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Army Officers

Volume 978: debated on Tuesday 12 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of commissioned officers in the Army was educated at public schools.

:Details of the number of serving Army officers who were educated at independent schools are not available. The Army encourages applications for commissions from suitable canditates from schools of all types.

Is the Minister aware that, while about 5 per cent. only of all pupils go to public schools, in the year 1977–78 55 per cent. of candidates accepted for Army commissions were ex-public schoolboys? Is it therefore surprising to see the kind of Right-wing indoctrination that goes on in Camberley? Does not that illustrate the militant tendencies of the public schools and their ability to infiltrate the British Armed Forces?

I utterly repudiate the biased and prejudiced comments of the hon. Gentleman. The reaction from his own colleagues appeared to be that they laughed at such comments as much as we did. New entrants to the Army are divided roughly half and half between State schools and other schools.

Does my hon. Friend agree that good officers come from a wide variety of background but that those who come from public or grammar schools often show outstanding qualities of leadership?

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. The Army, of course, draws no distinction between applicants from State or independent schools. We are rightly concerned with the high standards expected of officers.

While it is important that we get a good spread of officer material from all kinds of educational establishments does the Minister agree with me when I say to my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) that, if he thinks the situation is bad now, it is a lot better than it used to be?

Does my hon. Friend agree that if there is one thing worse than a snob, it is an inverted snob?

Order. If that is so, I want to say that I went to Tonypandy grammar school.