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Royal Palaces (Soldiers)

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 17 May 1961

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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.