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Armed Forces

Volume 480: debated on Wednesday 8 November 1950

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Aliens

49.

asked the Minister of Defence how many alien nationals are employed in the Armed Forces of the Crown, with separate figures for each Service.

According to the latest information in my possession the numbers are as follows:—Royal Navy, 2; Army, 483; Royal Air Force, 461.

Do not these figures make quite unsubstantial the right hon. Gentleman's ground for rejecting the proposal for a foreign legion, namely, that aliens are already employed in adequate numbers in the Armed Forces of the Crown?

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that full use is being made of the alien manpower available?

We have to take into account a variety of factors; for example, the question of language.

Troopships (Accommodation)

50.

asked the Minister of Defence if he is now satisfied with accommodation arrangements in all ships used for the transport of His Majesty's Forces.

Troopships have, for the last few years, been taken out of service in turn for refitting to post-war standards. This work is proceeding as fast as possible but, while it is going on, heavy trooping requirements have meant that we have had to keep in service several older ships which are below these standards. They will be dispensed with as soon as practicable.

In view of the reply of the Secretary of State for War to a similar question yesterday, will the right hon. Gentleman make quite certain that as soon as it is practicable, there will be adequate recreational facilities and no "hard lying"?

We are very anxious to do our best for the men who have to travel in these ships. So far we have tried to do everything possible but we have been held up a little by the Korean affair.

Medical Branches (Pay)

51.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will now make a statement in regard to the pay increases for the medical branches of the Services; and whether these increases will be effective from the same date as the increases in the other branches.

I have nothing to add at present to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member's Question on 25th October.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give any indication of when this matter will be settled?

It has been very complicated, but I hope to make an announcement shortly.

Auxiliary Services (Recruiting)

52.

asked the Minister of Defence by how much recruiting to the Auxiliary Forces has increased or decreased since August, 1950.

In September, 1950, there were 3,442 recruits to the volunteer Auxiliary and Reserve Forces compared with 2,803 in August. The figures for October are not yet available.

As these later figures become available, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the need of the Auxiliary Forces is mainly for recruits for the next two years? Will he con- sider some special terms to get those recruits to fill the gap which will later be filled by National Service men under the National Service Acts?

It by "special terms" the hon. Member means further emoluments, I am afraid that I cannot agree.

Western Defence

53 and 54.

asked the Minister of Defence (1) to what extent he supported the French Government's proposals at the Washington Conference for a European army:

(2) to what extent he supported proposals at the Washington Conference for the rearmament of Germany.

As regards the French Government's proposals, I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement made in this House by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 31st October. This statement provided the basis for my discussions in Washington. As regards the participation of Germany in Western defence, my hon. Friend has no doubt seen the communiqué issued at the conclusion of the Washington meetings, in which the Ministers unanimously reaffirmed the importance, subject to adequate safeguards, of a German contribution to the building up of the defence of Europe. This reflects the view of His Majesty's Government, as already stated in this House. The form and extent of the contribution by Germany is still under consideration.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether this contribution from Germany is to take the form of conscription? Will he assure us that he is not asking the Germans to accept conscription that they do not want?

The matter of how these forces are to be raised is still under consideration.

Is there any reason why the Germans should not be entrusted immediately with anti-aircraft defence, radar and civil defence over the whole of Western Germany?

There is one reason, and that is that the matter has yet to be discussed with the appropriate authorities.

When are further discussions on this matter to take place, and where?

Is there any proposal that the Germans should be allowed to have a tactical air force?

The matter may have been mentioned, but there is no definite conclusion.

Has the Minister taken into account the fact that the last time the Germans were permitted to rearm they used the arms in the first place to get an alliance with Russia against ourselves?

This is a very complicated subject and it is quite impossible to—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Obviously hon. Members agree that it is complicated. I deprecate dealing with the matter by way of question and answer.

Would my right hon. Friend inform the House what has happened in the interval since his recent statement, which was against the rearmament of Germany, and whether he is now making a statement of the Opposition view, against that which he put forward at that time?

I have not stated the Opposition view. I have stated the Government view.

Will the Minister undertake that when the negotiations in this matter are concluded, nothing will be done to put them into effect until this House has had an opportunity of considering them?

Commonwealth Forces

55.

asked the Minister of Defence what steps he is taking to coordinate the training and operational planning of the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth and Empire.

The closest contact is constantly maintained with members of the Commonwealth through the military liaison staffs in all defence matters. So far as training is concerned, many members of the Commonwealth Armed Forces attend courses in the United Kingdom, and in addition a number of officers from our own forces have attended courses in other Commonwealth countries. In most Commonwealth countries the training manuals are basically the same as those in the United Kingdom.

Would the Minister consider the possibility of Commonwealth forces actually training together? We were transporting whole divisions by air at the end of the war, and I think we are inclined to be rather static.

As the hon. and gallant Member is aware, we have air personnel now training in Canada. We expect that next year we shall have members of the Royal Canadian Air Force training in this country. To operate this on a wide scale is not practicable at the present moment.

56.

asked the Minister of Defence what steps he is taking to raise Colonial forces so that the strain on British manpower allocated to defence can be reduced.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the statement I made on this subject during the Debate on 14th September.

In view of the fact that India used to keep three or four divisions before the war in a fairly high state of operational readiness, would the Minister consider the possibility of having at least two Colonial divisions in such a state, in order to obviate having to raise forces continually from this country to send out at short notice to the Far East?

The Indian Army was raised after a long period of time, and it was a very well-trained army. It would take a considerable time before we could train Colonial troops up to that level.

Will my right hon. Friend deal with this grave question very carefully, in view of the political ferment which exists in many of the Colonies?

Of course, in this matter we naturally enter into consultation with the Colonial Governments concerned.

In view of the high qualities displayed by West African and East African troops in the late war, has specific consideration been given to the raising of additional units from the Royal West African Volunteer Force and the King's African Rifles?

It seems to be assumed from some of the questions that we have no Colonial forces. We have.

Before taking any action in this matter, will the Minister wait until opinions can be expressed in some of the West African legislative councils which are now in process of being brought into being?

There is no question of raising additional forces in the Colonies without the consent of the appropriate government.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that if he had taken the trouble to raise volunteer forces in Africa four years ago, they could be used now in Malaya, and the British garrison in Malaya could be where it ought to be, in Europe?

With great respect, I would say that I prefer the advice of my military advisers to that of the hon. Member.

Is not one of the really difficult problems in the matter the shortage of suitable British officers and N.C.O's.? Would not the right hon. Gentleman consult with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see whether some way can be found to pay British officers and N.C.O's. in such a way that they are not liable to United Kingdom Income Tax?

We have had this matter and other matters under consideration, and I want to tell hon. Members that our minds are not closed on this subject; but undoubtedly there are practical difficulties.