HC Deb 24 November 1958 vol 596 cc53-159

4.33 p.m.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the Report of the Advisory Committee on Recruiting (Command Paper No. 545) and the Govern-flumes comments thereupon (Command Paper No. 570). I should like to say at the outset how much we welcome this opportunity to debate the Report of the Grigg Committee. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence gave it the widest possible terms of reference and appointed as its Chairman and members people who have a reputation for saying what they think without fear or favour. We therefore naturally expected that the Report would contain some criticism as well as constructive suggestions, and on both counts we welcome it.

The onlooker, at any rate the well-informed onlooker, often sees more of the game than the participants, and this issue of recruiting for the three Services is one of such overriding importance that no personal or Departmental amour propre should be allowed to stand in the way of an unbiassed expression of facts, such as this Report contains.

I am glad that the Report received such wide publicity, but it was rather a pity that in some quarters it tended at the time to be over simplified and represented as if its main theme was an attack on "bull". Anyone who has read the Report itself will realise that that is far from being the case. It covers almost every range of Service activity and environment, because the truth of the matter is that the subject of recruiting for the voluntary forces is as wide as the activities that these forces perform. Every aspect of life on them can be regarded as an encouragement or a deterrent to recruiting. As for the ugly word "bull", I recommend a careful reading of paragraphs 127 to 136 of the Report. The impression given there is a favourable one to the Services and goes a long way to discredit the impression sometimes spread abroad of irksome and unnecessary discipline on a large scale.

As far as the main body of the Report is concerned, I think that the House will have recognised the importance we attach to it by the large number of recommendations which have already been accepted, and accepted, I think the House will agree, with commendable promptitude, in marked contrast to the fate of many other Reports of Committees set up in the past by successive Governments.

The question of recruiting for a voluntary Service is affected by every aspect of life in it, and it would not be possible to cover the whole ground of the Report in one speech. I should like to discuss, first, the question of the recruitment of other ranks, with particular reference to the table and chart at Appendix A of the Report. I should then like to devote some time to a consideration of the officer recruiting problem and then to say something about accommodation and equipment.

Firstly, as to the other rank recruiting, hon. Members will be aware of the great upsurge in recruitment in terms of man-years which for the Regular Army this year represents a 70 per cent. increase over 1957, up to the end of September, and for the Royal Air Force a 40 per cent. increase. While recognising that our problem here is one of a long haul and that the experience of nine months does not prove that everything is going to be all right for four years ahead, the fact remains that we can today say that, if present trends continue, we shall reach our target by the beginning of 1963 and that our manpower worries will be concerned only with certain categories of specialists rather than with the field as a whole.

How right my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence was to stand firm against the barrage of woeful forecasts which were being freely thrown across the Floor of the House a year ago, particularly by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

I apologise for interrupting the right hon. Gentleman but if he makes that comment he must start by explaining to the House how it comes about that in December, 1957, when Sir James Grigg had his first brief from the Mininister of Defence, he found recruiting to be 50 per cent. of the figure required, and the Government have taken their decision—gamble is the right word—and are still gambling on it today.

Mr. Soames

I can see why the hon. Gentleman does not like it. Within a matter of a week or so of my coming into this office, there was an Adjournment debate, in which the hon. Gentleman said that we had not a hope of getting the figures we wanted. He said earlier on that we should be very lucky to get 100,000, and there was no earthly sign of it. It was generally a tale of woe.

What matters is the future. To judge from some remarks the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) made in the course of a debate on the continuation of the Army Act three weeks ago, I think that the very interesting table and chart shown at Appendix A of the Grigg Committee's Report may have come as a surprise to him, as the Report concludes that the Services need to recruit one in three from the available field of manpower in the next four years and thereafter one in four in order to attain the numbers which they require after the field has been narrowed down, as the Committee has shown it has done.

The right hon. Gentleman suggested in his speech that the Government's confidence in reaching their declared manpower targets is not well-founded because it is based on a once-for-all recruiting bonus this year and it will be more difficult to maintain these figures. That is a fair point. To keep up voluntary recruitment is a long-distance race, not a sprint. Anyone who enters this truly stricken statistical field must take great care not to be thrown off balance by the appearance of short-term figures, which have little relevance to the long-term position.

The trend of this year's recruiting figures departs in a significant respect from those of the past. It has always been the case in successive Services' pay reviews since the war that an increase in pay has brought about a spurt in recruiting which has been all too short lived and left us, only a few months afterwards, no better off in terms of the number of men recruited than we were before. So far, there has been no sign of that this year. Pay and allowances were improved at the beginning of April. In 1956, when there was also a pay increase in April, April was the best recruiting month of the year. Everything after that was anti-climax. This year, the April figures were almost repeated in July and August, and were surpassed in September.

What does the hon. Member for Dudley say about the September figures? The other day, he came to the House, having said a year earlier that we should not get more than 100,000, and he agreed that, until September, we were recruiting at the rate needed to meet the targets which have been set. But he went on with another new tale of woe; we could be certain that October this year would not be as good as September. Indeed, he went further and said he did not believe that the recruiting figures next year would ever equal the figures of this September.

Another month has gone by. We now have the October figures. The hon. Gentleman knows very well that what matters is the level of recruitment in terms of man years. In terms of man years, October was better than September. Really, if the hon. Gentleman goes on much longer crying his tale of woe in this way, he will become like poor little Matilda, in the Cautionary Tales": For every time she shouted 'Fire!' They only answered 'Little liar'", or whatever it was. His tales of woe come every year.

For the next few years, while the Army's Regular strength is being built up by six-year enlistments replacing the three-year men, whose number is now running down, we shall need one in three or one in four of the available and suitable young men to join the Services. The recruiting figures so far this year have clearly shown that this is not an impossible requirement. Further, there is no doubt that an improvement in conditions in the forces will have an appreciable effect on the proportion of men willing to re-engage beyond the six- and nine-year points, thereby, of course, increasing the average length of service and thus reducing the need for new recruits to something under one in four. The older man contemplating prolongation is, more often than not, married, and that is why we have been so glad to accept the Grigg Committee's recommendations on disturbance allowance and education allowance.

The Government have accepted also the great majority of the Committee's recommendations on the women's Services and have taken the opportunity to reaffirm the great importance they attach to the work which these Services do in both peace and war. There is a wide range of essential tasks in the Services which women can do quite as well as men, and there are some for which they have a more natural aptitude. The women's Services will be an important feature of our all-Regular forces, and our hope is that a growing number of girls will realise that there is an important and rewarding job to be done in the Services.

The Committee made a broad survey of the position as regards officer recruitment, and its criticisms are directed more at the Army than at the other two Services. Here I must join issue with the Committee, not over the bare fact that all three Services have an officer recruiting problem but over the causes which it adumbrates as being responsible for the Army shortage. In paragraph 18, the Committee says that the Army's planned annual entry of cadets is 648. In paragraph 195, it goes on to say that it should he possible to reduce the Sandhurst intake to 350 or 400 a year". In fact, our target is not 648 a year. It is 480 a year, of whom about 75 will come from Welbeck, and a considerable, though inevitably a varying proportion, will be young men who go to Sandhurst direct from the ranks. Many of the comments which the Committee makes on the Army's shortfall in officer recruitment seem to me to stem from this false premise that we were planning for about 650 cadets a year into Sandhurst.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

Who told the Committee? Am I not right in supposing that that figure appeared in a paper submitted to the Committee by one of the Service Departments, either the right hon. Gentleman's own or the Ministry of Defence?

Mr. Soames

So far as I know, it was not the figure which went out from my Department.

Mr. Brown

The right hon. Gentleman had better inquire.

Mr. Soames

Yes, I will do that.

I come now to our selection procedure. Why is it that more suitable boys are not coming forward for commissions? Many headmasters have, at one time or another, visited Sandhurst and the Regular Commissions Board, and there is constant liaison with schools and careers masters by visiting officers appointed full time for the purpose. The natural reaction to the analysis of passes and failures among boys from public schools, grammar schools, and from schools in the South and schools in the North, which is published in Appendix F to the Report, might be the impression that there is some bias, whether by class or accent, in the Regular Commissions Board against candidates who do not come from public schools. If this were the case, the Army Council's declared policy would be thwarted, and I should certainly set about altering the system immediately.

All the evidence I have, including the testimony of many independent people who have visited the Regular Commissions Board, fails to bear out any such conclusion. Incidentally, I hope that any hon. Members who are interested will find the time to visit the Regular Commissions Board and see for themselves the process of selection in action. I should be delighted to help in any way I could with the arrangements for such a visit.

What I think the figures in Appendix F show is that a far smaller proportion of the best pupils from grammar schools think of the Army as a career than do boys from public schools. This trend is accentuated in schools north of the Trent, in many of which there is but a small tradition, if any, of sending boys into the Services. There is no quick, magic remedy for this. It must be a process of gradually getting across to headmasters, careers masters, parents and boys the fact that these opportunities are available in the Services, and that a career in them can offer just as much as, and, in many cases, more than, a career in business.

We shall do all we can to get these things across, but one thing we will not do is to lower the standards which we set. Our aim is to recruit the numbers we need, of the standard required, from all sources open to us.

Mr. Wigg

Before the right hon. Gentleman passes from that reference to there being no tradition north of the Trent for young men to seek to become officers, will he say whether he is quite satisfied that there is no prejudice in the mind of the selection board against them?

Mr. G. Brown

And against their accent?

Mr. Soames

That is the very point I was making. I am absolutely content with what I have found, and I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will visit the Board and form their own impression. It is certainly my impression—I say this absolutely sincerely—that there is no question of such a prejudice.

As regards recruiting officers from the ranks, I can only endorse the Committee's recommendation. I assure the House that we appreciate how necessary it is that our system of selection should be so arranged that a potential officer serving in the ranks should not fail to have his chance of a commission. Having been in office in all three Service Departments, I should like to make the point that, when comparing the opportunities for obtaining a commission from the ranks in the Army with those in the other two Services, to the disadvantage of the Army, it should be remembered that the structure of the Royal Navy and of the Royal Air Force nowadays makes a much greater demand for technical officers, skilled in specific specialities, than the Army ever will, even though the Army has moved a long way in the same direction.

To a large extent, the greater opportunities for reaching commissioned rank in the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force spring from the demand for a large number of specialists. However technical the Army becomes, the great majority of its officers must, in the nature of things, be fit for general regimental duty and the command of troops in the field. We need specialists, but we need far more all-rounders with some specialist knowledge. Nevertheless, I assure the House that within the limitations which the framework of the Army's organisation is bound to impose on us, everything possible will be done to ensure that rankers fit to hold commissions are not passed over.

That brings me to what the Committee described as the biggest single impediment to the recruitment of officers"— the length of career now offered in the Services. The Committee recommends that the career structure should be redesigned so that, as far as possible, officers have the choice of either retiring before 40 or being kept in employment till 60. If this were possible, it would go a long way to removing the difficulties which many officers now face when they have to resettle themselves in civil life in their late forties or early fifties, at an age when many firms are reluctant to take on new entrants and when the individual concerned probably still has considerable family commitments and responsibilities.

Obviously what the Committee recommends would, from the point of view of the individual, be an ideal solution, but it implies such far-reaching changes in the career structure of the three Services that it must have very long and detailed consideration before the Government could reach conclusions. On the one hand, we have the interests of the individual which are fully served by the Committee's recommendation, and, on the other hand, the interests of the Services and of the nation itself which has a right to demand that the fighting Services must be as efficient as possible. There are posts that can be filled by men in their fifties, but there are many more that cannot. Scrambling over rocks in Aden on a hot day is not an occupation to be recommended for those in the sere and yellow leaf.

We shall in the months ahead be devoting a lot of time to this problem, and though we would not be able to guarantee service to 60 for all officers who chose to stay on, I do not doubt that we will be able so to alter the management of our affairs to enable us to give officers an idea of their prospects at an earlier age on the one hand, and, on the other, to offer employment to a later age to a proportion of those who stay on. Indeed, a study to this effect was put in hand in the War Office some months back.

Now I turn to accommodation. The Committee, no doubt measuring its words, has said that too much of present accommodation, both married and single, is nothing short of scandalous. With this passage I, and I think every other Minister who has served in a Service Department since the end of the war, and even probably since the end of the first war, will readily agree. The public has a right to ask, if that is the case, with the vast sums of money spent by the Service since the last war, with the good will and eagerness of successive Governments supported by Parliament to improve living conditions, and the knowledge that bad accommodation must be one of the most serious disincentives that there is to recruiting, how it is that more has not yet been done.

Here again, this is a bigger problem for the Army than for the other two Services, because the Royal Air Force has not inherited any 18th or 19th century barracks, and the Royal Navy, although it has its accommodation problems, is in the nature of things concentrated for the most part around the home ports and its main bases overseas.

At the end of the war Service accommodation was suffering, just as civilian housing was, from the six years in which there had been no permanent building and during which, serious damage had been caused by enemy action. So far the Services' problem was comparable pro rata with the civilian one, and everyone knows just how severe that was. But, over and above that, there was the fact that with National Service the Army and the Royal Air Force were much larger than they had ever been before in peace time. The Army, for example, had for several years a strength of around half a million compared with 200,000 prewar. The only assets that we had to show, which were not available pre-war, were good barracks and accommodation which had been requisitioned in Germany. This was far more than offset by the greater size of the forces and by the amount of permanent accommodation that we gave up in India, Pakistan, Burma, Egypt and the Sudan. Over and above this, there was a national tendency to get married at an earlier age which made nonsense of the pre-war scales of married quarters.

So much for a start. But, in addition, throughout the post-war years the Services had been on active service in large numbers all over the world, in Palestine, Malaya, Hong Kong, the Canal Zone, Kenya and Cyprus. In all those places we have had large numbers of men for considerable periods where, before the war, there was little if any Army accommodation. That has meant that everywhere large sums of money have had to be spent on temporary building; not good accommodation, not lasting accommodation—in most cases it was far below peace-time standards—but accommodation that had to be put up to give a reasonable standard of comfort and shelter on a temporary basis

As a result of all this, between 1947 and 1957 out of £255 million voted for works services for the Army, £140 million had to be spent on maintenance and minor improvements and £40 million on temporary accommodation. That has left the War Office with an average of just under £6 million a year to spend on permanent living accommodation at home and overseas. That is why it can truly be said in 1958 that some Service accommodation is as bad as the Grigg Committee had to report.

We are under no illusions about the need to improve Service accommodation, and I recognise the fallacy of thinking that we can attract men to serve in living conditions worse than those to which they are used in civilian life. I speak of permanent accommodation for standing garrisons in permanent stations. So long as the world remains in the unsettled state to which we have had to grow accustomed since the war, there is no remedying the fact that from time to time every serving man may find himself for some period in a temporary station where economic grounds alone preclude us from building the proper scale of peace-time accommodation. I think the Services as a whole realise this. They do not expect to have home comforts all the time. They did not join the forces for that. But they do have a right to expect that a permanent station should have decent living accommodation. That is our aim, and, providing we do not have to spend too much of our works votes on temporary accommodation to meet sudden and passing emergencies, the next five years will see a striking improvement world wide.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

In fact, has the House ever refused the money which they were in a position to spend for these purposes and was this tremendous need of the Services considered by the Conservative Party when it promised 300,000 houses to civilians? We could not have both.

Mr. Soames

Indeed not. There has been very considerable building done; but the point is that it was such an enormous problem, not only in this country but world wide.

In paragraph 137, and those following, the Committee had some very pointed things to say about the state of the Army's equipment. Right hon. Gentlemen who have been in office in the Service Departments will appreciate that such criticism cannot be altogether unwelcome to a Secretary of State for War when it appears, as this did, at the time of the year when the size of the next year's Estimates is being settled. The story has been rehearsed too often for me to repeat it in detail here—a long war, huge dumps of surplus stores, the nation wanting money spent for large numbers of civil purposes and the Army being forced back on to using up its war-time surpluses.

But the re-equipment of an army is something which goes inevitably in phases. Though we have not been able to re-equip our Army as we should have liked to do in the post-war years, what really matters is that by 1962–63 our much smaller all-Regular force should be equipped with the best that can be provided. We are entering now into a phase of re-equipment, and in many ways it is as well that that phase should be coming now rather than that it should have been and gone, say, five or ten years ago.

From now on we shall be benefiting from the forward-thinking of my predecessors. I see it as my job to keep up the momentum of re-equipment and, at the same time, to be looking yet further ahead in terms of research and development. It is my firm belief that by 1962 the Army will have broken the back of its re-equipment problem. Of course, there will still be improvements to be made—it is a continuing process—but the troubles we have today of a wide range of outworn and outmoded equipment will be things of the past.

Governments set up many committees. The reports of some are disappointing and the reports of others are pedestrian. Just a few are outstanding, and I think that the Grigg Committee's Report is among them. We are deeply indebted to the Committee's Chairman and its members for an outstanding document which has caught the imagination of all concerned with the future of the fighting Services. We take the point that the Report and the recommendations should be seen as a whole, and we intend to follow through the Committee's recommendations with all the attention and urgency which they deserve.

5.3 p.m.

Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)

I do not think that the Secretary of State for War will have any difficulty in carrying the whole House with him when he thanks the members of the Grigg Committee and congratulates them on their Report. It is certainly a first-rate Report, as I think that every hon. Member on this side of the House agrees. In fact, how could we think anything else when the Report makes literally dozens of recommendations which we have been making persistently from this side of the House?

It is very gratifying to see some of the strictures, as well as some of the recommendations, which we have been making for so long embodied in this authoritative document, and which we trust are about to receive, on the part of the Government, the action that they deserve. There are a dozen things—on equipment, accommodation, pensions, education, discipline, training, and the like—in the Report which we have said again and again both from the Front Bench and from the back benches on this side of the House, and they are put extremely well in the Report.

I wish to address a word of congratulation to the members of the Grigg Committee on the presentation of their Report. I think that the Government, too, are to be congratulated on having, in the course of their recruiting campaign, taken the precaution to recruit Mr. Hugh Cudlipp as a member of that Committee, because I think that I detect his highly professional hand in the presentation of some of the Report. It is a very good job indeed. It starts with a sort of social survey comparing the present position of the country with that in the inter-war years, and not a bad short survey it is. It is relevant, too, because that is undoubtedly the background against which all efforts at recruiting have to be seen.

Like the Secretary of State, I will say a word or two first of all on the recruiting side, especially as the right hon. Gentleman took up some questions which I asked in our recent debate on the subject of Appendix A. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Appendix surprised him. I do not know about that, but, in my opinion, it certainly is, as I pointed out then, at variance both with the Report itself and still more with the Government's comments on the Report—that they are confident of getting their men.

It is not that I doubt the Government's confidence in getting their men. Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we cannot tell for certain yet, but I quite agree that every sign is distinctly good and optimistic in that respect. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I have never been one of those who thinks that this is an impossible task; but I am bound to say—and nothing which the right hon. Gentleman said today seems to contradict this—that if Appendix A were really sound—I am not suggesting that its arithmetic was wrong—and if its presuppositions were really correct, I doubt very much whether, in spite of the recent recruiting figures, there was the prospect of getting the men. It has never seemed to me very realistic to believe that we were really going to get one in three or, later, one in four of all the available men for the Services.

I am bound to say that one must either take an extremely pessimistic view or believe that the assumptions embodied in Appendix A really are not sound. What are those assumptions? The assumption of Appendix A, it seems to me, is that ail those classes of young men who were, in effect, exempted or at any rate deferred from National Service are unavailable for voluntary recruiting. I do not think that that is a very sound assumption at all. I think that is the error that crept into the Appendix. It is important to point it out because, otherwise, the whole matter is extremely puzzling.

I think that the calm assumption that the 86,000 apprentices and articled pupils who were not available for National Service are unavailable for voluntary recruiting is unsound. It really amounts to suggesting that in future only the dullards will join the Army. That is simply not the case. Nor do I think it is the case in respect of the 14 per cent. who receive advanced education. I think that the Report has excluded far too many men from the available pool from which recruits can be obtained.

I wish to ask whoever is to reply to the debate how many, for example, of the 9,000 men who joined the Army, as shown in the last quarterly returns, were 18-year-olds and how many came at a later stage. As I read the figures—and I do not pretend to be certain about this—quite a high number, something like 4,000, were not 18-year-olds at all. Some of those were no doubt once-and-for-all men—we cannot count on that flow going on—but others may well have to come from those categories which are ruled out, as it were, in Appendix A.

I am putting that forward only as a suggestion which can partly explain what is happening. Otherwise, if one really has to take Appendix A at its face value, one has to doubt the present recruiting figures, because as they stand they mean that we are recruiting at the preposterous rate of three out of four of all the available men. The Secretary of State has just told us that that has gone on in October again, as well as in September. I just do not believe that three out of four of all the available 18-year-olds are joining the Services.

Therefore, one has either to come to the conclusion that Appendix A is based on a false assumption or one has to doubt the present recruiting figures, and if one were to do that he would be like the man who went to the zoo, looked a long time at a giraffe, shook his head and said, "There is no such animal." I do not think that is a possible view to take and, therefore, I am bound to say that I think Appendix A must have been misconceived. It is a pity it has been put into the Report because it confuses the whole issue as it stands.

I should like to go from that to another question which is lightly touched on—

Mr. Paget

Before my right hon. Friend leaves that matter, since it is, perhaps, best to keep the questions on one thing together, I wonder if he will allow me to ask if we may hear a little, in the Government's reply, about the 31,000 who are unfit by Service standards on grounds other than medical?

Mr. Strachey

That is another interesting thing, I agree.

Mr. Paget

It is an extraordinary number.

Mr. G. Brown

There are not that number of brigadiers about.

Mr. Strachey

I come to a question which the Secretary of State did not mention. Of course, it was quite impossible for him to have mentioned all the matters mentioned in the Report. Nor can I, but I think this is an important one, where the Report recommends that there should be an "automatic"—that is its word—biennial review of pay.

I do not think anyone could doubt when reading the Report that the intention of the Committee there is that the pay and emoluments of the Services should be made what is usually called inflation-proof: that, by and large, if there were marked rises in the cost of living, those should be met in the biennial pay review. What the Government say about this in their comments on the Report are just these words: The Government agree that Service pay and pension should be reviewed regularly at intervals of not more than two years. That is all right as far as it goes, but we were disturbed in a recent debate in this House when the Minister of Health seemed to imply that there was no intention in this biennial pay review in the Armed Services of keeping the pay and emoluments of the Services broadly in line with the cost of living, and the Minister of Defence, it seemed to me, took much the same view.

If the Government are now to say, "Oh, yes, we have agreed to the Grigg recommendation that there should be a biennial pay review, but this pay review is to have nothing to do with the cost of living; we shall look at the pay and emoluments, which may go up and down, but there is no implication that they are to meet any marked rise in the cost of living," then I am afraid that on this side of the House we must say to them that they will profoundly disappoint all the expectations which have been aroused by the words in the Grigg Report and by the Government's apparent acceptance of them.

Every ordinary man in the street will interpret that inevitably as a pledge on the part of the Government of a biennial review, which will not automatically and mechanically, but by and large, keep the pay and emoluments in line with the cost of living. The Government really will stir up a great deal of trouble for themselves if they try to give a different impression now from the one which has quite inevitably been given by the recommendation and by their apparent acceptance of it.

Next I should like to take up the paragraphs in the Grigg Report on discipline and training. I agreed with the Secretary of State that I thought they were good paragraphs. I thought they were sane in the sense that there is no silly sentimentalism about them. They are quite clear that it is the best disciplined, smartest and, in a sense, strictest units which are the ones which are recruited best and recruited most easily. That is, I think, a very important fact which we should all bear in mind.

On the other hand, the Grigg Committee does make some quite important criticisms and comments on what I would call the formalistic side of discipline. It considers undesirable and unnecessary some which still exists, above all, it suggests, in the Army, and remarks in paragraph 61 of its Report: The military policemen patrolling the London railway stations symbolise everything the Service man dislikes on this score; he feels that, unlike men in other walks of life, he is not treated as a responsible adult. Farther on, the Committee makes rather severe criticisms of the Royal Air Force in particular for dropping or allowing to lapse a good deal of what it calls the Benson experiment, and of the failure of the Services as a whole to modernise themselves and to civilise themselves wholly in these respects to deal with things like unnecessary, elaborate pay parades, kit inspections, formalistic mounting of guards over one gate when no guard at all is mounted on the other gates—points of that sort which, though they may not be very big things, are things which the men feel strongly about and which are important.

All this is in the Report, and I am a little disturbed, I must say, at the Government's comments on all this, because we find under the heading, "Discipline and Training," these words: The Government fully endorse the Committee's remarks about the importance of making training interesting and providing adequate facilities. Of course, everyone agrees with that; but considering that the Report has made these quite severe strictures on parts at any rate of the administration—it is really that—of the Services in discipline and training, I think they ought to have dealt with them more adequately and to have stated either that the Grigg Report was wrong on these issues or that they accepted its recommendations on them. We should like to hear a little more about what the Government really think of these not world-shaking but quite important issues.

Now I come to a part about which the Secretary of State did say something, though he did not say a great deal, and that is the part on equipment. I think it is so important that I imagine a good deal more will be heard of it, certainly from this side of the House, and, I expect, from the other side, too; and I expect that my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) will have a good deal to say about it later on. I would make only a little comment on it as it affects the Army specifically and the defence forces as a whole.

I really cannot resist reading a few sentences from paragraph 64 of the Grigg Report and what it says about equipment as it exists today in the Army. The House must take notice when an officially appointed Government Committee says things like this: In Cyprus we visited a company of Royal Engineers which was expected to operate some vehicles over a quarter of a century old. In Germany, where the British Army is seen side by side with the forces of other N.A.T.O. countries, units were attempting to keep on the road rebuilt three-tonners from the Second World War. It seems quite a common practice in the Army to send two cars on a journey to ensure that at least one of them finally reaches the destination. One piece of military wireless equipment in general use goes back to the last War and is now quite out of date. We were told of British units in Germany borrowing equipment from the armies of other countries so that they could make a passable show in combined exercises. We have been saying these things, without this authority, from these benches for a long time, and nobody has taken very much notice. But here is a Committee which the Government themselves appointed saying these things, and we really should expect some explanation of them.

One explanation, of course, is given in relation to the Army in paragraph 138 of the Grigg Report, where we are told: The amount allocated by the Army to production has declined by 65 per cent. over the five years, and they are now getting about 15 per cent. of the total for the three Services, as compared with over 30 per cent, five years ago. That is the monetary calculation of what has happened, but it does not tell us why it has happened. It does not tell us why the War Office and, of course, the Ministry of Defence, for it is its responsibility too, have made this startling reduction in the proportion of money voted for equipment. I could not think that the explanations given by the Secretary of State for War held water or that his defence was adequate at all in this respect.

The Minister of Defence may say in reply that we seem to be pressing here for expenditure of still greater sums of money, but the House has voted over the past five years very nearly £10,000 million to the defence Services. It is quite a bit. One would have thought that one could have got a few new three-tonners out of that sum. It is very odd if sums of that order of magnitude have been spent and these elementary pieces of equipment have become as bad as this official Report says they are. It must have a profound effect not only on recruiting, with which the Grigg Report was immediately concerned, but on the whole morale of the Services when they are operating equipment of this sort. We should like to hear how this happened, why it has happened and, above all, what it is intended to be done about it.

It seems to me that there must have been here some profound error in proportion. Minds must have been filled with the music of the future in the way of nuclear warfare rockets and all the rest, which are very important no doubt. It seems to me that there has been real neglect here of basic equipment for the Army which is really important and which would not have taken many of these millions of pounds to make adequate. It seems intolerable that when an official committee makes strictures of this kind the House should pass the matter by without searching inquiry and some satisfactory answer. If no satisfactory answer can be given, I think that the House and the country generally would be very justified in calling sharply to account those who are responsible.

I can go on from that to many points which are less controversial. There are points on pensions both for men and relatives on which. I think, the Report was good and where the Government have accepted the recommendations. One can also say the same about the recommendations on disturbance; but I come now to the bigger subject of accommodation. The Secretary of State showed that here the Report had touched a sore spot. He was at pains to defend the War Office in particular against the charge in the Report that much of the accommodation was still, in the words of the Report, scandalous.

We all know the difficulties of this question. All the things that the Secretary of State said have their validity, but, after all, he seemed to say that it was simply a shortage of money that had prevented his getting the new accommodation which could not be found within the compass of the sum found by the House. That is not the case at all with the basic married quarters of the Army. These are not sums which come out of annual Votes at all. These are sums given on loan. The War Office is, for this purpose, a housing authority. It finances its building in the same way as do other housing authorities, and it has simply not spent anything like the sums available to it by loan in recent years. Therefore, the whole plea that there was not the money to build this accommodation falls to the ground.

The real reason, I think, is another one. It is indecision as to where the Army wants its permanent accommodation. That is something which is understandable because it is very difficult in this transitional period in a disturbed world, as the Secretary of State said, to make up our minds where the permanent accommodation should go. But as the years go by, surely it has become time that the Government made up their mind where the married quarters must be and where the building programme can really go forward.

The Grigg Report says that in its opinion this is the most important single factor of all in recruiting. Surely, therefore, it is time that the Government showed very much more decision in this matter. I do not say that there should be more activity and concern. I am sure that they are active and are concerned, but it is decision that is so necessary.

One could speak about the education provisions, which I think are very important and on which the comments in the Grigg Report are good. I am not quite sure that the Report goes far enough, but its suggestions are important and good, and I know that the Government have adopted them. On the question of the women's Services, I was disturbed only by one remark—that the Committee was told by the War Office, in contradistinction to the other two Services, that the War Office considered that recruiting more women to the W.R.A.C. would not release any men.

That seems to me to reveal an attitude which is altogether out-of-date. Surely there are enormous numbers of jobs. One has to think only of the vast clerical work of the Army in respect of which the recruitment of women would directly release men for other duties, and very likely for fighting duties. This smells of a stick-in-the-mud attitude on the part of the War Office as compared with the other two Services.

Finally, I should like to say a few words about what I think is the most difficult problem of all that the Grigg Report faced. That problem is the recruitment of officers. The Secretary of State said a good deal about it, and the Grigg Report—

The Minister of Defence (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify the point about women replacing men's jobs? I would like to answer it if I can, but I was not quite clear of the right hon. Gentleman's meaning.

Mr. Strachey

The quotation is from paragraph 218 of the Grigg Report, which states: In the evidence which the War Office submitted to us, it was stated that an improvement in recruitment for the W.R.A.C. would not reduce the Army's requirement for men. This was in marked contrast to the evidence of other Service Departments, which made it clear that the recruiting of men and of women were complementary, at least in part. That puts succinctly and clearly what I was attempting to say.

I want to say a word about officer recruitment. In the first place, it is a little ungenerous of the Government to say that the Grigg Report was in error about the number of officers that the Army needs. What the Grigg Committee said in its printed comment was that the Committee was incorrectly informed, and that is, no doubt, what happened. The Committee could not itself think up the number of cadets that were needed.

Mr. Soames

What I meant to say was that, regardless of where the information came from, the fact that the Grigg Committee began from a false premise meant that many of the suppositions drawn subsequently by the Committee were not correct.

Mr. Strachey

Yes. Nevertheless, it is a pity that the Committee was incorrectly informed, as the written comments put it.

The Secretary of State would not, I am sure, deny that although the problem was exaggerated by the misinformation that the Committee was given, there is a real problem of officer recruiting. It is not quite as big a problem as the Committee supposed, but it certainly exists. It has two aspects. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the recruiting of officers from grammar school boys; the Grigg Committee dealt with this. The right hon. Gentleman's theme was that the War Office was only too happy to get the grammar school boys but that the trouble was that they were not coming forward in the proper numbers because boys in the grammar schools were not, as it were, Army-conscious, to the same extent. In paragraph 197 of the Report, however, we see that that is not the criticism which the Grigg Committee makes.

The Grigg Committee made the criticism of the failure rate in the examination for permanent commissions. The Committee said that the much higher rate of failure of the grammar school boy—and, incidentally, the North Country boy also—for commissions indicates either that the boys who come from the South of England and from public schools are much better or, as seems more likely, that the selection machinery finds much more difficulty in assessing the quality of the boy from the North and the lad from the local grammar school. That is the nature of the Committee's criticism. Nothing that the Secretary of State said met it in any way.

Mr. Soames

What is happening is that there is not the old tradition in many of the schools in the North for the boys to go into the Service. It is not the same standard of boy from the top of the school, so to speak, who comes forward for the Service. Therefore, the proportion of failures is higher.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

Does "the North" include Scotland?

Mr. Strachey

Oh, yes. Scotland is north of the Trent. That, however, was not the view of the Grigg Committee. It is quite evident—

Mr. Soames

It is one or the other.

Mr. Strachey

Yes—as seems more likely, that the selection machinery finds much more difficulty in assessing the quality of the boy from the North and the lad from the local grammar school. There is still a very old-fashioned prejudice in this recruitment. The mess is still a club to a considerable extent. It is a pity that the Government and the party opposite, which expresses such intense concern for the grammar schools, do not seem, at least in the opinion of the Grigg Committee—this is not what I am saying, but is what the Grigg Committee said—to be able to assess the merits of the boys from them in the same way.

Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)

All that the right hon. Gentleman is saying is in complete contradiction to what has been said by headmasters from the North of England who have stayed and lived at and seen the working of the course. In their view, there is no foundation for the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. If they agree on that, surely the right hon. Gentleman should agree also.

Mr. Strachey

I would be the last man to put my unaided opinion against these reverend authorities, the headmasters. I am, however, quoting from the authoritative Grigg Committee, which included rather important and impartial people who would not be likely to have any prejudices which might be attributed to us on this side of the House. These were the comments of the Grigg Committee. Sir James Grigg, for example, said this. He may, of course, be utterly wrong, but it is a fairly important consideration that he puts before us.

Mr. Wigg

Those were the views not only of Sir James Grigg but of Sir Philip Morris, for example, one of our most distinguished educationists and certainly one of the greatest directors of education the country has had. He would not be party to such a suggestion if it were without foundation.

Mr. Strachey

Exactly. It was an authoritative Committee. The House cannot really say, "Pooh, they know nothing about it at all" and write it off at that. These are the Committee's views, and they should be seriously considered.

Now, take the other and more important question which the Committee raised of the promotion of officers from the ranks. Again, we have the opinion of the Grigg Committee—this is not just my opinion; it is the Committee's considered view—in paragraph 166: We believe it is imperative that the Army should adopt a more liberal attitude towards commissioning from the ranks than they have done in the past. There, I would criticise the Grigg Report myself. It seems to me that the Grigg Committee expressed that in a rather pious sort of way without going into the question of what it really means. If we mean anything serious about a greater flow of men from the ranks to commissioned ranks in the Army, we must look again at what is called in the War Office the "two-ladders system", which exists in the Army today.

I know that there are exceptions, but broadly speaking there are two ladders of promotion. From private onwards a man puts his feet on one ladder or the other. One ladder goes into the commissioned ranks and the other goes into the non-commissioned ranks. A man starts on one ladder or the other, and as soon as he has got any considerable distance up his chosen ladder, if, for example, it is the non-commissioned ladder, it is very difficult indeed for him to move over to the commissioned ladder—there is very little intercommunication between the two.

If we were taking commissioning from the ranks seriously in the way the Grigg Report talks about it, although it makes very little in the way of concrete suggestions, that arrangement would have to be modified. It would be necessary to ensure that it was much more practicable for the man who had gone some little way up the non-commissioned ladder to move across. There would have to be a by-pass mechanism, as it were, by which he could come into commission. There would have to be commissioning, not for quartermasters and the like, for semiretired warrant officers, but for young corporals and sergeants. It would have to be much more possible for them to move across on to the commissioned ladder.

Mr. Soames

The right hon. Gentleman is making an interesting point. The best way of doing it, of course, is to be able to select the men that much younger at the age of 18, 19 or 20, when they can go to Sandhurst at much the same age as other lads go there and they will be there at the same time with their own generation and go on from there If we miss them then, we must do our best to pull in officer material later. It is much better to get the man much earlier when he has his first foot on the ladder rather than when he is half-way up.

Mr. Strachey

I know that is the War Office doctrine. It is the doctrine I found when I discussed these matters with my advisers at the War Office, but I am questioning that doctrine; I am not sure that it is altogether true. There are people who develop late, people who have had educational difficulties of one kind or another. There may be men who go some way up the non-commissioned ladder before they show their merits, and I do not think there is adequate possibility now for them to get commissioned rank.

I rather doubt whether, in our highly organised Army of today, there are the same opportunities as there used to be. For the purposes of this debate I looked up the career of one of the most famous rankers, perhaps, who ever served in the British Army, Sir William Robertson. I was interested to note that he was commissioned a full eleven years after joining the Army and after he had become a troop sergeant. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1888, having joined the Army in 1877, and went very nearly the whole way through the non-commissioned ranks to troop sergeant.

I do not think that is impossible today, but I do not think there is the same opportunity as there might have been in the rather more haphazard Army of those times. We have organised it very tightly now on the two-ladder system, and I am questioning whether it is right to believe, as we seem to do now, that we can spot the man who is commissionable material right at the start, before he has begun to go up the non-commissioned ladder. At any rate, I feel pretty sure that if the Grigg recommendation on ranker commissioning is to be taken seriously, that is what it means. It is either just a pious aspiration or we must look at the system, the habit if you will, of promotion from the ranks which exists in the Army today.

These are some of the points which arise from the Report. There are many others, and I think they will be raised from all parts of the House. I will say in conclusion, therefore, that once again I think this is a most valuable Report. I hope that the recommendations which the Government have accepted will be put into action quickly. and I hope they will think again, and think very carefully, about those recommendations and that advice which clearly they have not really accepted so far and which they have hardly commented on.

5.43 p.m.

Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)

I can certainly join with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) in his congratulation of the Grigg Committee. From my personal knowledge of Sir James Grigg, and bearing in mind his wide experience over the whole area covered by the Report, and also knowing his aptitude for setting out a case, the subject matter and great clarity of the Report is what we would have expected from him as chairman of the Advisory Committee on Recruiting, and I am sure that he was ably supported by the members of the Committee. I shall be mentioning one or two of the right hon. Gentleman's points during the course of my remarks.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence also deserves congratulations for his imagination in setting up the Committee and for choosing Sir James Grigg and its members. I shall pick out some points which, I think, have an important bearing on their recommendations One of the most important, which had the most bearing on the supply of recruits, is the end of National Service. The Report states that it appears to the Committee that the required number of recruits, in accordance with my right hon. Friend's plan, will be achieved in 1963. Here again, I think that the Minister of Defence deserves congratulation for his courage in tackling the ending of National Service. It was not an easy decision to make, bearing in mind our great commitments. Many of us on both sides of the House thought that National Service should be brought to an end as early as possible. I certainly did, but it was my right hon. Friend who took the bull by the horns and did it.

It was the confidence my right hon. Friend gave the embryo recruits that he would achieve his object which persuaded them to join in such satisfactory numbers. I know very well, as I think do most hon. Members, that the youth of today is not keen on joining a hybrid defence force; that is to say, one composed half of Regular long-service men and half of National Service men. We all realise that in the event of a national emergency we should have to resort to National Service again, but my right hon. Friend's confidence in achieving his object had a great deal to do with the result.

In its Report the Committee states that it is not its job to say whether the figure of 375,000 men is the right one and is sufficient or not. This is one of those imponderables. Defence is not an exact science any more than is medicine, and it is impossible to argue how many Regular long-service men could do the job which was done by a mixed defence force of long-service men and National Service men. The Report states, quite rightly, that The task of maintaining all voluntary forces of the postulated level will be no light one; it might become impossible if reforms worth undertaking on their merits are not implemented. Then the Report brings out the point which the Committee thinks, and I agree, is the most important of all, the short career. The Report states: This is the biggest single cause of the great difficulty which the Services, and particularly the Army, are now experiencing in attracting a sufficient entry of officers of the right quality. Today, we have not got what used to be called the officer class, namely, people with private means who can afford to stay in the Army for a few years and then make a career in civil life with their private means to back them up.

I am sure that until we can go further than we are doing now, and we contemplate doing, in offering the would-be recruit a whole life career, we shall not get officers of the quality and quantity we really want. The Civil Service, and every large employer in the country, today offers young men a whole life career. I realise all the great difficulties, but I believe that we must go a great deal further in attempting to do that than we have done or than I think is immediately contemplated by the Government.

I have mentioned before that the factor I regard as all-important in attracting and keeping recruits in our new model Army is the status of the soldier. That runs through the first part of the Report, Part II, the background, and Part III, the willingness of men and women to join the forces. The question is: do we consider that the task of keeping the peace in this very dangerous modern world is second to none and that the men and women who volunteer for it deserve the thanks and support of a grateful nation? Do we mean to cherish them in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer?

That is the sort of question that people, and particularly parents, will be asking themselves when they advise recruits to join the forces. For example, will we give them our full support in an unpleasant type of duty like the job that they are performing in Cyprus at the moment? For the soldier, duties in aid of the civil power constitute the most unenviable task that he can ever be called upon to perform.

I had the misfortune to be called upon to do it several times during my service in circumstances where casualties were very much higher than in Cyprus, but never, I think, in such difficult circumstances as our troops are facing in Cyprus today. I think that our troops there can be in no doubt that they are getting the full support of the House and the country in their very difficult task.

How right the Report is when it says that it is the parents and the families who have the paramount influence on whether a young man should join the forces today. The parents, the wives and the families survey the form over a very wide field, as, I think, most of us would agree. It is a matter of current thinking about the forces and their place in society which counts when it comes to getting recruits.

I was interested when my right hon. Friend said in his speech that every aspect of life can be an encouragement or a deterrent to recruiting. I should like to mention one or two aspects. The Report says that the pay of both officers and other ranks represents a reasonable equivalence with civil remuneration. I believe that that is true of the pay and emoluments as they exist at present. The Report then recommends that there should be an automatic biennial review of pay and pensions. I want to say a word about this because I think that that recommendation and its reception by my right hon. Friend has been rather distorted, first, by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) at Question Time, the other day, and today by the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey).

Asking a supplementary question, the hon. Member for Dudley said that the idea has been sold to the public that the rates of pay and pensions are to be linked with the cost of living"—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 19th November, 1958; Vol. 595, c. 1121] and accused the Government of sharp practice in their presentation of this case. I do not think that there was any excuse for that at all.

Mr. Wigg

My charge on that occasion was not against the Minister of Defence. It was against the Minister of Health, who was trying to edge away from an undertaking which the Government had clearly accepted.

Sir J. Smyth

Anyway, the right hon. Member for Dundee, West has referred to it again and has attacked the Government on the same point. We have never accepted the principle of directly linking pensions or pay with the cost of living. I have always been seized of the wisdom of the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) on this point. I have quoted it many times, and I have heard him quote it many times since he introduced the Industrial Pensions Scheme, in 1946. I will read what he said, because I think what a Minister says in office when he bears responsibility is often a great deal more important than what he says he will do when he does not bear responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman said: We are definitely of the view that it is undesirable, as well as impracticable, to have automatic adjustment. This method of pegging benefits to a specific cost of living and adjusting them automatically was tried at the end of the last war in war pensions, and broke down the first time it came to be applied. We are convinced, after examination, that it will break down again."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1946; Vol. 418, c. 1741.] That was the right hon. Gentleman's view then, and I am sure that if he had to implement it again today he would agree with those words—

Mr. Wigg

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman read the recommendation of the Grigg Committee that Service men's pensions should be reviewed biennially, to take into account movements in civilian earnings? The Government's undertaking is clear. The Government agree that Service pay and pensions should be reviewed regularly at intervals of not more than two years. The catch—I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will see it—is this, that when the troops read that there will be a review if civilian pay has moved up they will think they will be paid more. The Government do not mean anything of the kind. What they mean is that there will be a review.

Sir J. Smyth

I hope I may prove my point. The right hon. Member for Llanelly mentioned particularly war pensions. In 1946, he referred to the experience of war pensions. It would have been a very good thing if he had done with regard to war pensions what my right hon. Friend has done about Service pensions, and said that he would review them every two years.

What happened over war pensions under the Labour Government was completely catastrophic. After they had raised the basic pension by 5s., in 1946, there was no review and no increase right up to 1951, when the Labour Government went out of office; and by that time the value of the war disabled pension had fallen from 45s. to 35s.

On the other hand, the Conservative Government had an immediate review, and in our first Budget we raised the war pension immediately by 10s., and we have had two subsequent reviews in exactly the same way as my right hon. Friend has guaranteed to do with Service pensions. Therefore, I think that the action of this Government in reviewing the war disability pension, which was not done by their predecessors, will give confidence to the Services that the Minister of Defence and the Government mean what they say and are to review Service pensions biennially.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War said, almost everything that comes before the public, and is influenced by public opinion, affects recruiting. I want briefly to mention one thing of which the newspapers were rather full this morning. My friend, Mrs. Odette Hallowes, who is a member of my V.C. and G.C. Association committee, is naturally considerably disturbed by the criticism that has appeared in the Press over the last few days about her actions and those of Peter Churchill during the last war in the Special Operations Branch. It is extremely difficult for her, personally knowing the difficulty, secrecy and delicacy of these matters, to give a full explanation. There is no need for such people to explain, or make excuses for, the great gallantry they showed, for which they received very high decorations. However, she feels that it would be unfair on other gallant people who were concerned if she were called upon to explain matters which have been veiled in secrecy until now.

I hope that the Government will accept responsibility and give a reply on behalf of these extremely gallant people who went through all sorts of terrible hardships. Some received high decorations, but many were killed and we know nothing more about them. I shall certainly refer to the subject again on a more suitable occasion, but I wanted merely to mention it now.

The Report mentions pensions for retired officers and officers' widows, especially those officers who retired immediately after the two world wars, and their widows. The Report says: The lot of these servants of the Crown is indeed unenviable. They retired early with very small pensions which have been subject to inflation over a number of years. It goes on: Many of them belong to families with a long history of service in the Armed Forces … their present plight is not much of a recommendation to their sons and grandsons who maintain the family tradition. I shall not refer to this matter in any detail. It was discussed in another place in detail recently and there have been many Questions about it here. Other hon. Members may mention it today.

There are comparatively few of these officers and widows. Why so many of them still recommend young people to go into the forces beats me. The Minister of Defence was asked about this matter by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) last Wednesday, and was at pains to point out that we are treating these men and widows strictly in accordance with the contracts made with them. Of course, he was absolutely right. There was no obligation on the Labour Government to do anything for these people beyond what they did—absolutely nothing.

There is no obligation on the present Government to go beyond the very modest pension increases and the reliefs in Income Tax which have been given. Nevertheless, the plight of some of these people is a nasty canker on the body politic. Time will deal with it, because these people are dying off rapidly, but none of us can feel proud or happy about the situation.

There is another class of person—the number is not so great as with retired officers—which I want to mention again. They are the "very willing horses," the Service men who continue to serve, who get knocked about and who come up asking for more. Finally, nature rebels and they become seriously ill and ask for a pension, and then find that they do not have sufficient proof that their condition is due to the hardships they suffered on active service. I said in July that this constitutes a gap in our war pensions scheme, a gap to which the Government should pay attention.

I want briefly to quote one case, although I will not mention the officer concerned by name. He is well known to most hon. Members and to many others. He has given me details of his case, but for obvious reasons he does not want his name mentioned. He won the V.C. early in the First World War. During that process, as happened with most such cases, he was badly knocked about. He later went into the first gas attack with the Canadians at Y pres in April, 1915—and that was not a very healthy thing to do, as I know. He finished the war in rather a bad way, but between the wars he recovered.

Although he did not need to do so, he volunteered in the Second World War and was sent out to a very onerous job in North Africa, where he got pleurisy, pneumonia and shingles. Finally, he was absolutely smashed by an American lorry which ran into his car. His spine was injured and he has to spend the rest of his life in a strait-jacket. From time to time, he has blackouts, which I have seen.

The other day he had a very bad heart attack, which almost finished him. I said, "If you recover from this, you must put your feet up and take it easy. I am sure that your disability pension will be increased and you will not be so badly off." To my surprise, and to his even greater surprise, the medical board found that his condition had nothing to do with his frightful experiences and with the battering which he had in two world wars. I can only quote the old jingle: Look where he's been, Look what he's seen, Give him his pension, and God save the Queen. That type of man deserves our sympathy and support.

A New Zealand member of my V.C. and G.C. Association said on his return to New Zealand recently that several British V.C.s were right down on the breadline. He also said—and it was widely quoted in the Press and mentioned in the New Zealand Parliament—that the British people treated their V.C.s more meanly than did any other nation in the Commonwealth. I strongly refute both accusations. We do not have Service men who are right on the breadline. That might have been so in 1929. At the V.C. reunion of that year there were many men who were in a bad way. That is not the case today, although these men are not an affluent class by any means. Some have suffered hardship and we have done what we can to help them, but to say that they are on the breadline is a gross exaggeration.

In the other accusation, I want to refer to the V.C. allowance, a matter which I have never raised before, but which has been mentioned several times in the House recently. The allowance used to be £10 a year, but we have increased it to 6s. 11d, a week. It can be given only to other ranks. In addition, there is an annuity of up to £75, but that is subject to a means test and a needs test. To obtain it, holders of the V.C. have to be over 60, invalided out of the Services, permanently incapacitated and, by reason of age and infirmity, permanently unable to work. Unless one fulfils all those conditions, one cannot even apply for the allowance. What is mean is that if the disability increases and the disability pension is raised, that amount is docked from the annuity.

I should like to end where I began, by congratulating the Grigg Committee on the production of its Report, and I should also like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for setting up the Committee and so promptly dealing with its Report and deciding to implement a lot of its recommendations. I feel, however, as I have said before, that the success of our recruiting scheme over a long term depends on the status that we give to the personnel, the men and women who will do the work in our defence forces of the future.

6.1 p.m.

Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)

I am very glad to be able to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth), not only because of his very distinguished career in the Services, but also because he happens to be my own Member of Parliament, though not, I should say, with my personal assistance.

I agree with very much of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, particularly in his closing remarks, but I think he was a little unfair to the Labour Government in its attitude towards disabled war pensioners. It was the Labour Government from 1945 onwards which revolutionised the whole outlook of the Ministry of Pensions towards the war pensioners. It made tremendous efforts by means of special allowances and so on to raise their standard of living, and I think that that ought to be acknowledged.

Sir J. Smyth

I have mentioned that point on every occasion on which I have talked about war pensioners, and I give them the fullest credit for that. I should also like to say that my predecessors in the Ministry of Pensions during the Labour Government did everything they possibly could to get a rise in the basic pension, but the trouble was that the economic situation of the country was in such a mess that the Chancellor could not implement it.

Mr. Chetwynd

We have the Chancellor of those days with us and he could say what he thought about it. I am sure that we went to the absolute limit in doing what we could to discharge our duty to the disabled ex-Service man.

I welcome this Report, and I feel that the Government are taking it seriously, as I am sure they are, by the ready way in which they have responded to many of its proposals. As I see it, their effects will be two-fold. First of all, there is the decision to abolish National Service at the given time as an actual fact, and that there is to be no going back on that. I think it would be disastrous if they were not to make it absolutely clear that National Service is coming to an end.

The second one, which goes with it, concerns the commitments which the forces will have to carry out, and whether they can be carried out by the all-Regular force which is envisaged by the end of 1962. Again, that is very important, because if we were not sure that we could meet our commitments we should have to reconsider our whole attitude towards the continuance of National Service. The Committee's Report says: We have related our task specifically to the Government's present plan of bringing National Service to an end by December, 1962, and relying thereafter on regular forces totalling about 375.000 men. Later on, in the same paragraph, the Committee states: It is not, of course, for us to say whether the figure of 375,000 is the right one. It is the Government's duty to say whether 375,000 is the right figure, and whether they think an Army of 165,000, for instance, will be sufficient to meet the many commitments it will have to carry out. There has been argument and debate whether this figure was high enough. I personally might be willing to take a chance on that figure meeting the commitments which we have.

The question then arises, if there is a surplus over this figure, what the Government intend to do, and whether they would allow the figure to go higher than 375,000. In other words, is the figure of 375,000 to be a ceiling, or can it be exceeded if recruits come along in sufficient numbers? The Secretary of State for War in his speech mentioned a significant phrase, as I think, that we would achieve our target if the present trend continues. The difficulty with recruiting is that we cannot forecast sufficiently far ahead to plot any real trends.

Previous experience has been that recruiting goes in fits and starts—that we have a bulge, then a decline, then another bulge and so on. At the moment, we seem to be coming towards the end of an upsurge in recruiting, because we may have drained the adequate pool of people who are willing to consider Regular recruitment to the forces at this time. It may be that two or three years will elapse before we again have an adequately-sized pool from which we get considerable recruits.

That brings me to the argument which we have had about Appendix A, which seeks to set out the field of possible recruitment for the Armed Forces. I am absolutely staggered by the argument in this Appendix that one in three of the available manpower will be necessary if we are to reach our target. To my mind, that seems to be an absolutely impossible task. To think for one moment that one man in three, on reaching the age of 18 will opt deliberately to make Regular service his career seems to me to be quite unreal, and I am sure that we ought to have some explanation of this. Either the basis of the calculation is wrong, or the alternative is that the Government are too optimistic about the numbers they hope to get. We ought to have an answer on that point.

I think that there is probably some confusion in the minds of the people who drew up that Appendix whether those who are written off, as being students, apprentices or unfit in some way or other, wish to go into the Regular Forces. I can well imagine that there may be quite a fair number of apprentices who, when they have finished their training and apprenticeships, might well wish to make the Regular Army their careers. I can well imagine that there are numbers of people attending higher education who at the same time might wish to go into the forces, but these groups are not really mutually exclusive.

The other figure about which we ought to know something is that indicating that 25 per cent. of the available manpower is unavailable for the Armed Forces because of medical unfitness. It seems to me to indicate an exceedingly exacting and high standard of fitness for the Armed Forces, if, automatically, we have to write off a quarter of the population as unfit. I do not think that can be a true reflection of the physical state of the nation. With the National Health Service at work for ten years now, with all the welfare services and so on, I am convinced that that is very much an exaggeration of the fitness position.

Another figure which we ought to have explained is that of the 15 per cent. Un-acceptable to the Services. On what grounds are they unacceptable? Because they are bad types, or do not fit in? It seems to me to be a ridiculously high figure to put on the number of people who are unacceptable for the Services.

So we find that, in any given year, of the 18-year olds who might be considering Regular Service, 64 per cent. are automatically excluded from the start, and 36 per cent. are left to be called upon. Of the 126,000 available each year, 42,000 will be available for Service requirements, and it seems to me that, on this one-in-three proportion, if the Services are to get the share they want, other vital services will have to be starved of men. Therefore, this figure of one in three is, to my mind, not only impossible of achievement, but is also undesirable on both social and economic grounds. If we are taking one in three of the fit people, we are leaving to ordinary civilian industry, employment and use unfit people who are not so valuable to us, and that, again, on social grounds cannot be justified. The Government must face the implications of this figure and give us a much more satisfactory explanation than we have had so far.

The other point involved in the question of whether we shall reach the target is that although we may get an overall approximation to the target there will nevertheless be gaps in the specialised services. The Government mentioned a number of technical services which may be short of the required numbers. In a modern force it is these specialised services which will make the machine go round and give it its cohesion and strength.

Two ways of dealing with this point are put forward. The first is that a sectional approach should be made and that special payments should be made for special skills in individual cases. The Government say that we should try to get an overall increase above what we want, and that that will take care of the places where there are likely to be shortages. The Government believe that over-recruitment will provide some magical way of getting people to fall into the specialist posts which must be filled. I do not think that that will happen. We shall probably get the right number of unskilled people, but not of skilled people. I would favour additional pay for skill, in order to attract the kind of person we want.

The Report says that there are shortages in the Medical Corps, the Ordnance Corps, and the Signals and Education Branches. All those services could be run in common, to serve the Air Force and the Army. Where organisation would permit it, I can see no reason why an R.A.M.C. man should not deal with sick people from the Air Force, or why we should not have a common Signals Branch or Ordnance Service. If we moved along those lines we might be able to rationalise the manpower situation in order to obtain the best use from the available people.

I now touch upon a matter which could affect the whole future of our Armed Forces, namely, the recruitment of officers. The Report reveals a very serious situation. It shows that the bulk of officer recruitment is on a very narrow basis. When, in the outside world, we are moving towards a system of society which is more equal, it is quite wrong that in the forces we should be moving, if at all, in the opposite direction. The figure of entrants to Sandhurst proves this. Twenty-one of the public schools send one-third of the entries, whereas 969 other schools send two-thirds. The public schools, in total, send 67 per cent., and the others send 33 per cent. Bearing in mind the fact that the public schools represent only a very small fraction of the available people, we see that a bias is applied in the matter of officer recruitment.

I am convinced that we must make more use not only of the grammar schools but of the secondary modern schools. I can see no reason why we should not tap the sources of good leadership material which exist in secondary schools of all kinds. It is not necessary to have the highest academic qualifications in order to be an officer; indeed, when I think of some of the officers in this House I wonder how they got there at all. It is not necessary to have high academic qualifications; what is needed is the power of leadership, understanding aid fitness, and those things are not the sole preserve either of the public schools or the few grammar schools who help out.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

I know what the hon. Member is getting at, but he is barking up the wrong tree. He is barking up the Sandhurst tree.

Mr. Chetwynd


Brigadier Prior-Palmer

That is not the point. The Sandhurst examination is a written one There is no interview, and it is purely a question of obtaining the requisite number of marks. Whether that is the right or wrong procedure is another matter. The point is that it is from those schools that more people go in for the examination. The problem is to get the secondary schools to enter for the examination. If the hon. Member had been talking about Westbury he would be barking up the right tree, but in the case of Sandhurst there is a written examination, and the problem is to get enough people to go in for it.

Mr. Chetwynd

I was dealing with the case of entries, in Appendix "E". I now turn to Appendix "F", which is a most important one, and which further proves my point. It shows that there is a bias against the grammar schools and, among the grammar schools, a strong bias against candidates from the North. We have tried to obtain an explanation of this situation, but it has not been forthcoming.

The figures given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) were correct. It is not a question of their not having come forward in sufficient numbers; the fact is that the number of failures among those coming forward is much higher in the case of grammar schools, and much higher still in the case of the northern grammar schools. Sixty-one per cent, of the candidates came from public schools and 39 from other schools, but whereas only 63 per cent. of the public school candidates failed, 83 per cent. of the candidates from other schools failed.

I do not know what standards are being asked, but they must be tremendously high. They may be too high. Southern grammar schools send 68 per cent. as compared with northern grammar schools' 32 per cent., of the total grammar school entrants, but whereas 66 per cent. from the southern schools fail, 82 per cent. of those from the northern schools fail. That seems to bear out the argument that there is a bias against people from the north. I suggest that the more soft-spoken and sophisticated southerner has a better prospect than the more vital but perhaps less polished candidate from the North.

I am also convinced that accent is a determining factor in selection, and also that the question of the candidate's father's job helps. Another factor is the kind of game played. The question whether one has played with a round ball or an oval one is taken into account. It is no good saying that the grammar school people from the North are not coming forward. If they are not, it is because of the instinctive feeling they have that there is a bias against them.

I hope that we may be given some details about the background of the people who sit upon the selection board. I want to know where they come from. I suggest that there should not be merely one board sitting in London, or wherever it is, but that others should be set up in Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle or Scotland. We should then make the best of the material we have.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I am sure that the hon. Member does not wish to exaggerate, but if his argument is correct I would point out that just as many northerners as southerners play football with an oval ball.

Mr. Chetwynd

The bulk of the people who get into the commissioned ranks play rugger rather than soccer. That is a pretty good indication. We must change out attitude towards officer recruitment. I can see no reason why we should take this exclusive line when in the war years and immediately afterwards it was very much easier to move directly from the ranks into the commissioned ranks. We could go back to that system with advantage. I am convinced that a man will make a much better officer if he has served in the ranks, not as a potential officer but as an ordinary soldier.

I had intended to deal at some length with the question of equipment, but that matter has been stressed already. I will merely comment that the response of the Government has been puerile. Their answer to the criticism in the Grigg Report about equipment is, The Government fully recognise the importance of good equipment. They do not say a single word about what they propose to do. After we have spent £10,000 million on the Armed Forces in the last seven years, it is an absolute scandal that a Report such as the Grigg Committee make should be made at all. Our troops abroad find themselves at a grave disadvantage regarding equipment when compared, for example, with the new West German forces. Many years ago we set out to issue our forces with a personal automatic weapon. So far there are very few of these weapons. I understand that every German soldier has an F.N. rifle. How many of our troops have been issued with modern equipment? These things have a big influence on the morale of the Services and on recruiting prospects.

I wish to say a word about uniforms and to direct my remarks particularly to the Army, which is undoubtedly the "Cinderella" of our forces in this respect, not only when compared with other branches of the Armed Services in this country, but when compared with continental troops. The kitbag and the groundsheet mark the lack of esteem in which we hold our soldiers, and I am glad that at last the Government are making a move, however slowly, to equip our forces with a holdall to replace the kitbag and a mackintosh instead of a groundsheet. The groundsheet is the most inefficient piece of clothing ever devised. The rain comes in at the top and leaks out at the bottom on to the knees of the wearer.

In considering the question of recruitment, we should take into account the climate of opinion in this country. The hard fact is that the British people are not interested in a Regular Army. It is a basic tradition in this country that we do not pay sufficient attention to the Army and make no effort to see that our Army is properly looked after and respected. We accept a Regular Army as an unfortunate necessity and try to keep it in the background as much as possible. There is this huge force of public inertia to contend with, and stupid incidents occurring in Army camps, like parading men and marching them to watch a football match or a sensational court-martial case, may undo the good work of many years. I ask for far better public relations so that the case for the Armed Forces can be properly presented.

In my opinion, the real problem is bound up with the question of pay and the restrictions imposed upon the personal liberty of our troops. As compensation for these restrictions, men in the forces should receive more than the pay given to their counterparts in civil life. The matter may be expressed in the one word "dignity," and our troops have not sufficient dignity. The idea that we should get rid of military police at railway stations and so on ought to be pursued. The biggest bugbear to many private soldiers is the possibility of being accosted by a military policeman. Many of them will go miles out of their way rather than risk being asked for their pass by a military policeman. If a man is walking out with his wife or girl friend it is a great indignity to be stopped and asked stupid, pettifogging questions by military police.

When a soldier is off duty and away from his barracks, I contend that he should be completely off duty and enjoy the same rights and privileges as a civilian. The soldier should enjoy more privacy in his barracks; there should be less herding together and less pushing around. The soldier should be given a better status in the community. If the War Office want a slogan for the future, I suggest it should be, "Every soldier can have a field marshal's memoirs in his new holdall."

6 35 p.m.

Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)

I agree with the observations made by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd), towards the close of his speech, about the unintentional harm which may be done by military policemen. Similar observations fell from my lips during the proceedings of the Select Committee which considered the Naval Discipline Act. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees will receive the same volume of correspondence from the military police as I received after my remarks on that occasion, but if he does, he will find that they have a clear and forceful felicity of expression in their letters.

I wish to say a word about Recommendation (i) in the Grigg Report which has been accepted by the Government: that there should be an automatic biennial review of pay and pensions. Quite rightly, in my judgment, the Committee goes on to recommend that this review should be related to the movements in civilian earnings. Nevertheless, it is perfectly clear that what the Committee had in mind was the threat of further inflation.

The opening words of paragraph 101 of the Report state: It would be better for everybody that Governments should be able and willing to put an end to inflation. But that this will be so is not yet assured beyond all doubt, and we therefore feel bound to recommend … Nothing could be clearer. The Committee goes on to recommend that pensions should be reviewed at the same time on the ground, as it suggests, that pensions should be related to the rates of pay.

I concede that it was not in the minds of the members of the Grigg Committee that the existing pensions should be included. That is clear from paragraph 117 of the Report. But a careful study of paragraphs 204, 205 and 206, to which the reader is referred, shows that the Committee did not recommend against a review being extended to existing pensions. On the contrary, the Committee reached three clear conclusions. The first was that claims on military service pensions cannot be singled out from other public service pensioners as a whole. That is a statement of the obvious, if ever there was one. I think it a pity that a Committee of this nature should shelter behind that sort of statement; and, even more—I say this with great respect—that Ministers should occasionally shelter behind such a statement to dodge the issue.

It would he out of order in this debate to discuss the pensions of civilian pensioners as a whole. Because I am confining my remarks to Service pensioners, and because other speakers may do the same, it does not mean that other pensioners are excluded from our thoughts, but merely that we happen to be debating only Service pensions at present.

The second conclusion which the Committee reached was that there was no logical case for anything short of complete parity of pay and pension, irrespective of the date on which pensioners retired. I am inclined to agree with that point of view; but, at the same time, surely, in this life, most of the action that we take has to fall short of logical perfection. In a case such as this we have to accept compromise.

In its third conclusion, the Committee went on to show why that compromise is necessary. It showed quite clearly that the expense of carrying out this logical conclusion would be excessive and unacceptable. There again, I entirely agree. From the wording of this part of the Report it seems that the real reason why the Committee does not make any specific recommendation in regard to existing scales of pension is that it doubted whether that would have sufficient bearing on recruiting, which was the subject with which it was concerned. It may be that young men are selfish and lack foresight, but I do not think that they are so selfish, or so lacking in foresight, that they are not affected and influenced by the plight of some of the older Service pensioners.

The point I want to underline is that there is nothing in the Report which amounts to an argument against extending the review to existing pensioners as well as to those who have yet to draw their pensions. For that reason I was disappointed when I asked the Minister of Defence a Question on that point last week and was met with a categorical refusal to agree to such a course. The object of my intervention today is to appeal to the Government to reconsider their interpretation of this part of the Report.

It is not a matter of great importance to people of my generation and those rather younger. We are fortunate enough to be included in the National Insurance scheme and we already have the assurance that that side of our retired earnings is to be subjected to a regular review, an assurance which is greatly fortified, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) has pointed out, by the Government's record on such things as war pensions and the raising of the level of the national insurance pension. What possible justification can there be for denying to the older men, who never qualified under the National Insurance scheme, the solace of knowing that their pensions, too, will be subject to regular, formal review in the future?

It is all very well to say that the Government are determined to stabilise the currency. Let us pray that they may be successful, but so far no Government since the war have succeeded in doing so, except for comparatively short periods. The result is that for twelve years these ageing officers and members of the ranks have been living through a nightmare of inflation. Can anyone doubt that that will remain a driving fear for them for the rest of their days?

What is meant by "stability"? It is often suggested that a mere depreciation of 2 per cent. per year would be acceptable, but let us apply that to an officer's pension. At that rate the officer will live to see a quarter of his pension's purchasing power disappear. The older people who retired are entitled to participate to some extent in the greater prosperity to which we all look forward. Does any hon. Member deny that principle? If we all accept it, it means that any future increase in pension rates for those about to retire should be accompanied by a proportionate increase in the existing pension rates.

That is what I urge now and shall go on urging. I am not in the least put off if I am told by the Grigg Committee that it is not logical and that it is a compromise. I think that it would be a fair compromise. All I am asking now is that the Government shall at least concede the principle that the older pension rates shall remain open to review.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

I want to pay my tribute to the work of Sir James Grigg and his colleagues for their production of a first-class Report, which removes the last excuse of any hon. Gentleman in any part of the House for not knowing the basic facts of life about service in the Armed Forces.

It is worth while mentioning that for the last six years the Labour Party has pressed over and over again for such an inquiry as has now been held. I have lent my voice in that direction. I wanted to get the facts established. The Grigg Committee says that many of these matters are questions of opinion. We cannot be sure what the answers are going to be, but at least we have established the basic facts.

Before I go on to the major part of my speech, I want to add my voice to that of the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett). I very much hope that the voice of the hon. and gallant Member and his colleagues in another place will move the Government, but, like him, I very much regretted the Answer he received to his Question a week ago. Last night, when I was thinking over what to say today I looked back over some old papers. I found my grandfather's discharge papers. He joined the Rifle Brigade just one hundred years ago. His grandfather before him joined the Rifle Brigade about the time of its inception, away back in the time of Sir John Moore.

I learned from my mother of the hardships that she and my grandmother suffered. My grandfather was discharged after long service as an N.C.O. with a pittance of a pension of a few pennies a day. He died as the result of his service, and my grandmother died very shortly afterwards. My mother and her sisters lived as orphans and were supported by clarity. I, too, and other members of my family, joined the Armed Forces of the Crown, but although I have never forgotten that I was never treated with great generosity, I lend my voice to that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman but must declare my interest. I have, after twenty-seven years' service, the magnificent pension of 13s. 4d. a week. My gratuity on discharge was not the hundreds of pounds which is now given. When I left the Army just before the war I got a gratuity of £2. I had to commute part of my pension in order to buy a house.

I know that there are hundreds of men and women in the country whose rank was far more exalted and whose job far more responsible than mine, and they are left in penury. They were comrades of mine, and I am glad to speak for them now. I am particularly concerned about the ageing widows. It is a scandal that the Government can treat these ladies, mothers and widows of distinguished officers who gave their lives for their country, with the contempt now shown. There will be occasions, I hope, when some Government supporters may find it possible to go into the Lobby with some of us on a non-party basis and thus demonstrate their feelings on the matter. We ought to remember that it does not matter what Government: are in power; they always find an excuse for not behaving fairly to this class of person.

I would mention another class which has been treated absolutely scandalously, and that is the poor unfortunate men who, in both wars, were commissioned after service in the ranks. These people came back and received commissions, not because anybody wanted to commission them very much but because the Government could not do without them. Then they retired on their N.C.O. and warrant-officer pensions. This class in the First World War was treated scandalously, and in the Second World War was not treated very much better.

This class of person was brought up with the conception that duty came first. The Government always relied upon that class and therefore could afford to treat it badly. This scandal has gone on for a long time and may go on for a long time yet.

I turn to the subject of recruiting. No one will be more happy than I shall be if the Government get their recruits. But I am not going to join the chorus in 1958 any more than I did in 1957 which says that everything is all right just because things have taken a temporary favourable turn. One of the advantages of this Report is that now we have the statistics set out. The figures some of us have mulled over and worked on hour after hour, day by day and year by year are here and cannot be denied. If any hon. Member takes the trouble to turn to Appendices A and B he can see the figures for recruiting from 1922 onwards. If I wanted to play a trick, I would ask hon. Members to look at the tables and ask them what were the two dates on which pay was reduced.

The history of the last thirty years has not been a history of successive increases, for there have been two reductions in pay. The astounding thing is that the reductions made no difference to recruiting. Pay was reduced on 26th October, 1925, and again in September, 1931, when it was reduced by 10 per cent. If we try to find a precise correlation between the recruiting figures and pay or the recruiting figures and the incidence of unemployment, we cannot find it. I am driven to the irresistible conclusion—I came to it a very long time ago—that in Great Britain there is a given number of young men who like service in the Armed Forces. Irrespective of the pay they join the Services and like it. If another £5,000 a year is given, of course more turn up at the recruitng offices. It is said by Sir James Grigg that if pay were reduced to 13d. a day the number of recruits would be fewer, but every pay increase that has been given, every alteration in the terms of service, has produced the same answer—a temporary increase and then the curve falls back to normal.

There is one qualification. I think there are forces at work which at present we do not begin to understand. Some time ago when the Grigg Committee was appointed I expressed my regret that the Minister of Defence did not find it possible to call on the distinguished services of Mr. Sidney Rogerson, who was nominated to the post of public relations officer at the War Office, without salary, by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). Mr. Rogerson has probed into this question as few have.

He wrote a letter which appeared in the Sunday Times yesterday calling attention to the fact that in 1902 and 1952 we had a very sharp rise in recruiting. He put the cause of the rises down to the fact that in the aftermath of a war public attention had been directed to the worth-whileness of soldiering. There was an idea in the minds, he said, of young men that they were doing a job which really mattered, so they came into the forces. In 1952, the second occasion in the century when we got more than 50,000 recruits in a year, the reason was tied up with Korea and an increase in the rates of pay and an alteration in the terms of service.

I do not pretend to know, and I wish I could be absolutely certain, what the answer to this problem is, but I am absolutely convinced that pay does not do the job. The Under-Secretary of State said the other night that we have got somewhere near to £10 a week, but we have not—even a three-star private has only about £5 15s. 6d. a week. If, in fact, pay does provide the answer, contrary to all the evidence produced by the Grigg Committee, the country is in for successive large dollops of pay increases. If the ceiling on expenditure is to remain unchanged—that is what the Government are trying to ensure—increases in personnel cost can come only at the expense of equipment. Thus if this were true it would be a dangerous doctrine about which to make a mistake, but I do not believe it is true. The argument which to my mind is conclusive is that when pay was quite savagely cut it produced no permanent effect on recruiting figures.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Adjournment debate I had last January. What I then did, and shall do again, was to assemble the figures and project those figures and the answer which they give. Of course I agree that the recruiting figures have improved, but the right hon. Gentleman gives the game away. He says that in October they were better than in September and he makes the qualification, "in terms of man-years". Why is recruiting in terms of man-years? It is because the Government have done what I pleaded with them to do year after year. A Regular force is a long-term force and it means getting men on long-term engagements. We could not hope to get rid of National Service while service was based on three years. We have to get it back to somewhere around six years at the minimum. The Government have now taken that step and the increase in man-years recruited is the result.

We never heard from the Government benches the expression "man-years" until I talked about it so much that members of the Government muttered the words in their sleep. I am glad that they have listened to me and I ask them to listen again. We hear people say that once we get rid of National Service it will be easier to get recruits. I beg hon. Members again to be careful. It is a wonderful argument for the future, but what will happen as soon as we get rid of National Service? We shall slow down promotion. When I was a young soldier one had to do seven years before one dreamt of putting ones' nose inside the sergeants' mess, except on fatigues. That will happen again. A young man gets his G.C.E. and sees looming before him the prospect of technical training and, perhaps, study at a university. Then he is asked to remain a private for at least two years and a corporal for two more years—what will be his reaction? Has anybody thought of that? But it is one of the inevitable consequences of a wholly Regular army. There will be a barrier which will slow down promotion throughout the Services.

I am staggered about another matter which has escaped notice. We talk of the principle that all officers should come from the ranks. Of course, when they are all liable to National Service it is easy, but what will happen when we have an all-Regular force? I have not heard anyone on either side of the House say that they have ever thought of this problem. It opens a very big gap. Here I speak of members of my family. Two nephews of mine have given their services to their country, having joined the Army as boys. They have both done well. One is a staff-sergeant after a comparatively short period of service.

They both went to Army schools—one went to Arborfield. I have not been to Arborfield recently, but I have a pretty good idea of what happens there and at similar places. They turn out first-class N.C.O.s and warrant officers—I would say the best N.C.O.s and warrant officers in the world. But in doing that they are cutting off a supply of potential officers and making it difficult for the young men who go there to attain commissioned rank. If any hon. Member thinks that that is the way to improve recruiting, he is living in a dream world, because I assure the House that the young men who have been led into the warrant officer-N.C.O. cul-de-sac are smart enough to see what has happened.

This is a very difficult problem. It will tax the ingenuity and the courage of many administrations because, even if the right hon. Gentleman is successful and these recruiting figures continue so that we get our one in three and then one in four, all we shall have done is to send the curve up, and six years from now it will be back in the trough again. For what we want is balance.

What we should really aim for in terms of manpower policy in the Army is recruitment of the right structure, based over a minimum period of twenty years, which will give the right outflow to balance the inflow. It has to be a balanced outflow and inflow not only in terms of numbers but in terms of types and functions.

Hon. Gentlemen come to this House and it is obvious from their speeches that they have never even gone to the Library and read the annual reports which we used to have on the Army up to 1938. How did we do this before the war? I am associating myself with it rather in the role of the sanitary squad than from taking part in considerations of high policy. It was done by the simple process of making every Regular soldier's primary engagement the same; irrespective of the arm of the Service which he joined, he joined for twelve years partly with the Colours and partly with the Reserve. In that way we got flexibility, flexibility in terms of the discharge of our current commitments and flexibility in terms of our Reserve force to meet our mobilisation plan. It was on the basis of seven and five for the infantry, six and six for the cavalry, three and nine for the Guards, and eight and four for the R.A.S.C. So far the Secretary of State for War and the Minister of Defence have never even attempted to think about this problem.

Let me turn to one of the points made earlier concerning the Grigg Committee's Report. It says that we shall get the "teeth" arms. Please God we shall, Before the war we had 128 British Infantry battalions, and 118 Indian Infantry battalions, a total of 246 battalions. As a result of the present administration we shall have 49. That is what we are going to run down to. It may be argued that India was a liability; but it was also an asset. It paid its own bill and that for a considerable part of the British forces as well. Look where the Indian Army was stationed. It held Iraq and the Persian Gulf. If we wanted to reinforce Aden that was where the forces came from. But that is not so today. We now have 49 battalions, one-fifth of what we had before the war. Then we did not have four divisions in Germany, but we have that commitment now. If the Army is going to get its forces, that is not much to put in the shop window.

As I said earlier this afternoon, if we are going to contract out and base our Army on a figure of 165,000, we have to ask ourselves, "What are we going to do if we want to expand?" The day may come when that 165,000 will have to be expanded. How is it to be done? The burden of the contribution and the expansion will fall on the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.

The whole problem of the equipment of the Army on the present order of battle, and on an order of battle designed to meet certain eventualities which may be in the mind of the Government, is based on the expansion of a very limited number of Ordnance depôts at Branston, Bicester, Didcot, Donnington, Chilwell and other satellite depôts, and of course, the central ammunition depôts. They have been absorbing manpower and National Service manpower, for the R.A.O.C. cannot get enough Regulars. The men who serve in Ordnance depôts do not like it, for it is not a very glamorous job. It is not a job like being outside Buckingham Palace being looked at by passing blondes and brunettes. These men are in places which are rather remote and where the work is very hard.

At the moment, the establishment figure for the R.A.O.C. is about 20,000 with 2,000 officers, and it will run down to 10,000 with about 1,000 officers. Of course, there is no other branch of the Service which has a higher National Service content than this particular arm. It is possible that if we undertake a full and vigorous use of civilianisation we may be able to do the job within the new establishment. Branston is wholly civilianised. We have to work out over a very long period a detailed, skilful and well-understood policy of civilianisation, because, if we do not, we shall find that C.S.C.A. and the other trade unions within the industrial and non-industrial sections of these establishments will be continuously at war with the War Office and with the people on the spot, who are much nearer to the core of the problem, for, of course, the civilians come in as young men and want to see their share of the promotion avenue right to the end of their career.

Equally, R.A.O.C. officers, the men called upon to go to the ends of the earth and do the unpleasant jobs, want to know what will happen to them. Common sense would dictate that the Government should work out a policy whereby the ordnance officer, at the end of his Service career, could take his place as a civilian. But let the Secretary of State try that in the present atmosphere brought about by contraction and the way he is carrying on now, and he will run into great trouble.

I have always held the view that over a given period it should be the object of our policy to get rid of National Service. I advocated in this House at Whitsuntide, 1952—when the House was even more empty than it is today—with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) when we tried to draw attention to the problem of getting rid of National Service. The hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) congratulated the Minister of Defence on his courage in getting rid of National Service. But in saying that, in a rather eulogistic way, I would ask him what the consequences will be.

Of course, the right hon. Gentleman chose the easy way out. He did not put the country's interest first. The proof of it is to be found in the first pages of the Grigg Committee's Report. As I reminded the Secretary of State for War, in an interruption earlier in his speech, at the first meeting of the Grigg Committee in December, 1957, they were told by the Deputy-Secretary of the Ministry of Defence that the Navy was all right, the Air Force was probably 10 per cent. down and the Army was not recruiting 50 per cent. of the recruits required. So when last December and before I was attacking the Government for their recruiting record, here was proof positive that I was right, and when the pay increase was given, all I said was, "We will wait; we will give it fifteen months to see how it works out." I am prepared to wait until the end of the fifteen months. I am as sure on this section of the Report as I was when the Committee was first set up what the answer will be. We are going to contract, and we shall have a gap. The gap will not be in the "teeth" arms; it will be in the Services. The test will come not in statistics nor in reports made to this House. The test will come when we ask British troops to go into action to carry out the tasks which the House lays upon them.

We found it in Jordan recently. We find the same thing in this Report when it speaks of the condition of equipment in Cyprus. We find it in conditions as they exist in Germany and as they exist in all parts of the world where British troops are stationed. The troops are under-strength. They are ill-equipped. They are without the backbone of services which would enable them to discharge their tasks. The responsibility will be borne by whatever Administration happens to sit on the Front Bench at the time.

Mr. Burden

There is one point in the hon. Gentleman's remarks which I do not understand. He said that in 1952 he first advocated the abolition of National Service. Now, he says that, in making the announcement that he will bring National Service to an end, my right hon. Friend has taken the easy way out against the best interests of the country. If that is so, why did the hon. Gentleman advocate it in 1952?

Mr. Wigg

The hon. Member has not followed very closely what I have said. In 1952, I and my right hon. Friend pointed out that we could not, in this country, maintain two years National Service once it was perfectly clear that no other country in the Commonwealth—Canada, particularly—would maintain the same obligation. We had to face the fact that we could not indefinitely sustain this level, if only for economic reasons.

I said in 1952, and I say it again now, that the first thing to do, if we wanted to get rid of National Service, was to get rid of the three-year engagement. The size of the Army would depend upon the number of men multiplied by the number of years for which they had engaged. The Minister of Defence decided to get rid of National Service before he had time to see the results of altering the terms of service. He gambled. It was then said, not only by me but by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) also, that the thing to do would be this. The Minister should have said, "I am going to get rid of National Service. I shall alter the terms of service. The date on what I abolish National Service will depend upon the level of recruiting".

On the contrary, the Minister of Defence has fixed a date—in 1960, the last man in, and in 1962, the last man out—regardless of the consequences. I am pointing out what the consequences are. We could do it, but, in order to do it, we must spread the measures over a much longer period than has, in fact, been taken.

I come now to the other point, on which the right hon. Gentleman touched only slightly, about whether 375,000 are enough.

Mr. Soames

I wonder whether the hon. Member for Dudley will give us the benefit of his forecast this year. This time last year, he told us that, when the Grigg Committee reported, we should read that it was of opinion that we should not be able to recruit an Army of about 100,000. In fact, the Committee says that, in its opinion, we should be able to achieve 165,000. However, that was the hon. Gentleman's opinion a year ago. What would be his prognosis now, which we may remind him of next year?

Mr. Wigg

Certainly, I will answer that. A year ago, when the Grigg Committee was appointed, I gave a forecast based upon the recruiting figures of that month. When I had the Adjournment debate in January, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, I made a projection from what the current recruiting figures were. What the Committee says is that we shall get the numbers if the recruiting figures continue. If the recruiting figures, which have been running for the seven months of this year since continue, the right hon. Gentleman will, of course, get his recruits, but my point is that this rise now will follow the pattern of all past rises. It will level itself out, and my forecast now, like the forecast I gave last month, is that October will not be as good as September. I gather from the right hon. Gentleman's statement this afternoon that it is not.

In terms of the next three years, the man-years do not matter. The men who are coming in for six years do not benefit the first three years. November will not be as good as October, December will not be as good as that. I repeat what I said in the last debate, that, in 1959, the Government will not have as good a recruiting figure as they have this year in September. That is as far as I will go at this stage. When the time comes, we shall see what happens. I was right in 1952, and I am confident that I shall be right again, for precisely the same reason, namely, that this is a flash in the pan such as has occurred after every pay increase, and the final result will be exactly the same.

I come now to the second half of the attack. The Grigg Committee says that it is not its job to say whether 375,000 men are enough. I venture to say that 375,000 is not enough. I should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War whether he thinks that 165,000 is sufficient for the Army, whether he is satisfied with an order of battle at the moment based upon such a figure. He asked me a question. Perhaps he will now be good enough to give his answer to that question. Would he be satisfied with an order of battle based on 165,000 at the present time?

Mr. Soames

That is not within the Grigg Report.

Mr. Wigg

Is the right hon. Gentleman now saying that he is recruiting a force which he knows is too small? That is what he is saying, if he does not answer that question. He knows as well as I do that 165,000 is not enough. He knows that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carshalton spoke the truth when he said that the first figure was 220,000; it was whittled down to 200,000, and the Minister of Defence then cut it down to 165,000, because that was the figure which his actuaries told him he might recruit. The country's target of 165,000 was based on no military assessment at all but upon the political convenience at the moment of the Minister of Defence and, I regret to say, apparently, of the present Secretary of State for War.

We have heard from the Secretary of State today about what is to happen to equipment in the future. What happens to equipment at the present time? He was responsible for two battalions of the Parachute Regiment going to Jordan. What were they armed with? I have kept my mouth shut until now on this subject, because I did not want to put the troops in jeopardy. They were sent there with F.N. rifles with a bore using 0.300 ammunition. Their automatic weapons were 0.303. Thus their automatics had a bore different from that of their rifles. When they were sent in, was there any expectation of their having to meet any effective resistance?

I thought that the right hon. Gentleman might get a little tough. I will get a little tough, too. When we left in July, 1957, only one year before, we left behind the following equipment in Jordan: 36 Valentine tanks; 49 Charioteers; 8 Cromwells; a considerable number of 40 mm. guns; 20 25-pounders; 14 17-pounders; 420 pistols; 1,080 Sten guns; 8,700 rifles; 320 load carrying vehicles and large quantities of ammunition. We sent British troops in to meet that equipment without even a British effective antitank weapon. That is the responsibility of the Government Front Bench and the whole House of Commons which sent two battalions to Jordan.

Why only two battalions? Hon. Members should read the report of the Suez operation. We sent only two battalions because we had airlift for only two battalions. They went in, and they had to come out because we could not sustain them; we had not got the equip- ment to maintain them. If the Secretary of State wishes to deny that, let him do so. I have not given these figures before, and he knows why I have not given them. But the troops are out now. That was the equipment that we left behind in July, 1957. We sent two battalions in. What happened then has had repercussions throughout the Middle East. Hon. Members opposite may smile, but the truth about these military realities is known in Khartoum, Bagdad, throughout the East, that we are undertaking military commitments far beyond our strength to sustain them. We are weaker this year than we were last year. We shall be weaker next year, and weaker still the year after.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) drew attention to the figures in the Grigg Report on the expenditure on personnel costs. He said that he could not understand why the expenditure on equipment was only half what it was before. There is no mystery about this. This is a direct consequence of the Government's manpower policy. If for political reasons we fix the ceiling of our total expenditure, and we set about spending—and it amounts to £117 million a year more in terms of pay—more on uniform and on personnel costs, and if prices tend to rise, what is the answer? There is less money left to spend on equipment. There is no mystery about that.

But this is not the first time that this has happened. Hon. Members should read Field-Marshal Montgomery's book and see what he thought about the army that went into action in 1939. He said that it was a national shame, a national disgrace, that we should send an army as badly equipped as that. That followed years of Conservative administration, and it was done for precisely the same reason as it is done now. The truth is that the present forces are even worse equipped than were the forces in 1939. It is charitable to say of the right hon. Gentleman that he is so stupid that he does not know what he is saying when he says that it will be all right in 1963. How dare he say that? When we have got 25-pounder guns, how dare he say that we are going to have the Army equipped by 1963 with 105 mm. guns. Does he believe that?

What is the Government's policy on the introduction of the F.N. rifle? Is that based on military efficiency? If it were, it could be pushed through in the quickest possible time. We could carry through the production and issue of that rifle in the shortest possible time. But the Government are taking the longest possible time. I have a list here. It is not secret; I asked the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor for it after I had visited the School of Infantry. I have a list of equipment which was on display at that school—some of the finest equipment which existed in the world. It consisted of prototypes, of signal equipment, bridging equipment, every kind of equipment, not issued. Why not?—because it is not convenient for the Government to provide the wherewithal. Yet the right hon. Gentleman comes here and says, "We are now entering into the equipment phase."

In Cyprus there are 3-ton vehicles twenty-five years old. Two Army vehicles are sent on each trip because the authorities are not sure whether one of them will arrive at its destination. That is what the Grigg Report says, and the right hon. Gentleman does not deny it. Equipment is out of date. Personnel weapons are out of date. We had not got an anti-tank weapon at Suez. We "pinched" the American 106 mm. anti-tank weapon. It was given us for use for N.A.T.O. purposes only, and only with the permission of the Supreme Allied Commander. It was stolen by the British administration and misused—pilferers, forgers, embezzlers; that is what they are. They took this equipment and used it for a purpose for which it was not given. We had a wonderful anti-tank weapon known as "B.A.T."—Battalion Anti-Tank. But at Suez the ammunition was no good. Now we have a "Mobat"—a modified B.A.T. Then the right hon. Gentleman says that by 1963 the equipment will be all right. I say to him: tell it to the marines. Do not come here and report that stuff.

I got a bit hot under the collar because of the right hon. Gentleman's evasive attitude and his attempts to play around with figures of which he knows the truth as well as I do. This is a problem to which, as I have said before, there is no easy answer. We will not get this equipment problem solved quickly any more than we got the manpower problem solved. It is a problem which can best be handled on an all-party basis. I have said that before, and I say it again. It is essentially a long-term problem. This sort of inquiry of Sir James Grigg's ought to be extended into many other fields. There ought to be an inquiry into the functioning of the Ordnance depôt That is absolutely fundamental. This problem will not be put right by one administration, or by two. It will take a long time to get right.

I should like to see a Defence Board set up, something like the old Board of Education. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) looks up. I know it never met, and I would not care if this Defence Board never met either. It is the existence of such a board that matters—a board which would take some of these abstruse, technical problems out of the arena of an assembly such as this and come to a decision. We have the Cohen Committee which is not widely accepted, but this kind of approach might be accepted. I am very glad that Sir James Grigg has produced this objective Report. It has done one thing if nothing else. It has destroyed the alibi of those who talk nonsense about these things.

Having established the facts about recruiting, we can afford to wait and see who is right. The right hon. Gentleman will not crow over me in a year's time. I shall be the first to throw my hat in the air if I am proved wrong, this year or the year after. I shall be delighted. But what I am not going to do is to let the right hon. Gentleman get away with the idea that for purely political reasons—to put it at its best, for reasons of personal loyalty to the Minister of Defence—these figures at this stage can prove anything. I am not going to let him get away with the evasive answers that he has given this afternoon on the issue of equipment. To my mind, this is the fundamental point.

I do not think I can do better than close my speech by quoting the Government's reply to the Grigg Committee's recommendation on equipment, because it ought to take its place in history. Future generations of Parliamentarians ought to note this:

Equipment 271. "Adequate equipment is a pre-requisite of proper training, but some of the Army's present equipment is out-dated and grossly unsatisfactory. This appears to be the direct result of spending an increasing proportion of Army Votes on personnel, and a decreasing proportion on production. In the long run, the Army cannot hope to get recruits unless it is an efficient and properly equipped force of which men can be proud. The Government's comment is: The Government fully recognise the importance of good equipment.

7.30 p.m.

Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)

I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in all the multifarious matters to which he has referred, but I would like specifically to deal with one matter that I consider to be important. First and foremost, it should be a matter of congratulation to the Grigg Commitee that in the short time of just under one year it has been able to produce such a comprehensive document dealing with the all-important matter of recruiting. Many of us will recognise in it the points that have been made on both sides of the House, many of which have been made more effective by the recommendations of the Grigg Report.

The point with which I desire to deal is not that of officers' pensions, although they are of considerable importance. I am pleased that the question of other ranks' pensions has been dealt with in the recommendations which have been made. It is satisfactory that some of the "ju-ju" words such as "immutability", "isolation" and "contributory principle", which have all been used, not only in documents dealing with pensions, but also in the words of Ministers, have all come in for considerable reconsideration by reason of the Grigg Report.

The immutability of pensions was dealt a fatal blow when the Pensions Increase Act, 1956, provided that there should be no means test for the increase of pensions. The idea, which has been referred to by one of my hon. Friends today, that the Armed Forces cannot be treated in isolation on these matters has been completely done away with because of the recognition, for the first time, that the amount of disturbance from which those in the Service suffer is something for which they should be adequately compensated.

It is very pleasing to those of us who consider these matters to hear from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that there is to be a serious and, I hope, early consideration of the question of early retirement. I am satisfied that many are deterred from going into the Services because they realise that they may have to leave at a very early age.

Another matter that helps in dealing with the problems which I have in mind is the increase in the education allowances. I am also delighted that in its Report the Grigg Committee has dealt clearly and definitely with the contributory principle, which, it was said in the 1956 White Paper, would be the only way in which pensions subsequently could be increased. That is something that the Grigg Report describes as illogical and I am pleased to hear that the Government are abandoning that principle in the present proposed increase of pensions.

The matter to which I want particularly to refer is the forces' family pensions which are, in effect, the pensions of the widows. The Report uses the words "derisory" and "ludicrously low" concerning these pensions. It is, however, desirable that one should point out that in 1952 this pension for widows, which had remained unaltered for 100 years, was raised substantially. Subsequently, however, it was raised in 1956 by the ridiculously small amount of 5 per cent.

What is the position under the recommendations of the Grigg Report? Paragraph 119 states: At the moment the Services have a noncontributory scheme whose benefits can only be described as derisory. For example, no one under the rank of staff-sergeant with less than 27 years' service qualifies, and the widow of a warrant officer … receives 13s. 7d. a week … From the point of view of what other people think about the Armed Forces as good employers, the Report tells us that it would indeed be almost preferable to pay no pension at all to widows unless the death of the husband were attributable to his Service. Paragraph 120 goes on to say: The Service Departments have put to us an agreed non-contributory scheme for the improvement of family pensions. This would give the widow of a serving officer or other rank one-third of the pension to which her husband would have been entitled had he been invalided, subject to certain minima. That is dealt with in the recommendation in paragraph 255. It was agreed by the Government that other ranks' pensions should be increased.

The recommendation in paragraph 256 states: Existing scales of family pension result in widows receiving ludicrously low payments. This is bad for recruiting, and we recommend … that future family pensions should be increased. … The word "future" in this connotation seems to be completely illogical. The effects of these conditions, which have been referred to as "derisory" and "ludicrously low," are being felt now and are bad for recruiting. I cannot understand why the recommendation is made that only in the future should family pensions be increased.

In view of the language used by the Grigg Report one would expect that something would be done immediately, but even if it is not done that still does not answer the question: what does this paragraph mean? It continues: … future family pensions should be increased to give widows one-third of the pension which the husband was drawing or (in the case of those still serving) the pension he would have drawn had he been invalided. It is not clear whether widows of officers who retire before, and who die after 1st April, 1959, get any benefit from these proposals. Or is it correct that only widows of officers who retire subsequently to 1st April, 1959, benefit? In view of the many cases in which the documents relating to Service pensions are obscure, it would be valuable to have a statement from the Front Bench as to which of those two suppositions is correct. If the latter, then acceptance by the Government does nothing for existing widows. Incidentally, I would like to know the meaning of the expression: … the pension he would have drawn had he been invalided. The continuing blot on the forces' family pension is the case of the elderly widow whose husband did not have a chance to secure a State national pension, because 156 payments had to be made and this became possible only after 5th July, 1948. There are 9,500 widows in this position, eight out of every 10 of whom receive either £189 or less, and three out of every 10 of whom receive less than public assistance, while half of them are over 70 years of age.

I have a case of a comparatively young widow which ought to be known. This lady is the widow of a Regular lieutenant-colonel in the Army. Her husband died recently while on the re-employed list, having retired from the active list in 1955 and having been taken on as a re-employed officer. Aged 44, she has a daughter aged 18, who is training to be a secretary. During her husband's period on the active list she was a successful colonel's wife and took a full part in Army welfare.

This lady rents a sparsely furnished flat in London, consisting of a bed-sitting room and a kitchenette. She shares this with her daughter, partitioning the room with a rug for privacy. The rent is £6 10s. a week. She and her daughter are both working in one of the large London stores as counterhands. She has an ordinary widow's pension from the War Office of £189 per annum, and because of it she is not eligible for any grant from the National Assistance Board, even if unemployed. Also, she is not eligible for the State widow's pension, even though her husband was a contributor since 5th July, 1948, because she was under the age of 50 when she became a widow, and she has no dependent child as her daughter is over 18 years of age.

Had this lady not been in receipt of an officer's pension of £189 per annum she might have received from the National Assistance Board as much as £247 per annum for as long as she was certified as unable to work or whilst looking for work, and registered as such with the Ministry of Labour.

It seems to me that there can be no justification for that class of case, and once it has been brought to the notice of the Government in the way it has been, through the Grigg Report and in this debate, I submit that it requires immediate attention and not future attention.

I will make one other point concerning the commutation of retired pay, on which I understand there are certain limitations. The first is that not more than 50 per cent. of the retired pay can be commuted and that £150 per annum of it must be left. This is subject to medical examination and provided that the person who desires to commute is over 40 years of ago. Yet the Report states, in paragraphs 120 and 256, that one-third of the pension which the husband was drawing shall be given to the widow.

I want to ask the Minister who is to reply to the debate to confirm that it is still open to officers to commute their retired pay on the basis I have indicated. If it is not, this will be a further difficulty for the widow of a serving man. The reason is that often in the past a retired officer has taken advantage of the fact that he can commute a portion of his pension to ensure that his widow, will get a little more than the "derisory" sum to which I have referred. If, however, the effect of commutation on the new basis reduces the widow's payment by 50 per cent. it will be nothing like as much as it should be for her benefit.

I have tried to deal with the one point in the Grigg Report which I think is illogical. It has been accepted by the Government in terms which are not clear and definite. It has been accepted because the Government think that it is better not to deal with this problem at present, but just to pay the £4 million that ultimately will be payable for future widows. The amount involved in dealing with this matter, which the Grigg Report says is so bad for recruiting, would be negligible and it would also be a decreasing amount. I ask the Government to give most careful consideration to these elderly widows who are deserving of much better consideration than it appears they are likely to receive from the Government.

7.49 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

It is interesting to notice that all the speakers from the other side of the House have devoted themselves to the question of pensions rather than to the question of recruitment. I agree at once that pensions contribute to recruitment. Certainly, it is obvious that the pensioners, who are out in the world again, in discussing with younger people the prospects offered by the Services, can do a great deal to assist recruiting.

I associate myself with the pleas which have been made on behalf of some of the older pensioners, who are undoubtedly being treated very shabbily. I do not accept the Grigg Committee's argument that this is part of a larger problem and that we must deal with the larger problem instead of singling out these people for attention. It is not right to say that we must not do something which is good because it is part of a larger problem which ought to be tackled. We ought to do something which is worth doing whether or not we are able to tackle the larger problem.

A great deal has been said about the figures given in Appendix A of the Report of the Grigg Committee. A number of questions are begged by those figures. There is one question that I want to ask about the Appendix. I notice that paragraph 4 says: The assessment of the Service requirement is on the basis of male other ranks only, and excludes re-entries, recruits drawn from outside Great Britain, and transfers from National Service. It is based upon a number of detailed assumptions about prolongation rates. Any fluctuation in these rates would materially affect the demand for recruits from civil life. That is profoundly true, but I cannot find any indication of what the basic assumptions are, and I am interested in them. So are some of my hon. Friends who have taken part in the Navy Estimates debates, because we invariably raise the question of prolongation of service. I should have liked some indication of the basic assumptions.

The purpose of the Grigg Report is to try to create conditions in which it will be possible to bring about long-service forces, and one of the important factors is the question of re-engagement, to which the Committee addresses itself. If, in the Navy—I shall address my remarks mainly to the Navy—we could increase the present re-engagement rate of 407–45 per cent. to 60–65 per cent.—I do not think that is too high to aim at—there would be a considerable difference in the demand which the Navy would make from the civilian population for manpower at the age of 18. To what extent it would be affected I do not know, but I think that we might be given some information about it.

Turning to the more general questions discussed by the Committee, I was interested to notice that in paragraph 13 we are told that the shortage in the Navy is in the signals operating trades. I do not know whether that is altogether true. Is there not still a shortage in other technical branches? I understand that there has been such a shortage for many years, but there is no information about it. From my knowledge, I should have thought that that shortage still existed.

The Grigg Committee deals with a number of questions in relation to trying to meet that shortage by encouraging men to sign on to complete 22 years, and I wish to refer to some of them. The Committee deals with the question of education, about which I do not wish to say very much, but one of the things with which it deals is resettlement, and it suggests that officers should be given the opportunity to gain professional qualifications or experience of industry. I observe that the Government will look at that recommendation with a view to implementing it.

Why should not the same facilitiees be provided for other ranks? Why should not ratings in the technical branches be given the same opportunities to equip themselves for the time when they leave the Service? Why should not artificers—the hon. Gentleman knows that I take an interest in them—be given the opportunity of training to take the Ministry of Transport certificates of the A. M. I. Mech. E. or the A.M.I.E.E.? I have seen a suggestion made—it appears to be a good one—that shortly after re-engaging, at a point in their lives when they can still learn fairly quickly and well, they should be given the opportunity to take courses of that character to equip themselves for civilian life later. I cannot understand why the Grigg Committee should have confined the recommendation solely to officers. It seems to me that the higher ranks of the lower deck at least should have been given the same facilities and opportunities.

The question of obtaining the men that we require is that of what has been called the three Ps—pay, promotion and pension. Pay does not cause much controversy. The main point raised by the Grigg Committee is the need for simplifying it so that people can understand it. Anyone who has tried to work out relative rates of pay knows how difficult it is. I once spent an afternoon with the Secretary of State for Air trying to compare the pay of a chief engine room artificer, first-class, with a number of years service with that of a warrant officer in the Royal Air Force or the Army. We spent about two hours at it, but still were unable to relate the rates of pay. It is exceedingly difficult to do so, and it is exceedingly difficult to find out precisely what a man gets at any point in his career. On the face of it there seems to be a case for simplification.

When one goes into it more deeply, however, it would appear to be a pity to wipe out a number of small additional payments which are made for various qualifications, length of service, and so on, because they provide a man with something to which he can look forward. He thinks, "In another six months' time I shall get a certificate", or, "I shall have done a certain length of service and shall have another 6d. or 1s. a day." It is something to look forward to.

The question of pay itself is linked with the question of the structure. I am not satisfied that in the Navy we have yet dealt with this matter satisfactorily. I understand that there is a committee, which has been sitting for a considerable time, studying the lower deck structure. I have previously asked the Civil Lord how it is getting on with its deliberations, but to date we have heard nothing about it.

It seems to me to be important for this reason, that in the Navy the way is being cleared for a sensible structure to be provided throughout, a structure which might give the possibility of promotion throughout fairly freely to those able to take advantage of it. The General List for officers was necessary because, without it, it is exceedingly difficult for officers other than executive officers to reach the higher ranks in the Navy.

For instance, I understand that for ten or eleven years there has not been a single example of an ex-apprentice artificer reaching flag rank. I am not saying whether that is right or wrong, but if that applies generally to technical branches it is difficult to see how the best people will be attracted to the technical branches. This is not a problem affecting only the Services, since it also arises in civilian life. How is a technical man, on whom an undertaking depends, to reach the same levels as an executive officer can reach?

The General List clears the way to solving that difficulty, but whether the Admiralty will make it possible I do not know. However, whether a man is an electrician or anything else, he finds it extremely difficult to reach flag rank. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) is not present, but I am sure that he will not mind my saying, as someone recently said to me, that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman had been an engineer he would not have reached flag rank.

That may not be correct, but that is the general feeling. It has nothing to do with ability. The trouble is that the opportunities are not so readily available to technicians. This problem obtains in the other two Services and in civilian industry. Anyone who has studied this subject knows that the problem of how the technical man is to reach senior levels and receive awards similar to those of executive officers is widespread.

In addition to the introduction of the General List to the Navy, we have had reduction in the size of the force. I hope that that has enabled the Navy to become better balanced and to clear out some of the people who have been running around in the Admiralty for far too long, and to make way for sensible advancement. These things must be linked with a proper structure of the lower deck so that it can be possible for people of ability to travel up the ladder of promotion.

On previous occasions I have referred to the problem of those chief petty officers who have reached that rank before the end of their twelve years' service and who, therefore, have nothing to which they can look forward if they sign on for another ten years. That is a problem which must be considered in this matter of the structure of the lower deck, and I hope that the Admiralty will bear it in mind.

I was especially interested to read in the Grigg Report that the Admiralty put forward a scheme for pensions different from that of the other Services. I believe that the Admiralty suggestion was right. According to the Report, the Admiralty scheme was directly related to pay at the point of retirement. If it had been followed by all three Services, it would have cost £3 million in 1958–59 and £25 million a year ultimately.

The Admiralty has been considering this scheme for some time and I am sure that it is on the right lines. Pensions are as important a subject as pay. For men to stay on, especially when there is very little hope of promotion, pensions must be adequate. I was struck by the fact that the Grigg Committee went on to say that the Navy scheme was much more ambitious, for example, giving nearly £6 a week to a petty officer who left the Navy at 40 with twenty-two years' service and more than £6 10s. a week to a chief petty officer of the same age and same service.

The Report went on to say: We do not feel able to recommend increases of that order. The Admiralty's engagement structure is, however, somewhat different from that of the other two Services, and we do not regard it as absolutely essential that the pension schemes should be identical. That being so,— and I did not think this a great concession— we suggest that the Admiralty might be left free to devise a scheme of its own to suit the needs of the Royal Navy, provided that the cost is roughly the same as that of applying to the Royal Navy the scheme we recommend for the other two Services. That was a cavalier manner in which to treat the Admiralty on this subject. The Admiralty has been given a certain amount of freedom, but not enough to do what it wanted to do. I think that the Admiralty is right, and if the other two Services wish to obtain a long-service force, as is desirable, sooner or later they will have to fall into line with the Admiralty on this subject of pensions.

Now that the shape and size of the Navy are beginning to become apparent, I hope that some attention will be paid to replacing out-of-date accommodation. I have raised this subject before and, as hon. Members know, I am very keen to know about accommodation at the "Caledonian." The Admiralty has done a good job in trying to make the best of bad conditions. Is the Admiralty now to spend more money on accommodation ashore?

Status is another important matter. Nothing does more harm than to have pettifogging playing about with status. When I was a boy artificer and went to the Navy as a fifth-class artificer, I enjoyed the privileges of a chief petty officer. I lived in the artificers' mess and enjoyed exactly the same privileges as other members of the mess. I used the same accommodation, and wore the same dress.

That is not the case today. A fifth-class artificer has been gradually beaten down until today, in many cases, his position is about that of a leading hand. I am not saying that that is not right in accordance with such a man's rank, but it is a peculiar way of enticing boys to stay in the Navy when their status is steadily reduced. Such things breed an outlook which can do immense harm and it is a pity that harm should be done by simple things like that. It is not only fifth-class engine room artificers who are affected. There are other instances where people doing a good job are annoyed. I hope that the Admiralty will consider some of those difficulties.

The Admiralty comes out very well in the Grigg Report and, with a number of qualifications, deserves credit.

8.9 p.m.

Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) made an interesting speech. I know something about the Army, but nothing about the Navy, although at one time I tried hard to get into it.

I must add my compliments to the Grigg Committee and to the Government for the way in which, with a few exceptions, they accepted the Committee's recommendations with alacrity. The fact that nearly four years ago I wrote a report exactly following the lines of the Grigg Report is neither here not there, but it is a pity that these recommendations were not accepted three or four years ago. Perhaps one is allowed to blow one's trumpet in the House once every ten years.

There is one wider aspect of incentives to which I wish to draw attention, and it is one which has not been mentioned at all by anybody who has taken part in the debate or in the Grigg Report. There is a habit in the Services, more particularly in the Army, whereby, if anyone by any chance—a pay clerk in the pay office, for instance—overpays a man and he has not spotted it, he receives, eight or nine months later, a letter to say that he must refund that amount of money. It is perfectly clear to me that the senior warrant officers and officers are quite capable of looking at their pay and of knowing what is actually due to them. They will probably resist an over-payment immediately, but that is entirely untrue of the men.

I can think of absolutely nothing which infuriates a man more than, having been issued with his pay, finding, nine months later, that he must refund some of it, having spent the money in the meantime. I hope that my hon. Friend will have a look at that. It was recommended during our debate on the new Army Act, but I do not think that anything has been done about it. I cannot for the life of me see why the Pay Corps, which makes the mistake, should not be made to refund the money, because it perhaps might make its staff a little more careful another time.

Now I wish to refer to the paragraph on training which is in the Report. I am also quite convinced—and I think it is proved by the figures—that we shall always get our recruits for the units which appear to provide the most exciting form of soldiering—such as the Paratroop Brigade, the Marine Commandos and the Brigade of Guards. They are not only the most dangerous, but, incidentally, the most strictly disciplined and the most smartly turned-out men, and I am talking about the training of men. There is nothing which so much upsets the ordinary soldier as wasting his time, as he calls it. There are a certain number of hours in the day, and it is very clearly stated in the Grigg Report that these hours have to be filled, so jobs are found for them.

I think that that is wrong. I have myself known commanding officers who would not do it, but who said that if there was nothing for the chaps to do, then let them get out and enjoy themselves, because there would be plenty of days on which they would have to work 14, 15 or 16 hours. If there is nothing for them to do, let us not invent something for them to do.

Then there is the question of imaginative training. It is so utterly unimaginative in some units, and such as I have myself seen in Germany. It is the sort of idea that we must not play Indians and boy scouts, which they like and enjoy, but the dreary kind of the old-fashioned infantry training, which has no counterpart in war. I hope that my right hon. Friend will ask the Director of Training to go round, as I myself have been able to do, and see the training programmes of some formations.

Let him also keep watch on those senior officers who have an inordinate number of large-scale exercises, particularly in Germany, where he knows that "Big Brother" will be watching, and where there is a tendency very often to lay on large-scale exercises. There are too many of them—I realise that we must have a certain number—when the basic training has not been done first. I have seen some of these manoeuvres in Germany and have seen horrifying examples of a complete lack of basic training and ordinary fieldcraft, with which one wins battles in the long run. I think that large-scale training without individual training is a most dangerous thing when it comes to war.

On the question of equipment, I agree with the suggestion of the Grigg Report that a lot of the equipment of the Army is completely and absolutely out of date. Let us be reasonable about this and see how the thing works out. To start with, it is utterly wrong to compare the equipment of the British Army in Germany with that of the French or the Germans or the forces of any of those countries which were over-run during the war. If we have to make comparisons, let us make them with the Americans. There was a vast amount of equipment left over from the war, and these are the countries which have to start from scratch.

My right hon. Friend will know perfectly well that if he goes to the docks at Hamburg he will see the most magnificent dock equipment, because the Germans had to start from scratch after the war. The same applies to the Army. We have had to live on our fat. Think of the scream there would have been in this House if all that good equipment had been put up for sale for £20. I hope that my right hon. Friend will realise that the time has now come to get away from the patching up of old lorries, which is no longer economical at all, and that something more must be done about it.

It was in May of last year when my right hon. Friend's predecessor said that we were then embarking on a five-year plan, at the end of which the Army would be completely rearmed, and that there would be no more of this old equipment left. He said that a year ago. I believe that this is a serious matter, and that the issue of equipment should be speeded up in some way or other. It is scandalous that the Army have to borrow from other countries before engaging in large-scale exercises.

I do not know whether this story is true, but I was told of a formation which arrived in Cyprus recently—I believe it has now returned home again—which had been issued with lorries on which the figure £5 was marked in white paint on the windscreens. They had been put up for sale, but suddenly withdrawn, and they had been valued at £5. This is not the sort of way to send our boys out there. It is particularly difficult to operate out-of-date equipment, and this is particularly true of wireless sets. We have the most brilliant radio mechanics and the most brilliant firms making these products in this country. They are prepared to give us ultra-modern sets which, incidentally, it would take much less time for recruits to learn to operate than the existing sets. It would take about half the time for a recruit to learn to operate this modern equipment that it does to operate and keep in repair an antiquated set.

I wish also to make a plea on the question of pensions, on which the case was clearly stated in the leading article in The Times today. Recommendation 6 of the Report has been accepted by the War Office with regard to widows' pensions particularly, and that is fine, but that will apply only to those who become widows in the future. At present, 8 out of 10 widows—and, after all, there are only 9,000 of them—are existing on pensions of £189 a year, and 3 out of 10 on pensions less than the scales of the National Assistance Board. Therefore, I hope that the plea that has been made from both sides of this House today will be effective and that something will be done about the existing widows of ex-Service men.

It is well known to some hon. Members who attend these debates that for five years past I have raised the question of the education of children. I have looked up the speech I made a very long time ago on this matter, and though much has been done about it, there is still one thing which has not been mentioned in the Grigg Report, but which, I think, should have been. I agree with the conclusions of the Report that a lack of education facilities for Service families and children has in the past been the greatest deterrent to re-engagement and to enlistment.

Certain allowances which have been introduced, and are now to be increased as a result of this Report, are good and reasonable, with this exception, that this allowance for families living in England is subject to tax whereas for those living abroad it is not taxed. That was a very strong reason for criticism when the allowance was introduced, and I know all the arguments that were raised about it. It is always stated by the Civil Service—the backroom boys—that because Civil Service pensions are taxed in this country, Service allowances are also taxed. There is no comparison between the two. I ask my right hon. Friend to do his best to have these allowances made free of tax in this country as they are abroad.

Another point, which I raised about three years ago, is that education authorities have a sum of money to spend in respect of the education of the children of officers, particularly those abroad. When I raised this point I had the support of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). This system is not working well because of the way in which various local authorities assess requirements. There is no uniform method, and very much depends upon the mentality and outlook of the local authority concerned.

Another point to be borne in mind is that the local authority assesses the need upon the basis of the cost of living in its area. That is all right, but it bears not the slightest relationship to the cost of living in Singapore, where the officer's family may be living. How is a local authority to know what is the appropriate figure? I am not blaming local authorities I am blaming the system. As the result of the debate that we had three years ago it was agreed by the then Minister of Education—my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh)—that something mist be done, and that the matter must be placed in the hands of the Minister of Education and not of local authorities.

My right hon. Friend was about to do that when she was succeeded in office, and her successor immediately reversed the process. The position has not changed since. I plead with my right hon. Friend to look at the matter again and have a talk with the Minister of Education, to see whether something better can be done. A committee was set up to go into this matter as a result of the debate, and the deliberations and report, if any, of that committee must be knocking about either in my right hon. Friend's Department or in the Ministry of Education. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side had agreed to implement my suggestion.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) was kind enough to confer upon me the distinction of being his right hon. Friend because I supported him on the occasion to which he has referred. I still support him, but I suggest that these allowances ought to be paid by the War Office and not the Ministry of Education, which is bound to get into conflict with local authorities. If this is regarded as an allowance because the father is in the Services, it should be a Service allowance. I ask the Minister to give attention to that point of view.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

If that is a better way of doing it, it would satisfy me. I am quite prepared to give way to the right hon. Gentleman's wisdom in this matter.

I now want to refer to the question of entertainment allowances. Whether they are right or wrong, they are an established process. All over the world people in responsible positions have to spend a certain amount of money on entertainment. Commanders-in-chief are given an entertainment allowance, but none of the very senior staff officers gets anything at all, and these officers have to entertain civic dignitaries and other visitors who come to inspect and look around from time to time. Commanders-in-chief have to allot money to these poor fellows out of their own pathetic allotments. It is a very parsimonious and silly system. It would not cost much to give these senior officers an allowance, and I ask my right hon. Friend to look into that question.

Much has been said about the recent pay rises. I suppose that my right hon. Friend knows that those people with the rank of colonel who happened to be living in married quarters when colonels had their pay raised had it not only nullified but reduced by the fact that almost immediately the rents of married quarters were put up and the price of coal rose, also. These officers were worse off than before the pay rise. Nothing is calculated to infuriate a person more than to be given something with one hand only to have it snatched away with the other. That is the situation in this case, and one must also remember all the clerical work involved.

One of the paragraphs in the Report which impressed me, and which I know to be true, is that which deals with the question of public relations between the Services and the public. It takes about a year for somebody like me, coming out of the Army after twenty-seven or thirty years, to realise the general attitude of the average member of the British public towards the Services. Except for those civilians who have served in the forces, the public's ignorance of what goes on there is phenomenal—and the ignorance of the average officer of the way in which to deal with civilians or the Press is deplorable. If officers could spend eight months taking an interview night for a few hours every Friday in various constituencies, it would do them a world of good.

A little more than the Report mentions could be done to improve relationships between officers and the Press It is no good telling an officer that he must be prepared to see Press representatives whenever they want to see him, because I do not believe that he will know how to talk to them. A Press representative might even irritate him to a certain extent. In Germany, there is a school called the Innere Fhürung, most of whose operations I dislike intensely. But one aspect of that school's work is excellent. It actually teaches officers how to deal with the Press and with radio interviewers.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

It is also teaching democracy.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

Yes, but I was not talking about that. The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) seems to have found something funny in what I have said. He has seen fit to be rude to me across the Floor of the House no less than three times. I have never answered him back, but one day I shall do so and he will lose the battle. Does not he agree that it is a good idea that officers should be taught how to deal with Press representatives?

Mr. G. Brown

As the hon. and gallant Gentleman is so touchy about it, I will tell him. He said he disliked intensely everything that the school was doing except one thing, which he referred to as teaching officers to handle the Press. My hon. Friend commented on the fact that what the hon. and gallant Gentleman disliked intensely was that the school was teaching democracy, and I drew attention to the extraordinary fact that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had a general dislike of the teaching of democracy.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

I do not think that that interruption is really worth answering, but I will answer. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and I went round that school together. I know what the hon. Gentleman meant. He meant that there the officers were being taught how to deal with the Communism which raises its ugly head in the ranks. I did not want to refer to that.

I repeat that I think it would be an excellent thing if a school, or a short course—it does not have to be a long one—were set up in this country for the purpose of teaching officers how to handle the Press. I think that members of the Press should be encouraged to interview officers and inspect the units, and that officers should be encouraged to talk to the Press frankly and freely and tell them what is being done.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) touched on a number of points with which I also wish to deal, particularly those referring to Germany. I intend to make some comparisons between the existing German Army and our forces, but before doing so, may I join with other hon. Members who have complimented the Grigg Committee on its excellent Report? What impresses me most about the Report is the fact that it is a fine humane document.

For the first time I have seen an official journal emanating from Government sources in which the authors have got hold of the human aspect of the problems confronting the Armed Forces. In the Report the soldier is treated as a human being and given some sense of dignity. The Report refers to the mothers of serving men and the affection which Service men have for their homes and how their home life is broken when they go into the Army. I pray that some of the lessons emanating from the Grigg Report will evoke a response in Government circles. Although I appreciate that many of the recommendations contained in the Grigg Committee have been accepted, there are many which have not, and I hope to deal with some which have not been accepted during my speech.

I wonder what would have happened had a Labour Government been in power when the Grigg Committee issued its Report. Conservatives may not like what is stated in it, but had a Labour Government been in office the Daily Express and the Daily Mail and papers of that kind would, I imagine, have run headlines like, "Shocking state of equipment in the Armed Forces"—that would have made a first-class headline. Another might have been "£10,000 million spent in seven years under a Labour Government, yet we are told that barracks, married quarters and Service accommodation is in appalling condition"—"inefficient Socialism!" One can imagine all sorts of headlines such as that. But with the present Tory Government in power, all that has appeared in the Press has been the comment that a number of the Committee's Recommendations have been accepted. It should go on record that the Grigg Committee is telling this Government that they have failed to do what they ought to have done over the period of years since they have been in power, bearing in mind that they have had millions of pounds with which to do these things and plenty of time in which to do them. I hope very much that now their time is limited and that this Government will be kicked out in the near future.

The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing referred to Germany. I visited Germany in company with him and we both inspected the school which he mentioned. As I saw what was going on there, the senior officers were being taught democracy and the simple facts of life, something which the hon. and gallant Member and I found rather amusing. But, of course, in Germany it is essential that these officers should be told something about democratic values and standards. It is true that also they were taught how they should negotiate with the Press.

One thing which impressed me about the German Army was the wonderful barracks and accommodation provided for the troops, so much so that, as a Britisher, I was almost ashamed to see it. In this country almost ever since we have had an Army we have had the same sort of accommodation; Nissen huts accommodating about 25 men, all living together, and all expected to keep the hut nice and clean for the regular weekly inspections. That is not the case in Germany where they provide first-class barrack accommodation with rooms which accommodate four or five men and where a much homelier atmosphere exists. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) referred to the sense of dignity which this sort of thing gives to a man, because it makes him feel that he is someone, instead of being just one in a herd.

I have spoken before about the married quarters and barrack accommodation provided for our troops, and it is appalling. Look at what the Grigg Committee says about it: Too much of present accommodation, both married and single, is nothing short of scandalous"— that is the statement of the Grigg Committee, those are not my words. The Services have an immense task if they are, within a reasonable time, to get everybody into buildings which come up to decent minimum standards. This is the situation after seven years of Tory Government and after the expenditure of nearly £10,000 million. That is what the Grigg Committee says in 1958. Every Tory Member of Parliament interested in the welfare of the Army ought to be attacking the Government over this. It is indefensible that we have not done better for our troops. As the Secretary of State knows only too well, he "pinched" money from Vote 8 given to him by Parliament in the Estimates for barracks and spent some of the money on married quarters when in fact Parliament had decided to allow him to borrow money for that purpose—we have had this argument before—and I say that he took money from that Vote which should have been spent on the building of barracks—

Mr. Soames


Mr. Mellish

We have had this argument before, and last time the right hon. Gentleman agreed with me—

Mr. Soames

We have had this already. I do not think that I personally have stolen any money from anywhere. Certainly, money was transferred from Vote II to Vote 8 in accordance with a principle approved by this House.

Mr. Mellish

I would refer the right hon. Gentleman once again to the Report of the Select Committee, which stated that money had in fact been taken for one purpose which had been voted by Parliament for a different specific purpose, namely, to provide for buildings and accommodation.

During the years the Government have not done enough. The excuse of the Government is that one of their problems has been the contraction of the Services. I want to ask a question on that. I understand that the Minister of Defence is to reply to this debate. I do not see how he can do so, as to my knowledge he has not been here since 5 o'clock. Whether he is to be furnished with a list of questions to answer or whether he will just make his own speech I would not know. This is a very discourteous way to treat the House. I want to ask the Minister of Defence a question, but I feel that I shall not get an answer. The question is, what programme is there for the building of barracks? Is a specific amount of accommodation proposed? The money is available, and is there.

Mr. Soames

Speaking from memory, I can tell the hon. Gentleman the answer to that question. We are planning to start next year. I think it is barrack-room accommodation for 13,000 men and accommodation for 3,400 married quarters. That is the answer.

Mr. Mellish

I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question immediately. Does that programme mean that we shall practically solve the problems of barrack-room accommodation? Have the Government a long-term plan? The right hon. Gentleman seems almost shocked at those questions. We are entitled to know the answers. The Government have the money and the time; why have we not had better results? The Government have a very poor record to show.

Now I come back to the Grigg Report and to the recruitment figures. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), I will refer to Appendix A. That Appendix is remarkable, in view of the recruitment figures which we have had from the right hon. Gentleman. We are achieving the target figure, but we are not very much concerned whether or not the Government will reach their target of 165,000. I think they will, on the assumption that the figures given earlier are maintained. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the October figures; I wish he would give us the actual details.

Mr. Soames

I have not got those, but they are better in terms of man-years. The October figure was about 40 less in terms of numbers than the September, but in terms of man-years it is better, because the six-year and nine-year men were up. There were some 40 fewer three-year men.

Mr. Mellish

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but that is contrary to the figure which he expressed a short while ago when he said he expected that the October and November figures would be lower. I congratulate him upon the October figures being maintained so well. This fact confirms that we shall achieve the figure that the Government require by 1963.

The biggest problem is whether that figure is the right one. It seems to be a much more sensible way of looking at the matter than whether we achieve the Government's 165,000 or not. We have almost a war in Cyprus, and we may have a war with Malta next. That is on the cards. We may need a lot more troops to occupy Malta as one outcome of the Government's foreign policy. I do not think that 165,000 men will be enough. We must get rid of the Government so that we can have a different foreign policy, when I am certain that 165,000 will be adequate to our needs.

Paragraph 61 of the Grigg Report refers to the military police. I have a phobia about the military police, not that I had any trouble with them in the Army for in the six years I was there I avoided those people with great dexterity. The most insulting thing that can happen to a man coming home on leave to see his wife and children is to be confronted at Waterloo Station by a wretched lancecorporal—probably the same one I saw there throughout the war who never fired a shot—and asked for a pass to show that he has the right to go to see his wife and children. It happened to me on many occasions. It made me so mad that I could not tell the right hon. Gentleman what I said.

I ask in all seriousness why we do not stop military police patrolling railway stations? All that is wanted is an R.T.O. to help the soldier, sailor or airman in travel difficulties. We should treat these people like human beings and not ask if they have permission to walk about at Waterloo Station. That is nothing to do with the job of military police, who should be inside the camps seeing that no evil people got in and keeping wretched soldiers locked up. Will the right hon. Gentleman back up that part of the Grigg Report and stop military police going to railway stations? If he can stop them at once we shall be most grateful.

It is now 8.40 and we still have not got the Minister of Defence here. I wish to back up a question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West. Why was the R.A.F. scheme of discipline dropped? That was a scheme in which an investigation into discipline was operated by the R.A.F. at a depot. The Grigg Report said that it was a great pity the scheme was dropped. We are entitled to ask why.

One of the most important things we want in the Army is the principle of a general working day. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing referred to this important matter. A man has to go on parade at 7.30 and other times during the day with no military purpose, yet there are hours when he has very little to do. That is one of the worst aspects of Army life. Why not let him start and finish a job and have the rest of the time to himself? I know from my experience in the Army that when that is done men work harder and better. We should let the men go out as much as possible in civilian clothes.

Civilianisation is a shocking word, but the Germans are making a good job of this. The German Army has a trade union. I find that weird and wonderful. They have a shop steward at every camp and the commanding officer is not allowed to give more than seven days punishment. If lie wants to give more punishment the matter has to go before a civilian court. They also have a conference every year at which shop stewards say what they think of the Army from the lowest ranker to the officers. The "top brass" actually go to the conference and listen to what they have to say.

The Secretary of State for War is a democrat, but I think, with all the arrogance we see in this House, especially from the Minister of Defence, it would do him good to know what soldiers think about the equipment, the barracks and the Government. I am not advocating a trade union in the Armed Forces; I do not think we have reached that stage, although my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) was very anxious to have one. Looking at the German set-up, I am sure that the attempt to get some civilian influence is something that we might well copy, and a lead has been given in this matter by the Grigg Committee's Report.

I should like to say a word about resettlement. The disadvantage to the soldier today, as I have said before in this House, and I think everyone agrees, comes at the time when he leaves the Army. Where is he to go? What accommodation is available for him? Members of Parliament are troubled by letters from soldiers nearing the end of their period of service asking if they can be put on the local council housing lists and the answer is "No". I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at this matter seriously.

Could not we consider whether it is practicable to advance loans and really to go out of our way, perhaps in conjunction with the Soldiers' Sailors' and Airmen's Association, to see if we cannot do something for them and work out a scheme. That should not be too difficult. Perhaps the Armed Forces might even find some way of providing a building society scheme to help these people. I am certain of this—and I have said this before in the House—that the finest recruiting sergeant is the soldier himself and it will be a great help if he knows that at the end of his period of service he will have a home to go to.

Why is the Navy so much better than the Army on matters of public relations? Why is the Army showing no imagination whatsoever with regard to public relations? I can well imagine that with some of the barracks that we have, the Army does not want some of the in-laws and "outlaws" to see them, but if we could get some camps worth seeing it might not be a bad idea to have open days. The trouble is, of course, they may see inadequate equipment there. I realise that that is part of the difficulty. With regard to the Navy they can see the first-class ships, although perhaps not many of them, on open days. I think that this seriously needs attention. If we are to sell the Army we have to do what the Conservative Party is doing today and employ some good publicity agents. I suggest that the Army should look at this matter very seriously to make certain that we put over our story better.

As to education, the Grigg Committee's Report, in paragraph 86, states that a great deal of educational training for young men who enter the Services has already been done. It says, for example: … about 4,000 regular airmen obtained the University of Cambridge General Certificate of Education in 1956–57. We get the impression, however, that the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy may be more enthusiastic about this work than the Army, and we hope there is no danger of the Army becoming a cultural desert …". I hope that the Minister of Defence, although I do not know how he will reply to the debate because he has heard very little of it, will make some reference to education and give an assurance that the Army takes education just as seriously as the Royal Air Force and the Navy.

Mr. Soames

It does.

Mr. Mellish

Let him say what the Government are going to do about it. Let him answer the Grigg Committee's Report when it says that there may be a "cultural desert". Those are the words not of the Opposition but of Sir James Grigg and his colleagues. I should like to know if there is any substance in them. We hope that there is not.

Sir James Grigg and the Committee have rendered a very great service. I think that there is a genuine desire not only on the part of M.P.s but of the public outside to recognise that the serving soldier today is a first-class citizen doing a fine job. In times of danger we expect him to do all he can to protect us. We owe him a duty, particularly at the end of his service. It is up to us to endorse the recommendations of the Grigg Committee.

8.50 p.m.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I represent a constituency which has a tradition of service to the Crown second to none, and I am sure that many of my constituents will be interested not so much in what is said in the Grigg Report but in what comes about as the result of it. In general, the unanimity of the House today, apart from one or two very mild political slants, inclines me to believe that a great deal in the interest of the Services will come out of the Report.

There is no doubt that a complete reorganisation of the three Services will take place in the years ahead, much of it the result of the complete change in equipment. We are entering a new age which will not only demand completely re-equipped forces, but will make tremendous demands for men who have much higher technical qualifications than have been required hitherto. Although this will present certain difficulties, the very fact that this new and dramatic equipment will be used by the Services will almost certainly make a great appeal to the many young men with a leaning towards the higher technologies who are now taking advance technical education in our country's schools and colleges.

Mr. Mellish

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Now that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence has arrived, can you tell us how he can reply to a debate which he has not heard?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Burden

If we are to have forces fully capable of handling the new equipment, it is perfectly clear that we shall have to pay the men in them money equivalent to, or better than, they would obtain in private industry outside. Moreover, the whole matter of discipline and accommodation must be looked at very carefully indeed.

I have been very interested to read the Grigg Committee's comments on the new attitude of officers and commanding officers towards other ranks in their approach to discipline. This is a point of view accepted and understood generally in the House. We all accept that the old "bull" which was part of the Army of the past must not be part of the Army of tomorrow if we are to have the recruits we all regard as necessary. In this connection, I wish to draw to the attention of the House a report, which appeared in my local newspaper the Chatham Observer, of something which happened in Chatham Barracks, at the Royal Engineers' School last week. The report is headed: Repeat inspection angers Sappers". It reads: The command, 'Stand by your beds, is one of the less popular orders received in the Army today, but to get it twice in one day, once during off-duty hours, was the lot of some 200 Sappers of 'A' Squadron of 10 Trades Training Regiment, Royal Engineers, at Kitchener Barracks, on Monday. When this order is given, it usually means that a group of soldiers in a barrack room have to stand beside their beds while an officer carries out a thorough inspection of the room in order to ensure that the men are maintaining a certain standard of cleanliness in their accommodation. Such an inspection was carried out by an officer on Monday morning and although the 200 men of 'A' Squadron had cleaned their rooms to such an extent that in the words of one Sapper, 'they would have put any housewife to shame', the officer apparently thought differently. The men were told to clean their rooms again after hours. It started at about 8 o'clock, and many of the men were there until 10 o'clock at night, in carrying out this duty.

I feel that this is something which we should bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend so that, if possible, the views of the Grigg Committee could be translated through commanding officers to their officers and a much more enlightened attitude towards discipline could be taken. The report goes on to say— Said one of the 200 angry young men: 'In our estimation the rooms were in good order, and whether or not the officer was correct in ordering another inspection, the fact is we felt that it should not have had to be carried out in off-duty hours. Thirty rooms were involved and the sort of thing we were picked up for was surface dust in the corners, which is almost unavoidable.' There is much more in that report, but I will not weary the House with it because there is not time.

That is an example of exactly what the Grigg Committee has been saying should be abolished. I do not think that any of us, certainly not the Grigg Committee, wishes to condone anything that would interfere with proper standards of cleanliness and discipline. That would not bring an improvement in the forces, but would decrease their efficiency in every possible way. But there are reasonable ways of preserving the proper standards. There are certain conditions of discipline which were carried out in the past and which today are out-dated and certainly have no place in the Army, the Navy or Air Force of the future, if we are to effect the recruitment that we wish.

In Gillingham and the Medway towns there is a good deal of uncertainty because the Nore Command is being closed down, and I hope, because of the traditions of those towns in Service matters, that a decision about the future use of Chatham Barracks will shortly be made. It is the newest naval barracks in the country and it should have some part in the future either of the Army or the Navy. I know that negotiations have been going on with the Royal Engineers. It is hoped in the Medway towns that the Royal Engineers will occupy Chatham Barracks. But whatever the position, I beg of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence that a decision will be taken in the near future.

I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that when it was decided to abolish the Nore Command building had already commenced on an estate at Dargett's Wood, in Rainham, for much-needed married accommodation. As soon as the decision to abolish Nore Command was made, work on that estate stopped. Whatever the position may be, it is clear that there is an urgent need for married accommodation. It is to be hoped that some really good use will be made of Chatham Barracks. If troops are stationed there, the accommodation at Dargett's Wood will still be needed and I hope that work on that estate will be resumed immediately.

I should like to join with the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) on the question of resettlement. Since I have been in this House I, with others, have pressed for steps to be taken to ensure that local authorities are made aware of the problems of men leaving the Services. On two occasions, in conjunction with the Service Ministries, the Minister of Housing and Local Government has requested local authorities to give men leaving the forces an opportunity of getting on their housing lists if they indicate within a year of leaving the forces that they wish to take up permanent residence within the area of the local authority to whom they write for accommodation. Often that is not carried out as effectively as it should be, and I hope that both sides of the House will join once again in asking local authorities to give the utmost sympathetic consideration to the position of Regular men leaving the forces.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

Sometimes when one winds up the debate from this side of the House it is a little difficult to know what to say. One has the feeling that the Minister has heard it all, or that all that can be said has been said by somebody or other, and it seems superfluous to try to repeat it again within the space of half an hour. I do not have that trouble today.

I have a very important rôle to try to fulfil: that is, to try in half an hour to tell the Minister of Defence what has been said in the four hours when he has not been here. I will do my best, but for the Minister to take down his notes fast enough as I speak so that he can be ready with the answers, despite his well-known capacity for writing all his speeches word for word, will be quite a business for him. If he finds that he is getting behind me in the process, I hope he will indicate so that I may go back and give him a chance to catch up. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will explain why he thought it not necessary to hear what some of my hon. Friends and hon. Members on his own side of the House had to say.

That ties up with the Minister's whole attitude to the Grigg Report. One of the peculiar things about it has been his coyness towards the House. When the Report was presented he took it away to think about it, as was perfectly proper. He did not, however, come back to the House, as is the normal practice, and make a statement about it, tell us that it was in the Vote Office and say that there would be a White Paper on it. He did not answer a Question upon it. He slipped it in the most hurried way one afternoon into the Vote Office just two days before the Army Annual Act came up for renewal.

Then, with no announcement that it was there, the right hon. Gentleman slipped away to a Press conference, organised with a great fanfare of trumpets, as has become the practice since he has been at the Ministry. There, he picked out all the nice bits where he seemed to be giving money away and so arranged it that on the following day the newspapers had bits about his give-aways, but not a single word was given to us. Had we not protested from this side of the House, what would have happened would have been that we had the Army Annual Act under the new procedure and no effective debate on the Report; and that would have been regarded as the end of the matter for the right hon. Gentleman. I can only say that his absence from the debate today has tied up very much with his whole approach to his duty to the House of Commons and with the way in which he has handled the presentation of the Report.

That is a pity, because it is an extremely good Report. [Interruption.] The Minister must not tell me to get on with it. He must sit here a little while. No doubt, he is anxious and impatient to be gone again almost before he has come, but he must wait awhile. The Report is a good one and should have been presented with much more openness and frankness.

In a number of places, the Report makes recommendations which the Minister has accepted and to some of which I shall refer. In other places, it refers to recommendations which he has not accepted. There is one which, frankly, we still do not know whether he has accepted. I refer to the recommendation based on paragraph 101, which refers to the question of an automatic review of Service pay every second year and goes on to say that this should take account of movements in civilian earnings over a range of occupations to be determined by agreement between the Treasury and the Service Departments. The recommendation goes on to say that the first review should be carried out in time for any change in rates to be introduced on 1st April, 1960". Many hon. Members on the Government side have tried to explain this away this afternoon. There is, however, no doubt that it looks like a recommendation, and the acceptance looks like the acceptance of a recommendation to review Service pay and pensions every second year with a view to making changes if changes in circumstances so demand. This, I am sure, is how it was presented outside. In fact, however, when the Minister of Health was asked about this on 11th November, he said to one of my hon. Friends: There is nothing in what the hon. Member has read out to indicate an automatic link."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1958; Vol. 595, c. 315.] That would seem to be fair enough

The Minister of Defence himself last Wednesday, answering my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said: What I have said is that we are going to have a re view every two years … in order to decide whether, if there has been a change, any adjustment in pay and pensions is necessary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1958; Vol. 595, c. 1121.] I would have thought both those remarks meant that there is no automatic link. It is merely that somebody will look at it and leave it there. Any suggestion—and there was a suggestion made—that the forces are likely to be increased by this will be as uncertain in the future as it has been in the past.

I ask the Minister to make it clear here so that nobody is subsequently misled. If, as I believe, there is no commitment, let him say "There is no commitment". There will be a review by somebody unstated—we do not know whether it is to be an independent review or one by the Service Departments. Perhaps the Minister could tell us what review he has in mind? In any case he must make it clear to the Services that as it stands there is the intention to tie this to the cost of living or other changes in circumstances, and that he is making no commitment that there should be any movement, up or down, as a result of the review.

I am not clear what the Committee meant. The words: The next review should be carried out in time for any change in rates to be introduced on 1st April, 1960 … make it clear that what the Committee meant was a review that was operative, a review that would change the rates in the light of the changes in circumstances that were found. That is what the Committee meant. The Minister does not mean this and, with respect, he ought to make the position clear.

As to the nature of the Report, everybody has said how good it is. The Secretary of State for War, who opened the debate, was very pleased with it. Let us be clear what is the nature of the Report. Everything in that Report is a criticism of the Conservative Governments since 1951. Whether the Minister has accepted it or not, the Report is a complete condemnation of their failures over the years, and most of the things in it are things we have been urging upon them quite unsuccessfully through all those times. It does not really matter that the Government are now accepting belatedly some of those things. Of course, one is pleased they are doing so, but let us face it: they were all things the Grigg Committee said ought to have been done a long time ago and which all these Ministers have failed to do.

There is one other thing. I will not read paragraphs 5 and 98, but there the Report states specifically that if we want to keep up the present trends in recruiting, for heaven's sake do not pick out "the plums". Those were the words used. The Committee said, do not pick out the plums from our recommendations, because all these things have their bad effects, their discouraging effects on recruiting, and so the recommendations ought to be taken as a whole. What the Government have done is exactly that—they have taken the plums and left a lot of other things.

I cannot help calling this the story of the sevens. We have had seven Ministers of Defence in office in seven years, all of whom have failed to deal with any of the recommendations of the Grigg Committee. We have now had a committee of seven people: one who retired from the public service in order to become a Conservative Minister during the war because they could not find one from the benches opposite, and then left this House in 1945, thirteen years ago. One businessman. One retired trade union leader, the ex-chairman of the A.E.U. Two schoolmasters, and a very charming, able lady who some years ago gave up running the Women's Royal Air Force. Seven outsiders sat for seven months and did all these things that the seven Ministers of Defence have not been able to do in seven years.

It is fantastic. We have had the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and I do not know who else. They have all been through this office. We have had field marshals and also the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). None of them was able to do any of these things until they found seven outsiders—school-masters, trade unionists and the like—and in seven months those persons have been able to do what these seven Ministers could not do in seven years. The Government may take a bow now and say they are carrying out some of the Committee's recommendations, but it is a belated, death-bed repentance for their past behaviour.

I would draw to the attention of the Minister of Defence the major criticism, which I fear may otherwise pass unnoticed by him. It is the criticism of his policy which he least likes or understands. It is the criticism in paragraph 35 in which the Committee said: Leaving aside the influence of people, there is no doubt that the potential recruit is swayed very much by current thinking about the Forces and their place in society, and that a certain current confusion of mind about the purpose of the Services in peace-time constitute a powerful discouragement. I ask the Minister to note this: The confusion arises primarily from the decision to base defence strategy on a willingness to resort ultimately to nuclear weapons. This has led to a lot of talk about push-button warfare, which to the uninformed conjures up visions of be-spectacled back-room boys … This is a criticism of the effect which the Minister's central strategy has had, to which we have referred again and again. He has emphasised too much the basing of his policy on thermo-nuclear weapons, on the threat of the great deterrent, so that he has, as we have told him in defence debates year after year, introduced a very great deal of confusion in the minds of all sorts of people. This has had its own discouraging effect on the willingness of people to volunteer for the forces. I hope that his White Paper in the early part of next year will deal with this central confusion which stems from the basis of his policy and that he will do something to explain it this year.

I pass to one of the specific weaknesses in the state of our forces upon which the Report comments. Let us remember that the Report is concerned only with things which have an effect on recruiting. The Committee was not set up to inquire into the state of the forces, and anything that it says incidentally on that subject is only because it has some effect on recruiting. One must not assume that all that there is in the Report is all that the Committee would have said had it had wider terms of reference.

First, there is the question of recruiting and the size of the forces. The Committee makes it clear that it takes no responsibility for the figure of 375,000 and that it is working on what the Government have said to it. We gather from the documents submitted—I believe it is the first time that we have had it put on record by the Government—that 375,000 is the Government's target and that 165,000 is what they are after for the Army. The Committee, having said what most of us gather, that the present rate of recruiting makes it look as though forces of that size will be obtained, then put in Appendix A, which I understand, although it is not made very clear, is an appendix submitted to the Committee by the Ministry of Defence—not the Committee's Appendix but a Ministry of Defence paper.

Does the Minister of Defence stand by that Appendix, and does he think that he can do two things at once, on the one hand say that he feels pretty sure now that we shall get the forces that we require voluntarily, and on the other hand stand by a paper which proves, to use its own words, that we need one in three of the available manpower? Both those things cannot be true. We must at the moment be getting more than one in three of the available manpower unless we are using "available" in a very loose way. I think that that is what is happening with this Appendix.

As has been said, what has been done has been to rule out an absurd number of people as not being available for Regular service. We ought to get this matter clear, because this document may be hallowed by age unless the point is cleared now. It cannot be true that about 66 per cent. of all the young men becoming 18 are ruled out for Regular service in the forces. What has happened is that the Government have taken National Service experience, have observed that so many men have been deferred, and have assumed that the experience will be repeated for Regular service. I believe that that is part of the error. I do not press this unduly, except to hope that the Minister of Defence will make it clear, so that in future debates we are not referred to an appendix which must be wrong.

We are given the astonishing figure that 15 per cent. of all the young men possibly available are ruled out by standards other than medical. The very fact that the Government had to juggle about with the figures and to present them in a peculiar form suggests that there is something fundamentally wrong with the presentation. The Minister should make it clear that he does not accept those figures, if he intends to stand by the view that the 375,000 overall figure will be attained. Some time ago, some of us did this exercise on our own and produced a figure of one in eleven of the total pool of manpower available. If some of the extravagant exceptions in the Appendix are disregarded, the same sort of figures are produced, and perhaps it would be better to stick to that proportion.

The last time we debated defence, the Minister spoke at the beginning of the debate, to be followed by his right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), who spoke with all the authority of an ex-Secretary of State and an ex-Minister of Defence at the appropriate time. He told us that the Hull Committee which he had set up and whose report had never been published, nor made available to the House, had recommended 220,000 men as the size for the Army. He castigated his right hon. Friend for having thrown that report overboard and, with no reason except hope, coming down on the figure of 165,000.

We ought to have the Minister's statement on this matter. This is his first chance to put it right. Is it true that he chose the figure of 165,000 in the teeth of the Hull report? Is it true that when he came into office he slashed the figure which his predecessor had thought necessary? The House should be told so that we shall know on what basis we are considering these figures.

I want now to deal with promotion from the ranks and with the whole basis of the officering of the forces, especially the Army, to which much of the Grigg Report is devoted. We have heard much today about why it is unreasonable to think that the Army is not taking a serious view about promoting from the ranks all the good young men it can, or taking directly candidates from grammar schools or from schools north of the Trent, as it has been put.

The Secretary of State's answer in part was to say that the Grigg Committee had got the figure wrong. However, the Committee obtained its figures from official sources, so that if it drew the wrong conclusion it did so on figures provided by Government Departments. The fact that the Departments have now corrected the figures does not meet the case.

In paragraph 17, the Report says: The Army, on the other hand, fear that they will be unable to obtain sufficient entries of the right calibre to Sandhurst. Throughout the Report is the suggestion that the Army is reluctant to take more recruits for Sandhurst from grammar schools or from schools in the North of England, or from the ranks, in the belief that the present standard will be lowered. That comes out too in the Government's comments on that part of the Report, in which they say that they want to get as wide a field of promotion and entry as they can, and that they are continuing to do all they can to get suitable candidates. Continuing to do all they can is what the Committee are against. It says that they are not doing enough and that there are other ways in which it can be got over—that the failure rate of the boys from the grammar schools is so very much heavier than the failure rate of boys from the public schools, that fewer boys from northern schools get through than bays from southern schools, and that the fact that it is so difficult to become an officer in the Army unless there is a certain pre-required background.

I think we ought to have from the Ministry of Defence a statement not that the Army will continue what it has been doing, but that there will be a vigorous overhaul of the Whole method of selection by the Army of candidates for the officer group, whether by direct entry or by promotion from the ranks. We were told earlier that there was a large failure rate among the non-public school boys and boys from grammar schools or the northern schools because they were being ploughed in the written examination.

We were told by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), when he interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton on Tees (Mr. Chetwynd), that it could not be anything else because there was no interview for Sandhurst. I have inquired into this and I am told that there is a selection board for Sandhurst. Therefore, it is not true to say that the ploughing of these boys indicated that their mental equipment had been shown to be not good enough, because we do not know how many were ploughed in the written examination and how many in the selection board.

Many of us have a feeling that the accent at the selection board and the public school background probably has a very great effect, and, despite what the Secretary of State says, the Report does represent part of the reason why the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy have a rather different record to show in this respect than the Army has. I hope we shall be told more about it, and I hope that the Minister will not underestimate the importance of this sort of feeling in the minds of young men and, even more, in the minds of their parents that the commissioned ranks are difficult for them to attain, which acts as a psychological barrier to the boy of 18 being encouraged by his parents to take up this sort of career.

I turn to the subject of accommodation briefly in order to give the Minister the chance to note that it has been raised. The Committee could not be rougher about this. There is the reference to the scandalous accommodation and the statement that the Army has not been spending the money which it should have been spending in this direction and has not been taking it seriously. I do not think there is any doubt that my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) put his finger on it when he said that the real problem is the lack of decision by the Government about where they want the accommodation to be. I hope that the Minister will accept the seriousness of these criticisms. After all, seven years is a long time for a Government to have been spending £1,500 million a year or thereabouts and still to have it said at the end that the accommodation of the forces is in a scandalous state. I think we ought to expect the Government to tell us when they propose to make a start on putting it right.

Then, there is the question of equipment. Just as the Committee says the state of the accommodation is scandalous, so it says that the state of the equipment of the Army is shocking. It is all very well to shrug this off and say that we could not afford not to use these pent-up stores. After all, seven times £1,500 million is over £10,000 million, and in that time how many lorries have been cannibalised so much that it is not worth having them put right? If a senior commander-in-chief is having to travel with one empty Mercedes-Benz behind him because the car in which he is travelling might break down, if commanders-in-chief have to have Mercedes which have had two or three new engines, and the Germans say, "Let us present you with a new car. This one does you no credit," this is not a thing to be shrugged off lightly.

It is no good merely saying that this is a wonderful Committee, that the House is grateful to it, and that the Government accept what it has said. It is the most crashing criticism of the Government, and if I were a Member of the Government I should be ashamed. Every hon. Member opposite must feel very ashamed about it. I have been told that radio sets of the type on which people trained in 1939 are still being used. They were being used twenty years ago. I have also been told that when we go on a combined exercise we have to borrow equipment, not from the Americans, but from the Germans, in order that we can put up a good show.

The Government's comment upon these remarks is an all-time record. In reply to this detailed and authoritative statement of the Committee the Government say that they fully recognise the importance of good equipment. There is not a single word to explain why this situation exists or how long it is going to remain. There is not a word as to whether it is true or untrue, important or unimportant. The Government simply say that they fully recognise the importance of good equipment. That is ridiculous.

I repeat that the Committee refers to this matter only in passing, because it can refer only in detail to things which bear upon recruitment. If the Committee had had wider terms of reference so that it could have looked at the equipment, it would have been able to deal with the question of armour. What would it have said about our lack of appropriate weaponsabout our lack of a new tank of lighter weight, or our lack of anti-tank missiles and new atomic weapons? We have been told that all conventional weapons will be of dual capability. What would the Committee have said about our failure to order a strike aeroplane, which failure will leave us in 1964 or 1965 with nothing to replace the Canberra? What would it have said about our failure to order a transport aircraft, which failure will mean that in 1962 or 1963 we shall not be able to move our troops anywhere in time for them to be effective?

This is a smashingly damaging report. It is damaging to the morale of the forces; it is damaging to the credit of the Government, and to all of us. To the extent that the Government have accepted the criticisms and have put some of the recommendations into effect, I congratulate them, but I hope that they will do much more than merely note the rest. I hope that they will get busy, in view of the fact that they will be out of office very soon. I would like them to set up this Grigg Committee, with its excellent membership, upon a permanent basis, so that it can clear up the mess before the next Labour Government has to try to deal with it in six months from now.

9.28 p.m.

The Minister of Defence (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

I am glad that the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) ended his speech on a congratulatory note, which I appreciate. The House, the country and the Services are much indebted to Sir James Grigg and his Committee. They have rendered a service which will have a lasting effect. I entirely disagree with the right hon. Member for Belper that the publication of this Report will have a demoralising effect upon the Services. On the contrary, I believe that its publication and the prompt acceptance of so many of its recommendations by the Government has already had a stimulating effect upon the Services. It has been universally well received.

It was a fine Committee. In asking Sir James Grigg to be its chairman I was approaching a man whom I knew well. I had served as Financial Secretary at the War Office when he was Secretary of State for War. I knew what we were likely to get, and that there would be no mincing of words. I do not think it indiscreet to say that when I asked him to be the chairman of this committee he said, "You know me. You know that I am the sort of person who will never pay a compliment if I can possibly help it." I think that the Report bears that out.

The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) congratulated us on having chosen Mr. Hugh Cudlipp as a member of the Committee. I think it was a very good choice, and I understand that Mr. Cudlipp has also been chosen by hon. Members opposite to prepare the new Labour Party General Election manifesto. The Grigg Report was a readable document in down-to-earth language. I think that it is probably the first time that "Mum" has ever been laid on the Table of the House of Commons.

The right hon. Member for Belper and others asked, in particular, about the intentions of the Government regarding the biennial review. Our intentions are perfectly simple and straightforward. It is no use the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg)—I do not see him in the Chamber now—saying, as he has today and on other occasions, that the Government were guilty of sharp practice.

It has been suggested, both by the hon. Member for Dudley and the right hon. Member for Belper, that when we say that we are to have a review of pay and pensions it means that we shall have a review and do nothing about it in any circumstances. That is complete nonsense. The White Paper explains that the Government have agreed that Service pay and pensions should be reviewed regularly at intervals of not more than two years. In reply to the right hon. Gentleman I can tell the House that the first review will be made, as the Committee recommended, in time for any necessary changes to come into force on 1st April, 1960. You see, I am fully implementing the Committee's recommendation.

The purpose of this review will be to consider whether there has been a change of circumstances which makes it fair and desirable to increase Service remuneration. Of course, there are a variety of factors to be taken into account. The most important, and the one specifically mentioned by the Committee, is the question of whether there have been significant movements in civilian earnings. It is no use making play with whether we shall relate this review to the cost of living or civilian earnings. I do not think that a point can be scored over that. The Committee recommended that the review should take account of civilian earnings and that is what we propose to do. Civilian earnings do move normally with the cost of living.

At last we have got Service remuneration on a footing which, as is acknowledged in the Grigg Committee's Report, bears a fair and reasonable relationship to civilian earnings. Our acceptance of the biennial review should be regarded and I wish it to be so regarded by the Services, as an honourable undertaking that we intend to maintain that position in the future. I hope that I have made the position absolutely clear and beyond any doubt, because I look upon the question of a biennial review as being most important. We have got the Service pay on to a footing which is regarded by the Grigg Committee as reasonable in comparison with civilian earnings; and I think it essential that the Services should have confidence in the fact that their pay and pensions will be maintained at a level which compares with what it might be possible for them to earn in civilian life.

The right hon. Member for Belper criticised Annexe A of the Report, which deals with Service requirements in relation to available manpower. He is probably right. I am not nailing my flag to the mast of Appendix A. I think that the right hon. Member for Dundee, West felt the same. We should not assume that two-thirds of all the young men are not potential recruits. It is not possible to say who is and who is not available. It is better to calculate Service requirements in relation to the total pool of young men who are coming forward.

Out of the total number of young men reaching the age of 18 the Services need one in eight. We are actually getting one in five. After 1962, when the population will be larger and the Service requirements smaller, the forces will need only one in 12. Provided that we offer them a good life under good conditions, that should be a manageable target. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West was right in suggesting that a proportion of young men joining the forces is appreciably above the age of 18. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to know the figures. Of the recruits obtained in the third quarter of this year, rather more than 55 per cent, were 18 years of age or below; about 20 per cent. were 19; about 20 per cent. were between 20 and 24, and 5 per cent. were over 24 years of age. This pattern is normal and is what we might have expected. I see no reason to suppose that it is a passing phenomenon.

The right hon. Member for Belper raised a very important question which is not strictly within the scope of the Grigg Committee's Report, but might be considered to be within the scope of the debate since it has relevance to the problem of our recruiting target. That is the question of the adequacy of the Army of 165,000 that we are planning. Those who, a year ago, were saying that we would not get the recruits to meet our target have now very much changed their tune. With the exception of the hon. Member for Dudley they are saying, "Of course, we knew that you would get the recruits you needed to meet your targets, but your targets are not big enough. An Army of 165,000 will not be adequate." They say that the figure of 165,000 was arrived at on a political rather than on military considerations. In fact, I have been accused by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) of "fudging" the targets, and by the hon. Member for Dudley of "cooking the books".

Mr. Paget

What about the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head)?

Mr. Sandys

He used somewhat more parliamentary language.

In respect of those accusations it has been alleged that a military committee under General Hull recommended that our future all-Regular Army must have a minimum strength of 220,000 men. I have no idea where that figure came from. It certainly did not come from the Report of the Hull Committee. Before saying anything about the Hull Committee's Report I would make it clear that it is a highly secret report of about 300 pages which deals in great detail with the composition, distribution and strength of our forces, and many matters which are wholly secret in character. There can be no question of presenting it to the House and, therefore, I do not propose to quote from it. This figure of 220,000 certainly did not come from the Hull Committee's Report.

The Hull Committee recommended an Army of 197,000. The difference of about 30,000 between the Hull Committee's plan and the Army of 165,000 which we are now planning is accounted for almost entirely by two simple factors. The first is that the Hull Committee was instructed to assume that the British Army on the Rhine would be appreciably larger than is now planned.

The second factor is that by further civilianisation and a variety of administrative economies our present plan requires considerably fewer uniformed men in the base organisations and home garrison than were allowed for by the Hull Committee. Apart from the Rhine Army, both plans allow for about 60,000 men in overseas stations and the strategic reserve, about 20,000 fewer than we have in the present Army of 300,000. When we take into account the increased efficiency of an all-Regular force and the increased mobility, the difference in fighting capacity is smaller still.

The House may be surprised that the present fighting capacity of about 300,000 should be little greater than that of a future Army of 165,000. The explanation is that the abolition of National Service with its wasteful overheads, coupled with extensive civilianisation and a variety of administrative economies—as I have told the House before—will enable us to dispense with more than 100,000 uniformed men in the training and base organisation in Britain. I need hardly say that before deciding on the 165,000 plan we naturally worked out how the new Army would be composed and how its units would be distributed among various overseas stations and commitments. I cannot go into more detail tonight, but I hope that I have said enough to show that the accusations of irresponsibility were unfounded and unfair.

The right hon. Member for Belper, and also the right hon. Member for Dundee, West, questioned whether there were adequate arrangements in the Army for commissioning from the ranks. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West spoke of the difficulty of transferring from what he called the "N.C.O. ladder" to the "officer ladder." These are the existing arrangements: Sandhurst is intended as a cadet college for young men and it is thought right to keep it as such. Any man from the ranks considered to have the necessary qualities up to the age of 19¾ can go to Sandhurst and get a Regular commission. Potential officers above that age go to the officer cadet school at Aldershot and get short service commissions for eight years in the first instance, which later can be extended.

Last year, about 60 men went from the ranks to Sandhurst and more than 100 to the officer cadet school at Aldershot. These figures, of course, do not include commissions to quartermaster rank. Any N.C.O. with more than twelve years' service is eligible for that commission and last year there were about 150 commissions of that kind. We should like very much—I emphasise this—to obtain more suitable officers from the ranks. I can assure the House that everything possible will be done to avoid missing any who have officer qualifications.

I have always been struck with, and believe in, Napoleon's saying that every soldier has a field marshal's baton in his knapsack. In future, the British soldier will have the added convenience of being able to carry his field marshal's baton in a hold-all, with handles.

We should like to get more cadets for Sandhurst with the widest possible educational background. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West and the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) referred to the Grigg Committee's sugestion that there might perhaps be some prejudice against boys from grammar schools and from the North. I do not believe that to be really the case. I think that the correct explanation given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is that the grammar schools are not submitting the cream of their boys to Sandhurst and that particularly in the North there is more of an industrial than a Service outlook. That view was borne out by an interesting interview given to the Bolton Evening News by the headmaster of Bolton County Grammar School. I will read what he said, because probably it is representative of the position: I do not think that the Government deliberately draws a distinction between the public schools and the grammar schools. I think that the Army has been unfairly treated in this matter. On the whole, it is well known that grammar school boys are not in the least interested in the Army. Most of my boys, for instance, are interested in jobs in industry, in the universities and professions. We in the North just do not have an Army tradition. I am not prepared to allow the position to rest there, but I believe that that is the position today. What it shows is that we have to overcome not prejudice in the Army, but lack of interest in the Services in the grammar schools. In the light of the Committee's Report, I can assure the House that we shall intensify our efforts to "sell" the Services to the grammar schools.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) mentioned the question of war pensions. That, he will understand, is outside the scope of this debate altogether and outside the scope of my responsibility. It is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance and I am sure that he will note what my hon. and gallant Friend has said.

My hon. and gallant Friend also referred to the strained circumstances in which many Service widows are living, and I would like to say a word about that. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) and other hon. Members also referred to this matter. The Government have definitely accepted the Grigg Committee's recommendation that the widows of officers and other ranks whose husbands retire after the new scheme comes into operation next April will receive pensions at the rate of one-third of their husbands' pensions. On that, I need say no more. But the question remains—and this is a point in many people's minds—whether the new rates of widows' pensions should be applied retrospectively to existing widows and to future widows of men who are already retired.

It is a well-established principle, as the House knows, followed by successive Governments, that a public service pension should continue to be paid at the rates prevailing at the date when the pensioner retires. The abandonment of this principle might have far-reaching consequences. The Grigg Committee recognises that many retired officers and widows have had the value of their pensions eaten away by inflation. However, the Committee thought that it would be wrong to try to deal with Service pensions differently from the general body of pensions received from the State. It estimated that if all public service pensions, civilian and military, were to be brought up to the level of the latest current rates this would cost an additional £55 million a year.

Sir E. Errington rose

Mr. Sandys

I will certainly give way to my hon. Friend later, but I should like to develop this point.

The Grigg Committee estimated that it would cost £55 million a year. Never- theless, as the House knows, Acts of Parliament to increase past pensions have from time to time been introduced to relieve hardship or special need. That was done in 1944, 1947, 1952, 1954 and 1956. That does not, of course, affect the principle that changes in rates of pay and pensions do not automatically apply to those already retired.

Sir E. Errington

Can my right hon. Friend say what amount it would cost to bring widows' pensions up to the proposed future amount?

Mr. Sandys

I am sorry that I cannot. It is not very easy to make that calculation, as I shall explain in a moment.

Sir J. Smyth

Did I understand my right hon. Friend to say that disability pensions have no effect on recruiting? Perhaps I misunderstood him. I understood my right hon. Friend to say that disability pensions had no effect on recruiting. I could not agree with that.

Mr. Sandys

I did not mean to suggest that for one moment. Incidentally, I draw a disability pension myself. Having said that, I should like to make clear that I realise that there are very sad cases of Service widows living on very slender means. The Government are not insensible to their difficulties.

There can be no question—I say this really in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot—of applying the Grigg Committee's formula to these widows. Many of them might actually lose money if the rate of pension were determined by reference to their late husbands' pensions. Their late husbands might have retired a long time ago, on an altogether lower code. If it should be decided to help these widows, an entirely different arrangement would be needed.

For the reasons given by the Grigg Committee, this raises very serious difficulties. However, I repeat that the Government have every sympathy with these widows, and I will add that we are going into the whole matter at present to see whether there are any valid grounds on which we could reasonably justify making a differentiation in favour of this category of pensioner. That is, I am afraid, as much as I can say tonight. What I have said was concerted with my colleagues concerned.

Some hon. Members have drawn attention to the Grigg Committee's criticism of the state of some of the Army's equipment. I certainly do not take exception to what it said. During recent years, each service has been required to keep down its expenditure, and, in the Army, this has been particularly difficult because so much Army expenditure, on pay, movements, food and accommodation, is irreducible. The result has been that the economies have tended to fall upon the provision of new equipment. These shortcomings, which should not be exaggerated, have been high-lighted by comparisons between the equipment of the British Rhine Army and the equipment of the German and American Armies serving alongside.

The German Army, of course, is a brand new Army and it has brand new equipment. The American Army can afford, better than we can, to scrap equipment which still has a useful life. However, long before we saw the Committee's Report we had already decided to make a special effort to speed up the provision of new equipment for the Army, and that pressure will be kept up. I should like to say more, but I understand that I have to sit down a little before the usual time.

I can assure the House that, in one way or the other, we are determined to see that our new all-Regular Army, when it comes into being in four years' time, shall have the best and most up-to-date equipment which the country can provide. We should not underestimate the extent to which action is already going on. We are already in the process of introducing into the Army a complete new family of weapons and equipment, including personal weapons, guns of all kinds, tactical atomic weapons, signal equipment, tanks, armoured cars, armoured personnel carriers, and a wide range of "soft" vehicles.

Hon. Members have alluded to the women's services and I should like to say that we attach the very highest importance to their role. It was a misunderstanding to suggest that the Army did not attach importance to its women's Service. The suggestion that the Army could not reduce its manpower requirement if it had more women was, I think, a little misleading. The truth is that the Army has already taken into account lie full planned strength of its women's Service, the W.R.A.C., in arriving at its figure of what it needs for the male element in the Army. If the Grigg Committee had asked a different question and said. "If you had no women, would you need more men?", the answer certainly would have been, "Yes."

Service pay, pensions and accommodation and recreational facilities must, as far as possible, be made as good as those available in civilian life, and this is what we are doing. If conditions in the Services are not as good as they should be, this will obviously deter people from joining the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. But let us not imagine that money and accommodation are everything.

A man does not join the Army just for the joy of living in good barracks. He joins it because he is attracted by the special kind of life that it offers—a life of comradeship, travel and adventure, a good career in a responsible profession and wide opportunities for the exercise of skill, initiative and leadership. Above all, he is attracted by the knowledge that he will be doing an important job for the protection of his country and for the peace of the world.

These men, we all agree on both sides of the House, deserve the best conditions that we can reasonably give them and the Government's prompt acceptance of the main recommendations of the Grigg Committee provides further evidence that we intend to give them a fair deal.

Mr. Mellish

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. I am not raising this in a facetious manner. This debate was to be replied to by the Minister of Defence. The right hon. Gentleman walked out of the Chamber at about half-past five this evening and did not come back until ten minutes to nine. Is this not surely most disrespectful to the House? How can he reply to a debate that he has not heard? Can you, Sir, at least express the opinion that when Ministers are due to reply to debates they should at least stay here to listen to them?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point for me at all. It is not a point of order of any kind.

Mr. Sandys

Anybody who listened to my reply will, I think, agree that I answered a very large number of points.

Mr. Mellish

The right hon. Gentleman was not here.

Mr. Paget

There is one point which the right hon. Gentleman has not found it necessary to answer. Ought he not to explain it? That is the discourtesy to the House to which my hon. Friend has just referred. Certainly, in the thirteen years in which I have been in this House, I have never known a Minister depart from the debate which he was proposing to answer and then come back without one word either of explanation or of apology.

Mr. Mellish

Without any apology to the House. It is absolutely disgraceful.

Mr. Speaker

Order. These are not points for me. The House must deal with the matter in some other way.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of the Report of the Advisory Committee on Recruiting (Command Paper No. 545) and the Government's Comments thereupon (Command Paper No. 570).