I beg to move, in page 6, to leave out lines 22 to 24.
This Amendment would delete paragraph (c) from Clause 5. I believe it is most apposite that it should be moved today in view of the fact that we are considering possible cuts in military expenditure. I understood the Prime Minister to say that the whole question of the structure of the Army would come under consideration, but here we are giving to the War Office in the future a blank cheque for unlimited expenditure. I think that this Clause should define more specifically where Territorials are to be sent and how many should be sent overseas.
This Clause reverses the whole conception of the Territorial Army. When this Bill received a Second Reading I remember that the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) indulged in some interesting reminiscences regarding the origin of the Territorial Army in the days of Lord Haldane. In those days the conception of Lord Haldane was that the Territorial Army should be an army for the defence of this country and the defence of the homes of the people. That was to be the appeal to the people, that they were to join the Territorials in order to defend themselves against any possible attack.
This Bill completely reverses that whole conception, and we now have a definition that the future Territorial is to serve:
in any place outside the United Kingdom.
which is about the widest possible definition that could be given. The Territorials of the future may be sent to any sphere of operations in which the Minister of Defence may be interested. Under this Clause the Territorial—if this Bill was now in operation—would be called upon to go to Hong Kong.
If it happened in the last war that is an additional reason why it should not happen again. In appeals which presumably are to be made to strengthen the Territorial Army, are the people to be told, "Join the Territorials in order to be sent to Hong Kong to fight Chinese Communists"? The Territorial is no longer to be called upon to fight for his home territory. He is, one assumes, to be asked to enrol for the purpose of fighting Communism whether it be in China, Africa or any other part of the world.
I believe that if campaigns for the recruitment of Territorials are to be conducted on the assumption that the potential Territorial is to be called upon to serve in Vladivostok, Central Africa, Hong Kong or anywhere else, in this new ideological conception of war, they will be more miserable affairs than they have been so far. I suggest that we are giving a future Government an unlimited opportunity of enlarging upon the military organisation and indulging in expensive military operations on the slightest excuse in any part of the world.
Is this future Territorial Army to be sent to Aqaba, and why? Is it to be sent to Hong Kong or Malaya? Have we come to the state of affairs in which the Territorial Army is to have unlimited commitments? At a time when every intelligent person is calling upon the Government to reduce their commitments, here we have this little Bill with this Clause which makes our commitments absolutely unlimited. The attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be called to this provision. There should be the most careful financial scrutiny of what we are doing in putting this Clause upon the Statute Book.
I should like to know why the number of men to be sent abroad should not be more specifically defined. In our military Estimates we are always called upon to supply a limited number of men. During the last 20 years I have followed those Estimates very carefully. I find that there was always some specific mention of a definite number of men. For example, I find that in a discussion on the Territorial Army in 1936, Members of the Government who were then in Opposition objected very strongly to the number of men in the Territorial Army and the Regular Army being more than 158,400. When the detailed consideration of the Bill was reached, an Amendment was moved from the Labour Benches demanding that the number should be reduced to 152,600. I do not wish to quote from the speeches in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but one can find there a very eloquent speech—in the OFFICIAL REPORT Of 12th March, 1936—by a certain Major Milner who wished to reduce the Army from 158,400 by 4,000—
I did not understand that it was him. I thought that this gentleman was dead. His arguments should be read because they happen to be most apposite to this point. I will not proceed further with it except to suggest that if the Labour Party considered that 152,600 men was sufficient for the Army in 1936, there is no need now to pass a Bill in which we allow for unlimited commitments and unlimited expenditure.
I shall, of course, support the Government in resisting this Amendment. Though I differ from the views of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) on every conceivable question, I should like to pay him a tribute. I think that he always puts his case fairly and courteously. He called attention to one point which is worthy of reference because questions of substance arise. It is true that he said, by inference, that Lord Haldane would never have got his Bill through this House if there had been a liability for foreign service on Territorials.
I did not want to say anything against the Liberal Party, especially in view of the fact that, as usual, none of them is here. [HON. MEMBERS: "One."] One out of eleven—that is a tribute to their great interest in defence. In those days the Liberal Party were very pacifist. Indeed, when anybody ventured to tell them, as I did on more than one occasion, that they would be faced with a war within a few years, they all waved their arms and screeched as hon. Gentlemen opposite do sometimes in this House. I believe that Lord Haldane would have liked such a liability but I understand that he was over-ruled.
In the 1914–18 war the Government were faced with a difficulty. In units like the one in which I served, when the Government wanted to send men overseas in 1915, before National Service had been introduced, they had to call for volunteers. That was a most undesirable state of affairs. In some regiments a number of men would not go abroad and they were drafted to home service. Fortunately, they were made to go abroad when conscription was introduced. In 1916, when conscription was brought in, everybody was liable to go abroad. I think that I am right in saying that between the wars there was not this liability upon Territorials to go abroad.
In the original Act, Lord Haldane gave an undertaking that men when called up would not be sent abroad. Therefore, when the Government wanted to send them abroad they could only do it by asking for volunteers. That was a most undesirable state of affairs which was due purely to the pacifism of the Liberal Party at the time who made it difficult to get the Bill through this House. Similarly, between the wars there was no power to send them. The difficulty was got over, I understand, by Order in Council.
Fortunately, there is now general agreement between both sides of the Committee on the question of defence. I will not say that that is a tribute to our intelligence and patriotism or a tribute to the Government. It confers equal credit on both sides. It is most excellent that the Government will now have power under this Bill to do something which should have been done as long ago as 1908 when the first Territorial Army Act was brought in, because otherwise it is most difficult for the Defence Departments to proceed.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire is perfectly entitled to attack me because he is a pacifist. He objects to all forms of National Service. I know that it is wrong either to agree or disagree with the Chair, but I listened with interest, Mr. Bowles, when you suggested that perhaps the hon. Gentleman was going rather wide of the point when he referred to the question of Communists in China. I agree that he is perfectly entitled to oppose this Clause. I apologise for speaking for so long, and I conclude by saying that I am delighted that after all these years it is proposed to put this provision into an Act of Parliament.
May I say how much I was interested in the historical retrospect of the noble Lord, which I would venture to supplement in one respect by pointing out that the volunteering for the Territorial Army which took place during the first world war was so rapid that, at a very early stage of the operations, I found myself, in a hospital in France in September or October, 1914, with a number of Territorials under treatment. In practice, if we gave an opportunity to the Territorial Army, the difficulty would be to keep them away from the fighting if it were necessary to defend our shores.
I rose because I disagree fundamentally with the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment. I disagree with him on several grounds. First, on the grounds of expense. If the hon. Gentleman thinks this will make for increased expenditure on military account, may I remind him that, on the contrary, if the Territorials were prevented from going overseas—and, in these days of rapid transit and of air transport, the difference between this side of the Channel and the other is a matter of very little geographical importance from that point of view—if they were prevented from going abroad, it would merely mean that steps would have to be taken to recruit an increased number of other men on a conscription basis. There would therefore be increasing expenditure, and I can quite easily see that that might be a very serious matter.
The hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a great respect, referred to the question of avoiding war, but that is a matter of foreign policy and quite a different matter from the one we are discussing. It is not a question of the technical management of the Armed Forces at all. What we must not forget is that, if we are to have Armed Forces, they must be competent and well equipped. Personally, I welcome very much indeed this part of the Clause which the hon. Gentleman wishes to delete, because it will be more economical and will lead to greater efficiency, particularly in regard to its possible effect on the supply of the medical units of the Armed Forces in any future conflict. There is a great shortage of doctors, and we cannot possibly do without those doctors who have been patriotic enough to embody themselves and serve in the Territorial Army. It would be a great mistake for the hon. Gentleman to persist with his Amendment, because he would not wish to increase military expenditure. The fact is that his Amendment, if carried—and I gather that this is not very likely—would result in increased expense, and so it would be quite contrary to the effect which the hon. Gentleman himself desires.
I welcome the inclusion of this provision in the Bill. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), in moving his Amendment, said that this Clause reversed the whole conception of the Territorial Army. It might possibly reverse some people's conceptions of the Territorial Army, but it certainly does not reverse the rôle of the Territorial Army, which in fact did serve abroad in the last two wars.
In the 1914 war, there was a call for volunteers and it certainly was a very great embarrassment to the Government of the day that the War Office at that time was unable to say with certainty what it could count upon in the way of personnel. In some cases, somebody in a Territorial Army regiment may have had the conception of which the hon. Gentleman spoke, and may have caused a number of men to refuse to volunteer. That meant that a certain number, but I think only a few, of the Territorial Army units were kicking their heels about in this country doing nothing, and particularly at a time when we were in dire straits regarding the supply of adequate forces for service abroad.
It would be almost useless to have a Territorial Army only liable for service at home in these days. We want men to serve to defend this country and to keep the enemy as far away as possible from our country. The other side of the Channel is but a short distance away in these days of modern transport. In 1914, the very large majority of the men of the Territorial Army actually volunteered cheerfully and early, and their services were of very great value, not only in France, to which some units went very early in the campaign—I think in November, if not in October, 1914—but they also did admirable service in Palestine and elsewhere, while, of course, quite a considerable number of Territorial Army units were sent to India for garrison duties.
In the 1939 war, what we should have done in the early stages without some of the men of the Territorial Army is very hard to say, because they performed the most admirable services and did their duties cheerfully. Undoubtedly, a special Act was passed—or was it an Order in Council?—to make it compulsory for them to serve abroad, but the fact was that they were willing and ready to go abroad and they did extremely well. This Clause is very necessary, and that it will in future avoid the necessity for appeals to men to volunteer. When they join, the men will know that they volunteer for general service in case of mobilisation, and the War Office and the Army authorities will be able to count on that number of men with certainty. I hope the Amendment will not be accepted.
I usually listen to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) with great interest, and on more than one occasion I have come into the Chamber specially to hear his oratory. Today, however, I think he must feel entirely squashed, because there is no other hon. Member of any party in the Committee who is prepared to support his Amendment. I do not intend to prolong the Debate, and only rise to make two points.
What the hon. Gentleman did not tell us was that in the Territorial Army we have the cheapest form of defence that we could have, and when the hon. Gentleman says there is extravagance he is talking sheer nonsense. Before the war, I played some part in raising quite a number of men, and I myself attested over 1,000 men who wished to join the Territorial Army. Of those 1,000 men, there was not one who was not prepared to undertake overseas service, and I am sure I can say that, if I had told them that they would not be allowed to go overseas, they would all have said, "Well, then, we shall not join the Territorial Army." We know the part which was played by those people who took part in the air defence of London in the docks and at Liverpool, and the complaints which arose from the fact that they did not have the opportunity of going overseas. I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman that I do not think these men have been treated too well, and that that is the reason why we are having difficulty in getting them to come forward again.
I suggest that there is no substance in the argument which the hon. Gentleman has put forward and that there is no support for this Amendment. I cannot see how the hon. Gentleman can possibly substantiate his argument that this is going to be an extravagance. There is no sound argument that can be put forward on that score. I do not know what political point of view can be found to support that argument, but I am not prepared to accept it, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not put forward that kind of argument again.
I should like, as one of the younger generation, if I may so describe myself, to join with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Colonel Gower) and with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) in the tribute which they paid to the Territorial Army and to the spirit which has always existed in it. If the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) wishes to criticise the Territorial Army campaign—and I have my own views about the Territorial Army system today—I would point out that few people have made speeches more likely to discourage that campaign than he. He has done his best to prevent people from joining the Regular Army or any other Army, and for him to criticise the Secretary of State for War for the lack of success of his campaign is, I should have thought, a criticism of himself, though he does not realise it.
At any rate, this Clause as it stands provides that those whom it is agreed at the time of enlistment shall serve at home are not affected by the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. We surely have to realise today that unless the British Commonwealth and Empire is going to work as one concerted whole from the point of view of defence, our defence scheme will not make sense anyway. Therefore, the places to which these men will be asked to go are more likely to be parts of the Empire than elsewhere. If they are asked to go to parts of the world other than the Empire, then they can be sure that in so doing they will be defending their own country or the Empire. I hope that the Secretary of State for War will strongly resist this Amendment.
There is one material point which has so far not been mentioned in connection with this matter. Many allusions have been made to the situation in 1914, but no one has mentioned that at that time the War Office had at its disposal not one, but two Auxiliary Forces. It had the Territorial Army and also the Special Reserve, the old Militia. The men in those Forces were all liable for immediate service overseas, and, to a very great extent, the war was kept going during the winter of 1914–15 by troops from the Special Reserve battalions. The Regular Army and the Regular Reserves had been largely exhausted by the ferocious fighting in the early autumn. In the case of the Territorials at that time, of course, there had to be a delay before the men could be sent abroad however, keen they were to go. My own unit was a Special Reserve; we had all signed on to serve overseas, and, therefore, we were able to go immediately. Because of the arrangement then operating, the Territorials only started coming out to France in the autumn, and did not come out in any real numbers until the spring of 1915.
At that time—and I wish to emphasise it—the Secretary of State for War had at his command a substantial force which had been the Militia and which was then described as a Special Reserve. We have now abolished that system, and the force of Special Reserves does not now exist except in a few specialist formations, such as railway units, and so forth. It is essential that in case of war there should be some Auxilitary Force of sufficient size at the disposal of the War Office. That is a very material factor.
I imagine that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has left out of his Amendment anything dealing with the Auxiliary Air Force. I would point out that if the men of the Auxiliary Air Force felt that in time of war they were not going overseas we should get very few recruits to that Force. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) was a little mistaken when he said that at the beginning of the war the Auxiliary Air Force and the Territorials would have to volunteer.
I did not refer to the Auxiliary Air Force, but it is a fact that a special Order in Council was passed. That was the difficulty in the 1914 war; if a man refused to volunteer, we could do nothing about it. In point of fact, however, nearly every man volunteered until conscription came into force. As I say, in the last war they had to do it by Order in Council.
In October. 1939, members of the Auxiliary Air Force had to volunteer to go to France. In my own unit there was only one man who refused to volunteer, but he did so more on compassionate grounds than for any other reason. I do not think that if this Amendment were accepted we should get the volunteers. I welcome the Clause because the more responsibility the Territorial Army and the Auxiliary Forces can take over, the more likely we are to do away with conscription. I oppose this Amendment because I think it is malicious and intended to do harm to the Services.
Although the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has received no support for his Amendment in the Committee, I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity of his views. He has a perfect right to represent opinions which he has held for a very long time. But, whether we like it or not, we have to face certain unpalatable facts which I am afraid are inescapable. One of those facts is that, unfortunately, we are living in a very disturbed and unsettled world, where tendencies of a most mischievous and dangerous character exist. We must have regard to those facts.
I do not want to argue this Amendment, or the reasons for objecting to it, at any great length. However, it affords me an opportunity of making two short declarations. The first is that I express the view which I think is held in all quarters of the Committee—not only by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire—that we fervently hope that this country will never again be involved in a major war. The second is—and I make myself personally responsible for the declaration, whatever others may think—that I would never be a party to sending men into battle in a major war, or any other conflict, unless I was satisfied that they were well equipped and would be supported by the necessary reinforcements and supported at a very early stage. We have had the experiences of two great wars, and I think I am within the recollection of hon. and gallant Members when I say that on both occasions we suffered many casualties in the early stages because we had not adequate reinforcements.
Or because of inadequate equipment. We ought never to take that risk again. We must provide ourselves with an adequate number of men in the early stages and, so far as we are capable of doing so, with the necessary equipment.
The purpose of the Territorial Army is two-fold; one is to defend these shores, and the other is to go to the attack if necessary. In order to go to the attack it may be necessary to go overseas. Apparently my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire imagines that there is a reluctance on the part of young men in the Territorial Army or in the Army generally, whether in the regular Army or whether they are National Service men, to go overseas. I assure my hon. Friend that that is not the case. Let me, within the limits of Order, relate an experience which I had quite recently in one of the depots in Scotland where I talked to a few National Service men who had entered the Army that week. They were a little unhappy and somewhat nostalgic, as one might expect. But immediately thereafter I spoke to a squad of men who had been in the Army 10 weeks and who had received their basic training. They were about to proceed overseas, and every single one of them was delighted at the prospect.
I find everywhere that young men are only too pleased to go overseas. The last thing they want to do is to remain in the United Kingdom, and certainly the very last thing they desire is to be confined to barracks. They want to get out as fast as they can. The spirit of adventure among these young men is as fine as ever it was before in this country, and we are very proud that it should be so. Therefore, I beg my hon. Friend not to assume that the young men are anxious to remain at home and cling to the skirts of their mothers or their sweethearts, or whoever it may be, although no doubt they have a very great affection for them.
The purpose of this Clause is to enable us to send men overseas on embodiment. We cannot send men overseas without embodiment. The Territorial Army must first of all be embodied before action can be taken, after embodiment, to dispatch men overseas without recourse to special legislation. It is true that special legislation has been invoked in the past; as the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) indicated, it was done after the beginning of the First World War, and it was also done in the last war. But special legislation involves delay, and in the process of invoking and carrying special legislation through Parliament many casualties may occur and much suffering may come about. That we are anxious to avoid. Thinking in terms of another great conflict may be regarded as distasteful, but unfortunately we cannot ignore these considerations.
I must advise the Committee that it does not follow that because we are asking for these powers we intend to send every member of the Territorial Army overseas. There are activities which are essential and will be confined to service in this country. The hon. and gallant Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Colonel Dower), who referred to the activities of Anti-aircraft Command in this last war, is well aware of what I mean. Incidentally, I am aware that there may be some dissatisfaction at the rewards which have been bestowed on the members of Anti-aircraft Command for their services in the late war. This matter is not necessarily finally disposed of. It is always under consideration, and although I am far from making any commitment, it may well be that there are sympathisers with the view that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has expressed.
I have not read the book, but I have quite recently had consultation with General Pile and I am aware of his views on this matter. I am sorry that I cannot satisfy my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire and I must ask the Committee to reject this Amendment. I do not doubt the sincerity of my hon. Friend's views or his personal integrity, but I am quite satisfied that he would not be happy even if we accepted the Amendment, because the next step he would take would be to ask us to abolish the Army altogether, and, therefore, we would be at cross purposes.
I beg to move, in page 6, line 37, to leave out from "may," to "by," in line 40.
Perhaps it would be convenient to deal with the next four Amendments at the same time. These Amendments all concern Clause 5 (3) and relate to the question of the power of compulsory transfer and compulsory posting. In the first place, I am sure that it is agreed in all quarters of the Committee that these powers of compulsory transfer and compulsory posting should only be used to the minimum extent that military requirements make absolutely necessary. If there should be any doubt on that point I would like to repeat the assurance that has been given both in the context of this Bill and in other contexts that it is never our intention to make wanton use of either of these powers merely because it may be administratively convenient to do so. We recognise fully the dislike that hon. Members in all parts of the Committee have for the use of these powers, and the good reasons animating that dislike. It will be our constant endeavour to make no more use of them than is absolutely necessary. This subsection, therefore, and the Amendments to it are concerned with what is the maximum legal power of compulsory transfer and posting which it would be proper for Parliament to accord.
The effect of the Amendments is as follows: A man might be compulsorily transferred from the corps to which he originally belonged into another corps in a period of time when the Territorial Army was embodied, but under no other condition, and during the time of embodiment he might also be posted from one unit to another within the same corps, since of course if the greater power could be exercised, naturally the lesser power could be. When there is a period of service under Clause 5 (1, b)—that is to say, in case of actual or apprehended attack—then only the lesser power of compulsion—that is the power of compulsory posting from one unit to another within the same corps—would exist. That is the position. In time of embodiment there would be a power of compulsory transfer and compulsory posting; in time of service under paragraph (b) there would be the power of compulsory posting.
In both cases not only is there the general safeguard which I mentioned at the outset of my remarks, that it would be our constant endeavour to make no more use of these powers than absolute necessity requires, but there is the proviso, the wording of which has to be consequentially altered by the later Amendments in this group, that where a man has been so compulsorily transferred or posted during a period of embodiment or service under paragraph (b) he has a right to require that as soon as convenient after the end of those periods all necessary steps shall be taken to get him back into the corps or unit of his choice. That is the effect of these Amendments, which follow the statements made by my right hon. Friends during the Debate on Second Reading, and I trust they will commend themselves to the Committee.
It was as lone ago as 26th May that the Lord President of the Council told us that there was some public urgency that this Bill should be passed as early as possible. Relying, as one so often does, upon what the right hon. Gentleman said, I do not propose to say very much this evening about these Amendments, but there are one or two observations which I feel I really should make. The first is that perhaps we should not have had to take up time in discussing these points, both on Second Reading and today, had the Association been more fully consulted before this Bill was introduced. Perhaps it has been useful to have had some part of the time which has elapsed since Second Reading, on 2nd June, for that consideration.
I do not want to appear to be in the least degree ungracious to the right hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has met the point so clearly put and so eloquently urged by my noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and my hon. Friends behind me. These Amendments make a very substantial reduction in the powers of moving bodies about which were contained in the original Bill. As the Under-Secretary has said, the power of transferring a man to any Corps without his consent can now be exercised only after embodiment. As
the Bill stood it could be exercised when a person was
called out for actual military service in any place in the United Kingdom in defence of the United Kingdom against actual or apprehended attack.
It is a pity that the Bill drafted in its present form was ever presented to this House. It is perhaps a pity that we have had to have so much discussion upon this Clause. At the same time, I recognise, as we on this side of the Committee do, the necessity for having that power of transfer after embodiment and that power of posting without the man's consent to any unit within the corps after that man has been called out for actual military service under subsection (1 b). We recognise that and we are glad of the assurance that has been given that there will be no wanton use of these powers. I think there is perhaps no need for me to stress the desirability of exercising these powers, conferred by this subsection, as little as possible.
In the eloquent speech to which he treated us on the previous Amendment the right hon. Gentleman referred to equipment and to men. He did not refer to training and efficiency, but there can be no doubt—and I am sure he will agree with me—that unwise exercise of the power of posting can be most detrimental both to training and to the efficiency of the unit and can, at the same time, lead to the growth, perhaps, of that feeling of being "browned off" which everyone who has had anything to do with the Army, Air Force or Navy wants so much to avoid.
I think one further observation should also be made. In the light of these Amendments, which we welcome, plans will not have to be made on the assumption that immediately after men are called out there will be extensive cross-posting. Plans will have to be made on the assumption that cross-posting will not be necessary. If they are not so made, then a great deal of chaos is likely to occur when cross-posting takes place after the men have been called up, and our preparations against actual or apprehended attack are likely to be delayed. That consideration seems to me to be a fairly effective sanction against any tendency there may be to use this power, which is obviously necessary, in any more extensive form than is absolutely required.
With those few observations, and recognising that in this instance the Secretary of State has acted wisely in accepting the views put forward from this side of the Committee, and recognising that if he would only do so more often we could get on more easily, I desire to welcome these Amendments.
I welcome the assurance which was given by the Parliamentary Secretary that this power will be exercised as little as possible, as I am sure do all my hon. Friends and as I am certain does everybody who has ever served in any branch of His Majesty's land Forces. But even though that is so, I think it will be generally agreed that this is a very unpopular power to use—unpopular with the troops, unpopular with practically everybody except possibly some A Branch staff officers, who may find it easy to put into practice. This power of transfer is a terrible blow to esprit de corps.
I shall not dwell on the fact that it is being put into force very largely in the Regular Army today. Men serve in sometimes three or four different units, different regiments, in a very short time. They hardly know to what they really belong. Putting the Regular Army out of the question, however, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that in the Territorial Army the principal esprit de corps, the principal loyalty, is that of their locality or their county. What they are proud of is belonging to their county or to one of their county units, and we strike a very great blow at that loyalty and that esprit de corps if we compulsorily transfer men to the regiment of some county far away.
I remember a case in the last war in which men from a north country regiment—excellent, splendid men, I am sure, proud of their own county—were transferred suddenly as a draft to a south country regiment, which was equally proud of its loyalty to its own county. These men about whom I am talking were Territorials and it was before they went abroad. These men had entirely different loyalties, an entirely different esprit de corps; they came from different parts of the kingdom and it is scarcely too much to say that in some cases they barely spoke the same language. It did an infinity of harm, and that sort of thing will do an infinity of harm in the future.
It is a very great pity that it is found necessary to introduce this Clause enabling these transfers to be made in the Territorial Army. One cannot have a real esprit de corps in a body of troops belonging to one county, possibly in the north of England or the Midlands, which is half full of men from several other counties, all of them with a nostalgia not only for their own regiment, not only for their own battalion, but for their own county. That county spirit is a tremendously powerful thing and it is very unfortunate when it has to be disregarded. I very much regret that this power is necessary, but I welcome the assurances of the Under-Secretary that it will be used as little as possible. I hope we may depend on it that effect will be given to those assurances by all the officers and staff who will have to put this power into effect.
I rise to support the argument that has been put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys). The interesting thing about these Amendments, which I think improve the Clause very much, is that they deal entirely in military terms. The Territorial Army is, above all, a territorial army. The men are recruited for a unit in the same area; they know one another; they work together; they have the spirit of their area. If there is no restriction put on the Adjutant-General's branch in drafting men from one Territorial unit to anywhere else in the United Kingdom, at least I think the movement must be within the corps. The Territorial's fondness for his own county is a very strong thing. I do not urge on the Secretary of State that he should attempt to put in any Amendment to restrict the posting of men from one part of the country to a unit in any other part of the country, but I do hope that something may be done to inculcate in A Branch, certainly the most criticised of the three branches of the Army, the need to observe this principle of leaving people with their own friends from their own localities.
I have heard of many instances—I shall not go into them, and I agree that mostly they were wartime instances—of the most fantastic cross-postings. I have even heard of Highlanders with a Cork accent —in 1914—a very strange thing. I should like to have in the Adjutant's office and in every branch of the A Branch, large notices saying. "Are these journeys really necessary?" Occasionally one is inclined to think that for mere convenience large bodies of people from one part of the country are posted to units from other parts of the country.
Perhaps the two areas where this cross-posting is liable to be felt in a marked manner very adversely by the men are Northern Ireland and Wales; and in Wales, especially in the Welsh-speaking parts. If men are transferred from a Welsh-speaking unit—perhaps only a few individuals—into some unit which is not Welsh-speaking, and which knows not Cwmry, they are very uncomfortable. The same thing applies, only to a lesser extent, to my own fellow countrymen from Ulster. They do like to be with their own people who understand their ways.
It is a curious thing that even in cooking there is a difference. At the beginning of the last war I was responsible for raising a regiment in Ulster. We borrowed a man, an admirable corporal cook, from the South Wales Borderers. He was a man of great charm and great technical capacity, but he did not cook food as our people liked it. The south Welsh love to have their food full of pepper. It accounts for a lot of qualities which we have noticed in this Chamber. We do not have our food very highly seasoned. We are very plain folk, and we like to have food of a plain nature. We had great difficulty at first, because we found all the cooks emptying their pepper pots, whooped on by the corporal from the South Wales Borderers.
That is a very small point, but, on the other hand, it is a material point, and it shows that certain localities have their own practices and their own customs. I hope it will be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence with A Branch, which has lasted impervious to the curses of generations of soldiers, to try to restrict these postings of individuals or even of bodies, in what is a territorial army, out of the units which they have joined and of which they are fond and in which they want to serve.
Esprit de corps and "esprit de county" is a very useful factor for a soldier if he is in a hard place. A man in a tight place likes to have his friends around him, and he likes to have his fellow countrymen around him, and to hear the homely talk he has heard from his cradle. Therefore, I do hope it will be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to assure the Committee that every effort will be made to try to keep Territorials, even in the stresses of war, serving in the units in which they enlisted, and which are connected with those parts of the country from which they come.
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that on Second Reading, I was somewhat indignant on this particular subject. I should like to say how very much I welcome what he has said today. I feel that he has certainly paid very considerable attention to what was said in the Second Reading Debate. I have been looking over again the words which he used in his reply to the Debate on Second Reading. I notice that he quite rightly referred to the fact that in the days of Lord Haldane there was no Royal Armoured Corps or Ack-Ack Command, and that today we have a technical problem which obviously could not have confronted Lord Haldane. I, of course, agree with the right hon. Gentleman there.
What I am perturbed about is that he should have mentioned those two corps. As he said, those are really going to be very much the front line of the Territorial Army, as compared with the tail. I do believe it is very important that we should distinguish between the front line troops and the tail. I believe that cross-postings within the front line may be more acceptable than transfers between the front line and the tail. I believe that if the right hon. Gentleman could give us some indication—I do not say, tie himself down for ever; I am not expecting him to do that—that when transfers do have to take place they will be limited as far as possible, so that men do not move out of front line regiments into one of the supporting, ancillary regiments, he would do much to meet our point. There is a tremendous regimental pride, and I believe that if the right hon. Gentleman will assure us that, as far as possible, those who volunteer to fight, as compared with those who volunteer to maintain, are guaranteed that, if transfers take place, they will be posted to fight and not to maintain, he will have allayed many fears.
Certainly I believe that the right hon. Gentleman's intentions are perfectly honourable so far as the Territorial Army is concerned. I am not questioning that for a moment. However, I have appreciated very much the correspondence that has taken place in "The Times" on this matter of postings since we last debated the subject, and, in particular, a letter from General Hare, who was formerly Deputy Adjutant-General, sticking up for A Branch of the War Office. It came as a particularly welcome note. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) will agree that there have always been men in the War Office who have tried to look after regimental interests. I do not say they have always been in the majority, but there have always been men who have tried to do that. I apologise if I overstated the case on Second Reading. I know the right hon. Gentleman thought I did. If I have offended any of those senior officers who have held important positions in A Branch I most heartily apologise, because those who stick up for regimental interests when on the Staff are always to be congratulated. I know it is very difficult. I hope they will accept my apologies.
I am obliged to hon. Members for accepting this Amendment with such grace, and I hope, in the language of diplomacy, that relations will continue to be friendly. So far, so good. But while I am ready to support the assurance that the Under-Secretary of State has given, namely, that this power of cross-posting will not be abused, nevertheless, there are certain facts which we cannot ignore. We have to pay attention to the needs of the Army as a whole. There is not much use in having an Army unless it is properly balanced, and if we should find ourselves with a shortage of men for a particular branch upon which the efficient organisation of the Army must rely, then clearly some cross-posting would be essential. The hon. and gallant Member would be the first to complain if we failed to provide the essential equilibrium in the organisation of the Forces. The fact that the Army is so highly mechanised, and will become still more mechanised, makes it essential for it to have a rather long tail. R.E.M.E., Ordnance, Signals and the like are all to a very large extent developing branches of the Army, at any rate, as compared with the early part of the inter-war years, and, therefore, some form of cross-posting may be required.
I want to give this assurance on behalf of my military colleagues of the Army Council and the staff of the War Office. There is not one of them who likes this frequent posting. They dislike it intensely, and I dislike it intensely for reasons purely apart from military ones, namely, that it is very expensive indeed. Frequent postings involve us in additional movements which are perhaps one of the most expensive items in our Army Votes. There are other reasons why we would prefer to curtail it as much as possible.
Having uttered that warning, if, indeed, it was necessary to mention the matter to those who have military experience and who are well aware of the needs of the modern Army, I repeat the assurance already given that we shall exercise the greatest care in the use of these powers, and we shall certainly not ignore what hon. and gallant Members have rightly said is an essential part of the organisation and spirit of the British Army, namely, the need for Territorial alignments. With this assurance, I hope that the Amendment will be accepted.
I beg to move, in page 7, line 10, to leave out "Part I," and to insert "subsection (3) of section one."
This is a small point, but one of substance. Part I of the National Service Act includes at least one Clause—Clause 2—which deals with men who
volunteer for the Auxiliary Forces of the various Armed Forces of the Crown. It is our hope that the Secretary of State does not mean to deny to these men the advantages provided by the various subsections of Clause 5. I am sure that he does not wish to do so. I am advised that if he says:
serving for a term of part-time service within the meaning of Part I of the National Service Act …
as opposed to the amending words which we are proposing, there may be some confusion because Part I includes Clause 2 which deals with those who wish to volunteer.
This need not delay us long because on the results which we want to get we are in entire agreement on both sides of the Committee. The object is that men who enter into voluntary engagements in lieu of part-time National Service shall be exempt from compulsory powers under Clause 5 of the Bill. The position is that they are so exempt because Section II of the National Service Act lays down that a National Service man who enters into an engagement
as a volunteer for a term not less than the term of part-time service which he would otherwise be required to serve under this part of this Act
shall be enlisted in accordance with that engagement, that is to say, as an engagement as a volunteer. The effect of that is that his engagement is then not governed by the National Service Act but by the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, as amended by this Bill, that is, he is then a voluntary member of the Territorial Army. I think, therefore, that we get the result which we all want to get as the Act stands at present because Section II of the National Service Act, as it were, leaves the man's engagement out of that Act and hands it into the keeping of the Act of 1907 and of this Bill.
Yes. It is a valid arrangement. A further reason why we should not accept this Amendment is that there are certain parts of Part I—that is the part referred to in the hon. Gentleman's Amendment—which it is quite proper to have here, namely, Section 23. which provides that where a man's compulsory service is for some reason interrupted, he may be called upon to complete the remainder of it at some subsequent period. If we accept the Amendment, such a person would enjoy privileges and exemptions which, I am sure, it is not suggested that they should enjoy. I suggest, therefore, that the Amendment would produce a result which we do not want, and that the result which we all want to achieve can be obtained without the Amendment. Perhaps, therefore, the hon. Gentleman will consider withdrawing it.
I agree with the last part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman. When I put the Amendment down I did not intend it to apply to the other parts of the Clause. I cannot, however, regard the situation as wholly satisfactory. We have been careful on both sides to avoid unnecessary controversy in connection with this Bill, but I think that inadvertently or otherwise the hon. Gentleman, who has usually a good choice of language, used the words "I think." I must call attention in no spirit of party hostility to the great inconvenience caused to this House by the absence of a Law Officer of the Crown. We ought to have a legal interpretation of this matter. If the hon. Gentleman deliberately used the words "I think "—
If I used the words "I think" as to the interpretation of this Clause, I was not using language as carefully as the noble Lord kindly suggested I sometimes do. I am in no doubt. I am advised that the effect of this Bill is as I stated in my previous statement.
In that case I shall not press my contention that the presence of a Law Officer is required in connection with this Clause. At the same time, although it may be out of Order to pursue it, I say—only as an obiter dictum and in no spirit of hostility—that I think that on a very complicated Bill of this kind it would be advisable to have a Law Officer present, because these questions of interpretation do arise. That was the old custom of the House.
Perhaps we have already delayed the proceedings, because the right hon. Gentleman, my hon. Friends and myself—I have been the worst offender—have all made long speeches describing our past experiences, and saying how much we like this Bill. One might say that in that sense we have all delayed this Bill this afternoon—no one more than myself. However, it has been such a friendly afternoon and everyone has been so polite, that I do not wish to persist in any further opposition, in view of what the hon. Gentleman has said.
Before asking leave to withdraw my Amendment, I should like to ask the Minister and the Under-Secretary to make quite certain once again that they are right. I am sure they do not want to have any doubt, and it would be a disaster if, quite by mistake, the Committee passed a provision which put people who volunteered into the same position as those who did not volunteer. Could I have that assurance?
The last speech of the noble Lord should have resulted in the Government's withdrawing this Clause, because he confessed that most of the speeches in support of the Amendments to the Clause had been made under a misapprehension. If that is so, the Committee ought not to be content with the lighthearted assurance given by an Under-Secretary.
I hope the hon. Gentleman, to whom I have already paid a compliment in all sincerity, will explain exactly what he is talking about, because I made no such statement as he alleges. I do not know what he is talking about.
There are far stronger reasons than mere technical reasons of misunderstanding for objecting to this Clause. One of them is that the Secretary of State has made a speech which certainly should not commend this Clause to the Committee. I quite accept his assurance that he would never be party to sending men into war unequipped. But how is it possible, facing the facts of modern war, to send men into war equipped to meet the modern developments of scientific warfare? I was asked to face unpalatable facts. I assert that the Committee is not facing unpalatable facts, but rather accepting the reminiscences of hon. and gallant Gentlemen who served in the First and Second World Wars in assuming that World War No. 3 is likely to be a repetition of the first two world wars.
I have taken a good deal of trouble to find out exactly what kind of war the Government are preparing for in their proposed reorganisation of the Territorials. I have not only read every kind of description of the recent manoeuvres in Germany, but I have been to the cinema and seen the Secretary of State reviewing troops who may be called upon to do battle in these particular circumstances, and one of the comments in the newsreel which is current in London is that the Secretary of War is, presumably, incompetent to know the lessons of those manoeuvres.
Although, of course, I accept your Ruling, Mr. Bowles, I would point out that there is a complete unreality about this Debate if the Committee does not consider the kind of war into which the reorganised Territorials are to be sent. I submit that it is the Committee who are not facing unpalatable facts and the realities by thinking of the next war in the terms of the two world wars of the past.