§ 3.24 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN rose to call attention to the Memorandum by the Secretary of State for War accompanying the Army Estimates (Cmnd. 372); and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in order to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper, I must have a "seat, place and voice" in your Lordships' House. I feel no concern about the first two but I most sincerely beg your Lordships' pardon for any shortcomings in the matter of the third requirement.
§ Three weeks ago we debated the Defence White Paper which, as your Lordships will remember, dealt with two main things—the broad aspects of defence, and also a certain number of matters of detail which were common to all three Services. To-day we shall be debating the narrower issues of the Army. We shall be debating my right honourable friend's Statement which accompanied the Army Estimates in another place, but I hope that your Lordships will not think it out of order if now and then we deal with matters which may not be in the Statement but are in the Defence White Paper as being inter-Service matters. Because we are dealing in details, it does not follow that we on this side of the House who voiced our approval of the policy laid down in the Defence White Paper thereby denied ourselves the opportunity, if we wanted it, to criticise one or two details. I may do that this afternoon, but, if I do, it will have no effect on the general support which I gave three weeks ago when we were debating the Defence White Paper.
§ In Statements connected with the Army Estimates there is always a twofold view to be taken: that of the readiness of the Army for the tasks it has to perform at any given time; and also, not less important, the well-being of the people who happen to be in the Army at that time. This year's story is partly told in the Defence White Paper and partly in the Army Blue Paper. This is the second chapter in a policy which is now a year old, and during that year a great deal has happened in the Army. Let us see briefly what are the main things that have happened in the Army and to the Army.500
§ First of all, as your Lordships will see from the figures in the Appendix to the Statement, there has been a run-down, with a reduction of some 40,000 people. I do not suppose that anybody who has not himself been concerned or has not had relatives closely concerned with Service affairs, can fully realise what it means to an individual and a regiment when these cuts take place. There have been none like them for many years. A certain amount has been said about cuts in famous regiments, but far less—in fact, not enough—has been said, I think, of the swingeing cuts which the Royal Regiment of Artillery have had to take. To sum up, one can say that last year's reductions and amalgamations of regiments represent the first major surgical operation in the Army since the time of Cardwell. Certainly the Haldane reforms and the reduction of the Army after the South African War and again after the First World War were nothing like so serious in their effects on the Army and on the individuals who are in it.
§ But in saying that, I think we ought to realise how extremely well this reduction has been handled by senior officers, the Army Council and everybody concerned with it. If it had not been so well handled, the results would have been infinitely worse. Here I think we see the proper use of tradition as a dynamic thing and not as a piece of defensive and reactionary machinery. It is because of that that the cuts have gone so well. This is an important matter. Although this has nothing to do with the Army, I think that we are going to come across the same problem when we get the local government reorganisation Bill in your Lordships' House. Again we shall have an opportunity to use our traditions dynamically or defensively, as we like. I hope that the example set by the Army of the dynamic use of tradition will be followed in other fields, wherever it is applicable.
§ I come to the rebuilding of the Regular Army. It is too early to give a considered opinion of what has happened, and I think the only way is to give a short answer—"So far so good." But I would remind your Lordships that the plan for rebuilding the Army is not covered by one year's Estimates and Statement; it is a plan which, to obtain 501 its full effect, will have to go on until 1962, four years away. We shall have four Statements, four sets of Army Estimates, but four versions of one operation and not four separate plans. So it is too early to predict with certainty that this plan will be successful. We say: "So far so good", but we must remember that unless this plan is successful National Service in some form or other will be needed if we are to make good our commitments overseas. Therefore, if we wish, as we have said, that National Service should disappear, it is our duty, whoever and wherever we are, to give the utmost support to everything that is being done to foster and promote Regular recruiting for the Forces.
§ These recruiting figures are curious in one way: they respond to no law. Many people have tried to find a formula connected with employment or unemployment, or pay, or something of that sort, but, for some reason, the willingness of the young man to join the Army, or to stay in it, has always eluded any formula. It looks as if we shall never find a formula related closely to economics, although recruiting will always have some relation to that subject. Probably recruits will come to the Army in proportion to the esteem in which the Army is held, just as much as to the economic advantages of a Service career as young men see it when they are contemplating their careers and as older men see it when contemplating the advisability of staying in the Army. It is against this background that we have to decide what we think of the measures proposed in the Statement.
§ I do not think there is much doubt that, in general, the pay offered is ample, especially in regard to the lower ranks. But I am going to repeat—and I shall go on repeating this every time I address your Lordships on this subject—that I still do not think that the allowances are really related to the cost of the items which they are intended to cover. There is no evidence that this is so; in fact, all the evidence is the other way, because every attempt with which I have been concerned over the years to get an assurance that the allowances would be related to the cost of the items has met with no success at all. We must remember that, unless they are so related, there is a hidden debit to the soldier's account, because he is paying for certain things 502 for which he is supposed to get allowances out of his taxed income.
§ I now want to come to the question of uniform. We saw in the White Paper that my right honourable friend's predecessor had decided that No. 1 dress was not, after all, to be the ideal dress of the Army. I sincerely hope that my right honourable friend has not fallen into a trap which I think has been set for all Secretaries of State ever since I had anything to do with the Army. Argument about uniform is an occupational disease which affects the whole of the Army and, in particular, the infantry of the line. Therefore, by the nature of things, no Secretary of State and no Government is ever likely to get much more than 51 per cent. agreement. Of course, from the financial point of view that is lovely, because you will always go on feeling that you have not made up your mind or got sufficient evidence in order to justify the great expense and use of cloth to give the troops a second uniform. That is why the troops have walked out in Service dress or battle dress ever since August 4, 1914.
§ We want to be careful, particularly now, that this does not go on any longer. It will be necessary for the Government to make up their minds with 51 per cent. approval and no more, and go in one direction or another. Otherwise, we shall have these new Regular recruits, whom we want to get and who, when we get them, are going to be the darlings of Generals and politicians alike, still walking out in battledress, and our policy for getting these Regular recruits will not, like the headgear advertised in the Underground, be "cute from every angle." I say that quite seriously, because I see a real danger that we shall just drift on and a great deal of damage will be done.
§ I sincerely welcome the appointment of the Grigg and the Whistler Committees; but I do that not so much because I like the idea of Committees but because I strongly approve of the eminent ex-Minister and the eminent General (General Whistler) who have been appointed to these Committees. I hope it does not mean that no Government can take a decision, which they are entitled to take in their own right, without having these Committees; but I would say that, if we are going to have 503 them, we have the right men in the job. If, on inquiry, a spade turns out to be a spade, I have no doubt it will appear as such in the Report of Sir James Grigg's Committee. I hope that when these two Committees issue their Reports action will be taken on them quickly.
§ I should like to make one suggestion (if it can be done from these Benches) to the Whistler Committee—namely, that they should pay particular attention to the morale and the general position in the scheme of things of non-commissioned officers. Ever since the end of the war I have felt that non-commissioned officers as a class have not received the attention that they should. An immense amount of attention has been paid to the private soldiers, and the senior officers have been, as they should be, under the spotlight. But what of the sergeants' mess? Is it, as one might say, a power-house of progress; or is it a stronghold of reaction? Your Lordships and I will think of the sergeants' messes we know and make up our own minds. But here we are in the era of the Welfare State, with every member of the sergeants' mess having had (as one imagines) a secondary education, and we read, as I did the other day, of what is being done to the N.C.O.s in West Germany. Are we missing a trick here by not doing more to make the N.C.O. a thinking part of the Army? Personally, I think we could do quite a lot more.
§ Now I come to retirement and resettlement. Again, it is early days to do more than say that I, for one, feel that we have got off to a good start. The terms are generous; the approach, so far as I can find out, has been a sympathetic and sensible one. But we shall be able to see a great deal more about this matter in a year's time, when the wheel has gone full circle and we find ourselves debating the Army Estimates of 1959.
§ Over the whole of the plans for the Army there hangs the question mark of expense—after all, Estimates are familiar enough—and that means that every penny has had to be fought for. It can be taken that, in the present moment of credit squeeze, every item has been justified up to the hilt—and probably a great many items which are not included have been justified up to the hilt, too. Within these Estimates can be seen a net increase of £15 million on pay and pensions; and 504 then, what is slightly more sinister, a saving of £2½ million in stores and £4¾ million in works. Those are round figures, but if your Lordships look at the Estimates themselves you will find they are near enough to the mark. One cannot see these figures without feeling some concern as to the effect this will have on such things as barracks and uniform. I know that married quarters will not be in the Estimates, because they come in the Housing (Loans) Act, for which the previous Government were responsible; and they did a good day's work when it went through. Weapons are up by £3 million, but transport is down by £1 million. In that connection I think we ought to think again (it was in the papers the other day) of the state of our transport in places like the Rhine Army. It is not good. It does not put the British Army in a good light vis-à-vis our other Allies. In fact, we are not going the way to give the British soldier what the educationist has called in another context "parity of esteem" with his fellows. We shall have to watch that point, because it is not right as it stands now.
§ That brings me to the second of the main points which come up in every White Paper, the readiness for service of the Army. It is no good thinking that you will have the right ideas in the Army if the people who are in the Army do not believe they are being well done by, that they can take, as in Alice in Wonderland, weapons large and new" fit for the deed they have to do. Here we come to this frightful name conventional forces and conventional weapons. As your Lordships know, I hate those words, and I shall go on hating them. This time I am hating them for a different reason—that anybody should start thinking that conventional weapons means outdated weapons, and conventional forces means outmoded organisations. Over the years between the wars, and at intervals since the war, there has been this impact of tradition and equipment. The one works on the other, and there are moments when the troops are reminded of their glorious regimental traditions in the past in order to turn their minds from their lack of material well-being or good armaments in the present. That was a marked feature of the treatment of the Army between the wars. It was a prostitution in the use of regimental tradition, and we must take 505 the greatest care that it does not happen now. I look with a certain amount of concern at the relatively small figures put in the Estimates for weapons, and I hope, as I said before, that the new Army is going to be treated well in every particular, including its own armament.
§ Here I come to one or two of the smaller points which are mentioned in the White Paper. I notice that soldiers are being trained in the surface-to-surface guided weapon, and also in the surface-to-air guided weapon. I am wondering if that represents a change of policy from that which was announced a year or two ago. Then there is the brigade group. My noble friend Lord Freyberg is no friend of the brigade group, and although I have the greatest respect for him I am bound to differ here from what I know he feels, because my own experience, such as it is, and my own reading, make me certain that in these days the basic organisation of a brigade group is the right one. That is quite a different thing from saying that the hurriedly-put-together organisations in brigade groups in France in 1940, or in the Western Desert later on, were right, because they were not. But the brigade group, organised in peace time in forming part of a division which can command the right number of them, and the division forming part of a corps which can command the right number of them, is, I am sure, a much more flexible and necessary organisation for modern days.
§ So is a central reserve of men, and the dispersal of equipment. But we must bear in mind that this idea of the central reserve is going to be expensive, and it can be realistic only if there is some prospect of getting the men from the central place to the scene of action in time to be able to intervene at the right moment, and not many days after the right moment. Therefore, I doubt very much whether a central reserve of men held in any one place can ever be held entirely to replace the men on the spot.
§ When we come to the Reserve Forces, I feel that we have now a really sound recruiting; trend in the Territorial Army and one which is likely to stay. I say that not merely because the figures are showing it now but because there is every reason why the figures should show it. In the pre-war Territorial Army the great 506 bulk of the soldiers came from those who were enlisting for their first four years' period—that is to say, the age group 18 to 22. If that age group is not going to be called up for National Service, it is more than likely that the proper number will volunteer for the Territorial Army, as they did before. Here again, "so far so good"; but I feel, although I am not going to talk about it at length this afternoon, that a good deal of re-thinking of the rôle of the Territorial Army is necessary. The remarks in the Secretary of State's Statement could be said, not unfairly, to be of a stop-gap variety, but I do not think they are any the worse for that. I think the whole time of the War Office has had to be employed on the Regular Army in the last year. I, for one, would not blame them for a moment for having left the most important problem of the Reserve Forces over for a little while until they had time to give their minds to it. I would say, however, that that time has now come, and I hope most sincerely that in the re-thinking will be included the re-thinking of the organisation and the rôle of the mobile defence corps.
§ Again I should welcome the Amery Report on the Army Cadet Force. On one or two points it may want a little more elasticity than it appears to have. But here again, the Report has only just been issued. It has been well received in all circles, and it must be given time to work itself out. So must the decisions taken on General Mansergh's Committee on Administration, if they have indeed been taken, and on the new works organisation.
§ Here I should like to mention one other point which I hope one of my noble friends in front of me will be able to answer in the course of the debate, and that is what has been happening in the course of the last year in the matter of closer integration of the administrative services, such as medical, provost, transport and the rest of them. There is not a great deal said in any of the White Papers, and yet it is an important matter, particularly if one thinks, as I do, that this is one of the matters in which the greatest amount of financial saving can be made with the minimum amount of tears. So I hope that we shall have some news about that subject before the day is done.507
§ To go back to the changes proposed in administration and works, I feel that the savings which can be made in both those directions—and there are plenty of savings—will be made strictly and exactly in proportion to whether decentralisation of financial responsibility is allowed and in proportion as minor Treasury control is relaxed. I warn your Lordships that they will not be made otherwise. I could talk a great deal about that matter, but I shall not weary your Lordships now. No one is going to put his best foot foremost in economies which are out of his control, and if it comes to saving of paper those who can take the decisions do not have to write to themselves, and those who cannot take the decisions have to write to somebody else.
§ So, my Lords, may I say one or two words in conclusion. We can sum up, I think, by saying that we are now engaged in one of the major reorganisations of the Army, which over history has seemed to be necessary to take place at intervals if the Army is to continue to be a proper instrument of national policy. Every so often, every 100 or 150 or 200 years, requirements change; the Army is wanted by the Government for something different and a new model has to be produced. Those who follow the course of history in these matters will see it quite plainly; they will see the basis of Cromwell's New Model Army, Marlborough's reorganisation, those changes for which Sir John Moore and the Duke of York were responsible, Cardwell's reforms and Haldane's reforms, all in their perspective; and this reorganisation is in direct succession to those.
Therefore, special responsibility lies on those who are in charge now, a responsibility that this reorganisation is a genuine one, that the thinking which underlies it is genuine and that we are engaged on making the Army something of real use to national policy and not merely disguising necessities caused by limitations of cash or other influences of the kind. If the latter were so—and I am not suggesting it is—we should in the long run be leading only to frustration in the Army, waste of effort by the taxpayer, and so to national danger. Just think, my Lords, of the material which lies to the hand of those who are shaping the Army at the present time. I wonder whether you
would allow me to read a few words which come right at the end of Fortescue's History of the British Army. It is written, dealing with the Army of 1880 (and the words are no worse for being written by the uncle of our noble friend who sometimes sits in front of me):
Two centuries of persecution could not wear out its"—
that is, the Army's—
patience. Two centuries of thankless toil could not abate its ardour. Two centuries of conquest could not awake it to insolence. Dutiful to its masters, merciful to its enemies, it clung steadfastly to its old simple ideals. obedience, service, sacrifice.
§ Now, my Lords, those words may sound old-fashioned in the present time, but sacrifice there has been on a scale which the Army has not known for many a generation, sacrifice both of a regimental and a personal order. That sacrifice has been called for by those who are giving it in order that a new Army can be built to meet the nation's needs and that a plan can be put into operation which will take till 1963 to carry through. If that sacrifice is going to be worth while, then I think we must not merely give these proposals our support but must insist on their being carried through. Because of what the Prayer Book calls the "changes and chances of this mortal life", it seems to me that any plan which requires till 1963 to come to fruition needs an all-Party policy. The fact that there may be certain disagreements over the matter of weapons should not for one moment, to my mind, call for any disunity in this House in our determination to see that the Army's sacrifice is not in vain, and that between now and 1963 we build an Army which will be worth those sacrifices. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, we are once more indebted to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, for putting on the Order Paper this Motion relating to the Army, and I can assure him straight away, in view of his peroration, that we on this side are second to none in our admiration and love for the Army. He may be assured that anything that we can do to support the officers and men of the Army in the important tasks they have to fulfil will be done.
The noble Viscount has said that this is a most crucial time in the history of 509 the Army. That is so, and therefore to-day I think it will be found—certainly we found it in the speech of the noble Viscount—that in all our speeches we may be seeking certain information. There may be noble Lords who have private sources of information from the High Command—they have "tips", as it were, from the highest sources. That is not so with most of us, of course; in most cases we are dependent upon the published reports of the Government, on speeches of Ministers, occasional speeches from Generals, and also on Press comments and the like.
From speeches made by Ministers, especially the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft (who has been most optimistic all the way through and in this House, if not always outside, has rejected any other idea) one would think that there was never any doubt about getting enough soldiers for the Regular Army; that this was a placid change; that the river flowed on; that, while there may be an eddy here and there, on the whole the reorganisation had gone very smoothly. Now listen to what the Military Secretary said, speaking at a public dinner at Cardiff, as reported in the Western Mail. He described the reorganisation of the Army asthe greatest strain that has ever been inflicted on any organisation of this particular source.The grammar is his, not mine. I take it that he meant that this was an unparalleled strain on the British Army. No hint there of any smooth flow of water in the stream; the stream had been very turbulent.
I think we are entitled to know who gives the policy and the account of military matters in this sphere, because it is an important matter if the Military Secretary describes in these very serious terms the reorganisation through which the Army has been going. Mark you! my Lords, I do not doubt that he is right; it has imposed on the Army a very serious strain indeed. I agree entirely with the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, that all concerned deserve the greatest credit for the way they have taken the strain, without any appearance of discord or anything of that kind. It is a credit to them and a lesson to all that they have been able to surmount these very great difficulties in the way they have done.
510 Turning to the Memorandum, and dealing with one important point, the tactical reorganisation of the Army, must say that I found it confusing. We have heard, as the noble Viscount has said, that to all intents and purposes the divisional organisation of the Army has disappeared. We are now on the brigade group basis; to a very large extent the old divisions have gone. But we are not quite sure, reading paragraph 44, which purports to set out what the new organisation is, what the function of the division in the new era is to be. Paragraph 44 says:Divisional headquarters will be smaller and will not, as hitherto, command a fixed number of brigades. Instead a varying number of armoured and infantry brigade groups may be placed under a divisional headquarters according to the requirements of the military situation. Divisional troops will be kept to a minimum and brigade groups will obtain their support mainly from Corps resources.I thought that one of the ideas of this reorganisation was that we were going to cut out some of these higher echelons. It was once said to General Pile, the Head of Anti-Aircraft Command in the war, "You know, these Corps headquarters are not much use; they are only post offices"; and General Pile said, "No, they are worse than that; they open the letters." I think there is something in that. Why do we need a Corps headquarters if, to a large extent, divisional headquarters will still have certain functions? Why do we need divisional headquarters if Corps headquarters are still to remain? That is the sort of point to which, while I have no doubt there is a perfectly good answer, it does not appear in the Memorandum; the position is rather confusing to those of us who think on the old lines of the division being the main tactical unit in the fighting Army. In my view, the brigade groups make sense only if they are highly mobile, if they have the maximum fire power, and if they have air support, both strategic and tactical. I am going to say something on air support in the Air Estimates debate, if I have the opportunity, but recently one or two books have been written which seem to suggest that in the past the British Army has been greatly handicapped by lack of air support. I should like to deal with that point more fully in the Air Estimates debate. But in this Memorandum there is nothing at all on this question of air 511 support, as I shall show in a moment; and I think it should have been included.
Now we turn to weapons and developments. As the noble Viscount has said, the surface-to-surface weapons—the atomic weapons—were always intended, as we understood it, to be the function of the Army—presumably of the Royal Artillery. They are tactical weapons, and they are obvious weapons for ground troops. Then there is the surface-to-air weapon, the Thunderbird. This will be, presumably, in most cases, a tactical weapon; and again I assume (though I should like this confirmed) that the Royal Artillery will be handling it. But what about atomic weapons of longer range—the medium weapons—such as the Thor, which will replace the bomber, and the long-range strategic missile such as the Snark? I suggest that these also should be handled by the Royal Artillery. Although, of course, they are surplanting the bomber, they are, in effect, a gun and not an aircraft; so I suggest that the Royal Artillery should handle them.
To deal with the Snark (I think this should be said here, because a great deal of misleading information has been given in public about guided missiles), it is just as well to have in mind what its range is. I quote from the General Military Review, published in December last, which says, at page 729:The United States Air Force revealed that a Snark missile, carrying a dummy nuclear warhead, had been launched from the Cape Canaveral base in Florida and had hit with practically bull's-eye accuracy a small target 5.000 miles away in the South Atlantic Ocean near Ascension Island.That is a very different story from some of the information we have had, about these things either not going off or not going to the place they were supposed to go once they had been set off. But there still remains the question: who in this country, in a war, is to handle these weapons? I myself felt that it was a great mistake that in the last war the searchlights were handled by the Royal Artillery. I always regarded them as being the function of the Royal Air Force, particularly since, apart from the first year of the war, they were nearly always engaged with our own aircraft and rarely with enemy aircraft. But guns and missiles and rockets, and so on, are obviously matters for the Royal Artillery. I am not saying this because 512 I served in the Royal Artillery: I have no sort of feeling about this from that point of view. It is purely and simply that I feel that the Royal Artillery have had the experience of handling guns of this kind and can do it best.
Whoever does this, whether it be the Royal Artillery or the Royal Air Force, they will find it very difficult to keep up the morale of the troops handling missiles which are of a non-mobile nature. I understand that they are not allowed to fire these weapons—to start with, they are too expensive to be fired in practice. During the last war I had a heavy battery for a time which was not mobile, and it was difficult to keep up the men's interest even in war time unless occasionally they could fire the guns. We used to let them fire the gun occasionally, although there was no great need, simply in order to keep up their morale. It is going to be most difficult to keep batteries of guided-missile artillerymen or Air Force men really on their toes if they never get the chance to fire and there is little opportunity of moving around and keeping interested.
The history of the rockets is an interesting point which I think we might just recall. They were artillery weapons. The first of them was invented by a Colonel Congreve, in the late 18th century. As one can imagine, at first they were looked upon with derision and contempt by the military authorities of the time, by the War Office and by the Duke of Wellington and so on. Had it not been for the Prince Regent they would never have come into operation at all. In view of the contempt that was felt for them it might be thought rather odd, by anyone who did not know the military mind, that they were the sole contribution from Britain to the allied Army which faced Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig. If they were, as the Army thought, more dangerous to one's own side than to the enemy, it is rather curious that they should have been lent in this way. It was not until the next year, in one of the last battles for Bayonne, that they not only aroused interest in the mind of the Duke of Wellington, but even more interest in the mind of the French, and did very well. But until recently, as we know, the rocket had never come into its own. That is another link with the past, and it is a link which means, 513 I think, that the Royal Artillery ought really to handle these rockets.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, objects to the term "conventional weapons", but I think that in these days there is no real line to be drawn between conventional and non-conventional weapons, in the sense that the field Army and the NA.T.O. Army are being equipped with atomic tactical weapons which will have the same power as the bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima. However, it is, I suppose, a convenient term. We have to call the weapons which are not atomic by some name, and it is better to have a positive term such as "conventional" rather than a negative term like "non-atomic." I have always thought that the most dreadful weapon of all was the bayonet. I do not suppose that it matters to a man whether he is hit by a six-inch shell or by an atomic shell; but a bayonet wound in the stomach is probably the most painful that anyone can suffer.
Now may I turn for a moment to the conventional weapons—saving the term, and apologising to the noble Viscount. Paragraph 57 talks very glibly about these new weapons and sets out how they are to be used.The development of the new family of weapons continuessays the paragraph, with all the bonhomie of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in these matters. But it seems to continue very belatedly and slowly; because, quite frankly, most of the Army is still equipped with weapons of the last war, which naturally, particularly so far as vehicles are concerned, are feeling the strain. In order that it might not seem that I am making a Party point I should like to refer to that "true blue" newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, which in a recent leading article referred to the equipment of the Army in Germany in these terms. Says the editor of the Daily Telegraph:Next to the new German equipment and the standard American unit our brigades are beginning to look scruffy. This implies no criticism of the morale or training of the officers and men. It is a matter of old tanks, overdue rifles, obsolescent transport and a general atmosphere of scrimping. … What are the specific claims and complaints that could be made? They are no secret; every intelligent young National Service man argues about them. The oft-broken promise of the War Office that the Vickers machine-gun will 514 be replaced. The failure to provide a tank that can travel long distances without refuelling. The Germans are developing an armoured vehicle that can use any fuel; diesel-engined Russian tanks do three or four times more mileage to the gallon than the Centurion. Canada, which is setting new standards among the Allied armies in Germany, provides a better anti-tank gun than we can. The long awaited FN rifle may be available this year at last, but only to the extent of 30,000 pieces,"—which is information not contained in this White Paper. That seems a quite serious criticism. We have spent a vast amount of money—something like £12,500 million since the war—on defence as a whole. If that is the state of our main Army, the Army of the shine, there is very little to show for the money we have spent, and certainly, as is said, the Army cannot really regard itself as being in a state of instant readiness as corn-pared with other Armies with which it is co-operating.
The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, hopes that we shall have a small professional Army of 160,000 but it may not be anything like as big as that. If we have a small professional Army, it will be necessary, of course, to have a powerful airlift and also to have close air support. The air arm should work in strategic and tactical support of ground forces, and it is amazing to me that there is nothing whatsoever in this Memorandum on these subjects. From most of it, except for some reference to the use of helicopters in Cyprus, one would imagine that we were still in the pre-aircraft age. There are even yet six troopships slowly chugging their way across the oceans with passengers who should be going by air. These matters, which I intend to bring up on the Air Estimates, are also relevant to the Army Estimates, and I hope that the fact that there is no mention of any of these important matters in the Memorandum does not mean that the Army Council is oblivious to them. Perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Mancroft, or the noble Earl who is to follow me will give the House some information on these points.
An air component is essential in these days and that cannot be too often said so far as the Army is concerned. Once more, I would like to quote the General Military Review, which says on page 687:The present state of the development of methods of the air transport of troops and equipment may be a case in point. This problem must be recognised as one of elemental 515 importance in the next major war. Evidences available to the layman indicate that it is being approached by Western Governments on something less than a crash' basis. Soviet military periodicals, especially the Krasnaya Zvezda, have for some months placed an emphasis on all phases of the air transport of ground troops.I would ask Her Majesty's Government to do the same.
I now come to the position in Germany. Your Lordships have heard what the Daily Telegraph says about equipment. The former Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, as we remember, undertook on behalf of the British Government to keep four divisions and a tactical air component in Germany. What happens when we have brigade groups and not divisions I am not quite sure. But at the N.A.T.O. Parliamentary Conference, which three or four noble Lords, including myself, attended last November, there was great objection on the part of some members of N.A.T.O. to the fact that we were running down our Forces to an extent which was not visualised by the Agreement made with Sir Anthony Eden. They thought, in other words, that we were not playing the game.
It is a fact, and it was pointed out to the assembled representatives of all the N.A.T.O. countries, that we in this country are spending in most cases more than double in proportion to our population to what is spent by other countries in N.A.T.O., except the United States of America. But that was the allegation made against us by several small countries such as Belgium and Holland. I must admit that I thought at the time it was a most bold, rash and, indeed, foolish commitment to make, in view of all our other responsibilities and also in view of the fact that if we get a professional Army it is going to be very difficult to carry out. I feel that we ought to know from the Minister exactly how he visualises keeping that promise, or whether he will get out of it under the escape clause—the financial clause.
During the coming year our Forces there are to be reduced to 58,000, but they will still cost £125 million, of which £47 million is in Deutschmarks. Her Majesty's Government have given notice to other Governments that having regard to the financial situation, this is more than the country can stand. I should be glad to know whether there has been 516 any reaction from other countries and whether they recognise that in the economic situation in which we find ourselves it is difficult for us to maintain the finance for the troops on this scale, just as it is difficult for us at a time when we no longer have National Service to find the bodies for this commitment. If we pull out from Germany—or rather if we pull out substantially, for we shall not do so altogether—have Her Majesty's Government any plans for the redeployment of the troops who are pulled out?
I turn for a moment to domestic matters, because this Memorandum is rather shy upon them, and first I want to deal with the question of brigade groupings. I understand that, on the whole, those have gone very well—I am not talking about brigade groups and the tactical side, but brigades, and the combining of three or four regiments into brigades for administrative and other purposes. I understand that this has gone well and that even the vexed case of the Highland Light Infantry now seems likely to be solved happily, as we shall all be glad to hear. So far as the Welsh Brigade is concerned, we were well satisfied that the right three regiments have been chosen and (speaking from the point of view of the Welch Regiment) that our traditional friends, the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the South Wales Borderers are with us. We are very happy that this should be so. So far as we are concerned, the question of the brigade badge causes little difficulty, because we can have the national emblem. I imagine that this might be much more difficult in the case of some English brigades which possibly have little in common in regard to tradition. We have not heard much about this matter, however, and I trust that the problem of the brigade cap badge has been well solved.
I myself, as a father, think it is a good thing. This is a small point, perhaps, but it is an important point, because my younger son recently became commissioned in the Welch Regiment and I had to buy him caps, because his allowance for this purpose from the Army was totally insufficient to set up a young officer, as we all know. One of the first things he did after he was commissioned was to take me off to buy him some caps; and the idea of having the brigade cap badge so that whenever he changes a 517 regiment he does not have to buy a new cap, because there is no necessity to punch new holes in his cap for a new badge, is a consideration which I think ought to weigh with those who expect parents to provide the uniform for the Army in these days.
The noble Viscount talked about the Army not supplying a new uniform. I would point out to him that, so far as young officers are concerned, the parents supply most of the existing ones; and I hope that if his idea about a new and glorious uniform for officers and men comes about the added expense of the new uniform will not fall on the parents, which I think in some cases would be a little more than they could stand.
The next point is the question of the band. The band, I have always felt as an old infantryman, is essential in a battalion and certainly we in the Welch Regiment felt strongly on the question of bands. However, I understand that it would mean, or so it is said (I have not seen the arithmetic), that if the regiments had been allowed to keep their bands, two other regiments would have had to be disbanded or amalgamated. Of course we do not want that, and all I can say on that matter is that if there is any possibility, in this vast expenditure on which we are still engaged in the Forces, of recovering a small amount here and there by savings, there is no better way in which the Army could spend it than on hands. Remember that the Army is very scattered: the men are in Kenya and Cyprus and all over the place, as can be seen from this Memorandum, and the bands are much appreciated not only by the troops but by the civilian population; the band is able to play in the square, and that sort of thing, and it is an enormous help to public relations in those places. I feel sure that if something could be done about that matter it would be appreciated.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I think I cats reassure the noble Lord. That decision has been reconsidered.
§ LORD OGMORE
I am most grateful. I did not know that. I raised the matter here previously very strongly. That is a great advantage. Does it mean that all regiments can keep their bands?
§ LORD MANCROFT
Not entirely; but I think we can go nearly all the way 518 to meet the point the noble Lord has quite correctly made.
§ LORD OGMORE
I am obliged, and I hope that the Welch Regiment will be one of those that keep their band—and keep their goat, of course.
I was not going to say anything about the Territorial Army, because my noble friend Lord Nathan was going to deal with that question; but unfortunately he has been taken ill—I hope it is only a minor illness—and he is not able to be here to-day. However, my noble friend Lord Shepherd is going to say a word on the Territorial Army. I would just say that we congratulate it upon its jubilee year and we trust it will go from strength to strength. As an old Territorial volunteer myself, I welcome the fact that the Territorial Army is going to be a voluntary Army. I never thought it would be other than most difficult to deal with it on a half-and-half basis—half volunteer and half National Service—and I welcome the fact that once again the Territorial Army will be full of volunteers. I wish it every possible success in the future, and I hope it will have as glorious a career in the future as it has had in the first fifty years of its existence.
There is one last point to which I would refer, namely, brigade depots. What has been the result? We have as yet, so far as I am aware, had no information about brigade depôts. I understood that the Government were going to publish a list of them at some time. We have kept very quiet about this matter because it is one on which everybody feels strongly and they would like the depôt to be at their regiment's home. I have no authority to speak for the Welch Regiment, but I think that I know what most members, past and present, think. We thought that Cardiff, as the capital and the main centre of recruiting and population, should be the place where the brigade depot should be, but we were prepared to waive our very strong feelings, having regard to the fact that the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Borderers might have other ideas.
Having to a very large extent not pressed and pursued our strong feelings, we were surprised and amazed to find the Military Secretary, General Stockwell, at a dinner of the Old Comrades' Association of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, 519 announcing the fact—"a strong hint" was the term which the Western Mail used—that the depôt of the Welsh Brigade would be at Crickhowell, near Abergavenny. He went on to say:Crickhowell would have the advantage of having no regimental ties; it would not be like having new wine in old bottles.He said that Cardiff, headquarters of the Welch Regiment, had been ruled out because a big city was not really suitable for training troops. Of course, no city or town, or even Crickhowell, is suitable for training troops; you have to go outside. There are plenty of training grounds outside Cardiff. But I should like the Minister who is to reply to say why it was that the Military Secretary, who is an official, made this very important announcement at a dinner, and why it was not made to Parliament, where we expect it to be made—and why it was not made, if you like, to the members of the regiments beforehand. Why the announcement was made at a dinner by the colonel of one of the regiments, who happens also to be the Military Secretary, is a matter which causes some concern. Considering the way that the South Wales Borderers and the Welch Regiment have behaved in this regard, many of us felt a little hurt that this decision should have come out in this way—if, indeed, the decision has been taken to go to Crickhowell, for in my view there are many things to be said against it.
The Colonial Forces have been mentioned, and here there is a change in pattern and we are going back to the past. Whether this is a good thing or not I do not know; it is probably inevitable in view of the changing times through which the Colonies themselves are going. Up till about the beginning of the war, however, or maybe a year or two before, it was the fact that the Colonial Forces—their pay, administration and all the rest—were in the hands of the individual Colonies. Then the War Office took over the Forces and became responsible for them. Now we are going back. Is this a matter which is dictated by military efficiency or is it dictated by political expediency? That is the sort of question which should be answered. If it is the latter, we have nothing to say; it is the trend of the times; but we want to look at it pretty carefully.
520 I have recently had the opportunity of going to Malaya, Nigeria and other parts. When I go to those places I generally have a chat with the military commanders there, and I know that in many of these countries they need a lot of help, and will need a lot of help for years to come, in regard to officers and N.C.Os. They will need for training purposes a great deal of help from us; and with the end of National Service, does either of the Ministers think, or do both of them think, that we shall be able to provide the necessary technical assistance that these Forces will need? That is important, especially as in a number of cases, to my knowledge, several very experienced officers who are now seconded to those Forces are going out under the Government scheme. Therefore those Forces will not be able to call on these people very much longer.
In conclusion, I should like once again to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and once again to reiterate that we on this side are firm friends of the Army. We hope that the difficult period through which it is going will soon come to an end, and that it will flourish, as it has for so many centuries in the past.
§ 4.30 p.m.
My Lords, your Lordships will be most pleased that it was possible, after all, to hear the delightful speech that my noble friend Lord Bridgeman made, as he always does when initiating a debate in your Lordships' House upon the Army Estimates. It is my duty to-day to address your Lordships on only three topics—namely, dress, retirement and pensions, and Territorial Associations—and I will do my best to answer the questions which my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, have brought up in the course of their speeches. The vital question of tactics, armaments and future policy, to which both noble Lords referred and which other noble Lords will no doubt discuss in the' course of the debate, will be answered by my noble friend Lord Mancroft.
As my noble friend Lord Bridgeman said, there must be as many military fashions invented for the wear of the soldier as there are new lines produced by the "Top Ten" fashion houses for ladies. Several noble and gallant Lords, who are not, unfortunately, in their 521 places, have invented different types of dress and improved upon present uniforms, though most of these variations in battledress are not possible under conditions of peace. I was especially sorry that my noble friend Lord St. Oswald is not here to-day to give your Lordships the benefit of the latest ideas in dress which no doubt he must have received in Korea, when we were fighting there; but I doubt whether my noble friend Lord Bridgman would desire such versions to be adopted for wear at home.
On an ever more stringent arms budget—and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has given us an accurate outline of the expensive pieces of equipment that the Army Council must buy—the Army Council must at all times satisfy, first the soldier, the wearer of the uniform and his regiment then, above all, the taxpayer. Then the Army Council must be satisfied that the purpose for which the uniform was designed is fulfilled, and that it not only suits the present whim but will serve for a long time in future. It has often been pointed out how smartness in uniform adds to the prestige of the soldier in the eyes of the public. The uniform adds greatly to regimental prestige, and it is the fact that the best turned out regiment, the one that looks smartest on parade, is that which has the highest recruiting figures. I think that the Army Council should take credit for introducing the blue patrols, or No. 1 dress, which is now issued to other ranks down to the rank of lance corporal and to all members of Regular bands and Territorial Army bands. The introduction of the No. 1 dress meets the very point which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, raised—that of the expense to an officer of equipping himself with ceremonial dress. It may be questionable whether the No. 1 dress entirely fills the Bill, but for ceremonial occasions it is certainly much smarter than battledress and much cheaper than Service dress.
It is fashionable to criticise the old battledress, but I think that your Lordships and the public can compliment the Army on the high standard of turn-out attained when parading, both for ceremonial occasions and for working purposes, in battledress, which, after all, was designed as a fighting and working dress.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, the noble Earl will appreciate that this smartness, 522 so far as the young officer is concerned, is due more to his parents who have to pay for it, because the allowance does not go anywhere near the cost of equipment, as I know only too well.
My Lords. I appreciate the point that the noble Lord has raised, but I think that with the No. 1 dress it is much easier for the young officer, on his present uniform allowance, to meet the need for ceremonial dress than it used to be, when not only "Blues" were required but also a Service dress, and possibly a special ceremonial dress in addition.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, when I first went into the Army, in the Colonies and in this country, the allowance was enough to enable a young officer to buy all his equipment. I know that, because I found it so. But it is not enough to-day —as again I have found, from experience with my own son. I do not think that the Army should expect the parents of young officers to pay for the necessary equipment of their sons.
My Lords, I cannot go back quite so far as the noble Lord, but it has always been pointed out how difficult it was in the old days for young officers to equip themselves with all the necessary uniforms. I know how expensive it was for me to equip myself with three sets of uniform after the war; but now only two sets are required—a battledress and a Blues No. 1. I am sure that this is much cheaper than the old-fashioned Service dress. This may not be ideal, but I think that it is an improvement.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, the noble Earl is being very helpful, but the point I am trying to make is that in the old days the allowance was sufficient, whereas it is not to-day, even on the present standard. I agree with him that if we had a more elaborate uniform, the allowance would be even less sufficient; but that is not the point I am making.
My Lords, we are well aware how expensive uniforms are to-day and how difficult it is sometimes to obtain the right materials and designs for special uniforms, as I find in the case of my own Territorial unit; and uniform allowance may not always cover the cost. But I maintain that the new No. 1 dress does make it easier for the young officer 523 to obtain a ceremonial dress and a smart evening or walking-out dress at the same time.
As my noble friend has already stated, on March 6, in another place, my right honourable friend admitted that it is by no means certain that the No. 1 dress fills the gap between ceremonial occasions and fighting and working. It may be that some sort of khaki Service dress will be required. Next year, patterns of different types of uniform and equipment to go with it will be issued to units for user trials, in the same way as other Army equipment is tried out. I know that my noble friend will be the first to agree that it would be easy to hold a "mannequin parade" of Army uniforms to show how smart they arc. But after it has been worn by a soldier for a few days, that smart, comfortable and at the same time most practical uniform looks very different. My right honourable friend is looking carefully into the question of a khaki Service dress, and if it should be found to be required, it will be of the best possible material and design.
With regard to regimental badges and new brigade badges mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I understand that designs are going ahead, and that the colonels of the regiments so affected will be able, happily, to intertwine or design suitable badges for their new units when they may be produced. How the designers will manage with the various pinholes, to which the noble Lord opposite referred, is best left, I fancy, to the ingenuity of the hatters, tailors and cutters in the trade; it will obviously be a serious problem.
On the question of redundancy and resettlement, whether we like it or not, as my noble friend Lord Bridgeman and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, we face the danger of a global war fought with strategic and tactical weapons. A formidable list was mentioned by the noble Lord opposite, and from the point of view of their extent, I think it is a great credit to my right honourable friend and Her Majesty's Government that they have been able to draft this redundancy and resettlement plan to the successful and, we hope, reasonable conclusions that it will have. To meet this threat, the shape of the Army has been redesigned—as my noble friend Lord Bridgeman said, a surgical operation has taken place. An 524 announcement was made in the White Paper of 1957. The nuclear strategy requires different men doing different jobs, and many jobs being conscientiously and well carried out by lower members of the Forces have now disappeared in this new order of battle, the reasons for which have been graphically described. There is a sacrifice, and Her Majesty's Government and my right honourable friends do appreciate the sacrifice that members of Her Majesty's Forces are being compelled to make.
At the outset, the problems of redundancy were realised, and after the requirements of the Service had been considered, it has been uppermost in the minds of my right honourable friends to treat fairly with those officers and men who, through no fault of their own, found their Service careers were prematurely ended. Equally, it must not be imagined that a wholesale run-down of the Army was required, and that, to achieve this, members of the Army were going to be encouraged to make a rush to get out of the Service. That was very much not required by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War. I feel that he, Her Majesty's Government and the Departments concerned deserve great credit for the fact that this plan has been accepted by the Service, and considered fair, as has been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, and that at the same time there has not been a rush to resign. I should like to express my appreciation and that of my right honourable friend of the kind remarks made by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, on this point.
After the shape had been decided, and the surgical operation had been performed, redundancy was tackled in three phases. First: who was to go? Secondly, when and upon what terms? Thirdly, plans were made for resettlement and retraining for a new job in civilian life, bearing in mind that extra difficulties would increase and accrue, at least during the run-down period, for the officers and men who were retiring in the normal course of events. In dealing with phase one—who is to go?—boards were set up early in 1957 with the task of deciding which categories of officers and senior N.C.O.s would become redundant; and at the same time these officers and 525 N.C.O.s were given the chance to voluntarily apply for retirement. When it had been decided what sort of officers and N.C.O.s would be redundant, and after a list of the voluntary retirements to hand had been prepared, selection boards were set up for each Service to select by name those who must retire and those who must not stay in. These retirements were governed, first, by the needs of the Service and, secondly, by the principle, that, wherever possible, redundancy, when it had to made, should be voluntary. Officers and N.C.O.s were divided into three categories. First, there was section A, those who would not be required to retire at any time during the run-down period, but who could, if they wished, apply for voluntary retirement. Section B comprised the officers who will definitely be retired in the first period; that is, before April 1, 1959. Section C covers those officers and N.C.O.s whose future is unforeseen but who may have to be retired in the later years of the run-dawn period.
In Section B—that is, the officers who will definitely be retiring before April 1, 1959—nearly one and half year's notice has been given; and in Section C. notice of redundancy will be at last six months. It cannot be denied that in Section C there is bound to be some hardship to particular cases, owing to the uncertainty of a future career that they may have wished to undertake. It so turned out that the selection boards were able to select 90 per cent., of the officers and 85 per cent. of the senior N.C.O.s and men for retirement in Section C—that is, the group going out in the first phase of the run-down—from volunteers out of the redundant categories. The total numbers concerned are 1,300 officers and 1,800 other ranks. In the subsequent years, premature retirement will be invited annually, and the selection boards will continue to notify serving members, giving them the longest warning that they can. The principle of voluntary retirement will be running right through the run-down period of the next five years.
I now come to the terms that have been offered for premature retirement. Your Lordships will, I think, generally agree that these Germs, as announced in detail by my right honourable friend in another place and in Command Paper No. 231, have been fair to the Service men. The terms were arrived at with 526 four basic considerations always in mind: first, the curtailment of an assured career; secondly, the loss of promotion prospects; thirdly, the loss of higher pension rights that might have been earned had longer service been continued; and finally, the added difficulties of finding jobs due to the fact that more ex-Service men will be retiring prematurely. I will not weary your Lordships with the details of those terms, but, as my noble friend Lord Bridgernan has said, they are regarded by members of the Service as fair, yet have not precipitated a rush to leave Her Majesty's Forces.
Now I come to the phase of resettlement and re-trainng of ex-Regulars. My right honourable friend set up the Resettlement Advisory Board in July, 1957, shortly after the defence cuts were announced. The Board have as their chairman, as is widely known, Sir Frederic Hooper, Managing Director of Schweppes Limited; and the four members are Major General C. A. L. Dunphie, Chairman and Managing Director of Vickers Armstrong Limited, Mr. W. H. McFadzean, Chairman and Managing Director of British Insulated Callenders Cables, Mr. J. McLean. Chairman of George Wills and Sons, Limited, and Mr. W. D. Goss, formerly National Secretary, Transport and General Workers' Union.
The Board held its first meeting early in August, 1957, and it has since been engaged in tackling both policy and administration. The machinery of re settlement, both inside and outside the Services, the plans for the run-down, the employment requirements of ex-Regulars and the facilities for training them in civil employment all come under the matters which the Board will be investigating. The Advisory Board is now examining the current arrangements for business training by ex-Regulars, and has recommended the setting up of short reorientation courses (an awkward term., but one that can only be used for this particular type of course), designed to introduce officers to the principle of industrial and commercial life and the new hazards that they will be facing when they return to civilian life. There are some nine technical colleges in various parts of the country which have agreed to hold these courses, and the first series commenced in April. In the early summer it is planned to have these six-week 527 reorientation courses running in ten towns throughout England and Wales, and a little later a course will be started in Scotland.
Judging by past experience, officers taking business training courses as a prelude to applying for posts should do reasonably well. Courses somewhat similar to the reorientation courses, though slightly shorter, have been sponsored by the Services and Officers' Association for some time past and, indeed, have been turning out about 200 trainees per term. All these officers in these types of courses were majors and above. In addition, a special course has been initiated for senior officers—that is, those of brigadier rank and above. This course is running at the Regent Street Polytechnic, and has been in existence for over a year under the sponsorship of the Federation of British Industries and the Officers' Association. Out of 100 officers who have completed this special senior officers' course, 69 are now in permanent employment. The Resettlement Board appreciates the special and particular problems of very senior officers who are being retired prematurely, and although the numbers involved may be small, the problems are very great. They occupy the serious attention of the Resettlement Board and the Committees.
As well as the senior officers' training course, there are 13-week business courses for junior officers, through which, up to the present, about 100 officers a year have been passing. In the Ministry's opinion the placing results in respect of this group—that is, the junior officers, who could not reasonably expect to enter the business world except in a relatively junior capacity—is satisfactory. Most of these men have been placed in the business world, and the indications are that a high proportion of them are making satisfactory progress. I stress these matters because it is not generally appreciated by the public, or even by the serving men themselves, how much is being done, not only by the Army but also by the Ministry of Labour with regard to resettlement courses; and it is quite certain that these courses are not being used to the fullest.
The title "Regular Forces Resettlement Service" was adopted in 1957 to describe the close co-operation which has been brought about between all those agencies, both Governmental and voluntary, which 528 contribute to the resettlement of the ex-Regular. The Service comprises, besides the Minister of Labour and the major voluntary associations—namely, the Officers' Association, the National Association for the Employment of Regular Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen, and the British Legion—the other Government Departments that I have mentioned, and the branches of the three Service Departments which deal in particular with resettlement. Air Chief Marshal Sir Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman is the Director of the Service, and representatives of all the interests I have just mentioned attend the meetings of the Advisory Board.
The work of the Service goes out into the regions by means of the resettlement committees which have been set up by my right honourable friend, on the recommendation of the Advisory Board. There is one for each of the nine administrative regions of England, one for Scotland and one for Wales. Their appointment reflects the conviction that much of the work of furthering resettlement can best be done by these influential committees with special local knowledge of their own particular areas. The resettlement committees include representatives of industry, commerce and the trade unions. In addition to the Ministry of Labour and National Service, the Service Departments and the principal civilian organisations which I have already mentioned are all associated on the committees, and are constituted in a similar manner to the Advisory Board itself.
The committees will organise and advise upon all stages of resettlement and training in their own regions and areas. They have direct contact with the leaders of industry and commerce whose help and co-operation will make the greatest contribution to the success of this scheme. It cannot be overemphasised that no matter what Her Majesty's Government and my right honourable friend may do—and they do a great deal—the major portion of the success of resettling these ex-Service men will depend on the harmony that can be obtained between the resettlement committees and the leaders of industry, both great and small, in the particular areas. To date, the work is going most smoothly, and very well indeed.
529 The committees will also select candidates for courses that are running in their areas, and on completion of these courses will be in a position to recommend candidates to posts to prospective employers. It is most important that the committees should be able, first of all, to gain the confidence of these prospective employers and then, having gained it, to make quite certain that the employer will be confident that the standard and calibre of the trained or re-trained and re-settled ex-Service man is, in fact, worthy of employment in the industry or commercial undertaking to which he goes. By April 21 of this year the first courses will have begun. It is most important—indeed, it cannot be stressed enough—that these committees must see that the right men fit into the right jobs, and as many jobs that they make available. My right honourable friend is most mindful of the service which members of this resettlement organisation are carrying out, and will carry out, together with the members of industry and commerce, both large and small, and of the efforts that are being made on behalf of ex-Service men.
I now go back to the Army itself. In 1957, after publication of the White Paper, the Army set up six travelling panels to "sell" the idea of civilian life in all Army commands, both at home and overseas. Each panel consists of a lieutenant-colonel and a senior member of the Ministry of Labour. These expert panels started their work in September, 1957, and completed the first tour of home and overseas units by December, 1957. At the beginning of this month the second tour was already under way. In future, these panels will make two visits each year to every Army command, and it is envisaged that visits will be designed to coincide with the issue of redundancy notices.
In the first tour of lectures given by the panels, between 7,000 and 8,000 men of all ranks were reached; and 2,432 personal and private interviews were given to men who wished to seek interviews with regard to premature retirement. The panels gave the latest details on the redundancy scheme, and were able to give help and advice on careers and civilian life, house purchasing. finance and investment. The Ministry of Labour has power 530 to register for future employment all ranks, whether retiring prematurely or normally. The panel operates as an advance guard for the resettlement committees and so provides information at the earliest possible moment after redundancy notice has been given. I beg your Lordships' forgiveness for going into the redundancy and resettlement question at such length, but I want your Lordships and members of Her Majesty's Army to realise that my right honourable friend and the Ministry and his departments have indeed done everything humanly possible to make certain that the remarks of my noble friend, Lord Bridgeman, should be put into effect. We do, indeed, appreciate the service that these men have given.
My Lords, it is fitting that this debate concerning the Territorial Army should be held during the fiftieth anniversary of the Territorial Army, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and it is a great disappointment to your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, is not here to give his always interesting and invaluable contribution to the Service he served for so long and so well. The rôle of the Territorial Army remains as important as ever and, in fact, is exactly the same as my noble friend, Lord Bridgeman, suggested. It is to provide the source of trained units to serve with the. Regular forces wherever and whenever an emergency should arise requiring it. Nevertheless, the nuclear weapon requires that there should be units of trained men., under discipine, for home defence; and the technique and strategy of civil defence in home defence will be, and is, of increasing importance in Territorial Army training.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman mentioned the mobile defence columns. My right honourable friend realises the difficult position that these columns will be in as National Service has now stopped, and the position of these columns is continuously under review. It is certain that somewhere between the two extremes of the rôle that I suggested, between going overseas as a unit and the civil defence rôle in home defence, there must be a rôle suitable for the mobile defence column to undertake. To carry out this rôle the present divisional organisation of the Territorial Army appears appropriate.
531 My noble friend, Lord Bridgeman, spoke about rethinking. My right honourable friend is rethinking; but in the course of this rethinking it is believed, and I think it is right, that the Territorial Army, in its jubilee year, should be allowed to expand and grow on its own as a voluntary force, left exactly as it is for the present time. There will, of course, be minor unit reorganisations. as indeed have taken place just recently, when five tank regiments were re-equipped with armoured cars. It must surely be to the added efficiency of the Territorial Army for this new rôle that regiments should be so equipped. It will certainly be to the pleasure of the men and officers who serve in these units in peace-time conditions.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, raised a particular question with regard to the Welsh Territorial units, and I will leave this specific question to my noble friend who will be replying later on. In general, the Territorial Army units will continue to be trained by their own parent units as at present, even though the latter may be combined or amalgamated with another unit. The Territorial unit will be the chief link of the parent regiment to the county of its origin—in fact, in some cases probably the only link that is left. That is the point specially made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. Where it is necessary to change their location, the location will be chosen for the special convenience of those units concerned and for their training. With the move towards an all-Regular Army, and as the prospect of National Service recedes, there is no doubt that Territorial Army recruiting has improved and is improving.
In my own unit we see slowly growing an idea that it will now be fashionable to become a soldier. I think that that is natural; when you do not have to do something there is an inclination and a wish to do it. For all the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, there is no doubt that in the schools there is a great urge and keenness to join the Cadet Force. Some of our material is no doubt coming from the Cadet Force as soon as the boy has reached the age of 18. Again, let it not be thought that everybody who comes out as a discharged National Service man has not enjoyed himself during his time in the Forces. It is surprising how many ex-National Service men are 532 now beginning to find a new interest in the Territorial Army, in serving as part-time soldiers and coming into their local Territorial Army units. I believe that this movement will gradually grow and will increase; and as we come into the fifty-first year of the Territorial Army —an all-volunteer force, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, mentioned—the success of the Territorial Army will grow further and further. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for his wishes of success, and I know my right honourable friend would desire to be associated with those thanks.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ LORD FREYBERG
My Lords, I rise to support the Motion moved by my noble and gallant friend, Lord Bridge-man: namely, that this House approves the Memorandum by the Secretary of State for War relating to the Army Estimates contained in Command Paper 372. This Command Paper is a very important document and one that endeavours to cover the Army from two aspects: from the financial as well as the tactical point of view. I am sure that everybody in your Lordships' House wants to help the Government in the difficult task which lies ahead of us and will continue to do so far many years to come, whatever Government is in power.
It is only when we get down to the paragraphs dealing with organisation, and particularly paragraph 44, that it is necessary to point out to the Secretary of State for War and his advisers certain controversial aspects of their proposed policy. Since no solution can be found for war on a large scale, our ultimate aim in that respect must be to prevent global war, and we shall have to aim for years to come at the comprehensive disarmament of all nations. Our Forces, therefore, have to be prepared at present for the less difficult tasks of cold and limited war. I should be greatly indebted to the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government if he would give us a definition of what is "cold and limited war." I have taken part in a good many battles and I have never found that any war was cold. Paragraph 44 says:Our organisation must, therefore, be one which is readily adaptable to meet all these three contingencies.The Memorandum goes on to say:We have accordingly decided, after prolonged study, to adopt the Brigade Group 533 as the most suitable basic formation for all these purposes.Now let us see what the Secretary of State for War and his advisers visualise as the rôle of the British Army in the future. They stipulate that the British Army must be prepared to carry out internal security measures and limited war. Internal security is a commitment which is always with us, and we shall have to keep up Army garrisons for internal security purposes throughout the world, wherever English interests have to be maintained; and a measure of responsibility falls upon us. In my opinion, there is no substitute for the soldier on the spot, ready to intervene whenever trouble threatens, and to prevent small outbursts of violence growing into something more serious. This, it would appear, is the main task of the British Army outside Europe.
But, as has already been said, our ultimate aim must be the comprehensive disarmament of all nations. In seeking a basic agreement, we must remember that account must be taken of the entirely different military positions of the two sides. While Russia has been making great strides in both nuclear and conventional armaments and military power generally, the Western nations rely upon the deterrent effect of their vast stock of nuclear weapons and rockets—that term "vast stock" is quoted from the Memorandum. The democratic Western Powers will never start a war against Russia, but we must make it quite clear that, should Russia launch a major attack upon us, even with conventional forces only, then the Western democracies would hit back with the strategic power of nuclear weapons. It is of the highest importance that the frontiers of the free world should be resolutely defended upon the ground, and it must be clear beyond all doubt that any aggression from Russia will be instantly resisted.
There is no obvious or easy way of organising a much smaller Army to meet a much larger one, and to resolve the problems; that lie ahead. I am not at all in favour of the adoption of the Brigade Group strategy, and I feel that I should be failing in my duty if I did not tell your Lordships my experience of Brigade Group organisation. I fought a Brigade Group battle at Tobruk in 1941, and after two and a half years of experience the Desert Army gave up fighting as a 534 Brigade Group and reverted to the divisional organisation, wherever possible grouping the divisions and fighting as permanent Army Corps.
Things had not gone well in the Western Desert during the summer of 1942. and it was obvious that changes would have to be made in Higher Command. When a changeover of commanders was made—I must say that our Governments asked us to report on the question of relieving people—we all hoped we should be entrusted to a man of fighting experience. As soon as he appeared in the Western Desert. I called upon him at an early opportunity to ascertain his views, on the question of Brigade Group battle. He gave me the answer that I had hoped for; and I went away confident in our future prospects, and sent off a cable to the New Zealand Defence Minister on October 3. I have here a book of New Zealand Government documents, and I should like to read what I said twenty days before the Battle of Alamein, which was on October 23, 1942. I sent off this cable on October 3, 1942:No. 162. General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence.… The complete change in Middle East management has cleared the air. One good result is that they now insist that divisions must be kept intact. The result of this simple decision will be manifest in our future battles. It makes the position here much easier, as for two and a half years I have striven to prevent the New Zealand Division being divided into brigade groups, being convinced that by fighting as a division the maximum power is developed. They have gone further and adopted the German model of a permanent Desert Corps kept intact to train and fight as such.It is interesting to note that Rommel was entirely for the divisional organisation and corps organisation; and we were fighting him with brigade groups and were always failing.
As I have said, the Battle of Alamein was launched on October 23, and after ten days' heavy fighting we still had not broken the line. The Army Commander asked me to lay on a battle to break through, and on the night of November 1–2 we launched "Operation Supercharge". It was an Empire battle—a Scots brigade from the 52nd Division, a British brigade from the 50th Division, the whole of the New Zealand Expeditionary Division and an armoured brigade, under the 2nd New Zealand Division Command. It was launched on the night of November 1–2. On the 535 morning of the 2nd, I went forward, and I saw the battle was going well. On the morning of the 3rd, I was up there before daylight; I went into the front line and saw that the line was breaking. I went back to my headquarters and sent off a cable to the New Zealand Defence Minister. I saw the Army Commander and said that the fighting here was over. He said that he did not agree. I asked him, "Would you like to see the telegram I have sent this afternoon to the New Zealand Defence Minister? He said he would. That telegram, No. 167, is dated November 3, 1942, and says:General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence.… The present situation here is shaping well. I feel that it is rash to make a forecast regarding the fighting here in the Western Desert, which has been productive of so many disappointments. For the information of the Government, perhaps it would help if I gave my opinion for what it is worth. I feel that the future here is bright. I believe the German resistance was finally broken by the last attack and the cumulative effect of artillery fire during the last ten days. I feel that the present German position is precarious, that we shall push him back in the near future to the frontier, and later, under certain conditions, I am led to hope we may eventually clear Africa.That was said while the Germans were still in Alamein. Twenty days earlier, I had sufficient confidence, when we had turned over to divisional organisation, that we had a chance of winning the battle.
There is one last piece of advice that I would call to your Lordships' attention. In these negotiations which are to take place with the Russians it is necessary to be very careful since they put a totally different value on their statements. The then Commander in Chief, the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, who was here earlier, had a conference with Tito in Belgrade in November or early December, 1944, when it was arranged that the British were to hold Trieste and Montfalcone. No sooner had that agreement been made than the Russians formed a mobile corps, pulled out all their motor transport and went "all out" to try to occupy the area up to the line of the River Isonzo. But they had to deal with a force who were very fast movers and had very much better transport than they had. We got to the bridges over the Isonzo and captured them. That was on the route through to Austria.
536 We were then in the mood to say, "Good old Joe! Good old Tito!" We looked upon them as our friends. Then on the morning after we had occupied Trieste and Montfalcone a Russian-indoctrinated general came to see me. I cannot tell your Lordships how he behaved. He came in and browbeat me —or at least he attempted to do so. He said, "I tell you categorically, get back behind the Isonzo or I will not be responsible for what happens!" This to an ally ! I said, "General, after that statement I hold you directly responsible. Come on if you like, and see what you will get; we have 500 tanks, 500 aircraft and 1,000 guns. Come along—and the sooner the better! "He said, "My dear fellow, there is no question between us of fighting." I said to him, "I am not so certain; I don't like the look of you." With that I left him, and I never saw him again. He was murdered by the Yugoslays while trying to escape to Russia during the turnover in Yugoslavia.
Oddly enough, the Maoris were the best people for handling this kind of situation. A general and several Russian officers came in cars through their billets in a small village. They were told to stop but took no notice, so the Maoris shot the tyres off the car, grabbed the general and the other officers, and threw them into a common gaol. The Russians did not mind. They did not think it unusual. They asked me to dine with them that night, and I went in with an armed guard to their mess in Trieste and spent the night drinking. We drank toasts to "That great democrat Marshal Stalin" and to "That great democrat Marshal Tito", and I was asked if I would like to propose a toast. I asked them to drink to that great democrat Colonel Peter Awatere—and they shrieked with laughter.
In conclusion, my Lords, I would say this: whatever organisation is adopted, I trust that the division will be the basic formation of the future for the British Army. It has served us well in two world wars and we know how to use it. I beg to support the Motion.
§ 5.25 p.m.
LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL
My Lords, in a debate on defence in your Lordships' House three 537 weeks ago I put to Her Majesty's Government a series of questions about retirement and resettlement. I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, for his complete and detailed description of all the arrangements which have been made for the orderly retirement of all ranks and for their re-training' and resettlement in civilian life. The reply has completely satisfied me that these arrangements are being made in the greatest detail and that great care is being taken. I hope that the statement which my noble friend made will be publicised as widely as possible, so that it can be made clear to all in the Services, and to those who may be considering going into, or sending their children into, the Army, that such detailed arrangements are being made.
There is just one thing of which I would ask my noble friend to make quite certain: that is, that the six months' warning period, in the case of those being retired under Section C, is kept irrevocable and that nobody is ever allowed to leave without the full six months' warning. I should like to thank my noble friend sincerely for what he has said. It is of the greatest importance taut the resettlement of all ranks should be done well, because, naturally, the morale of the Army took a severe shock last July. If care of this kind is taken it will do a great deal in helping to restore morale; and morale is reflected straight away in recruiting figures, as well as in the number of those who are prepared to enter into long-term arrangements.
Having mentioned recruiting I should like to make one other point. Yesterday, in company with another Member of your Lordships' House and some Members from another place, I had the good fortune to visit a guided missiles establishment. I have no intention of trying to explain to your Lordships anything about those things, although in fact we were not shown anything on the top secret list. But I believe that it would be a great incentive to recruiting if members of the Cadet Corps or the Army Cadet Force could visit such an establishment in organised parties to see what is happening and what will happen in the Services and in the Army—things which are tremendously exciting to boys of that age. Possibly there could even be cadet camps in the vicinity where, 538 like everybody else living there, they could see these things going into the sky. We did not see them because the weather was unsuitable. Anything of that kind, which excited the interest of those boys, would be a tremendous advantage.
So far as other ranks are concerned, I think their future is good. I will not pursue the matter of their pay, as no doubt other Lords will take up that question. Barracks, married quarters and leave are not all that could be desired, though they are being dealt with as fast as funds and interruptions allow. The question of a uniform has been mentioned more than once, and I am not going to be brave enough to give ideas as to design or anything like that. But there is one point that I would mention. My right honourable friend in another place said that it was going to be of good quality material. That is, of course, most important, but equally important is that the uniform must fit. It is perfectly easy for mass-produced civilian clothes to be made, because a loose coat will fit within a reasonable range of sizes. But a uniform, which has to be cut tightly, has to be fitted. I believe (I am not sure) that when full-dress uniform went out at the end of the First World War the regimental tailor went out with it. If that is the case, lie ought certainly to be replaced and to be there to fit these mass-produced uniforms to the individual man.
To turn now to the officers, they have, of course, benefited in much the same degree as the other ranks with the increased pay and allowances; and I should like here to express my gratitude to Her Majesty's Government for their action on a matter that I brought up some years ago, the education allowances. The increase of the allowance to £100 for the second child, and £125 for the third child or subsequent children who are at boarding school will be a very real help to the harassed officer who, while changing stations himself, is trying to ensure a stable education for his family.
The problem of the officer is more complicated, I think, than that of the other ranks, because it is difficult for him to get a real idea of what his prospects will be after he has joined. Broadly speaking, the officers in the Army always have consisted, and I think always will 539 consist, of two types: those who will make it a long-term career, and those who will retire at an earlier age. In the past the problem of prospects was solved in part by the fact that a number of officers, as I have said, never had any intention of serving for more than a limited period; and they served a very useful purpose. That type of officer, practically speaking, does not now exist. It is most important that the promotion structure and arrangements should recognise this fact, and that the efficient and able officer should have an assured career up to at least the rank of full colonel; that is to say, until he is at least fifty years of age. As a corollary to this, the less eager or less gifted officer must be encouraged to retire at a comparatively early age, when it is still possible for him to get a civilian job without much difficulty. The Navy, I understand, already does this, and soon after an officer reaches the rank of commander he is told quite clearly whether or not he is going to get further promotion; and if he is not, he is encouraged at the appropriate time to retire.
The Army has never really got down to this problem, and I cannot see why something on the same lines as the naval procedure should not be adopted in the Army. There is not, of course, a clear-cut division between the two types of officers I have described. There are those who will be required to serve for a comparatively long period without any real hope of getting to a high rank. These, I think, could be helped enormously by the cutting of junior staff officers in the large static headquarters and by the employment of retired officers to take their place. The junior, grade III staff officer has no business at all in a large head quarters. He must be in the tactical headquarters, of course—but in a large one, no. The encouragement of officers to retire early inevitably poses the possibility of some financial inducement. This would take a great deal of working out, but the cost could be met by the saving achieved through the fact that they retired earlier and by removing the junior officers from headquarters. I am quite sure that if this subject were taken up really seriously a scheme could be worked out which would improve both the short-term and the long-term prospects of officers.
§ 5.37 p.m.
THE EARL OF LIMERICK
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Bridgeman remarked that a good deal of re-thinking about the rôle of the Reserve Army was desirable; and a little later on the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, told us that the rôle remains exactly the same as it was. He mentioned in particular the increasing importance of home defence, as I understood it, in a context largely of civil defence. He later said that his right honourable friend the Secretary of State is re-thinking the problems.
It is my intention to deal only with the Reserve Army, which is the matter on which I have a little experience, and paragraphs 46 and 48 of the Memorandum apply. With your permission, I should like to read paragraph 48, which is quite short, to refresh your Lordships' memories. It states:With a smaller Regular Army the Reserve Army consisting of the Army Emergency Reserve and the Territorial Army will have an increasingly important part to play.The second sentence reads:We depend upon it in an emergency to make good gaps in the structure of the Regular Army and to bring certain units up to strength.I welcome the first sentence wholeheartedly; but, although I hope I realise the difficulties of avoiding some form of words such as is embodied in the second sentence, I hope and feel fairly sure that a realisation will always be held of what the effect on recruiting (mentioned in paragraph 6) will be. inasmuch as any form of words which suggests a depot and reinforcement use of Territorial units is, of course, a far less acceptable concept than is that in which a Territorial unit, particularly now it is again composed of volunteers, will serve as an entity and in its entirety.
We know that a great deal of reorganisation within the Territorial Army has already taken place. Various statements by Her Majesty's Government have been made, and indeed they are really crystallised in the first sentence of paragraph 48, which I have read. It is a heartening sentence to me and I feel it will be to those serving now and to those others whose active serving time is passed. But I believe, in the delightful phrase of Sir William Slim, which he used many years ago when Chief of the Imperial General Staff, in referring to the Territorial Army, 541 that those who give voluntary service are "twice a citizen."
Many of us w ho have spent our lives in that "irregular gang" have always wondered what is the mainspring which keeps the machinery ticking over, for we know historically that ever since the formation of the Territorial Army part of the Haldane scheme, roughly 140,000 volunteers have always been available, and, of course, more in war time. Clearly, it is that a volunteer believes in his work. Therefore, his belief must be sustained by a continuing sense of its need and of its usefulness. So now I am going to pray that at suitable times, whenever it is possible, Her Majesty's Government will bear in mind the spur which thoughtful pronouncements on the future rôle of the Territorial Army provides to it. I know that my noble friend Lord Mancroft, who is going to reply later, is well aware of that from his own experience, and will be most sympathetic. I should like to put my thoughts a little more concisely in this way: the spur of voluntary effort is the belief in its usefulness and rightness, and that depends, in its turn, obviously, on the assurance that it is being taken seriously, that it is being considered as part of an up-to-date force applied in the most sensible fashion in the circumstances of the moment.
Of course, that in its turn implies the willingness to have, and almost to insist on, Fairly constant change. Many of us have experienced the inevitable difficulties which arise when the rôle of a unit is changed, and I have no doubt that they Were provided in the recent example, which the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, mentioned, of the change of the rôle of five regiments arising from the fact that two division are no longer needed for N.A.T.O. service. The difficulty is that of allegiance. Allegiance can be a very fine thing, or an awkward one, as we all know. From my own small experience, I have found that the heartburn of a change tends to come from the old hearts. I have always found that the young ones take as a compliment the fact that the nation, through the War Office, should regard their service seriously and should propose to them the next new thing, designed always for the fundamental purpose for which they volunteer—the best for the nation.
542 We know how difficult it is, in a time of rapidly changing technique and international conditions, for such pronouncements of real weight and substance to be made often. So my plea is a modest one, but none the less sincere for that. In putting this plea, I recognise two main things, of which the first is that an immense job has already been achieved in the essential—namely, the reorganisation of the Regular Forces. The second is the baffling complexity of the many inexact and changing factors which govern the duties of all armed Forces, including the Territorial Army. The noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, mentioned home defence as still being its duty, but frankly I do not know where this starts or stops in present conditions, and how it is to be done or by whom, although I could write a fanciful, but no doubt quite unreadable, novel about it.
As we know, much thought has been given to these problems for years by successive Governments, and a great many Ministries are involved—some of us think perhaps too many. We know that the Commander-in-chief, Home Forces, has the unenviable job of trying to correlate thought, functions and plans for this purpose. Despite the difficulties which we recognise, I reiterate the hope that I have already expressed. Of course, there are two skeletons in any Government's cupboard: the rapidity of the growth of scientific achievement, and finance. But, as one skeleton said to another skeleton in a cupboard long ago, "If we had any guts, we would get out of this." So I cherish hopes for Her Majesty's Government and for occasional clarifying statements.
Finally, there is only one thing that worries me deeply, and I hope I shall not be thought out of order if I mention it—that is, the curious, basic confusion of thought which arises, I think, from the emotion aroused by the scale of modern destruction and the mutative possibilities of weapons, and not by any new and better philosophy of life. I refer, of course, to the point of view that principles basic to progress in sentient existence—namely, justice, freedom and a search for truth—should be set at risk by a declaration not to defend at all costs those things which we believe to be right. It is over twenty years ago now that similar thoughts were expressed and canvassed 543 publicly, and, as I think, were no negligible factor in begetting the very aggression they sought to kill. We recognise, of course, the sincerity of such views, but I happen to hold them to be suicidal. There, indeed, to my mind, is a gutless skeleton.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
My Lords, in rising to support my noble friend's Motion, I do not intend to keep your Lordships for more than a few minutes. There are one or two questions which I ventured to send to my noble friend Lord Mancroft in advance, in case he might see fit to answer them in the course of his reply. In the new Army, or "New Look" Army, I hope sincerely that initiative will not be impaired in any way. After all, commanding officers of regiments and units are put into their commands for those qualities which make them fitted to be leaders. It has come to my notice—I hope it is not true, and I give it only as one example, although I have heard of others—that before one of these commanding officers may send a team from his regiment, be it a team of footballers, a cricket eleven or a boxing team, if that team has to go beyond a certain distance he has to refer to another authority for permission. It seems to me that that is the kind of thing which might very likely undermine the initiative of these officers in peace time, and in the case of a new war (which Heaven forbid!) undermine their power of leadership then. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, if he thinks anything of that point, may be able to dispel any such idea as I have put forward.
To come to the new Army, I am delighted to see that a committee has been set up under Sir Robert Mansergh to look into the question of administration. I am one of those who, during the last war, like many of your Lordships, suffered many a headache from the number of forms I had to fill up and from the counting of all the money passing through my hands. I am told that today the accountancy is much more difficult and it takes a magician to work it out. I hope that this committee will look into this question and see whether the accountancy cannot be simplified to a great or even to a slight degree.
544 I should like to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the magnificent efforts made and results obtained in regard to education for our troops and their children abroad. I am told, and one reads, that this is in first-class shape. But I wonder whether it is in the same shape over here. I have taken a little trouble to find out certain facts. When a member of a unit is transferred in this country from A to B, his children who are at a local grammar school or secondary school at A, when they get to B, find themselves in a totally different category: they are in either a class above their standard, or a class below their standard. They inform their parents, who in consequence are disturbed and worried. I wonder whether that matter has been seriously thought of, and whether there is the close liaison between the Army, the educational officers of the Army and the education authorities in this country. In my view, something more needs to be done to ensure that the even trend of education of these children is continued in this country.
Noble Lords have mentioned the Territorial Army. My only regret is that I did not join until 1910, two years after it was born. Since then, as a Territorial of my county, I have played various parts in the Territorial Army. I should like to know what is to happen to the depots in our counties when our county units are amalgamated. Our unit has been amalgamated very happily with that of Berkshire, and the spirit of all ranks, both past and present, is magnificent. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not see fit to sell these depôts to the local councils for the provision of houses, or anything of that sort. Rather, I hope—and I expect this is well in mind—that these depôts may be used by the Territorial battalion which remains intact.
That brings me to the question of recruiting. These regimental depots have been great landmarks and the centre of our county lives, and they have brought the honour of the county regiment before the public eye. I have the honour to serve on the Southern Command Recruiting Committee and represent the British Legion. I am glad to think that the British Legion have agreed—it has yet to go to the National Council; we have our Charter and our aims and principles, and those we must not go beyond—to do their utmost to help recruiting.
545 I started my recruiting life in the autumn of 1910, and I was swept out of a house by an irate mother with a wet mop. That was the first time I tried to recruit a man into my local yeomanry. The last time I tried to recruit was not far from here, in a stadium, and I was shouted down by about 8,000 rather noisy and rowdy people. I have had a certain amount of experience. I wonder whether my plea could go out from here tonight, to all parts of the country, to people who put the tradition, glory and honour of these ancient islands before anything else, to stop saying or thinking that we shall not be able to get these recruits. If we go on putting the "t" at the end of the "old tin can" no doubt we shall not. But I hope that we shall take that "t" off. I believe we can get these recruits, and so long as we all think, all speak and all go for the one thing—the thing that has really made this country great; that is, the voluntary spirit, whether in the Regular forces or in the Territorial Army—we shall get them. But, what is far worse if you are on a recruiting committee, is to know that friend and foe are saying: "What an awful ass you are. You know you cannot succeed." That frustrates me. I would make that one plea, as I still say that I believe it can be done.
On the point of publicity, I am informed that we are short of pamphlets and brochures. I would congratulate the War Office on the magnificent brochures and pamphlets they have produced, many of which I have seen. I am told that we are already a month behindhand. I would go further than that. This campaign starts in a few days, in April, and it is essential that we should have the necessary publicity ready to hand wherever we need it. I refer lastly to publicity for the Army Cadets. I have seen a good deal of them, and we have had this wonderful case in the last fortnight of the young cadet who was told he was too fat to be a soldier. He trained and trained, and this week-end he is being passed out by the General Officer Commanding in Chief. He has reached the head of his regular cadet unit as regimental sergeant major, and is going into the Regular Army.
The spirit is there, but somehow or other I think we are missing the boat. We are missing it because we are not getting hold of the parents. I believe 546 that it is just as important to-day to see that the parents know all about the Territorial Army as it is for their children to see these films. I would put forward my last plea to my noble friend who is to reply, and it is that when these films are going round the countryside—I know it costs money—would it not be possible for the boys and girls who are going to see them to be able to take their mothers and fathers to see them as well? I believe it would help enormously.
All this publicity is going to cost money and, of course, the finance of the War Office and the Army is limited. We are all restricted by this lack of money. But I would say to Her Majesty's Government: "If you really believe, as we do, that we can get these voluntary recruits for the Regular and the Territorial Army, then I hope you will not spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar, and that any money that may be necessary for publicity over and above what has been allowed will be forthcoming, so that when we look back in two years' time we can say that the policy of Her Majesty's Government has succeeded and we have obtained the number of recruits we set out to get."
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Nathan had intended to devote a major part of his speech to the Territorial Army. I do not believe that there is any noble Lord in your Lordships' House more suited, through his experience and length of service, to give a more up-to-date picture and history of the Territorial Army. When my noble friend Lord Ogmore heard that my noble friend Lord Nathan could not attend this afternoon, he asked me to say a few words on the Territorial Army. I feel that it is rather beyond me to speak on the Territorial Army when I hear that the noble Viscount, Lord Long, enlisted in 1910. I had a very short experience in the Territorial Army, from 1938 until we were forcibly embodied into the Regular Army.
I do not think there is any need for me to say anything about the spirit of the Territorial Army, after the fine speech from the noble Earl, Lord Limerick. I thought that he put the position and case most admirably. I should 547 like to take up one point—it was expressed earlier on in the evening—about the re-thinking of the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army has gone through a difficult period since the war, and no doubt in the years to come there will be many more changes. But now that the Territorial Army is going to be a volunteer force, I would urge the Government to remember that these are volunteers, and that whenever changes become necessary—changes in operation of a unit, or even of a company; it does not matter how big or how small the unit may be—some official should go down to that unit and explain to all ranks why the changes are necessary, and encourage them to face a new life. I feel that this is very important, and I would urge it upon Her Majesty's Government.
I should like to convey from noble Lords on this side of the House our congratulations to the Territorial Army on celebrating its jubilee this year, and to say how conscious we are of the debt of gratitude that this country owes to the Territorial Army. We wish it well, and we are thankful for all its past services over the last fifty years.
Now I should like to turn to recruiting. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has criticised members of the Opposition on a number of occasions for expressing some doubts as to whether we shall obtain the necessary volunteers by 1962, the date when National Service will come to an end. The noble Viscount, Lord Long, also developed that case this evening. I think I can understand the position, but the Opposition have a duty to perform. If, in their view, from the facts and figures that are available to them, they feel that by 1962 we shall not have sufficient volunteers, they must ask the Government what they propose to do about it. I agree with the noble Lord that this question should be kept out of Parliamentary controversy. I am sure that he would deplore, as I deplore, a political poster that I saw in Bradford a few months ago, which read, "Conscription: Labour started it; Conservatives will end it." Apart from being completely false, I believe that such propaganda is positively dangerous. If, in 1960 and 1961, whether we have a Labour Government or a Conservative Government, we have not the volunteers required, whichever Government is in existence will have to 548 decide whether it is going to continue National Service. If we raise the question of conscription as a political issue we may face grave troubles if we have to continue—I hope that we do not—National Service.
Recruiting figures have on the whole been disappointing, although in recent months there has been an improvement. But I believe that, if we are going to obtain the recruits we need, an all-out drive by the Government and the Services is necessary. I believe that the Services can offer an attractive career to any young man. Recent pay increases are very welcome, although I would not suggest they are over-generous. We must recognise that a soldier spends a good deal of time overseas, and is moved from one place to another. If he is single he has not much to worry about; but if he is married and has his family with him, he is involved in considerable expense. Therefore, I would suggest that whilst the pay has been increased it is still not over-generous. I believe that family accommodation is of equal importance to pay increases, for we must recognise that, with the pay increases, there is an encouragement to the young man to get married. To-day a young married soldier may face, or will face, long periods of separation from his family when posted overseas. This is a fact which may well deter recruiting. I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they could inform us what is the average time an other rank has to wait, on being posted overseas, before his family can join him, and what is the average length of time for an officer.
Education of the children of a soldier is also of great importance. I should like to hear from the Minister how these schools compare with the schools in this country. I note that the War Office maintain 139 schools overseas, ten of which are secondary schools. I heard while I was in Singapore that these schools compare very favourably with the civilian schools in that Colony, but I am wondering whether the ratio of ten secondary schools in 139 schools is quite right. I believe that as soldiers serve longer periods in the Army more secondary schools will be needed. I should like to know whether Her Majesty's Government can give us some information on this matter. We heard a great deal this afternoon on the question of uniform. I 549 should have thought that a soldier serving in this country, or for that matter overseas, would like to get into civilian dress as soon as his Army working days are over. There is one uniform of which I have the greatest criticism to make, and that is the tropical issue. I think it is a most terrible uniform, a complete disgrace to the Army and to this country. If Her Majesty's Government are considering expenditure on uniforms for ceremonial occasions, I think they should bear this tropical issue uniform very much in mind.
Before I leave the question of recruiting, there is just one point which I feel I ought to make. I do not believe that, in this age of security, you are going to attract a young man into the Army, even if you give pay and accommodation that is comparable to that in civilian life, unless you can give him security of employment and the hope of accommodation when he leaves the Service. I believe that this point has been discussed on a number of occasions in your Lordships' House. I would suggest that this period of full employment, when it is relatively easy for a man coming out of the Army to be assimilated into civilian life, is the time for the Government, the employers and the trade unions to get down to considering what sort of security can be offered to a soldier at the end of his Service life. If the matter is left until we have a period of unemployment it will mean far greater difficulty with the trade unions. I suggest that this is the opportunity for doing something in this matter. One further point on recruiting is the question of recruiting offices. I have been around the country and, frankly. I find that they are very dingy and dirty. I cannot believe that you can "sell" a modern Army life from a dirty, dingy recruiting office. I suggest to the Government that they should combine the recruiting offices of the three Services into one, and that the money they save in that way should be spent in making the offices smart and attractive.
I should like now to turn to the Central Reserve. In the Defence debate the other week I spoke in some detail on this subject, and I do not wish to labour the point I made then about the inability of Transport Command to lift the Central Reserve to any point of trouble. In paragraph 44 of the Memorandum it is said:It cold and limited war we need small, self-contained formations which can move quickly to wherever they are needed,550 In paragraph 45 it is said:In order to increase its mobility and effectiveness, recourse will be had to stores located at suitable points overseas.I would ask Her Majesty's Government: What are these bases, where are these bases; and, above all, who is going to maintain the equipment in these bases? We have the sad story of equipment in Korea and again at Suez. Unless the Government have really considered this matter, and have a special organisation which will be entirely responsible for keeping that equipment in battle-ready condition, I can well imagine the Central Reserve flying out and finding its equipment entirely useless. Before I leave the question of bases, I would draw your Lordships' notice to the fact that in the Defence White Paper one base was mentioned, and that was the base of Singapore. It is a base already of very considerable size. It is well supplied with dock facilities and air-fields. I wonder, however, whether it is wise of Her Majesty's Government to develop this base. One must consider the political situation in Singapore, and the fact that Singapore is surrounded by many small nations who, I believe, in the event of trouble, would be neutral, at the very best. Singapore, therefore, will tend to be land-locked. We found that we were unable to defend it in 1942. I personally would urge Her Majesty's Government to consider establishing a base in Borneo, which would be wide open for ships and aircraft to approach from Australia.
I should like to support my noble friend Lord Ogmore in his remarks on the question of air support. This Memorandum is an amazing document, but there is hardly any, if any, mention in it of air support. We are told that manned aircraft are a thing of the past. Other countries do not think so. I would ask Her Majesty's Government this question: in the event of trouble, of a limited war, what air protection, what air umbrella (as it was called in the last war), is going to be given to the ground forces? It appears to me that, if there is to be air cover, it will consist of out-of-date aircraft.
My Lords, I have spoken for longer than I had intended. I wish that I could feel as satisfied as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. Frankly, I feel grave disquiet at the deployment of our Army, 551 its lack of mobility, its lack of fire power; and I wonder whether the Army, as it is now standing, is capable of meeting our obligations. What concerns me even more is the question: if the present trend continues, what is going to be the position in five years' time? The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, speaking in the Foreign Affairs debate the other day, reminded us that the Russians are the greatest chess players in the world. I do not know much about chess. but I do know that you defend your king and you defend all the lines leading to the king. When I see our Army deployed so thinly on the ground, with so little mobility, I wonder whether we may hear an enemy say, "Checkmate".
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman for initiating this debate, which gives one an opportunity to comment, favourably or unfavourably, on the Government's proposals for the Army for the coming year, the second year of its reorganisation period. My remarks will be based on the fact that never in peace time has the British soldier had a more vital part to play, whilst deserving our respect and encouragement so that our Army may emerge as a most vital and effective fighting force. Our commitments are vast, extending as they do to the support of the N.A.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O. Alliances and the Baghdad Pact, and to the maintenance of internal security in various parts of the world. For such an objective, bearing in mind the Government's planned run-down of our effective forces, we need a smart, well-trained and well-equipped, potentially mobile Army. Here I welcome the statement that was made in another place not so long ago, even if it is to come into effect only by 1963, that there is to be a 5 per cent. increase in the proportion of our "teeth" arms—in other words, the Infantry, the Armoured Corps, the Artillery, the Signals and the Engineers.
With a view to lessening the chance of repetition I shall touch mainly on only three aspects of this question—welfare, mobility and equipment; while for the purpose of my speech I should like to include in the term "welfare", accommodation, dress and recreation as an aid to morale and prestige. I think I am right in saying that the question of regimental prestige was mentioned by the 552 noble Earl, Lord Bathurst. On this question, too, of morale and prestige, I think that the type of equipment or of weapons that are to be issued to our Forces will play an increasingly important part.
First, with regard to accommodation I welcome the statement in paragraph 77 of the Memorandum of the Government's intention to increase, by over 50 per cent., at least, over the next five years, expenditure on barrack rebuilding and the construction of married quarters. However, it seems to me regrettable that Her Majesty's Government do not intend to complete their permanent living quarters programme by 1963, when our Army should consist entirely of 165,000 Regulars, of whom 146,000 will be other ranks. Surely, to do so would assist the recruiting campaign which was so well mentioned by my noble friend Lord Long. Overseas, little major work appears to have been completed, for such work appears either to be "planned" or "nearing completion." I sincerely hope, though, that air-conditioned buildings will, to a large degree, be provided wherever appropriate, for I still remember how trying tented quarters or non-air-conditioned, or non-insulated, hutments can be at times.
To turn now to the question of dress, I trust that the trials of different types of uniform which were mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, earlier, and which the Government are initiating, will be carried out as expeditiously as possible, so that a smart and suitable uniform can be put into production and issued with the minimum delay. This question of the No. 1 uniform was, I believe, extensively mentioned by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman. No doubt many of your Lordships will have read the article which appeared in the Sunday Times not so long ago, to the effect that our troops in Germany, unless they belong to a special commando or parachute unit, have to wear in wet weather the traditional but shabby-looking ground sheet. My experience of the ground sheet is, that it lets in water most uncomfortably round one's neck. The only useful purpose I found for it was to keep off dew when in a transit camp in Durban.
No doubt your Lordships will also have read the editorial referred to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. 553 There is one sentence to which he did not refer, but which I should like to mention—namely:The problem of our troops in Northern Germany is not a simple one of costs and numbers. It is already and will increasingly become one of efficiency…As the writer said, this implies no criticism of the morale or training of the officers and men; it is a question of transport and so on, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and the question of obsolescent transport was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. I hope that my noble friend Lord Mancroft, who will be replying to the debate, will be able to give the House some assurance that this question of a smart Service dress will be tackled with the utmost urgency, and that action is being taken to remedy what would appear to be a condition of old-age equipment in Germany.
On the subject of recreation, I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government two questions which arise from the content of paragraphs 89 and 99 of the Memorandum: first, whether (if it is not already done) a choice of periodicals could also be flown to all overseas stations—for the noble Lord will see that only daily and Sunday papers are mentioned in the Memorandum. Secondly, I would ask whether a sufficient quota of films is provided overseas to allow for a daily, or at least a several times weekly, change of programme. I remember, when I was stationed in Cyrenaica, how all of us appreciated the facility which was provided by the Americans. Every day there was a change of film, although we were in the desert; the films were flown from New York to Cairo, and from Cairo to Gambut.
That brings me to the second point of my speech—air mobility. I was interested to learn from the recent speech of the Under-Secretary of State for War in another place that Her Majesty's Government attach increasing importance to the armoured car in the internal security rôle, and particularly that we had an air portable armoured car squadron—I presume equipped with Saladins, whose fire power, according to a statement made last year by the then Secretary of State for War, is equal to that of a meduim tank. An interesting development in air movement is the use of helicopters for missile transport, on the lines of the 554 U.S. Army fleet of helicopters for carrying tactical missiles to the requisite launching ramps. Do Her Majesty's Government propose to rely on road transport for moving these missiles? I presume not, in view of the remarks made during the Army Estimates Debate last year by the Secretary of State for War. He said:Every new item of equipment ordered by the Army will be looked at as potential air freight. I place great importance on that.With regard to tactical mobility I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Man-croft, whether that will be provided by the Army Air Corps, with light aircraft and helicopters, or in co-operation with the Royal Air Force.
Paragraph 69 of the Memorandum states that the trooping programme will be appreciably reduced in the next twelve months but that personnel movement by air will be maintained at the present level of approximately 60 to 65 per cent. of total movement, excluding Germany. I would ask whether that calculation is based on last year's figures or those of the coming year, for the two are quite different. However, I welcome the fact that six independent air transport operators are assisting in the trooping programme for West Africa, the Western Mediterranean, Cyprus, Nairobi, Aden, Singapore and Hong Kong. I note, on the other hand, that they do not appear to be contributing to any air movement of personnel to the Caribbean although I appreciate that the deployment of our forces in that area may not warrant it. But trooping does guarantee the utilisation of aircraft which we may well need in time of imminent or actual war or great national emergency.
That brings me to a question which, though perhaps it is not appropriate to be discussed in this debate, might affect the movement of personnel—that is, the control of aviation in time of war or emergency. Under Section 26 of the Air Corporations Act, 1949, the Minister of Transport can assume complete control of the Air Corporations by taking over directing powers; but under Section 9 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, the Secretary of State for Air may control only aircraft which are on the aerodromes of which he has taken possession by order, though he may regulate navigation over the United Kingdom. As I see it, the Secretary of State would have no control in time of war or emergency 555 over aircraft which happened to be abroad when the order was promulgated.
Finally I should like to say a few words with regard to army equipment, subdivided under the heading of development, production and standardisation. I sincerely regret that the question of weapons should have been referred to so briefly in paragraphs 55, 56 and 57 of the Memorandum. Though it is difficult to know the exact position, I believe I am right in saying that at the moment we have the following weapons under development or consideration. First, there is a possible replacement for the Vickers medium machine-gun, which would appear to have been demanded for some time by the Army, though the Secretary of State for War has now stated thattrials for a replacement have been carried out and severe comparative tests are to be carried out during the next six months".This should be most gratifying information to the B.A.O.R.
Secondly, development is continuing on an advanced anti-tank guided weapon which, we are told, should remove the heavy tank from the battlefield. Thirdly, a new medium tank is still under development, though it is to provide the close support for infantry which the guided weapon cannot give. Fourthly, in his speech during the Army Estimates debate in another place this month, the Under-Secretary of State for War referred to development of a nuclear guided weapon as complementary to the American missile Corporal, and designed to replace the heavier calibres of artillery and to be highly mobile as well as capable of quick deployment. Fifthly, additional types of nuclear weapons for the artillery in the field are being considered.
That is a reasonable list indeed, my Lords. But what do we see on the production side? Thirty-six thousand British-made FN automatic rifles are to be issued during the coming twelve months; the L2 sub-machine gun is in production to replace the Sten gun; and lastly, an improved interim anti-tank gun—the Mobat—is to be issued to infantry battalions. Surface-to-surface Corporal guided missiles are being supplied to two artillery regiments, and, concerning antiaircraft weapons, surface-to-air Thunderbird guided missiles will be available for training. I presume I am right in saying, 556 too, that the L70 light anti-aircraft gun, with improved radar fire control, is still replacing the old Bofors 40 mm. gun.
Surely this tends to prove that an insufficient number of projects were considered a number of years ago. For according to Dr. Robert Cockburn, Controller of Guided Weapons at the Ministry of Supply—and I quote:In peace time ten years can elapse before a new concept is available to the Services. About half the time is necessary for research and development and half for production and training. The solution is to arrange for successive projects to overlap rather than to shorten development time.These projects need not necessarily all be put into production, but an increased momentum of research would be maintained whilst giving an opportunity for a greater range of production. On the other hand, some may argue that our Forces must be equipped with new weapons and that therefore development and modification time should be reduced, as there is practically no limit to the modifications and developments that can be applied to any project, whilst a weapon when issued may be obsolete in conception but still ahead in the field. I believe that Her Majesty's Government must choose between either considering a larger number of projects, suitably staggered, with lengthy periods for development of the chosen few, or producing a larger number of projects, also suitably staggered but with shortened periods for development and modification, so that new weapons may be issued at an increased rate.
On the question of standardisation I shall be as brief as possible, not wishing to detain your Lordships longer than necessary. In 1951 the N.A.T.O. Military Agency for Standardisation was set up in London. It is true that Her Majesty's Government have accepted the N.A.T.O. recommendation and are producing the Belgian rifle, but that would appear to be the only weapon where a small measure of standardisation has been achieved. Apart from that, correlated production and standardisation seem to be limited to the manufacture of certain parts of electronic equipment and to such minor items as standard characteristics for vehicle sparking plugs and trailer towing hooks.
As recently reported in The Times, West Germany has ordered 300 American Nike-Ajax surface-to-air missiles and a 557 certain number of Matador surface-to-surface weapons, while B.A.O.R. is to be supplied with Thunderbird surface-to-air missiles and Corporal surface-to-surface missiles. With regard to the Corporal tactical missile, it does in my opinion have the disadvantage of having a liquid-propellant sustainer motor, and I should imagine that handling fuming nitric acid in the field could be a hazardous operation. The Sergeant, which is now coming into production to replace the Corporal, has the advantage of having a solid-propellant sustainer motor. Similar characteristics, however, may be seen in the Vickers-Armstrong Type 891 infantry anti-tank weapon as in the S.N.C.A.N. Nord S.S.10 anti-tank rocket, as both have zero length launchers, solid-propellant rocket motors, fine wire control, optical and stick guidance, interchangeable warheads. The French weapon, which I am informed can be produced at low cost, has an average accuracy of 80 to 90 per cent., very high armour-piercing qualities, a velocity of 180 to 200 miles per hour (or 260 to 295 feet per second) and a range of 1,750 yards, approximately one mile. The United States Army in Germany have ordered a considerable number, whilst this weapon is already in service with the French Army. All this leads me to hope that, if complete standardisation cannot be achieved, it may be possible to arrive at a greater degree of compatibility between types of equipment and a certain measure of common specifications.
In conclusion, my Lords, may I trust that the agreement reached this month in Rome on research, development and production, between the Minister of Defence and the Italian Minister of Defence, is but another stepping-stone on this path of co-operation and interdependence, and that while in Germany this week Mr. Duncan Sandys will be able to reassure our troops on the question of accommodation, dress and equipment.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships very long, and I hope you have no need for apprehension if f begin by going back to a period some fifty years ago when Lord Haldane was introducing his famous Army reforms. At that period, if I may remind your Lord- 558 ships, the whole defence of this country was entrusted to the Royal Navy, which was supreme on the seas, and no aggressor could cross them and attack this country while that remained the case. May I quote what Lord Haldane said in this House on the rôle of the Army in those circumstances, which seems to me to be applicable to-day? He said:Our Army is wanted for purposes abroad and overseas. It is necessarily a professional Army; we could not get such an Army by conscription. It must be of high quality; but because of the limited nature of its functions—to strike at a distance—it ought to be of strictly limited dimensions. We want an Army which is very mobile and capable of rapid transport.As I see the position to-day, there is no defence for this country against attack by modern nuclear rockets. The only defence lies in counter-offence, in possessing those nuclear rockets ourselves and being able to deter any aggression. In those circumstances the rôle of the Army would seem to me to remain as it was defined by Lord Haldane some fifty years ago, for purposes abroad and overseas. And for those purposes I welcome the proposed reorganisation into brigade groups of all arms, self-contained, independent and mobile; although I share with other noble Lords who have spoken before the apprehension that possibly we are not at the moment as mobile as we ought to be. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government are paying the greatest attention to that point.
With the greatest respect to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Freyberg, I still feel that the brigade organisation may well be the right one for the future. I think that in days of nuclear war we are unlikely to find ourselves again involved in the same sort of battles as those in which he fought with such great distinction in the Western Desert; but should we be involved in such battles, then, as I read the Memorandum, the divisional headquarters and divisional troops are still there and the division could be reconstituted. I believe, my Lords, that at this moment we have a magnificent opportunity to lay the foundations of a really professional Army, but we must get off on the right foot—perhaps that is not quite the right expression: I do not mean any amendment to the Drill Book; but what I do mean is that from the very start of this new professional Army we must have the best 559 possible conditions for those men who are joining it.
Other noble Lords have mentioned any number of points—adequate pay and allowances, reasonable living quarters, weapons, equipment and so forth—and I do not need to go into detail. But over and above that, I would suggest that it is no good having 165,000 men if they have not got that spirit which will enable them to be an effective fighting force. The amalgamation of regiments and the disbanding of several famous divisions is liable to have a bad effect on morale; and I would only emphasise that I hope that all those who are responsible in the Army for indoctrinating new recruits will do their utmost, as I am sure they do—and as is certainly done in all enlightened industrial firms—to give those recruits an idea of the great organization to which they belong. The age of "Theirs not to reason why" is over, my Lords. We want an Army, I am sure, that gives the reason why and "does" rather than"dies". I am sure it is just as important to get quality in our modern Army as quantity.
There is one point about training which I know is not mentioned in the Memorandum, but I should like to emphasise it although I am sure it is very much in the minds of those in command of our Army. As I see the likely role of these brigade groups in the cold-war situation, we shall be called upon again and again to deal with the kind of responsibilities which we had to deal with in Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus and so on. I hope that all the lessons which have been learnt in those campaigns are being thoroughly studied and put into practice in the Army. I know that often it is so much more exciting for those in the Army to train for war; but the more difficult job entailed in dealing with outbreaks of civil disturbance and snipers and saboteurs is a much more testing affair. I am sure that if properly trained for that type of work we shall be able to avoid the disastrous casualties which often occur only at the beginning of such campaigns, until the troops get used to the way to deal with them.
Finally, I should like to add my tribute to those of others who have commended the Army for the way it has faced up to this very major reorganisation, and 560 express my hope that we shall not fail the Army but shall provide them with the framework for a first-class professional Force.
§ 6.50 p.m.
My Lords, speaking late in the evening in a debate of this description, as usual one finds that many things that one wished to say have already been said, probably much better than I could have said them; but there are one or two points that I should like to emphasise. The first concerns recruiting, which has been touched on by several noble Lords. I should like to stress that I agree with every word that my noble friend Lord Long has said. My view is that we have to explain to the whole nation, and make certain that the people understand, the need to have an Army. I am certain that thousands of people do not really consider that we need an Army, because of what is sometimes called "push-button war." They think that all we need is a few men to push the buttons and the war is won and over. But that is not so. We have a great many commitments for our Army —in N.A.T.O., overseas in Malaya and other places, and in maintaining our strategic reserve.
We must also explain to the nation that whilst we are cutting down our Army, we are still short of men. Again I do not believe that that is known throughout the nation. Surely the answer is that when we cut down the Army, we must to a certain degree cut off the top as we cut the bottom, otherwise it becomes completely overloaded with warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s and there is nothing but the bottom to fill up. I would ask the Government to take these two points and do the best they can, by whatever means they can, either through our friends of the Press or television—there are so many means by which these thoughts can be put over—to explain to parents and to the nation that we need an Army just as much as we did before, although we are cutting it down.
At the minute recruiting appears to be satisfactory. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was a little anxious about it, but better pay and the promise of better uniforms will have their effect. But we must get rid of what I call the "irritants" to the soldier after we have 561 got him into the Army. There is the question of accommodation, to which the Government are paying attention. Another point which crops up many times and causes immense irritation amongst officers and men is the long time which is taken for removal and other allowances to come through. Officers have had to pay out of their own pockets for removals; there are often quibbles about the amounts and eventually the allowances are paid three or four months afterwards. I think that that is a definite irritant.
I understand that the Army at the minute is short of technicians. The Army schools, which do such good work, do not produce enough high-class technicians. I suppose that it is easy to make a nation-wide call for technicians for industry and nuclear experiments, but we have to remember that the Army needs its technicians as well as industry. I hope that we shall be able to do something about that. It is interesting to note that in the Army schools about 40 per cent. of the boys come from military families. After he has done three years at a boys' school and does well in the Army and becomes a sergeant, a technician is well paid, receiving about the same as his counterpart in industry, but he takes longer to get up to that rate of pay than the man in industry.
Another interesting point about recruiting is that there are recruits for battalions and regiments which are serving in Malaya and other parts of the world. The soldier likes action and always volunteers for that sort of thing, but, as has already been mentioned, he gets bored when there is nothing to do. I agree with my noble friend Lord Bridgeman about bringing on sergeants. I believe, more than ever now, when troops have longer fronts to cover, that sergeants and even corporals and lance-corporals must be able to show more initiative than they have clone in the past.
Many noble Lords have talked about equipment, so I am not going to go into that subject, except to say that I agree that the equipment in Germany is bad for morale. I feel that the Government's declaration that on a mass attack the West will use nuclear weapons will be of the utmost good for the morale of the troops who are serving in Germany. 562 They are very thin on the ground and they have a great many forces opposing them.
The Army is now being reorganised on a brigade basis, and I feel that in this debate we ought to thank names and numbers. That sounds an odd statement, but so many regiments have now lost either their individual names or their numbers, that we should do something to thank them. And I say, "names and numbers" because the personnel may have changed, but the names and traditions have not. We ought to thank the names of so many famous divisions, which have fought so many times and so well for us. It would be wrong and impossible for me to give any names in particular, but I think that we ought to thank them. They have served us well during two world wars. The other thing I want to say is this. Surely we wish well to these new brigades, whether they are the administrative brigades formed from the various regiments, or those brigades which are going to become the fighting groups. We can be certain that they will show, as always, that the British soldier is really the best.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, a debate on the Army now must obviously refer to the Territorial Army and its jubilee this year. I have had almost negligible first-hand experience of it, but I have had a great deal at second hand, my father having been connected with the Territorial Army from the Volunteer days almost to the end of his life. Thus I know a great deal about it at one remove, and I have always had the greatest admiration for the officers and men who gave their spare time and energies, and often their money, to make this Territorial Army, which has acquitted itself so well. But primarily, of course, the Memorandum concerns itself with the Regular Army, and there are one or two points to which I should like to refer in that respect.
We read in paragraph 85 that the Royal Engineers Survey Branch are going to employ electronic computers; and we know, also, that other arms are being equipped with guided missiles. Yesterday it was my privilege to go with the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, and Members of another place, 563 to visit Aberporth, the Ministry of Supply Establishment where the guided weapons for the Services are put through trials and fired. Computers in the office of the Royal Engineers and guided weapons on the coast and in the front line give an idea of the range in which science is having an impact on the Army. The whole range of units is being brought into contact with the latest developments of science. The personnel who operate and test the scientific developments are people of the highest calibre, with high qualifications, but to some extent they talk a language of their own on their own business, and a person who has undergone the process of what we call an ordinary education has no idea of the ABC of scientific principles on which all this apparatus depends. I think there is a real danger of a mental, social and intellectual divorce between the ordinary Army, so to speak, and the scientific Army.
In the Royal Navy they went through that stage a good many years ago, but science and modern mechanised apparatus is quite new in the Army. It is not much over twenty years since the Army abandoned the horse as its motive power. In all new developments like that there is a tendency, from whatever motive, for the people with older ideas to associate very little with those who operate the new apparatus. There is a suspicion and, to some extent, a dislike; and, after all, what more natural, because to have dinner with somebody when you do not know the first thing about his job does rather restrict conversation. That is why I want to ask the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, about the Royal Military College of Science, which I had the privilege of visiting last year. That is an institution which ought to be—and if it is given the chance, it is—doing what it can to prevent that divorce between the technical and the non-technical arms of the Army.
The Royal Military College of Science is a unique institution: it has a military wing and an academic wing; it is recognised by London University for the purpose of degrees; it trains officers of all seniorities in the Army and also has courses for other Services. The principal courses are those for B.Sc. degree, which is recognised by London University, and that takes young officers straight from 564 the Cadet College. The Technical Staff Course is designed to train officers for the technical staff jobs. The young officers who take the Degree Course are probably those who later in their Service take the Technical Staff Course, so that there is no machinery deliberately to spread outwards into all units of the Army people trained at the College in the elements of science. What I want to ask is whether the College is doing all it can to reach the regimental officer, at first hand or second hand. It is the regimental officer who ought to know how much his job, his weapons, his vehicles and everything depend on scientific principles. I hope the noble Lord will be able to say a word or two about that.
The Service conditions of officers and the supply of officers are two matters that have run through a great many of the speeches this afternoon. Paragraphs 66 and 67 of the Memorandum are rather ominous; they say that not only did not enough young Regular officers come forward during 1956 and 1957, but that more candidates of suitable quality are needed. There is also a shortage of professionally qualified officers, and there is a list of categories of university graduates who will be admitted to short service commissions without previous service in the ranks. Does not that tell a story—that even with the improved conditions they do not attract sufficient officers of the right class? I think it will be within your Lordships' knowledge that for a long time now there has been keen competition for National Service commissions in the Army, but little competition to become Regular officers. That is confirmed by what the Memorandum says, and surely nothing could be worse than to have to take material of indifferent quality for your officers.
One could talk at great length about the various factors that attract or deter officers, but it seems to me that the ability to live in the Army without private means is one of the essentials. The noble Lord will, of course, tell me that officers are able to live on their pay—that is the official answer; according to the regulations that is so. But noble Lords will know that in many of the best regiments officers are involved in other expenses beyond what is laid down, and, therefore, they cannot live without private means. That is something which restricts the field 565 from which the best and most talented officers might be drawn.
Then there is the question of resetttlement on retirement. As the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, said—and I entirely agree with him—the difficulty of resettling and finding a job in middle life is a factor which, if the boy does not think of it, his parents will certainly remind him of when he is thinking of a career in the Army. I should like to urge Her Majesty's Government to take seriously the suggestion which the noble Lord made for increasing the number of jobs for retired officers re-employed. Last year—I must confess I have not done it for this year's Estimates—I went through the number of jobs in the War Office and in other headquarters that were held by retired officers. I was interested to see that in the War Office 3½ per cent. of the Grade I appointments, 15 per cent. of the Grade II appointments, and 55 per cent. of the Grade III appointments last year were held by retired officers. In the Command headquarters at home, which, of course, have a large number of jobs similar to those at the War Office (I was not able to find the percentage, because it did not give the numbers of serving officers) there were 6 Grade I, 41 Grade II and 158 Grade III jobs held by retired officers. There are, of course, many other static headquarters and establishments, and I think Her Majesty's Government could well go through those with a comb and see whether some of those jobs could be reserved for retired officers, because that certainly gives a good use for retired life which many unfortunate officers cannot get at present.
Another factor is that the officer is not attracted by a job where he is never given any discretion; where he is never trusted. I was glad to see in paragraph 83 of the Memorandum that the War Office have begun several studies—one had hoped that they had been studying it for quite a number of years before—on the delegation of authority, the reduction of paper work and the simplification of administration. On the delegation of authority I should like, late as it is, to tell a story. Not long before the last war broke out, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of a command at home pointed out in a letter to the War Office that he, as a full General on the active list, was not given the financial 566 discretion that a junior under-manager in a commercial firm would have. He quoted that he was not allowed to authorise, without reference to the War Office, the payment of 9d. per week per cat for each of the two cats that were kept in the R.A.S.C. Bakery at Woolwich. It is hardly believable, and I am sure that the public as a whole do not realise the absurd lengths to which Treasury control goes and has always gone. I am delighted to see that the War Office are beginning to examine that matter.
Finally, a word about recruiting. A great deal could be said and written, and many views have been expressed, on what attracts and what deters young men from joining the Army. I believe it is the case that the figures for re-engagements of serving men, whether they are National Servicemen or three-year Regulars, have always been disappointing. Pay increases, of course, bring sudden spurts in recruiting; but a sudden spurt is worse than useless when you have a six-year engagement, because it means that at the end of six years all your Army will go away. What is wanted is a steady flow of men on the minimum engagement, and a steady flow of re-engagements for the longer service. Are many sufficiently attracted by life in the Army to sign on? A certain number, of course, are. We know that at present, the Army consists of people who like the life as it is at present; but, surely, the lesson of the recruiting situation, the Regular Army situation, is that you must go beyond the field of the man who likes Army life as it is. You have to go beyond and find men who like Army life without a lot of its present attributes. The material benefits of pay, married quarters, allowances, leave, and so on, are things that a man can get in civil life if he works for them. If he is to be attracted to a fighting Service, it is because he is attracted by the idea and the glamour of a fighting Service.
Here I differ from many noble Lords who have spoken because I do not believe that you increase your recruiting if you rely on the glamour of ancient uniforms, the traditions, tattoos and ceremonial. That attracts the men that we have got now, but you must go wider; you must attract others; therefore you must give them more proper soldiering. The recruiting posters say: "You are 567 Somebody in the Regular Army Today"; I think that is the slogan. Is that really true? Would noble Lords, if they put themselves in the position of the recruit who is signing on, feel that they were somebody when they got first to the barrack room? Surely the whole attitude and outlook to other ranks in the Army is something obsolete and something that prevents numbers of recruits from coming forward who would otherwise do so.
Then there is the employment. Near where I live there are some married quarters, and every so often I see a coal fatigue carrying out its job. There is a lorry, and a dozen young Servicemen, under an N.C.O., are practically the whole morning shovelling coal into small buckets and carrying it up to married quarters. That happens once a fortnight or once a month—I am not sure which. I do not know what the finance of it is, but if the Army installed gas fires in married quarters would they not save a great deal of manpower and expense and a great deal of annoyance and irritation? That is one of the irritants of which the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, spoke—the man who joins the Army and has to carry coal.
The recruiting posters show wonderful pictures of tanks and motor bikes, wireless sets and all the glamour of modern war. What does the man see when he joins? The moment there is a ceremonial parade all modern weapons are put back into store. They go out again on a costume parade of the middle 19th century, with rifle and bayonet, forgetting Bren guns, mortars and all the modern weapons. I cannot help thinking that that is something that does not appeal to the young man who wants to join a fighting Service. That is the man you want to get, and he is the man who, as the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, said, if you keep him occupied and give him an interesting, worthwhile job, will do it and be glad of it. But you must not treat him like a naughty child who cannot be trusted to look after his own money and is generally a person of no account. That attitude in the Army is something that I think should be looked at by the noble Lord.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, as is usual when we discuss the Army Estimates, we have had a far-ranging debate. 568 We have ranged from badges and bands and bowler hats to goats and guided missiles. My noble friend Lord Bathurst has answered three of the more important topics discussed this afternoon, but there are still, according to my tally, forty-two questions which your Lordships have put to me, some of which I will attempt to answer as best I may.
I wish to begin by making a few remarks on a subject that has been frequently raised in Defence debates and Service debates—namely, integration within the Services, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, referred in his opening speech this afternoon. "Integration", although a beastly word, always sounds attractive as a means of achieving greater efficiency and economy within the Services. Unfortunately, when we look at particular cases, as we have been asked to do on several occasions this afternoon, this impression fades. It is some time since this problem was analysed in any detail, and I am glad of this opportunity to do so now, because I think it is important. We still, thank Heaven!, have separate and distinct Services. So long as this is so, it must obviously have a powerful effect on any proposals for integrating particular arms of the Service.
The second point of which I want to remind your Lordships is that there have already been many studies of the possibilities of amalgamating or co-ordinating parts of the Armed Services. They have always been made with a searching eye on efficiency and economy. Despite occasional and embarrassing suggestions to the contrary, efficiency and economy are not virtues that have suddenly dawned on the Services. Many of your Lordships will remember only too well the cold financial climate that affected the Services in the years between the wars. The effect of the careful consideration that has been given over many years to the sort of thing your Lordships have proposed this afternoon has been a steadily increasing measure of co-ordination over much wider fields of Service administration than many critics, I think, realise.
To-day, however, the general situation of the Services has changed significantly, because the Government have decided to return to all-Regular Forces within a few years. This seemed to us to justify a 569 fresh review of the many fields of administration which are common to the Services. For this purpose we set up last year the Defence Administration Committee, composed of the Permanent Secretaries, together with the Principal Personnel Officers and the Principal Administrative Officers of the three Services. Results have already been thrown up from this Committee's work. They have paid particular attention to the possibilities of entrusting one of the Services with yet more responsibility for carrying out the administrative chores of all three. This system, of course, is one of long standing, but I am glad to say that it has been possible to extend it still further. Steps have been taken, for instance, to reduce the waste of transport in the carting of rations by each Service separately. Savings have also been made in the movement of freight.
On March 1 this year the R.A.F. took over responsibility for feeding the Army garrison at Tobruk. By the end of June this year the Navy will have taken over responsibility for feeding the other two Services in Malta. At home, the Navy are now taking over responsibility for feeding some thirty army units in the Southampton and Plymouth areas. And so it goes on. Steps are also afoot to achieve a similar saving abroad, at Gibraltar, Singapore, Hong Kong and Bahrein. My right honourable friend the Minister of Defence made an extensive tour last year, and a member of the staff of the Ministry of Defence has recently been out in Singapore looking into the particular question which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, raised, concerning storage space, base accommodation and equipment. The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, gave us an example of tactical mobility in the air. Here there is complete cooperation. Army air corps will provide a certain amount of local lift with helicopters and light aircraft, but this does not affect the close co-operation of the Army with the RA.F. for more extensive movement.
If one examines the list of common administrative services, it is possible to separate some which are unlikely to yield much saving in effort or money, come what may, and again to separate, others which, on the face of it, hold out hopes of a dividend. The first type can, of course, be disposed of very easily. The second, 570 however, needs long and careful head-scratching before it is justifiable to change the system. Your Lordships will appreciate that, however anxious one may be for spectacular results in savings, caution is essential. Rash experiments, hastily undertaken, could have serious consequences for the Services. Let me try to illustrate this point. Take, for instance, the medical services—they have always been a popular subject for debate. People think that large savings would follow from medical integration. I am not so sure. The possibility of integrating the medical services of the Armed Forces has actually been considered several times in the last thirty years. On each occasion it has been firmly decided that integration just would not do.
The main reasons for these decisions were that so long as the three Fighting Services continued to be separate, it was essential that each Service Minister should remain responsible for the medical element of his fighting machine. The medical requirements of the three Services differ much more than is at first apparent, and particularly in the case of the Royal Navy. In spite of this, mutual medical assistance and the avoidance of duplication have been the aim of all three Services. These arguments, I think, are still valid, and there is now another one. An integrated medical service would involve my own Department, the Ministry of Defence (for there alone could it be administered) in a radical upheaval, because we are only a small policy-making and co-ordinating body charged with hardly any administration at all. Knowing a good deal of what would be involved, I really do not think that this particular game is worth the candle.
Co-ordination between the three independent medical services is, of course, a very different question. The extent of that co-ordination at the present time would, I think, surprise your Lordships. In this country there is much day-to-day collaboration between medical services and the National Health Service. The National Health Service hospitals in many places take in Service patients where Service facilities are not available, and the converse also applies; civilian patients with no Service connection are often admitted to Service hospitals.
Between the Services, the co-ordination is naturally even closer. There has long been a Medical Services Co-ordinating 571 Committee in the Ministry of Defence and similar committees at the level of Commands. Hospitals of one Service regularly accept patients of the other two Services in their areas, and the same sort of arrangement applies to examination of Service patients by medical specialists. This sort of work is not only desirable in itself, but is, indeed, forced on the Services by the general shortage of doctors.
A Working Party has recently completed a report to the Medical Services Co-ordinating Committee on future hospital requirements for all three Services in this country and the most economical way of meeting them.
Overseas there is much the same tale to tell. In B.A.O.R., as I have recently seen for myself, Service hospitals are organised so that one hospital takes in patients of all Services in its own area. Out-patient facilities are shared in much the same way. Evacuations of serious cases, both Servicemen and their dependants, are normally made by the Royal Air Force Casualty Air Evacuation aircraft. In Cyprus, for instance, joint sick quarters and medical reception stations have been opened for the Army and the Royal Air Force. The Army is responsible for medical stores in Cyprus, whereas in Aden and the Persian Gulf the Royal Air Force is responsible for both. In Singapore, the Army and the Royal Air Force each have a hospital, but each operates in a separate area of the island and takes in all corners, irrespective of the Service to which they belong.
I can assure your Lordships that we in the Ministry of Defence are closely examining the possibility of yet further inter-Service co-operation, such as Provost, which has been mentioned by your Lordships. We have often been told that there might be economies by amalgamation here. But I do not think this is so. So far as Headquarters are concerned, there are few Provost Officers—there are four at the War Office and sixteen at the Air Ministry; so little, if any, economy could be effected by amalgamations in this field. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore asked a particularly pointed question about amalgamations—namely, that of the amalagamation of bands. I am glad to confirm the assurance I was able to give the noble Lord, that 572 we have now found it possible to keep a band for each battalion of the Parachute Regiment and for all the regiments of the line. I am very pleased about this: it will be possible without stretching our resources as far as we thought.
The noble Lord also asked me a question about the depôt of the Welsh regiments. I well appreciate the anxiety that that causes, having myself been Under-Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs for two and a half years. I am sorry that the remark of the Military Secretary. General Stockwell, about Crickhowell emerged as an announcement. My understanding is that he discussed the location of the Brigade depôt but made no announcement. I think that must be so, because I can assure your Lordships that the matter is still under discussion. The situation of the last five brigade depots will, I hope, be announced soon.
§ LORD OGMORE
I think he made it fairly clear. It was described in the papers as a strong hint that the depôt would be at Crickhowell, and he then went on to give various factors which operated in his mind as to why Crickhowell should be the depôt. One would have thought that that, coming from the Military Secretary, was a fairly good indication of where the depôt would be.
§ LORD MANCROFT
Now from brigade depots to brigade groups. I do not want to cross swords with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Freyberg, but I am comforted in that I have some slight support from behind, from my noble friend, Lord Aberdare. Of course, in 1939–45 a different situation prevailed. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Freyberg, that the divisional organisation was right for the Battle of Alamein and the rest of his battles; and a great deal was done, as he knows better than most, by senior officers in that theatre to do away with the odd formations and get the Army back on to its divisional organisation. But I think there is a need, with nuclear weapons, for a more flexible organisation with smaller self-contained formations. All the members of N.A.T.O. are reducing the size of their divisions in 573 varying degrees. I do not propose to give your Lordships all the detailed and complicated appreciations of their various merits, but we have, after careful consideration, decided that the brigade group is the best organisation for the British Army.
Whilst we are on the subject of Germany, may I say a word about vehicles? There has recently appeared in the Press some criticism of the standard of British vehicles in the Rhine Army. My noble friend Lord Bridgeman referred to that matter and discussed parity and esteem. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, drew our attention to a recent leading article in the Daily Telegraph. My right honourable friend the Minister of Defence is over in Germany at this moment, and among the matters he is considering is the whole question of the standing of the British soldier and airman, his equipment and turn-out in relation to his Allies. In the meantime, let me offer a few observations.
B.A.O.R. has a proportion of war-time-produced vehicles which still have some useful life and which it would be uneconomical to scrap. They are being replaced as they wear out with new vehicles in the standard military range. The new military vehicles of the general service type have all-wheel drive and good cross-country ability. It is our aim to have one type in each load range. When re-equipment of B.A.O.R. has been completed, the British vehicles should compare favourably with vehicles of other N.A.T.O countries. There will, however, always be a proportion of vehicles of commercial type with two-wheel drive for use in depots and base areas. These will be similar to the standard military vehicles but without front-wheel drive. Our present policy is to standardise on one make of vehicle in each of the six load ranges.
General service vehicles are standard commercial vehicles modified to include essential military requirements, of which all-wheel drive is the most important. With regard to the article in the Sunday Times, to which my noble friend Lord Merrivale drew particular attention, and which has given rise to some comment, I must remind the House that this referred specifically by comparison to the vehicles of the German Army. They have no war-time vehicles to waste out, 574 and thus may present a better appearance than B.A.O.R. This difference should disappear when re-equipment of B.A.O.R. is complete. The wasting out of war vehicles is governed largely by the economic rate at which they can be replaced.
My noble friend Lord Bathurst has already offered your Lordships a few observations on the subject of uniforms. I have noticed with interest that no two suggestions put forward by noble Lords this afternoon agree, except that your Lordships all want some sort of change. There never has been a time when everybody did not want a different uniform for the Army from that which the Army already had. In Germany, as indeed everywhere, we should naturally like to "wipe the eye" of our friends and quasi-friends in the matter of uniform and equipment. But, my Lords, we also have the eye of the taxpayer upon us —and rightly so. It is difficult to please everybody, but we are doing our best. Unlike Shylock, sufferance is not the badge of Sir Frank Tribe.
I turn now to guided weapons. My noble friend Lord Bridgeman, and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, both referred to paragraph 56 of the Memorandum: they asked whether the mention of guided weapons in this paragraph meant a change in the present policy that the R.A.F. is to be responsible for ground-to-air missiles. I can assure your Lord-ships that there will be no change. The R.A.F. are responsible for ground-to-air weapons in the air defence of the United Kingdom. The Army will be responsible for them in the defence of the Army in the field. This is a development of the Army's responsibility for the antiaircraft defence of its own troops.
The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, asked me about the Corporal. The training of the two surface-to-surface guided weapons regiments is proceeding satisfactorily. In order to introduce these weapons into the British Army as soon as possible Her Majesty's Government had been prepared to buy, and, indeed, had ordered, supplies of the American weapon Corporal. Subsequently the United States Government relieved us of this considerable dollar expenditure by allocating to this project funds from their Mutual Defence Assistance Programme. I should like to take this opportunity to pay a 575 tribute to the generous way in which the United States Government have helped during the past few years to improve the efficiency and the readiness of our Forces and those of other members of N.A.T.O.
Here may I say that I also take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, about the effect on morale of having insufficient opportunity of seeing one's own weapons deployed in action. It is a difficult problem, but I take the point. Several noble Lords, particularly Lord Long and Lord Lucan, referred to the financial responsibility of commanding officers, the question of delegation of authority and the dampening effect which some of the present rules may have on initiative. Here is a man responsible for 1,000 of his fellow soldiers and £1 million of equipment, and while his cats are shouting their heads off for their supper he cannot pay without written notice from the War Office. That kind of thing is as old as the hills. We have all gone through it and the trouble does not get any easier. The number, complexity and value of stores and units have increased enormously. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, spoke of electronic computers. I do not know what my old regimental sergeant-major would have said had he been confronted with an electronic computer—or, to be more exact, I do know what he would have said.
We believe that there are two methods of dealing with this problem. The first is to help the commanding officer himself, and I believe we have gone a long way in giving him, in most units, two quartermasters as well as an officer of the Royal Army Pay Corps, who is the paymaster, with his assistants; and we may have to go further yet. The second reform is to improve accounting systems and increase powers of "write-off". A large proportion of cases for "write-off" is already disposed of by the commanding officer at his level, but I admit that there is a strong case for increased powers of "write-off" at all levels, and this is being actively examined, if only to bring practice into line with the change in the value of money and with the enormous increase in the value and number of stores.
When I first joined the Royal Regiment of Artillery more than twenty-five years ago, it was possible to put the whole regiment out on the parade ground with 576 all its equipment, and count every item of equipment in one afternoon. There are now some 35,000 separate items in the fighting equipment alone of a modern artillery regiment, with many thousands more items of general stores. These are becoming very complex questions. As your Lordships know, we have set up a committee to examine and report on all necessary reforms. This committee has the widest terms of reference and is composed not only of soldiers but also of civilians in highest positions in industry. The committee also have power to co-opt experts, and I am glad to say that help and advice has already been given by many who are experts on these matters in their own walk of life.
I come now to the question of recruiting. The Army recruiting figures for February which will be published to-morrow are slightly lower than those for January but still encouraging, and this in spite of the fact that February is a short month. Nevertheless, I can reassure the noble Lords, Lord Ogmore and Lord Shepherd, that I remain optimistic, if cautiously optimistic, and very far from complacent. We cannot in any way relax our efforts to improve recruiting still further and, in particular, to increase substantially our intake of boys and young men of quality needed for training in the more highly skilled trades, and particularly potential officers, to whom the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, referred. Numbers alone of recruits are not enough, though greater numbers are still needed. What we have to do is to build up an all-Regular Army that is not only of the right strength but is also properly balanced and of the right structure.
I quite agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, that the recruiting cry of the old days, "Join the Army and see the world," was a fine one, but it was a slightly nicer world to see in those days. To-day a soldier sometimes finds himself in places which, on the whole, he would prefer not to see. I remember getting a very sad letter from an N.C.O. of my old regiment who was having a very rough time in a certain part of the world. He said: "I do not mind being stabbed in the back. What I dislike is having someone get up at home and apologise for my back having been in the way." There is no single easy solution, no 577 "gimmick", no stunt. I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that this is not a matter of Party politics. As I have told your Lordships before, there is one way not to get recruits and that is to give the impression that it cannot be done. I am very grateful to your Lordships for having done no such thing this afternoon.
An an old Territorial myself, I naturally took great pride and pleasure in the many tributes paid by your Lordships this afternoon to that distinguished Force. Perhaps the House might like to have the latest Territorial Army recruiting figures. From October, 1956, to January, 1957, about 3.000 recruits came in. For the corresponding figure in 1957–58, over 8,000 came in. That is a remarkable increase in the number of true volunteers, following the suspension of compulsory training for National Servicemen, and I hope the figures will improve still further. I can assure the noble Lords. Lord Limerick and Lord Shepherd. that I have much sympathy with the views they have put forward on the need for explaining clearly to the Territorial Army the reasons for the present inevitable changes and for the future changes which obviously there must be.
I believe that if those changes are explained sensibly and properly the Territorial Army will accept them in the spirit that they always have done, as will the Regular Army and the private soldier—the "other rank" to whom the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, referred—who may wonder if he is really anybody in the Army. I believe that he is, and he is treated as somebody. I believe that there is in all regiments a growing tendency to treat the private soldier not as just "Hey, you!" of the regiment, but rather as a civilised human being, as he has to be treated if we are to get him into the Regular Army; and if we do not do so he will not come in. That is all.
The noble and gallant Field-Marshal, Viscount. Montgomery of Alamein, used to say that morale was the greatest single factor in war. I go further and say that it is also the greatest single factor in what now passes as peace. The Services and the Army in particular have had their morale severely tested in the past year by the necessarily drastic cuts and reorganisation imposed on them. I believe, as the noble Viscount, Lord 578 Bridgeman, says, that we should all be filled with admiration for the way in which the challenge has been met, with customary resilience, and we can draw the logical conclusion that the spirit within the Forces remains unchanged.
May I conclude by asking your Lordships to reflect for a moment on what Her Majesty's Government are determined to do to maintain the morale of the new all-Regular Forces? I refer to the Army because it has the greatest problems, but what I say is, of course, applicable to a lesser degree to the other two Services. First and foremost, we must ensure, as the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, has reminded us, that the whole country is aware of the contribution that every soldier makes when he joins the Service. If we are not shy in showing our appreciation and pride in our Army we shall be going a long way towards providing the spur for the soldier to retain and increase his self-confidence and sense of duty. Secondly, we must provide him with the best equipment, the best clothing and the best conditions of service which our finances will allow.
My Lords, morale is a brittle commodity, and it is only by the knowledge that the whole country is behind him, and that the Government are determined to see that he gets the conditions he deserves, that the soldier can feel—and show that he feels that he is second to none, both in his own country and in other people's.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, I am grateful for the way in which this important debate has been supported by noble Lords in every quarter of the House —or perhaps I should say, in every quarter of the House except one. I should also like to associate myself with the regrets expressed by noble Lords opposite at the absence, through illness, of Lord Nathan, because we always welcome his contributions to any debate on Army affairs, and especially on the Territorial Army. I feel, too, that we should be particularly grateful to my two noble friends in front of me for the great amount of information they have both given us. I must make one comment on what was said by my noble friend Lord Mancroft. I cannot quite allow him to get by with what he said about uniform. 579 What I meant to convey to your Lordships, and that quite clearly, was that I thought the soldier should have two uniforms, one for the daily work of battle and the other for walking out or ceremonial, and I was quite content to leave Her Majesty's Government to decide what they should both be like.
There is one other point upon which I think we should reflect. We have in the course of our discussions to-day touched on a number of subjects which concern national expenditure, and it is very difficult in your Lordships' House to carry those discussions beyond a certain point; but I feel sure that we can confidently count on their being followed up wherever necessary by honourable Gentlemen in another place, where the scrutiny of national expenditure is part of the daily routine. So now, my Lords, 580 we leave this debate, and I hope that my noble friends in front of me are clear about our views. In very many respects we have given wholehearted support and agreement; in others we shall confidently agree to the results when results are forthcoming. In a few other cases we have ventured to utter warning notes, and in each case I think we have given the reason why. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.