§ 4.20 p.m.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY rose to call attention to the conditions and terms of service of the Armed Forces; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion which stands in my name, evidently under the heavy shadow of the axe which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, has delineated to us. That perhaps makes my Motion rather more apposite, because I myself am anxious to see, if the axe falls and there should be economy of the National Service, that the Services are not, as they have been in the past, the first to suffer. This Motion has been a considerable time upon the Order Paper, and it was placed there in anticipation—and I hope this House will think with intelligent anticipation—that something would turn up from the Government. Something has turned up in the shape of a series of pronouncements on important factors affecting the Armed Forces. You have had pronouncements upon National Service, upon the Auxiliary Forces, upon the Regular Forces and in particular upon the infantry arm.
§ Now I can see that the statement on National Service is by far the most important which has been made of late by the Government. I personally welcome that statement. I am sure that noble Lords who sit on these Benches also welcome it, because we believe that such introduction of National Service in present circumstances is absolutely necessary for the safety of our country, and to enable our country to play an effective part in preserving the peace of the world. I believe that defence should be above Party. I believe that no citizen who values the free and representative institutions of our county of which we are so proud, and justly proud, would seek to deny to the Government of the day, whatever its complexion, the necessary arms to preserve the citizens of our country from external aggression. I think noble Lords 638 opposite will concede that since this Goverment assumed office we on these Benches have tried to conduct our debates upon defence matters in that spirit.
§ Training of conscripts, both during their colour service and in their reserve service, is going to be a difficult matter. We must all realize that. Not the least difficult will it be to keep the man who has done his colour service in trim to take his place in our forces in the event of mobilization. Other noble Lords who will speak to-day will, I have no doubt, discuss in greater detail some of the technical problems involved in instructing men in all three Services, but I have particularly in mind my own Service, the Army, and the various difficult technical matters which the soldier has to master these days. I do not myself intend to deal with that. I think the primary thing is to let the conscripted man realize the purpose of his training. If he does that, then the other things will follow, but if he has no idea put into his mind during his service of the purport of his training, his attitude will be aimless and he will become a bored man. In a word, I would like to see a conscripted man attain the outlook of his Service, whether soldier, sailor or airman, so that when the day comes—and we hope it will not—when we have to mobilize our forces, he will come as a soldier, sailor or airman and not as a civilian in uniform.
§ May I for a moment inflict upon your Lordships my own personal experience? I was never an officer of His Majesty's Regular Forces, but I held a Commission in the Supplementary Reserve of a regiment in the Regular Army before the war, so I was able to see the thing from the civilian and Army point of view. I did not realize until the war came, and was actually called up and serving with my regiment, the purpose of a great deal of the training which I had undergone in peace-time. Although I was called up for my annual training I found it much easier to roll on my puttees—for we wore those things in those days—than to attune myself to a different and Service outlook. There are two things which I think are extremely important if we are going to have efficient service. They are not particularly popular, and a great deal of scorn and derision has sometimes been poured upon them in the Sunday newspapers. One is exact obedience, and the other is attention to detail. Those things 639 win battles, and we know that because we have seen it proved. If they are deficient, battles are apt to be lost and in any event the cost in casualties is extremely high.
§ I hope we shall be able to realize those things, because no one can be a leader and command obedience unless he has learnt those two elementary things himself. I hope it will be possible, in designing the training of the conscript, to make him understand that there is not buried somewhere in the War Office a mummified and ossified figure in Crimean War uniform always crying out "Discipline, more discipline." I hope it will be possible to make him understand that this is a necessary foundation of successful Armed Forces. If it is deficient, the cost in casualties will be extremely high until the lesson is learnt. I am sure that if the foundation of our forces is good, the instruction in technical matters, although complicated, will be much easier.
§ The Government have decided to train the reservist, after he has done his colour service, by employing the Territorial organization, and I myself commend that decision because in this matter they are building on experience. There were serious defects in the organization of the Territorial Army before the war. That was recognized, but I am sure it is right to reorganize that Army for this new purpose. Some of the difficulties and defects which were apparent before the war will be removed. Let us think of two. It will not be now, or henceforth, a burden of the Commanding Officer to occupy himself so much with recruiting. Of course, we hope that Territorial Associations will do their best to see that after men have finished their reserve service a fairly good proportion are encouraged to stay on as volunteers. Another way in which we hope and think that by means of National Service the task of the Territorial Army will be eased, is in collective training. It will be possible to carry out collective training in annual camps more or less up to strength. That will be of great benefit to Commanding Officers and those who command formations, as well as to the officers commanding the platoons and companies.
§ But there is one point which we must not lose sight of. Quite properly, National Service is going to be all-embracing. We 640 must all approve of that. But we must consider the implication of the necessity in war-time of reserved occupations, and try to gauge the effect upon the Territorial units of the fact that, although a man may have done his military service, when war comes it may be necessary to reserve him for some civilian job. I am sure the Government have got that under consideration, and if they can tell us what they have in mind it will help us. If the Territorial Army is to perform its function properly, and if the man who is doing his service at the national behest is to feel enthusiastic about it, it is most important that good Commanding Officers should be chosen. The whole thing really rests upon them, and I feel sure the Government have that in mind. It is, in my opinion, of the highest importance.
§ When one is talking of Service matters one is too apt to think primarily of one's own Service, and I propose to confine the remarks with which I hope to conclude my speech rather to Army matters, to the exclusion of Naval and Air Force matters. But I am sure that parallel considerations will be in the minds of noble Lords who can speak with authority for the other two Services. The Regular Army has got to provide the cadres for training the conscript forces, and it is of the greatest importance that these cadres should be of the highest quality, particularly the officers and non-commissioned officers who are charged with the training of conscripts after they have just been called up. It is the treatment of the conscripts on arrival at their depot which will decide their attitude to their future Service. It is most important that there should be officers and non-commissioned officers who combine in the right proportion firmness and understanding to take on that part of the training. If we are going to provide cadres of good quality for that purpose it necessarily follows that we have got to have a Regular Army of good quality from which to choose. The volunteer recruiting for the Regular Army, therefore, assumes an even greater importance than ever.
§ When we are considering the recruiting for the Regular Army I think it is right that we should realize that the most important part of that is the selection of officers. The old Napoleonic saying, "There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers," is often quoted, but in my opinion it cannot be quoted too often 641 because it is profoundly true. I believe that those whose duty it is to select officers for the Army should have the widest possible field of choice. Every man who goes in the Forces, whether as a volunteer or a conscript, should know that he has a chance of gaining commissioned rank. That I conceive to be true democratization. I do not like that word, but I do not know what other to use. If we give the widest field of choice to the selectors, and they have as their standard the needs of the Army, and that alone, then I think we should get a good standard of officer.
§ I should deplore a situation in which the test of the success of democratization was measured by calculating the proportion of those officers who have come from elementary schools to those who come from public schools. I think that would be fatal because you would then introduce politics into the selection of officers and it would be bad for the Forces if that were done. There is another sense in which democratization is sometimes used in speeches and newspapers. This is that the idea of discipline and authority in the Army should rest rather upon popular decision. I do not believe that any noble Lord in this House would advocate that sort of democratization, but sometimes it goes with the idea of a lessening of distinction between ranks. It seems to me that the lessons of other armies, particularly of large conscript armies, is to the contrary. Where there is very slight or no difference existing in the social background of officers and other ranks it has been found necessary to increase rather than diminish the distinction of rank. I believe it is a mistaken policy to lessen the outward marks and symbol that denote leadership and character, and for that reason I continue to deplore the narrowing of the gap in pay between officers, non-commissioned officers and private soldiers—a subject which we debated in this House last year. In that way you are reducing the encouragement to people to come forward and resume responsibility. It is an effort to assume responsibility and a great many good men have refused Commissions because they do not want to leave their fellows and give tip an agreeable life for a life of responsibility. I think you want to make the reward high so that you will attract that sort of people.642
§ I have confined myself so far to some general comments on the announcements made by the Government and some of the implications. Now we must come down a little more to facts, and to put questions where we are not in possession of the facts. I hope myself that the Government will find it possible to implement the somewhat qualified undertaking which was given in the White Paper relating to the call-up for the Forces in 1947 and 1948. I realize and appreciate and understand the reasons why the Government have failed to keep quite up to schedule in demobilization, but we must nevertheless hope they will be in a position by January 1, 1949, not to have serving compulsorily anyone who has served more than two years. That I take to be the purpose of the White Paper.
§ Let me borrow a phrase from the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, which he used in the debate when he replied to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and for the purpose of "exposition" assume that on January 1, 1949, the Government wish to have 1,000,000 men with the Forces. What does that imply? The Economist, a paper not given to exaggeration, has calculated that the call-up for 18 months would provide something like 285,000 men. I do not know whether that figure is accurate, but if it is it would in two years give us 380,000 men. If the desirable position has been achieved that there are no people serving for more than two years, my arithmetic is that there should be 380,000 of them for the purpose of exposition. If we take a 1,000,000 as our total strength, that would give us 620,000 to be filled by volunteers. I hope the noble Lord who replies will correct my arithmetic if it is wrong. It is certainly worth inquiring into, and if that is anything like a correct figure it will mean we shall want a very large number of volunteers. It looks to me as though the 250,000 volunteers for the Army which the noble Lord took for exposition last time is a very low figure.
§ It is of vital importance to the Services, and particularly to the Army, where recruiting has been least good, to have some knowledge of how recruiting is going on. I would like to ask the noble Lord if he is in a position to report progress. I should also like to ask him if he can give us the result of the War Office investigation into the reluctance of young men to join the Army. If he has had 643 time to look into the answers perhaps he can tell us what he intends to do about it, or perhaps even what he has done. I believe—and I do not make any apologies for covering again ground which was covered in the debate on the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman—that it is most important that men when they join the Services should know that after their period of service they will have a good chance of getting employment. I think that if the Government can work out some scheme by which good men of good character are assured of jobs in Government employment—after all, a good many such jobs have been created in the last twelve or fifteen months—we ought to be able to do a great deal to help recruiting.
§ May I take two illustrations? Recruiting for the Navy is, I think, a great deal better than recruiting for the Army as a whole, and I believe that experience shows that the Navy gives a man a better chance when he leaves of getting a job. The same thing applies to the Brigade of Guards for which recruiting has been good in the last twelve months. I think we ought to take these lessons to heart. To do that is far more important than advertising the amenities which we are going to have in the Army. If you take a lesson from commerce you will find that an advertiser does not advertise his goods until he has them to deliver, or, at any rate, very nearly ready for delivery. If you do not deliver the goods in this case I think you are likely to encourage the growth of feelings of cynicism and disappointment and, generally speaking, to do more harm than good. There is one other question which I would like to put to the noble Lord who is going to reply. Last June, in the course of a debate in another place, the present Secretary of State for War said that negotiations were going on between the Services, the Ministry of Labour and the trade unions about trade qualifications in the Services and in the trade unions. Can the noble Lord let us know how those negotiations are progressing?
§ I will not detain the House any longer. We, on these Benches, hope sincerely that the Government's efforts to get recruits will be successful. I am sure that for our part we shall be only too glad to do all that we can to help. It is in this spirit that we have initiated, and I feel sure will continue to initiate, debates from these 644 Benches on these matters. Sometimes we may salt our speeches with a little criticism and sometimes we may even sweeten them with a little judicious praise. But we shall continue to do our best to co-operate with the Government in this matter because we believe it is vital for the safety of our country and of the Empire.
§ 4.44 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I feel that I am a little elderly and somewhat of an amateur to take part in a debate of this kind, but at the same time I have had so close an interest in the Territorial Army in the past that I cannot resist the opportunity to say a few words and ask a few questions about the Territorial Army of the future. Before passing to that, however, I would like, if I may, to take up one point from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, relating to what he said about the necessity of having a scheme for the provision of employment for men leaving the Services. Admirable as it is that there should be such a scheme and other schemes like it, the point I want to make is that if you have these schemes then have them explained to the men by people who really understand the limitations of the schemes. I say that because I know that in the schemes in force in the past the conditions were often interpreted by enthusiastic regimental officers who really had no grasp of the limitations of the schemes. Their exposition merely roused in the hearts of men hopes which the actual scheme did not justify and the disappointment resulting led to considerable resentment.
Turning to the Territorial Army, there are a few questions I would like to ask the noble Lord who is going to reply to consider. From the point of view of an officer who spent a good many years on the Territorial Army Reserve of Officers before the war, there is one matter which I would like to put in the forefront. I assume that if the Territorial Army Reserve of Officers is not already being reconstituted it will in due course come to life again. I can only quote my own experience which was, no doubt, that of all who were similarly situated. I had some twelve or thirteen years between the two wars on the Reserve, and during that period nobody in authority ever lifted a finger to give me the least encouragement to take an interest in Service affairs, 645 to keep in touch with what was going on, to attend a demonstration, to attend a lecture or to give up a little time to take a course. Nobody even sent me a pamphlet to read. The only way one had of learning of the immense changes going on in the Army in these years was by spending one's money on an evening at the Aldershot Tattoo. So it was. Frankly, that is not good enough. You cannot expect your officers to come back after considerable periods of retirement and exclusion from all connexion with the Services with the same enthusiasm and the same value to the State as if they had been kept a little in touch during them period on Reserve.
In the statement which the noble Lord made the other day I understood him to say that when the Territorial Army was reconstituted Staff appointments would be almost, if not quite, exclusively held by Regular Army officers. I quite appreciate that the number of Territorial Army officers who can afford the time to take up Staff appointments in peace-time with a Territorial formation is not great. At the same time I suggest that if there are some who are suitable they could be given an opportunity along with Regular officers to exercise the functions of Staff officers on these formations. Even if that be not approved I want to urge the noble Lord to see that some Staff training is given to as many suitable Territorial Army officers as possible. When actual war comes, much as one hopes it will never come again—some of us have seen it twice—Territorial Army officers are called upon inevitably to fill a certain number of Staff appointments, and it is not easy for a man who is pitchforked into a Staff appointment unless he has the proper background—which the normal Territorial officer does not get. I am not suggesting that he could be given a two-year course at the Staff College. Of course he cannot undertake that. But it ought not to be impossible to arrange short courses such as were held during the war at the Staff College for Territorial candidates for the Staff or to arrange periods of attachment to Regular or Territorial formations in order that they may acquire in peace-time some knowledge of Staff work.
The noble Lord, in giving the general particulars of the Territorial Army, did not, I think, lay down anything as to the ages at which men were to be held eligible 646 to service in the Territorial Army nor whether there was to be any alteration in the pre-war period of engagement. Possibly he may to-day give us some information on that particular subject. One thing that puzzles me concerns the sources of recruitment for the Territorial Army—and nobody can wish more than I do that the Territorial Army in future will have as many recruits as possible. The point is this. Once you have introduced your system of what I might call peace-time conscription a man serves for a limited period full-time and then passes on a part-time basis to a sort of Reserve period in the Territorial Army, as I understand. By that arrangement you have absorbed all the eligible recruits, except those who may elect to stay on at the end of their period of Reserve service in the Territorial Army. That may be a source of supply, but it will not become operative until the man has done his compulsory service in the Territorial Army. From what other source are you going to get recruits? There may be another source, but at the moment it does not come to my mind, and I shall be grateful for the noble Lord's help. It is no use saying: "We will ask the men who will not be called up, and then train them," because these men will be held back from being soldiers when the emergency comes. That would be merely a waste of training. What is your source of supply except the man who stays on at the end of his conscript service?
The other aspect of the matter on which I would like a little information from the noble Lord is this. I understood, again from what he said the other day, that among its future functions the Territorial Army is to be called upon to supply a number of administrative units for building up formations—line of communication troops, and that kind of unit. I do not know whether the noble Lord is in a position to particularize at all as to the type of unit which it is proposed that the Territorial Army, as distinct from the Regular Army, should produce for that purpose. As war becomes more complicated, and an army consequently a more intricate entity, the amount of training required for most of these Service units increases proportionately, and the amount of time a Territorial soldier will have to give, if he is to be up-to-date in his duties, will be correspondingly enlarged.
647 Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to mention for one moment a particular corps of which I myself had some experience in the last war. I do not know whether it is the intention of the War Office to keep the Pioneer Corps in being in any form, but I suggest to the noble Lord that even if it be held that with the present shortage of man-power in the country it is not a practical proposition to put them on a Regular footing and make them part of the Regular Army, it is a corps which might well be established on a Territorial basis. You might well get a number of men who could not give the time required for the ampler training required for many corps or arms, who might at the same time be anxious to continue to serve in some capacity. Such service, also, would be an outlet for many men whose physical capacity is perfectly all right for everything except the front line type of work. If you want men, I believe that is one way in which you can get them.
Without rating too highly the importance of the Pioneer Corps, I would remind your Lordships that at the beginning of the recent war, so far as I know, there was no arrangement to provide labour of any kind for the Army. (I only say this to emphasize my point, and to illustrate the value of keeping the Pioneer Corps in being.) The first steps taken were to divert from their regiments which they hoped to rejoin, the Reservists who were called to the Colours. When that was no longer possible and they had to go to their regiment, the next step was to take two semi-trained divisions, put an end to their training and send them to France merely to do labour duties, because no provision had been made beforehand. It was only in October, 1939, that the Pioneer Corps came into being. It came into being then with that strange and quite meaningless appellation "Auxiliary" placed in front of it, although from the beginning it was an integral part of the Army, open to volunteers between the ages of thirty-five and fifty. The spirit of many of these men was extremely willing, but after not a very long time the flesh proved rather weak, and most of them found that they could not stand up to it.
After Dunkirk, the intake to the Pioneer Corps was drawn from the ordinary Army 648 class call-up of men of the ordinary Army class ages, and chiefly from men whose sight or feet—it was 75 per cent. sight and 25 per cent. feet—made them unfit for front-line duty. Anybody who saw those recruits come in, well-built, strapping, intelligent men, who in many cases through early neglect had developed defects in eyes or feet, hoped that in future the health services of the country would do something to prevent that wastage of fit manpower. I will say no more about the history of the Pioneer Corps, except one thing which will enable your Lordships to appreciate its ultimate necessity. At the time of the invasion of France, we took over more than 60,000 pioneers with the 21 Army Group. They not only shifted ammunition and supplies, they did smoke, they did roads, they did Rhino-ferries, they did P.L.U.T.O.—I do not mean exclusively, but in collaboration with other units—and there was indeed one company which went over airborne to Arnhem. It will be seen that they proved to be a useful body of men, and on that ground I suggest to the noble Lord that if you are planning ahead it is essential that you should have at least the framework of such a corps upon which you can build an Army labour system.
I will say only one thing more. You are now reconstituting your Territorial Army. You have left over from the war sufficient modern equipment with which to fit out the various units which you are to reintroduce. It is not enough, however, to fit out a Territorial unit with modern equipment; you must keep its equipment up-to-date. We saw enough in the period between these two wars to know how difficult it is to get the authorities to realize that you cannot maintain enthusiasm if men are playing about with dummy rifles and wooden machine guns. That way you cannot keep heart in a unit. You cannot get your recruits, unless you are prepared at least to see that they have some opportunity of using the weapons which they will be called upon to use if war breaks out, and that they are convinced that the authorities do value them as a part of the Armed Forces as a whole.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ LORD NEWALL
My Lords, this is the first time I have had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House, and I feel it is an occasion on which I may enlist both sympathy and indulgence. I 649 would like, if I may, to refer briefly to a few points which, in my opinion, affect very definitely the contentment of the men in the Services—and, indeed, their efficiency—and, consequently, our ability to obtain the requisite number of men as volunteers to form our permanent cadre in the Forces. The points in themselves may be small, but cumulatively they do have an effect on those serving.
My first point, I think, is indicative of what I mean. In King's Regulations for the Royal Air Force—which is a sort of bible, as the noble Lord will understand—there is a paragraph which governs the grant of pensions to widows. This paragraph, in effect, says that such a pension will not be granted to a widow unless her financial circumstances warrant it. I suggest that that is unfair and unworthy. It is a means test, a mean one at that, and should not be allowed. There is also the fact that it discourages young officers from the elementary prudence of insuring their lives in favour of their families. They fear that, should the worst happen, their widows will be told by the authorities, "We are very sorry, but we cannot give you a pension because you are already provided for by your husband's life insurance." I submit that if a man, in serving his country, gives his life in circumstances which are envisaged in the Order, then his widow should get a pension quickly and without having embarrassment added to her bereavement. The question of insurance is a matter about which I do not pretend to have any particular knowledge, but would it not be possible for the Government to organize and sponsor a scheme, in association with all the major insurance companies, under which all personnel of the Services could be insured on terms far more favourable than they otherwise could obtain? I imagine that the companies also would benefit materially from the increased volume of business.
My next subject is not a new one, but one which I have heard mentioned in your Lordships' House on previous occasions. It is with regard to the discontent and unhappiness caused in the Services by this perennial question of shortage of married quarters, resulting in family separation. In the Air Force—I am not sure whether it also applies to the other Services—if a man is so extremely fortunate as to be allotted a married quarter, he draws marriage allowance and pays rent for his 650 accommodation. No doubt, his allowances are closely related to the rent he has to pay. If, on the other hand, another man of equal rank and status is not so fortunate as to get a married quarter at his station, and decides that he would like to live a normal family life in the neighbourhood of his station, most likely he is forced to pay a very exorbitant rent for very inadequate accommodation. That seems hard. What is the solution to this problem? I do not for a moment suggest that a Rent Tribunal will provide the solution. After all, an appeal to a Rent Tribunal, no matter what the result may be, must inevitably lead to a certain amount of friction, and possibly even to intolerable unpleasantness. Nor do I wish to suggest that the scale of marriage allowances, so recently agreed, should be altered. I do not think that that is the answer. There is only one answer, and that is for the Government to provide more married quarters for Service personnel. After all, a house is a house, wherever it may be built. We all know there is an acute national housing problem. But one house built is one house less to be built.
If you build a house on a Service station, not only are you, to some extent, meeting this housing problem, but you are also meeting another problem, because you are making Service personnel more content; thereby increasing the possibility of having an efficient Service, and making conditions sufficiently attractive to get recruits when you want them. I understand that there is difficulty in getting labour to these out-of-the-way stations. All Air Force Stations are built "out in the blue," as it is called, miles away from anywhere. One can quite easily understand that labour, which lives mostly in the towns, will prefer to be employed in the towns, near where the men live; quite possibly there may be advantages in working there in preference to going on a long journey and working on a Government contract on an aerodrome. I would ask the noble Lord who is to reply if it would not be possible for the Essential Work Order to be applied more freely to those districts where there are Service stations, right away from any habitation, thereby making available labour to build quarters. With regard to this subject of provision of married quarters, I know that it will cost money, but it will not be money wasted. I may mention that I noticed 651 in the newspaper that to-day is the birthday of the noble Lord who will reply to this debate. I trust, therefore, in giving him my good wishes, that to-day of all days he will feel inclined to urge his friends in the Government to give us more married quarters, and to treat the matter in a truly generous birthday spirit.
Lastly, I wish to refer to a matter to which I attach particular importance, and which has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley. That is the guarantee of employment to Service personnel after they leave the Services. That, I am sure, is the crux of our problem. These men and women—I am referring now particularly to ex-Regulars, with whom I include those men and women who have served voluntarily over a period of years under any of the short-service schemes—when they leave the Service will have training and experience which will be of very great value in any civil occupation. In addition to their technical qualifications, their outlook will have been considerably broadened. They will appreciate the value of discipline and loyalty; they will have a very sound understanding of community life and community spirit and of their fellow men and women, and therefore, on the whole, they will be far better citizens. Surely, those qualities entitle those men and women to a certainty of sound, good, responsible jobs as soon as they leave the Service, not as a matter of charity, nor merely as a reward for having served their country. The Government, with their vast and steadily increasing pay-roll, should, I suggest, take the lead in this matter; then the municipal authorities and the local authorities and the big business and industrial concerns should be encouraged to follow suit. I think that noble Lords will agree that a schoolmaster, a civil servant or a police officer, or any Government official—to mention only a few civil occupations—would be far better qualified and far better able to contribute to their calling by a period of service in one of the Armed Forces.
With regard to this guarantee of employment, might I suggest that it is worth considering the resuscitation of some such scheme as that of the King's Roll, which existed after the last war; under that scheme no Government contract could be given to a firm who did not employ a definite percentage of ex-Service men and 652 women. If we are to hold our position in the world in accordance with our great traditions and world-wide responsibilities, it is essential that our Forces should be maintained at an adequate strength. To achieve this we must not only offer but definitely provide attractive conditions of life, a standard of living not less than that available in civil life, and the certainty of fitting and immediate employment as soon as people leave the Services. These are essential factors, and I think these are factors which will attract the men. I submit that this country must change its peace-time attitude towards the Services from one of parsimonious in-difference to one of enthusiastic encouragement and generous support for a loyal calling.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I regard it as a great honour to be able to follow the noble Lord, Lord Newall, and on behalf of your Lordships to offer my congratulations on his maiden speech. I do so, I may say, with very considerable timidity, because it strikes me to savour of impertinence for someone who has not yet won his spurs in public life to offer congratulations to a man whose contribution to the well-being of his country and the Empire has been so formidable and so well respected. Those of us on all sides of the House who have interested ourselves in Service matters particularly welcome his intervention, and I know I speak for all of them when I say that we hope on future occasions we shall be able to rely on the noble Lord, Lord Newall, providing us with heavy support.
I hope the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail in his interesting remarks, but as this subject is so wide I feel I would like to confine myself to the same subject as was dealt with by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading—namely, the Territorial Army. One subject in particular upon which he touched and which I should like to expand is the provision of administrative troops to help make up the Regular Army. At the same time as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, was making a statement in this House, the Minister of Defence in another place was discussing generally the future shape of our Forces, and he emphasized the need for balancing properly the teeth and the tail of those Forces. Naturally he emphasized the need for keeping the teeth 653 as powerful and sharp as possible and the tail as short as possible. If the Territorial Army is to provide the tail of the Army in the future it is obviously a matter of interest to us to examine how best that can be done.
There has always been argument concerning the composition of the tail of an Army, and during the last war we certainly collected some very weird and wonderful units into that tail. It is not a new trouble at all. There was trouble in the Tunisian campaign when it was revealed that eight or nine men were required to keep one in the field. The same question arose in the 1914–18 war, and the dispatches of General Sir John Moore and General Paget in the Peninsular War were full of complaints about the unwieldiness of their baggage trains. If Herodotus is to be believed, Xerxes had the same trouble. I myself have often wondered whether the order of battle of Joshua's Army classified the seven trumpeters who blew down the walls of Jericho as "teeth" or "tail." If we are to provide a tail let us make certain that it is the right shape and that we have no superfluous units in it. Let us not forget, however, that if we cut down the tail too much and if we over-economize, the first person who will feel the draught will be the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. His post-bag in the morning, if I may conjecture, does not contain complaints as to the correct tactical handling of an Armoured Car Regiment in a night advance. What the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, is in touch with the public over is pay and allowances, leave, mail and prisoners-of-war.
The units which ensure the efficient administration of the Army are the tail of the Army. You cannot have a smooth working leave scheme unless you have transit camps and leave units. Mail requires a large body of sappers to distribute it. The moment you cut down the tail allotted to a properly balanced force, administration must inevitably suffer. I hope we shall never do anything to detract from the efficient administration of the British Army. In the last war I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to examine at close hand the administration of the Armies of most of our Allies and of the German Army and I say categorically that I was convinced that the British Army was far and away the best administered of any army fighting on either side. It is 654 most important that we should not detract from that standard.
In passing may I pay tribute to those L. of C. troops who made up the tail of our Armies overseas in the last war. Naturally the glamour of publicity was very properly focused on the fighting troops, the teeth, and I think the troops who made up the L. of C. would be the last people who would expect any publicity Their work was dirty, dull and unrewarding, but they did it very well. There is very little glamour in driving a 60-ton tank transport over a cratered road on a pitch black night. Practically everybody has claimed credit for the Mulberry except the sappers and pioneers who built it. There used to be an idea that the base was a safe area. If anybody was looking for peace in the last war the one place I would not have recommended him to go was to any of the units humping ammunition in Antwerp during the V1 and V2 attacks. As for the Pioneers, I have no words too high for them; they were as handy with their rifles as with their shovels. They, as most other troops who made up the L. of C., were not very smart—as likely as not they did not salute, and as likely as not they called you "chum"—but they did a difficult job very well and I take off my hat to them.
Three roles were given to the Territorial Army in the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. I would like to suggest a fourth. At the beginning of the last war most of the field formations of the Territorial Army were withdrawn at once from training and were put on to V.P. work such as the guarding of bridges, aerodromes and so on. I think I have a more detailed knowledge of the more squalid bridges of London than any other member of your Lordships' House but I ought to have been out with the rest of my regiment training. In due course those jobs were taken over by old-soldier battalions, young-soldier battalions, blue-cap police and eventually by the Home Guard. I should like to suggest that Territorial Army field formations should be kept on an establishment consisting only of those men fit to go to war the moment that war—which God forbid—should be declared; and the moment a man either through reaching the age limit or passing to a lower medical category becomes unsuitable he should be withdrawn from the Territorial Army and 655 kept on the establishment of a Home Defence unit of some sort, perhaps only a cadre force. But he should form part of some unit which could take over those jobs at the early stages of a war and so enable the Territorial Army to get down to its proper job of training for Field Formation work.
I would like now to refer to the question of Territorial Army officers. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, made an important statement to your Lordships on November 28, and I think that statement gave satisfaction. It is absolutely essential that the standard of officers and particularly that of the Commanding Officers should be kept as high as possible. For the next two or three years we shall not have any difficulty in finding officers of the right type with recent war experience fresh in their minds. That is not going to last for ever, however, and I think it is going to be difficult to find the right type of man for the higher commands. I hope these remarks of mine will not be misconstrued. I speak without any feeling of rancour at all, but I do think the number of men who have the necessary qualifications and can spare the time for higher command is very small.
I ask this next question rhetorically; I particularly do not want an answer but it would be interesting to know what percentage of Commanding Officers in the Territorial Army who were mobilized on September 3, 1939, were really fit to train their units and take them to war. I imagine it was very few. I envisage that the number of officers who will be fit to command a regiment in the Territorial Army in three or four years time, and more so still a Brigade, will be very few. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham's statement indicated that where Territorial officers of a suitable calibre are not available Regular officers will be put into the posts. May I beg the War Office to be particularly ruthless over that? There is no room for sentimentality. We must have good C.Os. and we must have a high standard because the men these C.Os. have got to command are going to demand a higher standard than the Territorial Army demanded before the war. The reason for this is that most of them will have just emerged from being under Regular officers in the Regular Army and they will not tolerate slipshod methods.
656 One statement in the noble Lord's statement to the House surprised me. I hope I have not misconstrued it. I understood him to say that the percentage of the regular cadre of territorial units of a Lieutenant-Colonel's command should not exceed 2 per cent. If the noble Lord had said that through a shortage of suitable officers and N.C.Os. it was regretted that the cadre could not exceed 2 per cent., we would have understood and sympathized. To my mind it is essential that the cadre should be as high as possible because a most important feature of any territorial unit will be its Regular cadre. That was most noticeable in the last war. Units which had good Regular cadres were good units, and particularly fortunate were those old established territorial infantry battalions (I mention particularly those in my own division) the Queen's Westminsters, the London Rifle Brigade, the London Scottish and the London Irish, which had as their parents Regular units who took the keenest interest in them. Did that interest pay a dividend? You could see it every time in the way those units were ready for battle.
Some of the other units and some of the other arms were not so fortunate. I hope some scheme may possibly be devised whereby all units of the Territorial Army may have some parent unit attached to them so that there can be instilled in them some of the spirit of the Regular Army. One cannot deny that before the war there was a little petty jealousy between the two Forces—the Territorials and the Regulars. That must never occur again; there must never be any jealousy between those two Forces. They are Forces of the same Army. One small point that caused great trouble and tribulation at the time was the removal of the "T" from the shoulders of our uniforms in the early stages of the war. It caused great heart-burning but I am certain it was right. I should like to know whether it is proposed to put those "T's" back again. It may cause some trouble because when they were taken down most of them, I should think, found their way on to the bracelets or into the reticules of persons who were interested in the welfare of the regiment, and some of us might have difficulty in getting them back again!
With regard to Territorial Army Staff officers, I thoroughly endorse the remarks 657 of the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. I hope that the experience gained in the last war by such a large number of Staff officers will not be wasted. Towards the end of the war a high proportion of Staff officers in field and other formations were Territorials or non-Regulars. That stood to reason because so many of them, through their business legal or other qualifications, were properly suited to the job. I hope that experience is not going to be wasted. I believe there was a scheme on foot shortly before the war to run Territorial officers' Staff courses parallel with the ordinary training so that a man, instead of going to the drill hall twice a week, attended some lectures, and his fortnight's camp was spent on a concentrated Staff course. I think it is important that the large and valuable reserve of Territorial Army Staff officer material should be kept up to date. I am certain that some scheme can be worked out and when it is being worked out I hope the A.T.S. will not be forgotten. The valuable work of the A.T.S. Staff officers was highly appreciated and they should be incorporated in any scheme which is on foot.
I want, finally, to discuss the effect of conscription on the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army in future is going to have the great advantage of trained men coming into the Force. What sort of men are those conscripts going to be? Are they going to be men who come into the Territorial Army with enthusiasm, feeling they have spent a good eighteen months, that they have learnt something and that they can give us Territorials something of the advantages that the Regular Army has to offer; or are they going to be disgruntled, bored, and angry men who feel that the first eighteen months of their working life have been completely wasted? I regard this as a challenge to the Forces. None of us wanted conscription but we have had to face it. Let us try and make the best of this bad job and see if we cannot pull something good out of conscription. I run the risk, I know, of being considered reactionary and pompous if I express mildly and quietly the thought that a little military discipline does not really do any eighteen-year-old young man very much harm. The theory is that it is very demoralizing and debasing to be bawled at by a sergeant-major. It is only right that I should declare an interest; I was 658 once a sergeant-major myself. I am afraid I must have bawled at people in a way which nowadays would be considered to be most undemocratic. But I do not think either they or I were greatly demoralized or debased thereby. I must confess that one of my squad is now serving a term of three years' penal servitude in Rio de Janeiro for forgery and that another is permanently employed in the Board of Inland Revenue; but the rest of them have turned out quite normal.
I suggest that the Forces have before them now a golden opportunity which has never been presented to them before. This eighteen months has got to be profitably used. It was not unknown before in the Army for a lance-corporal and four men to be sent to do a job of work which never really needed doing in the first place. Waste of time, hanging about, doing nothing, frustration—these are now the enemies of the soldier. Those are the things that will send these men disgruntled into the Territorial Army. It is the hanging about and doing nothing that is the curse of the Army. That is the grumble which is most ventilated by those who have a grievance against the Army. When Adam was digging in the Garden of Eden all was well; it was when he took time off to gossip that the trouble began. I think I am right in saying that the Army is one of the very few places where you hear men genuinely complaining of being underworked! I regard this as an opportunity not to be missed. The Army proved—and the other Services too, of course, but I speak only for my own ann—during the war that they had made great strides in education, welfare, vocational and physical training. Now we have that material available to us in peace-time. Let us use all those advantages and all that experience to make certain that we get out of those men who come into the Army as conscripts more than we have ever been able to do in this country before.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ LORD CROFT
My Lords, having declined very steeply in recent years from the attempted role of a fighting man to that of a mere talking man, I can assure your Lordships that I do not intend to stand for more than a few moments this afternoon between you and those who have been active fighters in the recent 659 war. The more we can bring the benefit of their knowledge into our discussions, the more happy I feel that the Services are going to be. I should like to say how very pleased we all are to have heard the first of what I hope will be many speeches by my noble and gallant friend Lord Newall. I think I am speaking for all those on these Benches who are interested in the matter of defence, and I believe also for those on the Benches opposite, when I say that we want to see the three Services woven together in our discussions, because it is absolutely vital that there should be great comradeship in the three Forces in any emergency which may arise in the future, although we hope we may never see such an emergency in our time.
I also would like to say one word with regard to the valuable and also witty—that does not always follow—speech to which we have just listened from my noble friend Lord Mancroft. There are two points which I would particularly like very briefly to emphasize. In the earlier part of his speech he spoke about the dissipation of effort of the Territorial Army on mobilization in the defence of vital points. I can speak of that, in a very humble manner, from personal experience. I can remember that although I had the honour with my battalion in the first Great War—before some of your Lordships were born—of proceeding to France in 1914, for the first three weeks from that vital moment when selected battalions were needed to proceed to the field of battle, we were in fact guarding every sort of mysterious railway bridge and such like, and arresting all day and most of the night gentlemen or ladies in large grey cars when there was the slightest suspicion of a German accent amongst those who were the occupants. That was, as my noble friend said, sheer waste of training time.
I think we all agree that in the future speed will be required more than anything else in getting the various formations ready to fight, and for that reason I hope that the words my noble friend expressed will be very fully considered. I myself was certain before the last war that it would have been sound policy if, in addition to the Territorial Army with its fighting formations, we had raised a Corps—which we could easily have done—of some 30,000 or 40,000 men, who could have 660 immediately taken over their duties while the rest of the Territorial Army were training for war. I mean, of course, men outside the Territorial Army, men of the Home Guard type. We ought to have appealed for them before the war and very much more quickly than we did.
The only other point I would mention is the one referred to by my noble friend and by the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, and which interested the House so much—namely, discipline. Here I have had rather a unique experience, because after many years as a very citizen soldier I had the great privilege—I am giving distant reminiscences of the first Great War—of being posted to the 4th Battalion of the Guards Brigade. I came from the green lads of the village to a unit with the greatest discipline known in any Army of the world. I can only assure your Lordships that after very active fighting for ten months in that Brigade, with our late lamented friend Lord Cavan, I realized that the only happy units in war—and I mean in real war, where there is lots of fighting going on—are those with the highest sense of discipline. You can get real happiness only if the unit is disciplined, and by that I mean in the traditional British manner, the freedom of men, but all responding at once to the touch of the commander, giving the instant obedience which saves so many lives.
I want to stress only one main point, because there are so many things one could talk about. I am convinced that if we are disappointed, as we all are, in the result of recruiting into the Army and into the Royal Air Force, then we must explore the reason. I know I am voicing the view of all those who sit on these Benches when I say that, although we would have liked to see a little more done, we have paid our tributes to the improvements in the conditions of all three Services under the recent decisions. But I recognize them as having been under discussion when I was in a position of more responsibility than I am at this moment. I think housing, terms of service overseas, married quarters, and so on, are very important; but above all—and we have tried to stress this in former debates—it is surely important that we should make the man entering the Services feel that he is entering a career, and not that on his discharge at the end of his term of engagement he 661 will suddenly find himself on the dust-heap of humanity and, if there is unemployment, will have to walk the streets.
Now how can we deal with that? I am not here attacking His Majesty's Government, as noble Lords realize, because every Government of the past has been guilty in this respect of not realizing the psychological problem. I am convinced that it is our duty as a nation to do everything in our power to see that our skilled men in the Forces are given a chance of continuing to utilize their skill. Are the Government using every influence they can, both with trade unions and with industry, to see that unskilled men are given priority for the hundreds of thousands of vacancies (and I am not exaggerating) which now exist and which will increase in the future as the State is taking a much larger hand as an employer? They should be given a priority because they are thrown out suddenly on the streets and have not got a trade which they can pursue. There are so many jobs required in the services of the State, and that kind of thing, which an unskilled man can very soon learn, and I do ask His Majesty's Government to urge upon their colleagues that the first priority should go to the ex-Service man.
After all, he has given up part of his life in the not unworthy service of learning to defend his country, and also in that service he has all the time knowingly offered to risk his life. It may only be in some small affair, but nevertheless, no man enters the service without recognizing that he may have to offer his life. I feel that one way in which you can help recruiting—and we all want to help His Majesty's Government over this—is to see that there is priority of entry into all the civil services. I do not mean, of course, the highly skilled branches, but wherever you do not want highly skilled men, I suggest that the posts should be given to ex-Service men, as has been so well done by the Post Office in the past. I believe that to be the best contribution His Majesty's Government can make to the improvement of recruiting. Anyhow, it is the fact that we offer it as one of the deepest reasons why, up to now, recruiting has not been as successful as it could be.
The last word I would say is with regard to the Territorial Army. I do not intend to detain your Lordships for more than 662 one moment on this subject, but I would like to say here again—although I might be expected to take the opposite view—that I warmly commend the decision of His Majesty's Government to make it clear that they are putting such faith and such responsibility upon the Territorial Army. In the days to come we must insist that these forces are commanded by men who really understand their trade and are able to give up the immense amount of time which will be essential as I see it, because each Commanding Officer will have such immense formations to train during the year. I assume myself that you will have to stagger your camps all through the summer months, and the Commanding Officer will have to be on all the time, together with other members of the permanent Staff. It becomes absolutely essential that he should be a man who is able to give up a very great deal, if not the whole, of his life. That is impossible for the average Territorial Commanding Officer. You will still find some qualified leaders who have been successful in the war as Commanding Officers of Territorial and other units, who will come in and, as a sheer hobby, be likely to give their lives to this task. But for the most part, a man who is in business and fully employed will not be able to spare the time. I therefore commend this scheme to my brothers of the Territorial Army, with whom I have been associated now for over forty years, because I think it is absolutely essential that we should have only the very best in order that all units may be fit for war at the earliest possible date, should the tragedy of war ever again befall our country.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD TEMPLEMORE
My Lords, as I may find fault in a moment and say something unpleasant, although I hope not very unpleasant, may I start by wishing the noble Lord opposite many happy returns of the day? I have three questions I wish to raise, of which I have sent him notice. The first two of them deal with the question of the retirement of officers. When I was reading the White Paper, Cmd. 6750, I found in Appendix III on page 30 a table which stated the service required to qualify for the full standard rate of retired pay. That states a certain number of years, but the heading says: "Minimum service after the age of twenty-one." Why should this be? It will mean that an officer 663 probably will not join quite so young in the future. In pre-war days he used to join at nineteen or even eighteen and a half, and in such a case the first two or two and a half years of his service are not to count for his pension. This would not be so bad if it applied only to officers joining now, but I do not understand why it should be retrospective.
This point was brought to my notice the other day by an officer friend of mine who has about ten years' service. He joined at 19 in 1936, and he then went out and served with his unit in Palestine, where there was fighting. A medal was given for this campaign, as the noble Lord will remember. This officer, then, went through the last war and, I am glad to say, emerged safely. He is now serving in Germany. What you are saying to this officer is that after he has given ten years of good service his first two years are not to count for pension. That cannot be right. I look upon the noble Lord, the Under-Secretary, as one of the most fair-minded of men, and I do hope he will look into this matter and see that it is corrected.
The noble Lord the other day made a speech which I read in Hansard, and I am sorry I was not in the House to hear it. In this speech he said he had not met any "Colonel Blimps" in the War Office. I am quite sure that the people he mixes with there are not Colonel Blimps. But the noble Lord has not been in the War Office long, and I wonder whether, in his peregrinations, he has ventured into the Finance Department, because there, I imagine, be will find "Blimps" of another kind whose attitude to the officer, unless it has very much altered since the time I was there, is not one of consideration. That is the unpleasant thing I was going to say. I hope it is not too bad, and I hope the noble Lord will look into this point and see that it is put right.
The second question I want to raise is about the regulations for the retirement of officers. In every unit after every war there are bound to be certain officers who, for certain reasons, either temperamental or otherwise, have failed in the field and presumably will not be selected for the command of their units. It is probably quite right in most cases that they should not be so selected, but what 664 is going to happen to these officers? I am told now that no officer is allowed to retire or resign his Commission. Somebody told me the other day that most of these officers are on the Staff or in extra-regimental billets, and very queer billets some of them are. I hear there is a large staff of officers looking after the Poles, and I heard of another officer looking after German General prisoners. I should not think that would take long. I presume these jobs will get less; at least I hope they will, otherwise there will not be much hope of any economy such as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, referred to.
My point is that I hope these officers are not going to be sent back to their units to "soldier on" when it is well known by them and by the other officers and, probably, by the men that they have no chance of advancement or chance of command of their unit. They will merely get more and more fed up and disgruntled. They will not get any younger and so it will be more difficult for them to find employment in civil life. Then there is another class of officer, the officer who went into the Army and, though a very good officer, did not intend to make a life profession of it. Officers like this may have businesses waiting for them, they may have estates to manage, or a hundred and one other things to do, but are they to be allowed to resign or are they to be kept on indefinitely, or is there to be a time limit? I hope the noble Lord will give me an answer to that.
My last question is to ask what is the rule now regarding officers and other ranks who wish to stand as candidates for another place. I think I am right in saying that up to twenty years ago, and before that, an officer who wished to go into the House of Commons was allowed leave to stand for election, and if he were elected he remained in the Army on half pay as long as he remained in the House of Commons. If he lost his seat, or for any other reason did not go on with his political career, he went back and took his place in his unit. Many officers used to do that in former days, and I think it was to the benefit of the Service and of the House of Commons. During the war that was altered. It had to be of course, because no officer was allowed to retire, but I should like to know what the rule is now. With the 665 introduction of conscription the Forces are brought in this way much nearer to the homes of the people, and I hope it is going to be made as easy as possible for members of the Forces to get into the House of Commons. Although I am speaking about officers that does not mean to say I am not interested in the other ranks getting into the House of Commons as well, because I am.
At the end of the war that has just finished we know that many ex-officers and men went into the House of Commons, and I rather think that one of the "other ranks," after splendid service in the Navy, is now Civil Lord of the Admiralty. I think this is very desirable. Personally I should like to see the custom of twenty years ago revived, because I hope that in future many serving officers and men will get into the House of Commons either to make a real profession of it or to do a few years there and then go back to the Forces. As things are, it can only be to the advantage of all of them. I do not know whether the time has gone by, but I hope it has, when one hears the Army talking about these damned politicians". I used the expression myself when serving in the Army, but, as a matter of fact, we cannot get on without them. The history of this country is built up round its Parliamentary system, and I think that is getting to be more and more recognized in the Army. I hope that may be so, and I hope the noble Lord will let me know what is now the rule. These are the only points I wish to raise. I trust that I have not kept your Lordships' too long in doing so, and that the noble Lord will be able to answer.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, I venture to intervene in this debate as an ex-R.N.V.R. officer of some forty-two years experience. Up to now the discussion has been concerned almost exclusively with the other Services, and I want, if I may, to put a number of points with reference to the Service in which I have served for so long. I do not know whether it is generally realized in the country that the Navy in the last war was diluted practically up to 80 per cent. of its officers by R.N.V.R. officers. That will give your Lordships an idea of the value of this branch of the Service to the Royal Navy. Certain branches of the Navy, such as the minesweepers and escort vessels, 666 frigates, sloops, and the like, were almost entirely officered in the latter stages by the R.N.V.R. Some of these officers served as Captains in command of submarines, and one or two—even from the higher ranks of executive officers—served in cruisers. Coastal forces were almost entirely manned and officered by the R.N.V.R. There were, during the last war some 48,000 R.N.V.R. officers and of that 48,000 some 33,000 came from the lower deck.
We have now to consider what to do about the post-war R.N.V.R. Its distribution has been settled for the moment by an announcement which was published in all the papers fairly recently and which has, of course, done something to indicate what is going to happen. What has been decided is that the pre-war R.N.V.R. Divisions should be revived—the same Divisions in the same places. Further than that, I understand, it is impossible for the powers that be to go. The reason, of course, is the old one, which will no doubt be the reason till the end of time—the Treasury. I have never been quite certain how it came about that the R.N.V.R. Divisions exist in the various places in which they do exist. It was arranged in a very haphazard way in the early days I know, but the Divisions centre more or less round the principal ports. That may be all right in a way but it is not at all certain that numbers of ratings of the greatest value to the Navy could not be raised at other places besides the principal ports.
One question that does require to be answered, if we are going to have a really efficient R.N.V.R. is what is to be the post-war policy with regard to it, how many men are you going to have? We went into the last war and the First World War, too, in the same way—that is, with under 6,000 men and with just their ordinary complement of officers. Of course, they were all swept up at once and the Reserve was, not nearly large enough to fill the bill. Many more men were wanted. The R.N.V.R. can at least be said to be the cheapest possible form of reserve from the point of view of the Navy. It costs very little to maintain. A permanent staff and equipment have to be provided and if you want to get an adequate R.N.V.R. in peace-time—and it is extraordinarily difficult I know—the only way to do it is by making the Service really attractive. You have got to pay 667 all reasonable expenses. I remember so well in the Division with which I was associated for so long, that I took it upon myself to recruit a number of men from a town about nine miles away, and I did stretch a point concerning the regulations about travelling expenses. I stretched it to the extent of allowing these men a shilling for travelling expenses every time they attended a drill. That went on for a time, and we got some of the best men that we ever had. Suddenly, however, the Treasury conducted an audit of our accounts and the payment of a shilling travelling expenses was stamped upon. These men could not afford the expense of coming to drill when they had finished their work. Reasonable travelling expenses must be paid if you are going to make the service attractive.
The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, has a question on the Paper for answer in a few days' time and I want, if I may, to put this point with reference to it. When a Fleet is going for cruises—it may be to the West Indies or a cruise in connexion with a royal tour or something of that sort—I do hope that the Admiralty will see to it that opportunity is provided for a certain number of selected officers and men of the R.N.V.R. to come forward and take part in such cruises, as a reward, if you like, for good service. It would be much appreciated and would give the men valuable training overseas. It has been in the past of the greatest possible benefit, but it has very often happened that it has been at practically the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour that notification of R.N.V.R. personnel being able to take part in these cruises has been given. It is very difficult for officers and men to make the necessary arrangements at such very short notice, and the result is that you do not always get the best. The reason why it has gone to the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour and that the notification has then been given, is usually that quite suddenly most energetic representations have been made by senior officers of a Division to the Admiral Commanding and have been passed on from him up to the Admiralty begging that an opportunity might be afforded to officers and men of the R.N.V.R. to go on a cruise. A little encouragement of that sort does an immense amount of good. Men come back from these cruises 668 and talk about their experiences, and other men are fired with the ambition to put themselves in the position where they may have such a chance.
There are many other things that can be done to make the Service attractive, but I suggest that the two principal ones are reasonable remuneration to meet expenses in carrying out training and the provision of opportunities for officers and men to go on these cruises. With regard to the R.N.V.R. as a whole, the lynch-pin of this branch of the Service is—and it probably is the same in the case of the Territorial Army though I do not know about that—the permanent Staff. An Officer Instructor is appointed to each Division. Before the First World War these officers were active, serving officers who came to us for a time—it might be that they wanted a period in which to recuperate after an illness or something of that sort. But the point is that they were going back to the Navy. After the first war, it was decided that only officers who had been passed over for promotion and were not going on in the Navy should be appointed. I venture to think that that was a very great mistake in some ways, though I must say that we did have some remarkably fine men under that system. I submit that you want most carefully selected Officer Instructors. It is not easy for Regular Service officers to handle volunteers but if the Officer Instructor is carefully selected then it should be satisfactory.
I think that, under the system to which I have just referred the Navy also lost from another angle after the First World War. If you had had serving officers in the R.N.V.R. Divisions, they would have gone back to the Navy and there would have been built up a large reserve of officers who had been through R.N.V.R. Divisions and knew exactly how best the officers and men of the R.N.V.R. personnel were to be treated and the sort of jobs which they could carry out. I very much regret that that has not been done in the past. I believe that the policy is now being altered and that it will be different in future—that the officers sent to the R.N.V.R. will be serving officers. I understand that the Navy has now got too many Petty Officers—I am not sure about Chief Petty Officers. Now you have to have Chief Petty Officers in the R.N.V.R. Divisions. In my submission you should get cracking with the R.N.V.R. Divisions 669 now and start them doing their work. Appoint these Petty Officers and Chief Petty Officers to the R.N.V.R. Divisions and it will provide you with a useful way of occupying their energy and with a reserve, for at any rate, the next three or four years, of most valuable ratings.
The next matter with which I wish to deal is that of equipment. With regard to this I go back again to a time before the First World War. My division of the R.N.V.R. was served out with a 4.7 gun which had blown out its breech block and had killed three people in doing so. It was marked with a red cross on the breech to show that it was unfit for any other service. Of course it was quite all right for training, but when the First World War did break out that gun went back to service. After the first war fresh arms were supplied, but no attempt was made to keep it up-to-date. As naval gunnery progressed, these weapons became more and more obsolete, until we arrived at the point where we had to train the men with weapons which it was quite certain they would not see in any ship in which they went to sea. That cannot be right. I submit to your Lordships that this economy is a very bad and mistaken policy, and that it is wrong not to keep the equipment up-to-date. I hope the point will not be forgotten.
There are many other questions one would like to ask. We have not been told anything about the strength of the postwar Navy, but I will not touch on that, because I have a question on that very point already on the Order Paper. We do want to know, however, what is to happen about the light coastal forces. In this war they were run almost exclusively by the R.N.V.R. Is it intended to keep them, or any portion of them, in being, and is it expected that the R.N.V.R. officers and men will be trained in the light coastal forces? Then, again, what is to happen with the Fleet Air Arm? We have not been told, so far as I am aware, what is to be the policy on the Fleet Air Arm of the future. Like every other branch of the service, the Fleet Air Arm drew its officers and men largely from the R.N.V.R. Another question I would ask is, how is compulsory training to affect the R..N.V.R. of the future? Are we to have the position which we had in 1938, when militia service was just coming into being? I was told that of the men serving under me, those of the requisite age would 670 have to leave my command and undergo a year's training as soldiers. After that time they were to come back to me. Men only join the R.N.V.R.—or at least it is one of the principal reasons why they join it—to be allowed to wear a naval uniform, and to be a useful member of the Royal Navy. To take these men away, and draft them into the Army for a time, to put them through all the Army training, does not help them at all. To put it bluntly, they will come away "fed up"; and such men do not make good material for training in a voluntary unit.
There is one other most important branch of the R.N.V.R. which I should like to mention. I am sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, is not here, because he was responsible for its initiation. I refer to the R.N.V.S.R. (the Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve). I think it was started in 1936 or 1937, when the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, was First Lord of the Admiralty. It was laid down that there was to be a maximum age limit of 39 but there was to be no qualification at all, and no training. The new branch exceeded all expectations. An enormous number of potential officers were enrolled—about 3,000—many of them with yacht masters' tickets, many with masters' tickets and other qualifications. That was the number at the outbreak of the last war. It was laid down that on an emergency arising these men were all to go to a central depot for three months' training.
When the recent war started, out of the first five or six batches called up for three months' training, not a single batch got more than four days, and the average was three days. They were so urgently wanted that they had to go overseas at once, particularly those with yacht masters' and masters' tickets. Before the war, we had the greatest difficulty in keeping these men together. It could only be done through clubs. No training whatever had been provided for, and the most piteous requests used to come to me from all over the area for which I was responsible—Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset. I was asked: "Cannot something be done for us, to give us some chance to play our part if trouble comes?" Thanks largely to the grand help received from the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, who was in command at Portsmouth, and other senior officers of the Navy, one was able to arrange privately that these fellows 671 should go to sea in warships when they were to run torpedoes.
What is to happen about the R.N.V.S.R.? It is to be reformed, but I believe it is laid down that the officers who join it are not to be given any form of training, and are not to have any sort of refresher courses to keep them up to date. That is a very great mistake. These fellows cost nothing for their service. They are merely men on an honoured Roll, and if you are to make use of them you must give them some form of training. I would appeal to the noble Lord who is to reply for His Majesty's Government to give this matter really careful consideration. I do not ask even for an answer to-day, but I would like an assurance from the Government that the point will be borne in mind. It is absolutely essential to give these men some form of training and some form of refresher courses in the future. Another step taken with these valuable forces of the R.N.V.S.R. was to reduce the age of entry. Making a hard and fast age limit does not usually work extremely well; by having it you very often deny yourself the chance of getting just the man you want, because he is one hour—or one day—over the age limit laid down. I plead for the maximum amount of elasticity, not only with this force, but with the R.N.V.R. as a whole.
I have listened with the greatest possible interest to preceding speakers, particularly the noble Lord who initiated this debate—and in whose debt we are for doing so—and the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. I was particularly impressed with what they said about officers and men coming out of the Services. The Government to-day are busily engaged in setting up the biggest monopolies the world has ever seen, and thereby constituting some of the largest vested interests there have ever been. I submit to the Government that if they are going on with that sort of policy, they must also assume enormous responsibilities. They will be great employers of labour, and therefore it is up to them to see that the ex-Service man has a proper chance—from whatever service he comes. I hope His Majesty's Government will not attempt to side-step this problem in any way. I should like to see some sort of announcement about the King's Roll—a point which previous 672 speakers have raised. We have heard nothing about that, and I would like to hear what is to be done about it.
Officers are leaving the R.N.V.R., and it is extremely difficult to place them. There are three main age groups among these men. There are the fellows who went into the war between the ages of twenty and twenty-eight, those who went in between twenty-eight and thirty-eight, and those over thirty-eight. Each of these age groups presents a problem of its own. The one with which it is most simple to deal is, of course, the youngest group. In many cases these fellows went through the war, during which they incurred responsibilities, by marriage and having families, probably far beyond their means in civil life. We cannot turn round and tell them that they should not have married, and should not have had a family. No one can tolerate that. The Government are the only people who can take the lead in the matter of giving these fellows real responsibility. Nothing is more pathetic than the sight of some of these men, just demobilized, wondering what on earth they are to do to get a job. I have known of these men going to employers up and down the country, their resources vanishing every day, their gratuities going, and yet being unable to get a job.
There are the twenty-eights to thirty-eights, the older men, who have come back to find in many cases that their businesses have collapsed. Only the Government can help these people and put them on the right road. I know that the Ministry of Labour have tried and have done their best. I am not sure, however, that they could not have done more. I believe that, so far as the naval side is concerned, there was considerable understaffing, with only about two or three offices. We should have had many more. That, at any rate, is my information. I stand to be corrected if it is wrong. Then there are the over thirty-eights. I plead with your Lordships to impress upon the Government that they must realize their responsibility. They cannot assume the responsibility of becoming the greatest monopoly in trade that we have ever seen in this country without at the same time incurring responsibility for those who carry on such work. I beg of His Majesty's Government carefully to consider one or two of the remarks I have made.
§ 6.12 p.m.
My Lords, like other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon, I am going to confine my remarks to a few points dealing with the Territorial Army. The point I wish elaborate chiefly has already been mentioned by three noble Lords. It is, however, in my view, one of such tremendous importance that I make no apology for elaborating it. I refer to the question of Commanding Officers of Territorial units. I think it will be generally agreed that in the last war the Territorial Army on the whole did pretty well. But memories are short and closer examination of what actually took place will disclose the fact, and remind us, that some of the achievements were not quite all that had been hoped for, and things were not quite as good as have perhaps been represented now after the passage of six or seven years. Criticism at the time was undoubtedly not infrequent. Officers, and particularly Commanding Officers, who often had given up highly important civil jobs, with high hopes and great patriotic fervour to play their part in active Service conditions, were all too soon, and in all too many cases, to find that, if they were not actually returned to civil life, they were at least relieved of their command.
Of course, in times of war and, with the tempo of war which we were experiencing in 1939 and 1940, the affairs of the individual are obviously of small account when they conflict with the safety of the country as a whole. But now in 1946 I do feel most strongly that it is incumbent upon us to analyze the reasons for these many failures, to make quite sure that they do not recur. I have been a Territorial myself for a mere twenty years. Many of your Lordships can boast of forty and even more years service. I mention this point simply because I want to make it quite clear that I myself have no bitter feelings about this particular problem. But in 1939 and 1940 I happened to be in the position of being able to see this point of view from very close quarters. I happened to be on the Adjutant-General's Staff of a Territorial Divisional Headquarters. Many of these unhappy and difficult cases of Commanding Officers who were relieved of their command came through the branch; one was able to see them and think out for oneself what the causes were. I became convinced then, and I am still 674 convinced of the fact, that, while there were no doubt a number of cases where the individual himself was quite largely to blame, there were far more cases where the causes of failure were due to factors outside his control, really fundamental factors which needed to be put right.
I am dealing with the case of Commanding Officers not because I have any particular leaning or undue consideration for Commanding Officers or Lieutenant-Colonels as such, but because the whole life and whole success of a unit is dependent upon its Commanding Officer, and the fortunes of a Commanding Officer are a very good barometer of what is going on under him throughout his unit. What were the main factors which were the cause of so many Territorial Commanding Officers being relieved of their command in those early days? In my view they can very roughly be divided into two main categories. First of all, there was the lack of everything that a Commanding Officer wanted in peace-time to make an efficient unit. There was lack of men, lack of money, lack of equipment and, perhaps above all, lack of encouragement. That was one cause. The second factor was the unsuitability of the Commanding Officer himself.
Dealing, first of all, with the first of these causes, I think that His Majesty's Government's announcement as to their intentions with regard to the Territorial Army probably suggests that the deficiencies that I have referred to should, for the most part, be obviated in future. At any rate, I think there is good hope that that may be so. I should like to refer once more to that word "encouragement," because it does not matter how much equipment or how much money there is, unless there is real encouragement—and that means encouragement from employers, trade unions and all other organizations from which the Territorial Army is going to be drawn—there will not be success. On the question of the actual provision of the men, I will say little, except that, both for the sake of the Territorial Army and for another reason, I personally welcome the retention in peace-time of conscription. My other reason is that I am convinced that after a period of national service a man—and for that matter, although we are not discussing her at the moment, a woman—is a better citizen. He is physically and mentally a better citizen, and, what 675 is more important to-day, a more productive citizen; at least he could be if the organization which he goes through is properly arranged. At the same time, one cannot but know that conscription will place a very great burden on our manpower budget, and one realizes it has only been the most urgent and regrettable situation that has led His Majesty's Government to their present decision.
Before I leave this question of materials, men, money and so on, I should like to say this—it was mentioned by the last speaker to a certain extent with regard to the R.N.V.R.—I hope that, in so far as men join the Territorial Army, steps will be taken to see that they are not at a financial disadvantage. That seems to be obvious and almost a platitude, but before the war it seems that they were at a disadvantage, and it applied very often as much to other ranks as well as to officers. I am not going to expand on that now. I realize that in some cases that disadvantage was self-imposed, but it is a point that needs very careful watching, and is not quite so easy of solution, I think, as might appear at first sight.
I should like now to turn to the question of my second point, of the unsuitability of the officer himself. There may have been many reasons why he was unsuitable. He may have been of the wrong type of temperament, lazy, of the wrong age, the wrong type of personality, and so on. Conversely he may have been a first-class individual with the best intentions in the world but without the time at his disposal to keep himself and his unit up to scratch. Whatever the reason was is really immaterial. The point that I want to stress is that I am quite convinced that unsuitable officers were knowingly appointed to positions of cammand and were knowingly retained in positions of command. I am quite sure that all too often the sort of remark that was made was: "Oh, poor old So-and-so; he has had a tremendously long term of voluntary service in the Territorial Army, and we cannot possibly allow him to retire before giving him a little recognition by allowing him to command his unit for three years." Or another sort of argument which I am sure was used was: "So-and-so is a very influential man in civil life locally and it would be foolish if he were not the Commanding Officer."
676 I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that those arguments are—I would go so far as to say they are criminal if one bears in mind that it is the Commanding Officer who is responsible, both in the way in which he trains his unit in peace and the orders he gives in action, for the very lives of the men under his command. In saying that I hope your Lordships will not think that I do not welcome the statement that Lieutenant-Colonel and Brigadier appointments will be given, wherever possible, to Territorial officers. In point of fact I think that if you can find the right Territorial officers, and such officers do exist, they are in many ways better than Regular officers, because they see the point of view of the Territorial man, the Territorial N.C.O. and the Territorial offices under their command. All the same, I do hope that His Majesty's Government, if they intend as they say they do to make the Territorial Army a really effective instrument, will take their courage in their hands—and I believe it will take courage on some occasions to put the right man into command—and see that this sort of criticism will not arise again.
That is all I had really intended to say, but there is one point which I do not think any other noble Lord has mentioned and I would like briefly to refer to it. I do most heartily welcome the statement made on November 20 by the Secretary of State for War with regard to the retention of the Women's Services as a permanent feature of the Armed Forces. I have had the good fortune myself during the war to have assistance from all three of the Women's Services at one time and another, and I cannot speak too highly of their services. I personally think, and I only hope that your Lordships will agree with me, that in welcoming the statement we should do so not so much in recognition of the great efforts that they made during the war but as an indication that we now realize that their assistance is quite indispensable.
§ 6.23 p.m.
My Lords, in supporting this Motion I should like to raise one or two points in connexion with the question of naval recruiting. I think that the general condition of naval recruiting is excellent, and I do not think that His Majesty's Navy are at all worried about 677 the matter. There is, however, one aspect of naval recruiting to which I would like for a few moments to draw your Lordships' attention. There are in the country a very large number of sea cadet corps. Those are composed of boys and instructors, and they give up a great deal of their spare time to train themselves for a sea career. I do feel that those boys should be given some form of priority for entering into the naval service when they reach the correct age, and that they should not be treated on the same level as all the general applicants. It seems to me very hard that a boy who has set his heart on going to sea, and has taken the trouble to make himself efficient and joined a sea cadet corps, should when the time comes perhaps find himself drafted into another Service regardless of whether or not a vacancy exists in the Navy. I think that has occurred in the past.
I feel also that the same thing should apply to the general call-up for the three Services, but perhaps in a more modified way. If a recruit, for instance, expresses a desire to go into the Naval Service, I think he should be permitted to do so if the vacancy is there. I do not mean by that that he should have priority over the sea cadet. I do feel that the sea cadet should come first, and I do want to make that quite clear. I do hope that the noble Lord who is going to reply for the Government will be able to give us some assurance on those two points.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ LORD TWEEDSMUIR
My Lords, this debate has ranged far and wide and I desire to take it a little farther and a little wider by calling your Lordships' attention to the Colonial African Forces and the British officers who command and serve with them. I will be extremely brief not because this subject is not important but because I realize that His Majesty's Government are fully alive to its importance. There are over 60,000,000 people in the British Colonial Empire and two thirds of that Empire lies in the African Continent. It was Herodotus who said "Always something new out of Africa". There is indeed something new. That continent is now of vital strategic significance and whatever the upshot of the talks with the people of India, and the talks with the people of Egypt, it will not detract from that significance, but may very well enhance it. Our Colonial Forces before the war 678 were just adequate for peace-time, but now conditions have changed immensely and they are no longer adequate. The African has made his debut into 20th Century war; he has shown himself to be a soldier of courage and capacity. When this war started a very natural doubt existed as to whether he could take his place in the hideous tempo and complexity of the modern battlefield. Those doubts were dispelled in Abyssinia, Madagascar and on the battlefields of Burma.
There were those, too, and with them the Jeremiahs, who said that the African would not be willing to fight for the British Colonial Empire. Their croaking was stilled for ever. There were nineteen thousand men under arms in 1939 and something of the order of 375,000 in 1945. At a time when we were incapable of putting pressure upon them to join our cause, they flocked to our standard and showed the world that they thought that the British Colonial Empire was something for which it was worth fighting. We learnt a lot of lessons from them. No race learns modern war in any one conflict, however bitter and however long-drawn-out and the African now needs our guidance. We learnt many valuable lessons indeed. We saw which tribe made the finest fighters, and which made the best administrative and technical units, and the fact was underlined, if underlining was necessary, that they must always have the very best British officers to command them.
The old system may well have gone by now but before the war the Colonial Office commanded these forces; they footed most of the bill, and officers were lent by the War Office. The Commander-in-Chief in each Colony was the Governor, who was a very peaceful warlord, because when war broke out he ceremoniously handed his forces over to the care of the War Office. The forces were based on, no strategical consideration at all, but on Colonial budgets; they were the smallest forces that could be maintained commensurate with security. They were, in fact, little more than police battalions. They were unbalanced forces, wholly in-experienced in higher collective training and frequently very ill-equipped, but they never lacked for first-class white officers. Those officers were in something of a dilemma. They knew that they would have to serve for a period of years—two 679 years at least—in Africa before they could do their job properly, before they could master the language, the customs, and the outlook of the African, and they felt that if they stayed away too long from their own regiments they would become out of touch with current military affairs. They also, rather naturally, felt they might be missing opportunities for promotion at home. That brings me to the two questions of which I have given the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, notice. Can he give us some idea of what form the reorganization of the African Colonial Forces will take and some idea of their future? The second question is this: Can he tell us something of the conditions of service under which the British officers who officer these forces will serve?
I will wind up by making one or two suggestions to which I have given some thought and which I intend most sincerely to be constructive. There are some who think that the African Army might, with advantage, be modelled on the lines of the present Indian Army; in other words, officers would serve in Africa for life, returning to England only on leave. I do not agree with that. I think the old system, brought up to date, of officers serving with the African Forces on secondment, and returning to England to refresh themselves is far the best. Whoever pays the bill for the Colonial Forces, the War Office must command them; otherwise we shall never have a composite over-all strategy. Those Forces must be calculated on purely strategic considerations and not on individual Colonial budgets. However small a force we maintain there, we must at all costs have the nucleus of a force of all arms which can, if war threatens again, expand into an East African and a West African Division. The officers who go out, on secondment from the British Army, to lead these troops must have sufficient inducement in the way of pay, promotion and prospects to make it worth while for a man of reasonable ambition.
Much, too, could be done to keep the connexion between African Forces and the Home Army by having battalions of the King's African Rifles and the other native units affiliated to battalions of the Home Army and allied to them. It is an extremely pleasant variant as a form of service to the routine of normal peacetime soldiering, and one in which officers 680 in the Regular Armies of the Dominions should be invited to participate. Now that flying has developed so greatly it is much easier to travel to and from Africa, and it should be possible for an officer serving with an African Regiment to be flown home perhaps once, or probably more often, during his tour of service to enable him to bring himself up to date on current military practice. The ideal would be that an officer who in a junior rank had done his 2½ years in Africa, should then revert to his home regiment, and when his turn came in seniority that he might return to command that African battalion. It may be that in the near future it will be expedient to have a large base somewhere on the African continent, and then we shall have perhaps a sufficient force of all arms to enable proper large-scale collective training to take place, in one of the finest potential training grounds in the world, and perhaps have an African Staff College too. But before that time comes—and it may be some distance ahead—I suggest that the system I have mentioned is probably the best.
There are two bugbears to any Army. One is lack of money in peace-time and the other is lack of man-power in war-time. Lack of money will always be a bugbear, but in Africa there is a great reservoir of stalwart men who have shown that they have not only courage, but capacity as soldiers in 20th century warfare. It has always been the practice of the British Commonwealth that as a nation progresses down the road towards the ultimate goal of self-government its people should take a greater and greater share in defence of their own country. It is in this sphere that the African, who is now making great strides forward, needs our wise guidance and help.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, the reference in the gracious Speech to compulsory service in the Forces brings to an end—and I think a happy end—a very long chapter in our history. I do not think it would be appropriate in this House that this debate should go past without some reference to the late Lord Roberts, for it was he who, in 1909, brought in his National Service Bill which their Lordships' House of that date thought fit to reject on the Second Reading. I cannot refrain from quoting one or two words from the end of the speech 681 he made when moving the Second Reading of that Bill. He said:I cannot for one moment believe that our countrymen would hesitate to accept universal training were the necessity for the measure put plainly before them by the leaders of both Parties.It has taken all that time from now until then, and two great wars and their lessons, to prove the wisdom of what that great and good man said. Now we have reached the point which he was advocating so many years ago.
That decision about compulsory service in the Forces really makes it possible for the pattern of the post-war Forces, so to speak, to make sense. I say frankly that until that decision was taken the announcements of His Majesty's Government did not make sense, and I do not think they could have done—certainly for the Army. Now, I think, the pattern is becoming clearer and I would like for one moment to see what are the high-lights of that pattern. It is a pity we did not have this pattern clearer a year before, because, as my noble friend Lord De L'Isle said, the delay in introducing this measure has meant one year's delay in constituting the Reserve Forces because the run-off from compulsory service into the Reserve Forces is necessarily one year later.
I am going to speak first of two blemishes on the picture. I intend just to mention them because I do not want to go over the ground which has been gone over so many times in this debate and earlier debates. The first blemish is regular recruiting, which will be a very serious defect unless it is put right. I hope we may hear in the course of the noble Lord's reply some encouraging news, and in particular on the question of the houses to which he referred in the debate about a month ago. The second blemish, as I see it, is this question of training areas. We shall always have trouble until we settle this matter. When I say we shall have trouble I mean that time troops will not be collectively trained. On the one hand, you have got the claims of the beauty spots and the high-class agricultural land—which are undoubted claims—and on the other hand you have got the very definite claim of the need to give collective training in proper areas to His Majesty's Forces. You will not train units of the Royal Armoured Corps or the Commandos until 682 that question is solved by a firm Government decision—whether that decision is to train people at home or to train them overseas. I hope that the question of overseas training will not be ruled out in these days of aircraft.
Having referred to those two blemishes on the picture and got them out of the way, I want to say one or two words about some of the other pieces in the jigsaw puzzle which I hope will shortly be produced. I am not suggesting that the noble Lord ought to reply on them to-night, I am merely mentioning certain matters on which we have not yet had any information and on which we shall expect information when the right time comes and as the planning proceeds. The first is the question of the order of battle. Bit by bit, I imagine, the order of battle will become clearer—the proportion between the teeth and the tail, the proportion of the administrative units to be carried by the Territorial Army and the Auxiliary Forces, and the proportion to be carried by the Regular Forces. I am talking more about the Army now than the other two Services. In that connexion it will be necessary to be assured that in the organization of the administrative units we are carrying industry with us, and that the administrative units, as well as the fighting units, are going to be properly equipped on the proper scale.
Here I would mention one matter which I do not think has been dealt with very much in your Lordships' House or in another place, and that is exactly how the system of reserved occupations is going to work. One thing we do not want is to allow volunteers in the Auxiliary Forces who may be people in potentially reserved occupations to be encouraged to join, led down the garden path and then find that when the times comes they are not going to be allowed to leave their factory, research work or whatever it may be. Unless we get that subject of reserved occupations quite plain and clear, I think we shall have a great deal of trouble, as we had before in the organization of the Auxiliary Forces.
I would take this opportunity of welcoming the new arrangements for infantry grouping and for separating the training from the field force. That is a real logical step forward and I hope it will be a precedent for other organizations of that sort. I now come back to a matter which one 683 noble Lord mentioned in the course of this debate. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who mentioned about the Territorial Army guarding vulnerable points. That will happen again unless the counterpart of the Home Guard is organized to take care of those points; otherwise there will be nobody else except the Auxiliary Forces to guard them. I think there is room for a debate in this House before very long on this question and on the relationship between the Home Guard and Civil Defence, another matter which is not actually a Forces matter but which is so close to it as makes no difference.
There are one or two other pieces of the puzzle to which one might refer. I think we all welcome the decision to make use of the Territorial Army and Air Force Association, and I would express the hope that they will be concerned more fully with the administration of all the Auxiliary Forces of all three Services. I express another hope, which is that before very long the average age of the members of the Association will get younger by the incorporation of people who have served in the Forces in the last war. Leading on from that is the question of the Cadet Forces. There again, there are pieces of the puzzle which we shall expect to be produced. It is important that the Cadet Forces should be linked up with the Auxiliary Forces and with the three Services, without losing their characteristics as a youth movement. Those seem to be perhaps the chief points to which we in this House ought to turn our attention as time goes on.
To go back for a moment to conscription, I would say that the one really important thing is perhaps not so much what the blue-print looks like, but how the people are handled when they come in. This puts an enormous responsibility on every man at present on the Regular Staff, on the volunteer officers of the Auxiliary Forces, on the Press and on people who give the matter a fair wind or a foul wind. The responsibility also rests on our old friend the Treasury and the finance branches of the Service Departments. In my experience of the Finance Branches at the War Office, which extends over a considerable period. I have often thought that those branches had to hide some of their better feelings in their bosoms because they had to make a 684 particular case at the request of the Treasury.
However, I will return to my main point. This business of the intake of the conscript will call for concerted effort on the part of everybody concerned. Unless there is a sense of purpose about the whole business it will go wrong. If it does go wrong it will be a very bad day for the country. I would suggest that the way to get that sense of purpose is to make the conscript soldiers aware of what their duties are. You may use them for harvest work, but the fact still remains that that is not what they were conscripted for. If you once lose the sense of purpose, then disaster will result; if you stick to your sense of purpose it will all go through. I am not worried about the maintenance of the voluntary spirit. We have all had experience of a voluntary force becoming compulsory in the shape of the Home Guard. The whole thing depended on good handling and, in my own humble opinion, when it was found that compulsory enrolment was necessary nobody was a penny the worse off and a great many people were much better off. A great deal of the loss will be very greatly offset by relieving the Territorial Army officer of the need to recruit.
I go from there to one quite different point, which has not been mentioned yet in this debate. What is the legislation going to look like for all these things that we have talked about, particularly the legislation for the Army? I would remind your Lordships that since the Army Act came on the Statute Book in 1881, the legislation for the Army has never been consolidated at all, and I think that the War Office must be the only Government Department which during that period has not produced a consolidating Act. We have every kind of Act, the Army Act of 1881, the Militia Acts of 1891, the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, Mr. Hore-Belisha's Act before the war, and now the Military Service Act. The old Army Act has been so patched that it really looks like a museum. If your Lordships could spare a moment for antiquarian research, Section 104 of the Army Act, where it talks about possible billeting, says it shall apply to… inns or hotels (whether licensed or otherwise), livery stables, or alehouses, also to the houses of sellers of wine by retail, whether British or foreign, to be drunk in their own houses or places thereunto belonging, and to 685 all houses of persons selling brandy, spirits, strong waters, cider, or metheglin by retail ….If that is not fairly strong evidence for a consolidating Act, I should be pleased to try and find some better.
But seriously, I do feel that if the modern Army is to be administered in a modern way the time has come for two consolidating Acts, first of all an Army Service Act to deal with the terms of Service of everybody in the Army from the cadet to the reservist, and secondly, a fresh Army Discipline Act to be brought in when the Lewis Committee has reported. I throw out those two suggestions because really the legislation is in a frightful mess. The new forces under compulsory service, which start with such high hopes and with such good wishes of this House and the whole country, deserve the best and only the best.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ LORD ALTRINCHAM
My Lords, I am not going to detain your Lordships for more than three minutes, and I do so at this late hour only because I am particularly anxious to reinforce one point from my own fairly long experience which was brought out in the course of this excellent debate. Before I come to that one point, however, may I associate myself with what my noble friend Lord Bridgeman said about Lord Roberts. As a member of his National Services Association I worked very closely with him, and I do think that a tribute should be paid to him in this House on an occasion such as this. As one who had a great deal to do with the expansion of the A.T.S., I am glad that reference was made to the very great value of the Women's Services. I think Lord Rochdale referred to it, and I entirely agree with him. I was also deeply interested to hear what my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir said about the African troops, but there is no time for me to go into that this evening.
There is one point on which I particularly want to concentrate in the very wise and witty speech which came from my noble friend Lord Mancroft. He spoke of the immense importance of having adequate Regular officers for the Territorial Army. If your Lordships will forgive me drawing for a moment on ray own personal experiences, I would say this. I happened to be secretary, with a very distinguished soldier, General Burnett-Stuart, to the 686 Army Reorganization Committee which was appointed by the War Office in 1919. We worked very hard, and all branches of the Territorial Army were represented on that Committee. We reported, and there were two points especially emphasized in the proposals we made. One was that Territorial Forces of all kinds should be closely linked to Regular Forces, so closely linked that the Regular unit became interested in the efficiency of a Territorial unit. That was one of the ideas we strongly emphasized. The other was the need for having a very large admixture of Regular officers and, in particular, of Regular commanding officers in the Territorial units.
That report went into the pigeon-holes of the War Office, and I heard no more of it until I returned to the War Office early in the course of the last war. We then took it out again, and I can assure you there were very few things which were more generally regretted than the fact that the Territorial Army had not been shown adequate consideration in that way during the long years which had passed since 1919.
§ LORD MANCROFT
May I interrupt the noble Lord? I think, in justice to the Regular Army, it must be said that many of the Regular infantry battalions did show the keenest interest in their Territorial battalions and their affiliated battalions. It was the units not affiliated to a Regular infantry battalion which suffered. I think the infantry was very good.
§ LORD ALTRINCHAM
I am glad for that intervention because I can entirely confirm that from my own experience. In the last war I was serving with the 4th Guards when my noble friend Lord Croft was commanding a Territorial Battalion in that Brigade, and in that association both of us held the highest opinion of the Territorial battalions. But, taking it broad and large, the Territorial Army did not get consideration in the way it required. I do not blame the Regular Army, which was not itself getting enough consideration. It was short of some 20,000 officers, or some such terrible number, so that no one can blame the Regular Army for what happened. It was felt terribly in the military organization of this country, and I hope sincerely it will not be repeated. It will interest me to know if that old report of 1919 has been dug up again and looked at as throwing some 687 light on this question of the proper relations which it is desirable to establish between the Territorial Army, which is going to play so important a part in our defensive system, and the Regular Army.
§ 6.55 p.m.
THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD PAKENHAM)
My Lords, I once asked a famous statesman, a member of this House though I will not disclose his Party, what was the secret of public speaking. He replied that it was very simple. You only had to begin by telling the audience what wonderful people they were, and then they would believe you at the end if you told them what a wonderful person you were. I do not propose to pursue these tactics if only because, it may be, there will not be many noble Lords left when I come to my peroration. But I must pay my tribute from these Benches to the remarkable series of speeches to which we have listened. They naturally gave evidence of enormous knowledge and public spirit, and they struck me as particularly helpful not only in outlook, because that was only to be expected from those who were addressing the House, but also in their practical mastery of detail and in the positive points put forward for our consideration. I am afraid that the phrase "for our consideration" will come up rather often in my remarks because a great part of my speech will be taken up in thanking noble Lords for the different points raised and assuring them that they will be considered. That will be inevitable and only proper in view of the serious suggestions made.
Before I disappear beneath the waters of detail I would like to indicate very briefly the spirit in which the Government approach the whole question of conditions in the Services after the war. I have in mind, of course, mainly the Army because I am the spokesman of the Army and the War Office in this House, but what I say applies, I believe, to all three Services equally. I suppose that all those responsible for the Fighting Services in the past have always looked upon the individual Service man from two points of view. On the one hand he has been regarded as a means to an end, the end being the efficiency of the corps or unit to which he belongs. On the other hand he has been regarded by all the most 688 thoughtful minds as a man possessed of an immortal soul and embodying, therefore, an ultimate human and spiritual value. I might best indicate the emphasis we intend to place after the war, the years ahead, by saying we are going to lay far more and increased emphasis upon the second point than ever in the past. In that, although I have the right to speak only for the Government, I believe I speak for all members of the House if I may judge from what I have heard this afternoon.
I hasten to say that I think we are also all agreed that the new emphasis on the man—the soldier, the sailor, and the airman—as an end in himself does not make it in any way necessary to lay less emphasis than in the past on the efficiency of the Services as a whole. We believe that it is possible to offer far greater opportunities in the future to the Service man to develop his personality to the full than were offered in the past, but there is no intention, I need hardly say, of tampering with discipline. Discipline, as has been said so often and so well this afternoon, is the lifeblood of any fighting service.
The ideas which I am placing before your Lordships, and which I am not ashamed to call progressive, are not alien ideas forced upon the Services. On the contrary, they have always been fostered there and have represented the highest practice of the Services themselves. In the past, however, the Services have been unable, through no fault of their own, to provide conditions of life as satisfactory as one would wish to see. The blame has lain, I am afraid, with the public opinion of the day which has been too niggardly in its attitude towards them. We believe now that this has changed, and changed for good. Our social conscience as a country has developed, and at the same time the lessons of two great wars have taught us that our dependence upon the Services is greater than we realized in the past. One is bound to add that the march of science—whether or not one regards it as a good or healthy phenomenon in other respects—has forced us to realize that we must be prepared, not in the middle but in the beginning of any great war into which we may be plunged, should one break out.
Those considerations have imposed themselves on the conscience and on the consciousness of this country, and they 689 have been very evident in the House today. We are grateful for the way in which the announcement of conscription has been received. I feel that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who spoke so cogently, and other noble Lords, were right in regarding it as an historic event. We are grateful also for the clear recognition in this House and, I believe, throughout the country, certainly throughout the Services, that in the future the Services themselves will occupy a much larger part of our national life, and that they must be even more accountable to the general public than they have been in the past and even readier than they have been in the past to give an account of their stewardship. I assure your Lordships, speaking for the Army and, I know, for the other Services as well, that the Services will be only too willing and anxious to give such an account at all times.
So much for what I may call our general approach. Now I come to the long string of very pertinent questions that have been asked in the course of this debate to-day. I feel certain that I shall omit to deal with some of the questions, but I think that I shall convince noble Lords that that would be only merciful, because I promise that questions which are not answered from this Box to-day will be answered in writing. As noble Lords know, I am open at all times for the closest consultation with them upon these matters, and I appreciate that they, on their side, are always most anxious to be helpful. The noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, who made a speech which, if I may say so, exceeded our very high expectations, has asked for information about the progress of the recruiting campaign. I will try to clarify the position so far as the Army is concerned. If I go too slow, I hope that noble Lords will speed me up. If I go too fast I hope that they will hold me back, because I have a rather complicated exposition to give—one which it would be most improper to hurry in any way.
Let us assume, for the purpose of argument only—for no firm figure has been published—that our peace-time Army requires 250,000 permanent Regulars, including, say, 235,000 other ranks. I leave officers out for the moment as a separate problem to be dealt with later. We calculate that if this figure had already been obtained—which it has not—we should require some 34,000 recruits a year 690 to nourish and maintain it. That would mean 2,800 recruits a month. I would like to emphasize that figure. If we had built the Regular Army up to this figure, the figure which I have taken for the purposes of my argument as satisfactory, we should require 2,800 recruits a month to cope with normal wastage. How did we do, in actual fact, in the month of October. We accepted Regulars as follows—I am talking, of course, of permanent engagements—civilians, no previous service, men, 1,956; civilians, boys, 127; soldiers already released, re-enlisted for normal regular engagement, 329; non-Regular serving soldiers converted to normal Regular engagement, 379—making the total for other ranks, normal Regulars, 2,791.
In all these expositions I am going to point one or two conclusions. But I am in judgment by the House. It is for the House to form its own opinion as to whether these figures promise well or badly. Perhaps when noble Lords have had a chance to study them on paper they will be better able to form their views. By coincidence—for it is nothing more than coincidence, although it happens to be a rather startling one—the figure of 2,791 other ranks, normal Regulars, accepted in October, is almost identically the same as the 2,800 which would be necessary to maintain a Regular Army of the size we have discussed. The similarity is so close as, possibly, to seem fishy, but I can assure your Lordships that there is absolutely no deception. That just happens to be the figure for recruiting in October.
But, of course, that is only a part of the story. The problem before the country is not one of maintaining a Regular Army which has already achieved satisfactory dimensions, but one of building it up first and then maintaining it. In October the number of Regulars serving had sunk to a good deal less than half the figure of 250,000 that I mentioned. I am told that it would be unwise to disclose the precise figure now, but I am perfectly willing to give it to any noble Lord at any time if desired. As I say the figure had sunk to a good deal less than half the 250,000. Of this, a considerable number of individuals were near the end of their service. To build up the existing figure of Regulars into one of 250,000 would require recruiting not at the rate of 2,800 a month, which we have already achieved, but at a much higher rate. In passing, I may say 691 that in November, I understand, we surpassed the figure of 2,800. According to the latest figure, which I am not in a position to confirm, the figure achieved in October was surpassed in November. But to build up the existing number of Regulars to a figure of 250,000 we should require recruiting at the rate of 4,000 a month at least continued for some six years. I am told to be careful about using the expression "target," but if it were not for that warning I should say "that is really the target." That is the figure against which we are measuring ourselves—4,000 a month for six years. Of course, there are various other imponderable factors that at the end of six years might have to be met, but that is, I think, a reasonable calculation. We have, in fact, achieved 2,800 a month. That was the position in October, and as I have indicated, it was slightly better at the end of November.
The House, I know, will wish me to relate those figures to the recruiting campaign which was launched in May and is still continuing. I should be able to draw a very favourable conclusion about the progress of that campaign if I selected May as the best month for the comparison, because May happened to be rather a bad month for recruiting. The jump, therefore, would appear larger than statisticians would allow to be the case. I think that, perhaps, to give the House as good a picture as possible the fairest thing to do would be to take three dates—October, 1945, April, 1946 (the month before the recruiting campaign began), and October, 1946, and say what the recruiting figures were for those dates. In October, 1945, the figure for permanent other rank engagements was 1,174, in April, 1946—which was a good deal better month than May and therefore I think a fair enough month to cite—1,605, and in October, 1946, it was 2,791, a figure which is two and a half times as big as the figure recorded a year previously, and an increase of over 70 per cent. on the figure recorded six months previously, just before the recruiting campaign began.
In a speech in this House about seven weeks ago, a speech which erred, it seems to me looking back, on the side of pessimism if anything, and from which the Press certainly extracted a message of inspissated gloom, I said that it was too early to talk of complete failure. To-day, I go further and say that it would be a 692 serious mistake and would not be helpful to the country to say that the Army recruiting campaign for permanent enlistments had failed. On the contrary, the results show several encouraging features. By and large, the news from this part of the front must be regarded as good. At the same time, do not let me run from one extreme to the other. If the present rate of improvement continues, we should reach our 4, 000 mark before very long. Predictions of that kind, however, have no value whatever. I remember—if I am not detaining the House—when I was a stock-broker for a short time, I entered a firm, and was shown a graph of shares called Radio Corporation, which had moved from five dollars to 109 dollars by the time I arrived. The graph plotted showed that the value would reach 300 dollars very quickly. But the opposite happened; it was May, 1929, and the shares went down again to five dollars. Since then, I have never attached much importance to graphs as a means of prediction about the future, and I give you the figures as they stand, without offering any kind of prophecy. It is natural to expect some decline about Christmas, but the testing time will be after Christmas, when the figures should pick up. By the end of March we should know what we are likely to achieve. I do not want to mislead the House by saying that we expect to reach any particular figure. So far, the results are far from unsatisfactory; indeed, as I have said, they provide a basis for encouragement.
Now, my Lords, I must turn to the short-service engagements. As many of your Lordships know, we wanted 100,000 men on short-service engagements. I should like to say one word as to why we needed these short-service men or (as some call them) "bounty" men. As I have said, the Regular Army has declined to a figure that I must not mention in public, but which is somewhat less than half the 250,000 that we took for purposes of illustration. While we are building up to the figure I have mentioned, the Army has very onerous tasks, not only its normal peace-time tasks, but special tasks arising from the aftermath of war. The scheme promulgated in the White Paper regarding a fixed period of conscription was designed to produce the numbers required in this transitional phase. In the main, however, the men so produced will be very young, and we shall be left in this 693 difficult period with an Army, perhaps large in numbers, but without the necessary N.C.Os. and craftsmen unless we can persuade young N.C.Os. and technicians now serving to stay on for three or four years and provide us with the necessary proportion of leaders.
With this object, the short-service scheme was launched in May this year. Our target was, and is, 100,000 short-service recruits or bounty men, who are invited to enlist for three or four years. Naturally, things started fairly slowly, and in May, the first month, there were only 497 other rank recruits. What was supremely disappointing was that in September we obtained only 855, instead of the 8,000 required per month if the scheme was to be a real success. In September, however, an important change was made in the scheme. Originally, no one under thirty had been accepted for a short-service engagement. That was designed to avoid interfering with the permanent engagements. In September, the age bar was virtually removed. The result was seen in October, when 1,807 short-service recruits were accepted—or more than twice as many as when the bar was in operation. I hope we may regard that as cause and effect. I understand that in November the figures have again improved. It is, therefore, difficult to pass even a provisional verdict on the short-service scheme. Up to the end of September, it must be pronounced a failure, but the change in that month, to which I have referred, has sent the figures up quite rapidly. In the circumstances, I would rather not make any comment, but will leave it to your Lordships to form your own opinions.
May I now say one word about the connexion between the two recruiting campaigns—the permanent campaign and the short-service or bounty campaign—on the one hand and, on the other, conscription? The House is well aware that whether or not we had had conscription, we should have required a large flow of volunteers, permanent Regulars to build up and maintain an Army in the long run, and short-service or bounty men to bridge the gap in the next few years. Both classes are urgently needed, the short-service or bounty problem being the more immediately pressing of the two. In addition, as the House is well aware, we shall require conscripts. I want to be quite plain on 694 this, not so much for the benefit of the House, which understands the position clearly, but for the benefit of those outside. This need of conscripts is not due to any failure, real or supposed, in either of the recruiting campaigns, but has arisen because any recruiting target that it would be reasonable to set ourselves would be bound to leave us well short of the numbers we should require for our peace-time obligations and to provide us with sufficient trained reserves in the event of another war.
May I attempt to summarize in four propositions what I have just told the House about the recruiting position? My first proposition is that the campaign for permanent Regulars, started inevitably from a very low figure, seeing that the war had not long been finished, is now proceeding steadily and well, although we still have a long way to go before we can begin to talk of success. Secondly the campaign for the short-service or bounty scheme to bridge the gap while the Regular Army is built up to its proper figure has been most disappointing until very recently, when the age bar was virtually removed. Since then some improvement has been seen. Thirdly, any prediction about the future of either campaign is extremely rash. Fourthly, the case for a large flow of volunteers and the case for conscription are both overwhelming in the view of the Government, and in no way cancel out one another. That is as far as I can take the recruiting story to-night.
At the risk of detaining your Lordships, I would like to say, as my words may carry rather far, something about the improvements that have been envisaged in the life of the soldier. I am not going to run through them at length, but I would say one or two words, first of all about the improvements made on what we in the War Office call the "A" side. They are, of course, improvements which, in many cases—although not in all—can be effected without any great expenditure of money or use of material. I refer to the elimination of unnecessary parades, the reduction (where possible) of guards, the reduction to a minimum of fatigues, the holding of request hours, the abolition of short passes and the substitution of a system of "signing out," the permission, both at home and abroad, to wear civilian clothes when off duty. Under the same heading, we have the abolition of compulsory 695 attendance at church and church parades.
I have taken some little trouble to try at first hand to discover how far, at any rate in this country, these changes have actually been introduced. Indeed, I put a number of questions to a number of officers. The first one was: "Is there any difficulty about introducing these changes?" On the whole, the answer is that very little difficulty has been experienced in introducing them, and they are, in fact, being introduced. I suppose the hardest one to introduce is the permission to wear civilian clothes when off duty, because coupons are still very short. In most of the other cases no great difficulty is being found with regard to their introduction. The second question that I put was whether they had been abused by the men. The answer was: "No, there is no sign whatever of their being abused." The third question was whether the reaction of the men had been favourable and whether, in that sense, they had had a substantial effect for good. To that I got the answer that they had had a substantial effect for good.
Of course, many officers will say they have not represented in the results a very great change in the lives of the men. Many men have not taken advantage of the permission to sleep out every night, and the change might not have been as great as might have been expected. But I am assured on all sides that the psychological effect has been excellent. The men now feel that they are much freer than they were, and the testimony on that point has been most reassuring.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
May I interrupt the noble Lord to ask whether he is referring only to home service, or to overseas as well?
I am afraid I have not yet had a chance of visiting the troops overseas. I hope that when my colleague the Financial Secretary to the War Office—who is now visiting them—returns, I shall have that opportunity.
I should like to say one or two words about living accommodation. Noble Lords are perfectly well aware that the problem of living accommodation is one of the biggest problems now confronting the Services. At home much of the existing barrack accommodation is old and seriously below modern standards, and even greater difficulties are being experienced 696 overseas. The Forces are accommodated, in many instances, in entirely new areas, with no permanent housing of their own. Formations and units have been living in tentage or locally constructed huts with the bare minimum of amenities. We hope in due course to bring the accommodation for the Services up to proper civilian standards. But it will take years to do that. It seems to me no good purpose will be achieved by giving the troops the impression that a change of this kind is just around the corner, or could ever be just around the corner, whatever Government may be in power. At the risk of reverting to my role of Jeremiah or pessimist, I would stress from this House that it will take a term of years before these great reforms will have been achieved in their fulness.
I would stress—because I believe this will be of more interest to the House and to troops now serving—the immediate reforms that are being carried out. The war-time hutted camps at home are being improved as quickly as possible by interior reconstruction and improvements to the standard hutting. For instance, dormer windows and partitions are being fitted in the Nissen hutted camps. The units themselves are helping with this work. Wherever I go I must say that self-help is rightly insisted upon by Commanding Officers and adopted most readily by the men. The programme for the present financial year provides for the construction of 1,000 married quarters for soldiers, and it is proposed to build as many as possible each year in future until the full quota is completed. It is also hoped to make an early start on the provision of more married quarters for officers, though there I must not hold out any form of promise. I am simply indicating the ideal. Suitable non-traditional houses of the prefabricated permanent type—that expression, I am told, is the most apt one as opposed to permanent "prefabs," or however the public might describe them—will be included among those provided in the programme for 1947 and future years as permanent married quarters. At overseas stations approval has been given for the provision of semi-permanent communal and bungalow accommodation to tide over the most pressing needs for married quarters.
Again at the risk of detaining the House, I should like to give one or two 697 examples from overseas of what is being done under that heading. May I take three places—Burma, Malaya, and Singapore? In Burma the pre-war garrison was negligible and whatever accommodation and amenities existed have now been largely destroyed. The present comparatively large garrison, which is deployed over wide areas, is living in patched-up temporary accommodation or under canvas. During the current financial year A.L.F.S.E.A. have been authorized to spend up to £2,000,000 on a programme to provide hospitals, unit accommodation, a proportion of married quarters, clubs and institutions. All this work is to be in semi-permanent construction. However, owing to material and labour shortages, it will not be possible to complete the programme during the current financial year. In Malaya expenditure amounting to about £1,500,000 has been approved for the provision in semipermanent construction of a brigade camp at Kuala Lumpur, certain administrative installations including hospitals and a proportion of married quarters. In Singapore approval has been given for the expenditure of £2,500,000 on the provision of immediate requirements in semipermanent construction. The programme covers the construction of hospitals, unit accommodation and a proportion of married quarters. All this accommodation is being planned and sited so that as much as possible can eventually be incorporated in the permanent lay-out. I thought the House would be interested to know the kind of thing that was being conducted and which seems possible at the moment.
May I now come to some more detailed points? The noble Lord, Lord de L'Isle and Dudley, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, raised the question of reserved occupations. Obviously, that is not a very easy problem. I was rather surprised to find both noble Lords so emphatic, if I understood them rightly, in desiring to exclude from the Territorial Army men in reserved occupations. I may not quite have understood them.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
If I may interrupt, I did not quite mean that, but I think it most important that the problem has to be faced. I had hoped for, and I think we are probably going to get an informative reply from the noble Lord.
I do not know whether my reply will be quite as informative as was hoped for. I can assure the noble Lord that at any rate the difficulty is realized, but it is not proposed at the present time to debar individuals from joining the Territorial Army on the ground that they are employed in a reserved occupation. To start with, it would be extremely difficult to know whether any particular occupation, if one treats it as such now, will in fact be a reserved occupation when (God forbid!) another war broke out. Again, one could not be sure in the case of a particular man how long he was going to be in that occupation. I should have thought that we had clearly taken the right derision in saving that, for the moment at any rate, there is to be no exclusion on the ground of reserved occupation. However, the problem has many aspects as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, implied, and any help and experience of noble Lords that can be offered on these points will be much appreciated.
The noble Lord, Lord de L'Isle and Dudley, also raised the question of the selection of officers. I have myself prepared a rather detailed account of how officers are going to be selected, which I think is probably suitable for a written reply to a question if the noble Lord would care to put one down on another occasion. I entirely agree with him that we must make sure that commissioned ranks do in fact offer a career to the individual of talent and merit. That must be the one qualification. I am sure that he is pleased, as other noble Lords will be, that in future Sandhurst will be free. Cadets in the future will not have to pay for their training at Sandhurst. That seems to me a most important step which will matter a great deal to promising young men whose parents do not possess the requisite resources at the time. In general the principle will be that nearly all officers seeking Regular Commissions will pass through Sandhurst and selection will be by merit as far as it is humanly possible to secure them.
The noble Lord also raised the very important question of the acceptance by trade unions of army tradesmen as craftsmen in industry. The position is as follows. Regular soldiers in twenty-five different Army engineering trades who were trained pre-war at the six principal 699 Army technical training establishments are eligible for membership of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Other men in these trades, enlisted into the technical arms, trained by their units and employed after mustering in their trade for at least five years, are also eligible for membership. Secondly, hostilities-trained soldiers—I do not like the expression very much, but I give you the statement in its official language—of twenty-three different Army engineering trades, affecting men trained on both emergency and regular engagements, have been recognized as being eligible for membership of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in thirty-three civilian engineering occupations. In addition, fifteen electrical army trades affecting men on both emergency and Regular engagements have been recognized for membership by the Electrical Trades Union. Thirdly, an organization exists comprising representatives of the Ministry of Labour, Engineering and Allied Employers' National Federation, trade unions, and the three Service Departments for the recognition—and this will no doubt interest the noble Lord—of additional types of hostilities-trained Service tradesmen in civilian occupations in which shortages are from time to time reported. Fourthly, it is hoped to initiate negotiations for the recognition of other Regular Service tradesmen at an early date. The problem has not been solved, but I think the noble Lord will agree that progress has been made.
I should also refer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, and by several other noble Lords including the noble Lord, Lord Croft, and the noble Lord, Lord Newall, on the question of guaranteeing the Service man a job when he comes out of the Service. I might say here that the noble Lord, Lord Newall, represents to my mind an enormous accession of strength to this House, in fact, one of the greatest accessions that has reached this House during the time that I have been a member of it. His remarks will receive special care and attention. I said myself when I had only been in the War Office a week that guaranteeing the Service man a job when he leaves the Service seemed to me to be the most fundamental factor of all in the problem of securing adequate recruits. After studying the exhaustive document to which the noble Lord, Lord 700 De L'Isle and Dudley referred, the document which analyses the reason why people are not joining the Services, I am still of that opinion. It seems to me that that factor weighs more heavily than any other. I am not in a position tonight to say anything more, I am afraid, than what I have said on a previous occasion. A great change of national attitude will be required before we can give effect to the ideas which I think are in most of our minds. It is not to be expected that the change will come very fast, but I do fully appreciate that it would alter the whole attitude towards life in the Services if we could make sure that the Service man was guaranteed a job when he left the Service.
I pass on to the points raised with great authority by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and with such charm and brilliance by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. They will forgive me for taking them together, because they do cover some of the same ground. Both the noble Marquess and the noble Lord whom I have mentioned, and several other noble Lords, including the noble Lord who spoke with such effect about Commanding Officers—effect without bitterness, it seemed to me—were tremendously concerned to make sure that the Territorial Army was properly officered. Here I have a piece of information that I feel will be of interest to the House which provides the indispensable background to a discussion of this problem. It is intended that potential officers amongst conscripts should be trained as officers at O.C.T.Us., which will be specially kept on for that purpose, all candidates for Regular Commissions going to the R.M.A., Sandhurst. Conscripts enlisted after December 31, 1948, who have received Commissions after passing through these O.C.T.Us. will serve the balance of the period of conscription with the Regular Army and will then be drafted to the Territorial Army as Territorial Army officers.
Officers for the Territorial Army will, therefore, be found in the following ways. First, from officers who already hold Territorial Commissions who have served as such during this war; secondly, from officers who held regular or emergency Commissions during this war who volunteer to become Territorials; thirdly, by officers who have received Commissions while they were conscripts, though only those enlisted after December 31, 1948, 701 have an obligation to serve in the Territorial Army. The obligation does not begin to operate until that time. The first two classes, those who served during the war, will in the course of years gradually die out, and will eventually be replaced by the third class, those who have been conscripted and have passed through the O.C.T.Us. The liability of the conscripts enlisted after December 31, 1948, however, will only extend to 5½ years with the Territorial Army. So that it will be necessary to call for volunteers amongst them to stay on to fill the higher ranks.
That represents the broad approach to the problem of providing Territorial officers but there were some very pertinent questions put about training, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, although he was not the only noble Lord who raised the point. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, raised the problem of giving them Staff training. We have got some way towards a solution of this problem, but there is still a long way to go. Noble Lords are perfectly well aware that it is difficult for these officers to spare the time. I am not at all sure how much time a busy solicitor would be able to put aside for a Staff course, but obviously he could not put aside a year and go through the full course at the Staff College. The question of short courses in the Staff College for Territorial officers is being sympathetically considered at this moment. I feel that that will be a positive encouragement to the noble Lord. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, was anxious to know whether the recruits—
§ LORD ALTRINCHAM
The noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting. Before he leaves the question of Territorial officers does his statement mean that Territorial officers will be a class entirely apart from Regular officers, and that Regular and Territorial officers will never serve together, nor will there ever be Regular officers in Territorial units?
No. I apologize if I did not make myself plain. I was relying on the picture which I had given in a previous statement to this House, which indicated the part that Regular officers would play in the Territorial Army. The three kinds of officers to which I was referring in the Territorial Army would be what we call Territorial officers, but there would of course be Regular officers holding 702 the positions that I mentioned on a previous occasion.
The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, asked where the Territorial Army will get its recruits from after 1948. As soon as recruiting starts for the Territorial Army next year it is hoped that a large number of ex-Territorials and other people who fought during this war will join up as volunteers. The Territorial Army will be dependent on such men for recruits until the first batch of conscripts under the new regulations leave the Regular Forces to serve their five and a half years with the Territorial Army. The first of these men, as I think the noble Marquess himself pointed out, will not be available until mid-1950, and I should be humbugging the House if I did not recognize with the noble Marquess that there is what can only be called a gap between the spring of 1947 and the summer of 1950. That will be the crucial period during which it will be particularly important to secure the assistance of those who have already had military experience. Do not let us have any illusions about that; there will be the gap to which the noble Marquess has very properly called attention. During that period (when most of the units may be at probably not more than 25 to 30 per cent. of their full strength, although anti-aircraft units will, it is hoped, be up to 50 per cent. of their strength), we shall, of course, rely particularly on officers with past experience and also on men with past experience to join the ranks.
The noble Marquess also asked about the provisions for labour, and in particular about the Pioneer Corps. Not merely in order to appease the noble Marquess (which is always my intention) but genuinely, and as a result of a great deal of information which has been supplied to me, I should like here and now to pay my tribute to the Pioneer Corps, and indeed to all those who were engaged in organizing labour during the recent war. The question of whether the Pioneer Corps will be used and maintained in the future is under consideration. I can assure the noble Marquess that it is under sympathetic consideration. I can say that without indiscretion, although not, I am afraid, in such a manner as to encourage any firm hopes. We appreciate the great advantages that would come 703 from maintaining the Pioneer Corps, but there are, of course, difficulties of which the noble Marquess is probably aware.
I have already referred to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Croft. The noble Lord, Lord Templemore, warned me that he would probably have to go before the end of my remarks. I am very much flattered by the fact that, if he went, he has returned; he could not keep away, and I regard that as the greatest of all compliments! He put to me three specific questions—all of them what I think may fairly be called teasers, which is what I would expect from such a friendly critic as the noble Lord. They all involve intricate points and they will receive very close attention. The noble Lord was kind enough to congratulate me on having attained the age of forty-one, and I hope that between us we shall see many more years come round. May I refer to the three points he mentioned? He raised the question of why one cannot count the period of commissioned service before the age of twenty-one in order to obtain the full rate of retired pay. I would make these points. The new code was designed to cover the three Services and it was agreed by all three Services fairly recently, I understand. Therefore, while I will, of course, lay this and anything else that the noble Lord raises before my right honourable friend, I cannot hold out very much hope, and I have been specially enjoined not to raise any false hope on this matter.
§ LORD TEMPLEMORE
May I interrupt the noble Lord? My point is that whatever you do to officers now, you have no right to go back on a bargain you made with officers who joined before the White Paper was issued.
I said I was going to make one or two points and I am going to deal with that one. The periods of service have been so arranged that the officer commissioned before age twenty-one will normally secure the full retired pay rate on compulsory retirement from any rank—I am not sure if the noble Lord is aware of that—and officers who were already serving when the new code was introduced may be dealt with under the previous code if to their advantage, but in that event they must be dealt with under the previous code as a whole. That 704 is the answer to the particular point that the noble Lord intervened to raise.
Secondly, he raised the question of the retirement of officers. Obviously we all desire to facilitate that as soon as it is humanly possible. Retirement is already allowed in certain cases. It is the general policy that the ban on retirement and resignation should be progressively lifted. As the first phase of the lifting of this ban, permission has been given for Regular substantive Lieutenant-Colonels and Majors to retire or resign voluntarily on reaching the age limit of their Corps. The compassionate retirements of Regular Officers are considered as individual cases on their merits. I hope that will be some consolation. I am afraid we still need during this transitional period many officers who would like to leave the Army and I am afraid we want even officers who would be regarded as relative failures, but they will not be sent back to their units in the manner feared by the noble Lord. As to standing for Parliament, the present rules regarding candidature for Parliament and the position of Members of Parliament who are officers or soldiers are set out in a pamphlet which was issued in November, 1944. I have sent a copy to the noble Lord, but I am not quite sure whether he has already received it. He will realize that these are emergency regulations. The question of the permanent post-war position is now being considered.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, raised a number of important points affecting the Royal Navy. My noble friend the First Lord instructs me to say that everything that the noble Earl has said will be considered by him personally with particular care and that he will himself communicate in writing with the noble Earl. As the noble Earl, Lord Howe, is aware, my noble friend was present throughout his remarks and listened, as I am sure he will have observed, with the closest attention.
I will lay that also before my noble friend.
The noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, dealt with Commanding Officers. I would like to discuss that with him in detail and to 705 hear his ideas. The procedure will be that they will come up in future from the Associations, go through the Commands, and finally be approved by a Selection Board at the War Office. I hope he will feel that that is a fairly adequate procedure and one which will avert any difficulties that have occurred in the past.
The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, dealt with the subject of which he is a complete master and which, with the permission of the House, I will answer in a very detailed fashion. I must apologize for the delay but I have mislaid the document. I can assure the House that there is an answer for the noble Lord which I have been at some pains to secure.
§ LORD TWEEDSMUIR
If it would help the noble Lord at all, I am quite prepared to receive a written answer on the points I raised.
I am immensely apologetic, because the noble Lord raised a question of great importance, and I would like to make quite sure that I supply him with the information in technical phraseology. But I will give him the facts, which may be of almost as much interest to him. The forces that he mentioned will be brought under the War Office, and particular pains will be taken to make sure that they are balanced forces of all arms to meet the requirements in peace and war. The actual strength of the forces is now being worked out, as are the terms of service. Those, I think, were the two points in which he was particularly interested. I can assure the noble Lord that we do appreciate the need for strengthening these forces and of enabling them to play their part in the noble scheme of Commonwealth defence. I hope the noble Lord will agree when I say that we must make sure that we trust the African, because that will be a most important element in solving the problem he has in mind. I certainly would not like to let the occasion pass without paying a tribute to the forces that the noble Lord mentioned, for their splendid part in the war, and indeed to all that was accomplished by the Colonial Forces. There were many other aspects of this matter which the noble Lord has in mind, and which I would be more than pleased to discuss with him in detail at any time.
706 The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, speaks with almost unique authority on anything which concerns the administration of the Army. He will forgive me if I do not reply to all his points to-night, but I have touched on one or two of them. I will close with a few words that perhaps will be of some assistance to those far removed from this House. We have been discussing to-day the question of conditions in the Services, and I suppose that we are all well aware that the life actually being led at the present time by our fellow countrymen in the Services in many parts of the world is a very hard life, a harder life than in peace-time we expect our Service men to lead. We realize, and I think that they perhaps realize it also, bearing in mind that we are still recovering from a great war, that the desired resources are not always immediately available and, in many cases, it is difficult to make permanent plans on their behalf for any particular part of the country where they may happen to be serving. I do assure the House that any suggestions that touch the life of the Service man, whether in this country or overseas, will be gratefully considered by the Service Departments. I think noble Lords, some of whom have presided over or administered the Departments in question, are under no misconception about the spirit which animates those Departments at the present time. We need the help of this House very badly, more perhaps to-day than ever before, in making quite sure that our men in the Services in this country and many thousands of miles away, receive the life that is their due. We cast our minds to those far-off places; we salute our Service men abroad with regard and affection, and I believe I have the whole House with me when I assure them that the House of Lords will stand by them through thick and thin.
Would the noble Lord perhaps answer my question about the direction of sea cadets to other Services?
I am immensely apologetic to the noble Lord. His question was why, in some cases, lads from the Sea Cadet force are directed into Services other than the Royal Navy. That was the crucial point the noble Lord raised. There are two reasons. Firstly, it sometimes happens that when a group is called 707 up there are insufficient vacancies in Royal Naval branches for all sea cadets who are in that group and qualified for those branches. Secondly, it sometimes happens that a sea cadet has made substantial headway in a trade for which there is a requirement in the Army or Royal Air Force, but not in the Royal Navy. In such cases it is generally in the interests of the individual, as well as of the Services, that he should go where he can practise his trade. But such cases are always given special consideration and, in the event of hardship, great trouble is taken to minimize that hardship as far as possible.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I believe it is a very welcome fact that the Army Cadet Force are allowed to join the regiment of their choice. Is it a fact that the sea cadet who holds an efficiency certificate cannot opt for the Royal Navy?
I look round for some naval guidance, but perhaps I had better emulate the Silent Service in the face of that question. The main consideration seems to be as I have set out, that in every case it is not possible to make sure that the sea cadet receives an opening in the Royal Navy because, if I may say so, the Royal Navy is so infernally popular.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
My Lords, I have one regret about this debate, and that is that I did not read the daily paper with sufficient attention to allow me to open the debate by congratulating the noble Lord who has just replied on the anniversary of his birthday. I hope he will spend many more anniversaries on the Front Bench of this House, although perhaps not all of them on the Government side. We are deeply grateful to the noble Lord who has replied for the attention and courtesy he has shown, and the detail into which he has gone to answer our various questions. I think it was a model of how a Government spokesman should reply and treat with great sympathy and seriousness everything we have put to him.
708 I have only two things to say. First of all, that we are encouraged, without being excited, by the recruiting figures which he has given us. Secondly I do hope the question of married quarters—and particularly married quarters for officers, because they seem to be lower in the schedule than others—will not rest where it is, because it is most important. With regard to the questions of the trade unions, I was waiting to hear that the building trade union will be brought in, as I hope they will be. Perhaps they will have the attention of the noble Lord and his Service Department. This is not the time to make a long speech, but to re-echo once again our thanks to the noble Lord for his reply. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.