HC Deb 21 June 1955 vol 542 cc1141-2
44. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the drop in recruiting figures for the Regular Army; and whether, in view of the detrimental effect this is likely to have on the noncommissioned and warrant ranks, he will consider the advisability of moving to appoint a Select Committee of the House to investigate and report on possible action to remedy the situation.

Mr. Head

Recruiting figures have remained remarkably steady at about 25 per cent. of the National Service intake. I presume, however, that the right hon. Member refers to the retention of an adequate number of men on long-term Regular engagements, which presents a problem to which both I and my Service colleagues have given considerable study. Last year's selective pay increases had satisfactory results in certain sections of the Army but a number of other measures have been under consideration.

Mr. Bellenger

Is it not true that the recruiting figures show that if they continue at this depreciated rate then the non-commissioned ranks and the ranks of long-service volunteer Regulars in the Regular Army will be in serious jeopardy? Has the right hon. Gentle. man any new plans for recruiting those long-service volunteers?

Mr. Head

The recruiting figures are not seriously disturbing. One always wants them to be better, but ever since the start of the short-service scheme they have remained steady at about one in four of every man called up. The figure has remained remarkably steady throughout. I do not think there is any need for undue alarm about recruitment at the moment.

Mr. Shinwell

In view of the grave situation which the right hon. Gentleman himself recognises—that of being unable to obtain sufficient experienced non-commissioned officers—is it not time the Government reviewed the pay code? Obviously we cannot expect these men to remain in the Army if their conditions and pay are not comparable. or at any rate nearly comparable, with those of civilians outside?

Mr. Head

It is a complicated subject but I think that the right hon. Gentleman has over-simplified it, because in certain respects the retention rates are very good. I think that the point which causes concern at the moment is that of the number of men taking on after their three-year engagement has been completed. Those are the figures which the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is so keen to know. The full figures will give the definite trend, when it is possible to arrive at them. We are trying to get them at the earliest opportunity. In my opinion, that presents a problem about which certain measures will have to be considered very seriously. Indeed, they have been considered.

Mr. Strachey

When that "earliest opportunity" arises, will not the Secretary of State give us the recruiting figures in terms of man-years, because that is the only way in which we can get a valid comparison?

Mr. Head

I have several times given the House figures in terms of man-years.