HC Deb 18 December 1968 vol 775 cc1374-5
28. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the shortage of recruits for the Corps of Royal Marines; and to what factors he attributes it.

Dr. David Owen

It is estimated that the shortage of recruits for the Royal Marines will be in the order of 170 in the current recruiting year. The shortfall can be attributed to the same causes affecting recruiting for the other Services, which were discussed during the debate on Monday.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Are not those causes the Government's dangerous and dispiriting retrenchments? Despite that, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the Royal Marines offer an increasingly important career to some of the best of our youth?

Dr. Owen

I would certainly agree with the last part of that question. I believe that the high standards of the Royal Marines are justly famous and an attraction for recruitment. On the other part, of course, I do not agree. It is high time that hon. Members on both sides supported the development of a bipartisan approach to improving recruitment.

Mr. Ramsden

Will the Government recognise that the deficiency in recruiting to the Royal Marines, as well as to other Services, is primarily due to the fact that Service pay is now lagging about 10 per cent. behind comparable civilian rates? Will the Government do something about this situation soon and not leave it to some indefinite time next year, since, if they do, recruitment will continue to deteriorate?

Dr. Owen

We are constantly considering measures to increase the competitive pull of the Service. The House will know that the Government have asked the Prices and Incomes Board to complete its review on Forces pay within a year.