HC Deb 07 December 1944 vol 406 cc891-900

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Beechman.]

6.59 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)

I am sure the House can approach a consideration of the pay and conditions of service of Army chaplains with a feeling of sincere thankfulness for the really wonderful work that Army chaplains have done since the war began. It has been my privilege to meet many padres of all denominations since the beginning of the war. Some of them, unfortunately, have been killed for the padre has never hesitated to go where the fighting is thickest. One of them has recently returned, a sick man, after spending over four years as a prisoner of war in Germany. Everywhere padres have been an inspiration to the troops and have proved not unworthy of Him who said: Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. I believe these facts are fully realised I believe that the heads of the Service Departments recognise the splendid work that padres do for the maintenance of morale.

With these thoughts in my mind, I must confess that I was very surprised to learn that Army chaplains are not paid, as in the American Army, on the same basis as other officers of equal rank. They do not, in fact, receive the pay of their rank at all. A chaplain, fourth class, wears the rank badges of a captain, but he does not receive a captain's pay. Hon. Members who are interested in a comparison between the pay of officers in different branches of the Service would do well to examine the written replies to questions which were put by my hon. Friend the Member of Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) on 25th February and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) on 7th November. They will see from those tables, which were published in the OFFICIAL REPORT, that captains in the R.A.M.C. receive 24s. 6d. per day. The equivalent of captains in the R.A.O.C. and in the R.E.M.E. receive 23s. 6d. per day. Captains in the Army Dental Corps and the R.A.V.C. receive 22s. 6d. per day, while captains in the A.E.C. receive 19s. per day. Cavalry, Royal Artillery and infantry captains receive 16s. 6d. per day, and to that is added, in the case of the Royal Engineers, Royal Corps of Signals and R.A.S.C. Corps pay, at the lower rate, of 1s. 10d. per day and, at the higher rate, of 2s. 8d. per day. As against these figures the chaplain, fourth class, the captain, receives only 15s. 4d. per day, and these differences are perpetuated throughout the scale. For instance a lieut.-colonel in the R.A.M.C. receives 52s. per day, and a lieut.-colonel in the A.E.C. and in the infantry receives 43s. per day, while the chaplain, second class, who is a lieut.-colonel, receives only 36s. 2d. per day.

I should say that the qualifications of the Army chaplain are more properly comparable to those of officers in the medical and dental corps than to those in the combatant branches. Nearly all of them have taken university degrees and they are older men; I think this comparison with the doctors was present in the mind of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kettering (Lieut.-Colonel Profumo), who, as the House will remember, flew back recently from Italy and made a memorable speech, in the course of which he referred to the spiritual doctors, whose quiet work in the Services has been fine beyond description."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1944; Vol. 404, c. 1986.] But I think the fairest comparison of all is with officers of the A.E.C. These men, of very similar qualifications, age, and scholastic attainments, receive, at the rank of captain, 2s. 8d. per day more than the chaplain, and at the rank of lieut.- colonel 6s. 10d. per day more than the chaplain. The case I want to make is that the pay of the Army chaplains, rank for rank, ought not to be less than that of officers of the A.E.C.

May I deal with the objections which I know the Secretary of State will raise against this very modest request? I think he will say first that chaplains are in an advantageous position in that, in common with Members of Parliament and those who are mentally deficient, they are not liable to be called up for compulsory military service. Neither do they have to serve in the ranks. I expect my right hon. Friend will tell us that chaplains enter the Service with the equivalent rank of captain at 15s. 4d. a day, whereas an ordinary officer obtains his commission normally after serving in the ranks, and does not earn as much as the chaplain until he has attained the rank of captain. All this is perfectly true, but the reason is that the chaplain is an older man and a specialist, for whom, incidentally, the demand is greater than the supply, and who has higher educational attainments, and who would normally, because of his age, be expected to have increased domestic responsibilities.

All this would not matter so much if the promotion of chaplains were rapid, but, in fact, it is almost negligible. I have been doing some research into the data given in the Army List, and I find from the July, 1944, Army List, which was the latest available to me, that 89 per cent. of the chaplains are chaplains fourth class, eight per cent. are chaplains third class, two per cent. are chaplains second class, and only one per cent. chaplains first class. I am well aware that the number of chaplains is related to the total strength of the Army; and for this reason I will be careful not to quote figures but will talk instead in terms of percentages. I find that exactly half the chaplains first class have been filling vacancies in the Regular Army establishment since the beginning of the war, and the same is true of chaplains second class and third class, which means that, to the extent of about half the places available in the higher ranks, promotion has been blocked for over five years. This is particularly hard on chaplains fourth class, the captains, whose chance of promotion is precisely nine to one against. The remedy I propose is that chaplains fourth class should be promoted to major after three years' service if they are recommended as fit for promotion. That is my case. To it let me add this:

If my right hon. Friend has come here with his heart hardened against any alteration in the conditions of service, let me plead with him not to close the door. These are very deserving men. I could harrow the House if I chose, and if I had the time, with many tales of really hard cases. But my case does not rest upon sentiment but upon justice.

7.10 p.m.

Lient.-Commander Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)

I intervene to support the notable plea which has been put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend. The case for improving the pay of Army chaplains was put in such a forcible manner by him that it is hardly necessary for me to amplify it. It has struck me, in looking through the answers to questions that I and other Members have had in recent months, that the chaplain service is rather in the position of being the Cinderella of the Army.

Mr. McKie (Galloway)

Is there any differentiation in pay between the chaplains of the Church of Scotland and of the Church of England?

Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

No, Sir, there is a standard rate, but a very poor one in our submission. The chaplains are, on the whole, older men than the combatant officers and have family responsibilities. They have to live like the rest of us, and it is up to us in this House to try and obtain the best possible conditions of service for them. I understand from an answer which the Secretary of State gave me on 17th November that there are shortages of chaplains in all denominations, and I believe that in some cases the shortages are really serious. It is very necessary that there should be an adequate number of chaplains to accompany the field forces, and their conditions of service must be made reasonable so as to attract padres into the military service. We all know the great stresses and strains to which our fighting men are put, and it is necessary, in order that their morale can be at the highest pitch, that they should have the assistance of padres. For that reason I hope that the Secretary of State will reconsider the position and do something towards improving the emolu- ments and the conditions of promotion of the chaplains.

7.13 p.m.

Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I think that we have not stressed enough the position of the unit chaplain. In the field he is responsible for the spiritual morale of a battalion of 800 men, he is responsible for the burial of casualties in the unit, and he is usually responsible for the welfare of the men. He is living with the company commanders, adjutants and the commanding officer, and yet he is paid less than they are. I do not think that the chaplains want promotion, but they ought to be paid the same rates as other officers of equal rank. May I give an example of the type of men we have as chaplains? In my division at Matruh, the senior chaplain was aged 52. When we were caught by the Germans, that man finished up by fighting the Germans with bare fists and he was taken prisoner. He was repatriated, and at the age of 54 he was taken prisoner again at Arnhem. Are we going to pay that man less than the infantry officers and officers of the Army Education Corps or the R.A.M.C.?

7.15 p.m.

Major McCallum (Argyll)

I want to reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), and particularly to stress the point about the junior ranks of chaplains. The answers that have been received from the War Office stress the fact that the responsibilities of these chaplains are not equal to those of officers of the Army Pay Corps, the Army Dental Corps or the Army Educational Corps. The record of chaplains in this war more than bears comparison for front line work with that of those people. To suggest that the War Office will sit tight, harden its heart and refuse, means that we shall have to carry on this campaign on behalf of men who, though they may be non-combatant, work very efficiently and gallantly in the front line. Some of them have stayed in their posts and have been taken prisoner. For three or four years they have been looking after their fellow prisoners and one or two of them, when they had a chance of being repatriated, have preferred to remain with their men. To say that such a body of men should be classed lower than a member of the Pay Corps, the Dental Corps or the Educational Corps is disgraceful.

7.17 p.m.

The Secretary of State for War (Sir James Grigg)

Let me start by saying that I hope that nothing I say this evening will lead any hon. Member to suppose that I do not appreciate and value the work done by Army chaplains. Field-Marshal Montgomery has over and over again impressed upon me the importance of their work, especially upon active service, and I am glad to get confirmation of the Field-Marshal's testimony from some hon. Members who have spoken to-day. Quite apart from the testimony of others, I should never be in danger of underrating the services of those who minister to the spiritual welfare of the individual soldier. Their work is, indeed, often beyond all praise and it is of a kind which, whether in the Army or outside, it has never been the custom to evaluate in terms of monetary remuneration. Indeed, it is impossible to evaluate it in such terms.

Two things I would like to say. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Aberdeen (Lieut.-Colonel Thornton-Kemsley) anticipated, quite rightly, that I should say this: that ministers of religion alone, among the whole community, except for two much smaller classes which he mentioned, are exempt, by reason of their calling, from compulsory service. They enter upon their work presumably having counted the cost beforehand. Indeed, I think I might with all reverence quote from the parable of the labourers in the vineyard: Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way. This very exemption from compulsion as a class invalidates some, at least, of the arguments put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend. In particular, I think it invalidates the comparison with the doctor and the engineer; but there are other grounds for rejecting this comparison. First, I imagine that it is broadly true that most clergymen have the prospect of going back to their charges with their old position at least maintained. The doctor and the engineer are very liable to go back to a shrunken or damaged practice and to have to build it up again. On my second point, again my hon. and gallant Friend anticipated my argument, but it is inevitable, when various arguments are elicited by a series of questions, that when we have an Adjournment Motion I should have to repeat my arguments particularly, as in this case, when I think their validity has been undisturbed. The second point is that the chaplain alone enters with the rank of captain. Doctors enter normally as subalterns, and in the Army Educational Corps they mostly enter as second lieutenants, quite often after service in the ranks and a period of training with an O.C.T.U. Incidentally, of course, on the question of absolute hardship as opposed to comparisons, a married chaplain gets a captain's allowances, and as those are exempt from Income Tax it represents a very substantial part of his remuneration.

The main crux of my argument lies in comparing a chaplain with a combatant officer. I am not in the least shaken in that comparison by the case put forward by hon. Members on the benches behind me. I maintain that the real crux of the matter lies in comparing the chaplain with the combatant officer. Here I do not think it is possible to admit the argument that chaplains enter at a comparatively late age and are entitled to special consideration. We have conscripted people up to very nearly 50 years of age in this war, and a large number of people in the thirties, and even in the forties, have been conscripted into the combatant arms of the Services. Apart from all this the combatant officer, first of all, must have had to serve in the ranks. When he has done so and been recommended, specially picked out, he has to undergo quite a considerable course in an O.C.T.U. If he passes this he is commissioned as a second lieutenant. After six months he becomes a lieutenant. After that there is no guarantee he will ever become a captain.

Let us make a comparison on this basis. Let us take, for simplicity, a married man with two children, and let us omit war service increments. Incidentally, these increments, as the House will remember, go to all serving personnel, officers and men, after three, four and five years. These increments have certainly reduced the argument of hardship in the case of those who have served for three years. I realise, however, that the case of hardship was only put by one Member, and not pressed very strongly. Indeed, it could not, I think, be pressed very strongly, because war service grants are available to officers, as they are to other ranks, and by this time it has become well established that there is no element of humiliating charity in war service grants.

The case which has been put forward is based, in the main, on comparisons, and it is on that basis I will try to deal with it. The chaplain enters with 15s. 4d. a day plus, if he is a married man with two children, 9s. 6d. in family lodging allowance, I think, which is free of Income Tax. At the end of three years, apart from any question of promotion, his pay rises to 18s. 2d. a day. The combatant officer, after service in the ranks which may be only for months but may be for years, starts with 11s. a day pay plus allowances which I think are about the same, or possibly 1s. more than a captain's allowances—the family lodging allowance—because, as this House knows, family lodging allowances have been tapered to meet the case of the lower paid officers. At the end of three years' service as an officer he will certainly be a lieutenant, and as such will get 14s. 6d. a day plus about the same allowances. He may have been lucky enough to have become a captain, in which case he will get 16s. 6d. a day plus allowances. After three years actually as a captain he will get another 1s. per day.

On this basis comparing, not rank with rank, but their positions from the time of entry into the Service, and I maintain that is a proper comparison, the comparison is in favour of the chaplain. Personally, I am all against weighting the scales any further against the combatant officer than they may be under the existing code. I would still maintain this even though it is possible to quote the special case of doctors and some others who are possibly even better off. Personally, I think that in our post-war scales the remuneration of the combatant officer ought to be as high as that of the best of the professional officers. But that is neither here nor there. Then the hon. and gallant Member for West Aberdeen went on to say, "It is all very well, but see how much slower promotion is for chaplains." There is a very clear reason for that, which is that combatant officers do suffer a higher rate of casualties in the higher ranks.

In any case, I am bound to say that I do not think I could go to the Treasury in support of the proposal that chaplains should automatically become majors at the end of three years' service—total service—with the result that their pay becomes 27s. 2d. plus allowances. I know that the comparison is not fully valid, but it should be pointed out that under the time scales of promotion for the regular combatant officer, introduced in 1938, the subaltern does not become a captain until he has done eight years' service, and does not become a major until he has done 17 years' service.

It would be easy for me to take the line, in these matters of pay and promotion, of exuding sympathy all round, and leaving it to be inferred that it is only the wicked Treasury which prevents me from doing what hon. Members ask. But I have a conscience in these matters, and, bearing in mind the conditions for combatant officers, I have been unable, in spite of the arguments which hon. Members have addressed to me to-day, and which were addressed to me when I received two or three of them in a deputation, to think that what those hon. Members ask is justified. I must, therefore, take upon myself, in spite of the threats of my hon. Friend behind me, whatever odium there is in saying so. Let me end as I began, by saying that this attitude does not in the least arise from any failure to recognise the worth of the Army chaplain's work. It arises from the conviction that the best work of all is that of the combatant officer. Nevertheless, nothing would induce me to underrate the value of the Army chaplain's work—it would be foolish and, worse, ungrateful. But it remains true that this work cannot be valued in terms of earthly remuneration, and I am sure that most chaplains fully recognise that.

Lieut.-Colonel Thornton-Kemsley

Will my right hon. Friend address himself briefly to the difference between the rate of remuneration of the Army Educational Corps and that of the chaplains?

Sir J. Gregg

I have addressed myself to that. The Army Educational Corps officer falls into that class of professional officer which I referred to early in my remarks. If my hon. and gallant Friend will look at HANSARD to-morrow, he will see that what I said covered that as well.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-seven Minutes after Seven o'Clock.