HC Deb 15 April 1964 vol 693 cc406-7
21. Sir J. Smyth

asked the Secretary State for Defence whether he will now announce measures to give a longer-term stability to Gurkha recruiting, both with regard to the policy of the recruitment of Gurkha ranks and of British officers for Gurkha regiments.

The Minister of Defence for the Army (Mr. James Ramsden)

No, Sir. I do not think it is necessary to go beyond the announcement by my right hon.. Friend the then Minister of Defence on 20th November, 1963.

Sir J. Smyth

Does my right hon.. Friend realise that I find that reply very unsatisfactory? I was informed only the other day that the main stumbling block to the regular supply of British officers for the Gurkha Brigade was uncertainty with regard to recruiting, and that must be the same to a certain extent with regard to other ranks.

Mr. Ramsden

The present position is that we are able to recruit all the Gurkhas that we need. The Brigade is at present receiving its normal allocation of British officers from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. I am sorry if there should be any uncertainty, but I think that the present position is clear. There will be no rundown for the time being. I think that it would be wrong to try to anticipate what might happening the light of changes which might be made a long way ahead in the future.

Sir J. Smyth

Would not my right hon.. Friend agree that if a cut in British Army recruiting was announced, and then was not rescinded but only temporarily postponed, it would not have a very good effect on British recruiting? Gurkha recruiting is exactly the same.

Mr. Healey

Is it not the case that India is recruiting twice as many Gurkhas as we are? Can the Minister assure the House that he has not closed his mind to the possibility of making longer-term arrangements than those he has announced to the House?

Mr. Ramsden

This decision, and the suspension of the decision, has not caused any recruiting problem. Certainly it would be open to us to take any decision such as the hon.. Gentleman has suggested might be necessary in the light of changed circumstances, but I think that it would be unwise to start giving undertakings or answering hypothetical questions when we do not know what the circumstances may be.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

That is not good enough. Not long ago we were being told that there should be more encouragement to recruit for the Gurkhas. A little later my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth), myself, and others, were being told that there was to be a rundown. Still later we were told that it was to be suspended and there was not to be a rundown. Does my right hon.. Friend realise that there is considerable competition for these troops, unfortunately not only from friends but from enemies as well, and that there is a great deal in the suggestion that some more permanent arrangement should be announced?

Mr. Ramsden

We do not expect any difficulty in recruiting all the Gurkhas we need. We aim to recruit 600 this year, including 50 boys.