HC Deb 21 July 1970 vol 804 cc254-86

4.7 p.m.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)

It is an honour to be called at the beginning of an important debate of this nature, particularly when one's speech is a maiden. I ask your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, and humbly ask that you be not too strict in calling me to heel or to order as may be required during the proceedings.

I entered upon this subject with some trepidation, but with only a little: with some trepidation because, strictly speaking, it does not concern my constituency of Bradford, but yet without too much humility because I was sent to this honourable House by the people of Bradford to speak up on their behalf on matters of national importance. In the House there are few matters of such national importance as the voting of funds.

It is noteworthy that in these Supplementary Estimates that for defence is by far the largest of the individual items. Therefore, I gladly participate in this debate. I also participate gladly because for many years I was a regular officer under the Crown and also because I have worked in the aircraft manufacturing industry which does so much to support the efficiency and operational capacity of our Armed Forces.

Before I proceed, I should like as a new and green Member to pay tribute to the late right hon. Member for Enfield, West. I do so speaking as a Yorkshireman, because shortly before his death Iain Macleod was bereaved of his mother who lived quite near my constituency of Bradford. He was due to speak in our election campaign but was unable to be present. We fought on and we won, as he would have wished. Those of us who are new Members on the back benches took great inspiration from Iain Macleod's example, and, above all, from his physical courage.

In seeking to pay tribute to this great right hon. and, as the Prime Minister said, exceedingly gallant man, I turn to "Profiles in Courage", by J. F. Kennedy, who was himself throughout his public service physically handicapped, in which he said, quoting Senator Beveridge, A party can live only by growing; intolerance of ideas brings its death.… An organisation that depends on reproduction only for its vote, son taking the place of father, is not a political party but a Chinese Tong; not citizens brought together by thought and conscience, but a tribe held together by blood and privilege. It was the example of his conscience and his courage, and his appeal to other interests beyond our party, which gave such inspiration to new Members, like myself, sitting behind the new Administration.

I must pay a tribute also to my predecessors who represented my part of the fine city of Bradford, which, as the House knows, is at the industrial heart of our proud nation. I pay tribute to Mr. Haseldine, a loyal scion of the Co-operative Movement if ever there was one, and a personal friend whom I came to respect, and, above all, I pay a tribute to Arthur Tiley, who, for 11 long years, held high the lamp of a proud conscience and a great magnanimity, which are, perhaps, features of the straightforward Yorkshire Conservatism which he served so well. Perhaps I may add that those Gentlemen opposite who did not return as Members to this Parliament owe some debt of gratitude to Mr. Tiley because, as we all know, he served the House well in the institution of the pension scheme.

There is much to say about the Supplementary Estimates. It may appear as a technical matter, but for those like myself—I think also of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lieut.-Colonel Mitchell)—who served under the Crown under the last Administration, there is far more in them than first meets the eye.

The first noteworthy feature of the Supplementary Estimate now under discussion is that it is all devoted to pay and allowances. While all hon. and gallant Members would wish to see members of the Armed Forces properly and fairly remunerated, they must at the same time have some anxiety about the preponderance of this supplementary estimate going to the Regular forces as opposed to the Reserve, the auxiliaries and auxiliary formations.

The most serious limitation on strategy left to us by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has been his emphasis on Regular forces, whose pay we now have to consider. This is a serious deficiency, for it means that in a lengthy period of hostilities this country will have no capability of military expansion. In examining this Vote and seeking cause to justify it, I take into account not only the question of right and proper remuneration for officers and men in the Services but also our strategic posture and the question of judgment as to whether this exceedingly large sum does anything to enhance our defence credibility.

Reluctantly, though recognising the need of many gallant friends still serving in their respective Services, I have come to the conclusion that this particular Vote does nothing to provide either more equipment or a greater credibility of posture.

Mr. Speaker

Order. With respect, these Supplementary Estimates deal with extra amounts related only to increased rates of pay and allowances for the forces. The hon. Gentleman must concentrate on that.

Mr. Wilkinson

I am glad that you brought me to heel, Mr. Speaker, as I expected you would. I was going on to bring to the attention of the House certain aspects of that pay award, in effect, the implementation of the recommendation of the Prices and Incomes Board on Forces Pay, which I feel are noteworthy and open to certain criticism.

During the election campaign, it was the boast of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East that the Defence Estimates were now lower than the Estimates for education. However, if one takes into account this Supplementary Estimate and also defence expenditure outside the strict defence budget, as recorded in the White Paper on projected Government expenditure of December last year, one finds that defence no longer takes a smaller proportion of national expenditure than education. This is a significant fact in our examination of these Supplementary Estimates, for it was upon that boast of the right hon. Gentleman that hon. Members opposite, for some reason, were so proud to base much of their campaign.

We must take into account, furthermore, the intention or purpose behind the extra pay which we are asked to vote. It has several aspects. The first, a laudable one, is to try to do away with the differentiation which has existed between single men in the armed forces and their married counterparts. Lord Montgomery and others would proclaim that we need a preponderance of unmarried Servicemen. In so far as this Supplementary Estimate covering extra pay represents an attraction to bring them in, I would welcome it, but it means that more senior officers and men in the forces do not receive as commensurate a return as their more junior comrades in arms.

Second, there is the question of the X factor, a rather mysterious feature introduced to try to mitigate some of the more unpleasant consequences of entering military service. This is a hard estimate to make. It can, I believe, make up to a 5 per cent. increase, but it is difficult to comprehend the full stresses and strains of military life, and I regard it as an unsatisfactory exercise to try to make up for them in this way. I should hope that the nature of military service itself rather than the extra pay award covered by the Supplementary Estimate would be an inducement to greater recruiting.

It was clear when the right hon. Member for Leeds, East announced the forthcoming increase on 25th February this year that he did so as an aid to recruiting. I question whether the mere awarding of an 18 per cent. pay increase which the Vote would afford is adequate to improve recruiting, which, particularly in the Army, is greatly deficient.

I suggest, as the defence correspondent of The Times and others, including myself, have proposed in other places, that we could produce a more cost-effective pattern of defence by relying more on volunteer reservists and auxiliaries, that is, on those who at present, as we see from the Supplementary Estimate, account for such a small proportion of our defence burden. As the commander of the Second Allied Tactical Air Force in Germany, Air Marshall Foxley Norris wrote in the Royal Air Forces Quarterly, It is a fact of life that what fundamentally costs money in the Services is the Service man". With a stagnant economy, if defence expenditure is to be fixed as a certain proportion of gross national product, while weapon costs escalate, and while we may try to keep up with the industrial Jones's, we must at the same time, pari passu, diminish our equipment procurement programmes. This is an exceedingly serious matter. It means that our capacity is reduced because the only way in which we can make up for having fewer men is by equipping the forces more efficiently.

This is a measure which should have the support of the House for the sake of the Armed Services on whom we rely, but we should have reservations about it. I hope that the Government will also seriously consider an increase in Reserves for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force as well as for the Army on whom we equally depend.

Mr. Speaker

I remind the House that these debates are rather narrow. I intervene as little as I can.

4.21 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

It is my privilege to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) on his excellent maiden speech. I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House will look forward to hearing him speak in future.

Our debate today is overshadowed by the tragedy of the death of our friend, Iain Macleod. To those of us on the back benches he was always someone to whom we could turn, however humble we might be, for good advice. No one was too small for him to talk to. He was one of the most approachable Members of the House.

I understand that even in this society there are no second-hand maiden speeches and, although I speak after an absence of six years from the House, I hope that I shall have your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, to say a few words about the constituency which I have the honour to represent in the new Parliament.

Windsor is a garrison town in which part of the Household Cavalry, to which I belonged, is stationed. Windsor Castle is the oldest royal residence which has remained in continuous occupation since the Middle Ages. King John sallied forth from there to sign, with his barons, Magna Carta. The Royal Borough of New Windsor was given its Charter in 1277 and today it is the only Royal Borough in which the Sovereign resides. Maidenhead, a large and prosperous town, received, not one Charter, but three Charters—the first in 1582. We have two racecourses, Royal Ascot and Windsor, but happily there are many thousands of acres in the area which remain in agricultural use and form part of the delightful countryside. We have motorways and factories, but the one thing on which we can congratulate ourselves is that with this historic background we are able to move with the times and to deal with events as they are today.

My predecessor, Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe, who fought in a by-election in 1942 and was returned to the House during the war, went back to the Rifle Brigade and served throughout the war. One of his great hopes was that his regiment would be preserved. His knowledge and experience in the House were revered and frequently sought by everybody and he had the confidence and affection of his constituents.

There is one aspect of the career of Sir Charles which I shall never be able to emulate. He represented this House and another place as captain of the Lords and Commons cricket team. His cricketing experience was much in demand in my division, and if he played for Maidenhead in one year he always made a point of playing for Windsor the next year. On one occasion he made a century, but I am not prepared to say for which side he was playing.

This debate is very narrowly confined and, as a result of the timing of the General Election, it is restricted to the Supplementary Estimates, Class 7, Votes 1, 2 and 3, which represent the money required to implement the recommendation of the Prices and Incomes Board on the Pay and Remuneration of the Forces. Had my right hon. Friend been in power at the time he might well have decided not to adopt this procedure but to rely upon recommendations by the Army Council. Nevertheless, like my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West, I am not entirely satisfied that the amounts appropriated are sufficient. I hope that we shall have my right hon. Friend's assurance that the payment and deployment of the Armed Forces will be reviewed in due course.

The new system changes the formula for payment and places more emphasis on the civilian methods of pay and remuneration. The apparent rises in pay are in fact less than they would be if true facts are taken into consideration. What the Army makes on the pay swings it loses on the income tax roundabouts. My criticism of the Estimates is the two-tier phased operation for single men who will not receive the full benefits of the pay increases until 1971. The effect of giving only two-thirds of the increase up to 1971 to the single soldier must hit recruiting because a young man, when he joins the Army, is far more interested in his immediate pay. His attitude changes during the period of service. I cannot see that there was any justification, except for the difficulty of introducing new legislating, for holding back one-third of the increase.

In a modern society, there will always be a limited number of people prepared to join the Armed Forces. But pay is not the only inducement which makes people want to join the Services as a profession. Conditions also affect their decision. In the last six years many of us who have been in contact with the Armed Forces have heard it said over and over again, "I am not staying in the Army because there is no security". This lack of security has been occasioned by the amalgamation of regiments and the reduction of the forces. Many men and officers have no future to which they can look forward. It is no good offering them golden or tin bowlers at an age when they are not able to get a proper wage in the outside world. What the serviceman wants is security with adequate compensation at the end of his service.

There is provision for married quarters in the Supplementary Estimates. This is an extremely important part of the inducement to soldiers to join the Forces, and it should not be neglected.

The Estimates provide for an increase in the pensions of Servicemen. The time has come—and I have given my hon. Friend notice that I would raise this point—to consider the possibility of basing pensions on a system of parity. There can be no logic in giving a smaller pension to a man who lost an eye during the Battle of the Somme than to a person who sustained a similar injury at Dunkirk. They have given equal service to their country and they should be given the same pension. I am aware that this raises the possibility of having to increase public service pensions, but what the Forces need is a reasonable security both during their service and when they retire at the end of it.

I am convinced that, however good our recruiting programme may be, we shall always need a reserve and territorial force. This point was well brought out in the wonderful maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Major-General Jack d'A vigdor-Goldsmid).

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying beyond the limitations of the debate, which is drawn extremely tightly.

Dr. Glyn

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I will say only that we must have first-line reserve forces capable of supplementing the Regular Army, particularly in the category of those who may be called out without proclamation. I am sorry that the Supplementary Estimates have insufficient provision for the enlargement of that part of our forces.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Only rates of pay are relevant to the debate.

Dr. Glyn

The rates of pay for the Territorial Army and other reserve forces may be insufficient to attract enough recruits.

Although the debate is narrowly drawn, it covers rates of pay for Servicemen in all theatres. My right hon. Friend will have to reconsider the whole deployment of forces, because that in itself will affect the Supplementary Estimates. For instance, if we are able to reduce the number of troops in the Far East, as I understand we are, this will affect the amount of money in the Supplementary Estimates, because it will reduce the amount necessary. I should have thought that it was a small insurance premium to pay for the defence of our visible and invisible assets in the Far East.

The Supplementary Estimates would be subject to review if it were thought that we could reach an agreement with our Commonwealth allies, so that we had a multi-nation force in the Far East. This would alter the whole nature of the Supplementary Estimates. To what extent would they be altered if we were able to get an agreement of that kind?

We must remind ourselves that all the Defence Estimates, including Supplementary Estimates, will have to be reconsidered in the light of changes now coming about, and the possible reorientation of Russian defence policy resulting from the development of atomic weapons by China in the province of Sinkiang. We have to attune our Regular forces and our defences to possible changes of allies by the Russians which they may find necessary as the result of the development of atomic weapons in Sinkiang. We must also see that our reserve forces are sufficient to meet any emergency which may arise. These are the things necessary to preserve the morale of our Forces. They are necessary if we are to remain a great Power with a rôle to play in the future.

4.32 p.m.

Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Derbyshire, West)

This is a sad occasion and I join with other hon. and right hon. Members in tributes to Iain Macleod, who ws a great friend to all of us. I will say no more, because everything that needs to be said has already been said.

I take the opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) on his return to the House and to say with how much pleasure I listened to his speech. I hope that we shall be having the benefit of his advice on matters like this in future. May I also say how much I enjoyed listening to the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West. (Mr Wilkinson). It was very relevant to the problems undoubtedly facing the Services. I hope that we shall hear much more from my hon. Friend about these matters in the months ahead.

This is a difficult debate to conduct, because it is so tightly drawn, but this is the first time in this Parliament that we have had an opportunity to discuss the new pay codes and the new pay system introduced by the Labour Government in April. This is the first time that we have had an opportunity to assess this radical change in the system of paying the Armed Forces. The system affects the Forces at home, in Germany, the Middle East and the Far East. This is our opportunity to see whether the new system is satisfactory and whether the men and women receiving the new rates of pay like the new system and whether it is having a satisfactory effect on recruiting. I hope that my hon. Friend will take the opportunity to tell us what has been its effect in the short time since April.

I do not want to introduce a discordant note so soon in the debate, but I have had the greatest difficulty getting a pay warrant to find out exactly what is included in the Supplementary Estimates which cover the new pay codes. The new warrant came into operation on 1st April. The Library of the House of Commons does not have a copy and I understand from telephone communication with the Ministry of Defence that the new pay warrants have not yet even been printed. All that was provided to me at midday was a letter which the Ministry said had gone out to commands and which incorporated the pay codes.

This is entirely unsatisfactory. It is excessively difficult from this kind of document, which arrives at so late a stage, to work out exactly what the rates are. I do not blame my hon. Friend who, poor chap, has been in office only a few weeks. I hope that he will look into the matter and put this right as soon as he can. If it is difficult for a Member of Parliament, as I contend it is, to check exactly whether the pay codes are the same as was recommended by the National Board for Prices and Incomes, it must be a superhuman task for the serving soldier, sailor or airman.

This state of affairs will cause dissatisfaction if it is allowed to continue for too long. When I was serving, I found that it was a difficulty, a mystery, to see how one arrived at one's net pay at the end of the week. This caused dissatisfaction and there was invariably controversy about whether one had been paid too little. This is a complicated code and the situation will be aggravated if it is difficult to get hold of the necessary documents.

The document is the whole basis of what we are discussing, for we must consider how the rates are affecting the general position. I applied to Mr. Speaker to discuss the Middle East and the Far East particularly in relation to the effect of the new pay codes in those areas. As the House knows, pay in the Middle East and the Far East is exactly the same as at home, including the X factor of 5 per cent., although there are local overseas allowances which vary from district to district and according to the cost of living in which a man may be serving. This applies particularly to the Army and the Air Force although not so much to the Navy. Climates and terrain vary from the desert in the Gulf to the jungles of Borneo and Malaysia and the life in Hong Kong.

There is confusion over the profusion of documents I have acquired in manuscript form. Take as an example the Gulf. When men are out there, do they get hard-lying allowance for the work they do and the exercises they carry out training in the desert? Does the R.A.F. get the equivalent allowance when flying in that type of terrain? When battalions or companies move from Sharjah out into various exercise areas although they are not on proper exercises, are they given the hard-lying allowance?

It will be noticed that there is confusion over what is known as the hard-lying allowance. The old definition has been removed and a new definition substituted. Can my hon. Friend say whether this is working well and what are the conditions under which it is paid? How much of it is included in these Estimates? Does that local allowance vary depending upon the theatre, the type and kind of work that has been done as well as the cost of living? From my own knowledge in the Gulf, Sharjah, Bahrein and Barami, the conditions of our Servicemen when in camp are not too bad, although the heat is intolerable. The Services have gone to great lengths to ameliorate the conditions as much as possible, but I suggest that local allowances do not entirely make up for the very difficult conditions there.

There is the problem of those Service personnel not allowed to take out their wives and families, particularly in the Gulf. As a result the pay and allowances they get are augmented. Presumably that is part of this Supplementary Estimate. Can my hon. Friend say whether it is sufficient or whether hardship is caused? It is arguable either way whether the new pay codes do not cause a certain amount of hardship to men sent out unaccompanied for nine months, as is the serving soldier in the Gulf, and whether he is penalised, as it is possible to say that he is, by the fact that he is not getting as much as he was under previous codes.

I have had difficulty in understanding exactly what the overseas allowances are, for example, in Bahrein and the Trucial States. The Ministry has kindly sent me the papers concerned and these are directly relevant because they are mentioned in the Supplementary Estimates. I have three different lots, as far as I can make out coming into effect on 1st April, which seems very appropriate. Each and every one has a different rate of overseas local allowance for the same place. The first, dated 6th July, gives for a lieutenant-commander, captain or squadron leader and below, 24s. 6d. a day. Another which also comes into effect on 1st April, dated 26th May and for the same type of rank, is 28s. 5d. Then there is the third which makes the confusion even worse. It is a large piece of paper which says that for a lieutenant-commander and below, a major and below, a squadron-leader and below, the rate will be 9s.

I am certain that I am being foolish in trying to understand the interpretations of these three documents all purporting to appertain to the same type of officer. For the purposes of comparison with the other ranks, a leading seaman and below or a corporal and below receives 25s. 11d. on one document, 21s. 10d. on the next, and in the large document it is 10s. 3d. It would help a lot if my hon. Friend could clarify this situation. Certainly it will help the serving soldiers.

Exactly the same thing applies to officers and other ranks serving in the Far East, South-East Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore or Borneo. I will not read out the same sort of figures, but the duplication exists. This kind of confusion causes difficulty for the men. What is the basis for these figures and what is the figure being used in the Supplementary Estimates? Taking the Army as an example and looking under heading B on page 8, we see that— Overseas allowances: Due mainly to the incorporation into overseas allowances of the difference between overseas and U.K. rates of ration allowance previously included in Class XII, 5, Sub-head F", there is an increase from £930,000 to £2,180,000. Upon what basis is that worked? For the serving soldiers the difference between 10s. and 26s. is enormous.

Our policy has now changed. It changed since the new pay codes came into force. If we are not to withdraw completely from east of Suez, it is important that recruitment to the Armed Forces should be satisfactory if the moneys voted by the Supplementary Estimates are to fulfil their purpose. Many hon. and right hon. Members opposite have talked about cost-effectiveness, including the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard), whom I am glad to see in his place. I shall listen with interest to what he has to say. Although it has been a very short period of time, I should like to know, if possible, what sort of return we are getting for the increased pay and allowances and whether these Estimates have been revised to take account of our new policies.

It is important, if we are to integrate our forces even to a limited extent with those of Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia, that the pay and allowances of our men should be on comparable levels with those of our allies. I cannot sufficiently underline the importance of that. There should be no disparity between other troops and the British troops when they are serving in the Far East alongside Australians, New Zealanders, Malaysians and the force from Singapore. If there is, it should be redressed by local allowance.

We should be out in the Far East. When I was there I was amazed at the enthusiasm for the policies which we on this side of the House were putting forward for our Forces to remain out there, even in a more limited form than in the past. This will not work if there is a disparity between the national forces, and it is important to bear that in mind.

Could my hon. Friend say what are the new allowances and pay codes for the Jungle Warfare School in Malaysia? Is an extra allowance payable there? The House knows that the school is staffed by British officers and that the demonstration troops there are Gurkhas. It is an important school and was to become the Commonwealth Jungle Warfare School. It will be interesting to know whether provision has been made to pay the personnel entirely from this Vote, or whether this is to be shared with our overseas partners in the defence forces which I hope will eventuate in South-East Asia.

There are, as I have said, Gurkhas serving in the Jungle Warfare School as well as Hong Kong. I see from the Supplementary Estimates that the pay code for the Gurkhas does not reach the same level as that for British troops. In the past we have made grave mistakes in regard to our Gurkha brothers. They have served us well and faithfully in the past and I suppose that we have paid them as much as we could. Many Gurkhas today are in retirement having gone back to Nepal. Many of them are living in great penury.

The House, and particularly you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, know that an appeal is being made in this country on behalf of these retired Gurkhas and their welfare. They are wonderful people who have served us loyally and magnificently over the years. It would be a great tragedy if we did not make absolutely certain by adjusting the pay codes that any serving Gurkha on completion of his service is able to return home with sufficient money to live a reasonable and decent life in the country of his birth for the rest of his days. My hon. Friend will never be forgiven if Gurkhas who have to be retired prematurely are not given sufficient money to be able to return to their homes and to live decently for the rest of their lives. We must not make the same mistake twice.

I hope that the new pay codes will be satisfactory. I believe they are. But I am worried about the overseas allowances, which in many cases are insufficient. The variations are not right and they must be looked at again by the new Government. I am sure they will be looked at again. I appeal to the Government to put the codes in a simplified form so that ordinary men and women who are serving in the Forces will understand them. If they are put in an easily understood form, that will achieve an enormous amount. I believe that with the new pay codes recruitment to the forces will be stimulated and that such service will have a greater appeal to our young men. If this is to happen, they must be treated properly, and must be seen to be treated properly.

5.4 p.m.

Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)

I begin by apologising to the House for the fact that I was not present at the beginning of the debate. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) for preserving my position in the debate and giving me the opportunity to take part.

This is the first opportunity I have had of welcoming the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Gilmour) on his appointment as Under-Secretary of State with responsibilities for the Army. As his immediate predecessor, I can tell him that he will find it an extremely enjoyable position to occupy. He will discover that the job is testing but rewarding. Remembering some of the things that were said before and during the election, I should like to make it clear that we on this side of the House will watch him and the other Ministers in his Department extremely closely. So far as the hon. Gentleman personally is concerned, however, I wish him well.

This debate is in a somewhat unusual form, no doubt caused primarily by the fact that there was a June election. If the election had not intervened, we should not have had two Consolidated Fund Bills in the summer part of the annual cycle. This has meant that so far as they affect the Army the Consolidated Fund Bill and the Class XII Votes inevitably reflect assumptions in manpower and planning which were laid down by the previous Government and inherited by the present Government. If there are to be any drastic changes in Government policy on the Armed Forces from that of the previous Administration affecting pay and allowances to 31st March, 1971, and involving additional expenditure, I assume that there will have to be yet another Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill—or even the extraordinary procedure, which I gather has not been invoked for a very long time, known as excess grant. If we have to have an excess grant, however, I can promise the Government that we shall view it with a great deal of concern.

Since these Supplementary Estimates represent manpower and planning assumptions inherited from the previous Administration, this debate poses more fundamental questions than would normally be raised on these occasions. Therefore, I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to give some answers on these matters at the end of the debate.

We are today being asked to vote a Supplementary Estimate for the Army which amounts to no less than £53,350,000. This is to take account of increased pay and allowances of the Army, the Regular Army Reserves, the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve, the Ulster Defence Regiment and Cadet Forces to 31st March, 1971. The figure is, of course, calculated on the basis that the proposed run-down planned by the previous Government is to continue.

There are, however, three immediate areas of Government intention—so far as we can glean intentions from what the Government have said both before and during the General Election—which might have a profound effect on the Supplementary Estimates. The first involves their intentions about the future of the run-down and how this may affect the Estimates. Secondly, it involves their policy on the size, shape and nature of the reserves and its effect on these amounts. Thirdly, there is the effect of the Government's east of Suez policy on the sums included in these Supplementary Estimates.

I wish therefore to deal first with the effect of the Government's change of intention on the inherited policy of the rundown. Last week I asked the Under-Secretary of State three questions which related particularly to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The first question I asked was whether he would make a statement on the future of this regiment. I received the forthcoming answer that the planned rundown of the Army was being reviewed. He did not tell us any more than we knew already.

I then asked the hon. Gentleman two further questions which may be of some interest to the House. I asked upon what date the reduction parade of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was due to take place. The answer I received was: Some months ago it was arranged that the disbandment parade of the 1st Battalion … would take place at Stirling on 30th November, 1970."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1970; Vol. 803, c. 257.] Then I asked, thirdly, how many of the officers, N.C.O.s and men at present serving in the 1st Battalion had been informed of the regiments in which they are to serve after reduction of the regiment, specifying the regiments concerned. The answer I received was that no less than 162 of the non-commissioned officers and no less than 265 soldiers of the 1st Battalion had already been informed of postings to battalions of the Scottish Division.

If the assumptions upon which these Estimates are based are those of the previous Administration, it must follow that the proposed rundown is to continue and that the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are not to be reprieved. If I am wrong about that, it is high time that the Government made a statement so that at least the Argylls will know their position before the House goes into recess. I have seen recently a rather coy paragraph in one of the popular dailies that a statement on the rundown and the future of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders is to be made to the House before the end of this week. If that is so, those hon. Members on this side of the House who are interested in the matter will look forward to it with interest. However, if the result of the review is that the Argylls are to be converted into a TAVR cadre, then this is not what was expected. I do not believe that the 1½ million people who have signed a petition to save the Argylls meant by that that they wanted to save the eight men of the Argyll and Sutherland cadre of the Scottish Division of the TAVR. My right hon. Friend recently categorised this as five men and a dog. It may rather be eight men and part of a drill hall. I do not know. But, if that is the proposal, it is important that the matter be cleared up at an early stage.

If the battalion is to be reprieved when other battalions, are not to be, some of them perhaps of greater seniority than that regiment, we on this side of the House will view that decision with a great deal of concern. It would be very wrong for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to be treated differently from, say, the Durham Light Infantry merely because an effective and nationwide propaganda campaign had been organised and an hon. Member was elected to this House on the basis of a claim which has turned out to be not the policy of the Government. If, however, I am wrong about the Government's intentions, no doubt we shall be told today.

The second matter on manpower which might affect the Supplementary Estimates, in view of the fact that they are for pay and allowances to 31st March, 1971, is the Government's intentions on the size, shape and nature of the Reserves. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) is present. He is one of the co-authors of a pamphlet produced, I gather, with the approval of the Conservative Party Central Office and adopted as Conservative Party policy. It provided for a dramatic increase in the size of the Reserve Army. Since we are being asked to approve an Estimate of no less than £53,350,000 for the pay and allowances of the Army, I hope that we shall be told how much extra will have to be provided in the next Supplementary Estimate if the Reserve policy which the party opposite put forward when in opposition is to be put into effect as Government policy.

The third matter is the whole complex of issues concerned with the policy east of Suez. At the moment, whenever the Government are asked for more information on their policy east of Suez they say merely that they are consulting. It was my impression before the General Election that the party opposite had already done a great deal of its consulting. We were told that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite came in with firm plans on the rundown, with firm and definite proposals on the Reserves, which the hon. Member for Beckenham had published, and firm proposals on their east of Suez policy. At one stage, there were certain well placed leaks in the Press on the nature of the force which the Conservative Party thought appropriate for use in the Far East in the early and mid-1970's. Understandably, the reticence of office have modified some of the original enthusiasm of the party opposite for that concept. But again, since it will clearly have an effect on the pay and allowances of the Army between now and 31st March, 1971, I hope that we shall be told something of the Government's thoughts on it.

Moreover, since yesterday, it has become fashionable for Government spokesmen to tell us not what the Government have decided but what their intention is. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will feel it appropriate today to follow the example of his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary yesterday, and tell us what are the Government's intentions, adding, however, that they are still liable to be influenced—

Dr. Glyn

The hon. Gentleman was not present at the time, but some of us sought to raise this problem, only to be told that, owing to the narrowness of the debate, we were out of order. We all wanted to discuss our forces east of Suez, N.A.T.O. and the rest of it, but we were called to order and not allowed to discuss these matters since they did not come within the confines of these limited Estimates.

Mr. Richard

It is not for me to comment on decisions from the Chair about how wide the debate should be. All that I am seeking is an early expression of the Government's intentions east of Suez since they will clearly have an effect on the validity of this Supplementary Estimate. If it is worth the paper on which it is written and is meant to be a statement of the extra sum required by the Army for pay and allowances to 31st March, 1971, that must be on the basis of the assumptions which the Government inherited. If those assumptions have changed, this document is meaningless. If we are asked to approve it, it is important that we realise what it is.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There appears to be some confusion about the Chair's Rulings. I wonder whether you can clarify the position so that the debate may continue. Are we confined only to pay and allowances as they appear in the Supplementary Estimate, as Mr. Speaker and you have ruled, or can we discuss manpower problems, as the hon. Gentleman is attempting to do at the moment?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

I think that it is clear that we must adhere to matters affecting pay and allowances. The hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) is straying a little wide of them. Perhaps he will be good enough to keep strictly to the Supplementary Estimates.

Mr. Richard

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In my own defence, perhaps I might say that, when I put in my name for the ballot for this debate, I approached the Table and was given to understand that, although the debate would have to be related to the Supplementary Estimates and, necessarily, would be a narrow debate, in considering the validity of this document, in which we are asked to vote £53,350,000 for the pay and allowances of the Army to 31st March, 1971, it would clearly be relevant to ask what Army, what size it is to be, and if it is to be bigger than that on which the Supplementary Estimate was based, then the Estimate is incomplete.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is exactly what is out of order. It has been ruled by my predecessors in the Chair that any debate on a Supplementary Estimate, which is very small compared with the original Estimate, must be a very narrow one.

Mr. Richard

I am obliged for that Ruling.

I was trying to indicate the three spheres of Government intention which affect these estimates. They are the future of the rundown; the size, shape and nature of the reserves; and the east of Suez policy of the Government. I hope that, without straying further from the path of order than perhaps I have in the last five minutes, the Minister may be allowed to reveal, if only partially, tentatively and perhaps, somewhat coyly, some part of the Government's intentions in these regards.

I should now like to make one or two remarks on the military salary and the problems raised by it. We are fortunate in having this debate today, unusual though it is, because it gives the Minister an opportunity of giving an up-to-date progress report on the way that the introduction of the military salary is going. However, I give him fair warning that we will watch very carefully indeed the way that the Government deal with the whole concept of the introduction of the military salary.

As the introduction of the military salary represented a major break-through in the national approach to Armed Forces pay—indeed, it is probably the biggest break-through since the war—it is perhaps worth reminding the House of the three main concepts which made up this policy.

When I was a Minister in the previous Administration I had occasion to visit the officers' mess of a regiment, which had better be nameless, and there talked to a senior officer, who had certainly better be nameless. He perhaps unconsciously expressed the view that the introduction of the military salary early in 1970 was the best thing that had happened to the Armed Forces since 1948. I think that he may have been unaware of the political overtones of what he was saying. But it is nevertheless true that the introduction of the military salary this year was a major step in relating Armed Forces pay and allowances to those of their civilian counter-parts.

Three main principles are involved in this concept. First, that broadly there should be comparability between military and civilian salaries; secondly that there should be equalisation of pay between the single and the married solider; and, thirdly, that there should be a regular review. Those are the three main principles which underlay the previous Administration's approach to the military salary.

On the first, comparability with civilian salaries, some anomalies showed very early on. For example, it became clear fairly early that the banding of clerks may have been wrong. We had the kind of anomaly where, in the same office with two sergeants doing the same job, one being a Pay Corps sergeant and the other an infantry sergeant, the Pay Corps sergeant was being paid less than his infantry counterpart. I know that this was a reversal of the previous position when the infantry complained so bitterly that they lagged behind specialists, but it does seem to be a major anomaly. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that that is in the process of being corrected, although I notice that one hon. Gentleman opposite disagrees with me.

We expected anomalies to be thrown up in the early stages of the introduction of such a radically new concept. I believe, however, that there was some substance in the complaints made to me when I was a Minister. It was an anomaly which I would have hoped to correct either in the course of this year or in the course of a review of the anomalies which would take place during the first 12 months after the introduction of the military salary.

The second of the three principles is that of equalisation of pay between the single and the married soldier. Will the Minister give us a clear and unequivocal assurance—I hope that he will, because it is an assurance which the Labour Government gave—that full equalisation of the pay of single and married men will take place next year as had been planned? We would be extremely unhappy if the staggering which we felt we had unfortunately to accept in this equalisation for a 12-months' period were to be further prolonged. If there is further staggering, we would regard it, as I am sure would hon. Gentlemen opposite, as a major breach of faith with the Servicemen.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins


Mr. Richard

The hon. Gentleman has already made a speech, and I think that he will probably agree with me. I am asking him to help me to try to ensure that the Government are prepared to give as clear and unqualified an assurance in this respect as did the previous Administration.

There is further an anomaly concerning Servicewomen. I was never happy about the proposals for Servicewomen's pay, when the National Board for Prices and Incomes reported. Nor, indeed, was I happy when the military salary itself was introduced. This matter should be looked at again. It is anomalous that there is still not equal pay for equal work for Servicemen and women. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will tell us that he is prepared to look at this matter sympathetically and urgently.

The third principle is that there should be a regular review. Once we accept the principle of comparability it is important that that principle is maintained. One of the most important parts of the introduction of the military salary was the concept of regular review to ensure that comparability was being maintained and that service pay did not again fall behind that of civilian equivalents. Therefore, I ask the hon. Gentleman for a clear assurance, that, whatever happens to the National Board for Prices and Incomes—a body which we hoped would play a considerable part in the system of regular reviews—the principle of regular reviews will be accepted by the present Administration and that they will take place by an appropriate body independent of the Ministry of Defence and of the Government? I hope that the hon. Gentleman can go a little further and say too that, whatever else the Government do regarding reductions in public expenditure, the plans which he has inherited concerning the military salary will not be affected.

Indeed, one important feature of the introduction of the military salary was the deliberate attempt by the Labour Government to take service pay out of the political arena by referring it to the National Board for Prices and Incomes, by waiting to see what that independent body produced, by accepting it and by introducing it, in the hope that it would no longer be necessary in future, as it had been in the past, for service pay to become a matter of political argument across the Floor of the House. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can assure us that the Government are prepared to accept that approach.

Finally, I should like to ask one or two questions about recruitment. It was hoped that the introduction of the military salary would improve recruitment figures. At the time that the Conservative Party took office there were already hopeful signs about recruitment. I should be interested to know whether the improvement in recruiting which seemed to be shown in the early part of the year has been maintained. It is very important—and may be one of the main differences between the two sides in future concerning defence our policy—that the manpower available to the Armed Forces should match the commitments which they are being called upon to undertake.

I give the Minister and the Government fair warning that if we arrive at a situation where additional commitments are being undertaken and recruitment figures have not improved to match them, the opposition which they will receive from this side of the House will be sustained, bitter and, I believe, in the long run, successful.

5.20 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

Hon. Members have been paying tribute to Mr. Iain Macleod, and it is appropriate that on the day of his death we should be debating Supplementary Estimates relating to the Armed Forces, because it was in the Armed Forces that he suffered the injury the marks of which he bore for the rest of his life with such gallantry, as all his friends in the House knew so well.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) on his maiden speech, and for concentrating, so far as he could, because of the rules of order, on the Reserve Forces. I follow the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) directly on this question of the Reserve Forces, because the Government's plans for expanding them will not be fully implemented in a matter of weeks, or even months. This is clearly a programme that will take a long time to introduce properly. I hope that in these Supplementary Estimates there is an element not only for maintaining the Reserve Forces at their present size, but for laying the foundations for a modest increase in them.

The hon. Member for Barons Court, I thought quite properly, asked whether these Supplementary Estimates contained provision for the possible reprieve of those infantry units which had been condemned by the previous Government, and I ask the same question. But the hon. Gentleman was, of course, asking the question in the hope that he would receive the reply that there would be no reprieve for them. I ask the question hoping that the reply will be that in these Supplementary Estimates provision is made for the continuation of those regiments.

The introduction of the military salary and the Supplementary Estimates are meant to encourage recruiting, but there can be no doubt that the abolition of famous regiments has a harmful effect upon recruiting, and may make Estimates of this size unnecessary. Recently I went into a recruiting office in my constituency and asked the recruiting sergeant where he expected to go on his next posting. "Oh", he said "I am leaving the Army. I am in the Rifle Brigade, and if there is no room in the Army for the Rifle Brigade, there is no room in the Army for me". There can be no doubt that the abolition of certain famous regiments has a harmful effect on recruiting, and I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to announce this afternoon—or, if not this afternoon, in the near future—that these famous regiments are to be reprieved as a result of the Defence Review which is under way.

We all recognise that pay is the dominant factor in recruiting. I have had some reservations in the past about the whole concept of the military salary, but I congratulate the Ministry of Defence on the speed with which it has implemented the working out of the military salary concept which we see enshrined in these Supplementary Estimates. To give them their due, I congratulate, too, the hon. Member for Barons Court and his right hon. Friend who presided over the implementation of the military salary. The job was done with great speed. As the hon. Member for Baron's Court acknowledged, there are certain anomalies within that salary, and I hope that these Supplementary Estimates contain provisions for removing some of the rough edges in it.

Having praised the hon. Gentleman for having introduced the military salary so quickly, one must say that it has been introduced at the worst possible time for the Armed Forces, because to change a concept in the middle of a wages explosion of the kind which the present Government inherited is the worst possible moment at which to do it. One knows that there cannot be a review of the military salary for two years, and I hope that within those two years we shall not see any increase in the charges that are also part of the military salary concept.

The hon. Member for Barons Court talked a great deal about comparability, and one of the things that I regretted about the introduction of the military salary was that a full review of comparability with private industry was to be carried out only once every six years. We are in the middle of a technological explosion in industry. We are in the middle of a technological explosion in the Armed Forces. We are also in the middle of a period when wage and salary rates in much of industry are being not only increased, but re-cast, and it seems to me that, given that state of affairs, six years is too long to wait for a thorough-going review. The reply which I remember getting in earlier days when I suggested that there should be an earlier review was that it was not possible, because one required the co-operation of private industry, and it would not want management experts and other people coming round to study the question of comparability more than once every six years. It seemed to me that that answer was wholly ingenuous. I hope that my hon. and right hon. Friends will consider a full review of comparability over four years rather than six years.

One aspect of the military salary that seems to have been handled unsatisfactorily is the question of the X factor. The X factor is the element of the military salary compounded of risk and the acceptance of discipline that separates the task of a soldier, sailor or airman from that of a civilian. The Prices and Incomes Board estimated that this X factor should be valued at 5 per cent., with a maximum of £200. That seemed to be a wholly unrealistic assessment of the burdens involved. Clearly, we cannot consider the X factor within the question of comparability. It would be best to say that we are going to deal with the X factor not by adding a wholly unrealistic 5 per cent. to the military salary but by way of a grant at the end of a Serviceman's career, when we can assess the amount of overseas service and the amount of service in dangerous and unpleasant stations that he may have had to meet.

It is by looking towards the payment of grants and, in some cases, quite substantial grants, that we shall deal with the problem in the future. The payment of future grants has two attractions. First, it is not immediately inflationary and, secondly, it does not have to be dealt with before cost, and does not have to be met in Estimates for the current year, such as those we are dealing with at the moment.

These Supplementary Estimates are aimed to stimulate recruiting, but pay is not everything. One of the factors that has kept recruiting down in the last few years is the knowledge that the Socialist Government have put defence at the bottom of their list of priorities. I congratulate my hon. Friend on coming to the Dispatch Box this afternoon. One of the best services that he can perform is to tell the country that the Armed Forces of the Crown are now given the proper priority and the respect that they deserve from the Government.

5.34 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Antony Lambton)

We have had an interesting debate, marked by the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson). It is my wish to express the interest which the House showed in what he had to say. We look forward to hearing more from him in the future. He put his case very plainly. We realise the knowledge that he has of the subject, through his association with the pamphlet, Britain's Reserve Forces, on which he helped, collaborating with Mr. Douglas-Home, and he showed today that he has a grasp of the subject which will make him most welcome whenever he speaks in the House.

The hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) made many points, some of which—as you pointed out in your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker—were a little wide of the point. It will therefore be impossible for me, following your Ruling, to answer them. I want to go through many of the points that have been made but following your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and not entering into a discussion of some of the great issues raised by the hon. Member.

First, there is no question whatsoever of restaging payments to the single Serviceman. One might wonder at the moment whether the original staging was necessary, and there is no intention of restaging at the moment. The hon. Member also raised the subject of women's pay. That is going forward by stages and I think that those stages will go on as planned.

As hon. Members will recall, the pay and allowances of the Armed Forces were made the subject of a standing reference to the National Board for Prices and Incomes in November, 1967. The previous Government subsequently received the Board's reports and accepted its recommendations, the most important of which was that a military salary should be introduced to take the place of the old system of rates of pay with special allowances for married men, and benefits in kind—free bed and board—for single men.

Another important recommendation was that job evaluation should be carried out to determine the relationship between different employments and different ranks within the Services and, moreover, to give an indication of levels of pay within civilian employment comparable in skill and responsibility to jobs in the Services. An X factor was also to be added to take account of the special conditions of Service life.

The new pay structure was introduced from 1st April, 1970, and was extremely well received by members of all three Services, particularly among the other ranks. Understandably, there were some aspects which were less well received. There was a general hope among Servicemen that the X factor—intended to take account of the hazards of Service life, such as exposure to danger and turbulence—would be introduced at a higher rate than was the case. However, the N.B.P.I. recommended that single men should be charged for neither food nor accommodation while at sea or in the field for two nights or more. As this represented a considerable cash concession in compensation for hardship it was taken into account in considering the size of the X factor payment which was included in the military salary.

This is also the opportunity for bringing up the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins), who asked about specific cases concerning overseas allowances and those for hard lying. He particularly asked about the hard-lying allowances for lieutenant-commanders in Bahrein. This is a very complicated subject, the more so because the eligibility of personnel for hard lying money depends upon the type of vessel in which they are serving.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

It was not entirely that. I was talking about local overseas allowances, and I used the hard-lying allowance as a side reference. It is a question of the overseas allowance of lieutenant-commanders and below, majors and below, and squadron leaders and below.

Mr. Lambton

I was mentioning the particular case of this hard-lying allowance, which is dependent on the type of ship in which the officers are serving. Of course, the rates of local overseas allowance depend on the cost of living in the areas where they are paid, compared with that of the United Kingdom. If the hon. Gentleman would like it, I will write him a letter dealing further with these points, but these are the two reasons for the seeming discrepancy in the figures in this case.

There has also been some dissatisfaction with the new pay banding. This is understandable in that, in some instances, old-established relativities have been changed. For instance, under the old system, army clerks and combatant soldiers were in the same pay band, the lowest of three bands. Under the new system, combatant soldiers in the rank of corporal or above are in the higher pay band, the middle one, because job evaluation has shown that the skill and responsibility of their jobs merited higher pay than hitherto has been given.

Naturally, it takes some time for changes made to long-standing relativities to gain acceptance by all Servicemen, but it would have been impossible to produce a new and improved pay structure while retaining traditional but unjust and outmoded features of the old.

It is perhaps not entirely unexpected that certain other anomalies have come to light in the early days of the application of the new system. For this reason, machinery has been set up to keep the pay structure under review. A further job evaluation exercise is planned to evaluate certain jobs. The validity of particular pay bandings is also being kept under review. But we are able to take remedial action in the case of any inequities which emerge. It is clearly sensible, however, to allow the new pay code to operate for a reasonable time to enable firm evidence to be collated before making any changes in it.

I stress that, in general, the reaction of the Army to the pay review has been good. A soldier can now compare his pay precisely with that of his civilian counterpart and is perhaps more aware than before of the rewards open to him in the military field. He is also aware, of course, of wage awards made in industry and expects that his pay will be regularly reviewed and kept in line with civilian jobs of similar size and importance.

The system of job evaluation to assess pay levels has been generally well received and great importance is attached to further studies now authorised to cover a wider range of rank levels. Certain studies of allowances, particularly those related to separation, disturbance and education, are being actively pursued.

Hon. Members also raised the question of parity of pensions and what would be the cost.

Mr. Richard

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the review procedure, he will remember that one of the points that I put to the Government was that they should say that they accepted the principle of biennial reviews by a competent independent body, even if the Prices and Incomes Board goes—independent of the Ministry of Defence and the Government. Can he help us on that?

Dr. Glyn

Can my hon. Friend deal with the whole question of parity of pensions—not only for the disabled but for all the Services? I gave notice of that question.

Mr. Lambton

The cost of giving parity with today's rates to all existing Armed Services pensioners would be about £21 million a year. We cannot ignore the position on other public service pensions, and the cost of parity for all public service pensions has been estimated at £100 million in the first year. The last Government and our Government have repeatedly said that, apart from the difficulties of principle and practical application, such a cost would be prohibitive.

On the question of the hon. Member for Barons Court, I will let him know at a later date if he wishes.

Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

I am very sorry to press the hon. Member on this matter, and I would not do so were I not to fear that his answer this afternoon will cause a certain amount of disquiet among the Armed Forces. Let me remind him of what my hon. Friend said. He said that we were absolutely committed to a continual review of the level of forces' pay, not by the Ministry of Defence, not by the Government, but by some objective body. I am sure that he would not want it to go out that that is not the case, and I am sure that he wants to give a more positive answer than he has given up to now.

Mr. Lambton

I can give a positive answer: it is our intention to keep the matter under review—

Mr. Hattersley

By whom?

Mr. Lambton

That is a matter which must be regarded later, but certainly the matter will be kept continually under review. There is no reason for the hon. Gentleman to look pessimistic over this. It is our intention to see that no member of any of the Services suffers detrimentally from any changes which we plan to make.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West was particularly worried about Gurkhas now leaving the Services. As he knows, recently a considerable addition has been made to their basic pay. Also when the Gurkhas are leaving the Forces on redundancy, they are at the moment in receipt of a lump sum, usually running at about £200, which goes some way towards stilling the doubts which my hon. Friend has. Of course I should like to stress how valuable has been the work done for us over the years and the help given us by the Gurkhas.

Effective action is being taken to streamline the administration of the military salary introduced on 1st April, 1970. This is a continuing process. Officers from the appropriate Army Department branches have visited units worldwide to gain first-hand knowledge of the administrative difficulties being encountered by unit and pay offices, and, as a result, some changed procedures will be introduced.

I expect that, in the near future, many of the outstanding difficulties and administrative problems will be removed. However, certain problems, which will require fundamental changes to the basic rules to achieve greater equity and administrative economy, remain to be resolved. These are being closely examined, but because of their nature, this will take some time.

I was asked what effect the introduction of the military salary has had on recruitment for the Army. Hon. Members will appreciate that it is early yet to make a reasoned assessment. The new scales were introduced only on 1st April last, and not enough evidence has accumulated to allow their effects to be isolated from those of other factors which may be at work. All that can be said is that we hope that the effects will be beneficial for the Army and for the other two Services, as I think that both sides are agreed on the desirability of an increase in the numbers recruited by all three Services.

I have tried to cover many of the points raised, but I will not go into the other great issues involved owing to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which limited the debate to these matters.

Mr. Richard

I appreciate the difficulty in which the hon. Gentleman finds himself in, first, not being able to answer my questions, and, secondly, in not being the Minister who was originally to reply. We therefore fully understand his difficulties. However, even if he cannot say something about such great matters as the future of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, about which I spoke in some detail, can he at least say something about the rumours which have been circulating and reports which have appeared in the Press to the effect that a statement will be made this week on the future of the rundown of the Army, before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. I cannot allow the Minister to make such a statement. He would be out of order in doing so.

Mr. Richard

Since you allowed me to ask the question, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it seems absurd with respect not to allow the hon. Gentleman to reply to it.

Mr. Lambton

The question which the hon. Gentleman is posing, which I do not propose to answer, adds to the general uncertainty on this subject. All that the hon. Gentleman is trying to do is to make trouble on a subject about which the Government have said they will make a statement later. I shall not be making a statement today, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and, as far as I know, the statement on the other matter stands—that a statement will be made later. When it is made, the hon. Gentleman will be able to comment as he likes, but this is not the occasion for such comments and it would not be proper for me to make a statement on this subject today.