Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 283,000, 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, 1962.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Profumo)
What I have to say to the Committee this afternoon will all, of course, be against the background of the £507 million, which I am asking Parliament to approve as expenditure on the Army during the forthcoming financial year. I have to justify the huge bill which I am presenting to the taxpayer—nearly £24 million more than last year. But before I start to talk about manpower, about building, about equipment and all that sort of thing, I want to say something about the importance of the Army itself and about its image in the public eye.
I know that there is widespread difference in the Committee on matters of defence. Last week's debate made that quite clear again. But on the importance to our country of the Army and the position it occupies in our national life, I do not believe there is any substantial difference at all.
From its inception, the Army has played a continuing part in our fortunes; once as our masters, otherwise as the nation's faithful servants; lauded and prized in times of danger and war—taken for granted and often ignored in times of peace; but always part of our life, our heritage, even our family, for men have passed on the traditions and pride to their sons. What made men join? Desire to serve! A longing for adventure! The lure of secure employment! These were among the reasons. The last of these incentives is no longer a lure. The second 273 exists only in part, and the first now needs encouragement. So things are different today. But that is not the only difference. Once upon a time, war was regarded as a logical extension of diplomacy and when a boy joined the Army, he joined to go to war. Today he joins to preserve the peace. A different task and a different atmosphere. In days gone by, the greatness of the British Army had its basis in its comradeship and its sense of purpose. We must keep those qualities alive today.
The Army is just emerging from a period of very great strain. National Service has certainly provided substantial benefits to the country, but it has not helped cohesion and esprit de corps of the Army. Nor have the reorganisations which have been imposed upon it since the war.
Disbandments and amalgamations. Fourteen regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps have had to be merged into seven. Two battalions of Foot Guards, both with the most distinguished histories, have had to disappear. Thirty regiments of infantry of the line have had to merge into 15; 21 regiments of the R.A. and five regiments of the R.E. have been abolished. This was, indeed, major surgery and it has not been brought about without a great deal of distress and grief to all ranks. It is a great tribute to the Army that the operation has been so successful.
The last National Service men have now joined up and we are all set for the final reorganisation into an all-Regular Army again. Now is the time to remould the true spirit of comradeship and pride of purpose, which cannot flourish fully with a conscript peace-time Army. Our National Service men have given loyal and valuable service, but the Army is only an incident in their lives. If we want a cracking good Army, in which we all have pride, then we have got to treat our soldiers right and do them well, for the young men of today have been born into a Welfare State; into conditions of full employment and dignity of the individual, and, whilst those who choose the Army must be prepared for a tough life of discipline, they will not put up with treatment and conditions of a substantially lower standard to those in other walks of life, even for the honour of serving Queen and country. It is against this background that 274 I ask the Committee to consider my Estimates and the general proposals that I shall set before hon. Members.
Ever since the decision was taken to end National Service, there has been widespread speculation as to the Army's chances of building up its Regular strength by the time National Service comes to an end. I recognise that this matter is still one of considerable concern. I can only report that all the figures and calculations which are at my disposal lead me to be reasonably confident that we shall reach our minimum target on time. I should like to tell the Committee how I think it will work out. I do not want to oversimplify it, because I think that there is a danger in that.
I know fairly well, and with reasonable accuracy, how many Regular soldiers, officers and other ranks there would be in the Army at the end of 1962 assuming we got no new recruits at all, and that the wastage continues as at present. I know the number of boys who are coming on and I can calculate fairly closely the wastage and retirement figures. This shows me how many recruits we have got to get to reach an other ranks total of 146,000, which is what is needed for an Army of 165,000, between now and the target date. Divide that up into months and take into consideration the reasonal changes, and I can tell whether the monthly recruiting figures are on target, or above or below it.
I am glad to tell the Committee that the January figures show that we are above the target figure. I am bound to add that the February figures look as if we shall be just below target figure. But, as hon. Members will realise, the effect of the recruiting drive has still to be taken into consideration. I hope that this explanation will help the Committee to realise why I am planning for success and not for failure. I shall know, with much greater accuracy, what the position is towards the end of the year and that would be the time when we should have to consider, if my calculations were all to go awry, what steps the Government should take to fill the gap.
But, some say even if we get 165,000 or 182,000, we still will not have enough men to discharge our obligations. Well, 275 of course, that is an argument against ever having brought National Service to an end. Personally, I have no doubt that the decision was right, but you could do it the other way. You could keep a vast standing Army. How many ought we to have and what should we give up to pay for it? The strategic deterrent? Or our contribution to the battle for men's minds in the uncommitted countries? Hon. Members opposite say that they want to increase our effort in this sphere. Perhaps higher taxation or cuts in the social services? Or roads? All will have their ideas, but few will agree.
Even if they did, there is the manpower question. Would it really be in our national interest to stifle our productive effort by keeping thousands of able young men away from industry, just so that they could sit around and wait for something to happen? How our enemies would laugh as we gradually sank into bankruptcy. But you could do it. Now the Government have sought how best to balance a number of conflicting arguments and have decided that 182,000 men are the right answer for a well-trained increasingly mobile all-Regular Army. Today, therefore, the Army has as great a purpose as ever in its long history: first, to prevent war; secondly, to prevent war spreading; and, thirdly, to defend us, if, unhappily, war should occur.
For the prevention of war, Her Majesty's Government have entered into various commitments with our allies: N.A.T.O. CENTO and S.E.A.T.O., but we have another equally important responsibility for the internal security of our family of nations.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify what he said on this point? He said that the January figures were a bit above the target and that the February figures might be a bit below it. Was it the figure of an Army of 182,000 which he had in mind?
§ Mr. Profumo
No. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I am working at the moment on the target I have to get at the end of 1962, which is 165,000 men. We have to get there first, and we will go on to what I propose to do afterwards.
276 Let me ask hon. Members to address their minds to this point. What are the circumstances that we are most likely to have to face? There is the bomb. We might have a situation in which, suddenly, an enemy were to drop a thermo-nuclear bomb. I suggest that it would not matter very much what was the size of the Army we had if that situation occurred. But what is much more likely is the sort of situation which festers into a limited war. This would give us a bit of time. The forces which we have strategically posted all over the world are there to deal with the first stages, but they are not intended, as some hon. Members seem to think, as the sum total of our contribution—of our potential—call it what you will. Each theatre has a reserve. Then, here in the United Kingdom, we have three brigades of the Strategic Reserve, highly trained and ready to move by air with its equipment at short notice. In addition to this, we have got theatre stockpiles of some of the heavier equipment, like tanks and so on, which are still not practicable to move by air.
But some say that our units abroad, including B.A.O.R., are all seriously under strength. Yes, some of them are under strength. I admit this, and they will continue to be under strength for some time, and this is not unusual in peace time. It is certainly not as alarming as some hon. Members are making it out to be, and I suggest that if any hon. Member talks to any old Regular soldier or senior officer, or even a Chelsea pensioner, he will not find one who will not say that during the whole of his service the Army, to a certain extent, had been under strength.
In fact, I go as far as to say that with the Strategic Reserve which we now have in this country, for the first time in our peace-time history the proportion of units in the British Army which are up to or near their establishment is at this moment higher than ever before. If any of these formations, dotted around the world, becomes involved in active operations, it can be brought to full strength and then reinforced, and if the situation were to become still graver we have the Army Emergency Reserve, with its pre-Proclamation liability, in Category I. That is there for the very purpose of 277 thickening out and reinforcing our military potential with the sort of supporting arms and technical people that would be required in these circumstances. I would emphasise, en passant, how extremely important recruiting is into the A.E.R.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
When the right hon. Gentleman talks about establishments he must tell the Committee what the establishment figure is. Two years ago the then Secretary of State for War told the Committee that an establishment of 635 was not sufficient, and that he proposed greatly to increase it. What establishment is the right hon. Gentleman talking about now—the figure of 635 for two years ago, or the higher one?
§ Mr. Profumo
I am talking about the higher establishment figure. I appreciate the hon. Member's point, and I do not want to mislead the Committee. I was talking about the higher figure, but about the whole Army. In some places it is lower than in others. I did not want the Committee to feel that the position is as serious as it is sometimes made out to be. If any of these units comes into action we have this balance to pick it up fairly quickly.
From time to time we are bound to make certain changes in the dispositions of our forces overseas, because we must always be seeking to use our resources to the best advantage, but I can only repeat what I said in the House on 25th November last, namely, that Her Majesty's Government have no intention of getting themselves into a position where they are not able to discharge their basic commitments.
Last week, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence mentioned the situation we should have to face if we do not get the number of recruits we expect. He was only repeating what he had already told the House, what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has also said, and what I have told the House myself. In a matter of this importance it is ordinary prudence for the Government to consider alternative possibilities and not to run the risk of being caught unprepared if things should not turn out quite as we expect them to. All courses of action must be examined, including selective service, though I very 278 much doubt if what is commonly understood by selective service would, in any case, be the right remedy. I think that it would be too fundamental a measure for what would be, at the worst, only a small, short-term problem.
There are lots of ways of alleviating shortages of the order with which we might be faced. There are adjustments in medical and educational standards, recruitment in overseas territories, and further civilianisation, and so on, particularly for technical jobs. Anyway, we can leave these decisions until the latter part of this year, when we shall see the situation much more clearly. Meanwhile, my task is obviously to go all out to get on the right side of 165,000 before the last National Service man leaves. We do not intend to stop there. We shall go on to 182,000. But the more that we can narrow the gap in time between 165,000 and 182,000 the better for everyone concerned, including myself.
I will headline the plans that I propose to introduce at once and speak about them in more detail later. They are, first, a scheme to attract valuable National Service men to stay in the Army; secondly, an intensive publicity programme; thirdly, a campaign to bring the Army to the people; fourthly, more overseas training exercises, using modern weapons and air transport; fifthly, a plan to unite families until housing catches up with demand; sixthly, a save-while-you-serve scheme; and, seventhly, methods to prevent the heavy loss of recruits from discharge by purchase.
I cannot stress too strongly the importance in all this of the Women's Services. There are many duties that they can undertake which must otherwise fall to men. We need, and we need badly, more nurses and more recruits to the W.R.A.C. to fill an ever widening variety of most interesting trades, to save manpower and to back up the fighting units, and we are going all out to make the Women's Services more appealing.
Everybody's attention has been so riveted upon the overall strength figure of the Army that the real point has been overlooked, namely, shortages in individual corps and trades. As I have said, I believe that our recruiting plans will 279 work, but if we are short—and it would be only for a very limited period—it would be special wireless operators, drivers, nursing orderlies, clerks and electronic tradesmen whom we would have to lay our hands on. Our special problem, therefore, is to attract and retain a variety of skilled tradesmen, and we must not lose sight of the importance of retaining these people. If we can induce men who are doing their National Service now to stay in the Army, that is even better than taking on new recruits, because the former will have already been trained and equipped.
In an effort to do this within the ranges and categories in which we are liable to face shortages I have decided to introduce a scheme of selective inducements. Any National Service man who is prepared to serve for a period of three years from a current date in the Regular Army in certain specified arms and corps will, if he is selected as a suitable candidate, be entitled to be paid as a Regular soldier from the date his National Service commenced, or from one year in arrears, whichever is the shorter.
I now turn to the question of public relations. As hon. Members know, last autumn we carried out a pilot scheme in television advertising. The results were most encouraging. Recruiting figures in the areas concerned went up by about 18 per cent. as compared with those for the same period in the previous year—and at a time when the rest of the country was showing a decrease. I have, therefore, decided to go ahead with a major national campaign. It is due to start early next month, and we shall concentrate on the most promising times of the year. The campaign will be supported by advertisements in the Press, as well as by posters.
Some hon. Members will have had an opportunity of seeing at least one or two of the films that we shall be showing, and if at any time any hon. Member of the Committee would like to look at these films he might like to watch his television programmes and to see the advertising films. I shall be only too glad to help in this matter.
§ Mr. Profumo
What does the hon. Member mean? Is he asking how much the films will cost, or how much the television advertising will cost?
§ Mr. Hughes
I mean the total sum. As far as I can gather, his recruiting activities in Ayrshire have resulted in only about eight recruits in one month. Does he propose to spend a lot of money to obtain a very few recruits?
§ Mr. Profumo
I hope that the cost per man in Ayrshire is not out of line with the average. It would be much easier if the hon. Member would help me in my efforts.
Advertising, even with the hon. Member helping, is not enough. It is only additional to and not instead of other measures. None the less, to keep the Army in the public eye is of considerable importance, and I am arranging for the normal Army exhibitions and public displays to be stepped up considerably this year. This is what I call "taking the Army to the people." Special regimental recruiting teams of up to 200 people will be putting on displays in their own recruiting areas in the summer months. Altogether, there will be more than 400 of these all over the country, and this autumn we shall stage a big exhibition of our most up-to-date equipment.
I am most anxious that this shall have the greatest possible impact, and I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, together with the Press, will do their best to support this and other forms of recruiting on all appropriate occasions.
Excitement and going abroad are two things which attract the would-be recruit, and 1960 was the first year of large-scale overseas airborne exercises. We have a far more ambitious programme this year. The Royal Welch Fusiliers are just finishing a three-weeks' training exercise in Cyrenaica. The Glosters leave today for similar training. Later, the Army will be training in Europe, the Mediterranean and Africa; and, for the first time in history, a battalion will fly aross the Atlantic, in Britannias of Transport Command, for a spell of realistic training in Canada.
281 This is, of course, a completely new step and I am grateful to the Canadian Government for their ready agreement. Training will be carried out under conditions which the soldiers would be likely to meet if they were called out for an operational task
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
Will my right hon. Friend take great care to see that he is not held up in these vitally important exercises by trouble from the Foreign Office, as I understand that at times the Foreign Office has made it extremely difficult to get these exercises going?
§ Mr. Profumo
My hon. Friend has cast a slight imputation upon me because, having been at the Foreign Office, I understand only too well how difficult it is sometimes to carry out exercises. For this purpose, I have decided to go to the new world and to carry out these exercises over as wide an area as possible to minimise the fears expressed by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
What the right hon. Gentleman is saying is very interesting, but he must give the whole picture. It is no good sending recruits without equipment. What equipment will be flown with them?
§ Mr. Profumo
As the right hon. Gentleman knows from his own distinguished experience, the sort of equipment one sends depends on the sort of exercise which is to be carried out. Therefore, I cannot give an answer in each case.
When I gave way to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison) I was trying to say that the training would be carried out under conditions similar to those which the soldiers would expect to meet if trouble arose. That means that equipment will be provided as well. We shall not be able to send the heavier scale of equipment, but, normally, we try to carry out exercises where there is the sort of equipment which they would need, and Canada is such a place. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) can rest assured that these will not be paper exercises, but really touch exercises. We shall have them abroad and use modern hardware, and so on, and I believe that 282 will have an effect on the young men coming into the Army.
When I was recently in the Far East I visited the new training area which is being developed in Kota Belud, in North Borneo. Early next year the Commonwealth Brigade will carry out the first large-scale exercise from Malaya in that new training area. I am sure that it is important that the Army should have close contacts with the country's youth organisation and so, in addition to extending our own training, this year, for the first time, we are to provide volunteers to help the national associations with Their adventure training schemes. This seems a far cry from the old-fashioned sand-table exercises and conventional soldiering, but I am sure that it is what the Army needs, and I believe that it will have a considerable effect upon our recruiting drive.
I recollect that in the last debate on the Estimates my predecessor spoke in some detail about re-equipment. I entirely share his view, that the equipment of the Army should be second to none. That is my aim, as it was his, but development cannot be speeded up beyond a certain degree, no matter how urgently the task is tackled. Re-equipment is a progressive thing which never comes to an end.
The Committee will have noticed that there is no spectacular rise in the money we plan to spend on hardware this next year. That does not mean that new and exciting items are not coming along now in quantity. Far from it. I can report substantial progress. Most of the new weapons and equipment are British, but we have tried to select the best of everything produced by our allies to supplement what we ourselves have developed. They come from the United States, Australia, France, Italy and Belgium, and all these weapons are absolutely first-class.
In the sphere of conventional guns and ammunition, Great Britain is leading the world. The American Army is now buying tank guns and ammunition designed and developed by us. It would take too long to list all the weapons and equipment now under development for the British Army but I must refer to a few which are planned for production during the coming financial year.
283 At long last the Regular infantry is to say goodbye to the time-honoured Vickers machine-gun. Instead they are to have the Belgian air-cooled gun. It has a better rate of fire, it weighs only half as much and needs fewer men to work it. Another honourable old friend will soon disappear, namely, the 25-pounder. For limited war we are to use the Italian 105 mm. pack howitzer. This is much lighter and more portable, even by helicopter, and it comes into service this year. Trials on the British self-propelled 105 mm. gun start soon. This will have a range and accuracy far superior to any gun of its size and weight in the Western world. It is mobile over all types of country.
In the anti-tank gun sphere there are a number of weapons, including conventional guns, rockets and wire-guided weapons. Present trials will enable us to choose the best of each type. There is the British Wombat. It can be carried in a Land Rover, and, in an emergency, can be fired from it. There are short-range Canadian and Swedish weapons, and Australia has developed for us the Malkara, a long-range wire-guided anti-tank weapon. It is powerful and accurate. The Chieftain tank is now completing development. It is the best tank in the world. It weighs less than the Centurion. It has an exceptionally powerful gun, first-class armour and long endurance. Initial steps have already been taken to lay down production lines. The armoured personnel carrier, which is equipped with a powerful Rolls-Royce engine, will undergo trials this year, and it looks like being a winner.
In modern war, visual methods of observing the enemy's movements, locating his weapons and directing artillery fire are no longer good enough. Great strides have been made in the use of electronics for this purpose, and in the coming year a lot of gadgets based on these techniques will come into service. There are pilotless aircraft for photographing the battle field, new radar for locating unexpected mortar fire and a further instalment of equipment for controlling the fire of light anti-aircraft guns. Control on the battlefield also requires first-class communications. The issue of modern combat radio equipment 284 will continue, and by the end of the year almost all the field corps will have the new range. Deliveries of the Beaver light aircraft will be completed and we shall get our first Westland Scout helicopters.
I hope that this short account—my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State can enlarge on it if the Committee wishes—will give the Committee a feeling of the momentum in the Army's re-equipment programme. We must and we will keep this up, for it is essential that every potential recruit, and his parents and indeed Great Britain's allies —and possible enemies—shall be quite clear that the new equipment of our Army is unbeatable.
All this keeps a large staff in the War Office hard at work. Including the 2,600 people we took over from the Ministry of Supply, our staff at the War Office is now 8,300. Nevertheless, in spite of our increased responsibilities, the Army Council is determined to continue to cut down. Within the next three or four years we plan to reduce our present overall figure by about 15 per cent. If we allow for the Ministry of Supply staff, this will represent a reduction of 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. since 1956, when we started to plan the all-Regular Army. I do not pretend that this will be easy, but we are resolved to set an example of economy in the administrative field.
Now I wish to talk about how the soldier lives. We have to see that the men are well housed, whether they are married or single, and in Vote 8 we see an increase of more than 50 per cent. over last year's figure for major new works. The first priority is to keep families together, and great efforts have been made to solve this problem. By the end of this month we shall have provided about 25,000 new married quarters since 1951, and 5,700 old ones will have been reconstructed. Two thousand five hundred new married quarters are now in the course of construction here at home, and a further 4,000 are in the planning stage. Abroad. 3,700 new married quarters ought to be ready in twelve months' time.
All this activity also shows up in extra money from Vote 7, which we are to spend on making these quarters attractive with good furniture and with modern gay fittings. We are going all out to 285 give soldiers living conditions and comfort as good as they would get in any comparable walk of life. But, in spite of everything we are doing, some families will have to go on living in poorer accommodation than I should like for a bit of a while yet, and, what is worse, try as we may, there is bound to be a waiting list for married accommodation. But the position is improving considerably all the time and I was very glad to find nearly 90 per cent. of families of soldiers in the forces who were married and serving out there had their families with them.
With the building programme we now have under way, I estimate that the present waiting lists in the United Kingdom and in the B.A.O.R. represent about two years' work. This is cold comfort for those who are still suffering, and, therefore, my colleagues and I at the War Office are using every device we can find to ease the immediate shortage. For instance, we are renting more furnished quarters than ever before, and we are again reviewing the allowance for a soldier who find lodgings for himself and his family.
Over and above this, we are to allow a more extensive use of caravans at home and in the B.A.O.R. I did not at first like this idea very much, but I believe that the way we are to approach it will help to ease the problem during the short time which it will persist, and whereas it may be difficult to control civilian caravan sites, our scheme will, of course, be the direct responsibility of unit commanding officers. The idea is that caravan schemes will be run on a unit basis where the individual unit wishes to adopt the system. There will be no compulsion by us. The scheme will be on a self-accounting basis, and the soldier who wishes to live in a caravan and have his family with him will, of course, have to pay a rent. For our part, in the War Office, we will provide the ground and all the services.
For other overseas stations apart from North-West Europe, I am working out conditions for a scheme whereby married men who are prevented from taking their wives with them on a tour of not less than two years' duration will be permitted one free leave passage to the United Kingdom during the course of their tour. I hope that all that will make things easier for those concerned.
286 I want to get to the stage when every young lad who is considering going into the Army can be sure not only that he will be able to get a jolly good house for his wife in the fairly near future and thereafter throughout his soldiering life, but, also, that he can make arrangements to provide his wife and family with a home when he finally gives up the Army. This is not always the case at present, but this is where the scheme to which I referred as "save while you serve" comes in. The Regular soldier's pay is now generally recognised as being pretty good, and in my travels I have found few complaints about it.
We must take advantage of this situation by trying to induce the soldier to save up for a house or for a small business by an Army scheme which will make the mechanics of saving simple and easily understood. With the cooperation of building societies and insurance companies I hope to be able to arrange that any soldier who takes his opportunities will be enabled to save enough to get himself a home when he retires. In this way we shall remove two of the biggest drags on recruitment, the fear of separation from wife and children, and later, at the end of his time, no home in "civvy street".
I hope that the Committee will feel it has been right to give priority to the problems of the married man, but the single man is not being neglected. The building of new barracks is now going ahead faster. In the coming year we shall start work on four times as many barracks as we started last year. I hope that hon. Members will look especially at the pictures in the Memorandum of the buildings we are putting up in Aden and in Hong Kong. We are going to great lengths to see that soldiers' homes are in attractive settings. Anyone who has been to Aden will realise that this is quite a problem there. Hon. Members may like to know that we think we have found a system of spreading the roots of shrubs so that they do not go down to the level of the salt at Aden, and if we can do this I believe we shall be able to have trees and flowering shrubs in an area which is at present a desert.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of Aden, which some of us 287 have visited, will he say how long it will be before this new Army village is created? Will it be done within the next twelve months, or over a longer period?
§ Mr. Profumo
I could not pretend that we could wave a wand and build it in twelve months, but the point is that it is starting. It the hon. Gentleman looks at the Estimates, he will see that I have done a "before" and "after" picture—what it looks like at the moment and what it will look like at the end. It will take some time, but we are starting to build a completely new city to standards which will be comparable to anything one could live in anywhere in the world. It will take some years to complete, but we are getting under way with it this year, and when the hon. Gentleman goes to Aden again—I know that the soldiers will welcome him at any time—I hope that he will find some developments which he will be able to report to the Committee when he makes one of his delightful speeches here again.
At the moment, I consider, and I hope that the Committee will agree, that the soldier is entitled to have good quality and well designed clothing. After all, everyone else does, and we must be sure that the Army is proud of its uniform. There cannot be many who will mourn the disappearance of the battledress, but the new uniform includes the Service dress which is illustrated in the Memorandum, as well as combat clothing and a raincoat. At present, the soldier has to "beetle around" in a tent-like ground sheet unless he puts on his greatcoat.
We are also designing a new uniform for the tropics, and perhaps I might mention, by way of illustration of our campaign to try to cut down the time it takes a soldier to keep himself smart both off duty and on, that we are experimenting with several processes for retaining the creases in trousers. If we are successful, as I am sure we will be, hon. Members may care to consult me on how to smarten up after all-night sittings.
I have left to the end the question of man-management—the creation of a happy working atmosphere in the Army —call it what one will. Without this, all our efforts to induce enough men to join the Army and stay in it are bound 288 to fail. I told the House only the other day that I had instituted inquiries into the reason for the present high rate of discharge by purchase by recruits during the first three months of their service. The comprehensive study is still proceeding. It is bound to take a considerable time, but I have had a lightning survey carried out, and I want to emphasise that this has of necessity been a survey on a very small scale.
We found two things. Although I do not believe that they represent what is going on in the Army as a whole, I think that we must tackle them in the general interests of recruiting and the recruiting campaign. The first is that we are expecting too much to be done during the relatively short courses at training units. This is having the effect that in some cases the working day is lasting from reveille to lights out—sixteen hours or more—and I propose that in future the training schedules shall be altered so as to concentrate on trade training with a reduction in the basic training relying on units to complete that later, and to a large degree they do this at present.
The second thing which our lightning survey shows is that in spite of what my predecessors have said and done about what goes by the odious name of "bull", some still lingers in odd nooks and crannies. In other words, it is a bull that is down, but not quite out. In some of the depots at which we looked unnecessary and senseless cleaning and general grubbing about still goes on. I am sure that we can and must correct this wherever it persists so as to ensure that young men should be introduced to the Army in a contemporary, sensible, and pleasant way.
Generally speaking, recruits should always be allowed out of barracks after their first week, and I find that this is not always the case. They will be issued on an increasing scale with personal equipment which will require less cleaning than present types, and unnecessary household chores will be cut out.
Our information indicates that most of the purchase out takes place in the first two months of service and that a considerable number of those concerned would probably have made good soldiers. In view of this, the Select Committee on the Army and Air Force Bill may well judge, after hearing expert evidence, that we 289 ought to protect both the Army and the would-he soldier by limiting the purchase out period to the third month, or thereabouts, of a man's service only, to give the recruit a real chance to shake down and know what he thinks before he decides what to do. If the Committee does come to such a conclusion, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air and I will be very ready to accept an amendment to the Army and Air Force Bill to this effect.
All who are in senior positions in the Army are concerned with improving its man-management, and we intend to continue our efforts. Let me not be misunderstood, either here in Committee or outside. I am certainly not advocating a policy of mollycoddle; nor do I intend that the standard of necessary discipline and turnout in the Army shall be diminished, but it must be understood by all, both in the Army and outside it, that there is a clear distinction between proper discipline and time-killing, soul-destroying futilities. In fact, the mutual respect and admiration which must basically exist between all ranks of the Army cannot properly flourish or be established alongside a lot of "bull".
If it is generally, even though erroneously, thought that life in the Army consists of a lot of waste of time, of pointless routine, of futile restrictions and of over-training, then no self-respecting soldier will recommend it to his young friends, and so we shall not only suffer a loss of recruits by purchasing their discharge but we shall also alienate an inestimable number of potential recruits.
Whether we like it or not, there are some who still think that life in the Army is ill-balanced and out-of-date. What is so infuriating is that, taking the Army as a whole, this is not true today, but the failure to conform to modern standards of a small section of the Army is falsely affecting the reputation of a great Service. Once this idea can be seen to be incorrect in all parts of the Army, we shall get a significant rise in the number and quality of men wishing to join us.
I hope that the Committee will feel that the plans we have for the new all-Regular Army and for the Reserve—plans laid by my predecessors—are those which are best suited to the tasks which lie ahead. The British Army has been 290 through many vicissitudes in the 300 years of its existence, and by no means only in times of war. The touchstone of its future is the impetus it gets from its corps, its regiments, its officers, warrant officers and sergeants.
There are many people in our country who feel as I do, that some of the least attractive aspects of our modern life have come about through the lessening of the ties of our old-fashioned family life. I trust that the Army family life and all it stands for will reassert itself, because that is what is needed now, and only one other thing—that we, the people whom the Army serves and defends, shall give it pride of place in peace as well as in war.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
After last week's defence debate the Minister's statement on the Estimates was awaited, I think by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, with particular interest and anxiety. Serious questions were asked last week, on both sides, and, in particular, whether the Government were attempting too much with too little as far as the Army is concerned.
I think that a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman has said will have been very sympathetically heard on both sides, particularly at the lower level, if I may use that term. A number of what seem to be sensible and constructive reforms were put forward by him. I am bound to confess that I felt slightly uneasy while the right hon. Gentleman was talking about the shrubs which he had got to flower in the desert and the trousers which he was to crease so beautifully.
I was slightly uneasy that these things might not fit into the greater and more critical question of the manpower which we need for a successful Army. It is no good creasing a pair of trousers ever so beautifully if there is not a soldier inside to wear them. That is the problem that we have to face during this debate.
I am not blaming the Secretary of State particularly for what I believe to be a critical situation. It is, after all, the Government as a whole who lay down what the tasks of the Army shall be, the number and nature of its commitments and who 291 set the limits to the powers of the Secretary of State to raise the number of men he needs. It is also the Government who put up the Secretary of State for Air to tell the right hon. Gentleman how easy the task is and how, really, there is no problem about it.
I wish to associate my hon. Friends and myself with the general tribute which the Minister paid to the Army at the beginning of his speech. I think that we all recognise the many fine achievements which the Army has to its credit, and, though some of the operations in which it has been engaged, notably Suez and Cyprus, have provoked bitter controversy in the House, it has been the Government that we have had to blame and not the Service men. When we look back on the tasks which the Army has performed since the war, in Indonesia, Greece, Malaya, Trieste, Kenya, Jordan and Korea, we see that these tasks were splendidly carried out and made an obvious and solid contribution to the welfare of the people living in those areas and to the cause of peace.
When we look also at the non-military work of the Army, and a very good instance was given by the right hon. Gentleman of the offer of help to youth clubs with voluntary instructors for their camps—an admirable ideawe see that the Army has a splendid record. A young man who studies it can see that the Army offers him a chance for a useful and successful career in a good cause. It is precisely because we on this side wish the Army well that we are critical of the Government in the present situation in which it finds itself. We, and, I think, hon. Members opposite, are determined that the Army shall always have the strength and numbers appropriate to the tasks which it is set.
I happened to be in the first Territorial unit to land in France in 1939—the Surrey Yeomanry, a fine unit—but we landed totally unprepared for battle. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned 25-pounders. We had them, but we landed without any dial sights, so that the only way of shooting at the enemy was over open sights. I recall that we were then on the Belgian frontier for six months at the ready before any of us ever had our first firing practice.
292 If I may, I will bore the Committee a little more on this point, because it seems to point a lesson. My own training, on 1st September, 1937, amounted to five evenings at a drill hall and yet after three weeks of P.T., inoculations and embarkation leave I left in convoy for Southampton. That type of unpreparedness, which was common at that time, and, indeed, at Suez, in 1956, is the sort of thing that unites hon. Members on both sides. We will not allow injustices to the Army to be perpetrated by Governments in the future. That is the basis on which we criticise the Government at this time. Our nightmare is that, once again, for lack of clear decision and of courage the Government are in danger of giving the Army tasks beyond its present or prospective size and strength.
We discussed the nature of the tasks, and, in particular, the overseas commitments, in the defence debate last week. I do not want to cover too much of the same ground, but I hoped for some reassurance from the Secretary of State on this point this afternoon and was certainly disappointed. In all cases there are certain notable omissions from Ministerial statements about overseas commitments. There is, for instance, one related to Malaya. The general impression one gets from statements made by the Minister of Defence, and, in particular, by the Secretary of State for Air, and, this afternoon, by the Secretary of State for War, is that they have no precise intention of saving on the expenditure of troops—75,000 of them—which, as the Minister said, are dotted around the globe at present.
These troops are stationed in nearly twenty places outside Europe and we get the sensation, listening to Ministers, that they regard the very wide and onerous commitments as permanent. We are not suggesting for a moment that we should back down on our legal commitments and moral obligations to our friends there, but that the present situation is permanent we very firmly and strongly deny.
§ Mr. Profumo
The hon. Member will, of course, remember that we have a very strong commitment in Malaya in the defence agreement with the new Malayan Government. It would be very 293 wrong to give the impression in this Committee—I do not think that the hon. Member wants to do so—that we would consider welshing on that agreement.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Of course, we have the 1957 Agreement and obligations there to train the Malayan Army. I was asking how many brigades are there and whether there are excessive numbers at present. It is difficult to judge on this, but it is something which needs looking at very carefully. It is typical of the kind of review which ought to be made in regard to most of these commitments with a view to saving manpower.
How strong will the Army be to fulfil those commitments? The Secretary of State said that he was reasonably confident of reaching a minimum target by the date named. I wish very much that the Army Estimates and the Memorandum were a great deal clearer than they are. I referred to this matter last time we debated this subject. It is very difficult to weigh up all the different trends, the outflow and inflow, to judge whether the Minister's forecast is right. We have precedents for the Minister's forecasts being dramatically wrong. He forecast for 1st April this year a Regular Army of 166,000 and he is now forecasting 166,000 for 1st April next year. This is bound to undermine our confidence in his forecasting judgments.
Moreover, there are specific things in the Army Estimates and the Memorandum which seem evasive. In paragraph 34, there is a reference to the run-down of men serving the old three-year engagement being completed, but I do not see where it appears in the table of figures. That may be my ignorance. In Table II, in the Memorandum, I do not understand who are referred to as being on short-service engagement. This kind of thing should be made clear to us. There is no estimate in the Memorandum of the future strength of the Army, nor is there any indication of the rate of outflow, about which the Minister spoke. Those are vital figures if we are to judge the whole basis of his policy.
Two clear facts are that recruiting failed by 8½4 per cent. in 1960 and that the Minister's estimates are based on a rise of 9 per cent. this year. Those are the things we have to judge. Why does 294 the Minister so confidently expect this 9 per cent. rise? We all hope that he will get it, but to what extent is he basing himself on the bulge in the relevant age group this year? The bulge will not become pronounced until about 1963. It would be interesting to know how much of the 9 per cent. he attributes to that.
I was glad to hear the Secretary of State say that he was looking very carefully into the question of wastage during the first three months of a recruit's life. That was one of the things we discussed on the Army and Air Force Bill. I was tremendously struck, on a recent visit to Aldershot, to find the differential rates of wastage between one unit and another. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into the question—which, I agree, sounds sensible—of allowing opting out in the third month and also to look at the degree to which the Army has learned how to acclimatise voluntary recruits so that they do not wish to leave.
After all, the Army has been used to National Service men who have no provision to opt out in the first three months. Is it applying to voluntary recruits the same kind of methods and welcome it applied to National Service men? This may be a very important matter, which, if looked into, might help the right hon. Gentleman in the wastage problem. Meanwhile, when he says that he will get a decrease in the percentage of wastage it would be interesting to know what he is assuming.
The right hon. Gentleman announced, and I think that there would be general agreement on this, that he proposes to give special inducements to recruit the National Service man. The inducement seemed to be a fairly substantial one, if I followed him correctly. Obviously, the prize is very considerable for one would get the services of a man already trained through National Service. One got the impression that the Minister was pinning his faith for a successful manpower policy on new measures of recruitment with teams of trained recruiters. I can assure the Minister—as he asked for it—that we shall do our utmost to help the exhibitions and various functions being arranged. Certainly, I would he very willing to help and I am sure that my hon. Friends would do the same.
295 We were glad to hear of an increase of 18 per cent. in recruiting in the key areas where television recruiting films are shown. A figure I should like to know even more is what the rate of wastage of television recruits is compared with those recruited in other ways and, when all that one sees in the commercial programmes is not absolutely accurate, whether there is any impact on the wastage figures. Meanwhile, we wish the right hon. Gentleman well in his television campaign. I am sure that viewers would agree that it would be a very fine change to see honest and useful recruiting commercials on the screens to fill the gap left by the dishonest and useless detergent advertisements now banned by I.T.A. While not all of us on this side of the Committee like commercial television, here is an exception we would make in favour of the Minister's scheme.
I wish very much that we could devise methods of recruiting a little less indiscriminating than the television commercial. My own instinct is that the secret of getting recruiting figures is to find specifically why people join the Army and then to gear recruiting to a particular type of person in a particular situation. We might get a long way further by that than by broadcasting television commercials. Television advertising seems a rather risky foundation on which to base a whole series of worldwide defence commitments.
Now I come to what I think the Minister skated over, bigger steps which might or might not be taken to overcome this manpower crisis. The Secretary of State played down the reference made to this by the Minister of Defence last week. I thought it significant when the right hon. Gentleman said last week:The Government would not, however, be discharging their responsibilities if they were not making plans at least for the fact that we might not succeed. Those plans are clearly in hand. I told the House long ago that this was so. All I am saying is that for the sake of recruiting and for the sake of trying to do this job we should not cross this bridge until we come to it. We will not come to it until the end of the year.Of course, we are making plans to see how we could best meet whatever deficiencies there might be. It is unlikely that the deficiencies will be in the teeth units. They are likely to arise in branches like drivers, sick berth attendants or people of that kind. Therefore, we shall want, if we have to have it at all, some very special kind of scheme to try to get the 296 men we need."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1961; Vol. 635, c. 1511.]That certainly excited hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and the newspapers, but we are now told that it does not mean very much and that he was repeating what has been said before. In that case, it would not be a very wise statement to make if the Minister wants the campaign to go well. The Government should not raise these hares of selective service, or some other scheme, if they do not really mean it.
I hope that we shall hear from those hon. Members who believe in selective service more about precisely what they propose. We have heard a great deal about this, but what is the actual scheme that we are asked to contemplate? How do the supporters of selective service answer the very serious objections which have been advanced against it? They were repeated in The Times last week. For instance, if 30,000 conscripts were wanted, how would one man in 33 be selected from the whole age group? If 20,000 conscripts were wanted, how would one man in 50 be selected in the age group? We should like to be told the answers to these questions by those who, I acknowledge, sincerely think that some such scheme should be introduced.
§ Mr. Wigg
When my hon. Friend was pressed to state what commitments he would give up, he very rightly said that he would not do that. Why should he think that it is wrong for him to say which commitments should be given up but right for me to give full details of the scheme, when I can have no possible access to the precise information? I am willing to try if my hon. Friend will try.
§ Mr. Mayhew
If the Secretary of State will give me the full order of battle—not only the numbers, but the types of unit in each commitment—I will make a study of it and give him a complete answer.
§ Mr. Profumo
If the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) cares to consult his hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), he can obtain the information from him.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I shall go to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) for assistance. I shall then be able to spell out exactly what I mean. There is nothing secure about the manpower problem. I know that my hon. Friend will get all the facts he wants. I invite him to let us know what is in his mind. We know that he has great experience and feels passionately about this. He should come forward and explain more precisely what is in his mind. I hope that hon. Members opposite will do the same.
We have our doubts. We wonder how a man will feel when he is selected by blind chance—perhaps by ballot, by sheer bad luck—for a job he does not want to do and his career is set back because he must serve in the Army as against 32 or 49 of his contemporaries. We want to know how the parents will feel. Will they have a right of appeal? Will they appeal to the Minister or their Members of Parliament, particularly those who supported the selective service scheme?
Above all, we want to know what kind of soldier a man recruited in this way will make. What contribution will he make to the sense of unity and purpose of the unit to which he is sent? Does anyone know for how long he will have to serve? Do we want to inflict two years service on a man selected in this very arbitrary and, I believe it will be thought by many people, most unfair manner of recruitment? I leave out the obvious administrative difficulties—the wastage of Regulars training the endless succession of what will be browned-off conscripts, the manpower wasted in the process of selection, and the depressing effect one must expect there to be on recruiting figures.
Therefore, we on this side do not wish the Government to examine the prospect of selective service. I do not think that we were much reassured by the attitude of the Secretary of State to other major ways of dealing with the manpower problem. He dismissed very cursorily a number of schemes which in our view are worth looking at more carefully. He said that he would leave until the 298 end of the year such things as recruiting from Commonwealth countries.
§ Mr. Mayhew
It will be something if the right hon. Gentleman will study the suggestion carefully. I have not yet heard what the objections of the Government are to recruiting for British units—not recruiting the units, but recruiting for British units—from certain countries in the Commonwealth. Why should not that be done? Why should not priority in recruitment be given to special classes of men who volunteer for jobs which are very difficult to fill? The Secretary of State listed a whole number of jobs which he said were particularly difficult to fill. Why does he not select from Commonwealth countries volunteers to serve perhaps a six-year term in the jobs he has in mind? Even if only 1,000 a year were recruited, that would be 6,000 men. That would make a useful contribution to alleviating the acute manpower shortage of which the right hon. Gentleman complained.
Last week the Minister of Defence said:There are more volunteers for the Navy than it can recruit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1961; Vol. 635, c. 1507.]I understand that not long ago the 1st Royal Marine Commando took over from the Warwicks in Aden. Have we come to the end of this process? Is it impossible to make more use of the Navy's potential as fighting men? Should not this be tried?
There are a number of schemes of this kind, and I ask the Minister to examine them carefully and study them before thinking about things like selective service. I am certain that the country would never forgive a Government who, before even examining such things as the Navy manpower situation, the possibility of recruiting in the Commonwealth, and the possibility of economising on our commitments, went round looking for selective service schemes. I am certain that the electorate would not stand for that.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Will the hon. Gentleman give us a little more idea of what he has in mind when he speaks of economising on our commitments? The Leader of the Opposition said in the House recently—I think it was only last 299 week—that he would far sooner have British—I take it he meant United Kingdom—troops moved, for instance, to Northern Rhodesia than Federal troops if trouble cropped up there. What do the Opposition mean when they say that they want to cut commitments?
§ Mr. Mayhew
We have made clear what we mean. We want the commitments to be strictly reviewed. We are handicapped by a lack of sure information about the number and types of troops in various places. I have mentioned Malaya as a place where economies might be possible. Hong Kong has been mentioned. I do not think that it is the job of the Opposition to spell out in detail where economies should be made.
The Secretary of State entirely omitted to make any reference to what seemed to be the other major problem voiced in the defence debate last week. I certainly will not take up the time of the Committee by going over the ground again. I merely want to state that there are hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who are very anxious and disturbed about the lack of conventional capacity in the Rhine Army. This was not mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman.
No answers were given in last week's defence debate. We asked about the under-strength units. We stated on our information that overall the Army was one-third under-strength. We complained that no conventional training had been given. We said that last year there was no exercise at brigade group level without the assumption of nuclear weapons. We complained about the organization of nuclear artillery. We probed and pressed the Government to state a little more clearly what the methods of control over the use of tactical nuclear weapons were.
We received no answers on these points last week. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to inform us a little more about these subjects when he winds up. The Minister of Defence declared that everything was all right. He said that the balance in the Rhine Army was perfect. He may be satisfied, but I believe that many well informed people in the country are thoroughly dissatisfied on this point and want an answer.
300 Last week the Minister of Defence treated in a very casual fashion the possibility of withdrawing further troops from B.A.O.R. for possible overseas emergencies. He said:…any large emergency would certainly allow us to draw on the seven brigade groups in Germany as we have a right to do."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1961; Vol. 635, c. 1211.]That was a very casual reference. The Minister made no reference to the political effect of doing that. He made no reference to the fact that it would still further increase our reliance on nuclear weapons there. He made no reference to the fact that our troops in B.A.O.R. do not appear to be sufficiently trained for operating in a conventional rôle. Even if the Minister is satisfied, very few people in the House of Commons or outside it are satisfied.
The Minister's statement on equipment was encouraging. It is clear that a considerable and welcome improvement is taking place. However, the right hon. Gentleman must forgive us if we treat some of his statements about re-equipment with a certain amount of scepticism. When I was doing some of my homework I listed the references there had been to the F.N. rifle in Defence White Papers and Army Memoranda. In 1955 it was stated:Five thousand F. N. … rifles are now being tried by the troops …In 1957 it was said:Over 14,000 F.N. rifles are now in service.In 1958, we were told:In the coming year a proportion of the Army will be re-equipped with the British version of the F.N. rifle.Last week, the Minister of Defence told us thatThe equipment of the Army is changing out of all recognition. It is being re-equipped with the F.N. rifle."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February. 1961; Vol. 635. c. 1210.]There it is. This is a subject, if I may say so, on which it is possible for an accurate statement to give a thoroughly misleading impression. I hope that the Minister will always be extremely scrupulous and candid with the House on these matters. Nevertheless, it was clear from what he said that there has been a marked and very welcome improvement.
I know that several other points will be raised by my hon. Friends. I am sure that someone will have a word to 301 say about married quarters. Progress has been made and is being made, but I thought that the Minister struck an unduly optimistic note in what he said. It seems absurd that there should be any shortage of married quarters at all sixteen years after the war. When I was in Aldershot recently, I saw some of the caravans which, perhaps, as a temporary expedient offer a useful way out of the difficulty, but I should have thought that by this time it ought to have been possible to have finished the barracks and the married quarters as well.
A great deal of what the Minister said seemed to us to be constructive, and a great deal will receive our support. We all want a strong all-Regular Army. We hope he succeeds in his efforts to build it up. On the facts which are given to us, the present and prospective tasks of the Army seem out of proportion to its present and prospective size and strength. This is a source of great anxiety to hon. Members on both sides, and we call on the Government to take clear decisions to put matters right.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
I have seldom heard an Estimates debate opened with two better speeches. The Minister's speech was enthusiastic and invigorating, and, I thought, extremely convincing. The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) made a splendid first appearance at the Dispatch Box on the Estimates. He put a lot of very pertinent points which will, I am sure, be taken up by a good many of us and by my hon. Friend who is to wind up. He was extremely constructive and, as one would expect from him, he pledged his support and, I am sure, the support of hon. Members in all parts of the House for assistance in trying to make the best success we possibly can of the new Regular Army on the establishment and maintenance of which we are embarked.
Naturally, and I think wisely, the Minister was rather more domestic in his approach, concentrating on the very important matter of the Regular Army, whether we shall be able to achieve it or not, on our new weapons, on quarters, and so forth, whereas the hon. Member for Woolwich, East went a little wider and discussed the bigger rôle of the Army.
302 I sympathised very much with the hon. Gentleman when he told us of how he went to France in 1939 and found himself minus a very great deal of what he ought to have had. When I followed a little later, I certainly found myself deficient of many of the same sort of things, and in 1942, when I went on an entirely new campaign in Burma, we were short of even more things than were deficient in 1939. It became almost a tradition in the British Army that we started every campaign from the bottom and somehow came through successfully in the end. There is an enormous difference today, when we make a comparison between conditions at that time and conditions now in the collective security arrangements which we have in N.A.T.O., which is our premier commitment.
The hon. Gentleman said something with which I strongly agree and always have done when he referred to recruiting from the Commonwealth. It has always amazed me that, once a war starts, we can recruit people from many different countries of the Commonwealth. In Burma, for instance, we had some excellent African troops. Now we do not seem to make any use of African troops at all except purely locally. I have always thought that we ought to enlist more Gurkha troops than we are doing at present. I have raised the matter in the House on many occasions, and, although I know the difficulties which have been caused by objections from India, I do not believe that those difficulties really exist today. I agree with the hon. Member that we ought to examine the possibilities again, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will do so. The Gurkhas are very keen to come. We have read about the very inspiring parade before Her Majesty in Nepal, just the other day, a part of the world I know quite well. The Gurkhas are magnificent soldiers, and I could never understand why we should not have more of them.
I come now to the rôle and purpose of the Army as set out at the beginning of the Memorandum on the Estimates. This is something which we ought to have quite clearly in our minds when considering the matter as a whole. The first paragraph reads:The Army must be capable of playing its full part, in conjunction with the other Services, in our national defence policy. The 303 primary aim of Her Majesty's Government is to prevent the outbreak of global war. In Europe our forces in Germany form an important part of the NATO 'shield' which complements the Western strategic nuclear deterrent by demonstrating the determination of the allies to defend the frontiers of NATO".That is the first and principal rôle of the Army today. A little later it is said:During the past year the tactical nuclear capability of the British Army of the Rhine has greatly increased".I agree with the hon. Member for Woolwich, East that we have not heard very much about tactical nuclear weapons, how our people are trained in them and how it is proposed that they should be used, but we cannot ignore the fact that our Army is part of the deterrent to another global war.
The message that N.A.T.O. and the Western world should send out very loud and clear today is that aggressive war is a crime against humanity which will be resisted by the free world with all the strength at its command. I repeat and emphasise, "with all the strength at its command". I believe that the Russians are well aware of our attitude, and this is the chief reason why I believe that a global war is less likely today than at any time in the present century, provided that we remain united and strong and both sides realise exactly what the situation is.
The task of the British Army of the Rhine in N.A.T.O. is laid down by the Supreme Commander; it is part of the joint Allied plan. From time to time, we hear rather wild statements from hon. Members opposite about N.A.T.O. and our own Army within it and what it ought to be doing. There are two suggestions of that kind which I wish to deal with now. One of them was mentioned by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East.
It is said that we ought greatly to increase our conventional forces and the conventional strength of N.A.T.O. ought to be increased so that we could defeat any Russian aggression without recourse to nuclear weapons. Next, it is said that we ought to declare that we would never use nuclear arms unless the Russians did it first. If we take these two together, I think that first it must mean for us conscription on a considerable scale. As has been said in several debates, our difficulty will be to meet our commit- 304 ments with a long service Regular Army. How can we possibly hope to do that and greatly to increase the conventional strength of the Army without introducing conscription? Even if we increased the conventional strength of the British forces in N.A.T.O. to a considerable extent and our allies in N.A.T.O conformed, we should still be heavily outnumbered by the Russians, and in a conventional war the defeat of the West would be certain. I believe that in any such engagement nuclear weapons would certainly be used at an early stage.
I have always been impressed by a statement by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) which has been quoted in the House before. I think that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, was the last person I heard quote it. The right hon. Member for Derby, South believes implicitly that disarmament is the first and most important thing with which we should be concerned. I could not agree with him more. I think that we should put it right at the top of our defence and security arrangements and to continue to work on it all the time. In a remarkable speech in 1955, the right hon. Gentleman said that it would be an open invitation to the Communists to commit aggression if we gave any declaration of the sort that I have instanced, namely, that we would not use nuclear weapons at all.
General Norstad's forces in Europe are not organised, disposed or intended to fight a prolonged land campaign. We ought to be absolutely clear about that, because he has stated it quite definitely on several occasions. In a broadcast only a short while ago he was absolutely definite on this point. He did not say much about it, but what he did say was:We do not contemplate the possibility of great land campaigns. There is nothing in our plan, in our policy, which considers great land campaigns. Our task is to defend, with relatively small forces and using all weapons".If we want that polcy altered, we have a very big task before us. General Norstad aims at a force of 30 divisions, of which he already has 28. I repeat, however, that this is not with the intention of a major land campaign against the Russians.
There is another criticism which is made from the benches opposite over the 305 disposition of our forces in N.A.T.O., particularly the British Army. In accordance with General Norstad's plan, which is, in the event of an incident, to create a pause to give everyone time to think, our forces are disposed well forward. There are certain hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) who always puts forward the policy of disengagement. The hon. Member thinks that this would be conducive to helping to create a more peaceful atmosphere. I should like to make quite clear what General Norstad thinks of any form of disengagement. He is, after all, the commander responsible. This is what he said in a broadcast in 1959:From the military standpoint it is impossible for me to see any form of military disengagement in the present and existing political context which would not be absolutely disastrous, and which would not destroy the really great security that we have developed over the period of the eight to ten years of N.A.T.O.'s existence.…I'm not going into a long discussion of the dangers of a military vacuum, but I think we can agree that most military people, and I think most political observers, would agree that it's a great danger. In addition to that, the forward area from the military standpoint is of the most critical importance…if there was any disengagement, then there would be the question of removing certain forces. Now some of these forces—notably your British forces, American forces, and Canadian forces, which are based in those forward areas—would have to seek some place to go. And some of them almost surely under those circumstances would go home. It would be very hard to resist an argument that they should go home, because their military effectiveness, their military usefulness, would have been decreased to such an extent that it would be very difficult to hold them. Now, if you had this disengagement, the situation would be one where the Russians could correct it from their standpoint. Because they have the initiative. They could bring back the forces, put them in the position where we never could, never—even in the event of a real emergency—never could we get those forces back in time, and in position, and in the numbers that would be necessary to regain the position of security.That is what General Norstad thinks of this plan. Incidentally, on several occasions he has spoken very highly of our forces in N.A.T.O. and of the value of the long-service Regular compared with the short-service conscript. Hon. Members will realise that most other nations have really short-service conscription compared with the period of National Service which we had. General Norstad has said that he finds that the long-service Regular is of infinitely more use 306 to him than the conscript. I have quoted his words in the House before.
There is laid down in the Estimates the other rôles of our Army today, such as dealing with brush fires and supporting Commonwealth countries and our allies in different parts of the world. But, as my right hon. Friend said, all these tasks are designed to prevent a war starting rather than to fight a war once it has begun.
The question with which we have been concerned in several debates lately is: can our Army fulfil its essential rôles without the reintroduction of some form of conscription? I have been consistent right from 1957 that it was essential that we should endeavour to make a success of our new model long-service voluntary defence force. I give all credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) and to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) that they have been equally consistent right from 1957 in saying that they did not think that we would get the stipulated numbers and that even if we did they would not be sufficient to fulfil our obligations. The Government agree with me, and I have found also that the Army as a whole is in wholehearted agreement on this matter of the long-service Army. From the C.I.G.S. downwards, I believe that everyone is in agreement that we must go all out to try to make a success of the new policy and not return to conscription. I think that he new C.I.G.S., Sir Richard Hull, who has just taken over this position, also agrees.
Field Marshal Festing, speaking to the cadets at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in 1957 said:Today we are faced with the re-creation of the British Regular Army…I am convinced that the Regular Army suits the national genius of our race, and I am quite certain that it is more akin to us than the continental conception of conscription. You an[...] I between us have got to rebuild this Regular Army…I am certain that marching together we will between us achieve great things".I do not say all Members, because I know that some are sincerely against it, but I am sure that the majority of Members of Parliament are in favour of not returning to conscription, particularly selective conscription, if we can possibly avoid it. I am certain that the 307 British people are of that way of thinking, too.
The purists very often say that it is dreadful to serve in a unit that is under strength. Some of our units are under strength, and must remain so, but the contacts that I have had with quite a lot of Army officers and battalion commanders suggest that they would much sooner have a unit of 500 long-service Regulars than a unit with another 200 short-service conscripts thrown into it, when they have continually to be detailing a lot of men to train them and they are constantly coming and going.
I was impressed by something that was said from the opposite side of the House the other day concerning this whole matter. Very few of us today can speak about National Service in peacetime from personal experience. I was very impressed—I wrote and told him so—by what the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) said in the debate on the Army and Air Force Bill on 2nd February. He said:Regrettably, there are few ex-National Service men, as opposed to ex-Service men, on this side of the House.I do not think that there are many on this side of the House either. The hon. Member went on to say:I speak as one and, before I deal with the Act, I should like to say that I welcome the ending of National Service. I have always believed that it was a great waste of time, not only for the men concerned, but for the Army. It was a great waste of the Army's resources.Nothing is more demoralising for a unit than to have a large percentage of National Service men. Great tribute has been paid to the work they did. I was one of them and I accept the tributes which have been paid to us, but there is nothing worse than for a platoon of 30 or 40 men to have 15 or 20 National Service men each chalking up the number of days to their release.…The figures of 165,000 and 180,000 men have been bandied about in previous debates on the Army and the Government have indicated that if one of these figures—I am not sure which—is not arrived at, 'some special measures' to use the words of the Secretary of State, may have to he taken. I hope that this will not mean the reintroduction of National Service.With the abolition of National Service, one thing which is obvious—it may sound platitudinous, but I do not think that its extent has been appreciated—is that less manpower will be needed to train National Service men and, therefore, the Regular soldiers can be better deployed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1961; Vol. 633, c. 1219.]308 The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who has great personal experience in these matters, made some wise and pertinent remarks on this point in the defence debate. He reminded the House what happened at the time of Korea, when we had an Army twice the size of our Army today. As the right hon. Gentleman said, however, we had to call up reserves and to scrape the barrel to find one infantry brigade to send to Korea when we had an Army of 400,000. We should not think, therefore, that numbers are the answer to all the problems facing Britain and the Commonwealth. The right hon. Member also quoted Suez, which I have always regarded as an excellent example. I am not criticising the troops, because when they operated they did their very best. The fact remains, however, that when Sir Anthony Eden came down to the House of Commons and said that we would intervene on the line of the Canal between the Israelis and the Egyptians, nothing happened next day, except the bombing of the almost non-existent Egyptian Air Force, and nothing happened the next day or the next day or for six days. All that time, the vast armada that we had built up in the Mediterranean was chugging its way across at six knots an hour to land at Port Said.
All that we wanted at that time were three airborne brigades, complete with mobile anti-tank guns. We had absolute air superiority. We could have put them down with the greatest of ease on the line of the Canal. In those six days, world opinion went bad on Sir Anthony. That was because we had a defence force which was not tuned in to our foreign policy requirements. It is policy which must dictate the sort of defence force that we must have. This rule should be a lesson to us. How much better equipped we are today, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told us, to deal with an emergency of that sort. We could do it perfectly well with an Army of half the size, but with proper equipment and training.
The right hon. Member for Easington, who was a very popular Secretary of State for War and an equally popular Defence Minister and who was the member of the party opposite who actually 309 had to deal with these matters, said in the defence debate that 165,000 Regulars plus 165,000 conscripts were no better than 165,000 Regulars. There is considerable truth in that. The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned that 30,000 men were required to train the National Service men when we had full-time conscription.
If we had selective service, we should have to raise something like 50,000 men to make it worth while when one remembers that 10,000 Regulars would have to be told off to train them and that we would have to take into account the wastage from the voluntary recruiting. I know for a fact that the moment selective service was introduced, it would be found that voluntary recruiting fell, because there is no ambition on the part of youth today to join a hybrid service in which half its ranks are impressed men. As to the actual method of selection, I know how unpopular it is in America and I believe that it would be even more so here.
The British people always have a great sense of fair play. They do not like conscription in peacetime, and never have done. When we are all in it together, and everyone is to be called up, they will stick it and put up with it. If, however, one in thirty of our young men is to be called up on a selective system, what sort of life will we as Members of Parliament have? The letters that will come into our post-box every day will be about ten times as many as we get now, asking why "my Willie" should be called up whereas the chap next door should not, and we would not have any answer that would be convincing. It would also raise the defence Estimates to about £2,000 million a year, which would be a great burden. I therefore urge that we should give the fullest possible support to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in the proposals he has outlined for getting the recruits that we want for the Regular Army.
I have one small criticism of the Memorandum on the Army Estimates. I do not think it says enough about officer training. In paragraph 18 it says that field training was introduced at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, last year and it mentions the very useful winter camp which the cadets, 380 of 310 them, had in Portugal. I think it was well worth having that camp and I hope that my right hon. Friend will see that field training is continued.
Sandhurst is a very inspiring place to visit, and it has become renowned throughout the whole of the Western alliance as a centre of officer training. The number of foreign visitors who go to look round the Royal Military Academy every year is quite amazing. I was quite astonished when I went though the list.
At present we are training 903 officer-cadets at Sandhurst on a two-year course, and, of course, we train cadets from Nigeria and other parts of the Colonies. Sandhurst today is a thoroughly efficient training establishment, through which about 80 per cent. of our officer intake has to go. It also supplies a comprehensive education in which the sciences, languages, literature and current affairs are studied, and high academic standards are required for entry and fostered.
Of course, a good officer, as everyone knows, must learn to obey as well as to command, and the Sandhurst motto of "Serve to Lead" symbolises this attitude of the new Royal Military Academy. I was interested to see what Field Marshal Slim said to the cadets when he was Chief of the Imperial General Staff and took the Sovereign's Parade:I would like you to carry away from this Parade one thought, and that is this. In the British Army there are no good battalions, and no bad battalions, no good regiments and no bad regiments. There are only good and bad officers. See to it that you are good officers. And good luck to you.That is what one of the greatest fighting commanders has to say about the importance of good officers, and in my opinion the modern Sandhurst gives to its officer cadets today the highest training of any army in the world in how to be an officer.
In conclusion, I would say that in the end the success and efficiency of our peace-time Regular Army depend on the status we as a nation are prepared to give to its officers and personnel, and surely, believing as we do that the preservation of our free way of life in a peaceful world is about the be-all and end-all of our existence, we should give to our soldiers, sailors and airmen, and 311 all others concerned with keeping the peace, a status which is absolutely second to none.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I can readily assure the right hon. Gentleman that anything I can do to make his recruiting campaign a success will be done. After all, I have started in the most useful place. I have started in my own family. The only two surviving male members of my family whose father was killed in action are Regular N.C.O.s in the Army, and my daughter is serving in the Army. I am keen on the Army, because my life work has been there, that I am even prepared to tell the truth about it, even when that truth is uncomfortable and when it leaves me open to misrepresentation. I do not blame anyone for that.
I am not in favour of conscription. The first voice ever raised in the House about it was mine—in May, 1952. There were only three of us, my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) and myself. We stayed behind in an empty Chamber on the eve of the Whitsuntide recess to say that we could not sustain National Service if we were the only Commonwealth members to do it and if the other countries of N.A.T.O. did not pull their weight.
But I also pointed out, not in 1957 but ten years ago, the dangers of the short-service engagement. I was very interested indeed to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) draw a distinction between the short-service and the long-service engagement. Would that he had added his voice to mine when I was trying to persuade the Government that the three-year engagement tied conscription round our neck. I pleaded that the approach to the problem should be based not on the number of men enlisting but on the number of man-years because experience has shown that to be the proper planning approach.
It was not I who committed this country to maintaining four divisions in Germany. It was hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of this Committee who at the time when German rearmament came up, for various reasons, 312 pledged the honour of this country to maintaining four divisions in Germany. I opposed it because I knew that we should welsh on that commitment. In my view, one of the major causes of the last war was that Hitler did not believe that we meant business, for he did not believe that the guarantees which we gave to countries like Roumania and Poland meant anything. He knew those promises would not be implemented. Therefore he acted, as he thought, with impunity, not realising that the British people, when brought face to face with facts, have never shirked their duty. What I have pleaded is that Governments and Oppositions should do the same.
I do not want to dwell too long on my personal views in this matter. I should be delighted if the right hon. Gentleman got his 165,000, but I do not think that even 165,000 are enough if we have to maintain those four divisions. Of course, what the Government have done is to reduce our N.A.T.O. strength from 77,000 to 64,000 to 55,000 and to 45,000. Even N.A.T.O. could not stand that, and so we pay lip service to the 55,000. But I will not embarrass the right hon. Gentleman. He knows as well as I do that there are not 55,000 in the Rhine Army at the present time. It is organised for very restricted operations, and the mere fact that we have abandoned the division as the basis of organisation and have gone for the brigade group is simply a recognition that our operational commitment is very limited.
Adding to our commitment of four divisions those other commitments which we have, and about which I shall say some more in a moment—and let me say, of which I am not ashamed—I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether he would ask the Regular soldier of today to do what his forebears had to do—fight without equipment and with insufficent numbers and fight in the face of certain defeat. Because it is my view that there can be no more Dunkirks for us. Next time, we shall be in it all the time and with all that we are and all that we have. Even if we go in, putting it at its lowest, to defend our standard of living, we shall still be discharging our rôle on the world stage.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman must be a very loyal supporter of his Front Bench, for does he really believe what he said about Suez? Does he really believe 313 that if Suez happened again today we should be any better prepared? On the basis of his own facts we were, when we went into Suez, short of aircraft. I do not ask him to believe me. Let him go to General Keightley's dispatches. We were short of tank landing ships. We were in need of an anti-tank gun. We received a protest from the Americans that we had, in fact, purloined a weapon which was supplied to us to discharge our N.A.T.O. obligations. A statement was issued from Washington about it to that effect and I remember a statement of the then Minister of Defence on that point.
§ Sir J. Smyth
I was always told that the real obstacle to our putting down airborne troops on the Canal was that we had no mobile anti-tank gun. I certainly understood from my right hon. Friend that we have one today that could be carried in an aeroplane and which would overcome the difficulty.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. and gallant Member is referring to the Wombat. It is not in service but under assessment. I do not want to embarrass the Secretary of State for War, but I take the trouble to find out these things. A great deal of the equipment which the right hon. Gentleman enumerated today is not in service at the present time. As for the time of Suez, I have already invited the how and gallant Member to read General Keightley's dispatches. I tried, goodness knows how hard, to have this matter debated in the House and I finally succeeded on the Adjournment, but there was no anti-tank gun at the time and we had no transport aircraft, and we have not got the anti-tank gun today.
On the eve of these debates I try to anticipate what will be said. I guessed that following the speech of the Minister of Defence last week we should have a catalogue of the steps that will be taken to improve recruiting. I ask hon. Members to notice what the right hon. Gentleman said, without protest and without any comment from the chief Opposition spokesman on this side of the Committee. The first thing that the Minister intends to do is to lower the medical and educational standards. I broke a rule when I talked about manpower wastage round about Christmas, because I knew that the 314 Army Act was coming along. I spoke about Section 14 of that Act, but I have never talked before about wastage and I am loth to do so now because the high rate of wastage is directly related, in my judgment, to the standard of the men we take in.
§ Mr. Profumo
So that the record may be correct, I did not say that we were going to lower the educational and medical standards. I tried to point out that there were other things than a sledgehammer with which we could crack this little nut if it became necessary, such as lowering the standards for a temporary period. I said that this was the sort of thing we would examine. I did not say that we would do it.
§ Mr. Wigg
I did an exercise to see what was done in the two years immediately before the outbreak of war. The Regular Army then was 20,000 under establishment. I trust that hon. Members will not laugh in the wrong places when I enumerate these things. The first was to devote a great proportion of the effort to disseminating public information. The Government intended to have posters showing reproductions of the latest weapons such as the Bren gun, the 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun, and a mechanically-drawn field gun. These posters were to be designed in such a way as to make a special appeal to Scotland, Wales, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Northern Ireland. They were to publish special handbooks and there was to be a series of pamphlets and leaflets. There was to be a special pamphlet called "The Defence of Britain", a special anti-aircraft leaflet, a pamphlet dealing with conditions of service and a comprehensive set of photographs which would show weapons, field training of all sorts, barracks, cookhouses, institutes, troopships, and various kinds of sport.
Relations with the Press and the B.B.C. were first-class. Special films were to be shown. These were to include a film about the changing of the guard, the Military College of Science, and the Recruits' Physical Development Depot. I hope that hon. Members will especially resist the temptation to laugh when I say that there was to be an anti-aircraft film called "The Gap". The B.B.C. was to put on special broadcasts. There were to be Army exhibitions and stands at various shows. There was to be a 315 pavilion run in conjunction with the Air Force at the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow. There were to be special marches by the Scottish regiments, and London Transport was going to allow a special exhibition at Underground stations.
There were to be demonstrations at the Royal Agricultural Show, Cardiff, the Bath and West Show, Plymouth, and so on, and columns were to tour the country. One was to assemble art Leicester and visit most cities in the Midlands. Another was to be stationed in Leeds and to visit cities in Lancashire. Another at Catterick was to tour Durham and Tyneside. Still another visited Reading, Coventry, Birmingham and so on, and a further column toured Wessex. Thus it was said the public saw the most modern arms and equipment and great public interest was aroused.
That was not all. It was just a beginning. It was said that rejections on medical grounds were showing a marked increase and therefore the War Office was going to reduce medical standards. It was going to introduce four categories with different standards for "horse and foot", for the mechanised class, for men intended for the mechanical transport class and for lines of communication. In addition, to get more troops, the War Office intended to provide glasses and dentures and to lower the standards of hearing. It was also decided to accept men with minor disabilities provided that they would undergo an operation. A special recruits' physical development depot was opened at Aldershot and the men were given extra milk and remedial exercises. "At homes" were organised and special recruiting marches so that the men's families could see what service in the Army was like.
In addition, there was an improvement in the daily scale of rations and there was an increased ration allowance for soldiers on furlough. There was a reduction of stoppages and a free issue of canes, mugs and other articles. There were improvements to barracks, and more married quarters were to be provided. Age limits were raised. Men were permitted to sleep out of barracks, and the recruitment of married men was allowed.
The Government, therefore, before the war set about the task of getting as many 316 Regular recruits as possible. All the statements made today were made then. [An HON. MEMBER: "Did we get them?"] Yes, we did, but do hon. Members know how? The rates of recruiting continued to be bad until one thing happened—Munich. We got recruiting right only when the young men of the country were told the truth. All other efforts to obtain recruits by the methods I have mentioned completely failed.
If hon. Members opposite want to know what was the effect of that two-year policy and the refusal to face facts, I hope that they will allow me to quote something which I have mentioned in this Chamber before. This is what Lord Montgomery said:In September, 1939, the British Army was totally unfit to fight a first-class war on the Continent of Europe. It must be said to our shame that we sent our Army into that most modern war with weapons and equipment which were quite inadequate and we had only ourselves to blame for the disasters which early overtook us in the field when the fighting began in 1940.The refusal to face facts, the photographs of weapons, the parades—all that same kind of thing is being done now, and this is why I oppose this policy which will inevitably lead the country to exactly the same conclusion.
I have also made a list over the last few days of the various excuses that have been made by hon. and right hon. Members from both Front Benches on this issue. It is extremely interesting. The reason why we put our money on the atomic tactical weapon was that we accepted the arguments put forward by General Norstad, supported by Lord Montgomery, not two or three years ago but seven or eight years ago, when he said that their political masters had always denied them the means to discharge the obligations that they imposed upon them. We therefore have to pretend that we have atomic tactical weapons which, in fact, we do not possess. We have to engage in argument as to whether we would use them first when, in fact, we do not possess them.
There was one example, three years ago, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) told us that in Berlin our considerable body of troops must stand firm and that, if they were overrun, atomic 317 tactical weapons would redress the balance. Those weapons did not exist then and they do not exist now. I ask hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee to ponder the words of Admiral Brown, who commanded the United States Sixth Fleet at the time of the Lebanon operation, and, I understand, left it to take command of N.A.T.O. farces. Speaking of the "not far future", he said:I would not recommend the use of any atomic weapon no matter how small, when both sides have the power to destroy the world…because of the danger of bringing on a general nuclear holocaust.
For what it is worth, I have devoted my mind and time to trying to understand what happened at Suez. I tried to get a debate on that operation in the House. I have also tried to understand what happened in the Lebanon. I commend a study of that operation to any hon. Member who is interested in the subject, because it is a fact that, although the Americans scoured not only Europe but the United States in order to mass the maximum amount of equipment, they did not land their atomic weapon, Honest John. Equally, when we went into Jordan we were assisted in getting there by American aircraft.
We had a five-year defence programme, which has landed us in a mess. We are quite incapable of undertaking even limited operations, and our rôle in Europe now is of such a character that, although we may argue among ourselves about atomic weapons, our voice at the council table in N.A.T.O. gets weaker and weaker because, in the ultimate, it is the power that one disposes which determines the extent to which one can make one's word heard and influence felt.
In looking at the rôle of the Army we must not be obsessed by our commitments in Europe. That commitment is a political one—or, rather, a militiary one imposed on us for political reasons. Let us have a look at the situation in the Commonwealth. I am astonished at the views expressed here. We have heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood and from my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) about their interest in raising colonial forces. I do not know whether 318 the hon. and gallant Gentleman was present, but my hon. Friend was certainly in this House from 1945 onwards, and when Members opposite were in opposition, if there was one subject that they plugged on every conceivable occasion it was that of redressing the manpower shortage by developing colonial armies.
If Members opposite would like five minutes' amusement, I suggest that they read the speech of their first post-war Secretary of State for War, now Lord Head, on 10th March, 1952. Like an honourable man, he said it would be wrong to dodge the issue. He swallowed it all. He swallowed all that had been said—all the votes, all the Adjournments, all the columns of speeches, all the effort—because he quickly discovered on taking office something which he could have discovered before if he had cared to. He found that to raise colonial armies was the most expensive way, both in terms of cash and in terms of the very commodity of which the Army is most short—the middle piece officer, the warrant officer, and the N.C.O.
The interesting thing is that people are for every trying to solve our manpower shortage by relying on the Colonies. I could not understand why my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East argued that our commitments in the Commonwealth were a relic of nineteenth century imperialism, while at the same time he wanted to solve our manpower shortage by the most objectionable way in which any dominant Power can seek to do so, for that takes us back to the kind of world which he and I knew as young men—the world of the langri, the bhisti, the dhobi, the syce, the punkah wallah, the charwallah and the meh[...]a.
Despite this suggestion of raising men in the Colonies, we are told that our commitments in the Colonies are relics of an outworn nineteenth century imperialism, and that they are the kind of stations in which our fathers and grandfathers served. But this is not true. Of course it is true that the Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State for War are cagey about Singapore. One can have what views one likes about it, but Singapore is a kind of Clapham Junction of the Commonwealth. It is a commitment undertaken not by Britain 319 alone but shared also by Australia and New Zealand, each of which has a battalion there.
One can also have one's views about Hong Kong. We are there to discharge our function of maintaining law and order, partly with our own troops and partly with Gurkhas, but when we come to other stations in the Commonwealth we find that they were not places where our fathers and grandfathers served. No British troops ever served in Kenya, or on the coast of North Africa. We had no infantry in Aden.
1 have done a little exercise. We have sixty battalions of infantry, now that our reorganisation is complete, including the Guards and the Parachute Regiment. According to my sum, twenty of them are in Germany—including three in Berlin—twenty-two are at home and eighteen are scattered all round the world. I want to deal with one aspect because it enables me to illustrate a point.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), towards the conclusion of his speech in the defence debate, said that we should comb the tail for the benefit of the teeth. That statement is 200 per cent. wrong, because our problem is mainly concentrated on the tail, with its services. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East said today that we should discharge our obligations in these places all over the world because, however small, each is a potential source of friction in the world as it is today. I take it that he holds that view.
I want to deal with one of the most recent incidents. Perhaps it will help hon. Members to understand the kind of problems we face and the cost of meeting them. I am reasonably sure about my facts. Last August the Government were faced with a situation arising from Nigeria becoming independent. Up to that time there had been a Nigerian battalion in the Southern Cameroons, and then Nigeria's Minister of Defence decided that it must be withdrawn. The problems of the defence of Nigeria are very great. Its army has five battalions for a vast area with a population of some 40 million people. Its budget is small, and it begrudged the money spent on the battalion in the Southern Cameroons.
320 Her Majesty's Government decided that a British battalion of the King's Own Royal Border Regiment should take the place of the Nigerian battalion in the Southern Cameroons. When it went there it had thirty-three officers and 765 men. They had to go as a balanced force in about the smallest operation—a regimental group—which British forces could ever be required to undertake. I hope hon. Members will bear with me if I read to them what was involved in getting the force required to secure the position.
There was the 1st Battalion, the King's Own Royal Border Regiment; 59 Field Squadron Royal Engineers, less one troop; a Movement Control detachment; 634 Signals Troop, Royal Corps of Signals; 2 Brigade Group Medical Company, R.A.M.C.; detachments of the R.A.S.C. and R.A.O.C.; 8 Infantry Workshop, R.E.M.E.; 465 Postal Unit, R.E.; a Pioneer Corps labour unit; N.A.A.F.I.; public relations and a squadron of the Royal Air Force. The total number involved was 95 officers and 1,233 other ranks. In other words, 50 per cent. was added to the tail to perform this operation.
The cost was very great. The Minister was kind enough to answer a Question which I put down and said that the cost of conveying the men out there was £290,000, that the cost up to end of the present financial year would be £600,000, that it cost £24,000 a month to keep the men there and that it would cost £142,000 to bring them back.
It ought not to be suggested to those officers and men that they are the last vestige of imperialism. They should be told that they are discharging a duty in accordance with the noblest traditions of our race. There is no one who can stand up in the House of Commons and say that Britain has sent those men out there either in her own interests or in those of her friends. They are discharging a most uncomfortable United Nations job and they are doing it in the most difficult of conditions. There are 400 inches of rain a year—
§ Mr. Wigg
It is not the white man's grave and it is not a bad country in normal times, but it has 400 inches of rain 321 a year. I hope that the Secretary of State will tell us that these men are not forgotten and that the War Office is mindful of them and is making every effort about their welfare. The Foreign Secretary told the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) on 20th February that he did not know when those men were coming back. I hope that they are not forgotten for they are performing a vital and essential Task.
However, turning to paragraph 24 of the Secretary of State's Memorandum, there is another aspect with which I want to deal. There are 1,000 British officers and 1,000 British warrant officers and N.C.O's in the Ghana Army, in the Nigerian forces and serving in Sierra Leone and in Malaya and in other penny packets all over the Commonwealth. When I made my maiden speech, I said that I thought that the British Army had done more for the Colonies than the Colonial Office had ever done, and I still believe that that is true.
It forms the core, the foundation, of a civilised society, but there is something else. It helps to bind these emergent countries to our way of life and those countries can share our heritage with us because of the service of their nationals in the British Army. There are hon. Members on both sides of the House who believe in the future of world government, and those officers and men are playing an important part in the United Nations force in the Congo, where they are doing a difficult, uncomfortable and dangerous job.
If hon. Members take the trouble to get a list of the units and countries from which the United Nations force in the Congo has been drawn they will see that that force is not a cohesive military force and that what saved it in its early stages was the fact that in the Free State forces and in the forces from Ghana and Malaya and the Sudan, and even the United Arab Republic, there were officers who had known something of the British Army and many of whom had been to Sandhurst and some to Staff College. If ever that force ticked—and perhaps it has ticked better even than I thought it would—that has been due to the contact which those officers have retained with the British Army.
Those are not things of which to be ashamed. They are things of which to be proud. My protest about trying to 322 solve the manpower problems of Britain by trying to get recruits—to be hewers of wood and drawers of water—from our Colonial Empire of yesterday—and we shall not get them anyway—is that we demean ourselves by so trying. That solution is a belief born of ignorance, because if anyone cares to study advertisements in the newspapers, he will see that there are advertisements from New Zealand and Australia trying to get our young men to go to those countries and solve their problems for them. It is little credit to the young men of Britain that we should have to say to the world, "We value our freedom so much and we value our comfort so much that we will do anything except defend them ourselves" That is a most dangerous doctrine.
§ Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)
Surely the hon. Gentleman will not spread that condemnation to the Gurkhas or Sikhs.
§ Mr. Wigg
There are no Sikhs serving with the British Army and the Gurkhas are serving on another basis as a result of a very old treaty and a very old link. I believe that I am the only hon. Member from this side of the Committee who took the trouble to see the Gurkha demonstration on Horse Guards Parade and at the Infantry School at Warminster. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) came with me. I would be the last in the House of Commons to say anything which could be thought to denigrate the Gurkhas, and if anyone wants to see a first-class exhibition of drill with the new F.N. rifle he should see the Gurkhas. If the Gurkhas come again, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will arrange for them to demonstrate their drill in New Palace Yard when anyone interested will be able to see what can be done with the new F.N. rifle.
What I am saying is that the concept which the Conservative Party nurtured immediately after the war and which, judging by the "Hear, hear's", has survived on these benches, was that our Colonial Empire of yesterday could act as a manpower reservoir, but that concept is completely out of date. It is out of date for political reasons. It is nineteenth century and even pre-Kiplingesque, but in any case, if we try, we shall not 323 pull it off because the problems of the British Army are quite different.
The shortages are in the Services. They are in the scarce skills. The right hon. Gentleman gave a list. If we try to solve our manpower problem by making abortive bids in the Commonwealth, then, in the same way as we should create another problem if we tried to solve the manpower problem by reducing standards, so there would be another problem at the other end of the scale.
§ Mr. Wigg
There is something infinitely worse than conscription, and that is to pretend that we have strength which we do not have. I have always understood my hon. Friend's point of view, but I think that it makes such demands on the goodness of men that it is incapable of fulfilment, although I agree that the pacifist way is the way to the Cross. I am not good enough, and I do not believe that my fellow countrymen are good enough. True pacificism is all right, but pacificism which one takes on only in order to save one's skin or because it is uncomfortable is Vichy and the way to defeat and disaster.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton) rose——
§ Mr. Wigg
Let me answer one question at a time. I do not agree with the view of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) because I believe that one of the first duties of all civilised men is to maintain the rule of law and that a very important function of the British Army is just that.
§ Mr. V. Yates
I did not raise the issue of pacifism in my interjection. What I want my hon. Friend to realise is that we have had military conscription in this country for twenty-one years. It was introduced in peacetime, and was reintroduced by a Labour Government, 324 and therefore we have had all the problems associated with it, including the problem to which the Minister referred—production. Those are the arguments, and they have nothing whatever to do with the moral position. I do not quite understand what kind of a big Army my hon. Friend is wanting, unless it is with conscription, which will only lead us into more problems.
§ Mr. Wigg
I do not want a big Army; I want an efficient Army, and I fail to see how a country of this size, with the obligation to maintain four divisions in Germany, plus our Commonwealth obligation, thinks it can be the only country in N.A.T.O. that claims first-class status and does without conscription. I do not believe that President Kennedy will go on indefinitely inducting 6,000 men a month and continuing to foot the bill while we say that conscription is politically inconvenient.
§ Mr. Paget
One thing which I do not entirely follow in my hon. Friend's argument, which I greatly respect, is that in some way he seems to be conveying the impression that it is immoral to recruit volunteers in the West Indies or in other parts of the Commonwealth to fulfil the functions of a "tail", which we lack, and yet it is moral to conscript on the chance selection of selective service British people for that purpose. Why is it immoral to take volunteers and moral to take conscripts?
§ Mr. Wigg
My hon. and learned Friend knows perfectly well that these things are not part of the same argument. I do not complain about that. I will meet them both fairly and squarely. The first thing is that I think it quite moral to ask all the citizens born in this country to defend the country, subject to the provision, which I have always supported, of exemption on the ground of conscience.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. and learned Gentleman has not learned his history. There is a very odd taste about asking West Indian troops to defend, for example, Africa. He does not seem to realise that from 1840 to 1898 there were no British troops in West Africa at all, except in the Ashanti wars. The 325 troops were drawn from the West Indian Regiment, and when they had thrown off the shackles of imperialism, it was decided to form the West African Regiment and get rid of the West Indian Regiment, which subsequently went to East Africa.
There is another fact which the hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well in connection with recruiting crack troops like the Gurkhas. I do not doubt for a moment that we could recruit more, but where are we to use them? Where my hon. and learned Friend is quite right is in saying that there is no sort of morality in bribing people, if we can get them to come along, as hirelings or mercenaries—if we can get them, but all the ideas of my hon. and learned Friend are so many hares which have now been caught up and tried at different times—a foreign legion, getting recruits from West Africa, and so on. Each of these hares came to a stop because this is not what we want. What we want is a share of the rare skills which are acquired in these islands, and, therefore, whatever numbers we attract from the West Indies will only aggravate the problem.
There is another reason. What sort of a recruiting drive is this to be if the Secretary of State for War says, "I cannot get British subjects to undertake these obligations, and I shall recruit in the West Indies"? If I wanted to knock my hon. and learned Friend down altogether—and I always treat him very kindly and that is far from my intention —I would say that the weakness of his case is that he could have only the hewers of wood and drawers of water in the R.A.S.C. and R.A.O.C. He could not let them join the Brigade of Guards. He would not, because he is not even a nineteenth century Imperialist, and this is what is so endearing about him. He goes back to the early part of the eighteenth century. He was out of date in 1760, and he is equally out of date and equally romantic in 1960. If I may now turn to the right hon. Gentleman, I want to say that the mercenaries and the West Indian Regiment were disbanded sixty or seventy years ago.
§ Mr. Wigg
It is an oddness that my hon. and learned Friend has only just discovered. When hon. Gentlemen on all sides of the House held up their hands in pious horror and said, "We must not have a selective draft," in heaven's name, what have we been having? We exempted coal miners, merchant seamen and agricultural workers. Fifteen months ago, when it suited the Government, 60,000 men were not called up to the Royal Air Force and the Army when, at the same time, they were releasing people. Of course, we have had selective service, and my hon. and learned Friend does not realise it. We are only squealing about selective service now because it suits us politically to do so. I say quite definitely that we have the right to ask young men of this country to accept the obligations of service, but I do not believe that we have the right, or that it is politically possible, to lay such an obligation on people living in the Caribbean.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
We are not trying to lay an obligation on them. We are looking for volunteers.
§ Mr. Wigg
My hon. Friends are really fantastically out of date. It may well have been possible a few years ago, in Ghana or Nigeria, when they became independent, or in the Caribbean, or even in Cyprus, but what is the first thing such countries do when they get independence? They try to recruit forces of their own, and so they come up flat against some of the difficulties that we have. We want them to send us warrant officers and N.C.O.s, and they want warrant officers and N.C.O.s from us. That is the explanation of paragraph 24. In the British Army we want just those things which they have not got, and they want from us just those things which we find it most difficult to let them have.
§ Mr. Wigg
I wish the hon. Gentleman would be fair to the Army, because if he were, he would have supported me when I made my demand to get rid of National Service ten years ago, and 327 when I wanted to get rid of the National Service engagement. My hon. Friends really want the convenience of living under the protection of the Army and none of the inconvenience of raising it, including conscription.
I do not believe for a moment that any Government, from either side, would have the courage to face this politically awkward decision. I did not believe the Minister of Defence when he gave us his assurance the other night. I never believed that the Government meant what they said in paragraph 48 of the 1957 White Paper. I believe that we are now facing national humiliation, just as we did two years before the war. The only road open to us then was the one which led inexorably to the beaches of Dunkirk, so what we are doing now will lead inexorably, sooner or later, to our bluff being called.
In paragraph 10 of the 1959 White Paper the country was told that a general-purpose aircraft—the TSR2—was being developed for the support of the Army and for other tactical operations. It was to be a tactical strike and reconnaissance aircraft. A few days ago the Minister of Defence told us how well this project was going. We were told that this was the best aircraft in the world, that it would fly in 1964 and that it apparently would be able to do everything except sink. It would be able to fly high and also to get down low, it would have a high speed and would be able to fulfil all the functions of a tactical strike and reconnaissance aircraft.
I will make a forecast about this aircraft, just as I have made forecasts about the Britannic—now called the Belfast—and about Blue Streak. I will tell the Committee the history of the matter. This is a wonderful aircraft, but, like everything else that we have made, it is about five years too late. It is not flying at the moment. Hon. Members can search these islands from Land's End to John o'Groats and they will not find a single piece of metal or anything else that anyone can tell them is part of a TSR2. This is part of the Government's propaganda.
But this is not all the story. We have lost so much time that the Americans already have the F4H flying at 2.7 mach as against the 2 mach at which the TSR2 will fly in about five years' time, when it 328 takes to the air. In addition, the Americans have the A3J coming forward. Even now that puts us two generations behind them. This was not contradicted during the defence debate. The right hon. Gentleman referred to it only in his concluding speech. The White Paper said that this aircraft was launched, in the first instance, for the special benefit of the Army. I do not believe that. The Army is without this aircraft, just as it is without adequate supplies of helicopters despite the fact that a dozen have been bought from the French Government. The Belfast—formerly the Britannic—is coming forward in 1964–65, but until then we shall be quite incapable of undertaking even a realistic exercise. If hon. Members will be good enough to consider this matter on the basis of one ton per man —because troops have to fight with equipment—they will realise that we are quite incapable of carrying out such an operation.
I wish the right hon. Gentleman luck, and anything I can do to make his luck real in regard to recruiting I will do, but I believe that the British Army has never been worse equipped than it is at present. There are no war reserves, there is no effective mobilisation plan, and if we are put to it to undertake even the most limited operation with less than a brigade group we shall be quite incapable of doing so.
This matter will be judged not by what the right hon. Gentleman says or by what I say; it will be put to the test as defence matters always are put to the test, not by points of order or narrow majorities, however contrived. There is a logic behind this. It is a question of the right amount of firepower in the right place at the right time. If it is not there somebody will have to pay for it, just as we have had to pay for it in the past. My interest in these matters is to try to prevent the Army from paying for politicians' mistakes.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
As usual, the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has regaled the Committee with a mess of military pottage. Unfortunately, however, he has, as usual. let his enthusiasm for the British Army—for which we all give him credit —run away with him to such an extent 329 that he has kept many other speakers out of the debate for a long time.
I should like to follow up one or two points that the hon. Gentleman made, and I will deal, first, with his remarks about the British contingent to N.A.T.O. in Europe. We recognise that our original undertakings were larger than we could possibly make good. In due course, using the proper machinery and giving warning to our allies, we reduced our forces. I would remind the hon. Member that the major threat to N.A.T.O. is fully recognised by competent leaders in the Western Alliance no longer to lie in Europe. That does not mean that we can whittle down our troops in Germany or elsewhere to a zero figure, but it means that there is some justification for intelligent reduction, just as there might be a justification for an increase in different circumstances. We must not be dogmatic about the figure. We must be intelligent, and adjust it as circumstances demand.
I was not clear whether I properly understood the hon. Gentleman's other point about our forces in Germany. If he will do me the courtesy of giving me his attention for a moment, I would point out that he gave the Committee the impression that there were no tactical atomic weapons in Europe in the N.A.T.O. command or under direct British charge.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. and gallant Member complains because my speech took so long, but I was interrupted right, left and centre, and now I am being asked for more information. We have the 47th Guided Weapon Regiment, with the Corporal, and we have three other regiments with the Honest John and atomic artillery, but there are no atomic tactical weapons under British control.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I take the point. I was rather misled by the way the hon. Member put it in the first place. We realise that the warheads of these American weapons are under the charge of the American commanders. If that is what he meant, we all know that.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I am sorry, but I cannot give way again. The hon. Member has had more than his fair share of the time of the debate— —
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
—and it would not be fair to give way to him again.
I want to refer to the manpower question for a few moments. I have complete confidence that a figure of about 165,000 men can be reached by the end of 1962, and possibly a few more than that. If we use the right methods it may be possible to reach a figure of about 180,000, given a little more time, although we shall not be able to do it by the end of 1962. What we must do, therefore, is not only to alter the image of the Army in the public eye, but to alter that image in the Army's own eye. I am very much encouraged by the speech which my right hon. Friend made. It is obvious that he is completely conscious of the problem and is going the right way about solving it.
Many improvements can be brought about in our recruiting methods, and it is clear from my right hon. Friend's remarks that he is also fully conscious of those. I think it right at this time to pay tribute to a man who has been responsible for giving considerable help, chiefly to the Army, but also to the other fighting forces. I speak of Sir Frederick Hooper, who was responsible for the reorganisation and resettlement of officers and men made redundant at a time when we were cutting down heavily. He is engaged as one of the Minister's advisers on recruiting methods and publicity for the Services, particularly for the Army, and I believe that he is doing a great and generous service to his country.
Something which I find alarming, and which has been only touched upon, is the problem of wastage. What appears so extraordinary to me is that the percentage wastage seems to be high in the most unexpected units. I cannot help feeling that there must be serious reasons for this which need exploring and if possible eliminating. I was delighted with the announcement about the incentive to National Service men to engage for a regular period, but I am not sure that it goes far enough. I understand that they will be paid the difference between their National Service pay and 331 Regular pay for the period that they have been doing National Service before engaging on a Regular engagement or a year, whichever is the least. I should like to know whether that will be paid straight away, or in the form of a gratuity at the end of their Regular engagement.
Secondly, will their period of National Service time count towards their Regular engagement? I think that an important point. If this time is not included, consideration should be given to including it. There is a story current—I do not know whether it is true, but it has appeared in a number of newspapers—that the three-year Regular engagement from National Service is being used as a means of getting out of the Army. If a man is called up as a National Service man, he can volunteer for the three-year engagement and, after a month or so, can purchase his discharge for £20. If that is true, and if the practice is common, a stop ought to be put to it swiftly.
We have to admit that all these Estimates can be wrong. The best laid plans often go— —
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
—amis, and an accurate forecast can prove inaccurate after a few months. What shall we do if we do not get the men? We must consider that. In the recent defence debate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said that it would come up for serious consideration nearer the time, but there is no harm done if, in the meantime, this Committee debates the matter and hon. Members turn the problem over in their minds.
I should be firmly against any suggestion of a return to conscription. From many points of view, conscription has always been the last resort, an emergency measure when war appeared imminent, or, more often, when it has broken out. It is a most undesirable feature in peace time in respect of any of the Armed Forces. It is a brake on Regular recruitment and gradually it saps the morale of units. Unless we are faced with a serious emergency, such as the outbreak of war or a breakdown in international relations, which heaven forbid, we should avoid conscription at all 332 costs; and under that heading I include selective service.
Yesterday, The Times, rather inconclusively, examined the possibilities or probabilities of selective service. I agree with the writer of the article that the advantages of selective service are completely outweighed by the disadvantages. We get all the disadvantages of Regular conscription and the added disadvantage of the unfairness of the ballot, or however it is done. Apart from that we have the practical difficulty, if the ballot method is used—I see no other way in which it could be done in this country—that we are not certain of getting the type of man we need. We may get a man highly skilled in some trade not needed in the Army, and men that the Army could do with may miss the draft because they have been lucky in the ballot.
We may consider what has happened in America, where this is unpopular with the forces and in the country generally. If it is unpopular in America how much more unpopular is it likely to be in Britain, where we have a much more closely knit population? We have to look elsewhere for a solution to this problem. I am not dogmatic about possible recruitment in the Commonwealth. Obviously, there are parts of the Commonwealth where it might be profitable to try to recruit certain types of men, and what was said on this subject by the hon. Member for Dudley was sound.
But, apart from the Gurkhas, and men from other limited areas, I cannot see much prospect of drawing further manpower from the Commonwealth, so the solution must be something different, and, I think, something along the lines of a proper and intelligent use of the Regular Army Reserve, the Army Emergency Reserve and the Territorial Army.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has power to call up 45,000 men on his own authority, without a Proclamation. This power is seldom used and we are led to believe that at present the reserves are somewhat disorganised. That is not surprising, as the whole structure of the Army has been so recently reorganised, including the Territorial Army. Those reserves may 333 be somewhat disorganised now, but there is no reason why they should continue in that state. I hope that the Secretary of State for War and those who help him will turn their attention to getting these reserves on a really firm footing and, what is more, using them perhaps at frequent intervals, partly to exercise the machinery, and partly to fill gaps in manpower when that may be necessary. I hope that the latter occasions will not be frequent.
From the point of view of exercising the machinery, it would be a useful exercise if call-ups of sections of these reserves, augmented by units from the Territorial Army, could be made at fairly frequent intervals. Again, of course, it is difficult because the shortages occur only in certain trades and in certain units, but with a little ingenuity that, too, could be overcome.
I hope that the other thing which will be done to encourage our reserves will be to include units of the Territorial Army in some of these realistic exercises. I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend describe the flying of forces to Canada and elsewhere. If small detachments of the Territorial Army could join in those exercises, a great service would be done to the Territorial Army. The inclusion of such detachments could be awarded to units for efficiency and merit in various directions. It would be a great spur to morale and a spur to recruiting in the Territorial Army if a unit knew that if it did a good job in normal Territorial Army duties it had a very good chance of having a detachment sent overseas to join up with the Regular Army in one of these rather conspicuous exercises.
I want, now, to turn to Germany and the criticism which is being made of the possibility of bringing German units to Britain for exercises, training, and the storing of German equipment here. Those who are noisiest in the criticism of this project are usually those who have been furthest from the firing line in the past. We all know the dangers. We have been through all this before. But let us remember that after 1918 we made a great many mistakes. The Treaty of Versailles was largely directed to setting the German nation aside as a second-class nation, if not of more or less ostracising it. We saw where that led us in the 'thirties, and we do not want to go 334 that way again. I am convinced that the only way to deal sensibly with this problem is to treat the Germans as what they are, equal allies in N.A.T.O., and to give them the facilities which we would expect them to give us if we asked for them.
There is a simple analogy. Many hon. Gentlemen opposite are often eloquent about the treatment of delinquents—call them criminals if one likes. Many people, both in this Committee and elsewhere, have referred to the Germans as criminals, or having a criminal past, but when those people discuss the treatment of delinquents, or whatever one likes to call them, one often hears that punishment is a very minor aspect and that reform is all-important.
I think that we can rest assured that the German nation has had its punishment. This is the period of reform and probation. How are we to reform the German people and get them over the probationary period unless we have them with us the whole time sharing our facilities for military training, sharing our responsibilities, and taking part in this joint effort to keep the peace in Western Europe?
In that context, I was interested in a letter in the Western Gazette, one of my local newspapers. It came from a Service man. I do not know whether he is a Regular or a National Service man, but he is a young soldier in Germany. This is an extract from his letter:I am one of 55,000 British soldiers stationed in Germany at the request of the West German Defence Department. I am stationed…at Kiel.… We live together with some three or four thousand combined German Forces, all, on average, about the same age as myself, born early in the war or just post-war. About 17 per cent, of Germans now speak and read English.He adds that they borrow his copy of the newspaper, and continues:they show great concern about the remarks passed by readers' comments on the proposed plan to bring German troops to England and Wales…The modern German Army is the youngest member of the strong N.A.T.O, force which protects us from the Communist bloc. In any outbreak of hostilities West Germany would be one immense battlefield, and those like my fellow German soldiers would fight and die, if necessary, side by side with British and other N.A.T.O. countries.…That shows what reasonable, thinking young men in our forces feel about this business of training German troops in 335 Britain and perhaps elsewhere. If a young man who has lived out there among them can feel like that, we should be able to feel the same ourselves and treat this serious matter in a far more responsible manner than it is apt to be treated in certain circles in Britain.
I said earlier that not only have we to get the image of the British Army right in the public eye, but that to do that the Army has to get its own image right in its own eye. I was delighted with one or two of the remarks made by my right hon. Friend with reference to "bull" and all the chores that have to go on. As a sailor, I was surprised at what happened before the war and, to a certain extent, during the war, when, of course, conditions were very different, and after the war, when, from time to time, parties of soldiers embarked, in those days in His Majesty's ships. They came sometimes for a holiday or a change from their normal bases, and sometimes they came on exercises or for semi-military operations. Almost invariably, because of lack of space, they had to be housed in what probably were the least desirable conditions in the ship—the spare mess deck, which had been given up by everyone else because it was too hot there, or something of that nature.
Those men came on board and the whole operation was treated in great good nature. They did not mind scrubbing decks; they did not mind peeling potatoes. They did not mind doing all the household jobs which soldiers, sailors and airmen have to do from time to time all over the world, because they were doing them under different conditions. The Navy has a great advantage because it carries its house underneath and floats on its house. The Army cannot do that and, naturally, the Royal Air Force cannot spend its whole life in Vulcan bombers, but there is a difference of approach to this problem in the three Services.
I am sure that if we could get it the same and right in all three Services men would take these menial jobs, which have to be done, in their stride. Let us by all means encourage civilians to do them whenever possible. but there are circumstances when they have to be done by the Service man. If only we could get the spirit right, the men who 336 have to do these jobs would embark on them in a cheerful frame of mind.
People are apt to make too much of the problems of "bull", but we know that all these menial duties are necessary. Spit-and-polish is perhaps overdone in certain cases, but it is very good for morale. The unit of high morale is usually beautifully turned out, even on comparatively ordinary occasions. That can be done only with spit-and-polish.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
I am very tempted to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) in his closing remarks and to say how much most hon. Members of the Committee would disagree with what he said about spit-and-polish. I should have thought we had reached a stage when we were no longer excusing "bull" in this Committee, but were more ready to follow the Minister.
I want to limit my speech to three points, one of which the hon. and gallant Member touched on and which was talked about at considerable length by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). Incidentally, I do not begrudge my hon. Friend having 50 minutes when he speaks, because he knows what he is talking about. If every one of us spent as much time doing our homework as he does, we would be better members of this Committee and of the House.
The first point I want to make is that about recruitment in the colonial areas, and I want to speak particularly about recruitment in the West Indies. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has now left the Chamber. It is not good enough for him to raise this problem by a quotation from what Lord Head said in 1952. In 1952, Lord Head said that the difficulties about recruiting in the colonial areas at that time were that a West African division —which was what he was talking about —would consume large numbers of n.c.o.s and middle-rank officers and would be very expensive in terms of erecting permanent barracks for them in West Africa. No one is now discussing what Lord Head was demolishing at that time.
337 What we are advocating at the moment is the integration of a limited number of such volunteers into existing regiments serving all over the world, including in this country. That is a quite different matter from what Lord Head was unable to recommend in 1952. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has now come into the Chamber and I repeat that Lord Head, in 1952, was talking about a West African division based in West Africa. We are talking about the integration of a limited number of volunteers in all units in the British Army wherever there happen to be vacancies for which they are suitable. The case can be examined on those merits.
If we look at the situation, for example, in Jamaica—where I have been for a considerable time recently—we find that recruiting is going on there at the moment, but it is only for the British West Indies Regiment. We find that the numbers involved are infinitesimal. When I was in Jamaica the West Indies Regiment advertised for 36 recruits. I hope that the Secretary of State will look at a photograph I shall send him, showing hundreds of West Indians who turned up in the hope of being recruited into the British Army. There were headlines in the newspapers saying that hundreds of people were doing so. There are many willing volunteers in places like Jamaica who wish to join the British Army. It must be taken into account that they are willing and anxious to do so. Apart from recruitment to the West Indies Regiment, there is no regular machinery at all for recruiting in the West Indies to other regiments of the Army in general. This is a scandal.
I am sure that it would have the agreement of the Jamaican Government and that there is no reason why there should not be a regular recruiting office there to recruit in considerable numbers. The Jamaican is intensely British and proud to serve in the British Army. His ties with this country are probably greater in sentimentality and basic allegiance than in almost any part of the Commonwealth. He is anxious to serve, as is shown by his record in two world wars. The Secretary of State has spoken of reasons why people used to join the Army—love of adventure, need for secure employment and love of travel. 338 The Jamaican is exactly that type of person. He loves to travel and wishes to join the Army and see the world as well as to serve Her Majesty. He loves adventure. This is the reason so many have migrated: at least, it is part of the reason —the main one, of course, being enonomic conditions out there.
In Jamaica, at present there is a reserve of unemployed which is quite frightening in its scope. It should be known that of a working population of 700,000 between 100,000 and 200,000 are unemployed. It is worrying to see, in the streets of Jamaica today, the lost generations of young men in their late 'teens and early twenties who have no technical education and for whom there are not the jobs we should like to see in a society which is increasing its industrial development. They are the people whom the British Army would find good material. They have had a reasonable education. They are sturdy, adventurous and have devotion on a terrific scale to the idea of the British Commonwealth and the British Crown. I want to see an office opened there. I am sure that Mr. Manley, the Prime Minister, would not raise any objection to our recruiting out there.
Incidentally, who was it who, last year, was acclaimed the best recruit to one of the British regiments? It was a Jamaican soldier who had joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and received the award as the best recruit of the year. That was a very good thing and a fine lesson for the rest of the world. It was an example of the impact of our multiracial Commonwealth. How did he get into the Royal Warwickshire Regiment? This is what a newspaper said:Private Foster, who travelled across the Atlantic to join the British Army, will be off on his travels again shortly.When a Jamaican wants to join the British Army he has to come here at his own expense and take pot luck on whether he will be accepted. This state of affairs is indefensible. There should be much better channels for recruiting brilliant and average young Jamaicans into the British Army, where they would be of such use.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the type of vacancies he has—for drivers, nursing orderlies and clerks. 339 There is plenty of material in Jamaica for such vacancies. Many Jamaicans who come to Britain work as nursing orderlies. Most of them can drive, or they soon learn to drive. Many of them have the beginnings of clerical skill.
I hope that we shall hear something much more definite than the pious platitudes we have had from the right hon. Gentleman so far. In a Parliamentary Answer on 20th December he said that he wanted to see more Commonwealth members in the British Army. What did he mean by that, and when does he intend to do something tangible about it?
My second point, based on my long visit to Jamaica, concerns pensions to old members of the West Indies Regiment. This has been a crying scandal for some time and is now becoming much worse, because we are dealing with men who were serving mainly in the First World War. They are now reaching 65 and 70 years of age and are in considerable poverty. There are about 14,000 ex-Service men in Jamaica over 65 years of age, either ex-West Indies Regiment—that is, serving up to 1926—or from battalions of the British West Indies Regiment of the First World War. There are no old-age pensions for these elderly men to fall back on in their old age.
Probably about 12,000 of the 14,000 have no visible means of subsistence, except that some of the ex-members of the British West Indies Regiment receive 9s. or 10s. per week from the Government Central Supplementary Allowances Committee. The ex-West Indies Regiment men have no source of pension whatever. They depend entirely on the Jamaican Legion Benevolent Fund, which, at the most, is able to give them £2 or £3 a month, or 9s. or 10s. a week.
It would be appreciated if the Secretary of State would help the Jamaican Legion to provide decent pensions for these men by making a tangible contribution. At present, 250 cases of sheer destitution are pending because of sheer lack of funds of the Jamaican Legion. More and more cases are coming on to the books of the Legion every month as these men become older and more likely to be destitute.
The Jamaican Government have shown their anxiety to help by increasing their 340 subvention to the Legion. It is now £26,000 a year. It is not too much to ask the right hon. Gentleman to guarantee, say, £25,000 a year until these elderly men die. Such a figure, which is a mere halfpenny in the totality of the Army Estimates, would raise the reputation of the British Government in the West Indies. Bodies such as the British Commonwealth Ex-Service League and the Army Benevolent Fund help in a small way. They contribute a few thousand pounds here and there. They are doing their best. Tangible help should be given by the British Government. It is very largely their responsibility.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to examine this matter and receive a deputation from a number of us from both inside and outside the House of Commons. I have not yet had time to invite him, but I hope that one member of the deputation will be the secretary of the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League. We could then discuss the subject and see whether anything can be done.
I want now to raise with the Secretary of State the rather scandalous way in which the War Office has handled the sale of some land for a very fine project, namely, a national sports stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. The way this has been done is quite wrong.
§ Mr. Profumo indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Chapman
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I will put the contrary case.
It was proved that some War Office land was the most suitable for the establishment of a national sports stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. It is not merely that Jamaica wants the stadium. It is because the Caribbean Games will be held there in 1962. That is a worth-while project which we should encourage. When the Jamaican Government wanted to buy the land the right hon. Gentleman insisted that it be sold at current market value.
§ Mr. Chapman
The right hon. Gentleman insists that he has to, but he can ask Parliament for its approval to his finding a way round that. The House of Commons is the master. This land 341 on which the right hon. Gentleman is making at the moment a fantastic capital gain— —
§ Mr. Profumo indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Chapman
It is true. The land was bought for a pittance. It is now being sold to the Jamaican Government at £3,250 an acre. Similar land nearby, which the Jamaican Government are also purchasing for this purpose, is being bought at £1,500 and £900 an acre. It is repugnant to us that on such a worthwhile project as a stadium for the Caribbean Games the British Government should be making a fantastic capital profit on the land involved. It would have been a far better gesture for the British Government to have offered it to the Jamaican Government at a nominal figure as our contribution towards a worth-while project in which the Commonwealth should be associated through the generosity of the British Government.
I will say this for the right hon. Gentleman. Within nine days of my writing to him from Jamaica he made a very fine gesture by reducing the payments of interest on the money involved. But that does not go far enough. That was the easy way out. I know that he did it with every spirit of generosity, but it is still the easy way out. I repeat that it is repugnant that we should be making a large capital profit out of such a worth-while community venture for the whole Caribbean. I hope that the Secretary of State will think again and try to find an alternative to charging such a large capital price for the land.
Finally, I again stress that many of us who have examined the problem in the colonial areas are convinced that the right hon. Gentleman can do more than he has done already about recruiting in the Commonwealth. There are many willing volunteers of a fine type. I hope that the Secretary of State will begin to put his words into effect.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
I shall touch a little later in my speech on what I thought were the very interesting remarks made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) on recruiting in the West Indies. He gave us first-hand information on the subject, and I am sure 342 that everyone interested in it is most grateful to him.
I join other hon. Members in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) on their excellent opening speeches. I thought that my right hon. Friend was lively, entertaining, and encouraging. It was encouraging to hear from him about the barrack building programme, about improvements in equipment and about other things he is doing to improve the Army and to improve the standard of life of the soldier in it. I was particularly encouraged to hear him say that he is doing away with "bull" and also that he intends to maintain the high standard of smartness which already exists in the Army. We have heard all these things before, of course, but they are none the less encouraging. I am always encouraged to hear them again. I have said them myself.
§ Sir F. Maclean
But, however encouraging those things are, I regret to say that my right hon. Friend's speech did not convince me altogether of the rightness of the Government's overall policy. Looking back over the last four years, it seems to me that the most disquieting feature of their policy—and there is a lot that is disquieting in it—is the political assumption on which it is based, the assumption enshrined in the Defence White Paper of 1958, that "we are poised betwen total peace and total war".
It seems to me that every year that has gone by has shown the utter wrongness and mistakenness of that assumption. Every year has shown, on the one hand, that so long as the West has an effective deterrent there is very little likelihood of total war and, on the other hand, that there is no likelihood whatever of total peace. Everything that has happened and everything that is happening today from the Congo to Cuba points not to total peace or to total war but to a continuation of what is now called peaceful co-existence and used to be called the cold war.
In 1957, working on the assumption that we were poised between total war and total peace, the Government decided to reorientate their defence policy. They 343 decided to do three things; to abolish conscription, to reduce our conventional forces, and to concentrate on what were called streamlined nuclear forces. But it seems to me that that policy left completely out of account two of the basic facts of present-day life, the cold war and our worldwide commitments. And small streamlined nuclear forces, of course, are the answer to neither of those things.
The answer to both, it seems to me, lies in adequate conventional forces and, in particular, an adequate Army, and this is what I very much fear we shall not have before long. It is for that reason, and because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said in the defence debate last week that the 1957 policy was unchanged, that I did not feel able to vote for the White Paper.
There is a great deal of talk today about recruiting and there is much speculation about how many recruits the Army will obtain. For my part, I am inclined to leave that speculation to the experts, to the experts who brief my right hon. Friend and to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) who briefs himself. Successive Secretaries of State have told the House what my right hon. Friend said just now, namely, that they were confident that we should have 165,000 men by the end of next year. Having regard to the information published in the White Paper, to the recent recruiting figures and to the very disturbing wastage figures, it may well be that that statement was a bit on the optimistic side. Perhaps the figure will be nearer 160,000. However, I do not seriously question my right hon. Friend's forecast. Time will show, and show very soon now, whether we shall have the number of men we have been promised. I do not seriously question his forecast. What I question with all the energy at my disposal is the rightness of the target which the Government set themselves in the first place, the target of 165,000 given in the 1957 Defence White Paper.
In 1957, the Government were so keen to get rid of conscription—I sympathise with them; we are all keen to get rid if it—that they put the cart before the horse. They tackled the matter the wrong way round. At that time, two figures 344 were available in the War Office. There was the absolute minimum number of men with which, in the view of the experts, we could get by, namely, 200,000. And there was the other figure, the number of men that it was thought we should be able, with any luck, to get by voluntary recruiting, namely, 165,000.
In the light of that information—perhaps one should say in the teeth of that information—the Government took the decision to abolish conscription and fix the size of the Regular Army at 165,000 men. That, it will be observed, was not the number we needed to fulfil our commitments. It was the number that they thought they might, with any luck, be able to get by voluntary recruiting.
In the defence debate the other day, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) attacked me for talking about this, for saying that we needed more than 165,000 men and for speaking of numbers like 200,000. He poured scorn on mischievous politicians and on their unfairness to soldiers. (Incidentally, my hon. and gallant Friend is, I presume, after sixteen years in politics, a politician as we all are.) Now, when it comes to politics, if ever there was a political decision, if ever there was a decision taken on party political grounds, it was the decision taken by the Government in 1957. My own criticism of that decision is based not on political grounds but on arithmetical grounds.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) has referred to some of us who take this view as a reactionary pressure group. I have often been called a reactionary by Russians, by hon. Members opposite and by all kinds of people, but I have never been called it by an admiral before. I am also not quite clear what it means. But if being a reactionary means that one reacts against things one does not like, I shall certainly go on reacting against this decision, and as for pressure, I shall keep up the pressure on the Government for all I am worth.
I have never myself claimed to speak as an expert on military matters, but I have considerable respect for the experts. I have considerable respect for the noble Lord, Lord Head, who is now in Nigeria. 345 I think that in the last four years he has given a number of very valid reasons to show why the decision taken in 1957 was so disastrous. I have considerable respect for Field Marshal Lord Harding, who spoke not long ago of "the grave error made in 1957". Finally, I have considerable respect for the C.I.G.S. designate, General Hull, whose committee fixed the figure of 200,000. It is because of the views of the experts that I attach so much importance to the figure of 200,000 and that I feel very grave disquiet when I read in the newspaper that the Minister of Defence has said that the Army must "manage" with 165,000 men.
No doubt it will be said that the figure of 200,000 is out of date. It seems to me very unlikely that it is out of date. If it is, I think that it is more likely to be on the low side. If we go back to the White Paper of 1957 and to the figure of 165,000, we find that the policy based on that figure assumed, first, an all-round reduction in world tension. Certainly that assumption has not been justified. Since then we have had the failure of the Summit Conference—not that that would have made much difference. We have had the wind of change and an all-round hotting up of peaceful co-existence.
The second thing which the 1957 policy assumed was that there would be a drastic reduction in the four divisions that we were bound to provide to N.A.T.O. That has not come off either. It is perfectly true that we have not fulfilled our obligations to N.A.T.O., but we are now told that, instead of reducing our contribution, such as it is, we are to increase it. Therefore, both those assumptions fall.
If the Government wish to keep the strength of the Army at 165,000 and if they do not want to reduce our contribution to N.A.T.O., what do they propose to reduce? Not long ago there were some ugly rumours that, in spite of the attitude of China and of unrest throughout South-East Asia and the Far East and the enormous strategic and economic importance of that whole area, we were to cut our garrisons in South-East Asia and the Far East. I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend has disposed of that rumour once and for all. He denied it when he was out there, and I was glad to hear that he had done so. It would be a disaster if——
§ Mr. Profumo
I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to interrupt him, because I do not want there to be any misunderstanding about this. He quoted me as having denied something. I accept that what he read sounded like a denial. What I in fact said was that, from what I had seen in my tour out there——
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Norman Hulbert)
I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would address me.
§ Mr. Profumo
I am sorry, Sir Norman. I was saying that I was grateful to my hon. Friend for letting me intervene. He quoted me as having denied that we were to cut our forces in those places. What I said was that, having looked at the building programme and everything else, it did not look as if we would have a major withdrawal and I repeated that we had no intention of reducing the commitments which we should honour. I made a point earlier tonight of saying that from time to time we might well have to redistribute our forces round the world. I should not like my hon. Friend to feel that all the forces we have stationed round the world will be exactly the same each year. I am not denying anything. I am just trying to put the matter in perspective.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I am glad that my right hon. Friend is not denying his denial. I should have been very much worried if he were. Then that leaves the rest of the world. Surely we do not propose to reduce our forces in Africa or in the Persian Gulf. Surely we do not propose to abdicate our responsibilities in either of those areas quite so fast. Even if we do, surely we know by now that even that does not mean that we shall relieve ourselves of all our military commitments. Sometimes a policy of evacuation and withdrawal involves even greater military commitments than a policy of sitting tight and sweating it out.
Apart from what might be called these imperial commitments, there are many other commitments. I thought that the hon. Member for Dudley emphasised this very well when he was speaking about the Cameroons. There are all kinds of other commitments in which we could become involved if it is our policy to take our part in world affairs 347 and in the affairs of the United Nations. All this requires, not streamlined nuclear forces, but men on the ground.
If we are not to cut our forces in Europe, Asia, Africa or the Persian Gulf there is the possibility—it is a very alarming possibility—that what we will do in the course of the redistribution to which my right hon. Friend referred a moment ago is to keep all our units everywhere just a little bit under-strength. At present we have considerably more than 200,000 men in the Army, but our units and formations in a great many parts of the world are already under-strength. Anyone, like myself, who was even temporarily in the Army during the war, without, of course, being a professional soldier like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing, knows perfectly well that nothing can be worse for the morale and efficiency and, incidentally, for recruiting than for a unit or formation to be permanently under-strength, to have more than its fair share of overseas service, to have double guard duties, and so on. I very much hope that that is not what is intended.
Incidentally one very disquieting aspect of this question is that, as far as I know, the amalgamation of regiments which has recently been carried out was done on the basis of a strength of 200,000 men. The day before yesterday I saw a platoon of my old regiment in its new form marching through Argyllshire. I think that it was almost the last regiment to be amalgamated, so now the amalgamation planned originally on a basis of 200,000 men must be complete. But if we are only to have 165,000 men, what will happen? I should be grateful to my right hon. Friend if, when he replies, he would tell us whether any more amalgamations and disruptions in the Army are contemplated. If so, I do not think that it will have a good effect on morale.
Another disturbing development which already has been mentioned during the debate is that the British Army of the Rhine is not only under strength but is organised and equipped to fight, not with conventional weapons, but with tactical nuclear weapons and tactical nuclear weapons only. This was raised once or twice in the defence debate and I still have to hear it authoritatively 348 denied. If it is not so, nobody will be better pleased than I, for the following reasons.
When there was first talk of small, streamlined nuclear forces in 1957, those of us who did not much like the idea tried to warn the Government against what might happen when we found ourselves denuded of adequate conventional forces and confronted with a crisis and the choice before us was either of doing nothing at all or of using the nuclear weapons. That was a terrifying thought and it is terrifying to find our prophecies, if it is so, so accurately fulfilled.
It is also terrifying to find us so completely out of step with our American allies and to find such a position prevailing at a time when General Norstad is emphasising the need for more and better conventional forces in Europe so that the threshold at which it might conceivably be necessary to use nuclear weapons should be raised as much as possible. I hope very much that in replying to the debate, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will say something about this.
For all these reasons, and, again, on purely arithmetical grounds, it seems to me that if we are to fulfil our commitments and not to cut down on them or run away from them, as some hon. Members opposite would like us to do, we shall not be able to manage with the figure of 165,000, nor, indeed, with the figure of 182,000 which Ministers in their more optimistic moments throw to us as a sort of sop to Cerberus. It is true that greater mobility and better equipment are a great help. I was very much encouraged to hear what my right hon. Friend said on this subject. There is no doubt that if the Army really has greater mobility and better equipment, that is a great help. But it strikes me that we still have a long way to go.
The point is that when it comes to fighting the cold war, when it comes to carrying out police duties, when it comes to encouraging our friends and discouraging our enemies, when it comes to providing a conventional deterrent at twenty different places at the same time, what is needed is men on the ground at the time. If the men are there, the chances are that nothing will happen. If the men are not there and have to be brought there by Commando carrier or 349 whatever it may be from Germany or elsewhere, anything can happen, and by the time they get there all hell will be let loose.
I believe that to get a properly balanced Army, up to strength in all arms and services and capable of fulfilling our commitments, the minimum requirement is 200,000 men. I agree with the hon. Member for Dudley that every thousand under that number is an unjustifiable risk that we should not take.
Secondly, I believe that the only way in which that figure can be obtained is by some form of conscription. I do not say that because I like conscription. I dislike it as much as or more than most hon. Members. Indeed, I spent all my time and energies at the War Office in trying to get rid of it, and so did Lord Head. The reason why I think that we must have conscription is because I do not see how else we can get the number of men we need.
I was very much interested by what the hon. Member for Dudley said about recruiting in the Commonwealth. If we can get the men in that way, so much the better, but I doubt it. I agree with what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) said about Gurkhas. If we can get more Gurkhas, so much the better. I only hope that we shall go on having Gurkhas in the British Army for many years. There are, however, political difficulties about that, too.
I am a great believer in using reservists, but I do not quite see——
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Can the hon. Member define exactly what he means by his plans for conscription? Would he, for example, call up the agricultural workers?
§ Sir F. Maclean
I am coming to that. I do not see how reservists, or, indeed, the Territorial Army, can be the answer. I do not see how men can be kept sitting, either in this country or overseas, for years away from their proper trades and professions—and that is what we need soldiers for.
I realise that conscription is bound to be difficult, unpopular and expensive, but all our allies, and, indeed, our opponents, have conscription and they manage somehow. It is possible to have either a ballot or a system of selective 350 service as the Americans have. I do not say that it is satisfactory, but I regard it as a choice of two evils, and I consider that the evil of selective service is very much the lesser of the two.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Would my hon. Friend not agree that if we have a conscripted element in the Army, we need in addition a greater number of people to train them than if the Army was purely a Regular Army? In mentioning the figure of 200,000, how many of that number does my hon. Friend think will be required to train the conscript element? Is he not failing to appreciate that in addition to the 200,000 for fulfilling our commitments, we would need more above that number to train the conscript element?
§ Sir F. Maclean
That is true, and it is necessary to accept that, but I do not think that the figure would be anything like as large as is generally thought. I saw the figure of 5,000 men given by The Times defence correspondent. It might well be larger than that, but a lot depends upon how the training is carried out. A lot can be done by the pre-war system of having a battalion at home and a battalion abroad. A lot could be done by having a corps of infantry and having an infantry depot, as we have an R.A.C. depot, and doing away with brigade or regimental depots.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) asked whether I would call up agricultural workers. I agree with the hon. Member for Dudley when he was tackled on these points by his hon. Friend. It is not really for us on the back benches to answer these questions. I was not responsible for doing away with conscription in the first place.
§ Sir F. Maclean
What I would try to do is to exempt as many people as possible so as to narrow down the field in that way, and so that there is as little unfairness as possible. I would have a system of selective service, as they have in America, or I would have a ballot. However, I really do not think I ought to take up more of the time of the Committee by going into more details on 351 these sorts of questions. As I say, our allies do it, and our opponents do it, including the Soviet Union, of which the hon. Member for South Ayrshire is such an admirer. If they can do it, we can do it, too.
I hope that the Government are not waiting to take this decision till their hand is forced by disaster. I was alarmed by what the Minister of Defence said about not crossing the bridge till we get to it. Of course, we do not cross bridges or jump hurdles till we get to them, but we should make pretty effective preparations in advance so as to do it when the time comes. A thing to be remembered about the Army is that you cannot fill a half-empty Army as you fill a half-empty bath by simply turning on a tap. It is a very long and very difficult process, and once the Army runs down it is a very long job to build it up again. That is why I, for one, hope very much that the Government will not simply wait till their hand is forced by a national humiliation—which is something that has happened in our history often before—and only then take the difficult decision that confronts them. Because then, in my view, it will be too late.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
In case there is any misunderstanding, I congratulate hon. Members on their excellent speeches, although I reject most emphatically most of their conclusions. At the same time, I want, as one of his predecessors, to congratulate the Secretary of State upon what I thought was an excellent statement at the beginning of the debate.
I want to deal as faithfully as I can with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean). I should like to know from him, or from someone who can speak on his behalf, how many men he wants in the Army. There is no need for the hon. Member to interrupt. I will answer the question myself, because the hon. Gentleman said just a moment or two ago —in fact, he said it several times, for he has a habit of repeating himself in the course of his speeches ever so often—that he wanted at least 200,000 men. Immediately before that he said we have 352 at present rather more than 200,000, yet he said that none of the units is up to strength. Indeed, he was satisfied with 200,000, and yet he was dissatisfied with even more than 200,000.
We are discussing this problem in the context, so far as the British Army is concerned, of a general conflict. It is a completely erroneous assumption that we shall have a conflict in Berlin, that we shall have one on the Rhine, that we shall have one in Malaya, that we shall have one in the Cameroons, and possibly several elsewhere. The fact is that we do not expect anything of the sort, and if we did, if there were anything in the nature of a global conflict in which the British Army had to be engaged, obviously we should have to call up our reserves, and not merely the Army Emergency Reserve, but the General Reserve, including that large body of men who have had training under the ægis of National Service. That is the position. It is a serious error, in dealing with the question of what should be the size of the British Army, to consider the probability of a general conflict.
I reject the idea of going back to National Service. The hon. Gentleman wanted to know what was meant by being reactionary, as, apparently, he has been described as being. I will tell him at once what it is. If the cap fits him, I do not mind. A reactionary is the sort of person who wants to return to a condition of things which are no longer feasible. That is the position. That is the position of those who want to return to conscription.
In fact, there is very little to distinguish between my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who made a very interesting speech, rather prolonged, which held me up for a bit, but full of detail——
§ Mr. Shinwell
There is nothing to distinguish between them and the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, because they are all saying this. They say to the right hon. Gentleman, You may not have enough. You are not going to have enough. The Army is 353 not big enough. You need 165,000 men and you are not going to get them. Point one. Point two, if you do get them, they are still not enough." That is what they are all saying. What is the conclusion to be derived from that? It is as simple as falling off a log. It is that we must either rely on nuclear weapons, as the alternative, which is rejected by a very large number of hon. Members on this side of the Committee, and, indeed, doubted by several Members on the other side, and by a large number of people in the country, or we have to resort to conscription.
The question is: what kind of conscription? The selective ballot? What simple nonsense this selective ballot is. Anybody who thinks about it for five consecutive minutes, if it is possible for some hon. Members to think for five consecutive minutes, will discover that this is not merely a matter of political difficulty, but that there are technical difficulties, all kinds of difficulties, involved. If they propose to turn to conscription, let them make a clean cut and call up all the people they want to call up.
By the way, I noticed that the hon. Gentleman, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), who asked him what kind of conscription he wanted, said that he wanted exemptions. That was remarkable. He actually says he would agree to exemptions. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley pointed out that we had exemptions for the miners, exemptions for the agricultural workers, exemptions for a great mass of young men who otherwise would have been called up. Has the hon. Gentleman anything to say?
§ Sir F. Maclean
Yes. Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that we have selective conscription already?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I know exactly what my hon. Friend means. He means that there is selective service because a large number are exempted or deferred. I understand that. Even though I may lack education, it is quite possible to 354 understand simple matters of that sort. Of course I can. The hon. Gentleman said that he would exempt——
§ Mr. Shinwell
Precisely, as we did. There is nothing new in it. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that this kind of conscription is new, if he wants to make a return to the old dog's breakfast we had before——
§ Sir F. Maclean
The hon. Member opposite, the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), my constituent, asked me whether I would exempt agricultural workers. I said, yes, I would. What harm is there in that? They are exempted already.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Of course. The hon. Gentleman is not aware that we had great difficulty about these exemptions and deferments and all the rest of it. There were great personal difficulties because of these exemptions. But I do not want to return to this conscription affair at all. I think that we have had enough of it.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I think that we can manage without it. I will tell hon. Members why. What is the conflict in this Committee? It is a conflict between those who regard themselves as experts and those in the War Office who are the experts. It is as simple as that. Having occupied the distinguished post now occupied by the right hon. Gentleman, having also been Minister of Defence, I understand what happens inside.
We rely upon the experts. They come along and say that they want a certain number of men, and a discovery which I made long ago was that they always ask for more than they expect to get. That is why I reject what General Hull says, when he talks about 200,000 men. I remember discussing the target for the Territorial Army at the War Office, a good many years ago, which seem very remote today although I still retain vivid memories of some of the incidents there.
I remember saying to the Director-General of the Territorial Army, and, I think, the Deputy C.I.G.S. and one or two other high-ranking generals, "What is your target for the Territorial Army?" 355 I, of course, being innocent. They said that it was 150,000. I thought that the figure was astronomical, but I took their word. Then they came along not long after and said that it was 100,000. I used strong language on that occasion, which they understood thoroughly, but they do not have 100,000 even now. They have, of course, 100,000, when one includes the men on reserve, men who have done their National Service and have to serve in the Territorial Army.
If I have to choose, I make my choice now. I have the highest respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley. I respect his industry, his capacity for research and his use of minutiae and, not only that, I respect him for his excessive loyalty, particularly to myself. I respect the views of those who are sincere in what they say, for example, the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth). I was intensely interested in what the hon. and gallant Member said, and I recognise the integrity and sincerity which is the background of what he says.
It is all right to express views about these matters when one is outside. When one is inside it is a different proposition altogether. General Festing, the C.I.G.S., is a great soldier and, in my judgment, one of the wisest men we have had at the War Office. If the C.I.G.S. and high-ranking generals and members of the Army Council say, in the circumstances, of the figure of 165,000, which is the minimum, that they will make do with it, but that they hope to get more, all the better.
Now we come to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman). He made a most earnest plea to recruit in Jamaica. He has been there. He seems to spend most of his time there. I must say that in spite of my long tenure of office and membership of the House of Commons I do not get the trips that other people get. I do not know why. Perhaps I would not be personna grata to people in other countries. Anyway, my hon. Friend talked about men waiting to be recruited. I gathered that he said that hundreds of them were lined up.
Let us assume that as a result of intensive recruiting in the Caribbean we 356 manage to get 5,000 recruits. Nobody would expect that we would get any more, because, after all, they must reach proper standards, they must undergo medical and intelligence tests, and all the rest. We must remember that some of them are married, and that we should have to consider the provision of married quarters. But suppose we get 5,000. We therefore have a total of 175,000. Where else do we find the men?
My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East made a most interesting speech, which I enjoyed although I did not care for some of the points he raised. He asked why we did not try to attract men from the Commonwealth. Take Canada —now that is the place to get them. I had better give the Committee the figures. I also arm myself with a little material. These happen to be accurate, because they are straight from the horse's mouth, from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Canada, with a population of nearly 18 million, has an army of 48,000, a voluntary military force. If the Canadians have great difficulty in recruiting men, is it likely that Canadians, after the Secretary of State for War has paid a visit to Ottawa, or Montreal, or Quebec—now that is the place are likely to roll up in their thousands? Really, this is too much. It is all right for a parish council, but surely not for the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Mayhew
My right hon. Friend no doubt makes a good point very well, but I said, "from certain Commonwealth countries" and, of course, Canada was not one of those countries.
§ Mr. Shinwell
All right. I leave Canada. So long Canada; let us go to Australia. We all know the difficulties that are experienced in Australia in recruiting volunteers, and also in New Zealand.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I thought that we had left the Caribbean some minutes ago. Very well, let us go back to the West Indies. Even at the best, what if we get 5,000; and I am sure that even my hon. Friend would agree that that would be difficult. Does it make the slightest difference?
It seems to me, therefore, that for the time being we have to accept, whether we 357 like it or not and whether we doubt the accuracy of the figures submitted and the assumptions underlying them, that we must look around for some subsidiaries, some ancillaries, something to help the thing along. I propose to address myself to that point
Let us look at N.A.T.O., to which I referred in the defence debate but now in the context of the Army. What is the position there? Some of my hon. Friends have talked of scandals here and scandals there, but one scandal is the one that is associated with N.A.T.O. to which I have been directing attention for many years. It is that hardly any other country except the United States pulls its weight alongside the United Kingdom. When one looks at the figures taken from N.A.T.O. statistics one discovers that there is no integrated force there.
I hope that my hon. Friends will not misunderstand me. I am not speaking of a nuclear force. I reject the nuclear concept entirely. It is not because I do not want this country to be strong or N.A.T.O. to be strong. I am suspicious of the whole idea. I do not think that it is workable, or a deterrent, but I leave that because it has nothing to do with this debate.
We expect, at any rate, the integration of land forces. General Norstad has under his command 55,000 men from this country, assuming that that is the correct figure. He has under his command some troops from Belgium, some from France and some from Norway and Denmark. But when we weigh it all up, it is not an integrated force. It is not two, three or four army corps under his command or under the command of those subordinate to him.
These troops are scattered. There is, for example, the Northern Command, which, surprisingly, is not under General Norstad directly. It is under the command of another officer. I am not sure whether he is a Scandinavian officer, but that does not matter very much. Denmark has two-thirds of a brigade group. Where is it sited? Not on the Rhine. It is sited in Schleswig-Holstein. In Norway, there is one division, but it is not at the disposal of General Norstad. It is not stated that, as in the case with French troops, it is at the disposal of N.A.T.O., because, as we know, two French divisions are at the disposal of 358 N.A.T.O. There is, of course, a general understanding that in an emergency these troops can be used.
The time has come when we should say to General Norstad and the N.A.T.O. Council—including both the military and diplomatic sections—that these forces must be integrated. The hon. and gallant Member for Norwood spoke of 28 divisions being at the disposal of General Norstad. He is wrong. The figure is 22⅓ divisions.
§ Sir J. Smyth
This point arose in the defence debate, when my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) said that General Norstad had told him that his target was 30 divisions and that he already had 28.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Since what I have said has been challenged, with respect to the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood I must give him the figures.
They are for the allied forces in Central Europe, with headquarters in Fontainebleau. It has 21⅓ divisions out of the 30 anticipated by the Supreme Commander. Three of them are from the United Kingdom, and five, plus the equivalent of three armoured brigades, come from the United States. France has two divisions there. She committed four, but two have gone to Algeria. I do not know whether the two she has with N.A.T.O. are up to strength. West Germany has seven divisions with N.A.T.O. and the final commitment is 12. Belgium has three divisions, the Netherlands two, and Canada a brigade. That is the position.
General Norstad has not got 30 divisions. I wish that he had. I wish, too, that the forces he has got were closely integrated and well knit together, so that, in the event of any difficulty on the Rhine, or in Berlin, they would be able, in a defensive fashion, to resist an assault. That is a matter to which we should address ourselves.
Let us turn to the question of reserves. I was delighted when it was announced recently that the Secretary of State was to create a new section of the Army Emergency Reserve. I wish that he had set the figure at 30,000 men. But we have not the right to create a reserve unless we pay the men properly. I do not mean that we should pay them like Regulars, but we should pay retainers which would make it worth while for 359 them to come forward. I should like to see more men in the reserve.
The hon. and gallant Member for Norwood mentioned the difficulty I had, as Minister of Defence, over Korea—difficulty which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley knows about, because he was associated with me in that office. We had no brigade which we could call together at once without also calling upon our reserves and extending the length of service of a number of Service men. There was some debate in the House about what we were doing, and some regarded it as improper that we should have to do it. But we had to do it to get the brigade.
I say to all those concerned in this matter that in an emergency, where we have to rely to a very large extent on the Reserve, these men can be used immediately for overseas service and those at home may, under certain conditions, also come under a proclamation for overseas service.
Finally, we should make better use of our Territorial Army. It is said that we cannot use the Territorial Army abroad, except in the event of a very serious emergency, but it might well be that difficulties would arise in which the Government wanted a large force at home for domestic purposes. All kinds of considerations arise. Again, it is not fair that we should ask men to volunteer for the Territorial Army without giving them proper retainers and the right kind of training. If we did that, we would feel that we had something behind us if difficulties were to arise.
My final point is actually the one with which I began. Let us try to explain what we are arguing about, in what context, and in what situation we envisage trouble arising. For instance, if it were limited trouble in Berlin we would not require 165,000 men. We would have to rely on what we had and on the forces at the disposal of General Norstad. I hope that such trouble never arises, but if it does, that is what we shall have to rely on.
If there were trouble in Malaya, we would fly forces over there—perhaps a brigade from this country. The same applies to the Southern Cameroons. Of course, we might be faced with a global war in the conventional sense, and one 360 can imagine such a thing happening, though I believe that such a war, sooner or later would spread to nuclear war. If one had such a war, however, which could be isolated from nuclear war, we would have to use what forces we had at our disposal. To deploy the whole Army is not envisaged in the context of what the Secretary of State has said today.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that he should go on with his programme of recruitment. He should advertise as much as he can, and should take no notice of my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East, who would have him advertise only on the B.B.C. and shun commercial advertising. Let him advertise wherever he can, and as cheaply as he can. Let him hold exhibitions and demonstrations. Get the Highlanders with their bagpipes marching into the City of London in order to attract men. And if, at the end of the day, he cannot get more than 165,000 men, then let him make the most of it.
Let him pay no attention to the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire and—I say this with the utmost reluctance; indeed, I hate to say it—let him pay no attention to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley went too far when he said that he would do all that he could to help recruiting. Not me! I will do nothing to retard it, but if men do not have the sense to join the Army, no eloquence which I can use would induce them to do so. I will not retard recruitment because I want conventional forces, because, with many of my hon. Friends and with many people in the country, I want to resist the onward march of the horror of that detestable apparatus the nuclear weapon.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
I am very happy to follow the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), because I sincerely agreed with much of what he said, not least when he congratulated my right hon. Friend on what I thought was a most interesting and comprehensive introduction to the debate. I join with the right hon. Gentleman in appreciating the constructive remarks of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). I am one of those who entirely welcome the Government's decision to go all out to get a wholly volunteer 361 Regular Army. I will give my reasons later, but, basically, I believe that there are enormous advantages in a wholly volunteer Regular Army, not only to the Army itself, as I shall show, but to the nation as a whole.
I have great regard for what National Service men have done—they have done magnificently—but in spite of that I believe that conscription has gone on for too long and should be brought to a close as soon as possible, in other words, now. I believe that the Government have every chance of obtaining their targets. The Army is now an attractive career with better pay and conditions, improved terms of service, the prospect of a pension and seeing the world, and every advantage to an adventurous young man.
The conditions of a recruit entering the Army today are very different from what they were perhaps ten years ago. In the old days, we used to hear a tremendous amount about spud peeling and square bashing, and some people thought that that was all there was in the Army. I am happy to say that nearly all military spuds are now peeled by machinery and that squares are mainly left unbashed. The task before my right hon. Friend is to make those facts more widely known.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend said about a recruiting drive and I agree with the right hon. Member for Easing-ton about the necessity for intense publicity, using all modern methods. We need full use of contemporary methods of publicity to attract the young man of today into the modern Army. Once we have him and get him settled down, I think that he will enjoy it and become the best recruiting sergeant we have. There is no better way of attracting recruits than the recommendation of a happy recruit, and that is what we have to go for.
I am glad to know that the experimental television advertising has been successful in the limited tests which have been made. The hon. Member for Woolwich, East referred to the demonstration of T.V. film shown here recently. He was too modest to mention that he was a sponsor of that demonstration, as I was and as the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) was. Everyone who saw that demonstration was impressed by it.
362 I hope that my right hon. Friend will press on with this campaign of television advertising backed by posters and other advertising which has been so successful to the limited extent to which it has been tried. This is most important and it is the right way to set about getting the right number of men.
Another factor which has not been mentioned very much is that the normal engagement is now for a minimum period of six years with the Colours, followed by twelve years in the Reserve. That is more than double the obligation of a few years ago, when it was three years with the Colours and four years with the Reserve. Every recruit we get today, therefore, is in the Army for at least six years and possibly nine or twelve. and so these recruiting figures today are worth very much more than the same figures would have been worth a few years ago. That is another reason why there is every hope that the target will be reached.
If we press on with this contemporary advertising I believe that we shall reach, first, 165,000 after about two years and then 182,000—which has been given as a ceiling—after a few more years. I hope that we shall then be in the happy position of being able to be selective about Army recruiting. That is an objective which the Government have set themselves, because if we can become selective in an all-volunteer Regular Army, we can reasonably hope eventually to obtain the very high standard which was achieved before 1914.
We all know that the Army of those days plainly proved that quality was very much more important than mere quantity and that a reasonably-sized Regular Army of volunteers who were highly trained and picked men was worth very much more than a larger number of people who were not quite so good. That is what I think we ought to aim at.
Personally, I greatly hope that no form of selective service will be introduced into this country. If it happens, as it may, that we do not reach the target set, a number of other steps may be taken, such as more Gurkhas or, perhaps, forces raised in the Colonies, but I hope that we shall not go back, for I should regard it as a retrograde step, to a further extension of conscription. I hope we shall not do it, because it is inefficient 363 in the Army. We find in the Army that a recruit—I say nothing against them because everyone has to have a start—is not of full value in his unit until he has been in the Army for six or nine months. In the case of a National Service man with an eighteen months' liability for for service, that means one-third or half of his total Army career. If we are enlisting people for six or nine years, their period of recruit training is a tiny fraction of it. That is another reason for saying that it is very much better to go for volunteers.
At present, I understand, we have 28,000 all ranks employed as E.R.E. and something like 36,000 in the various pipelines and mainly associated with National Service, which gives us over 64,000 men. My information is that, after 1963, if National Service ends, the numbers in the pipelines will be reduced by nearly 20,000, and the numbers in E.R.E. will also show a considerable reduction, and there may be a saving of no less than 25,000 men in this way.
In the defence debate the Minister indicated that there would be shortages in certain categories, and he mentioned drivers and sick bay attendants. I take leave to think that there may be shortages in a wider group of categories. There are so very many technicians and specialists in the Army now. I myself served for many years in the Territorial Army in a yeomanry regiment which has now become gunners, and, looking through the present establishment, I was interested to see that in a modern gunner regiment, there are 110 signallers of whom about 80 have to be qualified as driver operators, quite a difficult qualification to obtain. There are another 70 drivers of whom about 10 also have to be able to ride motor-cycles. Altogether, the technicians and specialists of different kinds come to well over 250 in a gunner regiment, and there may be shortages in all these categories.
I hope that these shortages will be met by training up soldiers and not by any idea of what has been described as selective service. I do not quite know how we should use selective service in this case. We could have a lottery among the age group for call-up, but I think the disadvantages of that have already been pointed out. I hope it will never be suggested that we should try 364 to call up prospective sick-berth attendants by putting an extra line on the form on which people could state whether they thought they were suitable for that task. I have heard it suggested, not in this House, that if there were shortages of officers, potential officers could be found in this way. I think one has only to make the suggestion to see what nonsense it is, and I think that if any sort of conscription had to return, which I believe would be most unfortunate, there would have to be some sort of lottery, which would be most objectionable on a great number of grounds. It would also be objectionable on the grounds of conscience to many people, so that we must find a better way, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will do so.
I should like to say a word or two about wastage, which at present is very much too high. I think that it is perhaps the worst feature of the present position. We have been told that over 20 per cent. of the Regular intake of people without previous service leave in three months, and that two out of three of these leave by purchase. It is a difficulty, because within three months men have a statutory right to buy themselves out for £20. After three months, they can only leave by consent and for a very much higher sum. It has been suggested that these arrangements should be changed so that no one should be allowed to buy himself out in the first three months, and that perhaps the right to buy himself at a lower figure should be extended from the third to the fifth month.
I think that something on those lines should be tried, because in a short period the average recruit is not sure that he likes the Army. At the end of eight or ten weeks, having finished his recruit training, he may go to a unit where he finds something which is not quite as he wishes, and he thinks to himself, "I must get out now. If I wait for a few weeks, instead of having the right to go for £20 I shall have to apply for permission, and pay £250". So he goes, whereas if he had stayed in until he had settled down he would probably have wanted to stay on. I hope that something on the lines I have suggested can be arranged.
Another point is that the wastage is uneven. Inquiries have shown me that in 365 two infantry brigades the comparable wastages over three months have been 33 per cent. and 14 per cent. respectively. This difference is so marked that I cannot help feeling that the point should be looked into.
Having said all this, I would point out that the reduction in the strength of our Regular forces to 180,000 men means a very big drop, and this throws into prominence the importance of our Reserve Army. A certain amount has been said about the Territorial Army, in which I served for a long time and with which I am still associated, and I want to add a few comments, beginning with the statement that our Territorial Army is recognised by all our allies as the best and the cheapest reserve army in N.A.T.O. This is worth stressing, because some of our own people are not very well-informed about it.
The right hon. Member for Easington said that we should give the Territorial Army a better retaining fee and the right kind of training. No Territorial would refuse the offer of a better retaining fee, but I resist the suggestion that they are not having the right type of training. I believe that it is the right type. We might have a little more of it, but the way to do that is to pay rather more. That is another point which could be considered by my right hon. Friend, especially in view of the proposition that I now wish to put to him.
This reduction in our Regular Army means that it will be largely dependent upon our Territorial Army if another major emergency occurs. We hone that it will not, but we must prepare for that eventuality. It is no new thing for the Regular Army to have to call upon its Territorial Army. In the Boer War the Imperial Yeomanry was called upon to raise 10,000 men. It was done extremely successfully, and I want to explain how it was done, because this method could be used again.
Each regiment was called upon to produce a sub-unit of volunteers. This was effected very quickly and successfully. Many people—officers, sergeants and other N.C.O.s of all kinds—were so keen to get into this active contingent that they volunteered to drop in rank, and in my regiment—the Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry—we had some exciting scenes, with fairly senior officers 366 competing to get into the volunteer subunit. Eventually we managed to get hold of some Colt machine-guns and "galloping carriages", which were pretty new at the turn of the century. We got permission to take them out. They were to be put under the command of a subaltern, and in the end we had a lieutenant-colonel acting as a subaltern on the machine-guns. That is an example of the keenness which was shown at the time, which I have no doubt would be repeated if the same situation arose again.
Just after the Boer War the Territorial Army was formed, and almost at once its numbers exceeded the number of troops in the Regular Army. At the beginning of both the Kaiser war and the Hitler war there were actually more men in the Territorial Army than in the Regular Army. It is interesting to notice that in these Estimates the ceiling figure given for the Territorial Army is 260,000 which is, of course, comfortably above the maximum limit given for the Regular Army. I wish I could say that the T.A. was anywhere near that strength. Unfortunately, it is not, partly because it has undergone a lot of reorganisation since it was re-formed in 1947. Reorganisation leads to disorganisation and a great number of senior N.C.O.s and warrant officers have had to leave because of the changes in the age limit. The strength is lower now than it was a little time ago, but I hope that it will soon pick up again.
Another point of some importance, bearing in mind the rôle of the Territorial Army put forward in the Estimates, is the fact that in a time of national emergency it is much easier to expand the Territorial Army than the Regular Army. Between 1936 and 1938 both had to expand. It is a matter of history that the total expansion for both Armies in those two years was 46,000, of which the figures showed 1,000 in the Regular Army and 45,000 in the Territorial Army. I think those are rather striking figures.
We have to consider the rôle which the Territorial Army might play in the event of an emergency, and in the Estimates we are given several suggested rôles including, very properly, the reinforcement of the Regular Army in units or by individual reinforcements, especially the Army of the Rhine. This 367 is an interesting proposition. During the defence debate we were told that at least two brigades of the Army of the Rhine were on short notice to be used in an emergency and I wonder from where they would be replaced if they had to be used. It occurs to me that if this happened we might in certain circumstances be forced, as was said by the right hon. Member for Easington, to call up part of the Territorial Army, not just as units but as brigade groups, and use them to replace the brigades flown out to deal with any emergency. That is a possible use for the Territorial Army.
The right hon. Member for Easington said he thought this employment would be unfair on the Territorials, but I disagree. I think that the Territorial Army would gladly accept this added commitment. It would be necessary, I think, to earmark certain formations for this duty. It is no longer a secret that there was a time when two divisions of the Territorial Army were under notice for quick mobilisation, and what was done then could be done again. It would be perfectly feasible to have five or six brigade groups, as in the new organisation, ready for quick mobilisation. It might be necessary to top up some of the units, but that would depend on when it happened. But they are recruiting up pretty well and soon we shall have a reserve which could play such a part as that if it became necessary to do so.
I have already told the Committee about what was done during the Boer War. If we were to experience what has been described as a brush fire; if we had more than one emergency cropping up at the same time, something in the nature—which heaven forbid—of another Mau Mau emergency at the same time as another Korea; if there occurred a situation where the Regular Army was stretched and there was something like the Mau Mau emergency—possibly an overflow of the Congo emergency into areas for which we were responsible—and if we had, roughly speaking, a second-class enemy and the Regular Army was hard put to find men to deal with it, I believe that Territorial Army units could be called on to find volunteer sub-units as was done at the time of the Boer War. I think it would gladly rise to the occasion 368 in the event of a national emergency of that kind. These units could be organised very quickly and would be capable of dealing with what I described as a Mau Mau emergency or something of that kind.
A further rôle of the Territorial Army is to aid the civil power in this country. It is well equipped to do that. In many cases it is well advanced in third echelon training for help in Civil Defence, but here I think that the time has come when my right hon. Friend should consider issuing an official pamphlet or official guidance as to exactly where its responsibilities begin and end and how they could best be carried out. A good deal of this training has been done, but I consider that it is rather patchy. Different Commands have slightly different ideas, and I think it is high time the whole affair was co-ordinated by means of War Office pamphlets, and I should like my right hon. Friend to say that something on these lines will be done.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
The hon. Gentleman is making a reasoned speech, but does what he has been saying come under the terms of the conditions of service?
§ Sir R. Glyn
No, only by enlarging the conditions of service. If it were necessary for part of the Territorial Army to be sent abroad quickly, before it was officially embodied, an Act of Parliament would be required. I understand that the Territorial Army cannot, under present commitments, be sent abroad until it has been embodied by Act of Parliament, and in the event of Parliament being in Recess that would cause a substantial delay. It would mean a slight change in the present law, but in my view the extra commitment would be gladly accepted by the Territorial Army for use in a time of national emergency.
The Territorial Army has a rôle to help the Regular Army in the defence of this country, and if it were embodied for a short time and had the opportunity of getting together with the Regular Army I think that it could relieve the Regular Army of the responsibility of defending this country against any conventional assault. At the time of the fall of France the only formation left in this country was one T.A. division, which was pushed 369 down to Kent. It may be as well that, thanks to our Air Force and Navy, it did not have to meet an invasion, but it was prepared and ready to do so, and, of course, in the other circumstances it would not be a case of one division but of many, and after a time they could relieve the Regular Army of this important duty.
Whether one is thinking in terms of a Regular Army or of a Territorial Army, I am convinced that in dealing with an emergency—what has been described as a brush fire—the real need is for speed, and for speed thought of in terms of hours and not days. I am sure that a battalion available at lunchtime on Monday is very much better than a brigade ready on Wednesday evening, or a brigade group ready some time on Saturday night. In terms of squashing an emergency all experience shows that to be the case.
We have been told that two brigades are ready at 48 hours' notice. I wonder what that means. Does it mean 48 hours' notice to move, or 48 hours' notice to be airborne? What does it mean? I should like to know that we had one or two battalions ready at all times at 12 hours' notice to be in the air. I am not talking about them being fully equipped, but ready with light battalion weapons. Transport Command could do that. It would mean battalions taking it in turns to be at six hours' notice to embus from the battalion area. A battalion which could be in the air in 12 hours would be of tremendous use as a fire extinguisher to get to an incident before it got too bad. I believe that a battalion arriving really early would be very much better than a brigade arriving two or three days later.
I should like to make one reference to the suggestion that has been made that the training in the British Army of the Rhine, and perhaps elsewhere, is wrong because it is limited to nuclear training. That suggestion has been made by several hon. Members. I can claim a little experience of this. I shall not bore the Committee with my personal experience, but training for what one might describe as war with only tactical nuclear weapons involves training in which both sides might use tactical nuclear weapons. That is not easier than training for conventional war but very much more difficult. One has to arrange 370 the business so that one never presents a tactical nuclear target to the other side.
Far from saying that it is easier than training for conventional war, I should say that training for the use of tactical nuclear weapons is not like playing auction bridge but rather like playing contract bridge. It is very much more difficult and the penalties at stake are very much greater. It is wrong to say that training for war in which tactical weapons may be used is in any way easier than training for war with conventional weapons. It is the same sort of thing, but it is much more difficult. I put that forward as a personal opinion.
We have heard a little about new equipment and that is most important. We must have it and we must see that the Territorial Army has it. I welcome the steps which have been taken. I wonder, however, whether the new equipment planned covers every need. We hear a lot about offensive weapons and I believe that in a future war—we should always think in terms of the next war rather than the last—each unit would he covering a very much wider front than was covered in the last war. Each unit and formation would be responsible for a much wider front. In defence that means that fewer men would be available to dig defensive positions which would need to be dug.
Digging is the key to defence both against tactical nuclear weapons and conventional weapons. I wonder if we pay enough attention to this. I may make my point by a short and possibly apocryphal story. There hangs in a Committee Room upstairs a picture representing the burial of a general after battle. One cannot see the figures in the background very clearly because the Office of Works has not cleaned the picture recently, but if one looks right into the detail at the back of the scene one sees the men detailed to dig the grave. They have implements which are almost exactly the same as those which are used today. At least that is what they would be if the historic details are correct. The picture represents a scene of 895 years ago, after the Battle of Hastings, but today the British Army is using exactly the same implements for digging as it did then. Now it is not a question of burying dead generals but of 371 protecting live soldiers, which is more important.
In every other organisation concerned with digging any substantial works or moving any substantial amount of earth, there is a great deal of mechanisation. The horsepower in a British division is enough for a great deal of mechanical aids to digging to be used. There could be power take-off fitted to jeeps and compressors to work pneumatic drills. There would be a great advantage in having some mechanised digging apparatus in the new Army. I think the modern Army ought to have modern contemporary methods of digging as well as modern methods of attack. I hope the suggestion will be seriously considered because I believe it worth going into. I should like to hear about that when my right hon. Friend winds up the debate.
In spite of the temptation which has been dangled before him from both sides of the Committee, I hope that my right hon. Friend will not return to what I think would be a retrograde step, any form of conscription. I hope he will succeed with the aid of modern advertising in his drive for a full Regular Army of volunteers.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)
I am sorry that the Secretary of State for War is not present, because the first thing I wish to say is that he made the best presentation of the Army Estimates I have heard in the Chamber. He oozed with confidence. He painted a bright picture of the modern young soldier. He delivered his speech with force and a good deal of sincerity. He obviously impressed the House a great deal. He impresed me so much that I nearly raced from the Chamber to the first recruiting office to don khaki. But I have a story to tell about the problems of West Germany which make me believe that the picture is very different from the one he painted. I shall deal with that later in my speech.
The Army Memorandum is devoid of many of the major details which we should be fully conversant with if we are to discuss Army matters fully. It appears from Appendix VI at page 238 of the Estimates that £18,975,000 is provided for research, experiment, design and de- 372 velopment. Subtracting the £3 million which go towards industry, colleges, universities, etc., it leaves nearly £16 million which goes to our two major research establishments. They are the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment and the Micro-Biological Establishment at Porton.
As we are spending £16 million on the development of nerve gases and bacteriological weapons, there should be at least some reference in the Army Memorandum to this aspect of warfare. Much as we may talk about the dangers of atomic and hydrogen bombs, at the Micro-Biological Establishment weapons more horrific than atom bombs are being developed, namely, bacteriological weapons.
We should also be conversant with the extent to which [...] are developing nerve gases at the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment. The Americans and the Russians are going into this on a grand scale. We have obviously spent a lot of money on it. In the statement presented every year on the Estimates we Should be told of the extent to which we are producing a different type of weapon which in a decade may make atom and hydrogen bombs obsolete. Nerve gases may reduce whole populations to a state of semi-paralysis so That troops will be able to move in comfortably and easily, without the country being devastated to the extent that atom and hydrogen bombs would devastate it.
Two aspects have already been referred to. First, there is the problem of the Territorial Army. The hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) and the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) referred to this. Secondly, there is the problem of the West German supply depots. There should be some reference in the Army Memorandum to that. To what extent will British troops be working and manoeuvring in this country with German troops? To what extent will the Geman units be storage bases or supply depots? Will manoeuvres be held in this country by West German forces? We should be more fully informed in the Estimates about what part is to be played by the West German forces.
I am not one of those who oppose them. If they are supply depots, which 373 I think they should be, I do not oppose them. I recognise that there is the problem in West Germany of having supply depots near the front. Being in an alliance it is far better to have supply depots in countries in the rear. We are one of the allied members and there is no reason why we should not have some of the supply depots here. On this score we are treating the West Germans democratically. Since the war we have tried to democratise West Germany.
§ Mr. Mason
I should not oppose young people of 20 or 21 years of age coming to supply depots. I should oppose bringing into this country ex-Nazi officers to be in charge. I should be very much against that. I should be very much against manoeuvres in the country itself, but I would not be opposed to Germans, if they are young, coming in to man supply depots. We ought to be quite clear about these matters, especially when there are many Members who are opposing a race or a nation and not really opposing what was an "ism" which existed sixteen years ago. If the Minister would do his best to make these things clear, he might perhaps find a great deal more support than he has had hitherto.
There have been references to the Territorial Army, but there is nothing in the Memorandum about it. I cannot, of course, match the experience, understanding and knowledge of the Territorial Army possessed by the hon. Member for Dorset, North. A White Paper was presented to the House a few months ago which dealt with the future of the Territorial Army. I thought that the line of approach of the hon. Member for Dorset, North was that it should be trained almost like an Army Emergency Reserve of the Army itself, but, of course, the Territorial Army is changing rapidly in its new rôle. It is now gradually taking a civil defence rôle. I think this is quite right. I have pressed for it to be done for some time, and I am pleased that the Territorial Army will have more of such work to do. In a country like ours, if there were a nuclear explosion it would not be possible for civil defence as at this moment organised to be able to cope with the resulting situation. Civilians under civilian control could 374 not manage to deal with a panic-stricken body of people fleeing from a nuclear holocaust. We should need military discipline and people trained from the military point of view to go in and rescue and salvage what they could.
As I say, there is no reference at all to the Territorial Army in the Memorandum. We do not know exactly what future is planned for it, to what extent the recruiting campaign is succeeding and whether it is intended gradually to give it more civil defence tasks.
Two years ago, a White Paper was laid before the House, Cmnd. 537, the text of an agreement for Co-operation on the Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defence Purposes between the United Kingdom and the United States. Article II provides:Each Party will communicate to or exchange with the other Party such classified information as is jointly determined to be necessary to: (1) the development of defence plans; (2) the training of personnel in the employment of and defence against atomic weapons and other military applications of atomic energy; (3) the evaluation of the capabilities of potential enemies in the employment of atomic weapons and other military applications of atomic energy.Then it goes on to deal with delivery systems and the extent to which both countries can work together.
The Minister said that there was to be great emphasis laid now on taking our young recruits to the modern Army into spheres abroad, making the life exciting, laying stress on the opportunities for travel, and so forth, in order to encourage recruitment. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Canada as an instance. Here we have an agreement with America which has been in existence for two years, which has been subject to no debate in the House, which has been rarely the subject of questions, and to which there has been no reference at all in defence debates or debates on the Army Estimates, yet under this agreement we could be doing training in tactical atomic weapons in America. Why has there been no reference to such things?
I come now to what must be the major point in what I have to say. I should like to talk about our strategy in Western Europe, the extent to which N.A.T.O. is effective, and so forth, but I feel so strongly on this other matter and the way it affects recruiting and the lives of some 375 of my constituents that I am obliged on this occasion to devote all my attention to it.
The Minister referred to seven priorities, seven new points, which he thought might enable him to obtain the recruits he requires. The fifth point related to the uniting of families, the bringing of families together in areas where the Service man is serving. There are still many couples being misled about this, young couples who jointly agree that Ole man shall go into the forces and as soon as possible the young woman will be able to join him in Malaya, Singapore, or wherever it may be. They go to the recruiting office and they are misled on this very important matter into thinking that they will easily be able to go out together to the Service stations abroad, that accommodation will be easily found and that there will be no problems about travel.
I gave the Minister a case in my constituency 18 months ago. A young man joined up and after his initial training went to Malaya. His wife had been so misled that she took steps to be inoculated and vaccinated and was ready to travel abroad. It was then found that because he was under 21 it was not possible for them to be together. We therefore had a broken heart at home and a very disappointed soldier abroad. I explained to the Minister, and I emphasise it now, that he should have available at every recruiting office a leaflet explaining, particularly for the benefit of young couples, exactly what they can expect by way of accommodation and travel and giving ideas about conditions in Aden, Singapore, Malaya and West Germany, what are the possibilities for them to be accommodated together and how long they will be separated.
We should be prepared to consider relaxing the regulation governing people under 21 being joined together. Many young men in the Army are married at 20 and are anxious that their wives should join them. Even when they can find accommodation they are debarred from being together. The Minister should be prepared to relax this regulation on many occasions.
I went to the appropriate place and obtained all the recruiting pamphlets I possibly could. I have a brilliant glossy 376 magazine called "Soldiers of the Queen". I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) also has a copy, and no doubt he will use it in the debate. It has 40 pages, yet in the whole of it there are only two paragraphs, on the last page, dealing with life in the Army, one entitled "Married Quarters" and the other "Movement of families". The paragraph entitled "Married Quarters" reads:A married Regular soldier, if over 21 years and eligible for marriage allowance, is entitled to apply for a furnished quarter for his wife and family.It sounds easy and as though accommodation is available.Married quarters are being completed as rapidly as possible in all permanent stations and much progress has been made during the last few years.That does not lead people to believe that they will not be able to get together.
The other paragraph states:When a Regular soldier who is over 21 years old is posted to a new duty station his wife and family are eligible for free conveyance to his new station, if accommodation is available, or to a selected place of residence elsewhere, if accommodation cannot be provided. Financial assistance, in the form of a Disturbance Allowance is paid in respect of the majority of such moves.In West Germany this disturbance allowance is known as the "marriage wreck" allowance, because on almost all occasions on which it has been paid it was paid because relations between man and wife were of such a strained nature that many wives were leaving their husbands.
In the Army Memorandum, this point is dealt with in paragraph 46, "Life in the Army today," which states:No amount of publicity, however well directed, will bring in the recruits we need unless conditions in the Army are acceptable. It is the man or woman already serving who can make the most telling contribution to our recruiting figures.It goes on to refer to comfortable and modern accommodation and, above all, to the well-being of the soldier's family. I intend to go into detail on this and to point out to the Minister that that is precisely what the Army has not been doing. It has not been thinking sufficiently about accommodation and the well-being of the soldier's family.
377 I have a letter which has been in the Minister's possession dated 10th October, 1960, which states:I wonder if you could be of any assistance to my son and his wife. He is a Regular soldier stationed in Germany where he has been since last February "—that is, February, 1960.With the War Office sanction his wife and child joined him on 2nd May. They were not granted Army married quarters but he found accommodation in a hotel which was supposed to he temporary until quarters were available. This accommodation was only for sleeping and it meant his wife having to go and take their son. at that time aged 13 months, a matter of approximately three miles to another soldier's home for their meals. This carried on every day for four months. Then my son managed to obtain a so-called flat, the description of which you will read in the enclosed letter.This is the note from the daughter writing home to her parents in my constituency:I suppose you think we are living in a house. Well, we are not. You would not let me tell you about this place before, but now I can write and tell you about it.…There are a lot of families living here and we all have one room each. In this room I have to wash, cook, live and sleep and the chap won't let us have a cooker with an oven. All we can have is a two-ringed effort and that means that we cannot have any roast meat or a jolly good dinner or anything like that which is nice. We have to have everything boiled, fried or steamed and believe me, it is murder.I took up the matter with the Minister, including a lot more that was said in the letter. He replied:I should explain that there is, unfortunately, a shortage of married quarters in Germany and those available are allocated in accordance with a system of points.… I am afraid that he is unlikely to be allotted a quarter in less than seven to nine months.This soldier, his wife and one child—and another is expected—are living in a one-roomed flat. The wife went out with the sanction of the War Office in May, 1960. The Minister says that it will be another seven to nine months before they can receive any accommodation, which means that they will have been sixteen months in the conditions as I have described them before they can get any decent living accommodation. This is deplorable.
Within a week, I had another case, which I passed on to the Minister. I propose to deal with it in similar detail.
I quote:I am writing on behalf of myself and family to see if you can help me in any way possible. I am the wife of a Regular soldier 378 serving with the 10th Royal Hussars stationed in Germany who, in my opinion, has been knocked around from pillar to post, since rejoining the regiment from his previous station as regards quarters. We have been promised married quarters numerous times by so-called reliable sources, the first time being August, 1959, then April, May, June, July and September, 1960, and now we have been told we will have to wait fifteen months for Army quarters.… My husband has done eight years with the 10th Royal Hussars.… We have been in six private accommodations since arriving in Germany, the last one being hotel accommodation which the Army found for us, being one small room where me, my husband and two children had to sleep in one double bed. We had to eat, sleep and cook in this room. We were told we would be six to eight weeks in this hotel, then we would have a quarter, but we were there seventeen weeks.… I find I can no longer put up with it as my nerves are just about finished. My two children are very unsettled at being moved around so much. One must agree that this is not a very good life for me and my children moving from one accommodation to the other. It has got that bad that I am seriously thinking of leaving my husband.…I had to write to somebody who, I hope, can help me out in any way possible.Again, I took up the case with the Minister. He replied in exactly the same Civil Service jargon, stating:I fully realise that there is, unfortunately, a shortage of quarters in Germany and I have every sympathy with your constituent's desire to be with her husband.This is ridiculous. I have case after case, and I propose to deal with them, because, contrary to what the Minister says about how the Department will tackle the problem, this is the one feature which is harming recruiting. Women are leaving their husbands, coming back home and spreading despondency. Morale is low in West Germany.
One family has been out there since August, 1959, hoping for quarters. The husband, a Regular man, has already served eight years. There is no housing accommodation yet in sight for this family. I mentioned the case to the Minister last week at Question Time. The husband got to know that his wife had written to me. She then had to send a letter to her mother at home in Barnsley pleading with her. Then the mother came to see me, pleading with me to get it stopped. "Mr. Mason" she said, "stop the investigation. Stop the inquiry. My son is in trouble. The military policemen are harassing him. He is getting into trouble over every small detail. Please stop the inquiry. He cannot write. He dare not."
379 Now the Minister said, "Give me specific details." Well, of course, this is a vicious circle, and he knows it. If I give the details of the soldier what would happen would be that it would go back to the officer commanding, he would tell the military policemen they had been going too far, the policemen would say, All right then, the first time we can get hold of Jack we will teach him a lesson." I deplore this very much, and I hope that the Minister will do something about it.
I have another letter here. I have had lots of letters which have been pouring in since we raised the question last week of the Army accommodation. There are still families in West Germany not yet living in Service accommodation. This letter says:I too am an Army wife, aged 21, and the mother of two young children. We too live in a so-called hotel, but in another garrison town of Munster… We have one large bed and a cot…We have a table and two wooden-seated chairs, a wardrobe, two bedside tables, a bare wooden floor, not forgetting the two orange boxes which the hotel provided to store my crockery. We have a sink which leaks, no hot water; incidentally, no heat of any kind for the past six weeks.… Guests downstairs come up to use our toilet, already shared by nine families. A bath costs 4s. 2d. Quote, 'Join the Army and see the world'—to live in these conditions. Never again.All these are examples, and they are all flowing from one place. They are all in West Germany.
I have another one:The unit with which my husband is serving is shortly to remove to Dortmund, and has been allocated only a few married quarters —it is believed about 30–40. As there are well over 200 married personnel serving with the unit, of which some 130–140 are at present occupying quarters, there will inevitably be considerable hardship imposed on those separated families. My own case is that I have five children whose ages range from 2 to 8…I shall be required to live in an hotel until… my husband is allocated a quarter in Germany or finds suitable alternative accommodation.… I shall have the use of only two rooms and shall be under constant mental strain in trying to keep my children amused and occupied without their making excessive noise when the weather is inclement, or walking the streets with them when it is fine, as normal boarding house rules are invariably imposed. As there is already an acute shortage of quarters in the Dortmund area I feel I shall be lucky indeed to get a quarter there during the minimum three-year tour.… This is all contrary to the advertisements for Regular recruiting, which almost guarantees accommodation on the duty station. 380 To the wives of any prospective Regular soldiers I would say 'think twice '. To my husband I say, 'Get out as quickly as possible —or else I shall leave you '.These are only a few of the letters which have been pouring out during the last few weeks. I have another from a lady here who has left her husband, who has been out with him for six months and did not get proper accommodation and who lost 2 stones in weight and who is now contemplating getting a divorce. She says:I wish I had written three weeks ago, perhaps my kids would still have had a dad in the flesh and not a piece of notepaper.The right hon. Gentleman comes here painting a bright picture about the life of soldiers in the future, but these are the conditions now, and he has given no indication today that he will solve this housing problem in West Germany. Indeed, the Estimates do not show that there is much increase in the Vote for accommodation in West Germany itself. They show an increase in the Vote for housing here in this country, and there is certainly an increase abroad, but that does not indicate how much money will be spent in West Germany to solve this problem.
I noticed that after I raised this question with the Minister a Sunday newspaper, the News of the World, had a look at this, in one place, Minden, in West Germany. Following the investigations the War Office had to issue an instruction to the hotel to stop any more leasing of accommodation. There were too many families living in one-room flats in this hotel and there are 100 families already in that area and there is a waiting list of 150 families in Britain waiting to go out.
This newspaper article refers to far more cases than I have mentioned, where wives are leaving their husbands and advising them to get out of the Army as quickly as possible. This is a shocking state of affairs. These are disgusting conditions. Neither the Minister nor his Under-Secretary is present at the moment, but I am obliged to the Civil Lord of the Admiralty who is on the Front Bench opposite. I hope that he takes copious notes.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)
Four pages so far.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I would refer the hon. Member to paragraph 71 of the Memorandum on the Army Estimates dealing with married quarters in Germany.
§ Mr. Mason
Yes, I have seen it. I ask the hon. Member not to take notice merely of a glib phrase about the shortage of married quarters to be reduced"by hiring more specially built blocks of flats from German contractors.That seems to me a cheap way of doing it. We are not spending money there. We are going to allow the German landlord to exploit the British Tommy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] But it is happening, and very much so. All the conditions that I have been talking about in these hotels are conditions prevailing under German landlords. These places where there is no light, no heating and people cook on two-ring cookers are under German landlords, and people pay fantastic rents for these flats.
I want the Army Estimates checked in detail to find out how much money will be spent in West Germany during the current year over and above the sum spent in the previous year on solving this problem of housing. A crash programme is required immediately. The Minister mentioned caravans and I was pleased to hear him. A caravan scheme quickly introduced might help. First, the right hon. Gentleman must try to satisfy all those who are enduring these bad conditions in Germany, those who are waiting at home to join their families, and those who have been driven out of Germany hack home because they could not stand the shocking conditions there.
The right hon. Gentleman must also recognise that Germany is a home base, which means that the Regular soldier having served in Singapore or Malaya can be returned not to the United Kingdom but to Germany. It is true that it is easy for wives and families to go over to Germany. The distance is not great and they must be tempted to do this. It, of course, aggravates the problem, but the War Office should have foreseen it and should not have allowed conditions to deteriorate to this extent.
There is obvious exploitation by landlords which is proving costly not only to the War Office and the Exchequer but to all of us as taxpayers. I do not know 382 to what extent the revaluation of the Deutschmark has been considered. It might cost us an extra £3 million to keep our troops over there and this might wipe out the finances that have probably been allocated towards solving the accommodation problem.
My point is that something must be done quickly to restore heart to our troops in West Germany, because undoubtedly all the letters that I have quoted prove that morale is low. Unless we solve these problems we shall have a very dishearted force out there. I hope that when the Under-Secretary replies he will be able to give more definite information that this problem will be solved and solved quickly.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
I venture to speak in this debate since retired colonels tend to do so, and I am proud to be one of their number. I hope to speak at less length than other hon. and gallant Members who had best remain nameless. I hope that the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) will forgive me for not following his speech, but, happily, my own experience of the Army, and the experience of many correspondents I have who are still in the Army, is less unfortunate than the picture he suggested.
I should like to confine my remarks to that part of the Army with which I am most familiar, and in that connection I specially welcome any encouragement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War to the Women's Royal Army Corps, which is, happily, now established as a Regular Corps of the Army.
I want to recall the memory of the Committee to the reason for women in the Army. It was because, in two wars, there was a grave shortage of manpower, and it is relevant today to put that point when considering the Army Estimates. It is also, perhaps, well to remember that during the Second World War about 250,000 women served in the Army—a force rather larger than the Army we are discussing today. It is also relevant to note, when there is considerable question about whether there should be 165,000 or 180,000 in the Army, that the W.R.A.C. is providing, in its Regular force as shown in Vote I, about 5,000 383 people, and, in its Territorial force, as shown in Vote 2, about 7,000.
That is no mean contribution to the Armed Forces at the present time, as hon. Members will agree. It is interesting to note that in the Defence White Paper the numbers of women in the Army were not included in the overall figures of the Army. I can only conclude that they are aligned with the secret weapons of the Minister, and are kept out of the overall total.
Our main consideration, in looking at the Estimates, must be twofold. First the effective usefulness of women in the Army, and, therefore, the consideration of the cost must be in relation to their contribution. This is the point I want to make, because it is well to remember that the time, happily, has passed when women were considered as a sort of chorus attached to the Army. It is now generally accepted that those who wish to belong to such a body are best left outside the barrack gates.
For those women who wish to serve in the Army, and who are likely to prove successful at the job, there is a first-rate career in the W.R.A.C. but as my right hon. Friend spoke of making an additional appeal to women, I should like to caution him to the extent of suggesting that in my opinion and experience a tendency to too many frills—if I may say so—in uniform or accommodation can be over-emphasised.
Those women who are likely to be successful soldiers are likely to be in the Army because they wish to do the job and do it well as members of the whole Army. This is not to say that women soldiers need necessarily be tough, and I am, perhaps, not the one to judge what has happened to those who have spent some six years serving in the Army.
I want to turn now to the cost. In the W.R.A.C. there are two main disadvantages, and these must be regarded in relation to the overall cost. The first is the wastage rate, and the second is the Corps "self-management." I want to deal for a moment with the wastage rate, because it must be generally accepted and agreed that the main cause of wastage is the admirable one of marriage and women raising families.
384 I suggest to my right hon. Friend that we must accept this wastage rate and applaud the cause of it. At the same time, however, it seems to me that the time has come for a much greater flexibility in using those people who might come into the Army for a short time and might want to re-enter it after a lapse of some years. I know that engagement is normally for twenty-two years, with breaks every three years, but that is not quite the same thing, and there should be more encouragement and flexibility within the Regular Corps for women and also for transferance to and from the Territorial Army.
I am glad to have shared with my father a continuous connection with the Territorial Army which has extended between us since the inception of the Territorial Army before the First World War. I cannot help feeling that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) pointed out, the second rôle of the Territorial Army, mentioned on page 32 of the Estimates, is an admirable rôle in which the W.R.A.C.T.A. can play their part. The flexibility, which I think possible between the Regular Corps and the Territorial Corps, should be extended to enable the territorial element of the W.R.A.C. to play a considerable part in the rôle which I have mentioned as the Territorial Army's second commitment.
It is worth considering the possibility of having married women in both the Regular and Territorial corps to a much greater extent than is at present the case. That is to suggest the increased necessity for urging short-term commissions and probably the reintroduction of local service, which was tried a decade ago and which would also enable women to be employed on a part-time basis, which seems very feasible, at Army headquarters at various levels. After all, what is wanted is a build-up of a trained and disciplined body of women who could undertake emergency services, having behind them both discipline and training which would be of use.
The W.R.A.C. part of the Territorial Army is giving admirable service, but I doubt whether it is encouraged to serve to the widest possible extent. I intend to return to that subject in a moment, but before doing so I must say that hon. Members will have noticed that the ratio 385 of officers to women is not very good in the Regular Corps, although in the Territorial Army it is much better. That can be explained in two ways. The first is that there is too much self-management in the Regular Corps as it is organised today.
One must accept that it is always necessary to have a certain amount of self-management and that it is necessary to guard the female element in the Service from those soldiers who may not be suitable or suited to be in charge of women as part of their forces. At the same time, particularly in the training aspect of the Corps, there is too much emphasis on the Corps being self-supporting. When I discovered, as I recently did elsewhere, that there is now being set up a regimental headquarters in the W.R.A.C., as a Member of Parliament I am bound to wonder whether expenditure of that kind can be justified.
There are courses of various kinds which should be integrated with existing courses in the Army to a much greater extent than at present, and with mutual advantage to both sides. The Regular Service does vital and excellent work, but Parliament must seek to get value for its money and, however desirable some of the organisations which I have mentioned may be, streamlining would result in a more realistic estimate of the cost.
There is room for a great extension of duties, and I welcome my right hon. Friend's reference today to the ever widening variety of duties which will fall to members of the Corps. I do not think that these duties have been widened nearly enough. I think that the necessity for that excitement and the going overseas mentioned in the case of the Army as a whole is equally true of the W.R.A.C.
I should also like to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the fact that the more enterprising Territorial units of the W.R.A.C. have now taken matters into their own hands. I can think of one battalion which have had the enterprise to arrange for its annual camp to go to France and carry out joint exercises with the French Army. I think that hon. Members will agree that, coming from Scotland, that was a very enterprising move, but the additional money required for such an enterprise 386 was raised by the battalion itself, and about £800 was found to make this possible.
No one will be surprised to know that the strength of that battalion is very high indeed and that the quality of its leadership is outstanding. This sort of enterprise is well worth while, and if we are to be realistic in realising, as I believe hon. Members do, that we require women in the Army, at all, both Regular and Territorial, and if we are to get them in greater numbers than at present, we must also accept the responsibility for offering them the attractions in the same realistic way as we are prepared to offer them for the Army as a whole.
Here I must make one reference to recruiting, because, in the short time that I have been in the House, I am sorry to say, with the exception of the reference made by my right hon. Friend the Minister today, I have heard only disparaging references to members of the Women's Royal Army Corps. On such occasions, I am reminded sharply of the most disparaging references ever made in my presence to that Corps. It was made, and I am unlikely to forget the occasion, by a battery commander who, it is true, had commanded his battery overseas for some years during the war, but I understand in very pleasant surroundings, certainly nowhere near where any shots were ever fired.
I was reminded of the 50,000 women who gave magnificent service in the London area, and who for seventeen months were accustomed to fire their guns on an average five nights a week and sometimes for seventeen hours out of the twenty-four. Therefore, I hope that by making this reference for the purpose of the record today, I shall not have to endure in this House from my hon. Friends any references such as those I have heard since I came here. Like the speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Barnsley, references of this order cannot help recruiting, cannot help morale and do not add to the prestige of this country in the eyes of others.
I should like, in making my last plea, to return to the variations in duties which have been referred to. I believe that there is a great potential for recruiting amongst women today, but I believe 387 that we shall only get the quality which we want if, as I have already explained, we offer those attractions and realities which that service should expect. I think that many of these women have a mechanical aptitude which is over- looked. This is an age of surface-to-air guided weapons, an age in which the importance of the various R.E.M.E. workshops is great, an age of electronics, and there seems to be limitless scope for women in these spheres, and a good recruiting potential.
I hope, therefore, that in considering the force as a whole, and especially the recruiting needs of the Corps, my right hon. Friend will look at the pattern of spending at present, will create greater flexibility both for the Regular forces and the Territorial Force, with greater integration between the two, and a greater extension of duties and opportunities in the Army for which so many women are so well suited.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
I much appreciated the spirited defence of the Women's Royal Army Corps by the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson), but it would be an affectation which would deceive nobody if I pretended to be able to follow her in this field. However, I thought her intervention easier on the ear, as well as on the eye, than that of some of her fellow colonels on the benches opposite, who tended to massivity rather than sparkle in the presentation of their cases. But the hon. Lady shared with them a tendency to talk in terms of the last war, or a period perhaps even a little earlier. She was a little more up-to-date than the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir R. Glyn), who started with the last war, moved on to the First World War, then talked about the Boer War and ended up with the Battle of Hastings.
It is ill-advised to use words like "real" and "realistic" in connection with all this talk about Territorial Armies and Women's Corps in the nuclear age, when the Government themselves say that there is no defence for this country against nuclear attack. In fact, to put it quite crudely and bluntly, within a few hours of a full-scale nuclear attack this country would 388 be a shambles; our cities would be radioactive charnel houses, and practically the whole population would be atomic dust or radioactive cat's meat. It is necessary to be a little realistic about this matter, in the sense that we either prevent war or we are all dead in very short order.
I want to try to bring the debate back to fundamentals by talking about the first part of the Memorandum on the Army Estimates, dealing with the rôle and purpose of the Army, and also by referring to those parts of the White Paper which refer to the arming of B.A.O.R. with tactical atomic weapons. The Defence White Paper says:Our conventional forces are now organised to provide military contributions to three Collective Security Alliances"—defined as N.A.T.O., CENTO and S.E.A.T.O. For this purpose unit commands are being set up in the Near East and Middle East, and there is talk of a unified command in the Far East. That underlines the development referred to in the Defence White Paper where, for the first time, China is given prominence as a potential enemy against whom we must start preparing for war. Our international defence commitments are still spreading, and at the same time increasing in depth. The White Paper says:…we must recognise that many of our most important responsibilities are not concerned with the direct deterrence of all out global war, but rather with the checking of small outbreaks which could grow into nuclear war by accident or design.Let us try to get a little nearer to what is meant by this statement. Paragraph 5 of the White Paper has one stab at it. It says:Soviet or Chinese military strength could be used for direct offensive action against the Western Allies or for military intervention in inflammable situations in any part of the world."Could be", but so far as I know it is not. The White Paper goes on to say:In addition it can be, and is, used in conjunction with Communist subversive activities to exert political pressure on smaller countries, and to undermine their independence and will to resist outside interference.My difficulty about this phrasing is that it could apply equally well to the policies pursued by the Western Powers. In opening the debate, the Secretary of State for War, speaking of what he 389 called the sort of situation which could fester into a local war, said that it would give us a bit of time to assemble our forces to intervene. It seems to me that that is almost a classical definition of military intervention in an inflammable situation and an excellent way of starting something big by mistake and, no doubt, with the best of intentions.
As to the methods of indirect intervention, I recall a phrase I think I have used before in this Chamber, by Walter Lippmann, that the problem of the Western Alliance was that whereas Communism would spread without the Russians or the Chinese or anybody else firing a shot outside, it could be contained only by the direct engagement of Western military forces. That suggests that possibly the boot is on the other foot, or at least there is a boot on each foot.
To come again a little nearer to reality, this whole conception of military intervention in situations which are either a question of internal risings or disorders or a mixture of both; where there is an allegation of some form of outside assistance—it may be a supply of arms or munitions, or propaganda or more direct military help, but at any rate a mixed situation—to believe we can deal with that situation by policies of military intervention from outside, particularly when backed by tactical atomic weapons, seems to me about the most dangerous kind of use to which we could possibly put British forces anywhere.
In that connection, I find myself in considerable agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who in the debate on 20th July said:The real danger in Europe, and we all know it, is not the danger of the large-scale deliberate Soviet attack on the West but of a local conflict developing, perhaps out of a spontaneous rising of discontented people living in Eastern Europe as happened in Hungary, in Poland and Berlin, perhaps out of miscalculation. In other words, the danger of a conflict arising essentially in a situation to which deterrence is irrelevant.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1960; Vol. 627, c. 609–10.]The other day he elaborated that and said:The only real danger of war in Europe is a small, local conflict arising in a situation in which the whole spectrum of deterrence would be irrelevant, arising perhaps just across the Iron Curtain or in East Berlin. No 390 military posture by the West could deter such an incident breaking out in the first place.… It is a danger to which the whole concept of deterrence is irrelevant. It is, in fact, the only real danger, in my view, which the West now faces in Europe."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1961; Vol. 635, c. 1230.]I believe that to be true and a serious condemnation of the whole policy of using conventional forces, particularly the Army as set forth in the Estimates and in the Report on Defence.
Let us look at it a little more closely as related to these alliances, N.A.T.O., CENTO and S.E.A.T.O. In the first place, no one will dispute that the leading and dominating Power in these alliances is the United States of America and that it is American decisions which will decide whether or not they go into operation; in the sense that they would not go into operation if the Americans are determined that they shall not and they will go into operation if the Americans are determined that they shall. They may be faced with the problem of an intransigent ally, through stubbornness or recklessness, either deliberately or accidentally, provoking a crisis in trying to force the hand of his allies to back him in that crisis. That is a possibility. But, by and large, I think it is true that any action by British forces in virtue of these three alliances would be an action undertaken on American political decisions and, in fact, in most cases under American supreme Command.
Let us see what that amounts to in terms of Europe and N.A.T.O. The purpose of N.A.T.O. today is subject to the overriding control of the United States. The overriding purpose of N.A.T.O. in Europe is more and more becoming the purpose of the West German Government, both negatively and positively. Negatively in the sense that any agreement reached to do anything depends on the most stubborn and intransigent member. He provides the lowest common denominator. In a positive sense, although agreement is necessary to refrain from taking reckless action, one Power alone can take reckless action and commit its allies.
In that respect German policy has been remarkably consistent over the years. I can understand it. It is a divided country and it wants to reunite. It also wants to regain its lost territories 391 and go back to the 1937 frontiers and all the rest of it. But it has deliberately ruled out the method of negotiation with the Soviet Union, which would imply the kind of policies which are resolutely rejected by the present German Government, of disengagement and negotiation with the East German State, and so on, and has proceeded on a different but perfectly consistent line up to today.
The first overt manifestation of that was Dr. Adenauer's statement in Hamburg in December, 1951, when he said:Our chief reason for wanting to enter a European Army is to be able to recover our Eastern territories.A few years later the same line was reported by Walter Lippmann, in the New York Herald Tribune of 18th July, 1955. He said that during his visit to Washington that spring Dr. Adenauer had made it perfectly clear that he was opposed to negotiations because it was too early to raise the question of the Polish frontier.
§ The Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member, but he is rather trespassing on foreign policy as distinct from the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
If I might read the quotation, Sir Gordon, you will see that it refers directly to the Army. Mr. Lippmann said:… his policy is to be armed by the United States and then with the loyal support of the whole Western Alliance, led by the United States, to negotiate a German settlement with the Soviet Union. Dr. Adenauer believes that in two or three years, when there is a German Army in N.A.T.O., his position will be strong enough to obtain re-unification with frontiers that are much better than Potsdam.That was the danger to which Mr. Aneurin Bevan called attention on 4th December, 1958. With reference to a more recent declaration on the same lines, in the debate on the Address last November, the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) drew attention to the situation in the following terms:I am getting extremely worried about the irredentist movement in Western Germany. It causes me and, I am sure, many other hon. Members deep concern."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st November, 1960 Vol. 629, c. 52.]
§ The Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but I think 392 that this is really getting on to foreign affairs and not dealing with the British Army.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Unfortunately, the British Army is committed by these policies. If we are to study the purpose and rôle of the Army, I do not see how we can do it without studying what we are being committed to by our allies in N.A.T.O., but I will not elaborate that point. The Report mentions N.A.T.O. and says that we are committed to fight under N.A.T.O. and for N.A.T.O. It has a whole section on the purpose and rôle of the British Army, and among others its purpose and rôle in N.A.T.O. I think therefore that I may just refer to the fact that in N.A.T.O. we could be committed by German irredentism on lines which are clean contrary to the—
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.
That this day the Business of Supply may be taken after Ten o'clock and shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. I (Sittings of the House) for Two hours after Ten o'clock —[Mr. Chichester-Clark.]
§ Supply again considered in Committee.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
In the Middle East we are committed to purposes which were defined by the Prime Minister in connection with our intervention in Jordan which he calleda crisis of self-defenceand said that nothing could take awayout customary traditional right, and, I would add, duty".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th July. 1958; Vol. 591, c. 1510.]to carry out these policies of military intervention. He called it a crisis of self-defence when there was a reactionary régime in the Middle East which got into trouble with its own people, allegedly with help from outside.
In the Far East we are committed under S.E.A.T.O. by the latest defence declaration to use the Army in certain contingencies against China. This doctrine of intervention where there is international disorder might carry us into Laos, Southern Vietnam or South Korea. The trouble is that this Government, for instance, recognise that the Chinese coastal islands are part of China but the United States do not.
393 The picture which emerges of what we mean by defence and the uses to which it is proposed to put the Army, is a nightmare vision of a thin anti-red line stretched to breaking point right round the world and committed to fighting the winds of change in Asia and Africa and to underwriting German irridentism in Europe by force of arms.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Does the hon. Member agree with the leader of his party who, the other day, was urging that we should be prepared to use United Kingdom troops to keep law and order in Northern Rhodesia rather than to allow Sir Roy Welensky to use Federal troops?
§ Mr. Zilliacus
It all depends on what is meant by law and order, but I would be against the United Kingdom doing Sir Roy Welensky's job for him. I have carefully limited this to our international defence commitments. As to Commonwealth commitments, I think that they are a function of our Colonial and Commonwealth policies. To say the least, I feel very critical about the colonial policies pursued by this Government, although, on the principle of the old Swedish saying that there are variations of temperature even in a hot place, I would say that the Government's policy is better than Sir Roy Welensky's policy by several degrees.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
The Leader of the Labour Party was urging that we should increase commitments by doing what the Federal Government in Northern Rhodesia are failing to do.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
I am not always and invariably in agreement with the leader of my party. No one will accuse me of exaggeration when I say that.
Coming back to the rôle of the Army, I think we must realise what we are committed to under the so-called collective security alliances. The Government are committed to using British forces for purposes which Labour is pledged to oppose in Asia and Europe, and which we do not consider worth the bones of a single British soldier, let alone taking the risk of nuclear war.
At the beginning of this debate the Secretary of State tried to dress up the old policy of the balance of power and 394 the arms race, based on the old fallacy that the way to preserve peace is to prepare for war, by some extraordinarily inappropriate words. He said that, whereas, previously, people used to join up for a war they now joined up to preserve peace, to prevent a war breaking out.
The trouble about that doctrine is that it has invariably failed and is bound to fail. I have previously quoted in this Chamber—I shall not do so again—Sir Anthony Eden's declaration on 17th November, 1954, that this was the third time in his life that he had been engaged in the enterprise of trying to build up an effective deterrent against war in Europe. He said that the last two attempts had, unfortunately, failed. The first time was before the First World War. The second time was before the Second World War. He said that that was the third attempt through N.A.T.O. to achieve the same result.
I am sure that it will achieve the same result as the other two attempts, unless we learn that the real danger against which we have to guard is not the danger of deliberate aggression, but the danger of war breaking out by accident. Against that danger we do not need rival military preparations for instant intervention to bedevil a local conflict and spread it into a nuclear war, but joint political measures to deal with such situations co-operatively through the United Nations.
The Government's defence policy is based on resolutely ignoring the fact that the real danger today is an outbreak of war not because anybody wants it, but because the Powers have tried to deal competitively with an incident and thereby turned it into a fatal accident that nobody wants.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I do not wish to follow, even if I was able to, the various ramifications of the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus). I shall content myself with making two or three points which I consider to be important to the Army. I consider that it is absolutely essential for us to get the 165,000 people required for the Service. We cannot admit the possibility of defeat on this issue. I am pleased to say that there is substantial hope that the target will be achieved.
395 Press publicity is a problem. The Press always likes news. Bad news or news about things not being right with the Army is much more printable than the good news of the many people who are enjoying life in the Army. It must be approached as a very long-term policy. I hope that there will not be a repetition of an incident which came to my notice, and of which I informed my right hon. Friend. Because of a slip, a member of the Press who was desirous of finding out what was being done about the provision of accommodation was not able to obtain the up-to-date information which reflected very satisfactorily on the development in connection with the provision of the accommodation.
I hope that a constructive approach will also be made to the apprentice scheme. I am pleased to see from the Memorandum that Carlisle Camp has 500 apprentices. That is a very good line. It provides valuable education for the youngsters. It produces, generally speaking, a very satisfactory type of recruit.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not be inhibited in any way from letting the schools know the advantages of Army life. There has in the past been an idea that this is one of the things that one did to encourage schoolboys to consider. A lot could be done if the importance of these matters and the attractions which the Army has to offer as a career were realised by schoolmasters. So much has been done to improve the Service that it would be a tragedy if this were not brought home forcibly to those who should be interested, particularly those who have the opportunity to influence young people who might become recruits.
The provision of adequate accommodation particularly for families is of the greatest importance. That there is not sufficient accommodation must be admitted, though I pay a tribute to the work which is being done in Aldershot to provide married quarters. It is quite delightful to see the unsuitable old buildings at long last being taken down and replaced by modern houses of first-class construction.
I offer one word of warning. It sometimes happens that a man with a large family may have to have two houses. I hope that attention will be paid to what is being done in Germany, particularly on Air Force stations. where the top floor 396 of a house has a door in the wall which makes convenient access to the adjacent house possible so that the one house and part of another can be made suitable for a large family and the other house can become suitable for a small family. If the houses are built in pairs with the top floors so arranged that they can be combined if desired, it will be possible to avoid what I regard as a waste of accommodation when two houses are used by one family.
In Aldershot, we very much appreciate the kindly and, I think intelligent way in which some of our accommodation difficulties have been met. We are very proud of being, as we say, the headquarters of the British Army, and we are glad that the Army has met the local authority on the question of land space, which is much needed by Aldershot Borough Council.
There is another matter on which there should be closer co-operation with local authorities generally. Service men are often extremely worried because, when they leave the Service and want accommodation for themselves and their families, it is not at all easy for them to find it. They are not on any local authority lists and local authorities, very naturally, pay close attention to the length of time for which people have been on their lists.
I wonder whether it would be possible for my right hon. Friend to contact his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to see whether something might be done to help in this matter. There is in Aldershot perhaps more of that than in other places because of the essential Army nature of Aldershot, but it happens elsewhere. Today, people are very wise and weigh up what profession they should follow and how they should occupy their life for the best. One of the problems is the feeling that when they come out of the Services, even if they had been satisfactorily housed in the Services, they will not be able to get on the housing list and to get accommodation. I do not wish to detract from the savings scheme which my right hon. Friend suggested, but I think that he should go a little further than that towards the local authorities.
I hope that the Service dress promised to me by my right hon. Friend's successor in 1957 will become the 397 walking-out dress of half of the Army, as is said in the Memorandum. It gives the men and women a grand feeling to be in smart walking-out dress rather than in the somewhat sloppy battledress. I hope that that promise which was given to me some time ago will be implemented.
I wish to mention two other matters. The first concerns retaining fees. Particularly, I want to mention it as it affects doctors who are given a fee of £60 per annum and who may be called up at any time and sent elsewhere. I do not think that this is "on". An unlimited liability is worth more than £60 a year. I wonder whether a more reasonable method could be evolved of dealing with these professional men, who have their own ordinary civilian life problems to tackle. This is one of the departments in which there is a shortage of trained men and this shortage is likely to continue, particularly when it comes to the best type of medical people.
The final point with which I want to deal worries me very much and it concerns senior N.C.O.s and warrant officers who, having done their twenty-two years' service, are given the opportunity to extend their career. I have always thought that in many ways the n.c.o.s and the warrant officers were the backbone of the Army. The Army is prepared to accept these men up to the age of 55, but they must be prepared to revert in substantive rank from a warrant officer or a staff sergeant. One of my constituents told me that the effect of this was that these men were not keen 398 to continue their service. Apparently, there is an increment of 1s. a day after four years' service from the date of reversion and a further increment of 1s. a day after eight years' service from the date of reversion.
Is this the way to treat men who, I should have thought, on any score, are of great value? I know that officers have different contracts of service, and are employed under different considerations, but the officer is allowed to retain his rank. There is a reduction in pay for the officer until 55 under the new system which has been adopted, but this is not the case with warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s.
Greater consideration should be given to the question of these men. They all recognise that the younger men must come up, and they do not object to that, but surely there could be an enlargement of establishment to enable them to keep their rank even if the pay was not as great as that of the younger men coming up. There is a strong disincentive for the warrant officer or staff sergeant to continue when this loss of rank is involved. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look into this.
For a long time I have pressed that the Aldershot Tattoo should continue. If my right hon. Friend is going out, as he has it in mind to do, for publicity, and to show the attractions of the Service and what it can do, even a minor version of the Aldershot Tattoo would be much appreciated if held in Aldershot.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I have listened to this debate for well over six hours. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) has raised matters which should be raised in a debate of this nature, especially such matters as accommodation. I was surprised to hear the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) criticise my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) for raising a number of cases in which the accommodation situation was very bad because that would reflect upon recruiting. It seems to me, however, that when discussing the annual Estimates, it is important that we should raise all the matters about which our constituents feel grievances. I have been sitting here all these hours with the object of raising a particular grievance, and this is the only time that one has the opportunity to raise it.
I have been intrigued by the day's argument, which in the main has centred around manpower. It is within the recollection of the House that always, from 1945 onwards, I have opposed the introduction of military conscription. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and I have constantly argued about this. After the country has tried conscription for so many years, I find myself so much in support of the Government that I almost feel, in view of the arguments I have used in these debates so many times, that in a way I have to commend some of the arguments which the Government have put forward.
I have listened carefully to the arguments of those who believe that the Government cannot reach their manpower target. During the fifty minutes of his speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley did not convince me, because I could not think that there was a single argument that he could present to show why we should have 200,000 men or more or why the Government could not get 165,000 or 180,000. Therefore, before we as the House of Commons decide that we want to continue the system, we should be certain that there is no alternative.
Paragraph 33 of the White Paper, "Report on Defence, 1961" says:There is an element of risk in giving up conscription and relying on volunteers. But the Government are satisfied that it is a risk that 400 ought to be accepted. Conscription makes heavy demands on the economy. The efficiency of the Services is affected by the constant turnover of men, and because the burden of training is so heavy. A much higher level of training and efficiency is attainable in an all-regular force.I used to argue a few years ago that the system of compulsory service was wrong and would not produce the best results. I remember the arguments put forward by Captain Liddell Hart about the conscript Nazi Army of Germany, that it had not been successful because it was of a conscript nature, whereas the Luftwaffe, which relied less upon conscripts and compulsion and more on volunteers, had been more successful.
I am appalled that people can talk about waiting to continue a system against which there is such a great volume of opinion. That is why I cannot understand my hon. Friend. Nor can I understand the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), who said he had always been in favour of conscription. Because hon. Members have always been in favour of conscription, why should they never want to give it up or to try something different? I shall chase my hon. Friend as long as he keeps on arguing about his conscription to the Services.
One of the objections I have to conscription is that there is discrimination between some members of the community, some workers, and others. Some are called and some are not called. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire is not here. He said that agricultural workers ought to be exempted. If, however, I say that the workers in Ladywood, in engineering works, should be exempted, then he says that that is another matter.
There are in the American system some provisions which I should have liked to have seen in our own National Service, for example, the refusal to call up the only son of a widow. We did not accept that provision. The Americans refuse to call up more than one son in a family. We have considerable hardship here through refusing to do that. That is another reason why I object to our conscription.
401 There is another reason why I object, and it is one which the employers of labour would give if they were to be asked. In Birmingham and the other great industrial centres they will tell you that this system so relished by some hon. Members takes men out of the works, but the employers have to take them back again after their service, and sometimes it happens, when men come back, they have lost their former enthusiasm for their jobs. Consider the students and the dilemma they have, whether to do their National Service before or after finishing their education. There has been great anxiety amongst parents about the effect of National Service on their children.
It has been a tremendously wasteful system. I think it costs £750 a year for a conscript—as much as it costs to send a boy to Eton, is it not? Unless there can be some very real justification for it, in my judgment we should be very unwise to continue this system. I have not heard an argument in favour. I used to argue very much with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who I am sorry is not here now. Sometimes he took notice of his civil servants when I thought they were wrong. I remember that some of us argued with him about increasing the period of conscription from 18 months to two years. I do not know whose view he took on that matter, but I am certainly delighted that today he takes an entirely different view, which is much more in line with the view that I have always taken.
The Secretary of State for War made an interesting speech on the attractions of the Army, and he mentioned in this context National Service men. Sometimes when I have spoken my hon. Friends have said "You are a pacifist." But they may be surprised to hear that I have tried to get two men into the Army, with no success. I remember that one man very much wanted to join, but although he had been a first-class National Service man, the Army would not accept him as a Regular soldier because he had been fined £5 in a civil court. I was amazed, for it seems to me that the sort of men who should serve in the Army are those who feel that their bent lies in that direction.
402 I now come to the main point that I wanted to raise. If the Secretary of State wishes to persuade National Service men to become Regular soldiers, he should first see that they are satisfied and contented. Paragraph 46 of the Memorandum on Army Estimates, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, says:Assured of…the well-being of his family, a contented regular officer or other rank is the finest ambassador the Army can have.When I visited Germany a few years ago and spoke with the soldiers there, I felt that they were, on the whole, fine ambassadors. But how can a man be a good ambassador if he is not contented?
I cannot understand why, when a man is utterly dissatisfied with the Service and wants to leave, perhaps on compassionate grounds, it is necessary to put up such a tremendous fight to persuade the appropriate Service Department to release him. In this respect, I am not referring to the War Office alone, for I have had similar experiences with the Air Ministry and the Admiralty. The Minister may be surprised to hear this, but there was a young boy from my constituency who did not like the Army and his mother suffered considerable anxiety. What a job we had to get that boy out of the Army, as eventually we did.
§ Mr. Yates
No, he was not. Eventually he ran away. It caused considerable distress, and eventually I took the matter up.
I should like to see a more humane approach. I should like to quote the case of a young National Service man in which I was not successful. He had a wife in Birmingham in my constituency and two young children, one of whom was only four months old at the time when I raised the matter. He was transferred to North Africa and was told that he must complete his two years' training. He was in such anxiety about his wife and two children who were homeless in this country that he asked for permission to come home. He borrowed £22 and came back to this country to try to find a home for his family. We were trying to do our best to assist them. He came home on a month's leave, which was extended to 403 two months, then three months and, finally, four months. He said, "I cannot soldier in peace while I have these worries on my mind." I had a letter from him a few days ago to say that the War Office had declined to release him.
We managed to persuade the local authority to provide for the family some accommodation, which was very unsatisfactory, at what we call in Birmingham a half-way house, that is a place where the local authority accommodates an applicant who has not been on the housing list long enough to be offered a house. I submitted a doctor's note about this matter. I cannot see what value this man can be to the Army when he is kept in North Africa in a state of anxiety all the time about his wife and two young children both of whom have been ill and under medical care.
I have been turned down and have been told that I cannot do anything about it. I believe that this National Service man is a very bad ambassador for the Army. How can he be otherwise? How can he do other than spread discontent? If we are to have any system of selective service, more humanity should be shown towards cases of this kind. The Ministry of Labour has approached every case that I have taken to it with great reason and sympathy. Where the man was the son of a widow or was a young married man with children, the Ministry has usually accepted those facts as good reason for taking action, but once the man is in the Army it is a different matter altogether.
Whatever may be my views about the Army and military service, I think that we ought to do justice and be fair to these people. If more attention were paid to matters of this kind we should stand a much better chance of getting people to join the Armed Forces or be willing to continue service in them. I have spoken many times in this Chamber on the principle of compulsory military service. I moved an Amendment to the Motion in reply to the King's Speech in 1946 and the then Prime Minister, now Lord Attlee, told me that my Amendment meant that I had no confidence in His Majesty's Government at that time. We have had this system for twenty-one years. It was 404 introduced by Mr. Neville Chamberlain in 1939. Of course, we understood the necessity for it during the war, but after the war it was continued.
If the Minister or the Government are likely to be overshadowed by fears that have been voiced both by hon. Members on this side of the Committee as well as by hon. Members opposite, they will not, of course, take risks. But I hope that they will continue without fear to take risks. If they depend on the common sense and the support not only of hon. Members but of the ordinary people throughout the country, they will get through. If they make mistakes, at least the people will forgive them for making them when trying to do what I am sure is the right thing for them to do.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
Many hon. Members who have spoken from this side of the Committee have been colonels or above. I was not one of those, but my interest in the debate is heightened by the fact that when I first joined the Army I went into the same regiment as that of the Secretary of State for War, the Northamptonshire Yeomanry. I was a very amateur soldier: not one of the professionals.
We have heard a lot in the debate about the recruiting problem. I will not go into that, because it is a very great and complicated question. However, I would refer to one point made by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) when he referred to the techniques used to get recruits before the war. He listed a whole variety of things which were done and came to the conclusion that it was only Munich which ultimately brought up the recruiting figures.
I believe that there is now a slight difference. We have now the medium of television which was successfully used during the General Election. I think that when we get an honest recruiting campaign on television we shall get the recruits. I have great confidence in what the War Office is doing to get recruits. I hope that we shall be told by the Minister when he winds up how Members of the House can help, because I am sure that hon. Members are anxious that we should do our best to get recruits.
405 I suppose that from time to time most of us give lifts to Service men when driving to our constituencies, and from them and our friends in constituencies we gather an impression of what life in the Army is like. We hear criticisms of the forces. Mast of those criticisms have been dealt with already in the debate, and I do not propose to repeat them. However, I wish to put in a plea that in our desire to get rid of what is called "bull" we do not let up on discipline.
As an amateur soldier I reacted against "bull". At one stage I served under my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer), who was reckoned to be quite a chap far "bull". Looking back on it, I have acquired a certain respect for the lessons he taught me and also for a limited amount of "bull" because I think it fits in with discipline. The same goes for drill, which maintains the discipline so necessary in the Army.
I should like to congratulate the Army on the training exercises, about which we read in the Estimates, being held in Portugal, Norway, Kenya, Libya and. indeed, in the Rocky Mountains of Canada. I am glad that the Army is introducing mountaineering, because I believe that it is the finest training in leadership that one can get. I have done a bit of mountaineering. Every time one looks up at a rock face of, say, 300 or 500 feet one does not want to climb it. Forcing oneself to overcome such obstacles is a very fine training for leadership.
The same considerations applied when I did my first parachute jump. I found myself sitting in an aeroplane 1,000 feet up looking down through a hole at the patchwork of the countryside below until somebody said "Jump!". My natural reaction was not to jump, but I forced myself to do it. I believe that overcoming a reluctance of that sort develops a sense of leadership, which is so necessary. I suggest that parachute jumping might become voluntary in the Army. It could be taken up as a sport, without participants necessarily having to join the Parachute Regiment.
I also hope that training exercises will go on throughout the Commonwealth—in Malaya, New Zealand and more in Canada. We may also be able to do something in the countries of our allies, 406 perhaps in CENTO. We might be able to do some very good training exercises, for example, in Eastern Turkey. The country is very suitable—provided one does not go too far east. The Central Anatolian Plain would be wonderful for toughening-up training.
Much has been said about the question of married quarters, and I will not refer to them, but I want to say something about the school children who remain in England and stay at boarding schools when their parents go overseas. The problem here probably applies largely to officers. Until enough school accommodation is organised for overseas posts I hope that the Secretary of State will allow children to join their parents at each holiday time. At the moment, they are entitled to one passage out each year. If we believe in united families we ought to see that children are allowed to go out to their parents each holiday time. That would be another very good aid to recruiting.
There is one other point which has not been touched on during the seven-and-a-half hours during which I have sat here. I congratulate the authorities concerned on the very good record of resettlement in civilian life. About 90 per cent. of officers and 99 per cent. of other ranks who left the Army in 1960 found jobs within three months of leaving. That is a very high proportion, and more publicity could be given to it, because people going into the Army often wonder what will happen to them when they come out again. The answer is provided in those figures, and they very much impressed me. Allied to all the other schemes mentioned by my right hon. Friend—savings, pennons and house purchases—publicity of that fact would be a very good way of bringing in more recruits.
I have not heard any mention of local education authorities. I wonder whether they play their part in the scheme of things, through the teachers in the schools. There is nothing wrong in a teacher referring to the Army, and talking about it as a good career for boys leaving school. Teachers could say, "Here you are serving your Queen and your country". I would also like to see more student teachers at universities and teachers' training colleges joining the Territorial Army.
407 I cannot end without saying a few words in reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus). Some of the things he said need a straight answer. He said, virtually, that we were discussing the spending of £500 million, but that nobody had talked about the broad strategy of why we were doing it. It is not inappropriate in a debate of this kind to discuss the threat which causes us to spend this sum. Do those who serve in the Army realise the true nature of the attack which is threatening them, not necessarily by war but by subversion? That is what should be brought home to those who are serving in the Army, because it would make them better able to realise the contribution they are making. We should set out what the Communists are trying to do. I think that could be done by saying clearly that they are out for world domination by Communism. To achieve that they must upset the balance of power, and the way they propose to do so is by weakening our will to resist. That lesson should be pushed home to the Army.
Having stated the objective, in a military way one goes on to state the method. That has been clearly laid down in the Communist manifesto which was discussed in the defence debate. Members of Communist parties from 81 countries assembled in Moscow in November for a conference which lasted for about three weeks, and on 6th December a manifesto was published in which directions were given to Communist sympathisers throughout the world to help them achieve the Communist aim. It is very much like Hitler's Mein Kampf in which he set out clearly where he intended to go. I believe that the Moscow Communists have done exactly the same thing. The warning is there to be read, and I believe that this Committee and the Army should take note of it. It is a monstrous directive to Communist sympathisers. It has a lot to do with the rôle of the Army and. therefore, I hope that I am in order in referring to it.
The attack is to come in several ways. It attacks the basis of our defence expenditure, and here I refer the Committee to what was said by the hon. Member for Gorton about that. The manifesto instructs Communist sympathisers to fight 408 for the dismantling of foreign military bases. We have heard what was said by the hon. Member for Gorton, and, of course, the dismantling of military bases would affect our own defence planning. There is a Motion on the Paper signed by 43 members of the Labour Party opposing American bases in the United Kingdom. That is what it means. The manifesto appeals to sympathisers to fight for the disbandment of military blocs. On the Notice Paper there is a Motion signed by 63 hon. Members opposite, perhaps for a variety of reasons, opposing the training of German troops in this country. That is an attempt to disrupt the "military bloc" of N.A.T.O. Communist sympathisers are asked to demand a reduction in military expenditure. We have heard a lot about that from the Labour Party. Communist sympathisers are asked to demand the banning of the manufacture of nuclear weapons. We have heard quite enough about that and we have had the antics of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) and his bearded marchers. The Communist sympathisers are asked to demand the establishment of nuclear-free zones. There is a Motion signed by 55 hon. Members of the Labour Party who want the same thing.
This shows that many of the aspects in the Estimates are under attack, and that is my justification for raising the point. I believe that this Committee and the Army ought to know about it. These are some of the directives given to the Communist sympathisers who want to weaken our will to resist. If successful, even in part, they will have a considerable effect on the plans which the Army has laid and the Army must be alive to that. If the Labour Party should be returned to power at the next General Election, which is what hon. Members opposite hope will happen, and if they should be responsible for the defence of this country, I believe that the Motions on the Order paper to which I have referred are the sort of things which in some way would have an ultimate influence on the plans which the Army is now laying.
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I am sorry that I cannot accept the challenge of the Secretary of State for War to take part in a recruiting campaign, but I do not really think he 409 expected that I would. I do not believe in recruiting. I do not believe that it is necessary to carry on a campaign in support of the British Army, and neither do the people whom I represent. For example, only last week I put down a Question to the Secretary of State for War asking how many men had enlisted at Ayr in January, 1961. The Answer was eight. This covers not only my constituency, but the constituency of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), who has been advocating selective conscription. With five constituencies in Ayrshire, it. means that 1.6 men from the hon. Gentleman's constituency enlisted in January.
There is no enthusiasm for the Army in South Ayrshire, in Central Ayrshire, or in North Ayrshire, the constituency represented by the hon. Gentleman who, as I said, has been demanding conscription. Indeed, there is no enthusiasm for the Army throughout Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the total number of enlistments on long-term engagements was 181 in January. There were 17 in Aberdeen; 10 in Dumfries 38 in Dundee and Kircaldy; 40 in Edinburgh; 70 in Glasgow, and 5 in Inverness, making a grand total of 180.
Those figures show the natural reluctance of the young people of this country to come forward and join the Army, and I am not surprised because when they read the discussions in the House they must be completely bewildered about the policy of the Government and what is likely to be the character of another war.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who spoke for the Navy last week, said that the directive given to the Navy at the outbreak of war must not be "England expects every man to do his duty", but "Clear to hell out of this". The civil population is to be left behind to think about it. As for the Army, I remember a famous speech by Lord Montgomery a few years ago when he said:Join the Army. It will be the safest place in the next war.All these arguments do not impress the young people who are wanted for the Army, and so there is to be this recruiting campaign to be followed, if it fails, by selective conscription.
Let us consider the missing hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire. I do 410 not remember seeing during the last Election in the forefront of his election address a demand for conscription. When I asked him how this would work and who would be selected, I was told that there was to be a mysterious ballot of somebody or other, and I wanted to know who would be in the ballot. When I asked about agricultural workers, realising that there was a large majority of agricultural voters in his constituency, the hon. Gentleman said: "We will exclude agricultural workers".
I do not know who will be in this ballot. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman represents opinion in Ayrshire. He was speaking largely as a military man and was not representing a demand in my part of the world for selective military service. Indeed, after studying some of the publicity material, I wonder how the Army gets any recruits. I can imagine a prospective soldier going into a recruiting office and while waiting in the queue outside, if there is a queue, reading a magazine called "Soldier", which can be seen in the Library. On the front page he will read an article entitled "On Guard in the Cameroons". On the front page of this invitation to join the Army he will be told thisThey"—that is the King's Own Border Regiment—are also making history, because this is the first time a British regiment has been stationed in the Southern Cameroons, once known as the white man's grave, 3,000 miles from Britain.That is not much of an invitation. He is being invited to go to the white man's grave. This is completely fatuous and ridiculous propaganda, on which a large amount of money has been spent.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
The hon. Gentleman may be out of touch with the country's youth because of his remoteness in these matters, but they are enticed by this very thing. There is in fact a spirit in Britain wishing to have adventure and to crusade in the cause of British nationality.
§ Mr. Hughes
I should like to see the recruiting figures for the hon. Member's constituency, but I have told him that only 1.6 of a man went to the Army from 411 my constituency in January. If they are all full of this spirit, where are they? The Government conduct a gigantic campaign, yet the young men, quite rightly, are not turning up.
I return to the attractive prospectus. There is an article entitled "Soldier to Soldier" on the television programme "Campaign," which I do not wish to draw to the attention of the Committee. Finally, there is a small leading article saying:Anyone who thinks that in this nuclear age the day of the infantryman is over had better think again. From America comes news of a discovery of an explosive substance called Califonum which is so potent that a rifle, machine gun or a revolver bullet containing it possesses the destructive power of ten tons of T.N.T.A revolver will have this capacity! The passage continues:So the day when Private Tommy Atkins can pull his revolver from his holster and knock down a row of houses may not be so far distant after all.That is an invitation to everybody who wants to go into a bank in any part of London.
Scattered through this publicity material there is an enormous amount of quite silly material which is printed at Government expense. There is an extra-ordinary brochure called "Soldiers of the Queen." It does not go as far back as King Canute, but it does go back as far as Marlborough. That is no doubt out of respect for the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). On the centre page there is a picture in several colours called, "The Army Advances." There is a large-scale diagram of tanks blazing away at something in the distance, but there is no enemy. Who are they blazing away at? There are figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc., and nice round scarlet circles, which I presume might be the Soviet Union, but I see no sign of any enemy likely to fire back on the people firing from the tanks.
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not know. The fact is that nothing seems to be encouraging recruiting. I have to sit down shortly, otherwise I could give the House some more interesting extracts from this remarkable "encouraging" literature.
412 The young people of today look the facts squarely in the face and say that the next war will be a nuclear war in which this country is likely to be blown up in about ten minutes. The hon. and gallant Member for Bute and North Ayrshire in a recent speech told us that if one bomb was dropped on Glasgow everything within a radius of 100 miles would be burnt to a cinder. What on earth is the relevance of this debate to such a situation? The young people of this country see that we have reached a stage when war is an absurdity and an impossibility. They see that it is suicide. Thank goodness, they are far more intelligent than to embark upon a career of suicide.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) for giving way so that I could begin my speech in good time. Reverting to his last comments about what might happen if an atomic bomb were dropped on Glasgow, I think that it would encourage recruiting if people could go to the "white man's grave" and serve the United Nations 3,000 miles away from such a horrible catastrophe as my hon. Friend has mentioned.
I think that the Secretary of State did an excellent job as a paid propagandist on behalf of the Army and recruiting this afternoon in his speech. While many of us have doubts about whether he will be successful, I am sure that everyone hopes that he will be successful in obtaining the number of men he requires. Although, of course, we do have a little difficulty in working out exactly how many men he actually does want because the number changes a bit, we hope that he is able to get his 165,000 at the appropriate date and can proceed to the 180,000 in due course.
As far as I can see, I am the only Member to speak in this debate who was too young to see active service in the Second World War. There are many hon. Members who have served in the forces, there are colonels of both sexes who are Members of the House, and I admit at once that I was not old enough to see active service. Eventually, the Army decided that I was unfit anyway in the year immediately following the end of the war, so my only direct contact 413 with the Army was during four days at a W.O.S.B. where there were psychiatrist colonels and captains by the dozen knocking about and even the sergeant-major called us all gentlemen—which was perhaps not a typical experience of service in the Army. Whether it is an advantage or disadvantage to come to a debate of this kind with that background, I am not quite sure.
One thing has emerged from today's debate and from the defence debate a few days ago. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) has given it as his view that the prospective tasks which the Army faces at present are outside its strength. The hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) said that, in his view, in a conventional war the defeat of the West would be quite certain. He quoted the view of General Norstad that our forces in Europe are not disposed to carry on a prolonged land campaign. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said that. in his view, B.A.O.R. was organised for only very restricted actions. There have been several criticisms of this kind both today and in the defence debate, but there has been one feature on both occasions which has disturbed me.
If one criticises the disposition of the Army, if one criticises the actions of Her Majesty's Government in the administration of the Army or in the way in which they are recruiting, or for their, perhaps, over-optimistic outlook on recruiting, one is immediately told by some hon. Members opposite that one is doing harm to the cause of recruiting. I do not accept that attitude at all. I am quite certain that the vast majority of my hon. Friends, with the possible exception of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire, are quite prepared to do all they can to assist in recruiting. We hope that the Minister will obtain the people he needs. But we must at the same time reserve the right to criticise the Government and hon. and right hon. Members opposite for what they are doing, and if, as a by-product, it can be said that we are harming the cause of recruiting, that is something for which the Government, not we, must accept responsibility.
This debate and the defence debate have thrown considerable light on the suggestion that some people. particularly the Communists, make out that the 414 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and SACEUR and the troops under him are a dagger poised ready to be plunged into the heart of the peace-loving Soviet Union. One is forced to the conclusion that, if there is a dagger, it is very rusty and probably rather blunt and there is no hand which is sure all the time of the direction in which it should travel. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley did refer to the five-year programme having landed us in a mess. In that respect, at any rate, I must say, I found myself in a very great measure of agreement with him, although I do not agree with him by any means in all the statements which he makes.
I want to turn first to the question of skilled men and manpower of the technical branches of the Army. We were told in the Defence White Paper in 1957 thatskilled tradesmen are increasingly important. Unless, therefore, an adequate proportion of these can be recruited, the Services will be in danger of becoming unbalanced and losing in efficiency.We were also told:There is also the problem of obtaining sufficient recruits to man the branches which perform the less popular duties.That was in 1957. Then a similar sort of remark was made in 1958 when we were told that the Army had had not much difficulty in securing recruits but the administrative corps were rather below requirements. There was a similar story in 1959, when we were told:Recruiting for the medical, ordnance, pay and catering services has improved, but is still not fully up to requirements.In 1960 the main emphasis was laid on the greater efficiency in the use of manpower and we were told of experiments which were going on.
Then we reach this debate we have had today, when the Secretary of State informed us of three specific shortages. He mentioned only three specific shortages, special wireless operators, nursing staffs, and electronic experts. Does this mean that the shortages mentioned in earlier years and the difficulties then of recruiting men into these technical forces are overcome? They are not mentioned in the White Paper or in the Estimates, and have not been mentioned specifically in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He mentioned only three sections of the technical services where there 415 is danger of shortage at the moment. I hope this is the case, but I must say I shall be very surprised if it is the case, since there were those shortages in the specific grades of people who were mentioned in earlier debates.
I turn to another aspect of importance, and that is the actual deployment of B.A.O.R. in North-West Germany. I understand from Vote 4 in the Estimates that there is provision for what are known as Civilian Service Units and that apparently there are some 10,353 people employed in those Civilian Service Units. At one time, I believe, they used to consist mainly of displaced persons. I do not know whether they are now German nationals or whether there are still displaced persons in them, but it led me to put a Question to the Minister of Defence on 1st March. I asked him how many German civilians are employed in British Service Units in the Federal Republic and, in addition to that, how many German civilians other than those directly employed are engaged in providing services to British Service Units in the Federal Republic.
I must admit I am surprised to find out that to look after our 55,000 Army personnel and probably another 20,000 Air Force personnel in Northern Germany we have almost exactly 50,000 German civilians. It is possible, though I cannot be sure of this, that in addition to those there are other members of the Civilian Service Units; there may be a large number of other nationals working in those units as well, engaged in carrying out duties or support works, servicing, and so on, for our 70,000-odd Service men in the Federal Republic.
Of course, apart from the fact that immediately it is going to cost at least 5 per cent. more for wages for staff because of the decision taken by the Bonn Government only the other day, I think it must have an effect on the mobility of our troops stationed in Germany. One gets the impression—at least, I got the impression—looking at this tremendous staff cadre there, that the Army there is still based rather like an army of occupation rather than an army which is part of the shield force of N.A.T.O. An hon. Gentleman opposite says that it is. He may think it is, but that is 416 not what we are led to believe by the White Paper or various memoranda from N.A.T.O. or CENTO, or from the views expressed by his own hon. Friends. He may say that it is still an army of occupation, but that is rather living in the backwaters now.
I doubt, in view of this large civilian element, whether it would be possible for the Army there, our contribution to the N.A.T.O. shield, to be particularly effective if it were cut off for any length of time from the large civilian organisation which is apparently necessary to maintain it in time of peace. It does not seem to me like an Army ready to act as a shield, but rather more like an Army nicely tucked into reasonably comfortable quarters and still operating on something like the same basis as in 1946–50 or 1946–51.
We were told in the defence debate that we were going to make the assumption that our forces in Germany would be used and would be available to supplement the Strategic Reserve. Apparently, if they are needed for some bush fire operation, or for some other purpose, they could be picked up by air from Germany, in addition to troops picked up from this country and flown where they are required. In view of the large civilian component, is it possible to take a battalion out of B.A.O.R. and for it to find its feet for an operation elsewhere? Can it be detached from the civilians and sent elsewhere, or would it be necessary to bleed other battalions to replace the civilian detachment working there? I hope we can be given more information about this tonight.
I am also concerned, as are other hon. Members, with our failure to provide the four divisions we committed ourselves to as part of the N.A.T.O. shield force. It is not just that we agreed to provide these four divisions and have only, in effect, just three operating in that part of the world, it is the effect this is having on our allies in the organisation itself. While we are under strength and the Government are not in a position to keep by their commitments and stand by our pledge, we cannot complain if the French have only half their commitment in N.A.T.O.
I do not accept the argument, as one hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to 417 when he said there were 28 divisions in N.A.T.O., that one can include the French forces in Algeria as part of the force. To the best of my knowledge, only just over 21 divisions are available in N.A.T.O., compared with the 30 considered to be absolutely essential if a conventional attack is to be stopped by conventional means in that area. Thus, while we are short of our commitment we cannot complain about the French or put much pressure behind the Germans to come up to their full commitment. This increases the danger of nuclear war breaking out in that area. As was pointed out by one of my hon. Friends in the defence debate, the danger of nuclear war can be considerably reduced if we can work as quickly as possible towards the provision of the whole of the four divisions we are committed to towards the N.A.T.O. shield.
A lot has been said about selective recruitment, but if I judge the tone of the majority of speeches aright, the vast majority of hon. Members have not a great deal of time for this idea. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East clearly stated his view on this, as did the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) and other hon. Members opposite. I am in full agreement with the views expressed against this experiment being tried out. The Secretary of State did announce that he was going to endeavour to have selective recruitment from among National Servicemen, and one of his hon. Friends behind him asked him about that, particularly as to how much money a private or N.C.O. was likely to get if he agreed to transfer to being a Regular soldier, assuming he got a year's back money. I do not know how much this would be, but frankly I doubt whether it will be sufficient to persuade a large number of National Service men to agree to become Regular soldiers. I suggest that greater use might be made of Class I of the Army Emergency Reserve. At the moment, as I understand it, the other ranks component of that Reserve is limited by the Army Reserve Act, 1950, to some 15,000 men. This is the section of the Reserve that can be most easily called out at any particular time, and I should have thought that if there was any danger of the proper number of 418 men not being available for a full-time Regular engagement—and the Secretary of State himself was not absolutely certain that he was going to get the full number of men; he said he was reasonably confident that he would get the number of men required—there would be a greater chance of persuading National Service men to join Class I of the Army Emergency Reserve than there is of persuading them to sign on as full-time Regular soldiers.
The hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) referred to the £60 bounty which was paid to this type of man in the Class 1 Reserve. This sum has only recently been increased from £25—in fact, so recently that I doubt whether it is possible at this stage to get any idea of the effect that it has had on persuading men to come into that part of the Reserve. I should have thought there was a case for revising the figure of 15,000 and trying to persuade National Service men—and there are 82,000 of them in the Army at the moment—for £60 a year to do a few years with Class I of the Reserve, and if necessary being prepared to pay more than £60, as the hon. Member for Aldershot suggested. These men have spent two years in the Army, are trained and should be able to do a useful job in Class I of the Army Reserve.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East referred to our commitments overseas, and I should like to draw attention to paragraph 32 of the White Paper on Defence which deals with the size of our forces. After stating that the Government are aiming at an Army of 165,000 to 180,000, it says:These strengths have been established in the light of the following factors…and then it gives six factors which the Government have taken into account in deciding on the strength of the Army and the other Services. Incidentally, the difficulty of recruitment is not mentioned among those factors Yet it is the main factor that we seem to have been talking about during most of this debate and during the defence debate as well.
The Government start by saying that the first factor that they have considered is that of our foreseeable commitments. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East doubted whether it 419 was necessary to retain all of these commitments at present. Indeed, in paragraph 12 of the Defence White Paper we are told that the Government…expect that these reviews"—of the commitments—and the change-over to all-regular forces will lead to some reductions in our forces in overseas theatres, and economies in administrative and headquarters staffs.Presumably, somewhere or other the Government see a hope at some time in the future of reducing some of our present overseas commitments. I do not know which ones they are. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley referred to some of them. He said that Singapore was like Clapham Junction. One thing that has always impressed me about Clapham Junction is that there always seem to be too many people about. My hon. Friends the Members for Dudley and for Woolwich, East also referred to Hong Kong.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley said that the main purpose of our troops there was to preserve law and order, a matter on which I fully agree with him. I suggest that if we are in any way short of troops, one way of dealing with this matter in the case of Hong Kong is to increase the strength of the Hong Kong police force, although I realise that it might well be rather more expensive. If our troops are there primarily for internal security and to preserve law and order in support of the civil power, could not that be done primarily by increasing the numbers of the Hong Kong police? I know that this is not a matter with which the Secretary of State for War can deal.
All the officers and a large part of the police force itself are recruited in this country from sub-inspector rank, which is a sort of non-commissioned officer's rank, upwards and there is a big Chinese element as well. It means that a British subject from this country must be paid far more as a policeman than he would be paid as a soldier, but if there is difficulty in getting soldiers why not try to get policemen if the soldiers are doing a policeman's job out there? I cannot imagine that they would be there to defend Hong Kong against aggression from the Chinese mainland. I should have thought that in the last twenty years we had seen how impossible that would be.
420 Reference was also made to the battalion in Trust Territory in West Africa, but I was disappointed in the remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley. He gave me the impression, whether he intended or not, that the West Indian Regiment was disbanded 60 years ago whereas I find from the impressive map published with the Estimates that that it is very much in existence but is stationed in the West Indies.
§ Mr. Reynolds
I am glad that my hon. Friend has made that clear. I think that he will find from HANSARD that he said it no longer existed.
After looking at foreseeable commitments, which even they assume can be reduced, the Government go on to refer to the support that can be obtained from civilianisation and the women's services. We are all in favour of civilianisation, but there is a danger which I have tried to point out previously that care must be taken that it is not carried too far until it renders the Army less manoeuvreable than it ought to be. Reference has been made to the increase in fire power, which rather amused me. It cannot be argued that because our divisions and troops in Germany have greater fire power our commitments can be met by smaller numbers there, for that argument leaves out of account the fact that the opposing force may also have greater fire power at the same time.
As to facilities available for an airlift, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley referred, according to the Air Estimates there are only 23 Britannias and 10 Comets available for a long-distance airlift at present. It will be some time yet, therefore, before an airlift will play a great part in the mobility of our Services in an emergency. We have had the boast in the Memorandum to the Air Estimates that in an exercise in North Africa, 4,800 troops, nearly 300 vehicles, 175 tons of equipment and 14 helicopters were moved to Libya by transport aircraft—a boast which does not compare very well with American experience.
We are told that the Government are taking into account the reorganisation of 421 the Territorial Army and the plans for reserves. Not a great deal has been said about the Territorial Army either in this debate or in the defence debate, but a White Paper issued in July last year dealt with reorganisation and, subject to our hearing anything to the contrary, we must assume that things are going all right there. We might have a few words about this tonight from the Government spokesman.
Different views have been expressed throughout the debate on the strength of our overseas forces. Reading through all this, I come to the conclusion, to which I think my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley came some time ago, that one of the main factors governing the size of the forces as shown in paragraph (f) of the Defence White Paper for 1961 was the Government's calculationof the size of all-Regular forces that we can afford to maintain and provide with up-to-date equipment.There is nothing about the number we need but purely the number that we can afford to maintain. That is all that is mentioned. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] An hon. Member says, "Hear, hear." I do not know whether he is agreeing or not.
This rather leads me to assume that the Government would prefer an element of tax relief to security, and perhaps 3d. off Income Tax rather than modern weapons for our soldiers and a tax-free capital gain while having under-strength battalions and inadequate defences such as I think we have at the moment. If meeting the bill is the main problem, I think that that could have been done if only the economy of the country had expanded during the last five years to the same extent as the economies of overseas countries.
Nothing is mentioned about the difficulties of recruiting. I believe that the blame for lack of manpower, efficiency and equipment is due to the Government's economic policy.
§ 11.32 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. James Ramsden)
My right hon. Friend has given the Committee a picture, which I think was generally well received, of the Regular Army as we 422 wish and plan for it to be. In debate hon. Members have questioned whether we can get the men, whether the numbers we plan to get are adequate for the tasks we have in mind, and even whether the tasks concerned are the ones we should be doing. I shall attempt to come to some of these questions later in my speech.
Other points which have been raised by hon. Members relate to a more humdrum level where I confess myself to being rather more at home, since they are about things with which I am in more daily contact in the ordinary routine of administration. They mostly arise within the framework of what has been our main preoccupation in the last year, as it will be next year, that is, running down the strength of the Army from 265,000 and planning for the support and equipment of full Regular forces.
There is a special point that I should like to mention. This changeover from a conscript to a regular Army brings over twenty years of National Service to an end and gives rise to a particular problem upon which I wish briefly to touch. Military service in the war years and after meant that hardly a family in the land was without some direct contact with the Army and the Army's problems. This will not be so in the future to anything like the same degree.
I hesitate to talk about "military tradition" because these are not terms in which we usually talk about ourselves in this country. Nevertheless, I think the Committee will agree that this close and continuous contact between Service and civil life has produced something of value, certainly to the Army and probably also to the country, which I am anxious we should not lose. We must see that we can keep it, even when the Army is much smaller.
It is, of course, to the Territorial Army—I was glad that the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds), my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) and other hon. Members referred to the Territorial Army—that we must look for help in this. Its reorganisation is due to be completed early this summer so that units can go for their main period of training in camp organised on the new 423 establishment. It is proceeding very well, though not, as I think the Committee will have realised, without some heart-burnings, and we are grateful to the officers and men for their loyal cooperation, and also, I may say, to hon. Members of the Committee who from time to time have taken a hand. In return the Territorial Army now has a better idea of where it stands as regards its future rôle. When we see it referred to as a support for the Regular Army I do not interpret this only in the narrow operational sense, important though that is. The Territorial Army of the future will be an even more indispensable link between the Regular Army and the civil population.
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), in a speech with much of which I found myself in agreement, was somewhat critical of the mobility of our forces, and seemed to suggest that in an emergency we should not be able to transport the men to the place where they were wanted, or that if we did get the men there they would have to wait for their equipment. I would remind the Committee of the progress we have made in recent years to meet this requirement. There is no question of the need for small, hard-hitting forces which can go by air to the scene of operations. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air has provided in his Estimates Memorandum impressive evidence of the build-up of Transport Command with a variety of aircraft from Comets and Britannias to Whirlwinds and Belvederes. This range of aircraft is designed to carry both men and equipment over varying distances.
By far the greater part of the military equipment now coming into service or under development can be carried by the aircraft in the transport force which is now being built up. In this connection I would mention specifically only two aircraft. The Argosy, or the AW660, which is coming into service as a tactical freighter this year, will carry a wide variety of equipment, including the 1-ton truck, the 105 mm. pack-howitzer, the Ferret scout car and the Wombat anti-tank gun, and the Belfast strategic freighter, for which orders have now been placed, has a payload of up to 35 tons, and a range of up to 4,000 miles, and will carry the bigger pieces of equip- 424 ment, such as 3-ton trucks, armoured cars, armoured personnel carriers and guided weapons.
This year, as my right hon. Friend has already told the Committee, we have a bigger programme of airborne exercises, both at home and abroad, and I would like to take this opportunity of inviting hon. Members who are interested to attend some of these exercises later in the year to see for themselves exactly what we can do. If they do not find my words on mobility convincing no doubt when they see for themselves they will find the evidence of their own eyes carries more conviction.
§ Mr. Ramsden
As regards the types of aircraft to which I referred I was careful to say when they were coming into service and not to indicate any more immediacy than exists.
§ Mr. Ramsden
No, Sir, that is not the position. I have indicated the improvements in airborne mobility which will be made. We have to accept that some items of heavy equipment cannot be carried by air, and in those cases theatre stockpiles are provided. If time allowed I could elaborate on our plans for increased sea-portability, if I can invent a word. The new tank landing ships which the Army will get provide one instance, but if I spend much longer on this the Committee will not have answers to many other points which have been raised.
§ Mr. Ramsden
Hon. Members opposite are making their points about the way in which this is going along. I am not seeking to do more than give an indication of the plans we have in prospect. I must get on now and answer other points which have been made.
425 My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson), in a speech which I was sorry to miss, but of which I have been furnished with a careful note, referred to the women's services. I was interested to note the suggestions she made. She suggested that because of the number of women who leave to get married we should concentrate on the Territorial rather than the Regular element. It is true that the wastage rate is high, but to some extent this is offset by the fact that they are paid rather less than the men, although that sounds a rather unchivalrous thing to say. They are not liable for other benefits such as marriage allowance, quarters, family passages and so on. Nevertheless the high wastage rate is something we have to accept. The problem regarding recruiting more women and widening the range of jobs which women might be able to do is that the present rate of recruiting will not sustain forces sufficient to do the ordinary jobs for which women are required. I will look into the other points made by my hon. Friend and write to her about them.
The hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) drew attention once again to the worrying situation arising from the shortage of married quarters in Germany. I am afraid that B.A.O.R. is a rather dark spot on an otherwise rapidly brightening picture to which tribute was paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington). I have seen the progress which is being made in the provision of married quarters in his constituency, and I am glad that he finds what is being done there as impressive as I did when I saw it recently.
We are going ahead in dealing with the problem in Germany as fast as we can. We shall complete about 3,000 multiple hirings in B.A.O.R. in 1961-62. The contractors to whom the hon. Member for Barnsley referred bear the cost of the building of these flats, but we pay three years' rent in advance. On the numbers I have given this amounts to about £2 million and comes from Army Votes. The accommodation in these hirings is, broadly, the same as in ordinary Army married quarters, and the soldiers pay the standard quartering charges.
The hon. Member for Dudley did well to emphasise to the Committee that the efficiency of the Army depends on the 426 quality of its "tail" arms as much as on its "teeth". He instanced the good job the Border Regiment is doing in the Southern Cameroons. I should explain why such a "tail" was sent to the Cameroons. There were four reasons: the physical nature of the country and its lack of communications and the wide dispersal of the forces which this necessitated; the climatic conditions of the country which made necessary a large medical backing; the fact that there were no existing military bases or facilities in the country when we went there; and the need to adhere to a peace-time system of accountancy. I agree that whatever pressure there might be on manpower the "tail" must not be disproportionately small compared with the "teeth".
We believe the present administrative services are adequate to meet the normal tasks of internal security, but we recognise that in the event of a limited war we should have to call on reserves, including the newly reorganised A.E.R.
I should like to pay tribute to the job done in the Cameroons by the King's Own Border Regiment. My predecessor was about to pay them a visit to see them for himself before he was translated to another place. I hope to carry out that visit before long.
There has been some reference in this debate to whether or not we intend to introduce some kind of compulsory service. As far as I could sense it, I thought that the feeling of the Committee was manifestly against any such idea. Decisions on this must depend on a number of things, and I think it might help the Committee if I were to mention some of them. There is the point below which we are not prepared to allow the strength of our Army to drop; the likelihood of our obtaining an all-Regular Army of that size; and the way in which we might, if things went badly, fall short of that target. I should like to say something on all three points.
The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) who was the most strenuous advocate of a return to conscription said that he considered our target should be 200,000 men or more. As my right hon. Friend said in his opening remarks, we could go for an Army of 200,000 men or more, but it was implicit in the decision to end conscription that if we were to do so we 427 should risk losing more than we stood to gain through the dislocation of our economic position, the reduction of our ability to assist in the cold war, and in other ways because of the expense in which maintaining a larger number of men under arms would involve us.
We aim to have an Army of about 180,000 all ranks. For a short time at the beginning of 1963 we can get by on an Army of about 165,000 as long as it is slowly building up towards 180,000. Therefore, we should not introduce any kind of compulsory service solely to achieve the 180,000, and for the purposes of the argument on which I am embarking the figure we must bear in mind is 165,000.
We do not yet know for certain whether we shall reach 165,000 by 1st January, 1963, when the last National Service man leaves the Army. There can be no certainty yet over this, but the chances do not look too bad and we are certainly going to ride at this fence—if I might select a metaphor from a sport of which the hon. Member for Dudley is fond and in which I hope he will be able to indulge himself this week —as though we mean to get over it. Our only guide in this is the trend of recruiting, and we all know that this can be very misleading and that it fluctuates greatly from time to time.
We are still about twenty-one months from the time when the last National Service man will go, and it is impossible for anybody to say at this moment for certain whether we shall have 165,000. It is true that we shall have to take decisions how to remedy any shortfall before we know for certain whether there will be a shortfall, but we do not need to take those decisions twenty-one months beforehand. We still have about nine months before we need to act.
The latest recruiting figures which I have seen suggest that we shall reach 165,000 by 1st January, 1963. The last few months have shown an improvement, and there seems no reason why we should not maintain and even improve on this. We have yet to start our television campaign which will begin in April, and our big summer recruiting drive. I do not think it is unreasonable to expect that they will produce further increases.
428 If, however, we are short of men, it is clear that we shall be short of men with particular skills rather than men of all kinds. We may therefore have to introduce some special measures. My right hon. Friend mentioned one of them this afternoon. We may need incentives aimed at getting the right type of man. It does not seem that a blunt instrument like compulsory service will be much use to us.
To sum up, we shall certainly not introduce any kind of compulsory service unless we expect to fall short of 165,000 all ranks on 1st January, 1963. We cannot at present tell whether or not this is likely to be the case, but the recent indications are that we have some reason to be optimistic. Whatever we do, we must produce a cure to fit the disease. It would be irresponsible not to study all manner of possibilities, among them various forms of compulsory and selective service, various forms of incentives and, following suggestions made from both sides of the Committee, whether there are untapped sources of recruits.
We are trying to remedy any defects, such as shortage of married quarters, which may make men leave the Army or be less anxious to join. We are trying to find out if the numbers who leave the Army, either in their first thre5. months or later in their careers, can be reduced by any action that we can take. But the fact that we are studying these things means no more than that we recognise, as the Committee recognises, that there is a danger that we may not on 1st January, 1963 have 165,000 volunteers, and 165,000 of the right kind, in the Army. It means nothing more than this at this stage. I repeat that it would be irresponsible for us not to consider these things while we have time. I can assure the Committee that we are studying all the possibilities, and if hon. Members can think of any others we will consider them too.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I think I have taken the sense of the Committee on the idea of selective service, and I have tried to analyse the position as we see it.
§ Mr. Ramsden
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells 429 (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) advocated a wider use of our reserves. Many hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), suggested that we should try to raise more recruits from the Colonies. While we shall look at these two possibilities, it would be wrong for me to give too optimistic an idea of the results we may get from them. The difficulty is that we need men with special aptitudes in special categories to do special jobs. It is doubtful, to say the least, whether from these two directions such men will be forthcoming.
I end with a few words about our commitments. I want to mention first the British Army of the Rhine which, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) said, is in some respects our prime commitment. Here there is an aspect of our organisation in which hon. Members may be interested. Since 1958 the Army has been deployed on the brigade group system. The hon. Member for Dudley rather naughtily said that this had been done in order to conceal our deficiency in divisions. It has meant that each brigade group has had under command its own supporting arms and administrative services. Exercises and trials conducted in the British Army of the Rhine since 1958 have shown that this may not always be the best tactical formation to adopt in battle in North-West Europe.
To introduce a greater degree of flexibility and economy in the handling of the supporting arms and administrative services it was recently decided to introduce an organisation under which more control of these arms and services is vested in the divisional commander, thereby leaving the brigade commander more free to fight the tactical battle. This organisation will enable the British Army of the Rhine to fight either on a divisional basis or as brigade groups, depending on the requirements of the tactical situation at the time. The organisation of the Army in the United Kingdom and elsewhere overseas will not be changed as a result of this decision
Hon. Members opposite have suggested that we might improve the balance of our conventional forces in Europe by cutting commitments elsewhere. They have cast doubts on the 430 value of our contribution to other regional pacts outside Europe. I doubt myself that such a course, were we to adopt it, would be received with much enthusiasm by our allies. Viewed against the whole range of the cold war, our military presence in the Far East is, I should have thought, every bit as important as our presence in Europe, and the size of the forces which we have committed there is no measure at all of their value as a contribution to our influence. I have noticed very little inclination on the part of hon. Members to minimise, for instance, the importance of our advice in the development of the difficult situation in Laos, but without the Commonwealth Brigade Group we should have been in no posture to offer any advice at all.
Finally, there is the contribution of British troops to keeping law and order in the Commonwealth and in those places where we have treaty obligations. The hon. Member for Dudley said that the prime purpose of the British Army was to preserve the rule of law. I agree with that. Hon. Members opposite seem to suggest that these commitments are relics of an Imperial past which could be dispensed with. This is a profoundly mistaken view. In the absence of disciplined force to aid the civil power, the field is open for change by violent and unconstitutional methods. We know that it is an accepted tactic of our enemies to try to bring about such changes.
We should all be willing to recognise that British soldiers who, by their presence in these distant garrisons, are standing between the peaceful lives of ordinary people and the consequences of violent revolution and change are doing a lob of which, in common humanity, they may well be proud, and it is right that they should enjoy the support and confidence of us all.
In the course of this long debate, hon. Members have raised other points which I have not had time to answer. I can only say that my right hon. Friend and I will study the points which have been made and reply where necessary by letter. We have had a good debate, as a result of which I am certain that, though there may have been disagreements in detail, the Army may feel that it can go forward to discharge its tasks for 431 the next year with the support and confidence of the Committee.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 283,000, 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 1962.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received Tomorrow Committee to sit again Tomorrow.