HC Deb 25 January 1955 vol 536 cc23-4
41. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Secretary of State for War what proposals he has to improve the present reduction in Regular Army recruiting.

42. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for War why there has been a decline in recruitment to the Regular Army in 1954 compared with 1953 and 1952; and what action he will take.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Fitzroy Maclean)

The decline in recruiting figures is due to a number of factors. For one thing the 1952 figure was unusually high; in that year we introduced our new 22-year engagement and this got off to a good start. Secondly, there was in the financial year 1952–53 an exceptionally large intake of National Service men from whom, of course, a good proportion of our Regular recruits are drawn. This large intake also had a good effect on the 1953 recruiting figures. Neither of these factors recurred in 1954, though the proportion of Regular recruits to the National Service intake remained more or less constant.

The position at the present time is not critical, and at the existing rate of recruiting we can meet our commitments. We are, however, continuing to do everything in our power to attract more recruits to the Regular Army. Better barracks, more married quarters and fewer moves will, we hope, substantially reduce separation of families, and the formation of a strategic reserve in this country should improve stability.

Mr. Bellenger

Even if the situation is not critical, is it not very serious? Have the Government nothing more definite in mind than that which the hon. Gentleman has just stated in order to bring the Regular Army up to its proper establishment? Will the Secretary of State at some time in the immediate future give the House a statement of what the requirements of the Army are and what the Government are doing to meet them?

Mr. Maclean

I cannot accept that the steps which we are taking to attract more recruits are not serious. I have no doubt at all that better accommodation, and especially better married quarters, and fewer moves and greater stability, should be a great help to recruiting.

Mr. Strachey

Does not the Parliamentary Secretary realise that unless far more definite steps than those are taken to improve Regular recruiting, we shall be saddled with a two-year National Service for years?