Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 241,000, 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 1964.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Profumo)
This is the third time, Sir Robert, that I have had the privilege of presenting the Army Estimates. On the first occasion when I saw the size of the bill for 1961–62, I recognised, to put it mildly, what a formidable charge on the nation's resources the modern Army represents, but in each succeeding year the amount has increased, partly because of rising prices and costs, partly because of higher rates of pay throughout the Army—which reflect the rising standards of living in the country as a whole—but also because of a continuous rise in the curve of expenditure on arms and equipment. In 1961–62, we spent £89 million on this; in the coming year, I expect it to be £112 million—an increase of £23 million.
The Committee and the taxpayer will rightly expect me to be able to give good reason for expenditure of the magnitude of £487 million. In plain words: What's it all for?" It represents the present-day cost of carrying out that part of our defence policy that is required of the Army. As a nation, we do not have unlimited resources either of manpower or of money, and one of my jobs is to be sure that the Army draws on those resources only to the extent that is really necessary. Men are an expensive commodity today, and soldiers are no exception, so we have to assess extremely carefully the number of men we really require for the tasks assigned to the Service. It is a question of strik- 1558 ing a proper and realistic balance between manpower, on the one hand, and equipment, accommodation and so on, on the other.
We have always recognised that the transition from conscript to volunteer forces was bound to be an anxious time for the Army, but I am considerably encouraged by the fact that we are now actually in sight of a fully-manned Regular Army. I recognise, of course, that we have had to keep a number of National Service men for six months extra, and I know what a heavy obligation that has been. The Committee may like to join with me in a tribute to all those young men who have seen National Service with the Army since the war, and, in particular, those who have had this further obligation placed upon them. I might just remind the Committee that we have kept, as I undertook during the passage of the Army Reserve Bill, to the absolute minimum the numbers required for operational purposes. It looked at first at though this would mean holding back about 15,000 young men; in the event, we have managed to do it on 9,200.
At the time, I remember that hon. Members were, quite rightly, very concerned about how we could deal with the genuine hardship cases. We certainly could not have done this without the Hardship Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of General Sir Reginald Denning, and I am indeed grateful to the members of the Advisory Committee for the time they have devoted in considering, with immense care, all the cases that were put to them.
Looking at the future, there seemed to me to be four basic questions the Committee would wish me to deal with today. First and foremost, are we planning for a large enough Army? Secondly, can we recruit enough volunteers to meet our requirements? Thirdly, is the Army to get the equipment it needs? Fourthly, is it being properly trained?
First, let us look at the size of the Army. As the Committee knows, the way the planners set about working out the manpower requirement is first to make an assessment of the commitments and then to break that down in terms of units needed to meet them. To man fully the number of units we need requires about 180,000 men. This leads me to the question of the Gurkhas, who do, of course, form a most valuable part of the manpower available to the Army. I know 1559 how deeply hon. Members on all sides of the Committee feel on this matter, and I am indeed most grateful to them for their restraint while I have been seeking a solution to this problem. As I have just explained, we require an Army of 180,000 people.
§ Mr. Profumo
As I have tried to explain, the figure arises in this way. We take the commitments set for the Army, we work out how many units are needed to fulfil those commitments, work out how many men there are in each unit, and then do the multiplication sum, which gives a figure of 180,000 all ranks.
§ Mr. Profumo
Perhaps, with his usual courtesy, the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed with my speech. No doubt, he will have an opportunity later on.
As I have just explained, we require 180,000. What we have had to decide was whether, in these circumstances, all the manpower should come from the United Kingdom, whether it should be a mixture of British and Gurkha and, if so, in what proportion; or, indeed, whether we should retain some or all of the Gurkhas additional to the 180,000 British Army.
If we were to go for a combination of United Kingdom and Gurkha personnel, together amounting to 180,000, it would mean disbanding existing United Kingdom units—I do not think that that would be acceptable to the Committee—plus the fact that there might well be circumstances in which the use of Gurkhas could be restricted, or, indeed, their recruitment terminated. In such a case, with a manpower ceiling carefully 1560 tailored to our requirements, we should be in great difficulties.
Now that we can see our way to recruiting 180,000 men in the United Kingdom, I really think it only prudent to go for the lot. Nevertheless, we have recognised that this is not just a straight military problem. We have felt that, in the mutual interest of the United Kingdom and Nepal, the Gurkha Brigade should be kept in being—apart from anything else, as an insurance, if one likes, against unforeseen circumstances in terms of first-class infantry fighting soldiers. We have, therefore, decided that the right course to follow is that the Brigade should revert to an establishment of 10,000 men, which was the figure agreed with the Nepalese Government in 1948. The adjustment from the figure of about 14,600, to which the strength has since risen, will be carried out over a period of three years.
In making these changes, we shall follow four main principles: first, that the identity of all eight traditional infantry battalions should be retained; second, that the Gurkhas should continue to have their own ancillary units so that the fighting formations shall be as viable and self-supporting as they are now; third, that no additional British manpower should be required to look after them; and fourth, that we should bring all this about as far as possible through normal wastage, with suitable compensation for any Gurkha soldiers whose services have to be prematurely terminated.
We have always said that we would not take any decisions without the closest consultations with His Majesty the King of Nepal. We have been fortunate in being able to make use of the good offices of Field Marshal Lord Slim, himself, of course, a distinguished Gurkha. He is on his way home from a visit to Nepal, where he discussed all this with His Majesty in person. I am happy to inform the Committee that the plan has the approval of the King. The colonels of the Brigade of Gurkhas have also been informed of this decision, which they understand and accept.
All this means that we are now planning on an Army with a total strength of 190,000, and I am convinced that this will be adequate to meet all our present commitments. In the Defence 1561 White Paper we have indicated that we hope to reach 180,000 by the spring of 1964. But there are a number of considerations which I wish to mention to the Committee in this connection. 1962 was a remarkable year for recruiting. The other rank strength of the Army rose by some 13,500. This was a fine achievement in which the whole Army played a part and of which it has every right to be proud. As a result of this, the Army has now reached 94 per cent. of its full strength.
Now we are going into a new phase, and the approach has to be a bit different. The Committee will be aware that much of the Army is already either up to strength, or will soon be very nearly so. Eight Corps, including the Royal Armoured Corps, the R.A.O.C. and R.E.M.E., are already fully up to strength. The Royal Engineers and the R.A.S.C. will have few shortages by the middle of the summer, and the Royal Artillery should be up to strength by the end of the year. The state of play in the infantry varies from brigade to brigade and there are a few battalions which still have a long way to go. However, eight brigades are at or near their full peacetime strength, and I expect most of the others to be there by early 1964. Recruiting for the Royal Signals is now going well, and it should be pretty well up to strength by the autumn of this year. Many of its tradesmen, of course, need long periods of training, so it will take a little time before the units themselves are able to build up their strength to their full establishment.
Now we have got to concentrate on the Corps where considerable shortages still exist—the R.A.M.C., the R.A.D.C., and the A.C.O To get a proper balance, we must now control the build-up, so as to get the men into the vacancies where they are needed This will make it harder to be precise in forecasting the exact date on which the strength of 180,000 will be reached. What matters here is that the 180,000 shall be in the correct proportions.
As the Committee knows, I have revised our recruiting procedures. There has been some criticism of this. To those who say that this more selective approach will slow up our recruiting, I simply reply that all the criticism so fax has been that our standards were too 1562 low. I do not accept this. One cannot have it all ways, and it is much more important to get a balanced, flexible Army of high quality than to race through the last stage in the build-up merely in order to get there by any particular month.
So far, I have been talking mainly about other ranks. Officers of the quality we need are not easy to get, and this year we are putting publicity for officer recruiting very much to the fore. But our most acute problem, about which I spoke at some length last year, is, I am happy to say, well on the way to being solved. We were then facing a most dangerous shortage of medical and dental officers, as National Service ended and the number of short service officers rapidly ran out. Thanks to the new deal which I announced last April, and to the generous help which we have received from the whole medical and dental world, we are now recruiting well, and, if we can continue thus, we need, I think, have no fear of being unable to maintain our medical standards.
A great part in all this is being played by the Q.A.R.A.N.C. The other rank strength rose steadily during 1962. Many are of potential officer standard. We are, therefore, providing training opportunities for Q.A.R.A.N.C. other ranks, which will assist greater numbers to attain professional qualifications, and so to help the officer structure. This will not only benefit the Q.A.R.A.N.C. but also do something to improve the nation-wide shortage of nurses.
Last year the strength of the Women's Royal Army Corps rose to 5,000. I hope that this trend will continue. Women will be employed in increasing numbers with the Royal Artillery, Signals, Ordnance and other technical and administrative trades. More W.R.A.C. will be sent abroad, principally to B.A.O.R., and also to Malta and Aden. We want more officers. Apart from administrative posts, there are opportunities for specialist appointments for girls with the right qualifications with the R.E.M.E. and the Royal Army Education Corps. I am glad to say that we are getting a good lot of applications.
Finally, a few words about recruitment of graduates, to which I attach the greatest importance. Although, so far, the numbers have been rather disappointing, I hope we shall improve on this 1563 with the aid of the university O.T.C.s, which give pre-service training to potential officers. Providing they qualify at their O.T.C. examination, they are excused further pre-officer training. This is not the only contribution which the O.T.C.s make. They are also providing a significant contribution to the recruitment of officers for the Reserve forces, particularly the Territorial Army.
But all these things cost money, and the contribution to Regular officer recruiting from the W.R.A.C. sub-units in the O.T.C.s has been very limited. Therefore, although I am most grateful to all those who have worked so hard for them, I have had to decide to discontinue the W.R.A.C. sub-units and to concentrate even further on improving the rest of the O.T.C.s, the importance of which I think is even greater now that National Service is ended.
So much, then, for recruiting. On the whole, the picture is a most encouraging one. We shall continue our efforts, and I hope and believe that the coming year will see us very near the end of these particular problems.
What about equipment? During the defence debate—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Not too fast. Will not the right hon. Gentleman tell us something about the "Ever-readies"?
§ Mr. Profumo
I will be doing that later. I am sorry to keep on asking hon. Members to be patient. I will reach that point in time, but I have to do it in my own simple, soldier-like manner.
During the defence debate, right hon. Gentlemen opposite tried to give the impression that there are serious deficiencies in B.A.O.R.'s equipment. This simply is not true. At any given time any Army has some out-of-date equipment, and this is the case with B.A.O.R. —which is why we are replacing it. But, as the Committee knows, re-equipment is a continuous and lengthy process.
What are the facts? Next year we shall introduce into B.A.O.R. an entirely new armoured personnel carrier. We already have a very good tank in the up-gunned Centurion, but, if the outcome of the trials is satisfactory, the Chieftain should start to take its place in 1965, and when it comes into service 1564 it will certainly be the finest battle tank of its kind. Within the next two years, the self-propelled Abbot will begin to replace the 25-pounder. To strengthen our firepower in the heavy-cum-medium range, we are going to buy the American 175mm. gun, which has a good performance. The point is that it is in production, so that we can expect to start getting this next year, which will be a good thing.
In the anti-tank field, the Carl Gustaf and Vigilant will start to come into service during this next year. In the Infantry, the 3 in. mortar will be replaced by a greatly improved 81 mm. mortar, and we shall start production in this country of the new general purpose machine gun to replace the Bren.
As far as low level air defence is concerned, the Bofors with automatic fire control is certainly not obsolete, but the Americans are developing a guided missile on a mobile launcher called Mauler, and we have decided to send a small team to work with them on the project.
Finally, Signals equipment. B.A.O.R. already has about three-quarters of the new range radio equipment covering communications from divisional headquarters to forward units. This provides better communications on a higher scale than ever before, and all this will be completed by 1964.
Therefore, I say again that what we are carrying out is essentially a replacement programme, and at no time during this programme would it be true to say that B.A.O.R. is insufficiently well equipped to carry out its rôle. It is the greatest re-equipment programme the British Army has even seen in peacetime.
So much for the men and their arms. I now want to talk about the other key factor in the fighting efficiency of the Army, training. Many hon. Members have themselves seen training going on in B.A.O.R. I hope that the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), whom we welcome to his new job, will take the opportunity to go to see how B.A.O.R. is operating and how its training is going. He will find it very interesting. Its programme is intensely active and its standard is as good as any in the N.A.T.O. command. The Strategic Reserve was also very busy in 1962.
1565 Unit and formation training has been going on in many parts of the world—in Greece, in the Far East, in Canada, and in the United States. In 1963 we hope to train units again' in Canada and America and, in addition, for the first time to send a battalion to Australia at the end of the year.
Exercise "Fallex" gave the Reserve Army art opportunity to practise mobilisation, and a number of Reserve Army units also went to Germany and France for their annual training. Next month, a plane-bad of "Ever-Readies" will be flown to Singapore and Hong Kong, where they will be incorporated into Regular units and do a fortnight's realistic training in their emergency rôle. I shall have more to say about "Ever-readies" later.
§ Mr. Profumo
The biggest plane that my right hon. Friend can give us for this purpose.
The young Regular volunteer joining today will have every opportunity of becoming a highly professional modern soldier. He is getting through his initial training and is ready for service with his unit a little younger than his National Service contemporary used to be. Under existing regulations, a young man cannot be posted overseas until he is 17 years 10 months in the case of Germany, and 18 years 3 months elsewhere. These rules were made in the context of an Army with a large National Service element. The new young regulars are naturally eager to join their units as soon as they can. If their units are overseas they cannot do it. Either they have to stay with their training unit or else be posted temporarily to another unit in the United Kingdom. This hanging about is bad for the keen young soldier.
I am, therefore, proposing to lower the age limit for overseas service to 17 years 6 months all over the world. My noble Friend the First Lord has asked me to say that this new age limit will apply to the Royal Marines as well.
In a speech of this sort it is easy to omit the Reserves, but that would be quite wrong. They play a most important pail and without them the nation would have to keep a very much larger and more expensive Regular Army. 1566 Thank heavens for the voluntary spirit of those who serve in the Territorial Army and the A.E.R., whose specialist contribution is invaluable.
The T.A. has settled down well within its new order of battle, and its recruiting has been most encouraging. We are going to spend over £1½ million on new buildings for it next year, as part of a programme of £6 million over five years. I have told the T.A. that I recognise its requirement for more equipment, but at the same time the Regular Army must come first. However, several items of new equipment are now beginning to reach T.A. units.
I should now like to say a few words about the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve, not only for the benefit of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), but because I am interested in it. The Reserve is becoming established slowly but steadily. It is now about 4½ thousand strong. Because of the rapid build-up of the Regular Army, we shall not now need anything like the numbers I first envisaged. This means we can afford to be very choosy, and, quite apart from volunteers who fail to get past the unit recruiting officers, record offices are rejecting about one in every five volunteers.
As I told the House earlier, we are having a look at the long-term structure of our Reserve Forces as a whole. Reserves are, of course, complementary to the Regular Army, both as regards size and commitments. Thus, now that we know what size Army we can expect to get, we can press on with this examination to finality, and I hope to be able to report further on this in the not too distant future. At all events, the Reserves as they stand at present are ready to meet any demands that may be placed on them in the foreseeable future.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Last year, the right hon. Gentleman was aiming at getting 15,000 "Ever-readies". What is the figure at which he is aiming now?
The hon. and learned Gentleman is not quite correct. I was not aiming at getting 15,000. I got the House to approve of a ceiling of 15,000 if this was necessary, but I explained at the time that the T.A.E.R. was to be a reserve which would be capable of backing up the Regular forces where they 1567 were particularly short in times of tension. Now, as I say, because of the build-up of the Regular Army, there will not be such a great need in numbers, but I am not prepared to say at what stage we shall wish to stop recruiting "Ever-readies" because this will probably change year by year, and I do not propose to tempt providence.
All that I am saying is that, because there is not the same urgency as there was when I asked the House for.its approval, I am sure that the right thing to do is to go on building up, and the "Ever-readies" are building up, of which I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman will approve. They have not tailed off. The graph continues steadily upwards. All these are good men, well trained and frightfully carefully chosen. I will not need to go anywhere near a ceiling of 15,000.
§ Mr. Profumo
That is not always the case. As, however, we are very clever in our planning, the numbers do coincide from time to time. The hon. and learned Gentleman is kind to pay this compliment to us.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is it not a costly business? Was it not announced when the right hon. Gentleman propounded his scheme that there were to be very high bounty and other payments? In view of the numbers which the right hon. Gentleman has obtained, is the scheme in fact working?
§ Mr. Profumo
The bounty will, of course, still be the same, £150 per volunteer. This is an immensely rewarding result for the country as a whole to be able to build up a reserve force, even if we pay £150 per person, because these men can be called out on the signature of the Secretary of State at any time of tension. All I say is that the order of battle of the T.A.E.R. will vary from time to time according to the strength and requirements of the Regular Army. I believe that this is the right thing for any reserve.
I come now to a matter in which a number of hon. Members have shown a deep interest—bringing deceased Service 1568 men home for burial. I have been considering this problem with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence and my Service colleagues. We have looked at two possible measures: bringing home the dead where relatives so wish or, alternatively, flying out two relatives to the funeral.
We would face acute practical difficulties if we attempted to apply these measures on a world-wide basis, for example, climatic conditions, local laws prohibiting delay of burial for more than 24 to 48 hours and, even today, availability of transport. Sometimes, certainly we would be able to bring the body home or fly out the relatives to the funeral anywhere in the world, but we could not guarantee to do this outside north-west Europe because of the difficulties which I have mentioned. The wishes of next-of-kin might be received too late to prevent burial or relatives would not get there in time. Such failures—and they would be frequent—would cause intense disappointment and sorrow and, I believe, even bitterness.
The Government have, therefore, decided not to make any alterations outside north-west Europe. In northwest Europe, however, when Service men die, we intend to give the next-of-kin the choice of having the body brought home at public expense to a stated destination in the United Kingdom or Irish Republic for private burial, or having two relatives flown out to attend the Service funeral. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We shall introduce similar arrangements, though with some qualifications, to cover the dependants of those serving and also United Kingdom-based civilian employees and their dependants.
These new arrangements can, of course, be carried out only so long as conditions permit. In the event of active service operations or deaths at sea, it would be impossible either to bring the dead home or to arrange for the attendance of relatives at funerals. I hope that the Committee will recognise that we have attempted to meet these human problems in an equally human manner.
Last summer, B.A.O.R. came in for some rather unpleasant and, I thought, unwarranted publicity. It gave rise to public concern as to the morale and well being of our troops in Germany. I repeat what I said at the time, that they are 1569 in good shape and that morale is high. None the less, we all recognise, as we must, the difficulties of serving for lengthy periods in Western Germany and it is up to us to see that everything possible is done for the welfare and standard of living of the troops who are out there.
There are a number of things that we are trying to do. Most important, of course, is to provide accommodation for as many wives and families as we possibly can. In spite of difficulties over land, planning permission and an overloaded German building industry, we provided 2,000 new married quarters last year; and although there is still a long waiting list, I hope that nearly 7,000 new flats will be finished and occupied by the end of March next year. Meanwhile, we are supplying a number of first-rate caravans, converting various barrack blocks and finding more individual hirings, as well as examining the possibility of prefabricated buildings.
As I told the House some time ago, I have been looking into the possibilities of television. It is an immensely expensive business and there are a number of very real difficulties, including technical ones such as frequencies, but with the full cooperation of the German authorities we have now got as far as examining a number of different proposals. I am sure that if this turns out to be a practical and not financially prohibitive proposition, it would prove a great facility for our troops. So would some good, live entertainment, but these days it has got to be really good to appeal to the troops. I have had some most helpful discussions, with the chairman of the Combined Services Entertainment Committee, Mr. Prince Littler, and his colleagues, and I hope that we may be able to get something going there, too.
But the basic problem is, perhaps, the language barrier, and I am sure that we have to try to do something here. We have now started a scheme in B.O.A.R. to give instruction in elementary and colloquial German in all units. But we are going further than this, and in future all units due for posting to Germany—they usually get six months' notice in advance will have German lessons organised so that a cross-section at least of their number start acquiring a little knowledge of the German language even before they arrive in B.A.O.R., when, of course, they 1570 will continue with the other scheme which I have announced. Finally, each unit will have special courses designed to introduce them to conditions of life in Germany and to make them fully aware of their duties and responsibilities as good allies within NATO.
Like other hon. Members, I was very concerned the other day over the incident involving the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, because I realised that there might be implications wider than those of military discipline. That is why I called at once for a report of what had happened and why. I have now had a full account from the General Officer Commanding, London District.
The battalion is at a very low strength; it is 363 strong. This is because they have not succeeded in recruiting enough. Regulars to man two battalions at full strength, one of which is in Kenya and must, of course, have a prior claim on the available manpower. There is no inconsistency between the encouraging words which I used earlier about our progress towards a fully-manned Regular Army and the particular state of this battalion. I said that we have already reached roughly 94 per cent. of our total strength, but I have also explained that the shortages fall very unevenly.
The Scots Guards are, I am sorry to say, finding recruitment more difficult than other Guards regiments. The question seems to me to be whether they have been asked to do too much. I have been into this most carefully. Like any battalion of the Household Brigade stationed in this country, they have to reconcile their responsibility for public duties with the importance of ensuring that the soldiers are fully-trained, efficient fighting men. Even with a strength of 363, it is possible for a reasonable cycle of guard duties, once in every four days—and this is not abnormal—to be combined with an adequate training programme, still giving every man his full annual leave and proper break periods after guard duties.
It is significant that of all the complaints made by the men—and I have examined each complaint myself—very few indeed alleged that they were being worked too hard. In any event, the Brigade of Guards functions like any other military formation and if at any time one of its units is finding it a strain to carry out its duties, it is perfectly possible, 1571 and, indeed, not unusual, for London District to attach a sub-unit from another battalion to help things out. This sort of assistance has neither been sought nor suggested in this case.
It is perfectly true that any battalion at low strength has special difficulties to face and, of course, the strain and responsibility on the officers and N.C.O.s is greater. None the less, I am satisfied that this battalion, even at its low strength, was quite capable of carrying out its tasks at Windsor in addition to an adequate programme of training.
With regard to the men's complaints, quite frankly, most of them are of the sort likely to be made in almost every walk of life—pinpricks, minor incidents, complaints about individual meals and so on. We shall never have an Army in which this type of complaint is not made, and they are not confined to men in the Services, either. We must neither overestimate nor under-estimate their importance. What is disturbing is the volume of complaints and the fact that a group of men were prepared to go to such deplorable lengths over them. Whatever the causes, there can be no excuse for soldiers taking action such as these guardsmen did.
From my consultations with the General Officer Commanding, which followed an investigation by the colonel commanding both battalions, the superior colonel, it is clear that something is wrong with the administration. The G.O.C. is making a close examination into where the faults lie and what action he should take to remedy them.
In the defence debate, I said that the Army as a whole welcomes my right hon. Friend's new proposals for the higher defence organisation. They will certainly modernise the defence superstructure, and it is important that the central organisation of the Army itself should be as modern and streamlined as possible before it becomes part of this new structure. I expect to have a report from General Nye's Committee, which is studying this matter, by the summer, and I hope that it may result in some radical proposals which will themselves help to contribute to the new look in defence.
The most important difference between our concept of modern defence structure 1572 and that of the party opposite is that we mean to retain the identity of the three Services, whereas right hon. Gentlemen opposite admit, as they did in the defence debate, that they would merge at least two of the Services. In my view, this could only lead to joining up the lot later on.
This sort of threat to the future of the Armed Forces can only have a detrimental and unsettling effect. The effectiveness of the Army in the final event rests to a considerable degree on the honour and traditions of its individual units and formations. These will bloom and flourish anew all the more with the return to an all-Regular status. What we have to do is to create the right conditions for the Army to take full advantage of its renewed voluntary status, to support it, revere it and show it the confidence it deserves from a nation which is justly proud of so fine a Service.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
We have, as has been usual during the last few years, had a speech of great clarity and good humour from the Secretary of State for War. We can also congratulate him on the good fortune of the Army, as it always appears to be, that the number of men who happen to be available is always just the right number required for our commitments. I still find this interesting.
We had the Hull Committee, which recommended a figure of 200,000 as a minimum and 220,000 as desirable. I do not know what reductions in commitments have occurred since then to make this assessment out of date. It was then decided, for reasons which had nothing to do with defence, but which appeared to the Prime Minister to be of value for economy, that the figure should be 165,000. That figure still happened to coincide with what the Government were advised could be obtained by the voluntary system.
Then it went up to 180,000, when recruiting was better. Again, by an odd coincidence that was exactly the right figure for the commitments. Now it has gone up to 190,000, which is, again, the ideal figure.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
Surely the figure is 180,000 again, because the figure of 190,000 includes the Brigade of Gurkhas. Thus, 180,000 is the figure for the British Army. 1573 The Gurkhas have always been kept separate from the figure for the British Army.
§ Mr. Profumo
My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) is right. I said that the figure was 180,000 British, plus 10,000 Gurkhas.
§ Mr. Paget
So the fortunate figure is now 180,000. It was still 180,000 when we authorised the recruitment of "Ever-readies". We were told that 15,000 "Ever-readies" were necessary always to be available to make up specialist requirements by the Army. Now, instead of 15,000, just over 4,000 have come forward. But, again, we find that by a happy chance this is the ideal figure. In fact, if anything, it is perhaps on the large side because we are now being highly selective as to which of the "Ever-readies" we are prepared to accept.
However, apart from these odd coincidences, we must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the success of his recruiting campaign. I think that the criticisms of the television advertising which appeared in yesterday's leader in The Times were of a rather "sour-grapes" description and were not justified. I have seen the advertisements, which seemed not unduly to exaggerate the goods offered. I think that it has been done very well.
I am not so happy about the curtailment of recruiting, because I still do not think that this figure is adequate. One thing I particularly regret. There seems to be an absolute rule now against the recruitment of men on probation. I believe that we should leave a discretion to the recruiting authorities. It all depends what these men are on probation for. After all, both the right hon. Gentleman and myself are ex-juvenile delinquents. If we had not been soundly beaten at our establishments we might very well have been on probation. We certainly did enough to be put on probation.
I think that it is the case that since one does get a lot of lads on probation for things which are really no more than pranks—boys of spirit who could be of real value to the Services—one should 1574 leave the discretion to the recruiting authorities, allowing them to decide in individual cases. By that I do not mean that we should accept as recruits people who are real thieves, bad lots and criminal types.
In considering the balance of the forces, one is much less happy. We now see the great cruiser "Blake" incapacitated by what appears to be the absence of 12 electricians. I do not know the extent to which units of the Army are incapacitated, from the Service point of view, by the absence of a few technicians, but I suspect that it may happen. The case of doctors provides an instance. Last year, the right hon. Gentleman announced that it was proposed to start an intensive recruiting campaign for Army doctors. I gather that this has not been very successful.
§ Mr. Profumo
The hon. and learned Gentleman could not have understood that portion of my speech which was entirely devoted to saying that it had been extremely successful. My hon. Friend can give some details later. If we can go on as at present, we shall be able to maintain our medical standards. The recruiting campaign has been very good indeed.
§ Mr. Paget
In that case, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many doctors he has and how many he still wants? This is one aspect of the recruiting campaign about which I am very doubtful. I am not happy seeing the Army bidding against the National Health Service, which itself is short of doctors, for doctors who are in short supply in the community as a whole. Doctors do more doctoring in private practice or in the Health Service than in the Army, where they are looking after what is generally the fittest section of the population. I would prefer the Army to use the Health Service far more.
Army hospitals should come under the Health Service, both at home and at permanent installations abroad. It would be better for a doctor's career if he were in the Health Service and simply in an Army hospital as in any other hospital. One would have more efficient hospitals and the hospitals would be better utilised.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
There is a Service hospital in my constituency which renders superb services 1575 to the civil population. Civilian and Service doctors work hand in hand and give immense benefit to the whole community, both Service and civilian.
§ Mr. Paget
In which case, why should the hospital not come under the Health Service in the same way as a civilian hospital? That seems to me an admirable argument for the very case I was making. I do not see why, in general, the soldier should not receive medical treatment as any other member of the population. Sick parades could be arranged in conjunction with doctors whose work was not exclusively confined to the Army. At foreign stations, where there were large family populations, it would probably be desirable for the doctors to be on a civilian basis, leaving only a small requirement for doctors for active service.
The requirement of the Royal Army Medical Corps would be very small. In wartime, as always, there would be a great expansion of the Corps by the use of civilian doctors. It was my impression during the war that civilian doctors were rather better than the Regulars.
I am also concerned about the 60 battalions of the infantry. Apparently, at least half of them are under strength. I do not know whether they are as much under strength as the Scots Guards, and I do not know whether the Scots Guards battalion is the smallest. I should like an assurance that the 60 battalions are to be made up to strength; if not, it would be far better to reduce the number of battalions.
§ Mr. Paget
I was somewhat struck by what the right hon. Gentleman had to say about the Scots Guards. He seemed to take the view that there was no excuse for what happened and that 360 men could perform the duties required. Yet we had a concerted and planned refusal of duty which—do not let us mince words —amounted to mutiny and which was punished by eight days' loss of privilege, a punishment appropriate to an inadequate haircut.
Why? My feeling is that in this case justice was mitigated by policy. I cannot conceive that this could be the usual level of punishment for this sort of 1576 offence. Although the eight days' loss of privilege was the lightest punishment, all the punishments were trivial. Some of the men who wanted to have a court-martial seemed to receive some persuasion to accept this exceptional leniency. If there was nothing wrong and there was no excuse, why was that? I am not satisfied.
This is the moment to have another look at pensions. Two or three days ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer suspended National Savings certificates. Apparently, this is the moment when the Government are to push up spending power. Is not this a direction in which a little spending power could be used? I have always maintained that Government contracts ought to be paid in honest money. The Government are not an ordinary employer. When they bargain to make a payment, they control the currency in which the payment is made and when that currency goes down, it is dishonest of the Government to pay their obligations to those who have served them in a currency which the Government themselves have made bad.
If that is too extravagant a system to work on, that is to say, paying pensions at the spending power which they had when the bargain was made, at least the Government should accept the cheaper principle of the same pension for the same service. They should not pay a lower pension because the man did his service long ago when the value of money was higher. That is a dishonest thing to do.
It is no answer to say that this compares with what happens in the Civil Service. The civil servant retires at 60 and his pension is based on what he was earning close to the date of his retirement. The soldier's pension is based on what he was earning twenty years before, at the age of 40, so that twenty years' more depreciation of the currency has taken place. The soldier—and particularly his widow—is much worse off than the equivalent civil servant of the same age.
This is an opportunity to right the position, and again I emphasise the case of the widows, many of whom are living in tragic circumstances, and many of whom are living on National Assistance. This is an opportunity to bring them up 1577 to the standard of what we call the post-1958 widows. Surely that can be done now?
I think it important to say a word about the old Polish professional soldiers. They came here and served us. It was unavoidable that they had no home to which they could return. They spent their lives in the Army. The Americans and the Canadians took them into their military pension systems. We have not done so. It would cost very little to do so. There would be very little difference between the pension we paid and the National Assistance they are receiving, but such a system would do something important for their sense of dignity. They would appreciate that they were getting something which was theirs. Surely this is the opportunity to do it?
I now turn to a wider subject, the unification of defence. Are these the last Army Estimates that we are to see? I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not know the answer. The Minister of Defence has not told him, and the Prime Minister has not told the Minister of Defence, because when this decision was taken apparently nobody had decided whether there was to be one accounting officer, and this, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who is only temporarily absent, pointed out, was the all-important question.
Is the Army Council to continue, or are we to have a Defence Council with members responsible for the Services and members responsible for general supply? Again, what is the position of the Chiefs of Staff? When this policy was announced, the Minister of Defence did not know. Apparently something was decided between then and yesterday's debate in another place, because it now appears that the Chiefs of Staff of the Services are to have direct access not only to the Minister of Defence but to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, whereas the Ministers responsible for the Services are to have access only to the Defence Ministry.
This seems to put them in an appalling situation. To put the political chief of a Ministry in a position of obvious and plain inferiority to his Service chief is outrageous. I do not often agree with Lord Montgomery of Alamein, but I do 1578 on this. This is something which requires more thought than it has received.
How will Supply work? Are there to be three Service Supply Departments, or one Defence Supply Department? We just do not know. What is more, the Government do not know whether what they are going to do will require legislation. During the defence debate it was said that it was too early to decide whether this would require legislation. A major vital change of this kind is proposed, but no White Paper is issued on it, and when questions are asked, no answers are given, simply because the Government do not know.
This, of course, is in line with the whole policy of this Government and the way they conduct their business. They first drift into trouble. Then, to assuage their back benchers, they announce a new policy, and as a final stage they begin to think out what their new policy means. This feckless swinging from one gimmick to another and making announcements without considering the consequences—
§ Mr. Profumo
The hon. and learned Gentleman says that this is a feckless gimmick, but when my right hon. Friend mentioned this question of unified defence he was told that the Opposition had thought of it first.
§ Mr. Paget
We had thought about it, and of its consequences, and asked questions about it, but the Government did not answer them. We had thought about it and proposed it ever since my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) raised it during the Navy Estimates debate in 1952.
The first and all-important question concerns the accounting officer. Are we to have three sets of competitive Estimates, plus one for the Minister of Defence, or one Estimate? It is not merely a question of one accounting officer, or four accounting officers. It may well be a question of no accounting officer.
I am very doubtful indeed whether, as things stand, Treasury responsibility performs any useful function with regard to the Services. The real question is whether detailed Treasury control of Service expenditure is any more appropriate than detailed Treasury control of the expenditure of a nationalised industry. We 1579 would not dream of applying it there, because we know that it would make that industry inefficient.
In the old days one began by considering one's commitments. The next thing to do was to decide what forces were appropriate, and, finally, to consider the necessary expense. That is no longer the process. Today, it is the practice to start with a sum which the nation can afford for defence. It has been generally agreed at about 7 per cent. of the national income, and in special circumstances this can be raised. The next stage is one of hard bargaining, and this is where the draft Estimates come in. This is done in July. An allocation is made between the Services, nominally by the Minister of Defence, but actually as a result of hard bargaining between the Service Chiefs of Staff. Only when that has been done do we get the actual Votes which are the anticipation of the Service Ministries as to how they will spend the money which has been allocated to them. All that Treasury control does is to see that the Government, or, rather, the Ministries, stick to the anticipated heads of expenditure within the sum already agreed.
Is there very much value in that? Does it really control anything? Does it really hold down expenditure? It certainly has the gravest objections. First, it is a cause of obsolescence. Today, it takes a year for anything to get into the draft Estimates. As I said, this happens in July. It takes another year for it to get into the final Estimates. We therefore start with a two-year march on the road to obsolescence before we begin, simply because of the accounting system.
To raise a particular point here, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can give me some information about the new aeroplane, the Beagle, which is to replace the Dove and the old Anson. It is being brought forward rather quickly and cheaply by a smallish firm. It is a transport plane suitable for Army purposes. Will the Army get it? It is the kind of delay to which I have referred which prevents a good and fairly cheap thing from coming forward quickly.
The next thing the system does is that by keeping everything to a year we can make no distinction between capital and current expenditure. We cannot arrange 1580 our expenditure to be amortised over the life of what we are producing. The only loan finance which is allowed is in respect of married quarters. Any ordinary business would look at its capital and its income and current expenditure and keep them in proper order. Again, this method promotes the system of backlog. The accounting officers are watching all the time to see that money is not spent unless it has been authorised. That means that work is held back. Then, towards the end of the year, in order to catch up with what is authorised—and this point has been mentioned in one of the Public Accounts Committee's Reports —everybody goes on to overtime.
The Navy has said that it is in great trouble because, owing to the shipbuilding slump, naval construction has gone faster than expected, and it is therefore over its estimate. All this sort of nonsense seems to arise from an obsolete system. It would be far better to make a grant in aid to the Minister of Defence, whose business it is to run the Armed Forces as though they were a nationalised industry, and to bring in the most efficient methods of accounting and supervision from industry. If we are to combine the Services this is the sort of question that we should have been thinking out. We should not just blunder into it with an announcement of a new policy, made for political purposes.
Again, shall we have one Defence Council with members of the supply personnel, as well as one Ministry, or three Defence Councils within the Ministry? None of this seems to be known. Nothing has been thought out. We welcome the unification of the Services, but we do not think that the Services should lose their identities at regimental or unit level. The point at which they should probably lose their identity is at general rank. General officers should go on to a common list, but in the lower ranks, at unit level, we should maintain the uniform and identity of the regiment in order to retain the regimental spirit, the ship spirit, or the squadron spirit—the spirit that makes things go in the Services.
§ Mr. Profumo
Has the hon. and learned Member read the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown)? If so, he will know that his right hon. Friend said that in the end there is an unanswerable case for two Services rather than three.
§ Mr. Paget
Two is a step on the way from three to one. At none of these stages—either half way, with two Services, or the whole way with one Service —do we want unit identity to be lost.
I now turn to the rôle of the Army. This is a rôle within a nuclear context. I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I say a little about the fate of the deterrent, since it is within this context that the rôle of the Army must be placed. The deterrent is a threat, and a threat is potent to the extent that it is believed. The essence of the deterrent is credibility. In the old days credibility simply depended upon having the bomb. We then passed to the next phase —in which the Government still believe themselves to be—in which the credibility of the deterrent depended upon the means of delivery. I do not believe that the credibility of the deterrent any longer depends on that; I believe that its credibility now depends upon the capacity to survive the consequences of delivery.
This the Americans at one time tried to meet by a counter-force capacity—the capacity to destroy an enemy's power to retaliate. That idea is no longer regarded as practical. It may be that an anti-rocket rocket, or something of the sort, will provide that defence, but it is doubtful. The real means of attaining this capacity to survive the consequences today is retained deterrent capacity.
Let me explain what I mean by that. Some time ago I had a conversation with a certain right hon. Gentleman. I said to him, "Let us suppose that the Russians were to strike against us and were to knock out the airfields of our V-bombers. Let us suppose that we had our V-bombers airborne. Where would we send them? To Russia, to kill thousands, or millions, of Russians, for no ascertainable purpose, while we brought certain annihilation upon this country? If you did that you ought to be shot, because we would face the ultimate horror of 1582 having a lunatic in charge in a nuclear age."
In those circumstances, the last thing that we would do would be to send the airborne V-bombers to Russia. Russia, by leaving our cities in existence, would have retained a deterrent capacity sufficient to deter our second strike. In fact, so long as Russia leaves us something which is worth our existence to retain she has an overwhelming capacity to deter not only our first but our second strike. In other words, she is in a position to threaten us at each stage with an overwhelming retained deterrent capacity.
That is the real reason why this country has not got and never can have an independent deterrent. It has nothing to do with Skybolt, Polaris, or anything else. It is a question of geography. However invulnerable our deterrent may be, we could never use it until we were dead—in other words, until we were destroyed to the point that we had nothing left that was worth retaining. A mere post-mortem spasm is not a deterrent.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
On a point of order. In previous Service debates so far this year, when we have started discussing these matters, we have been told by the Chair that this is getting into a defence debate and is not related to any of the particular Service Estimates. I wonder where we are getting to now. I humbly suggest that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has gone so far in developing this argument that it will be impossible for us to make any sense when we are speaking in relation to what he is now proposing to say about the Army rôle without referring to the argument he has used. We should like some protection for back benchers.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Charles Royle)
In recent years it has become the custom in Service debates to allow the debate to go a little wide, but I must say that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has not associated nuclear matters with the Army and I should be glad if he would do that.
§ Mr. Paget
With great respect, Mr. Royle, I am going to do that in a moment. What I am doing is showing the real context, a changed context because of the changing nuclear theory in 1583 which our Army has to perform its duties in Germany. This has changed because United States policy is now based entirely upon the question of retained capacity. The Americans recognise, and have recognised, that the Russians are quite capable of deterring them from using their maximum, or anything like their maximum capacity.
They therefore think in terms, first, of a conventional response, then a nuclear demonstration to intimidate by dropping a bomb somewhere not too vital, then a limited counterforce action, but at each stage keeping in hand a massive deterrent to deter a counteraction which the Russians might take. That is the whole theory of the Kennedy Administration, but what has not been recognised fully here is the amount of scope that leaves the Russians to change the status quo on the ground by conventional means before they reach the point, or before we reach the point, at which they would have to fear a nuclear intervention from the enemy.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I hope the hon. and learned Member will come to the Vote that we are discussing. His remarks are getting rather wide.
§ Mr. Paget
I am extremely glad of that, because that is exactly where I have got. I have indicated the circumstances in which B.A.O.R. has to operate. It is no longer sufficient merely to act as a sort of trigger. Today, B.A.O.R. has to meet a real danger of having to deal with attacks on the ground which cannot be effectively deterred by nuclear threats.
The question is: is it in a position to do so? Frankly, I do not believe that it is for one moment. I will leave to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley to deal with the various deficiences of the Army—worn-out 25-pounders, the non-existent medium and heavy artillery, the indefensible nuclear weapons, the absent anti-aircraft capacity, the obsolete support planes and the parade of new weapons which appear year after year in the Estimates until, in this age of fast-moving technology, their obsolescence out-paces their delivery. We have had them in year after year. I shall merely deal with postings.
N.A.T.O., and indeed B.A.O.R. also, are posted in barracks because the bar- 1584 racks happen to be there. The American barracks are in Bavaria and our barracks are a little higher on the map. We are allocated the job of defending the Weser line. Even in the circumstances of peacetime manoeuvre, it would take us 48 hours to reach our battle positions. The line is right across the communications. Goodness knows what would happen if we had refugees coming the other way. Those positions on the Weser could be reached by the Russians in 12 hours.
Just consider the situation we might be facing. Suppose we got pressure on the communications with Berlin. Suppose if to test them we moved some divisions there and the Russians riposted by coming in one night? By morning they would be across the Weser and approaching the Rhine. We could not use nuclears against them. They would all be mixed up with us. At that stage it would be we, not they, who would be presenting nuclear targets. The divisions brought up against the corridor to test the corridor would be perfect nuclear targets. So would be the Americans and their cantonments and postings in Bavaria—perfect nuclear targets.
At that stage, once the enemy has broken in, nuclears give all the advantage to the attacker, not to the defender. The advantage of nuclears to the defender arises only before the break-in, but in this case there is nothing to break in. Our divisions are simply in barracks within an unimpeded night's march by the enemy. That is what Stalin did in 1941, and he lost 100 divisions in a fortnight and was then faced by German forces with 3,600 tanks. The Russian forces in Germany alone, ready and available right on the frontier, capable of attacking within 48 hours' warning right away, have 6,000 tanks and nine divisions of airborne troops to follow them up.
How long are we to go on like this? Just visualise what could happen. On the first day we should be anxiously extracting our troops. On the second and third days we would be far too anxious, and so would be the Americans. They would not be able to use nuclears. Until we extricated the troops the Russians would have a free run, and by the time we got to the first phase, the sort of demonstration drop, there would doubtless be a pause. The Russians would stop and say, "Here we negotiate," but they would negotiate 1585 with the Russians in a new position on the Rhine. In this context if we are trying to design nuclear policy to provide a pause we must try to take steps to see that that pause is on their frontier, not on ours.
§ Mr. Shinwell
What conclusion does my hon. and learned Friend for Northampton (Mr. Paget) reach as a result of this analysis? Is he seeking to represent to the Committee, as I ventured to in the defence debate, that because of the paucity of arms at our disposal and the paucity of forces in a conventional sense it would be better to take them out altogether?
§ Mr. Paget
I think that that is one of the answers. Unless we are prepared to make this "phoney" defence into a real one, what my right hon. Friend says may have to be done. This is becoming progressively more apparent to the Americans. They are not prepared to go on accepting the helplessness of this situation. Therefore, I say that this is a case in which we cannot expect to go on getting away with what we are doing now. There have to be new postings. We have to place our troops at least nearer to what they have to defend than the enemy's troops are.
We have to get our troops to dig in and put in the field defences which any division requires to defend a position in real life. We have almost certainly to provide more troops in this theatre—at least up to our Brussels requirement of four divisions. This, more and more, we are finding the Americans are demanding. If Europe is to be defended, something of this sort must be done. How do we do it? Obviously, we cannot do it if we maintain all our other commitments.
What are these other commitments? Let us take Hong Kong as an example. We have the best part of a division in Hong Kong, and certainly it is not there to defend Hong Kong against the Chinese. The Chinese have only to turn off the water to make that impossible. Nobody pretends that it is defendable from outside. We recognise that if we cannot defend our position by diplomatic means, it is certainly not worth trying to defend it by force.
This division in Hong Kong is there simply to support the civil power; it is there to help the police if they get 1586 into trouble, and it is costing us about £4,000 per year per man. Is this a reasonable way to support an emergency reserve police? I venture to say that the internal security of Hong Kong is something which they should provide themselves. After all, as I understand it, their income tax is 2s. 6d. in the £, and I do not know why we have to provide a purely internal security force for them.
Turning to Singapore, I do not know the point of maintaining a base in which we depend upon an organised Communist labour force in the docks. Possibly there is a case for maintaining some troops in Australia, but, as in Hong Kong, I believe that we shall come to realise that this is a part of the world in which, if we cannot maintain our position by diplomatic means, it is not worth trying to maintain it by force.
The position in the Gulf may be a different matter. We are still very sensitive about it. I see the point of a N.A.T.O. base in Cyprus, but for the life of me I see no point of a British base in Cyprus. In Libya, we are supporting King Idris. We talk about our influence in the Middle East. Have not Iraq, Syria and the Yemen demonstrated how little is the influence which we have there?
§ Mr. Paget
I am sorry. I would rather not give way to the hon. Member, for I have been too long as it is. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am trying to conclude, but it is an important speech. All I am trying to indicate here is that these are interests which are relatively less important than the defence of the vital point, which is the German frontier.
Are we not progressively supporting interests which, in so far as they still exist, are not the sort of interests which can be maintained by force? They rest upon such things as the memories of honest administration in India, the good will of trade associations in Malaysia, a reputation for honest dealing in Hong Kong, and "know-how" in the oilfields. It is these intangibles which are our interests in this area, and they are not supportable by force. Indeed, is not the force with which we pretend to support them becoming a sham which would dissolve in 1587 a moment if it met any solid and determined opposition? We cannot be strong everywhere.
I have not found these defence debates very happy debates. I believe that they have been a tale of decadence. Decadence does not lie in loss of status. The Swedes lost an empire and certainly have not become decadent, nor have the Dutch. Decadence is a mood in which shadow is accepted for substance, in which shams are preferred to reality, in which we no longer lie to deceive our enemies but lie to deceive ourselves. We have been presented with an independent British deterrent. It is neither independent nor British—nor is it a deterrent. These are not lies which we tell to deceive our enemies, but lies which we tell to deceive ourselves. B.A.O.R. is neither posted nor equipped to fight the Russians. We are preferring a sham to a reality. We have preferred to posture throughout the world in the shadow of a power whose substance has departed.
We have a Government whose policies have collapsed. We have a Parliament which can serve the people only by going back to the people and renewing itself. We have slid, and we are sliding, down the slope into decadence. It is a difficult slope to climb up. Lies, shams, shadows—these are habit-forming. The next Government—it cannot be this Government, for this Government have dealt too long in false coins for even their trust to be believed—have the task of bringing this nation back to respect of reality, to respect of substance and, above all, to respect for itself.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
As I spoke for 17 minutes last week in the defence debate, and as this debate started very late and many hon. Members wish to speak, I shall cut my remarks very short and confine them to manpower and recruiting, bound up with the question of the future of the Gurkha Brigade, which are part of the same problem.
But in courtesy to the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), I should like to refer to one or two points which he made. First, may I say how much I agree with him on the question 1588 of Service pensions, and I put in a plea from this side of the Committee that the debate which we had recently on this subject has not properly been considered by the Government. We want an answer to some of the points which we put, particularly about widows and about the pensions of elderly officers who fought in one or perhaps both wars. That is not creating a precedent, and I am sure that we ought to do it.
The hon. and learned Member engaged in a friendly encounter with my right hon. Friend about who thought first of the reorganisation of the Central Command. We heard about it from the Minister of Defence the other day. Yesterday, in the House of Lords, Lord Montgomery of Alamein staked his claim to have beaten both my right hon. Friend and the hon. and learned Gentleman and to have thought of it first. I should like to stake my own claim. I not only thought of it, but I discussed it with Sir Ian Jacob, who was one of my pupils at the Staff College just over thirty years ago. We talked about it, but nothing happened. As I said in the defence debate, we must give full credit to the Government and the Minister of Defence; they have not only thought about it but have put it down on paper, and we are going to discuss it.
The hon. and learned Gentleman never makes a dull speech. I think that his latest announcement of Labour Party policy or the grand strategy of the future will have to be published in some form of White Paper for us to be able to understand even a bit of it. The hon. and learned Gentleman's speech last year contained two things which I missed from his speech this year. Last year, he had the rather amusing idea of putting sailors into tanks in some of the places where be thought the garrison could be reduced. We always used to think in the Army that a sailor on a horse was like a monkey on a bag of nails. I do not know what a sailor in a tank would be like. I hardly think that it would fill the bill.
Another thing I missed from the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was the important statement he made last year about Labour Party policy on the actual number of troops that his party would keep in N.A.T.O. if it came to power. 1589 The hon. and learned Gentleman said this last year:…I would put the N.A.T.O. priority without question first, and I would put it certainly not at 51,000–52,000 nor at 55,000, men, but at something nearer 80,000.The hon. and learned Gentleman inspired the Leader of the Liberal Party to try to compete with that, because he raised his bid to 75,000 for the Liberal Party.
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) commented on the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement and said this:If we are to have honesty, I presume to say that after the most careful thought he"—that is, the hon. and learned Gentleman—on behalf of the Labour Party this afternoon made a declaration that the strength of the British Army of the Rhine ought to be 80,000 and that if the Labour Pary returns to power it will be 80,000 and this will be done inside a ceiling of 165,000. I am sure that he will forgive me for putting it in one word— 'Nonsense'. It just cannot be done. There is nobody who has a reputation to lose, and no one who knows anything about it, even with the qualifications of an unpaid orderly-room lance-corporal who would make such a statement. I hope that I have made myself clear on that Point".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 622 and 649–650.]The hon. Gentleman certainly made himself clear and I, for one, would agree on this point with him. What one wants to ask is how the Labour Party would be able to raise the present number of troops in N.A.T.O. by 25,000 without fatally weakening the Strategic Reserve and reintroducing conscription. It could not be done. And what is the point of pouring all these men into Europe?
I must leave to other speakers the answers to the other points made by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I think that my right hon. Friend ought to be a very happy man that he has been able to say in this year's Memorandum that by the end of this year we shall have an all-Regular voluntary Army and one which will, by the beginning of next year, number 180,000 men. My right hon. Friend has now held office for nearly three years and he might gain fame by being the last Secretary of State for War that this country will ever have, if some of the proposals in connection with the central reorganisation go through. I have never known a more popular Secretary of State for War amongst the troops than my 1590 right hon. Friend has been, with the possible exception of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I say that from the Army point of view. We have never had a Secretary of State for War who has been more courteous and helpful to Members of Parliament than my right hon. Friend.
Several hon. Members have poured cold water on the scheme put forward some years ago for going back to a Regular long-service defence force by the end of this year. No one has been more critical of this than the hon. Member for Dudley. I was going to quote a number of things that he has said over the past five years, but, most unusally—I have never known this happen before—the hon. Gentleman has not been here at all for this debate.
§ Sir J. Smyth
Then I will not say any more.
I will quote this one sentence from what the hon. Gentleman said as recently as 1960:The target is 180,000 men—a target which we certainly cannot reach"—.[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1960; Vol. 619, c. 484.]Well, my right hon. Friend has done that.
I come now to the statement on Gurkha recruiting that my right hon. Friend made this afternoon. It must be looked at against the background of the very much improved position of British recruiting. In 1948, as my right hon. Friend said, we made an agreement with Nepal that we would maintain eight battalions of Gurkhas, a total force of, I think it was, 10,400 or 10,000, as my right hon. Friend said. In 1957, we made a verbal agreement with Nepal that we would increase that number to 15,000.
I see that the hon. Member for Dudley has just entered the Chamber. I must tell him that a little while ago I said that I had never known a debate on the Army Estimates without him being present.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
May I deny the rumour, which I am sure has been spread about by the Secretary of State for War? I have not been to Cheltenham. I have been to a Select Committee.
§ Sir J. Smyth
That verbal agreement to increase the Gurkhas in the British Army to 15,000 had a number of advantages. First, it gave us 15,000 tough, highly trained infantrymen of great loyalty to the British Crown. Secondly, it was of great financial assistance to the Nepalese Government, because their revenue from the Gurkha Brigade is about one quarter of Nepal's total revenue. Nepal, though ostensibly an independent country, is very closely allied to Britain, and always has been.
I have referred many times to the distinctly threatening situation which today exists the whole way along the Himalayan Barrier. Had British recruiting gone badly, we would never have had this cut in the Gurkha Brigade. As the Committee and many other people know, a year or two ago it looked almost certain either that the whole of the Gurkha Brigade would be disbanded, or that there would be a very severe cut indeed, which would have had almost the same effect. It was at that time, nearly a year ago, that the Gurkha Brigade asked me to take up their case here in the House of Commons. As the Committee knows, I have done so in a number of speeches and in a number of Questions put to Ministers, and I have elicited statements from them. I have also spoken on the radio.
I have had great support from hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. For that, I am extremely grateful. I am also grateful to certain Ministers—my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for War—for considering the points that were made. They did not just maintain a wooden attitude and say, "We have decided to disband the Gurkhas and we are going to stick to our decision". They considered all these points very carefully and the result has been given to us in my right hon. Friend's speech this afternoon which, although it will be disappointing to many, is very much better than we had dreamed of a year ago.
I want to say this quite definitely. Any cut in the Gurkhas at present is a fundamental mistake, not so much from the Army's point of view, perhaps, because it may be said that we can make do with 10,000 just as well as with 15,000. But 1592 this is a particularly bad time to disband 5,000 Gurkha soldiers and send them back to Nepal, because, as I know very well, the Chinese will immediately make a dead set at them and will make every effort to enlist them in their own army. Therefore, it is a very poor economy on the part of the British Government by any standards, military and particularly political.
However, the decision has been made by the Government and has been conveyed to the King of Nepal by Field Marshal Lord Slim. If I wanted to put anything to the King of Nepal or anyone else I would certainly choose Lord Slim to do it. I am sure that he performed this task well. I appreciate, that, the decision having been taken, it is no good belly-aching about what has happened. We must now look at the situation as it exists and use it to the best advantage. The Gurkha Brigade agrees with me that the future is the thing that matters.
We must ensure that the cuts announced are made in a way which will reduce the fighting efficiency and morale of the Gurkha Brigade as little as possible. We must also see that everything reasonable is done to cushion the retirement of the 5,000 men who have become redundant. I am sure that on both of these points my right hon. Friend will consult the colonels of the Gurkha Brigade and that they will arrive at the best conclusion possible. We must keep up the recruiting machinery, or recruiting will run down and we will not be able to maintain even the 10,000 Gurkhas we are allowed.
My right hon. Friend said that we will keep all the eight Gurkha battalions, and we are grateful to him for that. That will mean that the present establishments will have to be considerably reduced. It must be remembered that the establishment of a Gurkha battalion is considerably higher than a British one because it must keep a certain reserve of men to compensate for those who return home to Nepal on leave. I hope that whatever arrangements are made the war establishment of the present Gurkha battalion will not be allowed to fall below that of a British battalion.
I realise that one of the Gurkha battalions will have to be used as some sort of training battalion, but I hope that it will not be labelled as a non-fighting unit 1593 because nothing could do more to lower their morale. Perhaps there could be some form of rotation, but, whatever happens, great difficulties would be caused if one battalion became labelled as noncombatant. I hope that my right hon. Friend will remember that we must deal generously with those who will become redundant, especially those who lose their pensions.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
The right hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) speaks with considerable authority on military affairs. During his oration he ventured to make a little fun at the expense of some of my hon. Friends. Let me assure him that it was quite unnecessary, for that is an exercise that we can undertake ourselves with remarkable efficiency.
I agree wholeheartedly with everything that the right hon. and gallant Member said about the Gurkha battalions. I regret that the Secretary of State has decided to effect a curtailment of the strength of these excellent members of Her Majesty's forces. I was not quite clear as to the propriety of the action he contemplates. I was even less clear about the reason for his decision.
I gather, from what the Secretary of State said, that we have 14,000 men in the Gurkha battalions—the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am stating the position wrongly—and that the intention is to reduce that number to 10,000 over a period of three years. What the reason is I cannot understand, unless it be that the right hon. Gentleman is such an incurable optimist about the building-up of the Regular forces that he fancies his chances of being able to carry on without the aid of the Gurkhas.
I warn the right hon. Gentleman that he should not be too optimistic about building up the Regular forces in the next few years. I agree that we have done remarkably well in recent months, but I wonder how far that is attributable to rising unemployment. I would not be surprised to learn that unemployment has had some effect.
I know from letters I have received from my constituents, and the statements that have been made about men joining the Durham Light Infantry and regiments associated with the North, that they have been doing so because jobs have not been 1594 available for them. Whether or not that is so, it would be a mistake to assume that because there is some rise in the recruiting figures there will not be any setbacks in the next few months or in 1964.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Norwood is an expert on the Gurkhas. I know little about them except that I had a remote association with them when I was at the War Office and the Ministry of Defence. I beg him and those associated with him to continue their pressure on the Secretary of State for the retention of the Gurkhas. As to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's remarks about Lord Slim meeting the King of Nepal, I understand that Lord Slim is about to return in full agreement with the Secretary of State, but I would like to see his terms of reference. In any case, let us not blame Lord Slim for the decision that has been taken to curtail the Gurkhas. It is the Secretary of State's decision, and although Lord Slim has not yet returned to this country, presumably he has already made a report to the Secretary of State. It is certain that the right hon. Gentleman imposed his decision, and that was that—but I hope it does not mean finality.
I am absolutely bewildered on the subject of manpower. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was not in his place when the Secretary of State spoke about the total of 180,000 men. It is really 190,000, because of the 10,000 in the Gurkha battalions, although it seems somewhat curious, because I understood that there were 14,000 in the Gurkha battalions; so that the overall total should have been 194,000. I cannot follow the figures and that is probably because I have no mathematical grounding. Or is it because the right hon. Gentleman is trying his hardest to bewilder and confuse us and create the impression that the recruiting figures are going up all the time; that we are beginning to reach the point of balancing our forces? I appreciate that that is a serious problem for the Army, but we are now told that all will be well by 1964 or 1965.
I do not know the answer to these questions, but I will leave this matter of manpower and the mathematics involved to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, who is an authority on this subject, and say that the Secretary of 1595 State's speech was remarkable not for what he said, but for what he to say. He said hardly anything about the "Ever-readies", except that he has about 4,000 of them.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), in what, without any condescension or attempted patronage, I would regard as a tour de force, covered the whole sphere of military operations and strategy, and pointed out that the Secretary of State, when he originated the"Ever-readies"spoke about having 15,000 as a target, although he now has only 4,000. He has got them at much expense, for we must remember that they get a considerable bounty. The question is whether, in spite of what he said, they would be of any real value in an emergency.
Neither did the right hon. Gentleman say very much about the B.A.O.R. There was some rumour recently that he was going to withdraw a brigade from B.A.O.R. Nothing has happened. Is that in the offing, or in cold storage? Is it to come out of the bag after the series of debates on defence and the Service Estimates? As to the forces in B.A.O.R., my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton surprised me by what he said. He covered the strategic issues and also the question of an independent British deterrent, which I thought a little irrelevant. I am sure that if I indulged in a dissertation on that subject I should be ruled out of order. [Heim. MEMBERS: "No."] Let me do so then, so that I can say what I wanted to say.
My hon. and learned Friend came to the conclusion that it would be quite impossible to withstand the assault of the mighty Russian forces in East Germany, with their 6,000 tanks and nine airborne divisions, to say nothing of their ground forces. My hon. and learned Friend came to the conclusion that we have no hope at all. I ventured to interrupt him and ask whether this meant that we should withdraw our forces—a point which I put in the defence debate —and he was not clear whether that was the conclusion that he had arrived at.
The Chairman (Sir William AnstrutherGray)
Order. I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) will allow the Chair to hear, too.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I venture to express the opinion, having regard to the forces at our disposal and either the unwillingness or the inability of some of the N.A.T.O. countries to make an effective contribution—a matter to which I referred in the defence debate—that it is impossible to do other than expect that our forces will be completely liquidated in the event of a conventional assault by the Russians. That is the logic of it, but I will dismiss the logic for a moment to say that I do not believe that the act, which is much more than a gesture, of withdrawing our troops from B.A.O.R. would be a reasonable policy in the present circumstances.
At the moment, it is far better to leave them where they are, to equip them properly and give them effective striking power, and, if possible, to produce a balanced B.A.O.R. force. It is better to do this and, at the same time, ensure that the N.A.T.O. countries—and there are 13 others besides ourselves—make an effective contribution. I have said several times during the past few years that I cannot understand why we allow the French to get away with it. The Dutch do not contribute much. They are a maritime people and they believe more in sea forces than in land forces. The Scandinavian countries, Norway and Denmark, make a small contribution. Luxembourg can be ruled out. Canada provides a brigade, and of course the United States has substantial forces there.
But when all this is compared with the figures which the Minister of Defence gave me some time ago, of a Russian potential of 175 divisions and 100 of them within reach of our forces, and with 35,000 tanks and a great many aircraft, all this is no 1597 use at all. It is incongruous. The whole picture is distorted when we make that comparison.
Nevertheless, let us keep them there, give them some strength and hope for the best. Perhaps the best we can hope for is a German peace treaty. Although that would riot be a complete solution, it would lead to partial disarmament or disengagement and our forces would not be engaged in conflict.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is an opinion with which I would not agree 100 per cent. It requires much more than will power. It requires substantial strength and the correct strategy. I merely say that although the logic of the situation would represent the need for withdrawing our forces from Germany, nevertheless I would keep them there for the time being in the hope that no serious conflict would emerge.
1 come to the question of weapons, and I wonder whether hon. Members noticed that when the Minister talked about them he did not speak about the past or even the present but about the future. He talked about the Chieftain tank which would be not only in production but available in 1964. He spoke of a new gun which the Americans will provide and of some other weapons all of which, except for a machine gun, are to be provided by other countries. The only British production is to be the machine gun.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Even so, that is most inadequate. I should imagine that British industry is capable of providing the equipment and weapons which the Army requires. However, the point is that most of this new equipment is coming along, but the right hon. Gentleman has been saying that for some time. What has been happening all these years? Is all the stuff which we now have obsolete?
I want to come to a point of substance which will enable us to escape from all 1598 these allegations and accusations about the inadequacy of British Army weapons. Hon. Members are invited from time to time to go to various establishments to see the weapons. I am never invited—not that it matters, or that I am particularly anxious to go. But I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should invite a number of hon. Members and even right hon. Gentlemen, if I may say so, who are interested in the subject to go to some of the establishments and see the weapons which are at the disposal of the Army and also to look at some of the weapons which are in production so that we might be better informed. But I beg of him not to do it through the Whips, because if he does I have no chance.
§ Mr. Profumo
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman if he has not been invited to one. We had a tremendous demonstration last year of all the latest equipment. I think that the usual channels have always been the way that we have laid these things on—that is, through the Whips. I shall have to see whether I can do something to bypass those channels and invite the right hon. Gentleman to one of these demonstrations.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I should be very much obliged, because at my time of life I dislike intensely going to a Whip, cap in hand, and asking if I may be permitted, after having been Secretary of State for War and Minister of Defence, to look at some of the weapons at the disposal of the British Army. I prefer that the right hon. Gentleman should invite some of us to go, even if it means, apart from a measure of hospitality, paying our own fares. There was an occasion some time ago when I wanted to be briefed by General Norstad and I paid my own expenses, which, I understand, is quite unusual. To clear away these allegations and to let the public, the country and perhaps the world know that we have excellent weapons at our disposal, let some of us go and have a look at them. Is that agreed?
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is all right then.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman about the Scots Guards. I do not regard the right hon. Gentleman's statement as being entirely satisfactory. Something must be seriously wrong. It may be 1599 because they are under strength and that the duties imposed upon them are too harsh. But can it not be that Guards' officers take less interest in their men in the other ranks than do the officers of other battalions?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Then I accept that that cannot be the reason for it. Can it be that the N.C.O.s are a bit too harsh?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I once went to Wellington Barracks and was shown around by the adjutant, who had a monocle in his eye, though I do not object to that; everyone to his taste. While being shown round I must confess that the attitude of some of the N.C.O.s to men who seemed to be getting in the way of an alleged V.I.P. was rather unnecessary. They were shouting and yelling at them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley must not be annoyed. I know that at one time he was an N.C.O. I am not making an attack on him. I agree that there must be discipline in the Service, but it seems to me that the discipline is going a bit too far. What is the cause of the trouble? Is the food unsatisfactory? The right hon. Gentleman appears to say "No". That is always said. When one goes round a canteen and is asked to taste the soup one always says that it is excellent. One dare not say otherwise, or one may not be invited to lunch. One never knows what might happen at lunch if one says something about the cook.
Twenty-five guardsmen do not do that sort of thing unless there is a reason. Can it be that they are engaged in duties that are boring? That there is no excitement about it? That they do not feel they are soldiers? Is there too much of this ceremonial stuff? Incidentally, it is about time that the right hon. Gentleman decided to abandon the picket at the Bank of England.
§ Mr. Shinwell
My hon. Friend says that the men are paid for it. That is a 1600 material view which I reject completely. Could not the picket be provided by a few policemen? Or let the Bank of England provide its own guard. The same applies to a lot of the ceremonial stuff. I think that some of it ought to be cut out. These men are soldiers. They ought to be properly trained and, incidentally, they ought to be acclimatised for the tasks which they may have to undertake if they go to countries where the weather is different from what it is here.
That brings me to one point which the Minister mentioned. He informed us that it was now the intention that boys of 17½ years of age should be sent overseas. That is a reduction in age of six months. I dislike this very much. I do not dispute the need for these boys being effectively and adequately trained, but I dislike the idea of a boy of 17½ being sent to the Far East, or to Africa, where he may be subjected to excessive heat without having been in some way acclimatised. I do not know whether these boys can have adequate training of that kind here, but I know that there has been such training in the past. To send these boys overseas at the age of 17½ will create a lot of trouble. The right hon. Gentleman ought to be careful about it.
I want to turn to the question of reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence; but only in relation to the War Office. I shall not discuss the matter in general, because we did so during the defence debate. The right hon. Gentleman said nothing about it. He has made no reference to the statement of the Minister of Defence. Has he said, "I do not want to abandon the title of Secretary of State", or, "We do not want to abandon the title of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff"—although why that title is retained I cannot understand. What submission has he made? What is his concept of the kind of organisation necessary for our national defence?
I noticed that Field Marshal Lord Montgomery's statement in another place has been referred to. Lord Montgomery is now claiming credit for this idea, which, he said, he put forward in 1948, when he was C.I.G.S. and I was Secretary of State for War. I have a very high regard for the Field Marshal, but I cannot remember him saying a word to me about the subject. He also said that he mentioned the matter to the Minister 1601 of Defence. I consulted my noble Friend Earl Alexander of Hillsborough only today and asked him whether, in 1948, the Field Marshal had represented to my noble Friend the idea of having an integrated Ministry of Defence. He said, "Indeed. I never heard a word about it".
When I was Minister of Defence, although Field Marshal Montgomery had become an international soldier—that was his own description of himself—and used to see me at Stoneygate, he never mentioned the subject to me. The trouble about the Field Marshal, this great fighting soldier, this very gallant man, is that he dislikes politicians. He likes to "take the micky" out of politicians, although he regards himself as a great politician. That is the funny thing about it. He is inclined to let his imagination run riot. Other people have talked about the integration of the Services—ever so many of them—but if the Field Marshal wants to claim credit for it, he can. When people get old we have to give them some credit.
The question is: where does the War Office stand? The right hon. Gentleman said that there could be no question of the three Services being fully integrated and referred to something which hon. Members on this side have said about the Air Force and the Navy being fully integrated. That is not a Labour conception at all.—[An HON. MEMBER: Your own Front Bench."]—If everyone has the idea—I must be careful—that every statement made from our Front Bench represents the considered view of the Labour Party, he is mistaken.
§ Mr. Profumo
When the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party makes a categoric statement, in a winding-up speech on a censure Amendment and says, in measured terms, that his view is that two Services should be integrated, surely we are entitled to take that as official Labour Party policy.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled, but I need not do so. Let me assure him that in spite of such a statement there is no declared policy on the subject.
In any event, let me say out of my own experience that I would not regard that as satisfactory. There are three distinct Services. Integration means something quite different. As my hon. Friend the 1602 Member for Dudley suggested the other week, it should mean accounting under a centralised control fully vested in the Minister of Defence and, furthermore, the abolition of the vested interests in the Service Departments—there are far too many of those.
That is what we want, but no one suggests that all three Services should be integrated in the sense of all the men wearing the same uniform and undertaking the same Service tasks—of course not. They are trained for different purposes. Occasionally, there must be combined operations, there always are and, in the future—though I hope that it will not be necessary—combined operations on a more effective and widespread scale.
But the idea of the soldier, the sailor and the airman undertaking precisely the same task, in the same uniform and under the same control, administratively and otherwise, is not my concept of integration. We want something more flexible. Nevertheless, there must be centralisation of strategy and defence. I hope that that is clearly understood.
I recognise the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties. Anyone who has served in a Service Department is bound to understand them. He has to make excuses at the Dispatch Box; he has to put the best face he can on things. He has to pretend—sometimes, perhaps, with his tongue in his cheek—that the forces have been recruited adequately and are properly trained, and that the weapons coming along are very good. He has to say that—and all power to his elbow. I only hope that, in spite of what he says, neither the weapons nor the forces will be used for a very long time yet.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Walsall, South)
It is a pleasure to speak after the right hon. Member for Easing-ton (Mr. Shinwell), and also some time after the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), because, although their supporters may be few this afternoon, they certainly made up by the length of their speeches and the verbosity of their views for any lack of support from behind them.
I do not want to deal with the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, except to say that if he spent some little time on the Estimates Committee, to 1603 which he referred at some length, he would realise that the actual accounting control of which he spoke is not a simple matter at all; that there is very detailed project control by the Treasury as well as control of the overall expenditure. I hope that before the hon. and learned Gentleman next speaks on this he will verify that point.
I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman over what he said about the Scots Guards. Neither he nor I served in the Scots Guards, but I would commend to his serious attention, as a former Minister of Defence and Secretary of State for War, the autobiography of Lord Chandos, formerly Mr. Oliver Lyttelton, in which he will find a moving and excellent description of the relations between officers and men in the Guards, and find out how this very peculiar and British organisation works. My right hon. Friend has said that if there has been maladministration it will be looked into, but it would be unworthy of this House if it seemed that we were looking for scapegoats here—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I gladly accept what the hon. Gentleman says. I was merely probing, because it seemed to me that the whole matter of the defection of these men was shrouded in mystery. I was trying to find out why.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
I shall refer to the "Ever-readies" because, as I have some connection with two units of the Territorial Army, I can probably add something on that point.
On equipment, as the Government's scientific adviser Sir Solly Zuckerman has said on more than one occasion, "If it works, it's out of date"—in other words, the equipment that the Army of today uses and trains with is almost bound to be out of date. The right hon. Gentleman inquired whether it is obsolete —the fact that it is already in issue proves that, scientifically speaking, it is obsolete. That is a problem that the soldier has to face.
Although I was not fortunate enough to be called in the defence debate I do not propose to weary the House with the speech I would then have made, but I really think that there is a background to this debate in the nuclear dilemma which I must, with respect, touch on 1604 briefly. But this has been a remarkable year for conventional arms. The two main events of the year have taken place entirely with conventional arms. The invasion of India by China was entirely a matter of conventional arms, and then we had the dramatic situation in Cuba where, once again, conventional arms won the day. The Cuba threat was a threat of nuclear weapons; the resistance was resistance by conventional arms, and conventional arms won the day.
That, to my mind, proves conclusively that one can probably sum up the thermonuclear philosophy in the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) who, at one stage of the war—and referring particularly to the Home Guard—said:The final thought of unenslavable men—you can always take one with you'That seems to be the thermonuclear philosophy, but it is not a very constructive way of winning a war or of developing the policies of the country or the country's defences. I think that it is an entirely barren philosophy.
I was surprised to hear the Minister of Defence, in the debate on 31st January, refer to the nuclear shield. My right hon. Friend then asked:Are they confident that, in the absence of any nuclear power in this country at all, independently held, they would be able to deploy conventional forces throughout the world?A moment earlier he had said:Suppose we did not have a deterrent. Assuming that we did not, then any nuclear threat to this country would have to be met by a counter-threat from outside."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1963; Vol. 670, c. 1154–51]I do not accept that philosophy in the least. I do not think that this country is exposed to nuclear threat at all. I believe that we will constantly be exposed to threat of conventional arms, and if we try to meet the conventional threat with nuclear arms we are using, not a two-edged dagger but one without a handle at all; a dagger that we can use only at the cost of tearing ourselves to pieces.
How absurd it would be, in the face of a conventional threat, say a blockade, to flourish, with the gingerly delicacy of an old lady menacing a mouse with a broomstick, a nuclear weapon, the only thing about which 1605 we should know for certain was that its use would bring irretrievable damage upon ourselves. Therefore, I feel that the nuclear weapon as the shield and support of the conventional arm is simply a non-starter.
I was pleased to read what is said about this in the White Paper and to see in the Army Estimates the very greatly increased emphasis on conventional arms. This is really our problem, and that is the way we shall meet it. The best example is that out of our expenditure on defence about four-ninths goes on pay, about half on production and research, and the Atomic Energy Authority gets a beggarly £5 million. That shows the balance in the way we are thinking.
In this connection, I refer to a speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) in the debate on the European Economic Community on 11th February last. My hon. Friend said:…in the modern world power derives from three sources. First, there is military power, expressed in terms of divisions, ships, aircraft and, above all, atomic power. Second, there is economic power… Third there is moral power…In the last two—economic and moral power—the Six is strong"—as we are—but in terms of atomic power it is virtually non-existent.The same could be said of us.Walter Lipmann tells us that our contribution in atomic power is about 2 per cent. of that of the United States".— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 11th February, 1963; Vol. 671, c. 1033.]If he wants support for that, I think that the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins), in the defence debate last week, which was particularly commented on by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, made the matter really clear when he said that the methods of deliveryare immensely expensive, perhaps impossibly so for any country in the alliance other than America."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1963; Vol. 673, c. 112.]All this adds up in my mind to the fact that for this country the conventional weapon is, above all, the one upon which we must insist.
Having said that, I must add that right hon. and hon. Members opposite do themselves an injustice if they take the present 1606 balance of power in the world as permanent. One of the things we know is that the nuclear warhead is something which we can produce, and, although the means of despatching it safely are infinitely expensive for us, it can be despatched inexpensively. The grave danger which we run lies in the proliferation of atomic weapons. This is why we have tactical nuclear weapons of our own, so that we are ready to face the tactical nuclear threat. The proliferation of nuclear weapons is something which we must face for the future. I do not believe that it will be possible for the ambitious warlike States which have no particular regard for the sanctity for human life to be kept indefinitely from possessing the nuclear warhead.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
I am in a position to tell the hon. Gentleman. I am surprised that he, whom I always regard as the "ombudsman" of the party opposite, the great expert on all defence matters, is not aware of the number of medium regiments of the B.A.O.R. already equipped with these weapons, all of which are entirely in their keeping, including the warheads.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
I am quite certain that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me when I suggest that when, during the course of recent hostilities, he had a rifle or pistol in his hand, with his finger on the trigger, no enemy he had in his sights would have been at all consoled by the thought that the weapon apparently came from America. If one has complete control of a weapon and complete control of the ammunition, I regard the weapon as being as good as one's own.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
The hon. Gentleman must make his own speech, which, I have no doubt, will last for an hour and a quarter. He will have plenty of time to ask all these questions. I am speaking from personal knowledge on this point and I say that these nuclear tactical weapons are under the ownership and control of the British forces in B.A.O.R.
§ Sir H d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
The great danger is that there will be a proliferation of these weapons. Instead of their being in the responsible hands of the Russians, on the one side, and the Americans, on the other, they may spread widely, and this is why we should not go along with the Opposition and decide to do without them but should keep them ourselves.
I turn now to the tactical side of the subject which emerges from the White Paper, and I wish to ask my right hon. Friend a little about the large regiment in the infantry. In certain quarters—I think that this may interest my right hon. Friend—there is a resistance to the large regiment. I think that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) did say in a speech during one of these debates—I cannot remember exactly which—that it was not for fear of the Opposition but for fear of hon. Members on this side that my right hon. Friend was not taking steps to institute a corps of infantry.
I am a member of a regimental council. We had a very long discussion on this matter, and I was interested to find that opposition to the large regiment came not from the serving soldier or from those who had recently served, but came very much more from those who were a good deal further away from active service. The deduction I draw from that is that people are realists. They would much rather have a regiment up to strength and keep their own identity as a battalion in a brigade or a company in a battalion within it rather than appear with their regimental titles, bugles blowing, and only 350 men.
This is a serious thought. The hon. Member for Dudley—I cannot help referring to him on these occasions—spoke of 1608 something like 30 regiments of the line being under strength. I am not in a position either to contradict or to agree with those figures. I did not see that they were contradicted, and I suspect that they must be substantially right. I cannot help feeling that, when we talk about battalions in the House, we ought to talk of full battalions, battalions up to peace establishment. If we did that, we should cause a great deal less misunderstanding.
I remember very well a story told to me by a distinguished officer who accompanied the mission which went to see the Greeks in 1940, when there was a question of our sending a force to Greece. He was asked by the leader of the mission how many fighting troops we could send, and he replied, "It adds up to about 40,000". The response was, "Yes, but how many are we going to send in all?", to which he replied, "In all, the figures come to over 100,000" The "over 100,000" was the figure given to the Greeks. I think that much the same happened at the beginning of the last war. The number of divisions which went to France in 1940 untrained and unarmed was something which the French, at least, had not bargained for at all.
It is extremely important that we should deal realistically with these problems and, when sending a battalion should send a four-company battalion up to reasonable strength, and that very much reduced numbers such as one has sometimes on the home establishment—obviously, one must have them sometimes at home—should not be engaged in overseas operations.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the efforts he has made in recruiting and the success which he has had, and the way that it has been kept up in the Army. I know that in my own regiment one officer and four sergeants are personally engaged on recruiting. It is admirable that there should be this constant contact with the people we are trying to enlist. I am glad that we are becoming much more selective in the people we enrol. One of the best ways to get the Army across as a career is to have serving soldiers whose job it is to put it across in the most direct way to the people whom they hope to enlist.
1609 The right hon. Member for Easington referred, I thought in a rather unfriendly manner, to the so-called "Ever-readies".
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
Perhaps it was not in an unfriendly manner. However, he pointed out that, whereas my right hon. Friend's target last year was 15,000, only 4,000 or so had been enlisted. From my experience, this does not surprise me. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the great expense of this, but the expense is a bounty of £150. That may seem a considerable sum of money when placed in notes in a man's hand, and he is told to go away and spend it, but if, for that £150, he has to make himself available for service overseas, not in an emergency, which any man would face, but simply to fulfil a need, or, as at present, for training purposes, questions of a different kind are raised.
The Territorial soldier of today is married and is in a steady job. His employer is not prepared to give him the sort of freedom of action which service for that £150 bounty requires of him. We are being very careful to recruit for the "Ever-readies" only people of the best quality, trained and responsible men. They are family men in jobs. It is not easy for them to say to their employers, "I have signed as an 'Ever-ready' and I may be away at Singapore for a month". That is not the way that we work.
I think that my right hon. Friend has done quite well in getting 4,000. I am sure that these are useful and good men. He is sending some to Singapore and some to Hong Kong. I am sure that if there were more unmarried men in the Territorial Army we should have more "Ever-readies" but the fact is that most men are married today. In my youth, a man joined the Territorial Army to get away from his wife, but things are different today. Wives seem to go to camp as well.
There is one idea which I should like to commend to my right hon. Friend. I am surprised that be has not thought of it. If a bounty were offered to them, we should get a number of female "Ever-readies". We are already using members of the W.R.A.C. in many services at headquarters not only as drivers, like 1610 those good looking ones whose picture has been commented on by my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), but also in Signals and accountancy work. My right hon. Friend should consider extending the bounty to women because, in my experience, women in the Territorial Army are a good deal less tied by their families and their jobs than men. Many may have enough independence to be able to spend a month away from home without disrupting their lives. As I say, the bounty might be usefully extended in this case.
The whole philosophy of warfare is mobility. It is clear that we cannot meet every threat against us all the time. A strategic reserve is planned. We plan to have a "fire brigade" to deal with the brush fire type of war. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether he can usefully use many more helicopters in connection with the Armed Forces. I know that a helicopter squadron is going to join the armoured car establishment. I am told that they might be equally useful with an armoured regiment, the point of which is to get it to the right place at the right time. I am told that a helicopter could make an invaluable contribution in this respect. My right hon. Friend knows the economics of this very much better than I do. It is clear from our experience of war that being in the right place at the right time is what war is about.
I remember reading a book on the Franco-Prussian War, in which it was said that Field Marshal von Moltke moved about 10 army corps with eight general staff officers who had a total staff of 40 orderlies because they moved at marching pace. With the pace of modern battle, we need very much more detailed staff services, and the increased use of helicopters could make an enormous difference here.
I suppose that this is our annual inquest on the Army. We should consider what is our duty as Members of Parliament towards the Armed Forces. We must, first, tell them that they have our confidence and that the work that they are doing is infinitely worth while and is prized and valued. We must also ensure that they are adequately equipped for the job that they have to do. I know that this is a battle against the forces of economy, but it is one 1611 which we as responsible Members of Parliament must face. We cannot do the Armed Forces a worse service than to try to tell the public that we can buy security cheaply.
We cannot do a worse service than to say, "Look at the money we are wasting on defence". We cannot get these things cheaply. We have fixed on a figure of 7 per cent. of our gross national product as being an appropriate amount to spend on defence. It is a shocking illusion when people say, "Look at the fortunes we are spending on defence. Why cannot X, Y, or Z have it?". We should not lend ourselves to that argument. We must face these issues.
However gay may be our recruiting propaganda, there is no doubt that the soldier of today faces great responsibility, real danger and real discomfort, and we should be conscious of that. We must try to make the Army attractive. It is extremely unattractive at times, as the hon. Member for Dudley knows. We must make members of the Armed Forces conscious of the fact that they are doing their duty well and that they have the complete support of members of the House of Commons.
I end by quoting the second verse of Housman's "Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries", which many hon. Members will know:Their shoulders held the sky suspended; They stood, and earth's foundations stay; What God abandoned, these defended, And saved the sum of things for pay.We should bear that in mind.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. William Whitlock (Nottingham North)
I should perhaps begin with two apologies. First, what I have to say will sound rather woolly, because I feel very woolly. I fear that I have the 'flu bug and cannot shake it off whatever evasive action I take.
§ Mr. Whitlock
Secondly, I cannot range over the whole wide field as other hon. Members have done because I wish to deal with a point which is rather narrow against the background of the Estimates, but one which is important to Nottingham. The reduction of 1612 £1,600,000 in the Estimates for the Royal Ordnance Factories is an ominous reduction for Nottingham, linked as it is with the fact that 400 highly skilled men in Nottingham are shortly to be made redundant. This follows the fact that in October last year 68 skilled men were dismissed.
We hear a lot in the House of Commons and elsewhere about the fact that the Royal Ordnance Factories are a preferred source for conventional weapons, if not for what are euphemistically called sophisticated weapons. They are a preferred source for certain weapons, and it is alleged from time to time that they are a vital reserve capacity. Although this is said, however, we have redundancy hanging over us in Nottingham. The foundry, the gun forge, the drop stamp, the south shop, which is a machine and fitting shop, and the heavy erection shop have been closed. All this does not tie in with the argument that the Royal Ordnance Factories are a preferred source of supply.
A great blow was dealt to the hopes of Nottingham for further work for the factory when, on 14th November last, the Secretary of State for War announced that the contract for Trojan armoured personnel carriers was to go to private enterprise. Thus, what would have amounted to three years' work for the Royal Ordnance Factory went to private enterprise because it was alleged that the estimate of the Royal Ordnance Factory was too high compared with the estimates of private enterprise.
What Nottingham wants to know is whether the preferred source has been abandoned, because the action of the Secretary of State for War suggests that it has. Why has it been abandoned? Is it because of last year's Report of the Committee of Public Accounts? Looking through the remarks made from the Government Front Bench, I get the impression that the War Office tends to suggest that the Public Accounts Committee is constantly breathing down its neck and that for this reason it has difficulty in keeping to the preferred source policy. On 14th November, 1960, in an Adjournment debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), the Under-Secretary of State for War said:we have the Public Accounts Committee at our backs …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1960; Vol. 630, c. 172.]1613 Last year's Report of the Committee of Public Accounts urged the Royal Ordnance Factories to improve their estimating standards. In view of that suggestion, why has nothing been done about it? Why have these factories lost the armoured personnel carrier contract to private enterprise? Does not the hon. Gentleman feel rather guilty that the shadow of unemployment is hanging over 400 homes in Nottingham? Should not something have been done following the Committee's Report?
The Report of the Public Accounts Committee dealt with the conversion of armoured carriers, and the work for these carriers was put into the Royal Ordnance Factory, Nottingham, as a crash programme. It was a crash programme because the Royal Ordnance Factory was about to collapse, the reason being that £1 million worth of work had been cancelled unexpectedly within two months because of changes in defence policy by the Government. It was one of those lurches in policy to which reference has been made from this side of the Committee. Changes in policy have been extremely costly and have involved all kinds of hardship and difficulty for all manner of people and still have not provided us with an adequate defence. But for that crash programme the Royal Ordnance Factory at Nottingham would have collapsed.
The factory was obliged to carry out the orders for the conversion of the armoured carriers in circumstances wholly adverse to economic production. Those were the words of the Committee of Public Accounts. Admittedly, the estimating of the Royal Ordnance Factory for the job in question was bad, but it was also admitted by the War Office that that was exceptional and that normally the estimating is good.
The work that the Royal Ordnance Factory had to do was entirely new to it. It had no advance planning. The work was an emergency measure purely to save the factory. The costs of the contractor, on the other hand, were the result of four years of design work. He knew exactly what to do. He had months of notice and years in which to plan, whereas the Royal Ordnance Factory had the handicap that it did not have from the designer the expertise in a digestible form. This was told to the Committee of Public Accounts.
1614 My information is that the drawings for the job supplied by the contractors were not accurate for building operations. Terrific additional expense was caused because the whole set had to be rejigged. The War Office admitted that in such conditions no contractor would have been prepared even to submit an estimate. Therefore, the estimate of the Royal Ordnance Factory was considerably exceeded and the costs were greatly in excess of those of the contractor.
Again, however, the excess over the contractor's costs was highly unusual, because the War Office admitted to the Committee of Public Accounts that in more than 50 per cent. of cases the Royal Ordnance Factory is cheaper than outside industry. Nevertheless, in spite of all this, the Committee of Public Accounts urged the War Office to improve the estimating standards of the Royal Ordnance Factory and to ensure the utmost efficiency in these factories.
What has the Under-Secretary done following that Report? Has he been so frightened by the Public Accounts Committee's Report and by its strictures upon the War Office that such pressure has been brought to bear upon the Royal Ordnance Factories that they now grossly exaggerate their estimates? Has the Nottingham Royal Ordnance Factory been told that it must allow for possible unfamiliarity of work in the future? It is the Minister's factory. If it is not efficient and its estimating standards are not up to scratch, it is entirely his fault and he must bear responsibility for the fact that these 400 Nottingham people expect to be put out of work. Can he not do something to avert this tragedy? It seems so unnecessary that it should happen.
Again, the Public Accounts Committee was told on 17th April, 1962, that the R.O.F.s were on the verge of a heavy work load and that we were very short of arms capacity. Indeed, one witness said:We should be very short of capacity now for producing a certain type of gun we want to produce in very large quantities, not only for ourselves but for a foreign government. We are short of capacity now and we should have been critically short if Nottingham had not been in existence at the moment.That was said a year ago. It was said that a heavy load was coming along, yet since then 68 skilled men have been dismissed and 400 men are now declared 1615 redundant. On 26th June, the Under-Secretary of State wrote to me to say:The R.O.F., Nottingham is expected to benefit in the long term from the re-equipment of the Army".On 29th October, announcing the redundancy of the 68 skilled men he said:We have been deferring the redundancy in the expectation of the receipt of certain overseas orders. It is now clear, however, that any hope we had of these orders materialising must now be abandoned.If we absolve the War Office from blame for the failure to get the overseas orders, what about our own production? What about the guns we were told must be produced in large quantities? What about the so-called shortage of capacity? All this adds up to a most peculiar picture. All this time the Secretary of State has been putting into the R.O.F., Nottingham, a lot of odds and ends of jobs that private enterprise does not want. These small runs are bound to be extremely costly. The same amount of planning, tooling and charting is involved as in big jobs.
There are also disproportionately high overheads at the factory, because it has to bear its share of the burden of the top-heavy administration at headquarters itself. These bits and pieces of work doled out like bones to a dog are causing a great deal of loss of morale and efficiency. In Nottingham, also, we had a very good apprenticeship scheme, very elaborate and very costly. In a debate in March last year, the Under-Secretary of State said:… we are doing more than our share of training apprentices."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 1659.]That is true. But what happens to the apprentices in Nottingham when they have been trained? They are dismissed. Thus, the R.O.F., Nottingham, like many other employers—perhaps more than others—is subsidising those employers who do not do what they should be doing in the training of apprentices.
There is a variety of complaints by the factory. A repeated complaint is about errors in design contracts by outside industries, which give rise to all kinds of difficulties on the shop floor of the R.O.F., causing frustrating and costly delays and waste because manufacturing stages are usually well advanced before the errors 1616 are found. On the bomb trolley job it was found on final inspection that the stub axles made by a private firm were cracked. They had to be replaced. All this involved the R.O.F. in additional cost.
Again, there is terrific resentment that private firms are given development contraots which they later sub-contract to the R.O.F., creating difficulties because the R.O.F. is then faced with unfinished designs. It would be far quicker and cheaper if these designs were given to the R.O.F. in the first place. Why not give the factory design and prototype work in order to keep it in operation?
There is great bitterness also because jobs seem to be going to private firms which the R.O.F.s should undertake. How many of these jobs have the R.O.F.s been invited to tender for? I have a shrewd suspicion that it is not many.
Orders are also going abroad. To what extent are the R.O.F.s being deprived of work because we cannot, apparently, perfect these weapons in this country? What about the statement to the Public Accounts Committee that we are short of capacity? How does this tie in with the fact that we are reducing capacity and purchasing arms from abroad which we could produce in this country?
The Public Accounts Committee was told that the only way to avoid the expense of reserve capacity was to give that capacity up altogether. It was told that the implications of such a move on our ability to equip our Forces would be considerable. If that is so, why are we showing signs of running down the R.O.F.s to the point of disappearance? Maintaining an army is not something which brings in a profit. If it were a profitable business, the nation I feel sure would not have had thrust upon it by the predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman the burden of maintaining an Army.
The supply of arms is a different matter, however. It is a very profitable business, and if one part of the means of supply to an Army must be maintained as a vital reserve capacity, we must be prepared to pay for the fact that R.O.F.s are not working to full capacity and properly used. Proof that reserve capacity is needed as a strategic reserve is the fact that in April, 1962, the Public Accounts Committee was told by the War Office that payments are made to private 1617 enterprise to keep capacity available for arms. If we want deliberately to keep the R.O.F.s with spare capacity, why on earth is the combination of technical "know-how", skilled man-power and machines at Nottingham being deliberately broken up? People in Nottingham believe that is what is being done. If Army contracts cannot be placed there, cannot other jobs be given to this factory?
Not far from Nottingham is the National Coal Board's Research and Development Establishment, where equipment for use in the mines is perfected. Since the Board cannot then produce the machinery involved itself, it is produced by private enterprise and sold to the Board. Why cannot some of this work be put into the R.O.F.s temporarily in order to keep them as a reserve capacity?
There are 400 families in Nottingham who are waiting to see what the right hon. Gentleman will do. I am sure that if he will, he can see to it that these 400 families have the shadow taken from them. I am sure that he can, if he will, see to it that the R.O.F.s are kept in full production, and I hope that at the end of the debate he will indicate that he can.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
Some years ago, before the war, whilst I was in camp I was detailed to give a lecture to some young subalterns on signalling from brigade to regiment, regiment to squadron and squadron to troop. It happened to be a very hot, sunny day and the lecture was given in a very stuffy marquee and these young subalterns became very somnolent. At the end of my lecture I asked whether there were any questions. When nothing happened, I said that there must he some questions. Finally, one of the least somnolent of the young subalterns rose and said "What does your chap clean your boots with? He gets a damned good polish." I hope that my appeal on behalf of the Territorial Army will have more effect on my right hon. Friend than my lecture on signalling to those young subalterns had upon them.
The morale of the Territorial Army is good, but that does not mean that it is satisfied with its equipment or with Service conditions. It merely means that 1618 it contains a first-class lot of chaps who are putting up with rather more than they should. A few years ago, the chairman of the Warwickshire Territorial Association was at the War Office and the then Secretary of State informed the meeting of chairmen of Territorial Associations that the Government looked upon the Territorial Army asThe country's best insurance against the unknown.The Warwickshire chairman later saidWe have been told over and over and over again of,the vital necessity of looking upon the Regular Army and the Territorial Army as two integrated parts of the National Army, of the vital necessity of the Territorial Army being maintained always at the highest possible state of readiness in order that it may, in an emergency, instantly assume the heavy responsibilities …which would be thrust upon it.
I know that Territorial soldiers do not believe that they are as fully trained and as fully ready as they should be. Their chief complaint is about equipment. Their equipment is not good. I appreciate that an armament is obsolescent when it arrives at regimental level, and I appreciate how quickly weapons change. Nevertheless, more up to date equipment such as signalling equipment should be given to the Territorial Army. I know how soul-destroying it is to try, as the unfortunate Israelites did, to build bricks without straw. This was brought home to me in an exercise which we did during the war. We were on a firing course and we drove our tanks along with an umpire on the back. The object of the exercise was to pick up a machine-gun before the machine-gun picked up us. I remember how I suddenly spotted a yellow flag which represented the machine-gun and said, "Traverse right". We did, and then I had a tap on my tin hat from the umpire who asked, "Did you not hear that rattle? You are knocked out". It was a Cup Final rattle. It is soul-destroying to have to practise with weapons as bad as those, or, indeed, no weapons at all.
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that more money is being set aside for accommodation for the Territorial Army. We have to bear in mind that these young men go to camp from jolly nice houses and have television sets and comfort at home and, very likely, very charming wives. If they are to be 1619 put into miserable, badly-lit, damp, cold Nissen huts for their training, it is not good enough. They should be given reasonably good accommodation where they can occasionally have an open party and bring in their girl friends and wives and entertain them there. When we get these chaps in the Territorial Army, we have to make life reasonable for them.
Recruiting in Warwickshire has not been too bad. We have been recruiting about 600 or 800 men a year. It is the wastage which is alarming Last year, 1,100 men left—far various reasons—but generally speaking the older men, extremely valuable in the teaching of newcomers, went because they were fed up with the sort of training facilities with which they were provided.
Training areas are also important. I know that it is very difficult to get proper training areas, especially with modern weapons such as tanks and armoured cars for which large areas are needed, areas which it is not easy to find on the spot. But it is rather appalling that the amount of petrol, oil and lubricants which are allowed should be so small. The result is that units cannot go very far afield.
I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree that a great deal can be learned on the approach march and that much has to be done on the approach march, and that when the action is committed in many cases it lasts for only a few minutes. Signalling procedure and so on are learned on the approach march, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will see that adequate transport is available and is not cut by lack of fuel.
Training also should be more realistic. I referred earlier to what happened in a training run which I did with my tank. If we could have had some Sappers throwing thunder flashes under the tank the point of the exercise would have been brought home more easily, because the exercise would have been more realistic. The first time I came under fire was on Salisbury Plain. We were fired on by .303, which would not penetrate the tanks —I was glad about that because they were only light tanks. At least it was a very different story from using blanks. I hope that we shall be able to bring more realism into exercises by using ball ammunition.
1620 The Army cadet is a very valuable young chap. He is the right sort of chap and could teach some of the Teddy boys a very good lesson. He enters the Cadet Force with a certain enthusiasm and is a potential Regular. He does not join the Regular Army, however, simply because nothing imaginative is done to help him while he is a cadet. He may be able to fire a .303 rifle with a tube down its barrel so that it fires .22 ammunition, but I know of many examples where even firing exercises on the ranges have had to be cancelled because of lack of transport.
The year before last—conditions may have improved since then—in the whole of Worcestershire, Redditch, Kidderminster and Dudley: there were only two vehicles for all the cadet contingents which were allowed only £500 a year for maintenance and petrol. The boys were offered the chance of going on a training exercise with the British Army in Germany. They were very excited and thrilled, but the scheme was cancelled at the last minute, not because transport was not available in Germany, but because we could not get them to the ports. That sort of thing is not good enough.
The pay and allowances, particularly the allowances, of the permanent staff should be looked into. I understand that no one apart from the commanding officer is allowed to go from his home to R.H.Q. except under his own steam, and that he must make his own arrangements. If men are to give up their time to train these young boys, they should be given more consideration.
The views I have expressed are not just mine. I have a list of chairmen and secretaries of Territorial Army Associations throughout the country, and of deputy-lieutenants and so on, who have all expressed similar views. I hope that my hon. Friend will give a categorical assurance that we want the T.A. They want that assurance, but more than that they want better equipment and conditions. It is all very well to tell them that they are a wonderful lot of chaps. Let us prove it by bringing them as up to date as is humanly possible.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
My apologies are due to the Secretary of State for War for being absent during his speech. I had a rough idea of what he 1621 was going to say, because we have previously listened to his reels as they unwind and I anticipated that it was to be a continuation of the last occasion when we crossed swords, which was on 23rd November on the occasion of the debate on the Kuwait operation. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that he smart-alicked me into speaking first and that then three of the four Front Bench speakers spent their time attacking me. I have no objection to that, but, as the right hon. Gentleman probably realised, anything that he threw across on that occasion would in due time come back.
I was not surprised to learn of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals about the Gurkhas. This was in accordance with current form. The right hon. Gentleman is in difficulties about his manpower proposals. There is a feeling inside the Army that, given the situation as it exists, the Gurkhas should go. This would involve the right hon. Gentleman in difficulties with his hon. Friends behind him, so he temporises and comes forward with a solution to make a cut from 14,000 to 10,000 whilst keeping the number of battalions as before, which is in accordance with what is becoming the right hon. Gentleman's accepted policy of making the worst of all possible worlds.
The right hon. Gentleman is proud of his manpower policies. He might say that he has recruited his targets. He has almost got rid of National Service. He has got rid of conscription. The target is a different one now from that set out in the early stages of the controversy. We have had all this out before, but we are still faced with a number of problems.
We have recently come face to face with one—the problem in the Scots Guards. I listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I do not agree with him when, however provoked he may be, he uses debates in the House to attack particular officers. I think that officers, of whatever rank, should be kept out of debates in the House.
The responsibility for what happened in the Scots Guards does not rest with Colonel Duffin, with his officers, warrant officers or N.C.O.s. The responsibility rests on the Front Bench opposite. It is the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues who have to answer for what happened in this battalion of the Scots 1622 Guards. It is they who have talked about weapons and defence programmes in prestige terms.
During the defence debate the right hon. Gentleman talked in prestige terms about the necessity of having a nuclear deterrent. In those terms, what does the right hon. Gentleman think it has cost this country when a regiment of crack troops, the finest troops in the world, is shown to be guilty of acts of indiscipline bordering on mutiny? This fact has gone out to the chancellories of the world and is being assessed in the Pentagon, the Kremlin, and throughout the Commonwealth. The loss of prestige is, indeed, a very serious business.
What was the strength of this battalion? It was 370. What should its strength be? What are the figures which we have been given? Four years ago we were told by the Secretary of State for War that 635 was not enough; that 774 was to be the lower establishment. The sister battalion of the Scots Guards is in Kenya, and the pressure is on to keep it up to strength and in a near operational rôle. When the Scots Guards now in this country came back from Germany they went first to Gravesend and then to Pirbright. The battalion's strength went down to 370, and the number of men doing duty after duty, day after day, is under 200.
Consider the quality of the young men who have been recruited. They have come in as a result of what I call the right hon. Gentleman's "soda water" television policy. He is the man responsible for lowering the standards throughout the Army.
§ Mr. Wigg
The right hon. Gentleman says that he has not lowered it. Keep that for the next Tory meeting of the Defence Committee but do not tell it to me. The right hon. Gentleman must account for the fact that the wastage in the Pioneer Corps, which has the lowest standard of all, and which was nearly 50 per cent. two years ago, was 30 per cent. last year. The quality of the chaps presenting themselves has not altered all that much. The wastage rate throughout the Army is still running at an exceptionally high level. It is still, overall, nearly 20 per cent., and the right hon. Gentleman, to get his figures for political 1623 purposes, has put such pressure on recruiters that they will accept almost anything, and this resulted in the grotesque figures in the Pioneer Corps until recently.
During the defence debate I quoted the case of the Royal Engineers. Again I was much too kind and liberal. The B.B.C. was quoting the Royal Engineers as a test unit and, in a programme which was heard by millions, said that the recruit wastage rate was 10 per cent. In actual fact, on the right hon. Gentleman's figures, it was 19 per cent. And this in a regiment in which one would expect the standard to be reasonably high.
If the right hon. Gentleman says that he has not lowered standards, this is merely playing with words. The pressures have been put on to recruiters to recruit regardless of the consequences, and the price being paid is the case of indiscipline in the Scots Guards. I have formed a society for the protection of officers, warrant officers and N.C.O.s of this regiment. They are not responsible for what happened. It is the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for this case of indiscipline, just as he was responsible for the case of indiscipline in B.A.O.R. a year ago.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington was quite properly rebuked by the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) for introducing Colonel Duffin and the officers of his regiment into the argument, the Secretary of State for War nodded his head in approval. He entirely approves of that, but I say that we should not introduce officers into political arguments.
§ Mr. Profumo
I was nodding, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, because my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) rebuked the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) for saying that the relationship in the Guards between officers and other ranks was worse than in any other regiment.
§ Mr. Wigg
I take it that the right hon, Gentleman has no objection to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington bringing into the argument the question of the responsibility of officers of the Scots Guards whereas his hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South objects to it. Where does he stand on this issue?
§ Mr. Profumo
I know that the hon. Member could not be here, but perhaps he will read the speech I made. He will then see that I made a great point about the difficulties of the low establishment in the Scots Guards and said that in the circumstances great responsibility rested on the N.C.O.s and officers.
§ Mr. Wigg
I want to get this perfectly clear, because there was a controversy in which I was engaged with the War Office when the right hon. Gentleman introduced serving officers into the argument.
On the question of the Kuwait operation—I shall not go over the details—having given the right hon. Gentleman all the notice in the world, he came to the House and quoted from two letters. The first letter was from the officer commanding the 11th Hussars. It was addressed to the Under-Secretary of State for War. It struck me as a rather odd method of communication that a commanding officer of a regiment in the Rhine Army should write direct to the Under-Secretary of State for War. The first question I ask is if the regulations have been altered so that anyone in the Army can write direct to the political head of the Army, or is this done only when it suits the political book of the Secretary of State for War?
That was not the only letter. Unfortunately for the right hon. Gentleman, he got caught out on his own rules of order and had to table the letter. There was a second letter which was clearly inspired by the Director of Royal Artillery and written by an officer on Salisbury Plain, which did not seem to me to take full account of the facts. I have no objection at all to any clean, good, honest fun, but I suggest to the Secretary of State that this should be the last occasion where serving officers, or correspondence with them, however regular it may be, 1625 should be used in the House merely because it is politically convenient to do so.
Over the Kuwait operation I have had lots of correspondence, and I shall read only one letter I have received. It was written by someone who knows the Secretary of State for War well. It says:A character with unlimited charm, but as Secretary of State for War it is really hard to imagine anyone so utterly unsuited to the appointment. I should be interested to know the strings behind the scenes that pulled this one off.That was from one of his friends.
§ Mr. Wigg
No, one of his Conservative friends. I cannot throw any light on this, but my answer is not that the right hon. Gentleman is a good Secretary of State for War but that he is a first-class public relations officer. That is what he is in his handling of manpower and equipment. Take what the Committee is asked to approve on this occasion. It is an expenditure, if one breaks down the amount carried on the Defence Estimates for works, of £561 million. According to the Secretary of State for War everything in the equipment garden is all right, or if it is not all right it is very shortly going to be all right and it will not be long before the Army will have all the equipment it wants. I shall not weary the Committee by going into this in great detail, but it is possible to check the facts as given by the Secretary of State for War by the experiences of other countries.
I have a copy of a statement which was submitted by Mr. McNamara on 30th January, 1963, to the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee for the fiscal year 1964. What is surprising about this is that when one compares the information we are given with the detailed information which is made available to the American public through the House of Representatives and the Senate—and presumably to the Soviet Union—it does not matter very much in what subject one is interested, whether manpower or weapons, it is all there in detail and one can get copies. Let us see what Mr. McNamara has to say and the language he uses about equipment for Army Procurement. He says:The chronic shortages of weapons, equipment, ammunition and supplies required to 1626 support the Army's General Purposes Forces in combat have been for some time one of the most serious deficiencies in our overall defense posture, and this has been particularly true with respect to non-nuclear munitions, The prompt, but orderly, correction of this deficiency has therefore been one of our highest priority goals. Two years ago in President Kennedy's amendments to the original 1962 budget, $700 million was added for Army procurement. For the current fiscal year NC requested, and the Congress appropriated, more than $2½ billion for this purpose.Two-and-a-half billion dollars are expended by the Americans in order to bring their conventional weapons for the Army up to scratch. Here we have an estimate which is £561 million as against £523 million for last year. In the same breath we are asked to believe that everything in the garden, if not lovely at the moment, then very shortly is to become so.
Let us test a particular aspect of this problem against the facts. The Government are planning to develop TSR2. This is to operate at low level. Therefore, we have to accept the assumption that if we have a TSR2 the Russians, as potential enemies, will have a low-altitude weapon of the same quality. It seems not unreasonable that that would happen. We know on the basis of public evidence what happened in Cuba. One of the things which put the wind up the Americans was the capacity of the Russians' anti-aircraft defences to put their eyes out. It may well be one of the things which precipitated President Kennedy into taking the action he took, because against this curtain, this black-out, the Russians would be able to build up their offensive weapons.
What is the position so far as we are concerned? The Government are having to declare policy. Eighteen months ago they announced the development of P.T.428, an aerial weapon, and about a year ago it was cancelled. So we are left with the L70, the Bofors 40 mm. guns. President Kennedy's statement also referred to 40 mm. self-propelled guns, but the Americans have in operation an antiaircraft defence system called "Mauler", which is even more sophisticated and more highly developed than P.T.428. In addition, they have deployed battalions of Hawk missiles and the like which, in a way, are comparable to our Thunderbird. At the very time that the Secretary of State for War comes to the House of Commons 1627 and proclaims the efficiency of British weapons in this particular field, not only are we far behind accepted current practice both East and West of the Iron Curtain, but, for reasons best known to themselves, the Government cancel P.T.428.
Nowadays, we never hear a word about Blue Water. The hon. Member for Walsall, South, spoke of British atomic weapons. So did the Prime Minister. This was one of the Prime Minister's little gags when we had the Nassau debate. I put a Question to the Secretary of State for War on 6th February. I asked him:if he will state the atomic tactical weapons of British manufacture now in use in the British Army".The right hon. Gentleman replied:There are none Sir."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1963; Vol. 671, c. 445.]The hon. Member for Walsall, South slid out of it by saying that it is quite normal to have weapons of American manufacture. I agree that if we could own the Bofors we could have a Swedish weapon and the Carl Gustaf is in the same category. But to have foreign weapons is one thing, but for them to be controlled operatively by an ally is another. I, too, have visited the B.A.O.R. and have been to see the regiments armed with American atomic tactical weapons. It is no good telling me the story that the ownership makes no difference. That may be good enough for the Tory Party Defence Committee, but it will not do here. I have talked to American officers who control the warheads. Indeed, it would be an infringement of American law for anyone but an American officer to hold the atomic warheads. It is no good the Government denying that. We have no British atomic tactical weapons in the Army. We well know that Honest John and the 8 in. howitzer are post-Korean weapons, hopelessly out of date, with a very short range they can easily be located. The same comment applies to the Corporal, which is extremely immobile and uses liquid fuel.
The Government knew this. They intended to produce Blue Water, which is a very good weapon. What happened? They cancelled it. Where do we stand now? We are lumbered with ancient, obsolete equipment which is fit only for 1628 Steptoe and Son and certainly is no good for anyone else. It deceives no one; it would not deceive even Mr. Steptoe on its usefulness. The one weapon which we were to evolve which had some chance of success has been cancelled. Nor is that the whole story. The Americans and the Germans have entered into a contract for a supply of Pershings. Shall we get Pershings? Are our troops to get the Sergeant? Or will they be lumbered with Corporals for ever and ever?
I do not want to go over all the ground we have been over before, but I am dealing with the problem in anti-aircraft weapons. We have some more ammunition saved up for the Secretary of State for Air on Monday night when we deal with aircraft, but this in an anti-aircraft problem. This concerns atomic tactical weapons. We have the 25-pounder. It was a good weapon in its day but it ought now to be in the Imperial War Museum. We ought to have the Abbot, but we do not have it. There is no complaint because the 105 mm. happens to be an Italian weapon; it is a good weapon, produced under licence, as is the N.A.T.O. rifle. But we do not know when we shall get the Abbot replacement. And I could go on in this strain discussing weapon after weapon.
Indeed, I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that he should adopt as a slogan a few words which were used in the barrack room in my days, The lads used to say, "If we had some bacon we could have some eggs and bacon if we had some eggs." That seems to sum up the right hon. Gentleman's equipment and manpower policy As far as the Secretary of State is concerned it is jam tomorrow but, for goodness' sake, do not test the facts today.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Could the hon. Gentleman clarify where the Labour Party stands on this matter? Listening to the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) earlier, if I understood him, his argument was that we have reached the position in which we can never be a first-strike nuclear Power and we dare never be a second-strike nuclear Power. What is the problem for the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg)? It seems that the Labour Party Front Bench do not want any nuclear weapons at all. But the hon. Gentleman says that we have not enough of them.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Member does himself no good. He and I have been in the House for 17 years, and like me—and all the more credit to him—he says the things in which he believes. I do not commit my right hon. Friends or hon. Friends by what I say. I have said it always a little in advance of them, I have been consistently right, at the moment they have caught up with me, and I congratulate them. The hon and gallant Gentleman, too, in his own way is doing what I have often had to do—fighting a rearguard action to cover his party. Let he and I talk as ex-Regular soldiers, and at least we shall talk honestly.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington—I interrupted him at the point—almost accepted that this country must sit on its haunches and contemplate its navel and accept that we cannot do anything about achieving parity with other countries. I do not believe that this is true. Let us read what Mr. McNamara said on the subject. He is a good man; I wish he were English. He said:I have deliberately deferred to the last the discussion of the N.A.T.O. area. European N.A.T.O., with a population of more than one-third of a billion and a G.N.P. of well over 350 billion dollars a year, is still a principal bastion against the spread of Communism. The six Common Market nations, plus the United Kingdom, by themselves have a total population, a military manpower pool and a G.N.P. well in excess of that of the Soviet Union.That was said by Mr. McNamara only a few weeks ago to the House of Representatives. It has not been challenged, and if it is true, what is wrong with us? The one thing which is lacking is the will.
The right hon. Gentleman has been put into the War Office to talk about a G.N.P. of 7 per cent. He did it when he came back from the United States—a defence expenditure of 7 per cent., that is it, and we must not spend more. That, plus the 1957 decision of the Prime Minister to end conscription, SUMS up our defence policy. He said we must do it whatever the cost. And the right hon. Gentleman builds up a smokescreen to cover the consequences. I have the greatest sympathy with him, as I have with his hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely. Both Members are doing their political duty. What they must ask themselves, in doing their duty to the 1630 Tory Party, at the risk of suffering from schizophrenia, is what is happening to the Army? What about the men who trust the Government and who believe that they will never be asked to undertake an operation without efficient weapons, that they will never lack efficient weapons? This is our problem, and it arises not because we cannot afford the equipment, not because the Scots Guards and units like them cannot be brought up to strength, but because it is not politically convenient for the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House and the country the truth about manpower and equipment.
That is the problem, and it is not only a problem for the Secretary of State; in a year's time it will be a problem for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton.
§ Mr. Profumo
I do not think that the hon. Member heard the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). He will do worse. He will take us out of Hong Kong, out of Singapore, out of Cyprus, out of Kenya, out of Malaysia, and out of everywhere except the Knightsbridge barracks.
§ Mr. Wigg
The Secretary of State and I have had far too many battles for him to lead me astray. He must not ask me to be responsible for my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. Least of all must he ask me to be responsible for what my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington says. Let him ask me to be responsible for what I say.
§ Mr. Profumo
But the hon. Gentleman said that his hon. and learned Friend would do better than I do. Let me assure him that he will not.
§ Mr. Wigg
I do not want to enter into a competition about the two Front Bench speeches. I have already apologised for my absence from the Chamber and have explained to the right hon. Gentleman that I was on a Select Committee upstairs dealing with another problem which he had left to the Select Committee—that of the young men who want to go out of the Army because the Secretary of State has introduced selective service without telling the House that he has done so.
I said that my hon. and learned Friend cannot do worse than the present Secretary of State, and I think it most improbable that he cannot do better.
I want to deal with a subject on which my hon. and learned Friend touched and which my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington dealt with—the Ministry of Defence in relation to the War Office. This is a subject which interests me greatly. The Labour Government, in 1946, with great wisdom rejected the idea of the O.K.W., and the policy laid down in the first White Paper of the central organisation of defence was broadly right. The Prime Minister's Cmnd. 476 White Paper on the Central Organisation of Defence in July, 1958, had my support. I think that it was right. Now we go on from there.
The first point which I want to make to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee is that one of the great problems in the organisation of defence is not the intransigence, as it is commonly thought, of air chief marshals, admirals or generals. It lies in the stupidity of Members of Parliament. The first thing we refuse to do is to receive the kind of information which Mr. McNamara presents to the House of Representatives. All available information, taking into account the needs of security, is given to the American public.
There is no reason why we should not do the same. All we have to do is to amend Standing Order No. 90 to take away from the existing Estimates Committee the job which it now does inside its terms of reference extremely 1632 well and give it to a Select Committee, which would then proceed to operate, not on the basis of looking at whether the policy laid down by the House of Commons had been economically carried out, but on the basis of saying something about the policy itself after having heard evidence and after having sent for persons and papers. That gets much nearer to the American system. Unless the House of Commons is prepared to do something of this sort, we shall go on doing what we have been doing for the last week—passing very large sums of money and discussing the matter only in the most general terms and never against the established facts.
Why do we have to have accounting officers on the present basis? Why does the Permanent Under-Secretary at the War Office have to have an organisation of civilians, with the command secretaries and the finance branches at the War Office being watch-dog over the soldiers? This is because the requirements of democracy are such that the poor Secretary of State for War—here he has my sympathy—has to answer at the Dispatch Box for the actions, stupid or intelligent, of every unpaid lance-corporal throughout the Army. He also has to come here and account for every single halfpenny, but this is only in theory, never in practice, because we deny ourselves the right to put ourselves into the position where we could understand the practice.
This is the Army's great curse. The theory that the House of Commons has established over the last 300 years is that every commanding officer, no matter how gallant he is and no matter how many years he has served, is regarded as a rogue and never allowed to spend a "tosser", unless he has a receipt and it has been audited, super-audited and accounted for again and again. These are the basic facts. The private Member of Parliament demands the right to table a Question and get an Answer at forty-eight hours' notice. He demands his accounts in the form we have before us, and he gets them. He does not read them when he gets them. If he did read them, he would not understand them. I prefer the alternative of Mr. McNamara. His is the best way—real and effective control when people have made some effort to know what they are controlling.
1633 The next point I want to make illustrates the "Alice in Wonderland" nature of how the Army administers its accounting. If hon. Members who are interested look at Appendix XVIII of Queen's Regulations, they will find a list of the books, pamphlets and Army forms that units are supposed to possess. The great crime for any officer is not to know the contents of all of them. He must know every Regulation by heart, because if he fails to conform with paragraph so-and-so, or if he does something which he ought not to do as laid down by paragraph so-and-so, a brilliant military career can come to an end.
It should he noted that the watchdogs of the Permanent Under-Secretary are scattered throughout the world. In every command there is the command secretary. Any officer, never mind how exalted he is, who wants to spend a penny has to go to the command secretary. If the command secretary objects, it is out. That is not all. Superimposed upon that, the House of Commons does not even trust the Minister. I can understand that. It does not even trust the civil servants, because there is, then the Public Accounts Committee. That is the avant-garde. That is the real watch-dog. These are the boys who really control the whole show, by auditing the auditors who have audited the auditors. The Committee presents its Reports to the House of Commons.
But we have not finished with this sorry story. On the day that war is declared, on the day when years of peace have gone by during which the Army has been trained and brought up on the administration of these regulations, what happens? When war comes, all the regulations go through the window. They all go out, and the House of Commons then passes a notional sum—it could be £10 or £20—and the General Staff takes over. And we wonder why we get ourselves into a mess. This is a piece of archaic nonsense which has grown up during the last three hundred years. I have tried to understand the history and the reasons for it. There were good reasons, but those reasons have long since passed. There have been various Army reforms. Men of great wisdom and courage have tried to butt this system. Every time the system has broken them.
We are now coming to a new deal, I hope. I think, like my right hon. Friend 1634 the Member for Easington—I have spoken about this to him; he agrees with me—that there must now be one accounting officer for the three Services, if we are ever going to make sense of this. We must be careful about this. The three Ministers of the Service Departments are to be demoted, anyhow. There is to be a Minister of State for the War Office, one for the Admiralty, and one for the Air Ministry. If they have three accounting officers, their Permanent Under-Secretaries will be on the same level in terms of influence as them.
Ministers come and they go. The Prime Minister comes and he goes. The Minister of Defence comes and goes pretty often. The Chiefs of Staff come and go. But there is one man who goes on for ever, and that is Sir Solly Zuckerman, the Chief Scientific Officer to the Ministry of Defence. Scientists sometimes have a touch of arrogance about them and perhaps they might be wrong. It may well be that Sir Solly or his successors will always be right; but if there is continuity only through that one person and he is one step above the boys who control the purse strings, what happens if Sir Solly or a successor happens to be wrong? I will tell hon. Members when it will be found that he is wrong—when we hear the hobnail boots of the occupying forces marching up Whitehall. Then it will be too late.
In fact, this must be fought out in terms of the balancing of responsibility and power. I will tell the Committee what I would have striven for and what I believe the Prime Minister would have striven for if he were five years younger. This is one of the things that troubles me. I say honestly and sincerely that I am a great admirer of the Prime Minister and the great service that he has given to this country. He was a very good Minister of Defence. He has a very good and very gallant war record. I do not believe that five years ago he would have gone for this particular exercise without trying to associate my right hon. Friends with him. This is what I mean when I try to elevate defence, whether it is in terms of security problems, such as the Vassall Tribunal, or whatever it happens to be, above party.
I always try as hard as I can within my capacity to speak for myself and to elevate the problem above the party 1635 battle. I do so simply because the lifetime of modern weapons, from the moment that they are conceived to the time that they become operational many years ahead, is well beyond the lifetime of a Parliament. This is what I tell my hon. Friends. The day they occupy the Government benches all they will be doing is bearing the responsibility. It will be many years, however able and wise they may be, before they will be able to put right what has happened in the last ten years.
I would have liked the Prime Minister to have been present today as an act of duty to the State far beyond the interests of the Tory Party or any controversy with the Labour Party. I would have liked him to have submitted his problem of defence organisation to a Select Committee, or whatever other piece of machinery he might have in mind, so that we could have looked all around the wicket and have arrived at an agreed solution. If mistakes are made the consequences are far all of us to bear and not one political party.
I hope it is not too late. The Secretary of State and I have our little wars. Sometimes I come up and sometimes he comes up, but despite all this I know that he must be worried about this problem. I think that the Army has had a very raw deal, not just since the present Secretary of State has held office. The raw deal is implicit in the situation.
One of the long drawn out arguments affecting the Army has concerned its position in relation to the nuclear deterrent and the question of where the money should go; should it be spent here or there and what should it buy? It has meant that the Army has been run down in terms of equipment, and it seems that now the first halting steps have been taken to put things right. However, let me utter a word of warning to my hon. and right hon. Friends. I sometimes consider some of the things that have happened to the Army in the last six months or so and ask myself what would have happened had the same circumstances arisen and the same things been done had there been a Labour administration. Would the B.B.C., that noble liberal organisation, have been as benign as "Panorama" has been to this Government?
§ Mr. Wigg
With respect, Mr. Arbuthnot, I understood—I am probably wrong—that since all sorts of subjects were raised by previous speakers I would be permitted to comment on them and would not be the first one to be out of order. However, it seems as though my luck has run out. I also thought that it was part of our custom that at this stage of the debate hon. Members could range quite widely.
§ Mr. Wigg
I do not understand what "that" means. However, I will try again and endeavour to remain in order. I am making the point that what has happened to the Government in the last six months over defence generally has been of such a character that had it happened to a Labour Government I am sure that it would have had the most profound and unfortunate results. It is for these reasons —for severe practical reasons—that my hon. Friends should try to keep the longterm defence problem always fairly and squarely focussed. As I have urged in the past, our approach should be as objective as we can get it, not only in our own interests, but in the long-term interests of the Army and the country as a whole.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Clive Bossom (Leominster)
Even if I were a field marshal I would not endeavour to joust with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), because one would have to be a professor in mathematics as well to win an agrument with him. Nevertheless, I wish to take him to task on a few points that he made.
The hon. Member made a slightly unfair case about the Scots Guards battalion at Pirbright. I was in Kenya a few months ago and while there I saw the other battalion, which is under an outstanding commanding officer. The morale of that entire battalion was extremely high. The case mentioned by the hon. Member for Dudley was an exceptional and unfortunate single case and not typical of what goes on in the Brigade of Guards. I may add that I was not 1637 a guardsman, although I had a brother in the Coldstream Guards.
I always consider it a shame that hon. Members opposite should continually be belittling British weapons. The TSR2 was mentioned. I was at Weybridge the other day and saw this plane. For security reasons I could not give its speed, height and range but I can assure the Committee that the TSR2 is the most advanced plane in the world and that it will be flying by the beginning of next year.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I he discussion is getting a little away from the Army Estimates and Vote A.
§ Mr. Bossom
I will return to the Army Estimates and, in doing so, I wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War on the four decisions which he announced this afternoon. Last November, I advocated that my right hon. Friend should consider allowing the bodies of deceased Service men to be brought home from Germany or to allow two relatives to attend the funeral at public expense. I am extremely pleased that he has taken this right and humane step. I hope that he will continue to study the problem of those who die in the Middle East, or the Far East. I fully realise that a body out there has to be buried within 24 hours, but, where possible, could not a soldier's body be cremated and the ashes returned to the next-of-kin if they so desired?
The next decision which my right hon. Friend made was about the Gurkha Brigade. All those who know and admire the Gurkhas would welcome the new proposal to retain eight battalions. Not only are they all magnificent soldiers, but they like soldiering. I hope that the new plans will now be fully explained to the villages in Nepal where these men are recruited so as to dispel all the rumours which have been circulating during the past few months.
A third decision which my right Friend announced was about the lowering of the age of posting soldiers overseas. I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Easing ton (Mr. Shinwell) that 17½years is too young an age for a 1638 soldier to go overseas. I take the view, which I mentioned in last year's debate on the Army Estimates, that I hope my right hon. Friend will look at the possibility of bringing down the age of joining the Army to l64½ years. I know that these young men can join the excellent junior leader regiments and also boy units, but that is not quite the same thing as joining the Regular Army.
I also consider that the 10 weeks' training course on joining is not long enough. I should like to see a course of six on nine months' training before a man joins his unit. I even suggested last year that my right hon. Friend might be able to arrange a special Army class in secondary, technical and grammar schools. The main reason why the Army is losing mustard-keen potential recruits is that on leaving school these lads want to join immediately, and once they take up employment in industry it is usually difficult to induce them to come out at 17½ years to join the Army. I should like my right hon. Friend to study this problem further, because I am sure that the Army is losing keen young technicians—to-be.
My right hon. Friend's fourth decision was to have the German language taught to our troops stationed in B.A.O.R. I am certain that this is one of the best methods of breaking down the local friction which has occurred one or twice in the past and that it would be of immense benefit to some men when they return to "civvy street" to seek a job that they should have a knowledge of a foreign language.
Now I should like to put forward one suggestion which, I feel, would be beneficial to the efficiency of the Army and, at the same time, would save money. I have lately completed a tour of the Middle East Command, and I myself served in the Far East. I feel that the time has come to formulate a new policy on the question of families accompanying units. The Army is quite right in not accepting married recruits except in very exceptional circumstances, because today the blunt end of the Army is fast becoming too much of a Welfare State while the sharp end is becoming less and less sharp.
Mobility and flexibility are key words in our modern all-Regular Army, according to the White Paper. Granted 1639 that the Strategic Reserve can move from this country at very short notice, nevertheless I feel that for some parts of the world this is not quite quick enough. The majority of the commanding officers to whom I spoke in the Middle East would prefer to have their regiments unaccompanied and posted to certain bases for a one-year tour of duty, as is the case now with the Parachute Regiment. There are many advantages in this. It means far better training and better mobility and far less expense for the taxpayer.
It would be interesting if the Secretary of State could give approximate figures of the cost of transporting and keeping a family with two or three children in a station in the Middle or Far East for two years. I am sure that it would be a staggering sum. It would be far cheaper it there were one short home leave by air trooping during a man's one-year overseas tour.
Another point is that in countries where there is political tension the present arrangements give potential troublemakers an opportunity to make wild claims and attempt to grab Army schools and married quarters for their own people.
The bases that I have in mind for this one-year tour unaccompanied would be Little Aden and Bahrein, as both these are excellent springboards to anywhere in South-West Asia. Then there is the new Kahawa base, near Nairobi, where we must prepare for trouble in the North Frontier district. I also hope that after independence in Kenya there will be a very slow run-down of our troops there if we hope to keep the confidence of the people of Kenya, both Europeans and Africans.
Then there is Singapore, where our troops could be acclimatised, ready to go off to Borneo or anywhere else in that area. I feel that the Russians, having pulled out of Cuba and the Caribbean Sea, will from now onwards concentrate their activities around the Java Sea from bases in Indonesia. I want to make it quite clear that I am not suggesting that there should be this one-year tour unaccompanied in all overseas bases, especially Hong Kong and Cyprus, where they have a different internal security rôle to perform. I feel, 1640 however, that there is a strong case for the four bases I have mentioned.
I should like to say a word about the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) who, unfortunately, is not at present in the Chamber. His speech about Hong Kong will, I feel, cause alarm and despondency out there. What is the policy of the Labour Party on this? Would it pull out all our forces and commitments in the Far East? I was stationed in Hong Kong for nearly two years. I have returned there twice since, and I maintain that it is vital to keep our troops out there. Do not let us forget that the Hong Kong Government pay towards keeping our troops in Hong Kong and in the New Territories and that, above all, it costs the British taxpayer literally nothing. I think that it would be a very foolish and dangerous move if we suddenly pulled out all our commitments in the Far East.
I want to return to this scheme of the one-year tour, because I think that it will only work if families who are left in England are properly housed and the children properly schooled. Schooling is especially important, because I found in the Middle East, when I went round talking to Army families, that their main concern today was the education of their children. I would add that the schools out there were, on the whole, exceedingly good, as were the teachers, but the standard is not always as high as at home and continual changing schools is bound to unsettle children.
The question of married quarters will be a most difficult problem to solve, as there is still a shortage in the United Kingdom. But to get this scheme launched, could not more caravans be used, as they have been so successfully used in B.A.O.R. over the past two years? In the near future the new Minister of Public Building and Works will be providing more quarters, "pre-fabs" and flats. Where possible, these quarters should be sited near a regimental depot which could continue to look after the welfare of the families which have been left behind.
Before I sit down I do want to congratulate the Secretary of State on his most successful and energetic recruiting drive. Only a year ago, far too many 1641 hon. Members on both sides were insisting that he would never reach his target. He has done so, and I am sure that this scheme of a one-year tour, unaccompanied, would not slow down or harm his recruiting drive. The Army can attract young men if it continues to give them an interesting and exciting life, with good pay and good conditions.
As I said before, unless we take care the blunt end of the Army will become too blunt, and the sharp end less and less sharp. If we are to keep a battalion mobile and flexible, we must be able literally to pick it up and transport it anywhere at very short notice. There are parts of the world where that would be difficult, and we cannot always rely on sending out our Strategic Reserve from this country. I do not think that this mobility will always be possible in some overseas bases if families have to be considered, so I hope the Secretary of State will think about this scheme, which, I am sure, will have the backing of commanding officers overseas.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I hope that the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom) will excuse me if I do not follow his remarks, because I want to confine myself practically to two main points. There is, first, the general equipment of the British forces. There is a widespread belief that all the young generation think of is income, status, and general employment conditions in the Army, in industry, in commerce, and elsewhere. That is not entirely true.
I have been at some pains to get views, and the greatest factor of frustration in all sorts of institutions—and I have found this in men who have come out of the forces—is a consciousness of not having the appropriate modern equipment for the job they are supposed to do. That has been true in industry all my life so far. In an industrial plant, there is nothing more frustrating for either skilled men or operatives than to know that their equipment is out of date, and inferior to that of their competitors. I am sorry to have to say this, but all the evidence goes to prove it.
The Defence White Paper lists the armaments for the British forces. The equipment is Italian, Swedish and American. There is some British equip- 1642 ment, but not much. Some is to be manufactured in this country under licence, and there are tanks and armoured personnel vehicles, or something like that —I do not know what they are called; I am not a soldier—but there is in use in the British Army a great deal of non-British equipment.
Every soldier can read, and during the last six years we have had from time to time reports in the Press of the British Government negotiating with the German Government to help us with our balance-of-payments problem by buying British equipment, yet any soldier can see a cartoon in a British national newspaper of a British soldier in an Italian suit—though he wears good Northampton boots—equipped with an Italian rifle, something else made in Sweden, and some other foreign-made equipment on his back. Everyone must have seen that cartoon.
That sort of thing is frustrating. It is amazing that in 1963, this great industrial country, the first fully-industrialised nation in the world, should be seemingly dependent on a wide range of fighting equipment from Sweden, Belgium, the United States and Italy. It is true, of course, that a good deal of equipment is made in Britain, but I am speaking of the actual things which the soldiers use which are of foreign manufacture.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) raised a matter which I had in mind in connection with equipment. He quoted Mr. McNamara. It is true that the gross national product and manpower potential of Western Europe, the Six and ourselves, is superior to that of the Soviet Union. I believe that the potential of Western Europe to continue manufacture in conditions of war is equal, if not superior, to that of most industrial nations of the world. We remember what happened during the last war. American engineers with whom I worked on the development of certain parts of our war equipment in 1942 and 1943 marvelled at the way we kept our industrial processes going to equip our armies and theirs as well.
We have the capacity, but Northern Europe is now a vulnerable industrial point. Our industries in this country, concentrated as they are in the South and the Midlands, could easily be knocked out. It could be done with high explosive, 1643 without nuclear bombs being used. The vulnerability of our manufacturing processes is probably greater now than it has ever been. It is no use trying to run an Army from one manufacturing point alone. One must have a broad industrial base.
During the last war, I was chairman of a production committee, and I remember the job we had in persuading people to realise, when they grumbled about six separate factories all having to tool up for jerry cans, that, although we hoped that only one set of tools would be needed, one had to take into account the possibility that there might be a fortnight of night raiding and five of the factories would be knocked out. If not enough factories were tooled up for the job, we should have to start all over again and the Army would have no petrol cans. To keep a modern Army supplied it is necessary today more than at any time in the past to have the number of one's manufacturing sources multiplied many times. The potential must be there to sustain the troops in action.
What have we done during the last five years? The Government switched their policy from conventional to nuclear weapons. There has been a run-down of our capacity to equip our troops with conventional weapons. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Whitlock) spoke about the run-down of the Royal Ordnance Factory in Nottingham. The Royal Ordnance Factory at Dalmuir, in East Dunbarton, was disposed of to Babcock and Wilcox. It used to manufacture tanks. If it had still been there, and available for manufacturing, the Belgian rifle, now being used by British troops, and the Swedish gun, the Carl Gustaf, could have been made in Dalmuir. We must have an industrial base behind the Army to keep it equipped. This is patently obvious.
Where are the factories supplying equipment to the Army today? Probably most of them are between Stoke and London. They are in what is called "the coffin". We have lost all the factories manufacturing this type of equipment in Scotland. They have been taken away. The torpedo factory and the Royal Ordnance factory have gone. There is no ordnance manufacture in Scotland today.
1644 We should have a widely dispersed manufacturing base in this vulnerable island. These factories in Scotland and elsewhere should not have been closed down. Factories of this sort should not be concentrated into what is called "the coffin" between Wolverhampton, Stoke and the London area. This is a grave mistake on the part of the Government. I hope that there will be a reversal of the Government's policy in taking this industrial base out of Scotland and bringing it down South.
We have been told about the general-purpose machine gun, of which an initial purchase has been made from Belgium pending a first delivery from British manufacture. We have not delivered it yet. Cannot this weapon be manufactured in Scotland? There is a huge factory empty in Glasgow which used to be the locomotive works. We have factory space galore in Scotland where this Belgian machine gun could be manufactured. I could ask for it to be manufactured in my constituency, but perhaps Inverness, or Fort William, which are ideal places for the manufacture of weapons like this, could do with it. They are well out of the concentrated area and are less vulnerable than factories in the South. This is an opportunity for the Government to help Scotland.
I presume that the Swedish and Italian weapons will be manufactured in this country under licence. There is no difficulty about that. I remember helping, in 1939–40, to tool the Bren gun, which was a Czechoslovak gun. The drawings which came here were in the metric system and we had to turn them over to our system.
Let us have the best guns possible. Let us create the industrial base to enable us to produce them in Britain. We have the opportunity to make these guns and armaments for the Army. Let them be manufactured in areas where there is a shortage of work and where skilled labour and resources are available. Such a place is Scotland. I speak mainly for Scotland because I represent a Scottish constituency.
In the Estimates Committee, I ascertained that many of the increases in the Estimates for the Army and the other Services were due to the fact that manufacturers of supplies for the Navy, Army and Air Force with a bit of slack in their business were able to push their 1645 contracts forward a bit and make deliveries faster than they had done in the past because they were not so busy. I admit that we were examining the Supplementary Estimates for the Navy, but the same thing applies to the Army.
Many industrial plants do not only manufacture equipment for the War Office; they manufacture a multitude of products. The Government often find it more economic to place an order for military equipment with an industrial institution which manufactures for the domestic market because the two can be worked together and economies can be made. I have worked in a factory which made many things for the War Office. We manufactured other things and we took it all in our stride because it fitted in with our own commercial production.
The Fourth Report of the Estimates Committee, Sub-Committee G, brings out clearly that if an industrial organisation providing equipment for the forces can get a regular order and maintain an even delivery, this helps not only the costs of production for the forces, but all the other costs of the organisation, because the capital is kept employed and many other things can be produced within the plant, thereby spreading the cost level over a wider area, thus benefiting economic production.
We are turning over to an increase in conventional equipment for our forces. That is the direction in which we are moving as a result of the Government's decision, with which I agree, and after the large number of Ministers of Defence that we have had over the past ten years. This is the right technique for Britain. This presents an opportunity to redress some of the balance of distribution of our industrial base.
Those of us who were in engineering when war broke out in 1939 remember the scramble and the rushing up of shadow factories in the centre of Wales. I remember one at Newtown. A search was made for skilled men to go there. I remember factories being knocked down and then scrounging around for factory space. There was a frightful chaos from 1939 to 1941.
Having learned the lesson then, we should ensure that the industrial base is widened. We have a glorious opportunity now that we have never had before. We have the knowledge of managing 1646 our economy. We are moving more and more towards the planning of the economy. The community accepts a greater measure of planning and distribution of industry. The climate for this sort of thing is much better today than it was thirty years ago.
If we believe in full employment and we keep our industry at full stretch in the crowded southern part of these islands, in an emergency it will be impossible to get the extra that is necessary out of our industrial base if it is concentrated down here in an area which has been described as one of over-full employment while capacity in the North is, not lying idle, but being taken away. That is the problem.
If the capital resources in Scotland and the North-East remain and are available, and the teams of skilled workers remain, so that in an emergency the work could be done in those parts, there might be an argument for keeping that pool of resources, although I would not agree with that. It is quite wrong to do it. That, however, is not what happens. What happens is that the resources are stripped and the men get out. We are losing 25,000 men a year by migration from Scotland. When they go, out go the capital equipment and the resources which are essential for providing the equipment for our forces.
I hope that the Secretary of State will take notice of what I have said and that Scotland will get a far bigger share of the manufacturing and supplying process for uniforms, for ammunition and for equipment for the forces. Scotland has 136,000 unemployed. We have available about three Royal Ordnance factories. We have dockyard facilities galore. We have all these resources. Do not let us have any more drift to the South. Give us some orders for the Army, and the Army will be proud of what Scottish engineers will provide for it.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Forbes Hendry (Aberdeenshire, West)
The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire. East (Mr. Bence) has spoken about the Army and Scotland from the industrial point of view. I want to revert to that theme later, but, first, I join in the congratulations to the Secretary of State on the great success of his recruiting campaign. Some of us have watched that campaign with very great interest over the 1647 past year, and I was glad to get from him an answer some months ago agreeing to make the Highland regiments a corps d'élite. The success of that decision was such that he has had to stop recruiting for them, but I believe that that was a mistake.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that one of the reasons that the Secretary of State had to stop the recruiting was that he reduced the number of Highland regiments from six to four, which had the effect of too many men chasing too few regiments?
§ Mr. Hendry
I agree, and I shall deal with that a little later.
At any rate, very unfortunately, my right hon. Friend had to stop recruiting for these regiments, while, at the same time, he is not getting sufficient numbers for other brigades and regiments in the United Kingdom. I agree that the policy of making it difficult to get into the Highland regiments was right, but I am certain that he could still have recruited to them a great number of men of high quality who would hesitate to join any other regiment.
For that reason, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) that it was a great tragedy that the number of Highland regiments was reduced. However, I wish to deal with one or two other matters before I come back to that subject.
The Secretary of State mentioned that infantry brigades vary in size very much, and for that reason I ask him to think seriously about introducing a greater degree of flexibility in the Army or increasing the number of brigades or the number of battalions in them in a new way so as to find a place for another Highland regiment or another battalion within the Highland Brigade. Expansion of the corps d'élite would be extremely valuable for the Army as a whole and deserves thought.
Scotland has made a very great contribution to the Army in recruiting. The Scots are, by and large, a warlike people. That has been well understood by the Secretary of State, who has made the very best use of this knowledge in recruiting. Whether the romantic aura of Scottish regiments has brought in a lot of English- 1648 men, I do not know. However, his interest in Scotland seems to stop at that point. It seems to me that if he used more imagination he could make much better use of Scotland and its manpower. It is a traditional source of very high-quality men. Yet he has no proper shop window there, nor does he use any romantic appeal to young men to join the Army.
Whether we like it or not, there is a good deal of unemployment in parts of Scotland which ought to be a ready source of recruiting. Recruiting in Scotland on a much higher scale might help Scotland to deal with its surplus young men, but joining the Army must be made attractive to them.
I suggest that my right hon. Friend takes a look at what the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force have done in Scotland. The Royal Navy has done extremely good work. It has an excellent air station at Lossiemouth, which is well-known throughout Scotland, and young men who see what goes on there are full of admiration for the Royal Navy. I am certain that that has paid dividends to the Navy. I was present at Rosyth Dockyard on Navy Day last year when the crowd of people seeing what the Royal Navy was doing was almost beyond belief. The Royal Navy also reaps benefit from that. In the same way, the Royal Air Force has stations at Kinross and Leuchars and other places. These are spectacular places and young men are attracted by the idea of entering the Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force correspondingly gets the advantage.
But we get a different picture of the Army in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) made an appeal on behalf of the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army is the Army's best recruiting centre, because it appeals to the young man who is militarily-minded. If he joins the Territorial Army and is bitten by the bug, he often becomes a recruit for the Regular Army.
But what is now happening in the Territorial Army is nothing short of disgraceful. It is almost impossible for any major territorial unit in Scotland to go to camp in Scotland except at Barry. I have known Barry Camp since 1935, when I was first commissioned in the Territorial Army, and it is exactly the same today as it was in 1935, and goodness knows how long before that.
1649 My right hon. Friend knows the camp very well, because he inspected it last year or the year before. I understand that he was very critical of the camp's latrines and that the unit at Barry Camp at the time promised that if he would install decent latrines at the camp they would call them "Profumos" in gratitude. The "Profumos" are still not there. What are there are old-fashioned latrines which have been there for about fifty years and which are not "Profumos", but profumato. A comparatively small amount of money might be spent on making Scotland's only Territorial Army standing camp attractive. If a young man went there for his fortnight's training, he would get a good impression of the Army if it were improved and there would be the chance of his becoming a recruit for the Regular Army. Scottish units have to camp in England if they do not go to Barry.
The position of the Regular Army in Scotland is almost as bad. Halt the success of recruiting into the Regular Army was the idea of having a romantic depot fairly close at hand. That has had to go and Highland depots are now to be concentrated in Aberdeen. We have to get something to take the place of the depots and I suggest that my right hon. Friend seriously considers building barracks in Scotland for Regular units so that Scottish young men thinking about the Army can see the Army in operation in Scotland.
I am not sure what the order of battle in Scotland is, but I believe that only one battalion of the Regular Army is stationed in Scotland, in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a desirable place, but it is not necessarily the best place for training a major unit of the British Army, and I ask my right hon. Friend to look further north to the north-east corner of Scotland where many Scotsmen have happy memories of having engaged in large-scale training during the war.
I suggest that a large part of our Strategic Reserve, now stationed in this country, could be transferred from the south of England, where there is not much room for it anyway, to the north of Scotland, where there are great possibilities for accommodating it. Barrack sites are already there in plenty and there are training areas which are far better than anything in the south of England.
1650 I have seen as much of Salisbury Plain as any other Territorial Army officer, and I do not think much of it. As an infantry training area it is rotten, because in parts there is not a blade of grass behind which one can conceal oneself. If one goes there for artillery training, it is not particularly good, either. If my right hon. Friend wants to see good country for all sorts of military training —tanks, artillery, infantry, and everything else—I would be only too happy to take him to the north-east of Scotland and show him the ground over which I trained for about two years during the war, and where the Highland Division received the excellent training which equipped it to distinguish itself in the desert at a later stage.
§ Mr. Hendry
With due deference to the hon. Gentleman, that is absolute nonsense. Any compensation for grouse shooting or anything like that would be negligible compared with the vast amount of compensation paid in the south of England, where whole villages have been wiped off the map.
I suggest that a large part of the Strategic Reserve ought to be moved to the north-east of Scotland. I am likely to be told that it must be kept in the south of England because of the availability here of air stations for movement overseas at short notice, and so on. That cuts no ice, because in the north of Scotland we have everything of that sort which is required. I have mentioned the Royal Naval Air Station at Lossiemouth. There is a Royal Air Force station at Kinross, a mile or so away, and a civilian airport at Dyce. There is a complete set up for air transport.
For transport by sea, no part of the United Kingdom is better provided with ports than we are. When the Highland Division was mobilised, during the war, we were concentrated in the south of England. When we moved out of the country, we did not leave from a port in the South, but went back to Scotland and sailed out of the Clyde.
1651 We have all the facilities that are necessary. We have air stations, and we could at the moment's notice make available those air stations which were used during the war. The railways in our area are in danger of being closed. The Army could save them, and I think that this would be to the advantage of the Army as well as to Scotland.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)
What the hon. Gentleman said will be welcomed in Wiltshire, where large parts of our county are occupied by the military. We have had villages destroyed by the War Department, and we would be only too thankful to see the hon. Gentleman's advice followed. I hope that he will get all the support his excellent case merits in removing these installations from our county.
§ Mr. Hendry
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support, which was most unexpected.
The Army seems to do everything it can to blacken its reputation in Scotland. I mention the Records Office, in Perth. This has been a military centre for at least 200 years. The Black Watch depot has gone, and now the only real military installation in Perth is the Records Office. This is now to be transferred to York. I cannot understand why the half of the Records Office which is in York cannot be moved to Perth.
I suggest that the Army, like the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, has a duty to co-operate with other Government Departments and make sure that a certain amount of help is given to those parts of Britain which most need it. Scotland has been a very good friend to the Army, and I think that the Army might now give a great deal of thought to co-operating with the people of Scotland, who have served them so well in the past.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I hope the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his argument, except to say that if he wants to carry out his plans I hope he will ask the Secretary of State to watch Dr. Beeching with great care.
I want to raise one point as briefly as I can. It is the Army's doctrine about 1652 the use of what are called "tactical" nuclear weapons in operations in the field. My interest in this arose from some correspondence I had with the Secretary of State some time ago, but it is no less highly topical today. There was an exercise which all hon. Members will remember called "Spearpoint" in the north of Germany. It was the largest exercise for seven years, with 33,000 troops taking part. It began as an exercise in nuclear war in an area, according to the first Press release, comprising 4,500 sq. miles. The Press release said that the exercise was staged between two forces, each of divisional strength, and consisted of a rapid advance and attempted river crossings by Redland forces and the defence of those obstacles by Blueland forces. The conventional phase lasted about three days, and then both the Redland and Blue-land forces resorted to nuclear strikes. I read the report given by the Guardian about what then occurred. It said:For the first time the B.A.O.R. units with tactical nuclear weapons were deployed under virtually operational conditions. The manoeuvre entered its nuclear phase on Thursday, This led to rapidly developing military chaos, to use General Jones's term…He was the officer in charge—and he ordered a ceasefire because the type of operation developing was outside the scope of the exercise.When it was over, General Jones gave a final briefing to the Press. He used language which appeared to be ambiguous to a number of correspondents who heard it. The Guardian representative, whom I quoted, went on to say when quoting General Jones:The nuclear situation which developed is not at all related to real life!… If we had really been shooting off these nuclear things the effect would have been very greater than the umpires judged.The Times correspondent gave a different version of what General Jones had said. He reported:At his final briefing General Jones said that the nuclear situation in the manoeuvres had not been related to real life. In real life, he said, many more nuclear strikes would have taken place. As there were 16 strikes on the last day of the exercise and enough throughout the last three days to produce considerable fall-out in the battle area, it is clear that the British Army of the Rhine is thinking in terms of a lavish exchange of tactical nuclear missiles.I was struck by the fact that the Guardian correspondent said that in 1653 General Jones' view the nuclear weapons used would have produced a much greater effect than the umpires allowed and The Times reported that if it had been real war many more nuclear weapons would have been used. Troubled by this divergence, I wrote to the Secretary of State to ask him if he would let me know what General Jones had actually said and how he explained the total chaos which so rapidly developed when the nuclear strikes were made. The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to send me the verbatim record of the Press conference, and these are General Jones' words. He is talking of the difficulty of arranging to have as many umpires as one wants for the nuclear strikes one desires to make and he said that he did not have enough helicopters. He said:To start with, it is not possible for a comparatively junior officer who may be in charge of the Umpires at any point to imagine what the effect might be if a nuclear missile of 10, 20 or 30 or 50 KT was discharged above a certain point. I couldn't imagine it because I haven't seen it. I'll bet there aren't more than five, two—how many people in this room have seen a nuclear burst of this size? How many? One? One! And so it's almost impossible to imagine what the effects might be. And so the umpiring problem is impossible.He went on to say that the results had no relation to real war.
I ask the Committee to consider the full significance of what the General said. I was at the Air Ministry not long after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. While I was there, the Ministry sent a mission to Hiroshima to find out what really happened and what the lessons might be for us. The mission reported that it was difficult to estimate with certainty what the casualties had been, but it accepted as roughly accurate a figure of 70,000 dead. The members of the mission thought that a similar bomb dropped on the average British town would kill 50,000, and they added, as a private and very tentative estimate which they gave to me, a calculation that the military resistance of this country could be broken by a number of Hiroshima bombs which might be as few as 30 and need not be at most more than 120.
Last December I went to Hiroshima. I had long conversations about the bomb with the governor of the prefecture, with the mayor of the city, with the scientists and medical men who have spent their 1654 lives since 1945 working on the results to which the bomb has led. They told me that all the earlier estimates of casualties, including their own, had been far too low. The number dead, they said, had been at least 240,000, and perhaps another 100,000 had been wounded, blinded, burned, afflicted by radioactive sickness which had damaged them in various ways. The firestorm which had followed the explosion of the bomb had virtually destroyed the whole of a city of 400,000 souls.
I recall these facts because General Jones said that his tactical weapons were of an explosive power of 10, 20, 30, 50 kilotons. The smallest he mentioned was 10 kilotons, and that is half the power of the Hiroshima bomb. The 50 kiloton weapon was two-and-a-half times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. I venture the view that the true lesson of Spearpoint was that these tactical nuclear weapons could not be used in a land battle without causing utter disaster to the troops who used them. That view was expressed by President Eisenhower's Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Isidor Rabi, in 1958. He said that the use of the word "tactical" was catastrophically misleading, that none of the nuclear weapons could be used in land campaigns in populated countries and that, if used at all, it would be in the desert or far out at sea. I think that that view was supported by the article written some months after Spearpoint, some months ago, by the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Defence, Sir Solly Zuckerman. The article earned Sir Solly much opprobrium in Whitehall and not least, I believe, in the War Office. I consider that by writing it he rendered a great service to the nation, and indeed to the world at large. I will read his words. Speaking of this exercise, he said:In a war game involving just three N.A.T.O. Corps, nuclear weapons were 'used' against military targets only, in an area of 10,000 square miles"—The operations were pushed outside the area originally designed—which contained no large towns or cities. In this 'battle', lasting only a few days, it was assumed that the two sides together used a total of between 20 and 25 megatons and not fewer than 500 and not more than 1,000 strikes. It turned out that 3½ million people would have had their homes destroyed if the weapons were air burst, and 1½ million 1655 if ground burst. In the former case, at least half the people concerned would have been fatally or seriously injured. In the case of ground burst weapons, all 1½ million people would have been exposed to a lethal radiological hazard and a further S million to serious danger from radiation.Since Spearpoint a good many other Army exercises have been held. I asked the Secretary of State a Question about them four weeks ago. He replied in this way:Exercises were carried out by every unit in the British Army in 1962. Among these there were eight Brigade Group exercises in which the use of nuclear weapons was assumed. The result was to familiarise commanders and troops with the offensive and defensive tactics best suited to the use of their weapons and to give them experience of the operational and logistic problems with which they might be faced in war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1963; Vol. 672, c. 20.]I hope that the Secretary of State will give us a White Paper with a full and candid analysis of the use of these, nuclear weapons in the eight exercises to which he referred. I hope that he will tell us what numbers of weapons were used, what was their explosive power, what were the results on the troops, our own as well as the enemy's, and on the civilian population of the area concerned. I hope that he will cover the points raised by Sir Solly Zuckerman in the article I quoted.
I regard the policy of the Government about the use of tactical nuclear weapons as by far the most important question which the War Office has to face today. It was in 1954 that the first decision was made by the N.A.T.O. Council to rely, in land defence against a Russian attack, on nuclear weapons. That was nearly ten years ago. For most of that time one man has had a great burden of responsibility for the decision to use these weapons if any emergency should suddenly arise. That man was General Norstad. Not long ago, while he was still in command of the N.A.T.O. forces, General Norstad said this:I do not agree with those people who say that you can control the size of this fire neatly, cold-bloodedly, once it starts. I think that it is the most dangerous, disastrous thing in the world. I think you must prevent the thing from starting in the first place, because when it starts in a critical area, such as the N.A.T.O, area, it is more likely than not, in my opinion, to explode into the whole thing, whether we like it, or the Russians like it, or anybody likes it.1656 I hope, remembering General Norstad's words, that the Secretary of State will give us a clear, intelligible doctrine about how the Army plans to use its nuclear weapons and what it estimates the military and the social results would be.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison (Eye)
The last time that I was able to speak on the Army Estimates we all made impassioned speeches to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair. We have succeeded, and since we now consider these Estimates in Committee, I want to make a Committee speech on a number of points rather than a speech on general policy. Therefore, if the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) will forgive me, I will not follow him in the points he raised. He was right in bringing to the attention of hon. Members the important matters he discussed with the great sincerity with which he always speaks.
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) made what I would term a Committee speech and I wish to underline to my right hon. Friend his remarks about the accounting of money within the Army, particularly his comments on the spending of sums of not much more than a penny. The hon. Member for Dudley described how commanding officers have no power over the spending of money on important equipment. He said that a colonel could not write off, a penny. I would like to see a colonel have power over £100 or even £1,000.
The speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was well-thought-out and he had obviously taken a lot of time and trouble over its preparation. When one of my hon. Friends tried to interrupt him he said that he did not want to give way because he was making an important speech. When he referred to the Far East I realised that he was making the sort of speech I had been afraid would be made some time from the benches opposite. He wanted us to scuttle our forces in the Far East.
I had the honour of leading a Parliamentary delegation from both Houses to Singapore eighteen months ago. It was fairly clear from the questions put by members of the Opposition that they were wondering whether it was necessary for us 1657 to keep our forces in the Far East. All I would say on that point is that our forces there represent at least a bridgehead and the people in the area know that they can be reinforced in any emergency. For these and other reasons I deplore the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, particularly his comments on Singapore. He was most slighting about the citizens of Singapore who work in our workshops and the dockyard. He described them as "a lot of Communists", and that is quite untrue.
When I was there I had long talks with the Deputy Prime Minister. He was most insistent about how important it was to his labour problems that this work in supporting our armed forces should continue. For some reason some people seem to think that because the citizens of Singapore are Chinese or are of Chinese origin they must necessarily be Communists. That is a totally mistaken idea and I regret that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton should think that way. Naturally, they are proud of being Chinese, just as they are proud of the Chinese mainland, whatever Government may be in power. No one could have been more helpful to the British during the Japanese occupation of Singapore than wore these people, particularly in the way they acted towards British prisoners of war.
§ Mr. Paget
I would not deny for a moment what the hon. and gallant Member is saying. The Chinese and ourselves were on the same side against the Japanese during the last war. I did not say that all the Chinese in Singapore were Communists, but no one has given me an estimate of less than 5,000 as to the number of dedicated Communist Chinese in the dockyard. In the circumstances, I cannot believe that it would be a very useful dockyard in an anti-Chinese war.
§ Sir H. Harrison
In his speech the hon. and learned Member for Northampton made a quick reference to Singapore. He gave the impression that they were all Communists and all I have wanted to do is to point out that a great many of them are good citizens of Singapore. It is important that our forces should be there, because during my visit I learned of their fears of a threat from Indonesia. They regard this as a very 1658 real threat and our presence is a great comfort to them.
Having said that, I turn to a subject which has not received a great deal of attention today—the Territorial Army. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend pay his high tribute to the Territorial Army in his speech, but I would have preferred that more reference had been made in the White Paper on the Army to that subject. Nothing was said in the Defence White Paper about the Territorial Army. There is a reference in the Army Estimates, but not very many people read that document. I hope that perhaps another year my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War, who is responsible for Territorial matters, might see that rather more is made of the subject.
In numbers we have more now in the Territorial Army than we have in the Regular Army, but the number of officers on a percentage basis is a great deal lower. In the Regular Army the ratio is one to nine, and in the Territorial Army it is one to 13. We are now in an entirely new situation where the Territorial Army is concerned. We are back to the similar days of the 1920s and 1930s in that the recruits now coming in have no previous Army experience. They therefore must be trained from scratch.
This has always seemed to be one of the most difficult things in the Territorial Army. I should like to ask whether all the knowledge acquired in training conscript soldiers can now be applied to training these new recruits to the Territorial Army and whether courses once a year on a bigger basis than within the unit can be arranged. I am told that there is difficulty in recruiting younger officers for the Territorial Army, and this may be the reason why the total figures are down.
I do not know the full figures, but I suggest to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State that in the recruiting drive which the Secretary of State announced today for officers to the Regular Army special attention might also be paid to the recruiting of young officers for the Territorial Army. There are excellent men attached to Command Headquarters who are called school liaison officers. They go round the public schools, the grammar schools and the technical colleges to try to interest 1659 young men in making the Army their career and in taking out commissions. There may well be many young men in these schools and colleges who might make extremely useful Territorial Army officers.
I would ask whether my right hon. Friend could use these school liaison officers in his recruiting drive to recruit not only for the Regular Army, but also for the Territorial Army. We all get older and gradually our contacts with the Service seem to become very slender and we can have only secondhand knowledge of what is happening in the Territorial Army today, but I believe that it is being extremely well trained by its officers.
A point which has been made to me is also mentioned in paragraph 55 of the Statement on Defence, where the Secretary of State says:The issue of temperate combat clothing to all officers and men of the Regular Army will be completed within a few months …It is quite right that the Regular Army should come first, but I am told that this type of waterproof clothing is very good and is very popular for weekend training. I am also told that one unit has equipped half its total number of men with these combat suits because the clothing was bought from a store in a local fishing town where it was sold as surplus Government stock.
Whether this was the case I do not know. It might be that these were similar suits made by a private manufacturer. If it is true that these suits were Government surplus stock I should have thought that it would have been better to have issued them to the Territorial Army than to have sold them off as surplus even though they might have been slightly faulty. This is a matter worth looking into.
I should also like to make some comment on the Territorial Army and Auxiliary Forces Associations. These are based on our counties and many people give voluntary service to them and they also employ a fairly large staff. Their cost, except possibly the training of cadet battalions, must obviously be assessed as a charge on the Territorial Army Immensely good work has been done by these associations in the past and is still being done, but I think that we have to ask ourselves whether when, 1660 in war, we lose the use of them and they practically disappear, they are in all respects the best medium and good value for the money spent on them for the Territorial Army, particularly at this time when we have the amalgamation of units and some C.O.s have to deal with more than one Territorial association.
I wonder whether their responsibility for furniture and small equipment, buying on a rather small scale, makes for as good a system as it would be if these things were administered centrally and through district command. My right hon. Friend might ask some of the general officers commanding districts whether any money could be saved if they had this responsibility.
I realise the great Territorial connections which these associations have, but I do not think that, in this modern age, we should be exactly hide-bound because we have always had these associations. I would not say that we should get rid of them altogether, but we must necessarily watch them, as they are functioning with fewer units all the time.
I would add one note on training, which my right hon. Friend has mentioned, within the Regular Army. I am glad to see his paragraph on more men doing adventure training. I think that this is excellent, because there is always in time of peace the danger of a unit becoming static and getting back to what is termed peace-time soldiering, although I do not think that is happening, instead of being out in the field and adventurous.
There is one further matter to which I should like to refer. In going round, I have found that most men who join the Army like sport of one kind or another and it is of great interest to them. In the main, they all join in the regular games, particularly football, but I have found, when I have asked sergeants or O.R.s, that few of them engage in other sports where they have to exercise their own skill and their own minds and deal a little more with the elements. I have been a little disappointed sometimes at the small numbers who have taken them up.
For example, in Singapore, where there were facilities for sailing boats in all kinds of weather, a rather small number of men took advantage of the local sailing club. I believe that sailing is an extremely good way of training a man, because he has to deal with an unknown element.
1661 Again, in Germany, there are excellent facilities for soldiers to go ski-ing. I believe that it is a wise thing for all our young men as well as politicians in this House, to chance their arms, or their legs, from time to time and learn the lie of the land. So I would ask that sporting facilities of this kind, as well as the recognised games, are brought as much as possible to the attention of our soldiers and perhaps a little extra encouragement—the initial start is always difficult—given to these men to take part in them.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the great success that we have had in getting back to a voluntary Regular Army. I always thought that a Regular Army would come and also a very much better Territorial Army, because that is today completely back on the old voluntary basis, too.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
Like the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison), I do not propose to discuss the fundamental aspects of Army policy, which have been so ably dealt with by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), but rather to deal with one or two specific points.
Not having been in the Army or any of the Services, I cannot claim to intervene on the basis of specialised knowledge, but I am not without some little experience as I was fortunate to witness the exercise "Fabulist", which took place in Cyprus in May, 1961. It was most impressive to see the efficiency with which Transport Command transferred the paratroopers from this country to Nicosia. We saw lorries and guns, in addition to troops, being dropped by parachute from aircraft. I was privileged to fly with the troops on the exercise but, for obvious reasons, we were not allowed to do the jump.
In discussion with the men in the plane during the hour of flying before they jumped, it was obvious that they were all very serious and tensed up. When I asked why they had volunteered for the Parachute Regiment, all, without exception, replied, "For the money, of course", but they hastily added that in their opinion the additional pay was quite insufficient reward for the training risks 1662 involved. Even in the exercise, which was held in reasonably good weather and reasonably favourable conditions, there were quite a number of broken ankles, injuries to the back, etc. I admit that the pay has since been increased, but I am informed that the men still do not consider the differential to be quite adequate.
I support the plea of my hon. and learned Friend for pensions for former members of the Polish Forces. Some little time ago, I received a letter from a constituent who, writing on behalf of a former Polish soldier, said that lie had been… press-ganged into the German Army in 1939 and fought on the Russian Front. He was seriously wounded at Stalingrad and spent the next eighteen months in hospital. He then returned to his unit but was taken prisoner by the Americans at Normandy, and immediately joined the Polish Forces in Britain. He was wounded again, this time fighting the Germans. Both wounds have left him slightly undependable and unstable. He has no war pension of any kind and is at present unemployed as he was found unfit and unsuitable to work in the coal industry"—which was prepared to employ him:He is presently living under deplorable conditions, with no water or heating and cooking facilitiesSomething can surely be done by the right hon. Gentleman to help those who not only served their own country but this country so admirably during the last war. As there cannot be many who are left in such a position, I appeal to the Minister to take effective action to help them.
Another constituent of mine signed on a 22-year Regular engagement in 1954. Last June, he was attached to a Territorial unit to undertake exercises in the West Country. During the exercises he was leading a patrol, and as he turned the corner an officer fired a Verey pistol which wounded him in the face and he subsequently lost one of his eyes. This happened after he had done only eight years and 35 days of his Regular service, but this lad lost very much more than just his eye, because he was discharged as being unfit for further Service use, lost any chances of promotion he might have had if he had remained in the Service, and also lost a pension. His reward is a 40 per cent. disability pension, about 46s. a week. At present, he is employed as a labourer, but if he were able to return to the occupation he followed prior to joining the Service he 1663 would have been earning very much more. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to realise that if he wants to encourage the recruitment of more personnel to the Army there mist be better treatment for cases of this kind.
On page 22 of the Estimates, there are three items in which I am particularly interested. First, Subhead C, vehicles. There has been a considerable increase in the Estimate for the provision of vehicles. What proportion of the vehicles supplied to the Army is manufactured in Scotland? Is the attempt of the Government to spread the motor industry to Scotland taking proper account of Scotland's share in meeting Army requirements?
Now, Subheads D and F. There is an increase of about £2 million for the provision of ships. I take this to be landing craft. For river and harbour craft also there is a considerable increase. We are not particularly keen to engage in work of this kind, but if these sums of money are to be spent the right hon. Gentleman should consider favourably the small shipyards on the east coast of Scotland. I have in mind particularly one in my constituency at Burntisland, where we are extremely short of work. The number employed there has come down from about 1,500 to a little over 500. This shipyard would, I am sure, be quite capable of undertaking such work.
In the Defence White Paper, in dealing with works and accommodation, it is said in paragraph 60:A further 36 large projects have been or will be started during the year, including new barracks for 23 major units. Twenty-five more completions are scheduled for 1963–64 including 9 complete barracks, and that year will see a start made on approximately 20 more.How much of this very large building programme is going to Scotland? As the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) said earlier, there is a good case for transferring some Army units from the already congested South of England to some of the sparsely populated areas of Scotland. Not only would excellent training facilities for the Army be available there, but more employment would be provided for some of the people in Scotland.
I turn now to some examples of waste in the Service, and in this connection I 1664 turn to the Third Report of the Public Accounts Committee, Session 1961–62. With reference to a contract for the design and development of a wireless set, it is said in paragraph 62:In March, 1960, the Ministry of Aviation sought competitive tenders from eight firms for the development and production of a new type of wireless set of which about 600 were required far the Army by 1965".After the tenders were received, the Ministry decided to place the contract with the firm which had quoted the highest price for the development and the second highest price for development and production combined. The reason which the Ministry advanced was based on the firm's technical superiority, but one firm whose tender was rejected offered a delivery date a year earlier than that offered by the successful firm, and it was also the lowest tenderer. The overall price of this rejected firm for development and production was less than half that of the successful firm.
In paragraph 64, the Public Accounts Committee says:Your Committee cannot escape the conclusion that resort by the Ministry to competitive tender completely failed in its purpose in this case",and in paragraph 69 it is very much stronger in its condemnation, saying thatcompetitive tendering proved to be a farce in This case".This is a typical example of wasteful expenditure by the Ministry. When one considers the Government's attitude towards local authorities when they put out work for tender—
§ 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. 1 Sittings of the House) for Two hours after Ten o'clock.—[Mr. Profumo.]
§ Supply again considered in Committee.
§ Mr. Gourlay
I was about to make the analogy between what happens in respect of local authorities when they invite tenders for certain schemes and Service Departments. One local authority discovered that its own direct labour department was the only body which tendered for certain work, and, 1665 because this was the only tender, the Secretary of State decided that it was not competitive tendering and the authority had to readvertise. This shows the complete disparity of purpose in the Government when dealing with Service Departments and local authories. I am reminded that the firm which I have been discussing and which was successful in getting the contract for the wireless equipment subsequently employed the previous Minister of Defence.
I should like to know what was the cost involved in this contract. What was the difference between the highest and lowest tenders? We have not been made aware of this. Only last week the Conservative Party issued a pamphlet called "We Are Entitled To Know". We on this side are also entitled to know how money is being spent for the Army.
The second point that I wish to raise and which is mentioned in the same Report is the extra-contractual payment to a building contractor. On page LVI of the Third Report we are informed that under a contract for the erection of barrack blocks, messes and boiler houses worth £1.2 million the contractor had great difficulty in making the plaster stick to the reinforced concrete ceilings. This had not been envisaged. The Building Research Station was brought into the problem and it tried to help the contractor, but it failed to discover why the plaster would not stick. It was about eighteen months before some material which would adhere to the ceilings could be found. Apparently, the original contract specifications drawn up by the War Office did not indicate that it was the contractor's responsibility to ensure that his plaster would stick.
As a result of this case, the great business tycoons in the War Office—and investigations have been made as to why there are so many of them in the Headquarters Division of the War Office—have taken steps to ensure that this does not happen again. But what did it cost the taxpayer in the meantime?—an extra £122,500. The party opposite is always telling the electors that it is best able to mend the hole in the purse. This is another example of how the hole is getting larger the longer it remains in power. How many more examples of this sort of thing will we discover in the Estimates 1666 of £491 million which we are asked to approve for next year?
The question of the Scots Guards has been raised on more than one occasion today. My view is that they are not complaining of being worked too hard, as the Minister suggested earlier, but rather of the "bull" and the useless duties which they have to undertake. Give these lads a job of work to do and less petty discipline and I am sure that the recruitment position of the battalion will soon alter.
If one considers the Trooping of the Colour ceremony, there is no doubt that it is colourful, and even the Russians the other year asked for it to be televised. Nevertheless, one would like to know exactly how much unnecessary spit and polish, and the number of rehearsals, the men have to undertake for this ceremony alone. Many of the duties at the Royal Palaces and at the Tower of London could be carried out quite as effectively by the police or by a civilian security organisation, thus leaving more time for training in the real duties for which these men joined the Army.
With the rake's progress which is going on at Geneva, one is inclined to become extremely pessimistic about disarmament. Nevertheless, I express the hope that the Government may make a real effort to secure agreement at Geneva so that we may look forward in future years to a considerable reduction in the enormous amount of money which is required each year for the Army.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I will not follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Gourlay), who has dealt with several matters of varying character, but will deal with one or two items that affect me from a constituency point of view. First, however, I understood the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well), who is not in his place, to say that the Labour Party had no declared policy on defence. I do not know whether that is accurate. If it is, it is an extraordinary position, equalled only by the fact that only one Liberal Member has been present during this debate, and that for about ten minutes.
I want particularly to refer to the position which has arisen as a result of the Works Department being passed over to the Ministry of Public Building 1667 and Works. I hope that the result of the change will be satisfactory, because until this year at least the speed with which buildings were erected in Aldershot was extremely slow.
Last year, although works to the value of £6 million were authorised, the value of work which it was possible to undertake was, apparently, only £1 million. I hope and expect that there will be considerable improvement. Indeed, it is obvious that there has been substantial improvement in the erection of barracks by the wholesale use of concrete blocks.
Unfortunately, however, the improvement does not apply to married quarters, some of which are built on the new plan of the square with a garden inside. Those that had been built proved, during bad winter months, to be extremely cold. They required a great deal of heating, so much so that my particular attention was called by the occupants to the extra cost that was involved for the heating.
With the best will in the world, one would not describe Aldershot as a gem of Victorian architecture, so I hope that it will be seen that these new grim and grey barrack buildings are so dealt with that their appearance does not detract from the town as much as the old accommodation did. We shall not have progressed very far if we merely replace the old buildings, with their horse lines underneath and barrack accommodation on top, by concrete buildings of this kind as they look at present.
The Works branches have now gone over to the Ministry of Public Building and Works. Does that include the Lands Branch as well? In 1958, the Estimates Committee reported very strongly in favour of the Lands Branch being integrated either with a central Services land board, or with the Ministry of Works. There seemed to be every argument for it, but the Ministry of Defence in their reply said, first, that it was impossible and, secondly, that it was uneconomic. I do not believe that. I believe that we must consider the integration of these services.
There has been much discussion in this debate about the effect of such integration on the higher ranks of the Services, but 1668 I believe that we can have specialist branches common to the three Services. Among those I have in mind are the medical and dental officers. No doubt there is a case for medical officers belonging to units, but I cannot believe that it is impossible for dental officers to act for all three Services. I should imagine that there would also be little difficulty in regard to hospitals, particularly those situated at service bases. It has already been suggested in the debate that consideration should be given to Service and civilian hospitals working together with a view to economy and efficiency.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the kind way in which he deals with the numerous cases which I inflict upon him on behalf of constituents. I am saying this because I have a case which I propose to put to him which is very annoying and which reflects no credit on anybody concerned.
Before doing so, let me say that I hope that it will be appreciated that those of us who are interested in Service widows' pensions and the anomalies which exist still feel most strongly about the subject. We are most unhappy and we will continue to press for a revision. There is room for improvement with pensions in many directions, but the case of some Service widows stands out.
The case to which I wish to refer arises out of a Question which I put to my right hon. Friend on 23rd May, 1962, when I asked whether he would make some payment from War Office funds to those officers and other ranks of the British Army who were seconded to the Ghana Government and had such secondments prematurely terminated, with resulting loss. My right hon. Friend replied:My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is discussing with the Ghana Government what compensation they will pay to these officers and men. We hope that a fair settlement will be reached."—[OFFICAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1962; Vol. 660, c. 426.]Six months before, this officer had been shot out from Ghana without even a chance to take a spare suit of clothes with him.
I had expected that the whole thing had been settled and that my constituent was happy about it, but on 7th March, this year, he wrote to me:You will no doubt recall last year you were good enough to raise the question of 1669 compensation. As the result of your questions, I was asked to submit a claim. In accordance with the War Office letter, I duly submitted my claim. Since then I have heard nothing. I should he grateful if you could find out for me what the present position is regarding our claim.That sort of thing is worthy of strong condemnation. Even if it were impossible to get a settlement from the Ghana Government, it was the bounden duty of the War Office to look after these officers who, through no fault of their own, were deprived of motor cars and clothes and sent out of Ghana without notice.
I should like the Under-Secretary to tell me tonight that he is prepared to compensate that officer. If there must be some time wasted before the money is refunded from the Ghana Government to the War Office, the War Office, and not the officer, should stand it.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I have something to say about the Dartmoor National Park, which has been used by the Service Departments for a long time, and particularly by the War Department. The use of this area is increasing and ought to stop.
Although I might weary the House with some quotations outlining the history of the use of Dartmoor by the Services, I feel that this is justified, because I am one of those who believe that the National Parks form one of the greatest assets of this country and can be of immense benefit not only to the 50 million people now living here, but to the generations to come.
As the Minister knows, the National Parks Commission is very active on this matter at the moment. I take advantage of my position as a Member of Parliament to voice not only the opinions of the National Parks Commission, but of the Dartmoor Preservation Association. The active and virile chairman of this association has sent me a record of the history of the use by the War Department of the roads on northern Dartmoor which are reserved to the Services, and principally to the War Department. I am not speaking only of the northern half of Dartmoor but about the increasing use made of the southern half of it, which is supposed to be reserved for the use of civilians.
1670 In 1909, William Crossing, the Dartmoor guide, wrote that only the first half-mile of the track leading southwards into the moor from Moor Gate, near Okehampton Camp, had been made up by the War Department as a road used by the artillery. He described these ancient tracks on the Okehampton Commons as "a route for horses", and went on to say thatthe tracks are used by the moor man and the hunterand as tracks for the walker and the hunter should they remain. At least eight miles of these tracks have been made by the War Department into metalled roads usable by motor vehicles, and we think and claim that they should be restored to their former state.
On 14th March, 1955, the secretary of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England wrote to the secretary of the National Parks Commission, saying:Mrs. Sayer has written to us about the 'improvements' already carried out on the roads and tracks running southwards over Dartmoor from Okehampton Camp, and I gather that she has also written to you. I shall bring her report in due course to the notice of the C.P.R.E. Executive Committee and the Standing Committee on National Parks, and will afterwards write to you again. Meanwhile I would only say that I am sure both Committees would wish to be associated with the representations made by her on behalf of D.P.A., and that they will welcome and be pleased to support any action that the Commission can take to limit the extension of the work.On 1st April, 1955, Major-General E. K. G. Sixsmith, G.O.C., South-West District Command, wrote to Mrs. Sayer, saying:It may well be possible to forgo any furtber work on the roads.On 17th August, 1955, Major-General Sixsmith wrote to Mrs. Sayer saying:The road towards Duiger Tor and the circular road running just short of Okement Hill are necessary to enable the guns to get to the firing areas and the observation parties to get into position.On 24th January, 1956, Mr. D. M. Scott, the legal adviser to the Dartmoor Commoners' Association, wrote to Mrs. Sayer, saying:I would have thought the gateing of the range roads to be so eminently desirable as to be beyond controversy … Let the Okehampton Commoners, if so minded, agitate for their removal. So long as one Commoner favours the retention of the gates, the burgesses can expect no support from the Dartmoor Commoners' Association.1671 The proposed gates were to keep motor vehicles out only.
A letter on 24th May, 1956, from Major-General Sixsmith to Mrs. Sayer said:I still have no news from the War Office about our gates but it is clear that the tarring of the complete circuit (to Okement Hill) will not be finished before September, so there is no danger this summer of having the complete circuit used by the public.A Press report in the Western Times and Gazette of 24th August, 1956, stated:A brand new notice board attractively finished in browns and white appeared overnight (near Moor Gate). The notice read, 'These roads are maintained by the War Department for authorised Army vehicles only. Open to persons on horse or foot' … and three similar notices (appeared) in the Moor's hinterland … Colonel Campbell-Miles (O.C., Okehampton Camp) stated that 'Maintenance of the roads is a costly business and the Army is anxious to keep wear and tear down to a minimum'.All these notice boards were soon removed.
A letter dated 27th August, 1956, from Major-General Sixsmith to Mrs. Sayer stated:I have written to the Commoners at Okehampton Hamlets and Okehampton U.D.C. and asked them for their help in restricting traffic to the Commoners and the Army and suggested the notice 'No Through Road'. These roads are maintained for the War Department using the Range. I have not at the moment mentioned the gates. I do not think that it would be politic for me to do so, as I have not the authority to put up the gates, as the War Office itself is handling that question.1 So it goes on—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If hon. Members carry on in this way I shall read the whole of the correspondence. Do hon. Members support the Army and Service Departments in stealing—that is virtually what it is—the National Parks from the general public? I make no apology for feeling a little heated about this business. After all, this country is grossly overcrowded. Those of us who like nature in its normal state have very few places to which we can go to enjoy it. There are very few places in England, at any rate, where people can enjoy solitude and beauty. We are not like the gentry who usually live in very nice mansions, with parks around them and that sort of thing, people who can go to Scotland for deer shooting and grouse shooting—
§ Mr. Hayman
I shall come back, Sir William, and I shall begin with some quotations nearer to the end of my list.
In 1960, a great deal of the road metal—stone, ballast, broken concrete—was put down by the War Department on an old green track leading to the top of Yes Tor. Yes Tor is the highest point on Dartmoor, in fact the highest in the south-west of England. General Sixsmith's successor as G.O.C. South-West Command wrote to Lady Sayer on 3rd November, 1960:We aim to keep it with a rough metal surface which will enable a small Army four-wheel vehicle to reach the top in reasonable time.… Still further extensions southwards of the W.D. other roads from Okement Hill to Hangingstone Hill would be needed for a land rover to carry a battery to the electric red light on top of the hill so repairs to the track have been carried out with metal.I think that I have said enough to show that here there is ample evidence that metal roads are being made across the northern part of Dartmoor and that unless the War Department is prepared to remove those roads when it ceases to require Dartmoor for training purposes a very dangerous blow will have been struck at those of our people who today enjoy the countryside and the wild moorland and those who come after us.
I cannot give the quotation, but I think that the Secretary of State will find that a public relations officer was appointed not long ago to the War Department to try to rebut the statements of people like me. He said that the War Office would require Dartmoor almost for all time. All I can say is that so long as I live I will fight the continuance of the use of Dartmoor and, indeed, the extension of the use of Dartmoor by the War Department. I hope that at any rate the Minister will repudiate that statement by an officer of the Army. Who is he to tell Parliament and the nation what the future use of Dartmoor or any other National Park is to be? After all, he is usurping the position of the Minister. At any rate, he ought not be going about making statements of that kind.
I should like to put these questions. First, what amount of public money has been spent since 1950 on making and 1673 maintaining the network of tarred or roughly metalled roads and tracks in the Okehampton range in Dartmoor National Park? For what purpose were these roads constructed, extended, resurfaced, or repaired by the War Department? What is the total mileage of roads and tracks so treated? Who is responsible for the control and use of these roads and tracks?
Why were these extensive road works carried out, first, without authorisation from the Minister of Town and Country Planning and his decision of 1948 on the Services' use of Dartmoor for training purposes, and secondly, without 1674 authorisation from the Duchy of Cornwall in the licence for the use of the land granted by the Duchy to the Secretary of State for War in June, 1956, and thirdly, without prior consultation with the local planning authority under the terms of the Ministry's Circular No. 100 of 1950, although these road works materially affect the character of the neighbourhood?
I am not expecting replies to these questions tonight, but I hope that the Minister will take serious note of what I have said and give replies later to the questions which I have put.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
I shall not join the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) in his exciting chase of General Sixsmith and Lady Sayer across the expanses of Dartmoor. I have one or two other people I should like to chase first.
It seems a very long time since my right hon. Friend presented his Estimates, but I should like to congratulate him on the skill and polish with which he did it. It was a pleasure to listen to him. That pleasure was enhanced by a passage in which he described how the Government determined the right size of the Army. He said that, first, they made an assessment of their commitments. That struck me, having listened with attention to Government statements over the last six years, as a new and exciting concept, and I was therefore a little disappointed when later on, when he was discussing what had happened to the "Ever-readies", he let slip the following remark, "Now that we know what size of Army we can expect to get." That rather let the cat out of the bag, because it was clear that up to quite recently he had no idea of what size of Army he expected to get. It confirmed once again that for the last six years the size of the Army has been not fixed by the size of our commitments but vice versa. It has been the size of the Army which has determined the size of our commitments. In fact, the Government are still on the old guessing game, only the Government are not thinking of the number they first thought of; they are thinking of the number they thought of second, the old 1959 figure. And, incidentally, if one looks back to the 1959 debate, it is extraordinary to find how many of the speeches that were made then could be made again today.
Now, as I and others have said before, this is the wrong way to do it. There can be no better illustration of this than what has happened in the 1st Battalion Scots Guards. This has drawn attention in dramatic fashion to the disquieting state of affairs which is at present prevailing in the Army. I do not want to go into the rights or wrongs of the case, but it seems to me that my right hon. 1676 Friend made very light of it when he passed it off as being purely a matter of "administrative" difficulties. If it is a matter merely of administrative difficulties, they must be quite some administrative difficulties. It seems quite clear to me that something is very wrong indeed.
There can be only three possibilities. It is either bad men, bad officers and N.C.O.s, or bad conditions. If in a first-class regiment we get a state of affairs bordering on mutiny, then it must be one of those three. We all know that the Scots Guards is a regiment with the highest possible standards, traditions and record in every respect. I did not serve in the Scots Guards myself, but I saw a lot of them. I saw many individual officers, N.C.O.s and men in the Scots Guards during the war under all kinds of conditions, and I have never known a bad one. Moreover, in common with the other regiments of the Household Brigade, the Scots Guards enjoy a number of privileges and advantages which ordinary line regiments do not enjoy. But, in spite of all this, the 1st Battalion has been shaken by what one can only call serious unrest. Why is this? I can only suggest that, whatever my right hon. Friend says, the basic trouble is that the battalian is under strength. He gave the strength as 363. He himself is very coy about the peacetime establishment of an infantry battalion, but his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, was less coy on 3rd March, 1959, when he said two things.
He said, first of all, that a peace-time strength of 635 men was too few and, by implication, that the proper peacetime strength of an infantry battalion was in the neighbourhood of 774 men. By that standard, the present strength of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards is roughly 50 per cent, of what it ought to be, and it has been like this for a long time and there have even been public complaints about it from senior officers in the Scots Guards.
There is another point. The Battalion has its full quota of N.C.O.s, and there is quite a chance that one of the reasons for the present trouble is what a newspaper called "too many N.C.O.s chasing 1677 too few Guardsmen." But, of course, what it is bound to mean is not enough men for fatigues, not enough men for guard duties, not enough men for ceremonial duties, and a resulting increase in the burden on everyone—than which there can be nothing worse for morale, as anybody who has served in the Army or any of the Services knows very well. I really cannot accept what my right hon. Friend says about their managing quite happily. It is quite clear that they are not managing quite happily.
The men who were involved in this episode are, presumably, all Regulars. They appear to have been recruited within the last year or two. My right hon. Friend always denies that there has been any lowering of standards. I believe that there has been a lowering in the standard of height for Scots Guardsmen; but possibly height is not 100 per cent. important. Whether there has been lowering of any other standard is another matter. But there is this other aspect of the question: the fact that these men have been recruited in the last couple of years means that they were recruited partly as a result of the Government's intensified, high-powered and glossy publicity campaign. I fear that they are disappointed with the Army and, equally, that the Army is disappointed with them. They are not quite the men the Army needed, and the Army is not quite the career they thought they were entering. It is a fact that some men make natural soldiers and others do not; this has always been so. It is questionable whether, by stepping up the publicity, one necessarily gets natural soldiers.
But basically the trouble resides in a policy which, throughout the Army—and this applies, apparently, since it has not been denied, to 30 out of 60 infantry battalions in the Army—has left units over-stretched, under strength and out of balance. This has become clear in other contexts. It became clear in the confussion over whether 51st Brigade was or was not to be sent to the Far East, when it was shown that a lot of the units involved were very much under strength. It became clear also that there was something very much the matter in the various disturbances there have been in Germany. And the responsibility for this state of affairs must rest fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Government.
1678 What are the Government doing about it? One thing—and no one is more pleased about it than I—is that they have managed to get the recruiting target put back to its 1959 figure of 180,000, and that for the Secretary of State is no mean achievement. I hope that it may also help to avoid the further disbandments and further amalgamations which otherwise, I suspect, would have been necessary and which would have had a further disastrous effect on the morale of the Army. I hope, too, that, whatever the peacetime establishments of units are, it will bring units nearer to their proper strength.
But in the wider context of what commitments we as a Power in the world should be able to fulfil, 180,000 is still nothing like enough. It does not enable us to play our proper part both in Europe and, at the same time, overseas, and there can be no doubt that, if we are to play our proper part in the Alliance, that is what we need to do.
Here, I turn to the "very important speech," as he himself called it, of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who opened the debate for the Opposition. When he called his speech a very important one, possibly he was compensating for the reduction in status which he, as shadow whatever it is for War, has undergone in common with my right hon. Friend. Of course, in his case it is only a shadow reduction.
The hon. and learned Gentleman said that we should have four divisions in Europe. There I wholeheartedly agree with him. I should very much like to see our strength in Europe and our contribution to N.A.T.O. increased by 50,000 odd to about 80,000. But he went on to say that he would achieve this result by abolishing all out- garrisons overseas. He listed a few of them—Hong Kong, Singapore, Aden, Cyprus and Libya. To get' 80,000 men to go to Europe—there again I entirely agree with him—he would have to do a bit of no good to the Strategic Reserve as well.
I am disappointed with the hon. and learned Gentleman. There were moments in the past when he seemed to align himself, when he was not occupying the distinguished if reduced position which he now occupies on the Front Bench, with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) 1679 and myself in saying that we should have proper conventional forces everywhere and that, if necessary, we should resort to conscription to get them. Now he has conveniently forgotten all that. I thought that the arguments he adduced for abolishing our garrison in Singapore, for instance, were especially unconvincing. They showed that he was not aware of the need for a conventional deterrent and was not aware that a conventional deterrent is not there primarily to be used, but is there, like a nuclear deterrent, to deter. That is exactly what our garrison in Singapore is for.
I will tell the hon. and learned Gentleman a little story. When I was Under-Secretary of State for War, I went to Singapore at a moment when they expected a lot of trouble there. I went round to see the workshops and had pointed out to me the Communist shop stewards. I said to the Commander-in-Chief, "What are you doing about this trouble which everybody says is going to break out?" He told me what he was doing. He had a very businesslike plan worked out by which the whole of Singapore was to be divided up into areas and everybody knew exactly what to do. I then went up country into Malaya to see what was happening there. When I came back a fortnight later, I said to the Commander-in-Chief, "Whatever happened about those riots?" He said, "They did not happen." The reason why they did not happen was that we had enough troops to deal with them and that the people who might have caused the trouble, who were no doubt the same Communist shop stewards sitting in the workshops, knew that we had enough men to deal with them and therefore did not advise their masters in Peking, or wherever it may have been, to proceed with their scheme for making trouble.
That is exactly the justification for having enough men on the spot at the time, because then the trouble does not start. It may be expensive. It may be irritating and boring for the men in question. But it saves a lot of bloodshed and it is much more satisfactory than having a mobile reserve which has to be flown out after the event.
I would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman, or, rather, his hon. Friend who will wind up, whether what the 1680 hon. and learned Gentleman said represents an official statement of Labour Party policy, because if it does it is extremely revealing. I should also like to ask him whether what the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said also represents official Labour Party policy. He wants to do away with all our forces in Europe, so that between them they would virtually do away with the British Army altogether.
When I consider what an important suggestion that is it seems a bit hard that the Opposition have managed to have only three or four hon. Members on their benches throughout the debate to listen to the remarkable propositions that are being enunciated from their Front Bench. I have criticised my right hon. Friend often enough for not having enough troops in Europe and for keeping our overseas garrisons under strength. But surely that is better than pulling out completely from one or other, or possibly both, like the party opposite propose to do. Here I must join issue with the hon. Member for Dudley, with whom I usually agree, by saying that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is infinitely preferable to anything his party can produce.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton wants us to pull out of South-East Asia. The hon. Member for Dudley quoted Mr. McNamara at some length, and I share his admiration for the American Secretary for Defence. In this connection, we should remember that the Americans have got 400,000 troops in Europe, and I agree that his remarks about what Continental Europe and Europe in general could do to help itself are indeed pertinent.
I recently returned from America and while I was there I had something said to me which has a bearing on the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton and, indeed, on that of my right hon. Friend. They said to me, in effect, "If you," meaning the British, "pull your troops out of Europe, the effect will be disastrous. However, if the worst comes to the worst and, however undesirable it is, they could be replaced by us,"—that is, the Americans—"making a bigger contribution, or by the Germans taking over an even larger responsibility than they will have, anyway. If, on the other hand, you pull out 1681 your garrisons overseas, no one can take their place, and what you will be doing is handing them over to Communism and chaos. You will be exhilarating your enemies and discouraging your friends."
The trouble, of course, is that both sides of the Committee are suffering from the same inhibition; they do not admit the possible need for conscription. I suppose that we should be thankful for small mercies, and I would therefore once again like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on getting a slight increase in his recruiting target. I would, however, also like, if I may borrow a happy phrase of his own, to draw his attention to a couple of "tricks" which I think he has "missed".
As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) pointed out, the Secretary of State has stopped recruiting—I think he has, unless he has started again —for the Highland Brigade. Now that he is increasing the scope of recruiting he may be recruiting Highlanders.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I am glad to hear it. I have great regard far the Secretary of State, but I would not for a moment accept that he made a corps d'élite of the Highland Brigade. He has been Secretary of State for three years, but they were a corps d'élite some time before that; for about two hundred years. One of the reasons why there are so many recruits is that the number of Highland regiments has been reduced from six to four. There are, therefore, more men scrambling for fewer places.
I suppose that one of the reasons why men were no longer allowed to join the Highland regiments was that the powers-that-be hoped that they might join something else instead. And here I think that something very instructive happened, because just as recruiting for the Highland regiments was stopped a Scots Guards recruiting officer and his staff toured Scotland, with very poor results. That, I think, shows that some men will join a Highland regiment who will not join any other—
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
Could not that have had something to do with the size of the men there? As an ex-officer of the Scots Guards, I can say that we generally go in for a larger edition.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I understand that the height qualification for the Guards has been reduced to 5 feet 8 inches. There are plenty of men in the Highlands who are well over that height. What it does mean is that the Army is losing recruits.
I do not want to repeat what has been so eloquently said by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth), but I join with him, for the same reason, in deploring the decision to cut the Brigade of Gurkhas. I do so on both military and political grounds. Nepal is in a precarious position internationally, and this decision can do nothing but harm. I should like to see the numbers of Gurkhas we recruit not reduced but, increased. We are already far past the ceiling that was agreed, and there is no reason why we should not emulate the Indians and recruit 20,000 more. That might even get our total figures to somewhere in the region of the Hull Report. I know that 180,000 is better than 165,000, but it is still not enough.
The Secretary of State is being put down in status but is putting up the numbers. I congratulate him, but I should like him to get another and bigger rise and bring the total strength of the Army somewhere nearer to where it should be.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
I am sure that the whole Committee will agree that this has been a most interesting debate. It may well be that it is the last of its kind, as we know the Army Estimates debates, and that the Under-Secretary of State and I share the same historic rôle in that we are the last participants in these debates under the present system of presentation. The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) referred to the questionable advantage of tall men and said that both my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), as the shadow, and the Secretary of State, as the substance, seemed to have suffered a diminution in stature as a result of the policies of the Minister of Defence.
I was very interested in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), who went into some detail as to the part that the dropping of supposed nuclear 1683 bombs takes in exercises with the British Army of the Rhine. If I remember rightly, I myself took part, as a very junior umpire many years ago, in what was, I believe, the first of these exercises. My impression at the end of it was that when these mock weapons were dropped there was devastation on a very large scale, indeed, and the only thing apparent was that the remainder of the Army was in a complete state of chaos. The Committee will be aware that once a tactical weapon is used there is, as the Government's Scientific Adviser has said, a very serious danger that from there the situation will inevitably degenerate into the use of the strategic weapon. I cannot see such a situation arising without one following the other as night follows day.
The claims of Scotland have been made strongly from time to time during the debate. One hon. Member opposite referred to Scotland no fewer than 14 times in 4½ minutes. He mentioned it many more times during his speech—as he will find in HANSARD—bUt I timed him for 4½ mins.
The Royal Ordnance Factories have been mentioned, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with the point made so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Whitlock).
Last year I ended my speech, in discussing the lack of evidence of inter-Service integration in the Memorandum, by complaining that the only reference in the Secretary of State's Memorandum to joint Service integration wasto joint Service training with the R.A.F. and the Joint Services Demonstration.I complained that the Memorandum was framedsolely as an Army memorandum and there is no other suggestion of rationalisation and cooperation, let alone integration. I am quite sure that the time will come when memoranda of this nature will have to be prepared not merely from the point of view of the needs and capabilities of the Army but rather as part and parcel of the defence system of this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 747.]When I concluded that debate for the Opposition I did not think that this year, so soon afterwards, there would be a different approach. I say that having regard to the fact that so many people have laid claim to the -present policy of the 1684 Minister of Defence. I welcome what the Minister of Defence has done as a step in the right direction, but I cannot say that I am satisfied. We now have a Foreword and an Appendix, and between them there is nothing. That is an indication of the lack of a Government defence policy. The Government's approach may be likened to the fable of the king without clothes. His tailors and courtiers all praised his dress but a little boy pointed out that he was wearing no clothes. The Government have been very coy indeed about putting their defence policy on paper. My impression is contrary to that of the right hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth), who said that he was glad that these matters had been put on paper.
When questions were put to the Minister of Defence—and I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give better replies tonight—it appeared that very little thought had been given to what the Minister's integration policy will mean to the Army. Questions were put in the defence debate about accounting officers, and the Minister of Defence was unable to answer. I do not expect that the Parliamentary Secretary will answer them tonight. Financial control is vitally important, and unless we are given clear-cut answers we shall not know how much thought has been given to the new policy of the Minister of Defence. Is it not a fact that the Government were faced with a very embarrassing situation, with criticism from their own back benches? As a "gimmick" it was decided in the defence debate to give a hint to the House that steps were being taken in this direction. It seems strange that there has been no White Paper to show what it will involve for the Services and very little reference, if any, to what will be involved for the Army.
There are two needs for the Army. First—I am glad to be able to say it—there is an essential need to preserve the pride and traditions of the units, with greater emphasis for the fighting units. It is far more important in the "teeth" than in the "tail". When we approach the question of integration, we must be careful in that respect. There might be a different emphasis for the "tail". Perhaps more of the emphasis could be put upon the functional aspect and the problem for the whole of the Services could 1685 be better approached from that angle. I do not want to isolate either of these sides or to isolate one approach from the other, but in the preservation of the traditions there is a different emphasis and a different need when one looks at the fighting part, or "teeth", of the Army as against the "tail".
In this modern age, why should there be different hospital services for the Army, the Air Force and the Navy? As to supplies, why should petrol, for instance, be supplied from one source for one Service and from another source for another Service? I hope that there will be real integration, particularly in supplies, and I hope that thought is being given to this aspect.
Criticisms have been made that no real thought had been given to these matters. We do not know how far the Secretary of State for War was consulted. If I remember rightly, there was an occasion when the Chiefs of Staff and the Minister of Defence were in consultation with the Prime Minister. I hope that the Secretary of State for War was also consulted. One of the criticisms which has been voiced was that the Chiefs of Staff would have access to the Prime Minister and to the Cabinet when the Secretary of State for War or the Minister of Defence would not.
Paragraph 79 of the Memorandum accompanying the Army Estimates refers to the Nye Committee, which was set up following the Eighth Report of the Estimates Committee. That Report cast severe and sustained strictures on the War Office organisation. The Department seems to be very unfortunate. Whenever the Estimates Committee turns its searchlight upon the War Office, it does not come out too well.
Last year, in the Third Report of the Estimates Committee, the War Office was castigated for failing to fulfil one-third of its Estimate for barracks and accommodation. The conclusion of the Estimates Committee was that despite the excuses put forward the Department could not escape considerable responsibility for the substantial discrepancy between the Estimates and the actual achievements. I trust that there has been a substantial improvement concerning building accommodation and other works now that we have had the important Report of the Estimates Committee.
1686 Accommodation is vitally important for the Army. We are told in paragraph 61 of the Memorandum that new construction of married quartershas been increased to a rate approaching 150 a month but even this has proved insufficient to match the need.It goes on to say thatwe shall have to build quarters even faster for several years to come".Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us what is the aim of the War Office. Is it to satisfy the existing demand, or is it something more? Is the aim to improve the situation having regard to the increased demand? Perhaps we can be told something on these lines by the Under-Secretary.
If I might return to the Nye Committee, I do not propose to go into detail with regard to the Third Report of the Estimates Committee because we have had a full debate on that. If I remember rightly—indeed, I cannot forget it—the Secretary of State for War on that occasion passed severe strictures on me for what I said. I am sure that when, in the cool light of the following day, he examined what had been said, he released that he had been tilting at windmills like some political Don Quixote and that his attacks were irrelevant.
The criticism that was made about the staff in the War Office was that there had not been a balanced reduction. The figure aimed at was 7,000. To use the words of the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), who was the very able Chairman of this Committee, that was the figure that was "thought up". A reduction was made in the staff of the War Office, but the reductions tended to be in the clerical and lower branches of the staff. There seemed to be a reduction in the number of typists and tea boys but not in the higher ranks.
We are now told in paragraph 79 of the Memorandum:Meanwhile the rundown of the War Office which had already been planned is continuing. We expect to achieve a reduction of more than 4 per cent. during the current financial year and are aiming at a similar reduction during 1963–64.I am sure that the Committee will welcome that, but I wish that at the same time there had been an assurance that the reduction would be a balanced one. There should have been some 1687 statement in the Memorandum that the criticisms which had been made had been noted and that there would not be a further undue reduction in the clerical and lower grades compared with the higher ones.
Turning to the strength of the Army, the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire said that we were still playing some sort of guessing game and that the Government had come back to their second guess about the numbers required. It may be a military tradition to have a moving target. If the Secretary of State for War is within sight of achieving a figure that seems to be the right figure to be achieved, whether it be for the Regular Army or the "Ever-readies".
The right hon. Gentleman gave us the benefit of his mathematical ability when he said that the strength now aimed at was 180,000 compared with 165,000 at the beginning of 1962, and that if one added 10,000 Gurkhas that made a total of 190,000. I am far from happy about the right hon. Gentleman's plans for the Gurkhas. I gather that the intention is to reduce the present figure of 14,600 over the next three years. If that is so, there seems to be some inconsistency in his statements, if he insists on sticking to his figure of 190,000 this year.
§ Mr. Morris
I appreciate the assurance the right hon. Gentleman has given, but if there is to be this reduction in the Gurkhas I hope that it will be evenly spread.
There were great plans for the "Ever-readies". A figure of 15,000 was mentioned by the Secretary of State who asked for that number as a maximum. Now he has 4,000. He seems to say that, having regard to the strength of the Regular Army, that is a satisfactory figure.
§ Mr. Morris
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Perhaps we can have a clear statement from the Parliamentary Secretary about what is a satisfactory figure. He says that recruiting has not tapered off and that men are still 1688 coming in. What if 4,000 men volunteered tomorrow and were found to be satisfactory in all respects, would they be accepted? Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary can make a clear statement on that. The Secretary of State asked the House for 15,000 and he has got 4,000. What does he want having regard to the present recruitment for the Regular Army? We should be told clearly and not given a moving target but a realistic target as the aim, and what the right hon. Gentleman wants.
The problem of skilled men for all the Services is a burning question. The Memorandum, in paragraph 19, gives credit to the Army Apprentices School and to the junior leaders because they have provided a high proportion of technicians and tradesmen needed in the Army. These boys join the school at a very early age and then complete their apprenticeship and join the Regular Army as fully-blown soldiers. Perhaps we could have an indication of what the wastage is in this regard. It may well be that the wastage is higher because these boys who join at 15 or 16 may change their minds after serving their apprenticeship by the time they reach 21. It is vitally important that the Regular Army should have a reservoir of skilled men always available. The efficiency of the Army should not suffer because of lack of these skilled men. I recommend the work done in these schools to provide them. In many parts of the country apprentices are like gold—they are in my part of the world. It might pay the Secreary of State to enter into contracts with employers and trade unions to allow men older than the age at which they normally are allowed to enter apprenticeship to enter apprenticeship in the Army. Possibly by getting older men there could be a wider reservoir to meet the Army's needs.
We heard of the allegation about H.M.S. "Blake" in another Service. It would be terrible and tragic if the Army were not able to have an efficient force for lack of these particularly skilled men. There should be a proper inquiry in the Army to assess the real shortages of skilled men. What incentives are needed? Last year I threw out a suggestion as worth consideration by the Secretary of State to have an increased differential to ensure a sufficiently large proportion of these skilled men being available. 1689 Such a method has seemed to have considerable effect in getting doctors, although we do not know the extent of that effect. Figures are given in the Memorandum which appear to show that the crisis which was imminent has been staved off. A special incentive was given. Perhaps a similar arrangement could be used for obtaining skilled men.
In the few minutes available, let me turn to the question of the provision of weapons. If one looks back over the years and finds the references year after year to a very large number of new weapons which are being thought of, or are being introduced, or are somewhere in the pipeline, or may be available at some future period or another, it is difficult to discover what exactly the Army now has. What weapons are still in the planning stage? What are expected? How many units actually have them on the ground?
I take, for example, the Chieftain tank. The Secretary of State for War last year came to the Committee and said that it was:in the final stages of very vigorous trials."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 809.]Now we are told in the Memorandum:Acceptance trials for this tank will take place in the course of the next few weeks.That is in the Memorandum and was presumably written some time ago. It is dated February. What has happened to the acceptance trials which were supposed to have taken place "in the next few weeks"? Now we are told by the Secretary of State today that if these trials are successful—which presumably they have not been, even though they were promised a few weeks ago—it is intended to place a production order, and, if successful, the tanks will take their place in the Army in 1965. I wonder how many years promises have been made about the Chieftain tank. Perhaps we can have a real assessment from the Under-Secretary of how many units it is expected will have the Chieftain in 1965, and what units which need it it is expected will have it.
Then there is the Vigilant. It was on its way last year. This year we were told there will also be some Vigilant missiles for use by the Royal Armoured Corps and the infantry. That seems to be a different impression from that given 1690 last year by the Secretary of State in his speech.
There is a whole range of these weapons. Year after year they are paraded. We hear about them frequently for many years, but they remain only as paper "tigers". It takes a very long time for these paper "tigers" to grow real teeth and have a real bite. I appreciate as much as anyone that it takes a very long time for these weapons from concept to appearing actually on the ground. The period of gestation is eight years, four times as long as the elephant's, but some of these elephants seem to have taken even longer to arrive.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) on this occasion, as in other debates, raised the question of artillery, in Germany in particular. Indeed, it seems that some of his strictures have been noted in the present Memorandum in which it is said:Attention is being paid to the need to strengthen the fire power of the Royal Artillery especially in Germany.Heaven knows, there is great need for this.
I asked last year and did not have an answer, and so I will ask again this year, though I do not expect an answer this year either, what real rôle could the British Army of the Rhine play? What kind of battle could it fight without having to resort to tactical nuclear weapons? Perhaps we can be told that. We were not told last time. What rôle can it play? Is it utterly and entirely dependent on tactical nuclear weapons? What exactly is its state? I know there are security reasons for not telling us everything, but what is its state for fighting a battle without resorting to tactical nuclear weapons? We have noted the exercises which are held from time to time in Germany. They all seem to show that the Army has to rely on nuclear weapons. How many major exercises in recent years have pointed to the Army's resorting to nuclear weapons?
The continual and persistent resort to the use of nuclear weapons is some indication of the rôle which the Army expects it can play in Germany today. Last year the Minister of Defence, on the question of tactical nuclear weapons, was able to boast on 6th March that Blue Water would be a completely 1691 British tactical nuclear weapon. There is now the inevitable absence of any mention of Blue Water. Last year I was naive enough to ask—and my plea fell on deaf ears—when we might expect to get Blue Water. The Under-Secretary, perhaps advisedly, ignored my plea for information last year.
There are several other matters that I should like to raise, but there is no time to go into them now. In passing, may I mention signals, about which there is still disquiet. I was interested in the observations of the Secretary of State today on this subject, and indeed in his reply to a Question of mine a few weeks ago.
Last year, the Under-Secretary referred to the reasons why men join the Army. He concluded his speech by saying:The one thing that is common to them all is that in service with a good unit, people find a sense of comradeship and purpose and of working together for a common good as part of something which, they feel, is bigger than their own private well-being."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 760.]He went on to describe the opportunities in the Services. I hope he can say the same today.
We send our best wishes to the Army from this Committee. But there has been considerable disquiet about several incidents which has occurred in the Army. In recent weeks there has been the upset about the Scots Guards. That episode has been referred to by the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire and several other hon. Members. Indeed, the Secretary of State said that he was very concerned about it. He said it was a deplorable action and that he had called for a report. This was an incident involving 25 men bordering on mutiny and, in the words of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, something was very wrong indeed. There is grave disquiet about this incident in all quarters of the Committee.
Inquiry will probably reveal that this unit, a crack battalion, was under strength. There have been references in the past to what should be the proper strength of a battalion to enable it to carry out its duties, whether it be 600 or 700 men. It must be terribly difficult for a battalion, a company, a platoon or a section to carry out whatever task is 1692 allocated to it if it is under strength. If the strength of this battalion was 360 men but was up to strength in N.C.O.s, it must be top-heavy. When guard duties and fatigues have to be performed, with people on leave, sick, in the regimental office and excluded from these duties for other reasons, the duties fall on a smaller number of men. That may be the key to the problem.
Last year we had the troubles in the British Army of the Rhine. There must have been some disquiet and unhappiness before those troubles broke out. Coupled with this is the vast surge of men wanting to get out of the Army in order to stand at Parliamentary elections. These things have been noted, and not only in this country, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley said. Nevertheless, I hope that whatever the problem is, a full inquiry will reveal the root of the trouble. I am sure that with a more honest and realistic approach to the problems of the strength, equipment and the rôle of the British Army, the Army can do its job. If we do not get it from this Government, I do not think we ever shall. If we have a far more honest and realistic approach, then the Army can do its job properly. We wish it well.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State and Financial Secretary for War (Mr. James Ramsden)
In opening the debate, my right hon. Friend commented that this was the third debate of its kind which he had opened as Secretary of State. Equally, this is the third which it has fallen to me to wind up as his Under-Secretary of State. During that time, there have been several debates, apart from the Estimates debates, about the Army and about our problems of manpower, and there has been a great deal of talk about the targets at which we have been aiming in recruiting. A certain amount of confusion has manifested itself in the past, and I thought that this was shown again today. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) in his, as always, agreeable speech, tended to fall into some confusion, like other hon. Members.
Throughout the past three years, I have been quite clear about what it is that we have been aiming at in our manpower targets. We have aimed at achieving a strength of 165,000 as a 1693 floor figure, as we have said throughout, and we have said that, when we achieved it—I remind the Committee that we did, in fact, achieve it some months before the date we forecast—we should go on recruiting up to about 180,000. I have always understood this to be the position, and this intention was confirmed today by my right hon. Friend in his speech.
§ Sir F. Maclean
Will my hon. Friend not agree that there were moments when the contrary appeared, as, for instance, in 1960, when the Minister of Defence said that the Army might want more but it would have to manage with 165,000? Is it not also the fact that his right hon. Friend produced this figure of 180,000—and quite justifiably—with considerable flourish in the Estimates as though it were something new that he had been allowed to recruit up to that target?
§ Mr. Ramsden
I have stated the position as I have always understood it. I think that one is entitled to set the achievement of the Army in recruiting up to the floor figure of 165,000 well ahead of schedule against the possibility which, it is true, my right hon. Friend the previous Minister of Defence indicated, that we might for a short time fail in our expectation and be rather short. In fact, the confidence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been fully justified. We did not fall short, and we reached the target some time ahead of the projected date.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I have not much time left to me, and I have an enormous number of points to cover. I shall refer to the hon. Gentleman later.
At the outset, I wish to refer to a matter which was referred to by my right hon. Friend and mentioned by several hon. Members, the unfortunate happenings in the Scots Guards Battalion at Pirbright. Though I will deal with this in detail and with reference to particular happenings if the Committee wishes to press me, I should prefer to generalise from it, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) did, and discuss it, defending my right hon. Friend on the basis of the general argument which my hon. Friend advanced. 1694 I think it distasteful to the Committee to have to go into details of an unfortunate happening in a distinguished unit which has, I know, the sympathy of all hon. Members. I would, therefore, approach the matter from the general aspect.
§ Mr. Ramsden
My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire said that what had happened here and in other places was symptomatic of shortages and of lack of balance in units throughout the whole Army. We have always recognised that a period during which there would be shortages was part of the price, if one likes to call it that, of the change-over to a Regular Army from an Army with a mixed Regular and National Service content. I do not believe that it is justifiable to argue on the basis of this incident, regrettable as it is, and indeed of the other incidents in Germany mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, that a state of too great strain has been reached while the process of recruiting our full numbers has been going on. Our numbers are building up very well. My right hon. Friend was able to hold out hopes that we should be fully recruited in all units somewhere early in 1964. Anyone who looks, as I have, at the rate of progress made, not only by infantry brigades but by all units in the Army, will see that they are building up well and that there are not likely to be any chronic shortages anywhere. An examination of the progress during the last year reveals that those who were worst recruited have on the whole made the most progress in building up. This indicates that the first preferences of soldiers are not always their final preferences and there should be no great difficulties in building the whole Army up to its target strength. I repeat what my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, that with the figure of 180,000 all our units will be up to their peace establishment.
§ Mr. Driberg
Did the Under-Secretary say just now that, if pressed to do so, he would deal in detail with this unfortunate incident? May I press him to do so, because my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and I 1695 had Written Answers yesterday from the Secretary of State which I can only describe as highly impertinent Answers, since the House of Commons is entitled to know the details when something goes wrong in a unit?
§ Mr. Ramsden
If I have time at the end, I will revert to this. My right hon. Friend dealt with it in some detail, I think in the hon. Gentleman's absence, this afternoon. His conclusion was that he had called for an inquiry, that this was a military matter, and that he was going to await the military recommendations on it.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I come to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). He was good enough to congratulate us on the success of our recruiting campaign. He suggested that there ought to be more discretion for recruiting officers to take on young men who were for a time on probation. He said that he thought that the recruiting officer should have some discretion and more flexibility. The point about recruiting officers not taking on those on probation is that ipso facto a young man on probation has shown some evidence of instability of character or other fault, otherwise he would not be on probation. The presumption is that the period of probation will cure it. After he has finished it, he is able to enlist in the Army. It would be rather hard if the Army were to be expected to accept those whom the civil courts have thought fit to subject to a period during which they may remedy any faults that they have shown.
§ Mr. Ramsden
No, not until the period of probation has been served. This is only fair to the Army.
The hon. and learned Gentleman also mentioned the position of the Polish ex-regular soldiers, as did the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Gourlay). I want briefly to refer to this, because I was involved in a meeting held in the Ministry of Defence, with representatives of the British Legion and the Polish ex-regulars present, during which we dis- 1696 cussed the administration of a grant of £50,000 a year which has been made by the British Government for the relief of these ex-soldiers. If the hon. and learned Member missed that, he will be glad to hear about it and I can give him further details later.
Much the most important and significant part of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton was when he came to discuss the rôle of the Army in the world today. I noticed a great deal of interest in the Committee in his conclusions. I understood him to suggest that we should have up to four divisions, about 80,000 men, in B.A.O.R. He then qualified his remarks but I gathered that about 80,000 men would be required. Does he still want us to do that?
§ Mr. Ramsden
He was perfectly logical in his speech and, having suggested that that was what was needed in Germany, he went on to suggest how we might produce the required number of men. He and his hon. Friends are not prepared to advocate a return to conscription so he had to consider other alternatives. He suggested that we should be prepared to withdraw from Hong Kong. I thought it rather irresponsible of him to have thrown that out without any explanation of how, in that event, our commitment to the internal security of the Colony, concerning 3 million people, would be preserved—and although it seemed rather like a standing invitation to the Chinese to walk in and take over the Colony he threw the suggestion out somewhat lightly.
§ Mr. Ramsden
There is all the difference in the world between the present position and the changed situation which would be precipitated by the sudden withdrawal of our forces from the Colony.
The hon. and learned Member also seemed to contemplate our pulling out of Singapore where, as he described it, we were defending what he seemed to regard as some rather out of date commercial interests. I wonder if the hon. and learned Member really thought that out? Do his hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench who speak on defence 1697 agree with him? Have they considered what Australia and New Zealand, which are very sensitive about this forward element of their defences, would say to a British decision to pull out of Singapore? He thought we might remain in the Gulf, but can he really consider that, having abandoned all these other interests, we would find it easy to maintain ourselves in isolation in this one part of the world, across the barrier in the Persian Gulf?
He went on to talk about our withdrawing from Libya and Cyprus. It is true that Cyprus is primarily a Royal Air Force base from which we fulfil our obligations to C.E.N.T.O., but our Army is necessary to support the R.A.F. In Libya we have a commitment to maintain troops under a treaty of friendship with the Libyan Government and we also need to maintain our staging facilities at El Adem. Thus it seemed that the hon. and learned Member was prepared to make vast sacrifices of our interests in so many areas in exchange for a reinforcement of B.A.O.R.
Does he really think that the Americans would welcome a world-wide abdication of our interests on this scale? And what sort of contribution does he think it would make to the overall defence effort of the West? Someone would nave to restore stability when we had pulled out, and I cannot believe that our other Allies would regard it as either a justifiable gesture on our part or one to the general advantage of the West.
The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) spoke of the relationship of recruiting with unemployment, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry), but it is a curious fact that, contrary to what many people have thought, there seems to be no discernible relationship between unemployment and the improvement in recruiting. Our experience has been that our recruiting effort has met with more success in areas like the East Midlands, where there is very little unemployment than, for example, in Northern Ireland or Scotland, where one might have expected the contrary to happen.
My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) talked, as the Committee expected, about the Gurkhas and, as we expected, said 1698 that he had heard with regret my right hon. Friend's decision. I should like to assure him that we shall certainly pay attention to what he has said about the Gurkhas; namely, that those who are no longer needed should have proper treatment, that the recruiting organisation should be kept in being and maintained, and that the establishment of the remaining battalions should be sufficient. I assure my right hon. and gallant Friend that it is our intention that the battalion that is to form a depot battalion should rotate with those that remain operational.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Whitlock)—who has told me that, owing to having 'flu, he cannot be here now—raised the question of the Royal Ordnance Factory at Nottingham. Last year, we had to make a disagreeable decision on the production plans for the new armoured personnel carrier. When we went into the costs we found that to have done as we planned and given half the order for this vehicle to the Royal Ordnance factories would have resulted in a cost to the Exchequer of about £1 million, possibly more, above the alternative of giving the whole of the order to Sankeys, the parent firm. Faced with that, and with the qualification made by the Public Accounts Committee about the "preferred source" policy, we had no alternative but to place the order with the private firm.
That was most unfortunate, because the Royal Ordnance factories had been expecting this order, and it had been our intention that they should have it, considerations of price being equal. In fact, for the last two years we had been doing our best to keep the factory geared up ready to receive this order. The crash order mentioned by the hon. Member for 1-ton armoured trucks, over which the Public Accounts Committee criticised our estimating, was put in to keep the factory going. Now that the order for armoured personnel carriers has gone elsewhere, we are having to look at all the capacity in the weapons and fighting vehicle group of factories, and we shall announce our conclusions as soon as we possibly can.
Several hon. Members talked about the Territorial Army—notably my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison). 1699 My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove asked for a more rapid re-equipment of the Territorial Army, but I must remind him that there are here two limitations within which, with the best will in the world, we have to work. First, the Territorial Army cannot be a competitor with the Regular Army for the new equipment, and I know they all recognise that. Secondly, there is bound to be a financial limitation. We have not been able to envisage bringing all Territorial Army units up to full Regular Army scales with new equipment. In 1960, after the reorganisation of the Territorial Army, we worked out and put to the Territorial Army Council a programme of £12½ million spread over five years together with the scales to which we hoped to be able to go. More and more items are coming along as the Regular Army programme gets into gear.
I should like to make a special reference to the problem of wireless sets, which is particularly important to the Territorial Army and especially to the gunners. The 19 sets, with which many of us are familiar, are getting pretty old and difficult to keep in repair. We have therefore had to withdraw considerable numbers which are no longer repairable, and this has meant that gunner regiments have been left with not enough sets to train effectively in practice camp in their close support rôle. For this year we shall ensure, by the issue of further sets and by loaning regiments sets available in Commands, that they have enough sets to train realistically in camp in their proper rôle—but they will be old sets. Next year we shall have made more progress with the issue of the C45 set, and by the camping season in 1965 it is our hope that all gunner regiments will have been brought up to scale with the C45, which is the replacement for the 19 set. The scale does not provide the same number as the Regular Army scale, but for camp and training purposes we shall make available sets from Command stocks so that they have enough to carry out realistic training at practice camps.
The hon. Member for Dudley returned to the charge by saying that we had reduced our standards and that this had had a dramatic effect on recruiting. I do not believe that the latest wastage figures which I have been studying bear out that 1700 contention, and I must try to refute it, because it is damaging. The recruit wastage figures over the past three years—covering the period during which our recruiting has been most intense—show a decline in the rate of discharge by purchase and a decline in the rate of discharge for medical reasons. If we had been reducing standards we would have expected the opposite to be true. On the other hand, the percentage figure for discharge for other reasons shows an increase. This militates against the hon. Member's argument. If we were getting in people of too low a standard and were deliberately keeping them in order to sustain the Army's rate of recruitment, we should expect an exactly opposite trend in the figures. On the figures the hon. Member's contention is not proved.
We have reached a position of being able to raise standards. That is very desirable from the Army's point of view, but it does not mean that standards were too low in the first place. The hon. Member will probably accept that.
§ Mr. Wigg
I do not accept it. The rate of wastage is still about 20 per cent. When one looks at it in terms of arms of the Service the disparities are so great as to make it clear that my contention is correct. Perhaps on some future occasion the hon. Member and I will have this out again. I have no doubt that the pressure of the Secretary of State on the recruiting organisations has produced this result.
§ Mr. Ramsden
We can debate this later. I still have some points to cover.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom) welcomed our repatriation proposals but he asked whether we could make provision for cremation in those parts of the world where we could not repatriate the bodies of the deceased. There are difficulties about this, but I will consider the suggestion. What we have tried to do in the new proposals is to ensure uniform treatment for everybody. We could not promise to arrange for cremation in the Far East, for example. Facilities are not available everywhere, and there would also be the difficulty that cremation would be acceptable to people of some religious faiths but not to others.
We will consider my hon. Friend's suggestion about one-year tours, but, 1701 again, I am not too hopeful of being able to do entirely as he asks. It is not always the most economical way of disposing of soldiers to send them to a station for only one year. In many circumstances, it is not economical.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West took us to task for not doing as much as we might to site the Army in Scotland and make use of training areas there. I can only assure my hon. Friend that we have recently been reviewing in the War Office future building projects, having in mind the North of England, Scotland and the development districts. We are conducting a review, but I cannot hold out great hopes, because the Army must be sited near to training areas. Radically to revise the current building and deployment programme would enforce a great deal of unacceptable delay.
I have not been able to answer a number of points made by hon. Members, and this I regret. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) asked about building in that town. It is true that Aldershot was left somewhat behind in the Army's rebuilding programme, but now that we have begun the reconstruction of the Stanhope Lines—and I have seen how fast it has been going ahead—I hope that my hon. Friend will have less occasion to be dissatisfied with us.
§ Mr. Ramsden
We have had, as usual, a valuable debate. I wish that I had had time to deal more fully and effectively with the many points which hon. Members have raised. I am sure that the whole Committee will join me in wishing success to the Army in its efforts during the coming year.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the number of Land Forces, not exceeding 241,000, all ranks, be maintained for the safety of the United Kingdom and the defence of the possession of Her Majesty's Crown, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1964.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received Tomorrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.