§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 5, to leave out "who enlist" and to insert "enlisted".
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
I think it will be convenient to discuss with this Amendment the next two Amendments, in page 1, line 6, to leave outOctober, nineteen hundred and fifty-sevenand to insert:May, nineteen hundred and fifty-twoand in line 9, at the end to insert:subject to the agreement, expressed in writing of any persons so enlisted";the two Amendments at the bottom of the page, in page 2, line 44, at the end to insert:unless they express their agreement in writing that such regulations shall apply";and in line 46, to leave outOctober, nineteen hundred and fifty-sevenand to insert:May, nineteen hundred and fifty-two, unless they express their agreement in writing that it shall apply";and the Amendment at the top of page 2422, in page 3, line 28, to leave outOctober, nineteen hundred and fifty-sevenand to insert:May, nineteen hundred and fifty-two".
§ Mr. Wigg
I am much obliged, Sir Gordon. I do not know whether that will be agreeable to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), but it is certainly agreeable to me.
The Bill is the first step in a new policy. The problem which faced the Government arose from the fact that it had decided to withdraw the three-year engagement and from the further fact that the previous Secretary of State for War included in the Army Act of the time a statutory provision to enable a soldier to undertake an engagement of twenty-two years with the right at three-yearly intervals to leave the 251 force on giving notice to his commanding officer. The Secretary of State has decided, in his wisdom, that as from 1st October next the Bill will allow the Regular soldier to undertake a 22-year engagement, and that subsequently the conditions of discharge and transferrence to reserve shall be governed by Regulation and not by Statute.
We are legislating for twenty-two years ahead, which is a very long time and takes us well towards the end of the century. The Amendment would make the Bill retrospective to the date when the first statutory provision was made, namely 1st May, 1952. Before I explain the reasons, let me say that I do not want to take from any serving soldier any rights that he now has. Although I move an Amendment to antedate the Bill to 1st May, 1952, at the same time I propose a provision that soldiers now serving, or any soldiers in the future, shall have rights removed—either statutory rights or rights which the Secretary of State for War may lay down—only on the basis of the written agreement of the soldier concerned. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
On a point of order. Is it possible for hon. Members to be provided with the facility of hearing my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) by your making suitable arrangements so that the committees which are taking place on these benches may be transferred outside the Chamber?
§ Mr. Wigg
I do not mind very much. I naturally want my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), not to miss a word of what I say—or even my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). It might enable him, when he makes his interventions in matters of defence, to be a little more accurate and a little less irrational than he has been in the past.
The Government must introduce the Bill in order to get the future position of the soldier put right, but they must be very careful to remember that this will be Government policy for a very long time ahead. Hon. Members who have 252 served in the Regular Forces will appreciate that one of the curses of the Army has been "preserved rights." Whenever a Minister has wanted to put something right or to introduce a new condition of service or a new rate of pay, or to alter a trade rate, one thing he has never been allowed to do is to remove any privilege that already exists. The most amazing and complicated situation arises over a period of time in every aspect of the Army—pay, conditions of service, promotion—until along comes somebody like Lord Haldane who tries to clear it up for another generation, until we get into a further mess.
The Secretary of State for War proposes to leave the long-term Regular soldier who enlisted between 1st May, 1952, and 30th September, 1957, in possession of his present statutory rights. Therefore, we may have for at least twenty-two years, and perhaps for very much longer, scattered all over the British Army, in every unit, every company and every battery, soldiers serving alongside each other on the same engagement but on different conditions. I assure the Secretary of State that nothing is more productive of discord, argument and discontent than this.
The numbers will be quite small. Hon. Members opposite with hair as grey as mine will think back to the period between the wars when we had two different rates of pay and the borderline was 26th October, 1925. The major cause of the mutiny or indiscipline which took place at Invergordon was the existence of two different rates of pay and the difference in the conditions of two sets of men serving in the same ships and faced with the same kind of problem. That is the kind of thing I want to avoid. I appreciate the difficulties of the Secretary of State. He will not want to break faith and I do not want him to break faith. The third Amendment in my name is expressly designed to prevent the breaking of faith, because by it no one could have this rights taken away unless he had given his consent in writing.
I wish to digress for a moment. The argument is used on all sides—it was used in the Second Reading debate by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey)—that the solution to 253 our problem, the only quick solution, is increases of pay. I do not believe that. I never have believed it. I think the experience of the last year has shown quite clearly that pay does not do the trick. We had a White Paper a year ago on the question of increases in rates of pay which were to cost £76 million in one year. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West said quite definitely that I was pessimistic because I poured cold water on the idea of getting recruits by that means, but last Friday he took a gloomy view about recruiting. I have never taken a gloomy view, but I have taken a realistic view. I have said that no Government will get recruits in that way and any party which says that it can get rid of National Service on that basis is stupid.
There are other inducements besides pay. They have been tried before; there is nothing new about them. Let the right hon. Gentleman order commanding officers to interview each man who joins on a 22-year engagement and say that the Government from October is to take away a statutory right and the men will be governed by Regulations. Let them say to the men, "We want you to comply and give up a property right, something of value, and we will give you something of value in exchange. We will give you a guarantee of £25 or £10 or £X and at the same time three months' leave." Hon. Members overlook the fact that the post-1919 Army was not only bribed by cash but by leave. Soldiers are not only keen on money, but on an opportunity to spend it. Pay will not do the trick. I do not believe any Secretary of State will recruit more than 12,000 men a year to the Regular Army.
I do not use the word in any discourteous sense, but I urge the Secretary of State not to accept lightly the advice offered by military advisers to continue the policy of reserve rights automatically. As an honourable man—and every honourable man in this House would accept this—he must not lightly take away things which have been given, but must by the policy of persuasion—by every inducement that lies in his power —get the men who already are on the 22-year engagement to give up that right so that throughout the Army we shall have men on a similar basis. In other words, 254 I ask him to use his imagination and his drive in this direction.
In the problem with which we are dealing that of the 22-year engagement men is a small part. The present Secretary of State and a future Labour Secretary of State will be faced with exactly the same problem. The Secretary of State has to build up a contented Army. I have said this to the right hon. Gentleman many times, as he will recollect. What matters in all this business is not pay but trends in recruiting. We have to introduce into the Army a fashion which makes a man who is allowed to take on an engagement feel that he is a respected person and not someone who is regarded as having a screw loose. Perhaps I might tell a story which I have told the right hon. Gentleman before.
I am not a religious sort of person, but many times in my service I noticed men come into a barrackroom and kneel to say their prayers. Whenever that happened, in no time half the men in the barrackroom were doing the same. Trends matter a great deal. I am not trying to give a religious slant to this question, but am stating from my experience what can happen. Unfortunately, I think the appalling mistake made over the 3-year engagement was that we introduced into the Army a kind of Gresham's Law. It started as a 3-year engagement and then spread to twenty-two years and now it has spread throughout the Army. Up go the figures, but we are borrowing from the future. The trend in the Army is not to stay in but to take one's money and get out. It is that trend I want to correct. I want a happy and contented Army. Some of the Amendments in my name which appear later on the Notice Paper are directed to that end.
Basically I want to persuade the Committee, and above all the Secretary of State, to turn away from what I call the doctrine of reserved rights and the idea that because from 21st October he has to give something to a 22-year engagement man he must give it to all the others, because that is the way the fashion goes. If anything is given it must apply to everyone, but if something is taken away from someone who already has it that principle must not apply. The tradition of the Army is that that policy cannot be continued be it a question of pay or of conditions of service.
255 I admit that I have used the Amendment as a peg on which to hang a larger argument, but the Secretary of State is not introducing a minor Bill. This is the first halting step in the second round and, unless his policy succeeds—as I genuinely hope from the bottom of my heart it will succeed—we shall never be able to get rid of National Service. If it does not succeed, the more mistakes are made the more the ball of wool becomes scrambled and the bigger the difficulty becomes. I hope that if the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept the words of my Amendment he will accept its spirit.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I am at a little of a loss, Sir William, because I happened to be outside the Chamber when the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) moved his Amendment. Am I to understand that we are discussing some other Amendments with the first Amendment on the Notice Paper?
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Yes, I will make it clear. We are discussing with this Amendment five other Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I apologise for adding to your labours, Sir William. At first flush, when I read this morning the hon. Gentleman's Amendment, my first reaction was, quite frankly, opposition to it. I felt that when a man had a contract one of the first things that we must do, particularly in regard to many of the matters to which the hon. Gentleman referred, such as popularising the Army, was to see that we adhered to that contract and did not break it. There have been too many times in the history of the Army when contracts have been broken.
After reading the Amendment more carefully and hearing what the hon. Gentleman said, I am not at all sure that he has not got something here. I think that, provided a man cannot have his contract broken without his written consent, there is no harm in it. I do not know what were the reactions of my right hon. Friend originally to this, but I hope that he will not give a categorical announcement that he rejects the Amend- 256 ment, but will suggest that he will have another look at it, and that we might hear from him more about it on Report.
I think that the arguments adduced by the hon. Gentleman are almost irrefutable. He is perfectly right. One of the chief sources of trouble in the barrack-room, the regiment or the company has always been differential rates of pay, differential conditions of service and so on. They lead to more grousing and trouble than anything else. In this instance, I can see all sorts of rocks ahead unless the Amendment is accepted. The mere fact of it being applicable only when a man consents voluntarily and in writing removes any possible harm that there might have been in the proposal originally and, therefore, I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should have another look at this matter.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) that in discussion of a series of Amendments and of the Bill in general we should not take a gloomy but a realistic view. I do not take a gloomy view about the drop in recruiting. I believe that it is because potential recruits have made up their minds to have a reappraisal of the whole situation.
I think that my hon. Friend was right when he argued that there were other inducements to the potential recruit than that of pay. We must interpret pay not only in terms of£ s. d., but in terms of exactly what the£s. d. mean. I tried to put myself in the place of the man who solemnly signs this contract to give up his life to the Army for twenty-two years. Has he really thought what is likely to happen in the world in twenty-two years?
I can imagine a recruit saying that he wants to be in the Army to defend his country against Russia and against international Communism. I can quite understand that a soldier who signed a contract for this purpose would by now be sadly disillusioned. I can imagine that if my hon. Friend had been forty years younger he might have accepted this situation, but suppose a soldier took this view of his obligations in 1952 and found himself in the position of 1956. Then the soldier who signed on for the purpose of defending this country against Russian Communism might have found himself 257 having to serve in a hare-brained expedition like Suez. It would give that soldier no satisfaction, if he had taken the view that Suez was a mad adventure and not in the interests of this country at all, to find that after Suez one of the hon. Members most responsible far Suez had suddenly become a plenipotentiary in the War Office.
A contract should be an honest contract between the soldier, the country and the Government. The situation between 1952 and 1956 was such that I believe the main argument adduced in the House of Commons was that the soldier must be prepared to join the Army in order that this country could carry out its obligations under N.A.T.O. or under a force which was to take part in some international action corresponding to that in Korea. I believe that the man who joined the Army in 1953 or 1954 under the impression that he might have to fight Russia in Europe would be sadly disillusioned when he found himself compelled to take part in a war of which, after reading the reports of the debates in the House, he thoroughly disapproved.
The first essential if a soldier is prepared to give up twenty-two years or twelve years of his life to the Army is that he should be fighting for a cause in which he believes. In the past, the general assumption was that a soldier enlisted in order to take part in the defence of his country. A man who is asked to sign a long-term contract with the War Office today has not the foggiest idea of what is likely to happen in the next twenty-two years. If we look back over the last twenty-two years we find that we have spent many of them in fighting Germany. Now the potential enemy is Russia, and one does not know who the potential enemy will be in ten or twenty-two years' time. All that we can understand is that a soldier who enlists in the Army might be called upon to fight somebody about something.
That idea is very unsatisfactory to the intelligent man. A man who is prepared to give his life to coal mining, which in my constituency has been the alternative to the Army, is quite prepared to sign on for twenty years, knowing that at the end of that time he will still be in the industry, in the same place, and carrying on the same occupa- 258 tion. Any potential soldier, looking into the future, does not know where he is likely to be and what he is likely to be doing in ten years' time and he is in a very difficult quandary.
I should like one of the Ministers to be able to satisfy the potential soldier that he will be employed on some reasonable expedition say in the year 1960. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman who is to reply will be able to give a satisfactory assurance that we are not to be engaged, not in defending this country against Communism, but in some gamble or some adventure such as the Government unfortunately have undertaken in the past and are likely to undertake again.
In addition to the inducement of pay, we should tell the soldier exactly the kind of cause for which he is likely to fight. Cromwell's Ironsides knew what they were fighting for. They did not need to enter into an engagement for twenty-two years and they were not attracted into the Army for pay; they fought for a cause.
Nobody knows today what is the cause for which the soldier may be called upon to give his life. There are vague ideas. He has been told that he may have to fight international Communism, but then we are told, after all, that international Communism is not so belligerent. The potential recruit will read the political speeches of these days and the speeches of great military leaders like the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). Reading the speech made by the right hon. Member last week, in which the right hon. Member gave a realistic appraisal of the present international situation, the potential recruit may say, "If things are going on like this there is no need for me to join the Army for six or twelve or twenty-two years because the Russians are becoming more reasonable, and if it comes to the possibility of war with the Russians, what we shall have to rely on is the deterrent of the atomic weapon." The average potential soldier does not understand what he is likely to be doing as a soldier in atomic and nuclear warfare.
I believe that the soldiers who enlisted in 1952 and to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley referred ought to have the option of reconsidering their contract, because the Government have already broken the contract and have sent 259 them on expeditions which the soldiers did not think possible when they enlisted a few years ago. In my opinion, the soldier ought to have the same opportunity of changing his mind as has the policeman. As far as I can see, it is virtually only the soldier who is called upon to sign these long-term contracts. If a Member of the House thought he would be here for twenty-two years and were dissatisfied with the pay and conditions, he could always apply for the Chiltern Hundreds. I want to see the War Office give the same opportunity to the soldier and tell the soldier that if he is tired of the whole thing and loses confidence in the Government he can apply for the Chiltern Hundreds.
I was talking to a policeman during the week-end, and I said to him, "If you are tired of your conditions in the police service, how can you get out of it?" He replied, "I can get out of it by giving a month's notice". Why cannot the same apply to the soldier? If we are so certain that we are to give the soldier all these wonderful conditions and more pay and if he is to be regarded quite differently than in the past and is to be offered a career, why do we need to say, "We shall hold you to a contract for a certain number of years"? Why cannot the soldier have the same opportunity as the police constable and leave to go into industry if he wishes to do so? Why cannot the soldier resign by giving a month's notice? I do not know the answer. The only answer is that we are getting the soldier in the Army by false pretences and are assuming that he will be disillusioned after a year or so and that, if he had the opportunity, he would give a month's notice and leave.
Indeed, that has been the experience with National Service men. After they have had experience of the Army, not many of the National Service men enlist, otherwise we should not be facing this problem. When they have had six months or twelve months of the Army, all the great majority of the National Service men long for is the time when they will be released.
That is in the very nature of the concept of an Army in these days. If we are to have an Army in peace-time, it will be so intolerably dull that people will 260 inevitably want to leave it. I do not believe that the great majority of soldiers want to take part in minor wars, and we are told that if there is a major war it will be suicide. The soldiers who looked at the glamorous recruiting posters and later came to the conclusion that they preferred to do something more useful, such as coal mining or engineering, were perfectly justified in default of a constructive policy by the War Office.
I cannot congratulate the War Office on its publicity in trying to attract potential soldiers for a period of years. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) quoted what he referred to as gloomy recruiting figures covering April and May. In the defence debates I produced one of these recruiting posters. It was a recruiting advertisement from the Manchester Guardian, a whole page devoted to a picture of an explosion of an atom bomb. How many recruits did they get as a result of that poster? They told me that they did not know and that some soldiers may have seen the advertisement and others may not have seen it, but we now know that as a result of that advertisement, which appeared in the Manchester Guardian in April, there was a catastrophic fall in the number of recruits.
It was a picture of an atom bomb, and the letterpress invited them to join the Army in order to stop this sort of thing. They came to the conclusion that if that was the sort of thing in which they were to take part, they might as well go in for coal mining, industry or some other activity where there seemed to be some future.
I have every sympathy with the Ministers who have to tackle what I consider to be the completely insoluble problem of trying to attract intelligent men into the Army at a time when the Army has become an obsolete and useless institution. Although I have not the background of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, I understand his point of view. He approaches the problem from the point of view of the practical soldier. I approach it from a very different ideological background. Curiously enough, we arrive from a different premise at the same conclusion and we are both convinced that this legislation is futile. We believe that perhaps it could be improved by the Amendments which he has put on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)
I had not intended to deal with the aspects of the argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), but while he was speaking I was reminded that when I was in the First World War we used to refer to the Army of those days as "Fred Karno's Army". I believe that it would he more of a "Fred Karno's Army" than ever if we had an "Emrys Hughes's Army" on the lines which my hon. Friend suggested. Whatever be the virtues and the ideologies which he has in mind, I doubt whether anyone who has seriously to deal with the question of the Army would adopt his policy. I think my hon. Friend's intentions are perfectly sound, but I imagine that their execution would be appalling and that, as a Committee of the House of Commons, we could not possibly try to follow his argument.
Turning to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), there is no doubt that throughout the whole of my life in the Civil Service, and particularly when I was negotiating on pay, conditions, hours and other things in connection with the Civil Service and with certain other trade unions, one of the biggest difficulties I always encountered was that of differentials.
There was always difficulty about one section having certain privileges. There were always those who had over a long period enjoyed concessions which for one reason or another could not be assigned to new entrants or late corners. There is no doubt that much time and energy has been spent trying to overcome the problem. I believe that if many of them could have been removed in my early days there would have been a good deal more friendship between workers in certain industries. We might have been able to make still greater reforms had we been able to achieve unanimity amongst all workers irrespective of the time when they came into the service in question.
I certainly agree, therefore, with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley that if there is a legitimate and fair way of removing differentials in this case, it is our responsibility and that of the Minister to find it and put it into operation. I would be with my hon. Friend in any such action he proposed to take 262 with that end in view, but I must make it clear that I think that it would be a breach of faith of the highest and most serious order if we did any of these things without the full concurrence and consent of the person who has such conditions in his contract, whether they concern concessions, rights or reservations.
If those people desire to retain the conditions that are in their contracts, we are in duty bound to carry out our obligations in that respect. I know, as secretary of a union, that it would have helped me considerably in my negotiations if some of the "old boys' had forgone some of their rights. That would have been fine, but I never tried to make them forgo their concessions or provileges, or to enforce the will of the trade union or of the employers upon them. In this matter, the soldier or sailor or whoever it is must decide whether or not he will retain concessions to which he is entitled by regulation, and even by statute. They should be given up only by his consent.
§ Mr. Williams
I want to emphasise that it must be done by consent, and by written consent.
I want to go further. I know how pressure is brought to bear from many directions on people who have what we call outmoded conditions. Perhaps I myself have been guilty of trying insidiously to tell people enjoying concessions "You will not lose such a lot. There are all these other things to look forward to." In order to make things easier for the system and for ourselves, we brought that sort of pressure upon them from time to time.
I should have thought that the Army was a good place in which to bring pressure to bear on people, if it was so desired. If the Minister adopts the Amendment, which I think is a good one, and seeks to use it in the framing of future conditions of enlistment, I sincerely hope that he will make it perfectly clear to all army commanders and others involved that no pressure whatsoever will be brought to bear upon the men who have 263 these rights, and that they will be left completely free—and encouraged, perhaps, in the right way—to opt for the new conditions and not pressed to do something that is not in accord with their wishes.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
While congratulating the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) on introducing this Amendment, it seems to me that the key to the whole thing may lie in the Amendment in Clause 1, page 2, leave out lines 34 to 36. The fact that those lines are already in the Clause seems rather to indicate that my right hon. Friend is himself considering the possibility of men already serving wanting to adopt the terms of service now proposed for those enlisting in the future. Otherwise, I do not see the point of those lines.
If that is my right hon. Friend's intention, I certainly welcome it, because, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said, there is a very strong case for encouraging those already in the Army to get on the same basis as those who will enter. I certainly think that there could be no purpose in those lines being in the Bill unless that situation was visualised.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) does not believe in the existence of an Army at all. That ought to be made abundantly clear. Nevertheless, no hon. Member has offered more advice to successive Secretaries of State for War on how to run the Army, and how to treat the men in it—including the officers, of course—than has my hon. Friend. Indeed, he has by now become an authority on the subject.
What has troubled his mind in this debate is that the soldier ought not to be subjected to any kind of pressure, but he has forgotten that no pressure is exercised on any person to enlist in the Army— apart from the advertisements to which my hon. Friend referred, and upon which he poured oceans of cold water. He proved those advertisements to be completely innocuous. If a young man who is eligible wishes to enlist in the Army, he does so of his own volition. It seems to me that my hon. Friend was mixing 264 up this Bill with the conditions that pertain to National Service, but they are quite different. That, of course, disposes of almost all his case—if, indeed, he had a case at all.
Everyone enjoys the fun and games to which my hon Friend devotes himself from time to time, but, on the assumption that we require an Army, this Bill —though one would hardly suppose so from the present attendance of hon. Members—is really one of major importance. Of course, with the present international tension, and in the foreseeable future there appears to be very little hope that that tension will be relaxed, much though we all desire it, and until we can abolish land forces entirely because of the complete, absolute and competent emergence of nuclear weapons we must, when considering this Measure, proceed on the assumption that we shall require an Army for some time ahead. This is very unfortunate, because the Army absorbs manpower. It is also unfortunate because it entails considerable expenditure, which the country finds it very difficult to endure, but there it is.
We are considering the question, which is a major one, of how we are to build up, in the absence of National Service—because that is the principal consideration here—a volunteer Regular Army. One of the Amendments put down by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) relates to the date when the new contract of twenty-two years' Regular service should begin. I am bound to say, in the absence of a considered and logical statement by the Secretary of State for War, that I cannot understand why it is necessary to begin with a date in October, 1957, because, clearly, if that is to be the commencing date, anomalies in the conditions and period of service are bound to continue because the conditions and the period are related. I think this is bad for the Army.
Hon Members will agree that we are making a fresh start. That has been imposed upon us by the decision of the Government to abolish National Service in the course of the next two or three years. Whether they can abolish National Service in 1960, or, at any rate, announce their intention of abolishing it in 1960, depends almost entirely on whether this 265 scheme succeeds. If it fails, I am afraid that, whether we like it or not, we shall have to accept, under the assumption that we require land forces, a continuation of National Service.
That would be deplorable. We want to dispense with National Service as soon as we possibly can, but if the Government propose to continue anomalies at a time when we are making a fresh start, they are making a very great error. Of course, there may be an explanation for this. I may be wrong, but I venture to suggest that to go back to 1952, as my hon. Friend suggests, would mean that we should be interfering with contracts entered into at that time.
That may be the explanation, but it is easy to remove that difficulty by revising the contracts entered into at that time and bringing them into line with contracts which are to be entered into, on the assumption that the men can be obtained, in October, 1957. That should be a way out, and it is an administrative act which I think could be undertaken by the Secretary of State for War. So much for that, but, of course, there may be another explanation.
I should like to say a word about the purpose of this Measure, which is not a minor Measure but one of major importance. How are we to attract recruits? I have had to face this question in my time as Secretary of State for War, and for the three Services as Minister of Defence. It is an almost intractable problem in periods of full employment. I do not mean by that that it is easier to attract men in periods of trade depression. I think the statistics are against that. It appears to me, from my study of the problem—I do not pretend to be an expert, but it appears to be so from my somewhat casual study of the problem—that the reservoir which is tapped for the purpose of obtaining recruits is circumscribed and not unlimited. Only a pocket of men who can be obtained for this purpose—men who join the Services traditionally, because their fathers or grandfathers served in the Forces, or because they are attracted to what they regard as an adventurous career. Be that as it may, it is a difficult problem.
The question is how we can break down the problem and come to some solution. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley was inclined to rebuke my right 266 hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) who, in his speech on the Bill last Friday—I am sorry that I was then engaged elsewhere—suggested that one means of attracting the recruits was to give them more pay. I have heard that said over and over again. In fact, I have heard it said so often that I believed it, and adopted the expedient myself. Let it not be forgotten that when I was Minister of Defence I caused the Government to spend £55 million in increasing the pay of officers and other ranks. That was a hefty sum at the time. Since then there have been further increases. Very large sums have been expended in the effort to persuade young men to join the Services, but these efforts have not met with the measure of success that was anticipated. There must be some reason for that.
I recall that Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery, when he was Chief of the Imperial General Staff, conceived the notion, regarded by many people as fantastic, that if the accommodation in barracks was improved to the extent of providing bedside lamps, young men would hasten to join the Forces. I remember going to one of the newly-constructed barracks and seeing these excellent little dormitories—not the huge places, whitewashed, with everything spick and span, cold and cheerless, to which the soldier was accustomed, but the small dormitories, with the walls almost panelled, according to my recollection, and with bedside lamps. It was very pretty, but it did not attract the recruits. It evidently requires more than bedside lamps to bring them in. When I was Secretary of State for War, and a long time ago when I was the Financial Secretary to the War Office, many years ago before the last war, I thought that by improving the accommodation in barracks men would be attracted. Somehow, it does not work.
I suggest that there is one method which would help. I do not want hon. Members with military experience, especially those who have been officers in Guards' regiments and regiments of the line, to pounce upon me when I suggest it. One of the matters which troubled me a great deal when I occasionally visited depots, barracks and camps was the somewhat truculent, arrogant, dictatorial behaviour of not, strangely 267 enough, the officers, but non-commissioned officers towards their men. Whether they did it because I happened to be engaged upon a tour of inspection, I do not know, but they would hustle men out of the way—"Make way for the Secretary of State"—all sorts of things which, no doubt, please some dignified people but which to me, not being dignified, did not matter very much. Indeed, I rather resented it. I do not know whether it is customary, but it seemed to me that it was something which happened more often than it should.
I do not want to use the word "democratisation", though I know that it has been used. I do not know how one can inject democracy into the Army; that is the kind of democracy in which we believe when we consult each other as to what we should do, and ask questions of the Government from day to day and get evasive and silly answers. I hope that that is not out of order. I am referring not to that kind of democracy, but to a kind of camaraderie, a feeling of fellowship, that Jack is as good as his master, except that Jack has to be subservient to authority, as one would expect, and I would not deny that for a moment. I wish that there was a better feeling, a feeling that the soldier, the young man who enlists in the Army, is a citizen and is entitled to civic rights.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire rather threw cold water on the idea of a career for the soldier. What is he to enlist for? He must have a cause, says my hon. Friend. When my hon. Friend became a Member of Parliament, he did not have a cause. I am not at all sure that he did; he simply wanted to be a Member of Parliament.
§ Mr. Shinwell
All I say is that, if my hon. Friend had a cause, judging by some of the speeches he made, he took the wrong turning.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am grateful to you, Sir William, because I was about to be rebuked by my hon. Friend; you saved me in time.
268 It is really nonsense to talk about fighting for a cause. Young men probably do not think along those lines when they enlist in the Service. But, after all, the whole concept is that their services are intended—if I may use a nautical expression in this connection—taking them by and large, for the purpose of providing some measure of security for the people of this country. Sometimes it does not work out, but often it has done, and it is better to have that kind of insurance than to have none at all. I do not think it is a good thing to denigrate our Forces. One can occasionally be critical of people in the Forces for this reason or that, but, after all, they are doing a worthwhile job according to their lights, and it is far better to say that than to discourage them and make them feel that they are in a Service which has no purpose, neither social nor national. They are a very fine collection of people. I have met them. Even the "brass hats" are not quite as bad as they are said to be; some are not as intelligent as I should like them to be, but that is a different matter. We cannot all be intelligent like my hon. Friend for South Ayrshire.
I do not, therefore, believe that pay is enough. I do not believe that barrack accommodation is enough. Conditions are important, in particular the sort of conditions which enable a man, if he feels that he cannot make a career and cannot make a job of it, to go to his commanding officer and say, "Sir, I am very sorry, but I am not making a go of this. Here is my application to leave the Service. Taking everything into consideration as to whether I should be a worthwhile private or non-commissioned officer, will you let me out?" That is the sort of thing I have in mind. I know it is not easy, and one might upset the balance.
§ Mr. Shinwell
My hon. Friend is quite wrong. No officer can go out when he likes. An officer must make application if he wishes to resign. The Secretary of State will agree with me, I think, that an officer must make his application, 269 and he can leave the Service at the discretion of the Army Council. If the Army Council decides that he must not leave, he must remain where he is.
I wish to see a relaxation of conditions, so that a man may feel that there is here an opportunity for a career. Let us make conditions as satisfactory as possible, giving him a kind of social life, making him feel that he is a citizen, with civic rights in the Service, as far as possible, and with the right kind of fellowship. Then, I believe, men would be attracted to a career in the Service.
I do not, of course, rule out the importance of pay. I am quite sure that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire would agree, whatever he may think of the Army and its purpose—whether it has a worthwhile cause or not —and, indeed, all hon. Members would agree, that a man who serves in Her Majesty's Forces is entitled to the same consideration as is provided for any other section of the community or to similar consideration. He should be properly paid and should feel that there is no economic problem facing him. After all, why should not the wives and children of men in the Services be as comfortable, as contented and as happy in their social life as the wives and children of miners, artisans or agricultural labourers?
The right hon. Gentleman wants men to enlist for twenty-two years, with, I think it is called, an escape clause to enable them to leave after a certain period, and, in any event, to have some relaxation about their reserve service. That is all right, and I hope that he succeeds. My answer to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire is this. If, after a few years, it is discovered that, because of the relaxation of international tension, because peace has emerged throughout the world, we can afford to dispense with the Army, I am quite sure that the Army Council would have no difficulty whatever in breaking the contracts and, probably, becoming unemployed itself.
Let us not assume that we can solve the problem in any one way. We require a variety of devices and expedients. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley said, there is no one direct line if we are to solve the problem. Many attempts must be made over a period of time and many devices must be employed. I hope 270 the Secretary of State will succeed. If he succeeds, we can then dispense with National Service. If he fails and we fail to build up a volunteer Army, I warn the Committee and my hon. Friends that their quite proper desire to get rid of National Service will be frustrated.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Julian Amery)
I want at the outset to assure the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) that his suggestions on recruiting will be studied carefully in the War Office, where we have great respect both for his experience and for his wisdom in these matters.
In particular, the right hon. Gentleman advocated the democratisation of the noncommissioned officer and he drew on this subject from his own experience. I cannot assure him that the easy camaraderie of the smoking room invariably exists between the warrant officer and the raw recruit. My own experience shows me, however, that the N.C.O. does not try to hustle Ministers around in quite the way that the right hon. Gentleman described —at least, at the present time.
The right hon. Gentleman made some criticisms of the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). The hon. Member's remarks seemed to me to be in the same sort of relationship to the Amendment that the hon. Member is to his party, and it may be convenient if I say what I have to say on that subject first. The hon. Member seemed to look back to a golden age of military service in which every soldier always knew who the enemy would be.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. Gentleman has been in trouble with his party too. The golden age has arrived as far as he is concerned.
§ Mr. Amery
Wait and see. The hon. Member seemed to look back to a golden age of military service in which every soldier knew who the enemy was and he quoted Cromwell's Ironsides as an example. He will, no doubt, remember the historian's verdict on Cromwell—that "obsessed with the power of Spain, he failed to observe the rise of France." Perhaps Cromwell was not a happy example for the hon. Member to choose. In any case, even he would find it difficult to draft an Amendment in which the terms 271 of enlistment specified every enemy that the soldier would have to face.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) asked whether one of the Clauses in the Bill covered the point raised by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). The last three lines of subsection (5)—indeed, the whole Clause—refer specifically to the case where a soldier with the right to break his engagement at a specified period could, if he were to undertake a course or transfer to another corps as a result of which he would benefit, enable us to ask that he should stay longer. It was not our intention to apply this to the 1952 soldier in the ordinary way—that is, not in the same way as the hon. Member for Dudley intended.
The right hon. Member for Easington asked why the Bill should apply to those who enlisted after 1st October, 1957, and thought that this would give rise to a number of anomalies. It is not only important that contracts should be observed but very important that they should be seen to be observed. The speech of the hon. Member for Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) rather confirmed the point. We are quite clear in the War Office that the hon. Member for Dudley has no intention in the Clause of making alterations of Regulations retrospective without the consent of the soldier concerned. It is quite clear that that is not the intention of the hon. Member for Dudley, but the hon. Member for Openshaw showed how easily suspicion may arise that something which is permissive in a Bill could become a vehicle of excessive persuasion in practice. The point is one with which I shall deal a little further presently, but I wanted to introduce it at this stage in commenting on what the right hon. Gentleman said in his intervention.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said of the Amendment that he would be opposed to it at first flush. "First blush" is an expression with which I am familiar. "First flush" seemed to me to be an agreeably earthy metaphor which should, perhaps, have a wider currency. Our reaction in the War Office was rather the opposite. We have given very careful thought in the War Office to 272 the Amendments put down by the hon. Member for Dudley. We recognise that his intention is to strengthen the Army and to help us reach the goal of an all-Regular force in the next few years.
The hon. Member made the point that his Amendment would allow us to offer a bounty under which a soldier who enlisted in 1952 or thereafter before 1957 would be able to adapt his service to the Regulations which will come into force after 1st October. The hon. Member will, of course, be aware that the pre-1957 soldier can already waive his right to leave the Colours at three, six or nine years and that if he does so, he gets a bonus in pay in advance. That does not cover the whole of the point raised by the hon. Member for Dudley, but it is a step towards it.
In fact, as the hon. Member himself said, only a small number of soldiers are affected by the point which he raised. The hon. Member said that this was a matter of importance for the next twenty-two years. Of course, any soldier, both under the 1955 Act and under the Bill, would be free to leave the Army after twelve years or at any three-year interval thereafter. Nothing, I think, could prevent that. Furthermore, nearly six years have already passed since 1952, so that both the numbers concerned are relatively few.
While there might be an advantage of flexibility in adapting the Bill in the way that the hon. Member proposed, the very strong arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Openshaw must be set against doing so. The Bill and the Regulations stemming from it are a charter for the soldier and it is extremely important that there should be no confusion in his mind. On balance, therefore, my right hon. Friend feels that we should be wiser in this case not to accept the hon. Member's Amendment, although we recognise the spirit in which it was moved.
§ Mr. Wigg
I should like to withdraw the Amendment, but I hope very much that, although the Secretary of State has not accepted it, when similar situations arise in future he will consider whether it is possible to treat such a situation when it arises on the lines I have suggested rather than take what until now has been the customary procedure of fixing a date in the future and never minding the exception. I hope he will 273 try to move towards the general principle that service, pay, or indeed whatever the subject might be, will be treated on the principle of universal application rather than leave exceptions lying around. If the hon. Member accepts this suggestion, I shall be more than satisfied.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Hare)
I should like to give the hon. Member the assurance that I shall certainly consider seriously what he has just said. I hope that that will satisfy him.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I beg to move, in page 2, line 2, to leave out "twelve" and to insert "three".
The general arguments I brought forward in support of the previous Amendment apply to this Amendment, and I do not wish to proceed at great length. I hope that on this occasion I may have the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), because I really think he is indebted to me for my speech on the previous Amendment, for it gave him the basis for a lengthy speech in which he outlined his own views. I do not know exactly what would have been in his speech if he had not had to reply to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire.
I would say to the Secretary of State, who, presumably, will resist this Amendment, that there is, I believe, an argument that people who enlist in the Army should have more than the bare terms of a contract, and that the soldier should have sonic cause for which to fight. I do not know whether he disputes the fact that, whatever may be said against Oliver Cromwell politically, as a military leader Oliver Cromwell was a considerable success. If he will not accept Cromwell as a military success, I would refer him to the fact that Robert Bruce was a considerable success as a military leader.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
It is very difficult to connect these remarks with the Amendment, which is a very limited one.
§ Mr. Hughes
Yes, Sir Gordon, but when you were out of the Chair various historical allusions were brought forward 274 by hon. Members. However, I leave this by saying that on the eve of the Battle of Bannockburn, far from telling his men to enter into any contract, Bruce said to his soldiers they could leave, and the result was that they won the Battle of Bannockburn, which shows that people fight better when they have a cause for which to fight.
I do not wish to add to the arguments. Nobody has attempted to answer my argument but only to refer to my past. It is very easy for the right hon. Gentleman to say that I have been at variance with my party. I would only remind him thatTreason doth never prosper; what's the reason?For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.I may, in due course, graduate to be Secretary of State.
§ Mr. John Hare
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) knows that if I were to accept his Amendment I should wreck my Bill. Perhaps he is being quite logical, because he said earlier that he considered the Army an obsolete and useless institution, and what he seeks to do by this Amendment is to allow a soldier on a 22-year engagement to terminate the engagement after three years and have no reserve liability when he leaves, whereas my proposals, as I said on Second Reading, are that under the new engagement a man will serve six years with the Colours and have six years' service on the Reserve.
Therefore, the hon. Gentleman and I are really completely opposed in point of view on the whole of this subject. I hope he realises that I accept the sincerity of what he says, but I hope that as a man of commonsense he realises also that I cannot accept the Amendment or what he has said in support of it. If the hon. Gentleman really has the sympathy which he said on Second Reading he had for those responsible at the War Office, I think that perhaps he could show that sympathy in a practical way by withdrawing the Amendment.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I wish to respond chivalrously to the War Office, which is 275 obviously in difficulties. If I wanted to make difficulties for the Secretary of State all I should have to do would be to call a count, but I do not wish to make things difficult for the Secretary of State. I believe that the logic of events will prove his position so very difficult that he will be very glad indeed when the time comes for him to resign his present commission. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
I think we can discuss with this Amendment the hon. Gentleman's next Amendment, in page 2, line 26, at the end to insert:hand it to his commanding officer, who, before accepting it, must satisfy himself that the soldier fully understands the extent to which his right to terminate his colour service is affected, and".We can also discuss the two Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh), in page 2, line 42, after "affect" insert "any," and in page 2, line 44, at end insert:except with the consent of any such person which shall be given in writing to his commanding officer".
§ Mr. Wilfred Fienburgh (Islington, North)
I think there is a difference between the two groups of Amendments. I think the Amendments of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) are related to the first Amendment he moved.
§ Mr. Fienburgh
That is not so? However, I think it would, perhaps, be more convenient if my hon. Friend proceeded to move his Amendment now, for during his speech we shall see what it is all about, and I may then, perhaps, be allowed to make an intervention on the subject, or alternatively to move my Amendment.
§ Mr. Wigg
It seems to me that the Amendments of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) have already fallen because the point of them has already been dealt with, and even the wording is almost identical with the wording of my Amendment, in page 2, line 44, which has already been discussed. However, I am only too anxious to be helpful to hon. Members in all parts of the Committee and I am entirely in your hands, Sir Gordon. I will move whatever Amendment you would like me to.
§ Mr. Wigg
The Amendments relate to subsection (5), which deals with two classes of men, those who may be selected to undergo a course of instruction which may be of such a character as to confer great benefits not only upon the Service but on the individual concerned, and secondly those who seek to transfer from one arm of the Service to another. I do not quite understand what the Secretary of State has in his mind on this matter.
If he will refer to paragraph 353 of Queen's Regulations, he will find that the Regulations are made under the provisions of the Army Act and deal with all those 22-year engagement men who are serving at the present time. That paragraph contains a right very important to the soldier. I will read it:(b) A soldier willing so to waive his right"—that is, waive the right of going on a course of instruction to seek his discharge on the due date—will complete the appropriate part of A.F. B2139 and hand it to his C.O., who, before accepting it, must satisfy himself that the soldier fully understands the extent to which his right to terminate his colour service is affected by the waiver.For the life of me, I cannot understand why, if that provision has already been made in existing Regulations to require this undertaking to be given in writing that the soldier understands what it is all about and the extent to which it affects his release date, it should not be included in this subsection (5). That is the reason why I move this Amendment to this part of the subsection, and why I have down another Amendment 277 to delete the last three lines of the subsection.
I do not think I need say any more about it. I have made it quite clear. I shall be very interested to hear from the Secretary of State why he did not include in subsection (5) the same form of words as exists in paragraph 353 of Queen's Regulations.
§ Mr. John Hare
I see the point that the hon. Member has made. He is really concerned that the conditions laid down in paragraph 353 of Queen's Regulations shall apply to any new Regulations that we may make under the Bill. I am perfectly prepared to give him that assurance. I have not provided for it in the Bill, but I assure him that exactly the same emphasis and words will be related to any new Regulations that I make. I think that covers the point which the hon. Member very properly has in mind.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Fienburgh
I beg to move, in page 2, line 42, after "affect", to insert "any".
I suggest that with this Amendment we also discuss the Amendment in line 44, at the end, to insert:except with the consent of any such person which shall be given in writing to his commanding officer".We are still on the point of contract between the War Office and the soldier who enters into an engagement under Regulations to be promulgated in future. The point here is rather different from that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), with the support of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I was fascinated by the suggestion put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire that in future the serving soldier might enter into a form of personal contract between himself and the Under-Secretary of State. The contract was to be as complicated and lengthy as that which covers the activities of Diana Dors. It was to include a clause that the Under-Secretary should inform the soldier of any wars that were to be waged in the twenty-two years of his service, their direction, their scope and the enemy against whom they would be 278 fought. This I regard as basically impracticable.
There are, however, one or two points on the contract between the serving and enlisting soldier and the Government which we might well clarify. I will not go into the many arguments put forward under the umbrella of the Amendments on the Order Paper, which has extended very widely in discussions about conditions of service, the quality of service and the democratisation of the Services, but I would add to the point made by my right hon, Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) when he asked for the democratisation of the sergeant major. I was rather appalled to read in the Lancet—
§ Mr. Fienburgh
These points were allowed to pass in discussion of previous Amendments concerning contracts between the enlisting soldier and the Government. The Chair has allowed some references to conditions of service other than the exact length of the term of service, to which strictly the purpose of the Amendment is confined.
§ Mr. Fienburgh
I bow to your Ruling, Sir Gordon, but I had a very good story to tell about sergeant-majors, which I am sure the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) would have appreciated, since, like me, he served under a sergeant-major.
The purpose of the Amendment is to qualify the implicit point of restriction in the Clause, The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary pointed out on Second Reading that when the Regulations were promulgated governing changes in the future—not the changes the right hon. Gentleman has in prospect and the change that he has announced, but new Regulations affecting the length of service and conditions of service—they would not be retrospective. That is, they would not cover a soldier who had previously enlisted under some other term of engagement.
The point that we make in the Amendment is that there might be occasions when it would be desirable, in the interests of the Army, of the soldier, and even of the War Office to allow a degree 279 of retrospection. We were worried that the way in which the Bill seemed to be formulated rules out the possibility of retrospection, when that retrospection might be thought to be desirable, proper and practicable.
The relevant Clauses of the Bill are governed by Section 22 of Part I of the Army Act, and I think that the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) made a very strong point on Second Reading when he suggested that the Bill should have been brought forward as an amending Bill to the Army Act. If that had been done, it would have been easy for us to bring forward these Amendments. I can well understand why the Secretary of State did not do that, because he would then have opened the floodgates to a wide range of Amendments to the Army Act which would have gone far beyond the scope of this Bill Therefore, we are in difficulty with the Amendments and it may well be that if the right hon Gentleman accepts their point he will be able to advise some different formulation on Report.
The principle behind the Amendments is very like the principle which was adumbrated by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley—that it is bad in one Service or in one barrack-room to have one or more groups of people who are all on different conditions of service. Basically it is administratively untidy. It is also the subject of a fair amount of grumbling and comparison between conditions applicable to one man and the conditions applicable to another. For the sake of an orderly and sensible construction of the Services, it would be better, when new Regulations are introduce to change the period of enlistment or the period of Reserve, that so far as it is possible they should be retrospectively applied.
Again, and this also we have in common with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, a situation must never arise whereby a serving soldier's contract is broken or worsened without his individual consent. Therefore, if there be in the wording of the Bill an implicit ban on retrospection, we should like it removed to the extent that where a serving soldier himself wishes to have applied 280 to him newly promulgated Regulations he may have the right so to opt.
We must not disguise the fact that this can work both ways. For instance, a serving soldier might be reaching the end of the fifth year of his six years' service. Suppose that at that very time a Regulation were promulgated reducing the period of service from six to five years. In that case, even thought it might cause some slight difficulty in the administration of the Army, and for a short time make the figures a little muzzy and result in the War Office not knowing how many men it had, it would be better, if the Government were to reduce the term of service from six to five years, that the man on a six-year engagement should have the right to opt to come under the new terms of engagement.
The converse also should apply, of course. If the period were increased from six years to seven years, a soldier reaching the end of his 6-year engagement and not prepared to go on for a further three years, but in some doubt and arguing the pros and cons, should be allowed to transfer and to come under the new Regulations so that he could continue for an extra year.
I have instanced the two cases in which the Amendment might apply. There could be many more, but basically it is not on the question of detail or expediency that we wish to put forward the Amendment but on the simple ground that ill-feeling in a tight and small community, such as an Army unit of men who live closely together and talk to each other for many hours of the day, can be quickly bred out of an impression that there is a vague injustice somewhere. As my hon. Friend the Member for Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) pointed out, that can so often arise where there is a feeling that one man has a slightly better bargain, to put it at its crudest, than the other man.
Therefore, if our Amendment is accepted, or alternatively if the Government can bring forward on Report something of a similar nature, we should empower the Army Council, by Regulation, to extend, on the option of the soldier, his right to transfer his engagement to whatever new engagement or period of engagement may ultimately come out of any subsequent change in the Regulations.
§ Mr. Amery
I hope I shall not be transgressing your Ruling, Sir Gordon, if I express the hope that at a later stage the hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) will tell me the story of the sergeant major and the Lancet.
The principle behind the Amendment has been dealt with in the earlier debate on the Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). As I understood him, the hon. Gentleman based his Amendment on two major arguments, and one minor one. One I might describe as tidiness, the other flexibility. The third was the question of justice and injustice.
Tidiness is important, but I do not think it should weigh very much with us in this debate. The point of flexibility is more important and we considered it carefully in the War Office before the drafting of the Bill, and again this morning when we had notice of the Amendment. However, our strong feeling remains, as I expressed it when discussing the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dudley, that it is essential that we should not only keep our contract but be seen to keep our contract; and that while there is admittedly a possibility that a vague sense of injustice might be bred by the feeling that one man was on a better engagement than another, the speech of the hon. Member for Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) left me with the feeling that there was a danger that the public mind might believe, if the Bill was drawn too flexibly, that pressure might be applied in certain circumstances which would go rather beyond fair persuasion. It is not that I think there would be any danger of that, but that it is important to carry the public with us in legislation of this kind.
We are ourselves satisfied that the engagement we propose of six years with the Colours and six years with the Reserve is right, and we propose to give it a full and fair trial. Of course if experience shows that we are wrong, we should not hesitate either to bring forward new legislation or to amend the Army Act, 1955, certain provisions of which will in any case before long fall due for Amendment.
Meanwhile, however, we ask the Committee not to amend the Bill as suggested, and we hope that the hon. Gentle- 282 man will be prepared, in the light of what I have said, to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)
There is not a great deal more to be said on this Amendment, though I may say something on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" However, I could not understand what the Under-Secretary of State was getting at when he talked about persuasion going too far. All we are asking is that the soldier should not have his contract altered except with his own consent in writing to his commanding officer, which seems to me to be a reasonable request.
§ Mr. Simmons
But it was not dealing with the subject under discussion. It still seems to me that this is a reasonable Amendment. Already, six months before his service terminates the soldier has the right to apply to his commanding officer for a further extension of service, and this Amendment is simply an extension of that right.
I stress what my hon. Friend said in moving the Amendment, that there will be a sense of injustice among men serving in the same barrack room, in daily contact with each other, being compelled to have different terms of service. That is a strong point, because the sense of injustice would go if they had the right to opt for what appeared to them to be the better terms of service.
I do not know why the Government should be so sticky about this. Whether it is the influence of the "brass hats" I do not know. It appears a simple thing that when we are passing a Bill which alters the terms of service of the 22-year Service man at present, he should be able to enjoy any apparent advantage equally with the man who joins later.
§ Mr. Fienburgh
May I, Sir Gordon, mention two minor points on the intervention of the Under-Secretary? He really must not make the mistake of using one speech to answer the two different Amendments. The hon. Gentleman is a man of great wit, indeed, one could say flexibility, so I am sure he could have 283 thought up a different speech to meet a different point.
The point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was mainly retrospection as from now; that is to say, that there are men with a 3-year engagement, for example, and that some inducement or encouragement or retrospection might be arranged whereby they could opt to come under the new Regulations which will be promulgated after the passing of this Bill.
That being so, there was some degree of substance in the reply of the Under-Secretary, in that there might be some doubt and feeling in the country that the brutal serjeant-major, or the ambitious adjutant, might flay a man to opt for the new terms of service which would last three years longer. One of the possibilities I put forward was, however, quite the reverse, namely, that it might well be that the term of service was reduced from six years to five years. I do not think the public will be a bit worried about brutal serjeant-majors twisting men's arms to persuade them to leave the Army at the end of five years instead of six years. That is why I say that the Under-Secretary was a little lax in using one speech to meet two different arguments.
Therefore, we stick to our point that it seems elementary justice, when we alter the terms of engagement, that the alteration ought to be retrospectively applicable to those already in the Service on another engagement, unless the terms of engagement are worsened by the change in the Regulations and the soldier does not wish to opt.
Nothing in what we are suggesting can worsen the soldier's position in the slightest degree. If the Minister wishes to make his point about the fear in the public mind that pressure may be put upon a soldier, he must admit that that fear must already exist as a result of anyone's contemplation of the current Regulations, whereby a man can stay on for three years, then be pushed into serving for another three years; bullied into another three and lammed into a further three until, finally, he has been incarcerated in the hon. Member's Army for a long period of twenty-two years. If there is any substance at all in this vague and nebulous argument about public fears it 284 surely applies not once but one hundredfold to the Regulations which have already been made.
However, I shall ask leave to withdraw my Amendment because of one thing which the hon. Member said. He said that it would be proper to give the new terms of service a serious period of trial before making any big alteration in them, and as such a period of trial is, in all justice, bound to be at least three years—and as, at the end of those three years, I do not expect to see the hon. Member sitting on that side of the House, I may leave it to posterity to put right anything which may go slightly wrong as a result of the withdrawal of the Amendment.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
I beg to move, in page 3, line 31, at the end to add:(10) Any regulation made in pursuance of subsection (1) of this section shall be a statutory instrument and shall be subject to annulment by resolution of either House of Parliament.I want to repeat what has been said by my hon. Friends and also by some hon. Members opposite, namely, that this Bill, although it is short, is an important one. It changes the basic terms of engagement in the Army; basically, it removes the three-year period of service and substitutes a six-year period for it and, in addition, it makes possible similar changes in the future, either upwards or downwards, in those basic periods of service by way of Regulation made by the Secretary of State.
It is our view that if any major changes of that sort are contemplated a specific opportunity should be provided for the House to debate them. The Amendment makes it obligatory for Regulations to be laid before the House and to be subject to the negative procedure. That is one way of doing it; I expect that there are other ways. The purpose of th Amendment is to obtain some assurance from the Secretary of State that major changes of this sort—which I understand will require no further legislation—will be debatable by the House; otherwise it seems to me that Parliament will be getting too far away from its duty to watch the Army and its conditions.
285 We have done away with the annual Army Act, and I think that our action in doing so was right, but we must not go to the other extreme and allow Parliament to get out of touch with the Army. We should like some kind of assurance that some thought will be given by the Secretary of State to the problem of making not necessarily every change but major changes in the Regulations—as in the change from three years to six years as the basic minimum period of engagement—debatable by the House. That is the sole purpose of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Wigg
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) that this is a major Bill, but I am a little puzzled at what he has just said. The Bill does not do away with the three-year engagement, and it does not introduce a six-year engagement in its place. If it does, I have sadly misunderstood it. The Bill is important for quite another reason. What it does is to take away the long-service soldier's charter. For the first time the conditions of service have been included in the Army Act. Never before have they been so included. They had always been handled by way of Regulation.
The history of the matter is quite simple. It goes back to the days of the late Lord Hore-Belisha, who took advice from all quarters on the question of what to do about the Army. At some point somebody's bleeding heart ran away with his bloody head, and it was decided to incorporate these conditions of service in the Army Act, with the most disastrous results. It resulted in this pernicious, silly and sloppy system.
If my right hon. Friend thinks that the Bill gets rid of the three-year engagement and substitutes a six-year engagement for it, I should like him to tell me to what provision of the Bill he is referring. When I read his Second Reading speech I thought that his study of the Bill was a little cursory, but if he says that it includes that provision I must come to the reluctant conclusion that he has not read the Bill.
§ Mr. Strachey
Of course it is not in the Bill. I am not suggesting that. But the Secretary of State made it perfectly clear in his opening speech—to which my hon. Friend was not here to listen—that the purpose of the Bill was to give him the 286 power, which he intended to use—he was perfectly frank and clear—to abolish the three-year period of engagement, except for the Guards, and substitute for it a period of six years. It is, therefore, made perfectly clear to the Committee that that is the real effect of the passing of the Bill.
§ Mr. Wigg
—and it does not introduce a six-year engagement. Nor does it give power to the Secretary of State to do what my right hon. Friend said. He has that power already. The Bill adds nothing to his powers; indeed, it takes away from them.
The Secretary of State is now seeking power to do, by Regulation under Section 22 of the Army Act, what he could already do and what he has always been able to do but for the sloppy thinking in connection with the original three-year period proposals. In other words, he has power to legislate and provide a charter. The Bill gives no power to him or to anybody in the War Office to do what my right hon. Friend has suggested.
One of the things which the Select Committee, which considered the Army Act for two and a half years, set its face against was doing what is suggested in this proposal. My right hon. Friend has said that there may be other ways of doing it. The best way is the way of the Select Committee suggested, namely, to do what has always been done in the past. That is infinitely more flexible. The House does not lose complete control, because the Army Act still has to come before it at intervals for an affirmative Resolution and still, after an interval, has to be referred to a Select Committee, when the whole procedure can be looked at again.
If rates of pay are involved it may at some stage need a Supplementary Estimate, and it was upon a Supplementary Estimate that my hon. Friends and I were first able to raise the question of the three-year engagement. I will go back to that memorable day in 1953 when the dispute 287 took place as to who should have the credit for the great reform which has done what it has for the Army. It was not upon a Resolution; it was upon a Supplementary Estimate that that debate took place. Personally, I would have thought that the Secretary of State for War—and my right hon. Friend, when he once again becomes Secretary of State for War —would find some difficulty in seeking to do what is sought to do here.
The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) knows what I am talking about. It would be far better to obtain an undertaking from the Secretary of State that when any major change—such as is imposed by the withdrawal of the three-year engagement —is to take place, he should tell the House.
§ Mr. Wigg
The difference is that the Bill does not get rid of the three-year engagement, or give the Secretary of State power to get rid of it. In fact, he was completely out of order in mentioning it in the Second Reading debate, because it has nothing to do with the Bill, or with any other Bill. The Secretary of State will do what he wants to do about the three-year engagement and the six-year engagement under powers arising from Section 22 of the Army Act, and not from the Bill.
§ Mr. John Hare
I could not accept the Amendment, which would have the effect that any change of engagement would have to be subject to the negative Resolution procedure.
What has not been appreciated is that the Army Council has been given by the House of Commons authority to enlist the soldier for twelve years with the Colours or any period up to twelve years without Parliamentary authority. That is a power which the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) had when he was Secretary of State for War; the circumstances are not altered at all because twenty-two years are involved. At the twelve-year stage the twenty-two-year engagement man has a right to opt out of the Army at three-year intervals. The right hon. Gentleman is asking me to do more than he himself thought was necessary.
288 The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is correct when he says that the power given to the Army Council to legislate up to twelve years for Colour and reserve service was the unanimous recommendation of the Select Committee. Perhaps with that explanation I have satisfied the right hon. Gentleman that I am not asking for anything more than I have now or that my predecessors have had. If he agrees that I have put forward a reasonable case on his Amendment, I shall be grateful if he will withdraw it.
§ Mr. Strachey
My only feeling is that whatever the increases in the powers given by the Bill, whether small or large, it would be wrong when major changes in the basic terms of engagement of the soldier are made that they should not be debatable in some way by the House of Commons. I am not in the least insisting that it should be done in a particular way, but the Secretary of State ought to tell us now that if he were proposing to change again the six-year engagement he would come to the House and make a statement about it or bring it before the House of Commons in some way. I am sure he would do so, but it would be worth while before we leave the Bill to have words of that description from the right hon. Gentleman. Subject to that, I am perfectly willing to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Hare
I hope never to be so discourteous as to make a major change in Army life without coming to the House of Commons and saying what I am proposing to do. Naturally, I cannot pledge my successors, but I hope that they will not have to follow my example, because I hope that my successors will not want to change the six-year period at all.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Wigg
I beg to move, in page 3, line 31, at the end to add:(10) This Act shall not apply to any person in Army service who has not attained the age of eighteen yearsThe 22-year engagement in its new form will attract a considerable number of men and one wants them to go right through being happy and contented in 289 their Army service, but eighteen years of age is young enough to take such a decision. I would invite the attention of the Secretary of State to some queer anomalies in the existing Army Act. I cannot understand how they have crept in. Section 2 (5) says:In this Part of this Act the expression 'minimum age for man's service' means the age of seventeen years and six months.Then comes, of course, the inevitable exception, with which we are all familiar in army matters. That was much too straightforward a statement. The subsection goes on:except that in such classes of case as may be prescribed it means the age of seventeen years.By and large, it means seventeen years and six months.
Section 6 covers the position of a man who enlists for a shorter period than twenty-two years and decides later to undertake a 22-year engagement, thus converting his service into an engagement covered by existing Regulations. The right hon. Gentleman will find in Section 6 (2) that such a soldier must notify his commanding officer in the prescribed form that he wishes to do so. He is not allowed by the Army Act, as it now stands, to undertake a 22-year engagement until after the age of eighteen years.
We therefore have the situation that a man enlists at seventeen but we will not allow him to convert to the 22-year engagement until he is eighteen. The Section is designed to deal with the case of a boy who enlists before the minimum age, serving an engagement before seventeen years and six months and then wants to convert. We all want to be quite sure that such a young man will not undertake such an engagement while too young. If the arguments about conversion are valid—one must accept them because they are in the Army Act—I should think that on the grounds of common sense the Secretary of State would agree that anyone under eighteen years is a little too young to undertake an engagement of 22 years. For this reason, I hope that he will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. J. Amery
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has raised a point which I am sure the Committee will think 290 should be treated carefully and sympathetically. Section 6 (2) of the Army Act is perhaps even more complicated than the hon. Gentleman has just described it. In the first paragraph of the subsection the phrase arises…after attaining the age of eighteen years.In the second paragraph is:A person shall not give a notice under this subsection before attaining the age of seventeen years and six months.One cannot be quite sure which way the Clause leans. It almost indicates that the soldier may take the decision at seventeen years and six months but shall not apply until he is eighteen. The hon. Member knows more about this than I do, because he was on the Select Committee which gave us the power to treat seventeen years and six months as the beginning of man's service.
I have looked into the matter as carefully as I could. The argument which leads me to express the hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his Amendment is of a rather different order. Leaving aside adult service, I would draw the hon. Member's attention to boy's service. Under the existing law, we are entitled to commit a boy at the age of sixteen years to as much as twelve years' Colour service after attaining the age of eighteen. That is fourteen years' total service altogether, two years as a boy and twelve years as an adult.
Any soldier, under whatever term of engagement he joined, is free to leave the Army after twelve years' service. Therefore, it seems that it would be anomalous to get ourselves into a position as we should if we accepted the Amendment under which a man of seventeen and a half would be given greater freedom to break his engagement than a boy of sixteen. A boy of sixteen, being liable in any case to twelve years' adult service and fourteen years' total, and no one being liable for more than twelve years' service unless he wishes it, it would be wrong and anomalous—if we accepted the Amendment—that a young man of seventeen and a half, accepted by the Select Committee as the minimum age for man's service, should be able to break his contract earlier than a boy. On that ground I express the hope that the hon. Member will be able to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Wigg
I wish the hon. Gentleman had spoken for another couple of minutes. I might then have been able to verify one of the facts I am not sure about. Will he be good enough to look at the position of a boy on reaching man's service? My mind goes back to a discussion in the Select Committee—I am not sure whether it was accepted or not —that he should have the possibility of breaking his service at that point. My thinking here was that we are changing the situation very radically for the young man who enjoined on a 22-year engagement under the Regulations as they exist and had the right to break at 3, 6, 9 and 12 years. He is going to be in for a much longer period.
If the hon. Gentleman is right about the boy of sixteen I cave in. We have a few minutes before we reach Report stage and this difficulty could be got over by a manuscript Amendment if necessary or in another place. I will assume that the hon. Gentleman has been right and, with the permission of the Committee, I shall withdraw the Amendment, but I shall certainly look it up to see if he is right. If subsequent inquiries prove that he is not right, I hope he will do something about it. Obviously I cannot ask him to give an assurance as a condition of my withdrawing the Amendment. I will withdraw the Amendment without any conditions, but I assure him that if he is not right I shall be after him.
§ Mr. Amery
I would just say this to the hon. Member. I am advised that we have the power under existing legislation to commit a boy for as long as twelve years. We do not do so in fact and six or nine years are the usual limits, but we have the power to make it twelve years. I base myself not only on that argument, although I hold it to be sound, but also on the fact that on mature consideration we took the view which the Select Committee took that seventeen and a half is a reasonable age from which adult service should begin.
§ Mr. Wigg
I accept that seventeen and a half years is right provided the engagement is not too long. I am not happy when it becomes twenty-two years. I do not very much mind a boy undertaking an engagement when his Colour service starts at eighteen. To some extent I am playing out time to give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity of giving me a reference, but I must point out that there is a fundamental difference when we take away the option a young man has to come out at three-yearly intervals. That alters the situation very considerably. I believe the Select Committee might have taken another view if the Regulations there will be in future had been in existence then.
§ Mr. Amery
I should refer the hon. Member to Section 4 (3, a) which says:Where the said person has not attained the minimum age for man's service.…that is to say a boy—the said term shall be—(a) a term ending with the expiration of such period, not exceeding twelve years, beginning with the date on which he attains the age of eighteen years, as may be prescribed, being a term of army service;
§ Mr. Wigg
We cannot continue this argument across the Floor of the Committee in this fashion for too long or we shall exhaust your patience, Sir William. Probably the best thing I can do is to seek the permission of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment and continue this discussion with the hon. Gentleman another time. I have sufficient confidence in him to feel that if there is any substance in what I have said he will seek to put it right by legislation or regulation.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Simmons
I want to draw attention to what I think is a rather odd description. After all, nothing else matters but Clause 1, and the heading of the Clause says that it deals with:Change of conditions of service.293 I am inclined to think that that is a wrong description, because after reading the Clause very carefully, although it is very baffling and difficult to follow in places, it appears to me that all it does is to change the period of service and not the conditions of service.
In a grandiloquent phrase during his oration to us recently, the Under-Secretary said that the Bill and Regulations which will stem from it are the charter for the British soldier. That raised my hopes. I thought perhaps that hidden somewhere in Clause 1 was some reference to what I should call conditions of service, not to the time in which a man does his service but the conditions under which he does it. We must be certain, first, that the Clause follows the description given to it and, second, that it achieves the purpose for which the Bill was introduced. When I refer to the Bill I am really referring to Clause 1, because there is nothing in Clause 2, it being a formal Clause which says how the Bill may be cited.
From what I gathered from the discussion, the Bill is designed to attract recruits. Before we part with the Bill we have a right to know, first, whether this is the right way to attract recruits and, secondly, whether it is the only way to attract recruits. In a debate on an earlier Amendment, my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) rather expanded on the matter with which I am now dealing. He said that some people thought the way to attract recruits was to increase the remuneration offered—as it were, to pay the rate for the job. The only trouble is that the soldier has no trade union, and so no rate for the job is fixed.
My right hon. Friend also referred to the heroic efforts of Field Marshal Lord Montgomery to make the Army a home from home by introducing bedside lamps, so that a soldier could read poetry to lull himself to sleep after he had idled away his time picking up bits of paper on the barrack square, or something like that. I do not think that we want to make soldiers into cissies. We did not talk about bedside lamps when I was in the Army, but that was a good many years ago. Of course, we were only the First World War wallahs, the "contemptible little Army". Today we have 294 tried to make the Army attractive. There is no objection to making the Army attractive by means of length of service, terms of service or conditions of service, but do not let us make it attractive by making it a soft job.
§ Mr. Simmons
The type of man we want in the Army is the man with the spirit of adventure, the man who is not afraid of danger and hardship. So I am inclined to think that the bedside lamp theory is not the right one to get recruits into Her Majesty's Forces. I would, therefore, without extending my remarks to any undue length, ask the Secretary of State whether we are to have another Bill dealing with what this Bill is supposed to deal with.
This Bill is supposed to deal, according to the heading to this Clause, with:Change of conditions of service.As a matter of fact, it deals with the change of period of service. It mucks about with the Army Act, because, as I read it, Clause 1 (1) is substituted for Section 5 (5) of the Army Act. I thought that this was to be a permanent Measure. A lot of time has been spent on the job. By the Army Act, 1955, we, as a House of Commons, relinquished some of our rights. Before then we had the annual Army Act, on which we could raise almost anything pertaining to the pay conditions and service of the serving soldier.
Now the poor old serving soldier gets a look in only occasionally in Parliamentary time. The Army Act, 1955, is, I understand, being amended by this Bill. It is called a separate Bill because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said, if it had been brought in as an amendment to the Army Act it would have opened up a very wide range of discussion and we could have had a field day instead of just a little skirmish.
I want to know from the Secretary of State whether, having given us a Bill with a wrong description attached to it, he will give us another Bill to carry out the purpose for which this Bill ought to have been designed if it had been carrying out the object stated in the heading to this Clause, which indicates that it is a Bill to change the conditions of service as distinct from the period of service.
§ Mr. Richard Sharples (Sutton and Cheam)
I intervene briefly at this stage to ask my right hon. Friend to give us some clarification of Clause 1 (3), which is the most important subsection of the Bill. It refers to the right of the soldier…to determine his service at the end of the said period of twelve years…The Explanatory Memorandum states that a soldier has the right to leave the Army at the end of twelve, fifteen, eighteen or twenty-one years' service. One of the things which has certainly caused difficulty in recruiting for the Army in recent years has been the number of times when it has been necessary to retain in the Army men who have completed their period of service. We had that at the time of Korea and again at the time of Suez. I should like my right hon. Friend to make quite clear the conditions under which a man may now be kept in the Army after the time of his engagement has been completed.
As I understand it, there are certain circumstances in which a man can be retained in the Service for a period of twelve months after the completion of his Regular service. I think that it would be helpful to the Committee if those conditions were made clear at this stage and if my right hon. Friend could say that nothing in the Bill alters those conditions. I also understand that under Section 13 of the Army Act there are certain disciplinary reasons why a man can be retained in the Service. My own feeling is that those cases should be kept to the absolute minimum. I should like my right hon. Friend's assurance that it is his intention that this power should be exercised only in the most exceptional circumstances. I believe that when it is exercised it has a most adverse effect on Regular recruiting for the Army.
§ Mr. John Hare
I think that I can give the assurance which my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) wants. The conditions under which a man can be kept in the service, once his contract for service has terminated, are contained in Section 10 of the Army Act, which lays down there conditions of imminent national danger and so on. I have no desire at all to go any further than to carry out what I am already entitled to carry out, and I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend that it is essential that any powers that I 296 have under this Bill shall in no way be abused. That assurance I can certainly give him.
I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons), who complained that there was only one Clause to the Bill and that in speaking on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," he was speaking on the whole Bill. That is rather an unusual occurrence. I hope that the Committee will agree that we have been able to make the Bill for this limited purpose as reasonably short as possible. It is, however, an important Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) made that quite clear, because the terms of engagement are one of the several important factors that we have to consider when framing our future Army. The right hon. Gentleman made a most helpful and constructive speech to which I listened with great attention because I know that when he speaks on matters affecting the Army and recruiting what he has to say is something which I and anyone who has the Army at heart should bear in mind.
I want to emphasise a point made by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill. He asked, "In addition to this, what else will you do?" I agree that a great many other things must be done, but, to put it in simple language, by this Bill I am doing one thing—obtaining powers to substitute for the present three-year engagement an engagement of six years colour service with six years in the reserve. The ability to do that is contained within the Bill, if the Committee and the House allow it to pass. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Member. I realise that this is only part of a major design, but I think that it is a very important part.
§ Mr. Wigg
I did not intend to intervene, but the Secretary of State has provoked me, as has my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey). The Bill does not give the Secretary of State the power to abolish the three-year engagement. Presumably, he has not read his own Bill. It does not give him either the power to get rid of the three-year engagement or the power to substitute a six-year engagement. He had that power before the Bill was given a First Reading, for it is contained in Section 22 of the Army Act.
297 What the Bill does is concerned with the terms of enlistment and determination of the service of soldiers serving on 22-year engagements who enlist after 1st October, 1957. That is what it does, and nothing else. I must confess that I am astonished at the right hon. Gentleman. After all, he has all the advantages of a great Department to brief him, and if in his last words on this Clause—not the last words on the Bill, because there are others yet to be said—he makes such a statement, I am astonished. Is it that he led my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West astray? Perhaps I was too harsh with my right hon. Friend. I can understand the War Office having a blind spot about the three-year engagement—it ought to have a blind spot about the three-year engagement—but that is no excuse at all for the Secretary of State saying that the Bill does what, in fact, it does not do. I do not oppose the Question.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.