§ LORD O'HAGAN rose to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the representations made by certain Territorial Army county associations that recruiting for the Territorial Army is being prejudiced by the unsatisfactory Regulations governing the payment to non-commissioned officers and men of their expenses when attending drills; and to move that it is expedient to amend Appendix XIV. of the Territorial Force. Regulations with a view to simple and definite rules being laid down.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I had not intended to preface the Question which I have placed on the Paper by more than a few remarks, but, as I have already told my noble friend, there are one or two observations I have been asked to make on this occasion which are certainly not out of place in dealing with the subject of recruiting. I venture to make these observations in the hope of giving my noble friend an opportunity to make a statement on several points about which there exists considerable uncertainty—an uncertainty which is handicapping those who, like myself, are anxious to do all they can to make the territorial army a reality and a success. I need hardly assure my noble friend that in raising these points I do so in no hostile spirit, but with the object—which I am sure I share with him—of trying to remove those points of uncertainty which are, in the practical work of-recruiting, affecting its success.
I realise that it would not be in order, nor would it be desirable on a Motion such as this, to labour the point as to the very important position which it is intended the Territorial Army should occupy in the scheme for national and, indeed, Imperial defence. The Secretary of State in January last, at a Conference which he held with the representatives of the country Teritorial associations, was very candid, and I am sure all those who are interested in the Territorial Army welcomed the candour with which he dealt with the responsibilities
placed upon that Force and the difficulties which confronted those engaged in its administration. Mr. Churchill said that, in recognising those difficulties, he felt sure they were asking us to undertake a very heavy and difficult task; but the words I should like to commend to your Lordships are those which follow towards the end of his remarks in which—after reviewing the responsibilities that lay, and would lie for some considerable time, on the Regular Army—he said—
I think that, with such a strain on the limited resources of the Volunteer Army, it will be impossible for them to fulfil their duties unless behind them in a great emergency they can count on the organised aid of their citizen comrades.
I venture to think that the course of events since January in Europe, in the Near East, and elsewhere, has done little to lessen the sense of responsibility of the county associations who, after all, are responsible for raising the Territorial Army.
§ They must feel and appreciate that responsibility all the more after the grave statement I have just quoted to your Lordships. On May 4, in the other House, the Secretary of State, in answering a question, reiterated the determination of the Government to make the Territorial Army a reality in every respect; and later, in the course of subsequent answers, he gave an emphatic assurance that the Government and the Army Council would spare no effort to make effective the scheme for the reconstruction of the Territorial Force. Delays may have been inevitable. but they were certainly protracted, in regard to decisions on many important points, in the War Office; and this gave rise to a feeling in certain parts of the country that the authorities did not really attach much importance to the Territorial Army. In some places it was even said that they did not much want it to succeed. Though, for my own part, it seems very clear that these impressions are entirely erroneous, I am bound to admit, for instance, that the long time it appears to take in sending out any of the training equipment to the various units, did give some justification to those who were receiving those impressions. This feeling made the work of recruiting still more difficult than naturally it is in the existing circumstances. We have to reckon, of course, with the sense of war-weariness present among that class from which, as has been indicated, it is hoped that the larger number of recruits will be 104 drawn—namely, the trained men. I will not do more than allude in passing to the present industrial situation in the country.
§ The first point with which I hope my noble friend will deal—it is one of which I have given him private notice—is that of cadets, because this organisation is regarded, and I think rightly regarded, looked at from one angle, as a very valuable source of recruiting for all the Forces of the Crown. It is common knowledge that the number of cadets increased greatly during the war and, among others, the educational authorities throughout the country seemed to realise, in a way of which they gave no indication before, the immense possibilities in a cadet organisation for producing useful citizens. In some counties, notably in my own county of Essex, the educational authorities gave it clearly to be understood that they looked upon it as a most desirable thing that, in the normal organisation of all secondary schools, a Cadet Corps should form an integral part. But in Essex they went further than this, and endeavoured to bring into the cadet organisation those boys who did not go necessarily into secondary schools but who were leaving the elementary schools. As a result of this a larger number of fresh corps were started during the war, and I think I am justified in saying that both there and throughout the country a tine, vigorous spirit permeated the whole of that organisation—among the boys, the parents, and the teachers alike. The task that was undertaken in forming the fresh corps was no easy one. The collecting of funds has always been a great difficulty in this connection, but, in spite of all this, during the war, when patriotic feelings ran high, this movement grew very largely and the workers in it felt confident that the official blessings and verbal encouragements which were showered on them from the War Office would be translated, when the strain and pre-occupation of the war were removed, into real and substantial support and encouragement.
§ What really happened? I agree at once that it would be very unreasonable to expect this particular subject of organisation to take precedence in any way of the far more vital problem of reorganisation of the first- and second-line Armies; but I think it is reasonable to expect that an organisation which was already in existence, which was so full of promise, and which could so easily become an asset of immense value in the difficult matter of recruiting for all the military 105 Forces of the Crown, should receive, at the earliest possible moment, at least encouragement and some adequate measure of Government support. For two years these verbal assurances were given repeatedly in reply to the various questions that were put before the authorities, but, in practical effect, very little or nothing has been done. Meanwhile, the majority of these Cadet Corps—and I speak from personal knowledge of this matter—have practically reached a point in which we limy describe their condition as that of being in extremis. It is very easy to understand how public support gradually fell away after the Armistice owing to the lack of official encouragement and financial assistance; and so the devoted work and patriotic endeavours so insistently given to enlisting and organising the Cadets, by those who were not only animated by the knowledge of the benefit that the training would be to the boys individually, both physically and morally, but who also were desirous of discharging what they conceived to be a patriotic duty, became practically impossible to carry out.
§ I venture to think that it is neither right nor politic that all this energy and all this work, with the value that it represents to the community, should be lost or wasted through the procrastination of those in authority in making up their minds. Since, at the request of my noble friend, I postponed putting this Question, an Army Council instruction has been issued at long last dealing with this subject of Cadets. I should like at once to acknowledge the value of that pronouncement on the part of the War Office. But I am assured by those who have a far more intimate knowledge of the expense of running these various units, especially such as I have described as existing in my own county of Essex, that the grants of 5s. per head which go to the Commanding Officer are really quite inadequate in giving material assistance to those corps which most need it. While I am sure we are all very grateful for the grant which it has been decided to make, in view of the great potentialities of this cadet organisation and the greatly increased cost of the equipment, for my own part I very much regret that the proposals which have been before the War Office now, I think, for over twelve months and upon which these grants seem to have been arranged, did not receive more attention.106
§ In this connection I should like to ask my noble friend also whether it is true that the General who was in charge of the Cadet organisation in the War Office has now been replaced, as I am told, by a junior staff officer, who has other pre-occupations besides that of administering and dealing with cadet matters. And whether the special sub-division—I think it was T.F. 5—under the direction of the Territorial Forces at the War Office is still in existence for dealin, with these cadet matters.
§ The other point of which I have given my noble friend notice was in connection with the permission, recently given by the War Office, for Territorial units to go into camp this year, in spite of the fact of their numbers not being up to what is laid I down as the requisite percentage of strength, and what decision has been arrived at with regard to the bonus that will be paid to these men. It is quite clear, of course, as this permission was only given comparatively recently, that it is practically a physical impossibility for these men to go through what was laid down as the requisite number of drills, and I should be very much obliged if my noble friend would give me some information as to how these things now stand in respect of the bonus referred to by Mr. Winston Churchill.
§ I come now to the Question which is on the Paper in my name. I think it is common knowledge among all those who were concerned with the administration of the Territorial Force as it was before the war, that commanding officers frequently found it extremely difficult to meet the cost of conveyance to drill or to musketry of formed bodies of men. Besides that, in the case of individuals travelling by themselves, they very rarely recovered their expenses in connection with travelling to and from drill. I dare say my noble friend is well aware that before the war, under the Territorial Force Regulations as they then were, there was a good deal of dissatisfaction in regard to this matter—I do not want to put it too high—especially in the case of country battalions, and it was felt to be a great grievance among many men. The question is constantly being asked now of recruiting officers and commanding officers by intending recruits—" Will my expenses for attending drills be paid?" And at the moment it is not easy to give a satisfactory answer to that question. I am assured by those who are actively concerned in this matter that their inability to give 107 a satisfactory answer to this question is having considerable influence in holding men back from joining up.
Very often these minor points have very great influence with men in deciding whether they will join up at once or will delay it, and so on. The matter is not altogether a simple one. One of the reasons why it is difficult to give a satisfactory answer is that we are rather uncertain as to how this matter stands. At the Conference in January Mr. Winston Churchill used these words:—
For attendance at drills a bounty will be paid at the rate of 1s, per drill up to a maximum of 50.
That was quite straightforward, but, later on, referring to the shilling, he used these words—
This will relieve those who attend drills of any travelling expenses.
Whatever the Territorial Force Regulations may have been, this certainly is simple and definite. If it is the intention to carry out what appears to be the effect of the words of the Secretary of State, I venture to say it will be very unfair indeed in the way in which it will fall on the individual.
§ In a great many country districts—I am thinking now in particular of one battalion of the Essex Regiment which, as I very well know, is typical of similar battalions right through the country—the units are, necessarily split up and some men in the old days had to bicycle sometimes as much as ten miles after a hard day's work to their nearest drill station while, at the same time, men in the battalion living in the village or town where the drill hall was situate merely had to walk across the road to attend their drills. Of course if we follow out what has been said, both sets of men will get exactly the same bonus for attending their drills. If I read the words of the Secretary of State correctly, this bonus of 1s. will be expected to relieve both men of their expenses of attending drills. I think that is obviously unfair.
§ On the other hand, if these payments are to come under the old Regulations, I must point out how unsatisfactory the position will be. I have stated what our experience has been in pre-war times with regard to these Regulations, and I might also point out that the discretionary power given to commanding officers and county associations must inevitably lead to considerable variations in the decisions. 108 Amongst those who are concerned with this matter it is felt that it would be far better if some precise and definite rules could be laid down for their guidance. It is not impossible to do this, and if it were done it would simplify the position. I should like to know from the noble Viscount, therefore, what the decision of the War Office is with regard to this matter. My own association, the Essex County Association, approached the War Office on the subject. They wrote on April 23 and on May 21, received an answer in relation to the officers, but no reply is yet to hand with reference to the non-commissioned officers and men.
§ There is one other point on which I hope the noble Viscount will give us an assurance—an assurance which is very much needed at the moment. It has been represented to me how desirable it is that the equipment for instructional purposes should be issued as soon as possible. The absence of this equipment is not only very detrimental in dealing with the men who have already been recruited, but it is also having its effect on those who might be willing to join. Surely out of the immense stores accumulated during the war, and since, it is not impossible to provide the relatively small proportion of the necessary training equipment for the various centres. It would encourage both those who are engaged in the training of the men and those who are trying to get the men to train. It would also be an earnest of the intentions of the authorities in this matter.
§ An almost incredible case was brought to my notice last week. In one centre there were between thirty and forty gunnery recruits and when I asked how their training was proceeding I was told that it was almost impossible to train the men in gunnery because they were making use of a captured German gun, a war trophy granted to the village. It seems to me a most extraordinary and ridiculous thing that such a state of things should exist at this time. While great credit is reflected upon the instructors by their determination and ingenuity, the circumstance furnishes a most deplorable commentary upon the action, or rather the inaction, of the War Office. Before the war such a state of things might have been understood. The Territorial Army was the Cinderella of the War Office, and one had to submit to anything that one could get. But in these days, after all that has been said, with the immense stores available, it is a disgraceful state of 109 things that circumstance such as I have described should be possible.
§ I am afraid I have occupied more of your Lordships' time than I originally intended to take. My only excuse must be the importance of the subject with which I have endeavoured to deal in one or two of its aspects. His Majesty's Government, in launching the scheme for the reconstruction of the Territorial Army, laid great stress on the seriousness and purpose of the Force, and we have received every encouragement from the highest quarter in the country, from the King himself, to engage wholeheartedly in the work of this reconstruction as a patriotic duty. I have raised some of the salient points which are handicapping us in our efforts, and I hope the Under-Secretary of State will answer the remarks I have made in the spirit in which they are addressed to him and give us some assurance that these difficulties will be rapidly mid effectively dealt with.
§ Moved to resolve, That it is expedient to amend Appendix XIV of the Territorial Force Regulations with a view to simple and definite rules being laid down.—(Lord 0'Hagan.)
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT PEEL)
My Lords, my noble friend is entitled to offer criticisms on the management and administration of the Territorial Force, because, in addition to his legislative position, I understand he is himself actively engaged in assisting in the recruiting of that Force. He has raised several points which, unless he had given me notice, I should not have suspected to be closely relevant to the Question on the Paper. I had better answer the Question on the Paper first as it deals with an amendment of Appendix XIV and the payment of out-of-pocket expenses for noncommissioned officers and men attending drills. He is aware that grants to county associations are given under certain circumstances for expenses of moving units, battalions, and companies, from the headquarters to places where they drill. In most cases, the full grants are not drawn, and then an arrangement is made by which a commuted portion of the balance is used by the county association to form a fund in order to pay, where they think fit and subject to their discretion, the out-of-pocket expenses of non-commissioned officers and men coining to particular drills.
110 My noble friend in his Question, and also in his speech, suggests that county associations have made representations on this subject. That statement is not strictly correct. Only the Essex County Association has made representations on this point, and we have no reason to believe that other associations are dissatisfied. Although I have every respect for the activities and energy of the Essex County Association, I cannot think my noble friend would ask me to make changes in the Regulations at the request of one association alone. It does not seem necessary to make, and the Army Council have no intention of making, any alterations in the substance of Appendix XIV, especially as these Regulations were revised not very long ago. I can inform my noble friend, however, that the question of the rates paid under these grants is under consideration, and I dare say it will make some difference in the administration.
But I wish to state most definitely that I am not at all prepared to assent to what the noble Lord wishes—namely, that definite rules and instructions should he given to the county associations in time exercise of the it discretion. That is precisely what I do not want to do. The one request, I may almost say demand, which comes from all county associations, is that they shall be left as ranch freedom as can be left to theme in the administration of this money, and I can assure my noble friend that I should go counter to all the desires of the county associations—I am not speaking of Essex, which he knows better than I de if I were to try to tie the county associations by hard and fast rules. I can conceive of nothing more unfortunate for the success of the Force or the efficient discharge of the great duties entrusted to the county associaitons.
His next point was with regard to the bonus. I think his question was as to the arrangement about the bonus of £5 for the training and of £4 for those recruits who attend camp but have not been able to do the requisite number of drills in order to obtain the full bonus. These Regulations are set out in the Army Order issued on July 5. I know it takes a certain time for these Army Orders to be issued and read, and perhaps a certain longer time for them to be understood. I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the Order because it sets out 111 the whole of the new revised rules about the grant of the bonus. In the Regulations is one which clearly states that a man must before November have either performed twenty drills and fired a musketry course, or attended fifteen days' training in camp, My noble friend will see that one of the advantages held out to members of the Force is that they would not have to perform the drills before camp, but have until November 1 in order to complete them. He will realise that that is a very considerable concession and a great advantage to the men.
The third point on which he questions me is in connection with the Territorial Force cadets: I confess I was rather surprised to hear his criticism upon this point. An agreement has been reached—and I should like to say a word about how it has been reached—to give 1s. per cadet to the county association for administrative purposes and 5s. per cadet, and the grants may amount to a considerable sum if, as we hope, the number of cadet companies and their members considerably increase. The old rule has been abrogated by which the number of infantry cadet companies was limited to the different units. There is, therefore, no limit at present to the numbers that may he raised. That concession, in itself, is a considerable one, and after a fresh amount of money has been placed upon the Army Estimates I think it is really ungrateful to come down here and say that it is quite an inadequate sum.
While my noble friend was speaking I referred to the debate which occurred last week, on national economy, and in which the Government was severely condemned and heavily out-voted (by 95 to 23) because it was alleged that they were increasing rather than trying to reduce establishments. Among the 95 I found, to my astonishment, the name of my noble friend. Yet here he comes a week afterwards, and the one complaint which he makes against the War Office is that they are not spending enough upon one particular item. That is an example of what happens. I do not want to criticise merely my noble friend; but he knows perfectly well that these debates about economy are perfectly meaningless, because on the first opportunity for spending money we are criticised because we do not ask the Treasury for more.
I think that those who are familiar 112 with the cadet movement will say that the grant is very generous, and I should like to point this out in justification of the War Office. All the members of an Inter-Departmental Committee, on which the Board of Education and the Home Office were represented, agreed that the cadet movement was an admirable thing and should be supported, but they were all also agreed on another point—namely, that they were not going to find a penny themselves, but that the money should come out of the War Office Vote. Therefore, considering the tremendous demands made upon the War Office Vote, and considering the most unfair attacks made upon the War Office in regard to the spending of money, I submit, on behalf of the War Office, that the Department deserves great credit for having taken upon its shoulders this burden which it need not have taken, because the advantage of the cadet movement lies much more in the improvement of the youth of the country than in any specific advantage to the War Office. Inasmuch, however, as the cadet movement was so anxious, perhaps not unnaturally, to be under the War Office administration, the War Office agreed to take it under its wing. There is, of course, some incidental advantage about getting recruits, but the advantage is far wider than any War Office question, and I think it is most unfair that the War Office should be charged with having dealt ungenerously in the matter.
I think I have dealt with every point mentioned by my noble friend, except that of equipment. He gave me no notice about that, and all I can say is that every effort is being made to provide the proper equipment, for training and otherwise, for the Territorial Force. The difficulties in the way are very great, and if there is any specific case which has come to the attention of my noble friend, I shall be extremely glad to look into it. He will, however, realise that, it is rather difficult to deal with specific cases unless one has an opportunity of looking into them. As regards the Question on the Paper I hope he will be satisfied that these grants, as regards the monetary side of them, are now being revised, and that the overwhelming opinion among the county associations is that they would like to have some latitude in the method in which they dispense the grants, because the county associations—each in its own area—are the best judges of the kind of assistance which ought to be given.
I do not wish to press the Motion, but I desire to say that I am grateful to the noble Viscount for what he has said. I am sure the remarks which he has made will be received with attention and a great deal of pleasure by those who, like myself, are concerned in the administration of the Territorial Force. I am more pleased than I can say with regard to the rules upon which grants would be made to the county associations. As to the remarks which he made about the bonus with respect to the camps this year, the concession is a very considerable one, and one which will be very much appreciated; but, as the noble Lord has said, these Regulations take time to issue and perhaps do not very rapidly reach those for whom they are intended.
Sometimes they are not received in time for them to be considered. With regard to the cadets, I will 114 not endeavour to cross swords with my noble friend who is a far more able dialectician than I am. I would like to emphasise what I thought I had said, which was that I do recognise, as others will recognise, that it is a generous contribution that the War Office has made, and one that will be highly appreciated. All I ventured to point out was not that it was not a generous contribution, but that it might not prove adequate. I quite understand the difficulties under which the War Office is placed in a matter of this kind, but my withers are quite unwrung by sonic remarks of my noble friend. Though I am prepared to go a certain distance along the road indicated in order to get support for this organisation outside the War Office as well as from the War Office, I still think that the grant will very likely have to be increased in future. I ant much obliged to my noble friend for the information he has given, and I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before six o'clock.