HC Deb 15 March 1965 vol 708 cc965-85

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £166,400,000, 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 1966.

7.44 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

The Navy has had a good run for its money today. We envy the Navy the amount of time it has been able to deploy. We envy the Navy in at least one other respect, because I imagine that the Under-Secretary will have listened with mixed feelings to the Minister of Defence for the Navy announcing the other day the introduction of the assisted house purchase scheme for various categories of naval ratings. The hon. Gentleman must have realised that, so long as the Navy has this scheme, the Army will very much want it, too. I appreciate that he manpower problems of the Army are not so urgent as those of the Navy. I appreciate that the enlistment terms of the Navy are quite different from those of the Army. I appreciate that the Army's housing problem is also somewhat different.

The fact of the matter is, however, that housing is a major problem for Army families and a major factor in Army recruiting. The Army is short of some of the senior technicians of the type who would benefit from this scheme. in the Estimates debate last Monday the Deputy Secretary of State for Defence and Minister of Defence for the Army listed some of these categories. I therefore hope that the Under-Secretary will appreciate that the introduction of the house purchase scheme for the Navy, and particularly for the Civil Service, will naturally arouse some flicker of envy in military hearts. Are any discussions under way with the Treasury for the introduction of a similar scheme in the Army?

Even more important for recruitment into the Army is the question of the basic rate of pay. Ministers have conceded that the present system of regular biennial reviews has worked pretty well. Can the Under-Secretary assure the Committee that this system of biennial reviews will continue?

I note that it is estimated that the pay of the Gurkhas will be reduced by almost 10 per cent. this year, although the number of Gurkhas is to be slightly increased. No doubt there is some technical reason for this, perhaps a change in the age structure of the Gurkha Brigade. During my recent visit to Malaysia it seemed to me that some of the commanders there were showing a slight tendency towards overworking the Gurkhas. This is no doubt entirely due to the excellent military qualities of these troops. There is a tendency to think that they can go anywhere, that they can carry anything, and that they can fight for just as long as anyone at headquarters wants them to. I think that this tendency to overwork Gurkhas will continue as long as their military qualities continue. It looks as though it will be for ever. It would be a grave mistake to combine overworking the Gurkhas with under-paying them.

I note also that there has been a sharp fall in the amount of money required from other Governments for personnel lent to armies overseas. Does this mean that we are charging other countries, notably Commonwealth countries, less for the services of these officers and men and maintaining the number of seconded personnel, or has there been a sharp cut back in the number of personnel who are going out on these missions, because the amount recovered under Appropriations in Aid is going down by one-third this year? I hope that the answer is that we are charging less for these Service men rather than cutting the numbers, because, after all, the Deputy Secretary of State for Defence himself, in the debate last Monday, paid very great tribute to the contribution that these seconded officers and men made to international stability.

7.50 p.m.

Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)

I wish to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army one or two questions, first, on the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) about the Gurkhas. Can he explain why the pay for the Gurkhas has dropped by a small amount? Does this mean that the actual number of Gurkhas has decreased? His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 15th February said: …the present Government have decided to stop playing about…and will leave the target at 15,000 men."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February 1965; Vol. 706, c. 830.] I should like to know whether that is a reduction in numbers, whether this target will remain as such, and whether he can explain the contradiction when his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Army said on 22nd February that 15,000 Gurkhas would remain as long as our present commitment to Malaysia continued. Is it the Government's policy that we shall continue to have 15,000 Gurkhas as long as the difficulties exist in Malaysia? Can he say whether the Government intend to reduce the Gurkhas once the Malaysian commitment ceases or once there is a working relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia?

If the Under-Secretary can answer those questions, it will lead to greater certainty. But it still does not explain how the sum has dropped from £2,190,000 to £1,980,000 in respect of pay. Can the hon. Gentleman also tell me how much is paid to Gurkha officers when they retire? I am referring to commissioned Gurkha officers who have served in the last war and since, and the various other ranks who are entitled to pensions. Is this payment continuing and how much is it? Can the hon. Gentleman assure me that the pensioners are really getting the money due to them?

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Samuel Storey)

Order. Pensions do not arise on this Vote.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I understand, Sir Samuel. I was hoping that as this Vote affects recruitment, the actual amount of pay was also relevant. However, I bow to your Ruling.

I move on to ask the hon. Gentleman whether there is any scheme to give extra pay to serving soldiers in the Gurkha battalions who go on leave to Nepal to bring in extra recruits, because this must be included in the £1,980,000 which is the amount of the Vote which we are discussing. Part of this amount must represent pay to the recruiters, if I may call them that, who go on leave to Nepal, I think once in three years, and who are asked to bring back new recruits to the battalions. Can the hon. Gentleman give any assurance to these troops, with whom I had the honour to serve, that this figure will remain for a considerable time?

The uncertainty created is likely to be damaging to the morale of the Gurkha brigade, which is fulfilling an extremely onerous rôle. If one overworks these soldiers, good as they are, they are inclined to become stale and in time will become a wasting asset. I hope that the Under-Secretary realises that although the Gurkha always wants to serve Her Majesty the Queen to the utmost, there comes a limit beyond which one cannot go.

Can I also be told whether there is any new arrangement or agreement with the Government of Nepal as to where these soldiers shall serve? If they serve west of Suez, will they receive pay at a level comparable to that of their British counterparts? Can the hon. Gentleman say whether he has in mind any plans to bring a battalion to this country or, perhaps, to serve in the strategic reserve?

Moving from the question of the Gurkhas, which is of considerable importance, to a matter which is not quite so important, I wish to refer to the strength of the Gibraltar Regiment. I notice that the Department is paid contributions by certain Colonies. A contribution is paid by the Colony of Gibraltar, presumably towards the upkeep of the Gibraltar Regiment. May I be told what its strength is and whether there are any plans for increasing the Gibraltar Regiment? Following the Government's recent attitude and their mistakes in that theatre, I think it would be a good thing to increase the Gibraltar Regiment and I am sure the hon. Gentleman would find willing volunteers. Perhaps the Barbary apes are included in this item. [Interruption.] I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) wishes to intervene.

Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)


Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I am sure that my right hon. Friend has rather more knowledge than I of these matters.

7.57 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

We are being called upon to sanction a large sum of money. While most countries have reduced their Army estimates, we have increased ours. We have heard that America and the U.S.S.R., the two great Powers of the world, have reduced their Army expenditure. I notice, too, in The Guardian that France is now spending less on her army than in any year since 1926, and even Germany has cut her defence costs. Yet our military expenditure bill continues to grow.

I understand the situation this year. We must keep the present number of soldiers in our Army and we must maintain the present expenditure because there is to be a large-scale review of all our commitments, and next year we may find that the Estimates will be cut. I hope that is so. I hope that next year the same Government will be in power and that my hon. Friend will be able to come to the Dispatch Box and say, "We have reduced our expenditure on the Army and this Vote is down by at Least £100 million." I hope I am not too optimistic, but if we do that we shall only be doing next year what the other Powers that I have mentioned have already succeeded in doing.

I quite understand that we have a large number of overseas commitments which cannot be done away with overnight, but I should welcome some definite and positive sign or statement that this Army expenditure and the number of men in this Vote would be reduced. At present everybody is thinking of Germany and there are considerable diplomatic discussions between the Prime Minister and Dr. Erhard about the possibility of expenditure in Germany being reduced. This Vote contains a considerable sum for Germany. I am certain that the time has come when if a public opinion poll were carried out on the desirability of continuing or maintaining a substantial Army of about 50,000 men in Germany that poll would show that the country is now ready to reconsider the whole position. I hope that the Prime Minister will not be bullied or browbeaten in any way by either Dr. Erhard or, more important—

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

On a point of order. How can the question whether Dr. Erhard is bullying or not be in order on this Vote?

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

I will confine myself to asking the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) to keep in order.

Mr. Hughes

Dr. Erhard, of course, is not in the Vote, but his policy is. His policy is reflected in the fact that we have 50,000 men in Germany. I will not mention him again, but these Estimates call for a substantial number of men and the time has come when the people of the country would welcome any announcement by the Government that the number was to be reduced by 10,000, 20,000 or 30,000 or even 50,000. Indeed a popular daily paper with a considerable circulation, which frequently reflects the opinion of people of this country, a paper with which I do not often agree, the Daily Express, has for years now been carrying out a campaign to bring the soldiers home. I believe that public opinion is ripe for this and I hope that the Government will not hesitate to cut these commitments, realising that the danger of an attack from the Russians on the Western Front is over. Indeed, Lord Montgomery, who is perhaps our greatest authority on military operations in Western Europe, has said many years ago now that these commitments should be cut and has said that N.A.T.O. will become a racket. I believe, therefore, that if the policy which I have referred to were adopted and these 50,000 men were brought home—

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

On a point of order. I fail to understand how it can be in order to mention these matters when the Vote deals with pay as such, regardless of where the troops are, whether Germany, Malaysia or even Timbuctoo. I do not see how the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) can develop his present argument on this Vote.

The Temporary Chairman

I wish that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire would confine himself to pay and not to the numbers of troops.

Mr. Hughes

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Mallalieu, but I cannot dissect pay from numbers. As the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) has himself been talking about Gurkhas for a considerable time I cannot see why I cannot talk about British soldiers in just the same way as he has been talking about the Gurkhas. I think that this perplexity must have occurred to you, Mr. Mallalieu, and was in your mind when the hon. Member for Cornwall, North drew your attention to the matter.

If I have to put my argument in terms of £ s. d., I can do so. It is that the money that is being spent on the pay of the Army of the Rhine could be reduced if the soldiers were brought home. I assume that if the 50,000 men in the Army were brought home and returned to civil industry they would no longer be on the Army Estimates. I am glad to notice that apparently the hon. Member for Cornwall, North is nodding his head in acquiescence.

We should turn our attention to helpful and constructive suggestions on how we could reduce this considerable sum in the Vote. I have submitted to the Committee one practical suggestion, whereas the hon. Member for Cornwall, North brought forward a suggestion which would increase the cost of the British Army, because he wants more Gurkhas recruited. I have never been able to find justification for the country needing Gurkhas at all. After all, they are mercenary soldiers and I do not think that there can be any great argument for employing mecenaries in any part of the world.

There are other places where this expenditure is incurred and other hon. Members have spoken about Malaysia. I know the difficulties experienced by my hon. and right hon. Friends when we ask Questions about Malaysia in the House. The argument is that we must be prepared to spend this money because we have a military commitment in Malaysia due to a commitment entered into by the previous Government to go to the assistance of Malaysia. The time has come when we should consider to what extent we can afford to give help to other countries. The new slogan now appears to be "East of Suez". Why cannot Malaysia defend herself? Surely if a nation values her independence she should not need to get other people to defend it.

Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)

Will my hon. Friend explain to the Committee whether or not he is differentiating between other countries of the Commonwealth and Malaysia?

Mr. Hughes

Perhaps my hon. Friend will let me develop my argument. I fail to see why we should give the people of Malaysia the idea that this country can be perpetually sending military help, because small countries in other parts of the world have been able to fight and maintain their independence without any aid from a nation in another hemisphere. I refer to the Irish. They are a small nation—

Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)

On a point of order. I thought that we were here to discuss the Army Votes, and many of us wish to take part in the debate. Is it in order to start discussing Ireland? The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) seems to be ranging all over the world.

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) knows that I am watching this matter carefully. He had better leave it to me.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Further to that point of order, Mr. Mallalieu. It seems rather strange that we should be discussing whether troops should go to help in Malaysia, Timbuctoo, Red China or anywhere else. I cannot see how the hon. Gentleman relates this to the actual Vote for the money spent.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. G. W. Reynolds)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Mallalieu. I have two questions to answer from the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) concerning various parts of the world in which Gurkhas might or might not be situated.

Mr. Hughes

I do not find the hon. Member for Cornwall, North very helpful. He talked about sending troops to Timbuctoo or to Red China. If we are to do anything like that, I shudder to think what the Army Estimates may be in another five years.

I was examining the commitment of money and men in which we are involved in Malaysia. I have put Questions to the Minister asking what was the annual expenditure in giving assistance to Malaysia, and the sum stated in reply was £50 million, of which a considerable amount is borne on this Vote. It works out at about £1 million a week. I should like the review of military expenditure which is to be carried out, and on which great hopes were set this weekend by the Minister who represents the Admiralty, to include an examination of how we can get rid of this expensive commitment in Malaysia.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to keep more closely to pay. He is continually sliding off, if I may so put it, into a discussion of whether the troops should exist, not whether such sums as are mentioned in the Estimates should be paid to existing troops.

Mr. Hughes

My argument is that the sums in the Estimate would be considerably reduced if we ceased or reduced our commitments in Malaysia. I do not wish to pursue the matter further, but the sum next year might be even bigger still. It might continue to grow. Guerrilla warfare is a very expensive form of warfare when a country like ours is committed to carrying on military operations over a large area of jungle. There might have to be a very large army there, and it could be—

The Temporary Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is persisting in discussing the question whether these troops should or should not exist. We are discussing the pay for the troops which do exist, and I must ask the hon. Gentleman to keep to that.

Mr. Hughes

I suggest that the numbers would be reduced if the pay were reduced. We cannot consider these Estimates without coming to the conclusion that men in uniform operate somewhere. I find it very difficult to think of Army Estimates with no soldiers but only ciphers, and as this Vote is a Vote of money for the expenses of the Army, I thought that I was justified in arguing in that way. However, I pass from Malaysia.

It has been argued that we must be ready to maintain an Army and incur military expenditure to go to the assistance of India. I dissent entirely with this view. We cannot keep a standing Army, at the expense set out here, on the assumption that it has to be trained and equipped in order to be sent on some occasion to India. I point out to the hon. Member for Cornwall, North, who may conceivably have some influence on the committee which is to review this matter, that India successfully rid herself of the invader by entirely different methods without having an army. The idea that India's independence can be maintained only by our having an Army, the Estimate for which is set out here, is a delusion.

We have to consider whether we can bear this expenditure in view of the fact that our competitors in other countries do not have such large commitments overseas. Take Sweden, for example. I refer to Sweden only because she has no overseas commitments and does not have to spend such a large part of her income on Army Estimates. When I go about the world, I discover that Norway, Holland, Germany, and many of the leading countries of the world whose economic position is better than ours, do not have these considerable commitments overseas. I want this expenditure reduced.

I give one more illustration. France is a military nation with a great historic military tradition, but France has not these large military Estimates which are a burden on our economic life. She has cut her commitments in Algeria. The result is that France is now able successfully to compete with this country. Indeed, I am not sure whether we are not actually borrowing money from France and from Germany today in order to meet the bill for our Army Estimates.

Although I may have been on the border line in discussing foreign policy and defence on the Army Estimates, I have suggested to the Minister certain means by which these substantial commitments which we are asked to accept tonight could be reduced. I hope that my words will not have fallen on deaf ears but that the Minister will be able to communicate some of these stray ideas to the people who are to review our military expenditure. I look forward to his saying triumphantly next year, "I have appeased the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. We have cut our expenditure in Germany and in the Far East, and the Estimates are now down. The country is relieved of a big burden, and the money which would have been spent on the Army Estimates will be spent on housing, hospitals and the other things which we need more".

8.18 p.m.

Mr. Allason

My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) drew attention to the strange difference between the Answers given by the Secretary of State for Defence on 15th February and by the Deputy Secretary of State on 22nd February, in reply to a Question which I put down. I wish that my hon. Friend had been here at this time a week ago, when I drew attention to the anomaly and pointed out also that the number of Gurkhas was not likely to exceed 14,000 rather than the 15,000 mentioned in the Secretary of State's answer on 15th February.

I asked what the strength of the Gurkhas for the coming year was forecast to be. I hope that, even if the Minister is not prepared substantially to increase recruiting of Gurkhas so that the target strength of 15,000 can be approached, he will at least, for next year and the year after, propose an increase in the Estimates in order to allow the Secretary of State's pledge to be met. This will not please the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), but I cannot go along with him in his proposal that the pay of the Army should be reduced and that there should be a 60 per cent. Cut—if my arithmetic is right—in the Vote now under discussion.

The local overseas allowance also comes under this Vote. I should be very grateful if the Minister could tell us a little about the allowance position in Berlin and Libya, two places where considerable trouble has arisen over the allowance in the past. The reason is given on page 107 of the Estimates, where, in the definition of "local overseas allowance", it is stated: This allowance is paid at varying rates in aid of the extra expense to which officers and soldiers are subject at certain stations abroad. There will be hollow laughter when those words are read at certain stations, because it is well known that the allowance does not meet the appalling extra expense which occurs in such places as Libya, where the cost of living shoots up almost overnight. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell me how it comes about that the overseas allowances for officers are to be substantially less in the coming year, whereas those for other ranks are to be substantially more.

I should also like to know why there is discrimination against officers taking part in Arctic or tropical experiments. It is shown on page 105 that, for some obscure reason, while there is an allowance for other ranks taking part in these experiments, there is no allowance for officers. It seems a little unfair.

8.21 p.m.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I wish to relate my remarks particularly to troops in Germany and Cyprus.

We know that the troops in B.A.O.R. are certainly not overpaid for what they are doing, and we also know that there is to be a very important Royal visit in two months' time, which I am certain will please not only our troops but the people of Berlin and Western Germany. Can the Under-Secretary tell us what it is intended to lay on for Her Majesty? I hope that what I am saying is sufficiently related to the justification for paying our troops. I hope that I am allowed—I think that in part years we have been allowed—to discuss how the troops we are being called upon to pay, and pay willingly so far as I am concerned, will be employed.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

On a point of order. Following the precedent which you laid down during my remarks, is this discussion of the Queen's visit to Germany in order?

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will recall that a large amount of latitude was given to him, and I am not giving a small amount of latitude in this case.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I am grateful for your Ruling, Mr. Mallalieu. I am not in any way criticising the number of troops, or their being in Germany. What I am discussing is what they do when they are there. The Royal visit will be almost unique in our history. When a Head of State visits another Head of State, it is unusual for that Head of State to visit his or her own troops on the way.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Mallalieu. Can you direct me to any item in the Estimates containing the expenses of Her Majesty's visit?

The Chairman

I cannot, and that is why I am allowing only a passing reference to the subject.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

What I am asking here is quite simple, whether the work that will be done by British troops during that visit will be the sort of work that ought to be done. I feel that some of those who are rather anxious to show off the full glory of spit and polish may take the opportunity to do so. I believe that what ought to be shown to Her Majesty is that B.A.O.R. is in a continual operating rôle patrolling the frontier of the Iron Curtain. I would hope to see Her Majesty given the fullest opportunity of seeing this rather than everybody dressed up in blue patrols and No. 1 dress in the turrets of tanks.

It is much more important that Her Majesty should see the British troops on the Rhine doing the job they are there to do, though perhaps in Berlin we may have to provide a no less impressive display than would be given to any other Head of State visiting and inspecting his or her troops.

We are told in the White Paper that in Cyprus today there is one infantry battalion and altogether 1,000 men as part of the United Nations peace-keeping force in Cyprus. I should like the Under-Secretary to tell us to what extent we are entirely covering the cost of those men as part of that force. To what extent is the cost of the force pooled? Is there an additional expense to us, or a smaller expense? The total figure in the Vote is £166,400,000. Does that include all the expenses relating to the pay of our contribution to the United Nations force in Cyprus?

I should also like to know to what extent a man who feels, for example, the same way as I do about the United Nations, can opt out of serving in a United Nations force because that is not what he was recruited for? He was recruited to serve Her Majesty, and the terms of service that he undertook were not to the United Nations. I should very much like to know whether when a man signs on he is expected in any way to commit himself for the future at any time to serve in a United Nations force. My feeling is that if I were called upon to do it I would never do so, but others may not share my views. I regard the record of the United Nations in the history of the world as appalling, but I realise that my view is not wholly shared throughout the world.

Nevertheless, I think that I am entitled to ask to what extent the pay which we give to our troops is in any way, or some of it, going to the United Nations as an organisation. I want to make sure that the Vote goes solely to the British Army and that it gets the full benefit of it. As far as I am concerned, we never have yet paid—we probably never shall do so—our troops what they really deserve. The Army has always been a bad employer, always having tried to get more work out of people for less money. We all know that it is the Treasury which puts pressure on to make it do that.

The tradition of the Treasury towards the Armed Forces has been deplorable all down the ages. There has at least been some improvement, thanks to the Grigg Committee's Report. There is now a regular improvement as the cost of living rises. Nevertheless, my experience of the Army has always been that if it can get someone to accept an acting temporary or lance rank, and do the job of the next rank up, it will always do so without increasing the pay in the course of doing it. Few other professions would stand for it. The fact that the Army has stood for it for so long and does such an excellent job is to its immortal credit.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Reynolds

I will endeavour to deal with some of the number of questions which have been asked. Most of them were about the Gurkhas rather than about our own United Kingdom soldiers. As to the Gurkha Brigade strength, I have nothing to add to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Secretary of State for Defence to the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) on 22nd February. My right hon. Friend pointed out that it was planned to recruit 900 men and 100 boys into the Gurkhas during 1965. That is what we intend to do. That is all that the training and recruiting organisation at present existing in Nepal, India and Malaysia can cope with. The addition of 1,000 will cover the numbers that we have in mind for the Gurkha Brigade.

There are at present 14,400 men in the Gurkha Brigade. The hon. Member will realise that the numbers vary considerably throughout the year, because recruiting takes place at one period of the year and men who have terminated their service fly back to Nepal on two occasions during the year. Thus the numbers tend to fluctuate to a certain extent. The 900 men and 100 boys whom it is intended to recruit in the coming 12 months, and who are all that the training organisation can cope with, will ensure that there is little variation in numbers during the next 12 months.

Mr. Allason

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that he is speaking about a six-month training period and that if it could be duplicated it would be possible to take in twice as many men during the 12 months?

Mr. Reynolds

It is a six-month training period. The Gurkhas come down in the autumn and join the battalion, having carried out their training, in the late spring. The training takes six months. As the hon. Member knows, the approximately 1,000 men whom the Estimates Committee, in last year's Report, pointed out were engaged on recruiting have a lot of other work to do also. Taking that work into account, together with the recruiting and training facilities, we are convinced that the number we propose to take—900 men and 100 boys—is the number that the recruiting organisation can properly and adequately deal with.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Is the hon. Gentleman talking about the recruiting team in Nepal? If so, what other work have they to do? As to the 1,000 men, they will come down after the monsoon, which is when they are recruited, and, presumably, they will be flown into Malaysia and do a six-month training course. There is no reason why there should not be two six-month periods of training during the year and, therefore, an additional 1,000 recruits. Why not do this?

Mr. Reynolds

It is quite possible to train more people if one is prepared to provide additional facilities and men. The hon. Member is well aware that of the staff of 1,000 who are involved in the recruitment of Gurkhas, a number are in Nepal and a number are elsewhere along the pipeline along which the Gurkhas come. They are engaged in the payment of pensions, for example, and we have a hospital there. I explained in an earlier debate that a number of the 1,000 are concerned in doing the type of work which in this country would be done by a local authority, such as the disposal of refuse and work of that nature.

The work is spread over the year. The number who can be properly recruited and trained is the number given in answer to the Question by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead on 22nd February of 900 men and 100 boys. That is the position. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) can sit there and mutter that it is not true, but it happens to be true at the moment. We can deal with 1,000 a year.

The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) referred to the overworked Gurkha forces. We are all fully aware of the ability, courage and general military bearing of the Gurkha soldiers. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Secretary of State met a number of Gurkhas when he was in Malaysia, shortly before the hon. Member for Beckenham. I can only rely on what my right hon. Friend reported to me at that stage: that whether they were overworked or not, the Gurkhas seemed to be in exceedingly high spirits.

If Gurkhas serve in Europe or elsewhere outside the Far East, the question arises of their rate of pay. When they serve in Europe or elsewhere outside the Far East they are given special rates, which are rather less than a British soldier gets but are much more closely related to the rate of pay for the British soldier. During the current financial year, there were plans to have some Gurkha troops in this country, but they were required in the Far East. Because, however, of the higher rate of pay which they received in this country, provision was made in the current year's Estimate to cover that higher rate of pay. There are no plans in the coming financial year for Gurkha soldiers to be stationed in the United Kingdom. Therefore, a higher rate of pay does not have to be met. That is the sole reason for the £200,000 reduction in the Estimate during the coming financial year as compared with the current year, because the higher rate for Gurkha soldiers in the United Kingdom will not have to be met during that period.

The Gurkha troops are at the moment fully engaged in the Far East, and I do riot think that I can add to what my right hon. Friend said—that as long as our present commitment in support of Malaysia remains substantially unchanged we have no intention of altering the Gurkha Brigade. The hon. Gentleman may not be completely satisfied with that answer, but, nevertheless, he may be more satisfied with that than with the attitude which the previous Administration took with the Gurkha Brigade, for they reduced its numbers.

The hon. Member for Beckenham referred, I think, to quantity surveyors. [Interruption.] He did not mention them? I am sorry. I have a note to reply to that point. He made a cross-reference to the recently introduced housing allowances for naval ratings. We are well aware of this, but there is no similar scheme at present contemplated for the Army. We have in the Army an arrangernent whereby, in conjunction with certain building societies, serving soldiers can have deductions made from their pay to put money on one side to buy houses for themselves when they are serving or when they leave the Army. But the main factor here is that the Army has accepted responsibility for many years for endeavouring to provide housing accommodation for serving soldiers and their families. The Navy has only comparatively recently, I think, adopted its scheme. We have a large number of married quarters, and we have not exactly the same problem, but this is something we are watching, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall continue to watch this.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cornwall, North referred to the Gibraltar Regiment. No particular change is envisaged here. There is a small cadre of British officers there to assist in training the Gibraltar Regiment, but at present there is no proposal in mind to decrease or to increase or make any other change in the situation which has been in operation for some considerable time.

I was rather surprised that the hon. Gentleman should even have raised the question of pay, and I can certainly give an undertaking straightaway that the biennial review, which came into operation some four or five years ago, will continue in the normal way. The actual work of doing the calculations will be starting very soon, if it has not already started. But for a member of the previous Administration, which, having carried out a biennial review, decided to give only half of it last time, decided to give one half in one year and make the soldiers wait another year for the other half, to have raised the matter at all was, I think, a little unfortunate. I certainly give the undertaking that the biennial review remains exactly the same, and, as I said, the work, if it has not already started, will be starting very soon.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) repeated a number of the points he made in his speech the other day on the Army Estimates. I assume that he reiterated them to give added strength to them. Unfortunately, he informed me in the debate on Vote A that he would not be available at the end of the debate, and so I did not reply to him on that occasion. I am not sure whether he expects me to reply now on this occasion. I was rather horrified to hear him refer at one stage to the fact that the French had managed to reduce their defence costs, and I was rather astonished and wondering whether he was stating that we should pay our Regular professional Army which we have now the sort of pay which the French conscript soldiers get. The pay of the French conscript soldier is exceedingly low, and we have now a professional all-Regular Army.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I was not referring to that at all. What I was arguing was that if we followed the French in reducing our commitments, as they have done in Algeria, we should not require such large forces.

Mr. Reynolds

At one stage my hon. Friend did in fact say that the French had still substantial forces and very much more cheaply than we. I am pointing out that now we are dealing with pay and that one of the reasons for the difference in cost is that the French conscript soldiers have less pay than our soldiers in the Regular Army which we have at the moment.

The reduction in appropriations in aid for seconded personnel from the Army was raised again by the hon. Members for Cornwall, North, and Beckenham. There has been a reduction in the number of officers and other ranks seconded to assist in the training of other armies, particularly in the number of men seconded to the independent Commonwealth countries in Africa. At the same time, however, the current year's Estimate is slightly inflated because there is a contribution to include there towards the cost of services provided in Brunei. The figure includes arrears payments as well as the current year's Estimates. Thus, if there is a reduction in the number of men, there is also an arrears payment included in the current year's Estimates which makes it look rather greater than is really the case.

Overseas allowances are kept continually under review to try to make sure that they are fair. I know that there are always complaints about them. Reference was made to Libya and to Berlin, but one can go to other stations as well and hear grumbles about the rate of overseas allowances. What has to be looked at is the fact that some of the things available for normal purchase are very often different in terms of price from those obtained in the United Kingdom. Some of the things are considerably cheaper overseas than they are here. All too often one is quoted things where the prices are higher than United Kingdom prices, but too often one is not told the price of such things as spirits and cigarettes, which are cheaper. One has to look across the field and try to keep the position up to date.

Mr. Allason

The Treasury always takes into account the price of cigarettes and spirits. This is not much satisfaction to a wife with small children who do not drink or smoke.

Mr. Reynolds

The cost of living index, the retail price index, and everything else would be destroyed completely if one were to relate them directly to the spending habits of every individual. It is possible to work an index only on an average, as is done here for the retail price index. This is something which we consider all the time. I cannot at this stage give the hon. Gentleman details as to why officers' payments are down and other ranks' payments are up. This question is related to the number of people in different stations, and the rate of actual allowances paid at that time.

I was asked questions about the United Nations force in Cyprus. As I announced during the debate on Monday, the extra cost to the United Kingdom of the Cyprus operation has so far amounted to £2 million, but this extra marginal cost does not include the pay and clothing of the soldiers involved. The Vote that we are discussing includes the net cost of paying British soldiers actually in the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus. The £2 million additional cost excludes pay and clothing and getting them to Cyprus and keeping them operational there. The cost of our logistic support from the Cyprus base to the United Nations force amounts to about £2 million, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that arrangements are made to make sure that we get reimbursed for that. The cost of paying and clothing our own officers and men is borne on the Vote. It has to be paid anyway, whether they are in Northern Ireland, on Salisbury Plain, in Germany, or in Cyprus. We do not claim any reimbursement in any shape or form, but the £2 million additional cost we get back in one way or another.

I think that that answers the points raised during the debate, and I hope that the Committee will accept the Vote.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I am grateful for the information given by the hon. Gentleman about Cyprus, but can he say anything about the B.A.O.R.? Can he answer nothing that I put to him on that subject?

Mr. Reynolds

Various military units are making arrangements to give a proper reception to Her Majesty the Queen when she visits Germany and Berlin. I cannot go into detail, because I have no information available, but if the hon. Gentleman would like me to do so, I shall endeavour to obtain it and send him details of the arrangements being made by the Army in Germany for the visit of Her Majesty the Queen. I know that arrangements are being made.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I am grateful to the Minister, but can he give an assurance that full opportunity will be taken to show B.A.O.R. in its operational rôle, with a minimum of ceremonial, outside Berlin?

Mr. Reynolds

I have no doubt that during this visit the Army will want to show itself in its normal operating rôle, but it must be remembered that this visit of Her Majesty will, at the same time, provide considerable enjoyment for spectators—both British families and German civilians—and there is bound to be a certain amount of parade work that one would not normally expect to be carried out were it not for the fact that a visit of this nature was going on.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £166,400,000, 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, 1966.