HC Deb 01 May 1968 vol 763 cc1081-5
5. Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the setting aside of the Grigg pay review procedure is a temporary or a permanent feature.

The Minister of Defence for Administration (Mr. G. W. Reynolds)

As the hon. Member is aware, Forces' pay has been made the subject of a standing reference to the National Board for Prices and Incomes. The Board can be expected to review Forces' pay not less frequently than under the former procedure.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Does the Minister realise that through innumerable changes and cuts the morale of our Defence Forces and the recruiting and re-engagement figures are all sadly down? Is it not therefore particularly deplorable that the Government should cheat the Forces of pay increases which they have had every two years in April since 1958?

Mr. Reynolds

There has been no decision made yet on the pay increase in April. There are Questions later on the Order Paper on that matter. The only cheating of which I know took place about six years ago.

Mr. Allason

Would the Minister consider improving the situation of officers' pay as that is related to what the Civil Service pay was two years ago, which in turn is related to pay in outside industry two years before that?

Mr. Reynolds

I am aware of the basis on which the large increase in officers' pay was fixed. I think that I am right in saying that there has been no decision on Civil Service pay since that date. But the Question asked what would happen in future, and I have said that there is a permanent reference to the Prices and Incomes Board, which will look at all these matters.

Mr. Maudling

On the question of procedure, does the permanent reference mean that in future any initiative for increases in Forces pay will come from the Prices and Incomes Board?

Mr. Reynolds

It could come from the Board or from the Government.

11. Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he intends to make a statement on Service pay and allowances.

16. Mr. Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what decision the Government have taken on pay and allowances for the Forces in 1968 to 1970.

26. Mr. Ramsden

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to be able to announce the results of the investigation by the National Board for Prices and Incomes into the pay and allowances of the Services.

58. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will give an assurance that he will implement in full the decisions and recommendations of the National Board for Prices and Incomes on its review of Service men's pay and allowances.

Mr. Reynolds

The National Board for Prices and Incomes is urgently considering the question of Service pay in the light of the criteria set out in the White Paper on Productivity, Prices and Incomes Policy in 1968 and 1969. Their report has not yet been received. Until this report has been considered by the Government, I am not in a position to make any further statement.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

But is not the Grigg formula, to which the Government are committed, dependent on a comparison with increases in Civil Service salaries and industrial wages? Why is there further delay in awarding Service pay in accordance with these past facts, which must be known to the Government?

Mr. Reynolds

There is delay because the matter has been referred to the Prices and Incomes Board for it to advise the Government. One has the figures on which one can do the necessary arithmetical calculations concerning soldiers, sailors and airmen. Concerning officers, there has been no Civil Service increase in pay during the two years under discussion.

Mr. Powell

Would the hon. Gentleman confirm that this is the first time for at least nine years that the Forces have been uncertain at this time of year as to their pay during the coming 12 months? Is he aware of the resentment which the Forces feel at the underhand manner in which the Grigg understanding between themselves and the Government has been abandoned?

Mr. Reynolds

The answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary Question is "Yes, Sir". On the second part, as I have said, the matter is still being considered by the Prices and Incomes Board. My officials will be giving further evidence to the Board during the current week, and I am sure that it will report as soon as it can. Stories which have appeared in the newspapers to the effect that the Board has submitted its report to the Government over the last two or three days are absolute moonshine.

Mr. Ramsden

Would the hon. Gentleman confirm that any determination which may be made will be backdated to 1st April? Would be further confirm that the award, whatever it is, will reflect, as has hitherto been the case and as was the basis of the Grigg formula, the movement in comparable civilian earnings, which were linked for that purpose to the award?

Mr. Reynolds

The right hon. Gentleman will realise that, as I am awaiting the Board's report, it is impossible for me to make any comment about what will be done with it until we know exactly what it recommends.

Mr. Maudling

Have the Government asked the Board to advise them whether or not to depart from the Grigg formula?

Mr. Reynolds

It was the Board which two years ago drew attention to the fact that it was not particularly happy with the Grigg formula.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does not the falling off in recruiting in recent weeks add very great urgency to the need for an early and favourable decision by the Government?

Mr. Reynolds

I am sure that pay is one of the many factors which could reflect adversely on recruiting. In that respect, I agree.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Does not the hon. Gentleman feel that it is the task of the Government to look after the well-being of the Defence Forces and not that of the Prices and Incomes Boad? It must be the Government's task to ensure that these people are properly and honourably rewarded.

Mr. Reynolds

I accept that my right hon. Friend and other Ministers in the Ministry of Defence wear two hats: one as the employer and one, in effect, as the trade union general secretary. It is the task of Government to do exactly what the hon. Gentleman has said, but it is equally the responsibility of the Government to await the advice to be tendered to them before taking a decision.