§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, this is the first Defence debate in your Lordships' House in which I have taken part, and I should like first to acknowledge the sense of privilege which I feel. Questions have been falling from the lips of noble Lords opposite, including the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, like autumn leaves, and I am afraid that I cannot hope to answer all the questions they have put. In the first place, there is the time factor; in the second place, there is the fact of the Defence review. Some of the questions cannot be answered until that review is completed. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that it would be better to have a correct answer rather than a quick answer. I am certain that the contributions which have been made will be carefully studied in the course of formulating the answers when that stage is reached.
I have assumed, despite the use of the "multiple murder" accusation by the noble Earl opposite, that this was the real reason for this debate. It is not an occasion for scoring Party points, but for pooling ideas. This leads me to offer my warm thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, not only for bringing forward this Motion hut for the constructive way in which he has moved it. I should like to thank him and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for giving me an opportunity to get in advance information on which to answer some of the questions which they intimated would be raised.
Before going into more detail, I wish to offer some general observations. The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, mentioned manpower. He and others are quite right: there are difficulties. To-day practically every factory, office, shop, school and hospital in Britain faces similar difficulties. Every noble Lord with experience and responsibility in these matters will know that in industry, commerce and the social services there is difficulty in getting the necessary labour force; and, having got it, there is the difficulty of retaining it, which is possibly even greater. The unemployment figure of 1.2 per cent. announced the other day creates a very special problem. It would be remarkable, indeed unnatural, if the Armed Services 878 alone were unaffected by this pressure of demand.
Nevertheless, the overall position in the Services is not depressing. In the main the short-fall is only marginal. In some trades, on certain ships and in some regiments the position is particularly difficult, though I think that the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, exaggerated it in some respects. There are also bright spots. For example, the applications for places at Sandhurst are running at a record level, and recruiting for R.A.F. cadetships is excellent. Similarly, the officer entry in the Royal Navy has been very promising recently, with the exception of air crew and electrical officers, and the recruitment of airwomen is most encouraging. The position with regard to junior soldiers is bright.
But there is another aspect to this tight manpower situation. The fact that there is such a wide employment opportunity open to the young men and women of this country to-day means that those who choose to enter the Services do so because they are really keen about serving. I doubt whether we have ever before had men and women serving who have been more keen or more capable than those serving at present. They are being asked to work harder and to give more; and I believe that they are giving more.
Probably your Lordships will permit me to refer to one comparatively small point, which I noticed ten days ago at the Paris Air Show. Britain did not have the most spectacular aircraft on display. There were others bigger and faster. But my eye was caught, as the noble Viscount opposite will probably confirm, because he was also there, by the polish on the Vulcan, by the absolutely superlative finish of that aircraft. I do not believe that it was all a matter of "bull"; there was real professional pride behind the polish. The spirit is there, but having said that, it is only right also to say that these men are being called upon to play their pant in some far from pleasant parts of the world and I am sure that all Members of the House would join with the words already spoken in acknowledging this fact and offering thanks to the men in the Services.
There is one sharp snag which goes with the present overstretch of manpower, already touched upon by the noble Earl, 879 Lord Jellicoe—that is, it so often means separation from families. I think it is clear that the biggest obstacle to recruiting at the present time, and even more to re-engagement, is this factor of family separation. I cannot say that there is a complete answer, but I am sure that noble Lords are right in emphasising the importance of accommodation in this connection.
To turn in more detail to some of the points raised, I would deal first with naval manpower. The current shortage of skilled men is not large—a few hundreds from a total Vote A of over 100,000. But it is the highly skilled categories which represent a particular problem and the situation is aggravated by the fact that re-engagement has recently been falling. A higher re-engagement rate would be the most helpful single factor, bringing, as it would, a reduction of training costs and a welcome addition to the number of senior and skilled men. The two approved incentives which were announced in mid-March I hope will be useful, but it is too early yet to enable us to judge the response. Final details of the assisted house purchase scheme are being worked out and it is intended that an announcement will be made before the end of the present Session. We have already introduced measures to assist men serving East of Suez to have visits from their wives, and as from July 1 the rules governing occupancy of married quarters by personnel on G.S.C. are being relaxed to enable families to occupy the quarters continuously throughout the whole commission. I have a shrewd suspicion that the special interest shown by the noble Earl in this matter has been far from unhelpful.
My Lords, I am very glad to hear of the relaxation of these rules about which the noble Lord has just informed us, and I am sure this will be a considerable help. I hope that it will be possible, after the naval housing, married quarters, programme gathers momentum, to relax the three-year rule by which naval families are not allowed to occupy married quarters for more than three years. Can the noble Lord hold out any hope in this matter?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, relaxation is now possible at the discretion of the Commander and I hope that, as the 880 number of houses available increases, that discretion can be exercised more widely.
It would be wrong to minimise the present difficulties, particularly for the rating himself. The more clearly his problems are understood, the more likely is it that they will be solved. The proportion of the Navy in the Far East has doubled in the last five years. Many ratings spend more than half their time at sea. Some spend as little as nine months in the United Kingdom between overseas drafts. But I repeat that the Royal Navy's commitments are being met, and all credit is due to the sailors.
The noble Earl contrived to make what I thought were acid comments, although made in all sincerity, about the remarks made by my right honourable friend concerning plans for the Navy of the future. It is the fact that we inherited ambitious plans for the Navy, although I cannot say that we also inherited very careful schemes for meeting the cost of that Navy. The plans were to maintain the Navy's capability in different roles on the land and in the air, as well as on and under the sea, and in addition the five Polaris nuclear submarines. The fact is that we are risking exceeding our manpower and our material resources. This problem of getting a proper balance as between the Navy, Army and Air Force is part of our present Defence review and plans for new naval construction will largely depend upon the outcome of that review.
It would be wrong to imply that we have not reduced expenditure on the nuclear programme. We have cancelled the fifth Polaris submarine and this will save about £50 to £55 million over the next ten years. One immediate and direct result of this saving is that we have been able to advance the order for our fourth nuclear propelled hunter-killer submarine by about six months. The aim is now to make up the time lost on the hunter-killer programme by the insertion of the Polaris programme.
The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, asked whether it was right to use modern ships on their own in the Far East and Persian Gulf. I think that it would be generally accepted that the modern escorts, like the Leanders and Tribals, are not designed solely to operate with aircraft carriers. Indeed the term "escort" as 881 used at the moment is really a misnomer, because these ships are made to do all kinds of naval work.
The new ships coming into service in the current financial year include H.M.S. "Fife", our fifth guided-missile destroyer, which will have the new and more powerful version of Seaslug; H.M.S. "Fearless", the first of the two new assault ships and four more Leander class frigates. Coming along behind them are three more nuclear hunter-killer submarines, three more guided missile destroyers, the second assault ship, which will be ready early next year, and eight more Leanders, of which, the noble Earl will be pleased to hear, three were ordered this year.
My Lords, although these three were ordered this year, they were in last year's programme. It was announced that they were going to tender in July last year.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, they were in the programme last year and are actively being pursued this year. Although the question of aircraft carriers is one of the largest which will come up for consideration in the Defence review, I can give the assurance that we are going ahead with the design work and with the long delivery components for CVA 01, so that there will be no delay in the programme for this ship, if our study confirms that she should be built. Work is proceeding on the various designs of escorts covering a range of requirements, including the deployment of the new A/A and ASW systems, Seadart and Ikara. We are studying what the most cost-effective combination of these ships and systems is likely to be, so that we can move forward quickly when the present review of Defence policy is complete.
I have been asked about the next generation of naval helicopters to replace the Wessex. A Mark III is now being developed to carry a much improved dipping sonar; but this has been conceived as an interim aircraft only. We undoubtedly require in the 1970s an antisubmarine helicopter with greater endurance and pay-load, and with two engines for greater safety for operations over the sea. Studies are now under way into the best means of meeting these 882 requirements, and also those of the R.A.F. If it is possible to combine the two, so much the better; but it is not easy to combine economically in one aircraft the conflicting requirements of the anti-submarine and troop-carrying roles.
Turning to the Army, I have to report that so far this year recruiting has not kept up with the very satisfactory rate achieved in 1964. Up to the end of May, we had enlisted about 8,900 men, as compared with 10,200 in the same period last year. This means that we are lagging behind the rate at which we were hoping to move to the ceiling of 181,000 all ranks, though that ceiling, I am glad to assure the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, still remains the objective. Let me emphasise, however, that the gap for other ranks is now down to about 2,400, less than 2 per cent. of the figure hoped for at the beginning of June. The hope now is that the ceiling will be reached by the second half of 1966.
The shortage of officers may take more time to put right. As already stated, applications for entry to Sandhurst are at a record level, and the prospects for Regular recruiting are quite promising, although we should like more direct entrants from universities. An assistant to the University Liaison Officer, with special responsibility for liaison with CATS, has been appointed. But there is also a real need for short-service officers. There has been some improvement in this field (we expect to grant about 270 short-service commissions this year, as compared with 200 in each of the last two years), but to make up our full complement we must double this number.
The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, mentioned the importance of boys' units in solving the Army's manpower problems, and I agree with him about their value. By progressively reducing the length of the training courses we shall need to hold young entrants in these units for less time before they reach the age of man's service, and in this we shall be helped by the increase in school-leaving age. By this means we hope that by about 1970–71 we shall have raised the output of all the categories of junior soldiers' units from its present level of about 5,000 a year to 6,000 a year, without increasing the total numbers of boys under training. This growth, I think, should provide a useful supplement.
883 The noble Lord has suggested that the force in Malta, the Royal Malta Artillery, are being strangled. I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute myself, together with the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, to the services which are being contributed by this force; and it is not true that they are being strangled. The aim has been to keep the numbers to the point at which they could fulfil the commitments in B.A.O.R., and there has been a restriction on recruiting when that number was being exceeded. The noble Lord also suggested that there was a requirement for the R.M.A. in an anti-aircraft role in North Africa. I think that this is possible, but as a result of the Defence review, we shall be able to decide the relationship of this task to our other Defence commitments.
With regard to the T.A. and the T.A.E.R., as the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, will know, the plan introduced eighteen months ago emphasised the role of providing reinforcements for overseas, especially B.A.O.R. It is a consequence of this scheme that arrangements have been made during the 1965 T.A. camp season for some 7,000 men from a wide range of T.A. units to carry out their annual training in B.A.O.R. This scheme is now in full swing, and early reports suggest that it is a great success. Naturally, while the men are in B.A.O.R. they are using the most modern equipment; but the needs of the units in the United Kingdom have not been overlooked.
The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, suggested, I think, that a complete T.A. formation should be offered as a reinforcing formation to SACEUR, as was the case in the 1950's.
§ LORD BESWICK
Earmarked. In any case, the problem remains that, while we are recruiting for the T.A. men without any previous military experience, to bring a T.A. formation to a state of training when it could be committed in operations against a modern army in North West Europe would take, not a matter of weeks but a matter of months; and unless, therefore, we are to postulate a lengthy period of tension after mobilisation, it would be pointless to earmark these divisions in this way. A prolonged period of tension forms no part of the present plan- 884 ning concept, either in NATO or for any other purpose.
I know that there is a good deal of speculation about the future of the T.A., but the position remains as stated in this House by my noble friend on June 17. Basic decisions of principle are, and must be, a matter for the Government, and I can only re-state the undertaking that the Council of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations will be consulted about the means by which any change of general policy, if decided, is implemented.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, does that mean that there will be no consultation with them about the general policy?
§ LORD BESWICK
It means that the decision of principle will be properly that of the Government, and the consultation will come later.
The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, has suggested that there is a requirement for more "Ever-Readies". Here again I invoke the Defence review, but I must say that current planning does not call for a very much greater number of T.A.E.R. volunteers; and the need is essentially for individual reinforcements for Regular units, rather than for organised sub-units. I should remind the House that at this moment there are over 170 members of the T.A.E.R. in operational theatres overseas. I am sure your Lordships will be pleased to know that the machinery for calling up these men worked smoothly, and in Aden and the Far East they are now making an invaluable contribution, for which I am sure we should like to offer our praise.
The noble Lord has suggested that equipment now coming into service in the Army has been mainly designed for major war, and that much lighter equipment is needed for the limited operations that we are at present undertaking. I am sure that there is much in what he says. It is a fact that until quite recently Army equipment planning was dominated by the requirements of a European war. We have now accepted that the requirements for jungle conditions and counter-insurgency operations merit special measures. The Army have arranged to secure the airportable 105 mm. Italian pack howitzer. Issues of a new range of radios 885 are being arranged to the Army. A new HF manpack set, incorporating the latest transistor techniques is beginning to be issued to the Far East. Other examples of recently introduced lightweight equipment are 5-gallon polythene jerricans; light-weight sleeping bags and waterproof sheets; nylon mosquito nets and collapsible 2,500 gallon water-tanks. I understand that there are many similar items in service or under development.
The noble Lord referred to the trials which are being conducted with the Armelite rifle, which, as he will know, weighs only 6½ lb., compared to the 9½ lb. of the L1A1 rifle. It has been successfully used in action, and its users are very pleased with it. It has a further saving in weight of 3 lb. on each hundred rounds of ammunition carried, which under jungle conditions is a very critical factor.
In the air, Army Aviation continues to expand. By the end of the year, a total of 34 units worldwide will have their own unit flights of helicopters, a development of particular importance in the Far East. The main types of Army helicopter currently in service continue to be the Sioux and the Scout. I am sorry that so far the Scout has been giving a good deal of trouble, meaning that we have had considerable under-utilisation of that machine. I think I also ought to mention that a considerable effort is going into the new complex family of radio known as the Hobart communications project. I mention this particularly because I found so much enthusiasm about this in the Department, and this should be available for the Army in the 1970's.
The noble Earl also asked about nuclear propulsion and the hovercraft. I think I will leave the nuclear propulsion to my noble friend, although there is not a great deal to be said about that. All I would say is that in my personal view potentially the most promising piece of equipment mentioned to-day is this air cushion vehicle, or the hovercraft. Some time ago, in another capacity, I tried to persuade the then Minister of Aviation to state a requirement for this, and impressed upon him the importance of helping the development of this principle if Britain is to remain in the forefront of this type of transport. At that time he said he had no customer, and 886 I am glad to see that some progress has since been made.
Important evaluation trials jointly by the Royal Navy and the Army are being carried out in the Far East with two hovercraft. The experience gained with these vehicles, ships or aircraft—whatever one may like to call them—may have very profound implications in the years to come. They are being used primarily up and across waterways, and over such terrain as sandbanks and mud flats. Although these two particular machines were not designed for military use, they are being very successful, and a great deal has already been learned for both military and civil application. Field trials of this kind, as I am sure noble Lords would agree, carried out in the process of military operations like these, bear much the same relationship to ordinary commercial usage as motor racing does to private motoring. Intense pressure and stringent operating conditions bring out lessons of importance which may take years in ordinary civil use to learn.
If I could make another personal comment in this connection, I would say that it was absolutely essential not to make the mistake that has been committed in other fields, of seeking technical perfection and sophistication instead of making progress with a more simple piece of equipment. I think it is absolutely deplorable how our lead has gone in such matters as vertical take-off (and this is a field where immense sums of money for development are not required) in the general economic interest of the country. I thought there was a case here for noble Lords to maintain the closest interest in future development.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, the noble Lord is very interesting. Might I ask him whether he could develop the point about carrying this technical development too far? Has he some points particularly in mind? Because what he is saying is most interesting.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I think I am right in saying that the particular principle which is being developed in this country involves the initial idea which Mr. Cockerell developed. There are some less sophisticated systems available. The Americans, for example, are already going ahead with a 90-seater, 887 using a more simple form of construction, and I should have thought we ought to be very careful not to commit too much of our resources in the one line of development.
I was also asked by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, about the position regarding this principle in relation to antisubmarine vessels. Trials with the SRN 3 are going on at Londonderry at the A.S.W.E., and studies in the feasibility of a larger ocean-going hovership are now being made. I am unable to say anything more about this matter, except that I am quite certain it would be a good thing if noble Lords on both sides of the House maintained their close interest in this matter.
My Lords, may I reassure the noble Lord in that respect? I certainly propose to do so.
§ LORD BESWICK
The question of shortage of training land was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow. He is quite right when he says that the position can be eased by making as much use as possible of overseas training facilities, and a great deal has already been done. Joint Services exercises in conjunction with R.A.F. Transport Command have taken place, or are taking place, as far afield as Thailand, Norway, British Honduras, Canada and Australia, to mention only a few countries. We are grateful to the Commonwealth countries, both old and new, as well as to our allies, for the training facilities which they have allowed us There are many snags in this type of operation, transport of heavy equipment being one of them. But our awareness of the growing importance of overseas training can be simply demonstrated by quoting figures. In 1960, there were only two overseas exercises in two countries. Last year there were 75 such exercises in 15 different countries.
On the R.A.F. recruiting, I am happy to say that we continue to attract all adult recruits required for the skilled engineering trades, and the position is very satisfactory for the younger apprentice entries for craft and administration trades. The new entry for school-leavers having four "O" levels to be trained to the very high standards of technicians apprentice, started with a satisfactory 888 response last autumn, although the spring entry has been disappointing. But the spring is possibly a lean season for "O" level leavers.
There are persistent shortages in some sectors of the less skilled trades which give cause for some concern. We now need rather more than 7,000 adult recruits a year, and if recent recruiting trends continue we may be short of that figure by some thousands. A special recruiting effort is being made to counter this recent decline, and if it can be brought home to suitable men that the R.A.F. continues to offer an attractive and very worthwhile life this effort could be made successful. For the General Duties (Flying) Branch, applications remain at a high rate, and although so far this year selections for entry are slightly lower than for the corresponding period last year, the indications are that we shall recruit all the pilots needed, and almost all the navigators.
Recruitment of technically qualified entrants to the Technical Branch is disappointing. The numbers of unqualified entrants are also below requirements, although it is possibly a little early as yet to make positive assessments. In the main ground branches, which include aircraft control, equipment and secretarial duties, the number of entrants is also lower than last year. Broadly speaking, the numbers entering training up to the end of May are about 33⅓ per cent. of our annual target, as against the 45 per cent. achieved in the first five months of 1964. An improvement here is certainly needed to prevent a serious shortfall. W.R.A.F. officer recruiting is also below target.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has asked about the University Air Squadrons, and I can assure him that we are well aware of the great value of these squadrons to the Royal Air Force, both as links with the universities and as a recruiting and training medium, and that we are most anxious to retain those benefits. I cannot, however, say more than that. Again, it is a matter of waiting for the review. The University Air Squadrons, of course, are not our only source of contact with the universities. In 1964, the R.A.F. appointed 80 men and 12 women graduates to commissions, excluding doctors, dentists and chaplains. A fruitful source of recruitment lies in the R.A.F. University Cadetship scheme. In 1964, 889 44 cadetships were awarded and we hope to award approximately the same number this year. At present, there are some 90 cadets at university under this scheme, and although it applies primarily to the General Duties and Technical branches of the R.A.F., we are now examining it to see whether it can be extended to other branches as well.
I propose to leave most of the questions about R.A.F. equipment, and the F 111 and Phantom and their engines, to my noble friend Lord Shackleton. He has been intimately concerned with the discussions and, moreover, most of the available information has already been given in previous debates.
The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, asked me about the close support aircraft. The P 1154 was, of course, the perfect answer to this problem—too perfect, indeed, excepting that it slipped in time and increased in cost. The answer now will be a developed Kestrel, and I cannot say at this moment just how much developed it will be. The idea is that this will operate in combination with the Phantom. Looking further ahead, the Anglo-French aircraft could provide a successor in this close support rôle.
Some rather dubious comments were made, I thought, by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in regard to Anglo-French cooperation. I would only say about that I think the financial facts of life, as well as the political desirability, will mean that this collaboration upon which we have embarked with the French will develop over the years. I have absolutely no doubt about that myself. I think it is as financially inevitable as it is politically desirable. My Lords, I have tried to give a faithful report of the position as I know it, and I should like to thank noble Lords for their patience in listening to me. I am sure that the contributions which have been made this afternoon have been, as those to come will continue to be, most helpful, especially at this point of time, and speaking for myself I look forward to hearing the remainder of the debate.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT RIDLEY
My Lords, I should first like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for including in the terms of his Motion the words "reserve forces" and thus giving me the opportunity to 890 speak for the first time in your Lordships' House. I should like to confine my remarks to the Territorial Army, as I have served in that Army for seventeen years and had the honour to command a regiment in it for three years. During most of that time the Territorial Army has been subject to periodic speculation about its future and reviews of its functions, and it will be no surprise that it is again under the critical eye of the Government. This review has promised, as all reviews do, "consultation with all interested parties before decisions are made". I wish I could believe this. In fact, since I have been sitting in your Lordships' House I believe it even less than I did before. All too often these decisions are made before any discussions are held, and this time inspired rumours about the very existence of the Territorial Army have caused grave disquiet, not only in the ranks of the Territorial Army but also in the country at large.
The case for the retention of the Territorial Army cannot be based on any sentiment arising from its undoubted use in the last three major wars in which this country has been involved. I think we must examine the future of all Reserve Forces in the light of the Defence requirements which we can foresee, and they must fit into these requirements. We must plan for three possibilities. These are, first, an all-out nuclear war in which no army can play any serious part at all but in which all will have a Civil Defence rôle; secondly, a conventional war similar to the Second World War, in which the Territorial Army would play a vital part as a nucleus on which to base the recall of reservists and on which to organise the defence of the country; thirdly, a continuation of the cold war and "bush fire" wars which we have had since 1945, which requires the use of Regular Army units anywhere at short notice. The Reserve Forces must play their part in these conditions too.
At this moment an unduly high proportion of our Regular troops are tied up in Germany and we are suffering as a nation from this not only in our balance of payments but also in our inability to meet our other military commitments with the soldiers which we have. It has been stated that the Territorial Army's primary role is to reinforce our Army in North-West Europe, but as at present 891 organised and trained it can play no real part in relieving the pressures upon the Regular Army. This it must do, and I believe that a strengthened and reorganised Territorial Army could indeed play an important part in our European and NATO commitments, I believe without even leaving this country, and certainly for limited periods, relieving the Regular Army for service anywhere in the world where the need arises.
The strongest argument against this theory is that any Reserve Forces would be inadequately trained in the event of an emergency. On the other hand, I believe we have in this country, as a result of National Service, short-term Regular service or voluntary service, a sufficient body of men who could be quickly available for any war for which the Regular Army is now trained, and I feel that this partly trained reserve should be included in our Defence plans.
If the Territorial Army is to play an effective part in the defence of this country—and it must play an effective part or we must scrap it—it will need to have several things done to it now. First, the definition of the roles of the various Reserve Forces must be simplified and the reserve army or armies reduced to a reasonable number. My limited experience of what used to be the War Office does not inspire any hope at all that it could cope with the nine types of reservist all being recalled at once in time of crisis. I believe that at the time of Suez certain men were called up to certain regiments on the basis that there were five men in a Centurion tank, yet in fact there were only four. Then the liability to mobilise the Territorial Army must be arranged preferably so that no political implications are attached to the use of Reserve Forces. I believe that the "Ever-Ready" scheme, which is a very good one, has so far been useless because it is a political move of significance to call out any large number of these Reserves; yet the idea is good and I feel their numbers should certainly be increased. This whole question is, I believe, rightly under review, and the Proclamation issue needs to be resolved.
Secondly, the Territorial Army must have better opportunities for training, which means an increased commitment for service and adequate rewards for such 892 service. The whole question of the pay of the Territorial soldier would need revision. It never ceased to surprise me how many men would attend a drill period in the evenings for which they earned a small fraction of what they might have earned in industry at that hour; but at the same time unit commanders should have greater powers to pay an increased bounty for efficiency or a reduced sum for non-attendance. Better pay would improve recruiting, now so much better in the North than in the South.
Thirdly, in equipment the Territorial Army has been under-privileged for far too long, and new weapons have been very slow to come. The wireless sets with which my own regiment was equipped had been made for the Russians in 1941. How is one to explain to a soldier who was certainly not born in 1941 that the wireless set he has to use not only has not worked but also has what he assumes to be the enemy language printed on the controls? At the same time, there could be a greater simplification of the Territorial Army structure and the overall number of units reduced, which would in itself be a considerable saving. There are a lot of complicated units with complicated equipment requirements. I do not believe it is any use issuing one dummy guided missile to a whole regiment. It would be far better to give it something which is available, on which it can be trained and can use. The prime need in all armies to-day is still basically for infantry and light armour. These Territorial units should be properly equipped with the tools of their trade.
Fourthly, in accommodation and other facilities the Territorial Army must be given such help as is available. The T.A. and A.F. associations exist to serve the Territorial Army and consist of local people in all walks of life whose interest in this Army is very real and voluntary. At the moment their functions are strictly limited, but their needs should be met—subject of course to overall, but not detailed, financial control—within the priorities which they themselves think right: and, most important, this must be done on a strictly Territorial basis. Although I would not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, when he said that a reorganisation of the areas should be 893 achieved, this in itself would make for large savings. There could also be further large savings in the administration of the Territorial Army—for example (and I am very sorry to say this in front of my noble friend) by reducing the enormous number of senior Army personnel who are tied up in Territorial Army posts.
A further point I would quote as an example of waste on administration is the fact that the Territorial soldier now receives his pay from Army sources but his travelling expenses through the Association channels. Finally, the Territorial Army must be equipped with proper uniforms. This may seem to be an unimportant point, but I am certain that anyone who has served in the Army would agree that no soldier is anything if he is not proud of his uniform; and the present Territorial units can be only too easily recognised, especially on training, by their obsolete Regular Army clothing.
To do all this will cost money, money which has to come from other savings in our Defence Budget. The Bow Group has published a pamphlet entitled A New Reserve Army—an Alternative to Conscription. While this may be too far-fetched, and although I do not expect this Government will agree with anything said by the Bow Group, there is some truth in this idea. I believe that it is possible, desirable and necessary to integrate the Reserve and Regular Armies in some way, to the benefit of both, and to the potential saving of much larger sums of money than would be needed to bring the Territorial Army up to the standard we desire. Any solution to our military problems which calls for conscription or an increased size of Regular Army in these days of labour shortage would be economically most unsound.
There will also be grave problems to be faced which are already implicit in any Reserve Army and which arise from the point of view of the employers of these volunteers. I have no time to go into this question, but a solution must be found and should be possible. Why, for instance, are the nationalised industries generally the most reluctant to allow their men time off for annual camp? Perhaps the Australian Defence Act provides some of the answers to this question, giving protection to the civil employment of volunteers when they are called up temporarily or permanently.
894 Finally, I ask your Lordships to consider the grave consequences and loss which this country would suffer if the Territorial Army were abolished. It has become very much part of our life, and since it has existed has done immense good in all sorts of ways. I do not believe that we can afford not to use the talent which is in its ranks. And once abandoned, the Territorial Army can never be revived. At the moment, the Reserve Forces are costing us about £35 million per annum. This is about 1½ per cent. of our Defence expenditure, and about the same as we spend on egg subsidies to farmers. Cut this out and no noticeable saving to the country would result. Increase this sum to 2 per cent. and we should have a really effective Reserve Army, which would still be the cheapest Army in the world, and able to play its proper part in our Defence system. We already have a Reserve Army which is second to none in the spirit with which it serves the country and containing officers and men who are potentially the finest soldiers in the world. They are willing to accept any suggestions which would make them more useful to the nation.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, like many other noble Lords, I am most grateful to my noble and gallant friend Lord Thurlow for giving us the opportunity of this debate to-day. We discus many peculiar and complex problems in your Lordships' House, and perhaps too seldom the problems of our Armed Forces, to whom at this particular moment in history we owe so much. It also falls to me to congratulate my noble friend Lord Ridley on his maiden speech. He has spoken to us with great knowledge, and some emotion, on a subject of which he has great experience, and I hope that we shall frequently hear him speak again in this House.
There are two points in the speech of my noble and gallant friend Lord Thurlow on which I should like to comment. The first is the question of the Royal Malta Artillery. This is a very fine regiment, which I know well. It is steeped in the traditions of the British Army, for which it has the most tremendous respect and pride. I was very pleased to hear from the noble Lord 895 opposite that it was not their intention to strangle the regiment, but I would put in a plea that they should not allow it to die a natural death. Not only should we be gratuitously throwing away a very fine source of manpower, but we should be severing one of the last links with the Island of Malta, for whom most of us have so much affection and to whom we owe so much.
The second point on which I wanted to support the noble Lord was the question of the Rent Act. This particular Act perhaps affects the sailor more than the soldier or the airman. The sailor returns from an accomplished commission abroad and wishes to return to his own house. On returning to this country he suffers what is known in the Navy as a period of drafting turbulence. He first of all goes off and probably does a certain amount of local sea-time in some local flotilla nowhere near his own port. He is then sent on two or three courses, and before he goes abroad again he may, if he is lucky, have a few months in his own home, in his own home port. If, during that period, he cannot get back his own house without having to go to the courts, then indeed "the law is an ass."
The terms of reference of this debate are extremely wide. I know that I am being followed to-day by my noble and gallant friend the Field Marshal, whom I always regard as probably the greatest spokesman for the Navy in your Lordships' House; but as the Navy is my service I propose to confine myself, in what I say to-day, mainly to the Navy. I would draw your Lordships' attention to three main points. In the White Paper, and during the Defence debate in this House in April, much stress was laid on the fact that our Armed Forces at this moment are seriously stretched. This is an undoubted fact, as the noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson, I must say under heavy pressure, admitted in that debate.
He went on to say:That is what they are there for. It is the duty of highly-professional Regular forces to be seriously stretched. If they are not, it means that you have too many and you cannot afford them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 265 (No. 62) col. 122, April 7, 1965.]With the greatest respect to a former Minister of Defence (and I have told him that I proposed to say this) I must 896 profoundly disagree with that statement. Short periods of intense activity are admirable, because they teach the Services what will be required of them in war. But an indefinitely prolonged period of being seriously overstretched in so-called peace time is bad for training and bad for morale; and in the Royal Navy, at least, it has a very adverse effect on recruiting and on the re-engagement rates, about which we are particularly concerned at this moment. When I was a young officer in the early and middle 'thirties, in the Mediterranean and China Fleets the Navy was fun, both for officers and ratings. I believe that to a large extent it still is. But I think I should remind your Lordships that no amount of improved allowances, assistance in buying houses, improved married quarters or grants for re-engagements can ever be a substitute for that.
In those days we worked hard, but we also played hard, and there was time for everything. There was time for day and night exercises at sea. There was also time to get to know your men, not only in their work on board but also ashore—on the cricket field, on the football ground and even in the snipe marsh. There was time to learn your job in reasonably slow time; and there was time and opportunity to get to know your opposite numbers on the other ships of the squadron or flotilla. Between exercises and official visits, Admirals of squadrons and captains of destroyer flotillas, could in those days be certain of being able to get away with their own squadron or flotilla to some comparatively quiet place and there indulge in an orgy of competitive sport and somewhat more frivolous harbour exercises, much enjoyed by the sailors. More important still, it provided the opportunity for the men to get to know their commanding officers and for the commanding officers to get to know each other. At least twice a year the entire Fleet would assemble, and the good work would be carried on, to the great advantage of efficiency and contentment.
Eight years ago I was appointed Captain of the Fleet in the Home Fleet, and as personnel and administrative adviser to my Commander-in-Chief these particular problems were my concern. Only rarely did commanding officers of squadrons meet their commanding officers, and very rarely indeed together. The tempo was 897 already impossibly high. What with national and NATO exercises, the Iceland Patrol, which was then in force, and important official visits, little opportunity was allowed for squadrons, or even the Fleet, to get together. If I could get more than half the Fleet assembled in one place for inside of a week, or for a long weekend, in which to indulge in what I believe to be an important part of Naval training, I regarded myself as extremely lucky.
I think I can best illustrate the seriousness of this problem with the following figures. Thirty years ago, for every day at sea the average escort vessel spent eight days in harbour. Ten years ago, the ratio had halved, and for every day at sea an escort vessel spent four days in harbour. To-day, for every day at sea an escort vessel spends 1.5 days in harbour. This kind of strain is affecting not only the efficiency and the contentment of the Fleet, but also the ships themselves, and those whose business it is to keep them steaming and to service and maintain the extremely complicated equipment with which they are now fitted.
It is one thing to pose a question; it is more difficult perhaps to find a solution. To cut our commitments would, I believe, be extremely difficult. To have a larger Navy is, I believe, impracticable, although it is highly desirable. There is just one possible third alternative which has already been mentioned to-day by one noble Lord: that we should lay down a large number of smaller, cheaper and less sophisticated ships requiring the minimum complement. I believe that such ships would be quite capable of performing the rôle to which the Navy is now committed in the Far East and the sort of rôle to which we are likely to be committed for the next twenty years. The sort of ship I have in mind is something about the size of an inshore minesweeper, but with much greater speed, or possibly some development of the hovercraft of which one noble Lord has already spoken this evening. I should like to leave your Lordships with this thought to-day, and in the hope that the Admiralty Board, who I know have already considered this problem, may perhaps reconsider it.
I should now like to turn to a separate question—namely, the entry and training of seamen officers into the Navy. About two years before I left the Ser 898 vice it was decided to raise the educational standard for entry into Dartmouth, particularly in the mathematical and scientific sides. I was doubtful at the time whether this was a wise policy, but I was assured by its sponsors that we now lived in the technical age, and that there were plenty of young men in the country who possessed not only the academic ability but also those necessary qualities of leadership required of an officer.
This hope has not been entirely fulfilled. There are a few who are indeed capable of doing both. For those I feel that the future is assured. But the duties of a seaman officer in the Navy are, first of all, to lead his men, and secondly, to steam and command his ship, and to be able to use the extremely complicated equipment with which he is provided. He must also have an ability to write English. But I do not believe that it is essential for every seaman officer to understand in detail what goes on inside the magic boxes. For this purpose he has his technical officers, who are always available to him to give advice and assistance.
In this highly technical age I feel there is a grave danger of forgetting that the old-fashioned virtues of courage, resource and leadership in its widest sense have never been more needed than they are to-day, when the officer is commanding a far more intelligent and highly educated rating than ever did his forbears. My fear is that we may lose a potential Nelson or Drake because he cannot get an "A" level in mathematics. I believe there is a solution to this problem which I should like briefly to commend to your Lordships to-day. For many years there has been a short-service officer entry into the Royal Navy on to what is called the Supplementary List which does not require such a high educational qualification. It is from this List that we have obtained the large majority of our young officers of the Fleet Air Arm. This scheme has recently been extended to include seamen officers.
There is also a method by which a small number of the best of these young men can transfer to the General List, provided that they volunteer to do so and that they are acceptable. Some of these young men are of extremely high quality, and I should like to recommend to the 899 Admiralty Board that this system of transferring be greatly extended, that the best of those on the Supplementary List be offered commissions on the General List, and that they be offered them early enough in their careers to be able to catch up with their professional training and be of the right age to compete with the officers of the General List when they are turned over. I believe that this would have a dual purpose. It would make up for the shortfall in the Dartmouth entry—and there has been a shortfall for a number of years. Furthermore, it would allow a young man—possibly a young man with a naval background and a deep love of the sea, but a young man who has not a technical bent or who is perhaps unable to pass exams—to pursue the career of his choice for which he is in every other way probably extremely suitable.
This leads me to my third point. Much has been said already in this debate in and around this subject, but I should like to approach it from a slightly different angle. It is becoming increasingly difficult to persuade the parents of very suitable young men, or even the young men themselves, that there is a great future for a young man in the Armed Forces. The posters and the recruiting advertisements paint in glowing terms the splendid future for a young man in the Armed Forces, but the pronouncements of Her Majesty's Government have not supported this view. We have heard already of a statement made last September by the now Prime Minister on an expanding Navy. Nothing, so far as I know, has happened. It was an admirable plan, but nothing is being done. The confidence of the officers and men in the Royal Air Force in the future of their Service cannot have been greatly encouraged by the cancellation of the TSR 2 the P 1154 and the HS 681, with no firm decision on replacements. Prevarication, which has been going on for months, over the aircraft carrier programme, vital to the future of the Navy, has caused the same depression among the officers and men of the Fleet.
I was very glad to hear from the noble Lord opposite that although no decision has yet been reached design and planning are continuing. For that I am very grateful. This is a very difficult prob- 900 lem, and, speaking as a sailor who has only recently retired, I assure your Lordships that, although in this speech to-day I have been pointing out the difficulties and the problems, the morale of the Navy remains high. But some form of encouragement from above is required to sustain it. I should like to hear a clarion call from the Government to the effect that the Armed Forces will be required by the country in roughly the same size and shape as they are now for as far into the future as we can see, and that they offer an honourable and full career to the best of our young men. I believe that if as much public attention were given to the officers and men as is given to the money and to the material, it is not impossible that the very difficult problems of recruitment and re-engagement which all three Services now face might well be solved.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, the previous speaker said that the scope of this Motion is very wide. That is certainly very true. Listening to it so far, I feel that there is a danger that we may be led away from the main issues. For instance, I would suggest that the manpower and training of the Armed Forces is best left to Service Ministers and their professional advisers, the Service Chiefs. I should prefer to draw the attention of your Lordships to the Reserve Forces of the Army—and I am not dealing with the Navy to-day—
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
Next time perhaps. Their organisation calls for the most serious consideration, for reasons which I will explain. There are too many categories of reserve, each with different liabilities. The liabilities are, in most cases, too restrictive, and the main concept on which our reserves are based is out of date. Why is this? The reasons stem partly from the devolpment of strategy in a nuclear age, partly from the switch from National Service to Regular Forces, and partly from the promise given to the Territorial Army in 1961 that there would be no further major reorganisation for a period of ten years. I think that those are the main reasons. Complementary to the review of Civil Defence, on which I 901 will say something in a moment, the role of the T.A. needs to be examined in order to bring that Force into line with our requirements. In my view, that would be acceptable to serving T.A. officers and men, provided that it is put across sensibly and properly. It would not necessarily be acceptable to senior retired officers.
First, as to the need for reserves, I assume that the general situation in the foreseeable future will follow the same pattern as that which has characterised the years since 1945: that is to say, that for political reasons we shall have to continue to maintain forces in Germany. There will be a continued need to help to preserve peace world-wide, and we must be ready to meet the unforeseen. The great majority of the emergencies, large or small, which have faced us since 1945 have been unforeseen and have arisen at very short notice. For example, the need to deploy considerable forces in Borneo was not foreseen, nor was the emergency in 1964 which led to a heavy reinforcement in Cyprus. It is certain that any review of strategy which is now being carried out can be but a guide and cannot be expected accurately to foresee the future.
For this reason I would suggest that we cannot afford to tailor-make our Regular and Reserve Forces for the future, but must so shape them that we are able to deal with whatever emergency may arise at short notice. My experience in war is that only one thing is certain, and that is that everything will be uncertain. That is what I have learned. To-day, as indeed over the past eighteen months, our Regular Forces are very stretched, and we have had to call up a small number of Territorial Emergency Reserve men, alias the "Ever-Readies". But there has been no serious fighting during the last few years, casualties have been of the order of half a dozen as opposed to hundreds. There is, however, no certainty that this situation will continue.
It is possible that at any moment some very sizeable emergency may arise in. say, the Far East, in South Arabia or in Africa. If there were a major flare-up of fighting in present theatres, or a sizeable new commitment, we could meet the situation only by a substantial withdrawal from Germany or by calling up Reserves—in no other way. It might 902 be politically difficult to make withdrawals from Germany at the time needed. On the other hand, it would be difficult under their present liabilities to call up exactly the right type of reservist we need; and, indeed, they are generally not trained, manned or equipped to meet the requirement for which they may be needed. I suggest it is vital that our small Regular Army should have adequate Reserves properly equipped for its needs.
It might help if I were to outline briefly the organisation of the Army Reserves. The man who enlists in the Army for six years—a six-year Regular—does six years with the Colours, two years in Section A of the Army Reserve and four years in Section B. The difference, of course. is entirely in connection with the call-up liability. Section A can be called up by the Secretary of State without Proclamation; Section B only by Proclamation. There is no annual training. Section A men are earmarked to reinforce Regular units in a limited war, and Section B men are earmarked to reinforce the Rhine Army.
Then there is the Army Emergency Reserve; that is the A.E.R. That, like the Territorial Army, consists of volunteers and is divided into two categories. Category 1 consists of units needed to fill up the tail of a limited war force. Its ceiling is 10,000 and it is fully recruited. The men have a pre-Proclamation liability. They receive an annual bounty of £60 and, of course, get paid whilst in camp, and they are quite good. Category 2 consists of administrative units needed to fill gaps in the tail of the Rhine Army on mobilisation. It has a post-Proclamation liability; hence only a very small bounty, and hence it is very poorly recruited.
Then there are the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve; that is, the "Ever-Readies". There are between 7,000 and 8,000 of those to-day, and 175 have recently been called up for service in Aden, Cyprus and the Far East. We shall get more experience of the usefulness of this Reserve after we have discovered how things go with the present 175. But there are a number of difficulties including the reluctance of employers, especially in a small firm, to let good men go for six months, because they have to reinstate them. The other point which 903 needs to be noted is that, when called up, they are very unfit physically. That, of course, can be got over.
Then there is the Army General Reserve which is 200,000 strong and consists of ex-National Servicemen. Individuals are earmarked to reinforce Regular and T.A. units. They do no training and the call-up is only by Proclamation. I think that is enough to show how difficult it is at present to call up the type of Reserves the Army may need at any given time. Reorganisation and simplification are needed, which has been pointed out already.
Now I should like to say a word about Civil Defence. I should like to suggest that that is a very bad name for it, and I think a much better name would be Home Defence. It is quite clear that the civil authorities could not maintain law and order and essential services in post-nuclear bombardment, without very considerable help from the Armed Forces and notably from the Reserve Army. If it is decided—and I would emphasise the word "if"—that we must maintain some guard against the remote possibility of nuclear war, then the first requirement will be to preserve law and order. That includes the prevention of panic and looting, looking after refugees, putting them into camps and feeding them, providing medical aid, water, sanitation and so on.
The police by themselves could not preserve law and order. They would need the help of a large number of bodies of disciplined and organised men, and only the Territorial Army could provide that help. But to do that it would not need to be organised as a balanced fighting force of all arms; that is to say, a fighting force containing tanks, artillery, heavy equipment and so on. Some might say that static establishments and schools could be used, but they would be inadequate and not suitable. What is required is a large number of bodies of organised and disciplined men, mobile, equipped with small arms and, very important, provided with wireless communications. In short, if we are going to maintain our guard over Home Defence against this remote possibility of nuclear attack, everything would become absolutely hopeless unless we could maintain law and order, 904 and large-scale military support to this end is necessary, but not from units with tanks, artillery and heavy equipment. The present cost of Civil Defence, which I call Home Defence, is about £25 million annually, and there are great possibilities for saving money here.
Now the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army to-day is organised in ten divisions on the normal Regular Army basis. It is neither manned, trained nor equipped to enable it to fight against a first-class enemy on such a basis, and it would be impossible financially to equip it to do it; nor do we need to. On no account does the Territorial Army want to be abolished, but it is right and proper that it should be completely reshaped to meet the needs of to-day. What are those needs? I hold the view that we require at least two things from the Territorial Army, and I would put them in what I call two tiers. We want a first tier of "teeth-armed" units—units, not divisions—manned, equipped and trained so that they could join the Regular Army overseas if current operations were to grow in fury or in magnitude, or if we were faced with new commitments. These units should be raised on the same terms as administrative units are raised from the Army Emergency Reserve, category I—that is, able to be called out without Proclamation.
Subject to very detailed study in the Ministry of Defence, which I would hope would go on, I would suggest that this first tier of the Territorial Army might consist of the following units: say, up to ten squadrons, Royal Engineers; one or two light air-defence regiments; a reconnaissance regiment, Royal Armoured Corps; a light regiment, Royal Artillery, or maybe two; and, say, fifteen or twenty infantry battalions. To be effective, those units must be recruited and manned to 100 per cent. establishment; they should be raised territorially; they should be strengthened by the inclusion of Section B Reservists; they should be officered by Regular officers down to subunits—that is to say, company, battery and so on—and have a good strength of Regular N.C.O.s; and they should be adequately equipped. And what is the object? The object is to put them into the field as units with about four weeks' training after call-up—and it would take only a small proportion of the present Territorial Army.
905 Then I think we want a second tier, which should not be armed or trained on the present divisional basis but should comprise the balance of the present units. They should be provided with jeeps, wireless sets and small arms. This tier would not need to be manned to more than about 50 per cent., and it would provide the framework for organised bodies of trained men to aid the civil power in the event of disaster, plus the framework for the vital communication network. This tier would also form the basis for further divisions should we become involved in large-scale and long-drawn-out operations—for instance, in Africa. The present annual cost of the Territorial Army is about £35 million, and very great possibilities exist for saving money here on lines of the kind I have suggested.
A very big question is: what should be done about the reinforcement of the British Army of the Rhine on mobilisation, which would require a large number of units, mainly administrative, and a large number of individual officers and men? In fact, to-day we should have to double the strength of the Rhine Army on mobilisation—another 50,000 men. I hold the view that we should send no more men into Germany, and I also hold the view that we should opt out of our commitments to reinforce the Rhine Army on mobilisation. Within the context of a nuclear war the reinforcement of the Rhine Army is completely irrelevant.
I would put four conclusions to your Lordships. First, the organisation of the Reserves in the Army needs to be simplified and brought into line with our requirements. Secondly, the future of Home Defence needs to be determined. The money spent on it at present is very largely wasted. Thirdly, the Territorial Army needs to be drastically reshaped, and it should accept the definite home defence commitments on the lines I have suggested. Lastly, we should reduce our expenditure on defence in a way which will bring increased efficiency. So often a reduction in finance on defence means a loss of efficiency. We must do it in a way which will increase efficiency, and I suggest that that is possible on the lines I have indicated.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I must first of all ask for your Lordships' indulgence, as this is the first time I have addressed your Lordships' House, although it does not say so on the list which we have, and apologise for not having spoken before owing to a recurrent illness. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for raising this subject and debate, because it gives me an opportunity to say a few words on the Territorial Army, about which I feel very deeply—and for one reason in particular. My late father was the vice-chairman of a committee set up by Mr. Haldane (as he then was) for the purpose of forming the Territorial Army from the Yeomanry and Volunteers.
Incidentally, one of the committee's advisers—there were many if them, including Major-General Sir Douglas Haig—was my grandfather, Sir Harry Crichton, who commanded the Hampshire Volunteer Brigade. The result of these efforts was the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, passed when the Government of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman were in office; and the T.A. was founded on a county basis. I know the great interest that my father always took in the T.A., in their affairs and in the welfare of their officers and men. As Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, he used to visit every camp in the area of which he was President, and this knowledge emboldens me to speak to your Lordships to-day.
There is one point in my own experience to which I want to draw your Lordships' attention, although I am afraid I am very out-of-date, because I left the active list of the Territorial Army in 1949. As your Lordships will know, in 1945 the old Territorial Army stood down, and in 1947 it was reconstituted. There was thus a gap of two years. I rejoined then; and I felt, as I think many of us felt, that, had that gap not taken place, had the Territorial Army continued straight through and the drill halls been kept for people to go to, recruiting on the volunteer basis would have been very much easier.
In the area in which I was then living and working, I was offered and accepted command of an artillery T.A. Regiment. We hoped to recruit from a pre-war Territorial Regiment which had been formed in that area before the war, and which 907S had served—although I did not serve with them, I know their history—with great gallantry throughout the war. Very few of them rejoined, but I feel that the situation might have been better and more might have rejoined had there not been that gap of two years before the Territorial Army was formed up again after the war. I know there were other difficulties involved. There was a necessary conversion from field artillery to anti-aircraft; but that, again, I do not think would have been so difficult (I know, because I experienced it myself before the war) with a regiment in being. This is less difficult than asking people to come into a regiment equipped with a type of gun with which they are unfamiliar.
My Lords, that about carries me to the limit of my experience, but, for the reasons that I have given, I hope Her Majesty's Government will endeavour to keep the Territorial Army going and that there will be full consultations with the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces' Association in any, decisions which they have to make. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has said that those consultations would take place, and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will reassure us at the end of the debate that that will be so.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ LORD HAIRE OF WHITEABBEY
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for introducing the discussion to-day and for giving us Back-Benchers our annual chance of releasing our pent-up feelings about the Forces. In his wide-ranging speech, which I found most interesting, the noble Lord produced a number of pegs on which we could hang our hats with great ease. It is interesting to note that most of the hats which were hung up on the opposite side of the House were of Navy blue or brown, whereas on this side they are likely to be of light blue. But he did not produce the particular peg that I was looking for. It fell to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, to produce the peg of Coastal Command; and in a few moments I will say a few words about that.
Before doing so I should like to thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, upon his maiden speech. As one who has himself come so recently to 908 your Lordships' House, and who is, indeed, as yet very much a child of this House, it is somewhat unusual for me to find myself in the position of welcoming a maiden speaker. But perhaps I am all the more able to do this, since I have so recently made my own maiden speech. Therefore, I appreciate the trepidation with which the noble Lord approached this speech, and I recognise that, as he comes from a famous family with long Parliamentary traditions, his speech to-day, which was uncontroversial, gives us promise that he will be more controversial in the future. We look forward to hearing from him again.
Now, my Lords, to return to the subject which must be very near and dear to my noble friend Lord Shackleton, since he and I were for a number of years in Coastal Command. He is going to reply to-night, and I am hoping that I may be able, along with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, to extract some answers from him. I do this because in these Defence debates we are not playing at Party politics but seeking information with regard to Defence. Personally, I feel that Coastal Command, which played an unspectacular but important rôle in the last war, is to some extent treated as the Cinderella of the Forces. It was almost as important as Fighter Command in the rôle it played in the Battle of Britain; because if Coastal Command, with the co-operation of the Navy, had not protected our shores and ports, we might well have been starved to death in the last war.
The rôle of Coastal Command was the protection of our Merchant fleets and convoys. This involved long weary, antisubmarine patrols, with their long endurance so tiring for our pilots. These were certainly unspectacular, and there was not much headline stuff there. It is true that in the last twenty years there has been very little headline stuff come out from the Air Ministry and from the country with regard to the rôle of Coastal Command. One has heard so little publicly with regard to Coastal Command that one is inclined to think that it has almost "stayed put". Yet though the rôle remains the same, the task is immensely more difficult.
Like other countries, we have entered into a period of development of nuclear 909 submarines, with their long underwater endurance which makes detection much more difficult. The development of the Polaris-type submarine, with its rocket potential and underwater firepower, makes undersea warfare much more potentially dangerous in my view than, say, space warfare. Yet, how little we have heard of it; and how much more important will the rôle of Coastal Command or the Royal Air Force be in such a nuclear war should it ever happen in the future! So, if my noble friend Lord Shackleton can to-night venture into these troubled waters without danger to himself, we shall be glad to hear something about the Defence strategy, the new equipment and materials which will affect this underwater war.
But the question I have to ask is something much simpler than those that have already been hurled at both Ministers today. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, was very prolific in these; and I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, making his first contribution to a Defence debate, stood out manfully through these questions. So, while I am offering congratulations, I will also offer him my congratulations for the very notable Front-Bench speech that he made to-day. The simple question that I have to address to the noble Lord has really been stolen by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. The noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, has an honoured name; it is the name of a famous aircraft which has done long service in Coastal Command since the war—the Shackleton. No one should be more keen or more proud to give us an answer to the question: What is happening to the Shackleton's successor? Is this aircraft, which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, spoke about, ready to be launched? Are we, in fact, to have some information in regard to the Mark III Shackleton?
Both the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and I were closely associated with antisubmarine warfare during the war, and until a few years ago both he and I did our annual training and continued our interests; and we were allowed to continue our interests until our hair grew too grey for us to be called up for annual training. This is what gives me a keen interest in the Joint Anti-Submarine School in Londonderry, Northern Ireland—and reference has been made to-day to the work being done there in the hover- 910 craft field. This Joint Anti-Submarine School is under threat of transfer or closure, and this is causing great alarm and despondency in the old city of Londonderry, which has a famous history and a long association with our Naval Forces. So controversial has the subject become that the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has in fact visited my right honourable friend the Prime Minister; indeed, a deputation had a meeting with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence and discussed it with him. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State bears a very honoured Irish name—Healey—and so he should have been among friends. They are anxious to know what will be the result of the Defence review, which presumably contains the answers to their questions.
It is not only my own interest in the Joint Anti-Submarine School that prompts me to refer to this matter. I am an Ulsterman, and I know Londonderry well. That gives me an added interest in what is to happen there, so I hope that my noble friend will have some encouraging news to give us. Since July, 1964, and more recently as a result of the Defence review undertaken by the present Government, these rumours of the transfer of this school to the English Channel, presumably to Plymouth, Southampton or Portsmouth, have been growing apace. I presume that if, in fact, a transfer is contemplated, it is in the interests of economy. I can think of no other reason. These proposals have not been verified by the Government, but there is no doubt that in Londonderry they are causing great concern.
The arguments against such a move may be summarised in the following way. First, there are the strategic arguments. I am told—and I believe it to be true—that Londonderry is much nearer deep water than, say, Plymouth. It is 90 miles from Londonderry to the exercise grounds, compared with 180 miles from Plymouth. As noble Lords will know, Londonderry provided very suitable cover for the ports of Mersey and the Clyde during the war. Those ports were kept open, and we should not readily close a base which has done such useful service, and may be called on again.
The waters around Londonderry are much less populated. I should have 911 thought, than the rather busier waters of the English Channel, so that when detachments of NATO forces arrive there is much more room to exercise in the Londonderry area. The only gain which I can see would be the small economy which could be effected in the cost of moving the units of our Fleet from their naval bases to Londonderry. If that be the only economy, I submit that the money saved would easily be spent in handing out unemployment benefit and National Assistance to those who would be put out of work.
There are also the economic arguments. Londonderry depends on her Naval Base to keep alive. Out of a population of 56,000 there is an unemployment rate at the unbelievable height of 11.8 per cent. at this time. Noble Lords will know that in Northern Ireland there has been a continuous period of high-level unemployment, unlike anything we have experienced for many years in other parts of the United Kingdom. If the Naval Base is taken from Londonderry, the unemployment rate there will rise to 15.7 per cent., which will put the town out of action. In addition to naval personnel and established civil servants, about 450 civilians have been fully employed at the Base. If 300 men are added to the present hard core of unemployment in the city (most of them are over 50 years of age and have had a long association with the Naval Base) one can understand what a tragedy would result. The loss of wages and salaries would reduce the spending power in the city by between£750,000and£1 million, and the local tradesmen would lose the benefit of the visits to Londonderry—irregular though they may be—of other Naval units. The port would be affected. In 1964, one million tons of shipping used Londonderry Port, of which 210,000 tons was represented by Admiralty vessels.
There are also the social arguments, and it is only natural that, speaking from these Benches, I should stress these arguments. There can be no doubt that a depressed area could be created by this single decision. It would surely be contrary to everything that we on this side of the House stand for if we were to make a "Jarrow" of Londonderry and kill a town. What will be the gain if we save a few pounds a year by siting the 912 Joint Anti-Submarine School elsewhere and, as I said earlier, spend more in unemployment benefit and National Assistance? In addition there would be the cost of removing the Base.
Since July, 1964 the shadows have been deepening over Derry, and anything that hurts Derry hurts every Ulsterman. Ulster is a proud province and hates to lose its association with any of the Forces of Her Majesty. I beg my noble friend to sit down with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and look at this problemde novo;and, with his own experience of anti-submarine warfare, to try to convince my right honourable friend, and the senior officers and civil servants concerned, that they have much to lose and little to gain by this proposed move of the Joint Anti-Submarine School from Londonderry. My Lords, I apologise for introducing into this debate what may appear to be a local problem, but it is not just the fate of Londonderry which is at stake; it is an important part of our anti-submarine training in which I happen to be keenly interested.
§ 5.47 p.m.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Haire of Whiteabbey, will not claim that the "light blue" is only on the other side of the House. I will not follow all his arguments, but I will say that I concur thoroughly with the arguments he has made about Londonderry and the Joint Anti-Submarine Base. This school has always been spoken of well, and not least by American friends who have had the pleasure of going there. I should find it difficult to believe that it was being closed for any other reasons than those of finance.
This is, in a way, a new type of debate. When we have discussed Defence through the three Services on previous occasions the debate has generally been dominated by some great strategic issue which has prevented us from talking about the lesser things or raising important points concerning equipment. For that reason we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for setting what is perhaps a new fashion for debates on Defence in this House. I propose to raise two or three points in an attempt to follow the noble Lord. They may be slightly disconnected. 913 Before doing so, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, whether he can tell us what exactly is his view on the statement by Mr. McNamara about a "Common Market" in war materials'? The implication of those words was not clear to me, but they appear to be among the most potentially important words which we have heard spoken recently. I have always felt that the extension of the purchase of war materials between Europe and America could lead to our NATO Alliance having a very different appearance. We have had a reference to-day to the Armalite rifle, the CR 15, as I believe it is called. I shall be surprised if that rifle does not replace the FN rifle, even though it would not be a cheap weapon. None of us objects to using American equipment—we have been glad to do so—provided that some of our equipment is used and sold in America.
I wish to refer to some equipment and ask what we have which could be sold in America. Because there is not a great deal of certainty about it, may I ask what is the position in the Transport Command of the Royal Air Force? In a Written Answer in another place on May 25 some information was given. One is always glad of information which is put out in a simplified form, but I am wondering whether that Answer was not almost as misleading as it was informing. To take medium-range aircraft—I am leaving out the Argosy because it is recent equipment—I see that the Hastings and the Beverley will be replaced by the C 130 or C 130E. Again, there are our dear old friends the Valettas, with a design dated, I suppose, somewhere about 1945. When we come to the Valetta, we see no current plans for replacement. Could I be told what that really means? It cannot mean that the Valetta is not out of date; nor can it mean that its purposes are not useful. I am certain that these aeroplanes have a very useful place in transport and training. Then we come to the Andover. Is that replacing an aircraft or is the Andover a net gain to transport?
May I venture now to turn to the strategic transports? Here we have the Britannia and the Comet. No decision has been taken on the replacement of the Britannia and the Comet, but we know that in the course of the next year or so about a score of Belfast and VC10's 914 will come into service. I think that this is important. It is important because it has taken the Air Force a long time to appreciate the vital nature of its transport rôle. I hope that it is being appreciated more deeply in the higher planning circles of the Royal Air Force that this is a long-term rôle of the utmost importance.
I should like to turn now to the Royal Navy. I was glad to hear the remarks of my noble friend Lord Glasgow. I knew him when he was a Captain in the Home Fleet, a position he filled with great distinction. If I may say so, when I was associated with the Navy my experience was that officers did not use the technical ability of their non-commissioned officers as freely and, I believe, as usefully as they did in the R.A.F. I do not say that the flight sergeants were more competent than the petty officers, but I believe that the officers in the R.A.F. relied more on their judgment; and in my opinion they were right in doing so.
There has been a certain amount of talk to-day about cheaper and less sophisticated ships. The difficulty about this is that the Navy has to fulfil a world rôle. But I still think that the point advanced by my noble friends Lord Jellicoe and Lord Glasgow is valid, and I hope careful consideration will be given to it. When I was in South-East Asia, we had the rather undignified picture of an escort, or even of a destroyer, trying to chase a pirate with two big Johnson outboard motors, which they could not catch. I feel that this is an absurd position and there is really no reason why we should not have the kind of ships which could reasonably fulfil such duties.
I was extremely interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said about hovercraft, and grateful to him for the amount of information he was able to give us. I am not unaware of how difficult it is for the Government to give all the information sometimes asked for, and my noble friend Lord Jellicoe asked, very properly, many questions. I was interested to hear that the hovercraft was now being used in Borneo and I hope we shall be informed of how it succeeds. The great rivers of Borneo are ideally suited for this craft. Not only do they have mud flats, as the noble Lord said, but they have dangerous rapids which 915 change quickly with a rise and fall of twenty to forty feet of water. I hope that the hovercrafts can be used more widely, and it would be particularly interesting if they could be used at sea where conditions might well be difficult. Perhaps the noble Lord could give us some information about this, if not to-day, perhaps at a later time.
May I raise one other point about the Army? I am astonished that we should be 1,000 officers short in the Army. I do not believe that we have ever had finer and better educated young people than in this country to-day. Why is it that we cannot draw them into the Armed Forces, which, we should frankly recognise are fulfilling a big rôle in maintaining stability, and hence peace, in the world to-day? Is it something in the way we approach them? May I put it another way: are our methods of recruiting wrong? We have been doing a great deal in the scientific examination of candidates since the war. Many of your Lordships, as I have, have seen this conducted. I think it is very clever and good and I am pretty sure it can tell the crackerjacks, the chaps at the top and maybe the chaps at the bottom. But I should like to ask the Government: are these examinations not too rigid for the big area in the middle? They have set out certain standards which they have no doubt thought out carefully, but are they quite certain that these are the right standards for the young men of to-day? I am convinced that the young men of to-day are full of idealism and if they realise the great task that the Army is fulfilling, they will be only too willing to play their part in it.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, when I was first commissioned my first sergeant pointed out to me that the lowest form of animal life was the second lieutenant. When I looked around at the galaxy of Field Marshals and Admirals who at any rate earlier in the debate were present in your Lordships' House, I realised that everything in this world is relative and that as a mere colonel part-time I am still in square 1. In my own defence, and by way of declaring my interest, I should like to say that so long as I have the honour to be a Territorial Army aide-de-camp to Her Majesty the Queen, so long shall I con- 916 sider myself to be still serving and so long shall I continue to sit on these Benches.
This gives me the lead in, to say that to-day I am a very cross Cross-Bencher. I consider that the way the Territorial Army has been treated in the last six months is criminally scandalous, and if I could think of anything worse and more abusive to say, I would say it. I am unable to think of a more refined form of torture than the threat of slow strangulation of what I consider to be the finest, most self-sacrificing, patriotic and non-political section of our population. I think that the public relations aspect of this business is wrong. I feel that so soon as the first rumour appeared in the Press the Government should have straight away denied or confirmed this rumour. After all, we treat wounded animals better. I am sure that your Lordships have heard most of these rumours about the Territorial Army, rumours which are most disquieting to the people who are associated with it.
First of all, it is said that it is a canard put out by the Government just to see what public reaction would be. I do not believe that.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, is the noble Lord suggesting that the Government have deliberately circulated such a rumour?
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, I am just saying what the rumour is and I followed that by saying that I did not believe it. The other rumour that is going around is that there is some eminence grise with an oversized chip on his shoulder and an undersized C.N.D. badge in his lapel advising the Government on the subject. I am just telling your Lordships these things because that is what is going around in the Territorial Army to-day. Not so long ago the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, asked a Question and an Answer came back, as we are getting again to-day, about the Defence review.
All my life I have been some sort of soldier—Regular, irregular, part-time. I have always considered it to be a part of the job of our rulers to have regular Defence reviews. Why so much should be hidden behind this particular fence, I fail to see. The volunteer system is deep in our history, right from the train bands, 917 the militia, the yeomanry and volunteers of the 18th century. In my part of the world there were 27 units of battalion strength in 1807; and the Territorial Army infantry battalions to-day are descended from the 1st Rifle Volunteers, raised in Exeter in 1852. I had the honour to command the battalion which still carries that flash. In the Boer War, over one-third of the volunteers of yeomanry volunteered to serve with their affiliated Regular units. There were 15 Territorial divisions overseas by the end of 1915. And the Hitler war is sufficiently recent for your Lordships to know what contribution the Territorial Army made then.
Why, then, have these damaging rumours been allowed to go on? That is what so riles me, and a lot of other people. They are not damaging to the Territorial Army soldier, but they are damaging to the permanent employees, who are wondering what will happen to their jobs; and they are even more damaging to the Territorial Army, in that the employers are using these rumours as an excuse to stop the chaps from going to camp, particularly this year. When I think of the amount of time and money I have spent wining and dining and soft-soaping these self-same employers—it made my pocket bleed then, and it makes my heart bleed now.
Last month we had a debate in your Lordships' House on Commonwealth Relations. I do not know whether your Lordships have even considered this aspect of it. Last week we read in the Press of the representatives of the London Scottish (I think it was) flying over to anniversary celebrations of the Toronto Scottish. I do not suppose many of your Lordships here have, like me, served in a Commonwealth country equivalent of a Territorial Army unit. I can assure your Lordships that these affiliations have great binding effect; and, again, I think it would be an absolute scandal if by wholesale abolishing of Territorial Army units we also cut off those links.
I feel that what we must do for the Territorial Army is to rely on and build up local patriotism. It is the local patriotism, and units with hard-won traditions, that are the great stand-by in time of need. Once you abolish them, as I know, it is the hardest thing on earth to raise them again. The strongest battalion in the Territorial Army before the war was the 6th Devons. They had their Old Com- 918 rades' Association and everything behind them. If anyone had carried out the old military principle of reinforcing success, they would have built on and got that unit going. But what did they do? The powers-that-be, probably started by some G2 just out of staff college, who knew what was going on in Caithness but had never heard of the West of England, had the unit turned into an anti-aircraft unit, which in itself is an insult to a self-respecting infantryman; and secondly, they abolished it, and a whole section of the countryside was insulted. A year later I tried to build up just a company in this area, and one continually came up against: "Why did they do that?" That is one of the things which I should like the Government to bear in mind when they are dealing with Territorial Army units in their Defence review.
The second point that I should like to mention is the question of Civil Defence training. Civil Defence training is truly part and parcel of the training of all arms and services in this country—Regular, part-time, Navy, Air Force and all others. If you once give the impression to the Territorial Army that they are nothing more than a glorified Civil Defence unit you will knock the spirit out of them straight away. By the same count, all those of your Lordships who have been on Civil Defence exercises, as I have, will know that Civil Defence, as we understand it to-day, cannot function without the Territorial Army.
While we are on exercises, I am sure that many of your Lordships have been on mobilisation exercises. I cannot for the life of me see how the Regular Army could cope with a general mobilisation if you abolished the Territorial Army. So if you are going to make any changes—this is my plea—try to make them within the units which have these traditions and this firm implantation in their local parts of the country.
Then there is another important matter—it has been skimmed around already by some noble Lords—and that is the question of propaganda. I feel that the Government, whichever Government it is, should protect to as great a degree as possible these people like Territorial Army soldiers from the propaganda of people who arc discouraging their recruiting. Take, for example, what went 919 on in the middle 'thirties. I remember when I was at Oxford being attacked by various members of the (I think it was) Peace Pledge Union on my way to the senior division of the O.T.C. They were saying: "What is the use of training? What is the use of joining this? What is the use of doing that? Gas is powerful, but in a couple of days everything will be over." Look what happened! There is some resemblance in that to much of the propaganda going on to-day, and I think there is a certain amount which could be done to reinforce or support the recruiting propaganda as a counteracting propaganda to those who are against the country defending itself.
Lastly, on this subject—and here I clash with the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein—of the Regular Army and the Territorial Army, most of the people sent to train and command the Territorial Army are first-rate chaps. They are all chaps who enter into the spirit of the units in the locality where they are. But from time to time the Territorial Army gets sent the wrong type, and he does irreparable damage. I was fifteen years a Regular, and I have been on both sides of the counter. If your Lordships will permit me, I should like to tell a story which came from a sergeants' mess, and which I think illustrates what I mean. It is a story of four gentlemen in a railway carriage. Two of them got talking together, and they found, first of all, that they were both married and they had three sons—one was in this, one in that, and one in something else. And then they found that they were both brigadiers. The next thing was that the third member in the carriage could control himself no longer, and he said: "This is a most peculiar coincidence. I am married, and I have three sons, one in the Navy, one in the Church and one in Law. And I am a brigadier." Then they all turned their attention to the fourth member in the carriage. He looked up and said: "I am no use to you. I am a sergeant. I am not married. I have three sons. They are all brigadiers." So choose the chaps you send to the Territorial Army with a certain amount of care, and then we can get on to this one-Army basis.
920 Just two stories to end with. Six years ago I was coming back late one night; it was raining, and I was going up a hill in my car. I had been to a drill hall a long way away, and I saw a man trundling up the road. I picked him up and gave him a lift. He was one of my battalion. He lived in a village to which, in the winter months, the local bus company did not run after the end of his drill night. Regularly through those months this man was walking 5½ to 6 miles home in the winter. I dropped him at his council house on the edge of this village, and as I turned my car to home I felt very humble. I said to myself: "Well, I will not grumble any more about the hours I am away. So long as there are chaps like that around, then it is an honour to serve." I do not think we ought, in the words of The Times article the other day, to throw that sort of thing out of the window.
Last night I had a most frightful nightmare concerning events in about seven months' time. I dreamt that the Regular Forces had been cut down to the numbers required East of Suez or in defending Germany. The police were very hard pushed, with one or two farmers protesting, and one or two incipient race riots. Suddenly, the recently disbanded Territorial Army decided to invade the Palace of Westminster. I was suffocated to death under the Leader of the House and a couple of Bishops in full canonicals, and the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow. It was an awful death. The Government had left themselves nothing to fall back on.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, we are all grateful to my noble friend and brother officer, Lord Thurlow, for introducing this debate in such a masterful way. I intend to confine my remarks solely to the Territorial Army. There have been many distinguished speakers who have gone (and others still to come will go) more deeply into the many questions connected with the thorny subject of Defence generally.
Having served both as a Regular and as a Territorial soldier, and having also been over the years a member of a Highland and Territorial Auxiliary Forces Association, I wish to put a few considerations before your Lordships. As 921 we have already been told, we must start by getting it absolutely clear what we want the Territorial Army to do. I suggest that if we want to keep this splendid volunteer force of part-time citizen soldiers in existence, it must retain its territorial affiliations, its regimental connections and organisation. Once this is destroyed it will destroy the whole spirit and worth of the Territorial Army.
It has been said that in modern all-out war there will be no time for Proclamations for embodiment and for intensive training, as in previous wars. This is undoubtedly true. But do your Lordships believe that this kind of war is likely? Personally, I do not. We might be faced with a non-nuclear war of some size, in which case the function of the Territorial Army would be much as before. More likely are the bush-fire wars which are always with us, and are likely to be for some time. The reinforcement of these trouble points presents great difficulty, in part due to the fact that so much—and, in the opinion of many, far too much—of the Regular Army is tied up in Germany. At present, so far as the Territorial Army is concerned we rely on the "Ever-Readies"—a splendid conception, though not enough to fill all the needs.
What about the Territorial Army for this? My answer is a most emphatic, "No". Let me take a possible example. In my area, the Territorial personnel consists of farm workers and men in small industries, such as distilleries and the like, located over a very wide area—in fact, over four counties. For the sake of argument, let us say that an infantry company of a local battalion is earmarked to reinforce either its own Regular unit or some other Regular unit in some other part of the world. This company, widely scattered, will need longer and more concentrated training in order to be instantly ready to go overseas. How will employers react to this? Remember that the firms and businesses, unlike those in an industrial area, employing hundreds of men, where the replacement of key workers and hands generally may not be quite such a problem, are small.
The company I have taken as an example will have the best men in the battalion. In all probability they will be the key men on the farm and in the small business. Indeed, when the total 922 number of men employed is small, the total labour force could disappear for long periods for special training, or even, in the event of active service, disappear altogether. Therefore, some other means must be found to fill this requirement—possibly a large expansion of the "Ever-Readies", to whom could be added some of the numerous classes of reservists, whose duties so often seem in any case to overlap.
Turning, finally, to Civil Defence, the idea that the Territorial Army should take over Civil Defence altogether is impracticable. The Territorial organisation is not suited for this. But there is no doubt whatever that the Territorial Army could be an invaluable support for Civil Defence, by being made responsible, as the noble and gallant Viscount told us, for the maintenance of law and order in the stricken area, as well as supplementing the resources of the Civil Defence for communications which, in an atomic war, will be utterly destroyed. It has happened before in history that we have tried to get defence on the cheap; and it does not pay. You cannot starve, on the one hand, your well-tried protection, yet spend countless millions of pounds on planes that never leave the ground and rockets that never leave the drawing board. Changes there must be, and I think that every Territorial officer and man is perfectly prepared to co-operate in any necessary change. But any Government will be well advised to think very carefully before they scrap the finest volunteer force in the world, and one without which our country would have been in a sorry state in the last two wars.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ LORD SUFFIELD
My Lords, I should like to join with other noble Lords in welcoming the opportunity which the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, has given us to discuss the problems of manpower and training in the Army to-day. I should like to confine my remarks to the Army and certain matters which I believe affect the efficiency and morale of the ordinary regimental soldier. I am glad to hear that some of the new range of weapons introduced by the late Government are coming into service. They will be most welcome. But I should like to make one proviso: that there must be sufficient ammunition to permit the training not 923 only of their normal operators, but of those others who may have to man them in an emergency. If this is not available these weapons are of little use.
I feel sure your Lordships will agree that, whatever the Army is called upon to do, it is the infantry soldier who finally has to carry out the task, normally in conditions of acute discomfort. Among the other qualities which he must possess are the ability to hear and not be heard, and to see and not be seen. In short, the equipment which a soldier carries must help him to achieve this aim. There has been progress in design, but I believe that there is still room for improvement; and what may appear unimportant and trivial to those responsible for design can mean the difference between life and death to a soldier operating in the jungle. We have a tendency to be too "Rolls-Royce" minded in designing equipment, when it is unnecessary and uneconomical; and quite often equipment is made to last a long time, which adds considerably to its weight. It also tends to discourage replacement of that equipment because of the large unused stocks held in ordnance depôts. In these days of high labour costs in production and in storage might it not be more economical, where it is feasible, to make better use of local purchase of civilian equipment? I suspect that the Treasury would object to this course, as they cannot believe that anyone other than themselves can exercise any financial discretion. It always seems strange to me that one can buy a pair of army socks more cheaply on the civilian market than through Army channels.
Let me quote some examples of the equipment I have in mind. First, binoculars. The present binoculars have been in existence since certainly as long ago as the last war. They are solid and heavy, although of adequate performance; but do they compare in price, weight and performance with, say, Japanese binoculars or continental types? Or perhaps it would be possible to get some from Hong Kong—I do not know, Another piece of equipment which is excellent in design but, I think, unnecessary, is the Army torch. This is about 8 inches long, with a clip designed to fit on a soldier's belt. Anyone who crawls 924 on the ground will invariably lose the torch. Would it not be possible to buy a simple, cheap torch which can be carried in one's pocket, and which could be bought in most parts of the world in Woolworth's, or its equivalent, but would be perfectly adequate and, I believe, cheaper than the present torch? What is more, when it wears out it could be thrown away without any great financial sacrifice.
Another item which again seems trifling is the Army water-bottle top, which is made of metal. If you unscrew an Army water-bottle top is invariably squeaks. If it were made of plastic it would not; it would also be lighter. If a man is caught in an ambush, or in some similar situation, such noises can make the most tremendous difference whether or not he survives. The wireless sets which have been introduced have one disadvantage. The C42 set used by the infantry battalion cannot communicate with aircraft, so the infantry have to carry an additional set for this purpose. This seems to me to be rather hard on the infantry. Is there no possibility of adapting the C42 with a flick frequency, such as I believe the old set had, thus enabling one to speak to aircraft? This would save an additional set being issued.
Next I would mention certain items of clothing which are important from the point of view of the concealment of a soldier when he is on operations. There used to be a green towel and a green vest issued. The ordinary white variety showed up for miles away. The green ones, I understand, were withdrawn because the dye caused a skin disease. It seems to me that it should have been possible by now to discover a dye which did not cause skin disease. Again, some years ago the Army was issued with a dark blue beret. It always seemed strange to me that it was not a khaki beret, but the beret is often the only alternative to the steel helmet, as I understand that the combat hat is not always available. Again, a dark blue beret shows up for miles. I have also been told that our combat clothing tends to shine. This, I must say, is relatively speaking, but any infantry soldier will know what I mean. In this respect the clothing does not compare well with that issued, for instance, to the French Army.
925 I should now like to mention briefly some administrative causes of dissatisfaction. The first is the policy of the Ministry of Public Building and Works when designing married quarters. These are being built in an ultra-modern style, with large areas of glass. They are also situated in a new married-quarters estate. There are complaints that these houses are extremely expensive to heat and also lack privacy. It seems to me to be rather pandering to the whim of the architects and not giving the soldier what he wants.
Secondly, the current policy of sending men overseas unaccompanied for one year tours is posing a problem for the wives in regard to the maintenance and upkeep of the house and garden. I think the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, mentioned the desirability of a separation allowance, and this is one of the ways in which it could be used. It is considered unfair to expect wives to look after the children, the house, and to do the heavy work of the garden, such as mowing the lawn, without help. If the wife is moved to another quarter and she hands over her existing quarter and garden in bad order, her husband, who may be serving in Aden, suffers stoppages of pay. I will leave his reactions to the imagination of your Lordships.
My last point concerns the policy, again of the Ministry of Public Building and Works, when planning new barracks, of trying to centralise and standardise everything in those barracks. It is intended that such barracks may hold two or three battalions. In the interests of economy, the necessity for maintaining the units' identity, traditions and independence is ignored. For example, it is proposed that one cookhouse should supply the other ranks, the sergeants' and officers' messes of all the units in these barracks. In addition, such things as transport would be centralised: This policy would prevent commanding officers from training their own senior or master cooks and transport sergeants, because these duties would be carried out by some permanent organisation, probably civilians. Yet at any moment one of these battalions could find itself sent at short notice to any part of the world and expected to operate as an independent unit, although untrained to do so. 926 I submit that efficiency cannot be sacrificed in the interests of economy.
Those are the only points I wish to bring to your Lordships' attention, but I would ask that the views of the regimental soldier be considered and that the Government ensure that those views reach them, because unless the efficiency and morale of the regiments are maintained the effectiveness of the Army as a whole will deteriorate.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I am sure we are all much moved by the tribute of the noble Lord, Lord Suffield, to the infantry soldier, and it must warm the cockles of the heart of every infantry soldier here to-day to listen to an infantry officer who was so skilled in man management and so devoted to his job. We must be very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for initiating this debate to-day. I should like to take up particularly and to develop what he said about the Territorial Army, my justification for doing so being that I reckon that I served in it for 35 years of which for 14 I was in command of a unit and also for four years I was chairman of one of the larger T.A. associations.
The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, reminded us of the work that his father did in succession to Lord Haldane as Secretary of State for War. I am sure that Lord Haldane would have been the first to say that after sixty years it was time that the Territorial Army that he devised and which had stood through two world wars more or less intact and unchanged had critical examination. Indeed, I am sure that Lord Haldane would have been surprised that the Territorial Army that he devised, and he devised importantly with the help of Lord Douglas Haig, who was a university graduate, should have stood for those sixty years.
I should like to remind your Lordships that when the Territorial Army plans were put out there was major opposition to them, led by Field Marshal Lord Roberts and others of the old guard of the Army at that time. They tried to persuade King Edward VII to veto the Haldane proposals, on the ground chiefly that you could not train a part-time soldier to handle the then exceedingly complicated 927 artillery. But 1915 proved that the part-time soldier could easily be trained to handle the artillery, and 1940–45 proved that he could be trained to handle much more complicated weapons than were ever thought of at the time the Territorial Army was formed. But it also showed that only a small proportion of the total enlistment could be so trained for the more complicated jobs that the Army had to undertake. And this applies to the training which is now getting even more complicated. The conclusion that must be drawn from that is that the efficient T.A. must be a smaller T.A. in the future, and in this connection I would fully support—and congratulate at the same time—the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, on his contribution to the debate. I think this is very much in line with what the noble and gallant Viscount also stated.
Of course, if you have a smaller Territorial Army it must have greater demands as well as greater rewards. The prime rôle, as I see it, would be for such an Army to reinforce the Regular units. I cannot understand why we have continued with this cumbersome military hierarchy which we have in the Territorial Army. Pretending that we have a division does not deceive any of the enemy; it only deceives ourselves and perhaps gives jobs to senior officers who might otherwise have to be pensioned. We are, I submit, in the Territorial Army wrongly organised, and I am quite sure that the T.A. bill of£20 million, or whatever it is, could be drastically reduced by a drastic pruning of the Regular senior officers who are engaged in the training and supervision of the T.A. There could, of course, also be some economies effected in the streamlining of the work of the Territorial Army associations; much of the work, particularly as regards housing and buildings, is, duplicated with the Army and this should be looked into and set right.
I would like particularly this afternoon to speak about the universities and the Services. Lord Haldane, at the same time as he introduced the Territorial Army, introduced the Officers' Training Corps, and with the Officers' Training Corps he set up the organisation of military education committees in the universities. At that time, the main object was the provision of officers for the Reserve and for 928 temporary commissions. And this was extremely well done as regards the Army in the 1914 war. The Certificate B officers were in France and fighting by October of 1914—trained and fighting. Whereas that situation could not be as quickly reproduced in 1939, there were fully trained officers in the field straight from the universities by January and February, 1940. The university commissions in those days were a secondary consideration but they were an important consideration, and I would ask the noble and gallant Viscount to cast his mind back to how many of the Major-Generals who served under him or of whom he knew during the last war had obtained university commissions. He would probably find that the number was an unduly large proportion. I must admit that as a general rule, and with but a few exceptions, those with university commissions did not get to the higher ranks of full General and above; but there were many Major-Generals and a few Lieutenant-Generals.
The universities are aware of the valuable contribution that they can make to the Services by reason of this training. From 1950 onwards the universities have been trying to place the major emphasis of their training of undergraduates for the Services on regular or permanent conditions, and this has been especially the case since the end of National Service. There is a corollary to this: there must be more awareness on the part of the Services of the fact that the universities are every year taking a bigger share of young men of intelligence, and are leaving a smaller number available for selection for direct entry through Sandhurst, Cranwell and Dartmouth.
The R.A.F. has always been alert to this point. The officers whom they have posted to the university air squadrons have been of the highest calibre. One can compare them to the calibre of officer the Army used to post to the O.T.C.s in the inter-war years, though they do not post officers of that calibre to the O.T.C.s at the present time. But the R.A.F. has been on to this point, and, in consequence, they have a steady stream the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, gave us the figures; I think he said that something of the order of 90 R.A.F. cadets are at present training. I know that in my own University of Edinburgh those put forward for this cadet scheme have been averaging 929 over the past few years about four per annum (in some years we have gone up to as many as six) for regular commissions to Cranwell. These university graduates going up to the R.A.F. for training cost, in actual training time, about half what it costs to train a lad going straight into Cranwell.
The Army is now recognising far more the value of the O.T.C.s, and they are doing far more than was the case a few years ago. I had the privilege on Monday of visiting my own O.T.C. in Southern Command, and I was tremendously impressed by what Southern Command had laid on for a whole week in taking 100 cadets around different military establishments and showing them the Army. They are doing this for a whole week. These 100 cadets are going round and seeing the Army in Southern Command. They will follow this up by one week of actual military training. Unfortunately, the Navy is lagging behind in this respect. It has not been easy, although some of the universities have kept contact with the old naval sections of war time by linking up with the nearest R.N.R. division. I would point out to the Navy that if they want engineer officers in the future they will be able to get them only from the universities and from the technical colleges which are now becoming universities. We are making more and more of a corner, as it were, in these young men.
We welcome the medical cadetships, which was the first sign that the Services recognised the draw of young men to the universities—the increase in the proportion of suitable young men coming up to the universities. The medical cadetships were the first sign, arising from the sheer pressure of the failure to get enough doctors following the end of National Service. The medical cadetships have been variously operated by the three Services. Under a medical cadetship, the undergraduate is treated as a junior officer. He draws his pay as a junior officer, and he gets his fees paid. So this is something quite attractive, particularly to the sons of professional men who do not get a large subsidy from the State while they are at university. In the case of the R.A.F., medical cadets have to report to the university air squadron, where they are there looked after. They have to turn up on guest nights and on mess nights, and they are seen once or twice a month, 930 and kept in touch. Much the same applies to the R.N. cadetships.
Unfortunately, because as regards medicals, there is a private army within the Army—the Royal Army Medical Corps—the medical cadets are in no way associated with the O.T.C. Their names are not sent to the O.T.C. The O.T.C., having discovered who they are, asks them to come down. The O.T.C. can do no more, and the cadets do not come. Some of these young men are wasting the money of the Services. Some of them are taking the money only in order to have pocket money while at university. I suggest that there ought to be some supervision of these Army medical cadets. The "general duties" cadetship which has now been introduced consequent upon the success of the medical cadetship scheme, does have this condition attached to it. I think this means that the Service organisations within the universities (and the military education committee established by Lord Haldane is still in existence to look after the interests of the Services) should also exercise a degree of supervision in regard to these cadets, to see that they become qualified as doctors or take their degree.
Any undergraduate going for a permanent commission or being persuaded into a permanent commission requires some nursing along. There is intense competition coming from other quarters. A senior officer can commit some most awful gaffes. I will give your Lordships an instance of what happened to one of our cadets who was applying for a permanent commission in the Army. He was interviewed by a senior officer who meant extremely well—his intentions could not have been better; but one of his early remarks, when he was interviewing the cadet and asking about his education, was this, "I suppose that's a day school?" A little later on, in the same interview (the youngster was applying for an infantry commission) these words were interjected: "You do realise, don't you, that some of your fellow officers will have private means?" I thought that this sort of thing had gone at least twenty years ago. One can hardly credit that it is still going on. I believe that the Army is the only one of the three Services in which this could have happened: it certainly would not have happened in one of the technical arms of the Army. And, in consequence, at least one potential 931 Regular officer has been lost, and, as he talks to his fellow students, possibly more.
What the Services must remember is that there is a small proportion of suitable graduates coming out of the university with the qualifications and the talent for the Services. That group is precisely the same group for which industry is looking. All the big firms, I.C.I., Dunlop and others, go to the universities, interview the young men, talk to them, take them out. This is what the Services have to compete with; and the competition will become keener as time goes on. Now that the State grants cover most of the cost of university education, a prudent parent will advise his son to enter the university so that he may graduate and have behind him a qualification. Then if later he comes out of the Services at age 40 he will have his university qualification, and can be certain of a job.
In conclusion, my Lords, I would emphasise that one should not regard the universities solely from the point of view of providing candidates for Regular commissions. Officers for the Reserve are of almost equal importance. I would put on an equal basis the fact that in the university one has Service units which produce a proportion of graduates with an understanding and an appreciation of one of the Services. If the time of emergency comes and the Serviceman is in contact with the industrialist, with the civil servant or whoever it may be, there can be a meeting of minds. Much can be done for the welfare and the future of the Services by having a proportion of graduates with an understanding of, and indeed with a love for, one particular Service. I would conclude by assuring the Ministry of Defence that they can count on university co-operation. The universities are willing to consider any new proposals which are put forward to bring our methods up to date.
§ 6.53 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for putting this Motion on the Order Paper. I am a serving Territorial Army officer, so I have a slight interest to declare in the matter. I am slightly disappointed by the fact that we have not yet had anything from the Government tending to 932 scotch the reports which have been appearing in the Press concerning the future of the T.A. Until the review has taken place and an official pronouncement is made as to our future, we have to carry on. We are in being, and we have to carry on doing our duty. However, under present conditions I do not think we are getting the support from the top to which we are entitled. We have no lead, but must go on and keep our units going. I was also perturbed by the impression given by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, as to our state of readiness. Certainly the impression given by our own generals and people above us is that it is a closer state than the impression which was given to-day by Lord Beswick.
§ THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE FOR THE ROYAL AIR FORCE (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, is the noble Lord talking about the state of readiness of the Territorial Army, or about the general state of readiness, the capacity to go immediately into action, or what?
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
The question came up in connection with the T.A. Emergency Reserve. It was said that it would take a considerable time to get them ready to take part in B.A.O.R. reinforcements.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, what happened was that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said that one could not take a T.A. Division and send it to fight in Europe without a long period of training. With that I would entirely agree.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
It is very difficult, because our own commanding generals have taken us to task when we put that sort of timing on it. They say, "You are wrong".
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
If I may continue, I was very interested in what the noble and gallant Viscount had to say on the future of the Territorial Army. His suggestions would certainly be acceptable to the serving members. They would need careful application on the ground, but it is a necessary task which 933 they can fulfil. I would also add that I have been informed that the phrase "Civil Defence" is now "non-U". It is now known as Home Defence. I have quite recently been taken to task several times on that matter.
I should like to refer to the subject of recruiting. Basically, of course, I am interested in the recruiting of Territorial personnel, but practically everything I am going to say applies also to other arms of the Forces. One cannot get away from the fact that recruiting has to be done "on the ground". It is the satisfied soldier who brings in another soldier. That is the way to get the men to sign on the dotted line. However, the battle starts a long time before that. It is difficult to find the right words, but I believe that one must impose the right image. There are men who wish to serve, and one must give them the feeling that they are going to do a job that needs to be done. We almost need an approach like the old Kitchener cartoon—"Your Country Needs You". If people see that a real job needs to be done, then they will come forward to do it. When a little time ago some Territorial forces were sent to help out in Aden, our recruiting figures jumped up—in fact the influence was felt the very next week.
Where we slip us is that the image of the Armed Forces generally is not properly portrayed at all levels. I do not say that the Armed Forces are not either well paid or well looked after, but unfortunately, they are looked on as something that is not quite "U". This point is hard to put into words, but really it boils down to the fact that one must whet the appetite, and whet it all the time. Then, when you get your satisfied soldier, he will tell the good news to his companions and will say, "Why don't you join us?", and then they will come along. If this sort of approach is not adopted, the man has the impression that he is just hanging about, with no proper job to do, and we shall not get anywhere. This is the problem. Then having got him, the difficulty is to keep him, and this sometimes may be the harder job of the two. Of course, where there is a good worth-while job to be done there is no problem. It is when the job ceases and the man has to hang about, or when he is over-used, due to lack of proper reserves, 934 that he loses heart and interest and wants to go. If we want to keep the people coming in, it is all a matter of presenting the right image; and we must try to get the balance right.
A recent survey on the T.A. showed that the number who sign on again decreased to 40 per cent., and we cannot raise that figure. I have taken note of the reasons for this. Some of them do not want to stay because of difficulties with their wives or girl friends. Some from the T.A. forces go to the Regular Army, so there is in fact no actual loss there. But you find that a number go because it is not giving them what they expect; and this, again, applies right through the Service, and in any service.
There are slight improvements within the Territorial Army. I think we have become conditioned to having the Regular Army's cast-off equipment. One is used to that, and we fully understand the reasons why, because obviously they come first and we have to take second place; one accepts that. But there are these ridiculously silly little points, which drive you "up the wall". For instance, I have had to send about 100 men overseas and we were told to have them inoculated as per War Office Regulations. We were told to get a civilian doctor to do it; but then we were told, "No, you cannot pay that doctor." We have had a wonderful wireless issued to us; the power of the batteries is too great for the wireless. There is a little instrument which will reduce it to the right voltage, but now somebody is trying to decide whether it can be issued to the Territorial Army. These things are just maddening. Life could be a lot simpler; it does not have to be as tiresome as that.
My last point is about something which has gone on in the Regular Forces. One constantly hears of young men who, while on sentry "go", have shot and killed somebody who has failed to halt. From the publicity it always looks as if the poor man has been trying to do his job, has been trying to guard his post and has killed his attacker, but he is then accused of either manslaughter or murder. I feel very strongly about this, because I was very close to where one incident happened. The young man concerned challenged three oncoming people; they 935 did not stop; he fired and killed one, and was tried and found guilty of murder. The grounds for charging him with murder and not saying that he was doing his duty were that he was out of bounds at the time he challenged the person. If he had been in your Lordships' Chamber, he would in fact have been out below the Bar. That was the distance by which he was out of bounds. The people whom he challenged had no right to be where they were, and he still had every right to challenge them. We have seen one or two similar cases recently. I do not doubt that the findings were correct, but I think there should be better publicity if a soldier is in the wrong, to make it quite clear that everybody knows why he is in the wrong. Otherwise, the impression is given that the man was only doing his duty.
§ 7.3 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, at the end of a very detailed, thoughtful and valuable debate, I should like first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, and the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, on their maiden speeches. Lord Mottistone contributed an account of the origins and growth of the Territorial Army from its very early days; and, quite clearly, many Members of your Lordships' House feel some anxiety about the future of that Army. My noble friend Lord Ridley, on the same subject, managed to be extremely positive while still being uncontroversial, and that is no mean task to set oneself. I know that all noble Lords will be with me in wishing to hear them many times again.
The main subject matter of their speeches introduces the anxiety which, as I have said, is felt in many parts of the House as to the Territorial Army. Both of those noble Lords and others asked that if changes were to be made in the Territorial Army—no noble Lord to whom I listened suggested that it should be left exactly as it is—full consultation should take place. I think there is no doubt that in the closing words of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick—and this is certainly the only slightly dubious thing I am going to say about his speech to-day; and I would not wound his feelings for anything—both my noble friend Lord Jellicoe and I, and, I 936 gather, other noble Lords as well, were left with the impression, an impression which disturbed us considerably, that when this part of the Defence review was carried out, when this New Look at the Territorial Army was taken, decisions will be taken and presented to the Council as a fait accompli.
We may all have misheard the noble Lord, but I feel that as so many of us were of the same opinion I ought to say to him, and to the noble Lord who is going to wind up, that this would disturb us very much. What we should like to see is that, when this New Look has been taken, the conclusions will be shown to the Council and they will be given an opportunity of giving their opinions, and that whether or not those opinions carry the day their opinions will be taken seriously, and the Council will be taken into close consultation before an absolutely final decision is taken.
Having said that, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for his informative and forthcoming speech. My noble friend sitting beside me on the Front Bench has particularly asked to be associated with that, and I gather that my noble friend Lord Selkirk also made the same point. I wish I could remember a speech in which I had given so much information from that Dispatch Box. I had expected the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to speak victoriously about the agreement reached in Bonn yesterday, on support costs for the B.A.O.R. I had expected that "Diamond is the Forces best friend" would be the burden of his song, and it may well be the burden, or part of the burden, of the song of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. This would be reasonably appropriate, in view of the fact that the last time we faced each other across this Table I called him "a bird in a gilded cage". So in anticipation of what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, may be saying, and the triumph he may be claiming, I think I should say in advance that I fancy the authorship of this agreement is not quite so clear as he may describe, or if he echoes the triumphant tones of the First Secretary—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, it may help the noble Lord to know that I was not intending to refer to it at all, so I shall not be echoing any tones.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I thought it was probably more than he could resist. Certainly the tones were very triumphant as reported in the Press to-day, but perhaps the noble Lord does not feel so enthusiastic.
We have covered an enormous amount of ground to-day, and I certainly shall not attempt to deal with more than a very few of the points which have been raised and to raise one or two of my own, not entirely at random but not necessarily connecting very neatly one with another. My former newspaperman's soul is always attracted by something immediately topical, and I hope noble Lords will not think I am giving undue importance to one item of equipment which has been in the news this week and which was mentioned in passing, among everything else he mentioned, by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick.
The Plessey Company is at present making an export drive, with a lively expectation of success, to sell the A.13 manpack radio station to the United States Army. From what I hear, the United States Government would be wise to buy it and United States infantrymen will be fortunate to be so equipped. This equipment was initially sponsored by the Ministry of Aviation and our own infantry are now receiving it, I believe, in increasing quantities. What will clearly attract the American Army is its suitability for jungle warfare; and it is serving in that capacity at the moment among our own troops. It is the first fully-transistorised H.F. manpack radio in full production anywhere in the world. The transmitter-receiver weighs 16 lb., and the batteries 3 lb. I mention that because I read this initially with some incredulity, casting my mind back to the sets which I had to use behind the enemy lines in the Balkans and in South-East Asia: the 19 set weighing a hundredweight and a half and the 62 set weighing nearly 82 lb. with its batteries. Indeed, my back aches when I recall the way Sergeant "Spider" Lawson and I lugged our station through the Indo-China jungle nearly twenty years ago, our language occasionally comparing with that used by your Lordships in discussing the Bill of my noble friend Lord Arran—but always, I may say, contrastingly, in a non-functional sense.
My Lords, in the fast-moving warfare of to-day, efficient communications are 938 of the essence. Only if this efficiency is achieved can all the arms involved in a campaign act in smooth, swift unison. In the matter of equipment, Conservative Ministers set an effectively coherent pattern, and I will mention two examples, one of which has been retained by the present Government and the other of which has been, in our view most lamentably and disastrously, sacrificed.
It was recognised some years ago that the key to military success was battlefield mobility. To establish this, it was essential that all the elements of the Royal Armoured Corps, the Royal Artillery and infantry, forming the battle groups, should be equally mobile—that there should be no slowcoach to hold back the other elements. To this effect, the magnificent Chieftain tank was evolved, and the Abbot self-propelled gun was designed to match it in cross-country performance, together with the tracked armoured personnel carrier. In view of the fact that we in this House are always—or most of the time—polite to each other, I should like to say that when I went to war in Korea, despatched by the Labour Government in 1950, the tank in which we then went was, I think, the best tank in the world, and I am happy to think that, to-day, the Chieftain tank is probably the best tank of its weight possessed by any Army.
This "family" of vehicles that we now have could not operate successfully without supply vehicles of the same standard of performance. For this reason, the 5-ton high mobility load carrier, the Stalwart, was brought in, with other battlefield recovery and repair vehicles to ensure the fighting mobility needed on the battlefield. One of the things which the support vehicles have to bring up is food, and there is one very small question that I should like to ask, but to which I do not expect the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, to have an answer to-day. I understand that, in the important matter of food, in jungle warfare, for instance, experiments are being carried out—with the factors of nourishment and weight being taken into account. Since an Army, as we know, fights on its stomach, this is a very important element, and I should like to know from the noble Lord at some time how successful these experiments have been. I remember only too well the unrepeatable contempt of 939 the British soldiers in Korea when they were presented with American "K" rations on which to fight, and they discovered that there was nothing in a "K" ration that you could eat without the plastic teaspoon provided with the pack.
To the best of my belief this principle of mobility and what goes with it has been accepted by the present Government, and those vehicles which I have described continue to reach the units requiring them. The assurance I should like from the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, is that the supply of these vehicles has suffered no slowing down as a result of the Defence review. I hope—and I imagine that he can say—that there has been no slowing down and no cancellation.
I wish he could say the same, and I imagine that he also wishes he could say the same, of the advantages which we planned for the Royal Air Force. Here, the carefully thought-out coherency of V and STOL aircraft has been completely abandoned, without waiting for the Defence review. In fact, it is difficult to see what scope there is for the review when it comes to consider the needs of the Royal Air Force. Major and crippling decisions have been taken many months in advance of any findings. However, I shall have more to say on this in a moment or two.
I have said that, for the Army, mobility is of the essence. For the Air Force—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will agree—it is mobility and dispersal. Airfields with a 2,000-yard or even a 3,000-yard runway are a liability to-day, and they will be even more of a liability as time goes on and our potential or actual enemies acquire ever more sophisticated weapons. If this is so, then the whole operational value of aircraft restricted to such airfields dwindles. Aircraft, if they are to survive on the ground, must be hidden away in small, precious packets. For this, a vertical or short take-off capability is essential. In recognition of this, we had designed a "family" of aircraft all possessing this vital capability.
This, my Lords, is the "lost generation" of aircraft without which our Forces will somehow have to survive until the mid-70s. We shall then have, presumably, the Anglo-French VG air 940 craft, and no doubt when it arrives this will be very welcome. More or less in parenthesis, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, what this aircraft will be intended to do. We have not yet been told. It looks at the moment like an extraordinary reversal of the normal process. The normal process, in my understanding, is, or has always been, to foresee, to calculate, a requirement and then to evolve a weapons system to meet that requirement. In this instance, the Government appear to have designed a cart in front of a still ethereal horse.
I am offering the noble Lord an opportunity to contradict me, for the good of his colleagues and for the general morale of the Forces. Until he does so, in the eyes of many people what appears to have happened is this. The Government's efforts, thwarted by General de Gaulle. to scupper the Concord project caused such embarrassment that something rather extravagant had to be done to save our face. This was not very difficult, since agreement had already been reached by the previous Government on the principle of Anglo-French cooperation in aircraft construction. We now have two projects of this nature—the Strike Trainer, the ECAT, in which by far the greater part of the work, I am told, will go to France: and the VG aircraft, for which a rôle will presumably be found later. Some months ago Ministers were referring disdainfully to the Concord as a "prestige" project, but at the moment a highly-sophisticated aircraft ten or twelve years beyond our sight without a rôle yet determined seems to me the very epitome of a "prestige" project in this narrow sense.
My Lords, we discussed the whole question of the TSR 2 comparison with the F 111A Mark II at great length in our debate some months ago, and I do not want to go into it again in great detail. But I must say that I was astounded at the time by one statement of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and, on re-reading it, I remain equally astounded. He said that the cancellation of the TSR 2 would make Anglo-French co-operation far easier. I forget his actual words, but I do not think I am unfairly paraphrasing him. This may be so, if he means that it will make it easier for the French industry to swallow what is 941 left of the British industry. We have contracted out of three projects in which we were leading the world and which, I suggest, would inevitably have obtained for us a major share of future work in cooperation with the French. Conversely, cancellation has left us with a minor part. If the noble Lord is able to contradict me convincingly, I, for one, shall be happier than I am at the moment.
I have two more questions to ask to-day about the F 111A, the answers to which the noble Lord will no doubt carry in his head. Ministers have stated that there were two main factors which persuaded, them so reluctantly to abandon the TSR 2 in favour of the unbuilt and unflown American embryo. One was the cost, and the other was the timing. But in their assessment of timing they spoke as if all was now bound to be for the best in the best of all Socialist worlds. But in some instances their efforts to save something from the massacre of an industry may, I feel, impede even the course they have set themselves. I am not trying to interfere with this. I am asking a question on it. They are going to try to introduce British components into this American airframe. When they try, I have no doubt that they will succeed. This is a situation we are bound to approve of, in so far as it represents some mitigation of the sentence passed on the 1,000 firms once working on the TSR 2 project. But will the noble Lord say to what extent it will affect the time scale, the bringing into operation of the F 111A? in this context, it seems to us remarkable that full use is not being made of the three prototype TSR 2s, which are there to be used. Noble Lords and their colleagues, when in Opposition, were voluble in their charges of waste; but here, it seems to me, is an instance of purely gratuitous waste.
Above all, we must be reassured—and I know that the noble Lord will be anxious to reassure us—that the F 111 will have, without any doubt, reconnaissance capabilities. But has he any more idea than last time of how this will be done? He made it sound easy on the last occasion when he said that it was "just a few black boxes". I am paraphasing him, but not, I think, unfairly. We should like to know to what extent the equipment which would have gone into the TSR 2 would be adaptable and would be adapted to the F 111. Those of us 942 who have served in the Army were taught early in our indoctrination that "time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted". We have seen that, in the political and diplomatic context, the Prime Minister has little patience with this theory. This, I hope, does not mean that the Armed Forces will be deprived of this important element in a military sense.
I have in front of me a photostat copy of the Hansard of another place in which, in reply to a question from one of my honourable friends, the Secretary of State provided a kind of table of existing aircraft which were growing old and of the plans to replace them. It is rather depressing to read both the table headed "Date for Replacements by more advanced type" and the table headed "Remarks". I find, in fact, that of a column of 16 existing aircraft, some 14 are labelled either as "Not yet decided" or "No current plans for replacement" and one of the remaining two is labelled "Replacement type not yet decided". It hardly seems to me descriptive of dynamic Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on the last occasion, felt it necessary to apologise for what he described as a lecture on air power. I saw, and see, no need for the apology for that lecture, either in itself or in its form, especially since he emphasised the absolute need for a replacement of the TSR 2, a rôle in which he was rather less convincingly satisfied by the F 111 Mark II. What we all find hard to understand is why this option has not been taken up so far. What are we waiting for? If the need is as clear to the noble Lord's colleagues as it is to him, then let us have an end to the present anxiety. If the Government feel certain enough to cancel a whole range of aircraft in advance of the Defence review, surely they can feel certain enough to confirm the aircraft to meet these inescapable requirements.
It is impossible at this juncture to omit any reference to a lecture delivered this very evening to the Royal Aeronautical Society by Mr. Richard Worcester. I do not think the noble Lord would have expected me to omit it. We have already had a foretaste in the Press of what it contains; and there will undoubtedly be a banquet in tomorrow's papers. I am speaking sincerely 943 when I say that I think I ought to give the noble Lord the opportunity (which I hope will be given as much publicity as Mr. Worcester will receive) of contradicting the picture that it paints. A copy of his remarks must have reached the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, well before it reached me and he will be well aware of the explosive nature of the contents.
For reasons which everyone will understand, one is most reluctant to read Mr. Worcester's chronicle as gospel. If it were gospel, it would mean that the present Government had decided, four months before the Election and ten months before the cancellation of the TSR 2, that the HS 681, the P 1154 and the TSR 2 should be cancelled. Mr. Worcester attributes this directly to his own influence and, in fact, he speaks in the tones of a triumphant campaigner. He thinks, and here I quote, that:the reorientation of one of the biggest and most complex industries in a few months must rank as a feat without parallel in British legislative history.It would be interesting to see whether "reorientation" is now to be introduced into the Government's language in this context. It was not in use in the previous debate; and some of us can find a pithier phrase, I do not doubt.
Mr. Worcester refers to a session in Westminster which he attended on June 20 last year with members of the Labour leadership. The "discussions by them"—and again I quote Mr. Worcester:were not so much around basic conclusions but on the manner of implementation, and the very rapid executive action which seemed to me essential. The report stressed that Ministers should act at the outset as they mean to continue by the exercise of drastic leadership …The basic conclusions were that this was the end of the road for all-British manned military aircraft. He described his work as "a labour of love superimposed on an everyday livelihood", and his policy as "relevant, articulate, comprehensive, durable, timely and consistent."
Now it is evident that his claims, until they are rebutted, place particular Ministers in a most invidious position. The particular leaders attending that session are not named; but it is stated, rather than implied, that the policy was adopted 944 by the future Government at that moment, in June last year. This would mean that all the tears shed by the Ministers over the cancellation of the TSR 2 were, in fact, crocodile tears. I should like to say, here and now, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, would expect me to say, that it is inconceivable to me that he could have been privy to such a discussion or decision and subsequently to have spoken as he did. It would never cross my mind that the two things could go together. But, without any question, a direct rebuttal of Mr. Worcester's claims is required, if the Government are ever to be believed again.
I find that what is presaged is even more serious than what has happened, so Mr. Worcester claims, as a result of his advise. If it is true that the present Government accept his view, then they accept "a total world U.S. military hegemony". If his "plan" is the Government's Bible, then the F 111, if bought, together with Phantoms, will fill the United Kingdom defence requirements until 1980; so that even the Anglo-French projects begin to look shaky. This anxiety is sharpened by the fact that in Mr. Worcester's news-sheet Aviation Studies last week he referred to ECAT as "a political exercise".
I am not ignoring the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, gave a very strong reassurance. He gave a powerful counter-assurance, and I certainly did not leave that out of account. I believe a direct rebuttal by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is called for. It will certainly be encouraging to be told that this particular adviser has not been cast as the principal author of the Defence review. We should prefer to be told that the Prime Minister's appetite for "Worcester with everything" is confined to the sauce bottle.
It was predictable that this Defence review, for which we must wait for a so-far-undeclared period, would be used as a kind of fire-proof curtain during this long intermezzo between ministerial decisions or at least their announcement. It is fair to ask the Government why, in fact, it need be quite so long. There is no particular mystique about a Defence review. The noble Lord is welcome to question this assertion if he sees fit. A Defence review is concerned with rôles. 945 We know what the rôles are to-day, and we have known what they are likely to be, I think, for several years. So far as we understand, the present Government accept these rôles, judging from their own statements.
If a Government intends to cut expenses without cutting commitments, it can do so only by reducing manpower or accepting cheaper weapons. This would require the Armed Forces to meet the demands which they are meeting to-day with fewer men and less adequate weapons. I cannot see the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, making a demand of that kind of the Servicemen, but there have been some quite remarkable contradictions in ministerial utterances and policy publications over the past months. For example, we find the Labour Party Manifesto promising:Our stress will be on the strengthening of our conventional regular forces …Yet on March 3 we find Mr. Healey saying:… in the long run the surest way of achieving major reductions in our defence budget and then keeping the budget constant is to reduce the number of men and women in the forces, because then both manpower and equipment expenditure will fall proportionately.He rammed home this argument by continuing:… it is no good simply closing various bases unless the men who serve in them are demobilised, because otherwise the overall defence expenditure will have to be increased in order to provide new accommodation and facilities for them somewhere else."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 707 (No. 69). col. 1342–3.]The mathematics of the latter argument are unassailable, but they directly contradict the mathematics of the Manifesto.
The Government will say, as they have said before, that they made an important saving on the TSR 2. They have paraded the figures favourably for themselves, and no blame attaches to that; but the implication is that, whereas the costs of British aircraft in embryo escalate, the corresponding costs in American aircraft remain dependably constant and unexpanding. I do not believe that the comparable figures bear this out. A week ago the Secretary of State divulged, in answer to a question from one of my honourable friends, that the costs of the Phantom have gone up already since the order was placed; and the Phantom is a far simpler aeroplane than the F 111.
946 The Secretary of State had earlier asserted about the F 111A in another place:There are firmer guarantees of the costs of this aircraft than we were able to obtain for the TSR 2.He was, I hope—and on this I should like confirmation—referring to the F 111A Mark 2. This brings into play the elastic comparative, and there is a good deal of elastic in most ministerial statements to-day. Mr. Healey was very careful not to say that we have had a firm offer for the F 111A—only a firmer offer than for the TSR 2. How firm that offer turns out to be we shall one day know but obviously not to-day.
What strikes anyone, and what must strike noble Lords opposite just as forcibly as ourselves, is that the Americans are businessmen and the American aircraft industry is certainly no less businesslike than others. If, in this deal, they are making sonic sort of sacrifice, then it is a sacrifice with a purpose. As many have been swift to point out, that purpose may he the emasculation of the British aircraft industry. But one is bound to wonder how firm the price can he for an aircraft which, to the best of my knowledge, has not yet definitely been taken up in terms of firm orders, by the U.S. Air Force. The noble Lord will no doubt be able to tell me whether I am out of date in believing this. Has the F 111A Mark 2 in fact yet been funded in the United States?
The whole matter of the option—to opt or not to opt—is still hidden behind the fireproof curtain. Why is this necessary? Here again we have to pick our way between bewildering and contradictory statements from which I will not quote at this hour. I think that we all want to know what is different about this review. That is what we are waiting for. What will it provide that is not already known? It has been described as "searching"; it has been described as "far-reaching". One has the impression that what is promised is a kind of "bumper" review. It certainly seems to require a great deal of time to compile. But at the end of it all what shall we get; and, in particular, what shall we get that was not known before?
Throughout the past thirteen years, and before, Defence reviews have been prepared as a matter of course—continuous 947 and comprehensive reviews. I have traced them through many ministerial speeches by Secretaries of State and Ministers of Defence, and from a number of White Papers. A great body of knowledge has been built up over the years, all of which was available to the Ministers of the new Government when they took office, and it is still available. I suppose that it will be added to by the present inquiries, but what would the noble Lord opposite suppose had changed so dramatically in the conditions of warfare between October 16 and March of this year when this new review was announced? To what extent and in what radical manner have the requirements facing this country changed?
It seems certain to me that when the conclusions of the Defence Ministers are finally drawn from this Review they will be drawn mainly from this great legacy of knowledge left to them by their predecessors. I will affirm here and now (the noble Lord who replies is welcome to contradict me in advance if he wishes) that the only way in which this review is likely to differ in character or in scope from its forerunners is in the volume and thrust and flamboyance of the publicity which it has been given. I think it will be rather hard to live up to that publicity.
It could be that I am wrong. Because there is a dread suspicion in the minds of many people in this country—it was referred to by my noble friend, Lord Jellicoe, but I make no apology for referring to it again: I am offering the noble Lord a target which I should be happy to see him demolish. The suspicion is that the terms of reference of this review differ, in fact, intrinsically from others. Up to date, the problems, of Defence have been concerned with taking the range of our commitments and seeing how best they could be met effectively at a cost endurable to the economy. What if the composers of this review were given a quite different task? What if they were given an arbitrary ceiling of expenditure and instructed to cut our commitments, or make proposals for cutting our commitments, to be accommodated under a lower ceiling?
It does not seem impossible that this is the approach: that the Armed Forces will, as an outcome of a constricting review, be required to bend, to crouch, 948 to stoop into the more cramped dimensions of what the Ministers of to-day consider to be our national responsibility in the world at large. It would be a sad thing for many of us, for purely personal reasons, apart from anything else, to see the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in six months' time—if he is still in his present office—doing a kind of Parliamentary limbo act, and contorting himself to pass under a lower bar than he would ever wish to negotiate, to the strains of a most unstimulating dirge, totally unrelated to those calypso rhymes more in keeping with his character.
I end with another remark about the review. As my noble friend Lord Jellicoe said, there may be barely time for the noble Lord to speak to us upon it, at least from that Dispatch Box. I am prepared to take more seriously than my noble friend the Prime Minister's plucky but nationally dispiriting determination to drag on into 1966. I can understand that after thirteen years in the wilderness it would look better on paper for his Party to have been able to stay in for more than thirteen months. But the Government have found themselves a new theme song which must be 'throbbing naggingly, not to say neurotically, through the minds of every individual Minister in the present Administration:For its a long, long while from May to December,And the days grow short, when you reach September.The autum weather turns the leaves to flame,And I haven't got time for the waiting game.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, was in his usual brilliant form. At the end, I was not quite sure whether he was in order. I thought he was beginning to burst into song, but he was only intoning. Certainly his speech, to use a phrase of his own, had volume, thrust and flamboyance. I thought, indeed, that as a Party political performance it was rather more convincing than that of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who tries manfully to be a good Party man but never quite succeeds, whereas there never has been any doubt where the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, is concerned.
I am not sure whether I shall be able to answer more than a few of the points 949 made, because I am hoping not to take long, but the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, can be well satisfied with the range of this debate and, if I may say so, with his own contribution to it. The fact that in certain respects his speech, like those of many other noble Lords, was a damning indictment of the previous Government did not diminish the fact that he, unlike the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, was anxious to discuss this whole difficult question in a non-partisan way. For my own part, though I can never entirely resist the temptation that the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, puts in my way, I shall try to keep on that line.
The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, was good enough to let us have in advance notice of a number of the points he was going to raise, and this enabled my noble friend Lord Beswick to answer most of them. But there are certain big issues that he raised and that have been very much the theme of to-day's debate. First of all, I should like to make a few remarks on the Defence review. Perhaps I may be forgiven for being slightly Party political here. The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, suggested that there was always either one Defence review or a series of Defence reviews going on. The fact is that practically no Minister in the previous Government remained in office long enough to complete a Defence review. They changed, if not monthly, at least nearly yearly.
I am sure that your Lordships accept that there is a need for a fundamental examination of our Defence expenditure. I would argue strongly that the object of this present study is to achieve a reduction in expenditure in a way, to use the words of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, that will increase efficiency. In other words, it is an attempt to give value for money. And I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, as a former Defence Minister, will be bound to agree that there is always scope for greater efficiency and greater economy.
I do not propose to argue at length the case for reducing Defence expenditure to the level we hope to achieve in 1970. In the short run, it is exceedingly difficult to reduce Defence expenditure at all. Any Government are inevitably committed by their predecessors, as future Governments will be by the decision we make now. We 950 are very conscious of the fact that we are not just legislating for the short term but in terms of long-term costings going forward for ten years. It is against this background that the review is being carried out.
I state again that we could not have allowed to continue the uneven and erratic curve we found in the long-term costings in the Defence field which we inherited, and the Government are determined to do this job thoroughly. This means that we must look at every aspect of Defence. The purpose of Defence is to serve the national interest, and it is in this context that a thorough examination is taking place. Frankly, if there was not such an urgency in making decisions, an examination of this kind ought to be spread over a long period. The techniques that exist to-day in the way of cost effectiveness studies, operational analysis and war games do not readily yield quick results, and if there is a criticism that could be made—and I offer this to the Opposition—it is that we are doing it too quickly. But it is necessary to take certain decisions.
After these preliminary remarks. I should like to turn to the question of recruiting. The noble Lords, Lord Thurlow and Lord Selkirk, particularly referred to the recruiting of officers. Clearly there is not time to go into this now and I might agree with the noble and gallant Viscount. Lord Montgomery of Alamein, on restricting the form of these debates. In future years, we may prefer to divide the subject so that we should not have to range from manpower to equipment. As a general comment, let me say that though there are certain shortages of officers in the Army, officer recruiting is coming along pretty well on the whole.
I think there is a good deal in what the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said in relation to the R.A.F. There is a danger of being too restrictive in recruiting, but recruiting has reached such a fine art now that the figures of failures in training are going down all the time. The noble Earl will be aware that the number of failures in the training of air crews has been alarming, something over 50 per cent., but there is a steadily diminishing curve. Greater efforts are being made to get people through their training. I am inclined to think that in the past we have 951 lost men unnecessarily, but all the Services have to maintain their high standards in officer material. But there is a range of options. They are not all men with several "A" levels and university graduates.
In connection with the recruiting of graduates, I think we were all impressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Balerno. It is surprising the way geneticists seem to be good at operational questions. I remember during the last war there was an expert on the banana fly who was responsible for replanning our Supply and Maintenance in Coastal Command. The noble Lord will know whom I mean. I agree with him on the importance of recruiting graduates. I do not know whether he is aware how far this has gone, not only in the R.A.F. but even in the Army. The present Deputy Chief of the General Staff and I were both in the Oxford University Cavalry and to-day most of the Air Force Board are university graduates. This is not to suggest that the training that is obtained at the Defence colleges is other than first class, but there is a great deal to be said—and the Air Force certainly believe in it—for optimising (if I may be forgiven that word), for increasing, the number of recruits from graduates in the universities.
This leads me on to a point also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, when he said that we needed a Haldane to-day to look at the Territorial Army. Of course, we have a Healey and a Mulley and a lot of people; and I would pay tribute to the ability of the Staff Officers in the Ministry of Defence who are taking the sort of look that in an earlier age would have been taken by some distinguished man like Lord Haldane. No one who knows Lord Haldane's work and the value of his achievements for the Army can do other than hope that we may obtain in this age the sort of advice that he was able to give.
But on this I think your Lordships' House is a little divided. On the one hand, there is the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, who was sitting on the Cross-Benches, but I think perhaps was unable to stand the strain any longer of the slow slaughter, as he called it, of the Territorial Army—I am not sure if he would have preferred a quick slaughter—and those who see in the 952 Territorial Army an instrument of such splendid quality, and of such social value, in the national sense, that we are not to consider even whether its rôle is suited to the present age. I think there is no difference between any of us as to the value of the Territorial Army or the importance of its contributions in the past. I put this value extremely high in non-military as well as in military fields. But, on the other hand, there are those like the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who recommend—and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, who, like the noble Viscount, had some interesting remarks to make about this—the reorganisation of our Reserves.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Beswick that the purpose of this debate is, as much as anything, to allow the Government to hear the views of those noble Lords who have wide experience in these fields. I can assure noble Lords who have spoken on this matter that this is not a subject that is considered at all lightly. It is clear that I cannot say what the answer will be; and it would be wrong to do so. Studies are going on. I might go so far as to say that I should be very surprised if there is not a continuing need for reserves of various kinds, and reserves of the volunteer kind—and reference has been made to the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve. I am sure your Lordships must accept—and I believe that the majority of your Lordships do—that we must take a very hard, cold look at this and arrive at a decision which is suited to the strategy which our advisers decide is the strategy that we must follow.
In this respect, it must be the responsibility of the Government. It is not for us to fob off to the Territorial Army Associations, admirable as they are, responsibilities which rightly rest on the Government of the day and for which the Government are responsible to Parliament. I can give a categorical assurance that there will be the fullest consultation that is possible and appropriate. I am not trying to dodge what the noble Lord Lord St. Oswald, said. Nobody in the Ministry of Defence can fail to be conscious of the value of these voluntary bodies and of the contribution that they can make. It is in the interests of everybody, if we are confronted with difficult 953 decisions—and I repeat that decisions have not been taken in this matter—that we carry the country along with us.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I am sure I am right in taking this to mean that full consultation will take place before the decision has actually been arrived at, so that it can be fed into the deliberations of Ministers in making their decision.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I do not know that that is inconsistent with what I said. I think we are getting on to dangerous semantic ground, because there are a number of decisions involved. The decision as to the rôle of our Armed Forces, whether it be the Navy, Army, Air Force or the Territorial Army, must be taken by the Government on the basis of the advice which they receive, and as a result of the studies. Clearly, the rôle and purpose of our Armed Forces must be decided by the Government. I think I have gone as far as I can, though I would say that the Government are anxious to achieve the maximum consultation that is consistent with recognising that they must carry out their responsibilities.
Here, of course, there are certain important questions which can really only be decided by those who are responsible for establishing our strategy. On the question of increasing the number of pre-Proclamation reserves, and that of the rôle of the post-Proclamation reserves, I do not doubt that there are a lot of able officers, including Regular officers in the Territorial Army, who are in a position to give advice on this, and I should be surprised if the Army Board are not directly receiving that advice from those who are most concerned. I do not want to detain your Lordships for too long, but I wanted to deal with this particular point as fully as possible, recognising, none the less, that I am unable to say more than I have said.
I was interested in the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone—and we are glad that, with his experience, he decided to join in the debate and the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley. I think the noble Viscount kept well within the rules of non-controversy, although he did make one remark which rather surprised me. He referred to the recommendations of the Bow Group, which he said the present Government would be less likely 954 to listen to. I always thought it was the last Government who were unwilling to listen to the Bow Group. I should have thought that, on the whole, the Bow Group is more appreciated in the Labour Party, as a sort of pale Fabian Society, than in the Conservative Party. None the less, we were interested to hear what the noble Viscount said.
There has been a number of distinguished ex-officers who have spoken—the noble Marquess, Lord Ailsa, the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, and others—who all gave us the benefit of their advice. This will be noted. I should like to say, again, to the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, how sorry I am that, owing to a sudden urgent meeting, I did not hear the whole of his speech. But, as he knows, his views have already been taken into account; and it was most valuable to have them to-day.
I should like now to turn to the question of equipment, and I am afraid that here I shall certainly fail to deal with most of the points made. The noble Lord, Lord Suffield, brought us back on to a very practical level by talking about the difficulty of crawling over the ground with an eight inch torch strapped on to your thigh. There are a number of points here in regard to equipment, some of which have a direct relevance to the Defence review. The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, made some reference to the question as to whether the Services ought to be overstretched in peace time. I agree very much with the noble Lord that there is a danger of overstretching, and this is reflected, and has been reflected in recent years, by certain short-falls and failures in equipment. If we could achieve major economies (I know this sounds rather like looking for the philosopher's stone) so that for those particular rôles that are essential we could approve the equipment—and not only the major but the minor equipment—and could have a little bit of reserve in our hands, then it would be easier to mop up some of these problems, to which there seems to be no solution other than the general feeling of hopelessness in the Army and Air Force that they will never get some small piece of modern equipment or even improved uniforms—and it is not only the Territorial Army whose uniform needs to be 955 improved. If any noble Lords have seen the tropical dress of some of the Services, the old fashioned drill, they will know that there is need for improvement there also.
I was, of course, interested in what the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, had to say about the Chieftain. His own distinguished and gallant career in Centurions in Korea—and I know a great deal about the career of the noble Lord, as he knows—lends authority to his support for some of the modern weapons coming along. The Chieftain and Stalwart are weapons I agree with those noble Lords who have paid tribute to them—of the very first quality.
I should like to refer briefly (because my noble friend Lord Haire of White-abbey, who is an old friend of mine from Coastal Command days, referred to it) to this obsolescent joke about the obsolescent Shackleton. It has been going on a very long time, and I can hardly wait for the name of the Shackleton replacement, whatever it may be. But I assure the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that the studies and the preliminary work on the Comet are going ahead, and that the companies have sufficient authority, so there is no hold-up at all. The Comet will, of course, be coming in just, and only just, within the time scale we want, because the previous Government had some difficulty in deciding which particular aircraft they wanted—and I make no reflection on that.
My noble friend Lord Haire of White-abbey also referred to the Joint Antisubmarine School at Londonderry. It is an institution which has certainly played a decisive part in our history, and I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, will remember it when it was at Maydown. I remember that I helped to supply Naval intelligence to it through the R.A.F., because the Navy seemed unable to get it to them, although it was a predominantly Naval station. I cannot give the noble Lord any assurance beyond the fact that what he has said will be taken very fully into account. I can assure him that there are no proposals to reduce the size of the R.A.F. in Northern Ireland. Whatever may happen at Londonderry, the R.A.F. at Ballykelly is likely to continue to be fully used for years. If a decision is to be taken, it will not be taken purely, 956 as has been suggested, on grounds of cost, but on the operational needs. I will not go into the details now, but there are factors with regard to deployment which point in the direction of a possible move. As I say, no decision has been taken and all these matters will be taken into account. Incidentally, I was also asked by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, when talking about the Abbott and the Chieftain, whether their progress had been affected by the Defence review or held up in any way. I assure him that the answer is, "Definitely not", and that this particular development is going ahead.
There were other points on nuclear propulsion, and other matters, which I have not time to go into now, but I think I must have yet another "go" at this subject of debate and discussion which we have already flogged pretty thoroughly—namely, the new aircraft types and equipment for the Royal Air Force. Let me say straight away to those noble Lords who go around saying that we should be denigrating the British, that when we were in Opposition I know we criticised the Government, and they always said that we were unpatriotic. I do not accuse noble Lords opposite of being unpatriotic, although I cannot regard some of their remarks as entirely helpful to the British national interest. Nevertheless, it is fair that they should make criticisms. But let us kill once and for all the idea that the British aircraft industry has been destroyed. We have had the word "murdered" from them. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, talked about the "murdered" P 1154. If I may say so, it was hardly conceived. It certainly had not been born, and although there may be some theological arguments involved in this matter, I can tell him (and I think another noble Lord referred to the fact that the research and development had been completed) that it had hardly begun. There is a further point that the P 1154 was not going to arrive in time. The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, spoke about this smooth, happy, family arriving on a basis of planning. I can only say the previous Government's family planning had got very badly out of place. The P 1154 would not have come in in time for us to replace the last of the Hunters—the poor old Hunters—before 1975.
957 This particular problem has been solved by a decision to order the Phantom and the P 1127. I ask noble Lords opposite to accept that these are decisions--and it is not for me to interpret the views of the R.A.F. or the staff in this matter—which, I am absolutely convinced, are the right ones. It is a sad thing to see certain projects killed, but I am quite sure that the last Government, if by some misfortune they had continued in office. would themselves have had to undertake some of these cancellations.
There were a number of interesting points made by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, as well as the two noble Lords who spoke from the Front Bench opposite, about the development of these aircraft—the problem, in particular, of putting British equipment into American aircraft. This is not a simple thing, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, appreciates. There are complications, and there is a possibility of a certain increase in cost if it is carried too far. But the test that is being applied is that this equipment must meet the time-scale, and must be broadly competitive in cost. This seems to me to be absolutely right. At the same time, I think we are more hopeful that quite a lot of British equipment is going into these aircraft, both the Phantom and the C 130.
I think that deals, so far as I have the time to do so, with the points that were made by the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, on this matter. On the question of the F 111 and what these aircraft are to replace—and here I refer also to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk—we have now a new family of aircraft, ones that are arriving with much better prospects at the time they were expected. There were certain points that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, asked as to which aircraft matched which. He asked—I thought it had a sentimental ring about it—what was replacing the Valetta. I am surprised that he did not ask what was replacing the Anson, because there are still Ansons flying in the Air Force to-day. Here, of course, in the transport field we are not only making replacements, but are doing something which I think is more important and which I must freely admit was planned by the previous Government. We are greatly 958 increasing the capacity of Transport Command. There is no doubt that the mobility of the Air Force and, therefore, of the Army—and this is what is so important—is going to be increased by these new aircraft, the VC 10, the Belfast, the Andover and the C 130. Having recently done a fourteen hour flight in a C 130 through Arctic Canada, I can speak most enthusiastically about an aircraft which seemed to be able to hop down in the middle of the narrowest of strips and which had one great quality of American aircraft: it had what I believe they call "shirt-sleeve comfort" on the flight deck. I am quite sure this combination of aircraft will meet our needs.
THE EARL or SELKIRK
My Lords, may I just get this clear? The number of transport aircraft is positively being increased? This was not clear from the document from which I quoted.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The capacity of Transport Command is being increased, although I think probably the number is being decreased.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, in a sense the Valetta is like the DC 3. The Andover is the nearest equivalent to it. The Valetta is slightly larger, but its range is no greater, and it will be a different mixture of aircraft which will in fact fulfil these particular rôles. The C 130 in the tactical rôle will be an important addition to our forces.
The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, also asked me a question about Mr. McNamara's Common Defence Market. It is early days for me to make—or indeed for the Government to make—any very firm assessment of this initiative, beyond saying that we welcome it very much, and I should like to make clear to the House that we are taking seriously the suggestions which have emanated from the United States of America and many of which have been fully canvassed in the Press lately. Where in the past there has been a certain lack of success—and again I am being non-partisan and I am not trying to blame the previous Government—we hope the new initiative will provide us with opportunities for a more 959 equal relationship than has existed hitherto.
The problem of collaborating "R" and "D", to which the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, referred, is a complicated one, but there are certain advantages in the fall-out of technical knowledge. In the last resort, of course, it must pay off, and particularly careful consideration is being given to this matter, which falls across the board responsibilities in the Ministry of Defence into my province.
I may not have answered all the points. I am quite sure I did not answer everything that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, asked. He asked whether we proposed to increase the number of helicopters. The answer is, "Yes". He asked how we were progressing with buying the F 111. We are not ready to order it, but the intention is that when the Defence review is complete—and this is not intended to be an alibi—there are certain decisions which can be taken and there are certain ones which can be settled, but important studies are going on at the moment into the use and deployment of air power. There are issues affecting both land-based and sea-based aircraft which clearly have to be thrashed out properly, and while I have made my own position clear with regard to the F 111 I think it is only right and prudent to wait until the review, which is being pressed forward as fast as possible, is completed.
I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, to confirm whether the decision to cancel the TSR 2 was taken before the present Government came into office. Apart from my own objections to following a course which I can only describe as one of hubris, I can only repeat that the decision to cancel the TSR 2 was taken at the beginning of April. It was not taken before. A number of people had views, but the final decision was taken at that date, and I do not think it would help us forward if I were to comment on some of the quotations made by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald. He gave them with such vigour that at one time I was not sure whether Mr. Worcester's views were not his own. I had difficulty in interpreting what were the views of that gentleman and what were Lord St. Oswald's views.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, since the noble Lord does know me as well as 960 he said earlier that he did, he must know that the views were not mine.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I have always thought that the noble Lord was a man of infinite flexibility, but not quite as flexible as that.
I will not detain your Lordships any longer. I am sorry to have gone as far as I have and to have dealt with so few points.
My Lords, I wonder whether I could interrupt the noble Lord just before he concludes his remarks. He has been very patient and it is getting late, but there is one question in particular to which I was anxious to obtain an answer because I thought probably he could give an answer that was reassuring. I referred to the rumours that the mounting cost of the Phantom programme might lead to a drastic reduction in the number of Phantoms which it was contemplated were to be purchased for the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, and I wonder whether he is able to scotch those rumours.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I do not think we ought even to accept that the costs are mounting so excessively at the moment. Certainly there are difficulties in producing compatible aircraft to go on land and on carriers. No one knows that better than the noble Earl. I have not had an opportunity of taking advice on this point, but personally I do not foresee any increase in cost of a kind which will affect the numbers ultimately to be decided upon by the Defence review.
My Lords, I am glad to hear that, because I was quoting the actual words of the noble Lord's colleague, the Minister of Aviation, who referred' to the considerable difficulty associated with the time-scale and cost of this project.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, there are considerable difficulties, but not such as seriously to affect its viability or its prospects. I should be perfectly prepared to consider this further and try to give the noble Earl a more detailed answer. At this stage we are only coming up to the point of signing the implementing arrangements, and the final numbers are yet to be decided. The nature of the arrangement that we have negotiated 961 with the United States of America provides a large measure of protection, and we shall have to look carefully at the cost of any British equivalent if we are not to end up with the worst of both worlds. I think I have taken Lord Jellicoe's point as far as I can on this matter.
I should like to end on one final point, referring to the remarks made by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Glasgow, who asked how we could give confidence to young men who wanted to join the Services. This is a problem which has confronted every Government. It is one which certainly does not exist at the present moment but existed very much between the wars and before the First World War. There have been times when I think this country has failed to appreciate the value of the contribution of the men who come into our Armed Forces. I can only say that I and my colleagues in the Ministry of Defence and the Government recognise the high importance of the work that is done.
Of course every organisation at one time or another is liable to be at risk in the light of technological change and we cannot insulate the Services wholly from this, any more than any other aspect of national life. From what I have seen since I became Minister of Defence for the Royal Air Force, there is a first-class career and it is attracting first-rate men, and I am sure this is true of the other Services. There are certain problems. But I hope noble Lords will play their own part, as I am sure they will, in pointing to the value of the work of the Services and the value to the individual of a career which so many people have found rewarding, and I believe will find rewarding in the future.
My Lords, it only remains for me to thank the noble Lord. Lord Beswick, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for taking a lot of trouble to look up the answers to lots of "nuts and bolts" we have flung at them from all sides of the House. I hope they will get some value out of this debate, which I have certainly enjoyed. I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate and add my congratulations to those already given to the noble Lords, Lord Mottistone, and my noble friend Lord Ridley on their maiden 962 speeches. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.