HC Deb 19 July 1949 vol 467 cc1134-5
10. Major Tufton Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for War how many vacancies there will be at the Royal Military Academy at the beginning of the next term; how many of these vacancies will be filled by "R" and "E" Cadets, respectively; and what steps he proposes to make the Army career more attractive to potential officers and thus overcome the present shortage of volunteers.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Shinwell)

There are 300 vacancies for the next term at the Royal Military Academy. For these vacancies there were 281 "R" candidates, of whom 126 were successful. As far as can be seen, at least 134 further vacancies will be filled by "E" candidates, but this number may increase as the selection board for next term has not yet completed its task. As regards the last part of the Question, I do not accept the suggestion that the Army career is not attractive.

Major Beamish

Does not the difficulty which has been experienced in getting sufficient candidates for the Royal Military Academy disclose a very serious state of affairs indeed? May I ask the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance that he is bending every effort to improve the conditions of the Army, and that there is no intention of lowering the standards of entry?

Mr. Shinwell

The position is not quite as bad as the hon. and gallant Member suggests, because on 1st January this year the total number of accepted candidates was only 40 less than was required, and it is hoped that a smaller deficiency will occur next term. As to the general conditions, there is no doubt that they have been vastly improved.

Brigadier Head

When the Secretary of State says he is satisfied with the attractions of the Army, does that mean that he is satisfied with the present officer situation in the Army as a whole?

Mr. Shinwell

When I say I am satisfied about the conditions for officers in the Army, I do not mean that conditions are perfect. There is much that remains to be done, but we are addressing ourselves to the appropriate tasks.

Major Beamish

Does not the right hon. Gentleman take a most serious view of the fact that there is a shortage of candidates for the Royal Military Academy, or is he trying to pretend that it does not matter in the least?

Mr. Shinwell

Of course, it does matter that there is a shortage, however slender or slight that shortage may be, but nevertheless we have taken account of the fact that there are variations from year to year.

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