HC Deb 15 February 1965 vol 706 cc830-1
21. Mr. Kershaw

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he has for increasing the manpower of the Army in view of the threats from Indonesia against Malaysia.

Mr. Healey

Recruiting is going well and I hope to see the Army's strength reach its planned target during 1965.

Mr. Kershaw

While welcoming that—and since it was due to the wise measures of the previous Administration—may I ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he does reach a planned target, whether he will raise the target to a new level? Will he, secondly, say what are his proposals about the recruiting of more Gurkhas?

Mr. Healey

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should have asked the second part of his supplementary question after having introduced it with the first, because, as he must be aware, the previous Government decided to reduce the ceiling for Gurkha recruiting and were compelled to revise the ceiling upwards again in the light of the emergency which we faced in Indonesia. On the question of Gurkha recruiting, I am glad to say that the present Government have decided to stop playing about with this issue and leave the target at 15,000 men. On the question of whether we would revise the target upwards, I see no ground for doing so as a permanent feature, but since there may be a temporary bulge in recruiting this year we will be allowed temporarily to recruit over the existing target.

Mr. Thorneycroft

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for agreeing with the decision of the previous Government on Gurkhas, but in the most offensive terms possible, does his previous answer mean that the Government have altogether abandoned the arguments of Lord Chalfont, when he used to argue for selective military service, and has he adopted the Conservative argument that a Regular, volunteer professional Army is best?

Mr. Healey

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the view of this party has always been that we ought to recruit our men by voluntary recruiting. I only regret that the then Prime Minister, during the last General Election campaign, refused to give a firm commitment on television that that was the firm view of the Conservative Party.

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