HC Deb 22 June 1954 vol 529 cc213-4
17. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, arising from the conference on industry and National Service held last March in the organisation of which his Department was concerned, courses for officers on the treatment of National Service men have been arranged and what other action has been taken to deal with complaints by other ranks of wasted time and boredom.

18. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that there is at present no unavoidable waste of time and boredom imposed on National Servicemen.

Mr. Head

I think the root cause of boredom among National Service men in the Army comes from the need to employ a certain number of them on duties of a routine and uninspiring character. We cannot employ sufficient civilians to carry out all these duties: in many cases it is impossible for geographical or military reasons. We try to cut this form of employment down to a minimum, but it is quite impossible to eliminate it.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Is it not clear that when such large numbers of men are completely fed-up and browned-off more urgent action is required to bring to an end this mental stagnation? Will the right hon. Gentleman now initiate a rigorous inquiry into this continued, wasteful misuse of valuable manpower within the National Service period?

Mr. Head

I have said frequently in the House how we have sought to reduce to the minimum National Service men doing jobs which one might describe as those of hewers of wood and drawers of water. We have gone as far as we can and, subject to any suggestions from hon. Members, I do not think that we can go further.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the mental stagnation of which the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) speaks is far more indica tive of his condition than it is of the condition of National Service men?

Mr. Simmons

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is still the practice of old sweats to send rookies to whitewash the "last post"?

Mr. Awbery

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a general feeling among these men that they are clicking their heels together for much too long and that an intensive course of training could be carried out if the period of service was reduced from two years to 12 months?

Mr. Head

In the vast majority of cases these National Service men are busy and feel that they are doing a worthwhile job.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter again.