Motion made and Question proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 386,000, all ranks, be maintained for the safety of the United Kingdom and the defence of the possessions of Her Majesty's Crown, during the year ending on the 31st day of March. 1959.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)
The money which is required for the Army in the coming financial year is estimated at £401.9 million net, an increase of half a million pounds over the amount voted a year ago. First, the Committee will wish me to explain why, with the smaller Army, there is no reduction in this year's net Estimates since the strength of the Army, which is about 325,000 now, will be down to 285,000 in a year's time.
There are several reasons. The cost of improvements in pay, allowances and conditions of service, which have already been announced, will be about £13 million; and payments under the compensation scheme announced last July will add about £11 million to the Vote, making a total of £24 million. Last year, we received £3¼ million in cash as mutual defence assistance from the United States, and this year there will be none. I have taken German support costs for the Army of the Rhine as £39½ million, which is £1.3 million less than last year.
We have also absorbed a considerable rise in wages and prices. These extra charges almost exactly counterbalance the gain which we receive from reduced numbers. We have done everything possible to keep the Estimate down by using accumulated stocks for normal maintenance without replacing them. This year we shall be using about £20 million of stocks compared with £14 million last year. We shall continue to use up stores for maintenance purposes, 1354 but the saving from this source will become progressively smaller. We are, so to speak, living on our hump at present to the extent of 8 per cent. of the whole cost of the Army. This process cannot last much longer, so the Committee must expect the ending of it to be reflected in future Estimates.
In his speech introducing the Army Estimates last year, my predecessor announced a programme for releasing nearly 100,000 acres of land and promised a further review. This further review, which took account of the Land Powers (Defence) Bill—which has had a Second Reading in this House—has now been completed; and as a result about 50,000 acres more will be given up during the next two or three years. We shall release this land as quickly as we can, but the programme will take time. Unexploded missiles, for instance, must be cleared, and the legal and other processes gone through. Some of the land will be needed for a year or two, and can only be given up as the run-down of the Army progresses.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say when it will be handed over, and which parts?
§ Mr. Soames
It is a very scattered process, I am afraid. I could not give the details now.
We are now entering the second of these five years which will see the biggest reshaping the Army has known in peace since the days of Haldane. When my predecessor introduced the Army Estimates last year, plans for the reorganisation were still being worked out and the time for public announcement had not yet come. Under my right hon. Friend's guidance the foundations were laid. The Army owes much to his wise counsel during this most difficult period. As the decisions were taken, my right hon. Friend announced them to the House; but since this is the first major debate we have had on the Army for some time it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I were to collate and summarise the decisions.
In the first place, there has been the regimental reorganisation scheme set out in the White Paper of last July. I need not tell the Committee today how deeply this was felt by those who were personally 1355 associated with the regiments, and, indeed, by many more who regretted the passing of their individual identities. Although every corps in the Army has suffered to some extent from these changes, the effect is most acute in the infantry and the Royal Armoured Corps. Thirty regiments of the line and 12 regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps are affected by the amalgamations announced last year. Except in one case, all of them, under the leadership of their colonels, accepted the duty placed upon them with commendable promptitude. The Committee will be pleased to know that the two new colonels of the Royal Scottish Fusiliers and the Highland Light Infantry have now said that they are working out the details of their amalgamation. I hope that it will not be long before those details can be announced.
The effect of the Army's run-down on the careers of individual officers, warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s has also been serious. By the beginning of 1963 the total number who will have had to be retired will amount to about 5,000 officers, and more than 6,000 warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s. The selection of those who have to go, apart from being an invidious business, is a very complex one.
It is obviously impossible to envisage the exact order of battle for 1963. We can tell roughly what it will be, but changes will constantly have to be made and we cannot tell now in detail the numbers in every rank, regiment and trade in the Army which will be needed then. The position will become clearer year by year.
What, at the moment, is the measure of the problem? About 78 per cent. of all Regular officers of the rank of major and below and about 70 per cent. of all warrant officers and N.C.O.s of the rank of sergeant and above will not be retired as a result of the reorganisation; and they have been told so. During the year 1,280 officers and 1,820 warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s will be retired; and they also have been told.
The Committee will realise that with a planned run-down of the Army over a five-year period it is not possible for all the officers and n.c.o.s to leave in the early stages. Lists of names of those to 1356 be retired will be issued every six months, so the number left in uncertainty will be progressively reduced. Our policy is to meet redundancy as far as possible by releasing those who wish to go, and in the first year nearly nine out of 10 will be volunteers.
The terms of compensation announced last year, and the fact that, so far, we have been able to rely to such an extent on volunteers have together meant that this process is being carried through with much less personal anguish than many people at first feared. It is also encouraging that the schemes for the resettlement of individuals in civil life, to which many people have contributed, are working so well.
I turn now to recruiting. I mentioned increased pay and allowances as one of the factors which have caused this year's Estimates to be larger than they otherwise would have been. The last major Services pay review before this year took place two years ago; the new rates of pay came into effect on 1st April, 1956. They introduced the principle of more pay for longer engagements. Experience has shown that this is a good principle and that it is not affected by the pay increases which have recently been announced and will come into effect next month.
The purpose of these pay increases has been to bring the pay of the forces more into line with the present level of civilian wages and to give additional assistance at the lower end of the scale. In particular, the pay of recruits has been brought up to the same rate as that of the private. This means that a six-year recruit will get an increase of 3s. 6d. a day compared with 2s. 6d. for other six-year men. In the case of officers increases are on a rising scale; but the 4s. increase for junior officers is a larger proportionate increase than the 6s. for senior ranks.
We have tried, by the improvements in allowances, to remove some anomalies, and to even out some of the financial differences caused by the incidence of Service life which particularly affect married men. The man who has not been provided with an official quarter and has had to make his own arrangements to accommodate his family has, for a very long time, been worse off than the man in married quarters. By raising the rate of marriage allowance and extending 1357 the out-of-quarters allowance to other ranks, much will have been done to close the gap between the two.
Financial benefits are by no means the whole answer to the problem of recruiting men in to the Army, and keeping them once they have joined. Opinions vary as to whether increases in pay or improvements in accommodation rank higher in importance. I am quite certain that we shall not get the number of recruits or prolongations of service that we need if we do not get on with our permanent building programme with the greatest urgency. I would go further and say that we should not deserve to. Barracks and married quarters must be brought up to date wherever possible; where that is not possible, they must be pulled down and new ones built in their place. There is a great backlog of work to be done and it is a formidable task. This is not due to any failure in the past to appreciate the problem, or to any skimping on works Votes, but has been due to force of circumstances.
Between 1947 and 1957—in ten years—no less than £255 million was spent on works services; but of that figure £140 million had to be devoted to maintenance and minor improvements of existing buildings. Of the remaining £115 million, roughly £40 million has had to be spent on temporary accommodation and the like. Not a year has gone by when there has not been some emergency somewhere abroad, and the precious works service money has had to be spent on temporary accommodation which contributed in no way to the permanent wellbeing of the Army.
The net result is that the War Office has been able to allot, during the last ten years, only an average of just under £6 million a year to the improvement and construction of permanent living quarters at home and overseas, out of an average of £25 million a year on the works Vote.
In the next five years we plan to spend about £45 million on a barrack rebuilding and married quarter programme at home. That is in addition to the work already in hand. Although the work will be spread over a number of years, it will not be long before the effect of it begins to be seen wherever troops are stationed in large numbers.
We are already at work on new barracks far two infantry battalions at 1358 Colchester, an infantry battalion and an armoured regiment at Tidworth, The Royal Artillery Depôt at Woolwich, the Household Cavalry at Combermere Barracks, Windsor, and the first phase of the Aldershot rebuilding plan. And a considerable programme is planned overseas as well. The size and precise locations of some barracks overseas have not yet been decided, but we are going ahead as quickly as possible with the building of new accommodation where we know the strength of the forces to be deployed.
Now about dress. A good uniform makes all the difference to a soldier's pride and outlook. Battledress served its purpose well during the war, but it is not a smart dress either for parade or for walking out; and the Committee will agree that it is time the soldier had something else to wear besides battledress. Some years ago the Army Council decided to equip the Regular element of the Army with blue patrol or No. 1 dress. This has now been issued to Regulars down to the rank of lance corporal; so we have some experience of it.
I am not convinced, and neither was my predecessor, that blue patrol for walking out and ceremonial occasions and battledress for everyday wear is necessarily the right or the whole answer to the problem. There has been a growing feeling for some time now of the need for a smart Khaki Service dress. To equip the whole Army with a new uniform is a considerable and expensive undertaking. Once the machine is put into operation to produce uniforms of a certain colour and quality of material and a certain cut, one is committed. One cannot change uniforms every few years; and there is probably no single subject affecting the life of the Army on which so many different opinions are held.
We have decided to have a number of troop trials of different types of uniform which will be issued to chosen units. Those trials will take place during the next twelve months, and we shall then decide what is the most suitable uniform for issue to the Army.
§ Mr. Soames
This is a Service dress uniform.
As we move towards an all-Regular Army, we have decided to review our 1359 methods of discipline, management and instruction from the point of view of their effect on the soldier as an individual. A committee composed of serving officers with recent regimental experience has been set up under the chairmanship of General Sir Lashmer Whistler. It has a free hand to travel where it will within the Army, and to take evidence from whom it wishes. We must not be afraid of change, and where a departure from existing practice—however longstanding that practice may be—is shown to be desirable, it will be put into effect.
This brings me to the overriding question which confronts everyone concerned with the Armed Forces—shall we be able to fulfil our intention of ending National Service by the beginning of 1963? Hon. Members will have seen the recruiting figures given in the Defence White Paper. They will also have noticed the warning that, since the three-year engagement ended only at the beginning of October, it was too soon to draw any further conclusion about future trends. What we can say, however, is that the figures so far are encouraging.
It would be very rash to prophesy yet whether or not we shall get the numbers we need. For instance, we do not know what will be the result of the better pay and allowances when they come into effect at the beginning of April; nor can anyone accurately forecast what will be the effect of the approaching end of National Service on the mind of a man who wishes to be a Regular soldier. It will certainly make a big difference.
There is considerable evidence of this in the transformation which has taken place in the Territorial Army volunteer recruiting figures since National Service men ceased to train with volunteers at the end of 1956. Up to that time the wastage of true volunteers—that is, those with no National Service obligation—was greater than recruitment to the extent of 450 a month; but during 1957 our net gain of these volunteers, after allowing for wastage, was 700 a month; and the number of true volunteers in the Territorial Army is now almost exactly 70,000, an increase of 9,000 in the past year.
Of course, we all realise the differences which exist between the Territorial Army 1360 and the Regular Army; but there is no doubt that the main feature which has brought about this considerable increase in its recruiting has been the withdrawal of the National Service element.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Lord Haldane's great concept of the Territorial Force. In the last fifty years it has fought in two world wars, and served the country far better than its founders could possibly have imagined. Its primary rôle for the future will be its traditional one of home defence in all its aspects, and its continued existence as a strong fighting force means that it will have a contribution to give in any great emergency which may face the country in the future, either at home or overseas.
The position as regards the reserves is very much in the minds of the Army Council. Naturally, we had to get the structure of the Regular Army settled before we could size up the problem of the reserves; but the list of our possible requirements and assets in the years ahead has been drawn up. The two must be made to match, and this is the next big problem to be solved.
As I have said, there are undoubtedly many factors which affect the level of recruiting. The most important of all is that a young man should feel that he is joining a worthwhile Army which is respected by his fellow countrymen and of which he can be proud to be a member. If that basic pride is not there, then all the other incentives will be of small avail.
I should like to say a little about the structure and rôle of the new Army. I will deal, first, with the Army's organisation for war. Ever since atomic weapons became a possibility on the tactical battlefield, the large concentrations of men and material which were normal in both the last wars have become a thing of the past. The organisation for fighting formations has had to be adapted to the new circumstances.
Many countries have been carrying out trials to find the best answer to this, and all are agreed that the large division of 20,000 men and more is not what is required. Most have come down in favour of a smaller division varying from 10,000 men, which, I believe is the smallest division being considered by any 1361 Western country, to the armoured division of 15,000 men, which, I believe, is the largest armoured division being considered.
Those military thinkers who take this view—that the smaller division is the answer—must be of the opinion that the atomic land battle could be fought with the same detailed command and control by a divisional commander as land battles have been in the past, although in most cases arrangements are now being made for a deputy commander with his own staff to command a portion of these divisions. But it must surely be right that one's basic organisation should be that which one considers will be most generally used. If one believes that the normal requirement will be for a division which can occasionally be split into two or more, then one should adopt the divisional organisation.
But if one believes that modern weapons demand, as a normal rule, a degree of dispersal greater than could be controlled by one commander at one headquarters, then one's basic organisation should be something smaller. Should one, therefore, have as a basic formation a division which can be divided into two or more packets, if need be, or should one have something smaller than a division, a brigade group, two or more of which can be put together under a divisional commander if greater concentration is required?
It is unnecessary for me to assure the Committee of the careful thought and study which has been given to this problem by the Army Council. It is the Council's unanimous view that we should adopt the system of brigade groups, of which there will be two types—armoured and infantry. The diagram in the Appendix to my Estimates Memorandum shows their composition.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
What the right hon. Gentleman is saying is interesting. Could he tell the House how the brigade groups will be formed, particularly the infantry brigade groups, and of what arms they will consist?
§ Mr. Soames
The right hon. Gentleman will see that in Appendix D of the Memorandum the organisation of the brigade group is set out, showing what the arms are. It does not give the numbers, for evident reasons, but he will see the arms 1362 there. He also asked where they will be formed. There will be brigade groups in Europe, in Germany, and there will be brigade groups in this country, too.
Divisional headquarters, though smaller than what we have been used to, will be retained and will be capable of commanding from two to four brigade groups, which may include both types. The necessary supporting units will be corps or Army group troops and will be allotted as the tactical situation demands; and the capability to concentrate, for instance, either artillery fire or engineer effort will be available to the divisional commander through his commander Royal Artillery or commander Royal Engineers.
Thus we have a basic fighting formation organised in the best way to meet what we consider would be the normal situation in nuclear war, while retaining in the divisional headquarters the power of centralisation should it be required. We think that the brigade group system is thoroughly sound for global war, and is readily adaptable to our needs for cold and limited war.
I turn to the structure of the Army. In addition to the active United Kingdom Army there will be the Brigade of Gurkhas and some colonial forces, and there will also be the W.R.A.C. which we hope will have considerably increased in numbers by 1963. In the all-Regular active army we plan to have a higher proportion of men in the teeth arms. In comparison with the present-day Army, in which 59 per cent. are serving in the infantry, Armoured Corps, Artillery, Engineers and Signals, there will be 64 per cent. in those arms and only 36 per cent. in the rest of the Army.
We can achieve this only by employing proportionately more civilians in the administrative services than we do at present; but even so, the total number of civilians to support the smaller Army will be considerably less than it is today. The proportion of civilians to soldiers on Army Votes is now three to five; by 1963, we see that proportion being one to one.
The barrack rebuilding programme will take ten years to complete; but by 1962 most of the wartime camps in this country will have been evacuated, and at least half the Army at home will be in good, permanent barracks, most of which will have been of post-war construction. 1363 With the help of the Armed Forces Housing Loan, we shall be continuing with married quarter building, and the number of separated families, and the length of their separation will both have been greatly reduced.
As to the weapons which the Army will have in 1963, my predecessor last year devoted a considerable part of his speech to a description of them. There has been no great change in our plans since then, and research and development is going forward. Two artillery regiments are being trained and equipped with the Corporal guided missile, and one of them will join the Army in Germany before the end of this year. Money for 36,000 British-made F.N. rifles has been included in Estimates. In the next twelve months, many infantry battalions will receive these weapons, and the improved anti-tank gun, the MOBAT. There were some troubles in the development of MOBAT ammunition, but I am glad to say that they have been overcome. Trials for a replacement of the Vickers machine gun have been carried out on several weapons, and severe comparative tests are to be carried out during the next six months.
Now for the rôle of the Army. Apart from global war, the tasks which it has to be prepared to perform can be listed under the two main headings of internal security and limited war. Internal security is a commitment that is always with us, whether it be a campaign like Kenya or Malaya, or assistance on a smaller scale to keep the peace, such as has recently been the case in the West Indies. We will keep Army garrisons for internal security throughout the world wherever British interests have to be maintained and where a measure of responsibility to keep the peace falls upon us. There is no substitute for the soldier on the spot, ready to intervene whenever trouble threatens and to prevent small outbreaks of violence growing into something more serious.
That is the main task of the British Army outside Europe. But many of these garrisons will be small, and, from time to time, it will be necessary for more units to arrive quickly, either as reinforcements or to give the local commander a reserve. This will be one of 1364 the main purposes of the strategic reserve. It will be kept at a high state of readiness in this country to be flown out to trouble areas overseas. We are confident of our ability to transport troops by air, with the light equipment required for an internal security rôle, anywhere in the world at short notice. Hon. Members will be aware of a recent exercise, when about 500 men of 24 Infantry Brigade were flown from this country to Libya. They took with them jeeps, trailers, and about 10 tons of equipment. This exercise was arranged at fairly short notice, and only a small number of available aircraft in Transport Command were used. I am sure that it is very important that troops in the strategic reserve should be accustomed to this sort of activity and exercise, and we will be having more like it.
In the nature of things, however, there are severe limitations on the type of force, and its equipment, that can be sent by air between theatres. Broadly speaking, it is limited to troops with light weapons and equipment suitable for internal security functions. A situation where disturbances are such that heavier weapons are required we shall meet in two ways. In the first place, the lightly-equipped formations flown out from this country can take over the duties of the units already overseas, which can then be released to take on the heavier rôle for which they have their weapons ready to hand. Secondly, by keeping stocks of the heavier weapons and equipment at strategic points overseas, we can bring the formations flown from home up to war scales far more quickly than would be the case if they had to wait for them to be shipped out from home.
The tasks for which we must be prepared are very different in their scale and in their objects, and, by virtue of that, place heavy demands on the professional ability of officers and men, and on the flexibility of the Army's organisation and plans. It cannot be stressed too often that an Army of the size that we are envisaging will be able to carry out its commitments only if it is of the highest quality, both in men and materials, and directed with a clear understanding of what it has to do and how it can best do it.
To change from a mixed Army of 400,000 men to an all-Regular Army of less than half that size involves a very 1365 considerable reorganisation. To achieve it, many unpleasant decisions have had to be taken in the last twelve months—decisions which meant that many thousands of officers, warrant officers and n.c.o.s who were devoting their life to the Army were to have their careers abruptly terminated; and decisions on the amalgation and disbandment of regiments which struck deep into Army tradition and were bound to be taken hard by those who valued that tradition.
Many must have wondered at the time how the Army would react to these considerable blows. Regrets there surely were, but the Army has realised the necessity of these measures and has faced up to the business of reorganisation with a will. No one who follows the Army's fortunes could fail to have been impressed by the spirit and the loyalty with which the decisions were accepted. What matters now is that when the reorganisation is completed, the best possible Army should emerge as a keen, vital and effective fighting force.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the disbandment of certain regiments, and expressed his satisfaction at the spirit with which it had been received. Is he aware that officers of the Highland Light Infantry and of the Royal Scots Fusiliers decided in favour of disbandment?
§ Mr. Soames
Before the hon. Member graced us with his presence this afternoon. I dealt with both those regiments.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
It falls to my lot this afternoon to congratulate yet another Secretary of State for War on the introduction of his Estimates. The right hon. Gentleman has done it, as his predecessors did, in a most agreeable and acceptable way. Of course, the rate of turnover of Secretaries of State for War is not anything like so high as that of Ministers of Defence. However, it is speeding up, and we now see yet another.
Before I come to my speech proper, I should like to say a word on the melancholy fact that my lieutenant in these affairs, Wilfred Fienburgh, is dead, and will no longer be taking part in our debates. I am grateful to the Minister of Defence for the words that he used 1366 last week, and I know that the Committee, and the House, echo them. On the other hand, I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) whom we welcome to this Front Bench for the first time—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—will perform his function later tonight—or, perhaps, tomorrow—with great distinction.
I shall refer to a good many of the more detailed points that the Secretary of State made, but, before doing so, I want to say something on what I think he himself recognised as the main point—the rôle of the Army today. This is a very difficult question, and one which we really cannot think about, or discuss, too much. Unless we have clear the rôle of the Army, above all of the main body of the Army which is still our contribution to N.A.T.O. and our forces on the Continent of Europe, we cannot plan or reorganise our Army or, indeed, know what kind of Army we want, whether it be a small professional Army such as the Secretary of State spoke of, or a mass, conscript Army. Moreover, we cannot know how we want to arm our Army.
The Secretary of State, in his winding up speech in the defence debate last week, said:… no Government can say in advance to what weapons they would need to have recourse …I quite sympathise with him there, but he must think about that very carefully, or else he will not know what weapons to provide the Army with. We must be as clear as we possibly can about these eventualities, at any rate otherwise, I do not know how we can rationally discuss the matter at all. Thirdly, unless we have the rôle clear, we may blur in our minds the importance of the contribution of the Army to N.A.T.O. forces. That is something I want to speak about during the course of my remarks.
In his speech last week, if I may say so, the Secretary of State said something which is, or at any rate ought to be, an admirable definition of the rôle of the Army. He said that… the strength of N.A.T.O. troops on the ground is such that it would need a major aggression to overcome them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1958; Vol. 583, c. 665–8.]That certainly ought to be true. Whether it is quite so true as he affirmed is another 1367 matter, but it is certainly the objective which we all ought to have before us. I like that way of putting it, if I may say so, better than phrases about tripwires, plate glass windows, and other such analogies. I think that the right hon. Gentleman's is the better way of expressing it. We should have sufficient forces on the ground to give pause to any Russian aggression, to impose a breathing space in which, even at that stage—talking now about purely conventional warfare—there is the opportunity for the aggressor to draw back and desist. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), in the debate at the end of the year, put it extremely well in the very graphic language of which he is a master. He said:It is one of the advantages—terrible though it is—about conventional warfare and the use of conventional troops and the exercise of police action that that fact itself does give an opportunity for reflection. … The point I am making is that where the great nations find themselves face to face with a situation in which they are likely to be embroiled in hydrogen war they draw back. Surely, that being the case, it is our duty to provide a cushion of time, an opportunity, a period, during which passions can be held in control, reflection take place, and mankind be able to see clearly where it is going."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1957; Vol. 580, c. 578.]It is because of that essential function which, I believe, can be performed by nothing except ground forces, by the Army, that we on this side are profoundly concerned about the strength of the N.A.T.O. forces and the British contribution to those forces. I trust that the Secretary of State is right when he says that they are in Europe today adequate for that purpose. If they are not, they must be made adequate to give pause to aggression, to interpose that cushion of time in the event of any aggression in that area. They must be sufficient to be able to do that, at any rate, by purely conventional means, without resorting to nuclear arms of any sort.
I realise that, if the whole Committee probably agrees with that, there are some who do not agree that the Army should have any further function; they believe that should be the only function of the British Army—to have those conventional powers of resistance. Indeed, they must think that, because they are in favour of Britain unilaterally discarding all nuclear 1368 weapons, even though maintaining her alliances. For example, I understand from public statements that that is the position of the Liberal Party today. I do not know whether all people who take that view—which may be an attractive view, at first hearing—realise that, as a logical consequence of saying that we should discard all nuclear weapons for our ground forces, amongst others, we should have to go back to a mass, conscript army. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) was frank enough to say so in the debate last week, but I am not quite sure that everybody realises the full implication of it. Anyhow, I do not believe that anyone advocating that line realises what the result would be.
The result would be that we should have a mass, British conscript Army of the traditional sort, armed only with conventional weapons, without any nuclear capability at all, facing the great Russian Army lavishly equipped with every kind of nuclear device. That is, after all, a situation which must give cause for reflection on our part. I know that those who advocate it have an answer, at first sight. What they have in their minds really is that our Army in Germany would have only conventional weapons but, of course, behind us would be our American Allies lavishly equipped with nuclear weapons. If that is really what they—the spokesmen of the Liberal Party, for instance—have in mind, I would make one comment upon it.
Older Members of the Committee will recollect how very sensitive the French always were, in two world wars, in their alliance with us lest there should be a division of function by which the French supplied the main force of ground troops, supplying, they felt, the major sacrifice, while Britain specialised only in longer range, naval or air warfare. The French, therefore, felt that they were in danger of becoming cannon fodder on our behalf. Whatever grounds there may have been for those French apprehensions, anyone who desires for the British Army the rôle I have just described would, of course, be running into the danger of making it not cannon fodder but nuclear bomb fodder of the most terrible sort.
That would be the position between our American allies and ourselves, a 1369 division of function far more unfavourable to us than the French ever dreamed that the old division between themselves and us could be. This is the kind of consideration which those who are advocating this—at first hearing quite plausibly, I repeat—have not, I think, worked out. Any division of function by which the long-range warfare, rocket warfare, nuclear warfare and air warfare in general, was left to the Americans, the infantry and armoured warfare being left to us, would be the most undesirable form of specialisation within the N.A.T.O. alliance that one could possibly imagine.
Therefore, I appeal to every part of the Committee, the Liberal Party in particular, although it is not represented here at the moment. There are undoubtedly—perhaps not only on this side of the Committee—who would be tempted by this conception; yet it would lead to one of the most nationally disastrous and intolerable positions one could imagine.
That is why, if we are to have an Army at all and to make a contribution to N.A.T.O. and to its forces on the Continent, I cannot possibly deny that it must be a dual-purpose Army. It is vitally important that it must have a capacity for conventional war, but it must have a nuclear capacity as well.
I cannot see any escape from that, for the simple reason that if, after we had given pause, after we had provided the cushion of time of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, to an initial Russian aggression of the limited kind, or of the satellite kind—then if the stakes were raised and the Russians resorted to tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield, it would be necessary to have tactical nuclear weapons on our side. It is necessary to have the tactical nuclear capacity precisely in order to avoid, at the second stage, having to go to the ultimate stage of the hydrogen weapon and the end of everything.
It seems to me that there is no doubt about the argument for a dual-purpose Army. That leads, of course, to the argument we had last week in the defence debate and to something which, if the Government like to call it that, is undoubtedly graduated deterrence. The trouble with that phrase is that it has been associated with what is to my mind the totally chimerical idea that there could be conceivably some sort of agreement 1370 before hand with the other side on the limits that warfare should take. I do not believe in that for one moment. I think that that is impossible.
But what I do believe in is the conception that we should have the capacity at each stage to match what the other side might be doing, so that the stakes should not be raised at once to the ultimate, mutually suicidal, level. In that sense graduated deterrence is of the utmost importance. Our quarrel with the Government's statement in the notorious paragraph 12 of the White Paper is precisely that they seem to us simply not to have thought this matter out. I recommend to them the thinking that has been done recently on both sides of the Atlantic. American authors, such as Kissinger, whom I quoted last week, Hoag and others, have gone into this very fully and realistically and with very considerable moderation. I do not think that the Government's mind is really up to date in this matter. That is, at any rate, the most charitable explanation of paragraph 12 of the White Paper.
All this leads us to pay great attention and to attach great importance to the strength today of the N.A.T.O. ground forces, British and otherwise.
I now come to paragraph 43 of the Defence White Paper, which is entirely concerned with the Army and in which we are told that last year we reduced our forces in Germany from 77,000 to 64,000 and that there will be a further reduction this year to 55,000. That may not be by any means the end of it if we do not come to an arrangement with the German Government. That is a very grave contingency. I do not doubt for a moment the equity of the Government's case against the Germans.
I think that this year, at any rate, they certainly ought to pay up, but I should like some information from the Government about how far they propose to reduce our forces in Germany below the 55,000. When one looks at the N.A.T.O. forces on the ground today, it is a little hard to feel confident about the Secretary of State's statement that they are capable of giving pause to any aggression. The Committee must surely be astounded by the cavalier treatment which the Government have given to N.A.T.O. over this matter in the last eighteen months. I recall very well 1371 indeed the lectures that we were given eighteen months ago when we first put forward the proposition to end National Service. We were first told that it was impossible to do it. Then we were told that it was something that we ought not even to discuss without consulting N.A.T.O. That is literally true. The Minister of Labour said that. I have his words here. He said:Surely, if that is so, then consultations with our N.A.T.O. Allies have to precede and not to follow disclosures of our own thinking."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st July, 1956; Vol. 557, c. 1191.]We were not even to discuss it aloud, or to think aloud about it at all, without putting it to N.A.T.O. and getting N.A.T.O.'s agreement. We thought that the Government went too far. We did not think that we could limit ourselves as much as that. But it is remarkable that this was what was being said eighteen months ago by a Government which in the last eighteen months have already made two very substantial cuts in our contribution to N.A.T.O., in the teeth of N.A.T.O. protests, and are now proposing, not on military grounds, but purely on financial grounds, to make another substantial cut.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
This argument has been trotted out so often and it has been refuted by the Minister of Defence, who is not here today to reply. When the right hon. Gentleman says that this was done in the teeth of N.A.T.O. protests, that is not true. What happened was this. The discussions went on for a considerable time. There was very strong protest originally when the suggestion was first made, but finally agreement was reached, and when I was in Paris in the autumn at the N.A.T.O. Parliamentary Conference that was confirmed. I know that that is true. The right hon. Gentleman is resorting to the old political trick of putting up ninepins and knocking them down.
§ Mr. Strachey
I think that it is straw men who are usually put up and knocked down. The simple point is that N.A.T.O. was extremely reluctant, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that perfectly well. I am not saying that the decision to reduce our forces to 55,000 at the end of this year was wrong. I am saying that it is coming fairly near the limit. Yet 1372 we are now saying that unless we can come to what we consider, I think rightly, an equitable arrangement with the German Government, we shall go lower than that. If we do, what is there left of N.A.T.O.? After all, because of the unspeakable tragedy of the French activities in North Africa, there is very little left of the French contribution. There will be very little left of N.A.T.O. at all if we go very much lower. Therefore, the Government ought to take that matter very seriously into account.
That, of course, brings me to the financial picture which the Secretary of State put before the Committee. He took some pride—and at first sight he was right to do so—in having kept the Estimates down to approximately the same figure but he must remember that he is carrying £39 million of assumed contributions from the Germans which he has not received. Let him remember that, if the Germans will not pay and if we then carry out our threat to withdraw most of our men from Germany, it will not save him money. It will only save him Deutschmarks. He will still have to pay the money if the men are at home.
I should like to know—perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us when he replies—what happens in that case. Have we to face a very large Supplementary Estimate? I presume that we have. Therefore, when we look into the finance of these Estimates, they do not seem to be by any means as favourable as they appear at first sight.
§ Mr. Soames
I was trying to compare like with like. Last year, there was a contribution from Germany of just over £40 million and this year we were allowing for £39 million. Of course, if Germany does not pay, that will very much alter the aspect of the Estimates. We have not endeavoured to show anything in a more unfavourable light than it is.
§ Mr. Strachey
I was bringing that out because I did not think the Committee was necessarily forewarned of what might be likely to happen.
Then, as the Secretary of State frankly disclosed, there is another approximately £40 million this year in the way of living on stocks. That is 8 per cent. of the total. There are, therefore, two items of £40 million which have to be 1373 taken account of—I am afraid, on the wrong side. It is odd how these loose items of the order of magnitude of £40 or £50 million seem to crop up in the Government's finances just now. The last item of £50 million of this kind caused great changes on the Treasury Bench—perhaps it took the Secretary of State into his present office. These are two loose items of that order of magnitude which have to be accounted for.
Now, I want to say a word or two about dispositions. Paragraph 15 of the right hon. Gentleman's Memorandum states:General Headquarters Middle East Land Forces will remain in Cyprus. It will he responsible for our garrisons in Cyprus and Libya and for our commitments in support of the Bagdad Pact.That, I suppose, refers to Episkopi. Under the heading "Works". we are told that the contracts for that very elaborate headquarters at Episkopi are being completed.
Paragraph 14, however, tells us that a separate headquarters is being set up at Aden, reporting direct to London. I should have thought that for the functions of supporting the Bagdad Pact, this was incomparably better than Headquarters Middle East Land Forces in Cyprus, especially as paragraph 14 tells us that:Today we can no longer rely on unrestricted sea passage through the Suez Canal or on unrestricted overflying rights for military aircraft.Is it not rather silly to have the headquarters for the support of the Bagdad Pact in the Mediterranean when that is what we are told?
As to Libya, paragraph 17 states that the 10th Armoured Division was disbanded in July and the Libya garrison reduced to a military mission. I cannot understand why we need those two headquarters in the Middle East. I cannot help feeling that the Aden headquarters is really the new one that is being established and that the headquarters at Cyprus is merely being carried on.
§ Mr. Soames
I appreciate that paragraph 17 might be read to mean, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, that the Libya garrison has been reduced to a military mission, but that is not the case. I cannot say exactly to what extent it has been reduced, but a quite considerable 1374 force is still there. There is no question of its being only a military mission.
§ Mr. Strachey
That may be, but I should have thought that the very elaborate base at Episkopi should be looked at again.
Concerning dispositions, I should like to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to paragraph 29, which I do not understand. It states:A part of the United Kingdom central reserve will be stationed in Kenya from the spring of 1958. Permanent barracks will be built for it.That paragraph might well be' headed, "When is a United Kingdom central reserve a United Kingdom central reserve?" and the answer, apparently, is, "When it is in Kenya." I do not know what this means. I suspect that it means something very unfortunate and indicates that the old process, which I know how difficult it is to avoid, of scattering units about the world and then calling them the United Kingdom central reserve is simply going on. That is a great pity. It may be necessary to station a battalion or whatever it is in Kenya, but do not let us call it the United Kingdom central reserve when we have done it, because that is simply deceiving ourselves.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State help us at this stage? Is it the object that there should be a turn-round of members of the United Kingdom reserve going backwards and forwards to Kenya in order to train there, where they have the space to do it?
§ Mr. Strachey
Perhaps the Secretary of State can explain these things for himself. Does he wish to intervene?
§ Mr. Soames
The battalion in Kenya is part of the strategic reserve. It is not part of any internal security force. The right hon. Gentleman himself has quoted the remarks concerning the difficulties of ensuring always that we shall be able to have passage through the Suez Canal or passage for aircraft from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. Surely, it is only wise that we should keep some portion of our strategic reserve south of the Suez Canal. It will be there as part of the strategic reserve.
§ Mr. Strachey
That is an explanation of having, not a United Kingdom central 1375 reserve, but another and second reserve somewhere east of the Suez Canal. All I am saying is that we are deceiving ourselves if we call it the United Kingdom central reserve and then station it in Kenya. It is a mistake to have it both ways like that.
It was probably inevitable that "Operation Quickstep" should have been a small and not very impressive operation first of all, but I agree that it is a very good thing that we have begun any air transportability of that sort. I will not say more about it.
I want to say a word or two about organisation, of which the Secretary of State said a good deal that was interesting. I do not for one moment pretend to know the relative merits of a brigade group and a pentomic division. To have a view on that, one must be a currently serving professional soldier, but it seems to us difficult to believe that there is all that difference between the two. If there is not all that difference between them, the disadvantages of our having the brigade group, which is utterly out of step with what almost all our Allies in N.A.T.O. appear to be doing, seem to be very heavy.
Unless there are great military advantages, it seems a strange choice to have taken, especially because we abandon anything which is called a division and we go down to something that is called a brigade group. There is a good deal to be said for the name, by which we never get it out of the heads of our European allies that we have reduced our forces much more even than we have done because we have gone to the brigade group conception instead of the small light division, the pentomic division, or whatever one likes to call it.
Having put those questions, let me say on paragraph 46, concerning the Territorials, that I sincerely congratulate the Secretary of State. It is a wonderful thing that Territorials are coming forward in that way and I certainly congratulate not only the right hon. Gentleman, but the men who are coming forward. It is remarkable.
Finally, a word about manpower, recruiting and pay, National Service and that very big issue which the Secretary of State raised. It is remarkable, as the Committee will note, how quickly things 1376 go these days. Only eighteen months ago I was ridiculed for talking about the £10 a week private. It was thought a preposterous figure, not only by hon. Members on the benches opposite but by some on this side of the Committee too. It was considered preposterous, and that it would ruin the country. According to the Minister of Defence, I was wrong, but I was wrong on the modest side. I did not go far enough. I realise that it is not quite on all-fours and that he adopted a different principle, but the fact remains that a married private living out will now receive not £10 but £11 13s. a week, which is a very considerable sum.
The Minister of Defence did his pay increases quite differently from what I had in mind. He may have done them well. I do not know. I would have felt that there were some criticisms to be made. My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey, who has a great knowledge of these matters, will voice some of the criticisms. I would have thought that the differential between the six-year man and the nine-year man was not wide enough. There are a good many criticisms in that respect but, nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman has come round to a rate of pay very roughly comparable to the one I suggested at that time.
Now that he has done this, let the right hon. Member make full use of it. The public relations side of this matter is really very important, and I was very sorry to hear the Secretary of State for War still talking today in terms of daily rates of pay. I do not think that that conveys anything to people. What they want is the weekly rate. We should always talk about that rate because that is what people have in their minds when they make comparisons with industry. If the right hon. Gentleman compares weekly rates of pay he can carry out some very effective advertising and public relations work. I have referred to the Minister of Defence announcing a rate of pay of £11 13s. a week for the married private, and I can see advertising being put out by the Secretary of State saying, "Join the Army, marry the girl and you get 11 13s. a week." It has a very considerable appeal.
The Secretary of State and the Minister of Defence have made statements to the effect that pay is not everything. I entirely 1377 agree. It always draws a cheer when that is said. I am afraid that I shall be very unpopular if I say that the Government have come round to the view that though pay is not everything it is quite an important factor in the situation. I was thought very crude for emphasising that eighteen months ago, and I see that the Minister of Defence still puts it very differently indeed.
This is how he put it in last week's debate:… I have never thought that men could be bribed into the forces, or that, we should try to do so.Perish the thought! But he went on to say:On the other hand, I have no doubt that under-payment discourages recruiting."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1958; Vol. 583. c. 385.]That, of course, is much better put than I put it. I realise that absolutely. But I think that, substantially at any rate, in deeds if not in words, the Minister has come round to the view which I ventured to put to the Committee before.
As to results, I entirely agree with the Secretary of State for War, that it is still too early to say what they are, but I think that he is justified in saying that they are not discouraging today. I would only say again to those of my hon. Friends who were certain that it was impossible to recruit 165,000 men by 1963 that probably it would be prudent of them not to express that certainty as a mathematically proved certainty quite so vigorously. I should have thought, on present measures, that not quite enough has been done but, nevertheless, so far, in the very early stages—and it may still be a flash in the pan, for we cannot tell yet—considerable promise is shown by these figures.
Whether they will give the Minister the necessary number of men in time is another matter. There may still be a gap, but there are expedients by which that gap may be met. It is something which we, on this side of the Committee, often think about, because it certainly will be we who will have to meet that gap.
§ Mr. Strachey
I do not know what our commitments will be in 1963. I am not necessarily accepting the Government's view either of the commitments or of the 165,000 as the appropriate number to meet those commitments. We shall have to look at these things for ourselves again, but I am glad to say that it looks as though our policy, originally advocated eighteen months ago—which we were told then was absolutely out of the question—of abolishing National Service is proving both militarily correct and practicable.
I should like to join the Secretary of State in the tribute which he has paid to the Army on the way in which it is taking all the reorganisations that have to go on; and I am not blaming the Government for the re-organisations. There are re-organisations of units, there is technical re-organisation, and reorganisation from a mass conscript Army to a small professional Army. Three or four re-organisations are going on at present. The spirit, morale and resilience of the Army in facing this situation is, as the Secretary of State has said, very fine indeed, and we can be profoundly grateful for it.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), as an ex-Secretary of State for War, speaks on these matters with very great wisdom and authority. I am sure that we have agreed with a great many of the things he has said. There are, however, certain things which I want to argue out with him a little later, particularly what he said of the rôle of the Army in N.A.T.O.
I should like to start where the right hon. Gentleman finished and say a few words about re-organisation and amalgamation and administration in support of what he said in congratulating all those who have had to do such a tremendous amount of work in all these matters during the last six months or so. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War paid particular tribute to my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Agriculture. I am sure that we would all agree that he played a very great part in bearing the burden of these amalgamations. From the point of view of the 1379 lower ranks of the Army, politicians have always been regarded as a lot of "old so-and-so's."
§ Mr. Maurice Orbach (Willesden, East)
In that respect that view applies to politicians on both sides of the Committee.
§ Sir J. Smyth
Yes, but it is really the Service chiefs who have to bear the brunt of criticism when it comes to such things as amalgamation of battalions, although the politicians have to take the responsibility. I should like to say how very much we sympathise with the Service chiefs in the tremendously difficult task which they have had to carry out in some cases.
We all agree that the terms for redundant officers have been extremely generous. The difficulty has been over the amalgamation of units, and especially the disbandment of units, because in the British Army there is a great tradition, which is one of the reasons why it is such a magnificent Force. A quotation was given in the House only the other day to the effect that "the moral is to the physical as three to one." That saying was attributed to Field-Marshal Montgomery, but it goes back long before his day and has, I think rightly, been attributed to Napoleon. Anyway, it has been so quoted in staff colleges, and so on, for many years. Esprit de corps is the foundation of the British Army, and badges, buttons and flashes mean a great deal and are as steeped in tradition and antiquity as is the procedure in this House. There are also all kinds of queer expressions in the Army dating back years, and sometimes we do not know what they mean.
I remember many years ago watching a football match in India. The Green Howards, the battalion to which I belonged, were leading 1-nil towards the end of a strenuous game. One of the players kicked the ball into the stand and a little Indian boy below me shouted "H.L.I." This cry was taken up by all the spectators and I asked one or two people what it meant. They did not know, but they said that whenever this happened in the closing stages of a strenuous match they all shouted "H.L.I.". Eventually, I got to the bottom of the mystery. It was an old 1380 Army tradition. In the final of the Army Cup in India, when the H.L.I. had been leading 1-nil at the end of a close game, during the last ten minutes—within the rules of order—they had kicked the ball mostly into the stands. Ever afterwards in the British Army that expression "H.L.I." has been used, and it will continue to be used, I am sure.
We have paid tributes to the commanders and to the officers, and I want to pay a special tribute to the British soldier, because the transfer from a conscript National Service Army to a voluntary Army will be a difficult time for the ordinary soldier. I pay tribute to his tolerance and his sense of humour. Often, when things get difficult at the summit one takes comfort from, and comes down to earth through, the humour of the British soldier. One instance of this, I was told, was when there was a vital conference at Gallipoli to discuss whether the peninsula should be evacuated or not. The conference had reached a tense stage and feelings were rather heated. The tent flap was lifted and a British soldier shoved his head inside and said, "Hi, have any of you baskets seen my dixie?" That, somehow, brought all the generals down to earth and they realised it was the British soldier about whom they were making all these decisions.
I also want to pay a tribute to the National Service man, who has done a wonderful job. We are inclined to overemphasise the grouses from some of these men, and we do not realise sufficiently, I think, how much many of them have enjoyed their Army service. As regards getting the necessary number of voluntary recruits, I feel that this is a question of confidence and that all Members of Parliament on both sides of the Committee can help tremendously.
We all want to see the end of National Service, and, therefore, it should be realised that there will be a very little enthusiasm for anyone to enlist in a mixed force of National Service men and volunteers. Many would-be recruits are watching at present to see whether we really mean to abolish National Service. I am sure the Minister of Defence was wise not to repeat in his White Paper this year the words of last year's White Paper, namely, that if voluntary recruitment fails, the requisite numbers needed would 1381 have to be found through some form of compulsory service. We know that this prospect remains, but we all hope that it will not materialise. As I say, it is a question of confidence, and all Members of Parliament can help.
In this connection, may I ask the Under-Secretary of State to say something about the recruitment of Gurkhas? Could we use them more to make up the necessary numbers in our new voluntary Regular Army? Today we miss the Indian Army greatly, as I have said in this House before. I had the privilege of staying in Nepal for some little time and I know how keen the Gurkhas are to serve, how useful they have been in Malaya, and how useful they could be if we recruited them in increasing numbers.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West rather criticised the placing of part of the general reserve in Kenya. I do not agree with him on that point. I believe that as long as the general reserve, or any part of it, is not committed to any other task, and is free to move immediately, it is a good idea to spread it about. Also, may I ask my hon. Friend to say something about liaison and co-operation between our Army, the armies of the Commonwealth and the Colonial Forces? This was mentioned in another place yesterday by Lord Freyberg, who commanded our New Zealand Corps in the war. The noble Lord intimated that perhaps it was not as good as it might be.
The rôle of the Army today, laid down in the White Paper, in overall terms is to stop a war rather than to fight one, and to put out "bush fires" at once. It will be remembered that at the beginning of this year's Defence White Paper there were these words:"Never in peacetime has the British soldier, sailor or airman had a more vital part to play."That is principally because of the man's new rôle of trying to stop a war as his first task rather than, as in former days, training himself to light a war when it came along.
I see the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) in his place. I have always agreed tremendously with the importance he attaches to the status of the soldier. The status of the soldier has been raised out of all recognition over the past fifteen years, but it still lacks something which we can 1382 give it. In the not too distant future we shall have to consider giving the soldier a whole-life career in Government service in the same way as a civil servant has it. Only then shall we get the sort of Army and the sort of permanency in that Army which we are seeking.
I want next to consider the tasks of the Army. In the Memorandum it is laid down that the Army has to be prepared for the different tasks of the cold, limited and global war, and it has to act in accordance with what is laid down in the Defence White Paper. It has two main tasks—that of playing its part with the forces of allied countries, particularly in N.A.T.O., and that of maintaining internal security—a task which was outlined by my right hon. Friend—and the defence of British possessions against local attack, a limited operation of the "bush fire" variety.
There used to be a saying in India—I cannot think why it should have been in India, but it was—which I will not repeat in Hindustani, but which meant, "If it is good enough for Nelson, it is good enough for me." Why Nelson should have been quoted, I cannot imagine, but I have been led to think of Nelson because of something which the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty said when moving the Navy Estimates on Tuesday. He said:It is not only total war that we seek to deter it is any war. We must smother even the first flickers of war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1958; Vol. 583. c. 986.]I believe that most emphatically.
In my maiden speech in the House on 16th March, 1950, I said:Our whole attitude towards defence should be that the war of the future must never be allowed to start.I have gone on saying that ever since. On that occasion, the then Mr. Attlee said how much he was in agreement with that theme, and in his winding-up speech he made this significant statement:I think that many people delude themselves if they think that one can get rid of the menace of the atomic bomb by some sort of Queensberry Rules being applied to warfare."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1450; Vol. 472, c. 1367–97.]We all agree that modern war, even with the conventional weapons of fifteen years ago, is a grim and unpleasant business and we certainly do not want any more of it if we can avoid it.
1383 In the debate in 1950—this is pertinent to many of the subjects which we are discussing today—my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), said that the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), then Minister of Defence, had been a model of "non-informatory eloquence". It is interesting to remember that, because the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) was saying the other day that the Opposition never got sufficient information about atomic power and so forth. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington had rightly not given more information on this point than he thought proper.
It was also in that debate that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford said:I do not believe there are a couple of well-formed brigade groups which could be sent abroad at short notice…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1950; Vol. 472. c. 1287.]How significant that was with the Korean was coming soon afterwards! It was not a question of not having two brigade groups to send overseas. We had to scrape the barrel to find even one.
§ Sir J. Smyth
That is a lesson for us today, and I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to tell us whether we are in a better position today for the sort of operation like Korea than we were when my right hon. Friend made that comment.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West had much to say about the difference between the brigade group and the pentomic division, the other form of organisation discussed in the pamphlet by my friend Captain Liddell Hart which was quoted by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) when he referred to this subject recently.
The right hon. Member for Belper is against the brigade group. He gave his reasons, and the right hon. Member for Dundee, West has given a few more today. Some of the reasons given in favour of the pentomic division and against the brigade group are somewhat "phoney". Although only five infantry 1384 battalions are included in the pentomic division, it is suggested that there would be less outcry in N.A.T.O. if we reduced our forces on a pentomic basis than if we did so on a brigade group basis. It is suggested that because of the name less alarm would be caused. Another reason given is the fact that Continental statesmen like to deal in divisions rather than in brigade groups.
I congratulate the Minister and the Army on deciding upon the brigade group organisation. I know that in certain quarters there was a prejudice against it, but it is much more suited to the tasks which the British Army will have to face. I had what was the fairly unusual experience at the time of commanding a brigade group at the beginning of the war, not only in its training, but through the Dunkirk operations. At that time, in a quickly moving situation when it was impossible to make any sort of divisional fire plan, when we were engaged in the sort of fluid operations which we might have to face in the future, I felt that the brigade group organisation worked extremely well.
I should like to give one word of advice to my hon. Friend, although I am sure that he will receive it from other sources. The real snag in the working of the brigade group is in the staff. If divisional headquarters keep too many of the staff, the chances are that an unfortunate brigade group commander suddenly faced with some situation has to deal with it with his infantry brigade plus a field regiment, an anti-tank battery, an R.E. company and all the rest of it, with an inadequate staff. That is what happened in my case, and having to cope with all those extra units without any increase in staff almost killed my brigade staff. The staff must be detached to the brigade group from the very start and not kept at divisional headquarters and sent down to the brigade when thought to be required.
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary or the Minister some questions on a point on which I am not too clear. What is the position regarding tactical atomic weapons in our Army on the Continent, and what is the position, as we know it, about the Russians' tactical atomic weapons? I take it that, if our forces have got tactical weapons, the Russians will also have them. That is 1385 obviously so, and that is why I do not understand some of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Dundee, West which I want to take up in a minute.
General Norstad, the Supreme Commander of N.A.T.O., made a most important speech on 25th February, in the course of which he most vigorously opposed, from a strategic point of view, any sort of European zone freed of nuclear weapons. He actually said:That would make us quite defencelessbecause the defence of N.A.T.O. is laid out on certain lines, and the sudden drawing back from the present positions would make enormous difficulties for the Supreme Commander. He emphasised this important point in regard to the task of N.A.T.O. He said the first task was to prevent Western Europe from being overrun, and the second one was to prevent any local incident from spreading. I am absolutely in agreement that those are the true tasks of N.A.T.O. But there is something which I think is not the task of N.A.T.O., and this is where I join issue with the right hon. Gentleman opposite about his speech of Thursday last and what he has said today.
Obviously, the Supreme Commander does not envisage the forces of N.A.T.O., as they are organised and in their present numbers, being able to fight a prolonged major battle in a conventional war on the Continent. That is why I think the statement of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence in the much discussed Paragraph 12 of the White Paper is so important. I take the right hon. Gentleman opposite to mean, by his speech on Thursday last, that the policy of the Labour Party is that, in the event of a major conventional attack on the Continent, we shall reply with only conventional weapons. I should like him to make his view quite clear on that point, because he took my right hon. Friend very much to task for suggesting that at any stage in such an operation we could reply with what is known as "massive retaliation," including nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Strachey
May I interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, because this is all-important. I can only do it very briefly, but I think our misunderstanding arises from this. I regard this hypothesis, which the Minister of Defence, chiefly, put to us in his White Paper and 1386 in his speech, of 200 Russian divisions suddenly rolling westwards as a completely false hypothesis. It is so unlikely that I simply think it misleads us if we start from that basis.
As I see it, the danger to the world is something starting, probably with nobody's will, in a local incident—I gave Berlin as an example—perhaps in the Russians following the Hungarians into Austria; one cannot say what, but some local incident, a quite limited Russian thrust, or satellite thrust, at the start. What I have said is that it is madness to say that we would do anything except resist that by conventional means at the first stage. Then, we must always put the onus on the enemy to raise the stakes to, first, the tactical nuclear stakes, and so finally to the end one. Why I attacked Paragraph 12 was for giving the appearance that we could use the H-bomb at once in the first stage.
§ Sir J. Smyth
I think the right hon. Gentleman has clarified that matter quite a lot, but, in all fairness to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, I think he has clarified and supported what he said as well. What my right hon. Friend said in paragraph 12 of the White Paper was not to do with frontier incidents developing into something more—we are all agreed about that, and there is no argument or controversy about it—but in the case of a major aggression. It was on this that the right hon. Gentleman opposite took my right hon. Friend so severely to task in the defence debate. As both the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister have said several times, in the event of a major Russian attack, then we would reply with all the weapons at our command.
§ Mr. Strachey
Would not the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that a Russian attempt to turn us out of West Berlin would be much more than a frontier incident? Would he call it a limited attack if two Russian divisions had followed the Hungarians into Austria? These are the realistic hypotheses of what the Secretary of State for War called the "grey area" hypothesis, and it is in regard to these eventualities, which we really ought to be considering, that the White Paper, perhaps unintentionally, gives a totally wrong impression.
§ Sir J. Smyth
I would not say that. We are all agreed that an operation by one or two divisions, perhaps on a wide front, is the sort of operation with which the N.A.T.O. forces can cope perfectly well. I think that this little argument between the right hon. Gentleman opposite and myself has probably clarified the whole thing a lot.
I would reiterate what was contained in the White Paper, and what the Minister and the Prime Minister have been anxious to get absolutely clear. It is that it was only in the event of a major assault with conventional weapons that that would happen. It was that particular point, which was made, I thought, so very ably—and it has been quoted before—by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), at Derby on 6th March, 1955, and I will repeat it, because I think no one has put it better than he has, and I think we should all ponder it. He was replying to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who had had some difference of opinion with Mr. Attlee, as he then was, on this point, and the right hon. Member for Derby, South said:We all revolt against the horror of nuclear war, but nuclear war will never happen unless some nation is guilty of aggression".He said that the policy of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, of separating conventional from a nuclear war, would be an open invitation to the Communists to commit aggression, to conquer Europe, sweep forward to the Channel ports and then destroy our cities by thousands of V/'s with non-nuclear warheads. He went on:In such a war, nuclear weapons would in the end be used, but we should have sacrificed the whole purpose for which they have been made—that of preventing criminals from starting war. For what other reason did the Labour Government make the atom bomb?I think these were very wise words, and I feel that they clarify the situation very much. All I would say is that if anyone really thinks that N.A.T.O. would have to fight a major conventional war in Europe, I am quite certain that our contribution is not nearly enough, nor are the contributions in conventional forces of all the other countries concerned. I think we should be quite clear on that point.
1388 In conclusion, I should like to refer again to something that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford said in the debate of eight years ago from which I have been quoting, because I think the things that he says are always full of wisdom, and seem to get better for keeping. He said:Let us therefore labour for peace, not only by gathering our defensive strength, but also by making sure that no door is closed upon any hope of reaching a settlement which will end this tragic period when two worlds face one another in increasing strain and anxiety."[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1950: Vol. 472, c. 1297–8.]That speech was made eight years ago. There was great tension then, but I maintain that N.A.T.O. and the nuclear deterrent have preserved the peace for eight years, and we still have peace today.
§ Sir J. Smyth
Despite the tension that remains, the fact is that since those words were spoken we have had peace, and the British Army is still making a great contribution to it in and out of N.A.T.O. We should be very careful not to let rash counsels, unwise men, or, I regret say, vote-seeking, imperil the safety of our country and destroy the peace of the world.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
I listened with great attention to the expert observations made by the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) about a number of organisational matters, as I did to the remarks of the Secretary of State. I especially welcome the fact that he broadened the question to cover certain wider issues relating to the function of the Army. I listened to his speech with attention and I was much impressed by his analysis of the Estimates, but I could not help feeling that in presenting them he was dealing rather with the Estimates for 1930 than for 1958. I found some difficulty in recognising that the potential situation which the Army might have to face may be one in which nuclear weapons will be used upon a massive scale.
I hope to refer again to the question of mobile defence units which are referred to in Vote A, but I first want to refer to some of the remarks made by my right 1389 hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) about the immorality of those who are in favour of the unilateral renunciation of nuclear weapons. I agree with him when, in his remarks about the attitude of the Liberals, he says that, while they denounce these nuclear weapons, they are content to shelter behind an American nuclear umbrella. That is a form of hypocrisy which has no relationship to the attitude taken by some of my hon. Friends, who feel that we should go further than the unilateral renunciation of nuclear weapons. In their opinion, the possession, manufacture, testing and anything associated with the development and use of nuclear weapons is wholly immoral.
I will explain why some of us—including myself, although I am not a pacifist and believe that we should develop our conventional weapons—regard it as immoral to produce, test and develop nuclear weapons. My argument is simply that, although we may be fully entitled to mutilate and destroy each other in our own generation when we are involved in quarrels with our neighbours and enemies, we are not morally entitled to produce and use weapons which deform the faces of future generations. That seems to be a basic moral issue upon which we are entitled to take sides. I should, therefore, like my right hon. Friend to consider whether he ought to abandon the charge of hypocrisy which he has levelled against some of his hon. Friend who, although they are not pacifists, feel very strongly that nuclear weapons should be renounced.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
In fairness to my right hon. Friend, I should point out that he did not say that they were hypocrites. He was putting a case against their arguments. As he is not in the Chamber, I think that that should be made clear.
§ Mr. Edelman
It seems to me to be a strong implication of hypocrisy if it is urged against hon. Members that, although they are prepared to engage in the processes of war by conventional means, if necessary, they are none the less insistent upon renouncing one form of weapon.
§ Mr. Edelman
Although my hon. and learned Friend has evoked laughter from hon. Members opposite, he should remember that all that he has offered is a taunt, and not an argument.
The question that we must ask ourselves is whether we are in a position to fight a nuclear war. I want to deal with the subject that has hitherto been called Civil Defence, but in view of Vote A must in future involve the use of troops. I address myself to this problem because my constituency has been much concerned in the various arguments which have taken place about the possibility of a satisfactory defence against nuclear attack.
I am relating my arguments to that part of the Estimates which deals with the use of troops to support the civil authority. Vote A says thatThe Mobile Defence Corps provides immediate assistance in rescue work in war to civil authorities in the United Kingdom.I am sorry that the Secretary of State did not develop that argument further, to illustrate what kind of support the Mobile Defence Corps might give.
§ Mr. Soames
The Under-Secretary will be winding up the debate, and I have no doubt that he will refer to that matter.
§ Mr. Edelman
I am delighted to hear that. Perhaps I may put to him certain aspects of the argument which require a wider consideration.
First, it may well be that although the general conception of a hydrogen bomb war is some sort of universal holocaust in which both sides are mutually annihilated, such a war would take a different form. Having listened to and read the very interesting argument that has gone on between my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who has been described as a "juvenile politician," and the "superannuated philosopher," Bertrand Russell, I could not help feeling that they were really arguing about a hypothesis which might never be realised, namely, that nuclear warfare would result in mutual annihilation.
If we consider what happened towards the end of the Japanese war, we see a 1391 wholly different picture. There, the two towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were selected as demonstration towns, and no sooner had the two bombs fallen and killed 150,000 Japanese than the war came to a prompt end. I submit that Great Britain itself—a country rather than a town—might be the demonstration target of the next war, upon which the Soviet Union might, in the first few hours of the conflict, concentrate all its forces to show the power that it has available. Although the large cities of the United States might suffer as a result of attack by long-distance bombers the country would survive to mourn the disappearance of the launching base which Britain had once represented.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
If we were entirely spared—this is the exact opposite thesis—because we were completely neutral and declared that we had no such weapons and were not even involved, and if a hydrogen bomb had fallen on Europe because there was war between the Soviet Union with her allies, and the United States, with, perhaps, Germany and France assisting her, would my hon. Friend agree that there would be no safety for us in Britain because the wind might blow death to this country and wipe out the whole population?
§ Mr. Edelman
I agree. My argument is that the possibility of passive defence which we possess in this country is inferior to that of either of our allies or potential enemies, and, in addition—
§ Colonel Richard H. Glyn (Dorset, North)
The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) draws the analogy of the atomic attack on Japanese cities. Does he believe that those atomic bombs would have been dropped on the Japanese cities had Britain and America known that Japan was then in a position to retaliate with an atomic attack on London and New York? Would not that have proved a deterrent to the use of the atomic bomb at all?
§ Mr. Edelman
I do not believe that for a moment. Had there been mutual possession of the atomic bomb at that time, the only question would have been 1392 which of the two opposing Powers would have anticipated the other in its use.
The point I wish to develop, and now, perhaps, I may be permitted to proceed with my argument, is this. We in this country are able to launch missiles with a range of 1,500 miles, including Moscow, and a great arc—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
Order. Rockets are a subject far from this debate. The question of rockets may be discussed in a defence debate, or a debate on the Air Force, but not in this debate.
§ Mr. Edelman
With respect, if I may continue my argument I think you will agree, Sir Gordon, that it is directly related to Vote A and the question of the Mobile Defence Corps, and deals with the provision of rescue services in this country in circumstances of aggression or counter-attack. I submit that the argument I am advancing is directly relevant to the provisions made in the Estimates for dealing with that circumstance when it arises. For that reason, I should like to develop my point for another one or two sentences.
The range of our potential attack will include a vast area of the Soviet Union, even if we use long-range—
§ Mr. Edelman
I think that the point is now clear and I will deal with the defence part.
Russia has missiles on the Western frontiers and if she attacks with nuclear bombers we represent the most obvious and concentrated target of any of the belligerent countries. The point is, therefor, what are we proposing to do after the flurry of the first few blows in a nuclear war? What are we going to do to deal with the situation which may then arise?
I will not say that the Minister has shown a remarkable indifference, since he assures me that the Under-Secretary will deal with these matters later this evening—but he should remember that this is something which is agitating the minds of everyone in the country. He should take note of what the young people in the universities feel about this question 1393 of defence against nuclear war. He ought to take note of what they are saying, because of their convictions that the Government are incapable—I will not charge them with being unwilling—of providing even a minimal amount of protection against the consequences of nuclear warfare.
I recall that after 1945, when the consequences of an atom bomb attack on Japan had been noted and the subsequent development of radiation diseases was observed, the late Lord Waverley—who was certainly a most humane man—when called on to give his views about a potential defence against radiation, suggested the provision of brown paper as a form of shelter against the effects of radiation. He was laughed at, but none the less it was something which was advanced on some form of scientific basis.
Now the Government seem to have washed their hands of the whole matter. They seem no longer to concern themselves with the possibility of passive defence in any form. When the Coventry Council decided to have nothing to do with Civil Defence because it was an encouragement to those producing the atom bomb, I personally—and I made my view known at the time—thought it was wrong simply because I felt that we all have a responsibility to succour the victims of war in whatever circumstances that war may occur.
What encouragement is being given today to those who would willingly volunteer for Civil Defence but feel that the Government have made no constructive proposals to deal with such a situation were it to arise? So far, little has taken place. We can be sure of one thing, that if a nuclear bomb were dropped in London, there would be conditions of local chaos in which civil government might well break clown. In those circumstances, the practical problem is: what would the Government do? What arrangements would the Army make to provide the rescue services which are referred to in the Estimates? So far as one gathers, there is practically no—
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
The hon. Gentleman must not think that because 1394 they are doing nothing in Coventry the rest of the country is not doing anything. There is an extremely efficient organisation. If the hon. Gentleman would take the trouble to investigate he would know more about the subject he is discussing.
§ Mr. Edelman
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has not realised the magnitude of the problem. He is still thinking in terms of the Boer War.
Here we are dealing with a massive problem of an altogether different character. We shall have people suffering from radiation and burns and a total breakdown of all services to an extent and a degree which has not taken place in any previous war. Therefore, I believe that there must be some form of close liaison, indeed more than liaison, some form of integration of the medical services with the Army authorities, because I do not believe for a moment that the ordinary courageous and tolerant spirit which we saw in the last war would survive.
I have addressed myself specifically to this question of the part of the Army in Civil Defence in the event of an outbreak of nuclear war. I do not think that enough has been done. After all, it is the function of a private Member to ask the Government for information and not to be in a position of knowing in advance. Apparently nothing has been done to provide that degree of support and co-operation which will be called for. I hope that the Under-Secretary will address himself to that matter.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I am glad of the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), because I happen to know a bit about Civil Defence in this country. I should not like to accuse the hon. Gentleman of deliberately trying to create alarm and despondency, but there is no doubt whatever in my mind that the result of his remarks, if they are widely read, will create alarm and despondency. Whether the hon. Member did that inadvertently or not, I do not know.
This is not a Civil Defence debate and I deplore the fact that, having had a foreign affairs debate, in which the whole question of nuclear defence was discussed at length, and a defence debate, in which the whole question of nuclear 1395 defence was discussed at length, when we have an opportunity to debate the Army in detail that opportunity should be used for another debate on nuclear defence.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
The hon. and gallant Member was fortunate enough to be able to put his views in that debate. Others were not so fortunate and have to take what opportunities are open to them.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
Nevertheless, when there is a debate which is understood to be on the Army Estimates surely that is what we should be discussing, not the White Paper on Defence.
§ Dr. Stross rose—
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am not going to give way any more. I am far too generous to hon. Members opposite. When I ask them to give way, they do not do so. I cannot extend to them the same courtesy. I do not wish to keep hon. Members waiting because, owing to the actions of hon. Members opposite, we have to suspend this debate at 7 o'clock and there are other hon. Members who wish to speak in the debate on the Estimates.
I hope that we shall discuss very fully the detailed organisation and efficiency of the new Army we are trying to build up. As I have said on no less than two occasions, the rôle of the Army is threefold. It has to produce, at short notice, a form of police force. It has to be prepared to fight a limited conventional war on the scale of Korea or less. It also has to play its part with its allies in a global war. I have said before, and still believe, that global war, particularly on a conventionally-armed basis, is extremely unlikely—I put it no higher than that—for reasons I have already given.
Therefore, I concentrate more on the likely rôles of the Army, the police rôle and the minor rôle in smaller conventional wars. Very conveniently, shortly before this debate two companies were flown out to Libya. I know that my hon. Friend the Secretary of State was not interested in this aspect of our discussions in those days, but it is no less than two years since a brigade was formed in the North of England with the specific task of being transported by air 1396 anywhere in the world at short notice. At that time I welcomed it. The following year I asked how long it was to be before the brigade took to the air and had a little practice in the job it had to do? How much warning would it need before it could get into the air? It has taken two years for the War Office to get two companies into the air.
I get hot under the collar about this. We are back to the old sort of attitude of mind of the hierarchy which very nearly lost us the war at its beginning. It was not until we got rid of that deadwood—I will not mention names—that we managed to get a move on. We are getting back to it with all the paper, with all the "bumph" as we called it, and it has taken two years to get those two companies flown to Libya. It really is not good enough. If the Army has not officers capable of doing the job I could name about ten who would do it.
I am delighted with the new organisation, the brigade group. That makes sense. We have two organisations, the infantry brigade group and the armoured brigade group, both eminently suitable for any of the small conventional war tasks for which they might be called upon. They might easily be brought together on the strength of two brigades to form a division on the old basis.
There is one thing about which I am a little worried. Taking the example of the limited war which I have quoted, I believe that nothing short of a brigade group would be needed. In most cases it would be needed in a very great hurry, but our strategic reserve is sitting here in England. How are we to get that brigade group out to an area where it might be needed east of Suez? It would have about 180 Centurion tanks weighing 60 tons each, about 24 medium self-propelled guns with ammunition and the rest.
My right hon. Friend said that equipment will be kept at various spots in the world to cope with that problem. If he can see that that is really done and it is all there in detail, that is fine. I am not sure that we can afford it. We shall have to think of many places where the whole equipment of a brigade group could be stored. Do not let us have any silly questions about transport by air. No one will build an aeroplane 1397 big enough to take any number of Centurion tanks. That is out of the question altogether. We could get a police, jeep-borne, force with personal weapons conveyed in that way, but nothing else in the way of heavy equipment.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I agree. I remember taking over a brigade of tanks in which every tank had a spring missing which could have been bought in a cycle shop. This is not a practical solution and we could not possibly afford it. What alternatives are there? Have we to do as in the case of Suez and move at eight knots, or less, for a distance of 2,000 miles before we even get to Suez? Those who talk about a Kenya base should remember that Kenya is 2,000 miles from Aden or the Red Sea. In old wars, of course, we had to go by sea and take a long time, but in these days things will not wait for that sort of manoœuvre.
This touches slightly on foreign affairs, but only for a second to illustrate the point. Is anyone really convinced that we shall be allowed to keep bases on territory which is not ours indefinitely? There is such a thing as nationalism, which is a force that has to be taken into account, whether we like it or not. We have pulled out from Suez and the Yemen has now gone in with Colonel Nasser. If hon. Members opposite get into power, will Aden be a base east of Suez? I hope that my right hon. Friend will ask some of the hierarchy in the War Office and the Ministry of Defence to give very earnest consideration to this matter and to working out the cost and the possibilities. We want a fleet train like the Americans have, an aircraft carrier type of ship used as a vast depôt. That can carry any number of cannon and field guns with ammunition. The Americans have done it. There is a mobile headquarters which, although vulnerable by daylight, need not always be in the same place, and can be dispersed.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
Is my hon. and gallant Friend 1398 aware that this is exactly one of the propositions which was put to the Committee two days ago, during the debate on the Navy Estimates?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I regret to say that I was not present on that occasion, because I had another engagement. I am glad to hear it and I support my hon. Friend, but I will ask my hon. Friend who said it whether he had worked out how much it would cost. In the long run, it would be a good investment. Finally, we should save money on it. From the point of view of overall world tactics, it is the only thing that makes any sense.
That was really a point for a defence debate, Sir Gordon, and I apologise.
When we have a small and highly efficient Army there are two absolute essentials. One is intense tire power. I do not mean heavy fire power, but intense individual fire power. I think that it must be six years ago since I raised the question of the replacement of the Vickers gun during an Estimates debate. I cannot remember whether hon. Members opposite were in power or we were in power. I know I was told that we had a magnificent alternative weapon invented by the Swedes or the Norwegians. Today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War comes to the Dispatch Box and says that the Vickers gun will be replaced in the fairly near future. What has been going on all the time? We had the Vickers gun in the 1914–18 war. It was a very good gun, but when we need mobility of fire power we do not need a heavy gun. It is nothing like even the gun that was used by the Germans in the late war.
I had experience myself, in the recent conflict, of trying to get infantry in protected vehicles to an objective at speed, with supporting tanks. The days are really over when people walked up to a thin red line and were subjected to intense mortar fire and defence fire from artillery, and so on. I had an experience, which I will not go into in detail, but which was nearly 100 per cent. successful. We had only two casualties in the whole formation.
I have been asking ever since whether a vehicle has yet been produced for carrying infantry into battle, not for just moving them strategically from one part of the front to another but carrying them 1399 right into action in reasonable safety. I looked at new vehicles at Bovington about four years ago. There was a vehicle capable of carrying people on wheels and not on tracks, and there was a beautiful demonstration. The men were very smart and got in and got out again very quickly. At last, I thought, we have got it. I went to the Staff College not long ago to talk about something and I got on to this subject. I was told by one of the senior officers that not one of those vehicles had been issued to B.A.O.R. I hope that something will be done about this.
Let me get to the subject of recruiting. It is a tragedy that today the fun has gone out of the Army. It used to be good fun in the old days. We were stationed in some nice places. Look at the sort of place the soldier is in today. He is most likely to be stationed miles away from anywhere, with nothing to see but yellow sand stretching for miles around. There are no amenities and no sport and, therefore, the place is not attractive. That is one of the reasons why officers, at least, are not joining as they did in the past.
Great thought should be given to this aspect of the matter. It might be worth setting up a War Office committee to discuss it and to make recommendations. A lot more could be done, if there were a little more imagination, to make the soldiers' lives not only amusing but interesting and exciting. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take this matter into consideration.
I wish to warn him however, with all the emphasis at my command, against an extension of the foreign tour abroad. We fought to get that down to three years maximum and we got it down. We fought to arrange it so that the entire battalion would change as a battalion and the position would not arise that a man arrived within six weeks of having to come home again. The whole battalion must be kept together. My right hon. Friend may find voices being raised to get the tour period extended to longer than three years. If he extends it, he will kill the recruiting programme.
I am delighted to hear what my right hon. Friend said about accommodation and the new barracks programme. I went to Salisbury not long ago and saw some 1400 magnificent accommodation buildings. Who were they for? Headquarters, Southern Command. Why should it get first priority? Why not give the new buildings to the fellows who have to go abroad and have to be out in the rain? Why not let them have the barracks and let Headquarters, Southern Command carry on until the other people are dealt with? This applies all over the commands. It is not the officers who are getting the priority, but clerks.
My right hon. Friend said he hoped that by 1963 the number of civilians in the Army would be down to one to one. I am interested in two aspects of this question. A civilian costs a great deal more than a soldier, because his wages are higher. Are we really saving anything? We are saving in manpower, but not in money. I would like to have this point cleared up. The other point to remember is that cooks and batmen have had to fight in the past. Do not let us have civilians in units which are to fight. If the units are not capable of going to war in their present formation we must have dilution of personnel. I hope that civilians will not take the place of soldiers where soldiers will be needed in war-time.
Finally, a word to the Press. It is up to the Press to help to build the new model Army. In the past, it has been a little too quick to seize on a little incident that has happened in the forces, particularly if the Press is short of news. They find a National Service man, for example, with a grievance about peeling potatoes. The Press seems to forget the thousands of men who have been doing a magnificent job, cheerfully, willingly and well. The Press has a great chance to make the country realise that it owes an immense debt of gratitude to hundreds of thousands of young officers and other ranks who have kept us free to be able to express our views as we are doing today.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I could hardly aspire to be more critical of the Government than the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) has been. I will, however, endeavour not to be less so. Year after year, we vote enormous sums. The Government have spent £10,000 million, and one is always astounded in the end to 1401 see how little in terms of power has been produced.
The hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth), speaking earlier in the debate, referred to his right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), who was our great wartime Prime Minister, as having said in 1950 that he did not believe that there were two brigade groups available for an emergency. The hon. and gallant Member hoped that the Minister would be able to tell us that they were available today. I should be delighted if he could, but it would test my credulity. With all this expenditure, as was demonstrated at Suez, it is doubtful whether there has ever been a time in the history of the country when we were in a less effective position to exert power anywhere.
Let us consider what has been happening this year concerning the present proposals. Again, it does not seem to me that the Government have applied their minds to the problem of why we want an Army. We are told about the brigade group and about standards of equipment. It would be all very nice and convenient for the Army if a homogeneous organisation and standard equipment would serve for all purposes. Unfortunately, the organisation and equipment required for fighting an atomic war in Europe, for hunting the Mau Mau in forest and swamp, for tracking E.O.K.A. in mountainous country or for landing on a beach in Korea, are totally and utterly different. It is no use imagining that we can have a standard organisation for these purposes, and yet that is the basis of these proposals.
I will try to consider what are the functions and the sort of forces we need for them. The picture today is tremendously different and embraces various distinct jobs. Our N.A.T.O. contribution has an important political function apart from anything else. Because we have troops in Europe, we have a say in what happens in Europe. Because we have divisions in Germany, we are in a position to stop the sort of silly decisions which might lead to a major war. Because we have divisions in Germany, we have a say in what happens if there is a rebellion in East Germany, such as we saw in Hungary. Those are the vital things. That is why it is so tremendously important that we should not welsh on our N.A.T.O. contribution.
1402 Our N.A.T.O. forces, however, must be atomic forces equipped for atomic war. I can understand the view of those who suggest that we should have no Army at all. I can understand the pacifist point of view which says that we can survive Communism, convert it and come through, but that we cannot survive hydrogen disintegration. But as for the viewpoint which says that we should have an Army and should commit it against an atomic army whilst denying it atomic weapons, if it is not hypocritical all I can say is that it is not hypocritical because it could not pretend to a greater silliness than it possesses
Have we really thought about how an atomic war will be fought? Oddly enough, my feeling is that the main feature of the atomic battlefield will be that atomic weapons will not be used upon it. They will be used almost everywhere else, but the one place where atomic weapons will not he able to be used is on the battlefield, because intermingling will occur in a manner which will deny both sides any possible target without destroying their own people. That has been shown both in the exercises that were planned and in those which have been thought out.
If a commander was planning to attack a position held by N.A.T.O. forces committed to using tactical atomic weapons in their defence, what would he say to his troops? This, I venture to suggest, is what he would say: "The one way you can keep safe is by getting among the enemy." It will not be difficult to get among us, because we on our side will also be fearing the atomic attack. Therefore, we shall be denying the enemy targets. We shall be spread out and dispersed and, being dispersed, there will be any amount of gaps.
As I visualise this battle, should it ever come, there will be airborne drops, quick troop movements over small areas and both sides intermingling into each other to a depth of 100 or 150 miles. There will be a kind of diffused fighting with troops completely intermingled over a wide area within which—and, perhaps, within which alone—nobody can use an atomic weapon.
§ Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)
I have been following closely the hon. and learned Member's argument, because I am one of those who believe that 1403 N.A.T.O. should not arm with atomic tactical weapons. Does not what the hon. and learned Member has said destroy his own argument that N.A.T.O. forces should be armed with tactical atomic weapons? If N.A.T.O. does not have atomic tactical weapons, she will go in amongst the Russian atomic tactical weapon troops in exactly the way that the hon. and learned Member has described. What is the point of having them if they cannot be used?
§ Mr. Paget
If the hon. Member would be a little more patient, I do not think I am so illogical that I open with an argument and then contradict it. As I have said, my conception is that the one place where the atomic weapon will not be used is the battlefield. Where it will be used, and must be used, if one is not prepared to accept complete defeat, is to seal the battlefield and prevent the enemy getting additional troops into it. It is a weapon against communications. It will be able to smash and close the communications. What is far more important is the knowledge by the enemy that it will be done, because the enemy will know in advance that he will suffer real damage, greater than anything he can gain.
I do not believe in the massive retribution against the sources of Russian power. If the Americans were to do that, it would cost them 8 million casualties, and I do not believe that the Americans will accept 8 million casualties for anything that happens in Europe.
§ Mr. Paget
At least 8 million. These calculations have been given. That is the kind of measure. We should remember what the Russians were concerned with when they were threatening Turkey a few weeks ago. Then, the threat of massive retribution did not impress, but when the Americans said that they would wipe out the embarkation ports, that was real and the trouble stopped.
Let me consider what sort of troop organisation we should have for this sort of fighting. My conception is that if we get that intermingled fighting which, I believe, will be the leading feature of an atomic war, the important organisation will not be the brigade and not even the battalion. It will scarcely be even the 1404 platoon. It will be the section. The man who wins is the man whose sections can right best alone. In other words, it is a personnel question and a question of getting real officer-quality leadership at section level. That, I believe, is what we have to aim at.
With the N.A.T.O. army in that kind of war, is there really a rôle for the heavy tank? Our anti-tank weapon has become very effective, even at the personal level. Can we hope to use the level of transport with which we are supplied? I do not know, but I believe that in the N.A.T.O. sphere we need a lot more exercises. Exercises cannot tell the whole story, but they can tell us something of how this sort of fighting works out. These should be exercises in which one is prepared to accept a far higher level of confusion than command will like to accept, because that is what an atom war would involve. A good deal of pressure should be directed in that direction in Germany.
The next function, as I see it, is fighting where necessary, but not against Russians. That seems to be the job of our mobile reserve. The first question we should ask ourselves about that is: A reserve to what? It is not a reserve to Europe. There is no point in having a reserve to Europe, because the one thing that the atom weapon can and will do is to make it impossible for us to move the reserves in.
Our mobile reserve is a reserve to our commitments in the rest of the world, and to that it should be directed. What do we want? We do not want the atom war sort of organisation, because the reserve has quite a different function. I submit that we do not want even the heavy level of equipment that was necessary in the last war to deal with the German divisions. We want something very much lighter. The important thing is not so much what the ultimate power is but what power we can get to the spot.
Here, mobility is vastly more important than armour or fire power. How are we to achieve that mobility? I would again follow the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing—indeed, I raised this matter also on the Navy Estimates—by saying that this reserve ought to be sea-borne. We have no hope of getting an adequate airlift. I should reckon that the very height of our ambition would be a fairly 1405 attenuated brigade to be airborne. Incidentally, whilst on this subject, I understand that one of the great aircraft manufacturers has designed, or is designing, an aircraft capable of carrying a hundred people with vertical take-off and landing. Can we he told how that is getting on? A troop carrier that can do without airfields is obviously a tremendous answer, but it can move only very limited forces.
The major reserve must accept the lesser mobility of the sea; but that need not be too slow a mobility. We are about to scrap, according to the Navy Estimates, no fewer than five aircraft carriers capable of 35–38 knots. Those are ideal carrier ships. Why on earth do we not get them for our mobile reserve and so equip it for this sort of operation?
My next point concerns manpower. I hope that I am not over-pessimistic in saying that I do not think that, on the present scales, we shall get the manpower we want, but I believe that we can do without conscription provided that we are prepared to seek other sources of manpower which, for certain of the Army's operations, are perfectly all right. I do not know what the position is now, but I venture to say that in a modern army, probably not more than one man in fifteen or one man in twenty actually tights. The rest of an army is service, communications and all the other kinds of jobs.
On this aspect, I was very impressed when I examined the German set-up in the last war. The Germans then succeeded in putting in the field over 300 highly effective divisions. They did so only by using people of other nationality for the service jobs within the divisions. I am not here dealing with the morality of that. However, the ordinary German division in Russia, for instance, had Russians for at least 30 per cent. of its personnel. If the Germans could achieve that sort of efficiency, with that sort of proportion of people—in many instances they were probably actually unwilling—surely certain services in our Army could be performed by other people.
There are great fields of recruitment. There are the West Indies; Malta, where there is heavy unemployment; all our African Dominions and Colonies, where there is manpower longing for this type of job. If we went to that area of recruiting for particular kinds of jobs within the forces we could use our British 1406 volunteer proper for the actual combatant jobs and the other jobs for which we require him. If we are to do away with conscription, that problem has to be thought out.
Following that, if we are to have what we call a reserve in Kenya, why in the world have it British? In Kenya we have a source of manpower that longs to serve in the Army. There are magnificent fighting tribes there. The African, built as he is, likes drill, likes military life, and it does him a lot of good. We would probably have lost Kenya had it not been for the ex-soldiers of the King's African Rifles. In the Wakamba country it was simply the ex-soldier that kept the Wakamba loyal. We could do a great service in this way to this undeveloped country.
Why on earth do we not build an African reserve? I used to urge this. The Financial Secretary used to urge it in the old days. We used to be told from the Front Bench "That would be lovely but, you know, we haven't the n.c.o.s." Now we are sacking the n.c.o.s and breaking their careers. At this very moment we are forcibly breaking faith with the officers and n.c.o.s who would be available for this African reserve, and are sending a British reserve to Kenya. Is this "Alice-in-Wonderland" or what? It is the craziest idea we have ever hit on, and I hope that, under pressure—from both sides, I trust—the War Office will realise that we do not want to see this endless expenditure for so little effect, but do want a little realistic thinking.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I do not propose to follow the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) into his glimpse into the future of tactical nuclear warfare, but it is probably correct that smaller sections of troops will be used than ever before. The point that he makes about the officering of them is one that will have to be carefully considered by the Government.
The Army should be congratulated upon the way in which it has accepted the very drastic changes that have been decided. One would not have believed it possible that The King's regiment, raised in Liverpool, and The Manchester regiment, raised, of course, in Manchester, would have been able to find complete happiness in combination under the name 1407 of The King's regiment of both towns. But it is a good thing that generally in the country it has been accepted that they could co-operate. Few people have felt otherwise.
The acceptance by the Army of the various rôles which have to be fulfilled is also something of which we ought to be very proud. Besides the ordinary conventional service, there are soldiers who have the rôle of policemen and also a rôle to carry out in atomic warfare. I believe that that is an immense step forward by the Services.
I am not, however, entirely convinced that the new scale of pay entirely satisfies the Service. It is important to examine for a minute or two the effect on recruiting of certain things that may seem to be small details, but which in many ways affect people's minds much more than merely the straight increase in pay. I do not know who is responsible for these matters, but it is suitable to discuss them in this debate.
First, in many cases rapid changes of station are made, and officers and men have to be moved very often with their families. There is a flat rate of disturbance allowance, which in most cases is inadequate to meet the cost. I do not know what the figure is exactly, but I think it is about £40; but the cost of the move, for instance, may be as much as £60 or £70. Surely there can be no reason, if Service conditions demand it, why the cost of removal and disturbance should not be met in whole and not only in part.
The second matter to which I should like to refer is the very unsatisfactory position about what are called non-attributable widows' pensions. These are pensions paid to widows of Service men who have died, not on active service, but as serving officers. The anomaly arises from the fact that few serving soldiers paid retirement pensions contributions before 1947. A widow of a lieutenant-colonel who does not receive a National Insurance payment receives £189, and a widow of a warrant officer (Second class) receives a pension of £40 10s. That is inadequate.
1408 Widows of officers and men who have paid National Health Insurance contributions are in a very much better position. The widow of a lieutenant-colonel in that case would receive £319 a year and the widow of a warrant officer (2nd class) £170. Before 1947, it was the exception for any officer to pay National Health Insurance contributions. After 1947, provided he paid his 156 contributions, the benefit of the National Health Insurance Scheme applied to him and his widow.
Therefore, we have the highly unsatisfactory position of the widows of these men, because their husbands had not the opportunity to make National Health Service contributions, being inadequately looked after. I was disappointed to see in the last paragraph of the Service Pay and Allowances White Paper that no changes would be made about those widows. After all, it is through no fault of their own that they are not in a position to look after themselves. I know many cases where they are suffering considerable hardship.
I would now refer to holders of the Victoria Cross. They are in a most unfortunate position at the moment. The hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) and an hon. Member from Northern Ireland have previously raised this matter. When the subject was raised on 21st May last, the Prime Minister replied to the effect that there is now provision whereby the normal V.C. annuity of £10 may in a case of need be increased to £75. Then Questions were asked about the matter. I will read the last lines of the Answer given by the Prime Minister on 14th November:As for the Answer which I gave on 21st May, I should like to point out that the provision of the old normal annuity of £10 can now be increased to £75."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1957; Vol. 577, c. 1143.]When the matter was looked into further, it was found that it was governed by Article 660 of the Pay Warrant, 1940. It was there stated:An officer who … is unable, in consequence of age or infirmity occasioned by causes beyond his own control, to earn a livelihood may, at the discretion of Our Army Council, be granted an annuity …"—
§ It being Seven o'clock, The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN left the Chair, further Proceeding standing postponed until after the Proceedings on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House standing over under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance.)
§ [Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair]