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British Army

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 17 May 1961

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Warrant Officer L N Taylor

17.

asked the Secretary of State for War for what reason Warrant Officer L. N. Taylor, Royal Army Pay Corps, was discharged from the Army after 24 years' service although he had a contract to remain for a further three years; and, in view of the fact that no satisfactory explanation has been given for his discharge, whether he will make a statement.

Warrant Officer Taylor was discharged in 1958 on termination of engagement. The undertaking that he signed in 1946 to re-enlist on a 3-year Supplemental Service did not constitute a contract binding either party; and specifically his re-enlistment was subject to his being recommended at the end of his existing engagement. Although Warrant Officer Taylor had given good service in the past, I am satisfied that there are no grounds for changing my predecessor's decision not to recommend him for this further period of employment.

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply and for his investigations into this matter. Can he say whether Warrant Officer Taylor appealed against the decision, and whether the decision was endorsed by the Army Council?

He did not, in fact, appeal, but, as is customary, he saw the confidential report on which basis it was decided not to recommend him and, although he could have appealed, he did not do so at the time. I do not say that that made any difference, but it answers the right hon. Gentleman's question.

Civilian Employees, County Tyrone

18.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many civilians are employed by his department in County Tyrone; and how this compares with other years.

Commonwealth Recruiting

19.

asked the Secretary of State for War what conclusions he has now reached in his review of possible recruiting in the Commonwealth for regiments of the British Army.

As I explained to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) in answer to a Question on 15th March, I cannot well introduce direct recruiting to the British Army in the Commonwealth, since most of those countries have their own military manpower problems.

Since West Indians, in particular, pride themselves in sharing the British way of life and since they integrate easily with other Service men—and that has been proven many times—will the Secretary of State give an assurance that from time to time, when he is short of, say, a batch of transport drivers or nursing orderlies, he will recruit fifty or one hundred of them in an area like Jamaica, where many men like to serve in those capacities.

I will most certainly consider the potentialities of recruitment from this source.

When the Secretary of State says that they have their own manpower problems, is he basing himself on talks with Commonwealth countries? If so, what talks are these?

I was not referring to what, I think, the hon. Gentleman has in mind—which is the Caribbean—but countries which I regard as free Commonwealth countries, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, have in their own armed forces problems of recruiting. It would be wrong, therefore, for us to set up recruiting stations there and pinch their manpower.

1St Grenadier Guards (Strength)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for War if the 1st Grenadier Guards will be at full strength when the battalion relieves the King's Own Royal Border Regiment in the Cameroons.

The battalion will be at a strength of just over 700 all ranks, which I am satisfied is adequate for its task.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the 1st Grenadier Guards and all regiments of the Brigade of Guards will be up to strength in both men and equipment so that they will be able to undertake, at any moment, the tasks normally given to an infantry battalion in a combatant rôle?

I think that is a wider question. Since I know that my hon. Friend takes a keen interest in this, I would not like to give him a snap answer. Perhaps he would put down a further Question on that point. What matters is that the battalion concerned is built up to strength, I think that possibly my hon. Friend has been misled by reports concerning the 540 men who sailed. That figure represented the main party. The advance party had gone on before.

Gurkhas (Pay And Allowances)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will state the pay and allowances of Gurkha soldiers serving in the British Army in this country; and how they compare with those of similar rank in other British regiments.

As Gurkha forces have not before been regularly stationed in this country, I cannot give the comparison which the hon. Member asks. The question of allowances is at present under consideration.

In so far as we can follow the figures in the Army Estimates, is it the case that for the gunner, the sapper, the private and other similar ranks, the pay of the Gurkha soldier runs at about 5s. a day, whereas British soldiers of similar rank receive a minimum of 15s. per day, and some as much as 24s. 6d. per day? Are those figures reasonably correct? Can the hon. Gentleman also say why it is that we still have to pay awards to individuals who manage to get Gurkhas recruited into the Brigade of Gurkhas?

I do not fully understand the last part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. If he is hinting, as he said to my hon. Friend last week, that we are paying subventions to the Nepalese Government in order to get Gurkha soldiers, I will not endorse that but wholeheartedly reject it. I think I know what is behind the hon. Gentleman's question. The Gurkhas get a different basic rate of pay to the British soldier—they are all in the Royal Warrant if hon. Members wish to study them—but this is by agreement with the Nepalese Government and the Indian Government, because the Indians recruit Gurkhas as well. What matters are the allowances we pay. I can set the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest by telling him that when Gurkhas come to this country it is my intention to see that their total emoluments are in line with our costs of living and with our standards.

May I respond to the right hon. Gentleman and repeat the second part of my supplementary question? I was asking in the second part of my supplementary question why we need to have, as is shown in the Estimates, a system of paying awards to those persons or groups who get Gurkhas to join the Brigade of Gurkhas.

I am afraid this is a bit too deep for me. The hon. Gentleman had better put down that Question again.

Recruits (Discharge And Wastage)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for War what percentage of recruits was discharged on medical grounds during the last two quarters of 1960 and the first quarter of 1961.

27.

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps he is taking to improve the medical examination of recruits, in view of the fact that about 16 per cent. of those enlisted in 1959 have already been discharged on medical grounds.

The percentage of recruits discharged on medical grounds during the last two quarters of 1960 and the first quarter of 1961 are 3·6 per cent., 5·5 per cent., and 2·9 per cent., respectively. The percentage of those enlisted in 1959 who have since been discharged on medical grounds is about 96 per cent.—not 16 per cent. We are talking here about men who have left the Service over a period of more than two years. The annual rate is about 4 per cent. of intake.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this pressure to get recruits puts a great temptation on recruiting offices to accept recruits without the same discrimination as heretofore? Will he give an assurance that there will be no lowering of the medical and intelligence standards required in recruits?

I can certainly give that latter undertaking, and I hope the House will take heart from the fact that although the recruiting campaign is beginning to speed up and we are getting more people into the Army, nonetheless there were only 2·9 per cent. discharged on medical grounds in the last quarter. This shows that we are gaining on the problem.

If I were increasing the number of people who come into the Army and the standards were lower, would not the hon. Gentleman expect to find that the number of people who are being "hoofed out" on medical grounds was lower and not higher?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the figure in Question No. 27 is based on an answer which was given last week? If the corrected figure is 9½ per cent. of those who enlisted in 1959, surely this is still too much and some steps ought to be taken to correct it?

Last week my hon. Friend quoted not 16 per cent., but 14 per cent. He said that 14 per cent. were accounted for on medical grounds and other reasons. My answer here refers only to medical grounds. Of course, we will do all we can to watch the matter very carefully, but I take heart from the fact that the figure is going down steadily.

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has carried out an investigation as to why about 9 per cent. of recruits enlisted in 1959 have bought themselves out; and what steps he is taking to remedy this wastage of volunteers, who are urgently needed by the Army.

As I said in the Estimates debate, and as my hon. Friend reminded the House only last week, the Army Operational Research Group is making an extensive study on the question of wastage.

Are not these figures rather high? Is my right hon. Friend taking fully into account the Report of the Resettlement Board? Is it not possible that there is anxiety about a second career after these men leave the Army, and can my right hon. Friend say how the figures compare with those in the other two Services?

I cannot give a comparison with the figures in the other two Services. I am taking this matter very seriously indeed, and we are improving the situation by degrees. We are devising ways and means to try to introduce to the Army people from civilian life in a modern and contemporary way.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that while there may be a wastage in this respect in the Army, it is no greater than in industry in general? Does he not believe that so long as we have a free society, nothing should be done to prevent men having this facility?

I have not said that we would do anything to prevent the men having this facility, but I should like the situation in the Army to be close to that in industry, and when it is I shall be satisfied.

Television Recruiting Campaign

23.

asked the Secretary of State for War what have been the results of his television recruiting campaign.

I have nothing to add to the answer which my hon. Friend gave the House only last week.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say in general whether the response has been satisfactory? He will recall that in the debate on the Estimates he stated that recruiting had been improved by 18 per cent. during the experimental period of television broadcasting. Can he say anything about the results now that the full campaign is in operation?

I am not trying to conceal anything. I am encouraged by what is happening in the television campaign, but I am loath to give the House figures until they mean something. As the House will know, there has to be a hang-over period after the end of the television campaign before we can assess the number of people who have come in after it has ended. The first slice of the national campaign on television is only now beginning to come to an end, and I shall require a month in which to get all the letters in. I hope that by the middle of June I shall get some figures which may mean something to the House, and if they are interesting I shall tell the House at once. Meanwhile, I am encouraged by the 20 per cent. increase which occurred in the north of England where we were able to assess the number of people who were recruited in that part of the country through television advertising.

Army Cadet Force, Denaby

24.

asked the Secretary of State for War, if he will take action to prevent the disbanding of the Army Cadet Force at Denaby Main in the Dearne Valley constituency.

No, Sir. It proved uneconomical to maintain this unit as a separate detachment, and I support the County Cadet Commandant's decision.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the village of Denaby there is great enthusiam for this Army Cadet Force? Does he believe that these boys, if they should happen to parade towards Buckingham Palace this coming Saturday, should be labelled "the forty thieves"? Will he reconsider his decision? Will he consult the Civil Lord of the Admiralty who seems to be very interested in recruiting young boys, and make certain that the Army obtains its full strength through boys of this kind joining the forces in later life?

I cannot reconsider this matter. I have given it the most careful consideration. I am happy to say that those who are still keen to work—and I am very interested in the work of the cadets—can attend parades at Mexborough which, I am told, is only three miles away. Therefore, they will still have a chance of recruiting themselves to the service of the country. I have only a certain amount of money which I am able to spend on this organisation, and I must judge it, as my predecessors have, by those units which are efficient. While I do not want to weary the House with a lot of details, this particular unit had over a period of time been very inefficient indeed. However, I hope that those who still want to work will do so through the Mexborough camp.

Royal Palaces (Soldiers)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for War from which regiments the 11 soldiers currently employed at Royal Palaces are drawn; how long they have so served; how many are National Service personnel; and who pays them.

The eleven soldiers now employed in Royal Households are all Regular soldiers of the Household Brigade. They have been so employed for periods varying from one year to thirty years and are paid by my Department.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it ludicrous that at a time when there are complaints in all quarters of the House from all shades of opinion about the shortage of recruits, this kind of man should be engaged on menial tasks in Royal Households? Can the right hon. Gentleman give any sound reason why these men should not be recruited through the normal channels of the employment exchanges?

Yes, Sir, I can. I think there is nothing ludicrous about this at all. They are all volunteers, and all but three of them are employed in clerical jobs. It is the remaining three who are employed as personal orderlies. As the hon. Gentleman will probably know,—and so that I can help the tongue-waggers' club—every officer above the rank of field officer is entitled to a batman or an orderly or the equivalent, and why we should make exceptions for the Sovereign and two Royal field marshals I cannot imagine.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was a good deal of public concern about a fortnight ago when a request was made to a certain regiment for a servant and the suggestion was turned down by the commanding officer with, I think, considerable unease on his part? Can the right hon. Gentleman not undertake to improve public relations to the extent that this kind of thing is not given the sort of publicity which was given to it?

If the hon. Gentleman really meant what he was saying, he would not try to add insult to injury.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the right hon. Gentleman chooses to hurl that kind of accusation across the House, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Trooping The Colour (Television Broadcast)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for War, in view of the fact that the Trooping the Colour ceremony is to be televised to Russia, what modifications are being made in the arrangements.

In view of the fainting incidents in recent years, will the right hon. Gentleman give a special instruction that the men should not be called upon to stand to attention for too long? If more fainting takes place on a television programme, it will cause a disagreeable impression. Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider introducing a civilian element into the parade and call upon the trade unionists to march along with their banners in order to give the Russians an idea of our democratic way of life?

I do not think that anything could give the Russians a better idea of our democratic way of life than to have a look at the Queen on her birthday surrounded by some of the most valiant troops in the world.