HC Deb 16 January 1979 vol 960 cc1481-2
12. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to receive the next report from the Armed Forces Pay Review Body.

Mr. Mulley

The timing of the report is strictly a matter for the review body, but as in previous years I would expect the report to be presented to the Prime Minister some time in March.

Mr. Goodhart

At a time when the Armed Forces are standing by once again to protect the community from the effects of industrial action, may we have an assurance that the Armed Forces Pay Review Body will be free to make a recommendation for an increase in pay which is well above 5 per cent.? May we have an assurance that the review will be treated by the Government as a special case?

Mr. Mulley

I cannot anticipate the review body's recommendations or the Government's considerations of them. But I repeat the assurance on behalf of the Government which I made last May and which has been made in similar terms by the Prime Minister, that the Armed Forces will have a pay increase in April which will consist broadly of half the amount required to bring them up to the full military salary for April 1978 together with whatever amount is required to update the award to April 1979. Clearly that will be much in excess of 5 per cent.

Mr. Hoyle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only way to achieve decent pay and conditions for the Armed Forces is to allow them to join trade unions, as in other NATO countries? Opposition Members laugh, but they object to what is happening.

Mr. Mulley

I do not believe that that is the only way to deal with the matter. At this time priority should be given to restoring full comparability by April of next year. Any change in the system that appears to circumvent or throw doubt upon the commitment, which the Government intend to honour, would be regretted.

Mr. Banks

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to publish the pay review undertaken by the review body of the Armed Forces? Does he expect that work to be completed either before or after the publication of the Armed Forces pay review?

Mr. Mulley

I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman has in mind. There is no separate section of the Armed Forces undertaking a pay review. That work is done by the pay review body. I have asked that research be undertaken and consideration given within all three Services to the post-April 1980 situation. That will include the question whether the military salary in its present form and other such matters should be treated in future as they are treated now. I shall consider later whether it would be appropriate to publish the findings. That issue will not be concluded before the April pay date.