§ Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
Would the hon. Gentleman like to suggest that we should take this Amendment and the following two Amendments together?
In page 15, line 21, leave out paragraph (a) and insert:(a) the right conferred by this section shall not be exercisable by a recruit before the expiration of two months beginning with the date of his attestation.65 In page 15, line 32, at end insert:but the period of the proclamation shall not count as part of the three months commencing at the date of attestation, and the recruit shall be entitled to 'exercise' the right conferred by this section during the first three months of his service during which the proclamation under section ten of this Act shall not be in force
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I think that it might make for greater clarity if we took the three Amendments separately. The reason for that, I think, will emerge when we discuss them.
§ Mr. Wigg
Perhaps the Committee will bear with me if I say a word about the Clause. It is a very interesting fact that the House, at various stages, has had to be convinced on what seemed to me a fairly obvious fact. At the beginning of this controversy about the Army and the number of recruits which would be obtained in ultimate years, the main discussion was in terms of manpower. It always seemed to me to be crystal clear that the size of the Army was determined not by the number of men who joined but by how long they joined. It took us until 1956 or 1957 to get that proposition accepted, and now that it is accepted it is completely relevant. It does not matter whether a man joins for 3, 6, 9 or 22 years in relation to the immediate manpower targets of the Government. The length of the engagement on which he is now serving does not affect it, because it will take him on to 1962–63.
What matters is not only the number of men who join but the number of men who go out. Hon. Members will remember when they were young having to work out the problem of how much water there was in a bath. It is not only the amount of water which comes into the bath which must be considered, but the amount of water that goes down the waste hole. Although one is reluctant to talk about it, it has been clear for two or three years that wastage in the Army has been very high.
66 Last year I started to do a little homework on this subject. I discovered some interesting facts. Under Section 14 of the Army Act, which gives a soldier the statutory right to take his discharge within three months, the rate was fixed at £10 in the latter part of the nineteenth century—in about 1880—and then at £20 in 1920. It became clear that if those figures were right in those years, because of the changes in the value of money—and there have been many changes—and the changes in the rates of pay, they were wrong today.
During the Second Reading debate I put forward the view, as I did in the Select Committee in 1955, that this form of wastage ought to be looked at. To my surprise I found that, as so often, I was exposing myself to misrepresentation on the charge of being illiberal, on the ground that at all costs nothing must be done to infringe the right of the soldier, that he must have the right to go and that £20 was the right figure.
This staggered me a little because for 91 clays, or the first three months, the man is all right, but on the 92nd day down comes the chopper. A man then finds himself having to pay not £20 but £250 to go out. On top of that, in the Army, in particular, there is an Army Council Instruction—I will not weary the House with details of it—which lays down a whole list of trades from which a man cannot purchase his discharge at all without special reference to the War Office.
This is a grave problem, and it will get worse. In January, the Secretary of State for War was kind enough to give me some figures for 1958–59. He told me that the number of men claiming the right to purchase discharge under Section 14 was 1,650 and that thereafter, that is to say, outside Section 14, under the provisions of the Royal Warrant, 567, making a total of 2,217. For 1959–60 the figures were, under Section 14, 2,206, and thereafter 676, making a total of 2,882.
At that stage he could not give me the figures beyond November, but the other day I asked him to give me the completed figures for 1960–61. They show that Section 14 discharges amounted to 2,056, and that thereafter under the purchase provisions they leapt to 1,063, making a total wastage of 3,149 under the purchase provisions alone.
67 Those figures are high, but I must confess—and here I hope that I will not bore my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—that when one tries to break the figures down into arms of the Service, or when one breaks them down inside arms of the Service, that is to say, if one takes discharge by purchase in the Foot Guards and in other infantry regiments, one finds that the range is very wide. In the infantry as a whole the figure is slightly less than 3 per cent. The figure for the Foot Guards is about 4 per cent. No less than five areas are above the average, going as high as 5.2 per cent. in the Parachute Regiment.
There are clearly some odd forces at work, and I was glad to learn from the Secretary of State for War that the War Office is investigating this problem. I do not think that it is capable of easy solution. There are a number of forces at work, one of which is that some regiments have higher standards than others. Life being perhaps a little harder in one case than in another, it tends to make a person want to leave one regiment but not another. However, there is an easy answer to this.
The Amendment proposes to give the Secretary of State for War flexibility while retaining—and it is right that it should be retained—the statutory right to permit discharge by purchase within three months. The recruit has a statutory right to go, but the rate at which he shall go and the period when he shall go shall be determined by the Army Council and it shall be governed both as to the amount and the period by regulation. At the moment it is £20, and it has to be effective within three months. If the Secretary of State for War wants to make a change he has to get the legislation amended either as regards the amount or as regards the period.
What I am asking the Committee to accept is by no means an innovation. This is a serious matter to those who are concerned with the future strength of the Army. I do not want to bowl a googly or a quick one to which the Minister has no answer. I say this without trying to score points. If anyone says that the Army Council or the Secretary of State for War will be given 68 too much power by introducing flexibility, let me point out that flexibility exists in the Women's Service. A woman recruit has a statutory right to take her discharge within three months, but the conditions under which she does so, both as regards amount and time, are governed not by the Army Act but by Article 602 (B) of the Royal Warrant, which says:A recruit who claims her discharge under Section 14 shall pay such sum as is prescribed in the following Table …One sees in the table that a recruit pays £3 if she takes her discharge within one month, and £15 if she takes her discharge at any time between one month and three months.
I do not know how that comes about, in view of the terms of Section 14, but I point out to the Committee that this flexibility both as to time and period exists under the provisions of the Royal Warrant. My proposal is therefore not a startling, revolutionary one, but is in accordance with established practice.
It is important that the statutory right of the soldier should be retained. It is also important that the Army Council should keep the situation under review and under control, and if in its wisdom it wants to keep the amount at £20 and do what the Amendment says, namely, limit the right of a man to take his discharge after two months after he has had a taste of it and knows what it is like, it can do so. On the other hand, if many recruits are coming in and the Army Council wants to do for the men what it can do for the women under Article 602, there is nothing to stop it doing so.
For those reasons, I ask the Committee to accept the Amendment as being common sense and in accordance with existing facts. It will retain the liberal spirit which has been expressed and will meet the conditions which the Army Council has to face at the present time.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
I support the Amendment. The Committee will appreciate that this is a very important matter. We have all discussed getting recruits, but, as the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has said, this is one of the methods by which we lose many men.
69 The hon. Member put it very aptly when he said that in 1920 the cost of purchasing a discharge was £20, so that the sum was now quite unrealistic. As he said, a recruit of less than three months' service can purchase his discharge at the cost of £20, but, within 24 hours of having completed his three months' service, may have to pay £250. There is no rhyme or reason in that sudden rise.
The Secretary of State should have some sort of power to alter the amounts. It may be that he should be able not only to alter the amount year by year, but to alter the amount taking into consideration the amount of money which has been spent on training the man. The State may have been put to a great deal of expense if a man has been trained for three months. At the same time, the Army should consider, as it does, whether there are any compassionate grounds on which a man should be discharged.
I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment, which would be beneficial to the Army and give the Secretary of State a great deal more flexibility in this matter of the purchase of discharge.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The Amendment has been proposed and supported in two persuasive speeches, yet I hope that the Government will be slow to accept it. We all agree that purchasing discharge is a critical problem, but all the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) were carefully considered by the Select Committee, although we concluded that it would not help recruiting or keep men in the Army if the sum were increased from £20.
It is true that this flexibility exists in the case of purchase of discharge by women, but the problem is not the problem of women purchasing their discharge but of men doing so. The Select Committee concluded that, in view of the resulting publicity, it would not help recruiting to raise the sum from £20, thus giving the public an impression of failure. We also bore in mind that, although it might not appear to be a very large sum, it bore with unequal strength on persons of different wealth and income. What might be a negligible sum to some men might be considerable to others.
70 My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley suggested that if £20 was right all those years ago, it must be wrong today. Although the value of the £ has gone down and down, the idea that money should be a test in this kind of thing has also diminished, in the sense that we are now less willing to declare that a man should remain in the Army if he cannot afford a certain sum than we were at the time when the £20 figure was fixed.
It may be a good thing for Parliament to decide the issue of flexibility. We want to impose on the Army Council the greatest possible incentive to go ahead with the acclimatisation of the young recruit, to attract him into the Army and to persuade him to remain in, rather than to give him what might be wrongly considered to be an easy way out, or pressuring him to remain by increasing the amount of money which he has to pay for his discharge.
§ Mr. Wigg
I fully appreciate my hon. Friend's argument that the House of Commons and the country as a whole reject the idea of the test of money. But how does it come about that, at a time when my hon. Friend was a Minister, he accepted the principle of the purchase of discharge jumping to £250 on the ninety-second day?
§ Mr. Mayhew
The recruit has the right to purchase his discharge in the first three months, but no right at all to do so after the three months. The two are not strictly comparable.
Those are substantial reasons for keeping Parliament in control of this matter and I do not see why the recommendations of the Select Committee should not be included in the Bill. That seems a sufficient answer to the Amendment.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
Would not the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) agree that the sum might also be reduced as well as raised?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am not very much impressed by the view that because the Select Committee came to a certain decision it should be accepted by this Committee. I say that merely in passing.
71 This is a matter of considerable complexity, ranging far beyond mere monetary considerations and how much should be paid by a recruit who, having served rather less than three months in the Army, wishes to terminate his engagement. I appreciate the purpose behind the Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is concerned here primarily not with how much the recruit will pay to terminate his engagement, but with the whole matter of wastage, of which this is a very important aspect. We cannot debate the whole subject of wastage now, although, of course, reference can be made to it.
On more than one occasion, in the course of many speeches on the subject, my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, whose speeches we have all enjoyed and which have illumined our minds with the information which they furnish from time to time, has frequently said that no matter what we do by means of television advertising or other devices to stimulate recruitment, there is a constant factor in the number of recruits who can be induced to join the Services. If that is so, the question of fixing the figure for the purchase of discharge with- in three months at £20, or providing some flexibility, does not, in logic, have much bearing on how we are to curtail wastage.
When I had to deal with the problem, the circumstances were somewhat different, because we had at our disposal a vast reservoir of National Service men and there was no question of terminating the National Service Acts. We are now on the eve of the termination of that legislation and the problem facing the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War is far more formidable than that which I had to face. It was then easy to tackle the problem. I qualify that by saying that it was not so easy as might be thought, because, even with all the vast number of men at our disposal, during the Korean crisis we had to extend the term of engagement and call up reserves.
I often wondered why, with these millions of National Service men, we were placed in such a quandary. I never could understand it. One has to depend on expert advisers, particularly if one is 72 an amateur like myself—I am not accusing the right hon. Gentleman of being as amateurish as I was—but the advisers were unable to find the solution to the problem. I regard this matter as almost insoluble unless, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has proposed more than once, we revert to the National Service Act either by means of a selective ballot or by means of a direct piece of legislation by which men are called up for a stipulated period.
§ Mr. Wigg
My right hon. Friend says that I have always claimed that the number of men available to be recruited is constant. What he fails to see is that that number is the number of men joining. We are here discussing what happens after they have joined.
Secondly, my right hon. Friend slightly misrepresented me, which I am sure is accidental. I have said that as long as the commitments are kept as they are, we shall not be able to recruit sufficient men to discharge them. There are three courses of action: to cut the commitments; to introduce conscription in some form; or, as will probably happen, looking at both Front Benches, to do nothing.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is a subject relevant to an Army Estimates debate, when we deal with the whole range of problems associated with recruitment, the commitments and the future of the Services. I do not propose to detain the Committee with considerations of that sort, but I will deal with the first part of that interjection—that we are dealing not so much with the matter of recruitment as with that of retaining men in the Service once we have recruited them. That question which arises on the Amendment is whether we accept the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, which, according to my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), was the submission of the Select Committee, or whether we impart a measure of flexibility in the hope of easing the situation both for the recruit and for the War Office.
It is a dilemma. If we provide flexibility and leave the decision to the Army Council, as a result of some maladministration there might be a diminution in recruitment. Men will say, when about to enlist in the Service, "After all, if I do not like the job I can intimate 73 before three months have expired that I want to leave, and I can manage to rasie £20, or my friends will raise it for me. Because it will be so easy to leave the Service, I will join." It is true that wastage is at a fairly high level, but it is only a percentage of the number of recruits to the Service. Many recruits may be induced to remain in the Service if new devices are employed by those who are responsible for administration and for the welfare of the men.
When I had to go round the depots, accompanied by a vast entourage of be-ribboned and be-medalled high-ranking military gentlemen, I often thought that the demeanour of some of the non-commissioned officers was rather harsh, and their expression to the men was not calculated to endear them to the men. It may be different now-I hope that it is—but it worried me a good deal and I did not like it. Once or twice I asked the adjutant, or whoever was accompanying me, whether they could not stop that sort of thing. Why is it necessary to shout at the men? I can understand a little shouting when they are doing square-bashing or are on parade and they do not appear to be as satisfactory in their dress or in their drill as the N.C.O. would like, but when someone is being shown round and is looking at the men, why do they shout at them and bully them—or appear to be bullying them? There may be nothing in it; it may be just their method. But in my opinion much more welfare is required.
If a young fellow enlists at the age of 18 and finds after three months or ten or eleven weeks that he is unsuitable and does not like the company, or the way in which he is being bullied or appears to be bullied, then it could be helpful if someone were to talk to him about it. But not the chaplain. I do not think that they want to be sermonised and preached at. They could be talked to in a reasonable way and perhaps persuaded to remain in the Service. That would be far more effective than all the flexibility which my hon. Friend has mentioned.
I do not know what could be done in that direction. I very much doubt whether flexibility will lead to more enlistment. Moreover, I am not at all happy about leaving the decision in the hands of the Army Council. It would 74 not always rest with the Council but would be left in the hands of the commanding officers. I doubt whether many cases would come before the Army Council. I would not leave it to anybody to decide as a matter of judgment. Good judgment is not a peculiarity of people in the Service on matters of this sort. I do not want to be offensive in any way, but there is a possibility that their judgment would err on certain occasions. I am sorry that I cannot support my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am sorry, too, but I should have been even more sorry if it were for the reasons given by my right hon. Friend, because quite clearly, although he has been Secretary of State for War, he does not appear to understand how the Regulations are prescribed. They are certainly not at the level of commanding officer but at that of Secretary of State. Perhaps it was not so in his day.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is it necessary to direct attention to my limitations? I am more conscious of them than is my hon. Friend and always have been—and never more conscious of them than when he was my Parliamentary Private Secretary and frequently informed me of them. But I managed to get through, and I believe that in certain quarters it has been said that I managed with a qualified measure of success. I will not put it higher than that.
I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friend, but I feel that on balance it is far better to have a rigid and arbitrary figure of £20 within a period of three months. After that it is at the discretion of the Army Council, and I know that it can go up to £200 or more. I have received correspondence from men who have had difficulty when they wanted to get out of the Army and could not raise the money.
If flexibility is provided and a recruit who wants to leave before the end of three months shows some potential, his commanding officer may wish to retain him in the Service and may say to him, "You cannot leave unless you pay £100."
§ Mr. Wigg
The present sum is £20 within three months, as provided by Section 14 of the 1955 Act. I want the Secretary of State to do exactly as happens in the case of women already, 75 namely, to do it by Royal Warrant. This is nothing to do with the commanding officer. It is done by the Secretary of State in exercise of his powers.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Exactly. The words are:twenty pounds or such other amount … as may be prescribedby the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is the Amendment. What is the Amendment, if it is not that? Despite my limitations, I can read, and perhaps it would be better if I now read the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley and others of my hon. Friends, most of whom are absent from our discussions. The Amendment in page 15, line 19. is to this effect:after 'pounds', insert 'or such other amount (whether more or less than twenty pounds) as may be prescribed'.The word "more" is important. Twenty pounds would be the arbitrary sum within three months. After three months it could be any figure. It is to be prescribed, presumably by the Secretary of State. It could be £30, £50 or £100. It could go up to a very high figure.
It would be detrimental to the Service if men who wished to leave were restrained. If men where straining at the leash to get out and were dissatisfied with the conditions, it would be detrimental to the Service if they were prevented from doing so merely because in measure of flexibility were imparted n the matter of discharge by purchase. On this occasion I am bound to support my hon. Friend on the Front Bench, and I hope that that will be counted unto me for righteousness.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I am in agreement with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). We should be very careful before we accept the Amendment. These provisions give the soldier a certain guarantee, a certain privilege, in respect of his ability to change his mind within three months. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said that this was an expression of the spirit of liberality. I think so, too. It is precisely because that is so that we should be careful before we whittle it away.
76 My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley pointed to the very large wastage figures which have taken place in the past two or three years due to discharge by purchase within the first three months of service. My hon. Friend suggests that we should give the Army Council the power to change the figure of £20. I submit that in the conditions of the day the change would be upwards. I shall later suggest that it will never be downwards. Therefore, if the Amendment were carried, Parliament would be saying to the Army Council, "You can fix the figure. You can determine how liberal we, the House of Commons, are going to be. You can decide whether we shall let people get out easily during the first three months by virtue of the sum that you, the Army Council, decide shall be paid to secure discharge".
I am not prepared to leave this to the Army Council. In present circumstances the sum would always be increased. It would never be reduced. I should like to be told what the circumstances are in which the sum is likely to be reduced, if any hon. Member thinks that that would happen.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
A man might have grounds which were short of compassionate grounds and the Secretary of State, or whatever the authority is, might well decide that it was reasonable to release him on payment of a lower figure. The Amendment would give complete flexibility and allow the appropriate authority to deal with individual cases.
§ Mr. Willis
As I read the Amendment, it would not achieve that purpose. If the Amendment were carried, the provision would be as follows:on payment of a sum not exceeding twenty pounds or such other amount (whether more or less than twenty pounds) as may be prescribed".When is it likely to become less than £20?
I assume that there is only one set of conditions in which that is likely to happen, namely, if the Army finds itself with too many men. In those circumstances, the obvious course would be to be more selective in recruiting. As far as I know, every Service aims at being selective in its recruiting. I am confident that, if the Army could get as 77 many recruits as it wanted—more than it wanted; the more the merrier from the Army point of view—it would be much more selective in its recruiting.
There are other ways of solving the problem of having too many men. Because that is so and because the Army could be more selective, the figure of £20 would never be reduced but would always be raised. This would be done on our authority by the Army Council. It may be true that the Secretary of State would prescribe it, but the House of Commons would not discuss it because there is no provision that the figure must be changed by regulation to be approved by the House of Commons. If the Amendment were passed, we should give the Army Council the right to fix the figure as high as it liked. We should allow the Army Council to destroy what my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley called our great spirit of liberality to as great an extent as it wished to destroy it. The Committee should think twice before doing this, and I sincerely hope that the Amendment will not be accepted.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Profumo)
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if at this stage, having listened very carefully to all the arguments, I state what my views on the Amendment are. It must be unusual for a Minister to come to Parliament and refuse to be given more flexibility and greater powers, but on this occasion it is my duty to take the opposite attitude to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), whose sincerity I fully appreciate and understand.
Section 14 of the Army Act, 1955, and the Air Force Act, 1955, gives a recruit the right to buy himself out during the first three months on payment of £20. Some flexibility already exists under the 1955 Acts. The hon. Member for Dudley wants to give me the power to vary the amount upwards if necessary. I already have power to make it less. The words are "not exceeding". The whole argument about changing the present sum is so that the Secretary of State and the Army Council could, if they wished, put the price up.
It is clearly Parliament's intention that there should be a period during which a soldier can have second thoughts. The Clause seeks to modify this to the extent that the Army and Air Councils would 78 be given power to make regulations stopping the exercise of this right during the first two months of a recruit's service. The period of two months is a maximum period, and a ban would be imposed on any period within that maximum.
As has been pointed out, Clause 17 was inserted by the Select Committee, whose reasons are set out in paragraphs 10–15 of the Special Report. The Committee may recollect that during the debate on the Army Estimates in March, I said that I should be perfectly prepared to accept this, but the present Amendment is quite clearly intended to give the Army and Air Councils complete freedom to vary the amount of the purchase money from nothing at all upwards, without any limit at all.
I should like to remind the Committee that during the Second Reading debate I said of the purchase price:… I believe that it would be against the interests of recruiting, which the House has so much at heart, if it were felt that we were trying to hold a man to the forces against his will by making the price of purchasing out prohibitive. Anyway, if a man has made a genuine mistake in coming into the forces, I am not sure that it is not far better to let him go."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1961; Vol. 633, c. 1209.]We do not want reluctant soldiers.
I am happy to say that the Select Committee endorsed this view. It came to the conclusion that an increase in the purchase price from £20 to, say, £50, would be unfair to the recruit whose means, or family means, were inadequate, despite the fact, and I agree with the hon. Member for Dudley, that £50 could probably be raised today much more easily than could the £10 required in 1881, or the £20 in 1920.
The Select Committee endorsed the view that the publicity given to any change in the sum might have—and I think that it probably would have—an adverse effect on recruitment. I am sure that this must be the case, and I do not think that we should substitute for the old system of what might be called press-ganging some new system which one might call tele-ganging because, once having brought them in, we have to make them stick there.
The hon. Member for Dudley has made it clear that he wants this to be only a permissive power, but I think that 79 it might make just that difference to many would-be recruits who were genuinely uncertain about the step they were about to take if we introduced the possibility of an upward variation in purchase money at any moment that I or the Army Council might decide.
Of course, if we were starting anew, and fixing the price from scratch, and if the need to attract recruits were not of such over-riding importance, these psychological considerations might not arise. I might then well have found myself in the company of the hon. Member for Dudley in thinking that some figure higher than £20 was right to start at, but I am sure that the key to the problem is to give the recruit a proper chance to settle down. That is the object of our taking power to impose the ban. It will provide a means of ensuring that a recruit does give the Army or the Air Force a fair trial before exercising his statutory right—which, I take it, Parliament still wishes him to have—to buy himself out.
In the Army, we are still losing a lot of recruits, and most of those who buy their discharge do so in the first month. I am told that many of those who do so would become good and contented soldiers if they persevered just long enough to get over the first unsettled weeks, and I believe that a maximum ban of two months from joining is adequate for the purpose. That now leaves only one month during which the recruit can buy himself out for a reasonable sum.
I was particularly interested in what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) had to say on the subject. If I may say so, his tenure of office in the War Office is still regarded with the greatest possible admiration and respect by all the soldiers I have come across. I should tell the Committee that I am making special arrangements to look after new recruits, and I can refer to that, if the Committee wishes me to do so, when we debate the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
Perhaps the strongest reason for rejecting the Amendment is that its object is to enable the Army and Air Councils to raise the cost of the purchase of discharge to a level which will hold more 80 recruits in the Army against their will. This would be clearly contrary to the intention of Parliament, enshrined in the Act, that recruits shall have an escape route if they find that they have made a genuine mistake.
We must also bear in mind what goes on today in life outside the Armed Forces. Many firms have apprenticeship schemes, and spend sometimes hundreds of pounds on young men as apprentices. But those young men can walk out; the firms have no hold on them at all. I do not think that it would be right to say that just because we in the Army and the Royal Air Force have to spend some money on these young men, they must stay. If they find that they are not fitted or not suited to the life, or that they have made a genuine mistake, we must let them take this step. Apart from this, I consider that the Amendment is undesirable, because I believe that it would have a bad effect on recruiting, and because we do not want reluctant warriors in the Army or the Air Force. For those reasons, I must ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
If I had any doubts as to how I should vote on this Amendment I have certainly been convinced by the absolutely logical arguments of the Secretary of State. I would say, without embarrassing him, that it is the most sensible speech I have heard the right hon. Gentleman make since he became Secretary of State for War. If he has to lead his troops into the Lobby against the Amendment, I shall follow him, not as a reluctant recruit but as an enthusiastic supporter.
I am also glad on this occasion to be able to support my own Front Bench, and I do so because I think that there is something very insidious in this Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) collects his facts with amazing industry and I am always impressed by them and glad to have them, but I am always very doubtful when he starts drawing conclusions from those facts. He and I then sometimes part company, and I have to part from him on this occasion.
There are some words that very often take the trick in arguments in this Committee, and one of them is this blessed 81 word "flexibility". What can that word mean? If it were flexibility from £20 down to 10s. I should agree with it, but when the flexibility means a sum from £20 upwards it is obvious, for the very convincing arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), that we cannot agree. This Amendment means "All power to the Army Council," and I would not for a moment subscribe to that slogan.
What is the background to all this? Naturally, we have wastage figures, because when a recruit gets into the Army he sometimes finds it very different from the way it was advertised on the television screen or the recruiting posters. When, in my part of the country, it looked as though there were no prospects of greater employment in the mining industry, some of the miners joined the Army. They then found that there was a good deal of the shouting and the bawling and bullying to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell)—
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
My right hon. Friend is gallant. I use the word, not in the accepted Parliamentary sense because, even though he was not in the Army, he is certainly a very gallant Parliamentary fighter.
My right hon. Friend certainly struck the nail on the head. I do not see this wastage problem getting any better. When a recruit enters the Army, for the first three months—or at least for the first 24 hours—he might be treated with a certain amount of civility but then, after that initial period, the Army goes back to bawling and shouting. In any case, I do not see how one can run an Army without all the shouting and the bawling that goes on. It cannot be run like a Sunday school. It is obvious that a number of recruits, after their first three months, will want to leave and. if so, I agree with the principle that was outlined by the Secretary of State.
We should consider how the present system compares with other organisations and industries. Would anyone suggest that a recruit to the coal mining industry, if he does not like the job after the first three months, should have to pay the Coal Board £20? I fail to see 82 why the Army should not be able to compete with coal mining. After all, coal mining is not on industry. It is an atrocity.
§ Mr. Mayhew
My hon. Friend may be interested in evidence that was given to the Select Committee, which showed that the rate of wastage in the first three months in coal mining was greater than in the first three months in the Army.
§ Mr. Hughes
That is what I am arguing about. But I do not think that the Select Committee advanced the proposal to encourage men to go into the coal mines—to work a 4 ft. seam—and then, if they do not like it after three months, to pay £20 to leave. If those sort of principles were laid down, how many recruits would the coal mining industry get?
The Army must compete with industry. I have been arguing for many years that this is rather an insoluable problem; that in times of full employment the Army is not likely to get the recruits it requires—and that is a problem that the Secretary of State will have to tackle. I am glad to agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is better not to have reluctant soldiers. But perhaps the greatest form of compulsion is monetary compulsion. If one relies on monetary penalties, then that reliance acts as a compulsion. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley that if he attempts to try to take this matter into the Division Lobby, I shall support the Government.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
I am very pleased that the Secretary of State has taken the line he has. He has certainly shown himself to be original, but that is not saying that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has not acted with sincerity, for we know that he always does that.
Recruitment into the Army today is an important matter. Times have changed and the Army and Air Force have got to keep in line with other institutions. The Secretary of State referred to this, to other industries and to apprenticeships. But the wastage happens in many other institutions, for instance, in universities, where there it is tremendous. Time and money are spent on training young people and then they decide to change their minds. I suppose that it is their prerogative to 83 have a passion for something, and then change their minds about it, and there seems no reason why, as in other fields, they should not do the same in the Army.
Many young people today go out and, in the light of the experience so gained, change their ideas and do something else. I consider that the three months' period should be raised to six months to keep recruits in the two Services. Although it might be argued that to keep them longer would be more costly, that object might be achieved if they had a longer period in which to get used to the atmosphere. Perhaps a spell overseas might help them to make up their minds within the initial nine or ten weeks.
I am sure that the general feeling of the Committee is right, that the amount of £20 should not be increased beyond that figure and that recruits should be looked upon in an entirely new light. The matter cannot be approached as it was forty years ago. Even if the men can raise this money, it is not always convenient to raise £20, let alone £50, and we must consider this from the point of view of people living near the breadline, even though wages today are reasonably good. Therefore, while it might be easy for some men to raise the money, it might be difficult for a few and I hope that the line adopted by the Secretary of State will be accepted by all hon. Members.
§ Mr. Wigg
I will not press this Amendment to a Division. While I assure my hon. Friend that there is an insidious purpose behind it, in that I want to see an official, all-Regular Army, if I am in a minority in that quest, then I do not want to waste the time of the Committee.
I must, first, deal with the "liberality" of the Secretary of State. A few weeks ago a young soldier joined the Regular Army and, shortly afterwards, his father died in tragic circumstances. I wanted to get the boy out. "Yes," I was told, "He can purchase his discharge for £200." Meanwhile, the Secretary of State today tells us that in civilian life apprentices do not walk out.
§ Mr. Foot
My hon. Friend complained about my previous interruption and said that it was not relevant. But it was my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) who talked about liberality. His cure for the illiberality of the Secretary of State is to introduce more illiberality and a figure higher than £20.
§ Mr. S. Silverman rose—
§ Mr. Wigg
Do not interrupt.
What is the main point of the figures? I predict that the wastage will go on and that it will get worse. It seems common sense that if one turns round and says, "You cannot do it during the first eight weeks of the grievances", one narrows the period during which they can take action.
I am prepared and content to rest on my judgment, as I was with regard to the three-year engagement. I am used to being in a minority of one in this House, but I urge the Secretary of State that before making a comparison of what happens in civilian and Army life he should read Army Council Instruction No. 58, of 1958. He will see that there are 90 trades in the Army, but that there is complete restriction. These are the simple facts.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, but in a year or so I will put down a couple of Questions to the Secretary of State to see just who was right.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.85
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I think that there has been sufficient discussion on the principle of the next Amendment, in page 15, line 21.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I beg to move, in page 15, line 21, to leave out paragraph (a) and to insert:(a) the right conferred by this section shall not be exerciseable by a recruit before the expiration of two months beginning with the date of his attestation.I should like to put one or two questions to the Secretary of State, Sit William. In resisting the last Amendment the Minister took credit for himself for resisting a suggestion that he should be given greater powers, compared with Parliament. He and the Army Council, he said, should not be left to decide this matter; Parliament should.
The effect of this Amendment is that Parliament, and not the Secretary of State and the Army Council, should decide on the two months' ban. It seems to me that the same arguments apply in both cases. It seems more suitable that the question of two months should be decided by this House, rather than by the Army Council and the Secretary of State—for exactly the same reasons the Secretary of State advanced on the last Amendment.
Parliament should be the judge of this. Hon. Members should be the ones to decide whether or not the two months' suggestion is a good idea. As the Bill stands, the two months is only permissive. We give the Army Council only the right to insist on the recruit staying for two months. We should decide whether that should be so in the Bill, because that would seem to be a much more satisfactory way of dealing with it. Everything that has been said about the importance of wastage in our discussion on the previous Amendment seems to me to support what I am now saying. Parliament must take an active and keen interest in the whole question of wastage. It is not something that we can push on to the Army Council to solve in their own way.
The Secretary of State, I believe, used the expression "tele-ganging". I regret that he used such an awful phrase, but I think I know what he has in mind. Since March he has been advertising on 86 television for recruits, and he has decided that he cannot allow a situation to exist whereby a man is persuaded by a television commercial feature to join the Army and then he clamps down on the man once he is in the Army. That is "tele-ganging" instead of press-ganging.
I should like to ask the Minister, though, what are the facts behind this phrase. What is the rate of discharge of those who have been recruited as a result of his television drive? May I draw his attention to the figures for recruiting in March and April which he stated to me, in a Written Answer, are 24 per cent. up on March and April last year? One might, therefore, have expected that the rate of increase in the Regular Army during the same two months this year would have been 24 per cent. up on the rate of increase in the Regular Army for those two months last year. There are, of course, other factors to be taken into account, but it would be reasonable to expect that.
I have taken the trouble to look at the figures, and I find that the rate of increase during these two months in the Regular Army for March and April, 1960 was 981—that is, for the long-term engagement other ranks, the key figure. We ought to expect that the rate of increase for these two months this year would be 24 per cent. higher. Instead of being 240 more, as it should be, it is only 37 more. The rate of increase was 1,018. What do these figures mean? It seems to me that there has been a much greater rate of wastage during these two months than in the previous year.
Will the Secretary of State let us know the facts? It bears out what I feel should be our view, that Parliament must take a keen and intimate interest in this question of wastage. After all, it is not only useless recruiting people if the rate of wastage keeps pace; it is positively harmful and costly. The expense of training a man for the two or three months that he is a recruit is considerable. In the Select Committee we were given a figure of £150 for six weeks' training only. When we multiply that by many hundreds it comes to a very considerable amount of money. Parliament should keep in close touch with this whole problem, and for that reason my Amendment, which takes this issue out of the discretion of 87 the Army Council and places it in the hands of Parliament, should commend itself to the Minister.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The only difference between the Amendment and the Section that is under review is that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) wants to deny the Army Council the prerogative of prescribing regulations. The period of two months remains. I cannot see any reason in logic why we should prevent the Army Council from having the prerogative. After all, they are the people who have to deal with this matter of wastage. They are the best judges of whether the wastage can be corrected in some form or other. If it is to be corrected they are not only to be the judges of how it is to be done, but they are to be responsible for the administration that arises from their judgment.
Therefore, it seems to me that there is no particular virtue in this Amendment. It may have been put down for some other reason, perhaps to raise the whole question of wastage and its corollary, the matter of recruitment, but I do not see that there is any other virtue in it. The Secretary of State might say something about whether it is possible for him to devise some means of stepping up recruitment. I do not believe it is possible for him to do very much about wastage, beyond what has already been said about it, namely, the possibility of providing some welfare administration on an expanding and extended scale in order to keep the men from leaving the Service, Beyond that, I do not think much can be done.
When replying to my hon. Friend's question about the figures of recruitment, could the right hon. Gentleman say whether he sees any likelihood of being able to increase the number of recruits before the termination of the National Service Acts? If he is not so able, has he any alternative suggestions to make?
When my hon. Friends constantly referred to this matter of diminished recruiting and, at the same time, to the other side of the picture, namely, the increased wastage, the question might properly be posed to them, "If we are not able to secure the appropriate num- 88 ber of men, say the number of men required to meet our commitments, what are you proposing?"
§ Mr. Shinwell
Now we have it. My hon. Friend says, "Cut the commitments." I must say that I detect a difficulty about this. I should like to cut all our commitments, but it seems to me that in the present state of the world, commitments are increasing all the time. For example, we have been informed about the possibility of trouble in Kuwait.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order. I am most reluctant to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he will appreciate that this is a small Amendment.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It was quite proper for you to attempt to rebuke me, Sir William, as you were about to do, and I deserve it. I was merely using the reference as an illustration of the fact that we hear about tension here and there and it is increasing all the while. It is no use talking about cutting commitments. I have thought about this many a time in relation to Malaya, the Middle East and Germany. Field Marshal Montgomery suggested the other day in an article that he wrote for one of the Sunday newspapers that we ought to withdraw our troops from Germany.
There are several hon. Members who would probably support Field Marshal Montgomery, but I do not believe at the moment that that is practical politics, and I do not think it is related to the foreign policy of the Labour Party. It is certainly not related to the policy of Western European Union. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), who was a very important member of the Assembly. Indeed, on one occasion he was a rapporteur.
§ Mr. Mayhew
To avoid possible misunderstanding, perhaps my right hon. Friend should be reminded that we have constantly said that our commitments in Europe should not only be maintained, but strengthened.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That reinforces what I have been saying. It is no use talking about cutting commitments. A few moments ago my hon. Friend said that we should cut our commitments. Now 89 he says we have got to strengthen our forces.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order. We are getting worse, and not better. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will keep to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I hope that the Secretary of State will not accept this Amendment, because there is no virtue in it. The Army Council may make mistakes—there are errors of judgment in all quarters—and no doubt occasional blunders, but the Council is a responsible body of men with vast experience, headed by the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary. I am quite sure that they are able to exercise right judgment and decide the matter in the best interests of the Service and of the recruits.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Will the right hon. Gentleman ask his hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) to tell the Committee which commitments the Opposition would cut?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not be led into replying to that question.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am interested in the way this discussion has turned to recruitment, and in what my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) said about the increase in recruiting during March and April. I think that he has overlooked the influence which the boys have on figures, because, of course, they are not included in the target figures which he has in mind, and their effect is seasonal.
We find in the Air Force, for instance, a tremendous spurt at the end of each term. I have the corrected figures for April. I always correct them for that error which is introduced by the figures for boys. It seems to me that the figures for April, when making the comparison between 1960 and 1961, have to be corrected by something approaching 500. I think that a total of 500 boys included in April, 1961, was not included in April, 1960, and an adjustment must be made on that account.
I turn now to the problem of wastage, a problem which is growing all the time both in terms of purchase and in terms of discharge on medical grounds. It is bedevilling the War Office all the time. 90 In my opinion—again, I am quite prepared to be in my usual minority—the wastage we now witness arises because Gresham's Law applies not only to financial matters in the sixteenth century, but also to Army matters and recruiting in the twentieth century. If the Secretary of State goes all out with a "hotted-up" programme of recruitment to get in recruits at all costs irrespective of standards, what does he expect to happen? Exactly what has happened.
We need not look much further than what was said in an article which appeared in The Times early this year and a subsequent article by its defence correspondent, published on 13th March, giving an account of a visit he made to the Green Jackets depôt at Winchester.
Does my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) wish to intervene? It is very difficult to make speeches when there is the constant sound of interruptions.
§ Mr. M. Foot
I apologise to my hon. Friend. I was merely suggesting that perhaps the defence correspondent of The Times might have got his figures from my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Wigg
If my hon. Friend wants to interrupt, I do not mind in the least, but constant distraction by asinine noises puts me off when I am trying to advance a reasonable argument. If my hon. Friend does not want to listen, he need not.
The point I was making was that the experience recounted by the defence correspondent of The Times, when he visited the Green Jackets depôt, was an indication of the shape of things to come. I suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East that, in his researches, he should bear in mind that, for example, the wastage which occurs when a soldier is discharged because his services are no longer required, or because he is medically unfit, does not really take effect in the same month as he enlists. Thus, if there is an increase in April and then a run-down, it will come about three months later rather than in the month in which the men came in.
There is undoubtedly a very serious wastage problem. For that reason, if for no other, it is absolutely certain that the Secretary of State will not get his 91 165,000 men. There is no question whatever about that. But that in itself is not important. What is important to both the Secretary of State and the nation is not the figure of 165,000, but that the training should be right. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the 165,000 is a bogus figure. The real target figure must be 182,000 if we are to discharge our commitments and the present order of battle is to be carried.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) constantly talks about welfare. This is a very important factor, but, again, one must consider the matter with care. I ask hon. Members to think back to what were called the Hore-Belisha reforms before the war, when everything conceivable was done to step up recruiting. Men of a lower educational and mental standard were to be taken on. A special depot was established where the men were given increased rations and extra milk. They were even encouraged to undergo minor operations to fit themselves for Army life. Increased ration allowances were given and walking out uniform was provided. Everything conceivable was done, but there was no effect on recruiting at all.
The only thing which brought about an increase in recruiting was the advent of Munich. When it became clear to the young men where their duty lay, they responded. I have noted before the interesting fact that in post-war years the only real impetus in the recruiting figures came after Suez. This is why I have said on many occasions—I apologise for boring hon. Members with it again—that, if their duty is pointed out to the young men of this country, they will do as their forefathers did; but if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, if we are forced to listen to the kind of soft options offered today, who can wonder that the young men do not come in, or that those who do are not the ones we want?
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
We are all very concerned about recruiting and wastage but, quite frankly, I cannot see how the Amendment would affect the problem in any way. We must face the fact that, after a man joins the Army, he does not really appreciate the benefits 92 of Army life until he has become a trained soldier. I should have liked to have gone very much further and made the period six months, with a sliding scale of payment for discharge. When a man joins the Army, the time he finds most unpleasant, I think, is the first few months, when he is subject to the various restrictions which he must undergo. It takes him four, five or six months before he realises that he is enjoying the Army and benefiting from it. Two months is all too short a period.
Before we leave the subject of recruiting and wastage, I should like to say to my right hon. Friend—he may well be aware of it already—that it is most important that conditions in the first three months should be good. I do not say that they should be soft, but I feel that conditions in the Army should be improved, as I know that my right hon. Friend is endeavouring to improve them. I hope I shall not be ruled out of order if I say that I regard one of the principal requirements during the first three months of Service life is the provision of married quarters. Many young men who join the Army at the age of 18 are already married or are about to marry. Whether we like it or not, we must accept the fact that in the modern world people marry very much earlier than they used to do. The lack of married quarters will be one of the principal factors causing men to leave within the first three months.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I cannot quite follow the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn). He wants the period raised from two months to six months, under the impression that the longer a soldier stays in the Army the more acclimatised he becomes and the more likely he is to enjoy it. I think that that is the argument.
§ Mr. Hughes
Exactly. How does the hon. Gentleman explain the fact that National Service has not made soldiers who have been in the Army for two years like the Army? The figures are in no doubt. Only a very small percentage of National Service soldiers who had been in for two years stayed because they had got to like the Army as time went on. I fail to see how that argument applies.
§ Mr. Hughes
If that were so, and if sufficient had joined for three years, the problem would not have arisen. We should not have been here today discussing it. The plain fact is that the more most people see of the Army the less they like it.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
Reverting to the question of the six months or two months, there is one comment I wish to make in case my right hon. Friend does not make it when he replies. Many members of the Select Committee, of which I had the great pleasure of being Chairman, wanted to increase the period to six months. It was pointed out in the evidence, and those who have read the evidence will have seen the arguments perfectly clearly set out, that the advisers for the War Office said that it was an impracticable suggestion, for the very simple reason that a very large number of these recruits would go abroad before that period of six months was ended, and possibly would be there for only six weeks before they would have to make up their minds to come home again, causing disruption to the Army as a whole, which would not be acceptable. That was the reason why we did not press our idea of extending this period to six months.
§ Mr. Profumo
In the course of the discussion which we have had on this Amendment, I have been asked to say something about what we are trying to do to help recruits, and also to say something about the effect which the television advertising campaign has had or has not had on the wastage figures. I had thought that I could do that better in our debate on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", but it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I do it now, so perhaps hon. Members will forgive me if I take a little longer than I would otherwise have done.
First, I must address myself to the Amendment. It may seem a bit of a volte face that I was arguing on the last Amendment that we did not want flexibility and that on this one I am saying that I should like to retain it, but I think that it is reasonably logical. Clause 17 gives both the Army and Air 94 Councils the power to make regulations having exactly the same effect as the Amendment. Therefore, presumably, the only purpose of the Amendment is to take away the power to make amendments and include it as a statutory provision in the Bill, which cannot be altered except by Act of Parliament.
We must remember that the word "recruit", as used in Clause 17, is defined to include women and boys as well as adult males. The Government have accepted the recommendation of the Grigg Committee that women joining the Services should have a period of probation during which they can leave if they want to. The Select Committee expressly drafted Clause 17 in permissive terms, as the hon. Gentleman will remember, so that the conditions for boys and women might be varied. At present, a woman recruit can purchase her discharge by paying £3 during the first month after recruitment and £15 thereafter up to three months. The Amendment would not permit this, and, on that account alone, I suggest, would be wrong.
I do not like the Amendment for another reason. It is too rigid. There is something to be said for a period of six weeks and not two months, and, without wearying the Committee, I will give only one reason. For instance, it keeps in the Army no longer than is absolutely necessary a man who considers that he has made a genuine mistake, and such people can have a disruptive effect if they are kept on in the Army if they are no good as soldiers. I am sure that the same applies to the Royal Air Force.
The hon. Gentleman will remember that the Select Committee was told by Army witnesses that "six to eight weeks" was judged to be the most suitable period to stipulate before the right to claim discharge could be exercised. The two months' provision in Clause 17 is a maximum limit, and I should wish to be able to vary that downwards if it were thought advisable at a later date. There might well come a time when it would be judged better for recruiting to have either no ban at all, or a ban of one month only. I do not know, but I do know that no one can forecast accurately the success of a ban of six weeks or two months. There must be room for manœuvre in the light of 95 experience and when the comprehensive study being produced by the Army Operational Research Group becomes available.
There is one other point. Although we are dealing with the Army and Air Force Bill, there is a difference between the two Services, which is another reason why I should like some latitude. The Royal Air Force does not operate this Clause in the same way as the Army. It has not so much reason to do so, but the position may be reversed later. If we make it statutory and do not allow the Army Council or the Air Council the manœuverability for which I ask on this occasion—and it is only for that reason—I believe that we shall defeat our own end.
So much for the guts of the Amendment. When we are talking about a wider aspect—and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has had to leave, because this is something in which he is interested—unfortunately, the Select Committee was right to share my concern at the high loss of recruits. As hon. Members will have seen, in Appendix 8 to the Report, the percentage of recruits buying their discharge more than quadrupled in the four years 1957–60.
There are two aspects to recruiting, to both of which the hon. Member for Dudley referred—the tap and the plug. By and large, I am glad to tell the Committee that the flow from the tap is fairly satisfactory. It is the plug which we have to take care of; we simply have got to do something about the wastage of recruits. Some go for medical reasons, and some because they are hopelessly unsuited to the military life. There is not much that we can do about this, but the men who are buying themselves out, in the main, as I have said, are those we want to keep, and we must lose no chance of stopping this leakage down the waste-pipe.
As I think the Committee knows, I am making strenuous efforts to see that recruits are introduced into the Army in a modern and sensible way. I am not now referring to the right hon. Gentleman's statement about the shouting of N.C.O.s. We cannot have a whispering Army. I do not think that the men mind being shouted at by N.C.O.s. I went to a 96 camp last weekend with the Territorial Army, and I found that the regimental sergeant-major shouted just as much at Territorials as at the Regular men. I asked whether the men minded being shouted at, and the answer was, "They do not mind it at all, as long as they respect the man who is shouting." I think that the whole point of this is respect, rather than bad language.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The impression I got when I was going round was that they probably did not mind being shouted at when engaged in ordinary parades and drills, or whatever it may be, but they did not like being shouted at in the presence of visitors. I feel that way myself. One does not mind being shouted at, or castigated, but one does mind being shouted at or castigated in the present of other people.
§ Mr. Profumo
The right hon. Gentleman has been shouted at in the presence of other people far more than anybody else in this House, and he has not taken it in bad part. This is an occupational hazard which soldiers and politicians share alike.
There are some sensible arrangements that we can make. The Committee might like to know that selected officers with previous training establishment experience have now undergone special "job-introduction training" in the sphere of civil industry. They have spent a month visiting the training establishments of all arms and services in Home Commands, and as a result of what they have learned and found, I have already arranged to make certain changes.
In particular, we will now concentrate on seeing that the new recruit is properly welcomed into the Army and made to feel part of it straight away. We shall have an officer in every squad who will be responsible—in most cases, this is going on already—for individual recruits, dealing with his welfare, keeping in touch with his family and seeing generally how he is getting on. I think that this is what the right hon. Gentleman and most hon. Members of the Committee were getting at. It is not a question of how long we have or how much we pay, but of what we can do in introducing the recruits in a sensible and modern manner.
§ Mr. Profumo
I cannot agree to that at all. What we are trying to do as a result of people going through civilian "job-introduction courses" is to ensure that things are done for the Army on a sensible and modern basis. I think that the Navy is rather different. They shove the men off to sea, and they cannot get away. They put them in a boat, and there they are.
§ Mr. Mayhew
What the Minister says is very much in line with the views expressed strongly on this side of the Committee, but could he say whether these "job-introduction officers" will study not only civilian industries which have had success, but those units of the Army which have had success in maintaining recruits far the first three months? The problem is not to bring them up to the civilian standard, but to bring up the standard of the least successful units to the standard of the best. Are they training in that matter?
§ Mr. Profumo
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop this point, because I think that it is relevant. The job-introduction units are doing everything possible to pull the strings together and to ensure that where things are going well it is widely applied. In this day and age we must ensure as far as possible that the Armed Forces are wholly in line with what has been learned in civil life and industry. By and large, I think that this is happening. I hope that the Committee will not take what I have been saying as a criticism of what has been going on in the Armed Forces. We are constantly trying to make things better.
The way to plug the hole is to be sure that we are doing everything we can to introduce people in a sensible way. To this end, the new recruit will receive more guidance than in the past. Lectures and early instruction will be designed to arouse his interest and appreciation of the aim and purpose of the Army as such. More films, interesting training, handling of weapons from the start, visits to other Army units, demonstrations, regular games periods 98 and similar activities will be fitted into a reasonable working week. Periods for cleaning equipment will be included in working programmes.
Many other steps are being taken to encourage and guide the new recruit and to ensure that interest and purpose are the keynotes of his introduction to the Army, not boredom and hours spent on unnecessary petty chores. My aim is to ensure that this interest and purpose are kept up throughout his Army career so that, if possible, the soldier will decide to stay in the Army when his enlistment as such comes to an end. That is the other end—the prolongation. This is important. The human element will sometimes mean that we fall short of the ideal, but I am satisfied that all in positions of authority in the Regular Army are striving towards this end.
Besides these efforts, it seems to me that we need to make sure that the recruit gives the Army a fair trial and sees its advantages. That is why we want the eight weeks, and I want the right to be able to bring it back to six weeks, if necessary, to see that all recruits give the Army a fair trial and get over the teething troubles and difficulties of transition from the Welfare State, civilian life, to Army life, and that, later, they will be proud to be members of the Armed Forces.
I have been asked to give the effect of the television recruiting campaign. I am glad to say that there is nothing that suggests that this is a matter of easy come, easy go, as some hon. Members might think would be the case. It is too early yet for me to be definite, but, wherever we tried television advertising, recruiting went up by about 20 per cent. for some time during the campaign and for some time after it. If we were losing large numbers of people recruited through television, which might be thought to be the case if we were inducing into the Army more people than might normally have come into it, surely our wastage figures would be going up by leaps and bounds, commensurate with the 20 per cent. increase.
During the first four months of this year we have lost rather fewer recruits than we did in a similar period in 1960. One of the troubles is that we cannot recognise a television recruit. He has not square eyes, or a cathode tube nose. It is not possible to tell exactly what 99 sort of man he is. One thing, however, is clear, and that is that it is a most important factor in attracting men into the Army. The extra recruits are not leaving in large numbers when the novelty of the advertised brand has worn off.
Perhaps the Committee will forgive me for having digressed, but in discussing a small point—whether I should be allowed the opportunity of varying the eight weeks to six weeks or whether, as on the last Amendment, the figure should be more than £20—we must do it against the general background of how we are to deal with the wastage. I have tried to give the Committee some of the ways in which my colleagues on the Army Council and I are trying to deal with this important point so that we can keep the recruits because they want to be soldiers rather than that we should in some other way force them to stay.
For the reasons which I have given, I must advise the Committee to reject the Amendment.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
I should like to ask my right hon. Friend a question on married accommodation. He is approaching the Army in a modern way, but often men join the Army thinking that they will have married accommodation. When they find that this is not so, they decide that the Army is not the career for them.
§ Mr. Profumo
I am sorry that I did not deal with that point. This is a very difficult matter which is tied up with the modern Welfare State. Before we know where we are, we shall have to provide married quarters in the schools, because people are getting married younger and younger.
The difficulty is to keep up with the building programme. The Army has embarked on the greatest building programme in the whole of its history, but, even though we are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds, it is bound to be some years before we can catch up. I am sure that our first interest must be with the men who have already become soldiers and are in fighting units serving outside this country. We are providing very many more married quarters titan ever before. I hope that in two years in B.A.O.R. and England alone there will be no waiting list.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Wigg
I was interested in the remarks of the Secretary of State about wastage. Unfortunately, they do not tally with the statistical breakdown. There is no doubt that there is a direct relationship between wastage and the sort of quality of recruit that one gets. To take the wastage among the Foot Guards, it is 2.9 per cent. for purchase, 2.6 per cent. for medical reasons and 2.9 per cent. for other reasons, a total of 8.4 per cent. If one goes to the other end of the scale—I do not say that in an unkindly way—for the Royal Pioneer Corps the figures are 1.3 per cent. for purchase, 4.8 per cent. for medical reasons and 10.3 per cent. for other reasons, making a total of 16.4 per cent. There is no doubt that there is a correlation between wastage and the quality of the recruit.
I think that there is also no doubt that, whether deliberately or otherwise, the Army has lowered its standard, both educationally and medically. The right hon. Gentleman may remember that in his speech on the Estimates he threatened this, and I asked him one or two questions about it. I believe that he has done it. Unfortunately, if this becomes widely accepted there is no way back. That is one of the reasons why I think that the Government should seriously consider the manpower problems, because they may, for political reasons, take a step which, at the end of the day, may prove disastrous.
§ Mr. Profumo
First, let me deal with what the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) calls my threat that we would lower standards. What I was doing was to try to tell the House that there were means other than that of selective service that we should have to examine. I gave this as an example.
I take the opportunity now of assuring hon. Members that I have done no such thing. I know that the hon. Gentleman is deeply devoted to the Army. I hope that he will not give credence to this belief. I am sure that he will welcome the opportunity of being able to say to those people who suggest that this is what I have done that I have not, in fact, done it.
All that I was attempting to do in my speech was to try to show that, whereas we have had an increase of about 20 per cent. in recruits, directly 101 attributable, I think, to television, if they had all been recruits who were going to be no good as soldiers, and that they were merely lured into the Army by advertising, we would expect to see a high increase in the number of purchasers out.
I said that in the first quarter of this year, which was the time of the television campaign, the number of people who purchased themselves out was fractionally less than the number in the same period in 1960. To that extent, it must show that a large number of the television recruits are good and will stick. I was making only that point.
§ Mr. Profumo
I did not say that either. Perhaps the hon. and learned Member has not looked at the Army recruiting films on television. We are not seeking to engage in pressure television advertising. All we are doing is to call attention to the life of service which the Army provides, and that, I believe, is why many more people who have service at heart are deciding to come forward. They are not feckless. They will make good soldiers.
§ Mr. Mayhew
If, as the Secretary of State indicates, we have a 20 per cent. increase in recruiting without a significant rise in wastage, that is encouraging. When did the national television coverage begin? My impression is that it was towards the end of February. The figures quoted to us by the right hon. Gentleman were for the first quarter of the year. To me, they do not seem to be so reassuring. If the television recruiting began at the end of February, the rate of purchase of discharge for the first quarter of this year would not be relevant. Perhaps the Minister was in error.
The figures I quoted—I agree that it is difficult to make them clear—about the increase in the strength of the Regular Army tended to show precisely the opposite, namely, that when television recruiting increased in March and April the strength of the Regular Army did not increase in parallel. Therefore, we should regard these facts for the time being as provisional.
102 There were a number of points in the Minister's speech which will give pleasure on both sides of the Committee. The approach to the necessity for acclimatising recruits is a point which was made several times on Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks about married quarters were not so encouraging. A recent visit to Germany convinced me that the failure to provide married quarters is by far the most important obstacle to recruiting.
The striking fact is, not so much that we have a great building programme in hand, but that fifteen years after the end of the war we should still not be able to provide married quarters for every one of our soldiers serving overseas and at home. In view, however, of the more constructive parts of the Secretary of State's statement, I do not think that my hon. Friend's would wish me to press the Amendment at this time.
§ Mr. Wigg
The Secretary of State's figures concerning purchase are not borne out by the facts. It is true that discharges by purchase under Section 14 have tended to tail off this year, having gone from 1,650 in 1958–59 to 2,208 and, now, to 2,056; but discharges by purchase other than under Section 14 have increased during the same period from 567 to 676 and to 1,093. In the course of two years, therefore, they have almost doubled. That is why the right hon. Gentleman cannot find any direct correlation between the increase and the rising strength of the Army. The figures are on a different basis. One figure includes boys, the other figures do not.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Can the Secretary of State give us any information about the trades and industries from which the increased number of recruits for the Army has been obtained? For example, are we recruiting from vital national industries which are essential for the production of goods for the world market? In some areas, we still need more miners. While we need more miners for the mines, are we attracting them into the Army by television and, consequently, getting less coal? Are we depleting skilled labour and intelligent people from industries which most need them?
Perhaps it will be possible for the Minister to give us information about the industries from which these additional recruits have been attracted. If 103 they have been obtained from vital national industries, the Secretary of State is weakening the national economy and there is no gain at all.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Paget
I beg to move, in page 15, line 32, at the end, to insert:but the period of the Proclamation shall not count as part of the three months commencing at the date of attestation, and the recruit shall be entitled to 'exercise' the right conferred by this section during the first three months of his service during which the proclamation under section ten of this Act shall not he in force".This Amendment is designed to clarify a point which is not clear. If a man joins the Army and, on the second day of his service, the Government decide that an operation of a Suez nature is necessary and a proclamation is issued which lasts three months, and at the end of that proclamation period the man decides that he is in the wrong job, does he get out for £20 or does he have to pay £250? In other words, is a proclamation a mere suspension of the three-month period, which will begin to run again at the end of the proclamation, or is the proclamation period a cancellation of the three-month period?
The acceptance of my Amendment would make it clear that the proclamation is a mere suspension and that when the proclamation period had concluded, the man who had not been in the Army for three months at the beginning of the proclamation would have the time that he had lost available to him at the end of the proclamation period.
§ Mr. Wigg
The Amendment certainly would have some odd effects. Had it been operative at the outbreak of war and a soldier had joined in July, 1939, and the proclamation had then been made, it would still have been operative when he was time-expired six years later. In those circumstances, the precedent is a dangerous one. Let us go back to the previous war, which lasted four years. If the whole of the Army had enlisted in the months preceding the war, on payment of a given sum they would have been able to get themselves out during the demobilisation period when the Regular troops were wanted.
It would seem to me, therefore—this is just the luck of the draw, as it were— 104 that the three months should be three months from the date of enlistment. God forbid that we should envisage a third world war, but it could happen in a limited way—for example, during a war like the Korean War. Particularly with short-service men on three-year engagements in the Guards and special units, a most difficult administrative problem might be created by the Amendment.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Profumo
I hope that I may answer fairly quickly. The provision in subsection (1, b) states that if a soldier claims his discharge under Section 14 of the 1955 Act within his first three months, and there is a proclamation under Section 10, he must wait until the soldiers kept with the colours by the proclamation are transferred to the Reserve before he can actually be discharged. This rule is already in the Acts and has been in force, as far as I know, ever since there has been statutory provision for discharge by purchase.
I am not introducing a new proviso. The Clause merely repeats what exists now under the law. If a man joins up, he has three months during which he can purchase his release. If, during those three months, however, there is a proclamation, wholly or in part, and during that three months' period he makes up his mind that he wants to leave, he is not allowed to go until the proclamation comes to an end. He still gets his three months in which to make up his mind. It would be wrong to start the period again after the end of three months, however.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.