Orders of the Day — Defence (Army) Estimates, 1969–70, Vote A

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th March 1969.

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Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr 12:00 am, 12th March 1969

I am grateful to the Minister for refreshing my memory.

Against this background we are facing a real crisis of confidence among our soldiers at the moment. The reason for this is the result of death by a thousand cuts, leading to a tremendous loss of self-confidence among the people thinking of joining the Army. This leads us to the question of recruiting.

The Minister gave us some figures; and we have figures in the Defence Review. It is extremely serious that we are having a shortfall at present of about 25 per cent. of the recruits we need to bring the Army up to even the Government's present planned ceilings. What is surprising is not that this has happened—a year ago this was discussed and forecast; I remember being told that this was an unnecessarily alarmist view to take.

I cannot understand why the Government are surprised that people are having second thoughts before joining the Army. Is not the reason the simplest one of all? The Government have steadfastly refused to believe it; I have been telling them for years. A very large number of people join the Army—and this is certainly true in Scotland—to join a regiment. I have been told time and time again by various Ministers that this is nonsense. In answer to a Question a few weeks ago, about a regiment which was recruiting better than another, I was told that this was "most misleading".

Have not the Government steadfastly refused to believe what is crystal clear to anyone who knows anything about the Army? That is, that men join the Army because they want to join a regiment.