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Vote 1 Pay, Etc, Of The Army

Volume 463: debated on Monday 21 March 1949

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Resolution reported:

"That a sum, not exceeding £94,250,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expense of the pay, etc., of the Army which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1950."

Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

9.7 p.m.

I rise for only a few minutes, and I do so because, as the Minister knows, I am going to be one of those unfortunate people who will have to face the problems which arise when the National Service men are drafted back to the Territorials. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to be as careful as he possibly can to post the men, when they come back, to units of the same branch of the Service in which they have been trained in the Regular Army, so that we may have a chance of controlling them. We shall only see them for 15 days in the year at camp, and it is not really fair if they are not conversant with the branch of their service; in addition, all the equipment which the right hon. Gentleman is producing will probably get smashed up.

I am pleased to say that another thousand or two have been added to the 69,000, making a total of 71,000 out of the target of 150,000 to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. There are three points to which I would like him to give attention. The bounty of £12 is not enough. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that these recruits must be voluntary and that no one should join with the intention of making money, but this bounty could be raised to £16 or £20 without enabling anybody to get away with any money in his private pocket. My second point is this. I have been a Regular officer and I am now a Territorial officer. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have some Territorial officers who recognise the peculiar problems of the Territorial Army to advise him. Thirdly, will he see that the publicity, posters, and pamphlets are improved? I do not say that they are bad; I do not wish to overstate my case, but there is room for improvement in the publicity which is going out to the public, and if we want to do our job when the men come back from their national service we must give some attention to this point. I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to answer me at the moment, but as one who hopes to be actively engaged in these tasks may I say I am sure he will consider the points I have made?

9.10 p.m.

I want to ask once more for some assurance on the pay and allowances of British officers of Gurkha regiments in the British Army. They are still gravely dissatisfied with their conditions and it is recognised by most people outside the War Office that they have had a very unfair deal. We want to get the best men for this excellent corps, which is now part of the British Army, and to see that those now serving in it are satisfied with their conditions. They are not satisfied at present, and justifiably so. I hope we shall get some assurance on this matter.

9.11 p.m.

I shall reply briefly to the points made by the hon. and gallant Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) and the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and Kinross (Colonel Gomme-Duncan). The hon. and gallant Member for Penrith and Cockermouth raised the question of the posting of National Service men to their units as and when they undertake their Territorial Reserve liability. So far as is practicable, it is our intention to see that they are posted to the units nearest to their own homes. That step will be taken though, of course, there may be some physical difficulty which may limit our taking the right steps. Turning to the question of assisting the Territorial Army by giving the proper guidance and the provision of the right technique, as the hon. and gallant Member is aware we are largely in the hands of the Territorial Forces Associations, but their activities are supplemented by Regular officers including the Army commanders and the chiefs-of-staff in each of the Commands. There is no reason to believe they are without the requisite knowledge of what is required. There are, of course, other difficulties to which we are addressing ourselves at the present time and with which we shall continue to deal with a sense of urgency.

The subject of the bounty has been discussed on previous occasions and, at any rate at present, I doubt whether we can reconsider our decision. I am well aware that there has been some criticism on the subject of publicity. It is very difficult to seize upon the right kind of publicity because there are varying opinions as to what is best. My idea of publicity might vary a great deal from that of the hon. and gallant Member and, indeed, there are differences of opinion even amongst publicity experts, but we have done our best to bring the need for recruiting men and women for the Territorial Army before the public. We have enlisted the services of many prominent people and have had the full cooperation of the Press. But we have not reached the end of the day so far as the provision of Territorials is concerned and we shall, no doubt, use further publicity methods in order to reach the desired target. I have at present under consideration additional publicity methods which I hope we can soon employ.

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered doing now what used to be done before the war, namely, having substantial military displays at great gathering centres, like the Highland games in parts of Scotland? They did a great deal of good.

As hon. Members are aware, we have had a considerable number of these displays up and down the country and some of them have been highly commendable, but it is extremely doubtful whether these displays, however spectacular, materially assist in bringing in a large number of recruits. In my view the best recruiting agent for the Territorial Army is the man who has already joined it and who, if he is happy and contented and believes being in the Territorial Army is worth while, will induce his friends to join. We are doing something in that connection. On our suggestion the Chief of the Imperial General Staff has sent a letter to every member of the Territorial Army commending him or her for having enlisted and asking for their assistance in bringing in other recruits. We may adopt similar methods in the future.

On the subject of publicity, may I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the necessity of seeing that the B.B.C. should not give out such plays as the play to which I would call his attention, "The Independence of Daniel Thwaite" which was broadcast on 12th February or thereabouts? It is of all plays to which I have ever listened the most calculated to stop people joining the Army or the Territorial Army.

As the hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware, we have no control over the B.B.C. We can, of course, make suggestions to the B.B.C., but we cannot go beyond that. I did not hear the broadcast to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman refers, but I would deplore any tendentious broadcasts or utterances on the B.B.C. or elsewhere which might militate against recruitment for the Territorial Army. We shall in future, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, watch what happens. But let me say this to hon. Gentlemen about this matter of recruitment. It bears not only on the Territorial Army but on the Regular Army. We can get men for the Regular Army or the Territorial Army only out of one reservoir in the country—out of the manpower available. Clearly, National Service—and National Service, in all the circumstances—I need not repeat what was said on previous occasions—is inescapable—prevents us from raising the required men for the Territorial Army, when they are enlisted for National Service. If the reservoir is contracted because of National Service, obviously both the Regular Army and the Territorial Army are adversely affected, and we must do our best in those difficult circumstances.

As to the subject of the conditions of officers in the Gurkha Brigade, I should like to pay my tribute to the Gurkha Brigade particularly for the assistance they are rendering us in the Far East. As regards the position of officers, so far as I am aware the conditions are similar to the conditions of officers in the British Army—so far as I know; there may be some variation because of their overseas conditions. However, I can assure the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) that we are well aware of the conditions of which many officers have complained, and although we believe that, relatively speaking, their conditions are not altogether unsatisfactory, if we can provide certain modifications, or minor easements—I would not put it higher than that: minor easements—that may make the conditions appear to be more satisfactory, we shall certainly do so.

Question, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.