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British Army

Volume 529: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1954

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Ta Annual Training (Workers' Pay)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that, in a number of industries, the workmen's holiday with pay entitlement is computed on the number of weeks' full-time employment, and that in some industries the 15 days of army emergency call-up is excluded from this computation; and what action he proposes to take.

Employers generally are most helpful over arrangements for men doing their annual training. I do know, however, that some employers are not giving credits under their holidays with pay schemes for the period of annual training, and I would take this opportunity of expressing the hope that they will find their way to do so.

I understood that the right hon. Gentleman or his colleague, the Minister of Labour, was having consultations with employers in this matter. Can he say whether they have reached a result? It is certainly the position that people going for annual training are now being victimised. Surely something can be done about it?

Territorial Army morale depends upon the good will both of the men who serve and their employers. Without that good will it would never work. I think that much the best thing at this stage is for me to appeal to those employers who are not counting annual training in this respect to reconsider their attitude in this matter.

If the right hon. Gentleman is going to inquire into the matter, does not he think that in view of the small amount involved it would pay the Army to reimburse these people and thus remove this cause of resentment?

Fainting On Parade


asked the Secretary of State for War in what units of the British Army it is an offence to faint on parade; under what Section of the Army Act men are so charged; how many men have been so charged in the last five years; and what penalties are prescribed for those found guilty.

It is not an offence under the Army Act to faint on parade. The other parts of the Question do not, therefore, arise.

Can the Minister say why, in the Brigade of Guards, fainting on parade is automatically attributed to idleness and is subject to punishment? Can he also say whether it is not a fact that the Commanding Officer of the Coldstream Guards recently issued summary punishment to an officer in this respect, and whether this action was not illegal under Section 46 of the Army Act?

No, Sir. It is not automatic that a man receives punishment if he faints on parade. Each case is gone into. There are various ways of preparing oneself for a parade, and a bad way is to have an "all night sitting" the night before.

In considering the question of fainting on parade, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the very large Government majority yesterday, which showed clearly that hon. Members opposite were fainting in their Parliamentary duties?

If a man who has had an "all night sitting" is susceptible to fainting, cannot he arrange to pair with somebody?

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of my supplementary question? Is it not a fact that the Commanding Officer of the Guards recently issued a summary punishment to a junior officer? Is not this specifically forbidden under Sections 46 and 47 of the Army Act? Will the Minister inquire into the situation and take disciplinary action against the Commanding Officer concerned?

No, Sir, it is not forbidden. It is my experience that the best way to run an army is to trust the commanding officer to run his unit, and take action if he does not do so properly.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Regular Recruitment


asked the Secretary of State for War his estimate of the additional recruitment to the Regular Army which has resulted to the latest date from the improvements in pay introduced on 1st April; and if he is satisfied with this response.

The pay improvements were designed mainly to persuade the right type of man already in the Army to prolong his service. It is too early properly to assess their effect, but the numbers who have prolonged their service since 1st April seem to show an encouraging improvement which, I hope, will be maintained.

Is the Secretary of State aware that confidence in the administration of the Army, which is one thing that will attract more recruits, is not enhanced by his refusing to carry out the rules and regulations laid down by Parliament? Will he say whether he thinks now, on the basis of his experience, that the improvements in pay will bring him a sufficient number of recruits to enable him to reduce National Service?

I said in answer to the hon. Gentleman's Question that the main object of the recent pay changes was to induce men to prolong their service and to remain in the Army, and, so far as one can see in the three months since they have been receiving the new pay, the results are encouraging.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the difficulty in the carrying out of his recruiting policy is due as much as to anything else to the fact that the penalties under the Army Act apply only to private soldiers and not to officers in the Brigade of Guards?

I would point out to the hon. Member that he is quite wrong in supposing that the particular incident to which he referred was in breach of the Army Act.

National Service Training (Boredom)


asked the Secretary of State for War if his attention has been drawn to the published report of the conference between representatives of his Department, the Air Ministry and the British Association for Commercial and Industrial Education on the subject of National Service; and what steps he will take to abolish boredom and time-wasting in the Army.


asked the Secretary of State for War what courses have been arranged for unit officers on the best methods of counteracting boredom and stimulating the interest of National Service men.

I have read this report with great interest. It is part of the job of every officer to keep his men interested and contented, and I think that all officers well know this. This responsibility is stressed throughout an officer's training both at Sandhurst or his officer cadet school, and later in his unit.

As the Secretary of State has wasted so much time in the House denying that there was time wasting in the Army will he now recognise, from this report, that all these authorities agree that there is time wasting in the Army? Will he, therefore, pay more attention to a question in which he himself says he is greatly interested and substitute civilians for soldiers in clerical and such-like duties? That has not been fully done, according to the reports he has been given.

I dealt with that matter last week at Question time. I have never denied that there are inevitably certain duties in the Army that are not exciting for National Service men We should like to get rid of them, but without an enormous increase in expenditure and a much larger number of civilians we cannot do so.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the trouble does not arise from routine duties but from the fact that large numbers of National Service men are not fully and usefully occupied during their training? Will he have a look at the critical remarks by a High Court judge last week at Shrewsbury Assizes, who drew attention to the demoralising effects of boredom and to the need for the Secretary of State and other authorities concerned to accept some responsibility in this matter?

The hon. and gallant Member may be an expert about boredom. If he will send me particulars I shall be interested to look into the matter, but I would assure him that the object of the vast majority of officers is to see that their men are not bored.

Does my right hon. Friend know that no boredom in the Army is greater than that which I feel when I listen to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) and the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton)?



asked the Secretary of State for War on what date his discussions with the Secretary of State for Air on the Army's need for helicopters commenced; how many meetings have taken place since 1st May, 1954; when the next one will be held; and whether he will make a statement on the progress made.

I have nothing at present to add to my reply to the hon. Member's Question last Tuesday.

Why does not the right hon. Gentleman give information when he is asked instead of trying to blackleg comedians? I asked him last week a Question about what progress had been made, and he answered in one word:

"Progress."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 22nd June, 1954; Vol. 529, c. 209.]
I would ask him, if he cannot give any more information than that, whether he thinks it has not been proved that the Army needs helicopters as much as lorries?

It is impossible for me to make a statement on a subject that is under discussion. The whole object of the discussion is to reach agreement and finality. Until that is reached any statement is futile.

Requisitioned Properties


asked the Secretary of State for War how many properties are still held under requisition by his Department; if he will order a new investigation into the circumstances of each case; and if he will direct that prior consideration be given to the original owner, or owners, whenever a sale is contemplated.

Six hundred and eighty-three properties are held under requisition under Defence Regulation 51. When no longer required, they are returned to the owners. It is the aim to do this as soon as possible.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that these figures are fantastically large? Does he also agree that it seems to be the natural tendency of bureaucracy to keep what it has and that the recent Crichel Down case suggests that an investigation on the lines indicated would be beneficial and, in any case, could do no harm?

Considering the amount of requisitioning during the war I do not think that these figures are large. They have fallen from over 1,000 in August last year to 683, and our object is to get rid of these requisitions altogether as soon as possible.

The right hon. Gentleman said that land is handed back to the original owners. Is that done regardless of agricultural considerations?

I am answering only for my Department. So far as we are concerned, requisitioned land is always handed back to its owners.

As the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has suggested that the fault lies with what he describes as bureaucracy will the right hon. Gentleman repudiate any allegation of any sort or kind against his staff? He must accept responsibility.

I am answering only for my Department, and I repeat that it is my object, and I am confident it is my staff's object, to get rid of these requisitioned properties as quickly as we can.

Incident, Vienna


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement as to the facts of the occurrence in Vienna on the night of 1st June when two British soldiers were involved in shootings which caused death and injury to Viennese civilians and injury to a British military policeman.

Her Majesty's Ambassador, as soon as he heard of this most distressing incident, expressed his deep regret to the Austrian Chancellor and his sympathy with the victims and their families. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State wrote in similar terms to the Austrian Ambassador.

The two soldiers concerned have been charged, and a summary of evidence is to be taken, so that I cannot say more at present.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the grave harm done to the good name of this country by such shocking events as this in a friendly country like Austria, and will he give the House an assurance that generous compensation will be made to the innocent, injured people?

I regret this incident as much as anybody else. The last part of the supplementary question is far more a matter for the Foreign Secretary than for me, but I know that the matter is now being taken up.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is able to say whether it is the Government's intention to make adequate compensation for a serious offence of this kind.

I think I can go as far as this, that it is the Government's intention that we should behave towards the Austrian Government in a way commensurate with the matter.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, apart from very isolated instances, the conduct of our troops has been exceptionally good, and that they have, in fact, been good ambassadors?

I am very proud to agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. I think that throughout the world the conduct of British troops, often in very trying conditions, has been exceptionally good.

Raoc Tradesmen (Pay Increases)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether a decision has yet been made with regard to the application for the payment of ability pay to skilled tradesmen in Royal Army Ordnance Corps establishments on a level equal to that paid to skilled men in equivalent trades in Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers establishments.

The necessary review has just been completed and some increases will shortly be authorised.

Holiday Towns (Key Workers' Ta Training)


asked the Secretary of State for War what steps his Department takes to cause least inconvenience to the holiday trade in towns, such as Brighton, which live by that trade, by precluding key workmen there from being attached to units having their annual training at the peak of the holiday season.

We try to avoid inconvenience to the men themselves and their employers when men are called up for training as individuals, or in fixing the dates of unit camps. Territorial Army training necessarily takes place throughout the summer months, and some inconvenience to the holiday trade is, I am afraid, unavoidable.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the last thing I want to do is to press him on this as a general question, but that the hotel and restaurant business in Brighton is a vital key industry there, and that the hoteliers ask that their key people should not be called up during the peak holiday period? As to the particular case of which he is aware, would my right hon. Friend be willing to see the owner of the hotel in question to discuss with me and with him the very real problem?

My trouble in dealing with a particular point sympathetically is to avoid general repercussions. I am always willing to see anybody who wants to see me, and I will do that, but I cannot extend to my hon. Friend any hope in this matter.

If I were to transfer this man to the Army Emergency Reserve, I should be going against the whole principle of the Territorial Army, which is that if a man is in a certain area he belongs to a Territorial Army unit, whereas if he lives a long way from the Territorial Army centres, he is in the Army Emergency Reserve. One thing which is essential for a successful camp is some good cooks.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in addition to their Majesties the King and Queen of Sweden, whom we are glad to see here, more overseas visitors are expected this year than ever before? Is it not the job of the Secretary of State for War to consult the Board of Trade and make satisfactory arrangements to look after the tourist traffic?

It is also my job to see that the Army is in a state to resist unwelcome visitors to these shores.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in this regiment, which also had its camp at the same time last year, there are two more cooks this year and fewer people, I gather, who will be in the camp, so that things are better this year rather than worse?

The total number of cooks available to this camp is exactly one-third of the unit's establishment for cooks.


asked the Secretary of State for War what steps his Department take, when the British Travel and Holidays Association back a recommendation for the deferment of calling-up for Territorial annual training, to find somebody else to take the place of the man so called up.

Representations by this association and similar bodies are always taken fully into account when decisions of this kind are taken.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Jewish Ex-Service Men's Association in Brighton has put this case to him only today, in addition to the British Travel and Holidays Association? Can anything be done to find someone else to take this man's place, because kosher cooks are not easy to find in small Jewish hotels?

I was not aware of that representation until I met my hon. Friend just before Question time, but when I receive the Association's representation I will, of course, look into it.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, as long as we have to have a Reserve Army, its training must come before business considerations?

Jewish Territorials (Kosher Cook)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many members of the Jewish faith will be attending the annual camp of the 411th (Sussex) Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery, Territorial Army, over the August Bank holiday week; and why an expert kosher cook is required.

If he is not required as an expert kosher cook, and he is required in his hotel where, for religious purposes, they must have kosher cooks—because the hotel is expected to provide this sort of catering—and where there is no one else to do the job, cannot my right hon. Friend try to find somebody else?

I should be only too glad to help in this case, but the fact remains that a unit must go to camp as a unit. Once we start transferring and excusing people, then the unit, instead of going as a unit, goes as half a unit, with a lot of people having changed their dates, and the whole point of the camp fails.

Would the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the fact that a cook of this nature is very difficult to replace, particularly at that time of the year, and that the cook is required for the purpose of providing the type of food which is eaten on religious grounds? Will he see whether he can do something about this? Will he try to transfer the date or to make other arrangements in order to help with this problem because the hotel cannot get anyone for the job, especially for a fortnight or some such period as that?

I am aware of the difficulties of the hotel management and I sympathise with them in this problem, but it is something which comes to employers through National Service and it often comes to individuals as well. I have my duty and it is that, apart from quite exceptional cases, the arrangements have to run.