HC Deb 15 March 1956 vol 550 cc570-98

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £100,380,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the pay, &c., of the Army, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1957.

3.57 p.m.

The Chairman

Mr. Wigg.

Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)

On a point of order. May I have your guidance on the procedure to be followed this afternoon, Sir Charles? Is it proposed to take each Vote separately and vote on it at the end, or to have a general discussion on the Votes and vote on all of them at the end?

The Chairman

No. We had a general discussion on the Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," and now we are taking them Vote by Vote. When it comes to half-past nine, under the Standing Order, the Question will be put on the Vote under discussion, and all the others will come under the Guillotine.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

There are two or three points which I want to raise with the Under-Secretary on Vote 1. The first concerns Service pay and pensions, which are dealt with in the White Paper. I will not go into the details of the merits of the White Paper again, because I do not think that would serve any useful purpose, but there is still one point that needs to be cleared up.

Would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell the Committee whether the new rates of pay apply to officers on short service commissions? This is a major point of doubt in the minds of some of us, and it may well be that the Government have given thought to it. I think they would be serving their own interests if they cleared up that point, and, while on the subject, would the hon. Gentleman also be good enough to clear up any other points of doubt?

Reading the White Paper for the first time, I was struck by a point which it would not be in order to pursue now—the question of the Territorial Army—and the Secretary of State was quite unable to clear it up. It may well be that, with the hon. Gentleman's greater interest and knowledge, there are some further doubts which he would like to take this opportunity of clearing up.

4.0 p.m.

As I said in the debate on the Army Estimates, hon. Members in all parts of the Committee, even my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), have a common interest in seeing that the policy of this White Paper should succeed because if it does not the problem faces the entire country. It is not merely a question of embarrassing the Government. We want to give the policy our good wishes and a good start, so if there are any points of doubt which it is advisable to resolve. I urge the Under Secretary to take this opportunity of doing so.

Having blessed the White Paper, I now turn to the question of the proof of the pudding being in the eating. Over the last few years we have depended on the competent and admirable duplicated returns which are available in the Vote Office, and which give those of us who are interested in this matter a considerable amount of information about the Services. Although this is primarily an Army matter, it concerns all the three Services. These returns could be amended to show the annual enlistments which take place under the new engagements.

By this I mean that whereas, in the past, these returns have been in terms of men coming from civil life with no previous service, those with previous service, enlisted boys, those on short service engagements and normal Regular engagements, if we want to calculate how the new policy is progressing, the numbers under the heading "Total Regular Engagements," would need to be divided into new engagements of three, six, nine, twelve years, and so forth.

There is one further piece of information, which has been the cause of dispute between myself and the Secretary of State for War, and which goes to the heart of the policy of the Government. We want to know the number of extensions and prolongations. On 22nd November last, I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would make available to the House regularly, presumably through the Vote Office, the number of men serving on the new three-year engagement who extended their service. In view of the new policy, however, we now need to know more than that. We want the quarterly return available in the Vote Office to be amended to show the extensions in the three Services. Of course, it is out of order to pursue the question as regards the Air Force and the Navy, so I will concentrate my remarks upon the Army.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Fitzroy Maclean)


Mr. Wigg

In my day these were called extensions or re-engagements. I do not know the modern jargon. However, the hon. Gentlemen knows what I am after.

This should be a regular feature and should be available in the Vote Office to enable anyone who wishes to form an accurate view of how the policy of the Government is progressing to be able to do so without referring to the Order Paper, which sometimes gives us more heat than we want but not as much light as is needed.

My next point arises under Vote A. In November last year there was a meeting of the Army Advisory Council for West Africa, at Kaduna, and at its conclusion the Chairman, who was the Nigerian Minister of Transport, stated that, in view of the general constitutional advance in the West African territories, the four West African Governments, together with Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, had agreed that Headquarters, West African Command, should cease to exist on 1st July, 1956.

From that date the Royal West Africa Frontier Force will be in three separate commands for the Gold Coast, that is, for Nigeria, for Sierra Leone and for the Gambia respectively, each having its own commander and staff. Since that time we have had the Memorandum from the Secretary of State for War, paragraph 48 of which states that there will be an administrative change in the West Africa Command on 1st July, 1956. In other words, the right hon. Gentleman has repeated the conclusions reached at the meeting of the Army Advisory Council for West Africa.

It would be out of order for me to go into the question of the present political atmosphere in the Gold Coast, but it is tied up with this question. I have not the slightest doubt that the changes envisaged by the recommendation of the Army Advisory Council were extremely limited. They were tied up to the administrative changes and to the changed financial contributions from the Colonies, they certainly did not involve the handing over of the operational control of these Forces from General Herbert, G.O.C. West Africa to Mr. Kwame Nkrumah. I do not know whether the political opponents of Mr. Kwame Nkrumah see him as Field Marshal Nkrumah taking the field against them at the head of the West African Forces but some of them talk as if they believe this is going to happen.

I should have thought that there is a great advantage in this for the Government provided they can make up their minds about what they are going to do; if they could say that it is only an administrative change, that the statement made after the meeting of the West African Army Advisory Council was limited, and that it just happened to be that the War Office and the Colonial Office could not jointly make up their minds as to the changes involved. In other words, this is an administrative change, which is happening quite naturally as a result of the West African Colonies moving towards independence, and that it is being blown up into a matter of major political importance simply because the Government have not said specifically what the decision taken on 4th November really means. Therefore, in the interests of the wellbeing of the Army, and still more the peace and security of the Gold Coast, I hope that the Government will say what is in their mind.

I now turn to another aspect of the colonial forces. It is true that when the Government were in opposition they dreamed of vast colonial forces which would take the place of the Indian Army. That did not work out. It was one of the discoveries made by the present Secretary of State for War, when he reached the War Office, that what he said in opposition was absolute nonsense. The right hon. Gentleman found that there were no vast African forces to be raised, and that even if there had been, the cost would have been prohibitive. He found that even if we had the financial resources available they pre-empted on just that range of N.C.O.s and officers of which we stand in the greatest need. So the realisation was much less ambitious than the policies which the right hon. Gentleman used to put forward with such charm and innocence when he sat on this side.

One thing the Government did was to hold a joint conference in Lagos in 1953 between West African Ministers and representatives from the Colonial Office and the Services, and they put forward proposals to deal with officer shortage. As these countries move towards self-government and are concerned about raising their own forces and their efficiency, they have a natural pride in the past achievements of those forces and are concerned about the raising and training of their officer corps. The Government recognised that there was a limit on the number of places available at Sandhurst. The Colonial Office Paper recognised that it is difficult at present to get even the 20 candidates necessary to fill the existing places, but expresses the hope that this may be only a temporary phase.

If there was to be Africanisation of the officer corps of the Royal West African Frontier Force, something new would have to be done about the training of West African officers. The Colonial Office Paper realises that even if a West African Sandhurst were established, it would be difficult to find sufficient instructors from this country. I congratulate the Government on the most valuable and imaginative proposal that an attempt should be made to loan instructors from Commonwealth countries, thus fulfilling the first-class idea of an African Sandhurst in which the instructors would be drawn not only from this country but from all parts of the Commonwealth, turning out the young men to serve in the commissioned ranks of the West African forces.

Nothing has happened since that time. I am quite sure that the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, General Herbert, who has a responsibility for the efficiency of these forces, not only in their security rôle but for any part they might play in a future emergency, must be concerned about this problem. I should very much like to know from the Government what, if anything, they intend to do about it.

I was appalled to read the report of a statement by the General Officer Commanding, East African Command, in Nairobi on 26th February, when General Lathbury paid tribute to the important part played by African warrant officer platoon commanders, many of whom, he said, had commanded platoons throughout the emergency. He went on to say that, as a reward for the splendid part they had played, their status should be raised. It was to be raised, not by sending them to Sandhurst or arranging for them to get further training as part of the policy of increasing the numbers of Africans holding commissioned rank.

What General Lathbury proposed—presumably, with the authority of the War Office—was the thoroughly reactionary step of going back to the state of affairs which existed in East Africa up to 1932, when there was a special rank called "effendi" for African platoon commanders. I am sure that the idea was kindly meant, but this is the kind of thing that adds fuel to the violent African nationalism. When the men who have done the job and who have commanded platoons in the field during the emergency in Kenya get something which both we and they know to be second best, brave, courageous and well-disciplined warrant officers become thoroughly dissatisfied with their treatment.

I do not underestimate the difficulties, but I should very much like to hear what the Under-Secretary has to say about the proposal to introduce the rank of effendi in East Africa. Are we to take it that, in view of the contents of the Colonial Office Paper (Colonial No. 304), the Government have one policy for East Africa and another for West Africa or that they bracket the two together? Is there one policy on paper and none in practice?

Without attempting to follow the Secretary of State into his grandiose conception of vast colonial forces, I have always thought that under both Governments—this was true not only when the Labour Government were in power, but it is even more true today—a great deal more could be done for the well-being of the Colonies by a planned and gradual method of making the best use of the reservoir of manpower which is certainly available in all the British Colonies.

4.15 p.m.

Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)

I wish to raise only one or two detailed and, possibly, dull points. First, I should like to refer to Subhead J of Vote I, which deals with lodging and London allowances. One would normally expect a subhead of this nature to move in sympathy with Vote A, which, this year, has gone down slightly, whereas, in Subhead J, provision is made for an additional £100,000. I should like my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State to look into this at the War Office and to make sure that we do not expend more money under this subhead than is actually necessary. Similarly, there is a rather more substantial rise in Subhead K.

I raise these questions on the Army Estimates because they are being taken first and, unfortunately, I cannot be present later for the other Estimates, but what I have to say applies equally to either of the two other Services.

The reason for the local overseas allowance, which I have never been fortunate enough to draw during my service, is clearly stated in page 23, which informs us that it is issued at various rates in aid of the extra expense incurred by officers and other ranks serving in certain countries abroad where the essential expenditure from pay, marriage allowance and lodging allowance is greater than comparable expenditure in the United Kingdom. In other words, it is a kind of colonial national assistance paid to officers and men to help them maintain a reasonable standard.

That being so, I should have expected the rates of the allowance to be reduced after the very substantial rise in the basic rates of pay which is provided for under Subhead A. In other words, in view of the rise in the rates under Subhead A, I should have expected to find an inverse movement under Subhead K. Similarly, one would also expect Subhead K to move to some extent in sympathy with Vote A.

I do not ask my hon. Friend to give a reply this afternoon. I recognise that these are points of detail, but I would be glad if he could give an assurance that the matter will be looked into on the principle that we wish to run the Services as economically as possible.

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), I welcome the recommendations on pay and pensions. In their Memorandum, the Government state that they have two urgent aims: to increase the number of Regular recruits and to increase the number of those who elect to undertake longer engagements. We are told that the pay code announced in the White Paper and embodied now in Vote 1 of the Estimates is designed to achieve both those objects. On the whole, they are very good. We hope sincerely that they will achieve the Government's aim of strengthening the Regular content of the forces and raising the numbers in the forces to such an extent that eventually we can do without the National Service content.

We hope that we will be given an adequate yardstick by which to judge the success or otherwise of these measures. Can we have an assurance from the Financial Secretary that next year we shall know exactly how many men have taken on longer service and how many extra recruits have been obtained for Regular service at the end of twelve months as a result of the introduction of the new pay code? That is the only way in which we can form an opinion. We do not want the figures lumped together. We want to know the exact result of the pay code on recruiting for the Regular Army and on the extension to long service by men now in the Army on short service.

I also want to say a few words on National Service grants under Subhead H. I notice that there is an overriding limit of £3 a week on the National Service grants. Those grants, we are told, are issued under certain conditions to National Service men to relieve cases of financial difficulty where ordinary Service emoluments are insufficient to enable them to meet the obligations of their families and other dependants, or because of exceptional personal commitments. We have to be careful that the National Service man does not lose in one direction what we grant him in the other.

The National Service man is to receive increased pay and will also be eligible for marriage allowances for which he was not eligible previously. I should like an assurance that the National Service grants will still continue and that increased pay will not be used as an excuse to do away with them. I hope that the National Service man, with his slightly increased pay and marriage allowance, will not be told, "You have these extra emoluments and, therefore, you are not now eligible for a National Service grant."

Let us look at the position of the married National Service man. On entry he will receive 31s. 6d. plus 35s. marriage allowance, a total of £3 6s. 6d. At the age of 21, he will receive, so far as I can discover, 52s. 6d. plus 35s. married allowance, a total of £4 7s. 6d. Most of the National Service men are young but people now marry at an early age. Marriage at the age of 18 is nothing today. We may have a National Service man who has applied to continue his apprenticeship and enter into National Service after his apprenticeship is finished. By that time he may be aged 24 or 25 and a married man with one or two children. He will get £4 7s. 6d.

No one will tell me that a married man, even without children, can live on £4 7s. 6d. a week. He is in the Army and his wife is at home, so he will go to the N.A.A.F.I. occasionally or to the wet canteen, although I understand that today the N.A.A.F.I. is more popular than the wet canteen. He will want money to spend as he would do if he were at home, but he will have only £4 7s. 6d. for himself and his marriage allowance.

If this man has entered into the ranks of the Tory property-owning democracy and purchased a house, he may have very heavy commitments by way of interest and sinking fund charges. If he has purchased a house, he will be furnishing it and he may also have heavy hire-purchase commitments. These are burdens which he will find far too heavy for him to bear, even with his emoluments under the new pay code and with marriage allowance. I hope that the fact that the National Service man's emoluments have been increased and that he has become eligible for marriage allowance will not be made an excuse for doing away with the National Service grant.

There is, in fact, a case for a considerable raising of the overriding limit of the National Service grant of £3 a week. A man with all those commitments, if he receives the full £3 on top of £4 7s. 6d., which is only £7 7s. 6d., will have a very hard time while doing his duty by his country. He may be serving an apprenticeship and have to go back to that work when he has finished his Army career.

Under Subhead O, there is a small item in respect of Korea gratuities of £80,000. Of that sum, £10,000 is for officers and £70,000 is for other ranks. Are we to imagine that there is one officer to seven other ranks in Korea? How is the money divided up? Why are officers getting £10,000 and other ranks £70,000? Is that a fair proportion? I should like to have a reply from the Under-Secretary.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

In the discussion on the Estimates today and the discussions which have taken place on other Estimates, I have been horrified to find that there is always a demand for more and more expenditure. In other debates hon. Members have said, in effect, "Why not build a couple of aircraft carriers or provide a new parachute regiment?" No one on either side of the Committee asks for the expenditure in any way to be cut down.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Oh, yes we do.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Very few hon. Members do. Therefore, when the whole of the Committee is generally towards more expenditure it is extremely difficult for the Government ever to economise.

Mr. Simmons

And have a cut price Army?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Not at all. I will come to that in a minute.

With that in mind, I should like to follow up with one or two practical suggestions. The Government have recently made very generous pay increases which, for Regular long-service men, will mean, in my submission, that they will be in receipt of good pay fully in line with, if not above, that which they would get in civilian life. For instance, a fitter tradesman aged 20, if living away from barracks and receiving allowances for food and lodging, will be getting about £692 a year, or £13 a week. He is quite generously paid.

Similarly, a 25-year-old married captain, on the same basis will receive £1,185 a year, which is every bit as good if not a good deal better than he would get in trade or industry. A 36-year-old married lieutenant-colonel, on the same basis, receives £2,008 a year. There again, I suggest that he is generously paid and probably rather better paid than his equivalent in trade or industry.

4.30 p.m.

With these generous payments in mind, I wish to ask my hon. Friend whether certain services in Army life are justifiable. For instance, can we still justify the expenditure on servants in married quarters, or private houses for officers? Can we afford assisted house-renting schemes which, I think, still obtain in the Army? Again, there are certain home to duty travelling allowances which, I believe, are given on a certificate that an officer is trying to find a house near the point of duty but is unable to do so. I wish to ask whether that sort of thing is being abused now?

Mr. Wigg

On a point of order, Sir Rhys. I am the last person to wish to circumscribe the discussion, but is the hon. Gentleman in order in dealing with the subject of travelling and service allowances under this Vote?

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is in order, because that comes under another Vote.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I shall be glad to be corrected if I am wrong, but I thought that certain of these things came under Subhead J, lodging allowance and London allowance.

The Deputy-Chairman

Yes, but not travelling allowances.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I thought that the assisted house-renting scheme would come under this Vote. However I have made the point which I wished to make. Having introduced generous pay scales, ought not we to economise in the provision of things which are not provided in civilian life? A man in civilian life receiving £2,000 a year would not expect servants and married quarters or assisted house-renting schemes, and so on, and I would ask my hon. Friend to examine that sort of thing.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In Vote 1 we are asked to vote £100,380,000, which, as was said by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), is a very large sum, and an increase of £35,979,930. I am glad that the hon. Member put in a plea for economy. He made the apt remark that we are liable to forget all about economy during these debates on the Service Estimates. When we have voted this money, we shall go back to talking about our economic troubles, but for about three weeks we have forgotten them, and I am indebted to the hon. Gentleman for reminding the Committee.

I wish to make some practical suggestions about how this large sum can be reduced. I am not boggling at the rise in the standard of life of the ordinary soldier. I agree with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) that if we have to have soldiers, if we propose to conscript them or ask them to join voluntarily, we have to pay them a reasonable wage. I do not for one moment suggest that this large sum could be reduced by cutting the rate of pay. My practical suggestion is that the number and the pay of officers under Vote A could be considerably reduced if we reduced our commitments, and as I see—

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. Gentleman cannot discuss items under Vote A. The discussion must be limited to Vote 1.

Mr. Hughes

I am sorry, my alphabetic sense got mixed up with my numerals. I wish to point out that this sum of £30,700,000 could be substantially reduced if we reduced our commitments, say, in Cyprus—

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. Member would not be in order in discussing that under this Vote.

Mr. Hughes

I was merely trying to submit one of my suggestions for economy.

The Deputy-Chairman

That suggestion does not arise on this Vote. The hon. Member can deal only with pay and the other items under this Vote.

Mr. Hughes

Should I be out of order in suggesting that the sum of £30,700,000 could be reduced and the pay of officers could be reduced were a certain number of these regiments demobilised?

The Deputy-Chairman

That would be out of order because it would be dealing with commitments.

Mr. Hughes

Well, I will make my suggestions for economy later.

Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

On a point of Order, Sir Rhys. May I submit to you that on this Vote we are entitled to discuss the new pay codes produced by the Government? I take it that the object of those pay codes, which involve considerable expenditure, is to attract additional recruits into the Armed Forces? Therefore, is not one entitled to advance arguments about the pros and cons of attracting additional recruits to the Forces by this means in relation to the commitments which the Army has to fulfil?

The Deputy-Chairman

That is not in order on this Vote. One is in order only in discussing pay. We are not entitled to go outside the terms of the Vote.

Mr. Wigg

With respect, Sir Rhys, surely my hon. Friend is in order in discussing the application of the new Service pay codes and the extent to which they are attractive enough to get recruits for the Army?

The Deputy-Chairman

That is in order, but I was dealing with the further point raised by the hon. Member.

Mr. Hughes

I should like to ask a question on Vote 1. On page 17 of the Estimates is an explanatory paragraph which states: The appropriations in aid include provision for contributions from the Federal German Government towards the support of the British Army in Germany. Expenditure on all supplies and services for the British Army in Germany is borne on the appropriation Vote. May we have some explanation of this paragraph?

The Deputy-Chairman

That does not arise on this Vote. Appropriations in aid cannot be discussed on this Vote because it is not the appropriate Vote.

Mr. Hughes

Do I understand that we are prohibited from asking questions on the Explanatory Notes to Vote 1?

The Deputy-Chairman

Yes, about appropriations in aid. If the hon. Gentleman will read the end of the paragraph, he will see that it says that the expenditure is borne on the appropriate Vote, and this is not the appropriate Vote.

Mr. Swingler

Like my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I am entirely in favour of a proper and decent rate of pay for the men in the Army. I have always taken that point of view, and I think it should be the prior consideration of the Committee when we are discussing these Estimates. At the same time, I am not in favour of a policy of bribing men into the Army. I am against a policy of offering rates of pay which prove, in relation to rates of pay for other jobs, that the Government may be considered to be bribing men into the Forces.

The rates of pay we have to consider in relation to these Estimates and which will involve a substantially increased expenditure are outlined in the White Paper Cmd. 9692. They reveal that the Minister is compelled into this action by the failure of his recruiting policy. The first thing we should note in relation to these Estimates is that the Government have come to the conclusion that the previous pay policy has failed, that the previous recruiting policy has failed, and that the Minister has now adopted an entirely different policy regarding pay which is a complete departure from the policies adopted since the end of the war.

In previous discussions of these Estimates, two general principles were accepted. One was that the pay codes should be as simple and as uniform as possible. That need has often been stressed. In their redrafting of the pay codes, and their attempt to relate it to industrial rates of pay, the Labour Administration endeavoured to move in the direction of simplification because of the justified past criticisms of the complexities of the pay system of the Army and its unintelligibility to large numbers of soldiers. The second principle was that of equal pay for equal work; that, broadly speaking, rates of pay should be the same for soldiers of the same type.

The new pay codes, which involve this increased expenditure, depart from both those principles. We are now moving in the direction of a greater multiplicity of codes which will be more difficult to understand. The Secretary of State for War is now introducing a series of complicated differentials. One of the results is unequal pay for equal work. Rates of pay are now to be related not to the kind of work undertaken by a soldier but to the period for which he has signed on. This will result in soldiers who are working side by side upon exactly the same jobs receiving different rates of pay because they happen to have signed on for different periods.

As the White Paper on Service Pay and Pensions says, the War Office has at last discovered that: To man the Services on a basis of short engagements is both inefficient and uneconomical … The Secretary of State for War may regard himself as having got off very lightly in respect of the criticisms which have so far been made upon this question. When we consider all the previous debates upon the Estimates and Supplementary Estimates which have been connected with the introduction of the three-year engagement period, it is somewhat startling to find that the Army has now discovered that to man the Services on the basis of short engagements is inefficient and uneconomical, and that all the pay codes must now be reshaped in order to provide special incentives to persuade recruits to sign on for the longer period.

4.45 p.m.

We now discover that all the hullabaloo about the tremendous increase in the number of recruits which would result from the introduction of the three-year engagement period was unjustified, because it did nothing to provide the Army with sufficient additional manpower to enable conscription to be dispensed with. It must be remembered that that is the main field in which we must economise. Economy can come only from a reduction in manpower on this Vote, and all the expenses in connection with pay and accommodation which go with it, and that must mean a reduction in conscripted manpower.

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. Member is now going beyond the Vote. He was in order when he was dealing with the pay codes, but he has since become out of order.

Mr. Swingler

I thank you, Sir Rhys, for directing me back to the specific subject of the pay codes, which is so closely related to the subject of recruiting policy—because it was the need for additional recruitment which caused the Government to introduce the new codes. I entirely support the offer of better rates of pay to men in the Army, and I agree that an increase in the rates was necessary anyway, but I am extremely critical and very concerned about the departure from previous policies which is involved in the new pay codes.

In the first place, they must mean that the War Office will have to take special steps to make these more complex pay codes thoroughly intelligible to the men in the Forces. It will not be easy to explain the differentials which are involved. It is unfortunate that we must have a great multiplicity of pay codes. They can be justified only if, as a result of their introduction, more recruits are persuaded to sign up for longer periods of service.

We should be kept continuously informed about developments in this direction. From time to time hon. Members on this side of the Committee are compelled to utter their great dissatisfaction with the War Office's policy in regard to the three-year engagement system. I can only regard it as a policy of concealment, arising from the guilt complex which developed in the War Office over this matter. We shall be continuously scrutinising the recruitment figures and the extensions of engagements which result from the introduction of these new pay codes. Reasonable success in this direction will be the only justification for passing this increased Estimate this afternoon.

We warn the Under-Secretary of State that we shall watch this policy very carefully and critically. He must not expect us to swallow it easily. Since the principles upon which we have been acting hitherto are being abandoned, the War Office will have to prove that these new pay codes will produce extra recruits, and that the production of those recruits will enable it to pursue a more economical manpower policy in the future. Only if it can do so will it escape the most violent criticism in future Estimates debates.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

I associate myself wholeheartedly with the remarks which have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) about the colonial forces. The extent to which our colonial forces can be increased will reduce the liability of the War Office for sending British troops to colonial stations, on which a considerable amount of the expenditure envisaged in this Vote is incurred.

I advised the Under-Secretary of State that in the course of the Committee on the Army Estimates I proposed to raise the position of British troops serving in Hong Kong and Singapore. I hope that he is in the position to announce the result of the discussions that we were promised would take place between the War Office and the Colonial Office on the subject of these troops who, when they get into trouble with the civilian authorities—

The Deputy-Chairman

That matter does not arise on this Vote.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Oh, yes, it does, Sir Rhys, because the pay of these soldiers is affected if they are sent to prison. The pay and allowances of a soldier can be amended as a result, and that must affect the Estimate which we are now asked to approve.

The Deputy-Chairman

It is fairly remote from the Estimate.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

It may be remote, but it is connected with the Estimate.

The Deputy-Chairman

I daresay one could argue that many things are connected with the Estimate if one went round the world. They would be connected in one way or another.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

If all the troops serving in Hong Kong and Singapore were sent to prison and flogged, as they are liable to be, it would affect this Estimate.

The Deputy-Chairman

It has nothing to do with this Vote.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

We are asked to provide for National Service grants. In the circumstances to which I have alluded a greater demand would be made for National Service grants to provide for the dependants of the soldier who found himself in such a predicament. You will see from the paragraph in the Vote that grants are made where the ordinary Service emoluments are insufficient to enable Service men to meet their obligations to their families and dependants. I am respectfully suggesting that soldiers may, in certain circumstances, find themselves obliged to ask for National Service grants.

I will not go into the circumstances which could give rise to an application of that kind, but such circumstances could arise in Hong Kong and Singapore, for example, which would make it necessary—

The Deputy-Chairman

Circumstances are not part of the Vote.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

The circumstances would compel the unfortunate soldier to apply for a National Service grant.

The Deputy-Chairman

I have given my Ruling. The hon. and gallant Gentleman must now honour the Ruling.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I will proceed to the next point, if I may. Naturally, in connection with the pay of the Army we expect a certain standard of cleanliness and efficiency. I do not know whether you will allow me to allude to it, Sir Rhys.

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to have collected together a number of points which are not relevant to the Vote.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

You have ruled on this Vote, Sir Rhys, that what we get from the soldier in addition for his pay is not relevant, so we are precluded from referring to the counter-attack which has already developed against the Government's undertaking to abolish what its war minister has described as "bull" in the Army. If that is out of order, it cannot be discussed. We are asked to provide a very substantial sum of money for services which do not appear to some of us to be very satisfactory.

I hope that in the course of his reply the Under-Secretary may be able, within the circumscribed limit that you, Sir Rhys, have laid down, to remove some of the anxieties which speeches made by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee have outlined.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

The new pay arrangements in the Army are much more realistic, but we should not consider them in the exaggerated form in which they have appeared in the Press. A private soldier with less than six years' service gets £5 19s. He is not the millionaire that the Press represents him to be in view of the fact that he has to give up his liberty and sign away his freedom for six years to earn it. He is at the beck and call of the Army for 24 hours, so we should not consider that money as too great a payment. That comment applies to other rates of pay in the new pay code.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

The £5 19s. that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned does not, of course, include keep.

Mr. Willis

I am aware of that, but one calculates by the money one gets. It may be wrong to do that, but if the hon. Gentleman served for any length of time in one of the Services he will know that he did not pay any attention to his keep.

The Deputy-Chairman

The point about keep is not in order on the Vote.

Mr. Willis

I am sorry if I was led astray by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke).

I want to raise a point about the National Service man who, under the new Service pay and pensions code, has been treated most shabbily. Prior to the introduction of the changes he joined at four shillings per day or 28s. per week. He is now given the magnificent sum of 6d. per day extra. That does not help to make a boy of 18, 19 or 20, who has probably been earning £7 to £9 in industry, very happy in the Army, to say the least. The proposals should have been much more generous. An increase of 3s. 6d. per week is rather absurd.

To say that he will get another 3s. 6d. added to his pay when he reaches the age of 21 does not make the pay any more generous. I still cannot understand why no marriage allowance is paid before 21. Young men do get married before they are 21; who are we to say that they should not? Many marriages under 21 turn out to be quite happy and good marriages and nobody can complain about them. We fail to recognise that a man is married and we penalise him for it.

There might be an argument for giving no marriage allowance until 21 to a volunteer, because he volunteered on those conditions. National Service men are not volunteering, but are taken into the Army. They are probably married and enjoying a good income in civilian employment. They get married because they are earning enough to settle down and make a home. They are taken in the forces and paid the magnificent sum of 4s. 6d. a day. They may reach 5s. or 5s. 6d. There is nothing for their wives. They can, of course, apply for an assessment and for a National Service grant, and then they can get up to £3. If they have to apply in that way it is putting them in a strange position. Following an application, visits are made to the home and inquiries are made as to income. I should not have thought it would have cost any of the forces very much to have paid these marriage grants to men over 21.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Wigg

I do not think that my hon. Friend is right. I have been waiting for the Under-Secretary of State to correct him. I think my hon. Friend has misread the condition in Appendix II of the White Paper on Service Pay and Pensions, which reads: Married National Service officers and men aged 21 and over will be eligible to receive regular rates of marriage allowance. Under the age of 21 they receive a lower rate of marriage allowance, but they still get an allowance.

Mr. Willis

As a matter of fact, I have had some of these cases brought to my notice, and a lot of them do not get the allowance.

Mr. Wigg

They get the allowance when they join, but they do not get the allowance for their children.

Mr. F. Maclean

They get a reduced rate under 21, and the regular rate above that age.

Mr. Willis

Yes, and that brings it up to about 35s.?

Mr. Maclean

indicated assent.

Mr. Willis

I have gone into this and find that a man and wife actually get less from the Army than they would on National Assistance. This is not a very generous way to treat the National Service man. I cannot see why the day before a man is 21 he is not entitled to the full marriage allowance but on the day after that he is so entitled. If a man joins the Service of his own free will I can understand that there might be some case—although I would not necessarily accept it—but the position of the man who is conscripted is entirely different, and I am profoundly disappointed that the new pay code did nothing to rectify his position.

Mr. F. Maclean

Perhaps I might begin by giving what I hope will be a satisfactory answer to the first question asked me by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). He asked whether the new rates of pay applied to officers on short service commissions. The answer is that they do. He and other hon. Members asked how we intend to present future recruiting figures and figures of prolongations. As he knows, that is something which affects all three Services and the Ministry of Defence—although I think that perhaps the other two Services do not get quite as much of the benefit of his advice and interrogation as do we—

Mr. Wigg

Oh, yes, they do. The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. I have done my best for all three Services; but of course the Army is my chief love, if I may so put it, and the Secretary of State for War has my particular attention because of his past misdemeanours.

Mr. Maclean

I hope that the hon. Gentleman intends putting on his other two hats later today—and no doubt he will do his stuff.

All three Services and the Ministry of Defence are at the moment trying to work out the best way of presenting those figures so as to give the maximum information, and particularly to show ourselves and everyone else who is interested what are the effects of the new terms of service and the new rates of pay. It is, therefore, not yet possible for me to make a definite statement. I must say that I think there is every advantage in the suggestion put forward by the hon. Gentleman that as far as the Army is concerned we should show the different engagements and break down the figures into engagements of three, six, and nine years, and so on.

As to prolongations, as the hon. Gentleman knows better than anyone else, we have since April of last year been giving him figures of these, but I understand that he would like them issued as a regular statement—

Mr. Wigg


Mr. Maclean

Quarterly, yes. I think that that is a reasonable suggestion and I see no reason why we should not do it. In any case, I hope that he will no longer find it necessary to generate quite so much heat over these questions.

I should like to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), who is, I think, being very unjust in accusing my right hon. Friend of concealment with regard to the three engagements. Our reason for not giving the figures sooner was that sufficient time had not elapsed to judge results. As soon as sufficient time had elapsed we produced those figures as he knows. That was in April of last year.

The hon. Member for Dudley asked several questions about West Africa, and I will deal first with the future of the West Africa Command. As the hon. Gentleman indicated, that Command will cease to exist on 1st July, 1956. The troops in West Africa will then divide into four separate Commands—the Gold Coast, where the Governor will assume responsibility, and Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Gambia, each of which will have its own commander and staff, who will come under the War Office.

Mr. Wigg

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman made a slip of the tongue, but the communiqué issued by the Army Advisory Council for West Africa mentioned not four but three separate Commands.

Mr. Maclean

Yes, I had noticed that, too. I did not have time to check it but my impression was that it must be a mistake. My information is that there will be a separate Command for each.

Mr. Wigg

One for the Gambia, too?

Mr. Maclean

Yes, I think so, but I will let the hon. Member know. I noticed that fact and noticed also that in another place there were four Commands mentioned.

Each of those Commands will come directly under the War Office. Of course, there will continue to be problems common to all four—or, if the hon. Member is right, to all three. For that reason close contact will be kept between the Commands, and the way in which that can best be done is still being worked out between the respective Governments and Governors and between the War Office and the Colonial Office. Another measure to ensure that the overall picture is kept in view is the retention of the Army Advisory Council for West Africa. That will, of course, remain in being.

The question of the proposed West African Military Academy was discussed by the Advisory Council last November, when it was agreed that further consideration of proposal for the Academy should be postponed for the time being. That was largely on grounds of what it would cost to set up a separate establishment. Instead of that, for the time being—and I emphasise "for the time being"—the intention is that every encouragement should be given to the sending of suitable cadets to Sandhurst for training. I was asked about the vacancies there. At the moment there are ten West African cadets at Sandhurst, and up to now we have always been able to find vacancies for all applicants. If there is a great increase in the number of applications, the other projects will obviously become more urgent, but at the moment the problem is looked after very well by the present arrangements. One must go gradually in these matters; it is no good trying to rush them.

The hon. Member spoke of the rank of effendi which is being introduced. An effendi will be a warrant officer. It is felt that by the introduction of this rank a gradual transition can be brought about smoothly and efficiently. I can assure the hon. Member that there is no intention of putting West African officers on a lower level. These people will be warrant officers.

I was glad to find that such an old soldier, if I may so describe him, as the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) approved, on the whole, of the new pay code. He asked for more information to show results and, as I told his hon. Friend, that will be forthcoming. I hope that when they have studied this information we shall have even better-informed speeches from both of them than we have had in the past.

The hon. Member asked whether it was our intention to abolish National Service grants. It is certainly not our intention to do that, otherwise we should have made no provision for them in the Estimates. The reason the sum provided is slightly lower is that there has been a falling off in the number of applications for them, presumably because the need has been less, but I am surprised to find how many hon. Members do not know about these grants. I am continually having to write to hon. Members to remind them of the existence of National Service grants. I am not referring to the hon. Member for Brierley Hill, who knows all about them, and about a lot of other things, too.

Mr. Simmons

Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what information is given to recruits about National Service grants, because often when I hear of hardship cases and tell men about these grants, that is the first they have heard about them? There ought to be a much more effective publicity service to men when they join and to their parents. Sometimes the men do not make an allotment to their parents. They should be told that they are entitled to National Service grants.

Mr. Maclean

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raised that point because, in addition to what I consider to be the very adequate arrangements which exist for informing soldiers about them, some months ago we drew up what I believe will be a useful pamphlet addressed not to the soldiers but to their parents, putting all these matters in clear and simple language. We have taken a great deal of trouble with it and I believe it will be very useful. I hope hon. Members will direct the attention of their constituents to it. We cannot do more than publish these documents, but hon. Members can sometimes help to get people to read them.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Wigg

During the summer I went to the depôt of the Worcester Regiment about which my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons), who represents the constituency next door, is worried. I found that the arrangements there were admirable. If the young men would only pay attention to the information which is available, I am sure there would be no trouble. What pleased me very much was that the commanding officer of the depôt went to endless trouble to make young men aware of the fact that to get a National Service grant they must make a voluntary allotment of 1s. 6d. a day and fill in a form.

Every effort which can be made is made to help the young men coming from Dudley and Brierley Hill, but of course I am speaking only about the infantry and I am not sure what happens in the other services and the Artillery. The main depôt with which we are concerned is all right in this respect, but possibly other depots are not as good.

Mr. Maclean

I am grateful to the hon. Member for what he said, and I am glad to hear of the situation at this depôt. The more that can be done to bring these arrangements to the attention of more people, the better.

I was also asked a question about Korea gratuities. The explanation of the proportion between officers and other ranks is that the higher the rank the higher the gratuity. It does not mean that there is an unduly high proportion of officers in Korea.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) spoke anxiously about the upward trend in costs. I do not want to be out of order and I will not, therefore, speak about the Estimates as a whole, but perhaps I might draw the attention of those hon. Members to the beginning of my right hog. Friend's Estimates speech in which he pointed out that the Estimates are down by £100 million on a total of £500 million since 1953, which shows that the inflationary tendency has been checked, at any rate in the Army.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham asked a question about perquisites. He asked whether it was necessary to have all these allowances—some of which I will not mention because they ought not to be discussed on this Vote—in view of the pay increases. The answer is quite clearly that they were taken into account when the pay increases were agreed. Anybody with any knowledge of Whitehall would realise that that is bound to be the case. We are concerned to see that soldiers are paid a reasonable rate of pay which compares favourably with that of other careers and professions.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme made, I think, a less constructive speech than usual. He said he was disturbed by our departure from previous policies and then proceeded to demolish the previous policies. It is therefore difficult to see what he likes. He advocated simplicity, and I agree with him that the pay system in the Army has never been simple, but, desirable as simplicity may be, it is important not to sacrifice the results at which we are aiming in order to attain simplicity.

The hon. Gentleman also suggested that we had concealed the results obtained from the introduction of the three-year engagement. As I have tried to show, that is definitely not the case. With all his enthusiasm, the hon. Member for Dudley succeeded in extracting from us only what he would have got in any case.

Mr. Wigg

In the earlier stages, all we got was wrath and froth from the Secretary of State. Three years from the time he introduced his three-year engagement—about 1st November, 1954—we began to put down Questions to him. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) joined in those Questions. We got a set of figures which enabled us to establish beyond any shadow of a doubt that the Secretary of State's optimum, his hope—call it what you wish—of 33⅓ per cent. was just not on, and we said in our charity that it would be something less than 10 per cent. That angered the Secretary of State, and for a period of many months he did his best to conceal from the House and the country the fact that the policy was an abject failure and that he would never get even 10 per cent. That is the blunt truth. It is quite true that from April onwards, when the Secretary of State's policy of concealment could not be carried any further, he began to come clean, and we did get the actual figure of 4.5 per cent. from him. But very early on—

The Deputy-Chairman

This seems to be a speech within a speech.

Mr. Wigg

The hon. Gentleman did give way.

The Deputy-Chairman

I know he gave way, but we are in Committee. The hon. Gentleman can speak as many times as he likes.

Mr. Wigg

I thought I was quite in order as the hon. Gentleman gave way. The fact of the matter is that I want to bury the hatchet, but we are not going to have the hatchet buried in a great deal of untruth.

The Deputy-Chairman

I am only concerned to prevent our having one speech within another.

Mr. Maclean

I think I know what the hon. Gentleman was going to say anyhow, because I have heard him say it so often before. If this is the burying of the hatchet, I am sorry that my right hon. Friend should not be here for such an important occasion, and I am sure he will miss it as much as the hon. Gentleman. No doubt we may be able to unearth some other hatchets to take its place.

I should like to say on the question of concealment that, as I have already said, and as my right hon. Friend has said over and over again, the reason why we did not give the information in question sooner was simply that it was not available. It was not possible to judge what the results of the three-year engagement were until it had been running for long enough to see. When the results were shown, two things emerged: first of all, that it had not come up to the optimum, which is quite a different thing from an expectation, because it was an optimum that my right hon. Friend had mentioned, and he was the first to admit that; and the other fact that emerged was that it was the three-year engagement—whatever the hon. Gentleman may say about it, and to whomsoever he may attribute its rather doubtful paternity, because I know that he likes getting in a left and a right on these occasions, if I may call it that—whoever takes the credit for it or the blame, that got us through the last three years as the five-year engagement would not have done.

I am sorry that almost all the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) were out of order, and that I am therefore deprived of the pleasure of giving him the information which I had prepared for him. Perhaps we might meet on a later occasion, or perhaps he might put down a Question and we shall have the answer ready.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) suggested that the new pay code was hard on the National Service man. I think that in general the rates at which we pay National Service men in this country compare favourably with those paid in almost any other country in the world. We should, of course, like to increase them, but the funds available are, as the hon. Gentleman will realise, naturally limited. We did ourselves feel that in this case, instead of concentrating on further increasing the pay of National Service men and further increasing the marriage allowances, we would concentrate on the Regular with the object of increasing our Regular recruiting, which, as everybody knows, is the chief aim of our policy.

Mr. Willis

Surely it is quite wrong to compare the rates of pay of National Service men of this country with the rates of pay of National Service men of other countries. That might mean anything. We must compare them with the rates of pay in the Services here and the rates of pay outside the Services. The very fact that the hon. Gentleman admits that he gets so many letters from Members of this House concerning hardship indicates that these rates of pay and the very small marriage allowance of 1s. per day until a man is 21 is really too small for the National Service man. When we look, too, at the very size of this Vote in respect of National Service grants, the fact that it is almost £500,000 indicates that there is a great deal of hardship which could be avoided if the National Service man were treated rather more generously. To give him an increase of 6d. per day is really rather insulting in present circumstances. As I have said, to give him a very limited marriage allowance also puts the man in a very difficult position.

I do not think the hon. Gentleman has answered the criticisms about National Service men too well. If the aim is to get a Regular Army and to abolish National Service, well and good; but then I should have thought there might also be a case for increasing the National Service man's pay, because the cost would become smaller in respect of National Service men and we could afford to be rather more generous. In any case, I am bound to say that I still do not think the hon. Gentleman's answer is at all satisfactory regarding National Service men.

Mr. Maclean

Perhaps I might draw attention to one fact, and that is that the hon. Gentleman spoke about the large sum we spend in National Service grants. First of all, that is what National Service grants are for, to relieve any hardship where there is hardship. Secondly, I would draw his attention to the fact that there has been reduction in the sum allotted for that purpose because there has been a reduction in the number of applications, which shows that it is becoming less necessary rather than more necessary. We are also, as he himself has said, doing something to help the National Service man. It is not only a question of policy, but is also fair that a man who makes the Army his career should get a higher differential, with which I know lots of hon. Members opposite agree.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £100,380,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the pay, etc., of the Army, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1957.