Vote 1. Pay, &c., of the Army

Part of Army Estimates – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th March 1961.

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Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire 12:00 am, 14th March 1961

I am not dealing with the number of men, Mr. Russell, but with the expenditure, in pounds, shillings and pence of keeping an Army in Germany. This is an expenditure which we shall have to reconsider, because we shall face a financial crisis. If the West Germans get into a stronger economic position than we are, then we shall find ourselves paying a disproportionate amount of money for military purposes.

I do not see what useful purpose is served by keeping the British Army in Berlin. It is no use there. If the Russians wanted to take West Berlin they could do so. Vote I, in so far as it covers expenditure in Berlin, is unnecessary national expenditure, and I am opposed to it.

I am not enthusiastic about bringing Gurkhas over to this country. The pay for the Gurkhas is included in this Vote. I read with some interest a military article in The Times saying that we could not solve the problem of recruiting by means of posters, television or enormous publicity campaigns, and that the one way out was to bring in the Gurkhas. Now we have Americans at Holy Loch, we may have Germans in Wales and Gurkhas somewhere else. We shall have a fine international Army here to defend us.

I want to refer to the criticism of the Army contained in The Times. I follow the instructions of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley very carefully. If he says that there is an interesting article by the military correspondent of The Times, I read every word of it.

I do not know whether it was my hon. Friend who advised me, or whether I advised him to read a recent leading article in The Times which dealt with wastage in the Army and with which I was very much impressed. It said that the recruiting figures seemed to be going up, but it asked about wastage, saying that within a month of entering the Army 10 or 20 per cent. of the recruits bought themselves out while others were discharged because they had not passed certain psychological or educational tests. As fast as the Minister gets the men, they disappear. The Army is mobilised and at once begins to evaporate. That situation will not be solved by specious ideas about selective service.

The Times leading article went on to reach the interesting conclusion that the average intelligence of those who remained in the Army was lower than that of a cross-section of National Service men. Thus, according to The Times, we are spending money on an Army with an average intelligence lower than the average outside. That puzzled me when I read it and I await with interest the report of a committee set up by the Secretary of State for War, who ought to have put in some sort of casual appearance in the debate. I do not know where the Minister of Defence is. In a previous debate the Civil Lord of the Admiralty was on the burning deck for about six or eight hours.