Examination of witness (Questions 60-79)|
THURSDAY 1 MARCH 2001
GCB, CBE Chief of Defence Staff Mr Hancock
60. Can I, first of all, welcome you here, it
is nice to see one of Portsmouth's admirals surviving the job
in Portsmouth, to stay in both the Navy and in the military. Congratulations
to you. It is normally the swan song of the Admiral, and you are
the exception. Can I raise with you some questions that have been
posed from the Committee and from our own experience recently,
obviously the most important one is the state of morale in the
forces generally, and then I would like to ask some questions
about Pay 2000. Would you quickly like to deal with the one about
the general state of morale in the forces?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I would like to answer
it by sayingI hope I am not pre-empting a question you
are going to ask me later onif you track over the last
20 or so years and draw a graph of the rise and fall of the economy
and unemployment in the country and then put on top of it this
graph of how retention goes up and down you would see that it
follows very closely. When economy is good retention is bad and
when the economy is bad the retention is good. Bucking the trend
at the moment, retention is pretty reasonable against the fact
that we have quite a good economy and relatively low unemployment
in the country at the moment. To a certain extent that answers
your question. I believe that people in the Services at the moment
are highly motivated by the jobs they are invited to do. They
are proud of what they do. They see themselves getting results.
Certainly the soldiers, sailors and airmen I visit and meet after
operations are very much fired up for what they do. We have deployed
a lot more effort over the last couple of years and you might
say, "Not before time too", and I would agree, on looking
after our people better and recognising when they are being stretched
hard. We must take their welfare to heart and make sure that their
families are looked after when they are away and they themselves
when they are on deployment. We must do everything we can for
them to make their life as sensibly good as possible, in terms
of communications home, facilities out on the battle field or
on the operational field they are in, and so forth. I believe
that at the moment morale is not too bad. My measuring stick for
saying that is the fact that retention, which at the moment should
be pretty bad, is not very bad. It could always be better, but
it is not as bad as it should be.
61. This week I had a letter from one of your
senior enlisted personnel, before I ask you some questions I would
just like to read to you what he said to me at the beginning of
his letter, "When I joined the Royal Navy some 24 years ago
I joined to get away from the civilian way of life and employment
rules. I was proud to sign a contract with the Royal Navy to serve
my Queen and country and the Royal Navy. In fact, I was prepared
to give the ultimate sacrifice of my life, which very nearly happened
whilst serving in the Falklands on HMS Sheffield, which was sunk
in 1982". He then goes on to raise the very interesting and
divisive nature of Pay 2000 and the way it is affecting enlisting
men. His point is, "According to Second Sea Lord, Vice-Admiral
Spencer, job evaluation is not yet robust enough for accurate
officer evaluation to be made". Not robust enough for officers,
but robust enough for enlisted personnel. What is your answer
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I do not recollect that,
I am not saying he did not say that, I do not recollect or know
in what context Admiral Spencer made that particular comment.
I do know that the job evaluation process has not yet completed.
In order to bring in the new pay system, which was introduced
in this year's Armed Forces Pay Review Body report, the work on
the job evaluation for the other rank branches has just about
been completed and that for officers is still being completed.
In terms of being robust, I do not accept that, for example, depending
on the context that was said, I know job evaluation has been done
and is being applied for all of the officers who are above one
star ranks and, indeed, pay is being set against that job evaluation.
62. Maybe it is middle management, as always,
who are getting away with that, while the top and the bottom suffer.
One of your personnel said, in his 24 years of service this is
the most divisive issue that has ever been raised in his experience.
He goes on to say, "As a warrant officer with 10 years still
to serve in the lower band I have only one increment of £1.56
available to me in the next 10 years. Is that supposed to improve
performance". He has 10 more years to serve in the Navy and
the only increment is a meagre £1.56. That is hardly an incentive
or a robust incentive to retain him, is it?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Again, the actual specifics
of this particular person, obviously I cannot comment on, I would
like to comment on increments and also Pay 2000 and about the
way we are doing our pay in the Services. You probably had a more
informed answer from the Principal Personnel Officers when you
talked to them. We believe that it is entirely proper that we
should base our pay on job evaluation. That is what Pay 2000 has
done, it is to bring in a system where people's jobs are evaluated
and the pay is set according to the weight of a person's job.
If we were starting with a clean sheet of paper we would be mad
to do anything else other than that. Transitioning from the system
we had before to where we are now is clearly going to cause some
people some difficulty, where they perceive they might not be
quite so well off in the future as they might have been otherwise.
I would like to stress very, very firmly, however, that nobodynobodyhas
had a pay cut in the armed forces as a result of Pay 2000. On
the subject of this warrant officer's increment, one of the things
which I disliked intensely about the old pay system was a person,
such as this person, would be promoted to, say, the rank of warrant
officer, he would have no increments for the rest of his career
and what Pay 2000 has done is to introduce an incremental pay
system. The consistent complaint that I have had throughout my
service from the rating structure, from the other rank structure,
is just this very point. You become a leading stoker, you are
on a roster, you are on an advancement system which takes you
probably eight to 10 to 12 years to get promoted and for that
entire eight to 10 to 12 years you get no incremental improvement
in your pay. Yes, you get the annual inflationary pay award but
there is no increment. The same would apply to this warrant officer,
so the fact he is now complaining he is only going to get one
increment in these next 10 years, last year he would have had
no increments coming his way. The system has just produced him
an increment. Okay, it is only a very small one and one would
have to look to see what that is, but he is better off now than
he was under the past system and he is complaining about it. What
he is complaining about is not being so well off as he probably
would hope he might have been, but he is actually better off.
63. Then if you look at his colleagues in the
other Services, and the Army I would suggest to you are going
to be facing an even worse position than the Navy in this respect,
you will have a situation where you will have a senior NCO who
will actually be earning less than the person who is directly
below him. He will actually be in charge of people where his pay
will be effectively less. Your colleagues behind you are shaking
their heads but I can assure you, having spoken to the people
concerned, that is in fact the case. You would have a warrant
officer on, say, £77 a day and the band below on £87
a day. That is £10 a day difference.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) You are quite right, Mr
Hancock, that does happen. There are areas where there is pay
overlap within the system but I might point out that, for example,
a senior warrant officer who comes under the command of a junior
lieutenant is being paid more than a junior lieutenant. The pay
overlap system is one which has been in the service for as long
as I can remember. There is nothing particularly unusual about
that. Indeed, I do not find it remarkable at all that a person
who has been giving excellent service but for various reasons
has not made promotion should not be able to continue to increment
his way up his own pay spine, if you like, and may well overlap
someone who is carrying a senior rank. That person has got greater
potential to go further. Eventually the person who is on increments
will stop, there is a ceiling.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) For senior, his increments
will take him further so there may be a period for a short time
where there may be an overlap for about a year or two but eventually
that more senior person will finish up much better off than the
65. That must cause some real concerns about
discipline and morale amongst those personnel taking on a lot
of responsibility and yet are in charge of men and women who are
earning more than they are. There is also this problem that some
of the service personnel feel that you are trying to compare their
military-style job to a civilian job and the comparisons in Pay
2000 are geared against civilian jobs which in the main bear very
little resemblance to somebody who has trained on electronic warfare,
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) The whole of the Armed
Forces Pay Review Body's ethos is based on comparability with
the civil sectorthere is nothing newand has been
so since 1979 when the military structure was introduced. There
is nothing new about comparing the civilians from now than it
has been for the last 25 to 30 years.
66. This is one of the reasons why people have
sought to move on, is it not? They have felt let down by the military
for not defending the special role. We all claim to have a special
place in our hearts for the Armed Forces except when it comes
to paying them and giving them proper conditions of service. That
was part of the problem that was explained to us when we did our
report on personnel matters for the retention of particularly
young service personnel who might have done six or seven years,
they get frustrated, they see little future and they go out.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) We very much put our lives
in the hands of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, a body which
I respect and which I believe is largely respected by the people
in the Armed Forces. I think they produce fair reports. Pay has
never been particularly an issue over the last few years. It has
become an issue this year because we have introduced this new
system which people are coming to grips with still, it has only
been around for four weeks. It is certainly true that some people
will consider it divisive because they do not think they are going
to be as well off as they should be, but they are actually better
off than they were. This is what I find strange, that people have
been given something and now they actually want more, which I
suppose is a human trait. This particular warrant officer sounds
as if he might be in that category. I do not deny that we need
to do even more work still than we have already done in persuading
people this is the right way for us to go. The business about
comparing ourselves with the civil sector, as I say, is at the
very heart of our pay system, as it has been since 1979. As I
say, the Armed Forces Pay Review Body have not suggested in their
last report or, indeed, any recent reports, certainly so far as
all ranks below one star rank down to the most junior ranks are
not being paid fairly. The only time they have ever made comments
about people being paid unfairly are those people of senior ranks
who they think are miles behind the rest of the civil sector.
Chairman: I am sure you will not be complaining
about your salary, Sir Michael, having just seen what it is. Laura.
67. I am going to continue this theme, if I
may, of recruitment and retention but I just need to ask you one
question first. Do you really believe that you need to physically
abuse children to make them good citizens and fit for the Armed
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) No.
68. Do you need to give them clips around the
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I never said that.
69. Let us just get it on record that you never
said it. We have tons of clippings which say you did.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) The point I was trying
to make, since you give me the opportunity, what I said in the
report, which I presume you are quoting from, which is The
Sunday Telegraph or whatever, I said when I was a boy the
odd clip round the earhole used to sharpen people up a bit. The
point I was trying to make, however, which I think is a very important
point, for a variety of reasons, is that we tend to find nowadays
that young people coming into the servicesthe Army, Navy
and Air Forcetend to be fairly unfit, sometimes they have
behavioural problems and they are certainly not used to a disciplined
form of life. This presents us with a problem in getting through
the training machine and we have had to adjust our training processes
in order to recognise this is how they arrive and change the way
we actually manage them to make sure we actually get them out
of the gate at the far end as fit young people. What the paper
did not say, and the point I was trying to make, is there are
two aspects to that. First of all, Chairman, if you and the Committee
have never done this I would highly commend it as a thoroughly
enjoyable and, in fact, joyful experience, to go down to one of
our new entry training establishments and watch a passing out
parade and see the highly overwrought and emotional mothers and
fathers at the end of that passing out paradein the happy
sense I mean thatwho eight weeks before had dumped off
their girl or boy in the training establishment and see this new
person who is looking smart, articulate, fit, competent and everything
else is a genuine wonder. Then some years on we then discharge
these people back into the community as pillars of that community.
I believe that what the Services actually offer the country in
this process, first of all in taking these young people and making
them really good upstanding young people and later on giving back
to the community people who are of huge value, is a service that
the armed forces do for the country which is a necessary benefit.
Mr Cann: Hear! Hear!
70. There is nobody here who would disagree
with you, I am not entirely sure that group of mothers or fathers
felt that they necessarily had to hit their children around the
head to get there.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I am sure they should
not have to do so either.
71. Let us move on to the issue of women. I
am sure you have by your bedside our wonderful report on the Policy
for People. I suspect the Committee was either absolutely delighted
as I was, or horrified as some Members would be, to read your
statements on women in the Armed Forces. If I may just read out
a piece that we really want people to take notice of. It says:
"It is not made clear, in enunciating this policy on women
in combat roles, whether this exclusion is on the grounds of physiological
ability or moral distaste for women having to do such work. If
it is the latter, it is time it was abandoned". In our report
we accept that but what we would like to explore with you are
the very physical difficulties from your experience of having
women in those positions and being able to accept them. Certainly
as a submariner we would like your views on, perhaps, women in
submarines, first of all?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) The reason why I cannot
recommend that women should go to submarines is because in a diesel
submarine it is necessary, in order to recharge your batteries,
to suck air into the submarine when you run your diesel and, therefore,
the air inside the submarine is changed frequently, at least daily,
if not more often. In a nuclear submarine when you shut the hatch
you enclose yourself in a steel tube for up to two or three months
and no air is changed at all. You exist on artificial air created
by a machine which creates oxygen and a machine which absorbs
carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other noxious gases. In a
nuclear submarine the particular level of gas mix you get is not
the same as you are breathing here at the moment, it is slightly
down on oxygen and slightly up on carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
This particular mixture is not harmful to an adult, however expert
medical opinion has told us that there could be damage to a foetus.
There is no way, in spite of what your report implies, that I
am aware of anyway, that a woman who goes to sea in a submarine
who may have conceived the night before is going to know that
she is pregnant the day the submarine goes to sea. She will probably
not know for some days afterwards. Therefore, for duty of care
reasons it would be irresponsibleuntil we get to the bottom
of whether or not the foetus can be harmedfor us to send
women to sea, because it is conceivable they could be pregnant
unknowingly when they went to sea in that submarine for two or
72. That is just not a reason to say, no women,
ever in nuclear submarines. Is there work going on to examine
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) We have consulted with
our own Institution of Naval Medicine and we have consulted with
the royal colleges and so far nobody has been able to convince
me or tell me there is not a danger, in fact quite the opposite.
73. They are not saying to you, it is not safe,
they are just not convincing you that it is safe.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) The data they have is
that there is a risk for a foetus and, therefore, it would be
irresponsible to send women to sea in that situation.
74. Okay. Thank you for that. Could you talk
about woman in general in combat roles?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Women are in about 70
per cent of Army and Navy billets and about 96 per cent of Air
Force billets, where they perform extremely important roles and
perform them extremely well. The areas where they are not currently
are in the Infantry, in the Armoured Corps, in the Army, in the
Royal Marine Commandos and in the Royal Air Force Regiment. The
sort of jobs and the type of fighting that they are required to
do, where they are currently able to go, are significantly different
to the type of fighting that they would be required to do as infantry
personnel. What we are doing at the moment, and what the Army
is doing at the moment, is studying exactly how having women in
the infantry would affect the fighting capability of the infantry.
I am entirely happy and I totally applaud the way that women have
been integrated into the Navy, women are seen to fly airplanes
in the Air Force, and women are doing jobs in a large number of
regiments in the Army. They perform extremely well and in many
cases they are in just as dangerous positions as people might
be in the infantry. I have no difficulty at all about how they
perform those roles. The roles they have are a lot different in
fighting terms from the way you are required to fight in the infantry.
We need to study it very, very carefully, indeed, before we suggest
that women should come into the infantry and whether the fighting
effectiveness of the infantry would be affected. That is work
that the Army are looking at at the moment.
75. That feels slightly different from what
you said in the newspaper report.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I think I said in the
newspaper report that my bottom line was we should do nothing
to our Armed Forces which diminishes our fighting effectiveness.
As I say, it is a lot different from putting a woman on a ship
to putting her in a trench. How you fight on board a ship, there
is no comparison to how you are required to fight in a trench.
76. For you it would be down to capability?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I personally have no problems.
I am completely unable to draw a distinction between what is more
distasteful, being taken out in a fireball in some steel box on
a ship by a missile than being buried in some muddy field, it
is lost on me. I made my own personal decision about that when
I supported the introduction of women into sea 10 or 12 years
ago, whenever it was. I am afraid such distinction is lost on
me. You are going to die horribly on a ship, you are going to
die horribly in an aeroplane being blown out of the sky or in
a muddy field somewhere.
77. A supplementary on the submarine question,
from your answer can I take it you have no objection to women
serving on diesel, electric submarines.
Chairman: You would be glad if we had
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) As you say, we do not
78. I understand that, the question in principle
is a question that I think we should get to, because clearly there
are some Navies who do have them.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) The Navies who do have
them do not go to sea for two or three months and their management
problem is different. The medical problem does not pertain to
79. I can hear now, "Defence Chief calls
for more diesel submarines".
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I did not say that, Chairman.