I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
In presenting the Army Estimates for 1935, I desire at once to make one important overriding observation. The responsibility for their preparation and for their contents, as most hon. Members will be aware, rests with my right hon. and Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War, and the other members of the Army Council. If, therefore, during my speech I appear to take an undue credit unto myself, I want the House to realise that it is not intentional and is solely due to the unfortunate phrasing of my sentences. Credit for all that is good should be given where it is due, and may I add that any unlikely blame that might be attached should be attributed likewise?
Hon. Members will observe that the net figures of Army Estimates are higher this year by about £4,000,000. They will naturally ask for, and are entitled to know, the reasons for this increase. I will do my best to give them. In the first place, I would remind the House that the military commitments are not settled by the War Office, but by His Majesty's Government as a whole. We are in many ways a Cinderella Department. We are called upon to implement policies the framing of which obviously depends on many other than military considerations. The House last Monday agreed to the Government's policy. It only remains for me to prove to hon. Members that the cost of carrying out that policy, so far as the War Office is concerned, is no way extravagant. It is that proof which I hope to be able to provide this afternoon.
Hon. Members will see from the Estimates that the War Office is required to provide 66 infantry battalions for service oversea. If we have 66 battalions oversea we ought to have the same number at home in order that, for each battalion oversea, there may be a battalion at home to train recruits, provide drafts and secure all ranks a fair proportion of service in the United Kingdom. That means that we ought to have a total of 132 battalions of infantry of the line. Actually, we have now only 126 line battalions. Consequently, in order to meet our obligations we have sent one battalion of Foot Guards on oversea service. Further, two line regiments, instead of each having one battalion oversea and one battalion at home, must have both their battalions oversea at the same time—a very undesirable thing. However, the only alternative to the despatch of home units on these tours oversea is raising fresh battalions of infantry of the line, a costly course which it is not proposed to recommend.
I mention this to prove how hard pressed is the War Office at the present time to meet ordinary calls upon infantry for purposes which have been well described as policing the Empire. This means that if any extra permanent commitment is thrown on to the Army, we cannot cut down our existing services to offset its cost. For the next few years at least, and especially in view of yesterday's news, we are faced with at least one serious extra commitment—the provision and organisation of adequate coastal and anti-aircraft defences of the home country. The late Lord Haldane, Mr. Haldane as he then was, in introducing his first Army Estimates in 1906, observed that in the accepted principle that the Navy alone was capable of defending these shores from invasion we had a bedrock fact for the organisation of our defence. He further went on to say, and I quote his exact words—
If we are to attempt to provide against the contingency of that being wrong"—
in other words the contingency of the Navy alone no longer being able to defend these shores against invasion—
we shall have to provide against various other contingencies overwhelming in their multiplicity and uncertainty.
Unfortunately this "blue water principle," as Lord Haldane described it, can no longer be accepted as the basis for our defence—at any rate, not without considerable qualification. Now that mankind has another element in which to move and to fight, namely the air, we can no longer rely entirely upon the Navy to defend this country against hostile invasion or against raids upon
such a scale and against such objectives as might well paralyse our national life. As Lord Haldane foresaw, we are therefore faced with contingencies overwhelming in their multiplicity and uncertainty.
It is true that a third defence service has in the meantime been called into being, but although by the creation of the Royal Air Force the Army is relieved of the responsibility for operations in the air, it remains responsible for the land defences including defences operated from the land against enemy aircraft. It follows then that the same factors which necessitate the expansion of the defence squadrons of the Royal Air Force operate also to demand the expansion of the anti-aircraft units administered by the War Office. This extension is reflected in these Estimates. Not only is it necessary to provide the personnel—and I shall have something to say about that later—but it is also necessary to provide highly technical armaments and apparatus and, in addition, extremely specialised research has to be constantly undertaken. In the coming year we have provided for expenditure amounting to over £450,000 for the purpose of improving the anti-aircraft defences of the country. Almost the whole of this amount is required for material, that is to say for searchlights, anti-aircraft guns, technical instruments for locating aircraft and directing fire and also appropriate ammunition. The whole of this expenditure is required to help to make up deficiences in our defences.
I need not elaborate the point that this expenditure is purely for defensive measures for the protection of our own territory and our own people, civilian as well as military. The Army is called upon to provide defences in connection with naval as well as air operations. Coastal defences both at home and abroad are obsolescent, and require adapting to modem developments. These Estimates provide for expenditure in that direction totalling approximately £1,500,000 for improvements in defended ports. Most of it is required at stations abroad—in the Far East and the Mediterranean. Again, let me emphasise the fact that none of the services provided by this expenditure is capable of use except for defensive purposes in British territory. It cannot possibly be regarded as provocative though we hope it may be regarded as a deterrent against attack.
I have explained that the fact which has really determined the minimum strength of the Regular Army is the demand for policing the Empire. In this connection, I hope to prove conclusively that our strength is in fact the bare minimum. Let the House consider for example the case of the island of Ceylon, a rich country with an area approximating to that of the Irish Free State, and with very nearly twice the population. What regular troops do we provide there? Two battalions of artillery, and a few ancillary troops—a total of 262 soldiers of all ranks. Would any other country, or even the League of Nations itself, if charged with the responsibility of safeguarding that territory be able to show more pacific figures? If they take in turn the stations abroad where we have troops, examine their geographical position, and consider other relevant factors, hon. Members will realise that there is no prospect in the near future of reducing the number of British troops oversea. Let us realise, then, here at home, aye and let us voice it abroad, that we are bound to maintain the Army oversea at approximately its present strength for purposes which no one by any possible stretch of imagination can describe as provocative or militaristic.
I hope, then, it is agreed that we cannot economise in respect of our oversea troops. In the early part of my speech I showed that to maintain these troops oversea it is necessary to have units at home. Hon. Members will observe that rather more than half of our regular troops are in home establishments. These include recruits, non-commissioned officers at depots, soldiers who have finished the full period of overseas service and are entitled to a period at home, men undergoing courses of training in technical institutions, and men under special training in civil trades preparatory to their discharge. The number of soldiers in the infantry battalions at home who are available for drafting overseas is only just sufficient for the purpose of replacing soldiers who are due to return home because of the expiry of their term of service, or who, because of some other reason, have to be brought back to this country. Units abroad are maintained at their full strength. Thus, any deficiency of strength in an infantry regiment can only be borne by the infantry battalion at home.
Apart, then, from all other considerations, our overseas commitments require the maintenance of forces in this country, and in the infantry, at all events, home establishments would have to be maintained approximately at their present strength on account of their oversea commitments alone. Being compelled to have these troops at home gives us, however, an opportunity of organising the various units into brigades and divisions. There are at present five regular divisions in this country. Those, in turn, enable the Army to receive collective training, which, though essential to the Army, is impossible in mose of the stations oversea. It also enables us to try out and to make use of modern technical developments, and by means of the system of drafting personnel overseas from units at home, to keep the latter in touch with these developments. Any army to be effective must be up-to-date. It is no use having an army which would be hopelessly outclassed in weapons and other materials, or in mobility if it were ever called upon to fight.
Those divisions of regular troops at home serve two purposes, not only providing drafts for oversea garrisons, but also having to be prepared to furnish any force which might be required in an emergency. No one can tell when an emergency may arise, or where and to what extent it may develop, but it is our obvious duty to be prepared for it. If I might give one recent example of an emergency, it was in connection with the Saar plebiscite. We could not have played the honourable part we did had it not been for our forces at home. I hope to make further reference to that later in my speech. Whether our force at home, which is now called a field force, is to be used in operations such as the Saar, or to repel enemy attacks within the confines of the Empire, or even to conduct operations outside, it is necessary that it should be adequately supported by material—guns, ammunition, tanks, transport, technical apparatus and so on.
How do we stand in this connection? Just as we have allowed our anti-aircraft defence and our coastal defence to remain at a level which has long since ceased to be adequate, so, and to an even greater extent, we have allowed our preparations for the equipment of our very modest field force to become less and less efficient. It is not possible to go on for ever in this state of comparative inefficiency. We must, therefore, commence to put our own house in order. These Estimates provide an instalment towards the provision of essential equipment for a field force. It is not a case of expanding our Army, but of doing something towards reaching our own very modest standard, which has been in abeyance ruring the disarmament negotiations, leaving us in a precarious position in a world which has not seen fit to follow our example. The answer, then, to the question as to what are the reasons for this year's increase of £4,000,000 over last year's Estimates, is in order that we may improve our existing anti-aircraft and coastal defences, and in order that we may make good our present deficiency in our field force equipment.
I will now turn to points of detail. It is always difficult to find a logical order for expounding any complex organisation. The Army, undoubtedly, is highly complex. It covers, in some form or other, the whole of human activities. The War Office purview extends from the midwife to the undertaker, and it ranges over all stages in between. We provide nurses, doctors, teachers, and chaplains. We feed, clothe and house many thousands in all kinds of climates. We have our own factories, our own workshops, and our own playing-fields. Our educational interests range from infant schools to post-graduate colleges. Few will dispute the complexity of the interests for which provision is made in these Estimates, or will complain if, without regard to their logical sequence, I deal with subjects in the order in which they appear in the Estimates which are published and circulated to this House.
In Vote A the House is asked to authorise the maintenance of regular troops in British establishments, that is to say, for services at all stations except India. They total 152,200, an increase of 2,700 on the figures for 1934. The increases are almost entirely in the following corps: Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps and Royal Ordnance Corps. The principal factors which have made the increase necessary are, first, essential improvements in the coast defence at home and overseas, and, secondly, the requirements of our field force. I have already referred to these factors in my general remarks explaining the total increase in the Estimates, but I would say that whenever it has been possible to effect reductions, the establishments have in fact been reduced. There are no increases in the cavalry or infantry, and there are no possibilities of reductions in these branches of the Army to off-set the necessary expansion in the technical arm.
Perhaps it will help hon. Members if here I explain that the total of 152,200 constitutes the maximum establishment, the money provision in other Votes—pay, food, clothing, etc.—is not assessed upon the Vote A numbers, but is estimated on the strength during the year. Vote 1 for pay shows a gross increase of £426,000. This increase is due, in the main, to the restoration of the emergency cut, to the extra day which falls in 1936 and to the probable increase in numbers. It will be observed that the pay of soldiers on regimental establishments accounts for nearly £8,000,000. This is a large sum, but I do not think any hon. Members will consider that the pay of a soldier is extravagantly high, nor would they press for any economies upon this Vote.
Consideration of the pay of the Regular Army naturally leads to consideration of its functions. These I have already described in a general way with reference to the needs of this country and its colonies, dependencies and mandated territories. The activities of the League of Nations have, however, added to its responsibilities. This has been illustrated in the last few months by the presence in the Saar Territory of an international force under the aegis of the League, the largest contingent of which was provided by our Army. I promised earlier in my speech to say a few more words in connection with this force. Although it included a high proportion of young troops, as is inevitable in any force on the home establishment, their conduct was quite up to the best traditions of the British Army. They have returned with no battle honours. They inflicted and sustained no casualties, but I am quite sure I am speaking for every hon. Member in this House when I say that they have returned with the greater honour on that account.
Although public attention has been drawn to the work of the Saar force, and it has even earned the approbation of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, as also that of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), who, I think, wishes to have a medal presented to each member of the Saar force—although it has received that approbation, let us appreciate the fact that this force was only performing in the Saar essentially the same function as is continually performed by our overseas garrisons in almost every part of the world. I think, indeed, there could not be a better illustration of the ordinary day-to-day work of our overseas troops than the example of the work of the Saar force. During seven or eight months of the year units and drafts are leaving Southampton in troopships for service abroad. Other units are returning, some of them after 18 to 21 years' service overseas. They, too, are, and have been, maintaining peace, often under trying conditions, and generally with no actual fighting. I think it would be well if the people of this country could be persuaded to think of our Army in terms of its almost constant peace time and peace preserving activities, humdrum though they be, rather than in terms of its occasional war service, however glorious that may be.
I sometimes believe that the Army is in need of a propaganda department to give the people of this country, who maintain it, a full opportunity of realising what it does and how it lives. Ignorance leads to misunderstanding, misunderstanding to opposition, and I know from what I have read and heard how much opposition there is at times to young men when they contemplate joining the Army. In general, this opposition, I am sure, is not so much against the real functions of our Army, which are for the maintenance of peace, as against the imagined or feared functions. At all events, I am sure that the more the public knows the truth about army life, the less discouragement there will be to recruiting for it. Before passing from Vote 1, I feel that I ought to add one sentence about the present high standard of good conduct within the Regular Army. I believe it is true to say that patriotism, discipline, and devotion to duty have never been more pronounced than they are to-day.
Under Vote 2, provision is made for the Reserve and the Territorial Army. The strength of the Army Reserve for 1935 is estimated at 113,000, as against 119,500 last year. This figure is largely dependent, on the one hand, upon the number of men who are transferred to the Reserve on the termination of the period of service of their first engagement and, on the other hand, upon the number of reservists whose period of reserve service is due to expire during the year. The figure, therefore, varies from year to year, and we need not be unduly alarmed because there happens to be a decrease this year. In addition to the Army Reserve, it is necessary to have certain technical personnel who are found from the Supplementary Reserve—motor drivers, mechanics, and the hundred and one trades that are essential in a military force. The present numbers of such technical reservists are not adequate, and it will be necessary to increase them. Provision is made in these Estimates for an increase of 1,054, all ranks, over the figures of last year.
I now come to the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army has nowadays two separate roles. The first function is to defend this country. Consistent with this, the manning of coast defences and anti-aircraft units has been entrusted to it. Its second function is to provide, if and when an Act is passed through both Houses of Parliament, reinforcements—not, let it be said, drafts—of the field force should it be necessary to increase it. It is not to be expected that the soldiers of the Territorial Army would be ready to take the field immediately upon mobilisation, but after a period of intensive training they would be, and thereafter they would be fed by their own training battalions and offshoots. The Territorial Army, therefore, has an essential role in the organisation of the country's defence. The Territorial Army is, unfortunately, under strength. I think it is most probable that one of the root causes of this is the failure to appreciate the extreme, in fact the vital, importance of the functions of this citizen force. Let us not forget that it is upon this force that the safety of this realm finally rests, and that our necessarily small, though far from contemptible, Army of Regulars must rely upon the Territorials for support upon active service.
With a view to encouraging men to join the Territorial Army, we have recently been considering the representations of territorial associations and of commanding officers, some of whom are Members of this House, for the removal of certain grievances. The first is with regard to marriage allowance. This allowance, on grounds of policy as well as of finance, is restricted in the Regular Army to those who have reached the age of 26 years. Hitherto, we have had this same restriction on the Territorials. It is clear, however, on reflection that the attitude of Territorial soldiers to marriage can be governed by civilian considerations only. They live under full military conditions for but two weeks in the year. The grant or withholding of marriage allowance for married men under the age of 26 for so short a period may well make a very big difference to them and a still greater difference to their families. The men themselves may not suffer. They get fed, they are housed, they are paid at regular rates, but the pay may not suffice for the family maintenance. Hon. Members have not been slow to make me aware of this state of affairs, and, moreover, to deprecate it.
I am glad to be able to announce that the Army Council have decided that in future the conditions will be modified for the Territorial Army. We propose that in future any non-commissioned officer of the Territorial Army, including a lance-corporal, who is married and who reengages, shall be entitled to marriage allowance when he enters upon a second period of four years. Further, any man who is married and has entered upon his second engagement will be eligible for marriage allowance when he receives his first promotion. This concession will, I hope, meet the serious complaint of commanding officers who have found a disinclination to re-engage among some of their most promising men because of this refusal of marriage allowance in the past. The change, I repeat, is a recognition of the essential difference in the circumstances of the Territorial as compared with the Regular soldier, and is intended to help in retaining in the Territorial Army those who are vital, key men for the training of others to become efficient in their turn.
We propose also to increase the grant made to territorial associations to enable them to reimburse Territorial Army soldiers the cost of their fares when attending drill. This will be up to a limit of 1s. per attendance for a specified number of drills. These two concessions will also apply to members of the Supplementary Reserve. We have also recently been giving attention to the position of territorial instructors, who again are essential to the efficiency of the force. Attendance at a very large number of drills is necessary for a noncommissioned officer to become efficient as an instructor, and the existing reward is small. Some further inducement is considered necessary to obtain an adequate supply. We accordingly propose that in future a non-commissioned officer who has become qualified shall, subject to certain conditions, be paid for his work as an instructor beyond his obligatory drill at the rate of 1s. an hour, but not exceeding £l in a year. It has also been decided to increase the inducement to territorial soldiers to qualify as specialists of certain subjects, for example, range takers and the like. In future the proficiency grant to certain specialists will be £2 a year, in lieu of 30s. as in the past. I hope that these concessions will give satisfaction to many of my hon. Friends who have been pressing me in respect of these matters during the last few months.
I have already referred to the need for making better provision for the anti-aircraft defence of this country and to the fact that the Territorial Army is responsible for manning these defences. The existing defences were organised at a time when the radius of action of bombing aeroplanes virtually limited the vulnerable area to London and the counties in the South and East. This radius, however, has been so extended that it has been necessary to provide defences not only for the whole of the London area, but also for the industrial areas of the North and the Midlands. Consequently the number of existing units is not adequate, and it will be necessary to raise fresh anti-aircraft artillery brigades and searchlight companies of the Royal Engineers. As I have already said, at the present time the strength of the Territorial Army is sadly below establishment. Therefore, it is far from easy to raise fresh units. When the Territorial Army was first formed, it was organised in 14 divisions. This number was probably based more on the number of units and personnel which it was estimated would be obtainable than on any military necessity. As far as military requirements are concerned, it is considered that 14 divisions are really more than sufficient.
We have, therefore, felt bound to ask certain field units of the Territorial Army to consent to be transformed into air defence units, that is to say, either anti-aircraft brigades of artillery or searchlight battalions of engineers. The Territorial divisions have acquired traditions and associations which they naturally and rightly treasure. Though these traditions and associations may be difficult, as they are, to define, they exist and are of the greatest importance. Only the vital need for transforming the character of home defence to the changing conditions of attack have led us to make this change. It is impossible to provide for the whole of this great change in one year. Some of the units required for the defence of London already exist. During the latter part of this year it is proposed to put into operation plans which will ultimately provide the additional units necessary to complete the London defences. This provisional plan has already been drawn up, and it will be in the hands of the Territorial associations and the commanders concerned very shortly. I think, as a matter of fact, it will be in their hands to-morrow morning. We intend to invite their co-operation and comment regarding the selection of the individual units before any final decision is taken.
So far as the defence of the north and the midlands is concerned, no provision is being taken in these Estimates for any change. It will be some considerable time before any decision can be reached and still longer before any plans can become operative. There need, then, be no immediate anxiety among any Territorial field forces outside the London defence area that they will shortly be asked to consent to any transformation into air defence units. I make that statement because many hon. Members have been uncertain in their minds as to when they would be called upon for any change to be made. It is of little use to have the units and the men for the units in the London defence area if they have not the guns, searchlights and other instruments and equipment. I am afraid that financial stringency has led to the starvation of some units in the past. More than one hon. Member has represented to me the extreme difficulty of arousing and keeping up enthusiasm in a technical unit such as an anti-aircraft brigade of artillery if there is not sufficient equipment, not only for fighting, but even for training. We are doing what we can, and in the next few years we hope, as funds permit, to provide equipment sufficient at least to train all the anti-aircraft defence units.
The Officers Training Corps is another essential feature of our defence arrangements which calls for our gratitude. It involves very little expense from public funds; it provides an extremely valuable service; and, moreover, it gives preliminary military training to a very large percentage of those who later serve as commissioned officers in the Supplementary Reserve and the Territorial Army. The training of both divisions is making satisfactory progress, and there is a welcome increase in the number of cadets qualifying in the proficiency examinations. The Army Council is very grateful to the authorities of the various schools and universities which are rendering such splendid assistance by giving early and valuable training to those who in later years may be called upon to occupy important positions in the military forces of the Crown.
Under Vote 3 hon. Members are asked to provide £950,000 net for the cost of the medical services. No one will dispute the necessity for the provision of medical attention to the troops. Few realise that the Royal Army Medical Corps has its special problems in peace, no less than in war. The distribution of troops in oversea garrisons under widely varying geographic and climatic conditions must call for specialised medical knowledge which may not ordinarily be attainable in the United Kingdom. Behind the ordinary day-to-day medical attention proceeds careful research into medical problems peculiar to the Army. Often this research is of immense value to the civil population, as, for example, in the case of Malta fever, which for centuries was an endemic disease in Malta. The discovery of the cause of this disease and the means of preventing its occurrence, which has been completely successful in the Army, was entirely due to the work of the Army Medical Corps. Important research is proceeding now into anti-typhoid inoculation.
When the work of the Royal Army Medical Service comes to be more fully investigated by the public, a different idea will be formed of its value, not only to the Army, but to medical science and humanity at large. For some years there has been a disconcerting lack of candidates for commissions in the Royal Army Medical Corps. This, no doubt, is partly due to financial considerations, and these have been receiving attention. Conditions of service have already been materially improved; promotion has been hastened; and the period of service necessary to qualify for a gratuity on retirement has been reduced. It is now possible for an officer to take a short service commission for five years and be awarded £1,000 gratuity at the end of that period if he is not then appointed to a permanent commission. The service should be attractive to young men who have qualified. The life is interesting, and there is plenty of opportunity for specialisation for those who are keen and desirous of pursuing their medical studies and research. I am confident that if the work of this corps were better known, we should have a much wider field of selection.
Under Vote 4 the House is asked to authorise £908,000 for the educational activities of the Army. This includes the technical instruction given at schools for the fighting arms. The Army, in common with industrial and other organisations, must incorporate current scientific and technical developments which will aid it in its functions. Unlike industrial organisations, we cannot get the necessary specialists by putting an advertisement in a technical journal or even by going to an employment exchange. We have to train the officers and soldiers in order to have personnel who are both military and technical at one and the same time. Moreover, much of the knowledge is peculiar to the Army itself. We cannot, therefore, hope to secure any economies in the sphere of military technical education without the sacrifice of efficiency.
This Vote also includes the cost of the general education of soldiers. The fact that all recruits have been through at least primary civil schools before enlisting, does not dispense with the need of non-technical, cultural education while serving in the Army. We believe that provision for continued education is essential to the well-being of the soldiers themselves, in addition to being of military value. The Vote covers also the cost of schools for children of soldiers who are stationed where no suitable civilian school is available. I should like to draw special attention to the particulars which are furnished in the Estimates and in my Noble Friend's memorandum which accompanies the Estimates of the work of the vocational training centres at Chisledon, Hounslow and Aldershot. In addition to training men for military life and duties, the Army does what it can within the means available to fit them during the last few months of their colour service into civil life when they have left the Army. This is an interesting, useful and highly successful enterprise. The Army cannot any longer be described as a dead end. We know definitely that at least 86.6 per cent. of these trainees obtain civil employment on discharge from the Army.
Vote 6 covers supplies and road transport. We do our best to feed the troops well and economically. Great advances are constantly being made in respect of cold storage and ice manufacture in hot climates in which our troops are called upon to serve. This conduces to greater comfort and better health. Mechanical road transport suitable for military needs is also provided in this Vote. That provision is not quite so simple as one might assume. In a mechanical age armies must adapt themselves to mechanical transport under all sorts of conditions, but in commercial life transport is designed for properly constructed roads. We have no assurance that if ever we have to fight we shall be provided with good surface roads, or, even if we are, that those roads will long remain in good condition.
For some years we have been designing types of vehicles which can function over rough country. Unfortunately, these vehicles are expensive, and, although a type of suitable six-wheeled vehicle has been produced, it has not proved generally acceptable to commercial users. If we must have this type of six-wheeled vehicle, clearly we must either know that a sufficient supply is readily available from industrial sources, or else we must carry large reserves of our own. We have always sought to avoid the latter alternative, and for some years we have offered subsidies to private owners for suitable six-wheeled vehicles. This, however, I regret to say, has not been successful, and the subsidies are therefore being abolished. Fortunately, four-wheeled vehicles have made really remarkable progress in recent years. We are still hoping that a large portion of our requirements in emergency will be found from industry by impressments off the road. I will make no special reference to Vote 7 or 8 which deal with clothing and general stores.
Vote 9 provides for warlike stores, establishment for research and design in connection with those stores, and for their inspection. Mention has been made in the House and outside of a fresh committee having been set up to conduct an investigation into the new methods of anti-aircraft defence. So far as the War Office is concerned, hon. Members may be surprised, and I know they will be interested, to learn that we have already for some time past maintained a research organisation in which distinguished civil scientists are associated. As a result of this, there have been various remarkable developments, some of which have already been adopted by one or other of the services, and others of which are still in their experimental stage. Proposals have been made for an extension of these inquiries so as to ensure that possible new developments are not overlooked and also to ensure better coordination with the work of other service departments.
The details of expenditure under Vote 9 are set out fully in the Estimates. Approximately £1,000,000 is to be spent upon our ammunition reserve, which is much too low for safety. I would remind the House that there are fewer commercial firms now engaged in the armament industry in this country than before the War, and that there is a direct connection between the capacity of industry for manufacturing armaments and the extent of reserves which we would need. The lower the industrial capacity the higher must be our reserves. If, as has been urged in some quarters of this House, it were decided to prohibit the manufacture of armaments by private industry I am afraid that the reserves would have to be vastly increased. Whether those high reserves would be less dangerous to peace than the existence of private firms which carry out industrial manufacture as well as work on armaments may be problematical, but I am certain that the cost to the country would be more. At present the industrial capacity is relatively low and the reserves, too, are low, far too low. There is included in this Vote provision for the supply of respirators for anti-gas training for the Territorial Army.
Several hon. Members are quite properly perturbed at the backwardness of our housing arrangements for the soldiers at home. I have carried out recently a personal investigation into this problem. Many of our permanent barracks are very old and admittedly unsatisfactory. At some stations we still have temporary structures some of which are very many years old. From a personal inspection, I should imagine that we still have some relics of the Crimean War. Many married families are living under very bad conditions. Some are quartered in houses and some in huts such as would not be tolerated in civil life. The War Office have never denied the justice of the complaint. They do their best with the funds available, and we are advancing more rapidly in these Estimates than for some years past; but even at the present rate of progress it will take 15 years or so to catch up to the ideas of to-day as regards married quarters and huts. By then ideas will have progressed still further, and we shall still be backward. It may be that some other method may have to be adopted if we are to succeed more effectively in our determination to house all our troops and their families under really satisfactory conditions.
That is all I have to say at the moment on the several Votes. There is, however, one general aspect of these Estimates to which I would like to call very special attention. More than half the money which we are asking for is to be spent directly in pay, pensions or civil wages, and in addition the purchases and services are in themselves responsible for the employment of many thousands of our own workpeople at home. I have often been asked by hon. Friends of mine in the House why it is that the Contracts Department of the War Office, for which the Secretary of State makes me personally responsible, makes purchases from foreign countries. I can assure my hon. Friends that very sound reasons have to be forthcoming before any orders, large or small, are placed in foreign countries. I cannot now go into details, but when I give the House certain figures I believe they will be satisfied that we never fail, wherever reasonably possible, to place our contracts for British and, failing that, for Empire goods. During the 12 months ended 30th September, 1934, the last complete period for which figures are readily available, the value of purchases made by the Contracts Department at headquarters was £7,966,000. Of this amount £221,000, or only 2.8 per cent., was spent on foreign goods, £647,000, or 8.1 per cent., was spent on Empire goods, while the whole of the rest, namely, £7,098,000, or 89.1 per cent., was spent with British industries. So much for contracts.
From what I said in the earlier part of my speech, it must be abundantly obvious that my great desire in presenting these Estimates to the House has been to prove that they contain nothing which could properly be described as provocative. To my right hon. Friends and other Members of the Opposition may I add this brief appeal. At this moment of uncertainty, when, who knows, we may even be approaching another crisis in the history of this Empire, surely it is desirable, surely it is wise, surely it is statesmanlike, for all parties to show a united front in the simple, straightforward determination that the personnel of our Army shall be more adequately equipped and shall become more efficient and consequently better able to defend themselves and the country against any possible aggression. That is the sole object of these Estimates—to put us in a better position for defending ourselves. In peace the tasks of the British Army are more varied than those performed by any other army in the world. The territories which it guards are greater in extent than those of any other foreign State. Yet our Army is smaller than the army of any other great colonial Power. In these circumstances I certainly do not intend to apologise for this year's increase. It is inevitable if the policy of the Government is to be carried out, a policy which, as I say, has already been accepted by this House. I feel sure, then, that if these facts are borne in mind we shall have very little to complain about in the discussion which will now follow. It is with full confidence that I submit these Estimates to the House.
It is no light thing at any time to be called upon to move the Army Estimates for the year, it is no light thing to be called upon to deputise for the Secretary of State, and when that has to be done in what is practically the first speech that a Minister makes to the House the position is one which I am sure calls for sympathy. While the right hon. Gentleman cannot expect us to respond to the plea he made to us, or expect us to agree with a good deal of his matter, yet the least we can do is to say that the form of the speech and the explanation of the Estimates to-day has been admirable. I was very much struck by the first item with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt, the conduct of the troops. No words could be used which would do more than justice to the men of the British Army from the point of view of conduct, and, indeed, when reading the annual report of the British Army, I have sometimes wondered why the War Office did not make rather more of it than they do, instead of giving us a whole list of figures.
Those who know something of the general conduct as well as the standard of education of the troops, and know the work they perform, were not at all surprised at the splendid eulogies won by the troops who went to the Saar. The right hon. Gentleman was well entitled to make the claim that he did concerning their conduct. I talked to some of the troops when they returned, and I was impressed by the warmth of feeling they expressed for the people of the Saar. The impression I got was that we had sent to the Saar soldiers, but that they had turned out to be merely good neighbours and had earned the esteem of the people living there. If the statesmen of this country and the statesmen of Europe generally could aproach the problems that are upon them to-day, and that have been multiplied during the week-end, in the spirit and with the tact, good sense and feeling of neighbourliness shown by the ordinary "Tommy" in the Saar, there would be hope for a successful issue to our difficulties.
Every year we get a report dealing with recruiting, and I had expected the right hon. Gentleman would say something about that. We are told that out of 80,203 applicants to join the Army only 25,564 were finally approved. Approximately 68 per cent. were rejected on account of physical, educational or other defects. The report says:
It must, however, be remembered that the medical standard required of the soldier is equivalent to, if not higher than, that for a first-class insurance policy. It must be remembered also that many men are rejected for the Army on account of disabilities, which incapacitate them from the military point of view only, and which do not reflect on their general health. For this reason, the figures cannot be taken as an indication of the health and physique of the nation as a whole. Of the number of applicants to join, 45.5 per cent. were either in employment or had been so during the preceding three months.
I want to challenge that conclusion. The great mass of the men who have been rejected are aged between 18 and 20 years, and two out of every three have been rejected. One naturally expects that between 18 and 20 years the average person is what one might term Al for purposes of insurance. It must be borne in mind also that the great bulk of the men who go into the Army are of the more adventurous type, and usually consider themselves as physically fit for the job and of quite good appearance for the purposes for which they enlist. What is more significant still is that every year this goes on: 80,000 offer themselces to enlist and roughly 25,000 are accepted. Any hon. Member can take this report and look at the figures for the past 10 years, and he will find that this year's figures are pretty much what they have been for some years past, except that they are actually getting worse.
It is significant that the War Office find it necessary to state that something like 45 per cent. were either working when they enlisted or had been within the last three months. That means that 65 per cent. were unemployed, and, if the Government are so very serious about being efficient, about having the Army's stores made up, surely it is more import-ant that the Army's human equipment should be physically fit for the tasks that they are called on to perform. It is a trite statement, but there is abundant fact in human history to prove it: that it is possible to keep external enemies out, and yet for a nation or an Empire to be ruined by being blind to the obvious facts affecting the physical, mental and moral life of the nation. I therefore hope that if the Government are in the mood to spend extra money on the Army, when it comes to the question of considering spending money to keep men employed and well fed they will show the same enthusiasm.
These Estimates amount to £43,600,000, with an increase of something like £4,000,000 on last year. When the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was making his speech on defence, I was very much struck by the fact that he seemed so hard put to it that he gave a good deal of attention to the items which come-under Vote 10 dealing with works and buildings. He seemed anxious to give the impression to the House that one of the great items was that which dealt with the housing of the soldiers, both single and married. But out of the £4,000,000 there is only just over £400,000 for works and buildings. It is about 11 per cent. of the whole. Indeed, I thought that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs found himself in great difficulties when he had to depend on that argument. But that £400,000 increase is not just for the purpose of housing soldiers, barracks, married quarters and the rest of it; a great deal of it is for the purpose of housing new tanks, and various mechanical units. No one on this side would make the slightest complaint if the increase were for the purpose of housing soldiers. We certainly would not be a party to conditions which hardly reach the ordinary standards of the Ministry of Health. But that does not cover this Vote by any means.
If hon. Members will look at this particular Vote, they will see some very striking things in it. One of them, for instance, is a token Vote on page 203. It is a Vote of about £2,250,000 for Hong Kong, but we only get a token Vote of £100. I did think that the right hon. Gentleman would have given some attention to that item. I want to measure my words about this, but I do not think it is fair to the House and I do not think it is fair to the country that the War Office should try and push through a huge vote of that description on a mere token Vote, and I think we were entitled to some more explanation. It is said that it is for the purpose of providing accommodation for three battalions. What sort of accommodation is that which is going to cost about £700,000 for each battalion? I see that there is a new depot costing £132,000. It is really extraordinary that we should have an item of this description pushed away in a corner without any attempt to explain it. I should like to ask: Is this in pursuance of further defences of a more militaristic character than appears on the surface? Then there is three quarters of a million pounds for Singapore this year. Those are some of the items that come into this Vote for works and buildings. So that when the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs tried to get away with this as an item for housing soldiers, doing the decent thing, keeping them up to healthy standards, he was not giving proper attention to it or else he had not been properly briefed.
I wonder why it is we get this expenditure on housing every year. We have now been spending money on this purpose for nearly 20 years. For the last 10 years there has been an average of over £3,000,000 spent on works and buildings, and many millions have been spent on new conditions. The right hon. Gentleman may not know it, but for some years now I have drawn attention to this fact. I have always been led to ask myself the question: Are we really getting value for our money? Is it not time that, with the amount of money that has been spent, the soldier was guaranteed proper housing conditions, both married and single? A great part of that £30,000,000 has gone for that purpose, and we ought not to be in the position at this time of day of saying that the Ministry of Health would condemn the great mass of the barracks and the housing standards generally of the troops. In fact, I am so concerned about this that I am wondering if the House would not think it worth while doing something about it. I think that we have spent over £1,000,000 at Catterick, and yet there are old huts and all the rest of it in that part of the world still. It is high time that the War Office took steps to survey this business in order that the House may have a guarantee that its money is properly spent, and that there is to be an end to these insanitary conditions for soldiers.
But that is only one small item of the whole amount of the increase that we are asked to pass to-day. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs argued in the defence Debate that we have only so many soldiers now and that we had so many in 1914; that we have not as big an Army now as we had in 1914. The right hon. Gentleman has followed not exactly the same lines, but he has said that we need this £4,000,000 in order that we shall have an efficient Army. I am astonished to hear that kind of statement from that Box. I have been listening here now for many years to speeches from the War Office representatives, and all along the line we have been told that we have not got a big Army but we have got an efficient Army. He is only a little fellow, but he is trained to the last ounce. That is the story we have heard continually. It is not worth while reading quotations from previous speeches, but that is the line that has been taken. If we take even the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman, there is really not a word in his speech last year to demonstrate that the Army was not properly equipped. We were never given the slightest hint about that, and I can explain why. Comparison of the numbers, if nothing else, in 1914, with those of to-day, is simply ridiculous. In 1914 there were two machine guns to a battalion. Two was a magic word for the War Office at that time. I understand that we had 148 infantry battalions in 1914, with 296 machine guns altogether; in 1935 we have 136 infantry battalions with 5,712 machine guns, Lewis and other guns. That is a tremendous difference. There has also been enormous development of power. We have nearly 300 tanks. Comparisons with pre-war times, or even with last year or the year before, are ridiculous. Every year there is an increase of the fire power for the money spent, which is altogether out of proportion to anything that can be measured in money or men.
I remember when we got the new word "mechanisation," I should not be surprised if it were not this country which coined the phrase "mechanised army." We were told at that time that for the amount of money we had to spend we should never have large numbers of men, and that as we had to have a small Army it was necessary to make it as powerful as possible. It appears to be assumed that Members of the House have not been following this matter very closely and that the modern man does not know anything, even in a general way, about the terrifically increased power for destruction of modern arms, as compared with only a few years ago. I have been very much surprised to find so much talk about lack of equipment, need for renovation, stores being under-manned, and that kind of thing. It is quite new, but it tallies with the story that is being told in other parts of the world to other nations. I noticed in the French debates on Saturday that the same terms were being used, and I suppose the Germans will be using them. There is the same round of terms and phrases that mean nothing in particular. The whole story in this Estimate is of armoured cars, tanks, tractors, artillery wagons, infantry transport, and such items. No one who has seen a modern mechanised army operating, with its series of terrifying steel towers ranging from a vast building of steel to the whippets around, will be in any way beguiled by the idea that we have only a small, inefficient, ill-equipped Army. That is not a good enough story for the Government to try to put across, when they want this increase of £4,000,000, £2,000,000 of which is going in this direction.
We ought to have a more explicit explanation as to the lack of stores. That is altogether new. The statement of the Secretary of State for War in his memorandum is that there is a new means of preserving stores. The Department have a means of examining stores in order to stop disease by means of radiology. I should think that we have led the van in the industrial life of this country in testing and experimenting in that direction. Not very much is said about it, and I shall not go into details, although there is no reason why I should not do so. In Woolwich a special department can test the condition of stores of almost any kind and radiate light through very strong solids. I want the case made out for the destruction of stores. It is said that there is a lack of stores. The right hon. Gentleman has said that we have not the same number of factories producing munitions as in the normal days before the War, but I do not think that there is anything in that. The potential productive power applies in that direction as it applies to anything else in the whole range of production. It applies also to Woolwich.
I do not know whether there is anything in the statement that Woolwich Arsenal is to be moved; I hope there is not. I do not know whether the Government have arrived at a decision in the matter, but, if the arsenal is unfortunately to be moved, I wish to make it clear to the Government that they must not do the same in respect to Woolwich as they did with regard to the Pimlico army clothing factory not very far from this House. In that case, the lease was up, and the Government simply scrapped the whole business. They simply abandoned the whole of the War Office experience in that direction and put themselves into the hands of private producers. It is not easy to obtain a comparison of what is happening under private production, but the War Office are certainly losing experience by which to test the private producers of army uniforms and safeguard themselves against those who would exploit the Department. If there is to be experiment and research for the production of stores and munitions and guns, it is to be hoped that the Government will do it themselves instead of letting the work go to private firms. I do not believe there is anything in the statement that power for the production of munitions is not as great as it was before the War. Factories and units are bigger and the productive capacity is infinitely—many times—ahead of what it was in years gone by.
There has not been by any means a satisfactory explanation of the increase which we are called upon to vote. We have not been told in what we are deficient. The right hon. Gentleman used that word continually. He said there was a deficiency in equipment. The Army was deficient in this, that, and the other, and he is asking the House to vote an increase of £4,000,000 despite the continued statements that the Army, even if small, was very efficient. The fact is that the £4,000,000 is part of a general increased expenditure on defence, and is of one piece with the increases in regard to the Navy and the Air Force. When we speak about the small unit of defence, such as our Army, we cannot dissociate it from the fact that we have to vote vast Estimates for the Navy and considerable Estimates for the Royal Air Force. The Government must face the fact that in asking us to increase this Estimate they have departed from the routine which has been followed by Governments for a number of years of doing their business along pacific lines and relying to some extent upon collective action through the League of Nations. It is significant that we are asked not merely for an increase of £4,000,000, but that for the first time since the War there is a complete departure from reliance upon collective action and upon the collective wisdom of that organisation which was set up for the purpose of giving a sense of security to the peoples of the world.
The Government cannot be very satisfied of the effect of this increase upon the world at large. On this side of the House we are no more in love with the present creed of the Germans than is anyone else, but Governments in the past have withstood it to some extent, and have relied upon collective action to give hope of security to the world. If ever there was a time when the statesmen of this country and of the world should take note of the ordinary man in the street, it is the present time. Rather than trust the present Government or its policy, I should be prepared to trust a delegation from, say, the British Legion to meet the ex-combatants of other countries. I would rather accept the contribution that they would make than that of the statesmen who have been manipulating and manoeuvring things during the past few years. I remember, as a lad in the pit, thinking of the Foreign Secretary as a man very able in international law, as one of very great experience and status in both legal and social matters, and generally as a statesman to be looked up to; but, taking into account the experience of the British troops in the Saar, the experience of the various peoples of the world and the agony they have gone through in our lifetime, the gloom which now rests upon this and other lands, the almost despair that has settled upon the people of this and other countries, I should say it would be a good thing if statesmen generally would stand aside and let people meet each other. We shall vote against these Estimates; we shall take the consequences of that vote; but we would say to His Majesty's Government and to the statesmen of other countries: "For God's sake get out of the light, and let the people see each other."
The Estimates that we have to consider this afternoon are remarkable in that they follow on the White Paper which we discussed on Monday, and, therefore, have a very peculiar relationship, not only to the armed forces of the country, but to the foreign policy pursued by the Government. I do not propose to enter into that at this moment, though I may have something to say about it later; but I propose to consider the Estimates themselves in one or two respects. I think every Member in the House must have been struck by the fact that the increases in the Estimates do not concern only one Vote, but cover every Vote. It is true that the principal increases are in one or two Votes, but nevertheless it is remarkable that, in the whole of the long list of Votes of which we shall be asked to approve as time goes on, there is a substantial increase, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question about the figures he gave. Speaking of Vote 9 (Warlike Stores), he indicated that £1,500,000 was going to be spent on coast defences here and abroad, and £450,000 upon new anti-aircraft defences. Later in his speech he indicated that an additional £1,000,000 was going to be spent upon reserve ammunition. These sums amount to nearly £3,000,000, instead of an increase of £2,000,000. I may have misunderstood what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I put the figures down at the time. Perhaps he will be kind enough if he does not wish to intervene now, to tell the House, when he replies, what exactly the figures are, and what the increase in Vote 9 really does represent, because, of course, it is half the total increase for the year.
There is one very important point on the Estimates about which I should like some information. The right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, and it is of course known to the whole House, that the home forces are divided into five divisions. It will be within the recollection
of the Committee that on Monday last the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), who was a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence in 1931, when he was first Lord of the Admiralty, said that he did not believe that at the present moment we could send abroad an expeditionary force of even as much as three divisions without an immense delay. The right hon. Gentleman speaks with great authority. As an ex-Foreign Secretary, his words are very closely followed by foreign Governments and in the foreign Press, and I think that what he said ought either to be confirmed or denied this evening by the right hon. Gentleman who answers for the War Office. I have the right hon. Gentleman's words here, and perhaps I had better quote them:
What is the position to-day? We could not send a similar force abroad"—
he had been speaking of the expeditionary force of August, 1914.
We could not send, I venture to say, six divisions, we could not send five, we could not send four, we could not send three without prolonged delay."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1935; col. 77, Vol. 299.]
If that be the case, we are spending £43,000,000 this year without getting anything comparable with the result that we got for very much less money before the War. Those are the particular points about which I wanted to inform myself on these Estimates.
I must take note of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman said in the course of his speech that these increased Estimates represented an instalment towards the equipment of the field force. What proportion does that instalment bear to the eventual expenditure? I assume from the White Paper that the Government propose a gradually increasing expenditure upon what they call reconditioning the armed forces of the Crown, and I gather from the right hon. Gentleman that the increase which we see this year is an instalment. What is the policy which involves the total fresh expenditure? I imagine that this instalment has not been taken in hand without the whole eventual expenditure being planned out, and that the Government have a pretty accurate idea of their intentions. I should very much like to know what percentage of the total
planned additional expenditure is represented by the increase of £4,000,000 this year. My right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) quoted last Monday the statement issued with the 1933 Estimates by Lord Hailsham, and that quotation, upon which he founded an argument, was not answered in the Debate. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes to reply this evening, will be so good as to explain it, because in 1933 Lord Hailsham wrote, referring to the previous seven years:
They have been years of extreme financial stringency, but although the Army Estimates are some £4,500,000 less than when he (Lord Milne) came to the War Office, the efficiency of the Army is higher"—
not equal, but higher.
Good progress has been made in the policy of mechanisation,"—
and so on. That is a very remarkable statement. In 1933, the expenditure on the Army was about £50,000 under £38,000,000. It is now proposed to expend upon the Army £43,500,000. Are we to gather, then, that in 1933 the Army was £6,000,000 more in decay than it is alleged to be now, or that it was really, as Lord Hailsham said, more efficient than before, although the expenditure had been cut down? I frankly confess that I find these statements extraordinarily hard to reconcile, and surely, for Estimates which, in a time of considerable financial stringency, show a large total increase, we should have a better reason than an ipse dixit that the Army-is in a state of apparent decay. Above all, I should like some reassurance as regards the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham that we could not, without very prolonged delay, send abroad even three divisions. If that is the truth to-day, it must have been the truth in 1933, in 1926, and, indeed, during the whole of the last 10 years. I do not think I need enter into any further details.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the Estimates this year bear a peculiar relationship to foreign policy, owing to the issue of the White Paper which we debated last Monday. My friends and I propose to vote against Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair, because that is the only opportunity given to us to mark our disappointment at and our distrust of the foreign policy which the Government have followed, and which has led, as they say in their own White Paper, to the necessity for this increase in the Estimates. The situation in March, 1935, is a deplorable one. I should have thought that in July of last year the omens for a successful foreign policy had never been so favourable since the end of the War. You had in that month a peculiar combination of events. There had been, first of all, on the 30th June, a massacre which served to confirm the opinion held, I hope, in all civilised nations of the character of the German Government and its leaders. There was at the same time the general acknowledgement by Europe that Russia should be invited into the League of Nations, and there was the approaching settlement of the old Italian and French difficulties, which for decades had been the chief stumbling-block in the way of arriving at a common European policy. In addition to that, we saw the collapse of the Nazi attempt upon Austria, which had served to awaken Italy to the danger of the Nazi régime; and there was the French policy which was leading to the Yugoslav-Italian entente, which is now an accomplished fact. In July of last year there was, technically, a diplomatic situation which looked better than at any time since the War.
That was a time, I should have thought, when it would have been comparatively easy to arrive at a joint policy which would, at the same time, disarm and conciliate Germany. It was a time when you could have arrived, it is true, not immediately but by gradual stages, at a policy designed to do two things—first of all, to make a fair offer to Germany—which would not be an offer by one Power or by two Powers, but by the whole of Europe—and, secondly, to show to Germany that, in default of the acceptance of a fair offer, not one Power or two Powers but the whole of Europe was determined to see that she should create no mischief in Europe. Those were, and they remain, the two primary considerations for peace. I do not propose to dwell upon the breakdown of the Disarmament Conference, which is, to some extent, alleged to necessitate this expenditure. I personally always held the view that disarmament conferences could not be wholly successful until the political difficulties had been tackled and settled, and it is on the failure of the Government to tackle and to settle the political difficulties that I base my vote this evening. These Estimates are the direct consequence of that, and it is because they are a direct consequence, and because we have little or no faith in the ability of the Government to grasp the opportunities which are so constantly given to them, and because we believe that they have often and often missed the opportunity, that we are determined this evening to vote against them.
I earnestly hope that the events of the last 48 hours in Germany are not going to lead to any kind of panic either here or in the rest of Europe. It is, perhaps, on the whole as well that we should know more fully and more openly than we did before exactly where Germany stands to-day, and it may perhaps make it easier for the mission which we hope that the Foreign Secretary is still going to undertake. At the same time, if the Foreign Secretary is successful in his mission, it will not be because of his previous efforts, I am glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's approbation of those sentiments. I hope that he will convey them to his right hon. colleague the Secretary of State. I do not feel that any success which the Secretary of State may have in that mission will be due to the efforts which he has previously made. I believe that opportunities have been missed over and over again, and if this last chance of negotiating with Germany through an otherwise unified Europe is missed, then I think that we must all tremble at what the possible consequences may be.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Harcourt Johnstone), who, as usual, delivered a very able and clear speech, that we all hope that there will be no necessity for panic in Europe, but I do not quite agree with him on the strictures which he has passed upon these Estimates, in that he referred to them as merely being caused by the defence Paper which had been issued. I produced the greatest Army Estimate that the world has ever known, and I examined these Army Estimates with the very greatest care and compared them with those of other days. Has my hon. Friend examined the figures for the last 20 years? Does he realise that these Estimates are nearly £20,000,000 less than in 1922, and that they are £1,000,000 less than they were 10 years ago? I think that it will be the judgment of anybody who has considered the whole situation that these Estimates and their increase have no relation whatever to the Foreign Office actions of this Government or of any of the Governments of Europe. I should have thought that that had been successfully proved in the Debate which took place last Monday.
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) asked us to consider the desirability of collective action. Collective action for what, and against whom? He still seems to think that it is much more Christian and holy to fire a bullet from a collective officer's rifle than it is from a nationalist officer's rifle. Wherein lies the difference? The Labour party to-day is back again where it was last Monday. If you are to have a war, does it make any great distinction from what rifle the shot is fired? I hope and believe, knowing them as I do, that my countrymen will not enter into a war except for honour and a just and honourable cause. The hon. Gentleman opposite laughs. Does he deny it?
The hon. Gentleman who has just interrupted me is speaking for himself and a few more. To my fellow-countrymen, this country is where it was in 1914, in that they would go into war if the honour of this country were at stake. I will deal with the other point raised by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, and may I say at once that nobody on that side of the House has a greater knowledge of the Army. When he was a Minister of the Crown and at the War Office, no one paid greater attention to his duty or performed his functions better. If I disagree with him to-day, I hope that he will understand that it is not in a spirit of carping criticism or of cavil. He seemed to laugh at the idea that any material part of this money was to be used for the betterment of the housing conditions of the soldier.
I do not want to be misunderstood on that point. I did not say that money was not to be used for that purpose, because there are various items, but what I did say was, that I questioned very much whether the country, or the soldier in particular, is now getting proper value for money spent on housing, or has been getting it for some time.
I can assure my hon. Friend that if he examines these Estimates and the White Paper attached to them very carefully, he will find that there is a very great improvement adumbrated in housing in what is called the modernisation of barracks in this country, and, what is more important in many ways, what is called modernisation of barracks abroad. It is all very well to stand up and gibe and sneer when a case is conclusively made out that part of these Estimates are directed to the social and moral welfare of the troops. It is undoubtedly so, and to use a slight increase in the Estimates for the purpose of belittling the efforts of this country in the interests of peace all over the world is an abuse of the Parliamentary procedure of this House. What are the facts? There is not any doubt that during the last 10 years the Army Estimates have been going down and down. What happens in every business when you have ceased to expend all that is absolutely necessary? We have tried time and again to show the countries of the world that we are a peace-loving people and have no desire for war, and I have no patience with the gibe which my hon. Friend has just made against the Foreign Secretary. If it is true that he has failed—and I do not believe that he has failed; he has shown a courage and an energy which have been quite remarkable—you might apply the same test to the colleague of my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, namely, the right hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. A. Henderson), who is Chairman of the Disarmament Conference.
I do not think so at all. The comparison is just as valid, and I would be the last man in the world to say that the Disarmament Conference has failed because my right hon. Friend the Member for Clay Cross has been the chairman. The imputation is the same—you can clothe it or word it in any way you like—with regard to the Estimates for the Army. It was one of the numerous efforts both in this House and outside by means of which we as a country attempted to show the world that we were anxious and eager to fulfil the Treaty of Versailles and to create the air and atmosphere of disarmament throughout the whole of Europe. We are being challenged to-day because after 10 years of letting the Array go down, and with barracks which ought to have been put right three or four years ago in my hon. Friend's day, and in 1922 and 1923 when his party were in office, we venture to come forward now and say, "It is high time that these things were put right." Because we do that we are challenged with the view that this is all part of the iniquitous policy of the National Government never to lift a hand or to say a word in the interests of the peace of the world. The whole thing is humbug and preposterous.
May I deal again for a moment with the speech of my hon. Friend? He told the House of Commons—it is the House of Commons, because we understand these things, and not the country—"Do not be beguiled by the mechanised army, its tanks, its guns. You see them all there. There is no peace in the atmosphere. All that wonderful equipment that you see there means war." Is that really the fact? What we are doing in these Estimates and have tried to do is to increase our mechanised war arm. Does my hon. Friend want more men killed? By mechanisation you endanger fewer lives than in the past. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] It is a fact. Is that his policy? If a war is to break out, are we to sit with our hands still and our guns unloaded? Is that the idea? What of other countries—Germany, and the favoured Russia of the Labour party which has the best mechanised army in the world, and the best aeroplanes; I will not say the best navy. Russia has one of the best mechanised armies in the world. I am entitled to use the hypothesis, and I do it with no ill-will. If they attack, are we to have no mechanised army? Are we to have no army at all? Are we to stand by and do nothing? Is that the policy of hon. Members above the Gangway opposite? We say that we have to-day the barest minimum of an Army and that the country might very well be perturbed and enraged if any Government stood aloof without making adequate preparations, at least on a minimum scale. Of course, they must be efficient preparations.
Does the right hon. Member seriously state that in his opinion the more the British Army is mechanised and the more the German Army or the Russian Army become mechanised, the fewer casualties there will be? If he states that, how does he account for the fact that in the last War, the most mechanised war in our history, we suffered the greatest number of casualties, and so did the other countries?
I am merely quoting the opinions of some of the greatest experts with whom I have discussed this question. I know that a great many experts regard what I have said as an absolute fact. Never mind, for the moment, the number of men. My point is that hon. Members opposite are critical because we produce a mechanised Army. Are we going to stand by and allow others to build up great mechanised armies, when at any time we might be attacked? Is the hon. Member opposite prepared to stand up and say that he would face his fellow-countrymen and say: "Let them all mechanise. Let them all attack us. Let them have the finest mechanised armies in the world. We will do nothing, but we will allow this country of ours, which has given liberty and justice to the world, to be trampled on by an alien army." The hon. Member is, quite rightly, silent.
Most of the money that we have been spending recently has been spent on perfecting our Army. It has been devoted almost entirely to promoting efficiency in a mechanised army, if hon. Members like to call it that, and to bring about efficiency in every branch of the Army. It has also been utilised for bringing about efficiency in the Territorial Force. There is nothing that pleases me more than to find that in the Army Estimates of this year we have a guarantee that there is almost complete co-operation between the Regular Army and the Territorial Army. In the speeches which have preceded mine, there was not a word said on that subject. In one of the most difficult and most complicated situations that we have seen in this century, or in the last century, battalions of British troops rose to a very difficult situation on the Saar and have come back without a blemish on their escutcheon. Is it not a matter of satisfaction that that should have been so? Instead of carping criticism and the imputations hurled at the Foreign Secretary, who is engaged in dealing with a serious matter elsewhere, would it not have been courteous and manly to pay a tribute to those British soldiers who, in accordance with the traditions of the British Army, carried through their work like British gentlemen?
I know that very well. It is a pleasure to pay a tribute to the other forces, but in this House of Commons one is surely entitled to pay a tribute to our own men. It must be a matter of great pleasure to the House to feel that those men acquitted themselves with dignity and honour in a most difficult situation.
I am delighted at the success of vocational training, because I took a personal interest in it in the old days. I am also delighted at the progress that has been made in education. It ought to be a matter of great pride to the Army that 18,000 certificates for education have been given to the young men of the Army. I am afraid that I have kept the House longer than I intended, but I felt that I must carry on the old traditions and say a few words about the Army. On this occasion it has given me very great pleasure to do so. It does not matter what gibes or imputations may be hurled at the British Army, or at the Foreign Secretary or at the National Government, many of us here, who know the difficulties that they have to overcome are willing by our vote and our speech to support them to-day.
I rise chiefly to ask a few questions, and I want to be sure that I do not deal with subjects already touched upon. I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend speak on the subject of improving the housing accommodation in the Army. That improvement is much required, and is long overdue. I am glad that at last he is going to do something towards effecting the necessary improvements, although he anticipates that it will take 15 years in order to bring the housing accommodation in most of the barrack quarters up to modern conditions.
I am very glad to hear that, and I hope my right hon. Friend will get more money for that purpose. I was rather disquieted to hear for the first time a Minister from the War Office say that he was not satisfied with the efficiency of the Army. I was even more surprised to hear the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) complain that the Army was not efficient, and yet object to any expenditure required to make it efficient. That seemed to me to be rather a contradictory point of view.
I am pleased that the hon. Member has made that point clear, but I certainly understood him to say otherwise. It is a matter of regret to a good many hon. Members that it was impossible for us to have a Debate on the three Defence (Services together. It is extremely difficult to deal with defence questions without infringing the Rules of Order. I should like to ask certain questions which are more or less common to the three Defence Services of the Crown. I should like to have an assurance from my right hon. Friend that he is taking every possible precaution to ensure that there is full co-ordination between the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. For instance, on such questions as public works, purchase of land, coast defence, etc., which are required by the three Services, it occurs to me that in many cases it might be more economical to employ land agents or valuers who are stationed near the proposed site, whether or not they belong to the Navy, Air Force or Army. There is another point to which I should like to draw attention, and that is to ask my right hon. Friend whether he is really satisfied that we are getting full value from Weedon. As an old cavalry officer, perhaps, it is not right that I should raise a question on such a matter as equitation, but I have wondered whether in these days of financial stringency we get full value for the £20,000 of expenditure on the school at Weedon. It seems to me that when young officers are able to go hunting on Government chargers they can learn enough equitation for the Army without having to be specially trained in trick jumping, which may be very desirable at Olympia, in order to compete with other nations at the horse show, but it is not of much military service.
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street raised the question of Woolwich, and expressed the hope that the Arsenal would not be moved from its present situation. I should like to ask the Financial Secretary whether any decision has been come to as to the value of Woolwich as an ordnance centre, or whether it has been decided to remove the Arsenal to some place which is not so exposed to air attack as Woolwich. During the last war Woolwich was fairly lucky so far as air attack was concerned, but who is going to say that if we had the misfortune to be engaged in another war Woolwich would again be so fortunate. As a centre for the manufacture of warlike stores there is no place in the United Kingdom more vulnerable than Woolwich. I have seen statements in the newspapers that the Arsenal is not to be moved from Woolwich for political reasons. The political reasons may be good ones, but they do not really affect the question of military defence.
The last point to which I would call attention is the concluding paragraph in the memorandum with respect to research. Does the research into improved methods for prolonging the life of explosives relate to each of the three Services, or is Woolwich simply inquiring into the question from the military point of view? Further, it seems to me rather extraordinary that the question of dealing with the efficiency of welds and riveting should be dealt with by the War Office. Surely that is a question which affects civilian life as much as the Army, the Navy and the Air Force? The Committee of Industrial Research would be the right body to conduct inquiry in that direction. Finally, the Memorandum states that important progress has been made in the application of wireless telegraphy and telephony to military problems. I should like to know whether the War Office are in close contact with the Post Office and with the experiments that are going on in the Post Office with regard to wireless telegraphy and telephony. We have a small army, and while we hope that it is very efficient and trust that it will never be required as it was in 1914, yet it should be ready. Even in these difficult times we should strive to maintain its efficiency and ensure that the country gets full value for the money spent.
I have always regretted that the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Sir I. Macpherson) does not speak more often in the House. He has made a most amazing speech, and during the course of it did very great injustice to my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson).
The right hon. Gentleman may have done so unwittingly; nevertheless, I think that injustice was done, and I will point out in what way. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to be somewhat indignant that a tribute had not been paid to the troops who have returned from the Saar. My hon. Friend did pay such a tribute, as did also the Financial Secretary to the War Office. Again, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be under the impression that my hon. Friend objected to the mechanisation of the Army. There again he is quite wrong. My hon. Friend has no objection, and said so, to the mechanisation of the Army. What he did say was that the mechanised army as it exists to-day was sufficient and was efficient, and that he took no objection to a mechanised army, as such. The right hon. Gentleman made two strange statements. He asked what difference it made if you were shot by a weapon in the cause of collective security or by a nationally-owned weapon.
I do not recollect thnt the right hon. Gentleman made that distinction. Surely there is all the difference in the world. The right hon. Gentleman is preaching anarchy. He is saying that every man and every nation should be the judge in their own cause.
Our contention is that it should submit its case to an international tribunal, and I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman has probably preached that principle. If I hit the right hon. Gentleman brutally and violently on the head as he leaves the House to-night, will he hit me back—I am a bigger man than he is—or will he report to a policeman and invoke the common police force of the land? I have not the slightest doubt that the right hon. Gentleman would invoke the aid of the police force. That is all the difference in the world. We say that no nation should be the judge of its own cause, and that by collective security we can get justice done, get the right thing done, better than we can in any other way. The right hon. Gentleman also said quite definitely that the Estimates have no relation to the White Paper on Defence. Let me quote from the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War:
The reasons of high policy which have led His Majesty's Government to take stock of the position of the Defence Forces of the Crown are set out in the statement relating to Defence just published and need not be recapitulated here save in so far as they affect the Military Forces.
Quite clearly from the memorandum itself, these Estimates are vitally affected
by the White Paper on Defence. There are one or two features about the Estimates to which I desire to call attention. The first is the increase which has taken place during the last seven years in the amount of the Estimates. This year they are almost £4,000,000 over 1934, £6,000,000 over 1933, and £7,500,000 over the Estimates of 1932. We are discussing to-day the highest Army Estimates for the last seven years. But the alarming nature of the Estimates, in my opinion, is that they are accompanied by a memorandum in which the Secretary of State says:
In the deliberate judgment of the Government the time has now arrived when action should be taken to bring our military preparations more up to date and provision is included in these Estimates for expenditure on matériel and for some increase in numbers as an instalment of a programme which will necessarily spread over a series of years.
We are entering to-day upon a largely increased expenditure on the Army, which the Government envisage is going to continue over a series of years. That, in my judgment, is the important matter. I recognise, and no doubt many of my hon. friends recognise, that there are a good many matters which require bringing up to date. No doubt a considerable sum is included in the Estimates for barracks, and I shall be grateful if some portion Of the money which is to be spent on the improvement of barracks will be expended on the barracks in Leeds. For probably 150 years they were a private residence, and for 25 years, to my knowledge, a girls' school, and for a further 25 years have been a barracks for two or three units, inadequate, dismal, and useless for the purpose of training troops. I hope that a little of the money to be spent will go towards the improvement of those barracks.
Another disquieting feature of the Estimates is the large increase for munitions of war. There is an increase in the amount provided for the supply of warlike stores of £2,000,000, half as much again as in the Estimates for 1934. The gun ammunition provided for is three times as great as the amount in 1934, twice as much is being spent on anti-gas equipment, three times as much on searchlights, signals and equipment; and one and a-half times as much on armoured cars and tanks, and twice as much on other mechanical vehicles. The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that the Government are not so much patching up barracks, as—to use a naval phrase—clearing for action. They are laying in a stock of munitions of war, both large and small, tanks, armoured cars, anti-gas equipment; in fact, they are in process almost of mobilising. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"] The Financial Secretary certainly gave me that impression. He said that for years past we have been short of this, that and the other, and now because of the state of Europe, the White Paper and what is happening in Germany, it was necessary to lay in a stock which could not be provided at short notice by the nation. In my submission, so far as a large part of this expenditure is concerned, the Government are clearing for action.
This is a very important point, and I want to make it clear. I think I did say—I am sure I did—that this was only an instalment and, therefore, obviously we are not clearing for action at this moment.
I am glad to be corrected, but the Financial Secretary does not reassure me in the least. He is now saying precisely what I have said, that this is a mere instalment, that the Government are laying in stocks which they have not thought necessary to lay in, although the Conservative party have been in office largely during the last 10 or 15 years.
The reason why we have not been building and preparing and have not tried to replace equipment, except during the last two or three years, is that we hoped other countries would follow our example in connection with disarmament. We cannot go on for ever becoming weaker and weaker.
There, again, I am afraid that I cannot accept that point of view, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us a few days ago that it was because of our financial situation that the Government had not done all that the Conservative party would like to have done in this matter. While we all had hoped that these negotiations might have come to fruition—I should be foolish if I said that this was not in the mind of the Government—yet our stocks require this additional expenditure because the financial situation has prevented the Government doing all that they would have liked to have done. However that may be, we on these benches feel that the increase in these Estimates, the issue of the White Paper and the fact that the Estimates of the Navy and Air Force have also been increased, show that what the Government are doing is driving this country towards the very catastrophe that they profess, quite sincerely no doubt, to be trying to avoid. That is the fear of those on the Labour benches. I, for one, do not take any very great exception to the increases as such. I take exception to considerable portions of them, to the increase in stocks of munitions and so on, but I do not regard the Estimates as a whole, as they stand apart from other things, as necessarily being wholly bad. But taking these Estimates in conjunction with the White Paper, and looking upon them as a symptom of the attitude of the Government towards all these matters, we regard them very seriously indeed. We believe that the Estimates and the White Paper coming out at the same time constitute a gross blunder and a crime for which this country may yet suffer greater agonies than any it suffered in the last War. We regard the Government's policy in that respect as being one of absolute despair.
I want now to address myself to another question in which, I think, I shall have the sympathy of all parts of the House. The matter is, I think I can truthfully say, a non-party matter, and I want to deal with it as such. I am emboldened to do so by reading that portion of the Report on the British Army in 1934 headed "Recruiting." The report shows a steady decline in recruiting from April to November of last year. It indicates that last year the smallest number of recruits was forthcoming for at least 10 years past. In other words there have been more recruits each year for 10 years than we succeeded in obtaining during 1934. Does it not strike the House that very possibly what is known as the Army ex-ranker officers' claim might have a very serious effect on the possibilities of recruiting? The House is aware that that claim relates for the most part to senior non-commissioned officers, warrant officers, sergeant-majors and so on, who were pensioned prior to the Great War or were serving soldiers during the War and were discharged without pension for the purpose of being commissioned. For the most part they were senior non-commissioned officers and warrant officer instructors, and every one of us who served in any capacity in the Army will agree that they were, as they always have been, its backbone. It is that particular class to whom this claim refers. Many of them served in the Army 20, 30 and even more years. Their fathers served before them, and their grandfathers, and their brothers and frequently their children served during the War. Then they found that they and they alone were left out when the question of granting adequate retired pay came to be considered by the Government.
There have been a good many statements on the subject made in this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary has, in the past at any rate, sympathetically regarded this claim, as indeed did many of the present Members of the Government. In recent months many statements on this matter have been made which have not been strictly accurate, and I propose quite shortly to deal with them. I have said that all other classes serving under the same conditions and having the same change of status as the ex-ranker officers have received their appropriate and adequate retired pay. They included the permanently commissioned non-commissioned officers, ranker officers of the Indian Army, Marines who served in the Army alongside the ranker officers, and those ex-ranker officers who were commissioned after May, 1918. The class to which I have referred are the only ones left out. All who served alongside them and under the same conditions and in the same places have received appropriate retired pay.
What are the contentions that have always been advanced against the admission of this claim? They are these: First, the question of cost. It has been said within recent months by the Financial Secretary, in answer to questions put by myself and others, that the cost of admitting this claim would be a sum of £10,000,000. I assert, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to contradict me, that the cost of admitting this claim today would be nothing like that. In 1924, when the first calculations were made, the cost would have been £175,000 per annum only, and to-day the sum would not exceed £100,000 per annum, a less sum than we pay every year for recruiting. There is no question whatever of £10,000,000 or anything like it. The sum is £100,000 a year, and capitalised that is less than £1,000,000. It is said that if this claim is admitted there will be many consequental claims directly arising out of that admission. I assert, and again challenge the right hon. Gentleman to contradict me, that there are no other consequential claims of any sort or kind which could by any possibility directly arise out of the admission of the ex-ranker officers' claim. The statement to which I have referred has been made by the War Office and its representatives for 10 years or more, and I assert that there is no foundation whatever for it.
There is no other class of men which did not receive appropriate retired pay when they changed their status, as these men did by becoming officers when serving ill the ranks. Hon. Members who have served in the Army know the difference of status. The officer has a status and position to keep up. The ex-ranker officers in almost all instances, certainly in the great majority of cases, were persuaded to take commissions. They would have been better off if they had not done so, but under pressure and at the request of their commanding officers and so on they took commissions. They have suffered as a result. The distinction is that change of status. There is no other class which made that change of status and which can be quoted as similar in all respects to the ex-ranker officers. There is no consequential claim which can possibly arise out of the admission of this claim. The Financial Secretary, in answer to questions, has said that there is the case of the captain who became a colonel. But in that case there is no change of status; the man was an officer all the time.
Yes, he lost his separation allowance and many other things. He lost the increased pension to which he would have been entitled had he continued to serve as a noncommissioned officer. He is now receiving 4s. 4d. a day. There were lieutenants, captains, majors and colonels, and there were even some generals among them. Some of them are receiving 4s. 4d. a day, but had they continued to servo in the Army as non-commissioned officers they would have received 6s. 8d. a day. Then it is said that the matter has been discussed and decided upon by a Committee appointed by the Government in 1924. That Committee was composed of three eminent, and I am sure perfectly fair and impartial, individuals. But they had no knowledge whatever of the Army or Army Orders. They had before them as witness and as their sole adviser a representative of the War Office. That representative of the War Office gave evidence against the ex-ranker officers. He was the only person with knowledge of the appropriate Army Orders. The members of the tribunal had no knowledge of Army Orders, and they dealt with the matter as a legal one, and not, as the ex-ranker officers contended it should have been dealt with, as a merely equitable one. Hence the decision to which they came.
Certainly, and he gave evidence, but he neither had the knowledge nor the appropriate Army Orders to which to refer. The members of the tribunal ought to have had independent advice on that matter. Contrast that case with the case of the Marines who came under the Admiralty. They served alongside some of these ranker officers, under the same conditions, and at the same places, and they did exactly the same work. They went to the Admiralty, and the Admiralty set up a committee consisting of naval officers who knew the regulations and were competent to deal with them. That tribunal without question admitted the claim of the Marines just as, in my submission, any committee composed of military men, or those who knew the regulations, would be bound to grant the claim of the ex-ranker officers. It has been stated that the pension of these particular individuals was re-assessed. But the pension of every non-commissioned officer or warrant officer was re-assessed, and the ex-ranker officers were in no way specially favoured.
I have dealt with the question of the alleged legal rights. There are many other points to which I could address myself. It will be within the recollection of the House that no fewer than 325 Members of this House have approved and entered their names to a Motion asking that this matter should be reconsidered. As this is a democratic country and democratic House of Commons I should have thought that the Government would have acceded to a request supported by a majority of Members of the House. I make this further suggestion. Will the right hon. Gentleman be so good as to ask the appropriate authority, the Secretary of State for War or the Lord President of the Council, to appoint a select committee of this House, preferably composed of men who have served in the Army and have a knowledge of Army regulations, to go into this question. It used to be said that an officer spent the first seven years of his Army life studying allowance regulations. Without meaning any offence, I suggest that if the right hon. Gentleman represented that it was the desire of the House that there should be a select committee, composed of those with knowledge of the subject and if such a committee were set up, it would relieve the House from the obligation of discussing this matter further and I feel sure would be satisfactory to those who have for so many years been putting forward what in my view is a just claim.
The right hon. Gentleman concluded his speech to-day by appealing to the House, at this moment, when, as he said, we might be approaching a crisis, to strengthen the Army and make it efficient in regard to recruiting and so forth. I would use his own words and say that at this moment when we may be approaching a crisis and when the figures of recruiting are falling year by year as they have done for many years past, would it not be a right and proper, and indeed a judicious act, on the part of the Government to mete out justice to the ex-ranker officers? I receive week by week, almost day by day, letters from men who served for many years in high ranks and who are now unemployed, or receiving poor relief. Many of them are in great distress and almost in despair. I also receive letters from the widows of deceased officers—men who served for many years whose fathers and whose grandfathers in some cases served in His Majesty's Forces. Their widows to-day are acting as charwomen and cleaners or subsisting on Poor Law relief. When the House is considering Estimates such as these, are we going to pass over the claims of those who did their bit or tried to do it between 1914 and 1918? I sincerely hope that there will be such an expression of feeling on this subject from all parts of the House that the Government will feel, as the right hon. Gentleman himself has put it, that at this moment at any rate when we may be approaching a crisis, it is but right and just to make some reparation to the men who have for so long been putting forward this claim.
I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
in view of the important role assigned to the Territorial Army in the system of national defence, this House considers that improvements in the pay, training, and conditions of service of the Territorial Army are needed to increase its numbers and efficiency.
My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office devoted a considerable portion of his statement today to the Territorial Army. That attention on his part will be noted with appreciation by those who are interested in the subject. I would also like to assure him that the concessions about allowances and other matters which he announced will be welcome. Each of those concessions will have its effect and although some of us wish that they could go further, and will ask that the extension of one of them at least should be considered, yet I recognise that in the Estimates of this year, for the first time in many years, the Territorial soldier will receive an increase in his allowances instead of the reductions which have been the rule ever since 1925. I shall return later to the consideration of some of these concessions, but I wish at once to say, "Thank you," to my right hon. Friend for what he has been able to announce.
It is not surprising that a good deal of concern is felt, especially by Territorial associations, about the recruiting and general efficiency of the Territorial Army if we consider the importance of the role which has been placed upon them. Very serious responsibilities have now been laid upon the Territorial soldier and the Territorial associations—responsibilities which are far larger than any that have ever been placed in our past history on any of our auxiliary forces, whether the Territorial Force of pre-war days, or the Volunteers, or the Militia or the Yeomanry which was raised in the days of Napoleon, I do not think it is sufficiently recognised, outside the circle of those who are specially interested in the Territorial Army, how great are those responsibilities, and it is worth while to restate them. The best way of explaining them is to compare the responsibilities of the Territorial Army to-day with what they were before the War. Then the position was that there was, first, the Regular Army, ready to go anywhere should occasion arise. Behind it was the Militia, also ready to proceed oversea and to reinforce the regular Army, and third, came the Territorial Force which was enlisted in those days for home defence. There was then no obligation on Territorial soldiers to serve oversea.
What is the position to-day? There is, first, a much smaller regular Army with fewer reservists to fill up its ranks. There is no Militia and there is nothing further behind the regular Army to provide it with immediate reinforcements. In fact, the only force behind the regular Army is now the Territorial Army and I think it is true to say that the regular Army of to-day with its five divisions would, in any great emergency, only be the advance guard and that the main body of the Army would be found by the Territorials. It is an indication of the changed role of the Territorial Army that every officer and man is now required to undertake the obligation to serve oversea. The role of the Territorial Army, therefore, can be summarised as follows: First it is for home defence. Second, in any great emergency it will form the main body of His Majesty's Army. Third, it will be the sole means of expansion. Fourth, it is under an obligation to serve oversea. Finally, to-day, it is mainly upon the Territorial Army that the responsibility rests for the defence of our home ports against naval attack and for the land anti-aircraft defences of the country.
What is the deduction to be made from these responsibilities? It seems to me they mean that, in the present reduced state of our regular Army, any but the very smallest campaign would require the embodiment or partial embodiment of the Territorial Army, either to set free regular troops or to reinforce them. Let us look at the state of the force upon which this heavy responsibility has been placed. Ever since the Territorial Army was reconstituted in 1921 there has been one striking feature about it and that is the shortage of recruits. The present establishment of the Territorial Army, exclusive of coast defence troops is, I believe, 162,600 officers and men. But ever since its reconstitution it has never been anything like up to that establishment and at the present moment the position is as bad as, if not worse than, it has ever been. The deficiency on 1st October last was 37,500 or nearly one-quarter of the establishment and I believe there has been no improvement in recent months. It is true that in some years the deficiency has been larger in numbers but only in those years when special causes were operating, such as in 1932 when the camps were suspended and in 1927 and the two following years after the abolition of the bounty. But since those two years there has been some reduction in the establishment and I think at the present time there are fewer men enrolled in the Territorial Army than at any time in the last 10 years except 1932.
There is no need to go into a panic about this state of affairs, but it can hardly be considered satisfactory for a force which carries such a heavy responsibility. The shortage of men reduces the efficiency of the force. There are many units to-day which, if called upon to mobilise, would have to increase their present numbers by 50 per cent. and that could only be done either by bringing in a large number of men with no training, which would prolong the period required for preparation, or else by drawing upon the small reservoir of trained Territorial reserves and that would greatly handicap any expansion which might be required. This recruiting position seems to justify the concern felt by many Members of this House, and by Territorial associations a concern certainly not diminished by the events of the week-end. I, therefore, think that the Government are right in turning their attention to the question: "What can be done to improve the position?" I have no doubt that some of my hon. Friends, if fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, will have specific suggestions to offer for the encouragement of recruiting and I think that my best course in beginning this part of the discussion is to try to indicate the general lines which I think we ought to pursue, rather than to deal with a great number of details.
If we are to attract more recruits I suggest that we must succeed in three things. First, we must arouse interest in the Territorial Army. Second, we must make it worth while for men to join. Third, we must retain the interest of those who have joined so that they may become in their districts real recruiting agencies for the Territorial Army. There is much that I could say about the last of these three things, but to save time I propose to confine myself to the first two. No one can persuade me that it is impossible to find an extra 38,000 men of the right stamp, if it is clearly understood what the role of the Territorial Army is. That these men do not at present come forward is, I believe, largely due to the fact that the Territorial Army has not the prestige in the country which it ought to have and which it deserves. It is not taken sufficiently seriously in many quarters, and it is regarded as a kind of survival from pre-War days which can hardly be expected to interest the modern young man. That kind of view may be overcome in time if the importance of the role of the Territorial Army is emphatically stated by responsible people, especially in the way in which my right hon. Friend stated it, and if the importance of that role is continually repeated. It would also be removed if the War Office will neglect no opportunity of increasing the prestige of the Territorial Army. There are many small things which might be done in that respect, but I will not delay the House.
One other cause of the lack of interest in the Territorial Army may perhaps be perfectly legitimate talk about the League of Nations and some rather less legitimate pacifist propaganda. Some people perhaps have become muddled in their minds and think that it is inconsistent to support the League of Nations and at the same time join the Territorial Army. The very reverse is the truth. It is not necessary to be a militarist to become a Territorial. Nevertheless we ought to try to solve doubts such as these. A clear statement of the reasons why Territorial soldiers are needed should be made. I would state it in these words: A Territorial soldier may be needed for two purposes, first to defend his country if it should be attacked, and, secondly, to help this country to carry out its treaty obligations and its obligations to the League of Nations. The first of these becomes the duty of every citizen as soon as the emergency arises, and it is surely not asking a great deal that a very small proportion of our citizens should have some training before it does arise. The second is now no less important, and I would like to give one example. We all know now that hon. Gentlemen opposite wish the League of Nations had taken action when Japan occupied Manchuria. Let us suppose that they had been the Government of the day and that they had been successful in getting the League of Nations to take up this question. They would first have tried economic sanctions, but if these had not proved sufficient they would, as we now know, have used our armed forces in conjunction with those of other Powers. In that event, even if our contingent had been confined only to the Regular Army, it would have been very doubtful if sufficient Regular troops could have been found without calling upon the Territorial Army to replace some of our overseas garrisons. There is one example, by no means a farfetched one, which shows how the Territorial Army may be required to help the country to carry out its obligations to the League of Nations, and it is one also which shows that support of the League of Nations should prevent no one from joining the Territorial Army. In fact, it ought to suggest to many that there are other duties to the League of Nations besides talking about it.
If doubts such as these can be resolved, and if the prestige of the Territorial Army can be raised, we shall have gone some way to arouse fresh interest in the Territorial Army. Once you have a man interested, he will look to see whether it is worth his while to join. What does he find to-day? He finds that he is asked to undertake considerable responsibility. He is required not only for home defence. He may be required to leave his employment and his family and to go abroad for an indefinite period even on an occasion which would not be called a first-class war. He will naturally ask what he gets in return, and he will find that this country has given him for many years past very little in return. There is no doubt—and certainly this view is held by many Territorial associations—that there are many men who are keen to join to-day but who, when they look into it, find that it is not worth their while to do so and until the Government are prepared to make it worth their while recruiting will continue to be bad.
I recognise that in these matters it is no use asking for concessions which will cost a great deal of money. For that reason I do not press for the restoration of the bounty to the figure of £5 at which it was before the reduction started in 1925, although the statistics of recruiting show that considerable reductions in recruiting followed every reduction in the bounty. If we are going into practical politics, we must confine ourselves to concessions on a smaller scale. These concessions announced by my right hon. Friend to-day will go some way to meet the repeated representations of Territorial associations. The allowance for attending drills has been a sore point for a long time and if it works out, as I hope it will, it will be received with real gratitude by the Associations. The increased allowances for efficiency for specialists will also be welcomed, and will also have an effect on the efficiency of the service. It is clearly of great importance, if the Territorial Army ever has to expand, that there should be a good number of men already trained in those specialised duties which will require a much longer period of training than may be available in an emergency.
There is, however, one point about this increased allowance on which I would ask the assistance of my right hon. Friend. It is primarily a matter for the Minister of Labour, but the War Office cannot remain indifferent to it. If the men who receive the allowances—and who are unemployed and not in benefit and therefore under the Unemployment Assistance Board—continue, as I believe they do, in some areas to have these small allowances in their pay taken into account in their determination of need, so that they are no better off for the extra work which they have put in to make themselves efficient, the effect of this concession in some areas will be nullified. There are many commanders of units and brigadiers in areas where there is heavy unemployment who have found that men who are keen to put in as much time as possible during their unemployment to make themselves efficient in these duties get very discouraged when they find that the small extra payments they receive are used to reduce their unemployment determination. If my right hon. Friend could help to get these allowances disregarded, the effect of his concession would be very greatly increased.
The most important of the concessions which my right hon. Friend announced is that which refers to marriage allowances. I suppose for the Territorials a much better description would be separation allowances. Nearly every Territorial association in the country has represented that the age limit of 26 has been a very big deterrent to recruiting. The announcement of my right hon. Friend, therefore, will be welcomed, but I am sorry that the concession has been limited to re-engaged non-commissioned officers, and re-engaged men when they become non-commissioned officers. I wish it had been possible to abolish the age limit for all men, and I would ask my right hon. Friend when he comes to reply to tell us what would be the additional cost if he had to abolish the age limit for all men, as well as non-commissioned officers. I realise that this estimate cannot be calculated with certainty, but I should be surprised if the figure amounted to more than £10,000 or £15,000.
If that is the case, I would ask my right hon. Friend to tell us also what is the reason which prevents him from making the full concession. It has been said on previous occasions in the House that it would be difficult to make this concession without opening the door to similar demands from the Regular Army and even from the Navy. If that is the argument, all I can say is that it is one which will not bear one moment's examination. As my right hon. Friend himself indicated in his speech, it is impossible to compare the position of a man who is a soldier all the year round, living in barracks, with that of a man who is a civilian for 50 weeks in the year, lives in his own home, and is a soldier for only two weeks. There is this further distinction which I would like to urge upon my right hon. Friend: that the Regular Army does not want a large number of married men. It does not want to provide them with married quarters, nor to transfer them overseas when the unit moves abroad. It is really accommodation which is the difficulty in the Regular Army about marriage allowances; but in the Territorial Army there is no question of accommodation and the Territorial Army does need these married men, because the young married man is the best type of recruit to have. With the conditions and the needs of the two Armies so different, it seems unjustifiable to make any comparison between them on this question of marriage allowances.
Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend to tell us the cost of the full concession and, if it is not great, to see if he can make the full concession, because it is one which will have more effect on recruiting than anything else. When you consider that some Territorials have even been threatened with prosecution for not maintaining their families without the aid of public assistance during their two weeks in camp, you can realise what a deterrent it is for a young maried man who is thinking of joining the Territorial Army when he finds that there is no separation allowance for him during his annual training. If cost is the chief obstacle to giving the whole concession, would my right hon. Friend consider lowering the age limit from 26 to 24 for men? The cost of that would probably be infinitesimal and it would be a distinct help. These concessions of my right hon. Friend, I wish to make it perfectly clear, will go some way to persuade the would-be recruit that it is worth his while to join the Territorial Army, and if we can obtain some slight extension of them, particularly on this separation allowance question, he would, without great cost, considerably increase the effect of his concession.
There are two small suggestions which I would like to put forward for consideration for the encouragement of recruiting. The first is this: Most Territorial associations find that there is no great difficulty in making the artillery and specialised units up to establishment, but the real difficulty is to find recruits for the infantry battalions. There are a very large number of keen cyclists in the country to-day, many of them organised into admirable cycling clubs. Would it not be possible, in those battalions which find special difficulty in obtaining recruits, to convert one company into a cyclists' company? I believe if that could be done you would be tapping a new source of supply, and these battalions might even' find their numbers greatly increased.
The second suggestion which I would like to put forward is that some units, not very many, have always been able to recruit up to establishment and would find it easy to recruit over the establishment. Why not allow those units which Can do so to recruit 15 per cent., say, over their establishment? I do not think that would cost anything at all, and you need not allow them to take to camp any more than their proper establishment, but it would mean that those units would always be able to take to camp their full establishment, because even if a unit is recruited up to strength, we know that at the last minute various things happen which prevent some men going to camp. Last year, in particular, there were a number of men who had found jobs after considerable unemployment and who did not dare risk leaving their employment for two weeks and so did not go to camp. If there had been this reserve of 15 per cent. above the establishment, it would have been possible for those units to have gone to camp at full strength, and that would greatly have helped their efficiency. These Estimates are notable for the fact that for the first time in 10 years they bring some advantage to the Territorial soldier, upon whose back have been placed such heavy responsibilities. My right hon. Friend can be assured that there is a large body of opinion in this House and outside it which will welcome his announcement and will give him every support if he is able to make a still further extension of his concessions.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I would like to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for York (Captain Lumley) on his very interesting and able speech and also on his choice, for no more important subject, I think, could have been raised in this Debate than the problems and the tasks of the Territorial Army. They are questions which have been exercising the consideration of the Government, the War Office, and the Territorial Army for some time, but it is only comparatively recently that attention has been focussed on specific proposals. In the first place, I should also like to thank the Financial Secretary for the concessions which have been made, and while I have no doubt they will be much appreciated, I regret that they are of such a minor character. Beneficial as the marriage allowance and specialist pay concessions undoubtedly will be, particularly with regard to securing a greater number of re-enlistments, I do not think they will have any appreciable effect on recruiting itself. Recruiting is still most unsatisfactory, and I believe that that can partly be explained, apart altogether from the propaganda of our hon. friends opposite, by overloading the willing horse with all kinds of onerous duties and obligations, coupled with an inadequate consideration and reward. I still think that the greatest incentive to recruiting would be at the very least a partial, if not total, restoration of the old bounty of £5 a year, distributed as to 30s. representing the present proficiency grant, and as to 1s. for every drill up to a maximum of 70s. I always think it is better to distribute the bounty in that way than to give a flat rate as at present, because there is no inducement for the keen Territorial soldier who does two or three parades a week but gets the same-return as the man who only puts in the minimum number of drills required of him. I do not think this concession would cost a great deal, particularly when one considers it in proportion to the services that are rendered.
During the last 15 years we have witnessed a steady decline in the amount of the bounty that is paid and at the same time we have seen a steady increase in the obligations and tasks of the Territorial Army, and I would like for a moment to remind the House what those obligations are and what changes have taken place since the late Lord Haldane formed the Territorial Force in 1907. In those days the only obligation that was asked of the men was that they should be ready for home defence if needed. That did not seem to be, nor was it, a very onerous obligation, because the Territorial Force was only the third in the echelon of the nation's military forces, the Militia or Special Reserve standing between it and the Regular Army. The danger of the personnel therefore losing their jobs at short notice did not exist, or at any rate was remote. Volunteer soldiering was not so much a serious job as a hobby, and camp the annual holiday. That, I think, was the position in 1907, and in 1914, and again when the Territorial Force was reconstituted after the War. In those days when an emergency arose each officer and man had to be asked specifically whether he would or would not accept liability for service overseas, and while there is no doubt that most of them would accept that liability, as they did in 1914, there was no compulsion in the matter at all. The changes introduced by the territorial army and militia act of 1921, however, were revolutionary, for whereas for many hundreds of years up to that time the volunteer units of this country had been organised for home defence only, now, by a single measure, the Territorial Force, or as it now became the Territorial Army, was made available for service' overseas, subject, of course, only to the formality of an Act of Parliament.
This change has altered the whole basis of service, and although it took place some 14 years ago, I do not think it has ever been properly appreciated or understood in all its implications by successive Governments, by the War Office, or by the general public. Moreover, this obligation for overseas service on the part of the Territorial Army is all the more serious when one considers the reductions that have been made since the War in the Regular Army and the disappearance altogether of the old second line and draft-finding Militia. It is now possible for the Territorial soldier to be called upon to leave his civil employment and proceed overseas for some emergency which is not necessarily of major or national importance. In other words, the Territorial Army to-day is an expeditionary force. I quite agree that it has other functions, such as those mentioned by the Financial Secretary, for example, being the basis of expansion for a national army and the full responsibility for coastal and anti-aircraft defence. But the most onerous, the most difficult, burden of all is this question of providing a field army or expeditionary force, and I do not mean in the event of a national war. That presents no practical difficulties at all, and no separate obligations, because in that event the whole nation, not only the Territorial Army, would be mobilised in one form or another.
It is a different matter, however, when any occasion arises, say, for the policing of territory such as the recent policing of the Saar or for the fulfilment of any obligation under the Treaty of Locarno or the Covenant of the League of Nations. One can visualise the situation arising in those circumstances, when four or five divisions of the Regular Army would be sent overseas—incidentally the only, divisions that are available in this country to-day—and if such an emergency did arise, it would at once set up stresses in the Territorial Army and bring them into the picture. It is important, therefore, that the role of the Territorial Army in those circumstances should be properly defined and clearly understood, because if four or five divisions of the Regular Army were asked to go overseas on some policing or other venture, then the Territorial Army would have to be partially, if not wholly, mobilised to take their places at home, and if more than five Regular divisions were asked to go overseas, the Territorial Army would probably have to send some divisions or units, at any rate, overseas as well, either to take part in those particular operations or else to act in garrisons in some Imperial or foreign State. Whatever the action taken in an emergency of this kind, however, there seems no doubt that the Territorial Army as a whole, or part of it, would be embodied and the members be called upon to leave their skilled professions or employment at a moment's notice and go overseas. This is a vast responsibility and one which the Territorial soldier is quite prepared to fulfil, only he does consider that he wants some more adequate recognition for the services he has rendered and the sacrifices he is pledged to make. What is really happening at the present time is that the nation is receiving the services of a first-class military machine largely through the generosity and self-sacrifice, both in time and money, of the Territorial officers and men.
Another question which arises through this new role assigned to the Territorial Army is whether or not the Territorial Army as at present organised is capable of producing the maximum of efficiency in both its main tasks of home defence and of expeditionary force, and I think we are bound to admit that, high though the standard of efficiency and training is, there is a great deal to be said for the reorganisation of the Territorial Army in order to bring it up to the standard of a modern army, with all the necessary support weapons and auxiliary troops to make the divisions complete for service overseas. In order to do this, there were two methods that could have been adopted. One was to keep the Territorial Army with its present organisation and start new units altogether, army corps units, with the usual lines of communication troops and additional air defence units, and that is what most Territorial officers would have preferred to see, but we quite realise that to do that at the present time would be a very costly business, and in the present state of recruiting might be unsatisfactory. Therefore, I am very glad that the Financial Secretary has been able to announce to-day that the reorganisation will take the second form, and that is that there will be a reduction in the number of the Territorial divisions and that selected units will be converted into new anti-aircraft defence units for London and the manufacturing towns of the north. I hope that some of those units will also be converted into the necessary—
Steps have been taken with regard to anti-aircraft defence units. The scheme has only been worked out for London and the district around, but nothing has yet been worked out for the other parts of the country.
I am obliged, but I understood the right hon. Gentleman at any rate to anticipate that something was to be done for the North in the next few years. If that be the policy, it will be generally welcomed by the Territorial Army as a whole, though there is naturally bound to be a considerable amount of heartburning among those units which are selected for conversion, and certain prejudices will have to be overcome. I do not think, however, that those difficulties, though serious, will be insurmountable, because there is no reason why the selected units should not maintain their prestige and their traditions in the same way as did the old yeomanry regiments in 1920, when they were converted into artillery, armoured cars, and signals.
In this matter of reorganisation, I was particularly glad to see in the Army Estimates this year that provision was being made for the addition of brigade majors to the staffs of Territorial infantry brigades. This is an excellent innovation, particularly if the opportunity is taken to give more Territorial brigades to the command of Territorial officers, for with a Regular brigade major and a Territorial brigade commander the position would be no worse. It would be analogous to the present position of Territorial battalions with Regular adjutants. If that be so, I hope these Territorial brigade commanders will be given the rank, not of colonel, but of brigadier. I have never been able to appreciate why there should have been the distinction drawn between Territorial brigade commanders and Regular brigade commanders. I hope that this suggestion will be considered because it will give greater scope to the keen and efficient senior officer, and, at the same time, it will help to open up and accelerate the promotion of the junior officers which, in some units, is absurdly slow owing to commanding officers staying on for five, six and even eight years.
Another matter which I would like to mention is the anomaly that exists with regard to certain Supplementary Reserve units of the Royal Engineers and the Royal Corps of Signals. Many of these Supplementary Reserve units are housed in the same drill halls as Territorial units of the same arms, and yet, although the supplementary reservists do exactly the same work and fulfil, to all outward appearances, at any rate, to all same obligations, they receive from £6 to £20 a year in bounties, while the Territorial soldier gets the handsome reward of 30s. a year. It is not to be (wondered at that there is a certain amount of bitterness and ill-feeling on the part of the Territorials and that re-enlistments are adversely affected in consequence. If the War Office considers that these Army troop companies of the Supplementary Reserve are necessary, they should be kept in headquarters entirely separate from the Territorial units of these arms.
I wish to make a final point with regard to continuity of policy. This is a matter upon which Territorial officers feel very keenly, because it seems to them that the efficiency of the Territorial Army is suffering from the constant changes that take place in the staff appointments. In nearly all the important jobs, such as Director-General of the Territorial Army and divisional and brigade commanders, the holders are merely birds of passage, and the office is used very largely as a stepping stone to something better. While I have no doubt that these officers do their work very well, it often happens that when they are appointed they are completely new to the Territorial Army and have to start at the beginning. Then, when they have begun to appreciate all the difficulties, they are moved on and the same process is continued. In order to obtain greater continuity of policy, I do not suggest that the length of time for these commands should be extended, but that a system of advisory committees might well be started throughout the country, the committees to consist of Territorial officers with long years of personal experience behind them. There could be one national advisory committee to advise the Director-General with possibly an assistant director-general who would be a Territorial officer holding the rank of major-general. Then there could be a series of local advisory committees to assist commands or even smaller areas.
Such a system would help to maintain continuity of policy and, at the same time, would help to obviate many of the difficulties which arise through lack of experience and knowledge. I realise the magnitude of these problems and the difficulties which the Government and the War Office have to face, but I think that the time has come when all the conditions of service and the functions and policy of the Territorial Army should be thoroughly reviewed. For this purpose I think the best thing is for some departmental committee or royal commission to examine and report on all the matters raised in the Amendment which has been moved to-night. Such an investigation would help to crystallise and remove the difficulties, and, at the same time, would enable the Government to give what is so badly needed—a clear lead, even clearer than that which was given by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, that the Territorial Army is essential to the country, not only for defence against aggression, but for maintaining peace and greater security in international and Imperial affairs.
Lieut.-Colonel SANDEMAN ALLEN:
I wish to support the Amendment and to add my meed of thanks to my right hon. Friend for the concessions he has given to the Territorial Army. I think, however, that in my previous existence my name must have been Oliver Twist, because I should like to have more. I want to give one or two figures with regard to the marriage allowance and to compare what is received by a Territorial who is unemployed and by a Territorial who is in camp. A man who was unemployed and was living on what he could get from public assistance would, if he had one child, get 29s. That is the rate in Liverpool. In camp his pay and allowances would amount to 26s., a difference of 3s. If he had two children, the difference would still be 3s. If he had three children, he would get 35s. from public assistance and 31s. in pay and allowances in camp. These figures are of vital importance, but I do not know what can be done to meet the position. The reply may be that the pay of the Territorial is at the same rate as that of the Regular soldier, but a Regular soldier has his family in married quarters and does not have to pay rent. I think that every married Territorial should have the allowance no matter what his age. His position is admittedly different from that of the Regular soldier, and in view of the figures I have given I suggest that we should give the Territorial soldier some form of rent allowance—not large, but sufficient to assist him.
I should like to appeal again to employers to give every assistance to enable their Territorial employés to get off for camp. I should like to take the opportunity of pointing out to employers that the Territorial Army is saving their pockets because, were it not for this cheap form of defence, we should have to increase the Regular Army, which would mean a higher cost to the taxpayer. In this connection, I would like to put forward a small suggestion which would entail a certain amount of trouble to the War Office, but I am certain that they could carry it out for they do not mind what trouble they take if they can improve matters. I refer to the question of allowing employers who pay excise duty on male servants a remission of the duty if they allow their servants to go to camp for the full 15 days. In a great many cases the period of annual training comes at the most inconvenient time to the employer. The duty of 15s. which he pays is a small thing, and I suggest that he should be exempt from it. This would require the consent of 60 councils in the kingdom. The Chancellor informed us in the last Budget that 20 of them have already agreed to total remission of the tax, and that the remainder were not altogether agreeable. It is a question of the War Office taking up the matter with these 60 councils. The whole thing is very small, but it is the detail and small things that matter and help to build up big things.
I want to refer to the position of the Territorial adjutant who goes from the Regular Army to instruct the Territorial Army. In the case of the Royal Artillery, volunteers for this job are very rare. In fact, I understand the majority of the adjutants have to be detailed for the job. In theory, the training and organisation of the Territorial unit is the job of the commanding officer; in practice, there is no doubt that the adjutant is the pivot upon which the whole training turns. The best commanding officers are those who are efficient business men or those who are active in public life, and they have not the time to do all that is required of them. Therefore, they have to rely on the adjutants. If the commanding officer is lethargic, the adjutant must spur him on to greater efficiency. If he is an energetic commanding officer, the adjutant must encourage his energies, or, if he is over-energetic, he must see that his energies are applied in the right direction.
These are factors which are not always realised by the Regular soldier when he takes up the job. Generally, there is profound ignorance among junior Regular officers as to what the objects, the composition or the methods of the Territorial Army are. A lot more instruction of that kind could be given to junior Regular officers. Beyond that there is a financial handicap for the Regular officer taking the job of a Territorial brigade or battalion. His Regular confrere who is an adjutant of a Regular battalion or artillery brigade gets 5s. extra duty pay, while the Territorial officer gets only 2s. 6d. Because it is a four-year appointment, the Inland Revenue authorities—this is a matter which is causing considerable grievance—take lodging, furniture, fuel and light allowances, and impose tax upon them. The Regular officer, however, does not have to pay tax on these allowances. That is a financial handicap which should be removed at once. With regard to travelling allowances for the Territorial adjutant, it is a great convenience, and almost a necessity, that he should have his own car. In the past, and I am not happy about the position to-day, the allowance for mileage for a car has not been sufficient. I am not suggesting that the officers should make money out of their journeys, but I suggest that they should not be out of pocket for any work that they put in for the Territorial Army.
There is the social aspect to be considered. He comes from a mess and from congenial surroundings, in which facilities exist in cheap form for various sports which are an essential part of the life of a soldier. An officer who has anything to do with horses ought to keep up his capacity for riding and retain "an eye for the country," two great necessities in his profession. When he goes to an urban district as an officer in the Territorial Army he finds such facilities are almost beyond the reach of his purse, because there is not the cheapness which is offered by the organisation of a Regular mess. If he is married he misses his friends. He goes, possibly, to a strange town in the North of England, and a year goes by before he is really taken up and finds congenial friends. Further, his work is done in the evenings, and that is not an attraction from the point of view of a happily married man. Then there is the question of professional advancement. The younger Regular officer looks upon a Territorial adjutancy as a military backwater, as leading nowhere. This should not be the case. It cuts him out from any chance of going to the Staff College or going through the gunnery staff course—or makes that very nearly impossible—and both are almost a sine qua non for advancement in the Regular Army.
Any staff appointment is looked upon as better than a Territorial adjutancy. Any G.S.O. 3 is vastly more important; and to-day practically any officer who volunteers to become a Territorial adjutant can get the job. That should not be the case. The appointment ought to be made much more desirable and much more worth while. It is an important job, and I suggest there should be professional inducements—possibly special facilities for going to the Staff College, a certain number of nominations. A certain number of junior "past Staff College" should be appointed as Territorial adjutants. Opportunities for promotion should be given as an inducement, so that one can get the best type of officer. It should also be essential that any regular officer going to the higher command should at one time or another have done service in the Territorial Army, because when it comes—and we all pray the time never shall come—to having to work together in the field it is essential that the regular soldier should understand what the Territorial Army has to do. Instruction in Territorial Army matters—propaganda, as it were—should go on among the junior regular officers, so that they may have a thorough working knowledge of the Territorial Army and how it functions and has its being, and they should be inspired to assist it and to wish to become adjutants in it. All these remarks, in a mild degree, apply to warrant officers and non-commissioned officers who are attached to the Territorial Army as permanent staff instructors. They are splendid men and have given the Territorial Army generous assistance, but I consider that immediate reform of their conditions of service is absolutely essential. Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to my right hon. Friend for the concessions he has made to-day, and I hope that some attention will be paid to the small suggestions which have been made from this bench this afternoon.
I wish to make a few remarks on one point only, and that is the desirability of instituting a Territorial Army Reserve for other ranks as a counterpart to the reserve of Territorial officers which already exists. The Territorial Army is, in some respects, considerably under strength. What the reason or reasons for that may be is a matter of opinion, but I am convinced that fundamentally it really has nothing to do with the lack of money. Nevertheless, I should like to join with those who have already expressed their thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for the increases of remuneration, though they do little more, as a matter of fact, than help to cover what one might call the out-of-pocket expenses of members of the Territorial Army. But whether the Territorial Army to-day is up to strength or under strength, and however much we may have been inclined to devote ourselves to considering how it may be brought up to strength we must never blind ourselves—and I do not say that any speaker so far has done so—to the important secondary role of its expansion, and considerable expansion, in time of war. A very interesting point for consideration in the next war, if, indeed, if ever occurs, will be the time factor. At what speed military operations in the next war will proceed neither I nor anyone else can say, but a day may count where hitherto a week has sufficed. In the increased pace which one may look for both in the preparations for and the conduct of the next war a Territorial Army Reserve for other ranks will be an important factor.
The objection to creating such a Reserve which is put forward is that it would inevitably cost a certain amount of money, and that with the small amount of money which is available for the Territorial Army it is important that every single penny which is spent should count. It is also argued that for that expenditure of money we should not get any real corresponding advantage, because the type of man who would be in the Territorial Army Reserve would be the type who would most naturally come back to the colours when the necessity for Territorial Army expansion arose on the outbreak of war. I do not think the objection on the ground of cost is a very serious one, because not very much money will be required. The important thing in having a Territorial Army Reserve for other ranks will be that it will give an element of status to the man who belongs to it. At present the man who retires from the Territorial Army has nothing to go to, but then there would be an organisation which would enable the authorities to keep, so to speak, in official touch with him.
Those of us who command Territorial units have all had experience of good men, whom we would like to retain, retiring and, as it nearly always turns out, retiring for good. I have found in my own experience that there are two particular reasons for retiring. First a man becomes engaged to be married. It is not a question of whether he will get a marriage allowance, but the feeling seems to affect Territorial soldiers, as it affects other people, that when they get married the affairs of matrimony will occupy the whole of their available spare time for the rest of their lives. Then there is the type of man who wants what he calls "a proper holiday." It is not that he dislikes his Territorial training, he may look on it for a number of years as an extremely good and perhaps cheap form of holiday. That consideration applies, possibly, with even more force to the married man, who sees that as long as he remains in the Territorial Army he may not be able, unless he is fortunately placed, to get what he considers to be a proper holiday. He therefore retires, but when he has had a holiday on his own for a year or two he might quite likely wish to go back into the Territorial Army again; but it is my experience, and I expect it is that of other people, that as a rule he does not return once he has retired, because he does not wish to have to start afresh by re-enlisting.
If we had a Territorial Army Reserve for other ranks a man who had served, say, his first four years and wanted a break could, instead of leaving entirely, transfer to the Reserve, and there should be a regulation that within, say, two or three years that man should be at liberty to go back into his unit if he wished to do so. I am certain that a good many useful men would take advantage of such an opportunity. Of course, it is desirable to turn over a considerable number of men in the Territorial Army, because one does not want everybody to go on year after year until he becomes old and crusted, but, as things are, one so often loses just the sort of man that one would like to go on for another term of years and become that most valuable type, an instructor. Of all the concessions made to the Territorial Army in the present Estimates none is more important from the point of view of efficiency than the additional financial inducement which is to be given to men to become instructors. Certainly nothing will be of more value when it comes to expanding the Territorial Army in time of war. The second advantage of a Territorial Army Reserve for other ranks is that when the forces are expanded on the outbreak of war one would be able, having those men in a definite reserve, having, as I say, official touch with them, to earmark the actual personnel whom one would want to call in to make up the strength of a unit or to fill up the cadres of those additional units which are created on the outbreak of war.
I would suggest that the Territorial Army Reserve for other ranks should be divided into two categories. Here the money question comes into consideration. First, there might be a category into which what I might call the ordinary Territorial soldier might go, the man who has done his service and whom we want to retain but who has no particularly outstanding qualities. He would be under no obligation to attend drills or anything like that, and he need not necessarily get any remuneration or, if he got any remuneration at all, it might be purely nominal. He would simply be in the Reserve as a matter of status, in order that we might have some sort of official touch with him. The second category would be for men who at a time of expansion would make either first-class instructors or at all events useful noncommissioned officers. We need to do a little more than keep in touch with such men. We want them to keep in touch with the Territorial Army and in touch with military duties in principle and in practice. There ought to be certain obligations for them—the obligation to do a certain number of drills a year. In those drills, which could be done under the regular permanent staff instructor of the Territorial Army, a man would be brushed up in the latest technique—quite generally, of course, in the limited time at his disposal—and could keep himself in practice as a commander of men or as an instructor. In return for those obligations such men ought to be paid a certain amount of money. The amount of money would not be large, and I am perfectly certain that in the end it would be extremely well spent. Those are just a few suggestions as to the desirability and, I would suggest, the practicability of instituting a Territorial Army Reserve. I am perfectly certain that the existence of that Reserve would be a really important fact in enabling the Territorial Army to fill that wider role of expanding, and expanding considerably, in time of war.
I do not wish to keep the House very long, but as one of those who have been urging on behalf of the Territorial Army that the War Office should do something more to help that Army in its present difficulties I wish just to pay my thanks to my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary and to those other members of the War Office, particularly the Under-Secretary of State and the Director-General of the Territorial Army, who have helped to bring this matter about. Those of us who serve in the Territorial Army welcome this new move on the part of the War Office, because it changes the direction in which things have hitherto been going. Hitherto the Territorial Army has had more and more responsibilities and obligations put upon it, and has had ever-decreasing rates of pay, or little cuts in one way or another. For the first time, in the concessions announced to-day, that direction has been reversed, and we are thankful for it. Indeed, with regard to the efficiency pay and instructors' allowances we have been met absolutely in full, and we thank my right hon. Friend for the concessions which he has made to us.
There are some of us who still think that the War Office might have allowed the marriage allowance to the gunner or the infantry soldier—the man who is not a non-commissioned officer. That man, for instance, if he be a gunner, goes to camp and only gets 14s. a week, and nothing at all for his wife or children. Unlike the regular soldier he very likely has to keep up an establishment at home. As one of my hon. Friends has already said if 24s. is the allowance made under the unemployment assistance regulations—which have been temporarily abandoned—then 14s. is very little for the man who is doing good work for his country at that time.
I would like also to ask my right hon. Friend a question with regard to these travelling allowances of 1s. a drill. He said this would only be available for the specified number of drills every year. I should like him to tell us, if he can, for how many journeys it would be available. What we want, especially those of us who serve in highly technical units, is to get our men to drill as many times as we can in the year. In the unit I have the honour to command, we are responsible for the coast defences of one of our fortress towns, and, if the unit is not efficient, we might just as well not have that responsibility put upon us. We have had great difficulties, in the present state of affairs, in getting our men up for a sufficient number of drills.
I think the concessions that have been made to-day will do a great deal to encourage those already serving in the Territorial Army to re-engage. But I think we had better be quite frank about it—they will be too little to get us additional recruits. I think we must have something rather more, perhaps in the shape of something like the old bounty restored to all ranks. After all, the old bounty, which we had after the War, was one of £5. It then dropped to £3 10s. and was later reduced to £2 10s. and then to 30s. When you get a man coming just for his ordinary rate of pay and having to do at least 20 drills—and we want him to have more—in the year, certainly the present 30s. bounty is not enough.
I do once again urge on the War Office that the bounty should be paid in a rather different way. It should be paid per drill, and we should not have to say that a man—as perhaps we sometimes have to say—has put in more drills than he has because otherwise he cannot draw either pay or bounty during camp. The position at the present moment, which perhaps all hon. Members do not realise, is that if a man has not put in 20 drills, and wishes to come to camp, he cannot draw either the bounty or pay during camp. That is the time when we want him. We ought to be allowed to pay this camp pay whether he has performed the full number of drills or not—that is to say if the commanding officer wishes him to come to camp.
I want to deal with the question of the sub-letting of drill halls. In the old days we used to be allowed to sub-let our drill halls and take the profits for regimental funds Now, when we sub-let a drill hall, the War Office take part of the sub-let and the association takes the other half. It is true that the association is supposed to give it back to the units from which it comes, but it only gives it back in just the same grant which it would have got, with sub-letting money or without. The result is that the sub-letting of drill halls is falling off, because officers and noncommissioned officers are not going to be put in the position of being tax-gatherers for the State. We do enough voluntary work for the Territorial Army, and we do not see why we should be collecting funds for the War Office or for our association. That is what the present system really amounts to. I do not think it is worth while keeping on this new scheme, invented by some financial genius of the War Office to take the only source of funds of the unit.
I do not know whether hon. Members realise what is the position of the commanding officer of a Territorial unit to-day. If the War Office will consult their Territorial divisional commanders they will find that this probably means about £50 out of the pocket of every Territorial commanding officer who is keeping his unit running efficiently to-day. That kind of thing ought to cease. You ought to have men commanding Territorial units whether blessed or not with the necessary income of their own to pay something towards keeping those units going. The only funds you can reckon on are the small amounts you get by subletting drill halls. I do hope that this matter will be taken up urgently by the War Office so that Territorial units have not still to be supported to a certain extent out of the pockets of their commanding officers.
I would, in conclusion, thank my right hon. Friend for what we have already received. I am quite certain that we all in this House want a really strongly recruited Territorial Army, because the Territorial Army is not an aggressive force; it is very largely concerned in our coast defence and anti-aircraft defence, and in performing duties which would only be used if we were ever asked to defend our country, or if we had to come forward, as we have promised to do, in the collective system which hon. Members opposite talk so much about although they do not visualise what eventually it may mean. I am not one of those who believe that this country ought to enter into these commitments unless we are strong enough not to be likely to be called upon to enforce them. I am one of those who believe that the country would not support that. I am one of those who believe that it is an honourable thing to be prepared to defend your country in the hour of need, and I think that the War Office should more and more recognise it by doing more and more for those who are willing to give up their leisure for this purpose.