HC Deb 14 December 1960 vol 632 cc383-5
6. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for War why watching the television programme called "The Army Game" was banned in Pontefract Barracks.

9. Mr. Willis

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the television programme, "The Army Game," has been banned at the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry depot at Pontefract; and whether this was done with his authority.

10. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the action of the commanding officer at Pontefract barracks in banning a television programme known as "The Army Game" so far as television sets are available within the barracks; and whether he will make a statement.

11. Mr. George Craddock

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the ban imposed by the commanding officer of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry depot at Pontefract, Yorkshire, upon men under his command from viewing the television series "The Army Game" in barrack rooms; and if he will have the ban lifted.

14. Mr. Mason

asked the Secretary of State for War what instructions are given to officers of Her Majesty's forces to guide them in their choice of entertainment for troops under their command; whether special instructions have been issued in respect of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Profumo

Barrack rooms in which recruits live in this depot have metered television sets, and a notice was attached to them saying that this programme should not be viewed on these sets". The notice was not put on ordinary sets installed in the junior ranks club, sergeants' mess or married quarters. I understand the notice has now been withdrawn. This sort of action does not and should not require my authority. A commanding officer must be a man of independent judgment. If he is to make up his mind about the big things, he must be able, and be allowed, to do the same about everyday matters. The effect on the discipline and morale of the Army of circumscribing this discretion of the commanding officer would, I am convinced, outweigh any administrative convenience it might bring.

Mr. Lipton

Even though this programme is the most stupid and corny in television—and that is saying something—was it not unwise for the commanding officer to put up a notice that the men should not watch it? If people want tripe outside their working hours, why not let them have it?

Mr. Profumo

The hon. Gentleman calls it tripe. I am glad he has at least suggested that the programme has no bearing on the modern Army. It has just about as little bearing on it as the Wild West films have. In my view, the action of this officer was an error of judgment.

Mr. Craddock

Whilst I appreciate the lifting of the ban, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that a number of serving soldiers consider that there are too many bosses, too much "bull" and too much interference in the private time of men in the Army, all of which militates against further recruitment?

Mr. Profumo

I am aware of that. I am equally aware, however, that if we were to take a poll in the Army, most people would say that this programme was extremely undesirable. We all realise that it must not be taken seriously. I am sure that the Army can afford to be laughed at as much as anybody else. Concerning the action of the officer, these errors of judgment occur in all walks of life and, perhaps, many of us are fortunate not to have the spotlight turned on them quite so much.

Mr. Mason

In view of this officer's stupidity, which the right hon. Gentleman terms an error of judgment, which resulted in "The Army Game" getting thousands of £s worth of free publicity, plus probably an extra viewing audience of half a million, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that this does not portray the general level of intelligence of officers of Her Majesty's Forces?

Mr. Profumo

That is, to say the least, an unkind accusation by the hon. Member. I have gone as far as I am prepared to go. It is unfair to try to lampoon officers who are unable to answer back. This officer has had a good military record. I think we had better leave it at that.