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The Army Estimates

Volume 182: debated on Wednesday 6 May 1953

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5.45 p.m.

Debate resumed.

My Lords, I had not intended to speak about the Territorial Army, but it seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Wise, and to some extent the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, are a little despondent, whereas I should have felt that the blend between the National. Service element and the old Territorial volunteer was in fact going much better than anybody had ever dared to expect or hoped to see. Of course we cannot expect the Territorial volunteer who joined immediately after the war, or stayed on when the war was ended, to carry on for ever. I am not quite certain whether the noble Lord, Lord Wise, appreciates that the significance of a National Serviceman being a volunteer, as opposed to doing his compulsory service, is really very small. In the first three of the four years for which a person volunteers, he does merely a dozen hours extra drill. The point is that you volunteer to take on for a fourth year. As the Memorandum says, the Territorial Army is only just over half-way towards its complete build-up with National Service men: none of them has yet reached his fourth year in the Territorial Army, and he may well defer volunteering until that moment comes.

What I wished to speak about was resettlement, which is directly related to recruitment. A Regular soldier can serve on, year by year, after he has already done his twenty-two years for a pension, but it would be rare that a man could serve a full forty years, which is a man's working life, in the Fighting Services. The State now has a very large range of civilian employment to offer—there are the railways, electricity boards and gas boards, in addition to the Post Office and other Civil Service Departments that were in operation before the war. I believe that it should be possible to guarantee to a man who has done his twenty-two years' service with the Forces a further eighteen years' service with the State. He should have the option of deferring taking the pension he has already earned, so that at the end of forty years' service to the State he can get a much enhanced pension for that full time. Of course, many men may prefer to take their pension and go out into private employment, or take up skilled work in industry. But if there were a guarantee that they could always find some form of State employment, that would relieve the doubt which is in the minds of many men when they are about thirty, whether to serve on for the twenty-two years, knowing that it is even more difficult to get a job at forty or forty-five.

The other day I met an old soldier who was my father's batman over fifty years ago. He had served for thirteen years with the Colours, in two wars. After that, he had been for thirty-nine years a civilian servant at the Staff College—fifty-two years' service to the State. Yet, by the anomaly of the rules, he was entitled to no form of pension whatever. I am not blaming anyone—certainly not those now in office—but that is an illustration of what I am pointing out. I know that the noble Earl, Lord Fortescue, is inquiring into the possibility of helping this man in some other way, through another fund, but I take that as my illustration.

We are told in the Estimates that the Army to-day employs nearly 200,000 civilians, so in its own service it should be able to guarantee continued civilian employment to the long-term Regular. These are men of great value. Many C.O's would lose almost any one of their officers rather than their treasured R.S.M. I agree that to retain those men is the paramount consideration. What I am going to suggest next is therefore rather more tentative. It is that a man should be able to count his Regular service towards any pension which he could earn in other Government employment. For example, a man can get a pension if he has served twenty-two years in the Army or if he has served twenty-five years in the police; but if he serves ten years in the Army and fifteen years in the police, he cannot get a pension at all. I take the police as my example. There are difficulties, as the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, pointed out, in working out these schemes, but a combined pension with the police is the one which might be considered first, because crime is costing the country a lot of money.

The average prison population has gone up from 11,000 before the war to 24,000 to-day—that is almost a complete division. So, from the manpower point of view, it is of interest to the Services to reduce crime, and we are all agreed that to have more policemen is the best answer to crime. The building of new prisons may be competing with the building of new barracks therefore, not only from the widest national point of view but also from the Service point of view we need to strengthen the police. I agree that the proposed combined pension of the kind that I have mentioned ought to be lower than the separate pensions of either the Army or Police. A man should have to serve, let us say, a minimum of nine years to qualify for a combined pension—I do not suggest it should be applied to a man who has served three years. The idea would be to attract the young middle-piece N.C.O. to serve on for nine years.

We have this year, as stated in the Memorandum, a record number of recruits. That is most encouraging. I believe it is partly due to the fact that now, for the first time, no soldier except a boy apprentice is committed on engagement to sign away his future for more than three years at a time. In these rather uncertain days, people do not like to sign away five or seven years at a time as they did before: nor do I think anyone could be entirely happy retaining a man who joined on impulse and then resents that he has to stay in for six years. The question is whether the record number of recruits who joined last year are going to take on when their first period of three years is up. We shall not know that for two or three years to come. So I suggest that these schemes might be discussed and worked out by the different Departments and be held in readiness, in embryo, for the moment when the recruiting situation suggests it is time they were introduced.

I recognise that there is a certain danger in this proposal for a combined pension. Whereas it may encourage a number of middle-piece, young N.C.Os. to carry on from three years to nine years, there is the inevitable danger that a man with this encouragement may go out after nine years, instead of serving for twenty-two years. From my limited horizon as a regimental officer, I do not feel that danger to be very great: and I feel, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore has urged, that it is numbers of these middle-piece N.C.Os., the young and under thirty, that we need to build up the Colonial forces. I see the danger, however, and I appreciate the paramount consideration of having long-term Regulars. That is why I suggest that we should press on at once for guaranteed State service with an enhanced pension for forty years' service in the fighting Forces and civil employment.

I should like now to say one or two words about the resettlement of officers, which is much more difficult in some ways than the resettlement of other ranks. Many officers, particularly those who have been in the infantry or the gunners, can offer their personal qualifications: that is, their experience of men and travel in the world. But sometimes these qualifications do not always appeal to industry as much as do the recognised paper qualifications of their brother officers in the technical arms. If an employer in industry has to say to his regular executives, "I am bringing in an officer because I think his personality is outstanding," that is not a particularly easy reason to give to the executives in his firm to withhold their promotion in the officer's favour. I am told that it would be a help if more officers came into the Army through the universities. It is always possible to resettle an officer with a university degree. I wonder how much this university entrance to the fighting arms, as opposed to the technical arms, is going on to-day.

I remember that when I joined my regiment no fewer than five out of twelve subalterns of the regiment had been through the university. They read perhaps more widely than those of us who had come from Sandhurst; they kept on friendships with men who went into other walks of life, and in that way enriched the company of the mess. It is right that the Army should have a seasoning of officers coming in through the university but I doubt whether that is happening much to-day. I doubt whether the university method of entrance is well known in the schools, or in the appointments boards at universities. One of the difficulties may be this. The university courses naturally take longer than the Sandhurst course, and an officer who has come from the university is given an antedate to make his seniority equivalent to that of his contemporary by age who has been through Sandhurst, if he secures a second-class honours degree. That rule has been carried over from before the war, I have spoken to dons, and they assure me that competition to get into the university is greater than before the war, and that a second-class honours degree to-day represents a higher standard than it did then. I believe that it would be fairer if an officer who got any form of honours degree obtained the same seniority as his contemporary by age who had been through Sandhurst. Before the war, one paid to be at Sandhurst, but now the State pays for the cadet going there. If his contemporary going through the university does not secure a State scholarship or local authority grant, and at the end of his university time is appointed to a Regular commission, the cost which would otherwise have been borne by the State should be given to his parents who have supported him at the university.

The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, spoke of two things—the combing out of the number of people who necessarily have to be employed in our many training establishments and the difficulty of maintaining the regimental spirit when men are cross-posted. One of the difficulties arises when a man in a regiment is sent out on extra-regimental employment. I remember that a number of years ago employments which had to be found in the Army headquarters in Trieste were found entirely by a platoon of my regiment, the Black Watch. I believe that one could maintain the regimental spirit and also get better work—and possibly, therefore, need fewer men—if one could allot the various Army headquarters and training schools to different regiments, each regiment to be responsible for providing a platoon of men for these employments to go together under their own officer to the headquarters to which they are allotted. I believe that we should get better work than under the present system.

The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, spoke of married quarters. If we are able to bring back our Reserve from the Middle East, to stay for a while in this country, more married quarters will be needed. I wonder whether the possibility of using caravans has been considered. I know that there is the difficulty of finding sites for caravans. I happen to have been in a camp in a nice large park, and quite a number of officers and other ranks much enjoyed their stay in. caravans. They are very warm; in fact, when snow is on the ground they are often the warmest places in the camp. They are mobile, and you can have a pool of them which you can move around as the situation demands. I believe that the use of them might help towards a solution of the problem.

I should like, in conclusion, to say a few words about National Service. If the international situation improves, and people suggest that we can cut down on commitments, I still feel it would be a great mistake to reduce the length of National Service. I say that for two reasons. First of all, the high numbers of Regular recruits which we have been getting is partially due to National Servicemen, who have to serve two years in any case, deciding to join for three years with the improved rates of pay. If the option is between three years and, say, eighteen months, I think that far fewer men will elect to serve three years. In the second place, there would not then be time to send National Servicemen out to the Far East and other distant stations. Those stations would have to be manned more and more by Regulars, and Regulars, consequently, would get less of their service time at home. That would certainly be a deterrent to the recruiting of Regulars. So, if it becomes possible to reduce our commitments, I believe it would be better to increase the number of deferments rather than to reduce the length of service.

In this connection, I should like to give an illustration. It is of a soldier I trained about two years ago. He was an intelligent man who had been educated at a mixed London grammar school. He was of a shy and retiring disposition, and he had some scruples about using violence to meet violence. I had many hesitations about passing him out as an education instructor, as that carried with it the rank of sergeant. I rather hoped that he might be tucked away quietly as a librarian somewhere. But he volunteered to go overseas, and he was posted to Uganda. He first of all learned the African language, and then he spent a year teaching English to a battalion of the King's African Rifles. Then, in the last six months of his service, that battalion was moved to the Kikuyu areas, the British company sergeant-major fell sick, and there was only one officer of the company. So this man of whom I am speaking was at times commanding two platoons of the King's African Rifles in those delicate operations against the Mau Mau. He came back home much more self-confident and assured in himself. And, incidentally, he determined that when he had completed his university course in this country he would go out again and work in East Africa.

I relate that story and I am sure that it can probably be capped by similar stories from Malaya and Korea—first, because it shows the great responsibilities that sometimes fall on these young N.C.Os. in the Army to-day. They deserve, I feel, the support of Parliament, not only in praise of their successes but by patient understanding when they make occasional mistakes. I relate that story because it shows the value of the two years' service. It takes six months to train a man in this country and ship him to his overseas station. Then he probably needs a year to learn to understand the Koreans, the Gurkhas, the African soldiers, with whom he is going to serve. It is only in the last six months that he can be given these considerable responsibilities of command. I relate that story also because it seems to me to show something of the "invisible import," shall I call it, of National Service, which is not always shown on the balance sheet when we consider the cost to the nation's economy of taking a man away for two years from his civilian bench or desk. We see more often the soldier who has to do the chores in the training centres in this country. We see him going home at the week-end, and there does not seem to be much soldiering for him. But 80 per cent. of our Army is abroad. Those who go abroad I am sure grow in stature out of their experience, far more than they ever would do in a similar two years in civilian life.

The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, spoke of the steadiness of spirit in this country. I believe that the existence of that steadiness of spirit is because every year to every street in the country there returns a man who has seen something of the men and women of other lands. That was not so in between the two World Wars, and I am sure that our foreign policy must have been handicapped accordingly. But now, over a generation, we are gradually building up a mounting stock of political wisdom in our people which we need to sustain our authority in international affairs now more than ever, seeing that we are not such a wealthy country. I believe that in the end this may prove the decisive moral reserve in the struggle for peace.

6.8 p.m.

My Lords, I have listened with the greatest interest to the suggestions contained in the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Wavell—especially the one about the combined pensions for the Army and the other Government Services. Perhaps I may return to that matter in a few minutes. I want to confine my remarks to one aspect of the manpower situation—that is, the shortage of warrant officers and senior N.C.Os. This problem is a serious one. Although it has been mentioned both by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and by the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, I feel that it deserves dealing with in more detail than it can receive in a general survey in the Secretary of State's Memorandum.

The Secretary of State says in paragraph 49 of the Memorandum:
"We are having more and more difficulty in finding long service warrant officers and senior non-commissioned officers. We want men to stay in the Army and are trying hard to improve conditions of service so that they do stay."
I think the usual meaning of the words "conditions of service" is pay and types of engagement. In both respects matters are probably better to-day than they have ever been. But that is not a sudden happening. It has been going on over a period of years. Although no self-respecting warrant officer will ever admit that there is no room for improvement in pay, I think they are now prepared to agree that there is no real cause for a serious grouse. The increased overseas allowances for those separated from their families, or in areas of higher cost of living, have been most welcome. But money is not the only answer and good as those allowances are, they are no real substitute for a united family. Without doubt this separation is the real cause of the shortage of senior other ranks. A large proportion of these men are married, and though they are perfectly prepared to be separated for reasonable periods, they are not prepared for what seems to be almost perpetual separation. There are, of course, two causes for this separation—the high proportion of the Army serving under active, or near-active, service conditions, and the shortage of married quarters—and these two factors are complementary. The more of these men we have serving under adverse conditions, the more are married quarters required when they serve at home.

Here I would remind your Lordships that Germany is a home station, so that if a man who has been serving abroad, separated from his family, possibly for some years, is posted to a home station and finds that he still has to cross half Europe to see his family, he is very apt to think he is getting a raw deal, and he leaves. While such a high proportion of the Army serving at home is serving in Germany, this question of married quarters is of special importance. I myself was in Germany at the beginning of "Operation Union," and it was wonderful to see how morale rose and how the feeling in the different units improved as the families arrived. For some years, while stationed in Germany, I was able to help in the problem—and a very difficult problem it was—of housing the families who came out, and whose numbers varied so enormously with changes of units. Units were replaced by units which were apparently similar, but the number of families was quite different. That was, and no doubt still is, a very difficult problem. There was one useful expedient which we used in the division in which I was serving. If, as sometimes happened, we found a barracks which was too large for one unit and all the ancillary troops which had to be accommodated, we managed to vacate a complete block and convert it into flats. In one place we were able to provide six fiats, which was a real contribution to the solution of the problem. I mention this to the noble Earl because it is possible that something on these lines might be done in other places. Later, when I had the honour to be able to visit districts and commands in the Middle East and at home, I was able to see how much was being done. There is no doubt that the Army and both the late Government and this Government have done, and are doing, a very good job of work in providing quarters; but there are still not enough, and there is still an urgent need for more married quarters.

Although the provision of married quarters is the most important factor, there is another reason why warrant officers and senior N.C.Os. do not stay on in the numbers the Army would like—that is, dissatisfaction with rates of pension. I am dealing with this from a standpoint different from that of the noble Earl, Lord Wavell. I thought his suggestion was a most interesting one, and that, from the point of view of the Army, it might be extremely valuable in obtaining the medium Servicemen who are so important. The Army must be composed, I think, of the three types of service—the short serviceman, who comes in for long enough to learn his job, and goes out to the reserve; the "middle piece"—the corporal and junior sergeant; and the long serviceman, who is the senior N.C.O. and senior warrant officer. What I am asking is that the long-serviceman should get a pension sufficiently large to induce him to go on serving. So far as I have been able to understand it, the feeling is that whilst the pension on completing twenty-two years—that is, at an age of about forty—is a useful backing to the civil job which a man at that age is now almost certain to get, the rate of pension a man will receive at, say, fifty-five, when he is much less likely to get such a good job, is not enough. There is, in addition, a gratuity which increases every year, but I am not certain how generally that is realised and appreciated. But certainly the fact is that the men feel that the pension is not large enough. I have dealt in some detail with this one, probably small, aspect of the manpower situation. Although it is small, I have concentrated on it because I am convinced that it is vital to the efficiency of the Army that this loss of potential warrant officers should be stopped. Unless that is done, the efficiency of the Army will inevitably suffer.

6.20 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Earl who is going to reply cannot complain that in this debate there has been any lack of advice or suggestions as to what the Government might do to improve conditions in the Army. After the speeches by experienced noble Lords who have spoken to-day, I shall not attempt to do more than deal with one or two matters. I think we can deduce from the Memorandum that on matters of equipment the Government are fairly satisfied. I would only say on that point that new equipment takes a long time to produce. Noble Lords who served between the wars will remember that the Bren gun, work on which began shortly after the First World War, was not in the hands of the troops until 1936. Unless general staffs are kept in control, and not permitted to insist on the ideal weapon with all the delays that that entails, the production of new weapons will not overtake the obsolescence of the old ones; and that consideration applies to tanks and most weapons.

I should like to say a few words about barracks, partly because they are one of the factors, and by no means the least, influencing the supply of Regulars, which is the great anxiety in the mind of the Government. I speak feelingly on this matter, because for a time before the last war we were looking forward to seeing the demolition of some of the oldest barracks in London and their replacement by modern barracks. January 1, 1940, was the day appointed for the demolition of Regent's Park Barracks, and plans for the new barracks were all completed, and Wellington Barracks were nearly as far advanced. Both of those, alas! were among the war casualties. Now the War Office are thinking again. We are glad to know that they have a long-term plan for the provision of accommodation. The difficulties are obvious, in that provision for barracks has to compete not only in the Army vote, but, to some extent, with the provision of civilian houses.

I notice in the Army Estimates this year that some £15 million or £16 million is provided for new works, and that in addition the value of new works that are being started this year but which will continue in future years is something of the same order. It is worth noting what the breakdown of this year's provision for works services is. For married quarters nearly £2 million is allotted, for barracks nearly £3 million, for workshops over £4 million, and for storage accommodation just on £5 million. That is probably a fair balance, because, however much one may desire to increase the sum spent on married quarters and on barracks, there is no doubt that weapons and equipment must be kept in mind and that provision must be made for storage and for repairs and maintenance. It is also worth noting that a sum of £12 million is wanted for repairs and maintenance of existing barracks. Noble Lords who know about the barracks of this country will not be surprised at the size of that figure. Some of those barracks date back 150 years. One barracks still in use was built by the East India Company as its recruiting depôt, I think, just on 150 years ago; and several were built between the Napoleonic wars and the Crimean War. All over the country in the county towns, the headquarters of the county regiments, can be seen these relics of early Victorian barrack building. It is essential that the barracks programme should be continued at maximum strength, not only for married quarters, but also for the single troops. There is this to be said: that usually a soldier serves only part of his life as a single man in barracks. So nobody would advocate that the barracks planned should be of a very high standard, but they must be sufficient to give the men serving reasonable amenities.

The question of Regular manpower bulks largely in the Memorandum. The first question I feel should be asked—as, indeed, it was asked by my noble friend who opened the debate—is whether it is possible to relieve our Regular Army of any of its commitments by an increased use of Colonial manpower. That is a point on which noble Lords opposite had a great deal to say before they came into office, and I should like to know whether they have found it possible to do anything since then. The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, mentioned a point about the formation of seven extra infantry battalions. We should all welcome that. But I notice that the Regular Army is now below establishment to the extent of 5,000 men. It seems questionable whether it is worth forming seven new battalions when by using those men you could bring the present battalions up to full establishment.

The big problem in the Regular Army is the long service cadre. Setting aside, for a moment, the officers, there are, as noble Lords have said, the Regular non-commissioned officers and warrant officers, men on whom we rely to serve for the greater part of their working lives, who gain experience and who are, in the rather hackneyed phrase, the backbone of the Army. Why is it, as we are told on every side, that young men are not willing to extend their service or reengage in order to fill these posts? I should like to devote the rest of my speech to that point.

We hear that the twenty-two years' engagement, which was introduced about a year ago, has been a great success. That is most welcome news. We see that the Regular recruiting figures doubled between 1951 and 1952; and I believe that in the last months of 1952 a high percentage of those enlisting were on the twenty-two years' engagement. It is worth looking at that engagement for a moment, because it has disadvantages as well as advantages. It serves to fill up the ranks of the Army, but do not let us forget that the men who are joining the Army have the option of leaving after three years. Before the war, when there were engagements of twelve years, part with the Colours and the remainder with the Reserve, a man who enlisted was at the disposal of the Army for twelve years, which meant that the Adjutant-General's side of the Army could plan ahead because they knew the intake and they knew what their Reserves were going to be. But a man who joins today may be gone in 1956, with no further obligation, as I understand it. That seems to me to set the manpower planning branch of the Army a very difficult task, because they cannot know until the next three years are over what proportion of the three-year men will be taking on.

There is another aspect of this twenty-two years' engagement. In the old days, certain men, chiefly senior non-commissioned officers and warrant officers, having completed twelve years with the Colours, were allowed to re-engage to complete eighteen or twenty-one years—I am not sure which. But that was only a very few men in the whole Army; only a few seniors who were selected for still higher rank. So that any man who did not come up to the standard required had to leave after twelve years. Therefore there was a constant flow of promotion, and the senior warrant and non-commissioned ranks were continually being cleared out at the top and giving promotion to the younger men. How is it possible, when you have a twenty-two years' period of service open to every man in the Army, to avoid a block in promotion in the higher ranks and, therefore, to discourage ambitious young N.C.Os. from taking on? Only the other day I heard of the case of a full sergeant of some six or seven years who was going to leave when he had finished his term of service because he saw no prospect of becoming company sergeant major for a long time. That seems to be a very real problem attending this change in the terms of service, and I should like to hear what the Government propose to do about it.

It is said that 80 per cent. of the Regular Army is overseas at the present moment, and I agree that it is a serious consideration. In many cases it deters people from choosing the Regular Army as a career. People tend to speak as if things were very different before the war, and a man had every chance of passing a good deal of his service at home. I question very much whether that is the case. Admittedly, the stations abroad before the war were not involved in semi-active service conditions; they were fairly comfortable settled units in a settled routine, but they were abroad. I was able to look up the 1938 Army List, and in the Army in India in that year there were forty-five British battalions and a number of regiments of cavalry, artillery, and so on. The Cardwell system for the infantry meant that one battalion of each regiment abroad was balanced by a battalion at home. That meant that at least 50 per cent. were always abroad. But it was more than 50 per cent., because the home battalions were draft finding units, through which the men passed in their first year of service. The proportion of individual soldiers who were abroad in the inter-war years may not have been as high as 80 per cent., but it was certainly higher than many people think.

Moreover, before the war the foreign tour for an individual soldier was six years, so that a soldier enlisting in the Army for seven years with the Colours and five with the Reserve did his first few months training at his depôt in his home battalion. He was then drafted to the foreign battalion, where he spent the rest of his seven years'service—indeed, very often more, because, owing to the exigencies of trooping, there was a clause permitting the Army to keep men for twelve months over their seven years if it was impossible to bring them home by the normal methods. In my view the pictures of the horrors of the present as compared with the past are false. I think one must look elsewhere for the causes.

Similarly, in the case of married quarters, people talk as if before the war every soldier could live with his family. It was only well after the First World War that soldiers' marriages were recognised at all, other than about forty or fifty in a battalion of the most senior of each rank—warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and privates—who were officially allowed married quarters and the privileges that went with the married establishment. Between the wars, the marriage allowance was granted for any soldier over the age of twenty-six who married. He received allowances, but very few other privileges. The number of quarters allotted to families was not increased. I believe that very few quarters were built for families, and a young man of under twenty-six who married might find himself sent abroad for six years, with no prospect of his being with his family at all. Indeed, if those over twenty-six were posted abroad they had no prospect of living with their families unless they rose to qualify for the married establishment. Every officer who served then must have heard heartrending stories of young men, possibly foolish ones, who had married very young and found themselves, owing to the conditions of the service separated from their wives. I believe that all soldiers now qualify for marriage allowance, whatever their age, and there are many more married quarters available, not only in this country but in some other stations abroad. I suggest that there is not enough difference between conditions in the 1930's and those in the 1950's to account for the difficulty of persuading men to join the Regular Army.

The point I was trying to make was what the noble Earl is saying now: that owing to the fact that there is no definite married establishment, there is no guarantee that these higher ranks will find married quarters wherever they go. That was the case before the war, and it is only partly why they are leaving.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for putting that point clearly. It was a point that I did not quite appreciate in his speech. That certainly would be area son for the unpopularity of the Service with senior ranks but not, I suggest, with the middle and junior ones.

As the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden said, money is not everything; it is not the sole attraction to a young man choosing his career. I think his prospects in his career are the most important factor. Possibly he does not deliberately weigh up the factors. If there is small prospect of his reaching the high rank he will soon learn about it when he joins, and will take the first opportunity of leaving. I believe that it is in the prospects of promotion that the solution lies. It is there that we shall find the most promising remedy for the unpopularity about which we are hearing. We know that conditions in barracks could be improved; we know that the conditions of the married men could be improved; we know also that the conditions in overseas stations, where the Army is now, cannot be improved so long as the international situation remains as it is. Troops abroad have to be in places and perform duties which we know are arduous, dangerous and uncomfortable.

All you can offer the soldier, if you want him to take on, is, it seems to me, an assured future. I wish there were time to follow the suggestions of the noble Earl, Lord Wavell, and the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden, because the reemployment and resettlement of soldiers is undoubtedly of great importance. But at the moment I should like to suggest quite briefly that the prospects of promotion to commissioned rank are too restricted. The selection is, I believe, made in the first few months of a man's service. That policy should, I think, be reviewed. Promotion to commissioned rank should be thrown open to men who have served more than just a few months in the Army. It should be thrown wide open to all men, of all classes and types of education and school, who can prove that they have leadership in them. We do not hear much about the selection of officers, but a widening of the field of selection would not only increase the supply of junior Regular officers—a matter which we are told is causing some anxiety; we are told that the Army is 3,000 officers short of establishment—but it would induce more young men to think of the Army as a career. It would also improve the prospects of the men in the ranks. Young men often improve in the course of development, and sonic develop later than others. Some, though they are tested with a view to being officers at the age of eighteen or nineteen, may not develop the required qualities until several years later. I think that that is the direction in which there is least satisfaction to be found from the Memorandum.

I cannot help a feeling that the Government are looking at the problem of 1950 through the eyes of 1930 or earlier; and I would suggest that conditions have changed since the years between the wars, when there was unemployment and a much lower civilian standard of living. The Army has to compete with civil life and it must always keep a little ahead. It has always got to offer as much as civil life, or a bit more, if it is to attract sufficient young men to make it possible to pick and choose leaders. These conditions of social security and full employment present quite a different climate in which the Army has to solve its problems. That, I suggest, at least, according to the Memorandum, is not very much in the minds of the Government.

6.47 p.m.

My Lords, the subject of this debate is one on which this House can speak with great authority and in which it has very considerable experience. I have been asked a large number of technical, administrative and strategic questions, and I hope your Lordships will not be disappointed when I say that I do not propose to answer them all. But what I will do is to take up what seem to me one or two of the major themes which have run through this debate. There is one point I wish to make at the outset. It has been clear throughout this debate that all the speakers are deeply interested in the basic welfare of our Army, not only because our safety and the safety of millions of other people depend upon it but also because it is an immense human question. I am sure my right honourable friend will be grateful for the pleasant way in which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Wilson, and others, have spoken about the form and substance in which his Memorandum has been produced. I would also thank the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for the way in which he spoke of it.

The central point which has been brought out by a number of speakers, including Lord Ogmore, is that the Army of to-day is on the stretch. Its commitments are very heavy for the forces available. Eighty per cent. of the Armys—that is, 80 per cent. of the fighting strength—are overseas. They are in Germany, Korea, and the Canal Zone, and in Belgium, Holland, Trieste, Cyprus and Malta. If we go into the Far East, we find them in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya. They are in Africa and the Middle East, in Jordan and Libya, the Sudan, Kenya, Aden and other places. One readily grasps that the administrative work to be done by the Army in these conditions is great. If we consider how this is to be done as compared with pre-war conditions, with what is virtually a short-term Army as opposed to the pre-war long-term Army—probably that is the biggest difference—we must appreciate that the nature of the task is of the first magnitude and is worthy of the finest brains and ability that this country can produce.

The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, raised the question of manpower. It is true that War Office manpower has been reduced by 10 per cent. since last year, which I think is not a bad performance at a time when the Service is expanding and being re-equipped. In regard to formation staffs which were examined, divisional headquarters have been reduced by 16 per cent. and brigade headquarters by 9 per cent., which I think is in the direction the noble Lord had in mind. My right honourable friend has started four investigations to examine these different aspects of Army life: training establishments, non-effective service, the command organisation, and the depôt and store-holding organisation. These are being carried out but the reports are not yet available. I hope in due course their results will show that something can be done on these lines.

As has been explained and as noble Lords are aware, the Army to-day has shown a considerable improvement in Regular recruitment. That is of great importance in itself. The noble Lord, Lord Stratheden, put his finger on the spot when he said that the difficulty to-day is the long service men, particularly W.Os. and N.C.Os. The question which we ask is: why are they not staying? The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, dealt with that and really struck this note: "We 'took it' in our day; why should not they 'take it' now?" I think the reason is that people are more "choosy" to-day, and are more particular. There is also the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden, which we think is of importance—namely, that there is no assurance at any given time that a married quarter will be provided. There is the apparent possibility of perpetual separation—I think that was the point made by the noble Lord and I suggest it is an important one to approach. It is really for that reason that we are continuing and, indeed, expanding what the late Government did in the building of married quarters. We think that that, by itself, is probably the most important thing of all, because, after all, the prospects in the Army to-day are good. By and large, promotion to-day in the Army should be good. The conditions are really not unsatisfactory.

The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, used the cliché, if he will permit me to describe it so, of "ever-rising costs." But the costs of living have not risen for nine months. It is worth while to bear that in mind. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, spoke of blocking promotion, but I do not think that that is a real issue. It may be that that may arise in certain particular appointments of a technical character, but the extreme flexibility of the twenty-two years' service should not create any block at all. In fact, among senior N.C.Os. and W.Os. there is a shortage of people. For instance, we hope that one soldier in three will go on after three years to six years, and that one in six will go on to at least nine years. In point of fact, only one in ten go on after six years, so there should be no block at all in promotion. We are really going out to try to get officers, W.Os. and N.C.Os. We cannot widen the scope of commissions without lowering the standard. I do not think the noble Earl would desire that. So far as we know at the present time, the opportunities for commissions are as wide as they can be.

There is the point emphasised by the noble Earl, Lord Wavell, in regard to re-settlement. That is obviously of great importance if any form of service is to be attractive. As to the ordinary information and training which can be done through the Ministry of Labour, the noble Earl would like to take it a great deal further than that. I can say that a certain quota of positions in the Civil Service is made available for Service men. I know the noble Earl would take it further, but there is an essential difficulty—I do not want to develop it too far—inassuring retired officers of a career in various Government appointments. After all, the Government Departments have to set a standard of quality, and if you are going to restrict those appointments only to the Service there might be a danger of that quality not being of quite such high level.

I should like to make it clear that in my remarks regarding forty years' continuous State employment I was referring to other ranks only and not to officers.

Yes, I appreciate that. I should also say that at the present time a number of retired officers are being employed in less active positions, both in the War Office and elsewhere. To a certain extent this relieves more active officers and also gives more continuing employment. So far as other ranks are concerned, we are trying to get as many people as we can to attend the apprentice schools. For instance, in the last year there has been established the infantry boys battalion and there are other units in other branches of the Service, generally speaking on the same lines.

We shall, of course, be delighted to get more officers from the universities, if that is possible. It is true that there are not a great many coming through at the present time. We are also hoping that Welbeck, which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, mentioned, will prove a source of drawing and attracting young men, particularly from the northern part of the country. It is a curious and regrettable fact that more officers come from the south of this Island than from the north. It is believed that there may be some way of tapping the north and drawing a larger proportion of people who are fit and able to hold the responsibilities of officers. Welbeck starts next September, and so far the quality of applicants has been good. The numbers there will rise to about 150 boys for a two-year course. It will not be like Dartmouth, in the sense that it will not he the only entry into Sandhurst; nor will it be staffed by Service personnel; it will be staffed by civilians. The boys will go there between 15¾ and 16¾ years of age, and will go on to Sandhurst if competent and able to do so. We hope that this will draw what I might call young and competent boys from various, shall I say, technical backgrounds in the northern parts of this Island, men who might go into perhaps various engineering and other apprenticeships in civil life, and who may come to know the Army and to appreciate its technical side. We hope that this will bring an increased technical understanding into Army service.

I should like to mention Shrivenham, where we are also trying to get officers, and this year direct entry to the Army through the course at Shrivenham will be introduced. That means that, by going through a technical course at Shrivenham, instead of going to Sandhurst, officers can go straight into the Army. There has also been introduced a six months' course for regimental officers. The purpose of that is to bring the influence and experience of the Royal Military College of Science more closely into the regimental life of the Army. There has been a tendency for some of the more technically qualified officers, having completed one of the two longer courses at Shrivenham, to disappear from the regimental sphere into the rather more ethereal world of development and supply. By this short course it is hoped to bring about a contact between the regimental officer and the "boffin," so that they can talk something of the same language. I hope that I have shown that we are out to get the officers and the long-term N.C.Os., a matter which constitutes the real problem of the Regular Army at the present time.

My Lords, there has been a good deal of comment on the subject of barracks. I say straight away that this is a sad story. Only about 15 per cent. of the troops are living in barracks built since the reign of Queen Victoria; the remainder are in older barracks or in hutted camps. Of course, no one Government is responsible for this state of affairs; it is the pernicious influence of progressive procrastination, if I may put it in that language. I should say in mitigation of all Secretaries of State that formerly we had barracks in India which could be used, and that since the war we have concentrated more on married quarters—I think, on the whole, probably rightly. But it is clear that in many cases those who come home from Germany will be rather startled to find an extremely sharp difference in the conditions in which soldiers live. I should add, too, that a small start towards modernisation was made after the war but that came sharply to an end when rearmament began. This, of course, sterns from the fact that in peace time there is seldom enough money to spare to tackle this problem, whereas in war time everything is concentrated on armaments and warlike stores, and the soldiers, of course, have to live in huts.

I know that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is extremely concerned about the present situation and is determined to find some means whereby a start to the tackling of this problem can be made over the next few years. It will, however, require an extremely large and long effort, and the national need for such things as houses, schools and other capital investments will naturally compete. Nevertheless, I am sure that your Lordships will agree that something must be done, because the indefinite continuation of the present situation will, among other things, cost literally millions of pounds in the maintenance and repair of tumbledown barracks and hutted camps.

I should like next to deal with one or two remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, in regard to the Middle East. We are aware that conditions there are rather austere. The Service men are out there for strategic reasons, but we are endeavouring, by certain definite measures, to alleviate the position which exists. This we are doing in three ways: there is, first, the improvement of the camps; second, special leave facilities, and third, increased local overseas allowances. In regard to the improvements of camps, I would say that in 1952–53 something of the order of £500,000 was spent in improving the conditions generally—including bath houses, electric light, hutted messes, kitchens, canteens, and anterooms. The hospital at Fayid is now being improved, and fifty-five married quarters were built; and there will be a similar number this year, besides a certain amount of hirings, but these are of a fairly low quality. The difficulty there is the shortage of labour, not of funds. I am only trying to indicate that something is being done in that respect. In regard to leave, there is leave to Cyprus with a free return air passage. There are also leave centres at Troodos and Famagusta to which troops can go. Facilities have been created for men who come on leave to the United Kingdom at their own expense to travel by air at reduced fares. About 200 men a month are coming by this way. There are also three leave centres in the Canal Zone alone.

Turning to the married unaccompanied local overseas allowance, I think one or two slightly false impressions have been created by this. The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, called it compensation. It is not intended to be compensation. It is intended to avoid any embarrassment when married officers and other ranks, who otherwise would be living with their families at home, go overseas. When they go abroad, one of two things would normally happen—either they would be at a disadvantage with the unmarried officers in the mess or in the canteen, or, alternatively, their families would not have so much money. It is precisely to meet that situation, and to prevent embarrassment of that character, that the increased overseas allowance has been granted.

May I, with respect, say one word to the noble Earl? He described in a good many sentences what was the object of this payment. I would respectfully suggest that the use of the word "compensation" was not very far wrong.

Compensation is not what is being applied. The simple point is that the allowance is made to meet a positive difficulty.

That is not the intention. It is intended simply to meet the difference between living at home and having to live in the mess. It is rather technical but I have to meet the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that this does not apply to Korea. It is not a question of its having being foolishly omitted, but that the conditions which the allowance is intended to meet do not apply there. The noble Lord referred to campaign pay, No one would say that that probably was not deserved, but this payment has a different purpose from campaign pay, and therefore is not strictly comparable at all. I should mention, further, that at the present time accommodation is going up in Cyprus which will accommodate a brigade, with supporting administrative units. This will include married quarters and communal buildings, such as a church, a hospital, a school and so on.

Perhaps I may now turn for a moment to the Territorial Army, about which there have been a large number of questions this afternoon, and for which a very high regard has been shown. The Territorial Army consists, of course, of four elements. The one to which most reference has been made, quite rightly, is the volunteer element, on which we have depended so much. What we can say is that to-day the Territorial Army is better trained and equipped than it has ever been in peace time. Centurion tanks will be used this summer with the Territorial Army and, on the face of it, it would seem that everything is in very good condition. The difficulties which exist have been substantially touched on this afternoon, and they are these: the success and future efficiency of this body depends on a comparatively small corps of experienced volunteers. If I may say so, I think no country in Europe is able to rely in such a high degree for its reserve strength on a volun- teer effort. The corollary to relying on this body of volunteers is the very heavy strain which falls on them—I am given to understand it is a much heavier strain than pre-war. Their duties in time now are in the order of 30 to 50 per cent. higher than pre-war. That means, in effect, that practically all their spare time, both at week-ends and at holiday times, is taken up. To some extent, National Service men necessarily increase that work and, on the whole, the technical equipment is more complicated than hitherto. A great many of these men have served for a very long time, and certainly through the last war. I think it is fair to say that their zeal and prodigious efforts over the past years are beyond praise. I think the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, went too far when he said that the main body had served in the First World War, but I do not doubt that some can go back as far as that. The problem was brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Wise, and by and large I agree with him, except that I cannot say that those who are coming out are all necessarily the best. It does not necessarily mean that the whole percentage are the most experienced and able of the volunteers in the Territorial Army.

I said that the main body of officers in the Territorials, generally speaking, were men who had served in the First World War. I should be surprised to learn that that is not true.

I am given to understand that that statement is putting the position a little high. I cannot say more than that. I do not think it is particularly important, but I agree that some have served a long time; and what is happening now, quite bluntly, is that, partly through natural causes—age and so forth—they are tending to retire.

May I interrupt the noble Earl? It is not true that the main body of officers served in the First World War. I happen to have raised a regiment in Middlesex, in 1946. I can assure the noble Lord that 80 per cent. of the officers are of the last war only, and throughout the whole Middlesex Territorial Army Association it is the same. I can assure him that the same position exists in Wiltshire.

If the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, wishes I will write him a letter on the subject, but I do no: think it makes a great deal of difference. What is true—and this is the point made by several noble Lords—is that the burden of civil life to-day makes it very difficult for Territorials to carry on. The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, mentioned that on an average just under 30 per cent. of the National Servicemen were volunteering in the Territorial Army. Of course we do not yet know the effect of this—whether, for instance, they will volunteer again. What the noble Lord said is perfectly true: that the percentage of volunteers varies a very great deal in various parts of the country, and I suspect that that depends on the quality and character of the commanding officer.

What we can say is that there is no serious difficulty, as at one time was thought to be possible, between the National Service element and the volunteers. They have worked extremely well together. What we feel is that not only can we rely on the volunteer effort for some time to come—ill fact, indefinitely—but that it is of the utmost importance that we should do so. Were it otherwise, it would constitute a major revolution; it would be exceedingly deleterious and difficult for us, and would make it difficult to fulfil these tasks. We are faced at the moment with the problem, to which we are trying to find a solution, of enabling volunteers in the requisite time to fulfil these very important duties; and we have high hopes that means can be found to do this.

I would make one point clear as regards A.A. Command. There is no question of A.A. Command being supplanted in the vital role that it has to fulfil. A.A. guns are still required for close defence of our vital targets and to deal with enemy targets which escape our aircraft and guided-weapon nets. We must not consider A.A. guns obsolete, or even obsolescent. There has been some speculation in the Press on the effects of the decision on the Services, and it has even been suggested that many Regular and Territorial Army regiments will be transferred to the R.A.F. In view of the continuing need for these guns, such a suggestion must be regarded as ill-founded. So far as equipment is concerned, it is adequate to meet the essential rôle which the Territorial Army will be required to fulfil. There is no question of disbanding A.A. Command.

So far as I am aware, no one has suggested that at all. I referred to the fact, with pleasure, that guided missiles had been put under the R.A.F., and I said that I thought search-lights should go under them too. But no one has ever suggested that the gunners have not a rôle to play and should not remain under A.A. Command.

I am glad to have the noble Lord's support, but it has been suggested outside.

Noble Lords raised the question of Colonial troops. I should again like to make clear how these Colonial troops stand. They are normally raised by the local Government and paid for by the local Government, and they are intended for the defence of the locality and for internal security. Therefore it is really not relevant for the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, and others, to require that divisions should be formed by the War Office in Africa.

I do not know how the noble Earl can say that they are only for local defence, when at this moment one or two battalions of the King's African Rifles are fighting in Malaya and the Fijian Regiment is fighting in Malaya. They go much wider than local defence; they are part of Commonwealth defence. It is true that a large proportion is paid for locally, but often grants are made by the War Office, and often the War Office provide Generals and staff.

I agree with what the noble Lord is saying, but these troops cannot be moved to Malaya or elsewhere without the consent of the local Government. That is a very different thing from having troops which can be posted by the Government in this country; there is a very sharp distinction. At the same time, steps have been taken to raise a number of battalions of Colonial troops, and it is proposed to continue that process. If I may say so, particularly in Malaya not only what is known as the Malayan Regiment, but also the Federation of Malaya units, open to all races, are to be extended quite considerably. I have to make the point that we have not got all the N.C.Os. or officers that we want, so it is not a simple matter in that respect; but we are going ahead when we think that can be usefully done. I will mention shortly the question of air transport. It is relevant in this respect in its saving of manpower. The use of air transport has increased tenfold in two years, and now 50 per cent. of trooping is carried out by air, mostly under contract.

The noble Lord, Lord Blackford, asked whether the Centurion tank is really necessary. So far as is known, it is the only offensive weapon. No other offensive weapon that is known can be used for ground attack. Secondly, if we are wrong, we are wrong in very good company. Not only have all the other members of the Commonwealth bought Centurion tanks, but the off shore purchase of Centurions, as exports, have been worth in the last twelve months over 100 million dollars. Even as a speculation in commerce it might have something to be said for it. The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, asked about the recoil-less gun. It is not self-propelled, and is much lighter than the 17-pounder that went before. It weighs something about 2,000 1b. and can be manhandled across country. It relies on chemical energy in projectiles, rather than on velocity in hitting its object.

My Lords, I think I have covered most of the points—at least the major points—that have been raised. In closing I would simply say that we all recognise that since the war the Army has reorganised itself on a new principle, which includes National Service. It has also set in being a completely new set of terms of service. It is far more technical in its equipment than it was. It is extended enormously over completely new theatres of operation. It is bigger than it has ever been before in peace time. It is more heavily committed. I think it is also fair to say that it is better equipped than it has ever been before in peace time. We in this country owe a great deal to those who are serving under very hard conditions in many parts of the world. I think this debate has shown clearly the measure both of concern and interest with which we view the essential welfare of the Army. We can note with satisfaction that in truth it is, both in health of body and vigour of heart, sound and strong. All of us, I am sure, can take a measure of satisfaction from that. I would just add that all the suggestions—and they have been manifold—which have been made in this debate will be most carefully examined. I am grateful to those of your Lordships who have taken part in the debate for what you have said.

7.22 p.m.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in what I venture to suggest has been a useful debate. I am especially grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, who has clearly gone to a great deal of trouble to acquaint himself with the facts, and has done his best to answer all the various points which have been raised. And may I say that he has done so with a good deal of success. He need not take our little passage to heart. I think he has done very well in mastering the facts as he has done. What we on this side of the House did was to take the excellent White Paper and draw from it its logical conclusions, and those have been supported by private inquiries which we have made elsewhere. Our debate has brought out, I take it, most of the problems that affect the Army and the dangers which face us. Therefore, I feel that in the future no "ostriches," public or political or both, will be able to say that they were not aware of the difficulties which faced the Army and the country at this time. They are difficulties which have arisen not through the fault of any political Party or of any Government, but which are inherent in the times in which we live.

I was glad to hear that something is being done about barracks. The state of accommodation for our troops is one of the most serious elements affecting recruiting. It has always struck me as curious that as nearly all our barracks were built in Queen Victoria's reign, it would seem that her Ministers were the only people who could build barracks. We find that since her reign very few Ministers have built any barracks in this country. Why her Ministers were able to do this, and scarcely anyone else has ever been able to do it since she died, I cannot understand. It may be that it is because there are so many other calls on the public purse nowadays. There was only one note of disharmony in the debate, and it was a very slight one. It arose between the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys. and the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. Apparently, the noble Earl objected to the use by Lord Jeffreys of the expression "ever-rising costs." That, of course, must be embarrassing to him and to the Conservative Party, because we understand from them that the Cost of living is constantly going down.

At any rate the noble Earl objected to the suggestion that it was rising.

May I just say this. I did not reply to what the noble Earl said as to the cost of living not having risen in the last nine months, but I could have replied that there had been a rise since the increases of pay were given; that the cost of living had risen very considerably indeed before the nine months of which the noble Earl spoke.

Well, I will leave the two noble Lords to fight it out. I do not think I need say anything further. I close by expressing what I am sure is the wish of us all, that our Army will have every possible success in the coming twelve months and will meet its difficulties with the gallantry which it has always shown in the past. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past seven o'clock.