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Armed Forces' Pay

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 16 November 1977

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2.47 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to increase the pay of the Armed Forces to a level comparable to that earned in industry.

My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence said very recently in another place, it is the Government's intention to restore the full comparability of the military salary as soon as conditions permit.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply, which is encouraging as far as it goes, but may I ask whether Her Majesty's Government would agree that a private soldier, or a non-commissioned or junior officer serving, if you like, with a bomb disposal unit in Belfast—to quote just one of many possibilities—should receive in cash or in kind at least as much as can be earned in the docks or the coalmines?

My Lords, that is really, at the first stage of negotiations, not a question for Her Majesty's Government. The Armed Forces' Pay Review Body is receiving evidence now. What Her Majesty's Government have said is that full comparability of military salary will be restored as soon as possible. It is generally recognised that this comparability has slipped.

My Lords, does the noble Lord not find something ironic in the fact that the Armed Services, whose pay has fallen further behind, and certainly as far behind as anybody else, should be doing the job of those who are on strike?

My Lords, can the noble Lord give this House any estimate of what it would cost to raise the pay and other emoluments of the men in the Forces, however much they deserve it, to bring them up to the rates that are common in industry? I would ask: Is it wise to furnish expectations which are going to be very difficult to fulfil?

My noble friend, whose deep respect for the Armed Forces is well known, is, I think, a little pessimistic. My right honourable friend has talked of full comparability of the military salary, which means not only with industry but within the whole range of skills which the Army possesses. I have every confidence that, within a comparatively short period, when conditions permit, full comparability will be restored.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether, in view of the fact that recruiting figures have gone down considerably, he does not think that that is due to lack of pay?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is not altogether right. The drop in recruiting in recent years has been due to a drop in the requirement for replacements of two of the three Armed Forces.