Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £133,080,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the pay, etc., of the Army, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
This is an extraordinary Estimate. We are here dealing with an Estimate of £133 million plus £7 million which has already been appropriated, and of this, as I calculate it, £100 million is for pay and the rest is made up of allowances and contributions. We have been told already that there will be a Supplementary Estimate It is really extraordinary that, before we have even considered this Estimate in respect of pay, we are told that there wall be a Supplementary Estimate for a further £14 million.
The announcement by the Minister of Defence that only half the pay increases will come into effect this year is scandalous. The pay represented by these Estimates is based upon increases which the Grigg Committee intended should come into force before 1st April, 1960. It was the recommendation of the Grigg Committee that the first review should be carried out in time for any change to come into force before 1st April, 1960, the operative and important words being that it should come into force before that date. The Secretary 1567 of State, in answer to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), said that the Government agreed that Service pay should be looked at regularly and at intervals of not more than two years, and this, he said, is what the Government had done.
As I understand it, the Grigg Committee reported that, first, there should be a review and, second, there should be a review every two years, the first review coming into effect before 1st April, 1960. This is of fundamental importance for the pay of the Services. The Secretary of State and the Minister of Defence should not only look into the question of soldiers' pay but they should do something about it. They can look into soldiers' pay until Doomsday but that will be no good for the soldier at the receiving end. I regard it as a scandal that our soldiers should be treated in this way, according to the intentions of the Government as stated by the Minister of Defence. One of the scandals of military history occurred when contractors supplied stores to the Army which were nothing more than rubbish. The way that the soldiers are being robbed now will rank similarly as one of the scandals of military history. It is nothing more than a solicited gift, a compulsory gift, to the Government. I regard it as twentieth-century poor man's ship money.
The present pay of the Forces is already two years behind pay in industry generally. Of necessity, because of its structure, the biennial review leads to a two-year time-lag. A wait of two years is inherent in Government policy, but now, as a result of their failure to carry out the recommendation of the Grigg Committee, there will be a further delay in addition to the two years' lag. Service pay will be three years behindhand now.
When we were discussing the Army Estimates the other day, I put a question to the Under-Secretary of State. I hope that he will answer it today. He did not give me an answer then, perhaps because of shortage of time. The Minister of Defence has said that it is his belief that soldiers should not wish to be excepted from what other wage earners have to accept in the way of delay in implementation of pay increases. What inquiries 1568 have been made by the Secretary of State to ascertain whether soldiers are satisfied with their pay according to the present Estimates and whether they are willing not to have their full entitlement this year of 9½ per cent. for other ranks and 5 per cent. for officers? The Minister of Defence cannot say that he believes that soldiers would not wish to be excepted unless there is evidence for his belief. If no inquiries have been made by the Secretary of State, we should be told. The Government should come clean and say what the view of soldiers is on this point. If inquiries have been made, we should be told the extent and result of them.
When I was first given the task of assisting my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton in our consideration of the Army Estimates, one of the first things I did was to read in detail the reports of previous debates on the Army Estimates. I found that on 10th March, 1960, the previous Under-Secretary said:I can say that there is no intention on the part of this Government, who have given £5 million by way of pay increases, to welsh on the Army."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1960; Vol. 619, c. 753.]Does the present Under-Secretary of State agree with that, or is it now the wish of the Government to welsh on the Army in the matter of pay? Those words of March, 1960, sound very mocking and hollow in the light of the statement made by the Minister of Defence. The Daily Mirror said that Forces pay was to go up next month, but the Government have broken their promise to keep it in line with civvy street earnings and have defaulted on their pay pledge to the men and women in the Forces.
It is no argument to say that men and women in the Forces are being treated like other people in the public service. Men and women in the Army—I have in mind particularly those who joined since the publication of the Grigg Report—were given a specific promise. The Government are unilaterally breaking their contract. These men have signed on the dotted line to serve for a fixed number of years, and they cannot unilaterally break their contracts. If they did, they would be treated as deserters or as people absent without leave. They cannot do it. Yet the Government have 1569 had the face to break unilaterally their promise to the Forces.
The men in the Forces have no union, never mind what the Minister of Defence says about being their trade union leader. The right hon. Gentleman's words sound very hollow now. Men in the Forces have no arbitration boards or industrial tribunals. They have to rely upon the Government's promise of a square deal, and that promise of a square deal has been flagrantly broken.
§ Mr. Clive Bossom (Leominster)
I have a suggestion to put to the Committee which, if implemented, would, I believe, bring in several hundred recruits of the calibre the Army needs today without costing very much extra money. Recruiting is doing well, but now we must move into top gear. Because we are coming into the post-war birth-rate bulge, the number of young people leaving school during the next few years will mean that we shall have more young men available than ever before.
I am convinced that we are losing young men who are "mustard keen" at school, or just about school leaving age, who want to join the Army, but they cannot join until they are 17½, except in excellent regiments like the Junior Leader Regiments, and the Army loses them forever. I suggest that with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education and local authorities, a type of Army class in secondary technical schools should be created. Later, perhaps, we could follow this up by having a similar class in secondary modern and grammar schools. We want to induce young men to sign on at some time after they reach 16 years of age, giving them a retaining fee or bounty which, if they break their contracts, they would have to pay back. They would then go in as civilians to a special Army course. The subjects in the school curriculum could include mathematics, wireless, electronics, engineering, M.T. and science.
By this method, the Army will not lose keen young men, and, after one and a half years of further schooling, it will gain the very much needed future tradesmen and junior N.C.O.s.
In the beginning, such a scheme could work only in the highly developed and large industrial towns and cities, but the recruiting figures in the Midlands prove 1570 that young men want to join and that they are in fact joining in fairly large numbers. I am convinced that we can get still more recruits by this method. A bounty also might encourage parents to allow their sons to stay on instead of leaving school, and to earn their living.
Today, 80 per cent. of recruits are under 20 years of age. We must therefore concentrate on these young men before they settle down in other occupations. At 15 to 16 they are attracted by the Army. They want travel, adventure and sport. The Army can give them these things. Large overseas airborne exercises such as those that we had last year appeal to them. If a young man has to wait eighteen months, he is frustrated by hanging around; he gets a job, settles down and begins to earn good wages and is treated as a responsible person. He makes friends, especially girl friends, who play a very large part in his life and are inclined to persuade him to stay in civvy street.
I am well aware of the outstandingly successful work done by the Junior Leader Regiments and the apprentice training schools, but as I see it they are producing the long-term man—the potential warrant officer and the senior N.C.O. for the future, who, we hope, will sign on for twenty-two years. I am concerned with the product of the "G.C.E. stream" who is the future corporal, lance-corporal or trained technician. He may remain in the Army for only six or nine years, but I am sure that nowadays it is quality and not quantity which is needed. That is why I hope that my hon. Friend will consider the possibility of an Army class in our secondary technical schools.
My other suggestion, which would cost hardly anything in extra pay for the men, is this. Could not the Army have one more look at allowing young men to join their depôts at 16½ years of age? I do not suggest that they should join their regiments until they are 17½ or go abroad until they are 18¼. I realise, of course, that a young man of 16½ years requires very special supervision, but now that conscription is gradually coming to an end surely some of the highly-trained officers and N.C.O. instructors who will be available for other duties could be posted to look after these special intakes at depôts.
1571 Instead of giving the recruit a ten-week training course—this, in my opinion, is far too short if we are to have a highly-trained professional soldier—I suggest that he should have six to nine months' training before joining his unit. In the past, the argument has always been that a young man under 17½ years cannot compete with the rough and tumble of barrack room life. However, times and conditions have changed greatly—at least, since I joined the Buffs in 1937. I believe that we are out of date and not completely in touch with present-day conditions. Young men of 16½ years are much more mature today than many of us think. I also think that the point about the rough and tumble of barrack room life has been eliminated.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will consider allowing the cream of youth to go into the Army at 16½ years. I assure him that by preventing them from doing so they are going sour through waiting.
§ Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)
I cannot help feeling that the attack of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) on the Government for, as he alleged, not keeping their pledge to the Army concerning pay is very damaging to this country's interests. I reject the allegation that the Government have not kept their pledge. A 5½ per cent. rise with the promise of a further rise in future is exactly in accordance with the Government's pledge.
The hon. Member for Aberavon said that he found a great deal of dissatisfaction in the Army. This is contrary to the advice that I have received from friends and serving soldiers and officers in Her Majesty's Forces to whom I have spoken. I do not believe that people join the Army for the sake of pay. That is a wrong premise from which to start an argument, which is what the hon. Gentleman did.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
Does the hon. Gentleman disagree with the Grigg Report, which laid very great stress on the importance of pay?
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
No, I do not. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give me time to develop my argument. 1572 I said that I did not think that the Government had broken their pledge. A 5½ per cent. rise now with another rise in the future honours the Government's pledge, particularly since people in the country generally are getting only 2½ per cent. to 3 per cent.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
The one thing which I thought was beyond dispute and which was common ground among everybody was that the Government have not honoured their pledge. There may have been reasons for dishonouring the pledge, but that it has been dishonoured I should have thought was common ground among everybody.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
It may be common ground between the hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends but it is not common ground between him and me.
It is vital that we should continue to recruit and should, if possible, attain our target of 165,000 men, rising to 180,000 if possible, as soon as we can.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley) rose—
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
I think that the hon. Gentleman, who is so expert in these matters, can wait a moment.
What is said by the Opposition Front Bench, by the unofficial Opposition and by the rest of them is doing the one thing which will retard recruitment. That is why I said that it is contrary to our interests as a country.
I now turn to a point which arises under Subhead E, Vote 1, on page 3 of the Supplementary Estimate dealing with the pay and marriage allowance of the Gurkha Brigade. I am glad to note that these have risen by a quite considerable sum. Can my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State tell me whether the members of the Brigade are getting the same rates of pay regardless of where they may be serving, or do the rates of pay differ between troops serving in the United Kingdom and those serving in Hong Kong and Malaya? Are there any Queen's Commissioned Gurkha officers? If so, are they receiving the same rates of pay as British officers?
I notice that a very small sum is allowed for payment to those with language qualifications. When I was serving, the pay to anyone with a language 1573 qualification was very small compared with the toil and trouble and the considerable amount of expertise necessary to qualify a person for that pay. I should have thought that today it was vital that as many officers and other ranks as well should be able to speak foreign languages, particularly Russian, French and German, as fluently as possible. The rate of pay to those with language qualifications should be raised considerably. I suspect that it has not been raised at all, or, if it has, that it has been raised only marginally.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will pay particular attention to the points I made about the Gurkhas. I am particularly anxious that the number of these very fine fighting men in our Forces and with whom I held a Regular commission years ago should be increased and that they should continue to play the vital part that they are playing throughout the world today.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
I should like to raise two points with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War. I realise that he may not be able to answer immediately. The first is in connection with "Subhead L—Miscellaneous Allowances, etc." on page 22 of the Army Estimates. I notice that the outfit allowance is to be reduced to almost a third of what it was the previous year. No doubt there is a perfectly good explanation of this, but at first it seems a rather surprising figure.
Secondly, I should like to refer to officers' pay. I notice that there is a decrease of nearly £1 million on that item. I hope that this has something to do with the officer—other rank ratio, because as our forces over the last few years have been declining in total numbers there has been a good deal of comment about the ratio between general officers and other ranks and rather less about the ratio between officers and other ranks. There has been a tendency for the ratio of officers to increase not only in our Armed Forces here but overseas, and it has been particularly marked over recent years. Now that the Army has gone back to a voluntary basis I hope that this point is being looked at. There was a tendency in time of war to increase the number of officers for 1574 certain jobs unnecessarily. I hope that the Army is taking a rather stricter view of this at present. The figures show that the War Office is taking action in this direction.
§ Mr. Wigg
Two statements have been made, by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins)—and I beg the hon. Member's pardon for having interrupted him on a point of fact—and by the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby), and neither is correct. If fallacies are allowed to go uncorrected they do damage to the Army and bemuse public opinion.
The Minister of Defence has told us that the old target of 403,000 has gone. He mentioned 390,000 to 400,000 and I think that the figure is now 390,000 for the three Services. In that case the 182,000 becomes 167,000. I ask the Under-Secretary of State for War, therefore, what the target is. It is certainly not now 182,000. What I want to know—and I should have thought that the hon. Member for Cornwall, North would have wanted to know it—is what the planning figure is now. If the Minister intends to keep, as he clearly does, the same number of units as he now has, the consequence will be the perpetuation of this miasma that has meant that the Army has all over the world units which are not up to requirement. When the hon. Gentleman replies to the debate, I hope that not only to help me but to help the hon. Member for Cornwall, North he will tell us what the target now is. There has been argument for five years and the difficulty is that the 182,000 has been abandoned.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
The target is 167,000, with the possibility of going up to a ceiling of 182,000.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Gentleman has not followed my point. The figure is not 167,000 in any case.
Let us take the proceedings stage by stage. In 1957 no target was established. The next year there was a figure of 165,000, but this added up not to 375,000 but to 388,000. Then the next year 15,000 were added to make it 403,000. Now the Minister says that that figure is abandoned. It is now 390,000. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North will find from the Defence Estimates that the 1575 Government admit, though naturally without any fanfare of publicity, that they will not get either the Navy figure or the Air Force figure. But they say that the figures we have are the figures they wanted all the time and they are the exact figures that those Services require. The target clearly is not 182,000. We have not been told what it is.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
The hon. Member did not listen to me. I attended the earlier debate and heard his long speech on this matter. We need not enter now into the question whether there are under-manned battalions all over the world. The target at the moment is 167,000 for recruiting. That is the figure we are trying to reach, and if we secure a higher figure all the better.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Member is quite wrong. It is extraordinary. It only goes to show the abysmal ignorance of hon. Members opposite. A figure of 167,000 has never been the figure at any time. That is a figure which the hon. Member has thought of all on his own. The figure of 167,000 is the new target figure one arrives at if one takes 15,000 from 182,000, but the target of 182,000 has now gone and we have not been told what the new figure is, and obviously this ties up very closely not only with what has happened but what will happen next year.
If the Government have welshed on pay it should be remembered that they introduced the pay figures in the first instance not because they were interested in the welfare of the Army but because for political reasons they had to reach a figure of 165,000. If they now change the policy they welsh on the pay because there is no longer the priority to secure the troops. In any case, it is perfectly clear that the political obsession with the Government is to make some pretence of reaching the Army target, and that is why they are prepared to admit that they will get neither the Navy target nor the Air Force target. But what is in the public mind is that in the relations between this country and S.A.C.E.U.R. and the Pentagon the Government have also welshed, not only in terms of the Army figure but in terms of the overall figure. I do not want to take part in any polemics with the hon. Member for Cornwall, North. I should be at a considerable disadvantage if I did, but I 1576 ask the Government to tell us what the figure is now. Are we and the Army to be left again in doubt? I am sorry that I have had to raise this matter. I would not have raised it had the hon. Member for Cornwall, North not made what might have been, after all, a Freudian slip.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
I see that we are having to pay less money on officers this year than we had to pay last year, but I understand from details elsewhere in the Estimates that the number of officers coming forward to join the Army is today sufficient. Is that the case? Are there sufficient numbers of officers going to Welbeck College, and is my hon. Friend satisfied with their quality?
I have been told that because they go to Welbeck and are specialists they tend to be in a slightly different category when later they join the Service. They tend to be regarded as egg-heads or to be in some way different. I hope that this is not the case. It is essential that general service officers should have technical qualifications nowadays and it should not be regarded as extraordinary if they are specialists in scientific subjects. I hope that the intake into Welbeck College is satisfactory and that they are joined into the Army in a way that does not distinguish them except by their talent.
It is clear from the Vote that the number of N.C.O.s in the Army is not sufficient nor, if I may make so bold as to say it, is the tradition of becoming an N.C.O. quite so honoured as it was in the past. I have raised this matter before privately with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. He will therefore have anticipated what I have to say and I will cut it short.
Far too many people today are trying to be officers and do not appreciate the great prestige and usefulness which they would be able to have to fulfil if they were to be non-commissioned officers. I believe that the Regular Commissions Board has far too many people coming forward to it to be officers. I recently paid a visit, which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State was kind enough to arrange, and I understand that, on an average, more than half the young men coming forward to 1577 be officers fail on interview by the Board.
One can understand what a shock this is to the self confidence of a man of 18 or 19. Presumably, those who have failed have not exactly understood what qualifications the Army was looking for, and they come forward full of confidence, the darlings of their families and the prides of their schools, only to be turned away—disappointed in life at that early age.
§ Mr. Kershaw
They fail in the general subjects of the interview—on the various intelligence, initiative and leadership tests, not in scholastic ways. The various tests are scientifically and fairly devised by the Board.
Such a high rate of failures is very harmful to the boys concerned and also to the Army, because these are all young men who have distinguished themselves in their school careers. The recruiting officers and others have thought them fit to be officers. Then they come forward to the board, and at this first big test in their lives find themselves considered unsuitable.
I wonder whether we have not been directing too much propaganda towards trying to persuade people to come forward to be officers in the Army. There is all the propaganda one sees on hoardings and elsewhere depicting the gallant young officer sitting on top of an armoured car in the Arabian Peninsula. This makes these young men think that they must be officers or nothing—either officers or sweeping the barrack floors—and it is quite untrue.
Of the 50 per cent. turned down, I doubt whether very many go back to the Army prepared to become non-commissioned officers and to fulfil the rôle which the sergeant major and the warrant officer fulfilled so nobly in the past, and without which no Army can function properly.
I wonder whether the recruiting officer is the best person to recommend a young man for a commission. I believe that most of those who have failed were recommended first by recruiting officers. These officers are people of great experience, but when a likely young chap 1578 comes in, looking bright and cheerful, the recruiting officer naturally wants to put up his score and says, "You will do well as an officer," and puts him down for a commission. The young man then has the right to go before the board. In the short acquaintance which the recruiting officer has with the recruit, I do not believe that it is possible for him to form a right judgment.
Perhaps the right to go before the board should be restricted. Perhaps application should only be made after three months' service and if the man's commanding officer makes a recommendation. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State should concentrate propaganda on making people realise the position of the non-commissioned officers. I see that, according to page 216 of the Estimates, a warrant officer can reach over £800 as an income besides his accommodation, etc. A warrant officer who is a tradesman can get nearly to £850, and a warrant officer who is a technician goes to nearly £1,000 a year.
These are substantial incomes for substantial and honourable jobs. It is far better to try to do such a job than a job which one is perhaps not fully suited to do. I believe that this problem does not extend only to the Army. It is one of the things lacking in our modern life that there are not quite so many people as in the past willing to do what I call the foreman's or charge hand's job. They are either going to be top dog or they will do nothing at all. I hope that, in future, we will be able to correct this tendency.
I also wanted to call attention to the position of the officer commissioned from the ranks after long service, usually after twenty-two years. These officers are often commissioned to carry out a temporary job only for a year or two years at a time. This is extremely unsettling. I know that they have the opportunity to take their pensions and go out of the Army without taking a commission. But we need them in the Army and we would not commission them if they were not fit to do the job. They should have some sort of security. Perhaps they are teaching in training establishments, but all the time, hanging over their heads, is the possibility that 1579 in eighteen months or so they will not be required any more and will be turned out to civil life.
A change in these circumstances would do much for these men who have served for twenty-two years, enabling them to do the job required without feeling unsettled. Perhaps consideration might be given to improving these conditions and for putting these commissions on a longer term basis.
What reason, except tradition, is there for paying the ladies less than the men? I suppose that this has something to do with the public service, but they do their jobs just as well as the men do theirs. Married allowances are given to men for the additional responsibilities which they are always supposed to have, but could we not consider putting the girls on the same basis as the men? They do a splendid job and, from my personal experience, I know how very well trained and excellent they are. I hope that my hon. Friend can give consideration to these points.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. James Ramsden)
I will try to reply to the points which have been raised by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee. I am afraid that I cannot promise that it will be a very detailed reply, but the speeches have been, inevitably, seriated and I will try to reply in the same way.
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) asked me why we have come to the Committee, knowing that the implementation of the pay review is in prospect in April and that it will involve additional sums, without providing for it in these Estimates. The answer is that these Estimates had already been compiled and had gone to print before the discussions resulting in the present pay recommendations had been brought to a conclusion, and it was, therefore, impossible to incorporate the results of the review in the current Estimates. This will not deprive the Committee of an opportunity, on the Supplementary Estimate, or subsequently, of discussing the results of the review. This is not, I am assured, an uncommon thing to have happened.
The hon. Gentleman repeated a number of arguments about the pay review which we debated the other day on 1580 Vote A. I can only repeat that we have honoured our obligation arising from the acceptance by the Government of the Grigg recommendations, but that the implementation of our obligation is subject to the national policy of the pay pause. I am convinced that the Army and the other Services understand the position very well.
The hon. Member asked what steps we have taken to find out the reactions to the Government's decision. It is the responsibility of the Secretary of State and of myself to acquaint ourselves with the feeling in the Army on all matters such as this. We have done so, and I can assure the Committee that, while no one claims that the Army is pleased about this, I believe that it accepts the position. In so doing, the Army is showing extremely good sense, because the implementation of the review in this way, as part of the policy of the pay pause, will help to guarantee the future value of the awards that are made and will operate to the economic advantage not only of the people in the Services but of those in every other walk of life by bringing stability to money values. The Services, I am certain, have the sense to accept these facts.
§ Mr. Ramsden
The hon. and learned Member is trying to be too subtle. The hon. Gentleman asked me what was the feeling about this. He knows, having been a Service man, that there are plenty of opportunities, not necessarily through official channels, open to anybody to make their opinions known to senior officers, and that there are plenty of opportunities for senior officers to do their job and assess the opinions of those around them. I say advisedly that I do not believe that I have given the Committee an unfair assessment of the climate. I do not say that the Services are pleased, but I do say that they understand.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell me how a private soldier can intimate that he is not satisfied, but that he understands?
§ Mr. Ramsden
I have heard the right hon. Gentleman make a number of speeches drawing on his experience as a 1581 private soldier, and I do not think he needs me to tell him that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom) raised the question of boys' training, and asked what we could do further in the Army to make certain that we got hold of people young, in order to counteract the disadvantage which, at first sight, the Army would appear to have in competing for the available recruits with industry and other occupations. My right hon. Friend said enough the other day to show that by our planned expansion of boys' units, junior leader regiments and other training units for boys, we foresaw the advent of the bulge in the birth-rate, and have made our plans to take advantage of the increased number of people coming forward.
In reply to my hon. Friend's suggestion that we might make a payment in the form of a bounty or scholarship for boys educated at technical schools and willing to accept a liability for six years' service in the Regular Army after leaving school, I should say that this is a new and interesting suggestion. We will study it, and consider whether it could be reasonably fitted in with the other schemes I have mentioned in order to enlist boys and young men with a view to employing them as tradesmen or technicians. As to his other point about the possibility of lowering the age of enlistment, I was interested to hear his suggestion, and I agree—and I think the Committee will agree—that young men today become mature at a younger age, but there would be difficulties about following the line my hon. Friend suggested.
For one thing, it would require amendment of the Army Act, which would be possible, but would take time. Fox another, to throw a boy of 17½ years of age straight into a barrack room is rather like throwing a non-swimmer in at the deep end. One of the characteristics of the present arrangements that we are making for training boys is the very special care which we are devoting to their handling in the early stages, and one of the limits to the expansion of these arrangements which my right hon. Friend indicated the other day is that we observe very high standards of staffing and training. However, I will further consider the point which my hon. Friend has made.
1582 My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) asked about pay and allowances for the Gurkhas. The basic pay of Gurkha officers and men is tied to the Indian Army rates as a result of the tripartite agreement signed in 1947 between India, Nepal and the United Kingdom, and these are the rates which they get in Nepal. When they are serving in Malaya or Hong Kong, they get, in addition to this basic rate of pay and allowances, what is known as the Malayan and Hong Kong addition, which takes account of the extra cost of living in those places rather than in Nepal. Officers and men who have taken their families with them to Malaya or Hong Kong also get what is called the married accompanied supplement. In the United Kingdom, where we have all been very pleased to welcome the advance party of Gurkhas last week, comimissioned officers get the full rate of British Army pay and allowances, and the Queen's Gurkha officers get special rates of pay and allowances appropriate to them. Gurkha other ranks get special United Kingdom allowances on top of the basic rate of pay, which makes their total remuneration almost the same as that of the British soldier.
§ Mr. Wigg
At present, the Gurkhas' rates of pay are shown in the Army Estimates in two places—on page 20 which shows the rate chargeable to Vote 1, E, and then we are referred to page 11. A footnote to Appendix II on page 223 refers to the special rates of pay that are paid in addition to soldiers serving with the Brigade of Gurkhas. I suspect that these allowances relate to British soldiers—other ranks serving with the Brigade of Gurkhas and not to Gurkha members of that Brigade. Is that so or not?
§ Mr. Ramsden
I suspect that it is so, because the footnote is to that part of the Appendix which deals with the rates of pay and allowances of British officers and other ranks.
§ Mr. Wigg
Now that the War Office is bringing the Brigade of Gurkhas to this country, and they are therefore an accepted part of the British Army here, would it not be as well to print the rates of pay of British and Gurkha officers and other ranks as an Appendix to the Army Estimates, so that we know where we stand?
§ Mr. Ramsden
I will certainly look into that suggestion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) asked me about the outfit allowance and why the provision for it was reduced in this year's Estimate. The reduction is due to the fact that in the previous year a special payment was made to all serving officers on account of the reintroduction of service dress. They all got it. In a normal year, the allowance is paid to officers only on first appointment. I can say in reply to the other question which my hon. Friend asked me that the reduction in the amount of pay for officers in this Vote reflects a reduction in their numbers.
In reply to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who raised the familiar question of numbers—
§ Mr. Ramsden
Yes, Sir. That is under examination. There is nothing more that I can usefully say to my hon. Friend on that point at the moment. Nor have I anything which the hon. Member for Dudley would consider useful to tell him in the question of numbers. I cannot go further than my right hon. Friend did the other day when he said:It may be that when all the staff tables have been revised, in the course of the next few months, our manpower requirements will be a little different from the previous one but we know enough already for me to be able to say "—and this is the important thing—that the variation will not be large."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 611.]I am not going beyond that. I am afraid that that must also be my reply to the hon. Member for Dudley—
§ Mr. Wigg
I can understand the difficulty of the War Office. It is changing its mind, and, for political reasons, wants to conceal this fact, but will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance, or talk to his right hon. Friend and get him to agree that when the War Office makes up its mind, it will not conceal the fact—many of us are interested in this—but that an announcement will be made to the House of Commons about what the new planned figure will be?
§ Mr. Ramsden
The hon. Gentleman knows that we always tell him as much as we can, because if we do not, he usually finds out. We shall give him the information as soon as we have completed our studies and at the appropriate time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) asked whether I was satisfied with the number of applicants coming forward to become officers. Although we have shortages in certain corps, notably the Royal Army Medical Corps, the general picture of officer recruiting is good, and the intakes to Sandhurst and Welbeck are satisfactory both in numbers and quality.
My hon. Friend and I have discussed the questions of people applying to go to Sandhurst after a preliminary period in the ranks, and long-service commissioned officers. I am not ready to give the reply that I promised on the first of those questions. On the second, I can only say that although there is an amount of insecurity inherent in the job, these officers take it on in the full knowledge of what is implied in it. We can offer engagements of this kind—and we have plenty of applicants for them—only if we are allowed to keep a certain amount of flexibility as to how long the engagements should continue, but I will bear my hon. Friend's point in mind, and write to him on the other question.
I have tried to answer, although perhaps rather untidily, most of the points made, and I hope that the Committee will now be content to pass this Vote.
§ Mr. Paget
I do not entirely follow this mysterious state of unconsenting understanding. Apparently the Forces are willing to accept £9 million being forcibly taken from them as their contribution to the Government's policy. Am I to understand that Service men have been persuaded that this is necessary to save the value of their pay, and that this sum affects the position, whereas less than half a cruiser which might perhaps be put back for a year does not affect it?
§ Mr. Ramsden
I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is being unnecessarily difficult and perverse in misunderstanding what I have tried to say. He has, from his side of the Committee, 1585 a fair point against the way we have done this. He may dislike the whole policy of the pause, but that is a matter for debate, and we have debated it. I have given my opinion that this is a policy which is intelligible to sensible people, and that the Services, which consist of extremely sensible people, broadly see the advantages of the policy at which we are aiming. It is my opinion that they accept the position, bearing in mind that part of the results of the recent review will be implemented on 1st April.
§ Mr. Morris
Having listened to the speech of the Under-Secretary of State for War, I have come to one conclusion, and one only, that on the questions I asked him about pay, both he and his right hon. Friend are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. The hon. Gentleman said that he had acquainted himself with the feelings of the Army. Indeed, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was chided for being unnecessarily difficult and perverse in putting questions to him about his statement.
The hon. Gentleman said that the Services, while not being pleased—and as a student of human nature I can understand someone not being pleased at not receiving that to which he is entitled—understand why they are not getting their full entitlement. The hon. Gentleman also said that there were ways of testing the feeling of people in the Army—through senior officers.
Not one iota of evidence has been placed before the Committee about the feelings of the Army. During the defence debate the Secretary of State for War said that he believed that the Services would not wish to be excepted from the pay pause, and now we have been told by the hon. Gentleman that he has acquainted himself with the feelings of the Army.
How were these feelings ascertained? Who was asked? Can the Secretary of State for War place his hand on his heart and say that one corporal was consulted, 1586 or that one private soldier was consulted? I am merely asking questions to discover what happened. The Minister stated categorically that the Government believed that the Services were prepared to accept this situation, and, though not pleased about it, understood why it was necessary.
If a categorical statement of that nature is made, it must mean that men who have contracted to serve for a considerable period of time and, therefore, cannot leave the Army at short notice have expressed their opinions. We should be told how many Service men were consulted. Has the War Office caused any inquiries to be made to discover whether a substantial proportion of Service men accept this delay in the implementation of the pay award? If this has been done, we should be told about it. If we are told that there has been an inquiry; if we are told that people in the Army have been interviewed, that a number of private soldiers, fusiliers, corporals, sergeants and captains have been asked for their opinions, we should be told how this was done.
The Under-Secretary should not expect the Committee to accept his statement, "I have acquainted myself with the feelings of the Army." How was this done? Whom did he ask? When there is such a welshing as this on pay to which the Army is entitled, a Minister should not categorically state, "I have acquainted myself with the feelings of the Army", or, "I believe that the Services would not wish to be excepted from this pay limitation".
I was a National Service man. My rate of pay was 22s. 6d. a week, and I know how a soldier counts each and every shilling. I cannot believe that the Services are prepared to accept this situation.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he has definite information that the Army does not accept this?
§ Mr. Morris
It may be that because English is my second language and not my first I did not make myself clear. I was not making an affirmative statement. I was merely referring to what two Ministers said. If the hon. Gentleman was present during the defence 1587 debate, he must have heard what his right hon. Friend said.
§ Mr. Morris
I am obliged to my hon. and learned Friend.
Perhaps I might quote the following figures to the Committee. Mathematics is not my strong point, and if I have made a mistake no doubt I shall be corrected. By the failure to implement in full the recommendations of the Grigg Report, a private soldier stands to lose £13 6s. a year. He will get £280 this year, rising in April to £293 6s., and then he will have to wait until the following year before the next increase [takes him up to £306 12s. He will, therefore, lose £13 6s. That has completely gone. Have any private soldiers been asked whether they are willing to lose £13 6s.?
The married private soldier will lose £20 6s.—almost 8s. a week. Have any of those soldiers been asked what they think about it? The married sergeant loses £30 15s., and the captain £15—almost £1 a week. Can the Under-Secretary tell us that all these categories understand the situation and are prepared to accept it without complaint? I should like some evidence from the Minister that such inquiries have been made and of whom.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Can my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary tell me what kind of employment will be given to the Gurkha detachment which is over here? Can he reassure me that these troops will be given guard duties in London—perhaps at Buckingham Palace—in the coming summer, and will give displays throughout the country? What ceremonial functions will they perform? I hope that they will be given an opportunity to do these things.
§ Mr. Wigg
I support the plea made by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins). The year before last I went to the School of Infantry to see a demonstration by a company of Gurkhas drilling with the F.N. rifle. It was a joy to see them. When their band played on Horse Guards Parade I persuaded my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) to come with 1588 me. I took him there under false pretences, having assured him that he would see a masterly display of exercises with small arms. Unfortunately, although we heard the music we did not see the display.
I am sure that many hon. Members would be interested to see the Gurkhas drilling with this weapon, which at one time was thought not to fit in with any drill movements. If such a demonstration were given in New Palace Yard we might even persuade my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) once again to join a company of the Home Guard if the Government see fit to form one. I am sure that the public would be extremely interested to see a demonstration by these troops, and since their employment here as part of the Strategic Reserve is a new step, which has been accepted by hon. Members on both sides, I hope that the hon. Member will recommend to his right hon. Friend the adoption of the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
When the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) raised the question of the difficulty of obtaining a sufficient number of N.C.O.s and warrant officers, I thought that the Minister missed the point. If the hon. Member for Stroud was not putting that point, I should like to do so now. It is not disputed that it is fairly easy to recruit large numbers of people who would like to be officers. There are many reasons for this. The problem is not that of recruiting a large number of officers—of which there seems to be an almost inexhaustible pool—but of recruiting good N.C.O.s.
I would not presume to speak on behalf of the hon. Member for Stroud, but I understood him to ask why, when these people—many of whom are interested in a military career—are found to be patently unsuitable to be officers when interviewed, they are then lost to the Army, instead of becoming warrant officers or N.C.O.s at a later stage. It does not appear to be a question of pay. The rate of pay of the warrant officer compares very favourably with the rates paid to many other sections of the community—for instance, to Members of Parliament. A warrant officer can now 1589 get more than £800 a year, plus his keep.
The difficulty appears to be that in 1962 there still exists a very archaic difference in social treatment. The Army still draws too clear a social distinction between the officer and the noncommissioned officer or private. The distinction is less marked than it used to be, but it still exists, and is far greater in the Army than it is in civilian life, where the comparable categories are the managerial staff and the foreman and chargehands. Almost all these differences have long been discarded in industry as being outdated, but they exist in the Army today, and seem to be a deterrent to recruitment.
Recruitment of nursing staff has been more successful. In this week's Time and Tide, which can be purchased for 1s., there was an excellent article dealing with the serious problems facing civilian nursing services in recruiting nursing staff. If we examine the Q.A. scales for qualified State registered nurses we find that the Army is offering a wage of £584 a year, rising to £666. This is considerably higher than the sum offered in civilian hospitals for people with identical qualifications, who are paid £525, rising to £656 a year.
The position appears to be even better from the point of view of the career grade. I believe that the comparable rank in the Q.A. is captain, in respect of which the scale goes from £711 to £894, which compares favourably with the civilian scale, for people with identical qualifications, in that it is £186 more at the bottom of the scale and £238 more at the top. It is essential that at least some part of the Government service should be able to attract a sufficient number of nurses.
There seems to be a woeful lack of information about this. A week ago last Monday I telephoned the Ministry of Defence to ask how many nurses there were in the Services. I have since telephoned three times, and have still been unable to find out. I asked about rates of pay, but after making three telephone calls I looked up Whitaker's Almanack. It might be worth purchasing a copy for the Ministry of Defence. It is a mine of information for people dealing with queries of this type. In this highly competitive field—in terms of 1590 civilian employment—the Army is able to compete on equal terms, and with better salary scales, and is, therefore, able to attract the people it wants in this grade to do work virtually identical to that which they do in civilian life.
The problem that exists right the way through the Army, namely, the attitude adopted towards the officer and the noncommissioned officer, respectively, is completely non-existent in relation to the private and the tradesman. If we look at the people who are equivalent to the mass of the nursing service in civilian hospitals, there is the private, Grade 1, which, I suppose, would be a substitute for the majority of nursing orderlies, and there is a salary rate—no scale, just a flat rate—of £265 a year.
A person with identical qualifications in a civilian hospital—I am quoting hospitals, because this is one of the few spheres in the Army which is directly comparable with civilian employment-doing an identical job—
§ Mr. Wigg indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Wigg
I should have thought that the Army has shown what almost amounts to genius when dealing with the Q.A.R.A.N.C. other ranks. The Army has solved the problem by taking in girls and putting them on a training "roundabout". Many of them would probably find great difficulty in getting into civilian hospitals, perhaps because of a deficiency in educational qualifications.
They go into the Army and the Army trains them and in many cases they come out with S.R.N. qualifications, but in my opinion they are in no sense comparable with civilian student nurses. I speak with some knowledge of the subject, because until recently I had a daughter in the Q.A.'s and I got my information from her.
§ Mr. Marsh
I am grateful to my hon. Friend.
My point is that if we look again at this article, which it is convenient to do as it contains all the figures, we find that in 1960 there were in British hospitals in civilian service 54,392 full-time qualified nurses; but there were 59,852 nurses 1591 in training. So the position in civilian hospitals is that they are staffed with untrained staff. The idea that civil hospitals are staffed with qualified staff is a myth. They are not, and they have not been for many years.
With respect to my hon. Friend, I should have thought that at any rate in this sphere the nursing orderly in the Q.A. and, say, the Class I private, compares broadly with the person carrying out the broad range of these functions in a civil hospital. I think that the Services show a sense of genius because they recognise this problem. In civil nursing an enormous amount of time is spent training people, in the full knowledge that the majority will leave, either because they find better jobs or because they do not like the training or, in some cases, because nature has its way and they get married.
In the Army they go in the career grade as nursing orderlies and if they want training they get it. Of course, some of them get married, too, but we cannot hold the War Office responsible for that.
My point is that when we consider Grade I, the average rate is £265 a year, but the comparable income for those people in civilian hospitals is £575 a year.
§ Mr. Marsh
Of course. But staff resident in hospitals get their keep. They may pay a small contribution, but residence on the job is a feature of military hospitals as well as civilian hospitals.
The point I am trying to make—that does not invalidate the argument at all—is that there seems to me to be a problem right through the Army. If one looks at the officer in the Army, in this sphere—sensibly because it wants the person—the Army pays a salary which, at the minimum end of the scale, is £186 in excess of that obtainable in civilian life, and, at the maximum, is £238 in excess of that paid for the identical job.
This is a good thing. It is good commercial practice. The market rate is paid for staff at the rate at which staff can be employed. But in the case of the unskilled or semi-skilled person the 1592 Army pays £315 a year less than is being paid for the identical job in a civilian hospital.
I come back to what I hope was the point raised by the hon. Member for Stroud. One of the main problems facing the Army is that the conditions and standard of commissioned officers is still too far divorced from that of other ranks. It is now clear that officers can be obtained in very good quantities. But it is equally obvious—my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley makes this point on every possible occasion—that one cannot get the large mass of other ranks which it is essential to have if the Service is to tick over.
I ask the Minister, therefore, whether consideration should not be given to recognising that the basic structure, the basic difference between commissioned officers and other ranks represents a major difference which no longer exists in civilian employment. While we are able to compete in terms of commissioned officers precisely because the commissioned officer rank, even that of lieutenant, offers, in terms of standards, something far in excess of anything a person can get in a comparable job in any sphere in civilian life, the attraction for other ranks is so much less.
So long as there is this big difference it will continue to be impossible to attract people to the lower ranks which it is essential to fill in order to make the Service work.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I wish to press the point made by the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris). Can the Minister tell us what action he has taken to discover the opinion of ordinary soldiers about the pay reductions? What consultation has the Minister had with soldiers in Scotland? Has he had consultations in Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Aberdeen? I cannot understand the Minister of Defence making a statement without having taken the opinion of a cross-section of Scottish soldiers. I cannot see the kilted soldier in Aberdeen agreeing to a pay reduction unless the whole character and thinking of men in Aberdeen has completely changed.
I should like the Minister to give some facts, to tell us how the Minister of Defence came to make what would seem to be a very remarkable statement 1593 recently. I am quite sure that this statement will be read with very great surprise by people in Scotland. The recruiting figures in Ayrshire—so I am told by the Secretary of State for War—have gone up to about 13 a month. But if potential recruits get the idea that pay expectations are not coming up to what was promised, perhaps the figure will go down from 13 to 6.
When the Minister of Defence made his statement in the House I interrupted him—other hon. Members interrupted him as well—to ask about the trade unions. The Minister puffed out his chest grandiloquently as he stood at the Dispatch Box, and said, "I am the trade union leader for the forces." How does a trade union leader get in touch with the rank and file? What happens when a soldier who has read the statement wishes to say, "That is not exactly the opinion of the men in our battalion"? If soldiers protested to the commanding officer, what reply would they get? Would they be told, "You cannot pursue this, because if you do, you are likely to cause discontent in the forces"?
Unless the Minister has any definite evidence to back up (he categorical pronouncement which he made from the Dispatch Box, I think that the hon. Member for Aberavon is justified in asking what are the facts. What is the machinery? How is opinion consulted in the rank and file of the Army? I should like to know especially what were the reactions and replies of soldiers in Aberdeen who were consulted about this pay pause.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I want to make a suggestion to help the Minister out of the difficulty in which he is placed on this question of the alleged acceptance by the forces of the pay pause. The Minister's statement was most ill-advised. If the tale is spread abroad that the pay pause is accepted by the forces, it is almost an invitation to mutiny.
What about the next time? The members of the forces will have to make their feelings much more apparent. The Minister would have been much more candid and effective had he said that the members of the forces recognise that a particularly "lousy" trick has been 1594 played on them, but that as a particularly "lousy" trick has also been played on the rest of the population they are prepared to put up with it. That would have been a more accurate description of the state of affairs.
My suggestion for helping the Minister out of his difficulty is this. We can test the feeling of the forces. Why not take a Gallup poll? We have had recent evidence that Gallup polls may be more accurate than many of us would wish. It would not be very expensive. I am sure that Mr. Durant could fix it up in a few days, and the Minister could report the forces' feelings to us even before the next by-election results are known. We could have that simple question put to the members of the forces, and find out how many of them actually like having their pocket picked—