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Regular Army Recruitment

Volume 645: debated on Wednesday 26 July 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that on the basis of the latest recruiting figures the target of 165,000 for the Regular Army by January, 1963, is going to be reached; and if he will make a statement.

I have nothing to add to the very full statement I made to the House last Wednesday.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that to save the Government's skin he is taking a terrible gamble with our national security? Will he agree that if his present sales promotion methods fail he will have to introduce a sudden measure of conscription so that we can face our commitments?

I answered that specific question in reply to a supplementary question on my statement last week. I cannot and will not agree that we are taking a gamble with our national security. What I have announced to the House—and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will have a look at it, for it was a very full statement—seems to me to represent a sensible attempt to see that we are not on present trends running a great risk, as I said last week, in what I have done. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to throw himself behind this and not against it.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the efforts he is making to establish an adequate long-service voluntary Regular Army, but will he inform the House how individual Members of Parliameat can help in his endeavours—

bearing in mind that this is not a party political matter but something of vital importance in the national interest?

I am very grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend, particularly with his record, for what he has just said. I did ask the House when I first made my statement, and I would appeal again to all hon. and right hon. Members, when they are in their constituencies or making public speeches, to stress the importance of our having adequate forces to carry out any defensive rôle and to point out that life in the Army today is a really good life, a life of service, and that the conditions have considerably improved. If any hon. Member would like to have specific points to make in his speech, I will gladly give them to him.

Would the right hon. Gentleman, to settle this controversy, since it is becoming a little tiresome, break clown the figures showing the number he is anticipating as the number of combatant troops to be at his disposal when he reaches the target of 165,000, and the number of ancillary troops, because everything depends on the number of troops available in an emergency?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and my colleagues at the War Office and I are attempting to see that just what he has in mind does happen, and we are trying to steer the new recruits into those spheres of the Army where there are particular shortages. I believe we can do this.