§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Howell asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ Whether it is the case that all Army ranks above second lieutenant have received real-terms increases of salary between April 1978 and April 1993, but that privates, lance-corporals, corporals and sergeants have suffered a real-terms decrease; and if so, how this can be justified.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Viscount Cranborne)
My Lords, the Answer to the first part of the noble Lord's Question is no; the second part does not therefore arise.
§ Lord Howell
My Lords, in view of that extraordinary Answer, will the Minister say why official statistics issued by HMSO show that brigadiers and colonels received a rise in wages in real terms of 18.4 per cent. while lance-corporals and privates took a decrease of 14.4 per cent.? Is that not deplorable, and even more deplorable on the day when many of them have lost their job security at the behest of the Treasury rather than the Ministry of Defence? Does the Minister understand that this nation wishes to reward those people who serve in heroic circumstances in as generous 722 a manner as possible and not see them lose out compared with officers? We do not begrudge officers a proper salary because we know that we must attract quality people. However, that must not be at the expense of people who are doing the real job in areas such as Northern Ireland and Bosnia.
My Lords, as regards the final sentence of the noble Lord's supplementary question, I could not agree more. I emphasise that no rank experienced a real-terms decrease in pay between April 1978 and April 1993, in spite of the figures which the noble Lord quoted. It may be of assistance to the noble Lord if I give two examples, drawn, of course at random. During the period quoted by the noble Lord, a lieutenant—who, as your Lordships will be aware, is a commissioned officer—received a pay rise in real terms of 39 per cent. and a staff sergeant received a pay rise of 49 per cent. One of the reasons why the AFPRB has been the cornerstone of Armed Forces' pay awards is that its judgments are trusted entirely by servicemen and women. As a result, a great deal of the controversy which the noble Lord is trying to stir up has been eliminated from pay rises awarded in the Armed Forces.
§ Lord Vivian
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that many people believe that all ranks of the armed services are fairly paid and that the Armed Forces Pay Review Body is a highly efficient body to advise on pay scales?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend, whose military experience is well known to the House. Perhaps his evidence will be somewhat more persuasive to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, than mine.
§ Lord Williams of Elvel
My Lords, will the Minister reconsider his answers? Will he take the opportunity of looking at the Defence Statistics for 1993, which are produced by HMSO. The Statement on the Defence Estimates 1983, Volume 2, Command 8951, the Central Statistical Office data base, shows illustrative rates of military salary in terms of Army ranks, first, in current and, secondly, in constant prices. The Minister will see that the change between April 1978 and April 1993 is as my noble friend reports. The pay of a brigadier is up 18.4 per cent. and that of a private is down 13.4 per cent. in real terms. A lance-corporal's pay is down 14.4 per cent. and that of a corporal is down 3 per cent. Will the Minister please look at the figures which the Government themselves have published?
My Lords, the figures which the Government themselves have published for the period between the base date given by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, which was April 1978, and April 1993 were those I quoted. I am confident that they are accurate. The relative rates of increase change depending on the base date chosen. If a different base date is chosen, a different rate will be found. Moreover, if the noble Lord, Lord Williams, took a different base date, he would find one category of soldier who had suffered a real-terms decrease; namely, the untrained private. All others have seen real-term increases.
§ Lord Williams of Elvel
My Lords, does the noble Viscount agree or disagree with the figures I have in front of me, which were published by the Government? I agree with his point about base dates. That is common knowledge. But these figures are published by the Government. Will he agree with them or disown them?
My Lords, I merely repeat what I said a few moments ago. The figures which I quoted are, so far as I am aware, wholly accurate. If they are not, I am quite prepared to come back to your Lordships' House and duly apologise. However, I am confident that the figures that I have been given are accurate in the teens in which the Lord, Lord Howell, asked for them.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, does the noble Viscount agree that a large number of serious anomalies have arisen over the years in connection with pay, conditions and structures in the Armed Forces? Does he agree also that there is a case for an inquiry to get rid of such anomalies, provided that such an inquiry is not part of a cost-cutting exercise and is not a civilian inquiry such as the disastrous inquiry carried out into the police force?
My Lords, I am well aware of the anxieties of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, about these matters. I hope that he will accept that the Armed Forces Pay Review Body does an extremely fine job. The members of that body are principally civilians. They look carefully at comparables elsewhere. During the course of its existence, its recommendations have earned it the trust and approbation of the Armed Forces at all levels. The fact that the Government have always accepted the recommendations of the AFPRB has added to that trust, subject, of course, to the occasional phasing of its recommendations, as has been the case this year. Nevertheless, the accepted award this year has been entirely satisfactory to the Armed Forces, particularly when compared with the award given to other people under other pay review bodies.
§ Lord Ashley of Stoke
My Lords, is this not one time when the Ministry of Defence should come out with its hands up, surrender and pay reparation to the other ranks?
My Lords, I hoped that I had made it clear that as far as we know, other ranks are satisfied with the work of the AFPRB.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the non-commissioned officer is commonly and correctly known as the backbone of the British Army? Those NCOs will be very angry when they realise that on retirement, having fulfilled their service, they will receive less money than an officer who has seen the same kind of service? Will the department look again at the matter so that it does not cause anger and strife within the British Army?
My Lords, I readily associate myself with the sentiments expressed in the first part of his question by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy. I should point out that the pay rates of senior warrant officers 724 exceed the rates of the most junior officers. That reflects the considerable experience and value of those senior non-commissioned officers.
§ Lord Howell
My Lords, is the Minister aware that I am grateful to him for agreeing to look again at the figures he gave to the House, in view of the official figures of his department published by HMSO? I do not take kindly to being told, when I am endeavouring to protect the interests of serving men on the ground, that I am trying to stir up trouble. If it is necessary to stir up trouble in order to achieve justice and fairness for the troops, then I shall do so.
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, will accept my humble apologies if he feels that I have insulted his motives. That is the last thing that I wanted to do. Moreover, I certainly do not wish to mislead your Lordships' House. I am confident that the figures that I quoted are accurate and if that turns out not to be so I am quite prepared to apologise to your Lordships' House.