HC Deb 23 February 1954 vol 524 cc177-8
1 and 2. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) why most of the National Service men who attain officer rank come from the South; and why it is considered by selection boards that Northerners are less suitable as officers;

(2) whether the views expressed at a recent command conference at Chester that the material for officers does not exist among Northerners represent War Office policy.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Antony Head)

It is a matter of fact and not policy that fewer officers come from the North of England than from the South. This has been so for a long time. As I have told the House on a number of occasions, I am trying to get more officers from the North.

Mr. Chetwynd

But the right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question why. Also, is he aware that there is real feeling in the North that more attention is paid by the selection boards to the rather more sophisticated, smooth-tongued Southerners than to the more solid types which we have in the North, and that this is mainly due to the accent and industrial background of the latter? Would the right hon. Gentleman make some comment?

Mr. Head

I do not want to start any North v. South controversy. The Territorial Associations and others have attended these boards and are satisfied that there is no partiality. If the hon. Gentleman would like to attend a board, I should be pleased to arrange it.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Whilst wholeheartedly agreeing with my hon. Friend, may I ask the Minister if he is aware that the same position applies to walks of life other than the Army?

Mr. Vane

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the county regiments from the North of England are the best in the Army?