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Recruiting Campaign

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 10 May 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for War what progress he has made in his campaign to increase recruiting.

Has the Minister taken note of his right hon. Friend's recent speech in which he stated that he expected the target of 165,000 by 1963 would not be reached by 1 per cent.? Is this what is meant by a "promising start" to the recruiting campaign? May I also ask the hon. Gentleman to give us an assurance that there has been, and will be, no lowering of standards of physical fitness and intelligence for those recruited and retained in the Army?

I cannot altogether accept the interpretation put by the hon. Gentleman on my right hon. Friend's speech without seeing the text, but I assure him and the House that if results continue to improve on the lines indicated by the figures for the first quarter of this year I have every confidence that we shall get to where we want to be.

Will the hon. Gentleman answer my second part of my supplementary question?

Will the right hon. Gentleman translate the term "promising start" into figures so that we might know what progress has been made? Is not the War Office a little optimistic about this matter, and could not the House be informed of a matter so vital to the interests of the country?

Naturally we shall give the House all the information we properly can. The figures, when taken in isolation, particularly these recruiting figures—it is so much a question of the interpretation of statistics—can be misleading, and I think that it would be unwise to go beyond what I have said today.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am willing to be misled? Will he be good enough not to deal with this matter in isolation but to give us the facts and figures so that we can know the present position?

The figures to the end of February have been published, and I understand that some more are due. We have to think of those who are less subtle in the ways of the House and Whitehall than the right hon. Gentleman.

The House is happy to know that the figures show that we are likely to reach the target, but it is not clear to me when we are likely to reach it. Can my hon. Friend give us that information?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that speaking on the radio on Monday night Field Marshal Montgomery said that this country could not possibly discharge its military commitments without a strength of 200,000 men? Would he care to correlate that figure with his recruiting campaign?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Secretary of State for War said that he did not expect to get the target of 165,000 by 1963, but 1 per cent. under? So already, presumably, that target has been abandoned?