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British Army

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 10 May 1961

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Recruits (Discharge)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for War what percentage of the recruits enlisted in 1959 have now either been discharged or bought themselves out; and what was the cost to the Army in money and manpower of training these men.

Twenty-five per cent. of which just over one-third bought themselves out. It is not practicable to assess the cost in training manpower, but in money terms the cost would be about £1¾ million.

Are not these figures a little disturbing, since it was thought that one of the advantages of the volunteer Army would be that it would save in the training of manpower? Will the War Office take this problem very seriously?

Yes, but I think that we must keep the problem in perspective. As the House knows, my right hon. Friend is well aware of the problem of wastage by purchase during the early months of a man's service, and is taking steps to try to contain it, but 14 per cent. of this number are accounted for by discharge on medical grounds and other reasons, such as that their service was no longer required.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that if one can solve this problem it will go a long way towards solving the extraordinary crisis in recruiting? Is he aware that there is a great difference between units in their success or failure in retaining recruits? What has been done to ensure that less successful units learn from the more successful ones?

There is the long-term study by the Army Operational Research Group to investigate in more detail the cause of excessive wastage, which is not yet fully understood. We shall take action when we receive that. Apart from that there are measures proposed by the Select Committee to which, I hope, the House may give effect later.

Private H A Daker

25.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will order an independent inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Private Herbert Albert Daker after he was ordered back to his unit by an Army doctor.

No, Sir. A board of inquiry has already been held to investigate the circumstances of this man's tragic death. I have studied its report and am satisfied that all the facts concerning the death of Private Daker were fully established and that there was no neglect of duty on the part of the medical officers or the unit to which Private Daker's death could be attributed.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this man, although feeling very ill indeed, returned to his unit because his wife's allowance book had been requested by the authorities? Can the hon. Gentleman explain how it was that the Army doctor ordered this man to return although he saw him for only five minutes or less without proper examination, and how it was that he was charged with being absent without leave for a period for which he had a certificate from his own doctor? In view of these unsatisfactory details, would it not be better for the Army to have an independent inquiry?

Private Daker returned on the 16th of the month to Dover with a clean bill of health from his own doctor, whom he had seen. On his return he was fit to resume normal military life, including having to answer the charge which resulted ultimately in the award of detention. The administrative mistakes about which my right hon. Friend has been in correspondence with the hon. Member, although doubly unfortunate in view of the sequel, had no bearing, I can assure the hon. Member and the House, on the illness of Private Daker and its tragic outcome.

Yes, but can the hon. Gentleman explain why the Army doctor who went to see him in his own home spent only five minutes or less and did not give him a proper examination? Did the regimental doctor examine the man when he was returned back?

There is this difference, I think the House will appreciate, in the functions of an Army and a civilian doctor. It was the duty of the Army doctor to form a view on whether the man was fit to travel, to return to his unit, where he would still have been under medical supervision. When that doctor saw him he was up and about, and he gave it as his opinion that he was fit to travel. The civilian doctor in this case said that he thought that the man was fit for work, that is, fit to return to normal duty. Those were the different bases for making the diagnosis.

Recruiting Films (Television)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War on how many occasions since 25th February, 1961, recruiting films have been shown on television; in what areas they were shown; and with what results.

From 25th February to date Army advertising films have been shown on television on seventy-nine occasions. I will, with permission, publish full details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that this Answer will give general satisfaction? Will he assure the House that it is the intention to continue with this recruiting campaign till the target figure set for volunteer recruits has been achieved?

Yes. We have a full programme for television this summer. I can tell the House that in the Northern television area from 12th February to 8th April enlistment was 20 per cent. higher than the corresponding figure last year. It is too early yet to assess the results of this campaign over the country as a whole.

Will the figures which the hon. Gentleman proposes to publish also refer to the wastage of recruits drawn in primarily by television?

Following are the details:

AreaPeriodNumber of Occasions
Northern25th February–8th March.9
11th April–9th May8
London9th April–8th May8
Southern9th April–9th May8
Anglia10th April–9th May8
Ulster9th April–9th May8
Midlands10thApril–7th May7
Wales and West.11th April–7th May8
Scottish9th April–9th May8
Tyne Tees11th April–6th May7

Military Knights Of Windsor (Houses)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for War on what basis recommendations are made for the allocation of houses to the Military Knights of Windsor.

The appointment of a Knight of Windsor is made by Her Majesty and carries with it the allocation of a residence. The question of any special allocation of a residence does not therefore arise.

Is it not the fact that these houses are allocated on the basis of military service? If that is the case, is not the War Department consulted at all? How long has this practice been going on? In view of the fact that now the wealth of the country is determined not by military prowess but by industrial prowess, would he consider that representations be made through the Government that these houses should be allocated to industrial workers rather than to military people?

My right hon. Friend's responsibility in this matter is limited to the submission of a list, from which Her Majesty makes the final allocation. As to the qualifications, they are laid down in Appendix XIX to the Queen's Regulations.

Gurkhas (63Rd Brigade)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for War why the 63rd Brigade of Gurkhas is to be stationed in this country; and if he will make a statement.

I have nothing to add to the Answer my right hon. Friend gave my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) on 24th March.

But can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether or not it is the case that these Gurkhas—who are recruited in Nepal, where there is a poverty which is completely unknown in this country despite the large sums of money which we pay to King Mahendra for the purpose of getting these soldiers—when they are stationed here will be paid the rate paid to our own soldiers? Is it the case that they are coming here basically because of the failure of his recruiting campaign?

No. The Gurkhas will be a welcome accession to the Strategic Reserve, and I think in general the presence of these fine troops in this country will be widely welcomed.

Will my hon. Friend agree that in view of the magnificent record of the Gurkha Brigade——

—these soldiers will be very welcome in this country and will be a great accession to our armed strength not only in this country but overseas as well, and that we should welcome them in every possible respect?

May I ask the Under-Secretary of State not to be misled by the people behind him? Will he answer the supplementary I have put to him? Are these soldiers, whom we respect, of course—there is no personal attack in this——

—to be paid the same rate and given the same conditions and the same treatment as British soldiers in this country?

Germany (Local Overseas Allowances)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the additional cost of maintaining United Kingdom forces in Germany as a result of the revaluation of the Deutschmark; and whether any steps are being taken to assist members of these forces to meet the increased cost of living.

37.

asked the Secretary of State for War what changes he has now made in the overseas allowance of British forces in Germany to meet the devaluation of the Deutschmark; and what was the reason for the delay in making these changes.

38.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he has now completed his consideration of the revision of local overseas allowance rates for troops stationed in Germany; whether the necessary adjustment will be retrospective to the date of revaluation of the Deutschmark; and if he will make a statement.

As my right hon. Friend told the hon. Gentlemen the Members for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and Barking (Mr. Driberg) in a Written Answer last week, the revision of local overseas allowances is still being considered. Apart from any increase this revision might bring, the additional cost to Army Votes arising from the revaluation of the Deutschmark will be in the region of £2 million a year.

Is my hon. Friend aware that as a result of the revaluation of the Deutschmark a soldier in Germany who was being paid £10 a week is now receiving 10s. a week less in terms of real money, and that where such a soldier has to go into German accommodation and pay for it he may well be suffering severe hardship?

The factors mentioned by my hon. Friend, and others, are among those which we are considering in the course of this review.

Why is the review taking such a long time? It is many weeks since the Deutschmark was revalued. Will the Minister also say what statements have been made to the Forces in Germany that the changes will be retrospective and that they will not be out of pocket in any way on account of this change?

The time factor is a complicated matter, and it involves inter-Service consultation. The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that any adjustment that may be made will be retrospective, and this is in fact the safeguard of the soldier's position.

Royal Wedding, York

31.

asked the Secretary of State for War how much his Department expects to spend on the occasion of the Royal Wedding at York next month; and if he will itemise such expenditure.

The Army will have the privilege of providing a guard of honour for Her Majesty The Queen. This will be found from troops in the neighbourhood; the cost will be about £50.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is something like the figure we appreciate?

Training Area, Imber

32 and 33.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether, under the reorganisation of Southern Command, any of the land occupied by the Army at Imber, Wiltshire, will be released;

(2) when he expects that the Army will cease to occupy the village of Imber, Wiltshire.

The reorganisation of Southern Command affects in no way our need to keep the Imber training area; and as my right hon. Friend told the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) on 1st March, there is no prospect of this need coming to an end.

In view of the bitterness felt by the dispossessed villagers of Imber, and their feeling, right or wrong, that the war-time undertakings and agreements have not been honoured by the War Department, will the hon. Gentleman consider meeting some of them so that, once and for all, this bitterness and misunderstanding can be cleared out of the way and they can put their questions to him and get answers?

Naturally I will consider any suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman. I am satisfied that the Army locally is very well in touch with local feeling and very appreciative of it and does its best to smooth over difficulties which inevitably arise from time to time.

This happens to be in my constituency. Will my hon. Friend suggest to the hon. Gentleman that it would be as well if, instead of butting into other people's constituencies, he took a little trouble to find out what the actual feeling is?

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that it is because the villagers are not satisfied that they have asked somebody else to look at this?

The close co-operation of the Army on the spot, to which I have referred, especially as it concerns myself, has been much helped by the information I have had from my hon. Friend.

Recruiting Campaign

35.

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?

Recruiting (Press Advertisements)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give instructions for the withdrawal of advertisements appearing in the national Press appealing for recruits for Sandhurst, the illustrations of which show soldiers with their guns at the ready for internal warfare in Kenya; and whether he will ensure that any future recruiting advertisements are so designed as to avoid giving any impression of armed suppression of colonial people for whose welfare and development towards independence this country is responsible.

No, Sir. These advertisements were designed to show routine training and exercise of troops in the field. I cannot accept the implications of the hon. Member's Question.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the advertisement appearing in The Times yesterday the copywriter gave an impression of trigger-happy adventure in Kenya? This can create a most unfortunate impression. May I ask the Minister whether these matters, and other related questions, have been discussed with the newly-installed administration of Mr. Ngala?

No. As I said in the Estimates debate, the presence of our troops in these stations is a contribution to stability and the preservation of law and order, which is of inestimable benefit to the ordinary folk of all races since they are the first to suffer if law and order breaks down.