In making my first appearance as the Minister responsible for Army Estimates, I would emphasise, as was brought home to me on taking office, the sheer size and complexity of the Army. There are, including Gurkhas and locally enlisted forces over 200,000 soldiers and 190,000 civilians, a total working force of 390,000, and all the management problems—movement, communication and equipment—involved.
It is the job of this House to look for things which are wrong, but I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will join me in paying a tribute to one thing which is right—the skill and devotion of the men and women in the Army and who serve the Army. I say from this Box, as I frequently said on similar occasions from the other side of the Committee, that criticism should be addressed to and accepted by Ministers. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has made clear, the personnel of the forces—senior and junior—should not become involved in the proper controversies between parties on defence issues.
In considering these Estimates, we are a prisoner both to the previous Government and to the circumstances that a substantial amount of the Estimates are pre-empted from unavoidable expendi- ture which flows from the number of men, pay, allowances, and so on—that is, a hard core of £439 million, 80 per cent. of the Estimates, roughly the same percentage as last year.
The room for manoeuvre is thus strictly limited and, in any event, this year's Estimates are, to a great extent, the product of decisions taken by our predecessors. Four months is insufficient to make any impact of consequence on them, and I will have a word to say later about the extent to which we feel that some of these decisions were wrongly oriented.
The total of Army Votes this year is £554 million and represents an increase of £39 million over 1964–65. Apart from price increases, a major part of the increase is to provide for the expanding production and procurement of new equipment; increased production of ammunition, helicopters and logistic ships. A further increase in Regular Army strength towards the new target of 181,100 from 1st January, 1966, has been provided for. The new target takes account of the transfer to the Army of the duties of the Airfield Construction Branch of the R.A.F. There are also, perhaps rather unfairly as far as the Estimates are concerned, 53 pay days for the soldier instead of the usual 52.
There have been substantial pay increases for civilians. These have, to some extent, been offset by decreases in numbers both at Army Department headquarters and in outstations throughout the world. Speaking of headquarters, I feel without immodesty I should tell the Committee that I have already lasted considerably longer than during my previous appointment in the War Office.
Shortly after returning from P.O.W. leave in 1945, I was posted to the War Office and reported there with some trepidation. An officer told me in colourful language that he had been awaiting my arrival with some impatience as there were several sacks of letters from soldiers wanting immediate discharges and if we did not answer them soon they would all write to their Members of Parliament. He then asked when I hoped to get my own discharge and rang a bell. A sergeant major came in and was instructed to fetch my records. A few minutes later, showing the efficiency, no doubt, of the filing system, he came back and said as far as the War Office was concerned I had left the Army the previous week.
The Army today is, of course, very different from 1945, as I discovered within two days of taking office when I was called upon to meet and address an assembly of over 100 R.S.M.s—a very terrifying experience for an ex-lance sergeant.
Before dealing with manpower and equipment, I would like to say something about the major tasks facing the Army today.
The Army's greatest single commitment is, of course, the maintenance of the British Army of the Rhine. Because of its importance, I went to visit it in my second week of office. B.A.O.R. represents a heavy burden on our balance of payments, and a great part of our defence effort as far as the Army is concerned goes into its equipment and upkeep. We have a treaty commitment to keep a force of 55,000 troops, and its present strength is about 4,000 below that figure mainly owing to the need temporarily to withdraw units and individuals as emergency reinforcements for our forces in the Far East and for the United Nations force in Cyprus. This B.A.O.R. force requires heavy, sophisticated and expensive equipment and it is backed in the United Kingdom in peace-time by regular formations and a large number of reservists who would join it as reinforcements if mobilisation were ordered.
In addition, we have widely varied tasks all over the world. Since 1945, there have been about 50 emergency situations in which the Army has been involved—an average of roughly two a year, although eight of them have arisen during the last two years. "Confrontation" in Malaysia has now lasted for nearly two years, while, as we all recall, the Korean war dragged on for three. A feature of almost all these operations has been that they have arisen suddenly and unexpectedly.
We have, as the Committee knows, recently undertaken to provide logistic support for up to six battalions for United Nations forces. This is a task which the Army welcomes as a further contribution to peace and stability. So often in difficult situations speed is the essence of the operation. One may adapt the proverb to say a battalion in time may save nine.
Direct military action is not the only way in which the Army can and does make a contribution to the peace and security of the world. One of the valuable rôles of the Army is that of providing advice and assistance to the armed forces of emergent nations who ask for our help. At the moment more than 1,200 officers and N.C.O.s are serving on secondment in such training teams, or in executive positions.
Any description of what the Army does—and I should add here that I was most impressed during my recent visit to the Middle and Far East with the sense of vigour and purpose shown by the soldiers which increased as we got closer to the sharp end—raises questions about his equipment.
Here, I must mention a difficulty which was thrown into especial prominence during my visit to the Far East. Up until quite recently we have been, regardless of the operational situation, an Army whose equipment was dominated by the requirements of a European war. When, as became clear, we had to pay regard to the requirements of other terrains and other conditions, then we found ourselves short of the appropriate equipment. The orientation of equipment towards jungle conditions was a matter which had been greatly neglected.
We are now pushing ahead with studies, not only of lighter and more suitable weapons for jungle conditions but also for counter-insurgency rôles. We have had to adopt the same more flexible approach with larger items of equipment. I should mention the hovercraft, of which the Army has two vehicles on evaluation trials now in the Far East. The Committee will understand that the development of the vehicle is still at an early stage; it will be some years before its full potential can be realised.
Recently, I authorised the hire of one of the Army's hovercraft to the film company engaged on making the new James Bond film, "Thunderball", in which it will play a very unconventional rôle. I hope that the publicity from the film may assist the export drive in which the Army is anxious to play its part.
This year should see the introduction into service of many items of equipment which have, in some cases, been delayed through difficulties in design or production. Their introduction will greatly increase the fighting efficiency and mobility of our forces especially in B.A.O.R. First deliveries of the new Abbot self-propelled 105 mm. gun are planned for this year. Also we expect deliveries of the American M107 175 mm. self-propelled gun. This is a much heavier gun with a longer range and will form part of the corps artillery, filling a gap in B.A.O.R.'s heavy support capability. As was announced last year, the American M109 155 mm. self-propelled gun is to be acquired for the medium artillery rôle.
For the infantry, deployment of the Wombat 120 mm. anti-tank gun is well under way and should be completed during the year. Deployment of other new infantry weapons—the general purpose machine gun, 81 mm. mortar and Carl Gustaf 84 mm. anti-tank weapon—is continuing. A limited number of light automatic rifles have been deployed to troops in Borneo and the purchase of a further quantity is in hand for evaluation trials under operational conditions for use in jungle circumstances.
Army aviation will continue to expand, though not as fast as we would wish. By October this year 208 Army aircraft will be operational, of which over half will be helicopters. Five units in the Far East now have their own unit flights. By the end of the year a total of 34 units world-wide will have their own flights. The two main types of Army helicopter currently in service are the Scout and the Sioux. We hope shortly to overcome certain difficulties which have been encountered and which have affected the reliability in the early stages of the Scout.
Production of the Chieftain tank is under way. As hon. Members know, this is a most advanced and complex weapon system, possessing many new features, and we have had our share of difficulties inherent in getting going the production line of a new and sophisticated equipment. This is a fine tank with the best gun in the world. Other features are an engine with multi-fuel capacity and an automatic gearbox.
Production of the armoured personnel carrier has gone ahead steadily during the year and the re-equipment of B.A.O.R. with this vehicle will continue. Its arrival in service will greatly increase the mobility of the infantry battalion. The Vigilant anti-tank guided missile has been issued to some infantry units in B.A.O.R. and further issues to B.A.O.R. and the Strategic Reserve will be made this year as well as to units of the Royal Armoured Corps. Trials are now in progress of Thunderbird 2 surface-to-air guided weapon, a greatly improved successor to Thunderbird 1. It will be fully mobile and air transportable. Thorough trials of the new high mobility load carrier, Stalwart, were completed last year and we have decided to introduce this vehicle into service.
Issues of new range radio to the Army go on. A new H.F. manpack set incorporating the latest transistor techniques is beginning to be issued in the Far East. There was mention in the 1963 White Paper of a communications project under the name of Hobart. Since then project studies for the new generation of radio equipments under the plan have been completed. If all goes well, the Army should get the benefit of this equipment in the 1970s.
For movement by sea, the ageing fleet of landing ships tank is being replaced by a more sophisticated and faster landing ship. Some indication of the age of these ships is afforded by the fact that one which I saw in the Persian Gulf recently was having its 21st birthday party. The new ship has a greatly superior performance, for the carriage of troops, armoured and other vehicles, and with the ability to operate helicopters from her decks. We intend to have six such ships. The first, already completed, will be in continuous service from about May of this year. Two further ships now under construction should be in service by late 1966, and a further three ships will shortly be ordered to be in service in about two years' time.
There are proposals in hand for a wider application of computers and for extending the services of those already working. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will say something about these when he speaks later.
I wish now to consider the soldier himself. There are a number of misconceptions current about the soldier, not the least being that he can be considered apart from the rest of the community. This, if it were ever true, is certainly not true today. The soldier has a place and a status in society which we must recognise. It is as important for an all-Regular Army as it was in the days of National Service. If this is to be done, we must provide fair and adequate terms and conditions of service. Doing this is not as easy as it sounds. We are not administering in the Army simply a force of soldiers. We are, in effect, responsible for a vast cross-section of the community—men, women and children. Like their civilian counterparts, soldiers marry much younger than they used to. For this cross-section of the community we have, as far as we can, especially overseas, to provide the services which the civil community at home expect to receive.
The Royal Army Medical Corps, for example, provides the medical care overseas for nearly 90,000 women and children. Each year about 13,000 children are born in military hospitals. The Army educates 33,000 children in over 120 schools. In short, overseas, the Army has to provide medical and educational services that would otherwise be provided by my right hon. Friends the Ministers of Health and Education. Both at home and abroad we must house families which otherwise would be the concern and responsibility of local authorities and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
All this costs money, which is accounted for as part of the defence bill. In addition, a good deal of Army technical training also benefits civilian undertakings. The job is more complicated because, of course, the Army is not a static community. Units and individuals are constantly moving from station to station and the pattern of deployment varies as often as operational considerations change. We must provide not only adequate medical and educational care, but decent accommodation, reasonable leave, efficient movement and the inumerable welfare facilities that are essential to make life tolerable. In this connection I should like to pay a tribute to the great work done on behalf of the soldiers by the ladies of the W.V.S.
Perhaps I could mention just a few of the aspects which have to be considered. A major current problem is that of increased family separation. The numerous operational commitments which have arisen recently have made a large amount of unaccompanied service inevitable. Men are serving without their families in such widely dispersed territories as British Guiana, Swaziland, Cyprus, Aden, and, of course, Malaysia. We try to keep these unaccompanied tours as short as operational conditions will allow, limiting them, as far as possible, to periods of from six to 12 months.
Where we can, we provide accommodation at home for the families. If the unit is sent on an emergency tour at short notice we let the families remain in their quarters. If the move has been planned, with proper notice, they can still stay in their quarters, provided that the unit is coming back to the same station and the quarters are not required for another unit in the meanwhile. We try to arrange that this is so. If the tour is for 12 months the families are offered accommodation in the few vacant quarters which exist in places in the United Kingdom where we no longer have troops, or they may occupy hirings at places of their own choice.
I did not say "harems". I said "hirings"
What we can do is limited in general by the fact that we are still short of married quarters in the United Kingdom, and we have to recognise the claims of united families to accommodation. We aim to keep unaccompanied service to a minimum, and have rules to avoid sending men abroad on unaccompanied tours without a minimum period of service with their families. Units who do not fulfil this requirement, which, of course, has to be waived in emergency, are said to be in baulk. As was stated in the Defence debate, the seriousness of the Army's overstretch was indicated for a short period last month when we had no infantry battalion in this country out of baulk.
Equally, we must try to ensure that the ever growing problem of looking after families, especially overseas, is properly handled. Two steps are being taken to improve matters in this respect. One is to provide S.S.A.F.A. social workers who will be deployed in major stations overseas. The second step will be to introduce a unit families officer into infantry battalions, which are especially liable to unaccompanied service, with special responsibilities for ensuring that the families are properly looked after.
I now turn to manpower and recruiting. At the end of January the strength of the Army had reached 176,382, made up of 19,358 officers and 157,024 other ranks. There is thus an overall shortage of 2 per cent. During 1964 we recruited 23,500 soldiers and young soldiers from civil life, compared with fewer than 18,000 in 1963, and thus the other rank strength of the Army went up by over 5,000. Thus, in this difficult field of other rank recruiting we have come a long way and are getting close to the target, but I want to dispel any impression that the future is now all plain sailing. I believe that we shall reach our overall target of 181,100 this year, but we shall do so only if we keep up the strongest pressure on recruiting. The events of 1963 showed all too clearly the dangers of any relaxation in this field.
Moreover, even when we have reached the figure of 181,100 that will be by no means the end of the story. We shall still be faced with lack of balance between certain Arms and trades. In the infantry, for example, the overall shortage is now down to 6 per cent. as compared with 9 per cent. a year ago, but in certain infantry brigades the shortage is much greater, ranging up to 16 per cent. The Royal Army Medical Corps is still 10 per cent. below its requirements and the Royal Army Dental Corps as much as 32 per cent. Then there are deficiencies in many individual trades.
There are also serious problems in the officer field. Roughly speaking, we need about 20,000 officers. At present, we have, as I said, 19,358, but, as with soldiers, it is not only the overall figure which matters. If I could run briefly through the field; recruiting for Regular officers is going well, and Sandhurst is now full; the university graduate entry has improved, particularly since we appointed a university liaison officer, but we still need more graduate officers than we are getting; the university cadetship scheme which was introduced last year made a very slow start; we are hoping to do better this year and we have extended the scheme to cover arts subjects, as well as science and engineering students.
The greatest shortfall of all arises in the case of short-service commissions. We need to take in about 500 short-service officers a year, but we are not getting half this number. We are giving top priority in advertising to this type of commission. Last year, we also introduced a limited service Regular commission scheme in order to provide a pensionable career of at least 16 years, and this is just beginning to show a dividend. Overall, we have a deficiency of about 1,000 young officers in the lighting Arms and major services, offset to some extent by a surplus of older officers. This deficiency makes it imperative that we step up our recruitment of short service commissions. Our worst shortages arise in the technical cops, particularly the Royal Signals and Royal Engineers, and among medical, dental and educational officers.
From what I have said it should be plain that there are no grounds at all for complacency about Army recruitment. Recruiting the officers and men we need is likely to remain a difficult task, and it will not grow easier in the future when the age groups coming forward will be smaller than they have been in recent years. I dealt at some length with the recruiting campaign in my speech on 14th December last and I shall not weary the Committee by repeating it now. I also dealt with the recruitment of Gurkhas, a subject which was raised by the right hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) in the defence debate. I have nothing to add to what then said. I am sure that the whole Committee, however, will join with me in again congratulating the Gurkhas on the wonderful job that they are doing in the Far East.
We shall have to continue our intensive recruiting measures and shall have to strive more and more to reduce wastage and run out.
Leave, particularly in overseas stations, is another important matter, both for the family man and the single soldier. Work has already begun on the biennial review of pay and of retired pay and pensions. We are continuously trying to improve the arrangements for the resettlement of the soldier in civil life.
The Committee, no doubt, will be anxious to hear about accommodation for the Army. Since 1963 the Ministry of Public Building and Works has provided us with our accommodation and pays for it. The cost is, however, included in the total defence budget of £2,120 million. The arrangement is one which, despite good will on both sides, has inherent problems.
As regards married quarters at home there was an outstanding requirement at 1st April last year for about 11,500 married quarters in the United Kingdom, taking into account the need to replace about 4,000 existing sub-standard quarters and about 2,000 quarters situated in the wrong places. This year, about 1,700 new quarters will be completed, and next year and the year after we plan to complete 2,400 and 2,000 respectively. The planned expenditure on married quarters in the United Kingdom in 1965–66 is £7·99 million, including £7·275 million to be provided from the Armed Forces Housing Loan Act, subject to Parliamentary approval for its extension.
As well as a shortage of married quarters, I inherited a legacy of many sub-standard barracks and quarters.
These are the planning figures for the future, and have to take account of other demands on building, one of which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is the great demand for some new barracks. This is looking two years ahead, and no one will be happier than I if we can increase the figures.
The right hon. Gentleman gave the figure of married quarters required for the United Kingdom as about 11,000. Can he give the worldwide figure? As I understood it when we discussed this matter during our consideration of the Housing Loans Bill, 40,000 were required. Is that so?
I cannot give the composite figure for overseas as well as the United Kingdom, but I shall ask my hon. Friend to deal with it when he replies to the debate.
The barrack rebuilding programme in progress since 1958 will be continued this year at a slightly higher level than last. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will say something more about this later.
I have so far been speaking about the Army, what it does, its equipment, and how we look after it. What I have not done is to set out our problems. There is the continuing problem, of course, of recruiting and manpower to produce a balanced force within the ceiling. Two others are of particular concern—equipment and reserves.
The Committee will have noted that actual expenditure on equipment and ammunition—Vote 7—has fallen considerably short of what was estimated. There were underspends of £7 million and £15 million in 1962–63 and 1963–64 and a shortfall of about £10 million on this Vote is expected for 1964–65. This year I have tried to make it as realistic as possible. The main difficulty is in anticipating the progress of new and often complex equipment in the final stages of design and development and the initial stages of production.
The problem of slippage has meant that the Army has had to wait for important equipment to bring it up to date, such as the Chieftain tank and the Abbot gun. It also means that the major bills for equipment developed and ordered by the previous Government have still to be paid. In addition, delays in delivery of equipment have awkward repercussions in the training and posting of units.
In this context, too, I should mention the problem of finding a full workload for the Royal Ordnance factories which has resulted in a reduction in their numbers and strengths in recent years. As has already been announced, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is at present concerned in a study to secure for them the optimum number of defence and other contracts.
I turn now to the question of reserves. Whenever the House was asked by the previous Government to consider the reserve forces a great deal of attention was paid to their numbers, pay and training activities. These matters are, of course, of great importance, but there is no point at all in having an expensive back-up to the Regular forces if the reserves are not readily available in the circumstances in which one is likely to require them. Although we had a new Reserve Act only last year, that is the position today.
We find ourselves in the position of having, at least so far as the Army is concerned, about 10 different types of reservists, each with different liabilities both for training and call-out, different pay scales and, with one exception, available only under restrictions and antiquated conditions have been gone through. The exception is, of course, the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve—the "Ever-readies", who were launched with such a blast of trumpets but of whom no use was made a year ago when our forces were so severely stretched.
Other reservists fall into two main classes—those which can be called out without proclamation, and those liable only after a proclamation has been made. The former category, which includes Section A of the Regular Reserve and AER I, carry the difficulty that they can only be used overseas when, in the words of the 1950 Act,
warlike operations are in preparation or progress
and the men, once called out, must be used overseas. These limitations greatly diminish the possibility of a flexible response to an emergency.
The post-proclamation reserves contain the great majority of our reserve manpower. The restrictions embodied in their liability limit their use in the main to the circumstance of general war. But it is conceivable that we might need to call out some of these men for circumstances short of that situation. This is not open to us without recourse to a proclamation which might, in the circumstances, further jeopardise a situation already perilous.
This failure by the previous Government to grapple with the problem leaves open the possibility of serious prejudice to our capacity to deploy the necessary forces at the right time. When the review of rôles and commitments of the forces as a whole is completed, it is intended to bring forward proposals aimed at securing the maximum availability of reserves consistent with the operational need.
I have attempted to give the Committee a broad picture of the Army in rela- tion to its Estimates. Inevitably, there are many omissions. The Committee will understand, also, that with a defence review still in progress there are a number of issues which must await its outcome and with which I cannot deal fully today. Nevertheless, I hope that I have said enough to indicate that we are prepared to take a fresh look at the difficulties with which the Army is faced.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, whatever differences we may have in the Committee on defence policies and priorities we can at least unite in paying tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces for the way they have responded, all over the world, to the heavy burdens placed upon them by the nation. It is our duty to see that they have the means to carry out the tasks we ask them to do.
I thought that I had made it clear to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the provision of hovercraft—which are not manned only by the Army, is for the purpose of putting them through trials to see how useful they are, particularly in jungle conditions in the Far East. It will be some time before we can come to a final conclusion about their rôle, but if they prove satisfactory, as I very much hope they will, it will be our intention and desire to acquire some.
I cannot honestly say that I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Deputy Secretary of State will be presenting these Estimates again next year, but if any right hon. Gentleman opposite should have this task, then I am sure that we shall again salute the energy and common sense which the right hon. Gentleman brings to his task. We shall, no doubt, be criticising his judgment later during the debate, and also the judgment of the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army, to whom we shall listen with pleasure later this evening, though I doubt whether the HANSARD Reporters will be looking forward to it as much as others. Though we may criticise the judgment of the Ministers we shall certainly not question their desire to do well by the Service men whom they have the honour to represent.
I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman could be accused of writing the notorious first paragraph of the White Paper that accompanies his Estimates. Indeed, the first paragraph clears up at least one of the minor mysteries that surround the Government. At last, we know what Lord Chalfont has been doing during the past weeks. That first paragraph bears a very close resemblance to much of Lord Chalfont's earlier writings on military subjects in that it is vivid, tendentious and wrong.
If the opening paragraph belongs to Lord Chalfont, it is also plain that the Minister of State did not write paragraphs 17 and 18. For years he has been recognised and respected as one of the foremost proponents of an increase in our forces in Germany. The contents of paragraphs 17 and 18 are already well known to all hon. Members—
Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman so early, but this is not a debate on the White Paper, and I hope that any references that the hon. Member makes to it will be incidental.
Indeed, Dr. King, but the location of the major part of the Army is a matter which I would have thought was very germane to our discussion.
No doubt hon. Members will have read in the newspapers of the cry of pained surprise that was immediately wrung from Dr. Kliesing, the Chairman of the Defence Committee of the German Parliament, when right hon. Members opposite began to pronounce their new theory about the size of the armed forces in Germany. I am not surprised at the chagrin that Dr. Kliesing expressed, for during recent years he has also been Chairman of the Western European Defence Committee, and in that Committee in recent years a sustained and vigorous assault has been made on the undermanning of B.A.O.R., notably by the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and the Under-Secretary of State for the Army. I remember the long orations of the First Secretary, because it fell to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) and me to try to answer them.
It is hardly surprising that Dr. Kliesing should be surprised that those who argued so vehemently for increasing the forces in Germany should have changed their minds so swiftly after coming to office.
The present Government are not alone in their analysis of the military situation in Europe today. Their new views coincide with those of President de Gaulle and the ex-German Minister of Defence, Herr Strauss.
I hope that the hon. Member will co-operate. This is a Committee on the Army Estimates. Any broad discussion of European defence policy would be going a little too far.
Further to that Ruling, Dr. King. We are most anxious to co-operate, but I understand that this is a debate on the size, purpose, weapons and manning of the British Army. It is almost impossible to discuss those subjects without some reference to the expressions of view of Her Majesty's Government as to what the purpose of the Army is—whether it should be increased or decreased in numbers—and it would seem that this is what the debate is about.
We are very anxious to co-operate, and if you will give us some guidance as to how we can avoid making references to the past and present statements of Her Majesty's Government about the size of the British Army we shall be very glad to listen to you.
That second intervention has not helped the Committee very much. These are the Defence (Army) Estimates. We are not discussing the White Paper. We are discussing the Defence (Army) Estimates. The fact that their name has changed is, for the purpose of the debate, merely a matter of nomenclature.
On the question put by the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), this is a difficult matter. Over the last four or five years the practice of the Chair has been to prevent a debate on the Army or the other two Service Estimates from drifting into a debate on defence or foreign policy. I was asking the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) to see that his references to defence in general were incidental, and to link them to the Army Estimates.
We fully appreciate that these are not Defence Estimates in that sense, but they are in the sense that all the Estimates are Defence Estimates. As we stand at the moment we still divide these into the three Services. We fully appreciate that fact, and none of us would wish to stray into a debate about defence. May I take it that if we restrict our arguments to what has been said in the past about the Army—its size, its weapons, whether it should be Europe, and whether it should increase its numbers—we shall be in order?
It is always dangerous to rule hypothetically, but as a rough statement of the position, what the right hon. Gentleman says is correct. I merely asked the hon. Member for Beckenham to make his references to broad defence policy incidental and relevant.
I hope, Dr. King, that you will not only not have to rule in theory, but in practice.
Hon. Members opposite must not be too sensitive if their present policy statements about the size of the Army in Europe are the subject of a certain amount of cynicism, because so far discussions on these points have been conducted by a course of leak and counter-leak, rather than by plain statements.
A few days ago I bumped into the defence correspondent of one of our leading newspapers and talked to him about a story which had appeared in The Guardian about the forthcoming or foreshadowed withdrawal of one brigade from the British Army of the Rhine. As he said, "Of course, Clare Hollingworth is right. Her story has just been officially denied". But if the brigade were to be withdrawn from Germany and returned to this country, and if it were followed by other forces, we wonder where they would be put.
We know that in recent months there has been a great break-through in the provision of married quarters in Germany and that the situation there is a great deal better than it ever was in the past. There are, however, substantial shortages of accommodation still in this country and, as the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army in particular knows, there are great pressures on all the defence training areas here. Certainly, the pressure upon them would be increased substantially if we were to bring back to this country any major portion of the British Army of the Rhine.
We know well that even today, in the areas which are firmly under the control of the Army, it is difficult enough to carry out any large-scale exercise without somebody rushing up to the troops to ask them to avoid a certain tree or area because it contains the last-known nesting place of the rapidly becoming defunct red-cheeked Healey bird.
Meanwhile, although there is talk of a possible cut in Germany, there is discussion of a possible commitment to a United Nations peace-keeping force and the provision of logistic support by the Army for this, at a time when, it is said, our Army is already stretched in matters both of men and of material. Naturally, we are anxious to see what provision has been made by the Minister of Defence for the Army to undertake this extra burden. If this commitment means anything, surely some contingency planning and costing must have been done.
In Cyprus, we have been providing the logistic support for a United Nations force of 5,000 men. The support operation has been taking place on the doorstep of our sovereign base areas. It is, therefore, difficult to contemplate circumstances in which a United Nations support operation could be done so cheaply. Perhaps we can be told at the end of the debate the cost to the Army of the Cyprus operation so far.
Clearly, this new commitment would be costly to the Army in terms of men as well as in terms of money. The burden would fall on exactly those classes of specialists which, the Minister has told us, are most in short supply: signallers, sappers and medical orderlies. I wonder whether this is the reason for the curious expression which we find in paragraph 129 of the White Paper and to which the Minister himself gave tongue so much this afternoon in complaining about any restrictions at all on the use of the Territorial Army. It seems to me that what Ministers have in mind should they ever be called upon to fulfil this commitment is to strip away the present logistic backing of battalions of the British Army of the Rhine and to replace them with Territorials.
I do not think that the Ministers need worry overmuch about the legal restrictions on the Territorial forces, because it is plain that the main difficulties in this direction are at once administrative and political. It is, however, clear that many members of the Territorial Army have been upset by a report which appeared in The Times on the future rôle of the reserve forces. Although a most searching review of the rôle of the Territorial Army has only just been completed, it seems that another is under way. As the defence correspondent of The Times wrote:
Already the weight of evidence points to an inclination among Ministers to carry out what military circles will regard as mortal surgery on the Territorial Army.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn), who hopes to wind up the debate from this side of the Committee, has a long and distinguished connection with the Territorial Army. I will confine my remarks to three points. The first is that we are never likely to have so many men in the Regular Army that we can contemplate doing away with reserves altogether. Even if one could recruit them, plainly the Treasury would never allow us to pay them. Secondly, we have the best reserve forces in N.A.T.O. on this side of the Atlantic. Thirdly, if Ministers break the spirit of the Territorial Army it will not be easy to reconstruct it, because one cannot easily send volunteers away and then ask them to come back another day.
I hope that when the Under-Secretary replies to the debate he will be able to reassure us that the dismemberment of the Territorial Army in any fashion is not contemplated and that he can indicate the limits of the review. The Gov- ernment have so far told us remarkably little about the whole machinery of review for the Army and its allied services.
I believe that the review of the Army, its commitments, its rôle and its cost, will take a very long time, much longer than has yet been indicated to the House of Commons. One of the reasons why the review will go on and on is plainly political. As long as Ministers can claim that everything is under review, they hope to avoid attacks from the Left wing of their party.
So far, Ministers have been attacked vigorously by the Right as well as by the Left of their own party on this matter. No one has been more outspoken in his exhortation than the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget).
The hon. Member should not only learn the rules of order. He should also learn some of the facts about defence over the last few years.
The other reason why the review of Army expenditure will go on considerably longer than might at first have been thought is that Ministers have set themselves—or have been set—an impossible task. On the one hand, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister say that very great savings can be made; on the other, the Government are committed to our recruiting targets—which they say they will hit-and, as they know, the pay of the Army must soon go up.
Equipment, as we have just been told, is coming forward at a cracking rate—£97 million-worth last year, £114 million-worth this year. If my arithmetic is right, that means that every man and boy in the Army last year received the equivalent of £550-worth of military sharp-end equipment. This year, there will be almost £650-worth of military equipment for every soldier in the Army.
Much of this equipment, as many hon. Members will have had an opportunity of seeing for themselves, is of the highest quality. I am delighted to find, for the first time, British units in the field who are not perpetually complaining about their wireless sets. If hon. Members opposite think that the forces are dangerously under-equipped, surely the bill must rise still further.
I think that the hon. Gentleman has not grasped the main point which I was trying to make, namely, that much of this equipment should have been in service earlier. The effect of the delay is that we have now to find the money for it, when hon. Gentlemen opposite had been boasting in White Papers for years of what they were providing.
I am well aware, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) said in this Estimates debate last year, that the cost of new equipment will continue to mount each year. This has been known for a considerable time. It therefore seems to me all the more irresponsible for Ministers to suggest that great savings can be made in expenditure on the Armed Forces. I am not accusing Ministers who are sitting here at the moment, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer has certainly made a number of speeches on this point, on which he should know better.
Then there is the subject of pensions. Standing at this Dispatch Box in the Estimates debate last year, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton gave a specific pledge to Army pensioners and their dependants that what is known as parity would be introduced. As we learned in a debate a few weeks ago, the cost of introducing them for the Armed Services as a whole would be about £25 million. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton reminded his own Front Bench in that debate that although one might drop the spokesman, one could not drop the pledge.
They were gallant words. He was given a dusty answer at the end of that debate, and he has been given a dusty answer in the Estimates this year. If one considers the amount of money devoted to pensions at steady prices, one sees that there has been a decrease in the amount of money allotted to pensions, rather than an increase, towards parity. Surely at least a token effort to redeem this pledge could have been made this year.
Meanwhile, I note that some efforts to comply with the Chancellor's call for massive savings have been made. The grant for the National Army Museum has been cut by £300, welfare expenses have been cut by £31,000, or almost 10 per cent. But it is easy, at times when one feels the need to make some demonstration of ruthless cutting back, to make false economies. I note with regret that the amount of money to be spent on research, development and design by industry has been cut back by about £750,000, or 15 per cent. I do not believe that we shall quickly reduce the regrettable time lag which afflicts so much of the equipment which is still needed by the infantry until we get a closer relationship with private enterprise.
The Armalite rifle, for example—which, I understand, has now been approved by the Gurkha unit and the experimental sections which have been testing it—was originally privately produced. I understand that the cost of re-equipping our infantry forces in Borneo with this new rifle would amount to less than one-third of the cost of the new, great comprehensive school which has been opened in the Singapore base.
Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that it was the party which he represents, when in power, which decided to abolish all research and development of small arms in this country?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish one point before I go on to another.
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman chooses to raise the question of the Royal Ordnance factories, because, as the hon. Members representing Woolwich made clear in the House before Christmas, there was a great deal of dishonest talk before the last General Election about the damage which we were supposed to be doing to the R.O.F.s and how all this would be changed when the Labour Party came into office; but when it came into office and looked at the facts it found that there was reason for closing down the Woolwich Arsenal, and it stuck by the decision taken by my right hon. Friend.
My hon. Friend will have noted that today the Minister, in referring to the Government's future policy on the R.O.F.s, as mentioned in the White Paper, was careful, when addressing himself to the volume of contracts which they might hope to receive, to refer to the "optimum" and not to the "maximum" number of contracts. In the light of what has been said by hon. Members opposite, one would certainly have expected the latter word.
Quite apart from the point of order, does not the hon. Member think that it borders on impertinence for him to come to the House to speak on Army matters from the Dispatch Box when he does not realise that the EM2 rifle, which was a product of Enfield, and was the best in the world, was cancelled by the previous Administration?
May I, at this point, offer our congratulations to you, Lady Megan, on having taken the Chair? I am sure that in this matter we are united and that I can offer the congratulations of all of us to you on taking the Chair over our proceedings for the first time. Not only are you one of the first lady Members to take the Chair, but you are the first member of your family to preside over this House—and certainly your family have enriched the proceedings of the House for many generations.
Turning to the question of equipment, I note that the wireless set carried by the Special Air Service Regiment on patrol in the jungles of Borneo—and what magnificent work the regiment is doing in Borneo and elsewhere—is also designed by private enterprise. I could go much further in this field. In Sarawak recently I was depressed when I saw some of the clumsy boats still used by the sappers and the infantry for river movements. They are heavy and they look tough, but in fact I am told they will barely slow down a 22 bullet if fired upon down-wind. I reckon that more suitable light plastic boats could have been seen on a dozen stands at the last National Boat Show. There is certainly need for more and not less co-operation between the army and private enterprise.
This is a very interesting point. First of all, the hon. Member says that the statement in the White Paper that we are seriously over-stretched and dangerously under-equipped is wrong. He then goes on to say that these boats are quite unsatisfactory and that we ought to have better boats. We have been in office for precisely five months. The boats about which the hon. Member is speaking must have been ordered under a Conservative Administration and brought into operation under that Administration. Does not this bear out the point made in the White Paper?
It was never the argument of my hon. and right hon. Friends, when in office, that every bit of equipment in the Army was perfect and could not be improved. It is not my intention this afternoon to argue that every bit of equipment is perfect. I am certain that if the hon. Member could get around and see some of the forces in the field he would know that the charges are grossly overstated.
Meanwhile, one of our Army's assets which cannot be measured in the Estimates or calculated by the cost effectiveness experts is our Army's capacity for winning friends overseas. I am glad that the Minister referred to this aspect of Commonwealth co-operation. We seem to have had a pretty good year all round in this respect, but this has been particularly true in Malaysia. We have been, happily, free from the sort of accidental incident which is always liable to embitter relations between soldiers and civilians. But there is much more being done on the positive side. Sports clubs and youth clubs have been helped and improved. Badminton courts have been built. Medical clinics have been established. In fact, the intelligence and natural friendliness of the British soldier are combining to transform confrontation with Indonesia into an enormously effective exercise in winning friends among the people of Malaysia. This is so much so that I was told that Indonesians cross the frontier into Sarawak so that they may be carried in British Army helicopters back to hospital where they may be treated by British Army doctors. This is one form of infiltration which I think we rather welcome.
But the diplomatic rôle of the British Army is not confined to Malaysia or Aden or any of the trouble spots where we are called on to keep the peace. The work of our training missions in the Commonwealth, as the Minister said, is vitally important. We must not take it for granted. I recently saw something of the Indian Army. One cannot help but he immensely impressed by the tremen- dously strong ties which still bind the British and Indian armies together. Indeed, in the week that Mr. John Freeman goes to New Delhi to take up his post as High Commissioner I cannot help but think that "Colonel Blimp" provides a stronger link with the new India than the New Statesman.
We must work to retain this feeling of co-operation because although at the moment virtually all commanding officers in the Indian or Pakistani forces have served with us, in 10 years' time it will be a rarity to find an officer who has had active experience of serving with us in one of these positions. So during the next five to 10 years it is immensely important to try to work to preserve this link which has been forged over so many years. Fortunately, we have as the new Chief of the General Staff, in General Cassel, an officer who has served in India, who is a friend of military leaders in both India and Pakistan and who understands the importance of the problem.
Many other Commonwealth countries attach great importance to having their young officers and office cadets trained in this country and we should make it easy for them to do so. When we come to look at the whole question of reshaping our officer training, as we must in the near future, we must pay close attention to their needs as well as our own.
One of the problems which Ministers will be brought face to face with during the coming year is how much help can and should be given to the armies of friendly nations directly to reduce the size of our commitments. At present, we are devoting £25 million to this form of military expenditure, almost double our spending rate about three years ago, and another increase of £4 million is in the Estimates for this year.
It is reported in the newspapers today that America is offering aid worth £1¼ million to Malaysia. This is good news, but we, of course, make a very much larger contribution and we will be expected to make an even larger one, for Malaysia is now asking her friends for military and financial aid to build up her own forces. Our aid to Malaysia at present, excluding the presence of our forces, is running at the rate of about £7 million a year. During the next few weeks I think it probable that we will be asked to raise this sum by two or three times that amount.
Apart from making friends, our Army is directly concerned with influencing those who wish to do us harm. This task during the past year has been undertaken magnificently. Militarily, our forces in Aden and Malaysia have had to operate in some of the most difficult country in the world against guerrillas who could seek sanctuary across borders which we could not cross. It is the sort of fighting in which individual training is of enormous importance and in which commanders must be careful not to use too much force. The results have been spectacular and the general standard of training of the troops involved has reached heights which have rarely been scaled in the British Army.
I emphasise the difficulties not only to praise the quality of the soldiers involved, but also to remind the Committee that we may have to pay a higher price for holding our present positions. Along the Sarawak borders, Indonesian forces have in many places doubled in numbers since mid-December and in many cases well trained, regular forces have replaced tattered militia units. We must not let the success of the last 12 months lull us into the illusion that every incursion will necessarily be met painlessly with 100 per cent. success.
I must, finally, emphasise that the scent of danger has always sent the recruiting figures upwards. The past year has been no exception. So long as the prospect of danger, discomfort and hazardous duty has a positive effect on our recruiting figures it will be possible to say that the British Army is in good shape. That is certainly true today and I pray that it will be true also tomorrow.
Like many hon. Members on both sides of the House, I was particularly struck by the words in the first paragraph of the Statement on the Defence Estimates, about which the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) complained. I knew that those words were true, because the truth wounds hon. Members opposite.
I am concerned to find out why our Army is so overstretched, and I am particularly concerned about the manpower position in infantry battalions. As is well known, a shortage of good men in any battalion can hamper the efficient operation of the battalion and the carrying out of its duties; it can hamper it out of all proportion to the numbers involved. It will be agreed by most fair-minded people that the former Administration took a calculated risk with the manpower available and the duties allocated to the Army. The calculation by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) and some others of his right hon. Friends was based on how far it would benefit the Tory Party—but when it came to the risks, they were entirely to be taken by the poor bloody infantryman.
I assure hon. Members that the infantrymen in our Army are fed up to the teeth with the kind of politics concerning them with which the former Administration played. It is a well-known fact that various Secretaries of State for War have been wriggling about the various force levels they would allot to battalions. While doing some research I discovered that in the Defence Debate in 1964 it was stated in the daily edition of HANSARD for 26th February, 1964, that the then Secretary of State for War, the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden), said:
The peace establishment of an infantry battalion is about 660 men, including detached."—[OFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1964; Vol. 690, c. 560.]
When I turned to the Bound Volume for February, 1964—issued, I am informed, by Her Majesty's Stationery Office on 30th September last—I discovered an extraordinary alteration. The word "detached" had been altered to "attached". The right hon. Member for Harrogate, being a simple man but a very honest man, presumably did not know the difference between the two words, because when someone pointed it out to him several months later there was apparently no hesitation in changing that record.
I do not want to get involved in the procedural problem of how one changes HANSARD—let that be someone else's affair—but I am concerned to understand why it is that the former Administration, after spending £20,000 million on defence, should leave our infantry battalions in the Army overall so badly overstretched. I am concerned that the right hon. Member for Monmouth and the right hon. Gentleman the former Prime Minister should not have hesitated in playing politics with the country's defence—
Is the hon. Gentleman complaining that a strength of 660 is inadequate, or that the Tories deliberately prevented battalions reaching that strength of 660? I am at a loss to understand of which it is that he complains.
I am complaining of the altering of HANSARD, in the first place, because the difference between "detached" and "attached" amounts to about 50 soldiers per battalion—R.A.M.C., R.E.M.E., Pay Corps, Catering Corps, and so forth.
Talking in 1959 about peace-time levels of battalions, a former Secretary of State for War, the right hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Soames), said—I believe in reply to an intervention by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg)—that peace-time force levels for battalions should be in the neighbourhood of 700. Later we get the statement by another Secretary of State for War that he accepts force levels of 660 men, attached or detached—far below even the figures that in 1959 were deemed to be necessary and acceptable.
Is it thought that the House would have taken that question calmly from the right hon. Gentleman, had he come clean, and had the House realised that he was talking of a drop of a further 40 or 50 men in the peace-time battalion establishment? What would have been the consequences in this House had that been known? The consequence would have been that, for the first time, this House as well as the country would have understood how overstretched our infantry battalions really were.
The former Secretary of State for War was not confusing the Russians, or the Poles, or the Indonesians—they all knew well how overstretched we were. The previous Administration were playing politics with the nation's defence, and I assure the House that the poor bloody infantryman is fed up to the teeth with that kind of behaviour. It is quite obvious that the former Administration knew that our battalions were dangerously overstretched, but all they attempted to do over the years, despite all the probing from this side, was to wriggle, and to hide those facts from the country.
Let us look now at the question of the Rhine Army and tactical nuclear weapons. In a statement last month to the Senate Armed Services Committee, the United States Secretary of State for Defence, Mr. McNamara, stated that in the European Alliance the most important matter needing settlement was how to use tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. I see that in recent speeches the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has been trying to maintain the fiction that we are an independent nuclear Power, so it might be useful to the House if I were now to read a paragraph from the evidence of the Secretary of State for Defence—
On a point of order, Lady Megan. I do not want to interrupt on a point of order that may seem a little poor, but your predecessor said that it was time that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) learned something about our rules of order. This is now about the tenth time that the hon. Gentleman has referred to this Committee as the House. Surely, we are in Committee.
Yes, Lady Megan, I will.
Secretary of State McNamara, in evidence before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on 18th February of this year, stated:
I want to remind you at this point that we have already provided our European N.A.T.O. partners with a tactical nuclear capability, although the nuclear warheads themselves are retained under United States control.
Therefore, the claim made by the Leader of the Opposition that we have an independent nuclear rôle is quite nonsensical. As you have heard, Lady Megan, the United States Secretary of State for Defence confirms that it is the United States that controls these nuclear warheads—
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recall that we are discussing the Defence (Army) Estimates, and that it would be undesirable for him to go further, and discuss general defence matters.
Further to that point of order, Lady Megan. If the hon. Gentleman looks at HANSARD for, I think, 17th June last, he will find that his leader claimed that the tactical warheads of nuclear weapons in Germany were British, until his coat tail was pulled by the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), when he then corrected that statement.
That is precisely what I intend to do, Lady Megan.
The Army of the Rhine is equipped with certain tactical nuclear weapons—the Corporal, the 8-in. howitzer and, I believe, Honest John. These weapons have the distinction that not only are they produced in America, and not only do the warheads come under American control, but all three are wholly and totally obsolescent. The men in the Rhine Army are not only in a desperate position in regard to these tactical nuclear weapons but are also in a very poor state for equipment of all kinds and, in particular, these key tactical nuclear weapons. Further, as regards the Rhine
Army's Honest John, the 8-in. howitzer and Corporal, as I said earlier, the American Army and the German Army have either replaced them already or will be phasing them out. I think that it would be appropriate if I were to read to the Committee a short passage from the evidence given by the United States Secretary for Defence, Mr. McNamara about what the Americans are doing, with the Germans, in the manufacture and financing of Pershing, which is an intermediate modern missile:
For the financial year 1966 procurement of Pershing missiles would bring the Army's inventory to 100 per cent. of its total inventory objective and provide for annual Service practice and tests. During the financial year 1966 we shall again be sharing the Pershing missile production with the Federal Republic of Germany.
As regards anti-aircraft artillery, the country will probably be surprised to learn that the Army still relies on the old war-time Bofors. The former Aministration ordered a replacement for the Bofors, the PT 428, and then cancelled it as they cancelled Blue Water and Blue Streak. Can we be surprised if our Prime Minister is having difficulties with the Germans today in getting them to agree to finance support costs for the Rhine Army if the former Administration have left the B.A.O.R. so badly equipped with obsolescent tactical nuclear weapons and poorly equipped with signals equipment?
After £20,000 million of the taxpayers' money has been sent down the drain in 13 years of Tory rule, we find ourselves wholly dependent on America for tactical nuclear weapons, and our major Army units at home and abroad are desperately short of men and modern equipment to fulfil the rôle assigned to them by the Government. As a consequence, this country, with its Rhine Army, is now virtually defenceless as an independent Power. This is why we have to rely on our N.A.T.O. allies. After 13 years of Tory rule and £20,000 million of expenditure, our Army is virtually defenceless in any independent rôle. This is the parlous state which so many years of Conservative Government and expenditure, mostly wasteful, have brought this country.
I do not want to kick the backside of the right hon. Member for Harrogate, but he and his hon. and right hon. Friends in the former Administration have been fully exposed in matters of national defence as a bunch of incompetent twerps, and, what is even worse, there is evidence that they cooked the books to suit their party instead of making sure that our country was adequately defended, that our Army was properly equipped for its rôle, and that the taxpayer received value for the huge sums of money spent. Hon. Members opposite and the country at large can rest assured that this Administration will make certain that the taxpayer receives value for the vast sums of money which are spent on defence, that the country will be adequately defended and that our Armed Forces will be properly equipped.
In conclusion, I pay a tribute to the poor bloody infantryman. Not only is he the "King of the battlefield", but he is the man on whom we all ultimately rely to carry out the peace efforts of this country at home and abroad. He has not been properly appreciated. The former Administration gave him a very poor deal indeed. We on this side appreciate him and we shall see that he is properly looked after.
The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) was courteous enough to give me notice that he wished to refer to me and to indicate the point which he proposed to make about HANSARD. A missive reached me by recorded delivery on Saturday morning in Yorkshire, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice.
The hon. Gentleman appears to suggest that, either dishonestly or somewhat simple-mindedly—it did not seem quite clear which—I had had an alteration made in HANSARD between the appearance of the daily part and the appearance of the Bound Volume, and that I had had a passage in which I was referring to the establishment of the infantry battalion in peace-time altered so as to read "660 men, including attached" instead of "660 men, including detached".
I think that the real point here, if the Committee will accept it, is what I actually said at the time. As I understand it, the rules about what are or are not permissible alterations in HANSARD turn on this. An alteration is per- missible when an error arises as a result, clearly, of HANSARD having misheard what was said and the report going down in incorrect form through its fault. It is plainly within my recollection that what I said on that occasion was "a strength of 660, including attached". Indeed, "a strength of 660 men, including detached would be nonsense. It would be a statement which made no sense at all.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept from me, in view of the terms in which he attacked me in the earlier part of his speech, that I am entitled to ask for a little assistance from his right hon. Friend the Deputy Secretary of State and Minister of Defence for the Army. I happen to know that the right hon. Gentleman has in his Ministry a copy of the fairly detailed notes which I prepared of the speech which I made. If the right hon. Gentleman will go to the trouble of referring to them, he will find that the transcript of those notes includes the word "attached", which will show that the original matter about which the hon. Member for Buckingham corn-plains arose simply through a mishearing and was, therefore, perfectly properly put right.
Why was not the usual procedure followed? I understand that, if HANSARD mishears or misprints, the correction should be made the following day, not six months later. That is the usual practice.
Perhaps we ought not to pursue this question about HANSARD, but I think that the hon. Gentleman will learn that, if a speech is not corrected that evening, before it goes to press, it is impossible to put in a correction the following day; one has to wait for the Bound Volume. I myself took it as a principle when I was in office that it was much better not to have corrections made to Ministerial speeches. Usually, alterations cause far more bother than they save. It was only in a case of clear improvement being necessary for the sense that I judged it right to give directions that an alteration be made to conform with the text which I had in my possession and which the right hon. Gentleman will, I hope, confirm that he now has in his.
Will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me? This is not an unimportant matter. I entirely accept—I was present at the time—that he played a perfectly honourable part in this, but there was a major alteration, and not on any occasion when we have been discussing establishments has the question of attached or detached come out. I tell the right hon. Gentleman here and now that I should have been profoundly dissatisfied, and I should have taken further action, if I had realised that this figure included attached, because what it did was to bring the peace-time establishment far below the 635 which the previous Secretary of State for War in 1959 had rejected as being too low.
The question of procedure is probably one for Mr. Speaker, but, surely, if there had been a mistake made in HANSARD, the proper course for the right hon. Gentleman was to come to the House and make a personal statement correcting it, not to allow it to pass and have an alteration made in the Bound Volume. For myself, I honestly thought that it was 660. I thought that the word "detached" was nonsense. I thought that the figure was 660. I was quite shocked, and it accounted for a number of things when I found that the right hon. Gentleman had been trying to get away with it by putting in 660 including attached, which made the peace establishment below 630.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has got that right. Again, it is very difficult to recollect these things accurately without the papers, but my recollection is that the "attached" would amount to no more than 9 or 10. However, I do not see why the course of my speech, which I have yet to make, should be dictated by the hon. Member for Buckingham. In any event, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army can clear this up when he speaks. He can say what the establishment is now, and also what proposals he and his right hon. Friends have, if any, for altering it.
On a point of order, Lady Megan. I entirely accept that what the right hon. Gentleman did was perfectly honourable, but in view of the fact that he caused an alteration to be made in HANSARD without following the proper procedure, may this matter be referred to Mr. Speaker for a Ruling?
Further to the point of order, Lady Megan. If this cannot be referred to Mr. Speaker at this point, can you guide the Committee about what steps can be taken when the right hon. Gentleman alters HANSARD in a major particular and does not inform the House of Commons? It makes nonsense of all our proceedings if this kind of thing can go on.
I hope that the matter will be referred to Mr. Speaker. I have always been under the impression—the hon. Member for Buckingham, who publishes books, ought to know this—that it is perfectly possible for any reporter to make an aural error, to hear something wrong and get it down wrong, and I have no doubt that that will occur during the speech that I am making now. I have always understood that when that happens it is right for this to be corrected in HANSARD by hon. Members without reference to the House of Commons. If I am wrong, I hope that it will be cleared up, because it will be an advantage to the whole House to have it so.
As to the rest of the hon. Gentleman's speech, I did not think that some of it was in the best of taste. The voice sounded to me like the voice of Jacob in the person of the hon. Member for Buckingham, but I thought I detected somewhere the hairy hand of the right hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). I am not sure that I am very far from the truth. I have always understood—
On a point of order, Lady Megan. Is it proper for the right hon. Gentleman to make allegations of that kind without any proof? This is the second example that we have had this afternoon. Earlier on some remarks were made to the effect that part of the White Paper was written by my noble Friend Lord Chalfont. This allegation is made by a right hon. Gentleman who, in flagrant disregard of the proper procedure, has had HANSARD altered, and then has the impertinence to come and say this kind of thing.
The right hon. Member for Dudley had better look at some of his speeches made in Opposition.
I was saying that I had always enjoyed these debates, perhaps more in retrospect than when in progress. I hope that there is nothing in paragraph 44 of the White Paper to suggest that at some future time these debates may be continued in a different form from the one now adopted. I was rather surprised to read in paragraph 44 that:
The present division of responsibilities and interests among Ministers cannot therefore be more than an interim measure. The next step must depend upon larger changes in the structure of the Ministry as a whole".
I hope that this does not mean that the Government envisage that we may come to a position where there is no longer any individual Minister with responsibility for each Service. If that were to be the case, there would be no individual Minister properly answerable to the Committee for each day of Service Estimates debates. I should have thought that that would be a change that the Committee as a whole would not welcome. Indeed, I should have thought that hon. Members would have deprecated it. After all, in the course of these debates we are considering the spending by the Service Department of a very great deal of money. The subject matter of these debates includes the welfare of large and important slices of Her Majesty's subjects who happen for the time being to be in the uniform of one of the Services, or of their wives or families, and I believe that the Committee will always wish to see somebody at the Dispatch Box whom it can nail about these things, someone whom it knows is properly answerable to the Committee and the House of Commons for these great responsibilities.
I also believe that the Services themselves, particularly at a time of change when the individual Services may have to accept some decisions against their individual interests, are entitled to have someone whom they can look to and recognise as their political head, someone who fights their corner, not just in the House of Commons but, even more important, around the council tables of Whitehall. I should also have thought that from the point of view of the Service Ministers themselves it was desirable that they should have assigned to them, and should continue to have assigned to them, these direct Service responsibilities, for in a way these responsibilities help to give them roots.
I would very much pity any Under-Secretary who on becoming a new Minister was pitchforked into the maelstrom of the Ministry of Defence under the title of Under-Secretary of State for R. and D, or Programmes and Budgets, or some uncolourful abstraction of that kind. I think it would be a very long time before he developed sufficient confidence in what he was about or learned sufficient of what he was about to be able to speak and operate with effectiveness.
I hope very much that the present system whereby the three Service Ministers maintain responsibility for their individual services but also operate to some extent across the board—the right hon. Gentleman for land, his colleague in the Royal Air Force for Research and Development, and so on—will continue. I hope the present arrangement will turn out to be an example of le provisoire qui dure.
The Committee is listening with great interest to the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he did not observe that it was made clear on behalf of the Government in the defence debate that the Government have no intention to abolish the three Services and are replanning on the basis of three separate Services. I should like him to have a word with his right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) who, speaking officially for the Conservative Party, said that we ought to get on with the functional organisation very soon. I was not sure what he meant, and I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman himself knew what he meant. Under a functional organisation not only would there not be any Ministers, but I doubt whether there would be any Services.
I speak for myself on this. While I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the three Services would remain as distinct and separate entities, I thought that the White Paper was a little less clear about the future position of the Service Ministers. It is certainly my opinion that it is to the advantage of the Services, the House of Commons and the Ministers themselves for these individual links and responsibilities to be maintained, and believe that they can be maintained perfectly consistently with a further degree of rationalisation or functionalisation, if that be necessary.
That brings me to say something about the future steps in the direction of further reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence that may be taken. Reading the paragraphs in the White Paper dealing with such changes, it seemed to me that they could be read almost any way. I would agree with the Deputy Secretary of State that my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) read them as implying some slackening of the tempo on behalf of the Government in the pressure towards further organisational change.
If my right hon. Friend is right in this, I would not myself blame the Government. His own drive was necessary at the time to get the reorganisation going and I think that the Committee is at one in admiring, the way he did it. But I believe that there can be disadvantages as well as advantages in too sustained a tempo towards organisational changes of this kind. I understand that the Deputy Secretary of State is responsible now for further development along these lines. He will agree, I am sure, that truth is not easy to discern in these matters. There arc sometimes rigid Service attitudes and equally rigid attitudes sometimes among the central administrators in the Defence Department who sometimes seem to have a passion for tidy solutions and a dislike for the expressions of individuality which have grown up in the Services and many of which help to oil the wheels of the Services.
These are not easy matters about which to judge. Perhaps I might say, humbly, to the right hon. Gentleman that the Department is still, as it were, made up of two different species of animal, two different sorts of people engaged in two different sorts of work. There are the policy makers, the people who write the papers, who send them out for comment, who propound solutions and, when it comes to organisation, draw lines on a chart. Then there are the other species—the administrators proper. Their job is to pay, provision and house soldiers, sailors and airmen and their families and move them about. There are more than 500,000 people to move around and look after. That is where the big money is.
I think it is true to say that the Secretary of State for Defence sleeps easy in his bed, and does not find himself under constant criticism from hon. Members, only when he can be satisfied that the latter function—that of the administrators proper—is being properly discharged. If that goes wrong, then the Secretary of State really gets into trouble. The other is from the point of view of his peace of mind, perhaps, not so important. I hope that the Secretary of State will take care not to let the activities of what I have called, by way of illustration, the "other species" get too much in the hair of those doing the "bread and butter" work, otherwise he and his successors could be in real trouble.
There are one or two passages in the White Paper which I find very difficult to understand. Reference has already been made to paragraph 1, in particular, the sentence which said that the Government
… inherited defence forces which are seriously over-stretched"…
The Secretary of State—he is not here but I will not say very unkind things about him and the Deputy Secretary of State will defend him—put his own gloss on this and said, both on television and again the other night, in the House, that there had been times recently, as a result of his legacy from the previous Government, when no battalion had been available in the Strategic Reserve to go abroad within the rules of family accompaniment.
This is the first mention I have ever heard of there being any rules as regards family accompaniment. There is certainly a very good principle of policy that men who have been away on unaccompanied tours should not be sent overseas again without having time with their families. That is a good principle which it. is the hope of every Minister to observe, but it is not a rule, and it would be rather dangerous to start talking about a rule in this instance.
The reference by the Secretary of State to the Strategic Reserve in this context was extremely misleading. In the first place, in the context in which he put it, the Strategic Reserve is quite irrelevant. If the Strategic Reserve is to go to war, no rules about family accompaniment apply. If a battalion is available whenever it comes back from tour overseas then it has to go. If the Secretary of State was thinking about an internal security situation, if he was complaining that he lad not a battalion to send to deal with some trouble, perhaps in a colony overseas or somewhere like that, not amounting to a state of war, then his reference to the Strategic Reserve was quite irrelevant because he must know that the Strategic Reserve is not by any means the only reserve he has to call on in this sort of situation.
We do not give strengths in this connection but the right hon. Gentleman will know that, quite apart from the Strategic Reserve, he has other reserves of battalions going into double figures and probably one or two marine commandos available. From these he can set up his spearhead battalion to go overseas on internal security operations. Were all these people in baulk and unable to be sent? If they were not, the right hon. Gentleman should lot have told the public on television or have told hon. Members what he did. It is certainly my recollection that, at this time last year, when the "thin red line" was certainly getting rather thin, we never reached anything like such a position as that described by the right hon. Gentleman.
Perhaps "anything like" is too strong a term. We never reached the position where we had not got battalions to send. If we had, we should have made a fuss but would have sent them from Germany.
This is very important. I thought I made it clear that, of course, the rules—or, as the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) called them, the principles—do not apply in an emergency. Obviously, in an emergency these considerations, important though they are for morale and recruiting, would not prevent units being sent abroad. Does not the right hon. Gentleman recollect that it was because of the great strain that the Army had a year ago that at present there are few units which have not recently had a period of duty overseas?
I recognise the difficulties. These postings are always harder to arrange at the second round. But I cannot believe that the Secretary of State found himself with no battalions from any of his reserves available to be sent to deal with the sort of emergency that he was talking about. If I am right—and the Deputy Secretary of State has not contradicted me—I think that it was misleading of the Secretary of State to have said this to the country in the way that he did.
Such was the calm confidence and sure touch of my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth in handling this sort of situation, when he was responsible, that, even when it was becoming difficult to know where next to look for reserves, we had a battalion overseas on an exercise, and we did not recall it. We let it go on to complete its training. We did not get into the sort of abject panic which seems to have struck hon. Members opposite in the face of a similar experience lately. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman inquires whether he did not have a battalion away on an exercise at this time. I would not be in the least surprised to know that he did.
The other piece of the White Paper which makes no sense to me, and even less sense this afternoon after having heard the right hon. Gentleman elaborate it, is paragraph 129, about the reserves. It complains that a large number of reserves cannot be utilised except under restrictive and archaic conditions and talks about the possibility of a serious prejudice to our capacity to deploy the necessary forces at the right time.
I simply do not understand what this means. It seems to be complete ballyhoo. I invite the Committee to consider what it is that the Government have at their disposal in the way of reserves. As the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, they have the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve available for any contingency at the requirement of the Secretary of State, provided that he can satisfy Parliament retrospectively. That Reserve is completely available and I am glad to see that the White Paper says that its recruiting is going well.
For a limited war, the right hon. Gentleman has not only the T.A.E.R., but Section A of the Regular Reserve, and the Army Emergency Reserve. He has all these reserves without the need for a proclamation. They can all go at any time, provided, as the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, warlike operations are in preparation or progress. For anything beyond that, for any mobilisation, it is true that a proclamation would be needed. It would be needed to call out the Territorial Army, or the Army General Reserve.
However, when the right hon. Gentleman says, as he did this afternoon, that the biggest part of our reserves could not be used and would not be available without a proclamation, he gives undue weight to the term "biggest". They may be the biggest in point of numbers, but without a proclamation the right hon. Gentleman has available for the most likely tasks adequate reserves both in terms of numbers and in terms of availability.
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the limitation on his power to call out reserves derives from anything in a Statute, if he thinks that it is the Statute which is at fault in placing on him these limitations of which he complains, and if he thinks that this is something which can be put right by legislation, he has been listening in too simple minded a frame of mind to some of the advice which he has been getting from the General Staff, because the fact is that the obstacle to any Secretary of State calling out reserves derives not from the statutory limitations on their use imposed by the Reserve Act, 1950, but from the fact that, as Napoleon said, mobilisation is an act of war.
All Governments, of whatever colour, always have been and always will be reluctant to embark on what looks to the outsider to be the provocative, or at least definitive, step of mobilisation, which is implied in a call out of the reserves. That seems to be a fact of life and one which no legislation by itself will alter. It is altogether too simple minded to think that if all restrictions on the availability of the reserves are removed by Statute, it will be any easier to face the decision when or when not to call them out.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether in his view this consideration applies to the "Ever-readies"? What was the basis on which they were introduced? In his view, are they getting paid when they cannot be called out?
Circumstances might arise in which they could be called out, but whether it was right for such a call-out to occur would be a question which would have to be faced when it arose. It is right that such a consideration should be in the minds of Ministers. I have no objection to the statutory limitations and if right hon. Gentlemen propose to remove them and to have reserves available at the beck and call of the Secretary of State, the House of Commons will want to have something to say about that. These limitations were not put there for no purpose.
There are two comments to be made to the right hon. Gentleman. First, I do not understand why he is now saying that he does not have enough reserves available to him when, judging from my experience, he has. Secondly, I do not believe that legislation will help him very much, because I do not believe that it will put the matter right. No doubt we shall see what proposals the Government bring forward.
I do not want to detain the Committee—I have been longer than I intended—but that is because of what took place at the beginning of my speech. I hope that when the Under-Secretary replies he will say a little more about the manpower position and about recruiting and that he will translate the White Paper's figures about wastage into percentages, which are rather easier to compare.
I note from the White Paper that a great deal of the welcome improvement in recruiting has been due to its being possible for 17-year-olds to enlist. This is a very good scheme and I was grateful at the time to the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) for his attitude towards this proposal when we introduced it. I understand that there is a limitation on the use of these 17-yearolds, in that it is not possible for the right hon. Gentleman to send them to serve overseas until they have reached the age of 17½ I feel that once they are trained and once their commanding officers are satisfied that from the training point of view they are fit to have in a service battalion, they might very well go overseas, if the right hon. Gentleman wished.
With the facts at his fingertips, the Minister will be able to confirm, but I would judge that in many cases it could be. In practice, the gap between their having reached 17½ and having completed their training and being available for an overseas posting would not be very large.
Very small. But it might make all the difference to the morale of a young man who had got himself trained to be able to go overseas without delay to serve with his friends. This is a very small restriction without much significance and I would be personally delighted if it were removed.
I am surprised to see that the increase in Vote 7, the Equipment Vote, is less than the increase for last year. That requires some explanation, because we ought gradually to be moving towards the peak of the re-equipment programme. It was certainly my expectation that the annual amounts on Vote 7 could be expected to be rising, whereas this year the increase is smaller. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will say a bit more about that.
There is a great deal more that I could say, but it has always been my experience that, whatever violently inflammatory political speeches are made in these debates, we end by saying to one another that they do not mean all that much after all. I wish the right hon. Gentleman very well in the discharge of his responsibilities. Without any qualification at all, I would also extend very warm good wishes, which I am sure will be echoed on both sides, to Field Marshal Sir Richard Hull, as he nears the beginning of his appointment as successor to Earl Mounbatten as Chief of the Defence Staff. I know that he will go to that office with the good will and confidence of his colleagues in all three Services.
Mr. Eric S. Heller:
I have listened carefully and with great interest to the speeches made by both Front Bench spokesmen. I found very little difference in the arguments used, except that the argument of the Opposition Front Bench spokesman was not as cogent or as well put as the argument advanced from the Government Front Bench.
I should like to take a somewhat different view of the Army Estimates. I wish to draw attention to the fact that in the Estimates there is an increase this year over last year of £39,156,200. The largest increases are, first, in pay, and, secondly, in stores and equipment. I want to make it clear that I think it right that our soldiers should receive adequate pay and should have the best possible equipment. This Committee must concern itself at all times with this question. It is interesting that the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) said that the points made in the White Paper about the equipment of our forces are fully justified.
I accept that it is important that our men should have good equipment, but should we have so many troops costing so much money? This has a direct bearing on the problem of our overseas bases. It may be argued that I am going outside the terms of this debate, but I do not think that that is so, Lady Megan, because our troops are situated in these overseas bases and, in discussing the Army Estimates, we cannot avoid considering where they are stationed.
The figures given in the Defence White Paper indicate very clearly where our forces are stationed. There are 50,000 of them in South-East Asia. Considerable numbers are situated in Germany. Our forces are spread thinly throughout the world. The rôle which, apparently, we are being asked to play is to be the policemen of the modern world. Our troops are to have a special rôle east of Suez, which is obviously to play a part with our allies in keeping the peace in that area.
If our troops are to have a special rôle, it should be carried out through the United Nations and in association with that organisation along the lines of the statement made in the House of Commons by the Foreign Secretary recently when he suggested that we would be prepared to give a number of our units to a peace-keeping force through the United Nations. We cannot afford to keep our forces throughout the world at the enormous cost which this means to this country. Unfortunately, the Estimates are not broken down to show exactly how much our troops are costing in each area. I have no knowledge whether this has ever been done, but it would not be a bad idea if it were done so that we knew precisely the cost of our Army in particular areas.
Let us look at the position of our bases overseas. The annual running cost of the Gan staging post is £1,640,000, taking into account the cost of a communications centre and the indirect cost. Current expenditure on the base in Singapore is difficult to isolate, because it is regarded as part of the Far East land forces and the area of command extends from Gan to the Mid-Pacific. The Army Estimate for Malaysia in 1962–63 was £28·314 million. In 1963–64 it was £24·744 million. The cost of the Army in Hong Kong is over £8 million. The cost in Libya in 1961–62 was over £2 million. In 1962–63 it was almost £2 million, and in 1963–64 it is again over £2 million.
We cannot possibly continue to afford the high cost of these overseas bases. I know that I am treading on very dangerous ground in terms of this debate, but it seems to me that, if we are to cut our Army expenditure to a level which this country can afford, we must definitely ensure that at the earliest possible moment there is a sensible political settlement of the situation in South-East Asia, and in particular in Malaysia and Indonesia.
I agree with the hon. Member for Beckenham that it is a scandal that our forces in Malaysia should have the type of boats to which he referred, not that the blame for that could be laid at the door of this side of the Committee. The important thing is, however, whether we ought to have troops there at all. Surely it is important that at the earliest possible moment we reach a political settlement so that our troops can be brought back from that area.
It is difficult to follow the hon. Member's argument. Is he suggesting that the British Government should break their treaty obligations to Malaysia, for which we are responsible? Does he not appreciate that every effort has been made in the last two years by successive Governments to bring about peace but that no progress has been made? We have a definite responsibility. When the hon. Member criticises the expense of running the atoll at Gan—I do not know whether he has been there—does he realise that as a staging post it is invaluable for the safety of our troops in transit, who need a staging post in that area?
I have never suggested, in this or in any other debate, that we should break any of our commitments. I have not suggested that we should default in any treaties or obligations to other nations. What I have said throughout is that we must seek, at the earliest possible moment, a political settlement so that we can stage by stage withdraw our forces from that area. That is the point I have made throughout in two previous debates and in this debate.
The hon. Member must be pressed on this. What settlement does he mean and on what terms would he accept a settlement? What are our troops there for except at the invitation of our allies—
We do not want to get into a debate on foreign affairs. It would be just as well if we did not pursue this aspect further but came back to the Estimate under discussion.
I appreciate your Ruling, Lady Megan. It is regrettable that I cannot pursue the point which the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) has put. Perhaps, in some other debate or on some other occasion, I shall be able to explain my view more fully.
I have never at any time suggested that we should immediately withdraw our forces from Gan. The point which I have consistently made is that, with our military bases overseas, we cannot expect to meet our balance of payments crisis or to get on with the job of modernising this country and giving the people the sort of housing and social services which they require.
I hope that as a result of the discussions now taking place in Germany, we shall be able to get agreement concerning
our troops there. In paragraph 17, the White Paper states that
Our forces in Germany impose a heavy burden on our balance of payments.
Everyone accepts the truth of that. We have reached the stage where, in addition to our difficulties with our overseas bases east of Suez, we have this added burden of our troops in West Germany.
One of two things must be done. Either we must reach a situation in which we can begin to bring back some of those troops and cut our costs, or we must be given financial assistance, a much larger proportion than at present, by our West German allies to meet our financial difficulties with our troops there.
I have no wish to make a lengthy speech about this. My point basically is that our expenditure has gone up. All the way through the Estimates are increases in every section one refers to. We cannot carry this burden much longer. We have got to look at this situation rather differently from the way it is regarded in the White Paper. We must reach a political settlement in South-East Asia. We must get a settlement in Europe so that we can cut back on our military expenditure and our Army Estimates. This must be done at the earliest possible moment, so that next year we can come before the House of Commons with Estimates that are much more realistic from the viewpoint of the economy of the country, at the same time protecting our interests by new organisation through the United Nations.
The It on. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) will, I am sure, excuse me if I do not follow all his arguments. If I attempted to do so, I should probably he out of order. I cannot, however, agree with the hon. Member when he suggests that the United Nations could perform the same duties as British forces are carrying out. Cyprus is a good example. The United Nations troops are there, but they cannot carry out any of their own administration. It all has to be done by British forces. So far, the United Nations troops have not been able to work on their own. They lack trained headquarters staff and the administrative set-up. On this point, therefore, I do not agree with the hon. Member.
I wish to turn to a completely different subject and to come back to recruiting. The Minister has today told us that recruiting is going fairly well. I believe that this is largely due to the type of publicity that was launched a year or so ago. The television propaganda films and the posters are effective and have punch. We all know that this form of propaganda is extremely expensive, and I hope, therefore, that no matter what happens, the Minister will continue it, expand it and keep it fully up to date.
I also believe that the "young soldier scheme", which reduced the age limit for entry to 17, has greatly helped recruiting. Now I want to see it further reduced to 16½, and I will say more about this later. I also believe the Minister to be right when he says that the overall recruiting situation will not be plain sailing in the future. Admittedly, last year we managed to get 23,500 recruits, compared with just under 18,000 in 1963. This looks good, but the Army faces a very big run-out of the six-year men this year. The first joined after National Service ended. Now there will be a further large number of nine-year men who will go out in 1968. So although the current recruiting figures are satisfactory, they are barely sufficient to replace the present wastage and run-out. T reckon we need about 20,000 men a year every year.
I am sure wastage is too high among recruits in their basic training stage. Last year I think that as many as 25 per cent. were discharged, the discharges being mostly by "purchase". I understand that the current "recruit wastage" is running at about 18 per cent. This reduces the figure of 20,000 to approximately 16,400, which will not be sufficient for all our needs in the future. It is too easy to get out of the Army by paying £20 to purchase your discharge, and it can be done after serving only eight weeks in a training unit. I should like to see the purchase price raised to a more realistic figure. It may be that £50 is too much, but I think a higher figure is needed, and also a longer time after entry before discharge can he purchased. Everyone will agree that the initial training and square bashing is always the most soul-destroying part of training when first one goes into the Army. In some cases initial training is still not organised with enough imagination. Therefore, I do think that there is needed a longer time than two months in which men can size up what Army life is like and make up their minds whether or not they want to get out.
Since we debated the Army Estimates of 1962 I have continued to press that we reduce the joining age to 16½. That is the right age to attract school leavers. Young men do not want to hang about waiting. Industry will soon snap them up, and industry treats them as responsible people and pays them good wages. Soon after this those young men begin to think about marriage, and then a Service career never occurs to them again. I am fully aware that they can join the excellent junior leader regiments and also the apprentices' schools, but that is not quite the same thing as joining a unit, and it is not what they all want, they want to get into the Regular Army and they want to go straight into a unit. I have always felt that the period of basic training could he gainfully lengthened from three months to at least six months. Then a young recruit could join his unit soon after reaching the age of 17. As has been mentioned in the Committee, it would be a good idea if he could go overseas soon after that.
I have two other suggestions to put to the Committee which I think might help recruiting. One has only to visit Aden, Borneo or British Guiana to see that it is the infantry who carry the brunt of every single operation. It is obvious that the Army needs infantry and still more infantry. We never seem able to recruit enough infantry. One of the reasons is that a young man realises that, after a six-year or nine-year engagement, he leaves the Army literally untrained for "civvy street". Therefore, I think that in future the Army has to put much more emphasis on teaching men a trade before their discharge.
We have talked about this for several years, but we still do not do enough about it. The Army needs to produce a "resettlement of infantrymen" scheme. We really have to hammer this home, because it affects recruiting. On the other side of the coin, the Army needs a scheme for "boys" who want technical careers as tradesmen. Granted that there are the junior leader regiments and apprentices and tradesmen schools, but the Army, unlike the R.A.F., has not a scheme for a technical tradesman who leaves school at, say, 16-plus with a G.C.E. The Army mix up tradesmen and craftsmen at apprentices' schools and cannot really guarantee a young man a trade career. We would be very wise to follow the example of the R.A.F. and to separate our boys and offer a realistic trade training scheme to the high grade school leaver of 16½ otherwise he will get snapped up by industry.
I should like to turn for a moment to say something about the Army cadet force.
The hon. Member talks about young men being snapped up by industry. Does he not realise that at the present time this country depends on getting a good skilled labour force for industry?
I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), and that is why I am trying to suggest this scheme, because I think, having had something to do with the R.A.F. for the last two years, the R.A.F. is ahead of us and the Army could learn a lesson from them.
To get back to the Army cadets, here is another way in which we could improve recruiting, by making much more use of the A.C.F. If it is going to be of any use, surely its main task is to attract young men into the Regular Army. It gives them a taste of Army life. They can go and see what Army life is going to be like. Indeed, it is already beginning to achieve this very thing, because as many as 25 per cent. of boys in the Army have been in the A.C.F., but only some 8 per cent. of the rest have become Regular soldiers. I think the time has come to take the A.C.F. away from the aegis of the Territorial Army and to treat it solely as a souce to get recruits for the Regular Army.
There are several ways it could be improved and helped. The Army, quite rightly, brought down the joining age to 17. I think the A.C.F. should now bring down its joining age from 14 to 13. At that age a boy is capable of going away to camp, and if the A.C.P. does not get boys by the age of 13 some other organisation certainly will.
A point which I think we should stress is the importance of uniform. A young man wants to feel proud of how he looks. A young cadet cannot wear the same uniform for ceremonial occasions as he wears for training. The present issue of clothing is completely inadequate and the entire scale needs to be revised. In addition to the very meagre issue which a boy gets, at the moment he needs an extra pair of rousers for training, a pullover, two pairs of socks. I know boots are a great problem. I quite understand that they cannot be a free issue, but I do think that they must be heavily subsidised. The Army should pay at least half the cost. Last summer I attended a cadet camp and I thought it was a pathetic sight to see a young man coming back to camp at dawn after a long wet night's exercise and wearing Italian type winkle-picker shoes. We must help them out in paying for their boots.
Every hon. Member will agree that adult instructors are the key to any successful unit. I think that units would be greatly assisted if we appointed county commandants from among Regular serving officers. In Herefordshire, as I am sure in many other counties, it is difficult to find enough adult instructors. If the "powers that be" consider the A.C.F. to be worth while, they should consider giving these adult instructors more status. If the Cadet Medal, which is awarded to adult instructors after they have served for a certain period in the A.C.F., were made a decoration which appeared after the holder's name, like the T.D. which is awarded for service in the T.A., it would be a small incentive to these adult instructors.
Having visited two or three camps, I think fiat in every permanent camp to which cadets go in the summer there should be a completely up-to-date dining hall and kitchen to give these young cadets some idea of the conditions under which they are likely to serve in the modern Army. Unfortunately, most camps have either wooden huts of the type used during the First World War, or Nissen huts of the type used during the Second War, and these young men get the wrong impression of the modern Army. Messing standards are most important, because food is a very important factor in a young man's life. I am convinced that we can make much more use of the A.C.F. if we are prepared to give it more financial assistance. I therefore put in a special plea to the Minister that at least the grants for travel and messing at camp should be reviewed and revised.
I propose to deal next with the Territorial Army. If we are not careful, it could become an archaic organisation through no fault of its own. Today it needs to be given a sense of purpose, and a really good boost. I sometimes feel that a great deal is asked of the Territorial Army and that it is not really in a position to do it all. Their man-days should be greatly increased. I welcome the statement that detachments of volunteers totalling 7,000 will do their training in Germany this year. This is excellent, and the more we can do this the better it will be, because the closer the T.A. is affiliated to Regular units the better it will be for its morale and training.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) that we must be careful not to turn the T.A. wholly into a "Civil Defence corps", because if that happens many of the men will pack up and resign. At the same time, however, there is no doubt that the T.A. must integrate far more into Civil Defence than it does at present. I do not know how we are going to work this out, but it might sweeten the pill if a new name were used for its civil defence rôle. Perhaps it could be called "Internal Security" and we could make the T.A. the corps d'elite of Home Security.
Finally, I propose to deal with the subject which I have mentioned in previous debates on Army Estimates, and that is leisure time and entertainment for the Regular forces. During my last visit to the B.A.O.R., there was only one complaint which I received everywhere I went. It was from the wives in the B.A.O.R., most of whom have at least one child. Their problem is that they cannot go out in the evening because of having to look after their children. They are bored, and the one thing they crave for is British television, because they cannot understand German television. This is something positive which West Germany could pay for. The German Federal Post Office authorities could install and run a service network for both the Army and the Royal Air Force, and we could supply all the programmes and news. I know that there are technical difficulties, but surely these can be ironed out.
I cannot answer that. Our forces, too, receive good sound programmes, but nowadays people look on Germany as a home station, and what they want most is television with British programmes. I first raised this matter about four years ago, and every year it is said that it is being looked into but that there are minor technical points to be considered before it can be arranged. The time has come when we ought to do something about it.
I do not propose to detain the Committee any longer. I hope that some of my constructive suggestions will be considered and followed up.
The discussion on these Estimates rests on two basic assumptions: first, that we must be prepared for war on land in Europe against the forces of the Soviet Union: and, secondly, that the country must be prepared to undertake some kind of undefined war east of Suez. I propose to examine those basic assumptions in terms of the Estimates before us.
We do not hear a great deal nowadays about the rôle of the B.A.O.R., except that it is generally agreed in the Press, in the country, and on both sides of the Committee, that the size of the B.A.O.R. must be reduced. I have been advocating this for many years, but now we have come to realize—
I do not know why the hon. Gentleman did not fight his party manifesto on this, because it said:
Our stress will be on the strengthening of our conventional regular forces so that we can contribute our share to NATO defence …
Surely, therefore, it is not generally agreed that we should reduce our forces in Germany.
That may be what the Labour Party manifesto said, but it was not in my election address. If the hon. Gentleman wants to do some research, he can look up my speeches on the subject. He will find that I have always thought it would be a good idea to bring home a certain percentage of the B.A.O.R. to tackle the enemy at home.
I wanted to make my election address a little more interesting than the average party manifesto, and I suggested that the enemies of this country were here at home. I was thinking of people who indulged in train robberies and things like that. My suggestion was that a large percentage of the B.A.O.R. could be better employed in this country fighting thugs, train bandits and the kind of people whose exploits we read about every Friday and Saturday morning. I think that the B.A.O.R. could be better employed in this country, rather than waste its time in Germany.
That was a digression, and I have no intention of following it up except to say that according to the figures given to me by the Minister, there are 564 men and 50 officers in the Royal Military Police in the B.A.O.R. at the moment. That is a considerable number, and they are looking not after the civilian population of Germany but the conduct of British troops defending them, there. My constructive suggestion is that this substantial army of military police could be brought home and employed in the streets of London to protect us against the people who are making off with the workers' wages on Fridays and Saturdays.
No. I have suggestions about the other 99 per cent. I was bringing the matter down to practical details. The 564 men and 50 officers employed on police duties in B.A.O.R. could be better employed in London. We must remember that the police have not yet found the people who made off with wages at London Airport about two years ago.
I am prepared to dissect B.A.O.R. and consider it in great detail. The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom) said that the soldiers should be taught a trade. What sort of trade will they be employed in? Their job, surely, is to fight. Are they to be trained to build houses, or advance factories? Are they to be trained in the processes of industry? Or are they to do what they are doing at present, namely, wasting their time and preparing for something that is not likely to come off or, if it does, will not be like the rehearsals?
Year after year in debates on Army Estimates my exhortations have gone entirely unheeded. Nobody has taken the slightest notice of them. Indeed, the number of hon. Members in the Chamber today is greater than I have been accustomed to for many years. Something has made people realise that B.A.O.R. should be reduced in numbers. I concede to the hon. Member for Leominster that the Labour Party, much against my will, advocated the strengthening of B.A.O.R. I do not want to see it strengthened; I want to bring it home. It is now clear to everybody that the sheer pressure of economic facts prevents our continuing to spend these large sums of money. Now the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs are in Bonn, advocating what I have been advocating for many years, usually in the early hours of the morning with only half a dozen Members present.
I could have given them some good advice. I am always ready to give them good advice. I hope that as a result of their presence in Bonn today we will have a change of policy which will result in our not budgeting for the spending of so much money next year.
The basic assumption has been that we must be prepared to fight a war in Europe. At one time all the strategists talked about the "trip wire". I do not know where it has gone now, but its concept as a part of military strategy has entirely disappeared. We have this new thinking, which used to be shared between myself and the Daily Express, that it is time these soldiers came home from Germany and did some useful work here.
Some rather queer conceptions underlie the White Paper. One is the "east of Suez" conception. I do not place responsibility for this on my right hon. Friend; it rests on the people in the higher realms or stratospherics of policy who talk about "east of Suez". The slogan appears to be, "Forward, forward, onward, onward, to the days of Rudyard Kipling." We have even heard it said in the debate today that we must he prepared to send soldiers back to India. I do not know what hood that will be to India. If we do send them back, I will give this advice to the Indian people: they got rid of the army of occupation that had been there for a couple of hundred years, and they did it without any army at all. I consider it extremely unwise, if not stupid, for us to talk in terms of giving India military aid.
I also object to the assumption, which seems absolutely incomprehensible to me, that we must be prepared for a war with the People's Republic of China. I find this assumption running through all these debates. Apparently Russia is not now our real enemy; the greatest danger is China. What shall we do about it? We are in Hong Kong. We are spending £8 million a year on Hong Kong. I believe that our military rights to be there at all depend on a treaty which will expire before the end of the century.
The garrison at Hong Kong is preserving law and order, but if it comes to a war with the People's Republic—
I have referred to that part of Vote A which relates to Hong Kong. Although I may be straying from the debate, I am straying only as far as Hong Kong, which is mentioned in the Estimates. I suggest that the time has come for us to open diplomatic negotiations with the People's Republic and to come to a diplomatic agreement about Hong Kong, so that we can save £8 million a year.
I dismiss as absolutely fantastic the possibility that we can undertake a large-scale war with the People's Republic of China—even a unilateral war, which the Leader of the Opposition thinks is possible, with the U.S.S.R. Let us consider realistically the world situation. We are still in danger of a world war. The Government must be worried about Vietnam. I am not discussing that question, because we have no soldiers there, but how will these commitments help this country if we are involved in a world war as a result of the trouble in Vietnam? If we get into a world nuclear war—
I am wondering what is the rôle of the Army in a nuclear war. Throughout our debate we have had an assumption that nuclear weapons will be used. I bow to your judgment, Sir Samuel, in saying that if we had a nuclear war tomorrow the Army would not be able to come home from different parts of the world because there would not be anything for it to come home to.
These are the realities which, it seems to me, should be discussed in this debate. The whole conception of "east of Suez" and the idea that we have to continue to build up a large Army for operations anywhere in the Far East appear to me to be a way of spending an enormous amount of money unjustifiably.
I read the first page of the defence White Paper with considerable enthusiasm, but it diminished the more pages I turned and I did not get to the end of it at all. On the first page there was, what seemed to me, a realisation that we are not living in the old days of the Empire, or even in those days which followed 1945. We have to realise that now we are in a difficult situation.
It is proposed that we should have a review of these different commitments which mean that our soldiers are employed in different parts of the world. What sort of review will it be? Is it proposed that it shall be carried out by a committee of "brass hats" from the War Office, who will decide whether our troops are to stay in Hong Kong, Aden, or other parts of the world? If so, we shall get no further. I have been long enough a Member of the House to have seen White Papers in those terms before.
I remember when we had the Macmillan ideas about reducing military expenditure and the Army Estimates, because of the difficult economic position. Mr. Harold Macmillan, who was Defence Minister, said, "Oh, yes, it would he very good if we could reduce our defence expenditure by £750 million and make a corresponding reduction in the size of the Army." That was a good idea, but nothing came of it. I remember that a committee was set up by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) to examine our military commitments. We were told that he was a tough man who would face the military people and reduce military expediture. Although we have had all these reviews, military expenditure continues to mount.
For many years my very good friend the Paymaster-General has been arguing in debates on this subject that we need a committee on defence to survey the Army Estimates and other Estimates, not after they arrive in this House, but before. I hope that I shall be able to put down on the Order Paper the same Motion which was put down some months before the General Election by the Paymaster-General. If we are to have committees comprised of soldiers to consider military expenditure I do not believe that we shall get anywhere. If we have such committees to discuss Estimates in relation to other Services, I do not believe that we shall get anywhere.
The only way in which we shall get anywhere is by having a committee composed of people outside the Services entirely. I still throw out the suggestion that Dr. Beeching might be employed to look over the Army Estimates. The people who look to the future of the country in terms of what is necessary to build up its real security should be called in for advice. We should not have a committee of "brass hats", or the sort of advisers who usually serve on these committees.
Reference has been made to Cyprus in this debate. We are spending £10 million this year on Cyprus, not entirely on the Army, although a considerable proportion of that money will be spent on the Army. My argument is that this money would be far better spent in England and in Scotland. I hope as a result of these committees that next year we shall get Estimates which even I shall regard as realistic, which will represent a step towards disarmament and the removal of this enormous expenditure burden from the shoulders of the British people.
I suppose that it was inevitable, after the celebrated first page of the Defence White Paper, that the debates today and last week might become somewhat political. I wish to draw attention to the subject under debate more narrowly than some of the remarks which have been made this afternoon. One thing which seems to have become perfectly clear in this debate and the one last week is the great number of imponderables and unknowns in the planning of defence policy.
One aspect is very relevant to this debate and it concerns our Reserve Army. On page 9 of the White Paper we are told:
The need is for highly trained and versatile forces and for Reserves of the same high quality, organised for the requirements and priorities of the future.
Any Government would have to plan for two eventualities, first, an existing threat at a particular time, and secondly, in such a way that, with reasonable prudence, we should be able to meet any future threat which might arise.
The great difficulty which faces all Governments is to know what may come. It is impossible to forecast that with accuracy. I suggest one thing is absolutely clear, that with the unknown nature of the threat, the Reserve Army is the one thing which will always stand al the end of the line if ever we should get into great difficulty in the future.
I have drawn attention to this because I want to point out to the Minister that the present state of the Territorial Army is anything but a happy one. I can, I think, say so with a certain amount of authority because I am still serving in the Territorial Army. I have been doing so for nearly 15 years. We have been told throughout the years of the various different rôles of the Territorial Army. The rôles have changed very rapidly. I think it fair to say—I hope that the Minister will agree—that the Territorial Army has managed to adapt itself rapidly to a number of different rôles.
I believe that today, rather unwittingly, we have reached a stage when the tremendous change in its rôle during the last two or three years has not been realised. I am in no sense criticising the Minister or the Government, but I do not believe that the Government have realised that the rôle has changed and that, therefore, methods of organising the Territorial Army must also change. It used to be said that the Territorial Army may have been made up—I do not agree with this—of old soldiers, living on past glories, who served in the Territorial Army because it reminded them of the life that they had some time ago.
I do not know whether that was ever true, but it certainly is not true today. The vast majority of soldiers in the T.A. today are under the age of 40, and I would not mind betting that the battalion in which I serve probably has more members under 30 than over it. It is a young man's Army now. Of course, the main result of this is that there are very few men in the Territorial Army who have ever served in active conditions or in any form of battle or war.
This means that we are getting in to the Territorial Army entirely untrained recruits, who have never been anywhere near the forces before, and increasingly—this is more serious—we have to train them with instructors who have never seen any form of Regular Army service. Of course, there are always some. We have some Regular instructors attached to us, but the fact is that the majority of the detailed instruction has more and more to be done by people without Regular Army service of any kind.
Before the hon. Member leaves that point. He is drawing on current experience. I must confess that I find myself in flat disagreement with him, by virtue of my experience, when the war began, that the sooner we got rid of the Regular Army instructors the better, not because they were particularly bad, but because they were psychologically only capable of teaching and training Regular members of the Army, recruited before the war. In fact, many months of valuable time were lost by placing so much emphasis on retaining men who were Regular instructors and incapable of training civilians.
That is a most interesting intervention, and the hon. Gentleman and I must agree to differ. It is my experience that the good Territorial instructor is extremely good and can give the same training every bit as well as a Regular instructor. It is also my experience that we do not make nearly enough use of the Regular instructors provided for us in the T.A. I am always trying to encourage them to give more instruction, rather than less. I must confess that I find that they do very well, even training completely untrained soldiers. Nevertheless, it is an interesting point.
At present, the Territorial soldier is given 15 days' annual camp and 15 days' training throughout the rest of the year. This is worked out in this way—a unit is allotted an average amount which totals up to 15 days per man who is on the strength. Looked at that way, this would seem quite reasonable. After all, the allocation is based in two days to a weekend, which is nearly eight full weekends' training throughout the year. The vital point which I should like to draw to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman is that in practice, the individual recruit does not get anything like 15 man-training days and never could, because, to train him, instructors have to be trained for perhaps not exactly the same period in addition, but a good deal in addition.
Further, these training days, an average of 15 over the whole unit, have to be used for maintaining the unit and all the other duties which units have more and more to do. The result is that it is not possible, without exceeding the training days allotted, to get anything like 15 days in the field for every man in the unit. Although, on paper, it is possible, I would most earnestly say to the Committee that it is not possible in practice.
I do not think that this mattered so much in the past, because most of the unit had had military experience, and perhaps the five or six weekends' training in the year—perhaps even four or five—was sufficient to keep up to date those who had been more highly trained at one time, and thus keep the unit efficient. But it is quite impossible to train a recruit from absolutely nothing up to an efficient standard in the five or six possible full weekends training in a year, plus a fortnight's camp. However, I should not like to leave the Committee with the impression that that alone is absolutely disastrous, because I believe that this could be overcome. We could soldier on, and, if we had to, provide enough training in the time which we now have.
The much more serious aspect is that our young soldiers nowadays are very much more sophisticated than their fathers and grandfathers were. They expect very much more. They are used to higher standards. They are used to being able to buy, probably on hire purchase, the most modern type of motor cycle. They may have the most modern types of record players and other equipment in their homes. When they come to join the Territorial Army, they expect to find a thoroughly up-to-date, modern, go-ahead organisation, which will say to the new soldier, not only, "We welcome you here", but, "We want you here to train a lot, to train regularly. How often can you come? The more you can come, the more use you will be to us: the more training you can do, the more quickly you will get promotion."
I think that it is fairly obvious that this would be the way to keep and maintain the interest of a young man joining the Territorial Army. But what we have to say to our recruits today is, "Do come and join us. We are very glad to have you and we hope that you will enjoy yourselves. Unfortunately, we can only give you one weekend's training every six weeks at the moment, because our allocation is too low to allow of anything more. But we hope that you will be able to come on this basis. We are hoping to increase our amount of training in due course." We are, therefore, in a defensive position with these new recruits, and only the best survive the feeling that they are entering a sort of half-cocked atmosphere.
What should be done to get over this? I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it is not nearly as difficult as it may at first sight seem. I am sure that there are plenty of people, possibly in his Department, who will say that all this is very fine, but to get over this would mean a vast expenditure and a quite unacceptable increase, with the resources which we have at our disposal. I do not think that this is the case. I should say that already this year we have been offered one further man-training day, which puts our allocation up to 16 instead of 15.
I believe that a modest increase of even as little as four more man-training days in the year would be sufficient to make that difference so that the average recruit could get regular training. I think that our aim should not be so much so many man-training days a year as to enable a unit to offer to its whole complement at the very least one full weekend's training every month throughout the year.
This amount is not a great deal. One must remember that there is a period of the year after camp, when most of the time is a rest, when the number of man-training days would benefit from continuity. Unless we can ask a man to come frequently over the period of his training, he will lose interest. If he does not get enough weekends of training he will join the scooter club or some other form of organisation, and his interest will flag. Therefore, I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that when, as I hope he will, he has a good look at the whole running of the Territorial Army, he should consider a change of emphasis from the allocation of so many man-training days to an acknowledgment of the essential fact that we must offer continuity of training so that it can be regular and so that a soldier can get used to doing it, and can get into the way of doing it and get a feeling of purpose into his territorial soldiering.
I should like to say something about equipment, on which I listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell). I fully agree that there are many ways in which the Army is short of equipment in one form or another. Indeed, I could list more equipment shortages than he did, which would perhaps be interesting but not relevant. It is very important that the Territorial Army should be regarded as needing as far as possible the same standard of equipment as the Regular Army. This is much simpler than it seems.
I do not suggest that the Army should be equipped with whole armoured car regiments, as is the B.A.O.R., but it must have combat clothing similar to that of the Regular Army, it must have up-to-date wireless sets, for which we have been waiting for a long time and which we need very badly, and it must have up-to-date infantry battalion weapons, even if not those used by the top-class, most-fully equipped regiments in B.A.O.R. I say that because, to fulfil our rôle, we must be able to handle the equipment which the regular battalion has. The Territorial Army Emergency Reserve personnel, who may be called out at any time to assist Regular units, must be able to handle that equipment.
The provision of combat clothing is much more important than it seems because the recruit knows that the ordinary battle-dress is out of date. He has only to be offered it for him to comment that he has not seen it on a Regular soldier in the battle army for sometime. This immediately gives the impression, quite wrongly, that the Territorial Army is working on out-of-date methods and out-of-date-ideas. This could easily be put right without very much trouble.
I apologise for detaining the Committee for a little while on this problem. I would leave the Committee with the thought that I have not spoken lightly or ill-advisedly or simply for the purpose of making a routine speech in this debate. I have made these remarks after very careful thought and because there is a feeling of disillusionment and crisis in the Territorial Army.
I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman's advisers go deep enough they will produce exactly the same criticism and the same feeling from all parts of the country. I find that people in all divisions have the same problems and the same feeling that we need another good look at the Territorial Army to bring it up to date, otherwise we shall lose the enthusiasm which has enabled it very largely to save the country in the last two wars.
I have quite a long connection with the House, but this is the first time that I have dared to speak on the Army Estimates. I was warned by the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) when he opened for the Opposition and referred to suggestions of a review of the Territorial Army; my impression was that he felt that, while there may be some room for review, heaven help anybody who seeks to make any change in the Territorial Army. Since then, however, I have been encouraged to make the remarks which I wish to make by the speech of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) and by the speech of the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom), both of whom admitted that there was something not right with the Territorial Army.
I was a little concerned when I heard the hon. Member for Ayr say that he had had 15 years in the Territorial Army. He told us a lot which I did not know. I followed him with great interest. Instead of it being an Army of old soldiers, he told us, there were many under 30 years of age, and many of them had never seen a weapon or been to war. He pointed out that the Army was not as good as it might be because of the limited number of days for training. He suggested four more days, and then said, "Let us see what they can do with the best military weapons".
That is a pretty tall order, and if that is his suggestion as to what is wrong with the Territorial Army and as to how it could be put right, I must tell him that there are many other things that are wrong and that much more will be needed to put them right. He may, of course, be right, and I am sure that, in view of his long experience, much attention will be paid to his proposition, although it does not seem a good proposition to me.
He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Leominster that much enthusiasm was being lost, and said that if it were proposed that the Territorial Army should be connected with Civil Defence many would leave the Territorial Army. I know many men in the Territorial Army—some of the finest men I have ever met; they are patriotic, not for what they can get out of it, but for what they can put into it. I imagine that they may feel that way if some decision is not made quickly which will encourage them and make them feel that what they are doing in the Territorial Army is for Britain in this modern age and is commensurate with the brains and with the energy they put into it.
I have in mind the comment of the hon. Member for Beckenham that reviews generally go on and on and on. A warning was given to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), a regular who gets up from our benches during these and other Service debates. I subscribe to that. There is talk of changes in the rôle of the Territorial Army, and it should be considered as a matter of urgency that some decision is reached which will give these men the pride which they have always had in serving the nation and the people in this way.
I am concerned about the Territorial Army, if my recent experiences with the Ministry of Defence and the Territorial Association in the County of Kent are at all typical. I am informed that the Territorial Army has from the Regular Army 12 major-generals, 40 brigadiers, and 80 lieutenant-colonels. I should like to know whether they are being usefully employed. What I want to raise is largely in the administrative hands of two brigadiers at Maidstone, which is the head of the Kent County Territorial Association. If these are typical of other county associations, I am concerned whether the Territorial Army is in the right sort of hands. I think that any review would include this aspect.
Questions on this subject have been put on the Floor of the House in recent weeks. I propose to deal with two points. The first is on the limited basis which applies solely to the County of Kent Territorial Association and their policy of sub-letting 47 drill halls under their control. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire would be pleased to find on page 85 of the Estimates that, whereas a lot of public money is being spent, there are receipts from sub-letting Territorial Army and cadet force premises. It is hoped in the year ending 31st March, 1966, to raise £150,000 from the sub-letting of drill halls. This would be £15,000 more than the previous year.
I wonder whether the experience in Kent is typical of the rest of the country. I will limit my remarks to the effect of all this on the good will of the Territorial Army and its recruiting in Kent, but I would like to know how far these activities concerning the subletting of drill halls affects the rest of the country. It is interesting to note that last month the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), in a supplementary question, asked my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army:
Will the Under-Secretary have a very careful look at this matter? Is he aware that certainly in relation to the County of Kent the policy has made very little sense, particularly from the point of view of the Territorial Army, which counts tremendously on the good will of other organisations? A great deal of good will was forfeited by the way in which this policy was implemented"—[OFFICIAL RLPORT, 15th February, 1965; Vol. 706, c. 841.]
The policy to which he was referring was the policy of the County of Kent T.A. Association which, for example, during the last Christmas holidays sent out notices to organizations—old-age pensioners, young wives' clubs, townswomen's guilds, the Bromley Liberal Association, the Dover Dog Training Club, the Erith Conservative Association, the British Legion and othes—with instructions about the hiring of drill halls. It should be remembered that these clubs—rifle clubs and similar organizations—are the bodies upon which the Territorial Army depends for its good will. It is on the relationship it has with these organisations that the Territorial Army increases or decreases in stature. As the right hon. Member for Ashford pointed out, a great deal of good will was forfeited as a result of the implementation of that policy. As a result of Questions in the House, a great deal of correspondence and a number of telephone inquiries, I have been amazed to discover how little control the Defence Ministry has over what is happening within the T.A. Association.
With few exceptions, the local drill halls have been built at colossal expense to the public. The Territorial Army Manual makes it clear that the T.A. Association has the job of subletting them to civilian organisations. Since, as a result of these casual sublettings, the amount of the Defence Vote is lowered, I urge that there should be a change in the present arrangements. Where it is proved that the Association has failed to carry out its obligations, to the detriment of the Territorial Army, action should be taken. In the County of Kent, for example, unless something is done the drill halls will become gloomier and emptier than ever before.
The drill halls are primarily for the welfare of the T.A. organisations, the cadet forces and so on. However, we have found in Kent that there is not very much work being done by these organisations in our drill halls, as a result of which the policy has been to sublet them for casual lettings. This letting policy does not interfere in any way with the activities of the Territorial Army or any affiliated organisations.
This is one of those few occasions in Parliament when there is no urgency to speak briefly or to give the details in a nutshell at the beginning of one's remarks. I am coming to that. I have with me a notice signed by a brigadier, a stencilled document, dated 17th December, 1964. The one I have happened to be addressed to the local Darby and Joan club. It read:
Hire of accommodation—T.A. Centre, Bexley Road, Erith.
The Association has recently been informed that the Minister of Defence cannot accept liability for loss or damage caused by fire to Association buildings and contents when the premises are hired out or used for civilian purposes. It has, therefore, been necessary to take out a fire insurance policy to cover this risk. The cost of the fire insurance, irrespective of the amount of accommodation involved is 5s. for each occasion on which the premises are so hired out or used and must be paid by the hirers or users.
In other words, the Darby and Joan club will not pay 12s. 6d. for each time it meets. The old-age pensioners, who have been meeting in the drill hall for the last 11 years, used to pay 7s. 6d. up till June, 1963. The charge was then raised to 15s. but they have since been told that there is the additional charge to cover the fire insurance. The notice went on:
In the new situation which has arisen the Association is no longer able to hire out its premises except when an economic rent can
be charged, sufficient to cover the cost of fire insurance …
If that were not enough, it continued:
…therefore that your licence to use the accommodation in the T.A. Centre mentioned at the head of this letter is cancelled with effect from 1st January, 1965.
I mentioned that the notice was dated 17th December. It was received right in the middle of the Christmas holidays. The organisations which received copies of the notice were told during Christmas or early in January that from 31st January they could not use the accommodation, and that was the end of the matter. It will be realised that organisations throughout the county were shocked to discover that at such short notice they were unable to use the premises.
What was the urgency? Why was the notice sent out over Christmas and to take effect within such a short period? Why could not the effective date have been, say, 31st March so that the organisations would have had time to discuss it, get in touch with their Members of Parliament and with the Maidstone authorities? Remember that the notice was signed by a brigadier. If this action is typical of one brigadier, what of the 40 brigadiers who are involved in these matters? Have they been signing similar documents?
The organisations I mentioned have been told that they must pay an additional 5s. for each meeting they hold at the premises to cover the fire insurance costs. They have been staggered to hear that they must pay not, say, 15s. plus 5s. for insurance or 12s. 6d. plus 5s., but three guineas for a two hour meeting, plus 5s. to cover the insurance. I have never seen business transacted in this ham-fisted way in all my life.
I look to the Ministry of Defence for support, because I can assure the Committee that this action has caused a lot of trouble. There are organisations which would not return to the drill hall if they were allowed to do so free of charge. After the way they have been treated—and there have been headlines in the Press about this—they will not return. Although many of the members of the organisations which used the drill hall are elderly, they point out that they have young relatives and that the general good will of the area towards the T.A. is involved. They are saying, "We won't go back." Is this typical of other counties?
I have been told by the Ministry of Defence that these organisations should go to their local authority. Under a certain Section of the National Assistance Act, local authorities can pay the difference between the 12s. 6d. or 15s. and the 68s., but this seems to be a scandal in raising prices and charges by between 400 and 500 per cent. for the use of these halls in such a way as not to interfere at all with the training of people in the defence of the country. Local authorities ask why they should pay the ratepayers' money in this way. There is need for explanation, so the newly-formed Bexley Borough Council wrote to the headquarters at Maidstone asking for a meeting. Surely, after the delivery of such an ultimatium as this which upsets organisations in the locality, some such discussion is essential, even if only to ensure it does not happen again without prior consultation.
The Erith branch of the British Legion does a tremendous job, not from a social point of view but in helping Service men, Territorials and their families. The British Legion, too, was given notice to get out by 31st January, since when letters have been passing between it and the Territorial Association. I know that many British Legion members are quite disgusted to know that the work they have gladly put in without payment is so regarded that discussions are still continuing as to whether the hall can be used, and on what terms. I suggest that the British Legion should be given the use of the hall free of charge, because it does a tremendous job and could do an even better one if it were treated rightly. The Rifle Club, too, does not know whether or not it will be able to return to the hall.
There is a good deal of sensitivity here, and it is no wonder that it is said that those in the Territorial Association are losing their enthusiasm and might, in certain circumstances, give up the work altogether. That would be a serious loss, but those in control of the hall should seek to keep the good will of the locality, work with the local authority, and see that Members of the British Legion are not insulted in this way.
I have probably said enough to indicate that we are bitterly disappointed in Kent, not only at the way in which the Territorial people have sent out this letter, but with the Ministry of Defence. I am sure that the Ministry could have done better, and, if it cannot, I very strongly suggest that this aspect should be taken into account in this review. If responsibility is given to the T.A. to do this sort of thing and it tails down on the job in this way, some other method must be found, because this work is too important to be allowed to muddle along. This sort of action does tremendous harm to the Territorial Association image.
I am much interested in the hon. Gentleman's remarks, and I in no way would detract wholly from them, but I may be able to help the hon. Gentleman. There are two organisations involved. There is the Territorial Association, which is composed of all sorts of voluntary people, and I think that the brigadier who wrote the letter would be the secretary of the Kent Association. Then there is the Territorial Army, which is separate from, but closely associated, of course, with the Association. Although the Territorial Army uses the drill hall, the letting is done by the Association. Therefore, although there may be damage done to the Territorial Army image by this action, I do not think that the Territorial Army is responsible for that.
The hon. Gentleman, who has had 15 years in the Territorial Army, may know the difference between the two, but others do not. It is certain that the Ministry of Defence finds itself particularly helpless in this situation, and I merely suggest that before this sort of thing is allowed to go on it should be looked at in the review. Halls that have been paid for with public money are not being used all the time in these areas, where they are short of halls, and the policy should be to encourage subletting to civilian organisations when that can be done without in any way interfering with the work of the Association or the Territorial Army.
I could go on to say more, but I think that I have said enough to indicate to the people of Kent that this sort of thing is not to be tolerated without protest, and it depends on how the review goes—
I must confirm what the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) has suggested, that the brigadier referred to is the secretary of the Kent Territorial Army Association, and that the policy of letting halls has nothing to do with the local Territorial Army unit physically stationed in Kent.
I am pleased to have that assurance. As I say, there were two brigadiers concerned. In any case, it is the image that matters, not the detail. What has been done has done a tremendous amount of harm, particularly with the editors in the area. The editors in the area have been wined and dined for the purpose of creating a good image, but then they have to put up the headlines in their local papers about this scandal of the old-age pensioners, etc. That is not the way to run a war, or a country either.
We shall probably get some information out of all this—perhaps my hon. Friend will later tell us that the Ministry is entirely in the hands of the Associations. If not, perhaps something may be done. I have here some details of the Kent Territorial Association, but it is probably better that I leave that for another time—there is need for another time. I would only say that the local authority would like to discuss these matters, and such discussion should be encouraged.
I should like to know when there was last a major review and reorganisation of the Territorial Army. I can assure my hon. Friend that as a result of all these activities people are asking, and with good reason, whether in the rapidlychanging international situation and with the latest weapons and techniques of war the T.A. is able to play the prominent part it has so often played in the past with distinction. Can my hon. Friend say whether with four more training days the men would reach the necessary state of efficiency? We cannot play about in this business, and if the situation is as serious as some people say the money must be found to do a proper job. But tinkering with it will not help us in any way, and it may amount to no more than a waste of money.
Even in our present difficult economic situation, is there not ground for asking whether we shall be getting anything like value for money—it may not be the fault of the Territorial Army—for the many millions of pounds allocated for the job, for training and all the rest? Under Vote II there is an increase of £2½ million to over £24 million, and this is exclusive of charges coming under Votes VI and VII. Is the Ministry satisfied that the lieutenant-generals, major-generals and brigadiers are reasonably well employed on their present duties with the Territorial Army? In my own area, people have been surprised to find how little drill halls are used. I have seen this myself, and people who live near drill halls have told me the same. They seem to be used less and less, and we have many big halls lying empty.
These drill halls could be put to far better use in various ways. There is a good deal of talk about juvenile delinquency nowadays. I wonder whether these drill halls could be put to good use in this direction, perhaps in a way which would attract some of these youngsters to the Territorial Army itself. I want to know whether these halls are being used to the best advantage.
We are told in official statements that a long drawn-out campaign in Europe is inconceivable, that a campaign in Europe might last only a few days.
I know, but this is what people are saying. It is said by the Government, too. It might have been said before, but that does not mean that it might not be right now. I want to know, and I think the Territorial Army should know, what the expectations are, because statements of that kind suggest that the rôle of the Territorial Army may be very different. We are told in the Estimates about having several thousand men on the Rhine before Proclamation and a big number immediately after Proclamation. Is that is a feasible proposition now?
There is need for a review, as I have said. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire says that it would be done by the "brass-hats" of the Department. I follow what my hon. Friend says and ask that somebody who has not got a vested interest should look at it. If there is not a better review than there has been in the past, a lot of people, I am sure, will have very little interest in the Territorial Army.
I am pleased to know that a review is taking place, but, if the evidence is strong enough in indicating the need for changes in the present structure, will every effort be made, despite the opposition of vested interests, to ensure that the future rôle of the Territorial Army is more in keeping with modern requirements and with the needs of the nation? The hon. Member for Beckenham was not here when I referred to him earlier, but he has now returned to the Chamber. I detected in his opening speech for the Opposition a suggestion that the review of the Territorial Army might go on and on, and he added a warning that, no matter what review took place, heaven help anyone who tinkered about with the Territorial Army.
If a proper review is held, will there be a strong determination on these benches to ensure that change does take place? This is what worries me. I am sorry that I have had to speak in this way for the first time on the Army Estimates, but I felt that I had a duty to raise these issues as a result of recent experience with the Territorial Army, or, if one likes, the Association, in Kent. Have we been sorted out for the sort of treatment I have described, with increases of 400 or 500 per cent. in the rent for the letting of halls? Is this happening all over Britain with all the other county Associations? If it is not, why are we singled out for it in Kent? If it is, the image of the Territorial Army is being seriously damaged by the behaviour of its administrators and those who sit on its finance committees and make decisions on behalf of the Association.
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) into the affairs of the Territorial Army in Kent on what appears to be a peculiarly local argument, but I find it regrettable that there should be those in the Committee who are so much out of touch with their local Territorial Association and units, and I hope that the interest, however unfortunate, which the hon. Gentleman has had in drawing attention to the matters which he raised will result in a very much closer liaison between himself and the Association which will, in due course, lead to rather happier results.
My principal reason for wishing to intervene in the debate is that there has been a great deal of speculation about a possible reduction of the Rhine Army. I noted with interest that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) went so far as to advocate a reduction of 99 per cent. of the total. I hardly think that that plan would enable us as a nation to fulfil our treaty obligations, and I cannot imagine that there are many on the Government benches who would subscribe to it. It is tempting to speculate on the number who might support it, but no doubt I should be trespassing on the generosity and liberality of the Chair if I were to do so.
I am interested in the possible effect fiat any considerable alteration in the numbers with B.A.O.R. might have on the families of the soldiers serving there. Those of us who have been round married quarters in B.A.O.R., and have taken an interest in the accommodation provided for Army families, know that, even now, after considerable effort, the full requirement for married quarters has not yet been met.
I was very glad to hear the Minister emphasise the importance of the status or the soldier. I noted his words when he said that the soldier had a status. But so has the soldier's wife. It is appropriate, when we discuss the money which is spent on the Army, to remember that a great proportion of it is required not only for the soldier but for the soldier's wife. The first requirement is that money should be spent on adequate married quarters or alternative accommodation in which families can live as nearly as possible a normal family life.
This frequently conflicts with the requirements of the Army, but, because there must at all times be unaccompanied tours, it is more important to have adequate accommodation on tours where soldiers can be accompanied by their families. I am sorry that, so far, we have not had a representative from the Ministry of Public Building and Works present. I should have thought that that Department was in part responsible for this situation.
I am sorry, also, that the right hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has left us. I noted with interest that it was thought appropriate that he should be here, and I wondered whether the explanation of this could be found in his own words as reported in col. 745 of HANSARD of 10th March, 1960, when he explained that the real controller of the Army sits in the Treasury.
The greater part of the money which we have spent on the provision of married quarters has been spent, at least as regards new buildings, in Germany. Therefore, if there is to be speculation about a reduction in our forces in Germany, I should have thought that there must be, or I would have hoped that there was, speculation as to the balance of expenditure on new quarters in Germany or new quarters in this country. I think it true to say that many Army quarters in this country are inadequate for families which hope to live in modern conditions. I do not think that any useful purpose can be served by letting party points enter into this, because this is a condition that we all seek to improve upon.
I suggest that whereas we are building good new accommodation in Germany, if there is to be a serious revision numerically it may well be that the proportion of money being spent there for this purpose, or some of it, could be used to improve some of our out-of-date accommodation in this country.
I do not think that we should underestimate the effect of this whole subject on recruiting. There is no doubt that the best recruiting agent of all is the satisfied soldier, and there is also no doubt that we shall get satisfied soldiers only if their accommodation is of an adequate standard. Soldiers today rightly expect that standard to be comparable with the standard now becoming common in civilian life. So I hope very much that we shall pay the greatest attention not only, as the Estimates show we are continuing to do, to increasing the number of married quarters abroad, but also to the improvement of the ones in this country.
I have seen the hirings which were referred to earlier. I have always said that I thought that hirings, by and large, provide wholly unsuitable accommodation for soldiers' wives. Some hirings are better than others. There are some caravan sites in B.A.O.R. which are well kept, excellently maintained, and, in my view, infinitely preferable to some of the hirings. I do not think that it would be a solution to expect, as someone did earlier, that there will be an increase in the number of hirings, nor do I think that it would provide a solution if there was to be greater emphasis on the unaccompanied tour, certainly not in time of peace. So I hope that we shall consider the whole question of married quarters with as great emphasis as we have done up to the present, if not with greater emphasis.
There was only brief reference by the right hon. Gentleman to the schooling of Army children abroad. I believe that there are 120 schools overseas. Like many other hon. Members, I have visited a number of them. They are of a remarkably high standard. We must remember that the children in them have had to move with their families from place to place and have not the same hopes of continuity of schooling as the average child in this country can expect. I believe that the service to the Army and to the nation done by those who teach in the schools in the Army should be widely known and widely commended.
There are 33,000 Army children to be educated. It is absolutely reasonable to suppose that they should get as good an education as if they were in this country. So it follows that the best qualified teachers should be taken to teach in the Army schools.
That is especially so because of the point that I have already made, but which the hon. Member may not have appreciated. He may not be familiar with the whole range of complications surrounding the Army in general, and perhaps he will forgive me if I explain that soldiers sometimes have to move from one place to another and then again to another place; I know an Army child who has been to seven schools.
But I am paying tribute to the quality of the teaching which that child can expect. I feel most strongly that it is right to take the teachers for those schools even from the hon. Member's constituency and from my constituency if they are wise enough to wish to contribute to the nation and to the children in this way.
This presupposes what I said at the beginning. I said that I did not subscribe to the hon. Gentleman's view that 99 per cent. of those serving abroad should be brought home. I pointed out to him earlier that I was very doubtful whether his Front Bench subscribed to that view. But I have no doubt that, whether publicly or privately, the hon. Member is in a better position than I am to pose that problem to his Front Bench. Perhaps he will get an adequate answer when the Government reply to the debate.
It does not seem to me to be sufficiently widely known that it is now accepted that teachers going out to serve for a certain period in most cases do not lose any seniority by so doing. This is an important point to stress.
If we adopted the suggestion made by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, and brought back to this country the very substantial number of troops he suggests, the cost would be very considerable. The Estimates show that the cost of the quarters to which I have referred in Germany is very considerable. I hardly think that it would help the country's balance of payments problem or the economy generally if we had to make provision in this country for that number of persons at short notice.
I will not enter—I should rightly be ruled out of order if I attempted to do so—into the tactical and strategic considerations of any substantial reduction in the number of troops abroad, but I think that any substantial change in strength, apart altogether from our treaty obligations, would have a very drastic effect on the training of our forces—on the way in which they are trained and the purposes for which they are trained. It might also very substantially alter the amount of money which has to be spent in this way.
Much has been said about the Territorial Army. My hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom) said that it wanted a boost. My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) said that it was in a critical state. What I think that needs to be emphasised is the importance of the Territorial Army. As has been said many times, it is a very inexpensive reserve force. I believe that its benefit to the nation and the whole world is greatly in excess of its cost. It is very important to remember the amount of service which this voluntary body of men and women provides for very little expenditure.
It is greatly underestimating the structure of the Territorial Army to suggest, as the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford did, that an increase in the number of training days, of the modest order to which my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr referred, is not called for. It is wise to recall that, in every debate of this kind that I have heard over the last five and a half years, appeals have been made for additional training days. Those appeals have not always fallen on stony ground. I hope that they will not do so today. Anyone who knows anything about the Territorial Army is aware that a very few extra days can make a substantial difference to a good unit and to its recruiting potential.
I hope it is recognised that the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr show that there are now a great many hon. Members on both sides who are of such an age group that they have not served in the post-war Territorial Army and, therefore, when they read of its rôle as shown in the Estimates, are, perhaps, not as familiar as he is with the requirements, or, indeed, with the present situation When we do hear someone like my hon. Friend, who has served many years in the Territorial Army, and before that in Korea as a National Service man, then we probably get a better picture of the post-war requirements of the Territorial Army than most of us are in a position to provide.
I ask the Deputy-Secretary of State seriously to consider two things. First, far from reducing in any way the rôle of the Territorial Army, he should accept and announce quickly its importance in the structure of our national defence. Secondly, whatever review he may deem necessary should be made after an announcement of the continuance of the Territorial Army in its very important rôle.
I understood the speech made by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) in a different sense. I was very impressed by what he said, from his background of first-class experience—that what we needed was another very good look at the Territorial Army. That is exactly what we are now doing.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. But my point is slightly different. I am not against a review of the Territorial Army. What I am afraid of—for we have had experience of this in the post-war years—is that there will be a gap between now and the findings of that review and that, in the interim, there will be lack of confidence and belief in the Territorial Army. I am now only pressing the right hon. Gentleman to make clear that, whatever the result of the review, the importance of the structure in some form remains in its present priority.
Finally, we owe a tremendous debt to all soldiers of all ranks in the Army who have served the nation so well in such a variety of rôles. They do it with grumbles when they talk to us but they are undertaking in many different parts of the world a wide variety of tasks with great cheerfulness and, as a padre who recently visited the Far East said, they are able to associate themselves successfully with the civil population everywhere they go.
I found the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) very agreeable, though she will forgive me, I hope, if I say that at times I thought that her knowledge of the service might have qualified her for useful employment in the Army Education Corps "schoolmarm" section. But she obviously knew her stuff about certain Service matters.
One of the topics the hon. Lady referred to which certainly falls into line with my own experience in recent years is the lack of success in dealing with the question of married quarters. I can only speak for myself, but I get far too many letters both from soldiers and their wives complaining about inability to lead, even within the context of Army service, a reasonable married life. Far more attention should be paid, not only to the provision of accommodation, but to the problems of Service men and their wives and children—problems which seem to be tackled with far too great a rigidity. These are human problems which deserve much more flexible treatment.
I also thought apt the hon. Lady's remarks towards the end of her speech when she referred to the care which we of our generation—if I may say so without indiscretion—should take in applying our experience to present-day requirements. In the 1945–50 Parliament, having finished the war as a very junior staff officer, I was frightfully impressed by being confronted by serried ranks of brigadiers opposite who seemed to have reached such exhalted positions in the Army. But my admiration of them and their knowledge of Army administration became tempered as the years went by. In the early 1950s, I felt rather sorry for some of them, for the speeches they made were wholly out of date. They referred to equipment that had long since gone out of use in the Army and talked about tactics and deployments which bore no relevance to the 1950s. I fear that too many hon. Members are drawing too much on their wartime experience and are insufficiently cognisant of today's requirements.
This is fairly well exemplified by the recruiting characteristics of the day. I am thinking more particularly about the Territorial Army. Earlier, in an intervention during the speech by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom), I said that I disagreed with him about the question of the quality of training staff. I made the point that my experience at the beginning of the last war was that the sooner we got shot of Regular Army instructors the better the efficiency of the unit. I hasten to add that this was not a criticism of those instructors but of the fact that they themselves had not been properly instructed in how to train the civil population.
Perhaps the technique of instruction has improved since those days, but I wonder how attractive it is for young men who are potential recruits to the Territorial Army when they see the type of instructors one comes across in various Territorial Army units. I do not think that the younger generation is particularly impressed by serried rows of medals, and the ability after parade hours to expatiate on experiences in the last war. I do not think that it rings a bell.
The modern generation wants men of its own generation to do the instructing, to understand its social problems and its social tastes, and to comprehend its technical absorbing capacity. I suppose that I shall get accused of a flight of fancy, or even facetiousness, if I say that personally I would be very happy if we could have Territorial units manned by mods and rockers. I make that suggestion, because these mods and rockers who scour the countryside on motor cycles raising hell here and there act like that chiefly because they like the thrill of motor cycles and, secondly, because they are bored stiff with the other facilities which life offers them. These mods and rockers are not bad people at all. They have an aggressive attitude, but many have a mechanical sense and their energies could be usefully harnessed if in some way the Territorial Army could be made attractive to them.
One of the lessons which we should have learned from the 1939 recruiting period is the need to have much more specific examination of the psychological problems involved in recruiting, not only when apparently there is a war emergency, but when there is apparently a long stretch of peace-time soldiering to recruit for. When as we go around the country we see how bored many young people are, we must wonder whether the Services cannot apply more money and recruit more brains to study the problem.
The Territorial Army is not attracting the most energetic and vital element of the population. Incidentally, I see from the Vote for the Territorial Army that the mods and rockers feel that their "mates" could be recruited and brought in to earn their bounties and, if I may say so, participate in the fun and games of Territorial Army life.
I speak with a limited experience of the Territorial Army. Hon. Members may be a little surprised to know that I not only spent quite a few years with the Territorial Army in this country, but with the Auxiliary Force in India, which was a branch of the Territorial Army, and that I served as a gallant trooper with, strangely enough, the Calcutta Light Horse. The hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) will sympathise with my feelings in this matter, because the years have gone by and we no longer possess the slim figures which permitted us to ride a horse.
More seriously, I want to ask my right hon. Friend something specific about the subject of land usage by the Services. May I draw your attention, Sir Ronald, to the note at the bottom of page 99 of the Estimates, for I propose to speak about land usage by all the Service Departments. That note says:
The Defence Land Service is responsible under the Deputy Secretary of State for Defence and Minister of Defence for the Army, for the acquisition and disposal of land and buildings, estate management etc., for all departments of the Ministry of Defence.
At Question Time today, I drew the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Land and Natural Resources to information which I had supplied to his Ministry some time ago about the use of land by the Services.
For two consecutive years, 1962 and 1963, I collected from the Ministry of Defence information about the use of land and the occupation of land in this country by the three Services. That information was in answer to Questions. Excluding any holding under 50 acres and excluding all dockyards and all airfields, I was given the rather horrifying total of 500,000 acres of land in this country occupied by the three Services in 1963.
That is a considerable figure when we remember that we are poor in land. The whole subject of natural resources which is being energetically taken up by the Government has been sadly neglected. The policy of the previous Administration was that when Service Departments no longer required airfields or other land holdings they were put up for public auction. It was a policy which resulted in many cases in the wasteful and erroneous subsequent use of the land. It resulted in the Services making demands in other parts of the country, and in many cases it was merely a book transaction showing a temporary financial saving to the Department concerned but, in the end, resulting in a great wastage of land which might have been used by local government, or to meet other Service requirements.
I am very dissatisfied with the apparent lack of control of all three Service Departments by the last Administration, and I hope that control will be stronger under the present Government. I have in mind an instance concerning the Navy. I shall not go into too great detail, because much of the information which I received was under confidential cover, but it is well known that the Navy occupies about 12,000 acres in Dorsetshire alone.
At Question Time, I referred to the disbandment of the Committee which used to be called the Inter-Departmental Committee on Departmental Holding of Land. This Committee was disbanded at the time of the Crichell Down affair, when there was a reaction by the Conservative Party and, to some extent, the country as a whole against the holding of land which had been taken from private owners at the outbreak of war.
The result of the disbanding of that Committee was that all three Service Departments had carte blanche to secure land, to increase their requirements for training areas. It also led to downright waste of the little land at our disposal. One of my right hon. Friends told me some weeks ago that, far from Army land requirements going down, they were likely to increase. I did not quite understand the technical arguments, but they must have been sound. It would appear that the increase in the size of armour and the differences in forms of tactics subject to exercise in this country demand ever-growing areas of land. If that is so, this is all the stronger argument for controlling most carefully the requirements of the three Services.
What is the present organisation for disciplining the Services in the requirements of land? Is there any sort of organisation? If so, does it come under my right hon. Friend the Minister of Land and Natural Resources? Is he capable, heading as he does a new and relatively inexperienced Ministry, of controlling the Services, or are the Services, with their influence in our national life, still able to take over what land they want? This is a most important matter. We shall have to face the question whether we can afford these huge training areas in this country and whether exercises employing armour and involving the wide deployment of infantry ought more properly to be carried out on the Continent?
There are hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Scotland which are used as deer forest and grouse moors. [Interruption.] Is that fact disputed? If people say that such grouse moors and deer forests are of no use for Army exercises, they have only to look at parts of Western Germany which had exactly the sort of terrain about which I am speaking when fighting took place towards the end of the war.
I appeal to my right hon. Friend to answer these questions. Is the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources responsible for carrying out the work of the Committee which was disbanded? If it is, is it capable of controlling the demands of the three Services? Is such land as is considered necessary from the point of view of the Ministry of Defence being used as economically as possible, or, as I strongly suspect, is the Army demanding one lot of land, the Navy another lot, and the Air Force yet another lot? I believe that tremendous economies can be made and that the land saved could be put to much better use for regional and local government purposes.
The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) said that ex-officers tended to get out of date very quickly once they lost their connection with the Army. I can confirm this. I spent many years in the Army. I was born in the Army, and my connection with it finally ended on 15th October last year, when I ceased to be P.P.S. to the Army Minister. Up to then, all my life I had been in close touch with the Army and I can confirm how difficult it is to keep up to date the moment one loses that connection. Incidentally, during my long career in the Army I paralleled the hon. Gentleman: we were both in the Cadet Corps together. We were both a great deal slimmer then.
I was not clear whether the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth had read paragraph 193 of the White Paper when he raised questions about the control of land and wondered whether it was being properly co-ordinated and who controlled it. It seemed to me that paragraph 193 was one of the best features of the White Paper and put the matter extraordinarily clearly.
However, I am very sorry for the authors of the White Paper. They had a very severe task ahead of them when they came to write it because they had behind them the Labour Party manifesto and in front of them the truth. They had to try to find a form of words which would attempt to justify the gross distortions in the manifesto and to equate them with the truth. They had to come to a compromise. But the White Paper is still misleading the public because it is still a compromise between the manifesto and the truth.
It is interesting to speculate on the honesty of the Ministers who wrote the White Paper. Are they fools or knaves? We should consider that when we look at the points in the White Paper relating to the Army for which the Army Minister is responsible.
Now, a quotation from the manifesto:
our defences are weaker than at almost any time in our history
The Labour Party could not get away with that. It had to be watered down a very great deal for the White Paper. So in paragraph 1 of the White Paper, we find that our
defence forces … are seriously overstretched",
which is very different indeed.
The manifesto speaks about the
failure to obtain on a voluntary, regular basis the required numbers in the Army".
The party opposite could not stretch that one. It had to confess that it was completely wrong about it, because in paragraph 22 of the White Paper we find that while
our forces are severely stretched, we are confident that we can generally attain the present manpower target".
At least one person has been entirely taken in by the manifesto, and that is
the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell.). I am sorry that the hon. Member is not in his place. He made his speech, went out and then came in for a moment or two, but he seems to have disappeared for the evening. The hon. Member made a ridiculous speech, in which he said that we were virtually defenceless. That makes him a laughing stock.
If that were true, why should there be a cut? Why should the Government boast of a cut of £55 million in the defence Estimates as compared with the position which they inherited? To suggest that we are virtually defenceless is ridiculous. The hon. Member ought to get out and look at the Army. He just does not know what he is talking about.
That shows the danger of writing a manifesto which innocent people tend to believe. The Labour Party did a great disservice in putting these words into its manifesto. It said that there had been failure
to modernise … obsolescent equipment".
It is interesting to read the White Paper and to discover the complaints about equipment. We find in paragraph 1 the words "dangerously under-equipped" and in paragraph 26 that it "fails to satisfy".
Was not that precisely the point that was made by the hon. Membor for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) from the Opposition Front Bench? Was he nor saying that in Malaysia our troops were using boats that were completely out of date and that we should buy lighter boats from private enterprise? Was he not making the point which is made in the White Paper?
If the hon. Member will be patient, I am coming to that. I am still at paragraph 26. I shall come later to paragraphs 146 and 147.
In paragraph 26, we find that
the equipment programme inherited by the present Government fails to satisfy either our military or our economic needs".
It goes on to say:
particularly in the field of aircraft.
Unfortunately, I should be out of order if I dealt with aircraft, to which the following paragraphs refer. Nevertheless, paragraph 26 clearly refers to the Army as well.
I turn with interest to paragraph 146, where we start to read about equipment to see just what the troubles are. We find:
Typical examples of the difficulties encountered by the Army in the development of complex new equipment are to be found in the new range of armoured vehicles now coming into service.
It is saying, in other words, that there are teething troubles when new equipment comes forward. The early models of the Mini-Minor had teething troubles. Now that a million have been produced, there are probably not so many "bugs" in it. Of course, there are "bugs" in the early items of equipment.
Then we come to paragraph 147, which says:
Production of new equipment for the Army continues to increase. Provision in estimates for deliveries of fighting equipment in 1965–66 is about £114 million compared with £97 million in 1964–65 …
But this is describing the largest programme of re-equipment which has ever taken place in the Army in peace time.
There are, of course, certain items of equipment which are old and obsolescent, but this is where hon. Members on the opposite side of the House get so utterly misled. They hear that the Army has some equipment which is old and they say, "Disgraceful. Obsolescent equipment. Absolutely appalling." Let them consider what it is they are asking for when they say that. They are asking that every item of equipment should be completely replaced with a brand new, up-to-date item, and that means completely re-equipping the Army regularly every year. This is quite ridiculous.
Of course, what one does is to have a rolling re-equipment programme, so that some items are, indeed, new, while others are old. But to say that the Army is incapable of fighting is absolute, utter rubbish. In effect, what was said in the Labour Party manifesto, and what is said at the beginning of the White Paper, what is said by the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends, cannot be supported in fact—that the British Army is incapable of fighting.
I am quite prepared to agree that there are small items of equipment which might he better, but here we have this, huge re-equipment programme—
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he has devoted a great deal of skill and passion to showing that the manifesto was right, because the manifesto spoke of the Army as it was at the time of the election. All this new equipment—Chieftain tank, close support artillery, medium artillery, heavy artillery, armoured personnel carriers, and all the rest—is still coming into the Army. It was not there in service with the units last October.
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that all this expenditure of £97 million upwards has only just begun? This is a continuing programme. It is a programme which is the legacy which the present Government inherited. It is a building up programme. It is the biggest programme of re-equipment, as I have said, ever seen in the Army in peacetime. This is not something about which the party opposite can rush to the country and say, "The Conservative Government have betrayed the country by not re-equipping the Army." In fact, all this equipment was in the pipeline and coming forward. But the right hon. Gentleman did not, in his speech, make much of an effort to try to justify what was said in the manifesto.
There are, of course, shortages, particularly, as he mentioned, in equipment for service in the jungle, but those are fairly small items, such as light picks and shovels and combined li-lo and mosquito nets. The right hon. Gentleman should be careful about what he writes, because he has frightened the hon. Member for Buckingham, who thinks that the Army is utterly defenceless and incapable of fighting anywhere at all.
When the First Secretary of State visited B.A.O.R. about four years ago he completely misunderstood what was said to him there, and he came back and made the most extraordinary statements. He never got to understand what the truth was. He continually produced diatribes about desperate shortages of equipment in B.A.O.R. There are no shortages of equipment in the Army at all. There are some items which are obsolescent, and they are in the process of being replaced—a very different thing from shortages of equipment. What is meant by shortages of equipment is the sort of shortage we had way back in 1934 and 1935, when we did not have adequate numbers of machine guns and anti-tank guns, and we used, in training, to have to use red flags to represent them. That is shortage of equipment, and that is not in any way the position in the Army today.
When we consider the strength of the Army, we have to consider the commitments which it may have to meet. We have to think carefully about whether we want an Army to cover every possible eventuality. It is very tempting for people, and particularly generals, to say, "We might have to do 20 different jobs. We must, therefore, plan to do them all at once, and design an Army big enough for the purpose". That, however, is unrealistic, because the Strategic Reserve is not called on to do 20 jobs at once. Perhaps four or five jobs are liable to require action at the same time, and this is the sort of insurance at which we should aim, and it is this factor which should decide the size of our forces.
During 1964 a number of commitments came up at the same time. The Army triumphantly met every one of those commitments at the right time and at the right place without calling up the reserves. Not even the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve was called up. One hon. Gentleman opposite this afternoon seemed rather worried about this, and asked what was the use of having the T.A.E.R. if it was not called up. The point is that it is ready to meet any additional unforeseen commitments over and above those which can be tackled by the strategic reserve. The T.A.E.R. is there ready to reinforce the Regular Army should this be necessary.
During the defence debate the Secretary of State for Defence made some attempt to justify the phrase "seriously overstretched" by saying that if some units in the Strategic Reserve had been taken overseas he would have been breaking the rules because the men would have been away from their wives for an unduly long time, and later in the debate the Deputy Secretary of State intervened to say that this had, in fact, happened in February. This shows that it is the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for this state of affairs, and that the blame for it cannot be laid at the door of the previous Administration.
This sort of thing did not happen when my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) was responsible for the Army. This is the sort of thing which happens when there is a change of Government. There is a great deal of muddle, and the Government have now confessed to it.
There are a vast number of major units in the Army and they can be moved around in an effort to fit round pegs into round holes. We must not rely on just one unit to meet every commitment. The way to deal with the problem is to pull a unit out of, say, Germany, where, with its families, it has been having a "cushy" time for the last three years, and put it into the Reserve so that it is available to go to, say, British Guiana, for an unaccompanied tour. This is quite possible. My advice to the right hon. Gentleman is, "Go back and have a look at the number of units which are quite free of this difficulty." They can do unaccompanied tours successfully. He will find that the vast majority of units in the Army are not so circumscribed.
I was very interested in the suggestion of the unit family officer, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. He will look after families when a unit goes off on an unaccompanied tour. I suggest that he tries to obtain a married officer for this job. I can recall the time, before the war, when a young, gay bachelor went up to the North-West Frontier area to look after the families of troops who were serving on the frontier. On Saturday nights the husbands of the families used to come back, and the officer found himself being shot at heavily by some angry husbands. At the end of the period, and all these Saturday nights, he well earned his General Service Medal for the North-West Frontier, and he still wears it. A married officer would be valuable for this job.
I now turn to the question of the Gurkhas. On 15th February, the Secretary of State said:
I am glad to say that the present Government have decided to stop playing about wilt) this issue and leave the target at 15,000 men."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1965; Vol. 706. c. 830.]
I was delighted to hear this, and it was taken by the Brigade of Gurkhas to mean just what it said—that the target would
be left at 15,000 men. However, I had my doubts, because this was said to score a party political point, as the Secretary of State is so keen on doing, instead of getting on with running the Army. I preferred to rely on what the Minister for the Army had said in December. Therefore, I put down a Question on the subject and the Answer that I received on 22nd February, admitted that what the Secretary of State had said on 15th February was completely misleading. The truth is that we are back with the statement of the Minister of Defence for the Army in December. At that time I pointed out that it was very unsatisfactory. On 22nd February the right hon. Gentleman said that the target of 15,000 men would remain
As long as our present commitments in support of Malaysia continue."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1965; Vol 707, c. 24.]
That is a fat lot of good for the Brigade of Gurkhas, because at any time—I do not think that there is a likelihood in the next week or two—the confrontation in Malaysia may end. Presumably, immediately that happens this pledge goes, and the Brigade of Gurkhas will have no idea what its planned figure would then be.
I can understand that the hon. Member and many other Members feel that the Gurkhas need a more definite long-term commitment. I would remind the hon. Gentleman, however, that in December I went very much further than did the outgoing Government, who had a six-monthly review. They did not know, from one six months to the next what the position would be. Already, last December I had announced that next autumn—and autumn is the training period—we were taking the full complement that the training organisation could carry.
I am coming to that. The right hon. Gentleman went on in his Answer to state that the training organisation was running at full capacity. But that is only for six months of the year. Surely he realises that they could do double shifts. It is quite possible to recruit two lots of recruits 1,000 strong and to recruit on two occasions in the year. With six months' training it would be possible, therefore, to obtain 2,000 and not 1,000. I have pointed out in the past that a recruitment of 1,000 a year is inadequate to maintain the existing strength of the Gurkhas let along bring it up to a target of 15,000.
I ask the Minister to look at this again, and to make inquiries if he does not know, to find out the capacity of the Gurkha training unit. I can assure him that it is working only at half capacity at present. Here we have a clear case of a misleading Answer having been given on 15th February and, I regret to say, an Answer given on 22nd February was still misleading. The public is getting fed up with being misled and the Brigade of Gurkhas is fed up, too.
In paragraph 129 of the White Paper the reserve forces are discussed. The Minister expresses surprise and utter ignorance of what has been going on before he assumed office. I seem to remember that he took part in discussions on the Army Reserve Act in 1962. It has been no secret that we have a certain proportion of Army reserves which may be called up without a Proclamation, but a large number of reservists, the second string, are those who may be called up only by Proclamation. This is done advisedly.
Of course, the generals would like to have a string round the big toe of every reservist so that they could tweak the string and get him back without anybody knowing. That would be splendid from the point of view of the Army, but what about the liberty of the individual, which it is the duty of the Minister and Parliament to protect? That is why there is a process of Proclamation. I am very surprised that in order to try to score a cheap party point the Minister has shown himself to be so utterly ignorant.
Paragraphs 157 to 162 where reference is made to Service quarters is an absolute "pig's breakfast". We are told that the Navy is to have some quarters, but it does not say how many. The Army is having some quarters and it does not say how many. Then, paragraph 162 says:
About 1,300 married quarters are expected to be completed in 1964–65 and in 1965–66 it is planned to start construction of a further 1.500.
There is no mention of the Royal Air Force, but if one is very cunning one notices that paragraph 161 refers to the Royal Air Force and, therefore, by
implication, and because paragraph 159 gives particulars about the Army, one may perhaps work out that paragraph 162 must refer to the Royal Air Force. This is shoddy work. I hope the Deputy Secretary of State and Minister of State for the Army is not responsible for that. His paragraphs make a bit more sense than those referring to the other two Services. I was very surprised to see that the rebuilding of Hyde Park Barracks is due to start in the coming year. The Answer which I had from the Minister of Public Building and Works was that it was due to start in the summer of 1966. If the Minister has been capable of bringing this forward very considerably. I am delighted to hear it. I hope that we shall be entitled to hear him.
I am sorry that the Minister has not seen fit to grace this debate, but it is difficult to know whether this is his responsibility or the responsibility of the Army, but the Army has an interest—
The Ministry of Public Building and Works Vote is not under discussion today. It is the Army Vote. The answer to the point which the hon. Gentleman makes is that it all depends on what is meant by "start". The Minister of Public Building and Works was right in saying that building would start next year. Work on the site will start this year. A very substantial building must be knocked down before one brick or piece of concrete can be put in to put up the new building. Both answers are, therefore, right.
I am happy to hear that the process of knocking down is starting.
I now want to turn to a rather different question, and that is the deaths of Service men in Germany. This is a very important point, because about 80 Service men a year are killed in accidents in Germany and there is no arrangement for an inquest on these men. The next-of-kin are particularly interested to know what has happened. They expect an inquest to take place, but, unfortunately, in Germany there is no arrangement for a civil inquest, so it would be improper and illegal to hold an inquest.
All that is left is a Service board of inquiry. The next-of-kin are not entitled to be represented at that board of inquiry; it takes place behind closed doors. The next-of-kin are not entitled to see a record of the proceedings and have no idea whether the interests of the soldier who has died have been properly looked after or not. In these circumstances, there is a natural suspicion that there has been a "hush-up", that, if anyone is to blame, the board will tend to put the blame on the read man rather than on someone else.
There are possibilities of dealing with this problem. It is possible to bring a body back to the United Kingdom and to hold an inquest here. But this has its disadvantages, in that German witnesses cannot be compelled to come to this country to give evidence, so the whole purpose of the coroner's court might be upset by the failure of the witnesses to attend. It appears to be rather a cumbersome procedure. It is, however, perfectly legal and something which should be considered. The second alternative is to set up a special court corresponding as closely as possible to an English coroner's court, but under military law. This would have to be not under the current rules for courts of inquiry, but under new legislation. It therefore has the disadvantage of requiring legislation.
However, there is another possible alternative. The best solution, in my opinion, is that a representative of the dead soldier should be present at the board of inquiry. The Army Act, 1955, says, in Section 135(4):
… any … person who may be affected by the findings … shall have an opportunity of being … represented …",
That is at an Army board of inquiry, and it seems to be fairly clear—that any person who may be affected by the findings shall have the opportunity to be represented.
Unfortunately, the rule made under the Army Act completely defeats what was laid down by Parliament, because the Board of Inquiry (Army) Rules, 1956, contain a rule that
any person being subject to military law may be represented".
To defeat the prospect of the dead soldier being represented, the Army says that he is not subject to military law. Equally, any person "who may be affected" finds an exception in the footnote of the Army rules:
A person is affected if subject to disciplinary action, deduction of pay or liable to be censured".
The dead man is not liable to disciplinary action or reduction of pay, but he is very nearly liable to be censured, because the findings of the board of inquiry may reflect very considerably on him.
I ask the Minister to look at these Board of Inquiry (Army) Rules and to consider whether they do not conflict with the Army Act by very seriously circumscribing what the Army Act says. Presumably, the Army Act is our guide. If we turn to what the Army Act says, it should be possible for the next-of-kin to instruct an officer to represent the dead soldier. This would solve what is a very serious problem for the next-of-kin, who feel very strongly when their husbands or sons are adversely criticised by the board of inquiry either directly or indirectly, because they feel sure that someone else is to blame and yet they are told, "No one was to blame. It was entirely your own son's fault". No doubt more polite phraseology is used, but that is what is implied.
I have a suggestion to make for the future of the Army. At present we have two Armies—the heavy Army on the continental model in Germany and the light, mobile, Strategic Reserve which operates through the rest of the world. The latter is the sort of Army which is the most useful at the moment. Traditionally, we are not very good at providing the heavy, continental type of Army. Until 1914 we tried to keep out of it. I submit that we should try to get back to our mobile rôle for the whole of the Army.
This does not mean pulling our forces out of B.A.O.R. If a change in our rôle in B.A.O.R. is to be negotiated, then a light, mobile rôle, in which the British Army is so very well trained and equipped, will be extremely valuable in the circumstances of a possible conflagration in B.A.O.R., because it is not a Maginot Line which is needed there; if there were a non-nuclear conflict in B.A.O.R., lightly equipped forces would be just as valuable as the very heavy, ponderous model which we have there now.
I regret that the Minister has left the Committee, because I wanted to suggest to him personally that he now gets on with the administration of the Army and stops trying to score party points. I have given some examples of the party points which have been attempted to be scored by hon. Members opposite. All that they are doing is succeeding in misleading the public. This is quite wrong. We must have good administration. Let us get back to doing that as soon as possible.
Without wishing to comment in detail on the aspects covered by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), most hon. Members will agree with him that the Army needs to be made more efficient in certain respects. The public have a right to expect value for money, and it is the job of Parliament to consider how the Army can be made more efficient and effective.
I also agree with him that it is not desirable in a debate of this character to indulge in cheap party political propaganda. None of the examples he quoted seemed to jusify his accusation against my hon. and right hon. Friends. Indeed, a number of phrases he used were of a highly emotive character. If anybody was trying to make a party political speech in a debate which was not intended to be of a political kind it was himself.
Earlier in the debate, while my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) was speaking, the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) disagreed with him, and I sympathise with her. If we have an Army it is inevitable that it will have a service to perform overseas. If we have an Army overseas it is reasonable and proper that the children of our troops should be entitled to educational facilities as far as possible equal to those available here at home.
It is often not possible overseas to secure a satisfactory education for the children of Service men. This applies with equal force to the children of other public service officers, apart from the Army, while overseas. This is the case for having more State boarding schools in this country, available for the children of people serving overseas, where a satisfactory boarding school education could be provided; but to develop this theme would be out of order.
My main topic this evening is in connection with page 85 of the Estimates in which it is indicated that expenditure for the Army Cadet Force for 1965–66 will be increased from £800,000 in the previous financial year to £830,000 and that for the Combined Cadet Force the Vote will be increased from £350,000 to £360,000. It is fair to ask whether this expenditure of £1 million of public money represents an effective and useful military asset. In some respects it does, but in others it might be made more effective, and that is the theme I want to develop. I speak from some experience, having spent in my earlier youth nearly six years in the Army Cadet Force, and passing through every stage from cadet to commissioned rank.
The Army Cadet Force gives boys as useful and constructive an activity as can any other form of youth organisation, and for some boys intending to make a career of the Regular or Territorial Army it provides some very useful pre-Service training. Further, and this is particularly true of some of the boys and girls coming from what might be called the working-class areas of our overcrowded cities, it gives an opportunity of open air and camp life during vacations from school, if it is a combined force unit, or during holidays from work, which they could not easily obtain elsewhere. I remember spending six months in Army camps as a cadet before I entered National Service, and my experience was one of a broadening that I had never had the opportunity of having in my home environment. That is a very important education for these young boys.
Again, some of the physical training courses provided give cadets an opportunity of working in gymnasia with instructors of a far higher quality than they could have met with in their schools, because very often, particularly in the North-East, gymnastics and gym training facilities for young people are very limited in many of the older schools. The Combined Cadet Force is very largely based on the schools, and, in some cases, leads to training at Sandhurst or entry into university Territorial units.
That is the positive case for spending £1 million, but I want to draw attention to certain problems. I would be interested to know—and if figures are not immediately available they may be made available later—what percentage of the boys in the pre-Service training units eventually enter some form of military institution by way of service in the Regular or the Territorial Forces. If there are very few of them, clearly this expenditure has been largely if not completely wasted.
It is also fair to ask how far the training undertaken by cadets is relevant to their future service in the Army, if that is their intended career. I feel from my own experience that rarely are the full facilities of the local Territorial Army unit with which the cadet unit may be connected made available to the cadets. Perhaps, too, in cadet training there has been rather too much emphasis put on infantry training, bearing in mind the technical character of the modern Army. Nothing more excites the imagination of young people in the cadet units than to have more technical work end training at this very early stage in their military careers.
How far is the record of cadet training service and the obtaining of certificates later taken into account when cadets enter the Army? I remember that when I entered the Armed Forces in 1949—having, as I say, spent six years in the cadets, having obtained a substantial number of the certificates available, and having studied very conscientiously—not once during my service was I asked by any personnel selection officer or the commanding officer of any unit in which I served to show a Cadet Force discharge certificate. I am of the opinion that relatively little account is taken, in assessing the potential leadership qualities of the recruit to the Army, of his record of service in the Cadet Force.
In spite of my having obtained a substantial number of technical and other training certificates in the Cadet Force, the only information about my pre-Service cadet training which ever seemed to interest any commanding officer I had in the Army was that I had been prominent in Army cadet athletics, and the particular training regiment into which I was placed was rather short of athletes. I willingly volunteered for this activity, until, to my dismay, as a quarter-miler, I discovered that the athletics which others had in mind involved cross-country running. However, in a broad sort of way, one might say that my pre-Service training was relevant.
If I, with a long period of training in the cadets, was never, in my two years of National Service, asked to show the documents to any officer—I happen to know that no copy was kept of any document which I had been given so it could not have gone through with my papers—I wonder what use the discharge certificate was anyway. Very rarely in my military service after leaving the cadets was any mention made of the training I had undertaken in the Cadet Force. I have checked this with a number of other people who had been active in the Cadet Force movement earlier, and I understand that it was quite common experience. I wonder how far it is still common experience.
Also, during my National Service—I think that this is still true for people entering the Regular Army today—there did not seem to be any shortening or significant shortening of the initial training for people who had long service in cadet training earlier. If I am wrong on this, I shall be interested to know, either by way of reply tonight or at some other time. No particular preference based upon his pre-Service training seems to be given in terms of the arm to which a soldier is sent after his initial Army training. I should have thought that this was important, and, if we are to be committed to greater expenditure on pre-Service cadet training, it should be made more relevant to military experience later, and pre-Service training should be taken more adequately into account in later military service. If we find also that relatively few cadets actually join the Army later—I shall be interested to hear about this—it could be argued that the expenditure of £1 million a year is more than is desirable in terms of efficient use of resources. Perhaps the money could be better allocated elsewhere.
My second point, which is connected with this, though in some respects it is more important, relates to the selection of future officer material for the Army. I have already asked how far a successful cadet career is considered in relation to future promotion. I make the further point that there are many pre-Service training units in the north of England yet very few commissioned officers in the Armed Services are being recruited from schools in the North. How far do social status and family connections still influence commission prospects in the Army?
I understand that 50 per cent. of this year's intake into Sandhurst will be drawn from public schools and 50 per cent. from grammar schools. This is a remarkable advance on earlier years, but it still does not go far enough in broadening the social background of our future Army leadership. By definition, the 50 per cent. are drawn from a very narrow section of society educationally, and I understand that, within the 50 per cent., there is a rather narrower base of schools from which Sandhurst cadets have been drawn in the past.
As to family background, I cannot recollect the number of times during the first three months that I spent in the Army when I was asked by personnel selection officers, commanding officers and selection boards whether my father or grandfathers had a military career. I know that there is an argument that military leadership runs in families, but it seems to me that in this modern age a boy may have an instinct and talent for a military career completely divorced from any military background in his family.
From what I have heard and discussed with friends in the Army and the Territorial Army, I think that the regional accent and speech of a young man in his teens is still taken too much into consideration when his leadership potential is being considered. I have always believed that it matters more what one says than how one says it. If I speak with some feeling on this, I would only say that during the war a very substantial number of commissions were given to young men drawn from northern schools who had regional accents and working class backgrounds, who had not been to public schools or had fathers and grandfathers with a military tradition, and they proved to be first-class officer material.
I believe that a survey was done on a selective basis towards the end of the Second World War as to achievement in terms of experience and quality of officers given commissions during wartime, and it was discovered that high quality leadership was found just as frequently in the products of northern grammar schools as it was in products of the traditional source of recruitment—the public schools. Yet I have an impression that after the war there was a tendency to swing back to the pre-war tradition of recruitment, and although perhaps in the last ten years the wheel has started to turn back towards recruitment from grammar schools, and particularly grammar schools in the North of England, it still has not come far enough.
I would impress on my right hon. and hon. Friends the fact that there is a great deal of talent for leadership socially, industrially, commercially, politically and militarily in the north of England, and yet few are being selected for Army commission training. Bearing in mind the very long traditions that there are in the North of England and the technological skill at a time when our Army has become very technologically based, such prejudice as I have seen in the Army must cease if the Army is to be made more efficient.
I understand that the argument has been used by the Army authorities themselves that relatively few boys from schools in the North of England apply for interviews for commissions in the Regular Army. But this is not surprising if their elder brothers and relatives have found by experience that in the past there has been some kind of bias against boys with a background perhaps of the North of England grammar school and a working-class origin. Although I do not want to labour the point, I stress that there is still too much snobbery in the Armed Services. Some of it smacks of nepotism, although whether one's father or grandfathers had field rank in the Armed Forces is completely irrelevant to the future leadership of a modern technological Army.
There is still too much petty snobbery in the British way of life generally and in the Army in particular, not only in terms of the school, but in terms of manner of speech and accent. There needs to be a more fundamental shift towards recruiting boys from schools which are not public schools with a military tradition, and I believe that when this is done we may have an Army more fitted to meet the demands of the second half of the twentieth century.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) has made a most interesting and thoughtful speech, but I think he is a little too sensitive about officer recruitment. When the members of a selection board ask whether a candidate's father or grandfather has had any Army connections, such questions, in my long experience, are asked in a friendly way from the point of view of general interest, for the Army and the Territorial Army are comparatively small bodies and there is a great deal of common acquaintance.
I would instance my own case and the case of friends of mine. I myself had no Army connections. and I was never at public school, but I was accepted willingly and was welcomed into the Territorial Army as a commissioned officer. I served throughout the war and continued in the Territorial Army after the war, finishing by commanding a battalion. I never at any time felt any disadvantage through having had no previous Army connections. I was treated throughout by all my acquaintances, both in the Regular Army and the Territorial Army, with the greatest of friendship and encouragement. It is right that I should say that.
In my own regiment, the officer commanding regimental headquarters at the moment has a Regular commission. He is a lieutenant-colonel and to the best of my knowledge and belief, has no traditional Army connection. He was never at a public school. He has, however, risen to command a regimental headquarters.
One of the Territorial Army battalions of my regiment is commanded by a Regular officer who has had no public school background and, to my belief and knowledge, no Army background either. I think that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East has been unfortunate. A great deal of trouble is being taken, and I am sure that there is the widest recruitment of officers.
The examples that the hon. Gentleman has just given suggest to me the validity of my point that there is first-class officer material from outside the public schools, and that the fact that half the intake into Sandhurst comes from a narrow base of schools indicates that there is something radically wrong with the present situation.
Of course there is first-class officer material outside the public schools. That is obvious. It may well be that the public schools have more of a tradition in sending boys to Sandhurst, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that this matter has been given a great deal of thought and that, in my experience, which has been wide and over a long period, non-public schoolboys without Army background are warmly welcomed as officer material, provided they show the proper qualities.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the Army Cadet Force. Having had a long experience, from my own schooldays, of working with the force, I have acquired a tremendous respect and admiration for the Army cadets and those who lead it. We should record our appreciation of the very great work done by the pre-Service units. I hope, as does the hon. Gentleman, that both the Regular Army and the Territorial Army will pay homage to the pre-Service units and make the best possible use of them. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), who is now serving in the battalion which I had the honour to command, will agree with me that in certain units of the Territorial Army ex-Army cadets are extremely useful n.c.o. and officer material.
I was very interested in what was said by the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow). The training areas in this country are concentrated in the south. This is a matter which I have raised in previous Army debates with one Secretary of State after another. As the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth said, there are excellent facilities in Scotland, not only excellent training areas, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) knows, excellent barracks. I know that a great deal of study of these facilities has been made, and I hope that the Minister—I am sorry that he is not in his place—will make sure that some training areas are found in Scotland, because the south of England is overfull and over-prosperous and we in Scotland are not. I am very disappointed that there is not a Minister from the Scottish Office now on the Government Front Bench to hear what I have to say.
My hon. Friend will admit that that was jolly good training. I am extremely glad to see that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), who is the Under-Secretary for Defence for the Royal Air Force, is present, for I have no doubt that he will make certain that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is told what I have said and pays attention to his responsibilities for the Services as well as civilian affairs in Scotland.
I am extremely sorry that the Minister is not here, because I intend to say some very hard things about him. I have no doubt that he is associated with the Statement on the Defence Estimates which, when I started reading it, I took to be Socialist Party propaganda. It still looks very much like it to me. It is an extraordinary document. It is extremely critical of the Army. I had expected the right hon. Gentleman to amplify his criticisms in his speech and also to give credit where credit was due to my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate. Instead of that, the right hon. Gentleman pointed out that there had been an increase in the strength of the Army over the last two years from 172,000 to 177,000. I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman intends to take credit for that when it is entirely due to the splendid work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft). The right hon. Gentleman expressed the pious hope that in the current year the Army strength would rise to the target figure of 181,000. I wish him every success, but he ought to give credit where it is due to those who went before him.
He spoke at considerable length about the new equipment, the new tanks, the hovercraft, the multi-fuel engines, the Vigilants and the transistor wirelesses which are coming into the Army. He seemed to be taking credit for those although much of the credit must go to my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate who laid the foundations on which the right hon. Gentleman is now building. I wish the right hon. Gentle- man every success, because every hon. Member would wish to see the Army and everything connected with it prospering. The right hon. Gentleman has a very worthy Army background, and I hope that he will be able to continue the good work and to get a strong Army of the kind we need.
I turn now to the auxiliary forces, because even an Army of 181,000 is useless unless it is backed by good auxiliary forces. I have made various speeches and suggestions about this. I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate listened to me—at least to a certain extent.
One point which I have made repeatedly in these debates is that Territorial Army training should take place overseas. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) said, a lot of young men in the Territorial Army have had no military experience. They have never heard a shot fired in anger. The best possible training for them is to send them to live and work with the Regular Army so that they may find out what life is about. I was delighted to read that 7,000 members of the Territorial Army have been sent to the British Army of the Rhine for their annual training. The Minister will at any rate give my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate credit for that.
I was pausing to digest what the hon. Member said about sending Territorials overseas because they have not heard a shot fired in anger. Is he suggesting that Territorials should be sent to, for example, Malaysia, Borneo and theatres where operations are in progress?
I do not see why not. After all, we have 6,000 "Ever-Readies" who are being paid £150 a year to make themselves immediately available. I do not see why these chaps should not be sent to Malaysia, or any other trouble spot, to get practical experience in the work for which they are being paid and for which they volunteered.
I believe that many more Territorials should be sent to Germany. Seven thousand out of 100,000 is not nearly enough. I hope that this change of policy will continue and snowball.
I can speak from my own experience about the value of this, because I have had the privilege of serving with a Territorial Army unit in Germany with the Regular Army. I learned far more then than I did in camp after camp in this country.
We read in the White Paper—I am glad to see this—about what is being done in re-equipping the Territorial Army with modern weapons. I hope that the Minister will hurry that up, because it is most disappointing and frustrating to members of the Territorial Army if they are working with weapons which they know to be obsolete. I underline what has been said about combat dress. These young boys know that the battledress, which is and always has been a horrible dress, is not what the Regular soldier is working in. We should make a further effort to equip the Territorial Army properly and to imbue its members with a sense of realism.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr made a very strong plea for encouraging the Territorial Army, but I think that he was far too mild. I will go further and say that, notwithstanding what the White Paper says, volunteer recruiting is declining. There has been a very small decline, but decline there has been. Unless something drastic is done, unless the Territorial Army is given a lead and a direction about its rôle, the Territorial Army as we know it will die.
I have gone to some trouble to find out what is the rôle of the Territorial Army. First, I turned to the orthodox and proper place, the Defence Estimates. On page 111 we find that the rôle of the Territorial Army is the same as it has been for years—
to provide units and individual reinforcements on the outbreak of war for the Regular Army overseas".
and so on. I wanted to know whether there was anything more than that in it, and so I turned up the Defence White Paper.
I hope that I may be forgiven for referring to the White Paper, but this is a very relevant point. Paragraph 131 says:
There has been an increase in the number of men volunteering for the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve.
That is not the Territorial Army itself.
The rôle of the force will be reconsidered as part of the Home Defence Review mentioned in Part III.
I then turn to Part III to find out what the new rôle for the Territorial Army is, and I find that the "Home Defence Review" referred to in paragraph 131 is not mentioned in Part III. That is extraordinary. Obviously, the White Paper was prepared by the previous Government, and it has been ineffectively and inefficiently revised by the present Government, who have not even made the consequential corrections. This new rôle has evidently not been thought out. It has been struck out altogether. Presumably, the Government have been far too busy bringing their propaganda material into this document to be bothered about expressing the rôle of the Territorial Army. The Minister of Defence for the Army mentioned something about a review of the Territorial Army. He said that he would have a good look at it. I hope that he not only has a good look at it, but will tell this Committee the result of his review and that we will get a sensible rôle for the Territorial Army from him in the very near future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr spoke about the necessity for more training days and modestly asked for four. In my opinion, that is altogether inadequate. We have a completely new set of circumstances in the Territorial Army. I can speak about this from experience, because I am of the same Territorial Army generation as the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth, who evidently remembers the Territorial Army before the war. I suppose that he was very much the same as I was, and that was very "green".
I joined the T.A. in 1934. I served with it for five years. I knew just about as little about warfare at the end of five years as I did at the beginning, because we had no modern weapons, no Bren guns. We had red flags, as the hon. Member said. We went out on tewts and we learnt precious little.
It may have been a Tory Government, but it was a very long time ago. I am simply speaking from experience.
We now have exactly the same set of circumstances as we had in the days before the war. We have a lot of young men who are willing to serve. They are looking for adventure and for an outlet for their abilities. They have never taken part in a war. They do not want to go along every Tuesday and Thursday night to drink beer. They want to learn and to train at soldiering. That is why they are there. I hope that when the Minister of Defence for the Army looks into all this, he will think out this new situation and try to provide for these young men realistic training, realistic uniforms—because uniform is important—and realistic weapons, and teach them the things for which they joined the Territorial Army.
The right hon. Gentleman has a tremendous opportunity in these new circumstances, because nowadays we have a young generation and it is as good a young generation as ever there was. Somehow, however, it seems to be going astray. We have an awful lot of juvenile delinquency, and I believe that a lot of these people are juvenile delinquents largely because there is no leadership for them. National Service has gone. There is little organisation, and any man, whether the Minister of Defence for the Army or a lance corporal, who can lead these boys and give them adventure and get rid of their energy and lead them along sensible lines will do a great service for the country. I hope that the Minister of Defence and his other Ministerial colleagues will think seriously about this and discuss it with the Ministers in charge of home affairs and see what can be done with this opportunity to get hold of these boys and bring them into some sort of useful service for the nation.
Young people are remarkable people. There are all these mods and rockers whom we have heard about wearing uniforms of their own devising; it may be black leather. There is no reason why the Territorial Army should not offer them a smart uniform in exactly the same way as the Regular Army does. If they want to ride about on motor cycles, who better to give them motor cycles than the Territorial Army? It has always been done. If they want to ride a tank, let them ride a tank. If they want to fire a gun, let them fire one. Give them scope for their sense of adventure, get rid of their energy and direct their activities into proper channels for the good of the nation.
There is a good opportunity here. When the Minister of Defence for the Army takes a new look at the Territorial Army, he should seize this opportunity and remould the Territorial Army. It has first-class leaders and a first-class tradition. If we can get these boys in and give them the sort of life they want and satisfy their sense of adventure, we can do a great deal, not only for the Army, but also for the country.
I had not intended to take part in this debate, Army Estimates not being in the field of my activities, but one or two things said in the debate, especially perhaps from the eagle from the North, have induced me to participate. I rather fear that the victory of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) last Friday has gone to his head a little, for he made some of the most extraordinary statements made in Parliament for many years. One was so unbelievable that my hon. Friend had to inquire whether it was meant or not and got the answer that it was in fact intended. The argument was in connection with the Territorials, backing the speech of the hon. and "gallant" Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger). I am sorry he did not refer to the hon. and "very gallant" Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes).
Up to that point the hon. Member dealt with the Territorials, but then he advocated their being used abroad at the present time in places where action is taking place. He regretted that they had not gone, and that in their training they had never heard a shot fired in anger. That was the phrase used. Therefore, the argument went, they did not learn the facts of life, and he suggested that they should be used abroad, notably in Malaysia. The hon. Member instanced Malaysia and defended the proposal in that connection.
Following upon that, he came to juvenile delinquency and suggested using the Territorials in order to deal with the problem of juvenile delinquency. In other words, we who are so worried about the problem of juvenile delinquency should recruit the young people using violence in the streets and give them a real job of violence to do in places abroad. Is that really what the hon. Member intended? What a message for our Army units.
And could one have thought that the main aim of the Army Estimates? I would have thought that in this year of grace 1965 the main task imposed upon our Ministry of Defence and our Government, as, indeed, it is imposed on every Government, is to work defence systems off the face of the earth before they themselves work us off the face of the earth. Then we heard the interesting background facts of Regular officers who drive their troops off the main roads in Scotland—and I admit that some of Our main roads in Scotland are only 9 ft. broad, so it is not surprising if they get bogged down—and it takes them four days to get their troops back. It is no wonder we see our Defence Estimates up by about £135 million this year.
Apart from the gross nature of the argument expounded by hon. Members opposite, the fact is that, of all the main nations of the world, we are the one nation whose defence estimates are going up. The French, for instance, are down somewhere to round about the figure they were in 1926. That was the time when we were running a general strike. Perhaps that was when the hon. Gentleman was running around with red flags, in 1926. But that is the figure to which the French estimates are now down. Why? Because the French have a better method of running overseas commitments, and that is to give up overseas commitments, as they did in Algeria. They had a war in Algeria, but then they came to a peaceful agreement with Algeria and so the defence expenditure in Algeria has been cut down.
I have been looking at the list of the places in which our defence expenditure is being spent: the Republic of Ireland—why, in heaven's name?—Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Aden, Kenya, Tanganyika, the Sauth Arabian Federation, Bahrein, Mauritius, British Guiana, Brunei, Borneo, Malaysia, of course, the United States, Hong Kong. It is beginning to sound like the Queen's Victoria Rifles. The problem is how to get rid of this nineteenth-century concept of carrying on our affairs.
We have been told that the reason why we are facing this expenditure is only to maintain positions where we have the support of the local population, but when we question the need for troops in some of these places, for example in British Guiana, we are told it is because the local population do not want us, that we need to be there because a peaceful solution cannot be found in the area, and this is the only reason for their presence.
Another curious factor which arises when we examine the Defence Estimates is that there are only 800 Commonwealth troops in Britain. I suggest that one of our aims should be to restore the proportion, to see whether instead we can have only 800 British troops in these overseas bases. Our aim should be a solution in these terms rather than finding ourselves in the fantastic position of advocating a solution for juvenile delinquency by recruiting them into the Territorial Army and letting them learn the facts of life and hear shots fired in anger by sending them abroad to various theatres where they are not wanted and where they would show their skill by learning some of the habits which we deplore when they use them on our streets.
I respectfully suggest that the task facing us is to make sure that defence policy is subordinated to foreign policy, and to make sure that our foreign policy—
Order. I have let the hon. Member continue for some time. This is not an occasion for a debate on foreign policy. I have allowed the hon. Member to make incidental references to it, but he must come back to the Army Estimates.
As the difficulty is how to discuss Defence Estimates without their context of foreign policy, I end my speech on that point. I hope that by this time next year expenditure will be down, and especially expenditure on overseas bases.
I thought that the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) was a little hard on my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry). He chastised him for suggesting that those who serve in the Territorial Army might with advantage serve overseas provided that they have sufficient training qualifications. If my recollection is correct—and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong; perhaps I might have his attention—certain Territorials serve in Aden.
I support that, and that is what my hon. Friend was suggesting. During the latter days of 1945 to 1951, when the Labour Government were in power, and certainly in the early days when we were on the benches opposite, National Service men, provided they had the requisite training and experience, served with great gallantry and distinction in Korea. I have always understood that when there is activity, whether in Aden, or Korea, or Malaysia, recruiting figures for the Army and for the Territorial Army, provided the latter are allowed to train and serve in those areas, go up. This is an understandable element in the youth of the country, and a very good thing, too.
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that what the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) advocated was that these youngsters should learn something of the facts of life and hear shots fired in anger by serving abroad, for example, in Malaysia?
If men in the T.A. do their training in Aden, or Malaysia, or elsewhere, presumably they might hear a shot fired in anger. This is what the right hon. Gentleman is proposing, and I do not see anything wrong in that.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) raised the old question of why more entrants to Sandhurst did not come from the grammar schools, and why 50 per cent., or whatever figure it was, came from the public schools. In a sense he answered his own question. I do not know the statistics offhand—no doubt the Minister of State for the Army will tell us—but I suspect that the answer is that until more candidates come forward from the grammar schools we cannot improve the present figures. We cannot admit candidates who have not offered themselves for the examination. That is the plain fact of the situation.
The hon. Member went on to allege that when a young man who wanted to go into the Army was asked whether his father had been in the Army there was something sinister or snobbish about it. He is completely misunderstanding the position. Young men may want to go into all sorts of different careers—the Civil Service, engineering, the Army, the Navy or the Air Force. It does not seem to me to be very odd that when they are interviewed their interviewer asks why they want to be civil servants, or to go into business, or into the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, or whether their fathers had been in the Army, Navy or the Air Force. If one's father has been in a certain profession it seems a good reason for one to follow in his career.
During my brief professional career outside the House I have applied for many teaching posts, but I have never been asked in any of my interviews whether or not my father was a teacher, and especially whether he was a head teacher. There are not many professions in which a man is subjected to an interrogation about his family background, but in the Army he is. I suggested hat this was an irrelevant question, and that it was asked too frequently.
Perhaps the hon. Member did not create such a favourable impression upon those who interviewed him, and they thought that it might be embarrassing to ask him whether or not his father had been a head teacher. I do not know.
Many of us who have been here for some time recollect defence debates and debates on the Army Estimates over many years, and remember the gibes that were made at Tory Ministers by hon. Members opposite, who were then sitting on this side of the Committee. Now the rôles are reversed and it is they and not we who are responsible for the defence forces. I listened to the whole of the defence debate the other day, and I have listened to most of today's debate. I also listened to many speeches made during the last election campaign and I have read the Labour Party's election manifesto.
The impression that I have derived from the speeches made today and in the defence debate by hon. Members opposite is not altogether dissimilar from that of a man who watches a race through binoculars from the grandstand and who notices that when the horses come past the grandstand the second time round they are in a rather different order, and are sometimes being ridden by different jockeys from those who were riding the horses past the grandstand the first time round. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman appreciates the joke.
It is funny. Some jockeys seem to have received different instructions on the far side of the course.
It would be out of order were I, except in passing to mention anything about the Atlantic nuclear force except in so far as it refers to British artillery units. That horse was running strongly at the time of the election. It was then a heavily backed horse, but not, so it seems, now.
I thought, Dr. King, that you would properly call me to order.
In years past there was a strong feeling that the military bases east of Suez ought to be cut down. Today, we heard from the hon. Member for Renfrew, West that Aden, Singapore, Bahrein—all those should be eliminated. Even last autumn the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy was rather keen on the idea. But the White Paper on Defence and the Army Estimates indicate, and we on this side of the Committee are glad to see it, that all that stuff is now out—that horse has fallen. There is a powerful paragraph on the need to maintain Singapore and Aden, for very sensible reasons. The Minister knows very well that, when he and his colleagues have rightly underwritten a guarantee to Malaysia, Singapore must be used—
Order. I have allowed the hon. Member to make a passing reference to defence policy in general, but he must now pass from that subject. This debate is on the Army Estimates and not the whole of defence.
None the less, within the Army Estimates there is provision for the troops in Singapore. Their pay comes within the Estimates which we are discussing. There is provision for the troops, their equipment and pay in Aden and Bahrein. I submit with respect, Dr. King, that military establishments at Singapore, Aden, Bahrein and anywhere else in the Persian Gulf come within the terms of the Army Estimates.
I must make the position clear to the hon. Gentleman, I thought that he was present at the beginning of the debate. I have allowed him to make a passing reference to the question he has mentioned. But the matter of Singapore and the rest is one of defence policy partly, and foreign policy, partly, and this he must raise in some other debate.
The hon. Gentleman must not misunderstand me. I have not prevented him from referring to the troops in Singapore and I have allowed him to make passing reference to the great issues of defence policy and foreign policy which have been raised in recent debates.
I accept your Ruling, Dr. King. I did not make myself clear. I was referring, in passing, to the military establishment and to the troops in the Estimates for Singapore, Aden and Bahrein so far as they are covered by Vote A. The troops are paid at certain rates and allowances which we are entitled to debate.
All I am saying is that we had a speech from the hon. Member for Renfrew, West, who thought there were too many commitments in a military sense east of Suez. I was only saying that this was a very popular line a little time ago, and I was delighted to find that, now that hon. Gentlemen opposite are in a position of responsibility, that line has been dropped. As I put it, the horse is not running very well. The troops, who are paid for under Vote A, are still, happily, in Singapore, in Aden, in Bahrein and in other bases east of Suez.
I was going on to mention, when you called me to order, Dr. King, that if the Government under-wrote a defence requirement for Malaysia in terms of troops, which they have done, they would have to hang on to Singapore as a base for those troops. That, in turn, would mean hanging on to the base at Aden as a staging post for troops, which the Government have—in my view, rightly—also done.
I must ask the hon. Gentleman to pass from this now and get back to the Army Estimates. He referred to a previous speech by another hon. Member. I cut him off in the same way as I am cutting off the hon. Gentleman now.
Further to that point of order. May I remind you, Dr. King, of the Statement on Defence, two years ago, when we had three separate statements on the three Services? Last year, we had a very brief statement on defence and then the three Services came out in a separate, combined statement. This year, we have had all under one cover. Surely the principle should still be—
Order. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was in at the beginning of this debate, when exactly the same point was raised. It has no significance whatever.
The next horse which I want to mention is B.A.O.R. I take it that, since the theoretical commitment is 55,000 troops, I would be in order in mentioning the 55,000 troops in B.A.O.R.
Again, not so very long ago, in previous debates on Army Estimates, the then Government were under fire from hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were sitting here, on the ground that the B.A.O.R. commitment was under strength. The repeated criticism was that it was not up to 55,000. Now I have the feeling, from what the right hon. Gentleman said and what was said in the defence debate and in answer to Questions to the Army Department that perhaps it is not the 55,000 commitment to B.A.O.R. which is the top priority. If there were further requirements for troops east of Suez, it might be conceivable that those troops should be drawn from the troops now serving in B.A.O.R.—but I may be wrong.
The last point which I wanted to mention to the right hon. Gentleman was based on his statement earlier that his principal problems—which we well understand were in relation to the reserves of manpower and equipment. In relation to manpower and equipment, on the one hand, and commitments, on the other, I want to ask him or his hon. Friend to clear up a point which I did not quite understand, and which he referred to in winding up the defence debate: namely, the supply of logistic support in terms of sappers, of signallers and of Army transport to a hypothetical United Nations peace-keeping force.
When this statement was made originally by his right hon. Friend, I think that some people got the impression, quite wrongly, that the Government were offering six infantry battalions. That misunderstanding, which was, I think, due to loose phraseology, has been cleared up and we are all quite clear now that the offer is not six British infantry battalions but the logistic support of six of somebody's else's battalions not yet committed, not yet in—
I think that the hon. Gentleman might be fair. The main reason why my right hon. Friend confined the offer to logistic support is that, in practice, this is what the United Nations tends to want. It is not usual, in the kind of situation which might arise, that the Western Powers would be invited to contribute fighting troops. That is the reason why we have made this offer of logistic support, in order to enable other people's forces, which are wanted in the context, to get there, equipped, quickly and efficiently.
I was not criticising the right hon. Gentleman for not offering six infantry battalions. But the original statement was worded so that some people got the impression that that is what it meant—six infantry battalions of British origin plus logistic support. That was a misunderstanding which could easily arise, and it has been cleared up. We are dealing not with six infantry battalions earmarked, as the phrase goes, for a hypothetical United Nations peacekeeping force but with the logistic support for a force of six infantry battalions from someone else.
This offer is hedged around with all sorts of qualifications—if the national commitment makes it possible, if we are approached, and so on. We asked about the cost and in the defence debate on 3rd March the right hon. Gentleman said:
Quite simply, the troops and the aircraft"—
that is outside the terms of this debate—
are already there and, therefore, no additional cost is incurred until the moment comes when these resources are called upon by the United Nations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1965; Vol. 707, c. 1447.]
This is a somewhat strange argument. I think that I see the point. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman had a taxi waiting in New Palace Yard to take him to Paddington. He is saying that it might as well take me to Waterloo at no extra cost because it is there anyway. But the fact of the matter is that the logistics—the equipment, the sappers and the signallers, for example—who are earmarked, as the phrase goes, for this hypothetical force are not doing nothing now. They are doing something. They are employed somewhere, at home or overseas, and they are within Vote A
because they come under the Estimates. If a moment arrived when these troops were called for in logistic support for the peace-keeping force, they would be taken away from wherever they are now and transferred to a future United Nations peace-keeping force, wherever that might be. Therefore, there would be a vacuum in the sense that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence for the Army would be minus, in terms of British commitments, the logistics required for six infantry battalions.
I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would ask his colleagues not to use the phrase "earmarked". He did not do so, but some of his colleagues have done so. In military terminology the phrase "earmarked" has no significance whatever unless it relates to some sort of contingency planning, and there cannot be contingency planning for a hypothetical United Nations peace-keeping operation which might happen anywhere between the Arctic Circle and the Equator and between the Equator and the Antarctic. We cannot have a contingency plan for that kind of thing.
Has any thinking been done about this? I am not against the idea. I am merely asking the question. Are the rates of pay worked out? Will they be British rates according to a man's rank or will they be stepped up in accordance with some as yet unknown United Nations scale of pay? Will the troops required for logistic support, such as the sappers and signallers, wear British uniforms with blue berets or British berets with blue uniforms? Has anything been worked out? Either the offer is so hypothetical as to be meaningless, or else it is a serious offer and an additional commitment which, on the right hon. Gentleman's own statement this afternoon and his right hon. Friend's statement in the defence debate cannot be undertaken. Either it is hypothetical or it is genuine that means an extra commitment—and either way, this horse does not pass the saliva test.
The hon. Gentleman is confused in the matter of cost. The question put to me last week at greater length is the question which the hon. Gentleman is asking me; can we give the precise cost of this commitment? The hon. Gentleman should get his mind off taxis and think in terms of private cars and adopt a more rational example. Considering the cost of maintaining a private car, whether it is running to Waterloo or Paddington, or standing in New Palace Yard, the depreciation, tax and insurance is the same for whatever the journey. It would be absurd for me to ask him what it costs to run his car because he would ask me to tell him how far is the journey involved so that he could then tell me the cost, having added the cost of the petrol to the other overheads. Thus, if he will tell me the destination of the force, we can consider the precise force and the additional sums involved.
That is exactly the answer I hoped to get from the right hon. Gentleman, because the destination is completely hypothetical. Nobody knows where it might be, or if it might arise. One cannot, therefore, earmark the logistic support for six hypothetical infantry battalions on an hypothetical operation and pretend that the offer is genuine. One cannot have it both ways.
I have great sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman. He is carrying out a very difficult rôle with considerable skill. On the one hand, he must go through the motions of pretending to certain of his hon. Friends behind him that not all the old shibboleth has been thrown aside. On the other, he is determined, like any Minister of the Crown must be, to fulfil his responsibilities for the Army and the commitments which the British Army must fulfil for the sake of world peace; and he is doing it very well.
I intervene in the debate to make a few general observations on the speeches we have heard from the benches opposite. Those speeches—at least, those which I have heard—have seemed to be trying to prove that the present Government have already departed from what was stated in the Labour Party's manifesto on defence at the General Election.
We have had a singularly inept display from a number of hon. Members opposite, who have attempted to prove this, but the best that they have been able to do is to conduct an exercise in semantics. They have contrasted the exuberance of the language of the manifesto with the language used in the Statement on Defence. They have not been able to demonstrate any significant departures from our manifesto on the issues we are debating.
A succession of Conservative Governments extracted from the British taxpayer about £20,000 million for expenditure on defence. Not one hon. Member, on either side of the Committee, would have the temerity to claim that the money has been well spent. The whole history of defence during the past 14 years has been one of muddle, waste and ill-conceived, half-baked schemes which have not been carried out. There is not a serious hon. Member who can be satisfied with the way our defence expenditure has been handled during those years.
It must be remembered that the present Government have been in office for only four months. It is their task to reconcile our election pledges with their accession to power, but they have only been in office for a very short time—
Order. As before, with others, I have let the hon. Gentleman go on for some time, but he must now link what he has to say with the Army Estimates.
Then I will deal with two points made by the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe). He first referred to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) about entrance to Sandhurst, and asked how what one might call the grammar school content of Sandhurst entrants could be higher if grammar school boys did not offer themselves. That is a valid question. I quite understand that there are those in families with a military tradition and background who want to go to Sandhurst and make a career in the Army. On the other hand, for a very large number of boys in my constituency who go to grammar schools—there have been boys in my own family—the very last thing they want to do is to enter Sandhurst and the Army. There is no tradition there.
I am not at all surprised that a large number of grammar school boys do not offer themselves for entry into Sandhurst. I therefore accept that opportunities for commissions in the Army are much more plentiful nowadays, whatever may be the social background, than was the case 20 years ago. My own experience during the war was that people, when interviewing one with the possibility of becoming an officer cadet, used to ask such absurd questions as, "Do you play Rugger or Soccer?" One had a very strong suspicion that if one said "Soccer" one was out, and that if one said "Rugger" one was in. Those were some of the social attitudes present in the early part of the war; later, of course, we had the selection hoards, and things were handled very much more sensibly.
The hon. Member for Windsor also saw a difference between the views of my right hon. Friends and those expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan), but I do not think that the difference is as great as he seeks to make out. As I have already said, the Government have been in office for only four months. It has already been ruled that it is improper to introduce foreign policy issues into this debate, but I think I can say that I have no doubt at all that when the Government have had an opportunity of looking at our commitments the picture may be very different to what it is today. I can tell my right hon. Friends that if the picture is not very different they will have a much rougher ride over the Estimates next year than they are getting now from this side of the Chamber.
The Government must first have an opportunity to look at the whole situation. The present criticisms come from hon. Members opposite who have been sitting there for 13 years while their party has been in office, and they must give the present Government an opportunity to look at their inheritance, part of which appears in the White Paper. I do not believe for a moment that there is this gulf that the hon. Member for Windsor alleges exists between the Government Front Bench and my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West urges the Government to get on with it and to carry out the review as quickly as possible, and when my right hon. Friends have had a reasonable opportunity we shall have to see what the outcome of the review is.
I can only speak for myself.
My right hon. and hon. Friends in the Government must look at the whole picture from the point of view of their responsibilities as a Government, with the knowledge that they have in their exclusive possession, which I do not have, in determining these things.
As an uninstructed back-bencher, I am denied the information which they have, but I would have said, for example, that the sooner we got out of Aden the better. As I see it, Aden is a base surrounded by hostile, indigenous peoples, and, in the long run, as we all know from our lamentable experience in Cyprus, one cannot hold military bases nowadays except with the good will of the local population.
I have responded to the hon. Gentleman's invitation and given that as my personal view, but the Government have to make up their mind on these matters, as they will, and then hon. Members on this side will look at their plans. There is no real rift at the moment.
I shall illustrate what I expect from the Government in their handling of defence matters and these Estimates by telling a story. I was thinking of it when the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), who said that he was a professional soldier, was addressing the Committee. When I was first elected to the House, at the end of the war, I was on temporary release from the Army, and, on election, I had to go back to my regimental depot and let people know that I should not be rejoining it because I was going to the House of Commons. The adjutant, who was a Regular soldier, said to me, "So you are a Member of Parliament off to the House of Commons. I suppose you think that a Labour Government will do away with the Army". I thought that such a remarkable state of affairs was unlikely to come about within the next five years.
I do not expect my right hon. Friends to do away with the Army in the next five years. Of course not. But unless they make substantial inroads into the expenditure as outlined in the Army Estimates and the other Service Estimates, it will be quite impossible for them to reconcile what they are doing with their social promises to the electorate. Not only will hon. Members like the hon. Member for Windsor and the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead be joining in criticism of the Government, but, in another 12 months, my hon. Friends will be looking at them far more critically than they are now.
My right hon. Friend the Deputy Secretary of State and Minister of Defence for the Army is a Yorkshire Member, and I just remind him of this. I am sure that he has read Winifred Holtby's novel, "South Riding", and will recall the story of the Socialist alderman who, looking back on a slightly disappointing life in the Socialist movement, said somewhat wrily and sadly, "I started out by demanding world revolution, and I have ended up by being satisfied with a new sewerage scheme".
I do not want my right hon. Friend, after the next 12 months, to look back unhappily at his tenure of office. I wish him and his colleagues in the Defence Department well in the task to which they have set their hand of bringing Britain's forces into realistic relationship with our country's economic strength, with its political attitudes and with the social needs of its people.
If he does that well, as I hope and believe he will, he will have the continuing loyal and overwhelming support of all of us on this side of the Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) drew an analogy with the racecourse and wondered what had happened on the far side of the course to the horse which was carrying the colours of the Army in the overseas bases. What I think has happened is that it has been caught by some of the unemployed jockeys out of sight of the stands and is now being trained under the Left-wing colours to have a run next year.
I wonder whether the argument about the social class from which officers are Chosen would not be very largely solved if hon. Members who have not been able to do so could take time to go to the officer choosing ground—it used to be called the W.O.S.B., and no doubt still is—in Wiltshire, where young men are being put through tests to judge their capacity for leadership and intelligence. I believe that those who are conducting the tests have not the least idea where any of the candidates come from, and one could not imagine that their background and social class have anything to do with it. Indeed, the methods employed there could advantageously be used in many civilian occupations. I am sure that many hon. Members would like to see it if they had time.
I wish to mention a problem which has often been put before the House and the Committee—that of Service pensioners. I do not need to detail to the Committee the very many hardships suffered by these pensioners. In particular, I do not need to remind the Committee that those who suffer particularly in this way are the oldest and especially the widows of Service people whose pension was fixed a long time ago and has been very largely overtaken by the rise in the cost of living. I know that some improvements have taken place, but I do not think that any hon. Member is very satisfied with the situation today, and I very much hope that attention will be given to it.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) said, it can be seen from the Vote that in real terms the amount of money devoted to Service pensions has fallen since last year, which is a very sad disappointment to many. The pensions have risen in terms of figures, but, unfortunately, the rise in the cost of living has overtaken the small increase. This will be a great disappointment because, speaking from the Dispatch Box in the debate last year, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) indicated that parity of pensions between those retiring a long time ago and those retiring now was the policy of the Labour Party. It comes, therefore, as a particular shock that nothing is to be done about this. As the hon. and learned Gentleman very honestly and forthrightly said, one does not really get rid of a commitment like that by dropping the spokesman who made it.
I recognise that at this time full parity overnight is not really a runner. If extended to other pensioners who would have to be included, it would cost a very large sum of money, which it would be dishonest to urge on the Government at present. But some move towards parity could be made, such as by moving to a higher scale than the ones at present enjoyed, if that is the right word—and there are very many scales—as the norm. We could, for instance, move towards the 1956 scale and put everybody on it. That would not cost very much money, but it would be a token of our determination to help the oldest people, who have the hardest time.
Then, when it could be afforded, it would be possible to move from the 1956 scale of pension to subsequent scales. Thus, it would be possible in due course—I do not say soon—to get parity. That, I believe, would be the sensible way to do it in the country's present circumstances and I ask that consideration should be given to it. However, there should be the possibility of reviewing pensions in the automatic way in which service pay is reviewed by the Grigg Committee. It seems odd that they are not. I hope that that is done.
The Territorial Army has been referred to by some hon. Members. I do not quite see the advantage which, it is rather vaguely claimed, would flow from not having to issue a Proclamation to call up members of the Territorial Army. It is suggested that to issue a Proclamation could be an unfortunate diplomatic step because it would alarm the world that we were about to take military action. I do not think that that argument is valid these days.
The argument was valid in 1914 when mobilisation plans were so enormous and clumsy that, once started, they could hardly be stopped. It is said that once the Russians mobilised they had to go to war because they did not have enough trains to take all the men home again. That is not the position today. There are flexible means of communication; we could easily reorganise the order once it had gone out. Today, with all the sources of communication at everyone's disposal, it is not to be supposed that calling up the reserves even gradually would not become known to a potential enemy.
Furthermore, it might even be a diplomatic advantage to be known to be calling up reserves. It could, indeed, be argued in certain circumstances that it might work better that way. Apart from that, I do not see that it is very important, for a large number of reserves are available without it. No fewer than 130,000 regular reserves of the Army Emergency Reserve can be called up, as can the "Ever-readies" of the Territorial Army, without Proclamation, although I realise that the Secretary of State has to make a report to Parliament if he does so. This figure of 130,000, plus the "Ever-readies" compares with the Territorial Army figure of 190,000, so we are on the way to half the total reserves being available without Proclamation already.
Has consideration been given to the effect on recruiting for the T.A. and other reserves if the Proclamation process is done away with? It is not that people are scared of being called up and sent on overseas service—if they were they would not join the T.A.—but they should know their commitments. If those commitments are uncertain, and they find that they may be called up individually in the way in which men can be called up in the A.E.R.—which is a different type of unit—many people will have to reconsider their position because, while they will gladly go if the whole unit goes, for that would imply a great crisis, they will scarcely like the prospect of being picked out one by one, with all the consequences to their lives that might entail.
The effect on recruiting should be considered very carefully before the Proclamation process is done away with. The Committee should know, in due course, if not tonight, the detailed proposals that are to take the place of a Proclamation—exactly how and when it is to be done and how many people will be involved.
The question of recruiting will also affect the Regular Army. I was glad to see in the White Paper the statement that recruiting is expected in October to reach the target which has so far been set for it. It has long been a matter of dispute as to whether the target is the right one or not. A good many hon. Members have disagreed on whether we should even get the target set. I remember the Paymaster-General—who, unfortunately, left the Chamber when I rose to speak—pledging his word that we would get not more than 130,000 recruits under the voluntary system. I also remember the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General saying that the TSR2 would never fly. In that, too, as in everything else, he has been proved wrong.
It was perfectly reasonable that while expressing satisfaction with the progress made, the Minister of Defence for the Army should warn us that we were not yet out of the wood and that continued effort and vigilance were needed. I hope that as soon as possible we shall have some details about what new efforts and vigilance we have to have. There are obviously some detailed improvements which could be made. For instance, I believe that the recruiting areas for some infantry brigades are not very well divided. In some areas brigades are trying to get too many men, areas which do not have a particularly military tradition, or where, because of an historical accident, too many brigades are recruiting, while in other parts of the country, especially the Highlands, they could easily recruit more if allowed to do so. Something on these lines could easily be done, but I hope that, having raised the matter and said that he would do something about it, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell the Committee, tonight or very soon, precisely what steps, other than selective service and conscription, he has to put before us in order to maintain recruitment.
Today, we have been considering vast sums of money and I suggest that there is considerably less interest than would be the case with much smaller sums because these amounts are so vast that it is difficult to criticise details. The items in the Estimates themselves cover multitudes of smaller items.
Equestrian metaphors have been much in favour today. I think that in being made responsible for these Estimates, my right hon. Friends have been made responsible for a runaway horse. The late Government did very little to restrain that horse and the Army Estimates, as part of the defence Estimates, have continued to soar. This vast expenditure is part of the crippling arms burden which the economy has to sustain. It is not productive expenditure in an economic sense. We are here concerned with the non-productive use of resources and non-productive use of labour. While the market, which some of us as Socialists criticise, provides some discipline in the form of the profit motive, over other types of expenditure, that discipline is not applied to defence expenditure. I ask my right hon. Friends to consider whether we could not have some form of discipline over the Army Estimates to restrain the tremendously wasteful use of resources which is now going on.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) spoke about the use of land. I live in the village of North Weald, in Essex, where there is situated the famous Battle of Britain aerodrome, North Weald. That fighter base is no longer of any use to the R.A.F. I understand that it is to be handed over for the use of the Army. Land is a scarce commodity in the southeast of England. In my area, land is required, perhaps, for the extension of Harlow New Town. Land a little further north is required for London's third air- port. Land is also perhaps required for an overspill estate for the housing of Londoners in the Waltham Abbey—Waltham Holy Cross Urban District Council area. Land is also required for rural housing. All these demands on this scarce commodity have been postulated for my area.
The Armed Forces, the Army in particular, appear to be completely insulated from these demands which are being made for a very scarce resource in my part of the country. Irrespective of this great shortage of land, North Weald aerodrome is, I understand, to be handed over to the Army for training purposes. I should like to know from my right hon. and hon. Friends who are in charge of these matters what criteria and comparisons are used in deciding how land which is at present under their control shall be eventually utilised.
I understand that when one branch of the Armed Forces relinquishes its claim to an area of land, the procedure is to offer it, irrespective of other considerations, to another Service Department. This has been done in the case of North Weald aerodrome. No consideration has been given to the additional burden that will be put upon existing roads and other varieties of transport services and the additional burdens on the schools and on all sorts of other services in the area.
It is high time that consideration was given to whether the forces, the Army in particular, are making the best use of the resources, in this case the land, which are put at their disposal. If an Army camp, instead of being sited in the overcrowded area in which I live, which is part of south-east England, where sited further north, in the Midlands, all sorts of opportunities of development might be provided within areas which require it, whereas, instead, it will use up a very scarce resource—land—in the south-east of England. This is merely an example of the way in which expenditure for military purposes, particularly on the Army, is insulated from considerations which apply to the use of resources in our economy as a whole.
I hope very much that, in due course, the use of land by the Army will be brought within the purview of the Lands Commission when we set it up, because I know from travelling throughout the country that there is a great deal of derelict land which was once used as Army camps and which could be more purposefully utilised today. I hope very much that my right hon. Friend will review the way in which the Army makes use of land and will endeavour to ensure that comparisons are made with the possible use of that land for other purposes.
Another form of waste to which I intend briefly to refer is the provision of stores for the Army. It appears that contracts are placed without being checked against the Army's requirements for supplies. If there were time, I could give many examples of the sort of thing which has been reported to me. I was told of an instance of a small firm which produced targets. Immediately these targets were produced, since they were surplus to requirements, they were sold off as surplus stores and the man in charge of producing them, so I am told, painted only the top one of each pile, because he knew very well they were not to be used. I understand that it was said that the only thing that stopped him from going along to the sales at which they were disposed of, at much reduced prices, and then supplying them again, was the fact that they were stamped "W.D.".
We read regularly of blankets, engineering machinery, boots, and camping equipment being sold off in great quantities. I should like my right hon. Friend to have a very close look at this matter, because it is quite clear, in my view, that contracts are being placed without any consideration of the requirements of the Army, and that certain people are making very considerable profits at the expense of the public. This is a scandal which it is high time we stopped. I hope that my right hon. Friend will check over the scrutiny which is made of these contracts to stop wasteful expenditure which we can ill afford.
After all, expenditure on the Army is part of the crippling burden of defence expenditure. I say quite frankly that I believe that, ultimately, we shall not be able to reduce expenditure on the Army to what I would consider a realistic figure unless we drastically overhaul our defence commitments, and this means our foreign policy. I know that if I went into that matter I should, quite rightly, be ruled out of order, but I personally reject the whole concept of the east of Suez policy on which much of this expenditure of the Army Estimates is based.
I think that it is completely nonsensical, and that as a result of an utterly unjustified foreign policy we are being asked to expend on the Army vast sums of money which could be much better used. If there were time I would go into that in much greater detail, but I may say that I am bitterly disappointed about the amount of money which we have eventually decided to spend on the Army—though I know that I should have been much more disappointed with the Opposition's policy had they had the opportunity to put it into force. My right hon. Friends have not yet had the opportunity to subject the Army Estimates to the drastic overhaul which they require. I hope very much that during the next year they will scrutinise very carefully the expenditure on the Army and so make it possible for us to reduce the expenditure, which, in my view, is very much too great.
I have not had the opportunity to expand on this, as I should have liked to have done, at greater length. I realise that time is running out, and as I do not wish to trespass on the time of those who are to wind up, I shall go no further at this stage. I should, however, like to say, in conclusion, that unless we subject the expenditure on the Army next year to a much more drastic scrutiny we shall be debarred from carrying out the very desirable and important social objects we on this side of the Committee hold very dear.
The right hon. Gentleman the Deputy Secretary of State for Defence and Minister of Defence for the Army said that the major task of the Army was the maintenance of the B.A.O.R. I would not dissent from that view, but I was reminded that in a recent debate on the Army Estimates the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said that in his view the B.A.O.R. was no more than a pool of reserves from which drafts could be sent to units further afield.
It was the year before that the same hon. and learned Member said that the B.A.O.R. should be increased to no fewer than 80,000 at the expense of overseas garrisons, so the wheel has come full circle, not once, but twice, and some of us wonder what the Estimates will say next year if they are presented by the same Government.
The right hon. Gentleman told us some details of the position as he saw it. I shall not deal with the points which have been so well answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart). The right hon. Gentleman referred to the shortage of helicopters, but he did not make quite clear how many further helicopters had been ordered, if any, and what they were. He said something about trying to make those already in commission more serviceable, and that, of course, is an object which we support, but in criticising the amount of equipment available, which the right hon. Gentleman has done repeatedly, one would have thought that if there was a shortage of helicopters he would have ordered some more. I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for the Army will deal with this important point when he replies to the debate.
The Committee was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he expects to reach the recruiting target this year. I think that he will agree that this is due to the recruiting machine which he inherited from my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden), and others who have been concerned in this important enterprise of building up a Regular all-volunteer Army. I suggest that the true position is that the British Army today is a more formidable force than it has ever been in peace time the century.
The right hon. Gentleman told us something of his problems. We accept that recruiting and manpower remain problems, and that some equipment is a little behind schedule. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Chieftain tank and the Abbot gun. He also spoke of reserves not always being available as quickly as he thought they might be required, and to the difficulties of proclamation; and this has been referred to by a number of hon. Members. I accept that a substantial part of our reserves cannot be brought into play until after Proclamation, and that this might be regarded as a step towards war, but the calling up of reserves can also be regarded as a hostile step, and I think that the difficulty about calling up the reserves can be exaggerated.
My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham answered many of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman, and made a number of important ones himself. He dealt with one feature which I think is sometimes overlooked by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. He pointed out that if we were to bring units or formations back to England we would not effect any great economy at all, but would tremendously increase the pressure on barracks, married quarters and training grounds now available in this country; and we have heard that these are already in short supply.
From then on the debate took an interesting and somewhat novel turn. Without exception every Government back bencher proceeded to attack the Government about the Estimates. The attack was led by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell)—who, I regret to see, is not in his place—who launched a formidable attack, couched in strong language, posing a number of questions to the Government. He asked, "Why are the Government so stretched?" "Why have battalions been allowed to fall to such a relatively low level?" and, by implication, "What are the Government doing about it?" It is not for me to answer that question. No doubt it will be answered by the hon. Gentleman who is to reply.
Then the hon. Gentleman pointed out that the 8 in. howitzer, the Corporal and the Honest John—the weapons of the B.A.O.R.—are wholly obsolescent, and asked what the Government were doing about it. Perhaps we shall also hear that answer before the evening is out. At this point someone pointed out that the hon. Member was reading his speech—which at least shows that it had been carefully planned—and the right hon. Member the Paymaster-General then felt it appropriate to rise in his place and deny that he had written it. We have some sympathy with the position of the right hon. Gentleman. We always enjoyed his personal interventions in these debates on previous occasions, and felt sorry that he was somewhat inhibited on this occasion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate made an important point when he said that the Services were entitled to have someone to whom they could look as their political head. We are talking about the Army tonight, but that applies to all the Services. He said it was desirable that Service Ministers should keep some Service responsibilities. This should appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, and I hope that in spite of some suggestions in the White Paper that situation will remain as at present.
We then came to the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) who, being on the Government side, attacked the Estimates without delay. He drew the Committee's attention to the £39 million increase in the Estimates and asked whether we should have so many troops, who took up so much money. He criticised the fact that 50,000 troops were in South-East Asia, and also the number of troops in Germany and in overseas bases generally. He took the view that Britain could not continue to afford these overseas bases. He raised some important points, which it is not for me to answer. He demanded either that the troops be brought home or that we should get more finance from our allies. Perhaps we shall hear the answers to those points later.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom) made an important point with regard to the proposed help that we may be going to offer to the United Nations. He pointed out that the United Nations troops had no headquarters staff or administrative staff. They have nothing above unit level. I think that that is correct. It means that if we are to lend them anything, headquarters and administrative staff should be high on the list of priorities.
My hon. Friend urged that we should take the Army Cadet Force further from the Territorial Army. I do not entirely agree with him about that. The hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. Will Griffiths) took the opposite view, and said that they were not sufficiently integrated. I think that that is generally right. From my personal experience, when I was deputy Commander of the 128th Infantry Brigade, and was responsible for many cadets, the Territorial Army staff of instructors helped them in the afternoons—because there was little T.A. business on weekday afternoons. It was a useful liaison.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) made a typical speech. He criticised two assumptions: first, that there was any need for the British Army to be in Germany, and, secondly, that we had a rôle east of Suez. He said that he wanted to bring home some part of the Army of the Rhine to tackle the enemies at home, and he gave the example of the train robbers. He thought that the Army of the Rhine could have prevented a number of robberies which the police were unsuccessful in preventing. I do not know whether members of the Army of the Rhine or of the police force would agree with that suggestion. I do not find it very attractive. He blamed what he described as the higher echelon of his party—I do not know how high the echelon went—for a number of factors, most of which were ultimately ruled out of order.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) spoke of the need of reserves of a high quality, and I entirely agree with him. I did not quite agree with everything he said about the Territorial Army. It has been adapted to deal with a number of different rôles. He raised an important point when he pointed out that the Territorial Army is rationed to an average of 15 to 16 training days per head in addition to the 15 days' camp.
There is no doubt that this is a drawback. It is very difficult to explain it to the recruits. My hon. Friend said that it discourages keen recruits. I hope that it will be remedied, because the cost of increasing the number of days cannot be great. At the moment, it has a bad effect by encouraging units to keep on their strength men who rarely attend and who ought not to be kept on the strength. They keep them on because the men never turn up, but their training days can be used for someone else who is keen. This state of affairs is bad and should be stopped. I support my hon. Friend on that point.
The hon. Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Dodds) said that it would take more than four training days extra to put the T.A. right, and he may be correct. I do not say that four days would be enough, but let us have as many as we can get. He said that there is great need to help the T.A. At times he referred to the Territorial Association, and he seemed to think that they needed help, too. He was particularly displeased with the method of subletting or not subletting drill halls. He spoke of the loss of good will which that might well cause.
My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) said that there was no great economy in bringing units or formations back from Germany, a proposition with which I entirely agree. I entirely agree with her, too, when she says that the Territorial Army is a very inexpensive reserve force. It is probably the best and cheapest reserve Army in Europe, some say in N.A.T.O., and I think that a small increase in the number of training days could make a very big difference to a good unit. That sums up her argument, and I entirely agree with her.
At that point the Minister of Defence for the Army struck some alarm in my breast when he leapt to his feet and said that he would have a very good look at the Territorial Army. The way in which he said it did not inspire me with confidence that it would be to the advantage of the Territorial Army, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will clear this matter up in his reply, because the Territorial Army has already suffered a good deal of intervention from above since the war, and it is in a state when if it were alarmed unnecessarily and unintentionally, it would have a very bad effect on morale.
I intervened to tell the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) that I was very much impressed with the speech of her hon. Friend the Member for Ayr who is a currently serving officer, with 15 years' service, and who asked me to have a good look at the Territorial Army. I simply gave an undertaking that I would carry out the advice which he had given me.
Will the right hon. Gentleman have a kind look at it? When he speaks of long service, I began with the Territorial Army in 1927 and last year I ceased to be honorary colonel of the same regiment with which I started training. I, too, have some experience. I remember the Territorial Army being doubled before the war, when every commanding officer put it in writing that his regiment would not be fit for fighting for three years and yet we were at war within 18 months.
The next thing that happened was when the T.A. was re-formed after the war. Within two years all the gunner regiments had been reorganised. There was another amalgamation two years ago. We have had more than sufficient of this in the past.
I think that this emphasises that one can kill the willing horse and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's look at the Territorial Army will be of a friendly and understanding nature.
That I can fully accept, but my point is that, intentionally, or unintentionally, the right hon. Gentleman has made the remark which, when reported, as it will be I am sure, will have a most unfortunate effect right through the Territorial Army. He has done nothing to correct the unfortunate impression which his first observation has left with us and I am simply saying that it will have been a great disservice to the Territorial Army, whether it has the consequences, intended or not intended, or whether it does not.
However, passing on, we had the advantage of a contribution from the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow), who, quite correctly, talked of the lack of married quarters—a subject which is not new to us—and who criticised recruiting for both Regular and Territorial arms; and who also criticised land holding by the Services, especially in Dorset, where the Army holds a substantial amount of land. Then, just over the border, there is Imber, where there has for long been friction with the local population.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) commented on the White Paper, which he tried to equate with the Government's election manifesto and with the true facts, and made criticisms which, I thought, were well justified and which were supported by hon. Members on this side. My hon. Friend asked an important question about what steps had been taken to provide new equipment since 15th October last. I certainly hope that we shall have an answer tonight to that point. The hon. Member also pointed out that, despite all the disparaging references which have been made about it, the Army has met all calls made upon it, and done so without using any of the reserves.
It is said that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Every hon. Member should realise very clearly that the Army has achieved such deeds that it is worthy of high praise; that it is a subject for pride, rather than for the blame which some people appear to attach to it, or for the criticism which it has received in the White Paper and, previously to that, in the Government's election manifesto.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) spoke of the increased expenditure on the Cadet Force and about Territorial Army facilities being available for cadets—which they should be. He also spoke of the selection of officers, and that was a matter dealt with later in the debate and to which I shall refer shortly. I might mention that at Mons Officers' School half of the cadets are from the other ranks, and I think that that fact does go some way towards answering the point. Another point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry), who spoke of training areas being too often in the south of Britain. He said there were not enough in Scotland, but that he would be the first to accept that there are difficulties about having them in Scotland. Some of these have been mentioned during the debate.
My hon. Friend made another important point when he said that credit for the satisfactory state of the Army was due to the former Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth and my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate.
My hon. Friend then said that a number of members of the Territorial Army had not heard a shot fired in anger. However, quite a number of Regular soldiers have not, either. I happened to be at a recent inspection. The inspecting general commented that in the regiment—it happened to be my regiment—the other ranks had more campaign medals among them than he would have expected to see in a comparable Regular unit. Whether or not he was right I have no means of knowing, but it was an interesting comment.
The hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) referred to "eagles from the North" and criticised sending members of the Territorial Army abroad. He attacked the Government for keeping troops in British Guiana and suggested—and I thought he went rather far here—that my hon. Friends were responsible for the Defence Estimates, a contention which I immediately repudiate.
The hon. Member went on to criticise the suggestion that the Territorial Army should be trained abroad. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) immediately and correctly pointed out that members of the Territorial Army trained in Aden last year. My information is that some of them came under fire. I further understand that they quite enjoyed the experience and that they are going back this year. When the hon. Member for Renfrew, West reads the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow, and the beginning of his speech, in which he referred to the "eagles", he may come to the conclusion that this eagle made a duck.
My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor spoke of the United Nations peacekeeping force and the contribution which we are to make to it. He asked what pay the troops would get, bearing in mind that most U.N. troops are paid substantially more than British troops, and wondered whether our troops would be serving alongside other U.N. troops who were earning more or whether our troops would be paid the full U.N. rate. If so, how much would it cost and would a further Estimate be necessary? He also wanted to know which uniform our troops would wear and who would pay for it.
If these troops are doing nothing now, why were we told recently that we were right down to the position of scraping the barrel, until there was not a single unit left? Now we are told that six units are doing nothing—
Perhaps I can clear the matter up right now. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to the speech of his hon. Friend, he at least understood that we are not offering to send any battalions at all.
I said "units", but I suppose one can call them units or battalions. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman will send some troops, but, if he is not going to, let us be told that clearly and get the matter cleared up. If he is, then my remarks apply.
The hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange was unique among back benchers opposite. He spoke briefly in favour of the Government in his opening sentences, but very soon was in the usual channel; saying that if the next lot of Estimates were not very different from the present ones the Government would be in trouble.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) asked a question about the War Office Selection Board, as it used to be known. I suppose that it is called the Army Department Selection Board now. My hon. Friend wanted it made clear that it was not run on what might be called "snob" lines.
My hon. Friend then raised the important question of Service pensions. Last year the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, standing where I am standing tonight, said that the policy of the party opposite—the Labour Party—was parity in pensions. His remarks can be read in the OFFICIAL REPORT. If the policy of parity was right last year, where are we this year? Is no step to be made towards parity? We are entitled to ask these questions, and the pensioners and the public are expecting an answer to them.
The hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) asked for restraint—again attacking the Government—in the wasteful use of resources. He criticised the Army's use of land, and also the placing of contracts.
That is the record. Every single back bencher speaking on the Government side has criticised the Government and the Estimates. Some have done so more forcibly than others, but all have been critical—
I have already indicated that, and I do not now have the time to go back. The hon. Member will see in the OFFICIAL REPORT that I have quoted him correctly; I wrote the words down.
The Territorial Army has been referred to by hon. Members on both sides. This is an organisation that has already suffered, as I have indicated, a good deal over the years. It is still capable of useful service, it has been given new rôles and has accepted them and mastered them, but it really cannot stand very much more. It is possible to kill the willing horse. It would be very easy to destroy the Territorial Army, and, that once having been done, it would be quite impossible to recreate it within a measurable length of time. I ask right hon. and hon. Members opposite to accept that point of view.
Two main factors have been referred to in this debate. The first is the size of the Army. It has been said that it is overstretched; that it is short of men. Do the Government intend to increase its size? Do they intend to increase the number of major units in it? When we are told that we are down to the last battalion, it is not a question of recruiting a few more men. Are we to have more major units or are we not? If not, do the Government accept that what they have said about the Army being overstretched was a gross exaggeration?
It has also been said that there is a shortage of equipment. If that is so, what buying orders have the Government placed? We have heard something about medium artillery, and hovercraft whose evaluation tests are apparently being slightly hampered by the fact of 50 per cent. of them being lent to a film unit. What new orders are being placed? If there are none, what is all the talk about the Army being short of equipment? And what about the move to pensions parity? These are questions which the public expect to be answered.
I believe that it is many years since Army Estimates have been so fiercely attacked by Government back benchers, so directed by Opposition spokesmen. The only single quarter from which the right hon. Gentleman has not received fire has been from the Liberal benches—and that only because, although one or two Liberal Members looked in briefly during the debate, none spoke. So we have these Estimates which have been badly received by the public and fiercely criticised on both sides of the Committee. A number of important questions remain unanswered, and I now hope that we shall hear answers to some of them.
I will do my best in the time remaining to me to answer some of the questions that have been asked during the debate. I can only apologise now to any hon. Member who asked a question if I do not get round to him. If I miss any, I will try to answer in writing later. Before answering any points, however, I must point out that my right hon. Friends and myself have been in office now for four months, looking after the Army as well as other Ministries, and the situation we found when we started must be put on the record.
We found that there were delays in the delivery of equipment, caused largely because too few prototypes had been ordered for some of them. For instance, for one piece of equipment 16 prototypes had been made whilst the Germans for the same job had had 63—small wonder that they developed theirs in about one-third of the time we needed. For another small piece of equipment there were only three prototypes made costing a few hundred pounds each. In these circumstances, development is delayed and it costs far more in the end.
When we took office, we found a shortage of training land, and this was due primarily to the reluctance of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in office to raise such a thorny problem with a General Election in the offing. This is another instance of the unhappy consequencies of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite hanging on to office and being unwilling to tackle thorny problems which they thought inconvenient to them.
The previous Administration responsible for our defence affairs denuded us of the means of designing our own small arms. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have a lot to say about what we are doing for the aircraft industry, but what they did for the small arms industry of Britain was such that we are now unable to design and develop our own small arms.
They left us with a shortage of quarters. There is still a shortage of married quarters, after 13 years of Tory government, yet they now try to argue as though it was our fault that there are not enough quarters. We are short of 40,000 married quarters in the United Kingdom for the three Services, not just the Army. This should be put on record. Not only are our Army, Navy and Air Force short of 40,000 married quarters in the United Kingdom, but the Army is still being forced to occupy old, out-of-date barracks in many parts of the country. I visited some in Catterick, a short time ago. There is now a barrack building programme. We hope that it will go ahead and be speeded up, but at this moment there are units in this country living in barracks in which soldiers ought not to be asked to live. This, too, is what we inherited after 13 years of government by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.
On the subject of quarters, will the hon. Gentleman clear up a point which was raised the other day by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) and not satisfactorily cleared up by the right hon. Gentleman? The programme for married quarters building shows an increase for next year and the year after, taking the number of completions. Those were two targets previously announced by my right hon. Friend. For the next year, the only year, so far as I can see, for which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are responsible, there is a drop. The figure is lower.
The right hon. Gentleman is well aware—it was decided when he was in office—that we are borrowing from the Royal Air Force for the next 18 months, and that is why we are building more. We go back to our own programme at the end of that period.
We had to face undermanning of units when we took office. Some infantry regiments are 15 per cent. under-manned after 13 years of Tory government. We inherited indecision over the Gurkhas. It hardly lies in the mouth of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to try to criticise what has been done as regards the Gurkhas. A decision has been made. My right hon. Friend has announced it, and the machinery for recruiting and training Gurkhas is working as fast as it is possible to work it, taking in 1,000 Gurkhas for training each year.
We inherited indecision about the future of the Royal Ordnance factories. I could go on a long time pointing out some of the difficulties which we inherited from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite after their 13 years of office, but I must get on and try to answer the points which have been raised in the debate.
Hon. Members on both sides have referred to the Territorial Army. We had a number of very good and thoughtful speeches on the Territorial Army and the part which it should play. One or two of the speakers did not seem to be aware that the Territorial Army is part of the Reserve Forces and must be looked at in the context of our Reserve as a whole. I got the impression that some hon. Members think that the Territorial Army is the Reserve Force, and I think we should have this quite straight.
I have been in fairly close contact with the Territorial Army for the past five or six years. I have visited units and spoken to them. Hon. Members opposite who spoke, particularly the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), drew attention to some of the things they wanted done for the Territorial Army. I assure them that, at every Territorial Army unit which I visited since taking office and before, I heard about extra training days, about equipment up to the standard of the Regular Army, about combat suits, modern webbing and uniforms, and so on. Every unit will put these points to any visitor. Any receptive ear can hear them at any time.
One thing about the Territorial Army which always impresses me is the keenness of the members of it. I agree with the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) that the Territorials have been messed about quite a lot during the past few years, but, despite the messing about, despite the past 13 years of Tory Government, and despite their lack of the equipment which they think they ought to have and all the complaints which they have, the officers and the men are keen on their work, and one must pay tribute to them for that.
I am trying at the moment to visit as many Territorial Army units as I can. I have been to five in the last month. Subject to hon. Members opposite pairing and the Whips not being three-lined, I am arranging to spend six days visiting units during the camping season. I shall also be visiting another set of Territorial Army units in the London area during the next few months.
It must be made clear that what the Government are doing is reviewing our commitments on a world-wide basis, and we are at the same time reviewing the home defence position. The hon. Member who said that there was no mention of this in Part III of the White Paper should look at the last two lines of paragraph 200, which is the first paragraph in Part III. There it is clearly mentioned that Civil Defence is one of the things being looked at as part of the review.
Once we have carried out the review of our commitments and Civil Defence and the home defence requirements, we can look at the size and disposition of the Regular Army and see what is needed to improve it. Having done that, we can look at the Reserves needed to back up the Regular Army in maintaining the commitments, and the Reserves include the Territorial Army. There is also the problem of the legal position of the Reserves and the way in which and when they can be called out in emergency. When we have considered this position, we shall consult first of all with the Territorial Army Council. We have already informed it—I did so at the first meeting that I had with it—that the review is being undertaken and that when the other things have been done and the Reserve Forces have been looked at and the Government have views on it, we will discuss matters with it before action is taken. I repeat that promise now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) expressed the hope that someone without vested interests would look at the position of the Territorial Army. I hope he will accept that I and my right hon. Friend have no vested interests one way or the other in the matter.
My hon. Friend also referred to the drill halls in Kent and to letters and statements by brigadiers there. The two brigadiers that he referred to are not included in the number of some 40 brigadiers concerned with the military side of the Territorial Army. They are the secretary and chairman of one of the subcommittees of the Kent Territorial Army Association, both retired officers now working within the Territorial Army. He referred to the fact that notice to quit had been given to certain tenants and occupiers, some having been so over a long period, of Territorial Army drill halls in Kent and elsewhere. Partly as a result of his tenacity and action, these tenancies have been extended to 31st March, and negotiations are taking place to see whether agreement can be reached about the level of rent to be charged. I hope the negotiations will come to a satisfactory conclusion.
The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) mentioned a 15 per cent. cut in the Estimates for research and development in industry, and rather sneered about this. He thought that we were doing private industry down by reducing the amount of development work for it. There is a cut this year compared with last year, but this year's estimate will be underspent by 15 per cent., and so the amount of money provided for next year is equal to the amount which will be spent on it this year. So there is no difference in it. His right hon. Friends last year provided rather more than was needed. It is no good right hon. Gentlemen opposite shaking their heads. This is the position at the moment. The present year's Estimates will be 15 per cent. underspent, and the amount provided is that which will be spent during the current year. There will be no reduction in the amount of money used. One could double the amount of the Estimate, but it would be meaningless because it would not be spent. There will be no reduction in the amount available compared with that spent during the current year.
The right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) said that on Vote 7, equipment, the increase was smaller this year than last year. Last year the increase was some £20 million. This year there is an increase of £16·2 million. That statement is true. But I must point out that expenditure this year will be £10 million below the Estimates. So the increase is still going up, but it is related to the amount we think we can spend. An underspending of £10 million will take place this year. If we spend all the money provided, the increase will be £6·2 million. Paragraph 110 of the White Paper last year said that the Abbot was in production and would start to come into service during the year. Hon. Members opposite will remember that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Army had to use exactly the same words today as one of the reasons for the £10 million under-spending in twelve months, but we have been in office only four of those twelve and were not responsible for the planning before we took over.
Several hon. Members raised the question of television for the Rhine Army. My right hon. Friend announced on 15th February that we had looked into this in detail. There are very considerable problems in providing television facilities. Our troops and families are in an area 150 miles long and 50 miles wide, fairly concentrated in some parts and scattered in others. As West Germany has its own allocations of frequencies and wavelengths, we should have to work with the Bundespost in the provision of facilities for Rhine Army. I should say here that we have received every possible consideration and help from the Bundespost that one could expect.
Unfortunately, however, we have had to conclude that the provision of such facilities would be so expensive that it would not be possible at present because there is a lot of other welfare work to be done not only in Germany but in other parts of the world. But we are keeping the matter under continual review.
The right hon. Member for Harrogate asked whether it might not be possible to send young soldiers overseas when their training was finished. It is true that a number of young soldiers join at 17 and, if they are in the infantry or the artillery, spend about 12 weeks training and that then there is a gap of some three months before they can be officially posted to units. It might be better for morale to get them out to units, and I was glad to hear the views of right hon. and hon. Members on this point. I would be glad to hear more if hon. Members would like to get in touch with me. One does not want these young soldiers hanging about the depot for three months before joining units.
The right hon. Member for Harrogate also asked for information about wastage. I wish at this stage that I could speak in table form with the figures being printed in HANSARD tomorrow, but if, at this stage, I want the information to be printed I must give it in my speech. During 1962, the wastage of young soldiers was 18·3 per cent.; in 1963 it was 19·4 per cent.; and in 1964 it was 18·7 per cent. Among trained soldiers the fi4ure was 6·2 per cent. in 1962, 7·1 per cent. in 1963 and 6·7 per cent. in 1964. The totals covering both recruits and trained soldiers were 9 per cent. in 1962, 8·8 per cent. in 1963 and 8·9 per cent. in 1964. There was thus a slight reduction in 1963 and 1964 as compared with 1962. We shall continue to watch the position very closely.
The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom) referred to recruit wastage in particular. This is disappointingly high in some ways. He asked us to look again at the position whereby a recruit can buy himself out for £20 after 12 weeks service. It is a matter of judgment whether this provision is right or whether there should be a longer period or perhaps whether the period should start only after the man has gone to his unit. This provision was introduced in the last Army Act. That Act comes up for review in due course and a Select Committee will consider it. No doubt this factor will be included in the Committee's deliberations.
The hon. Member for Beckenham asked for details of the cost of the Cyprus operation. So far, it has cost £2 million in terms of extra cost. I want to emphasise hat this does not include pay, clothing, feeding and the normal provision for the soldiers. It is the extra cost of having these men operating on behalf of the United Nations peace-keeping force or as part of our support for the Cyprus Government before the U.N. force was set up. Before the U.N. force was set up, the cost was reimbursed to the Army by the Commonwealth Relations Office and, since then, by the Foreign Office.
Other hon. Members have asked where the troops are to come from for the support for future U.N. forces announced by the Foreign Secretary. I can only say that in Cyprus, in terms of logistic and other support, we already have what my right hon. Friend said that we would be prepared to offer to the United Nations as a matter of policy if required and not just by accident because the operation is in Cyprus.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) and others referred to Service land. My hon. Friend explained that it would not be possible for him to stay until the end of the debate. The Defence Department has a total of about 745,000 acres of land in the United Kingdom, 64,000 acres for the Navy, 525,000 for the Army and 156,000 for the Royal Air Force. The main point to make is that since 1st April, 1959, the Department has disposed of nearly 200,000 acres and at this moment we are engaged in selling or offering for auction 1,564 acres of urban land which is urgently required by individual local authorities to carry out redevelopment and rebuilding of town centres, and so on.
It is useless to have armed forces without barracks, dockyards, airfields, depôts, workshops and training areas. They are an integral part of the Defence Department and we cannot do our work without them. Some nonsense has been talked recently in some newspapers about three acres of training land being needed for every soldier in the Army. This only shows that people who talk and write like that have no knowledge of the requirements of a modern Army for land for training purposes. It is no use hon. Members looking back on their own military days of some 20 years ago to decide what is now required for training an Army, now that tactics have altered and nuclear weapons, tactical and otherwise, have been introduced. A piece of land which 20 years ago was needed for the training of a brigade is nowadays hardly enough for a couple of companies because of the change in dispersal tactics and so on. Mortars have longer ranges and guns have longer ranges, and firing areas now in use have to be appropriate to those increased ranges.
These matters have to be dealt with. Hon. Members opposite placed orders for equipment which is now coming along and which will mean that not only will the Armoured Corps be moving on tracks, as has been the case for many years, of course, but the artillery, with self-propelled guns, will be moving on tracks, while infantry units will move in tracked armoured personnel carriers. We are desperately short of land where tracked vehicles can manoeuvre. This is a problem which must be solved in the not too distant future.
At the same time, however, we get complaints about empty camps and barracks. The hon. Member for Beckenham mentioned this point. He also asked where we would put the troops if we had to bring them back to this country for any reason. We endeavour at all times to keep available camps which are in the process of disposal and we deliberately hold up disposal for two years, or some other period, so that we have a reserve of accommodation if it is needed for units coming to this country, or for British civilians who have to return to this country from overseas for any reason. Many of them are in town centres and are buildings put up many years ago. They were emptied two or three years ago and then held in reserve. We are under constant pressure from local authorities who may want to purchase such sites for central area redevelopment.
Recently, as my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) said, some Air Force camps have become surplus to the R.A.F.'s requirements. We are looking at some of these with a view to taking them over as accommodation for units coming home, and we hope to be able to give up two or three substantial camps in the centres of towns and to allow disposal to proceed. My hon. Friend was concerned about the camp in his own area, but by keeping that we are able to give up land in other and more congested areas throughout the country. However, we will bear in mind what he has said.
Fifty per cent. of the training land is also used for agricultural purposes, so that it is not wasted land, as so many people have tried to make out when criticising the amount of land being used by the Services.
The hon. Member for Beckenham, the hon. Member for Dorset, North and others mentioned Service pensions. I cannot add to what has been said by the Secretary of State and others to the effect that we are reviewing the whole question of Service pensions and that in due course an announcement will be made. We have been in office only four months and could not do everything in that time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) made an interesting speech, in which he referred to the cadet forces. I can only say at this stage that I will study the points he made and write to him in due course. My hon. Friend referred also to officer entry. It is true that 50 per cent. of the officer cadets at Sandhurst come from non-Headmasters' Conference schools. It is my right hon. Friend's wish to attract recruits to Sandhurst and other sources of entry from the widest possible range of schools.
We spend a lot of time and money in getting into schools which do not have an Army tradition behind them in an endeavour to persuade youngsters, once they have taken G.C.E. and have the required "A" level qualifications, to take up an Army career. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on the way one looks at it—there are certain schools within the Headmasters' Conference which have a military tradition and from which the majority of the officer cadets come because they have a military tradition. In addition, schools in the South have a greater military tradition than schools in the North. We want to get the widest publicity for the various means of entry for officers in the Army, and we hope that over the years we will be able to attract more pupils from schools which at present do not normally encourage youngsters to take up an Army career.
I must say a word about the Royal Ordnance factories. My right hon. Friend found when taking office that we had to look at the position concerning the closure of Woolwich Arsenal, which had been announced by the right hon. Member for Harrogate in December 1963. We found, unfortunately, that to keep Woolwich Arsenal going some £7 million worth of work a year would be needed immediately to justify the continued running of that factory. We came into office too late to do anything about the position at Woolwich, which had run down over a considerable number of years.
We have now set up a Departmental Committee which is examining the preferred source policy within the Department and the sending of contracts to Royal Ordnance factories, and to see how much more defence work can be obtained from the Navy, the Army and, possibly, the Royal Air Force for the Royal Ordnance factories. At the same time, I have visited some of the factories at Birtley, Leeds, Woolwich and Nottingham, and I hope to visit more of them in the coming weeks. We are looking at the position to see what work from other Government Departments outside defence can be channelled into the Royal Ordnance factories and whether work can be undertaken from private industry.
It must, however, be realised that these are Royal Ordnance factories and priority must be given to their defence rôle. Nevertheless, if these factories have spare capacity, it is my right hon. Friend's intention to ensure that it is used for useful productive purposes and is not wasted. Individual factories already have power to negotiate locally for contracts for private work of any kind which fits their capacity and which they have room to undertake. I am looking at the possibility that we may have a more positive approach on this matter and that we may give more assistance to individual managements of factories to try to attract more work from private industry into the factories if they have the capacity to carry it out.
My hon. Friend the Member for Epping asked about discipline concerning the Estimates. One of the first tasks which I had to undertake on entering the Department last October was to take the chair at a series of meetings dealing with Estimates. I spent a considerable time going through them. Afterwards, they were studied by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Secretary of State, later they were examined by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and, when the Ministry of Defence had finished with them, the Treasury had a go at them. I assure my hon. Friend that there is considerable scrutiny of the Estimates before they are presented to Parliament as we have them today.
Before I close—
The Committee is entitled to have an answer from the hon. Gentleman to the question which he has just dodged: the damning indictment made against him and his Government, as hon. Members opposite have made against my party, for trying to maintain the strength of the Army. Hon. Friends of the Minister have said that they do not want an Army as large as this and that they do not want as much money spent on it, and they have asked him to cut it. Will he not answer this?
My answer is that we are dealing with Vote A, and I am putting it to the Committee that the number we are asking for is, we maintain, sufficient to keep the Army at the required strength to meet the commitments we have got. We are reviewing the commitments, and we shall in due course present to the House the result of our consideration.
Before concluding, I want to refer to one of the biggest changes to take place in the Army for many years. Cartoonists have often depicted a sergeant-major standing on the hair of a recruit and telling him if it hurts to go and get it cut. We are taking the opportunity now to revise Queen's Regulations and to modernise things, because we feel that the day of the military crop has come to an end. The military crop is no longer necessary, although it is just as necessary, of course, for hair to be neatly and tidily cut and maintained. The cartoonists and comics will have a more difficult job in future, because we are bringing the Army more into line with modern practice. Of course, I am not saying that some of the hair styles one sees on some teenagers outside the Army will be permitted. Definitely not. Hair will have to be kept neatly and tidily cut and maintained, but the military crop will no longer be necessary.
The hon. Gentleman says I am too late to make the headlines. I am not worried about that.
I want, in conclusion, to express my gratitude and, I think, the gratitude of all Members of the Committee to the 390,000 men and women my right hon. Friend the Deputy Secretary of State mentioned—
Before concluding, does the hon. Gentleman intend to answer the very important question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North, whether the Government have ordered any more helicopters?
One of the death-bed repentances of the previous Government, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said in the defence debate recently was, after having dithered about for years, in their last months to order some more. We hope that the additional number ordered and coming into service at the rate of seven a month will tend to ease the position, but under the previous Administration there was for a considerable period a shortage of helicopters, and, as has been said, one of the last things that Administration did was to order an additional number.
What I am amazed at in this debate, as I have been in others, is that whenever any Labour Member, whether in Opposition or in Government, says anything the slightest bit critical of the defence forces we are accused by hon. Members opposite of criticising the soldier, of criticising the sailor, or of criticising the airman. We have done nothing of the sort. We had and we have, however, the right, whether in Opposition or in office, in considering measures affecting the Armed Forces, to criticise the management of those Armed Forces by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite during the last thirteen years.
I want to express our gratitude, and the gratitude of every Member of the Committee, for the work which the men and women of all those voluntary organisations are doing through a multitude of services, doing their best to ensure that wherever the Army serves the soldiers are provided with home comforts, even overseas.