HC Deb 30 May 1962 vol 660 cc1333-4
3 and 4. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) why the ratio of general officers or equivalent to total strength of the Army has risen from 1:2,887, to 1:1,586 in the last ten years; and what is his policy in this regard;

(2) why the officer/other rank ratio in the Army has risen from 1: 11. 8 to 1:7. 8 in the last ten years; and what is his policy in this regard.

Mr. Ramsden

My right hon. Friend's policy is that every officer post should be established and graded on the basis of responsibility, and they are all kept under review. The ratio has risen in the last ten years because of the ever-increasing power and complexity of weapons in relation to manpower, the runout of National Service men and extensive civilianisation. General officer appointments in particular are related to the commitments of the Army rather than its strength.

Mr. Digby

Is not this a very expensive policy? Are not we approaching the stage when we shall have to have a general officer for the equivalent of every battalion? Furthermore, is there not the danger of depreciating the prestige of general officers and also depreciating the prestige of officers and of noncommissioned officers and warrant officers, who have played such a big part in the Army in the past?

Mr. Ramsden

No Sir; I do not think so. There are many officer appointments— for example, on the staff— which have no direct relationship to other rank strength. There is the point about civilianisation which I have already mentioned. There are officers seconded to Commonwealth forces and there are attachments to N.A.T.O. and, of course, postings to the Territorial Army. This is all bound to work in the direction which I have tried to explain to my hon. Friend.

Sir G. Nicholson

Is not this increase in the ratio of general officers an undesirable form of inflation? It is happening throughout every form of life, including every diplomatic mission and embassy. Ought not a stop to be put to it? Surely, it has its dangers.

Mr. Ramsden

These posts are filled by general officers only when the responsibility which they discharge warrants an appointment of that kind. There is machinery in the War Office for reviewing establishments quite independent of the military, and this is continuously in operation.