct; because the number of Regular reservists who volunteered for service in Korea amounted to about 1,500. The number of soldiers—men who know what war is—who have had the opportunity of volunteering, and are now in Korea, is about 1,030. I say that all the efforts to attract men into the military machine have, so far, been unsuccessful.
I believe that I am putting my finger on this when I say that in the world today there is a feeling of horror and revulsion against modern war and against the stupidity of the whole business. That 840 is the real reason why there are not the recruits needed. The right hon. and gallant Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) put forward a proposition which I think ought immediately to be rejected. It was that we should let more miners go into the Army.
§ Mr. Bellenger
That was not my point. I suggested that those hon. Members who are urging that miners should come out of the Army ought not to succeed, because I believe that the miner should be free to choose his employment—the Army or the coal mines.
§ Mr. Hughes
If that is the argument my right hon. Friend suggested, I am sorry if I misrepresented him; but are men in the Army to be allowed to volunteer to come out to enter not only mining, but every other industry? If conscripts, and all others in the Army, were given the right to come out, the Army would not exist very long. When recruits were wanted for the mining industry, the argument was that the miner should be freed and allowed an opportunity of knowing that in doing so he would not be changing his job. Why not try that on the Army? Why not give the ordinary soldier the right which Members of Parliament have, if they do not like their job, of applying for the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds and getting out within 24 hours? After listening to some of these debates, I am often tempted to do so myself.
I put this proposition to the House. If hon. Members believe in liberty and democracy, give soldiers the opportunity to get out of the Army, as apparently the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw wants them to get out of the mines. The conscript Army is forced labour.
§ Mr. Hughes
The idea of allowing a soldier to get out by, as it were, accepting the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds, may not be possible, but why not allow him to get out on a fortnight's or a month's notice? That would probably be the most popular thing ever done for the Army. I submit that the proposition which I have made is at least as constructive as any proposal advanced from the other side of the Chamber.
841 Now I come to the question of Korea, because over and over again we have had Questions about soldiers for Korea. What are they going to Korea for? Presumably they went to liberate the Koreans, as a great experiment in collective security. I wonder in what conditions our British soldiers are fighting in Korea today. I agree with the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw that we ought to send a Parliamentary delegation to Korea to find out what is going on, although I do not want to be included in that delegation. I shall be content to accept the evidence of the hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite.
After a long campaign in Korea, this is what we read from the correspondent on the central front of the "New York Times":Vast United Nations damge raises the the koreans' ireDestruction of homes by fire power of Allies viewed as causing goodwill lossRazing held unnecessary Civilians: some troops believe more discrimination could be used on targets.
§ Mr. Hughes
The Koreans do. We are told that large-scale destruction in Korea, most of it resulting from the tremendous firepower of planes and guns, is robbing the United Nations of some of the good will it had with the Koreans. I have here a quotation from General MacArthur himself, as reported by Donald Kingsley, who is the United Nations Agent-General for Relief in Korea. He says that the Korean landscape was the most devastated and that its refugees were the most destitute in the history of modern warfare and goes on:General Douglas MacArthur told me personally that in his whole experience of war he had never seen such destruction. Some of northern Korea has been fought over three or four times. I have seen a lot of refugees in my time, but I have never seen anything more destitute and pitiful than the 3,500,000 homeless in Korea.What is the position in Korea today? A fortnight ago the Minister of Defence left us with the impression that we were the masters in Korea. The day before yesterday General MacArthur…
§ Mr. Speaker
We cannot discuss the war in Korea. We are discussing the Army Estimates and not the war in Korea.
§ Mr. Hughes
I bow to your Ruling, Sir, although throughout this debate repeated references have been made to Korea.
§ Mr. Hughes
I presume that our Forces are under the supreme command of General MacArthur and I was describing the conditions under which our soldiers are being asked to participate at present. All this affects the morale of the British soldier. These conditions the British soldier sees around him, and, after all, the British soldier reads the New York papers.
We are told that famine hangs over Korea, that there will be no rice unless three million refugees return to the land, that the country is in a terrific mess. So I submit that our military activity in Korea, which is being paid for, presumably, out of these Estimates, is a military activity which has ended in stalemate, that it should come to an end, and that the Government should bring the soldiers home from Korea and realise that the whole thing has been a failure and a fraud.
§ Mr. Speaker
That has nothing to do with the Army Estimates. That has to do with foreign policy. Government policy as a whole has nothing to do with the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. Hughes
Then I will leave Korea, and I only wish that the Scots soldiers could leave it as easily as I shall.
I want to turn to Malaya, because only this week there is a report of a Scottish regiment that is being sent out there. It is headed, "The Gay Gordons leave Glasgow for Malaya." Presumably, they will be paid out of the Army Estimates.
I entirely agree with the criticism of sending boys under 19 to the war. The Secretary of State has not faced the human problem when he says that he has acted on the advice of his advisers. That is not good enough. I would like to know how old these advisers are. I have a report of one of the soldiers being sent out at 17½ It is true that he is called a bandsman, but even if the warfare in Malaya is grim, we do not want to send bandsmen of 17½ out there. This report 843 says how the so-called "Gay Gordons" were sent through the streets of Glasgow between three and four o'clock in the morning. They were not sent in the old way, with people cheering the troops, but quietly, in the early morning, because of the impression it would create.
There is no opinion in favour of continuing the war in Malaya, or of sending out people of 18 and 19. It is not for the Opposition to be so self-righteous about this. I remember a military guard room in another war, and boys of 17 chained together to be sent to France. Hon. Members opposite have no moral justification in criticising the Secretary of State, because if they had had the handling of the situation they would have done precisely the same thing. To vote £305 million at the present time is not the will of the country. If a Gallup poll were held on this matter I do not believe that we would be able to carry on the war in Korea. In granting this huge sum the House is not acting with a due sense of responsibility, and we are not justified in passing these Estimates as they are.
§ 12.57 a.m.
§ Brigadier T. H. Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
I believe both sides of the House will join with me in paying tribute to the two brigades in Korea for their gallantry and courage, and for the excellent way in which they have fought, according to the reports we have had. I do not think speeches such as we have just had are likely to encourage the men who are fighting out there. For the fact that there are these young men fighting in Korea and Malaya I put the entire blame on the Government. If they had followed the advice of this side of the House, which has been given since 1945, and paid the Regular soldier a decent wage a good deal earlier, we should not have had to send boys 18 and 19. The blame rests on that side of the House.
If, however, we have to send these boys out there, at least the Minister should see that they are reasonably well looked after. The National Service soldier should have the same rate of pay as the Regular soldier fighting alongside him. We on this side have said this many times. Will the Minister look into it again, and see that the two classes of men fighting side by side do receive the same rate of pay?
844 I raised the question of the price of tea in Korea and was told by the Minister that five pints of tea were provided per day, double the ration of the civilian in this country. That may be true, but the Minister knows that the soldier spends a certain amount of his time drinking tea in canteens, when off duty and on leave, and he does not get it free. If the N.A.A.F.I. have to pay 6s. a lb. for tea, he has to pay for his tea at least double what it would cost in a N.A.A.F.I. in England. It is up to the right hon. Gentleman and the War Office to see that prices in Korea are the same as in Hong Kong. The troops in Hong Kong get a special allowance which helps them to pay the inflated prices which rule there. Those fighting in Korea should get that allowance along with the men sitting doing less in Hong Kong. I think the Minister would be well advised to give them that.
The soldier who has left his wife behind in Hong Kong and gone to Korea finds himself drawing single rate of lodging allowance. The flat in which he left his wife costs him just as much as it did when he was living in it, and flats and houses in Hong Kong are renting at inflated prices. Because a man goes to Korea to fight, it is unfair that the should be worse off financially. I do not think anybody, not even hon. Members on the other side, would ask a soldier to fight for his country for less money than is paid to a man sitting in Hong Kong.
After great pressure from both sides of the House at Christmas—[Interruption.]All right; I shall be fair when it is necessary to be fair—the Postmaster-General agreed to give the troops cheap parcels rates for Christmas. That dried up very soon afterwards. Now, if a mother wants to send her son, or a wife her husband, a cake, it costs 30s. to send a 2 lb. cake to Korea by air. It is not much good sending it round by the Red Sea and Ceylon. The Minister should try to find some idea better than sending out £2 postal orders I am sure a soldier sitting in a fox hole could tell the Minister what to do with his postal orders!
The Government called a limited number of reservists, but it was not until after continual pressure from this side that we got any idea of how long these men were to serve. The Government always do these things too late—devaluation and all the errors the Government have made since 1945, and this improved 845 plan, which is many months too late. When the Government decided upon the period for which the reservists were to be called up, they should have told the country. Why were the wives and mothers left in concern until they were told in January, when they could have been told back in September? [Interruption.]I shall make my speech in my own way. [HON. MEMBER: "Go on!"] If hon. Members are tired, let them go to bed. There are a few things on my notes which I should like to mention, but I will refrain from doing so. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite will bear with me because there are things I could say which they would not like at all.
I see that 180,000 notices were sent out to supplementary reservists but only 394 have joined up. I should like the Secretary of State to tell us what inducements were offered. We got plenty of supplementary reservists before the war, and I suggest that he increases the incentive to bring in the men. We need supplementary reservists. They are men who in peacetime can do their normal peace-time job, but who in war-time have an obligation to come and join up. It only costs a small sum of money to make them sign on the dotted line. I understand that, so far, only officer types have been recruited, and it is high time the Government tried to get some soldiers to join. We have heard so much denigration of officers from the other side that it is surprising that any officers join the Army at all.
The new pay conditions have been lauded by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Personally I do not agree that they are anything like enough. By the time Income Tax is deducted the soldier gets very little indeed, and it is a mistake to believe that is going to increase recruiting any more than it has to date: The thing that is required is better pensions, not only for the soldier who is leaving the Army today, tomorrow or the next day or next year, but for the man who left in 1939.—[Interruption.]—No, I am not asking for any pension myself. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know very well there was a cut in pensions in 1931 and that the cost of living has since gone up, but they have done nothing at all to alter the pension rates.
There are many officers in clubs in London today—[HON. MEMBERS: "White's."]—who are finding it difficult 846 to make ends meet. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are very tired, and I shall try to confine my remarks to a few points, in the Estimates it is stated that the health in the Army has been very good. I have not heard a word about it. Certain soldiers are suffering from skin diseases, and very serious skin diseases they are for young boys of 18 to have. I hope the Secretary of State will look into this matter and see whether there is not something he can do to prevent young men from contracting these skin diseases. Perhaps the Minister has not read what is written in paragraph 32—[HON. MEMBERS: "Read it."]—I would sooner not quote it because ladies are present.
We have had a lot of talk about encouraging soldiers to join the Army and about what does not encourage them to do so. I would draw attention to a rag called "Labour's Southern Voice." I have drawn the attention of the Attorney-General to it. It is seditious and is a Labour Party paper. This is what it says:Why has the recruitment of the regular soldiers failed so abjectly? Hundreds of lads at Catterick can give a hundred reasons. What are the reasons for the desertions and the suicides and attempted suicides?That is what is going on in Catterick, according to this paper.The figures may stagger the old folks at home whose sons, pitch-forked out of their jobs and homes to be shoved around by their intellectual superiors"—I hope Members opposite do not believe that to be true—under an antiquated system based on fear and class distinction.Again I would point out that this is a Labour Party paper. It goes on:The interminable polishing and burnishing, which only infuriates intelligent men should be stamped out. If we must needs conscript our youth, let us seek their cooperation in a common cause by methods of 1951 rather than those of the Crimean War. Military might, as we have seen, is apt to ride, booted and spurred, over the very instructions of Governments. These people must be brought to heel and taught that they are the servants of democracy along with the most humble of working-class conscripts, bewildered and bewitched.[Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but how do they like this?There is plenty of fun at Catterick, except for the recruit who does not really matter much. The little officer on the range is about 19 summers and loves to switch the prone 847 rifleman across the legs. When inevitably some goaded signalman will arise and fall upon this pleasant gentleman, then we shall see the application of King's Rules and Regulations where a private soldier is hauled before his officer and tried before officers and condemned by officers, a flat negation of the elementary principles of justice since Magna Carta.Is that the idea Members opposite have of encouraging people to join the Army? I hope that the Attorney-General will do something about it. Members opposite should be ashamed of this rag being put out as a Socialist recruiting organ.
§ 1.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Iain MacLeod (Enfield, West)
I want to put only two points to the Government, which I think are points of substance and will perhaps win general agreement. For my first point, I should like to follow fairly closely what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Pentlands (Lord John Hope), who raised the most important question of staffing the Army. One needs a certain amount of luck in wartime, and by far the most fortunate thing that happened to me was to be appointed, when I came out of the Staff College, to the 50th Northumbrian Division as their D.A.G.M.G. The 50th Northumbrian Division was a Territorial division formed to a great extent from Durham miners, and it was in my view by far the best administered and best commanded division in the British Army. People who were in other divisions differ from me, and it is only proper that I should continue to hold my views on the subject.
I should like to say what has happened to some of the outstanding Territorial officers on the administrative staff of the division, because I think we are losing a most valuable reservoir from which the staff for divisional organisations should be drawn. The R.A.O.C. officer in that division, whom I thought the most understaffed officer I met during the war, is at the moment the managing director of one of the most important multiple firms in the country. The principal R.A.S.C. officer is the owner of a fleet of trawlers in a port in the north of England. My immediate superior, the A.G.M.G.—I hope this will not be held against him—is the managing director of a very large brewery firm. I could repeat these examples over and over again.
848 All these men are still young and have an unrivalled experience of staff work in the Army. These men about whom I am speaking are not in the Territorial Army today. The reason for that is partly because of the experiences they had in the last war, and partly because they simply have not got the time to do foot-pushing up and down a Territorial drill hall. So they are not in the Territorial Army, although they would be very glad to be.
The Secretary of State will agree with me that there is a great reservoir untapped among the sort of people I have been talking about. I know that Members on both sides of the House can give examples in the same category to those I have mentioned. Why should there not be—I know that this point has been mentioned before in the House —a reserve for these officers so that when they are called up, if it is necessary to mobilise, they will know what their job is to be and that one of them for instance, is to be A.Q.M.G. to the "Barsetshires" and has to report within 48 hours to a certain place for orders? Why should these men not have, under the Official Secrets Act, access to whatever secret documents of administration or supply will immediately affect their province? Why should they not be willing—as I am sure the people about whom I am talking would be willing—to undergo a short period of training at Camberley or one of the other staff colleges of the country? I do not believe we are using the knowledge of the sort of people whose case I am putting forward tonight.
The only other point I have to make concerns the mobility of the formations, and particularly the divisions we are forming at present. Anyone who has been, like myself, a staff officer knows the horrifying amount of time it takes a division, with all its transport, to pass a given point on a road. Many people know what was the position in Korea during the retreat—and this applies to many operations of war. I saw an excellent description which said we were the prisoners of our own mobility. We had so much transport that it was immensely difficult to switch from one line to another. It is not the fault of the Government; it is essentially a fault of the system. As I see it, the fault is this: that we are always ready in the Army in this country to fight the last war but not the next war.
849 As those who were in France in 1940 know, we were then quite ready to carry on where 1918 left off. I dare say that those with longer memories than mine can say much the same thing about the First World War. When I went to the Staff College at the end of 1943, and when we came out as staff officers for the invasion of Normandy, the lessons which were being taught at the staff colleges were the lessons of the desert. The set-piece attack was Alamein; the problems of supply were those of the desert. We were taught to fight a campaign which was already passing into history.
Exactly the same thing happens again, and I know from people to whom I have talked who have been at the staff colleges since the invasion of Normandy that the set-piece attack was the attack made by my division, the 50th Division, in conjunction with Force G on the beaches of Normandy. Precisely the same thing was happening—we were teaching history and not the next campaign.
We should try to switch that emphasis; we should try to switch it from what is inevitable under the present system—from the last war and even the last campaign, to the next war. There should be an instruction possibly on the lines of the 10-year rule which existed between the wars. For the next 10 years the enemy will be Ruritania. We should first teach our graduates at the staff college—and I am thinking of them more particularly, although it applies to all ranks of the Army—the intelligence which our possible enemies have at their disposal. We should teach them knowledge of the weapons they may have to meet.
The second point follows automatically, I think, from the first. The possible enemy we have in our minds has a very high proportion of men in the front line actually firing, by comparison with the number of men it takes to support them. The proportion is five or six times better than the proportion in our Army. In part, that arises from the fact that they have standards lower than any which would be tolerable to what is called the Western way of life. We cannot get down to their proportion, and we should be deceiving ourselves if we thought we could, but I think we can get a good deal nearer the ideal than we are at the moment.
850 I do not want to talk about the possibility of pruning the "tail," but I think we should look very carefully to see whether some of the large static establishments—I am thinking of R.E.M.E., R.A.S.C. and workshops of that type— could not be made static in the countries over which we might conceivably have to fight in the future. I hope that there is a great possibility of making a considerable reduction in the inevitable "tail" which our overloaded formations and divisions have to carry at present.
I do not think that we can ever again think in terms of 1940. We can never again think that the enemy can be allowed to occupy the Channel ports and then assume we can go forward from the bastions of the free world to liberate Europe, because, as the French Minister of Defence, M. Moch, said recently, "There will be nothing to liberate except our ruins and our cemeteries." It is a given examples; and whether it is not leave our minds. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) could not conceivably, in 1951, make the speech he made in 1940 about fighting on the beaches, in the hills and the villages.
If this country, and indeed civilisation, is to be preserved, then next time the enemy must not even reach the Channel ports. The way to stop them is to be strong as soon as we can, and for that reason I urge forward the measures put before the House tonight. But, in concluding, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to think about the two points I put: to make more adequate use of the more experienced staff officers of whom I have given examples; and whether it is not possible for a part of the basic administration of our Forces to be more closely integrated with the countries to which we are allied and through which it may be necessary to fight?
§ 1.27 a.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Price (Lewisham, West)
Having waited about eight-and-a-half hours to speak in this debate, I promise that I shall not, at this hour of the morning, detain the House for more than six minutes. I would like to raise an important point; and I hope the Minister will treat it as such. I can best put it to the House by telling hon. Members how it came to me. A man called on me recently, who had enlisted in August, 851 1946, for what is known as the four-years short-term engagement. He was, therefore, due for release last August, but when the Government had to alter their policy, following the invasion of Korea, he, and no doubt, others in similar positions, became liable for retention up to 18 months. This man served 171 additional days until discharged on medical grounds. But it is not the reason which counts: it is the principle.
My point is that this man enlisted under terms which were that he should receive £100 on the completion of his four years' term. This man—and it must apply to all others who served more than the four years—did not get more than the £100 bounty. He came to me with his complaint, and I put it to the Minister last November. It was not until this week that he made up his mind, and the answer was "No." That is not only extremely unjust, but extremely unwise.
Let me deal with the injustice first. If such a man fails to complete his four years' service for no reason of his own, he would be paid a proportion of his bounty, the proportion bearing the same proportion to £100 as his length of service does to four years. If, at the end of three years, he were discharged for, let us say, medical reasons, he would receive £75. In other words, if he fails to complete four years he does not get the full bounty; but if he serves for more than his four years he does not get a penny extra. His income is, in fact, cut by 10 shillings a week after his period of enlistment. Could there be a clearer case of a Government Department saying, "Heads I win, tails you lose?" For that reason alone, for its obvious injustice, I urge the Minister to reconsider that decision.
I wish now to deal with the wisdom of that decision. Surely it must be obvious that such a decision will have a harmful effect upon the spirit in which this man serves. The British soldier, more than anyone else, is a lover of fair play. He delights in giving fair play, and he insists upon receiving it. How can it be fair play to such a man to retain him in the Forces beyond the period of his enlistment upon terms which are equivalent to a reduction of 10s. a week in his pay? That must have an effect upon the spirit in which that man serves, 852 and that effect must be passed on to others who are serving with him, but who are not themselves affected. It may be that other considerations than money are involved. Men do not serve their country for money alone. That is true, and I accept it. But money is a consideration, and especially is it so when an injustice appears to have been done.
I think that the injustice in this case is so clear that it cannot be denied, and I seriously urge the Minister to accept this point, to review this matter and alter the decision which has been made, which I consider to be a very bad one.
§ 1.33 a.m.
§ Mr. Strachey
This debate has been a long one, and it has been on a high level. It has been a serious debate, except for one interlude, perhaps; it has been one in which there has been a very large number of suggestions put forward, nearly all of them constructive and nearly all of them worthy of consideration. I cannot, of course, mention all of them, but I hope to deal with most of the main suggestions which have been made. Most of these were made by hon. Members opposite. I shall not have time to refer specifically to their speeches, but shall refer to the suggestions they have made.
First of all, there was the question of the recruitment of officers, which was dealt with forcibly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick (Mr. Eden), by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) and by many other hon. Members. It is true that we are concerned about the supply of officers, the entry to Sandhurst, and the number of Regular officers who are entering the service, and who are available to the Service.
The two things go together. I think that the steps which I have just announced for the continuation of the careers of officers to a later age will help. It will help in two ways. It will encourage boys to enter the service, and it will induce parents to encourage their boys to do so. It will, of course, as the older officers stay on, relieve the position and will free more younger officers for more active duties today. I am not suggesting that this step is enough in itself. I agree that it is not simply a question of pay, but the question of retired pay for the Service is art important one. The suggestion of a lump sum on leaving the Service has been 853 made. That, also, is well worth consideration, and we are not using the word "consideration" in its formal sense. We have for some little time been going into this question. I cannot pledge myself to anything specific tonight, but I hope we shall be able to make an announcement on the subject in the fairly near future.
When I have said that, however, I do not agree with certain implications that were made as to the current rate of pay to officers. On the one hand, I do not agree entirely with the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) that the pay of officers is too large and the differential necessarily too large. Nor, on the other hand, can I agree that the rate of pay to officers today, including the junior officers, is ungenerous. I thought he was on stronger ground, not when he compared the rate of pay of soldiers and other ranks—there is bound to be a differential there—but when he compared the officers to teachers and members of other professions outside.
Today the officer's rate of pay does not compare too badly in many respects. I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton who compared it with our rates of pay as Members of this House. After all, if you look down the table printed on page 177 of the Estimates, you will see that a captain, after four years' service in the ranks, just passes the rate of pay of a Member of Parliament.—[An HON. MEMBER: "He has no secretary to pay."] That is true. On the other hand, he does not perhaps get the same Income Tax allowances, so that it cancels out. I should have thought an officer does not come badly out of the comparison.
§ Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
Is the right hon. Gentleman not going to refer to the point of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton that the junior officer is controlling half a million pounds worth of equipment, which is a different matter from schoolmasters or Members of Parliament.
§ Mr. Strachey
There is something in that, but the responsibility of Members of this House is fairly considerable, and the teacher's responsibilities are very great, too. If we look down this table we really shall not think that the rates of pay, as they are now, are too bad for the officer, right through the scale.
854 We are concerned about the entry to Sandhurst and we have a committee sitting under General Stopford, at the moment, looking into this. It will be within his terms of reference to look into the question of a military Dartmouth. There is something to be said for it and something against, but it will be considered. I do not like the suggestion that Sandhurst today is a preserve of the public schools. As anybody who has visited Sandhurst lately will know, that is not the case. There is a very large number of boys going to Sandhurst who are not from public schools, and it cannot be thought of as a public school preserve at all today.
Another point that was raised by a large number of hon. Members, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, was the question of the War Office staffs, and staffs generally in the Army. I want to repeat that although we may think them too big—and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carshalton made great play with this, most amusingly—we have just cut them down by 20 per cent., and we have just issued an instruction that they shall be cut down by a further 5 per cent. before next June. So we are tackling this. We do in this instruction admit that they have been too large, and we do feel that they should be pruned.
A much wider issue than the actual level of staffs, as a large number of hon. Members on both sides have mentioned, is the proportion of "teeth" to "tail" in the Army. It is a deeply interesting and difficult question. The hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Amery) gave some interesting comparative figures of the different armies of the world. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) gave a very interesting account of the Russian Army in this respect, but the facts that he gave seemed to me a convincing explanation of why we could never hope to get anything very close to the Russian proportion of "teeth" to "tail." If we were willing to treat ourselves in the way he described, and to have an army of that sort, with that degree of roughness, that total disregard, as he described it, of the individual and even of human life, we could get something like that proportion; but I am sure he will recognise that in the sort of army we maintain that would be quite impossible.
855 Generally, as an army becomes the army of a more advanced community, and a more advanced and mechanised army, there is constant pressure for the "tail" to grow at the expense of the "teeth," and the only thing you can do is constantly to combat it. We are not unaware of that. The hon. and learned Member asked us to appoint a committee. We have just appointed a committee. He asked for it to have a civilian chairman. We have not done that. We have appointed General Templer, and we have chosen him chiefly because in his own command he has been most successful in doing this. We think he is likely to be more vigorous—I almost said more ruthless—than anyone else we could think of. This constant desire for the "tail" to grow as complexity and mechanisation grows is being constantly combatted.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
It is not just a question of cutting staff; it is the system which gives rise to inflated staffs. An entirely new concept of the way the thing is organised is fundamental.
§ Mr. Strachey
That may be so, and these questions are not outside the terms of reference of the people who are looking into this.
Now on the question of the Home Guard, which was raised by a number of hon. Members. This is a question of degree. It is fully agreed that we must begin some preparations for the possible formation in case of war of a Home Guard. That has been done, and commands are doing the planning work all over the country for that purpose, and have been given staffs to do it. There, again, you get staffs growing; the new task itself creates new offices to do it. We do not think—and this is our considered view—that in the order of priority—and there must be an order of priority for the manpower, staff work, and equipment—we should go further at the moment. That is my view, and the solid view of my advisers.
The noble Lord the Member for Pent-lands (Lord John Hope) criticised me—I am afraid I was out of the House at the time, although he had given me notice— for mentioning the views of my advisers on the length of training for Malaya. I have discussed this with the C.I.G.S., as I told the House, and it is a matter which 856 deeply concerns the House and me. I wanted his personal views on this matter because it is a highly technical one, and I gave the House those personal views. But I am bound to say that, thinking it over, I rather agree with the noble Lord that, as a general practice, it is bad to quote the individual views of advisers and I take his point on that.
Another point, raised chiefly by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), was that of tanks. He asked me a number of questions and some of which I most emphatically cannot answer. The first point is in the latter category. He asked me most specifically—and I was somewhat astonished to hear the question—at what range will the gun of a Centurion penetrate the frontal armour of the J.S.3? If I tried to answer that question, it would be over the dead body of the Director of Military Intelligence. Surely he would be fully justified in that.
§ Mr. Sandys
When I asked that question, I made it very clear that I was doing it on the assumption that it was correct that one of our Centurion tanks had fallen into the hands of the enemy in Korea. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can say whether that is a fact.
§ Mr. Strachey
I am coming to that. It is perfectly true that it was reported in the Press that a Centurion had fallen into the hands of the enemy, but the tank was most carefully destroyed before it did so and I do not think for one moment that enemy Powers, or Powers which we do not wish to have this information, could have obtained it from that Centurion, or from what was left of it. Therefore, I could not possibly answer that question.
§ Mr. Sandys
There is one part of this question which the right hon. Gentleman could perfectly well answer. I do not know whether we have captured one or not, but if we have a Stalin tank, we should know the strength of its gun. Presumably our tank is not so much destroyed that they do not know the thickness of armour. Is it possible to say at what range the gun of the Stalin tank can penetrate the armour of the Centurion? If the right hon. Gentleman has not the figures, perhaps he could consider that and we could have the information later on.
§ Mr. Strachey
That is now a different question, based on different premises, but the answer is the same. I could not possibly give an answer to a specific question on so technical a matter as that. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we were producing more Tortoises. No, we are not producing more of that model of tank.
§ Mr. Sandys
I did not ask that; I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether it was the policy of the War Office to produce a heavy assault tank for the Army and I referred to that as an experimental model used to gain experience in this matter.
§ Mr. Strachey
I am coming to the question of future tanks in a moment. The right hon. Gentleman quoted my statement that tank output had been doubled and asked if we were satisfied with that. No; that is why, as already announced, we have decided to lay down two wholly new tank-producing plants, which can produce much more than double the present output.
Then the right hon. Gentleman asked me a series of questions about the development of a new tank which I mentioned and asked me to tell him, the House and the world whether a prototype of this new tank was already forward. I cannot possibly give the date on which that prototype has appeared or will appear, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that there is no gap in our tank development. As the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, this new tank, the Centurion, and all tanks, have to develop out of older models, and that development is going on continuously and as fast as our engineers, scientists and technicians can take it.
Finally he asked whether we had enough operational tanks to equip the three armoured divisions. Yes, we have. I was asked by several right hon. and hon. Gentlemen about "B" vehicles, and the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton said that, so far as he knew, we were not producing any "B" or soft vehicles. That would be a serious situation were it the case; but I can assure the House that it is not. We are spending a lot of money on reconditioning and rebuilding comparatively old soft-skin vehicles, but I would not agree that that produces a rickety or inefficient product. 858 The full Army rebuild in an Army workshop produces a vehicle which, some people claim, is as good as new. On the other hand, I agree that that in itself is not enough and that actual production of new vehicles must start now. That is being done and we have placed orders for £5 million worth of new types of "B" vehicles of all kinds. I was asked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) about infantry carriers. We have some and are producing new types.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
May I make certain whether we are on the same point? There is a differentiation between the tactical carrier, the half-track White scout car and the assault infantry vehicle for carrying troops in armour.
§ Mr. Strachey
I was referring to the type of vehicle with the tank chassis. These vehicles still exist. I should not like to express an opinion on the views of the War Office on their tactical use in the attack, but certainly such vehicles exist.
§ Mr. Strachey
Yes, some Sherman tanks were converted, but those were not the ones converted for infantry troop carriers. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also asked me about the sale of material and other things, and he asked me to give what was almost a pledge that we would not sell further material. I cannot do that. It is vitally important to note that, closely allied as we are to a series of nations in the North Atlantic Pact, it may be absolutely right to sell military equipment and material to our Allies, who could make great use of it. Each case must be judged on its merits. I think it is wrong to prejudge the use of a particular piece of equipment and say that in any circumstances it is better kept in this country than sold to an Ally or a member of the Commonwealth.
I cannot comment on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry. East (Mr. Crossman), about political warfare, but the fact that I do not comment on it does not mean I was not interested by it.
I do not know what the House feels is the general impression which has been made by this debate, but I shall carry away the impression that the House feels, 859 without being over-confident or over-optimistic, that we are seeing the beginnings- of the strengthening of our land forces. We certainly ought to from the amount of money we are spending and the amount of manpower which is being devoted to them. All I would claim— and it is an essential thing that we should claim it—is that there is a very real growth of confidence in the Army, and I have not the slightest doubt that the confidence will grow progressively over the year which these Estimates cover.
§ Mr. M. Lindsay
Would the right hon. Gentleman answer the point I raised, because I gave him notice in writing about it a day or two ago? It is the question of the delay in the gallantry awards for the junior ranks in Korea.
§ Mr. Strachey
I am very sorry that I missed that point. I quite agree that the delay is something to be looked into and, as the hon. Member knows, the Commander-in-Chief, Far Eastern Command, is in this country at the moment, and I will discuss the matter with him. I frankly do not know what is the cause of the delay.
§ Lord John Hope
Is any consideration being given to the question of refresher courses for reserve staff officers?
§ Mr. Strachey
I think it has been considered, but there have been difficulties about it. I will write to the hon. Gentleman and give him our considered view on it.
§ 2.0 a.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I do not want to detain the House long at this late hour, but such a debate as this is the one occasion in the year when we can air our views about the use the Army should be put to in the coming year. Therefore, I hope the House will forgive me for speaking now.
I was rather disappointed about what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Home Guard. Running through the whole of the debate has been the theme that the old role of the Army was to protect this country. There are many outside this House as well as inside it who are genuinely worried about our state of preparedness today. A very great responsibility is placed upon the Territorial Army in that capacity, and anti-Aircraft Command gives some cause for concern.
860 Either the Army has to do this job of protecting the country or the Home Guard has to be used for it. Civil Defence cannot do it. They are not armed. Personally, I believe that Civil Defence in the rural areas should certainly be armed, and that the Civil Defence and the Home Guard in the rural areas should work very closely together. I take it from the right hon. Gentleman's reply that His Majesty's Government have ruled out the possibility of a major threat to these islands this year. That is the only conclusion I can draw from his speech, unless, of course, he is relying on the Class Z reservists to take the place of the Home Guard in the event of anything happening this year. I hope he is right in assuming that danger will not come to our country this year.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) charged those of us who sit on this side of the House with being rather apt to call for an increase in the colonial manpower in our Forces so that we would not have to protect this country ourselves. He added that if we continued to take that line they would slide away. That is an unfair charge to bring against us. The best answer to him is that they have not been sliding away, and, further, that no colonial manpower was called upon except volunteer manpower.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East, dragged foreign affairs into this discussion on defence. He referred to our commitments in the Middle East, and asked whether we could really meet them today with the Army we have there at the moment. I know that something over a year ago the dispersal of our troops in the Middle East was very great indeed, and I should like to think that they could be quickly collected and taken to any place where danger threatened. I very much doubt whether it could be done.
That leads me to two points which I wish to make. I believe there are four "a's" which one ought to bear in mind in a modern Army—airborne, armour, anti-tank and anti-aircraft. We have tended to concentrate far too much on armour and far too little on airborne. For overseas policing duties the Army has to be ready at a moment's notice to go to any area where there is trouble, and a greater part of our Army ought to be airborne. I hope that proper steps are being taken to bring that about. The 861 right hon. Gentleman has given us no indication that any steps are being taken along those lines. For Great Britain and the Commonwealth the Middle East is a great centre, which we cannot possibly afford to lose. We must have free movement through that area; we must be able to have bases there somewhere; we must have troops there ready to protect those bases. At the moment I am dissatisfied with the position.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind some of the points I have raised and will do something as soon as possible to reassure the country about its protection rather more than he has done so far. He has told us that certain steps are being taken about the Home Guard—with regard to the preparation of plans and the setting up of staffs. That was news to us. I do not think many people in the country realise that it has happened. I believe if the right hon. Gentleman could state what has been done and could start a nucleus for training men—and, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) pointed out, there is no need to call on the Regular Army for that—then he would greatly reassure the country that we were prepared for anything which might happen, although, of course, we hope that the need will not arise.
§ 2.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
I want to revert very briefly to a subject which has been raised several times this evening and was raised also at Question time recently —the subject of a local overseas allowance for troops in Korea. I was extremely glad to hear the hint that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave that he was considering this matter and that he might be able to give a favourable decision on it shortly. I hope very much that next Tuesday he will be able to tell us that he intends to grant the soldiers in Korea a local overseas allowance. There are several Questions on the subject on the Order Paper for Tuesday.
One hon. Member opposite said, quite rightly, that money considerations are important, particularly when there is a sense of injustice. When the first British troops arrived in Korea from Hong Kong the first thing they learned about what the war in Korea would mean to them 862 personally was that it would mean a cut in their pay. We know that, in fact, it was not a cut in their pay, but a cutting off of what is called the local overseas allowance which they had been drawing while in Hong Kong and which was related to the cost of living in Hong Kong. But, none the less, it seemed an injustice to them; it embittered them; it was not explained to them properly. They did not understand the tidy, logical Treasury argument for it, and to them it simply looked like a cut in their pay the moment they were going into action in Korea after the long months of training and exercising in Hong Kong.
I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to make a favourable announcement on this subject on Tuesday. In a letter dated 8th December he told me the matter would be kept under review and that he would not hesitate to introduce an L.O.A. in Korea if the prices of items on which the troops spent their money justified it. We all know about the prices of N.A.A.F.I. items, which are related to Hong Kong prices. I hope my right hon. Friend will take that as justifying an L.O.A. in Korea and will make it retrospective to the date at which such items became available.
§ Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put and agreed to.
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Colonel Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]