§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On the Order Paper I find that we propose to take the Reserve Forces Bill first, and the Armed Forces Bill second. I am under the impression, but I am open to correction, that unless we pass the Armed Forces Bill we can have no standing Army. Obviously, there is no point in having a reserve force without this. My assumption, and it may be ill-founded, is that precedents should enable us to deal with the Armed Forces Bill first.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman has raised a most ingenious point which I must answer without any preparation. I understand that the Armed Forces Bill is continuing the Armed Forces, which are in existence, and that technically, should we take the first Bill on the Order Paper first, we would not jeopardise the existence of the British Army by allowing the Armed Forces Bill to come second. In any case the question of Bills on the Order Paper is not a matter for the Chair, but a matter for the Government.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I do not want to be unduly troublesome, but it seems that although it is perfectly true that the Armed Forces Bill proposes to continue the right of the Government to create or continue the Army and forces generally, unless we do this in the first instance we have no right to proceed with the creation of a Reserve Force.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)
On a point of order. Is it not the case that since the legislation which the Armed Forces Bill is intended to continue does not lapse until 31st December the natural concern of my right hon. Friend is misplaced?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. [Laughter.] This is exactly the point which, I am afraid, I put much more clumsily.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. David Ennals)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
239 There have been a number of developments since 16th December, 1965, when the House last debated the Government's plans for the reorganisation of the Army reserves, all of which should create a different climate in which we can consider the Bill now before the House.
The Defence Review has outlined the broad strategy of Government policy and the financial limits within which we are operating. Then, on 2nd February, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department outlined our conclusions concerning the establishment of the Home Defence Force and has recently given additional information in Written Answers. Thus the House can now consider the provisions set out in the Bill within the framework of our whole defence policy.
There has also been the General Election. There was in the debate last December the mood of the hustings, when issues were seized upon by the Opposition and dealt with not on their merits but in the light of possible electoral advantages. Therefore, the carefully considered and reasoned proposals set out in the White Paper were distorted to provide electoral ammunition. To the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) the proposals now given legislative form in this Bill would, in the course of time, so he said:… sound the deathknell of a citizen volunteer army in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 1582.]If, by "citizen volunteer army", the right hon. Gentleman meant the old concept of the militia or the yeomanry marching into the battle, then the death-knell was sounded years ago. If he thinks that we are destroying the spirit and sense of purpose of the Territorial Army, then he is out of touch with the situation. The deathknell of the old concept was sounded by the advent of nuclear weapons, with their profound effect on the method of modern war.
What the current reorganisation does is to face the realities of the situation—on the one hand, to provide the Regular Army with the reserves which it needs and, on the other, to give T.A. units a new sense of purpose with a rôle which is relevant to the future rather than the past.
Most of the criticisms which were voiced from the Opposition benches last 240 year seemed to ignore both the changing military requirements which must provide the raison d'etre of any volunteer service, and the growing dissatisfaction within the T.A. There had been increasing feeling within the T.A. Council and the T.A. associations about training arrangements, dress and equipment and a growing awareness that fundamental changes were needed. The T.A. Council quite frankly stated on 22nd July, 1965, that the organisation of:… the present reserves is clearly unsatisfactory on the grounds that the proliferation of types of reserve from the original Territorial Army had led to duplication and waste and that it was created for a purpose that no longer exists".It was not seriously in dispute that we inherited a force too large for the real needs of national defence while providing reserves too few for the needs of our regular forces—a force under-trained, under-equipped, not available when needed and geared to perform tasks which were only relevant in the context of the First and Second World Wars.
Moreover, our predecessors, and such of the present shadows as still survive, refused to accept the logic of their own arguments. It is instructive to recall the words of the then Secretary of State for War in the Army Estimates debate on 5th March, 1964:Yet, when we think about the way in which the Territorial Army would be likely to go to war—some of it to provide 'Ever-readies', some to reinforce B.A.O.R.—some to act at home in support of the civil power, a rather different picture emerges from the one of a large field Army slowly built up to war efficiency and mobilised for war in the old style.He went on to ask a very pertinent question:What is the point of organising and training the Territorial Army in one way if it is really more likely to have to be used in a different way?".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1964; Vol. 690, c. 1552.]It was a very pertinent question. But, as on so many other issues, the Conservatives refused to provide the answer.
Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, who never pulls his punches on these issues, was right when he said:The reshaping should have been carried out ten years ago or more, when we were definitely in the age of the hydrogen bomb, but nobody in those days would grasp the nettle.In setting out the structure of the new Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve 241 we are now grasping that nettle. Yet, though the changes that we are making are substantial, they are in line with previous changes both in philosophy and in organisation.
Over the years, there has been a gradual move away from the concept of an Army organised to fight in its own military formations, as conceived by Lord Haldane. Increasingly, it has been realised that the likelihood of the country being engaged in a conventional war against another major power has become more and more remote. In a nuclear age it is impossible to imagine mass armies opposing one another with conventional weapons, as they did in the last two wars. If, tragically, they should come, wars are likely either to be conventional ones on a comparatively limited scale outside Europe, or we shall be faced with the appalling prospect of a nuclear holocaust in Europe.
The various post-war T.A. reorganisations have been in line with this train of thought. For example, in 1954, as the House will know, it was decided to abolish Anti-Aircraft Command. This represented the last effective rôle of the T.A. in the defence of this country against conventional attack. In 1955, the number of divisions designed to fight as such in Europe was reduced from 12 to 2 and eventually, in 1961, to none at all.
Meanwhile, there was an increasing emphasis on the rôle of the T.A. in the provision of reinforcements for the Regular Army—a tendency which we continue in the Bill. In 1958, it was recognised that Civil Defence must be included among the rôles for which the T.A. was being trained and specific training in fire-fighting was introduced in 1964. Throughout this long period the establishment of the T. A. had been steadily dropping, from 700,000 in 1947 to 300,000 in 1955 and, following the 1961 reorganisation, to its present establishment of about 190,000, of which only 97,000 are now enrolled.
Moreover, far from destroying the pattern of service given by the "Terriers" the reorganisation and the character of the Bill itself emphasises the extent to which present proposals are in line with the past.
The Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve will be based throughout on existing units of the Territorial Army 242 and of the Army Emergency Reserve. We have been at pains in framing the reorganisation to ensure that as many units as possible of the A.E.R. and Territorial Army are represented in some form or other in the new Reserve. Happily, we have substantially achieved this aim. We are most anxious that the new units of the T. & A.V.R. should take over from their predecessors in the A.E.R. and T.A. the traditions and spirit of service for which they are noted. We have tried to emphasise the continuity in our present proposals by including the name "Territorial" in the title of the force; for good measure we have also included the name "Volunteer", which takes us back to an even earlier period.
The House will note that the Bill starts off in Clause 1 by changing the name of the Territorial Army to one more appropriate to its new rôle. As will be clear from Clause 17 of the Bill, we also envisage the continuance of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations, which have played such an important part in the life of the Territorial Army.
It would, I think, be appropriate at this stage to pay tribute to the contribution that has been made by the T.A. Council and by associations locally to the deliberations leading up to the Bill which is before the House today.
It has had a difficult part to play; we realise that many members of the Council started with considerable misgivings about the Government's proposals. I am, however, very glad to tell the House that I believe that all the major difficulties and most of the minor differences of opinion, too, have now been resolved.
The form which the reorganisation takes may not be precisely what the Council would have wished if it had been given a free hand, but it has loyally accepted that it is for the Government to lay down policy and for the Council to give its advice on how this policy can best be carried out. I pay tribute to the rôle that it has played during this period of negotiation, bringing us to the state as now presented to the House.
Let me turn now to the tasks of the new force. When the Government came into office in October, 1964, the rôle of the T.A. was then defined as follows:
In addition, we also inherited a small but completely independent force, the Army Emergency Reserve, which was designed to contribute towards meeting the first of these three rôles. But it was organised differently and, in the case of Category I—the larger part—on a completely different call-out liability.
- "(a) To provide units and individual reinforcements, on the outbreak of war, for the Regular Army overseas, particularly for B.A.O.R.
- (b) To provide Headquarters and units on the outbreak of war to aid the Civil Power and to support the Regular Army in the U.K., and
- (c) To provide a framework on which, in a period of rising tension, general preparations for war can be made."
Broadly, the present Government recognise the first and second of the rôles laid down by the previous Government, but the basic change is in the method that we have adopted to enable the Reserve to fulfil these rôles. We are not questioning the rôles themselves. On the other hand, we regard the third rôle,To provide a framework on which, in a period of rising tension, general preparations for war can be made",as an irrelevance today. In fact, as I have already shown, its abandonment has been going on gradually for years. It would only be necessary to provide a framework for expansion if we seriously thought in terms of a large-scale conventional war with huge armies built up gradually in slow time. That we regard as a remote possibility; and in any case the limiting factor would not be men, but equipment.
It might be argued that there is no great harm in including in the rôle of the Army Reserves some recognition of the possibility that the unforeseen may happen. But there is, in fact, harm in it. Seeking to make provision for the unknown has distorted the organisation, training, equipment and cost of the Territorial Army.
First, it has entailed the retention of an establishment greatly in excess of the recruited strength, with all that this implies in extra overheads. We have been paying a very heavy price in manpower and money for the retention of unnecessary headquarters, the provision of heavy equipment for units of the Royal Armoured Corps and the Royal Artillery, which could not conceivably have been required, and the maintenance of numerous units of teeth 244 arms, when the main need is for supporting units. All this has been the consequence of sticking to the outdated idea of providing a framework for expansion.
Secondly, it has, in practice, operated to the detriment of the provision of sufficient training and equipment for units required to perform the very important reinforcement rôle.
Thus, the Government having abandoned this hypothetical, costly and irrelevant third rôle, we were free to consider the most economical and efficient way of meeting the other two rôles, namely, to provide reserves from the Regular Army and Home Defence. This we propose to do, as the Bill sets out, by creating two separate but inter-linked forces within the common legislative framework of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve, as the legal successor of the T.A. under Clause 1 of the Bill, but embracing also the A.E.R. under Clause 14(4).
But why, it may be asked, have we decided to set up two new and separate forces rather than carry out another scaling-down operation for the Territorial Army? In my view, there are several convincing reasons why we have decided to do this. First, the result of trying to perform two quite distinct tasks within a single framework would almost certainly have led to the production of a hybrid force which did not meet either requirement adequately. We would also inevitably have been left with the wrong balance between teeth arms and logistic units for the reinforcement needs of the Regular Army.
Secondly, the liabilities, both for call-out and training required for Regular Army reinforcements and for Home Defence are quite different, and it would have been difficult to cater satisfactorily for both liabilities within the Territorial Army as it is at present constructed. Thirdly, a single force like the T.A., organised on a uniform basis, would, even if reduced considerably in scale, have cost a great deal more than we are planning to spend on the new Reserve.
Fourthly, and finally, the T. & A.V.R. also has the advantage of incorporating the A.E.R., which has hitherto been quite separate from the T.A. This last point is fundamental to the present reorganisation. The existing Army Emergency Reserve, particularly Category I, which has 245 the rôle of providing some of the logistic units required for support of the Strategic Reserve in the event of limited war, makes a vital contribution to meeting the reinforcement requirements of the Regular Army. Men in this category have a higher call-out liability than members of the T.A. They have been recruited up to about an 80 per cent. level, they provide some highly efficient units, and I should like to pay tribute to those members of A.E.R. I who have accepted the higher liability attached to their service. Nevertheless, important as the rôle of the A.E.R. has been, it has not been a satisfactory arrangement to keep it as a small separate force with different liabilities from the rest of the volunteer reserves.
Let me now summarise the various categories of the new Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve. The Special Army Volunteer Reserve, S.A.V.R., consists of volunteers on a "Ever-ready" call out liability, totalling 8,600 men in all, an increase in the present establishment of the T.A.E.R., which is established at 7,700. The S.A.V.R. is legally a continuance of the T.A.E.R. established by the Army Reserve Act, 1962. The T.A.E.R. has already given very good service in Aden and elsewhere. In the same way as we obtain the "Ever-ready" volunteers from the T.A., so we hope to recruit about half the 7,000 men whom we require for S.A.V.R. from the T. & A.V.R. A new feature, however, is that under Clause 8 we shall aim to recruit the remaining half of the individuals from the ranks of Regular reservists, and this will enable us to take full advantage of the experience and the relatively high state of training of Regular reservists.
The remaining 1,600 on an "Ever-ready" liability will be organised in separate units in order that the Government will be able to fulfil their offer—one which I warmly welcome—to provide logistic backing for a United Nations force of up to six battalions if required. To fulfil this rôle a unit must obviously be available for call-out as a whole on an "Ever-ready" basis; it is most likely to be needed in a situation falling well short of the requirement for calling out the rest of the Reserve. T. & A.V.R. I might itself form part of the logistic backing to a U.N. force or to a purely British force.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether, when men are being invited to join this force, it will be made clear to them that in doing so they automatically accept the liability to serve in a United Nations force? At the moment it is not clear, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make absolutely clear what the conditions are.
§ Mr. Ennals
I assure the hon. Gentleman that the commitment will be made clear. It will be understood that the decision whether Britain should provide logistic backing for a U.N. force will be taken by the British Government, but those who volunteer will understand the nature of their liability.
T. & A.V.R. IIA consists of "independent units, organised on a local basis, as set out in the White Paper. T. & A.V.R. IIB are the "sponsored" units, raised on a countrywide basis. But I must emphasise that T. & A.V.R. IIB is not just another A.E.R. I under a new name. It will incorporate some ex-T.A. units, now to be recruited on a countrywide basis.
As the White Paper explains, the distinction between independent and sponsored units is not a distinction related to the kind of operations for which they may be used, or the distinction of liability of service. It is a distinction in the method of recruitment, and in the nature and degree of training required.
It would be wrong to imagine that only sponsored units are required, or indeed primarily designed, for limited war outside Europe, or, on the other hand, that independent units are required and designed only for a re-inforcement rôle for B.A.O.R. No units will be confined solely to a B.A.O.R. rôle, although we are making certain provisions for doctors, dentists and nursing sisters as individuals. Although, in practice, certain units of a highly specialised character are unlikely to be needed outside Europe, this does not apply to the teeth arms.
We must regard the whole of the T. & A.V.R. II as a single whole. All units will include the name "Volunteer" in their titles. They will have the same liability for call-out, and even though it may be organised and trained primarily for either one rôle or the other, any unit could be used anywhere. This will give the maximum flexibility and economy in 247 meeting the reinforcement needs of the Regular Army.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
Will all these units in each group be trained and equipped identically?
§ Mr. Ennals
I am not certain of the answer to that question. I shall ask my hon. Friend to deal with it when he winds up the debate.
§ Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
Clause 1 refers to the Royal Marines Reserve. Will this be a separate organisation?
§ Mr. Ennals
If the hon. Lady will be patient, I shall mention the Royal Marines Reserve later.
I do not want to say any more on this occasion about the detailed organisation of the volunteers, as this was fully set out in the White Paper published last December. I should like to concentrate on one particular aspect which is specifically covered by the Bill, and this is the question of call-out liability for T. & A.V.R. II, which has given rise to a good deal of misunderstanding.
I hope, and believe, that most of the misunderstanding has disappeared, but, in case it has not, a special leaflet is about to be issued by the Government to employers explaining once again the Government's intentions. It is hoped that this will be helpful to those who are hoping to volunteer for this Reserve. We are grateful for the help which has been given by the Confederation of British Industry and the T.U.C. in preparing the leaflet, and indeed in discussions on the call-out liability generally.
Leaving aside the general liability for call-out in defence of the United Kingdom, the great majority of the present volunteer reserves—the T.A. and A.E.R. Category II—can only be called out in case of imminent national danger or of great emergency. While we propose to retain this liability in Clause 5(1) of the Bill, we do not consider that it covers at all adequately the range of circumstances in which it might be necessary to call out T. & A.V.R. II in support of the Regular Army. This is a matter partly of substance, and partly of timing.
As regards the former, it is very doubtful whether a major limited war outside Europe of a kind in which Britain might 248 become engaged could reasonably be regarded as constituting either "imminent national danger" or a "great emergency". Yet this is the sort of situation that we are most likely to face. A major crisis in Europe, resulting in a N.A.T.O. Simple Alert, could more justifiably be described in these terms, but the timing of a call-out in these circumstances could be all-important. It might be desirable to call out at any rate some reservists before it was advisable to announce that national danger was imminent, or that a great national emergency had arisen, with all the diplomatic consequences of so grave a statement. We thus came to the conclusion that a more flexible definition was required if our volunteer reserves were to be of maximum value.
The new legal liability for call-out is defined in Clause 6(1) of the Bill aswhen war-like operations are in preparation or progress.It is, however, impossible to define by Act of Parliament the type of hypothetical circumstances that might merit the use of this sort of broad definition. But it is fair to say that this broad definition has been in operation for nearly 70 years, and now governs the call-out liability of Section A of the Regular Reserve and of A.E.R. Category I.
Outside the two world wars, during the whole of that 70 years' period there have been only two occasions when that liability has been invoked, and the very few occasions on which it was invoked for the categories to which it applied should provide some reassurance that it will not in future place unreasonable demands either upon employers or upon volunteers themselves. There is no question whatever—as some people suggested—of the new liability being an "Ever-ready" liability or anything like that.
I do not think that those who have been concerned about the liability have been greatly worried about the aspects of a N.A.T.O. Simple Alert. It is in relation to a limited war outside Europe that most of the anxieties have been expressed. We cannot foresee all the hypothetical situations that might arise, but we have clearly stated on many occasions that we would not call out volunteers unless major military operations were in progress, or appeared to be imminent, and when a serious situation affecting vital national interests had arisen.
249 Our lust resort in the event of a limited war would be to provide the necessary reinforcement from the Strategic Reserve or such elements of the Regular Army as could be made available. This would be followed, if necessary, by the call-out of Section A of the Regular Reserve, and we have given an assurance, which I repeat, that volunteers who have not accepted the "Ever-ready" liability will not be called out until full use has been made of Section A. Only when we have exhausted these resources would we have to fall back on ordinary volunteers. Even then it might be necessary only to call up a limited number. It should not be assumed that, if there were a call-out, it would involve all volunteer units. On the contrary, it is most unlikely in that in a limited war situation the whole of T. & A.V.R. II would be required.
While we have been at pains to reassure employers and potential members of the volunteers that their liabilities will not be unreasonably invoked, we do not want to mislead them by going too far in giving the opposite impression that they would never be called out under any circumstances short of a major war in Europe. If this situation were to be so, we would not require an important part of the present Bill, and we should not have succeeded in our aim of providing the more flexible and readily available Reserve which we believe to be required. The existing T.A. liability, as the House will generally agree, is insufficient. It is now generally assumed, unfortunately, that the T.A. would only be embodied in a general war situation like that of the last two world wars. It would be wrong for us to allow men to join the volunteers now believing that this was still the case, or that they were to be paid a £60 bounty for nothing.
From the employers' point of view there are two facts which should weigh heavily in the balance against this slightly increased risk that volunteers may be called up. The first is that fewer men are involved—in fact, little more than one third of the number that have been involved in the T.A. and A.E.R. in recent years. Secondly, the more immediate concern of employers is likely to be the amount of peace-time training. They can be assured that there will be no change 250 in the period of annual camp, which remains at 15 days, as provided for in Clause 16.
It is true that there will be an increase from 17 to 24 in the number of out-of-camp training days for members of independent units, but this will normally be confined to Saturdays and Sundays. There will be fewer drill nights during the week. Therefore, we can confidently assure employers that they have no reason for concern. As for the T. & A.V.R. III—the new "Territorials"—they are set out in Clause 2(2) and are limited to Home Defence, and under Clause 6(6) they are exempt from the "war-like operations" call-out.
The primary rôle of this section of the Reserve is to assist the police in the maintenance of law and order and to act generally in support of the civil authorities in the tragic event of a nuclear attack upon this country. It will be organised, equipped and trained for this primary rôle. As my right hon. Friend said in a previous Written Answer, there are 87 units of a standard infantry type, each normally having three companies, with a maximum recruited strength of 23,000. All T.A. major units of the R.A.C., R.A. and Infantry who did not find a place in the volunteers' order of battle will be represented, at least at company level. Units of the R.A.C. and R.A. will be organised and will operate in exactly the same way as infantry units, but for reasons of tradition and to suit their wishes they will retain their yeomanry or gunner titles.
We are anxious to foster close links between the independent units of T. & A.V.R. II and T. & A.V.R. III, but the House must recognise that, because of the great differences in their rôles, their liabilities, their equipment and training, the Territorials must constitute separate units and must have their own independent command structure. This should not stand in the way of mutual co-operation between units, some of whom will share drill halls. There are opportunities in training and social activities. We expect also that the links will be further fostered by the fact that the auxiliary associations will be responsible for certain aspects of the administration of both sections of the Reserve and thus 251 will provide a valuable link between the two.
An important part of the reorganisation provided for in the Bill is the improved arrangements that we propose to make to enable the Regular Army Reserve to play a more effective rôle. The Regular Reserve will in any case be increasing steadily in the early 1970s to about 45,000 as a result of the measures introduced by the previous Administration, but we are not at present making as much use as we might of this source of manpower—manpower which is highly trained and which includes experienced men.
We are proposing to take the following measures: first, as I have already said, we intend and hope to find 3,500 men for the Special Army Volunteer Reserve—the "Ever-readies" from Regular reservists. Secondly, Regular reservists will be able to take their place in volunteer units and will assume the same liabilities and receive the same bounty as do other volunteers. Thirdly, we are providing for all Regular soldiers who join the Army in future to retain their ability for call out "when war-like operations are in preparation or progress" throughout their period of reserve service. This is provided for also in Clause 6. It would be wrong to attempt to impose the liability compulsorily on those who have already joined the Army, although we hope that many will volunteer for this additional liability.
Fourthly, all new recruits into the Regular Army will, under Clause 6, acquire a liability for service at home as well as overseas if called out for warlike operations. As part of the general process of improving and simplifying call-up arrangements, we are providing in Clause 5 for the existing Proclamation procedure to be succeeded by a Queen's Order. This would enable reservists to be called up in the appropriate circumstances rather more rapidly than at present. This might be important in a situation where hours were of great significance.
The Queen's Order which will be substituted for the Proclamation will, naturally, be issued only in the same circumstances as are now laid down for the issue of Proclamation, that is to say, at a time of imminent national danger or great emergency. Only the form will be altered.
252 I have already covered the ground of Clauses 1 to 8, with certain exceptions. Clause 3 abolishes certain reserves or divisions of reserves which are no longer in existence, no longer required and, indeed, in some cases, have not come into existence. Clauses 4 and 7—
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I understood the hon. Gentleman to say just now that a Queen's Order would be issued only in circumstances of imminent national danger, or of great emergency. Is it not the case that a Queen's Order would also be used for calling out, in the event of warlike operations being in preparation or progress, that part of the Volunteer Reserve which was concerned? I was wondering whether I had heard him correctly.
§ Mr. Ennals
Yes, I am certain that that is the case, as the right hon. Gentleman put it.
Clauses 4 and 7, as I was saying, are consequential on the extension of the warlike operations liability provided for in Clause 6. I will now deal with some Clauses which follow. Clauses 9 to 13 constitute a group of Clauses which deal with the administration of a call-out. Thus, they deal with the question of how men are to be called out, the length of service during call-out and what should happen if men are called out in one set of circumstances and are then required to meet another set of circumstances.
Clause 14 contains a number of miscellaneous provisions. It enables Army reservists to join the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve and for members of the Emergency Reserve to be transferred to it. Officers in the Army Emergency Reserve with land forces commissions will be able to become officers of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve without the issue of T.A. commissions. It has been decided that officers newly entering the T. & A.V.R. will receive land forces commissions. Officers who already have Territorial Army commissions will, of course, continue to hold them, but in the long term this form of commission will disappear. When the T.A. was a separate army it was quite appropriate that it should have a separate commission. Now that the T. & A.V.R. mainly constitutes the reserve for the Regular Army, the officers in it should have the same commissions as Regular Army officers.
253 Clause 15 is another consequential of the warlike operations liability becoming a normal liability for men in the Volunteers. Clause 16 provides for the training of the Army and Air Force reserves and the Teritorial and Army Volunteer Reserve. It is much simpler than the corresponding provisions of the 1950 and 1953 Acts. The main feature of this Clause is that, for the first time, men may be compulsorily required to train overseas. This does not, of course, include the Home Defence Force. Training overseas is, in the Government's view, increasingly important, at a time when we may have to depend on quick mobility for the achievement of many of our objectives.
Clauses 17, 18 and 19 deal with Territorial Army Associations and I shall deal with them in a moment. Clause 20 deals with deputy lieutenants and the Government have now agreed that persons other than those qualified by service in the forces will be eligible for these appointments.
So far, I have referred only to the Army. The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are also affected by the Bill, but to a much smaller extent. Generally speaking, changes in liability and conditions of service introduced into the Regular Army Reserve are carried into the Regular Air Force Reserve and, to a more limited extent, into the special class of the Royal Fleet Reserve. This class is roughly equivalent to the Section A of the other two Service reserves. The Royal Auxiliary Air Force is only marginally affected. All the reserves of the Navy and Air Force are to be called out only by Queen's Order, instead of by Proclamation, in imminent national danger or great emergency.
I now turn to the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations. The White Paper issued in December left open the rôle to be played in future by associations. I am happy to say that we have now reached agreement with the T.A. Council on the functions for which these associations will continue to be responsible. They will continue to look after such matters as relations with employers, with the trade unions, and local interests generally. They will also be responsible for recruiting, except, of course, for sponsored units and for the issue of clothing to T. & A.V.R. III units and also for the man- 254 agement of centres. They will also retain their present functions in relation to cadets.
However, because of the reduced size and spread of the T. & A.V.R. as compared with the T.A., we would clearly not be justified to maintain anything like the present number of associations or secretariats. In particular, it will be essential, for reasons of economy, to reduce substantially the number of secretariats. We have in mind a total of about 15, serving groups of counties, so that the concept of a county secretariat will no longer exist. The Bill accordingly provides, in Clause 17, for the winding up of individual associations, for the variation of the areas they cover and for the alteration of the scope of the schemes under which they are constituted.
Clause 17(5) is particularly important, because it enables the Secretary of State, with the consent of the Treasury, to make payments to men employed by associations who have either lost their jobs or suffered some reduction in salary as a result of the reorganisation. In certain circumstances, men will be given compensation for their loss of earnings. We cannot, of course, interfere with the system of payments under the current redundancy payments legislation—
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
I notice that the hon. Gentleman is telling us of the provisions for men who will be redundant. Would he make some comment on the three aspects so far uncovered with regard to women at present serving, first, in relation to redundancy, and second, in relation to the W.R.A.C.T.A., and then give an explanation for the fact that Clause 20 makes no reference to women, who are now as eligible as men to be deputy lieutenants?
§ Mr. Ennals
Yes, Sir. There will be no women's unit, but there will be the opportunity for a limited number of women to enrol. They can enrol in signals units and also as clerks and cooks, where the circumstances are appropriate and where the right people are available. So the opportunities are still provided for some of the competent women already involved in the W.R.A.C. to continue their rôle in the reorganisation.
As many hon. Members will know, the social life of the T.A. is very important and it is in the various messes that the life and morale of a unit are fostered. 255 Normally, when a unit is disbanded or amalgamated, its non-public funds cannot be used for the purposes of a new unit unless the Charity Commissioners in England and Wales—or the Court of Session in Scotland or the High Court or Ministry of Finance in Northern Ireland—have accepted a plan.
This would be time-wasting and frustrating in the course of this reorganisation. Happily, the Charity Commissioners have suggested a provision that the non-public funds of the units which are being disbanded or amalgamated may be used by their successor units unless an order is given to the contrary. By this means we hope to achieve time saving and to avoid a tremendous amount of paper work. Clause 18 deals with this question in England and Wales and Northern Ireland and Clause 19 deals with the situation in Scotland.
Now that the whole pattern of the reorganised reserve forces has been presented to the House, the absurdity of the Opposition's attitude a few months ago is clear for all to see. Reason then was thrown to the winds in an election atmosphere. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who moved a Motion, used terms such as "abolition, dissolution and destruction of the Territorial Army". It is clear that none of these was justified. It is also clear that hon. Members opposite sought to play on the emotions of those men who have given such notable service to the Territorial Army by pretending that our aim was to destroy the Territorial Army.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Is the hon. Member not aware that when the Government's first observations on the future of the Territorial Army were published there was a considerable state of discontent throughout the whole Territorial Army and that all that hon. Members on this side were endeavouring to see was that these anxieties were fully expressed and publicly aired?
§ Mr. Ennals
My impression at the time was that hon. Members opposite were stimulating misunderstanding and not simply reflecting it. It is clear that at that time many men misunderstood the situation because of speeches which had been made by right hon. and hon. Members opposite, particularly in the censure de- 256 bate, which created a political climate in which there was a good deal of misunderstanding. It has taken the negotiations of the past few months and the very helpful co-operation of commanding officers, who have explained the situation to their men, to show just what the situation is.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
The hon. Member persists in making a political point. Does he not agree that since their first proposal the Government have had a lot of second thoughts?
§ Mr. Ennals
I do not accept that at all. I presume that the hon. Member is referring to the decision to establish the Home Defence Force. I have been looking this up in the First White Paper which read:The Government are, however, continuing their examination of how best to secure appropriate provision for borne defence and what contribution military units might best make towards it. They will announce their conclusions in due course.In winding up the debate, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said:… there may be a case for further volunteer military or para-military units which might be based on the present Territorial Army, but might be organised to train in conjunction with the future Army Volunteer Reserve. The Government are now considering this, and will announce their conclusions on it after the Recess, but I do not want to mislead the House. It is not conceivable that the proposals which will emerge from this consideration will lead to the reconstruction of the Territorial Army in its present form, or with its present equipment, or at its present size."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 1590.]Every word that he then said is true. It was from the Opposition benches that there were attempts to push away these statements and to pretend that we were trying to destroy the Territorial Army—attempts which, during that period, did a great deal of harm. Happily, it brought no electoral dividends, as we see. Nor, and even more happily, did it have any lasting effect on the attitude of the Territorial Army.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way, as he has done so frequently during the last few minutes. I am sure that he is trying to be objective. Would it not be fair to say that it was owing to the action of hon. Members on this side of the House that something was saved from the wreckage?
§ Mr. Ennals
I cannot accept that for one moment. The contribution by hon. Members opposite has not been particularly helpful. I hope that it will be more helpful today and in Committee.
The long discussions which we had with the T.A. Council were extremely helpful, and the way in which it was putting forward constructive proposals has meant that as we have gone along we have sought to find compromises—compromises which have enabled the present high state of morale to exist. I say this because I believe that the morale within the Territorial Army today is higher now that the circumstances are fully understood.
Particularly I find that the volunteers are looking forward to the improved standards of equipment, clothing and training which they will get. I know from a visit which I paid only two days ago to an infantry brigade in training that the vast majority of the men who had then had their declarations of intent put before them had readily signed up, and that the state of interest and determination to take part, if they could, in the new force which was being established was very encouraging and very inspiring.
I am, therefore, confident that we can rely upon the support of the T.A. Council and of the associations throughout the country in persuading members of the Territorial Army to join the T. & A.V.R. and that they will do their utmost to ensure that the new Reserve is as successful as it deserves to be. The passing of this Bill will ensure that the fine traditions of the Territorial Army and of the Army Volunteer Reserve will be continued in the service of this country.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
At the outset, I have the very pleasant task of congratulating the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army on his maiden speech from the Dispatch Box in a full-dress debate. It cannot have been very easy for him to speak on such a specialised subject having been so recently appointed, and I am sure that he will not think I am being over-critical when I say that his ease of delivery by no means covered a lot of bare patches. A great many questions have to be asked and answered in this debate.
258 I propose to discuss the provisions of the Reserve Forces Bill in the context of the unhappy sequence of events leading up to the position today. I shall speak about the rôle, strength and equipment of the volunteer reserves in the wider framework of our military reserves as a whole and mention certain features of the Bill which we shall want to scrutinise particularly carefully in Committee. Finally, I shall say something about the future of the new Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve and about the hope held on this side of the House that everyone concerned will now be ready to join in bringing a happy ending to a sad and bad story of Socialist muddle and indecision.
I will restate our criticisms of the last 12 months, because obviously they have been misunderstood by the Under-Secretary of State and by his colleagues; and I believe that our motives have been misunderstood, too. When the Labour Party took office in 1964, they came inevitably under intense pressure from their Left wing to slash the country's defence costs drastically and immediately. There is ample evidence for this, such as the unanimous demand from the Parliamentary Party to "make drastic cuts in arms expenditure", coupled with a threat of "trouble" for the Government if they were not made. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) was probably in the Chair at that meeting. I think that I am right. This resolution was reinforced by numerous Motions on the Order Paper all in similar vein. They were from hon. Members whose demands were, of course, far from rational, and on this side of the House we shared the sentiments of the hon. Member for Liverpool Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) when he said that he was tired of his colleagues who constantly pressed for drastic cuts in defence only to ask in the next breath why we had no Army to send to Rhodesia. In admirable contrast to these pacifist and other pressures—I want to be fair—I want to say that many hon. Members opposite, such as the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), have very often reminded us thatthere is no way by which to get effective defence on the cheap".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1961; Vol. 650, c. 72.]I quote from something which he said in a similar debate in November 1961. I can assure hon. Members that on this 259 side of the House we have learned this lesson the hard way. The Labour Party still have to prove that they have learned it.
The raucous demands for hasty economies could not be ignored by a Government so delicately poised. A lamb had to be found for the slaughter, and the Government had good reason for supposing that none was more suitable than the Territorial Army. In the debate last December, we were told by the hon. Member for Toxteth, in one of the most courageous and outspoken speeches I have heard in these debates on military matters:On this side of the House, I regret to say that there are many Members who genuinely do not like the T.A. It may sound strange to say that, but they have all sorts of queer conceptions about what it is, not least the one which one of my hon. Friends seriously confided to me the other day, that it was kept in being by the Tories only to be used against the workers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 1530–31.][Interruption.] That was said by an hon. Gentleman opposite, not by one of my hon. Friends. Some of the snide and bigoted comments made about the Territorial Army during the past year clearly reveal the degree of malice in certain sections of the party opposite which hoped that the so-called re-organisation would, in fact, amount to destruction. In spite of these pressures, the Minister of Defence for the Army, then the Under-Secretary, assured us to our great relief—and this was in March of last year—that there was no intention of re-organising the reserve forces until the Defence Review was complete. He said:Once we have carried out the review of our commitments and Civil Defence and the home defence requirements, we can look at the size and disposition of the Regular Army and see what is needed to improve it. Having done that, we can look at the Reserves needed to back up the Regular Army in maintaining the commitments, and the Reserves include the Territorial Army."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1965; Vol. 708, c. 190.]That is not, in fact, what happened. In spite of those assurances, there were rumours in the Press early in April of last year, with a strong smell of official leaks—and I particularly remember an article in the Sun—that the Territorial Army would come under the axe. It came as no surprise to my hon. Friends and I when, on 29th July of last year, 260 the Government announced that the axe had fallen.
Under the new proposals, the volunteer reserve force, incorporating both the Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve, was to be cut from its then strength of 120,000 to "about 50,000". The Minister of Defence for the Army said that on 29th July of last year. This, by the way, was extremely misleading. As it later transpired, by a fluke, we learned that the Government's intention was to recruit this force to only 80 per cent. of establishment; in other words, not to about 50,000 but to about 40,000 because they did not think that more men could be attracted. That was certainly taking a rather jaundiced view of their own proposals.
Out of 156 Territorial Army units, 135 were to be disbanded completely. Only 300 drill halls would be left out of 1,300. The new force would consist mainly of logistic units and be based mainly on industrial areas. It would have the single rôle of reinforcing the Regular Army abroad.
Whatever the real reasons behind this curious political manœuvre—and that is what it was—of taking the reserves out of the context of the whole picture of our defence and military manpower needs, the Government based it on certain dogmatic assumptions which many of us seriously question. The responsibility for these assumptions rests squarely on Ministerial shoulders, and I am sure that the Front Bench opposite will accept that, because it cannot be said to rest on military shoulders.
We read in Cmd. 2855 the flat statement that if major war came again in Europe it would involve the use of nuclear weapons. I think I hear the Secretary of State saying "Hear, hear." The Under-Secretary reiterated that view today. Of course, a certain amount of clairvoyance is implicit in all defence planning, but they are a rash Government who do not listen carefully to what the experts have to say.
§ Mr. Healey
The hon. and gallant Gentleman will be aware that this doctrine was first enunciated by a Conservative Defence Minister in the 1957 White Paper and reiterated in other Conservative White Papers after that date.
§ Sir T. Beamish
It was not enunciated in precisely the same form, and nor did I happen to agree with it. We are now 261 talking about the future—[Interruption.]—and decisions made by the party opposite. As a result of this bald assumption, they might at least have listened to some of the experts. One such expert, for example, whom they might have listened to was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Defence Council, Sir Solly Zuckerman, an extract from whose forthcoming book was published in the Sunday Times in February of this year. He gave this as his view:… the Russian High Command now believes that there could be operations in Western Europe in which … the fight would be waged in a non-nuclear or conventional fashion.Moreover, in this year's Defence White Paper, it is clearly implied that our allies in N.A.T.O. do not share the cocksuredness of Her Majesty's Government about the future. We read in paragraph 13 of the White Paper:We have … urged on the Alliance that it should abandon those military preparations which rest on the assumption that a general war in Europe might last for several months.May I ask when this was urged on our allies in N.A.T.O.,; on what occasion, and what was the response? We want to know.
§ Mr. Healey
A general war that lasts for several months has always been seen by our allies as a nuclear war. There has never been any suggestion by any military advisers to the alliance or to any national Government that a war lasting for more than a few days could be fought without the use of nuclear weapons.
§ Sir T. Beamish
In that case, I do not understand why it was necessary to urge this view upon our allies.
§ Mr. Healey
I regret interrupting the hon. and gallant Gentleman again, but I wish to clear this up. Had the hon. and gallant Gentleman done his homework and read what has been said in the House by me and other Ministers, he would know that the reason why it was important to urge this on our allies is because some of them believe that it would be possible to fight for several months using hundreds of nuclear weapons every day during those months. We believe—and I think that we have now convinced them—that this is totally inconceivable and that those parts of the alliance's plans which are based on this assumption now require revision.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has given that explanation, and I assure him that I read his comments with the utmost care, but in any case, living as we are in such an uncertain and dangerously changing world, it is particularly important that we avoid dogmatic assumptions which inevitably lead to the suspicion that they are only made to dovetail with preconceived plans.
This suspicion is naturally heightened when the chief character in the act, the right hon. Gentleman himself, in order to attempt a political somersault, lands with such a crash on his head. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman may laugh, but this needs some explanation as well. Only just over two years ago, the right hon. Gentleman wrote in the Financial Times about the Conservative Party appearing to him to agree with his party that… nuclear war is now the least likely of ail contingencies.
§ Mr. Healey
Really, the hon. and gallant Gentleman must try to think this through. We do not believe that there will be a nuclear war in Europe, because the Russians know that any war in Europe would be a nuclear one. We believe that no sane Government anywhere in the world would deliberately take any action likely to lead to nuclear war. This is the doctrine of deterrence which, I understand, the hon. and gallant Gentleman and his hon. Friends have supported for the last 20 years.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I confess that I do not believe that that is a partcularly good explanation. The right hon. Gentleman is now saying that war in Europe would be so certain to escalate that we have no need to prepare for any other contingency. His crystal ball is cracked and cloudy. I wish we could have a little less of the crystal balls and a little more commonsense.
The Government based their plans last July on other assumptions which we question, too. They decided that in the event of war this country would be so 263 devastated that the Territorial Army could provide no worth-while help at home. That was their assumption last summer, an assumption which is no longer valid in the light of the decision about the home defence forces.
They also decided that no military force could conceivably be needed at any time to defend Britain against sea or air attack, or against sabotage, or to provide a framework for general mobilisation, or to aid the civil power in any circumstances. Those were their assumptions last summer.
I will comment on the consultation with the Territorial Army Council, and it may surprise hon. Gentlemen opposite to know—
§ Mr. Shinwell
On a point of order. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will forgive me for saying that so far he has been discussing general defence—the question of a nuclear war or the use of conventional forces. I interpose at this stage to ensure that if in the course of the debate any of my hon. Friends catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or Mr. Speaker's eye, we shall be able to pursue that subject.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I express the hope that as the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading made frequent reference to the White Paper, Command 2855—which certainly covers the whole question of the need for reorganisation—those who take part in the debate will also be allowed to refer to that White Paper in as great detail as he has.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
I do not think that anything said so far has been out of order, and it will certainly be open to any hon. Member who subsequently catches my eye to refer to the speeches already made.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I turn now to consultation with the Territorial Army Council. It may surprise hon. Members to know that it was not until the July proposals had been announced that the Government invited the Council of Territorial and Auxiliary Farces Associations to join in consultations about how to implement the plan. The members of the Council, like many senior military 264 advisers, must have found themselves in an impossible position. In any military appreciation, the rule is to start with an object and work to a conclusion. If the object is faulty, the conclusion is likely to be faulty, too.
It is hardly surprising, as the Under-Secretary has said, that the Council had misgivings about the plan about which it had not been consulted. I am sure that the Minister will agree that in spite of this the Council's behaviour was praiseworthy. It deserves a warm tribute for the way in which, with dignity and restraint, it resisted any temptation to let the Territorial Army become a political issue. It struggled manfully to preserve the all-important morale of the force, and worked patiently to help the Government improve their ill-conceived proposals.
But the party opposite deserves censure for its behaviour at this time. The Defence Correspondent of the Evening Standard, writing after the Government's announcement of a home defence force, had this to say:Denis Healey and his Ministers snubbed and bitterly hurt tens of thousands of volunteer soldiers: and as a result he will have the greatest difficulty in making either of the two replacement forces a success. If they do succeed, it will probably be due to the magnanimous co-operation of the slighted Territorial Army Council.He described the whole procedure, quite rightly, as… a model of bad management.We on this side could not agree more.
I thought that the Under-Secretary's attempted defence of the muddle of the last 12 months was singularly unconvincing. This sort of bungling and ineptitude is quite inexcusable. When the Conservative Government carried out a major reorganisation in 1961, which was most unwelcome to the Territorial Army and resulted in the axing or combining of many proud and honourable regiments, the Council was consulted at an early stage and the whole procedure was carried through with good will and courtesy on both sides.
But it was not only the Territorial Army Council that was not consulted this time by the party opposite: very senior officers who had every right and every need to know what plans were afoot for the country's defences, and what men would be available to them in case 265 of emergency, were deliberately kept out of the picture. It is an open secret that they expressed justifiable anger. As everyone here knows, there was a countrywide reaction to the Government's proposals. The Under-Secretary seemed to have forgotten about that until he was reminded of it by two of my hon. Friends. During a debate in another place, apart from the half-hearted Government spokesmen, not one voice was raised in the Government's defence. The only Labour peer who spoke attacked the proposals root and branch.
Even Lord Montgomery, who has been partially and, I think, unfairly quoted today and previously as a supporter of the Government's policy, put his finger firmly on one of the major weaknesses of the plan. In that same debate in another place, he said that a second tier was needed… to nourish the first tier and keep it up to strength with basically trained men.He went on to say that the issue revolved round whether the time had come to abandon any form of defence. He said:I do not believe that the time has come. In war time, absolute security of the home base is vital."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House, of Lords. 23rd November, 1965; Vol. 270, c. 819.]Does the Minister agree with that view or does he not? We on this side do. I thought that, on the whole, it was a very good speech, and very critical of the Government. I am not surprised that the Government, feeling round for some witness for the defence, would very much like to feel that Lord Montgomery agreed with them. But he did not agree with them in that speech. His only praise of them was praise that they had grasped the nettle of reorganisation.
Men from all walks of life, regular soldiers of long experience, men and women with memories of two world wars that so nearly brought this country to its knees, and Territorial soldiers of all ranks, implored the Government to have second thoughts. They all got the brush-off. The Socialists knew all the answers.
I should like now to turn briefly to the White Paper, which is an important part of the background to the Bill. It appeared last December, and was hotly debated in this House. It showed that the Government were not prepared to yield on any major point, and that was 266 in spite of the very serious doubts expressed by some of their own Members and the censure of the Conservative Party. The hon. Member for Toxteth expressed the view that the Government would have been defeated had there been a free vote, and I am sure that he was right.
Very serious doubts on the wisdom of the proposals were cast by the right hon. Member for Easington who I am glad to see in his place—a former Minister of Defence—in a most excellent speech. Another former Service Minister, the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) after accusing the Government of lack of imagination, wastefulness and the needless destruction of good will, concluded by saying of the White Paper:Those of us who are concerned with the country's defence want something more substantial."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 1515.]There was a terrific weight of criticism of the Government's proposals from all over the country, and it is quite useless for the Under-Secretary to try to deny it, because the facts are on record.
The Government's one-vote victory on that occasion amounted to a technical knock-out, since the combined support in the country of the Tory and Liberal parties for the Liberals fully shared our criticisms,—and I am glad to see one Liberal hon. Member here—represented 3 million more electors than the Labour Party. It is difficult to believe that any Government could feel that they had a mandate to carry out these proposals in the face of such intense opposition and such serious doubts.
The House will remember that, in spite of last summer's flat, almost arrogant, rejection of the need for the Territorial Army to have a home defence rôle of any kind, the December White Paper, with every sign of hasty last-minute revision by shaking hands, stated in paragraph 4:The Government are … continuing their examination of how best to secure appropriate provision for home defence and what contribution military units might best make towards this. They will announce their conclusions in due course.This paragraph was read with relief by the Government's critics and warmly welcomed, for all its woolliness. The Government were obviously having agonies of doubt about their previous decisions, 267 and there was every hope of wiser counsels prevailing. And so it turned out.
Here, I turn to the more pleasant task of congratulating the Government on having second thoughts at the eleventh hour. It is never easy to admit to a change of heart, still less to appear to yield to arguments at such a late stage. Eating one's own words is never much fun. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House must have admired the Minister of Defence for the Army who, although he was only partly responsible as Under-Secretary for the original proposals, cannot have found it easy to announce on 2nd February that there was, after all, to be a military volunteer force with a home defence rôle. Having made this late right-about-turn, what did the Minister see? He saw a Territorial Army in a parlous state—there is no denying it. A year of Socialist humming and hawing had taken a heavy toll.
When I asked the Minister recently to give the figures showing the strength of the Territorial Army for the past 12 months, I found that after the July announcement it began to drop at a rate of 1,000 a month. But I understand that the position may be far more serious even than this. According to a circumstantial rumour—and that is all it is—that has come to my ears, resignations recently may have outnumbered new recruits, and may amount in total since last summer to about 15,000. The Under-Secretary said that the latest figure was 97,000, and I would be somewhat comforted if it was, but even that figure means a run-down of 1,000 a month during the whole of the last 12 months.
§ Mr. Ennals
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want to mislead the House. He will surely confirm from the figures he must have before him that the reduction in the total number of recruited members of the T.A. is due almost entirely to a fall away of enrolment. It was obvious that there would be a fall away in enrolment when it was quite clear that there would be a new force in which men could enrol. There has not been a substantial fall away of those already serving. There has not been a run-down of existing serving men, but a run-down in recruitment.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I wish to be fair and I am very glad to hear that, but I cannot agree that morale in the Territorial Army has been high in the last few months. It has never been lower, I can assure the hon. Gentleman, and I keep in touch with the problem. I am glad to hear, however, that the position is not so serious as I feared and we have had confirmation that in the Territorial Army there are about 97,000 men.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
Is it not absolutely clear from what the Under-Secretary has said that this substantial reduction in the total number of recruited men is due to the failure of old-established members to re-engage owing to uncertainty about the future?
§ Sir T. Beamish
I should say undoubtedly that has a lot to do with it. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting that point.
So much for the background to the Bill. We on this side of the House, in spite of the criticisms I have made, are anxious to give all the help and encouragement we can if we have the Government's firm promise of good intentions. Let us make clear to present and future members of the volunteer reserves that the nagging uncertainty has ended and the future is brighter. I agree with the Under-Secretary that a new climate is wanted. He can be quite sure that we on this side will do our best to engender it, but we have serious anxieties about the future of the reserve forces.
Those anxieties come under three main headings. First, are the forces large enough? Secondly, will the conditions of service attract and hold men of the right quality? Thirdly, will these forces have the right equipment? We have been told by the Under-Secretary that the detailed arrangements and organisation were stated in the White Paper, but, frankly, they were not and a great deal more information is needed. The question of strength must be considered in the context of Regular forces and Regular reserves and overseas commitments. I have said something about the gravely declining strength of the territorial army in the last few months. It has been running down by about 1,000 a month for the past 12 months.
The Regular recruiting position is equally disquieting. During last year 269 normal Regular engagements have fallen by 22 per cent. and in terms of man years they have fallen by 18 per cent. This is a very serious situation. Let us not forget that a strong volunteer reserve does much to stimulate Regular Army recruiting and any discouragement of the first will quickly be reflected in the strength of the second. It is not disputed that our Regular forces are seriously overstretched. The Minister of Defence has usually been the first to emphasise this. I make no party point here for it is something which the party opposite inherited from us.
However, when the Minister of Defence for the Army was asked what forces were immediately available for home defence other than the Territorial Army, he replied that there were 230,000 Regular personnel of the three Services at present stationed in this country. That sounded very comforting, but, when I took up in a letter this misleading answer, he informed me that they includedall adult Regular Service personnel at that time in the U.K.and that only 93,000 were Army personnel. He conceded thatnot all of them would necessarily he available for home defence.That was a masterly under-statement. Indeed they would not. The impressive figure of almost a quarter of a million doubtless includes men on courses, men on leave, depot staffs, pay clerks, men in hospital, training school staffs, musicians, field marshals and recruits. I should like to know whom the Minister was trying to fox with that figure—not me, I hope.
We were given the true picture in this year's Defence White Paper on page 2, paragraph 5:On several occasions, no units of the strategic reserve have been immediately available in Britain. We have thus been compelled to make use of our right to withdraw forces committed under the Brussels Treaty to serve in Germany, in order to meet temporary needs overseas.Nor should we deceive ourselves into thinking that the over-stretch of our forces is likely to improve in the foreseeable future.
§ The Minister of Defence for the Army (Mr. G. W. Reynolds)
The point which the hon. Gentleman has read from the White Paper is true, but he is talking about units available for posting to an 270 overseas theatre, not that there were no units in the Strategic Reserve in this country. They had either come back from operational tours, or were going on operational tours and were available for home defence if required.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. That is exactly what I had in mind when I asked the Minister how many men would be needed to bring all units of B.A.O.R. up to war establishment. He told me that the British Army of the Rhine would be approximately doubled if it were put on a war footing. In other words, about 50,000 more would be needed to put B.A.O.R. on a war footing. The Minister also said in a recent speech that a N.A.T.O. Simple Alert would involve calling up:pretty well all reservists at once.Europe, of course, is not the only theatre we might have to reinforce in an emergency. Under the Government's present proposals, the Minister has said that in 1969 there would be about 80,000 Regular and volunteer reservists available to reinforce the Regular Army. How has he arrived at that figure? Has he counted every man-jack of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve, excluding the units designated for home defence? Has he also counted the whole of the Regular Reserve, which includes men who left the forces many years ago and who are elderly, out-of-date, untrained and perhaps unfit, too? Has he even included me? I believe that I am still on the Regular Army reserve of officers, although I hope that I do not fully fit my description of some of the older members of the Regular Reserve.
The Minister himself has told us how long it would take to train a recruit to the necessary standard if he were to take his place as an individual reinforcement with an infantry unit on active service overseas. I was told that he would have to complete at least his first year's training, including 15 days' camp. Of course, that is so, but this training requirement must be taken into account when we calculate how many volunteer reservists would be available in case of emergency. Where they are concerned, this would depend on the average length of service. If it is there years, at least one-third of these men will not be available at any given time.
271 The number of trained volunteers available for reinforcing the Regular Army overseas will be only a little over 30,000 under these proposals—that is, after allowing for 100 per cent. availability of the A.E.R. element and the Regular element of the "Ever-readies", and subtracting all men in their first year of training from the remainder of the force. I am sure that many hon. Members have not realised that figure. This leads me to ask what plans the Government have for running the new T.A. down to 80 per cent. of its new establishment. The White Paper says that by 1969–70 the force will be at its new establishment figure. If that is so, over what period will the force be reduced by another 16,000 or so to 80 per cent. of this establishment? I hope that when he replies to the debate the Minister will tell us the answer. Incidentally, only then will the full estimated saving be achieved, if it is ever achieved.
The size of the force is of great interest to our N.A.T.O. allies. With the exception of Canada, Britain is the only member of N.A.T.O. which does not have conscription, with the automatic effect that this has on the size of the total reserves available in emergency. The size is of critical importance also to us and to our allies because of the persistent rumours that the Government intend to cut the Regular Army by 15,000 men. It is high time the Government "came clean" about this instead of wriggling out of the question as they did on 26th April in the House when my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) put a direct question to the Government and no answer was forthcoming.
If a cut of this sort of size were to be made, it would heavily underline the need for trained volunteer reserves of adequate size to reinforce our overstretched Regular forces in carrying out our international obligations. One thing at any rate is quite clear. The ceiling for the new Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve has not been set too high. It looks very much to us on this side of the House as though it has been set too low.
Assuming for the moment that the ceiling for the Volunteer Reserve is about 272 right, shall we get the men? We shall not get them if they are offered the second-best, nor if their equipment is old and insufficient; certainly not if there is a feeling that they owe their very existence to a grudging Government indifferent to their success or failure. They will not join for the sake of the bounty. I am puzzled to know why such heavy emphasis is laid on the liability bounty. Would it not be more sensible to relate the bounty to standards of training and length of service, thus providing an incentive for men to stay on and train up to the highest standard? I hope that the Minister of Defence for the Army will consider this and comment on it when he replies to the debate.
The next two years are crucial. Everything will depend on the reactions of the first young men to join the new Territorial Army. If they find high standards, heavy demands, a real sense of purpose and pride, they will bring, on their part, the same enthusiasm that the Territorials have always shown. The whole essence of a territorial volunteer force is that it springs from a locality. These roots are very important. Men and women who join have local loyalties and local knowledge, both of which are invaluable in time of trouble.
There are two very important factors to consider before being sure that the Home Defence Force is being formed on the right lines for the right purposes. First, we have to remember that the police, taken over England and Wales as a whole, are 20 per cent. under strength. Secondly, the Civil Defence Forces are still heavily dependent on the Territorial Army for fire-fighting, transport, communications and a military command structure.
Both these facts must be remembered in considering the size, location and rôle of the Home Defence Force and in deciding on the links with the civil defence organisation, about which the Government are still dithering after 18 months of consideration, both as regards its functions and its size. We on this side shall watch these matters most carefully before deciding whether the new Home Defence Force matches the needs of the times, both as regards its rôle and its strength.
The success of the new reserve does not depend only on the men themselves. 273 It is interwoven in the fabric of our society. It depends on the good will of employers, local authorities, trade unions and, perhaps, most of all, of wives.
I am sorry to say that nowhere in the Bill is provision made for requiring reservists to tell employers of liabilities they have accepted. I think that the experience of the call-up of 180 "Ever-readies" ought to show quite clearly that we should give consideration to making it a requirement that they should tell employers what liabilities they have accepted rather than that they should be simply encouraged, which I understand to be the present position which the Minister of Defence for the Army said he was reconsidering. I think it is quite right that there should be a positive requirement upon them. This would gain the confidence of employers, which is so important.
I do not know why there is no mention of women reservists in the Bill. I was glad that the Under-Secretary said something about them. We on this side of the House feel very strongly that women have an important contribution to make to our volunteer reserves, albeit only in comparatively small numbers, in such fields as communications, administration, and so on. I hope that the Minister of Defence will tell us what sort of numbers of women he expects to be able to enrol in the new force, bearing in mind that last November, I think I am right in saying, the strength of women in the Territorial Army was about 4,000.
We are very glad indeed that such real efforts are being made to preserve the names and continuity of so many units which have played a splendid part in the service of this country in the past. We certainly do not want to be in any way cynical—no one in the House should be—about the tradition that springs from exacting standards, loyalty and sacrifice, whether in a school, a factory or a military unit, and this is an excellent thing to be encouraged in every possible way. To squander it would be stupidity of a high order. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance that careful thought should be given to the framework for the administration of these new volunteer reserves.
On this point, I should like to ask just two questions. First, will the new Secre- 274 tariats which the Under-Secretary mentioned conform as far as possible geographically to the Army districts and Home Office regions? This seems to us to make sense. I was surprised that the Under-Secretary spoke in terms of only 15 Secretariats. I should have thought that rather more were wanted. Something round about the middle 20s is what I had expected would be the decision. I hope that no firm decision has yet been taken to have only 15, though we on this side certainly accept the need for the amalgamation of Secretariats.
Secondly, what means will be found to maintain the county connections where there is an amalgamation of associations? In the past, a great deal has been done by voluntary effort to encourage recruiting locally and to build and maintain good relations between the Territorial Army, employers, trade unions and local authorities. As a member of my county association for some 20 years, I know what I am talking about.
Does the Minister of Defence for the Army intend I hope he does—to set up county advisory committees where there are gaps resulting from amalgamations? I should be most grateful if he would say something about the importance of county advisory committees where no county associations exist.
Now may I briefly say something about equipment for the Volunteer Reserve? We have been told too little about the Government's intentions. Originally, a promise was given thatThe higher state of readiness … will be reflected in training and equipment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1965; Vol. 717, c. 695.]That was on 29th July. However, when the White Paper appeared last December it was confusing and disappointing on this point. After a vague promise that the new force would be equipped to a higher scale than before, the White Paper continued in paragraph 27:… it is unlikely to be justifiable, in view of the role of the force, to provide for its re-equipment in future with all the major items of new equipment, although small quantities will, where necessary, be made available for training.That was very different from the statement made on 29th July. What does this mean? For 18 months now there has been a virtual standstill in the provision 275 of equipment for the Territorial Army, so there is a good deal of anxiety on this score and I hope that when he winds up the Minister will be able to clear this up. In a recent speech the Minister described the present scale of Territorial Army equipment as "rational and correct". Frankly, I would not have gone quite so far as that. I think it was very generous of him.
The Minister went on to state clearly that the Army Volunteer Reserve—I am not talking about the Home Defence Force—would be issued with combat kit and the self-loading rifle and that starting in 1967 infantry battalions could expect to get the general purpose machine gun, the Carl Gustav anti-tank weapon, the 81 mm. mortar and modern radios. This is very good news indeed for the Territorial Army, but what did the Minister mean when he said that artillery regiments would gettheir full entitlement of gunsand radios? What guns is it planned to issue to them? Presumably not the old 25-pounder? Presumably the Minister was speaking of the 115 mm. howitzer. I hope that that is right.
Since the primary function of the Army Volunteer Reserve is to reinforce the Regular Army, it must of course, be trained on the same weapons, even if their full-scale issue has to be spread over two or three years. We want clear assurances from the Minister about equipment for the Army Volunteer Reserve; and we are naturally, anxious on this score, since we know—I want to emphasise this—that by placing a five-year arbitrary ceiling on defence costs, as has been done, there is bound to be a slow-down in the provision of new weapons and equipment, the cost of which is always rising, both for the Regular Army and for the Territorials. The Minister shakes his head, but this is the inevitable result of putting a five-year fixed ceiling on defence costs. The Minister must surely know that this is right.
So far as the rôle and equipment of the Home Defence Force is concerned, we still do not know very much about it, although a good deal of information has been provided in the last few days. We would like some more information during the course of this debate. I hope that "infantry-type", as they are called, does 276 not mean something so remote from real infantry as that horror, port-type wine is from the genuine article.
Is the Minister setting his sights too low? Is he thinking of a really first-rate force with a convincing rôle, or is it to be immobile with too little and old-fashioned equipment? How does the Minister envisage this force? Is the 8-day camp enough? Are they to be equipped with a range of modern weapons which will fit them to do a proper soldiering job? Are they to be provided with enough vehicles to enable them to train for a mobile rôle, or is it to be only one vehicle per company? Are they to have a modern communications system similar to the new police system with which they must co-operate? We want answers to these questions, because there is real anxiety on this score.
Recruiting depends to a large extent on getting the right answers. I hope that the new Home Defence Force will not be, as The Times described them, "policemen in khaki". There would be nothing to gain, and a lot would be lost, by restricting unduly the rôle and the equipment of the Home Defence Force. The Minister has described as its "primary" rôle giving help to the police in the maintenance of law and order in the event of a general war. He has referred to its "primary rôle" several times. The Under-Secretary has used the term again today. He too said that its "primary" rôle is to give help to the police in the maintenance of law and order in the event of a general war. What other conditions does he envisage?
In answer to a supplementary question by myself on 2nd February this year he said that the force wouldalso be used to engage enemy forces if they were in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1966; Vol. 723, c. 1101.]The Under-Secretary laughs.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I agree it is quite a big "if". There are not any here at the moment, as far as I know.
Will the Minister define the Home Defence Force's rôles more clearly? We want to know, with clear answers to these questions. We all want to get 277 the maximum value from the Home Defence Force in terms of flexibility and preparedness for the unexpected. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said on 16th December last, when we censured the Government:I believe that it is a deep-seated instinct in the British people that a disciplined, effective volunteer force widely spread across the country is required … to deal with both the forseeable and the unforeseen in time of emergency, stress and war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 1477.]That is precisely the "if" that the Minister is talking about.
Lastly, may I say something about links between the different types of force in the volunteer reserves. I hope the Minister will now recognise and acknowledge how important it is that there should De the closest possible links between the different sections of the volunteer reserves. In my opinion, this remains much the most serious deficiency in the present proposals. Of course, it must vary between different areas. But, where it is feasible, cross-fertilisation can play a big part in keeping up the strength and quality of these reserves. In many areas it should be possible for a man to transfer easily between the "Ever-readies", AVR IIA, and Home Defence units, as his circumstances change and he wishes to undertake a different liability.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I cannot give way. I had better get on. I have spoken longer than I had intended, through a number of interruptions. I am sure that the hon. Member will be speaking. He has not missed a debate on a military subject for many years, and I shall look forward to what he has to say.
Sub-units with "Ever-ready" liability, others with the normal liability and others with a Home Defence rôle could be grouped with many advantages. We think that the mix could be widely varied to suit different localities, and we hope that will be done. I was not convinced by the arguments of the Under-Secretary 278 against the suggestion, but I was interested to see the Minister and the Under-Secretary nodding when I made this proposal. There is still a good deal of doubt about it, and I hope the Minister will make clear to what extent this mix can take place.
The basic training that these men require is the same all through. Instructors and training facilities could be shared. If there is flexibility of this kind I believe that the new reserves, with their varying liabilities, can settle down and provide the kind of volunteer forces we need. But if there are attempts in Whitehall to cut off one unit from another, to set up rigid barriers that prevent the nourishment of one tier by another, I am sure that the whole plan could fail. We therefore ask the Minister to adopt the most imaginative and responsive attitude and listen very carefully to the advice he may get from men on the spot who understand better than any stranger the needs and the potential of their own localities.
What matters now is not so much the details of this rather dry-as-dust Bill, but the spirit in which it is administered. If there is a skinflint attitude, if there is a certain amount of sneering or hostility in any corner of this House, if the section of the Reserve that is to have a Home Defence rôle is to be treated as no more than a grudging concession to public pressure and protest, we shall, as I have said, not get the volunteer reserves we need; the Government will be squandering one of the country's great assets, and the effect on regular recruiting, already in the doldrums, will be very serious indeed. Then, as the Minister himself hinted recently, we should he forced back on to National Service which, for all its advantages, is both expensive and wasteful.
The opportunity to serve in the volunteer forces can offer great rewards to the men themselves. It gives them a leisure activity that is fun, that is demanding, physically toughening and socially friendly. To many it offers a chance to travel, as the Under-Secretary mentioned, to live alongside regular soldiers and to share their way of life. It offers technical skills and experience. It offers, above all, an opportunity to serve this country, an opportunity which young 279 men will still grasp with the same enthusiasm and the same courage as they have in the past.
I have asked a lot of questions. I am sorry if I have spoken overlong, but this is a Bill with very important implications for the future. I particularly hope that answers to the questions that I have put will be forthcoming during the debate and I shall appreciate it if the Minister will do his best to answer them all.
Briefly, and in conclusion, what are the assurances that we seek from the Minister? They are these. First, is there any truth in the persistent rumours about the Government's intention to reduce the strength of our Regular forces for reasons of economy, before there is a radical change in our commitments and responsibilities? May we please have a straight answer to a straight question? It is most important that we should know.
Secondly, does the Minister intend to equip these volunteer reserves to a really high standard? May we have an assurance about that?
Thirdly, will he make flexibility the keynote of future planning, and recognise the advantages of linking the various categories of volunteer reserves wherever this is possible?
Fourthly, will he turn his back on the bungling of the past 12 months, bring a fresh mind to bear on this question and have regard only to the best interests of the country, ignoring as he must the prejudices and pressures of his own left wing?
Fifthly, will he, in short, work and fight in an imaginative spirit to make the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve a fine, proud force, worthy of its past history and deserving a great future?
The present Minister of Defence for the Army has a challenging task before him, and I believe that he is admirably fitted for it. This gives me the chance, in parenthesis, to say how grateful I am to him for many helpful acts and courtesies when I was "shadowing" him during the past 12 months. I am extremely grateful to him. I believe that he has the best interests of the Territorial Army very much at heart.
If the Minister will give us the assurances for which I have asked, he can be certain of the wholehearted good will and 280 co-operation of the Conservative Party in making his proposals as successful as possible. In 1907, Lord Haldane described his proposals as intended to ensure thatno one would rashly dare to meddle with us.I feel confident that the very great majority of the House of Commons—party politics apart—has the same objectives today.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)
I am very grateful that I have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I ask the indulgence of the House for this my maiden speech. I have sought and been given much advice on how to tackle this problem. The consensus of opinion seems to be that I should be non-controversial and as short as possible. On this occasion I shall try to conform to convention.
Many right hon. and hon. Members will remember my predecessor, Mr. Bernard Taylor, C.B.E., who was a Member of the House for 25 years. It is no surprise to me to find that Bernard was as well loved and respected here in the House as he is in the constituency of Mansfield. For the benefit of his many friends on both sides of the House, it is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that a special council meeting of the borough of Mansfield is being convened to ask Bernard if he would wish to become a freeman of the Borough of Mansfield. I do not think that even Robin Hood managed this great honour—not legally, anyway.
It is all too obvious to me, having been introduced to hon. Members on both sides, that I am to be judged against the record of my predecessor. I can only hope to earn the rescpect and admiration of the House which he so rightly enjoyed.
I have the honour to represent Mansfield. Mansfield is the regional centre of the West Nottinghamshire group of towns. Though its original nucleus is ancient, much early growth was stimulated by the domestic hosiery industry. The opening of two collieries soon after the turn of the century, however, started Mansfield in the world of industry. This industry has grown to such proportions in the area that Mansfield is now referred to as the capital city of coal—though some of my colleagues may well disagree about that.
281 Although it has no collieries within its own boundaries, 30 per cent. of Mansfield's resident male population are employed in mining, and, of course, when one includes the subsidiaries as well, the proportion is a great deal more than that. The town offers a predominance of female employment in manufacturing, largely through the dominance of metal goods and textiles. Mansfield is a major shopping centre for a catchment area of 150,000 persons. Its spending power per head of population is way above the average for England and Wales.
The reasons for this happy situation are that the main economic force for the area is coal mining, plus the full employment of its female working population. We in Mansfield are anxious that this trend shall continue. There is no immediate danger of the mining industry in this area suffering the fate which has come upon it in come unfortunate areas represented by certain of my hon. Friends. At present, in fact, the East Midlands coalfield is in the act of trying—I emphasise that word—to expand.
With Mansfield and its surroundings so economically dependent on coal mining, one can understand the anxiety expressed at times by its local leaders. The policy of local government is to plan for the future expansion and prosperity of the town. Planning policy for the area has been to encourage alternative male employment, though this has not met with a great deal of success because of shortage of labour and, of course, Board of Trade policy. The major economic transition within the area from coal mining, though not yet imminent, will demand considerable forward planning.
I believe that this is the fourth maiden speech within a few days to come from a predominantly mining area. My hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins), who so graphically described his first visit down a mine, much to my discomfort, sat on these back benches having a quiet little cough, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Marquand), my neighbouring constituency, pinpointed some of the problems of the mining industry today—low wages, shortage of manpower and, above all, a complete lack of confidence in the industry due, in the main, to no comprehensive fuel policy.
282 The position is now so serious that, if present trends continue, the figure given in the National Plan of 170 million to 180 million tons for 1970–71 may be as low as 125 million tons. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Consett and for Ashfield for pinpointing these problems. They are both non-miners, and I fully appreciate the problems which they have in representing a mining area. Yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) made his maiden speech, and I fully endorse everything he said about the mining industry.
I come now to the subject of today's debate, the Second Reading of the Reserve Forces Bill. Having read the Bill and the report of the debate on the Territorial Army in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 16th December last, I wish to make one or two observations. Hon. Members have put forward certain qualifications to justify their taking part in a debate on this subject, so, first things first, I must declare my own interest. I was a Regular soldier for six years in the Brigade of Guards, so now all the guardsmen are not to be found on the opposite side of the House. I have been a Class B Reservist and a Territorial for another eight years. I cannot claim any immediate recognition of fame. I cannot claim that I worked my way through the ranks from private soldier to become the C.O., as the mover of the Amendment in that earlier debate did.
Somehow. I got stuck at a certain level, lance-corporal. This happened to be my last year as a member of the Territorial Army, and, I may add, there was a considerable amount of blackmail over that. But hon. Members can judge from my background that I have a good deal of respect for the Army and, of course, for the men who serve in it. Anything I say in the next few minutes should, therefore, be taken in that spirit.
First, as a trade unionist, I was amazed when I read the White Paper to see that the Class A and Class B reservists still receive only 1s. 6d. and 1s. per day retainers. This is 20 years old. When the 1s. a day was paid to me quarterly after I first came out of the Army, it used to pay my gas and electricity bill. By no stretch of the imagination would it do that now. I should like to see it tied to the cost of living, just to press things along a bit. I know that 283 it is only a payment more or less to keep men on the books, but that is how I feel about it.
There are many reasons why men join the Territorial Army, but the least of all is the one given in c. 1582 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 16th December last. The comradeship is what man misses when he comes out into civilian life after five or six years as a Regular soldier. This is very real. I can remember joining the Territorial Army for, probably, just this one reason. I missed the comradeship of my fellow soldiers, and it took a great deal of effort on my part to settle in to civilian life. This is undoubtedly one of the problems, and it is one reason why men join the Territorial Army.
Of course, the extra money also comes in handy when a man is just starting in life with a young family. So do the paid holidays, the annual camps. If anyone does not think that the annual camp is a paid holiday for a man after working 50 weeks in the year in a coal mine, I can tell him that it certainly is.
Whether we like it or not, the Territorial Army also fills a social need in the area where its units are established. This is another factor influencing ex-Regular soldiers who feel a bit lost when they come out into civilian life. The licensing hours are bad, and there are not very many good poker schools around in the area where he goes to live.
I come now to recruitment to the Regular Army. I was in the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry in the Territorial Army, and I would say that most of the members in my particular squadron were ex-Regular soldiers doing their best to revert back to civilian life. Those who could not make it in time rejoined the Colours. This is where the majority of men come from. Just about the only people I know who rejoined the Army from the Territorial Army were of that type. We had an Army Cadet Force attached to us, and this, of course, is another source of recruits to the Regular Army. This is quite logical. When Army cadets reach the age of 17½, they are eligible to join the Territorial Army, and they are old enough to join the Regular Army if they want to.
Any soldier would sooner belong to an efficient, well trained, up-to-date unit, 284 properly armed and on a proper establishment. Unfortunately, in nine out of ten units the establishment was quite under strength. This at once tends to produce inefficiency. We have more tanks than men and more guns than gunners. The Bill now before us is designed to look at the problem as a whole and to look at it from a rational point of view. What we ought to have, and what the Bill, surely, entails, is fewer units on a proper establishment, on a proper footing, well trained and well armed to do the job expected of them.
I come now to my last point, on Clause 5 of the Bill, the call-out of reserves. This is a touchy point with me, because I was a Class B reservist at the time of the Suez affair. Not wishing to be controversial, I call it just an "affair". I had served in Egypt in the Canal Zone, and I had been trained in amphibious landings, so I thought that the odds on my being recalled at that time were very high. Incidentally, I could never understand why the medium of radio and television could not be used to recall the reservists needed. At that time, we had the laughable situation—at least, it would be laughable were it not so serious—of men working in the coal mines miles underground at the working faces, and someone came crawling up to them on his hands and knees to say, "Your country needs you. Off to Egypt"—and away they had to go. I would tell my colleagues on this side of the House that I was fortunate enough not to be recalled, so I had no hand whatsoever in the Suez campaign.
I believe that the outcry about the Government White Paper was grossly exaggerated. It may seem to many hon. Members and to many laymen—and one cannot be more a layman than a lancecorporal—that all the fears about this were purely in this House.
I am a member of my local council, and it was my duty to oppose a motion there of non-support of the Government over this issue. The debate received a very good press. I was warned that I should have to sit back and wait for the deluge of mail. When it arrived—I emphasise "it"—it was from an officer of one of the local regiments, and all that he was worried about was redundancy; and it was his own redundancy at that.
In my constituency we have two drill halls within about a mile and a half of 285 each other. Undoubtedly, they meet a social need, but it is obvious to us in the locality that each is working under immense difficulties. It is clear that the Bill will match up the needs in this respect so that one of these drill halls can go. Our local authorities have had their eyes on them for some while, and my own authority would like to have at least one of the drill halls, if not both of them.
Having recognised the need for the Bill, my main function in being here, as I have told my constituency, is to work to help bring about the right conditions in Britain, Europe and the world so that one day in the not too far distant future I may be here debating not the Reserve Forces Bill, but a Bill for the abolition of the Reserve Forces and, at some time in the future, a Bill for the abolition of all armed forces.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I am very lucky in being selected to follow the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon). I remember that in 1951 I followed Mr. Bernard Taylor, his predecessor into the Ministry of National Insurance. I was very pleased with the tribute that the hon. Member paid to Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor was a man who was regarded as of great value by everybody in the House both for his work as a Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry and also for his work as a Member of this House, where he had many friends on both sides.
I congratulate the hon. Member on his speech. He has shown that he has the two essential qualities for success in the House—common sense and a sense of humour. I can assure him that whenever he speaks in the future we shall come in to listen to him and to hear him display those two qualities, mixed with a certain amount of controversy which he had to forbear on this occasion.
Like the hon. Gentleman, I must declare an interest. I was a pre-war Territorial. I served with a Territorial division for most of the war. I now have an honorary connection with the Territorial Army. The lesson that I have gained from all this is that war is unpredictable, and that whatever assumption we make about what will be the form of a future war, we find that it turns out to be entirely different. If I had been speak- 286 ing in the House 30 years ago, I should have said—I think that hon. Members on both sides would have said—that it was impossible for a Territorial division to have been one of the four last divisions to leave Europe at Dunkirk, to have been the only British infantry division fighting for a long period in the Middle East, to have been the first division to land in Sicily and to have been one of the two divisions that were the first to land when we came back to Europe on D-day. But it was a Territorial division.
The cardinal error which the Government have made is that they have not envisaged any expansion of the Territorial forces to fight again as a formation. I believe that to be unwise, for I believe that we should have that as one of the rôles of the Territorial Army. That controversy is now over, but I take that view.
As I see the position now, there are four main rôles for the Territorial Army: first, reinforcement of the Regular Army; second, as a basis for recruiting; third, as a defence force in emergency; and, fourth, to meet the need for a disciplined body of men as volunteers to form the background of this nation. I shall concentrate on three points which arise out of those four rôles.
First, with regard to the reinforcement of the Regular Army, I gather from the Minister for Defence for the Army that the position is envisaged that we shall reinforce the Regular Army only after a Queen's Order, by sub-units and by individuals. I should like the Government to consider using the Territirial forces for reinforcement of the Regular Army without a Queen's Order, Territorial units being used to reinforce the Regular units with which they are affiliated when those Regular units are short of men. Any unit commander knows that he is constantly in danger of being below establishment through casualties, in peace or war, leave or having men on courses. One of the great wastes in the defence forces at present arises from this risk of their being below establishment. Consequently, one has to have a higher establishment than is really necessary.
Such reinforcement is taking place at present in units of which I have knowledge. For instance, units send one officer and 30 other ranks to train in 287 B.A.O.R. I know of an instance in one battalion where a young subaltern, at his own expense, went out to Libya to serve with his Regular battalion for the period of his leave from industry. It is by such methods as this that one could engender great enthusiasm in a Territorial unit. The Government should consider allowing Territorial units to give an undertaking that when the Regular battalion was short of men it would be willing to send replacements to do their training for that period with the Regular battalion.
Now that we have trooping by air, I believe that this becomes a very reasonable proposition. Anyone who has been in trooping planes to establishments outside Europe knows perfectly well that there is a constant stream of men going from the station overseas on leave and on courses, and there will, therefore, be empty space for those who wish to take their place. I ask the Government to consider this method of discharging the rôle of reinforcement of the Regular Army. It would, of course, be additional to the method after a Queen's Order or Proclamation.
The second point which I want to raise, and which is causing a great deal of difficulty among those who are dealing with the question of the Territorial reserve is the definition of the commitment and the duration of the commitment. On the North-East Coast, employers are very reluctant to agree that those employed by them who are in the Territorial Army should accept an engagement in T.A.V.R.II because of the undefined length of commitment referred to in paragraph 20 of the White Paper. The length of the commitment should be stated.
I do not know what period the Government would suggest, but if it were provided that no member of the T.A.V.R.II would be required for longer than four months the employers would know the obligation which they were assuming. If the warlike operations have been in preparation or in progress for four months, it is clear that something more than a Queen's Order is required.
In the battalion of which I have most knowledge, the only officer who could be an "Ever-ready" was the medical officer of the unit, who was a busy panel doctor.
288 This was not possible for the others because they were all engaged in industry. Because he had the same sort of humour as the hon. Member for Mansfield, the medical officer undertook the engagement and thought, "Hang my panel if I am called up for operations".
This seems to me a great weakness. I find that men are very ready to join the Territorial defence force, but they feel that as they are in industry they have not a chance to be allowed to join the T.A.V.R.II. I applaud the right hon. Gentleman's decision to publish a leaflet for employers, but as long as the duration of the commitment is uncertain I feel that the Government will not get a good response to the T.A.V.R.II.
I should like an assurance that "warlike operations in preparation or in progress" cover the kind of difficulty we had in, say, Cyprus, where there was internal disorder, or even in Aden. I should have thought that in situations of that kind the Regular Army could be reinforced by a sub-unit. But I should hardly have thought that in that case one could say that warlike operations were in preparation or progress. Many employers want to be clear on this matter, and I should be grateful if the Minister would make it clear.
The great weakness of the present plan—I think that it is a weakness which could be remedied—is the split between the territorial defence force and the T.A.V.R.II. In many cases, as the Minister said, a company of the T.A.V.R.II will be in the same drill hall as the headquarters and a company of the battalion of the Territorial defence force. They will both be affiliated to the same regiment. One will be attached to the command and unit probably 40 miles away in one direction and the other will be married up to a formation which is probably 30 miles away in the other direction. This does not make sense. There will be as a result either a good deal of jealousy or comparisons between the two units. They will drift apart. At the moment, these are men of the same battalion who previously belonged to one unit.
I accept the need to have the T.A.V.R.II on quite different terms of engagement, with a quite different scale of equipment. I should have thought 289 that it would be possible to marry in to one unit the defence force and the T.A.V.R.II. Therefore, we should have an extra company to the Territorial battalion and one company which had the T.A.V.R.II obligation which, while being in that battalion also had the engagement to form a company of a larger formation of T.A.V.R.II.
I believe that this could be done and that it would not be unnecessarily complicated. Otherwise, there will be a very great waste of material. The Regular officers and soldiers attached to the T.A.V.R.II company will have no obligation to help with training the Territorial defence force headquarters and company. By brining them together there would be an economy in manpower and certainly an increase in efficiency.
The Government take pride in this new plan and talk about saving money. I doubt whether there will be any real saving as a result of the Bill. Last year, according to the Defence Estimates, every Territorial soldier cost the country £207 per head, which included his equipment, land and buildings. According to the same Estimates, a Regular soldier cost £832 per head with his pay and equipment and another £551 in respect of land and buildings, making £1,383 per head. We have to try to find a way in which, economically and efficiently, we can weld this Territorial reserve with the Regular Army and to make an efficient force with good morale.
There are many thousands of young men who are anxious to serve and give voluntary service to the Territorial Army. The damage done by the White Paper was that it caused a lot of them to feel that their service was not recognised and that they were not wanted. Whatever comes out of our deliberations on the Bill, we must make the Territorial Reserve a success. This will want a little bit of give and take on both sides of the House.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I join the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) in paying tribute to the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon). My hon. Friend gave the most convincing reason that I have heard in this House for joining the Territorials when he went on to say that it provided 290 the miner with a month's holiday in the fresh air every year. I really cannot see any answer to that. Mining is probably more dangerous than military activities, but I warn my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Army that with the steady increase in holidays with pay in the mining industry, and the opportunity that miners will have to get into the fresh air in consequence, there will no longer be such a good incentive for them to join the Territorials.
The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton said that war is unpredictable. He gave from his experience an example of his gallant service in the last war, under the conditions in which the last war was fought. We must always remember—and this, I think, is the right hon. Gentleman's argument—that no war is just like the last war.
Underlying the whole of the argument in this debate seems to be the argument that the Territorial Army will have the same rôle to play in a future war as it had in the last war. That, I understand, has been the main argument of the Government in reorganising the Territorials. One of the arguments put forward by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence in the last Parliament was that the next war is likely to be a nuclear war. With all the good will that exists for the Territorials and all their military traditions, people do not quite understand the rôle that this force will play in the next war.
We do not even know whom we will fight. In the last war we fought the Germans. Nobody assumes that we will fight the Germans again, so there is no point in the intelligence section of the Territorials learning the German language. Are we to fight the Russians? I agree with the former Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), that we are not going to fight the Russians again. I remember the right hon. Gentleman's interesting speech on television in Moscow when he said that we must not only coexist with the Russians but we must co-operate with them. That was an excellent speech, the best speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman during the whole of his career. If we are to co-operate with the Russians, I do not see how we need a Territorial Army to fight the Russians. So we rule out the Russians.
291 There is a tendency to argue that the French have now become our enemies, but I am sure that nobody thinks that we will fight the French except in a dialectic way. So we are left with the Chinese. I cannot quite see the possibility of organising the activities of a Territorial force for protecting the Holy Loch or the Gare Loch from a possible descent of Chinese paratroopers.
As somebody said in the early stages of this debate, let us be realistic. How can we be realistic? The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish), who opened the debate for the Opposition, is not a realist. I have heard him speak in debate after debate for the last 15 years. He is an incurable romantic. As for the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who is to conclude the debate for the Opposition, I do not know exactly what he is. He is supposed to be a realist. If we are to be realistic in thinking of the rôle that the Territorial Army must play in the future, the Territorial Army must have some idea of what it has to do, how it will fight and what kind of activity it will carry on.
A long time ago, I think before the First World War, Mr. Bernard Shaw wrote an introduction to the play, which was afterwards made a musical feature, called "The Chocolate Soldier". In rehearsing, he said that he was talking about the Army manoeuvre at the time. He said that they were rehearsing for something that would never come off and which, even if it did come off, would not be like the rehearsal. Therefore, I should like the Minister to give us a more realistic idea of what this newly reorganised Territorial Army will do.
The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes said that the Territorial Army should be equipped with modern weapons. What does he mean? Modern weapons are not revolvers or pistols. Modern weapons are nuclear artillery, tactical nuclear weapons. I invite the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, when he concludes the debate for the Opposition, to explain what hon. Members opposite want when they demand modern weapons. Do they want nuclear artillery or nuclear tactical 292 weapons, or what exactly do they mean when they talk about equipping the Territorials with modern weapons? I can imagine that all over the country, and especially in the War Office, there would be an extreme reluctance to dish out to any Territorial unit, however well-intentioned, anything like a nuclear weapon because they could not be trusted with it and that would be suicide.
The Territorials, presumably, are being asked to train with dummy rifles and revolvers, or perhaps to go back to swords or bows and arrows, all of which are equally relevant to the possible conditions of modern war. Whether we like it or not, the nuclear age has arrived, and in Germany both sides are training with nuclear tactical weapons. I do not believe that there is anything in the theory advanced by an hon. Member who spoke for the Opposition that in a possible war there would be a gentleman's agreement to pretend that nuclear weapons did not exist.
If I were asked by the War Office to give some ideas about the possible training of Territorials or home defence units, I would like to give them a realistic idea of what they are likely to be up against. If they cannot do the real thing, there are the films. Hon. Members will have seen a grimly realistic film called "The War Game", which was shown in Westminster Hall. That film gave us an idea of what was likely to happen in the event of a nuclear war if we had to fight a nuclear Power.
I believe that the scene of the film was Rochester. What would the Territorials of Rochester do if an atomic bomb were to be dropped in the neighbourhood of Rochester? The film was so realistic that the B.B.C. would not allow it to be shown to the country. I suggest that if it is too realistic to be shown in the cinemas, it should be shown to the Territorials, because surely soldiers who go into the Territorial Army are entitled to face the realities and ought not to be squeamish.
I suggest that one of the good ideas would be to make every Territorial Army unit see "The War Game". That is a sensible proposition, and I am glad to see from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that the War Office agrees with me.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
I am fascinated by the hon. Member's argument. I also saw "The War Game". Was net one of its lessons that there was a useful purpose in having an organised force to help in an emergency? That is just the sort of thing that the Territorials could do.
§ Mr. Hughes
I quite agree that there must be some attempt to prepare for an emergency, but I cannot see that being done unless the Territorial Army is completely different from what the Territorial Army has been in the past. If the Territorials of Rochester were to see that film, they would come to the conclusion that the only possible thing they could do if they were stationed in Rochester would be to prepare for the Resurrection. There would be total annihilation over great areas. So I suggest that, if we are to have realism, let us have the real thing and no doubt of what is possible in another war.
§ Mr. Ennals
I, too, saw the film "The War Game", as my hon. Friend did. It showed the devastating effect of a nuclear attack, and all of us hope that it will never happen. But it showed that if nuclear weapons ever fell on the country there would be human life left and problems of administration, discipline and public order to be faced. As the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) said, that indicates precisely the sort of rôle that might have to be played if that terrible situation ever came about. I therefore agree with him that it is a reasonable suggestion that those who are being asked to volunteer for this form of service should understand the realities of the situation which they might have to face.
§ Mr. Hughes
I have no objection to that intervention, because my hon. Friend has conceded the main point. I hope that "The War Game" will figure as one of the main ways in which it is hoped to obtain recruits for the Territorial Army. But I have my doubts about it, because it is far more likely to lead to people deciding that the best thing that they can join is not the Territorial Army but the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. However, that is beside the point. I can quite understand the dilemma in which 294 soldiers who have experience of two previous wars find themselves, in thinking exactly what the Territorials are likely to do in another war.
I have listened very carefully to both sides and, as far as I can gather, if the premises of my hon. Friend are right, the rôle of the Territorials will be a cross between the ambulance service and the police. That is not the kind of rôle that we usually associate with the Territorial Army.
The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes argued for the transfer from one service to another, and I see interesting possibilities in that. It should be possible to transfer from the Territorial Army to the Civil Defence and to the police; indeed, I would start it now, because, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman pointed out, the police are undermanned by 20 per cent. I should like to see recruits to the Territorial Army given the opportunity of serving in the police, because in the film that I have referred to the police played just as important a rôle as the Territorial Army.
I want to illustrate that by pointing out the present position in the country. The greatest enemy of our citizens is not a Russian, a Chinese, a Frenchman, a German, or any other foreigner. The great danger to life and limb and the security of our people comes from the bandit and criminal. In Edinburgh, there was a robbery at one of the biggest banks in the city only last week, within a quarter of a mile from police headquarters, and we shall probably learn in the papers this weekend of more daring robberies and attacks on defenceless citizens in the City of London. It goes on regularly, and everyone is perturbed about the real danger to the people, which is not from any foreigner at all, but the armed criminal.
I suggest that there should be transfers, both from the Regular Army and from the Territorials, and that members of the Territorial Army who wish to enlist in the police force, or even soldiers who are serving in Western Germany, should be allowed to transfer in order to fight the real menace to our country.
I know that this is a rather unorthodox speech, but we are faced with an unorthodox situation. The old ideas of war are completely changed. One cannot hide from the fact that we are living in 295 an atomic age. War, today, means universal destruction, and, in order for the sum of money that we are prepared to spend on the Army to be justified as part of our national expenditure, we should be realistic. We should face the facts of war and military organisation today, and, as the hon. Member for Mansfield said in his final, logical and realistic peroration, that will lead us to the assumption that the best thing is not to have any war at all.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
I will not follow the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) into all the details of his fascinating speech, but perhaps I may be allowed to start by saying that I have a considerable personal interest in the Territorial Army, having served in it for the greater part of my life in both non-commissioned and commissioned capacities. As a result, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that he is not completely informed about the rôles and the types of training that the Territorial Army has been doing for the last ten years or so.
As for the film which so impressed him, no one living can possibly say whether it is realistic or not, because we do not know. It is at best an informed guess. The hon. Gentleman said that, judging from it, the rôle to be played by the Territorial Army seemed to be a cross between the ambulance service and the police. That is not an unfair description of the third echelon civil defence work for which the Territorial Army has been trained for about 11 years.
Every third year, each unit of the Territorial Army has done a period of civil defence training, and big exercises have been held in conjunction with the police, fire brigades and civil authorities exactly along the lines which he has described. I have not seen the film myself, but, judging from what he said, it gives a good description of what the Territorial Army has been training to do, in addition to its more military rôle. Civil defence is nothing new to the Territorial Army.
I turn now to the Bill, which I find disappointing. The Territorial Army and the men in it have become sadly depressed by and in some cases rather angry about the rumours and imprecise statements which have been flooding the 296 country for months. It had been hoped that the Bill would explain quite definitely what was to happen. I am bound to say that in my opinion it does not. Under the Bill, the Government could do practically anything to any unit of the Territorial Army. There is no certainty about the way in which the Bill is to be implemented, and a very great number of important questions are hardly touched upon, let alone answered.
The Under-Secretary of State referred to the part played by the Territorial associations, and, just in passing, he mentioned Clause 17. That is a very important point, because, as I know well, the Territorial associations play a crucial part in helping individuals in the Territorial Army who experience difficulties with employers such as we have already heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). It is a continual difficulty for Territorials, especially when the time comes for them to re-engage.
Employers bring pressure to bear on their better men not to continue in the Territorial Army, and this pressure will increase, because under the Bill the commitment for the Territorials other than special forces is increased, and employers are not anxious that their best people should be liable to be taken away for a year or more, whatever the circumstances. There is no doubt that employers bring pressure to bear on good Territorials not to re-engage. Up to the present time this pressure has been met partly at battalion and regimental headquarter level, and partly with the aid—unofficial but none the less effective—of the Territorial associations.
If these associations are not to be continued, and there is this greatly fragmented Territorial Army, with very many fewer regimental or battalion headquarters, with odd companies dotted about, a large number of individual soldiers far away from their headquarters will be far more exposed to pressure from their employers, and national industries, and in some cases local authorities, are not the least bad in pressing people to leave the T.A. They will be exposed to this pressure, with no one to whom they can readily go to seek comfort, encouragement, and sometimes practical help, in staying on.
297 Clause 17, to which we were referred as though it is something of a comfort, refers to the establishment, alteration and winding-up of associations, and goes on to talk of redundancy payments to employees of associations which are to be wound up, or whose jobs are to be cut down. This is no great encouragement to those Territorials who are frantically hoping that at least the associations will be left to them, knowing their unit headquarters will disappear and be out of reach. They hope that at least the Territorial associations will be there, where perhaps some of their old comrades are serving, and will be able to help them to deal with the pressure from employers. If this is to be denied them, it is indeed a sad thing, and it will reflect considerably on the number and quality of the men who can remain in the T.A., because it is the best men who are always under the biggest pressure to leave, or at least not to re-engage.
We have been told that of the 1,300 drill halls now in existence, 1,000 are to go. But these drill halls are crucial for all T.A. training, both in the special services and for other types. It is said that the T.A. does not need so many halls. I am not saying that economies cannot be made but in the long winter evenings, which are, and always have been, the basic time for T.A. training, one must get indoors. In the British climate it is out of the question for soldiers to become efficient unless they have a substantial drill hall which they can readily reach for their training periods.
I am glad to see the Minister here. I ask him, what are the Government's plans for the defence of vulnerable points, which took up the equivalent of several divisions for long periods just before and during the last war? I accept that the Government do not think there will be another long conventional war—and this is one of the points on which I think they are very brave to be so certain—but Ministers and experts have so often been wrong before, and in any case, during the period of tension building up before a war it has been found necessary in the past to guard not a few but thousands of vulnerable points against possible saboteurs, and so on.
In a previous debate we were told that in the London area alone 10,000 men were required for this duty at the be- 298 ginning of the last war. Where are these men to be found? The police cannot possibly take on the job, and it seems to me that with the reserves cut to the extent indicated in the Bill, these vulnerable points can be protected only by hastily reconstituting something on the lines of the Home Guard, but this will be possible only if county organisations are retained. Clause 17 seems to smack of the suggestion that in future T.A. associations are not to be entirely on a county basis. I do not know whether I am right in that, but I think I am; the Minister indicates that my fears are well-founded.
If this is done, and if the drill halls go, the possibility of reconstituting the Home Guard, or of finding any men capable of defending these essential vulnerable points to which, although absolutely starved for soldiers, it was found necessary to devote several divisions during the last war, will be out of the question. It will not be possible to do this without a county organisation of some kind, be it only a committee, and without sufficient drill halls to provide training facilities.
Drill halls play another important rôle in the T.A. They constitute the great majority of the Territorial miniature rifle ranges, and almost all the artillery miniature ranges which are important for those units of the artillery which are to remain. They have an important social part to play, too, and I hope that the number of drill halls to be abolished will be reconsidered. To cut them down to a quarter, or perhaps less, seems to be going altogether far, and to do so would make it virtually impossible to reconstitute any form of armed forces should the Government's guess be wrong and there be a need to guard vulnerable points even for a few days.
Let us consider again the point so well put by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish), about whether sufficient reserves are left under the Bill. It is really rather sweeping. Clause 3 abolishes the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, a large part of the Army Reserve, and other classes are greatly reduced, and, as has been pointed out, a substantial proportion of the men included in the numbers quoted by the Government will be first-year recruits who will not, and cannot, have attained 299 a standard of training to fit them to go abroad.
The estimate given by my hon. and gallant Friend that the total of reservists with more than 12 months' service might be as low as 30,000 is really alarming compared with the Government's admission that 50,000 reservists are required to put B.A.O.R. on a war footing. This would mean that there would be less than no reservists available as first-line reinforcements, and as reinforcements for possible casualties. Even if the hon. Gentleman considers using as reserves pensioners who have a reserve commitment, the total there is under 10,000. They will not fill the gap, and they are very old soldiers indeed. They have no training commitments of any kind, and no opportunity for training.
All that really seems to suggest that the cut in the effective reserves may be altogether too much, and I should like to ask whether our N.A.T.O. allies were consulted and told the full implication of these great cuts before they were decided on. I ask that because it is less than two years since N.A.T.O. carried out a major exercise of reserve troops in which American, Belgian, Turkish and other N.A.T.O. units, including British T.A. reserve units, took part. One battery—had better not name the regiment; it was not mine—of British T.A. soldiers achieved such remarkable results that observers from other countries had great difficulty in believing that they were not Regulars. There was some dispute on this point. Of course, they were Territorials.
The Territorial Army is wasting away very fast because there are so few reengagements, owing to the great doubts that exist as to the future of the Service. I understand that the utmost difficulties have been placed in the way of each man concerned, who is now asked to agree to serve in the new Territorial force. He is asked to sign a piece of paper which says that he will serve in any unit. He is allowed to put down the unit of his choice just like a Regular recruit, but he has to sign an irrevocable undertaking to serve permanently in a force which may not be the unit that he has chosen. It may not be in the same Army or branch of the Service; and the H.Q. may be 100 miles from where he lives. Having irrevocably signed this paper he 300 can be posted to such a unit and left to get on as best he can. I am told that this is a great deterrent to volunteers who would otherwise have come forward readily.
Big issues arise over the Government's policy with regard to the reserves. I do not doubt the Government's sincerity; I doubt their judgment. They have accepted the advice of what might colloquially be called boffins, who have convinced them that the next war will be fought on lines dictated by nuclear considerations. Similar boffins before the last war convinced everyone who would listen to them that the last war would be fought under circumstances dictated by gas. I am old enough to remember what was said 30 years ago about the certainty of the extermination of millions of the public by gas, of the wiping out of the Army by gas, and of the impossibility of using horses in the war because of gas.
The British Army listened to them to the extent that it became mechanised, and the horses were kept out of the firing line—which was a good thing. But gas was never used. It is difficult to know exactly why. Perhaps it was because both sides possessed it. Looking back at the articles written with such certainty and authority by top scientists of those days, to the effect that gas would dictate the course of the last war, it is worth wondering whether, possibly, the so-called experts who have convinced the Government that nuclear power will dictate the course of the next war may be wrong.
What would happen if the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which has been referred to by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, succeeded? What would happen if the world became sane and nuclear weapons were abolished? What would the Government do then, having put it beyond the power of this country ever to recreate a substantial conventional force? The Regular Army is in no position to do this. Only through the Territorial Army could a conventional force of any size be recreated, and if the T.A. is cut to ribbons that can never be done.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I always listen to the hon. Member's views with great 301 interest. Let us rule out the possibility of a nuclear war, and let us suppose that the Russian Army marched over Europe and that this country was in danger and the hon. Gentleman had a nuclear weapon. Would not he use it?
§ Sir Richard Glyn
Exactly the same was said about gas. At the end of the last war Hitler was left with ample supplies of gas, whereas the Russians had no provision for fighting it, and all their transport was horse-drawn. They were very vulnerable to gas. Yet Hitler never used gas. No historian has ever been able to say why. He could have won six months' respite. No Government could possibly be under greater pressure to use nuclear weapons than Hitler was to use gas in the last days of the last war. Perhaps we shall never know why he did not use it.
There is another group of reservists who are not clearly referred to in the Bill. I refer to the Territorial Reserve of Officers, in which I was serving until recently, and in which I know that a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House are serving at present. These Reserve officers include a wealth of experience and a willingness to serve which the Government should not overlook. What would happen to them in the event of other reserves being called out? May we have an answer to that question?
I should like to explain shortly the big difference that exists betwen hon. Members on each side of the House. It is a sincere and crucial difference. It concerns what used to be the third rôle of the T.A., which was to provide a framwork for expansion during a period of tension. We were told that this is now considered irrelevant. This is the main issue between us. The Government consider this issue to be irrelevant at a time when many of our N.A.T.O. allies are actively increasing their conventional reserves and when America has more conventional ground troops deployed in action that at any time in the last twenty years. The Government's proposals, in effect, would make it impossible for Britain ever to reconstitute a substantial conventional Army in under 15 or 20 years, which period would hardly be granted to us.
I repeat that we do not doubt the sincerity of the Government, but we abundantly doubt their judgment. I could 302 give many examples. I do not wish to make party points. Hon. Members opposite know me too well for that. But because of the seriousness of this question I have looked through the many examples of previous debates which are available, and have chosen one which is far enough back not to concern personally any hon. Member present and yet recent enough to be within public memory. I refer to the Motion of censure which the Labour Party, when in Opposition, sincerely and honourably moved on 11th March, 1935—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Second Reading debates are broad, but I hope that the hon. Member will link what he is going to say with the Bill which is in front of us.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but this was a Motion of censure on an increase in the reserves in the Army, Navy and Air Force. The Bill before us provides for a decrease in the reserves of the Army, Navy and Air Force. The point at issue was exactly the same—the question whether we should increase or decrease our reserves in the three Services. That was the point of the Motion of censure to which I was referring.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member must address himself to the Bill. We are not debating that Motion of censure now.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I must bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but it is a question of the judgment of the Government, who were then in Opposition. I must confirm what the point was. I bow to your Ruling, but the plain fact is that at that time they sincerely believed that it was wrong to increase our reserves, even by a little—even by 190 aircraft—more than two years after Hitler had come to power, and less than three before he invaded Austria. They sincerely thought it wrong to increase our reserves even by a little. History has proved their judgment on that occasion to be absolutely wrong. For Britain's sake I hope that history will not prove them wrong again.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Oakes (Bolton, West)
I intervene very briefly, and I hope that the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his very pertinent and reasoned remarks.
303 I welcome the Bill as one who, until the events of the autumn of last year, knew very little about the Territorial Army. Like many hon. Members on both sides of the House, but particularly on this side, at the time of that dramatic debate, I consulted the commanding officers of Territorial forces in my constituency and, like other hon. Members who did the same, I learned a great deal.
There was a great deal of heart-searching by many of my hon. Friends on that occasion and this was not helped by the fact that, while hon. Members on both sides agreed that the state of the Territorial Army drastically needed revision and there was a White Paper, with which all hon. Members were satisfied, no constructive suggestions were made by hon. Members opposite in place of that White Paper. Consequently, hon. Members on this side, although they had heart-searchings about the fate of the Territorial Army in their constituencies and in the country as a whole, recognising that it needed drastic modernisation, revision and reorganisation, had no alternative but to go into the Lobby—with the courageous exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), who, hon. Members will remember, abstained on that occasion.
I welcome the Bill because it preserves some links between local areas and reserve forces. Hon. Members may not think that the links are as strong as they were in the past, but transport and communications are much easier than they were in the past, when people were confined almost to a particular village or area. Nevertheless some local affiliations are preserved in the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) referred to the local knowledge, the local loyalty and, I would add, the local pride of particular units, which is vitally important.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has left the Chamber, as I wanted to take him up on one point in his excellent suggestion that the film "The War Game" should be shown to those who decide to enter the Territorial Army. This was answered in an intervention by an hon. Member opposite, but I should like to stress that there are many circum- 304 stances which we possibly do not and cannot foresee when, in the event of a nuclear attack on this country, there would not be the total annihilation which my hon. Friend seems to expect.
If such a catastrophe happened, there might be total annihilation—I agree with him—but I am sure that this would not be the case. He said that the police, for example, could deal with the affected areas. He mentioned Rochester, where, of course, the Territorial forces and everyone else would be eliminated, but in many areas there would be survivors. These survivors might be panic stricken, with no communications and cut off from law and order. It is imperative that there should be a regular, trained and disciplined body of people who could help, who could serve the community in such circumstances.
I can envisage other things, such as a potential enemy—it is all very well for my hon. Friend to say, "What enemy?" but one can always say that—using only one or two nuclear weapons on this country and then introducing armed saboteurs in the other areas. Who would deal with that? The police? The Civil Defence? Surely, we need an armed, disciplined body of men to deal with a situation like that.
Therefore, I welcome the Bill as a reorganisation and modernisation of an essential service in the defence of this country, which has given great service in the past. My own two constituency regiments—the Bolton Artillery and the Bolton Loyals—were the first regiments abroad in two world wars. They served their country both in 1914–18 and 1939–45. Their units were the first to leave the country at a time of war in defence of Britain.
There is one thing in the Bill which puzzles me. I refer to Clause 20, which deals with the continuance of the offices of deputy lieutenants of counties. The Bill is about the modernisation of the Territorial Army. It is a Bill about making it more efficient and one which, we hope, will generate enthusiasm and encourage people to volunteer for the Territorial Army. Yet Clause 20 extends the provision for creating deputy lieutenants, distinct from the Territorial Army, and including civilians. I do not object to the inclusion of civilians, if we 305 are to have this office at all. What astonishes me is that the office is preserved.
Before the debate, I investigated exactly what deputy lieutenants do. It takes a great deal of research to find out. I found that, in 1882, under the Militia Act, lord lieutenants of counties were given the statutory duty to create, within each of their areas, 20 deputy lieutenants. I found that, in 1918, an Act was passed by this House—the Deputy Lieutenants Act—which defined the areas from which those deputy lieutenants must come. But I searched long and hard before I found what their duties are. I found one—that a deputy lieutenant has a responsibility for the attraction of recruits into the militia, which would probably now mean into the reserve forces. But he shares that duty not only with the lord lieutenant of the county but with every officer, Regular or Territorial, and even with justices of the peace in the county concerned.
I should like my hon. Friend to tell me why Clause 20 is in a Bill dealing with the modernisation and efficiency of a modern effective Territorial Army, which is of great importance to the defence of this country—an organisation in which many citizens have been in the past and, I am sure, will be in the future, able to use their abilities for the service of the community in the way they desire. It is merely that question of Clause 20 on which I should like some elucidation.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes) said, rightly, that it was impossible to foretell with exact clarity how this country is liable to be threatened in the future. In matters of defence, it is sometimes difficult to tell exactly what this Government's policy will be. Not long ago hon. Members opposite were loud in their criticisms of the United States of America. Now, in defence matters, almost every egg has been put into the American basket. Once upon a time, not long ago, hon. Members opposite were loud in their criticisms of a nuclear policy, yet this afternoon the Secretary of State intervened in the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) and expounded the pure doctrine of nuclear retaliation as championed by the "mandarins" of the Strategic Air Command.
306 One can see reasons why hon. Members opposite have changed their views in these important respects, but I am still absolutely perplexed about why the Secretary of State for Defence published his original White Paper foreshadowing the destruction of the Territorial Army before the Government had completed their review of the home defence requirements. In practice, not a month has been gained by this curious decision to put the cart before the horse—and now the cart has had to be drastically modified.
In those days, before the Home Defence Review was completed, the Secretary of State for Defence frequently remarked that this country would not be threatened by a large-scale conventional invasion, and everybody agrees that he is right. Nobody contemplates that hordes of Mongols will move into Murmansk and there get into landing craft and paddle towards this country. During the last 20 years there have been few full-scale invasions of one country by another. But in the past 20 years we have seen every form of terrorism, subversion and disguised attack on one country by another, and just as we have learned a great deal since 1066, so have our enemies learned a great deal since 1066. The fact that we are no longer threatened by a conventional invasion does not mean that we are not threatened in other ways.
I am glad that there has been a change of heart by the Government and a belated recognition that home defence is important and that a substantial body of men is needed for this rôle. I regret that this home defence force is to be kept in a state of unnecessary isolation in both training and command. Some arguments can be put forward for this isolation, but I suspect that the real reason for it is a desire to save the Secretary of State's political face.
It is true, regrettably, that there are some members of the military establishment who, in a period in which there is a shortage of funds for defence—and there is always likely to be a shortage of funds for defence—think that the reserve forces should come at the end of the queue. The view of such members of the military establishment is that soldiering has become such a highly technical matter that part-time, even though vigorous and enthusiastic, recruits have no valid rôle to play in modern war.
307 Thanks to the kindness of the Minister for Defence for the Army I have had an opportunity in the past 12 months to see something of Territorial on active service abroad, in Aden. I went to see a detachment of the Royal Engineers serving near the Radfan where a number of men from the Territorial Parachute Brigade had recently done some of their training. One of them, regrettably, had been killed by a random shot from a distant tribesman. I was immensely impressed by these men. The commander of that detachment which had been ready within 48 hours and had flown out of England, told me that they had more than pulled their weight and had done a useful job.
I was also impressed when I saw the "Ever-readies" serving with the Regular forces. I talked to some of them, to their sergeants, platoon commanders and company commanders. The conditions were extremely difficult. The camp left a good deal to be desired and the climate was appalling. The job which they had to do was arduous and only intermittently interesting. I was impressed from talking to the men and from reading the reports on them by the way in which in a matter of days they had blended into the team and had become indistinguishable from the regular members of it.
We have a lot to learn from this experiment in sending out the "Ever-readies". I am sure that the Ministry have learned the lessons which are there to be learned and that next time some changes will be made, but the fact remains that this experiment has shown that the reserves can with great speed become an effective part of the regular team. They have shown, in the sort of conditions which our Army is likely to face in the next few years, that the reserves have an important part to play.
I believe that the Bill, far from strengthening the reserve, will weaken it. Fortunately it does not go nearly as far as the original White Paper, which would have destroyed the Territorial Army. This Bill, I believe, does not do that. But it does harm which can be repaired and harm which I hope will be repaired by us.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
I should like to start by congratu- 308 lating the Government at least on their climb down from the initial position which they took up over the Territorial Army. It cannot be disputed that there was to have been a very severe cut in the strength of the Territorial Army and that now, with the second thoughts, we are to get the A.V.R.III which will be of some benefit in restoring the very severe cuts which were intended.
Nevertheless, I resent the treatment of the Territorial Army, the way in which they were initially told that they had to suffer these severe cuts and the way in which the whole matter was cut and dried before it was ever presented to the Territorial Army The units had already been designated. Some units were told that they would be abolished. Now, on second thoughts—and I welcome the second thoughts—units are being told, "You may remain in existence if you accept the A.V.R.III Home Defence rôle". This is done with the obvious intention that as a sop it is better than nothing.
Looking at the rôle for the Territorial Army or the reserve forces, it is essential to allow for the unexpected. Nuclear weapons aside, there might be a war, not necessarily in Europe, which lasted for a considerable time and which put a tremendous strain on our reserve forces. It is necessary, for this reason, not to have just a tiny, cut-and-dried force exactly shaped to meet our commitments in Europe, but to have a variable force designed to meet other requirements.
My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) warned of the possibility of a war of subversion rather than of the conventional type. If we think in terms of the disruption which a small number of criminals could create in this country, and multiply that ten times, we see that subversion directed at us by a foreign Power could cause disruption which it would not be possible for our police force to contain. There is, therefore, a need for reserve forces—forces with a home defence rôle—on a fairly large scale. I am glad that the Government have recognised the usefulness of the "Ever-readies". The "Ever-ready" concept did not receive their warm welcome when they were in Opposition.
§ Mr. Reynolds
I recall sitting on the benches opposite and stating on behalf 309 of this party that we welcomed the "Ever-readies" and expressed the hope that they would be successful.
§ Mr. Allason
I sat through the whole of the debate the hon. Gentleman has in mind and I assure him that there was a a great deal of doubt about the view of the then Opposition. They seemed to query whether it was a good idea and whether the "Ever-ready "concept could possibly work. I am glad to learn that at least the hon. Gentleman supported the idea.
My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham pointed out how useful the "Ever-readies" were. However, we now see that their numbers are being severely reduced, because of the 8,600 of them, 3,500 are to be taken from the Regular Army Reserve, Class A. They will, therefore, not come from what we know now as the Territorial Army—what will be the A.V.R.I—but will simply be transferred from the Regular Army Reserve. That Reserve already has a substantial commitment and this transfer will, therefore, reduce the Regular Army Reserve and merely achieve a slight change of emphasis. It might be more satisfactory to transfer them from the Regular Army Reserve Class B, but to transfer them from Class A is a retrograde step.
This means that only 5,100 reserves will come from a source which now provides more than 7,000. The obvious result is that, by cutting down the number of basic units from which the "Ever-readies" can come, one must expect to get fewer of them. In any case, I do not believe that 8,600 is anything like the required number, and we could do with many more.
This brings me to the question of the integration of the three rôles. If A.V.R.I, A.V.R.II and the Home Defence Force can be together in one unit—in different sub-units of the same unit—there might be a proper interchange. The Under-Secretary welcomed the idea of interchange, but is he not aware that if they are not wearing the same cap badges and are not in the same unit the difficulty of interchange will be great?
The Under-Secretary said that these reserves would come under the same administration in certain respects; that they might be sharing drill halls and would know each other socially. That is not the 310 same thing. When a man joins a unit and becomes trained in it he is then able to move to the A.V.R.II and become an "Ever-ready", all alongside the same colleagues. In other words, progress should be within the unit and not by transferring men from one unit to another.
As I understand, the equipment to be provided to the Home Defence Force is likely to be disastrous. I do not want to "knock" this force, or say that it will be useless. However, while it will be far from useless, it will be harder for it to succeed if it is not given better equipment than one lorry for 100 men and just a rifle apiece. For example, I understand that these men will not have any signals equipment. How will they be able to carry out the rôles for which they will be required? How will they co-operate with civil defence, which at present needs a substantial amount of signals assistance from the Home Defence Force? If the Minister will say that the Regular Army will provide signals assistance for civil defence I will be surprised, since the Home Defence Force is the proper organisation to provide this assistance.
I have a great fear that a number of drill halls will be got rid of merely to bring in money. There is a great need for drill halls, not only for the Territorial Army, the A.V.R. units, but for the cadet forces, boys' clubs and rifle clubs. To say that it is not the responsibility of the Army to provide boys' clubs is to shirk the issue. There is a definite requirement here and I hope that a substantial number of drill halls will be retained. At present, it is feared that the vast majority of them, especially those with high site values, will be sold just to save money.
I am equally concerned about the Regular Army career structure. There is a need not to create "jobs for the boys", but to ensure that there are sufficient jobs for the Regular forces to provide a good career structure, both in terms of promotion and continuation up to the age of 55, of employment in the Regular Army. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that the Government's proposals will not adversely affect the career structure of the Army.
The question of deputy lieutenants was raised. I would like to correct the general impression which has been given in the House that these appointments are made 311 for actual service with the Armed Forces. Of course, the post can be given for civilian services to the Armed Forces and, in particular, to the reserve forces. This has been the gift of the Secretary of State and is an honour which is prized. It serves to encourage people to give service in a civilian capacity to the Territorial and other forces. I understand from Clause 20 that this is to be changed and that it will be the gift of "a" Secretary of State and not "the" Secretary of State. In other words, the Home Secretary could, I suppose, say, "There is someone here who has given good service and I would like to give him this honour".
§ Mr. Reynolds
Deputy lieutenants are nominated by the lord lieutenant for the county. The job of the Secretary of State is not to disapprove of the nomination of the lord lieutenant.
§ Mr. Allason
I am very glad to hear that. Nevertheless, although it is not in the gift of the Secretary of State, it is a valuable piece of patronage in his hands. He does not approve these appointments "blind", and it is an encouragement to civilians to give valuable service to the Armed Forces. I admit that I am sufficiently conservative to resent any change here unless the case for it can be amply made out.
I appeal to the Government to think again about separating the various elements of the Reserve. If home defence forces can be sub-units of the same unit with the A.V.R. I and II, immense benefit will come to every member serving. I hope that the Government will take a further step and come very much nearer to the constructive proposals put forward by the Territorial Army Council.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
The Government now accept that there is a home defence rôle for the Territorial Army. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) said, it is not easy in politics to admit that one's first ideas were wrong, and I congratulate the Government very much on their wisdom in doing so. Once it is admitted that there are two separate rôles—first, the rôle of reserves of men and units with the Regular Army, and secondly the rôle of home defence—it is quite clear that the 312 Government have two quite separate ways of dealing with the situation. Either they could have provided separate organisations—one for each rôle—or they could have decided to reorganise the Territorial Army so that it could fulfil both rôles. I am sure that in opting for the two separate organisations the Government have made a cardinal error, and I urge them to think of it again even at this late hour—but I am sorry to see the Minister shaking his head.
I speak in this debate because I was lucky enough to serve for 13 years in the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, and was a squadron leader for eight years. Although I speak of my experience with the Yeomanry, my remarks apply equally to the Territorial Army as a whole. I am sorry that the Under-Secretary suggested that we had played politics with this issue. I assure the House that I seek to make no political point at all, and I ask the Minister to accept my sincerity.
I say at once that those in the Territorial Army must be prepared to be flexible. Indeed, the Territorial Army has always prided itself on being flexible. The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry has appeared in many rôles in different years. At times it has had tanks, armoured cars, horses—mules, I believe—and searchlights. A good regiment will always be able to adapt itself to any task it is given. It is also possible for one regiment to have two rôles so that one part of the regiment can be given on rôle to play and the other part another. That is not a point that the Minister has yet been able to grasp.
The Government's decision is to reduce my regiment—the senior Yeomanry regiment—to one single squadron. That is to be an armoured reconnaissance squadron. I presume, although I am not certain, that it will be part of a regiment with widely scattered squadrons. I see that the Minister agrees. I therefore imagine that these squadrons of the regiment will possibly meet only once a year at camp, and it is very difficult for me to see how we can in this way build a strong regimental spirit.
At the same time, it will presumably be necessary to create in Wiltshire another force to deal with home defence, although, as far as I know, details have not yet been published. I warn the Government, with the utmost sincerity, that their proposals will cause very grave 313 recruiting problems for the armoured squadron and for the home defence force. The Government would have been wise to have preserved the whole regiment and to have given it as to one squadron the armoured rôle and as to the other three squardons the rôle of home defence. This would have solved the recruiting problems both of the armoured squadron and of the home defence force.
I can say something about recruiting, because one of the duties of a squadron leader is to make quite certain that he can keep his numbers up; he is no use as a squadron leader if he cannot produce a squadron. Young men join the Territorial Army for two reasons. The first reason—and I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) in what, if I may say so, was an excellent speech—is to be soldiers, and to experience the feeling of comradeship. Secondly, they join in order to be members of a good regiment of which they are proud, with its fine traditions and regimental spirit.
The Government have failed to understand the importance of the regimental spirit, but if we destroy that we shall really damage the Territorial Army. With the scheme I have been trying to put forward, we would encourage a genuine interchange between the sub-units within the regiment. For example, one can imagine a very useful N.C.O. serving for a number of years in the "teeth", or armoured part of the regiment—in the armoured reconnaissance squadron—and then finding that commitments at home or at work prevent him from continuing with that squadron. He would be an invaluable man if he joined the home defence force. If it was just a question of transferring to another squadron in his regiment he would be encouraged to do that, but if it meant leaving his regiment altogether and joining the Home Defence Force, I imagine that such a man would leave the Territorial Army altogether.
At the other end of the scale, one can imagine a recruit on first joining being a little cautious about taking on too many commitments. He wonders whether he will like the life. He joins the lower level or home defence side and so takes on fewer commitments, but subsequently he becomes a very keen Territorial soldier. He can then be transferred—and it seems a sensible proposal—to the armoured 314 squadron of the regiment. In that way we should get a ready interchange between the two sides of the Territorial Army. I should like to imagine an armoured squadron with a long waiting list of men wanting to be transferred from the non-armoured rôle.
I should like to ask a detailed question of the Minister, although I shall quite understand if he cannot answer it tonight. People are worried about regimental property, which is dealt with in Clause 18. To take the example of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, instead of a regiment we shall have a squadron which will be part, if the Minister agrees, of a larger new regiment. The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry has a good deal of regimental property which it has acquired over the years, and it would naturally like to keep that property in Wiltshire. I understand, however, that the property may have to go to the new regiment, which is not necessarily a county formation. Those having responsibility for this regimental property are anxious, and if the Minister can do anything to allay their anxieties they will be very grateful.
I regret the tone of the Under-Secretary in suggesting that we were seeking in this case to make political points. We are doing nothing of the sort. We would like to see the Territorial Army have a successful future. We are glad that the Government have had second thoughts, but I would ask them, even at this eleventh hour, to think once again.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I do not propose to delay the House for very long. I wish to make reference to two matters, the numbers in the Territorial Army and the use of its assets.
The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes) referred to the problem of deputy lords lieutenant. In some parts of the country it appears that there will be more lords lieutenant than Territorials. This worries me profoundly. I hope that the Minister will look at this particularly with reference to the Highlands of Scotland. As he must know, negotiations are going on about the numbers and how they are to be disposed. Especially in regard to the defence force, it has been agreed that it shall fulfill as wide a territorial rôle as possible, whether in general defence of the country, the repelling of 315 saboteurs, or whatever it may be. I shall not enter into controversy as to the precise functions of the force, but against the things which could happen and in their contact with the civilian population it is important that the military spirit should continue to flourish as widely as possible and that Regular recruitment should continue to flow. I am sure everyone in this House is conscious of the necessity for Regular recruiting and of its poor state today.
I hope that before the Government publish their final recommendations they will look more closely at the problem in the Highlands, which in the past has proved such a wonderful recruiting area for the British Army. I hope that they will look especially at the Western Isles, where apparently there is to be no military presence whatever. I presume that the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), is in his constituency. I am sure that he would agree, because this is a non-party point. I have the honour to be the honorary colonel of the Lovat Scouts. It is a great sorrow to those men and officers in the Island of Lewes that there will be no further job for them. It is an area from which a considerable number of recruits come to the Army. Knowing the Highlands very well, I am sure they could do with more units, which would help recruiting for the Regular forces.
I turn to my second point, about the disposal of assets, which is dealt with in Clauses 18 and 19. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) is a very fair one. So far as possible these assets should remain regimental assets in the county areas. But I would ask the Minister to give further thought to the question of the assets of the Territorial Army as a whole. As he will know, I had the honour to serve as Under-Secretary of State for War. I found that assets such as drill halls sometimes belong to the Regular Army and sometimes to associations. There is a considerable problem in administration which should be tidied up by the Bill. I hope that the Minister will think of the possibility of the Territorial Army and reserve forces obtaining more money from these assets. They are short of money. Judging by the taxation they impose, the Government, too, are short of money. It is worth 316 while to look into the question of developing some of these valuable sites and making money out of them by giving the basements and the first floors to the Territorial Reserve Army Force, and then creating large sums of money by development of the rest of the property for the sustenance of these forces.
When I was Under-Secretary I looked at this situation with a very distinguished developer who did a great deal of work for the Church Commission. The Minister may look up the papers—he has my full permission to do so. He will find that in 1958 it was considered that between £10 million and £20 million could be generated from these sites by the Territorial Army keeping the ground floor and basement and the rest of the property being developed. This could be done in London and parts of the Midlands, where the sites are of immense value. When I was in the job this was thought by the Treasury to be an improper proposal. Perhaps it is now thought less improper. It is certainly worth looking into.
I make a final appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. He must see that there is proper coverage of the country by the Territorial Army. I am sure the Government are right and wise to have retained its title. I hope that they will look at the question of the Highlands and the Outer Isles and make certain that this magnificent human material, which has been of such benefit to the country in the past, is not now thrown away.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
We have at last reached the first piece of solid legislation as a result of the various excellent and interesting debates we have had in the last 18 months on this subject. I start by paying a respectful tribute to the deputy Minister of Defence for the part he has played in those 18 months in dealing with the Territorial Army and Territorial Army associations. He has had a very difficult task. Although many of us have disagreed, and may still disagree, with some of the things which are being done, he has won the confidence of the people. That is appreciated on both sides of the House and throughout the Territorial Army.
In welcoming the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for 317 the Army to his new position, in which we are delighted to see him, I hope that he will not mind my saying firmly that he made a great mistake in starting and finishing his speech with some remarks which I do not think added to the value of his speech, but which subtracted from the atmosphere of support in the House. This is something which he may have inherited from the previous deputy Minister, now the Minister of Aviation, for he did it always in the last Parliament. I pray that the lesson has now got home. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am interested only in the welfare of the Reserve Army. I am quite prepared to agree with anything suggested from the other side for the benefit of the Reserve Army.
I want to speak mostly about the future of the A.V.R. and, in wishing it well, to say a few things about how I think it can be helped. Before doing so, I mention one or two basic facts about the Defence Review, which are very important, but which have been skated over. First, I wish to get the time-scales right, for the hon. Gentleman, in opening the debate, rather conveniently for his argument, telescoped some of them. I well remember the morning of 27th July, 1965, when I was absent from this House and in camp with the Territorial Army commanding a battalion. I well remember the occasion when the news came through of what then amounted virtually to the destruction of the entire Territorial Army as we knew it. My instructions were to put the news across to the troops in my command as best I could and to cause as little alarm as possible.
It was perfectly clear that the position was that, apart from the small force—a maximum of 50,000 men to reinforce the Regular Army—there was to be nothing. In his speech the hon. Gentleman indicated that even then there was a possibility of military reserve forces being used in a home defence rôle. I challenge him very directly that that is not strictly correct. That idea first occurred in the White Paper of December, 1965. It was the result of the combined, sustained, and carefully put across pressure which was well backed up from T.A. associations, the Territorials and, I think, Service Chiefs as well. It would 318 be only fair, and would add to their stature, if the Government admitted that it was a change in policy and was brought about by excellent arguments deployed by excellent people throughout the country who knew what they were talking about. I hope that we can see the end of the argument that the Home Defence Force was always in the Government's mind. I do not believe that it was and I do not think that it is possible to argue that it was.
There are two final points about the Defence Review which must be made clear. I wrote down two things which the Under-Secretary said. First, he said that it is impossible to imagine a conventional war ever happening again; those were his words. That is a very extraordinary statement. What do the Government think is happening in Vietnam? No nuclear weapons have been used there. It is a perfectly ordinary conventional war.
§ Mr. Younger
That is going a little further. I remember that war well, but it was a little time ago. It was a perfectly conventional war.
What about the confrontation in Borneo? That is a small war with, fortunately, very little loss of life. What is that if it is not a small conventional war? It is absolute nonsense for anybody to say that it is impossible to imagine a conventional war. It may be very unlikely; it may be completely improbable; but it is certainly not impossible to imagine.
A Government who are running the country's defences must employ one of two arguments. One argument is to say, "We recognise that there can be a conventional war, but we intend to do nothing about it. We shall ignore it", which is a fair, if foolish point of view. The other argument is to say, "We recognise that there can be a conventional war and this is our means of dealing with it". Those seem to me to be the only two logical arguments.
§ Mr. Ennals
The hon. Gentleman sought to quote what I said. Therefore, I will give the correct quotation, because he has given the wrong impression. I said, "In a nuclear age it is impossible to envisage mass armies opposing one 319 another with conventional weapons as they did in the last war." I added, "Wars are likely either to be conventional wars on a comparatively limited scale outside Europe, or we shall be faced with the appalling prospect of a holocaust in Europe." Therefore, the situation as it exists in Borneo was envisaged in my speech.
§ Mr. Younger
I quite recognise that. I am sorry if I slightly misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, but I think that his argument is that he cannot envisage a conventional war in Europe. I think that that is a perfectly straight statement to make, but it is an equally extraordinary statement. Although I would say that at present I cannot envisage it, who can say that he could not envisage any form of conventional war in Europe in five, 10, 15, 20 years' time? It is not possible. I do not think it is wise.
The second matter was the Under-Secretary's statement, which was partly attached to that, that there are the alternatives of either a nuclear war or a limited conventional war. Throughout what the hon. Gentleman said on that there was the assumption that, if there was a conventional war, however limited, it would be because it was able to be dealt with by our present forces, possibly supplemented by the reserves the Government are now producing, possibly supplemented by the regular Class A reserves which the Government hope to bring in.
That has been more or less accepted, but I do not think that it should be accepted, because nobody can say that a conventional war can be solely dealt with by those forces which we are now to have under our command. That is why many of us see—it may not be politic for the Government to say so—the Home Defence Force still in a rôle of being able to be expanded, if ever the worst should happen. We lose nothing by saying that. It does not cost any more to say that. It encourages those who go into it to feel that they have a really important rôle to play, if ever the country is in danger.
I suggest that this is the last fence that the Government ought to climb off from their previous original ideas and they should admit that the Home Defence Forces will, in fact, also be a very useful framework for expanding conventional 320 forces if—and I still say "if"—it should ever be necessary to do so. I hope that this will receive consideration.
That is all I want to say about the Defence Review, except for these words. I really think that, whether or not they admit it publicly, the Government within themselves should realise that as an example of muddle, bungling, badly thought out and badly put across planning, the Defence Review will go down in history as a real winner. Although they may not be prepared to admit this publicly, I hope that privately, within themselves, they will admit it and ensure that it will not happen again.
I come to the future, which is so much nicer to talk about. I have been in the Territorial Army for a long time in Scotland. There is an absolutely unique wish and intention in Scotland that this new reserve force as set up in the Bill shall be a success and shall carry on the excellent and outstanding tradition of the Scottish Territorial Regiments for so many years in the past. The Territorial associations, the Territorials themselves, the Regular soldiers serving with them—we are all absolutely determined that this new scheme will be a first-class success and will be a worthy successor to the forces it replaces.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Why does the hon. Gentleman say that it is the almost unanimous view in Scotland? What right has he to speak for Scotland in this way?
§ Mr. Younger
I was saying that it was the almost unanimous view of all those in Scotland in the Territorial associations, the Territorial Army, and the Regular forces serving with them.
§ Mr. Younger
It is only slightly different. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman is not quite so right in his suggestion that the majority of the people in Scotland might not believe it. Although I may not have the right to speak for them, I am quite convinced that they would agree with the premise I am putting forward.
§ Mr. Younger
Recruitment to the A.V.R.II and the A.V.R.III will be not 321 nearly as difficult as many of us have thought. It is important to realise the different problems as regards recruitment to these two forces. The first problem facing the A.V.R.II will be the problem of employers. The Under-Secretary went a long way this afternoon to reassure employers that they will be risking nothing by allowing their employees to join the A.V.R.II, but will, in fact, be doing a very great service to their country.
At this point, I want to say something which I hope will tie in with my earlier remarks. I want to pay a tribute to the nationalised industries for the way they treat Territorial soldiers in their employ. This applies also to private industries, most of which are very good. The nationalised industries in particular—the Coal Board, the Post Office, British Railways—are splendid in the way they let soldiers off for their annual camp. This should be recognised. It is very important for the Government to do all they can to persuade employers that they should be very keen to encourage their employees to take part in the reserve forces in this way. I believe that the Under-Secretary went a long way to reassure those who may be apprehensive about this.
There will be a great problem in regard to recruitment for the T. & A.V.R.III, because of the inevitable lack of continuity due to the very low training commitment. The Territorial soldier joins for many reasons. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), who made such an excellent maiden speech earlier this afternoon, stated the reason, with which I entirely agree, why Territorial soldiers join. One of the things which keeps soldiers in the T.A. once they are in it is that they have the habit of going along weekly to the drill hall. Possibly they go along only to play badminton. They may go along to be trained. The point is the habit.
I have ample experience gained over the past few years of what happens when training is suspended even for two months. The habit is broken and people no longer come. I hope that the Government will be thinking very hard about what small things they can do to encourage the use of drill halls frequently, even by units where the training commitment is very small.
322 One small thing which the Government could do is to be prepared to spend a small amount of money on helping to make drill hall canteens more comfortable and attractive. It has always been a great problem that this part of the furnishing of the drill hall must be provided out of unit funds. Apart from the provision of the building, the canteen furnishings have to come out of unit funds. It would be of tremendous assistance to the A.V.R.III units if there could be a little help in this direction. I do not know whether it is possible. Perhaps the Minister would think about it.
Finally on recruitment, there is one thing which will be a problem to both the A.V.R.II and the A.V.R.III. This is the very much increased distance drill halls will be from the homes of those serving in the units. Because of the smaller number of drill halls there will be a real problem here, and I plead for a flexible, realistic and generous attitude to the problem of travelling expenses which will be very important if we are to encourage people to travel 10, 15, 20 or 30 miles to their drill halls. The Government ought to regard this as part of the price they must pay for the saving resulting from closing a lot of other drill halls. Therefore, I hope that they will stretch points galore and make it as easy as possible for people to attend their drill halls.
Training will present some new problems to the Territorial Army. First of all, assuming that the A.V.R.II, actually gets its new equipment which has been mentioned this afternoon, and which at times has been slightly qualified as "being available"—an expression which we in the Territorial Army have heard of for so many years that we can, perhaps, be pardoned for being a little sceptical—it is very important that this equipment is good. The training commitment for the A.V.R.II is something that we have been longing for. An increase in training days up to 24 is excellent. Camp is still 15 days admittedly, and perhaps the Minister can state whether members will still get the bounty if they attend for only eight days. This is a matter which I have regarded as not entirely satisfactory. I believe that to get the bounty, especially, when it is a big one, it should be necessary to attend for the whole period. This would be a great help in training recruits.
323 With regard to A.V.R.III, the main training requirement is going to be the definite need for contact with the A.V.R.II. I can see a great problem in enrolling a recruit in the A.V.R.III, with that very small training commitment, and trying to turn him into something even remotely resembling a soldier. The best territorial battalion would take at least six weekends of hard training to turn a raw recruit into anything like a soldier at all. I suggest that there will be a great need of help from the A.V.R.II to make it easier for the A.V.R.III, even with their limited rôle and limited weapons, to turn them into an efficient unit.
I now wish to say a word or two about the civilian staffs. Here a slightly less charitable note must creep into my remarks, because I feel that by all the standards of employment and employer-employee relationships, the treatment that civilian staffs employed by the associations have received in the past year, through uncertainty, falls far below what should be expected from good employers. It may have been inevitable with all the decisions which have had to be made, but the fact is that civilian employees have been in a state of total uncertainty as to their future since 27th July last year, and it is far too long for employees to exist in that situation.
The Government must produce their detailed facts as to who is going to be kept on and who is to be declared redundant, and they should let these people know very quickly. I hope that this will go some way towards making up for the shortcomings in their treatment of these staffs, by making efforts to place them in other employment whenever this can be done. In particular in my own part of the world, in Ayrshire, I hope that the people there who are redundant can be offered employment, even if they do not take it, in the Post Office Savings Bank which has recently been moved to Glasgow. This work would be very suitable for this type of person.
I am grateful for the opportunity to make a speech in the debate. I should like to conclude by assuring the Government that although I have been critical, and although many of the Territorials and associations have been critical, we have done our best to keep party politics out 324 of this whole controversy. We believe that as a result of the work put in by so many people we have produced a much better answer than the original answer of the Government. I assure the Government that everyone in Scotland, and I am sure everyone in Britain, in the Territorial Army or who is connected with it is determined to see that this new plan works well and they can count on our full support in making it a success.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I wish to begin by following straight on from what my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) has just said in his very effective speech. I believe that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army, who introduced the Bill this afternoon, began by making what is almost a classical error when seeking to get maximum support for a new Measure, by deliberately bringing in a highly contentious political point. This is an issue on which over the years we have done our best to avoid indulging in party differences and have tried, at least ever since the Second World War, to put the defence of this nation above the ordinary cut and thrust of party politics. Why the hon. Gentleman chose to do this, I cannot for the life of me think.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. We all know the hon. Gentleman is a tremendous United Nations man. We all know that he is new to his job. He had the good will of the House before he rose to make his speech. By taking the line that he did at the beginning, all he did was to throw away the maximum amount of good in the shortest possible time. As his speech went on, he got better, but then, unfortunately, at the end of it he reverted to the same line and undid a great deal of the good he had done in the middle of his speech.
I say to the hon. Gentleman that of all the subjects to deal with in such a manner this is about the worst that he could think of. It is absolutely essential when dealing with this matter, which is the closest bridge there is between a civilian and a soldier, that we should try to deal with it as objectively as we possibly can, and even if it may be our opinion that 325 from time to time silly party points have been made, we all ought to dedicate ourselves to forgetting them as quickly as possible and getting on with the job in hand.
§ Mr. Ennals
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I appreciate also the statements that have been made by him and by others who have spoken concerning their anxiety to co-operate with the Government in making this Measure a success. When the hon. Gentleman criticises me for party political motives, he might perhaps have forgotten the tenor of the last debate, the censure debate, which certainly was a highly political debate. He may also have forgotten the tenor of the introductory remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish), who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I remember very well what my hon. and gallant Friend said. As I understood him, what he said was greatly conditioned by what the Under-Secretary himself had said just before. Perhaps we would have had a different speech from my hon. and gallant Friend had the Under-Secretary, in introducing the Bill, been, shall I say, a little more conciliatory.
This Bill has to be considered in the context of the White Paper which has been referred to frequently throughout the debate, "Re-Organisation of the Army Reserves", Cmnd. 2855, published last December. Under the heading "The need for Re-organisation", paragraph 3 says:First, it is no longer realistic to maintain ground forces designed to fight another major conventional war of large armies in Europe. The risk of major war in Europe is now small hut if it did come it would involve the use of nuclear weapons. This is the basis of the Western Alliance's strategy.The only conditions under which I would begin to accept that this was true would be if the Government themselves were saying that we are going to continue as long as we possibly can to remain an independent nuclear Power, that we shall stop this nonsense of saying that it is in the interests of the peace of the world to bring about total nuclear disarmament, and that we ourselves are therefore not only going to be allies with the Americans upon whom we rely to remain a nuclear Power, but will be, so far as our economy 326 will allow, a strong nuclear Power, too. That is the only condition on which I could accept this proposition.
I do not know how closely in touch with the state of play in Europe today the hon. Gentleman has managed to get himself since taking office. To the best of my information, at no time since World War II have the Russians been better trained and better equipped on a conventional basis than they are now. Why are they in that condition? Is it quite beyond the bounds of possibility that for the same reason, perhaps, as Hitler did not use gas, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) suggested earlier, the Russians believe that, if they are ever to take any military action in Europe, they may have to take conventional action and only conventional action? We cannot be sure about it. There is nothing more certain than that.
The six Field Marshals who wrote to The Times on 14th December, 1965, said in their letter:Twice in this century the Territorial Army has been the framework for military expansion in dire emergency. Neither World War developed according to the original expectations of the political experts and their military advisers at those times. Nothing is more certain that any future war will develop along unexpected lines.The real trouble with this Bill and all that preceded it is that the Government themselves have considered only one set of premises and have neglected entirely to consider the other, and the likelihood of the other being quite as probable as the one must not be overlooked.
All the hypothesis which is then developed in that passage of the White Paper is based upon the one assumption that, if nuclear weapons were used, then such-and-such would follow. At no point in the White Paper is it considered what would happen if nuclear weapons were not used and yet there was war in Europe. I happen to believe that the best assurance of there not being war in Europe is the continuation of nuclear weapons, because I believe that, so long as nuclear weapons exist, it remains just possible that man will have sufficient awe of the appalling power he possesses not to risk such a war.
Yet we see what is happening in Vietnam. We have seen what happened in Korea during the atomic era. We have seen what is happening off South-East Asia now. Who is to know where next 327 there will be something which begins as a conventional dispute and then develops into something else far more serious? Who is to know? The Government are taking the most appalling risk if they assume that the only form of war in Europe which Britain might ever again be involved in would be a nuclear one.
Whatever our hopes may be—I imagine that we are united at least in those—about another war ever happening anywhere in the world and about those wars now going on ending at once or as soon as we can possibly bring them to an end, hopes are all very fine, but they must at least be seasoned with a sense of reality. Hope needs seasoning also with a sense of humility as to man's capacity to prognosticate about the future. My biggest condemnation of what the Government have done on all this matter since coming to power is that they have become arrogant in their prognostications, and arrogance in prognostication is very dangerous indeed when one is dealing with defence matters.
This is why I hope that the Minister will at least recognise that it is conceivable that even the Government, with all the military advice they have, with all the theoretical Socialism which they may have behind them, and with all their pious hopes, may have made a mistake or overlooked something which may happen as well as those things which they themselves have visualised.
Hurt feelings are always a bad guide in debate in this place, just as they are a bad guide outside in one's private life, but I must say to the hon. Gentleman that I thought that he was a little less than fair to those of us who did our best at a very early date to inform the Government on what was concerning the local Territorial Associations. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and I were approached by the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association for the county way back in June 1965, and, after receiving that letter, we conferred and in due course wrote to the then Minister of Defence for the Army. We wrote to him on 1st July, 1965, and I think it only right and fair to the Territorial Association itself to make one or two quotations from that letter. I shall not weary the House with all the points we made, but these are some of them. We said: 328Whatever the military requirements, a Territorial Army must attract volunteers and must pay regard to the fact that members of the Territorial Army should only be asked to fulfil commitments which they can reasonably afford to undertake.We went on to say:The Territorial Army has been operating on a proven framework for expansion, and this framework should not be dispensed with until an effective alternative system has been assured. Were it to be disbanded, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to resuscitate it on a volunteer basis. This is not to say that the present organisation is incapable of further improvement and perhaps streamlining.I hope that those two paragraphs at least have shown the force of two points: first, we recognise that, if we are to have a part-time, volunteer army from civilian life, we must pay regard to what it is fair to expect a man to do; and, second, one of our principal anxieties was that, whatever else was done, it had to be ensured that we did not destroy a proven structure until we were certain that what we put in its place would work as well, if not better, in any circumstances which could be foreseen.
We drew attention in our letter to a memorandum which had been prepared by the Council of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations on the rôle of the Territorial Army, and we went on to to deal with special points about the Territorial Army and Emergency Reserve. There is one point here which I ought to repeat now, because it has not been mentioned by anyone else in the debate and it is still relevant. Referring to the "Ever-readies" we said that,One has to remember that these men are among the keenest and best of the volunteers, and if they were to be called up separately would leave a very serious gap on mobilisiation in the Territorial Army units who had recruited and trained them.I want to make one other reference to the letter in the light of the debate and the way that it has gone. We had received at that time information that the Government's financial adviser had submitted a paper recommending the disbanding of the Territorial Army. So we went on to express the hope that whatever was done would not be decided purely on the advice of a financial adviser. We did not know who he was—although we suspected whom he might have been—but at least we felt justified in suggesting that perhaps there were others who 329 were mere likely to be able to judge the true merits from a defence point of view than the financial adviser concerned, however important his advice might be.
The whole history of the Labour Party's approach to the problem, going right back to my own soldiering days between the wars, has been "Get peace at the cheapest that you can." In fact, there were days—in 1927, I think—when certain Members of the Labour Party voted for the total abolition of the Royal Air Force, and 30 hon. Members supported the proposition. We have had it today from the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). We have always had the pacifist case put.
What worries me most is that I strongly suspect that underlying all the thinking of hon. Members opposite on this matter has been the idea that there is something desperately wrong about spending as much as, say, 6½, per cent. of the gross national product on the defence of this nation. I have never made any secret of the fact that I am not entirely in tune with my own party on this matter. I would always be prepared to spend, if necessary, 10 per cent. of the gross national product if by doing so I felt that peace would be reasonably secure and that if I had not spent it peace would not be reasonably secure. To fix a particular percentage as a magical figure which must always prevail as the deciding factor is totally irrelevant, and it is all too often dangerous as well.
No party in this House is blameless on this matter, nor is the electorate. The electorate always like to think that when wars are over the nation need not bother about defence. The history of our nation clearly demonstrates this. I can understand the public asking "Why spend so many millions of £s a year on a Territorial Army designed to cover contingencies which we hope will never arise and which we do not believe will arise at the moment?" History cries out in that vein all down the ages, and I can understand that attitude.
But the Government must do something better than that. They must have appreciations of the situation made at intervals in order to ascertain what the risks really are and what the capacity of this nation is to meet those risks if they should arise. They must evaluate 330 each risk. That is not a very pleasant task, especially for those who are dedicated to the great social revolution of Britain—and I sympathise with those who find that their ideals are impracticable simply because the money for them does not exist.
Of all the things that it would be most unwise to overcut in defence, surely the most important is the link between the civilian in his daily life and the soldier who comes to the Colours in time of war. It is desperately dangerous to cut that link unnecessarily.
Although, as has been said, the Bill is a great deal better than it might otherwise have been, I am still not satisfied that it is as good as it ought to be. I hope that it is still not too late as the Bill goes through this House and another place for us to make it better than it has so far become.
I would point out to the Under-Secretary that it was through hon. Members such as myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, who wrote letters to the Minister at the time, that the view being expressed to us by our constituents was conveyed to the Government. It was our duty to do that. It is monstrous of him to condemn us for having done it. It is our duty as private Members to express the views conveyed to us by our constituents. My constituents, I am happy to say, include a considerable number of members of the Territorial Army. To accuse us of playing party politics because we passed on to the Government what our constituents said is to deny the right of private Members. I am sure that the hon. Member does not want to do that When he was on the back benches he was as vigilant as anybody to uphold the rights of private Members. I hope he will not deny us that right tonight.
§ Mr. Ennals
Certainly nothing that I said was intended to be directed towards individual hon. Gentlemen who were putting forward their views, quite rightly, on behalf of their constituents or local associations. I was largely attacking the position adopted by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in debates, when they made gross exaggerations and suggestions about the abolition and destruction of the Territorial Army when they knew 331 that that was quite untrue. That is the basis of the allegations that I made at the beginning of my speech.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman considers that to be an apology or an explanation, or both, but I do not find it wildly satisfactory. Let us hope that he will learn from experience in office that if he is to keep open those old sores he will, perhaps, do more harm to those for whom he is supposed to be responsible than he intends.
It is not very often that six Field Marshals—Lord Alexander of Tunis, Field Marshal Auchinleck, Sir Francis Festing, Lord Harding, Field Marshal Lord Slim, and Sir Gerald Templer—write the sort of letter which they wrote in The Times of 14th December last year in which they said:The present proposals for the future of the Territorial Army embody five serious weaknesses—a lack of appeal to attract potential volunteers, a danger of isolating the Regular Army from the civil populace, the destruction of any framework for expansion in emergency, the absence of any rôle for Home Defence"—that has been remedied to a great extent, and I am glad of it—and the removal from our young men and women of one of the chief outlets for voluntary and unselfish service to their country".That is powerful stuff, especially coming from those men.
I am delighted that the Government have thought considerably again before they introduced the Bill. I still believe that there is room for further improvement. That is what I seek to achieve. I am glad that the Minister has returned to the Chamber. If one makes a speech at this time of night, the Minister is always preparing his reply to the debate, and those who speak last from the back benches often do not have much notice taken of what they say. I am glad he has returned because, as he knows—he referred to this in the House the other day—he and I have been in communication a good deal on the point about which I interrupted the Under-Secretary of State, and that is the question of the United Nations.
This is not the place for me to repeat what I said the last time we debated the future of the United Nations. I would 332 merely say this, that my thinking on the United Nations is based on the supposition that it is rarely that one solves a problem by bringing more people into it than are already involved. This is one of the troubles from which we have suffered ever since we set up the United Nations. I regard it as a thoroughly anti-British organisation. It has done us far more harm than good, and I hope that one day we shall have something better.
It is clear from the Bill and the White Paper connected with it that there will be a liability for certain men to be called up to assist in the logistic backing of any United Nations force. The Under-Secretary of State gave me an assurance that before anybody was asked to join any of the new reserves created by the Bill it will be made clear to him that a liability would be written into his undertaking to serve in such a capacity for the United Nations. Some people—I would be one of them—would have a conscientious objection to serving under any United Nations force. I want to make quite certain that people who think like that will not be deprived of any right to serve their country in a voluntary reserve capacity.
The Minister never really answered that question in the correspondence which we had last year. I hope that the conditions of engagement in any of these reserves will be so drawn up as to enable those who do not wish to be associated with the United Nations forces still to join in a capacity which will enable them to serve their country, which, to me, and to a great many other people, is more important. Although I was glad to hear what the Under-Secretary of State said when I interrupted him, I still want firmer assurances than he was able to give. I hope that the Minister will be able to give them when he replies to the debate.
One aspect of the Bill which has not been touched upon during the debate is the extent to which the Regular Army relies upon the Territorial Army for the training of those who pass through the Staff College. I am told that an enormous percentage of, for example, gunner officers who pass through the Staff College act either as instructors in one way or another for the Territorial Army or as staff officers. The percentage, I believe, is as high as 40.
333 If we are to have this enormous reduction in the size of our reserve forces, what will happen to the Regular Army officers who have passed through the Staff College? Where will they get the opportunity of putting into practice what they certainly ought to be practising in the event of an emergency? Has the Minister thought this one out? If so, I would very much like to hear what conclusions he has reached.
We also have to recognise that in their capacity of service with the Territorial Army, many of those Regular officers were themselves able to act very often as self-appointed recruiting officers for the Regular Army. They were closely in touch with the civilians in their job with the Territorial Army. Many such people have now disappeared from the civilian surroundings in which they have been working. What replacement does the Minister propose to introduce to compensate for this? What special drive does he intend to have in Army recruiting?
I had not intended to speak at any-think like this length until I heard what the Under-Secretary of State said in introducing the Bill. I hope that in what I have said I have left three things particularly in the minds of hon. Members. The first is that it is genuine concern, regardless of party consideration, that has motivated those who have expressed anxieties about the Government's original plans for the future of our Reserve forces. Secondly, there must always be a very close link between the Regular Army and whatever form of Reserve forces we have on a part-time basis in time of peace.
Thirdly, we must ensure very close liaison at local level between the Armed Forces, whether on a permanent or a part-time basis, and the civilian population. The great danger of this terrific reduction which is being made under the Bill and the White Paper is that we will diminish the ability to do that. It will mean some substitution or, perhaps, replacement to make good something which, because it no longer exists, will damage not only the Territorial Army or the reserve forces, and not only the Regular forces, but will damage something which is far more serious: that is, the ability of this country to defend itself in time of emergency.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
Like many other hon. Members I, too, have had a long association with the Territorial Army, and I feel strongly about certain aspects of the Bill. The purpose of my intervention is to refer to an omission from the Bill, to which I have already referred and to which the Under-Secretary was good enough to reply during his speech. I consider it right, however, that it should be put on the record, in connection with the point so ably put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), that when we are dealing with the reserve forces we are dealing with a reserve of manpower which can be used in time of need.
We should remember that no fewer than 300,000 women served in our forces because there was a shortage of manpower. In my view, circumstances could arise in the realm of home defence particularly where it would be essential to expand the reserve forces in that way again, and it is appropriate that we should record the fact that there is no mention of the W.R.A.C. T.A., nor any mention of the considerable contribution which it has made over the last 20 years to the training, development and deployment of the forces that we have. I hope that, when it comes to a later stage of the Bill, very serious consideration will be given to further the opportunities which will be available to the women's corps.
The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary was good enough to say that there would be certain categories of employment open to women in the new force, but the point that I wish to make is that the recruiting base for the categories that he mentioned is very limited, and opportunities which have hitherto been enjoyed have been on a very much wider basis. I hope that that wider basis will again be found acceptable, and that there will also be opportunities for greatly expanded and very different types of work from those which the Under-Secretary has mentioned tonight.
The second point that I wish to make is about redundancy pay. Serving with our male Territorial forces at present there are many W.R.A.C. Regulars who will be as redundant as their male counterparts, and I hope that full attention 335 will be paid to their redundancy entitlement and alternative employment. I may say, in passing, that while I do not entirely agree with one point of view advanced by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), though to a great extent I share the views expressed in his speech, I hope that Clause 20 which makes reference to deputy lieutenants will be amended to read "he or she".
I trust that one other anomaly will be put right, and that is that those serving in the new force will rank equally with those in the Regular forces for awards for gallantry. It has been a great disappointment to many of us who have known of the service given by Territorials in such places as Aden that awards which have been given for gallantry have not been those usually given to the Regular forces.
So long as we can keep within the framework of the new force the spirit of the old, there is no doubt about its success. However, we shall not do that by sniping at each other in the House. We shall only do it if we all display unanimous determination to give the assurances to the men and women in these forces which will, from the outset, make them confident that their task is worth while.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
My first and very pleasant task is to welcome the maiden contribution to the debate from the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon). Perhaps I may do so as a fellow one-time lance corporal; for, although lance corporal was not my final rank in the Army, certainly the promotion from private to lance corporal was the largest gulf that I have ever crossed in any part of my career.
I remember that when I made my maiden speech in the House, over 16 years ago, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), in following me, was kind enough to welcome me to what he called the "Defence Club". There is a real bond between hon. Members on both sides of the House who have served in any of the Armed Forces in peace or in war which often transcends the two sides and our party differences. Tonight, the hon. Member for Mansfield has duly made his entry into that club.
336 The hon. Member was one of the few hon. Members who contributed to this debate from that side of the House, but no one could mistake the debate for a partisan or highly politically charged debate. Indeed, I am sure that anyone listening to it must have been struck by the earnest desire of everyone who contributed to bring something for a better and sounder future for our reserve forces. Therefore, I am sure that although he has risen on several occasions to defend and explain himself, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence realises by now that it was a mistake for him to begin and end his remarks as he did.
This debate takes place against a background of admitted error, against the background of an admission on the part of the Government that the ideas with which they set out upon the task of remoulding the Territorial Army require to be substantially modified. It was quite absurd for Members on the Treasury Bench to attempt to pretend that the proposals in the White Paper as now modified by the statement of 2nd February and subsequent statements are what they had in mind all the time.
If that is so, then the history of this business from last July onwards is absolutely unintelligible. If this is what they intended, then, by failing to disclose it by so much as a twitch of the eyelid, they caused immense dismay, irritation, dislocation and frustration over months. They made far more difficult that which was in any case a difficult task for the Territorial Army and for the Government.
But, of course, we all know perfectly well, and they know perfectly well, what in fact happened. The first evidence, the first glimmering of recognition that there was a home defence rôle that had to be admitted, was a hastily-inserted paragraph—paragraph 4—in the White Paper of 15th December last, and it was when they saw that they would be within an ace of losing the debate on 16th December that the more forthcoming formula was used by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence in winding up.
Then, on 2nd February, we had something which had been introduced as completely new into the discussions between the Government and the Council of the Territorial Associations. We had the proposal for a Home Defence Force, and the 337 recognition of a home defence rôle for the Territorial Army. But this admission, this acceptance of something hitherto ignored, which could be ignored no longer, was as limited, as grudging, and as reluctant as it could be made. Much of what we have had to say on this side of the house during the course of this debate has been an attempt to bring home to the Government how much damage this reluctance can do to the future of the Territorial Army and to the future safety of the country.
When they now admit a home defence rôle for the Territorial Army, they still attempt to limit to the minimum possible what that home defence rôle is. They seek to say that it could only conceivably be a home defence rôle in the post-nuclear period when the nuclear catastrophe has already taken place. But it is not possible to limit it in this way. It is not possible to stop there. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in the Government themselves find that it is impossible. They keep talking about the post-nuclear rôle—the rôleto assist the police in the maintenance of law and order, and to act generally in support of the civil authorities in the event of a general war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1966; Vol. 723, c. 1097.]—as a "primary" rôle. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) pointed out, if this is the primary rôle there must, upon the Government's own admission, be other rôes and other functions.
It was more than a slip of the tongue when the Minister of Defence for the Army, at the end of the interchanges on 2nd February, said that this Home Defence Forcewill also be used to engage enemy forces if they were in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1966; Vol. 723, c. 1101.]The hon. Gentleman felt bound to recognise that it is absurd to pretend we can artificially limit the tasks which a force for the home defence of this country might be called upon to perform.
During the debate, from both sides of the Chamber—from both the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn)—it was pointed out that the nuclear hypothesis by no means rules out the danger of sabotage in all its forms. That, at any rate, is something which the advent of the nuclear weapon has not superseded or made out 338 of date. In a period of tension and rising danger there would be a threat to hundreds of vulnerable points throughout the country, and men would be tied down in guarding those points against all the various and complex forms of sabotage which are now available. So there is another aspect of home defence which it is idle and foolish to imagine can be ignored.
But we cannot stop there. Much of our discussion, both in the earlier debate and today, has turned upon the question whether there is a function for a citizen volunteer reserve as the possible basis of an expanded Army or of expanded Armed Forces. Sometimes this discussion takes extremely academic and almost theological forms. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), in an excellent contribution to the debate, put the issue precisely and helpfully when he said that the question was: do we or do we not envisage the possibility of a conventional war which would make demands which were beyond the capabilities of the Regular Army plus the reserves, in the narrow sense of the term, to meet? The Government throughout have been denying that possibility.
It is not necessary to go into all sorts of arguments about nuclear war in Europe and the opinions of the Russian general staff to realise what a risk is being taken, and what a grave decision is being taken by a Government who are prepared to lay their hand on their heart and say that they can exclude the possibility of a conventional war anywhere which would exceed the demands which the Regular Army, and the reserves we are at present envisaging, could fulfil.
So there is much more still, beyond the limited and grudging concession which the Government have made hitherto, which requires to be recognised. Progress has indeed been made. For in December my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) was certainly justified in saying that the proposals in their then form amounted to the destruction of the Territorial Army. That was so. Under those proposals only a small minority of all the units in the Territorial Army would have survived.
The Government themselves are now praying in aid and claiming as an advantage for their present proposals that, in some form or other, they make it possible to 339 preserve some kind of tenuous existence and continuity for the great majority of the major units in the Territorial Army. I should have thought that that mere fact was sufficient to justify what was said from this side of the House in the debate of 16th December last, and the Motion which my right hon. Friend then moved.
Let us not, however, in accepting that progress has been achieved, fail to realise that the Government still intend to cut the actual strength of the Territorial Army from about 110,000, as it was when they began operations, to about 63,000, on the assumption that they succeed in recruiting to their intended targets. I am not talking here about establishments. I am taking the actual number of men who were serving in the middle of last year, who were voluntarily giving their services in the Territorial Army, and setting that against the maximum number that the Government envisage recruiting if they are successful. The change represents a reduction of those numbers virtually by half—from 110,000 to just over 60,000.
We on this side of the House say quite plainly that we do not believe that to throw away almost half the voluntary citizen service in our reserve forces—this is what it means—to say to almost half the men who were serving voluntarily in the Territorial forces nine months ago, "You are no longer required at all in any rôle in any kind of force", is justified by an economy of £17 million a year in the year 1960–70—even if, peradventure, that intended economy should in fact be made. Like so many of the other figures which entered into the totals of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence, this figure becomes curiouser and curiouser the more one looks at it. For example, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes pointed out, it depends upon the strength of the Territorial Army in the year 1969–70 being at a lower level than that envisaged in the White Paper. There are a number of other doubts which attach to this saving, quite apart from the fact that £3 million-worth has gone overboard already with the volte-face on the home defence rôle. However, whether it be £15 million, £17 million, or £20 million in the year 1969–70, we say that for 340 this sum, or for any sum like it, it was folly to throw away virtually half the voluntary citizen manpower in our reserve forces.
The first claim which we make upon the Government, the first major point upon which we shall insist in the implementation of the Bill—for the Bill is only a framework—is that we should sacrifice as few as possible of the men and, incidentally, as we were reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson), women, who were serving in the middle of last year and most of whom are still serving. That is our first anxiety—this avoidable, tragic and probably irreversible waste and jettisoning of a precious national asset.
Our second major concern is that the manner in which the Government have executed their act of repentance has been such as to put the two elements in the Territorial Army which they envisage in the maximum isolation from one another—an isolation which will intensify and exaggerate the difficulties of each part of the force, which difficulties, goodness knows, are serious enough. This is a point to which hon. Members have returned over and over again in the debate. It was sounded very strongly and clearly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) at the beginning of the debate, and it has run right the way through—the tragic folly of tearing the Territorial Army apart into two separate forces with as little to do with one another as could possibly be contrived.
Let me look briefly at the difficulties which those two parts of the force will have to face. Let me look, first, at the 23,000 men—establishment 29,000—of the "special force" as it is called in Clause 2. The units are to be companies of 75 men armed with rifles and with one Land Rover amongst them. They will have an eight-day camp, and four days and 27 periods of training otherwise than in camp, and their rôle is strictly that of home defence, assistance to the civil power, in the post-nuclear period.
I know that for those who belong to the units which will be identified with these new home defence companies it has been an immense relief that in any form 341 there was a prospect of their units surviving. One can understand their relief, and on both sides of the House there would be a desire, however mistaken, however limited this function may be, to ensure that these units do retain their existence and their identity.
But let no one underestimate the extreme difficulty over the years of maintaining the numbers and the morale, the recrutiing and the esprit de corps, of scattered individual units of 75 men apiece armed with rifles and equipped with one Land Rover, preparing for a post-nuclear rôle in aid of the civil power, if that were all—and in the intention of the Government that is to be all. We are asking a great deal of the associations, of the committees, of the commanding officers and of the men, by expecting them to recruit, to retain morale and to train as military entities in that kind of setting.
Let us now look at the other half of the force, the A.V.R. Here—this has been recognised many times during the debate—the difficulty is presented by the onerous and unlimited commitment, in the sense of undefined commitment, which they will be asked to undertake. In the White Paper—this has several times been repeated from the Treasury Bench, and there is no question of arguing about the sincerity of the statements—the circumstances of their employment are when "major military operations are in progress or appear to be imminent and when a serious situation affecting vital national interests has arisen". But that is not what the Bill says. These are not the terms which will be the terms of their agreement. The terms of their agreement refer only to whenwar-like operations are in preparation or progress,Those will be the terms on which the men will actually have to sign. That will be the undertaking which they will be giving. Nor, unlike the case of the "Ever-readies", will there be any specific limit to the length of time for which they will be required to serve… when war-like operations are in preparation or progress …It will be very difficult indeed—and we might as well recognise this now; I am not trying to be discouraging by pointing out the difficulties, because this is the time for the difficulties to be seen, for them to be weighed and for remedies to 342 be applied, if they can be—over the years to maintain a force of the size envisaged when there are those large and unlimited commitments which have to be undertaken.
Then there is the nature of the units—the independent units and, in many cases, the sponsored units, which are envisaged as reinforcements for the Regular Army and will supplement our forces on the Continent under our agreement with N.A.T.O. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes pointed out, dependent on the average length of service of a man in the A.V.R., one third or one quarter of these units at any one time will consist of raw recruits. It is a travesty to pretend that units of which one third or one quarter are virtually untrained can be regarded, or would regard themselves, as units capable of fulfilling the rôle which we are holding out to our N.A.T.O. allies and which we are professing under the Government proposals.
The opposite, but equally acute, difficulties of the two kinds of forces, of the two rôles, are intensified by the isolation in which the two forces have been placed. After all, if we look at the summary of the existing reserve forces in the first appendix to the Government's White Paper we are reminded that the first of the rôles of the old Territorial Army was "to provide a source of 'Every-ready' reinforcements." It was from the Territorial Army that we expected to find men who would serve as "Ever-readies" and we see that what we need—what we have always had in the past—is, as Lord Montgomery put it, a "second tier to nourish the first tier". This applies just as much to the Regular Army as to the "Ever-readies", and just as much to the "Ever-readies as to the A.V.R.II.
In the debate last December the then Minister of Defence for the Army, now the Minister of Aviation, was not exaggerating when he said:We are … aware that in some parts of the country this"ߞthat is, the Government's proposals—will make the task of Regular recruiting more difficult."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December. 1965; Vol. 722, c. 1501.]It will indeed, because there is a continuity between the Regular Army and the citizen reserve and between those parts 343 of the citizen reserve which can accept the more onerous obligations and those which can accept the less onerous ones. The more closely all three are in contact—the more they can be welded into the same units—the more they will mutually reinforce and support one another.
Finally, there is the basic motive which brings a man into such a force at all, the reason why, at bottom, more than 100,000 men, as at last year, were willing to give their time as volunteer soldiers. This is the desire that these men have to be trained as soldiers, to be trained as fighting men, to be part of an armed force, to be soldiers with other soldiers, to take part—this applies not only to the officers, but to many of the N.C.O.s—in the stream of continuing military thought and practice; in short to belong to the Army. That is the motive, however it may be expressed in each personal case, which brings men into such a force as this and keeps them there. We do the maximum damage to that basic impulse by the rending asunder of the two forces which the Government still envisage.
There are many ways in which this division could be healed. The damage is not yet irreparable. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes, my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry), my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton, and others, have instanced different ways in which units of the A.V.R.II could be part of the same show—I deliberately use as vague and wide a word as possible—with those who at the time are only able to accept the home defence rôle.
Let us, for example, imagine a case of the type that my Friend the Member for Chippenham instanced—a unit comprising a sub-unit which has an A.V.R.II rôle and a sub-unit which has a home defence rôle. Imagine how it would work. Men who join only able to accept the home defence rôle may well find that they are attracted by their experience, and that their circumstances permit them to go on to the A.V.R.II commitment.
Conversely, a man who has an A.V.R. II commitment may find that, owing to change of job, promotion, change of circumstances, he can no longer undertake it. How naturally and easily he can carry his experience and background to help 344 in the training of the recruits in the other sub-unit. As these sub-units train together, so the effort, the challenge, of doing a difficult job helps to sustain the morale of both. It is an old Army adage that one always trains men for the job, or the job but one, beyond that which they are immediately required to do. We should apply the same principle to those units and men of whom initially we only require home defence service.
I therefore urge the Government not to close their minds to this point, but positively to set to work to devise a system in which more men than they envisage at present in total, as many as possible of those 110,000, can be brought into a framework where both those accepting the home defence rôle and those accepting the A.V.R. rôle will be members of the same show, will train as far as possible together, and will be mutually supporting.
It can be done. No doubt, the methods will differ with the different types of unit. They will probably be different in different parts of the country—I am not suggesting that for a moment that there is a sealed pattern that will work everywhere—but if the importance of this is realised, and it is the second great plea that we on this side are making in this debate, it can be done. The act of doing it may well mean literally the survival of the Territorial Army, of a citizen volunteer Army, in this country.
This Bill is essentially only a framework. Within it, all that I am suggesting would be possible. There is nothing in the three graduations of liability which it lays down which would be adverse to any scheme that would be aceptable to the whole House. Therefore, we shall not tonight oppose the passage of this Bill, though there will be respects in which, in Committee, we shall seek to examine it more closely, and to amend it. But the burden of what we have been saying in this debate is that the framework of the Bill must be filled with something larger, more realistic, more hopeful, more practical, than what the Government are as yet envisaging, and that it has been our purpose to urge upon them tonight.
Of their errors, some have already been repaired. Many remain. None is yet irremediable. There is still time within the framework of the Bill to make a Territorial Army which will retain all 345 that is valuable of the voluntary service of the old Territorial Army, which will enable it to fulfil a home defence rôle and an A.V.R. rôle, and also to serve as the basis, should we ever require it, of the future expansion of the Army—all within the framework which the House is laying down tonight. In a single sentence, the plea of the Opposition to the Government this evening is the old and celebrated plea to "think it possible that they may be mistaken".
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence for the Army (Mr. G. W. Reynolds)
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has made a very different speech this evening from the one he led us to expect as recently as the period after Question Time when I made my announcement about the setting up of the Home Defence Force when, in asking a supplementary question of me, he more or less suggested that he would chase us all around the Chamber and when the Bill came it would be fought tooth and nail and opposed at every step by the Opposition. Therefore, this evening I make a very different speech from the one I thought I would make when I heard his remarks.
§ Mr. Powell
I shall try not to interrupt the hon. Gentleman too much, but what I was saying then was that we should have a separate opportunity of debating the principle rather than doing it on the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Reynolds
Whatever the reason, I welcome the change in the right hon. Gentleman's attitude. "Beggars can't be choosers" in that particular respect. I very sincerely welcome the change in the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite and the fact that we shall get the Bill through tonight without a Division, which will enable us, once the Royal Assent has been given, to go ahead with our proposals in a much better atmosphere than would have been possible had we had a strong party political fight here today.
I am also very pleased to be able to offer congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), who made his maiden speech in this debate. He referred to his predecessor, who was very well liked 346 and loved in this House, and will be long remembered. He also referred to his constituency. One of the main industries there is the production of coal. I may be wrong, but I rather got the impression that coal miners like a game of poker and that this may be one reason for their joining the Territorial Army as it sometimes provides an opportunity for playing poker. I have heard of many good reasons, such as the opportunities for officers and men to attend convivial gatherings at different times, but poker as a reason is a new one to me. My hon. Friend's remarks were interesting, and we shall look forward to his taking part in many debates in the lifetime of this Parliament.
I want to refer to the rather more correct history of the proposals put before the House than that in some of the versions to which we have listened. I also want to place on record thanks to members of the Territorial Association who have been assisting us in recent months in some of the many detailed discussions we have had at various levels to get agreement on the type of force which should be set up, the administration, training days and matters of that kind. Members of the Association have been very helpful.
The Joint Working Party a week or two ago produced a tie and I am very pleased to be wearing one tonight. The heraldic description runs:Sanguine over the letters T.A., a hatchet and carver in saltire, or.That means, poised over the initials T.A. on a red background. Unfortunately this has perpetuated one of the myths which have been mentioned. The idea seems to have got around that the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, General Hackett, and the Director of Army Staff Duties, Major General Carver, are the only persons responsibile for the proposals brought before the House this evening. I want to dispel that story straight away. The responsibility for these proposals is entirely and 100 per cent. that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, myself and the other members of the Government. We were not bamboozled into them by any one set of people. These matters were considered very carefully indeed and we are convinced that the proposals we are now bringing forward are right and proper for our reserve 347 forces in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.
I myself first came into contact with the Territorial Army when I had the pleasure of being Mayor of the Borough of Acton at the time of the last reorganisation of the Territorial Army. One of the pleasant duties I had to perform was to assist in the adoption of what had previously been a regiment of artillery but which was then downgraded to a battery of artillery. I have maintained my connection with that regiment—the 254th City of London Regiment—every since.
I have come to realise from many conversations that I have had with the officers of that regiment and of other regiments that during the last five of six years the main topic of conversation in any officers' or sergeants' mess of the Territorial Army has been, "What is the future of the Territorial Army?" I see one hon. Gentleman who has had experience until recently, and I think still, of serving in a T.A. unit nodding his head in agreement with me. This has been the main topic of conversation—"What are we training for? What are we to be equipped for, because if you want us to do anything it must be made clear that we have not got the equipment to do it? What is our rôle? "These are the main things they have been asking in the Territorial Army for a long time.
I realised that T.A. officers and soldiers had a view on this. I therefore arranged in 1965—and I hope, if right hon. and hon. Members opposite will help to get the Bill through Committee and its other stages as quickly as possible, to do the same this year—to visit as many T.A. units as I possibly could during 1965. I think that I can claim that I probably visited more Territorial Army units, both their headquarters in the London area and elsewhere and at camp, than any previous occupant of my office did, no matter for what length of period they held the office.
Those visits were of considerable use to me. I also ensured—this is something else which had not been done in the past—that on those visits I was accompanied by a Territorial Army serving officer who assisted me generally. This was necessary because I was thus able to pick up points of view which I other- 348 wise might have missed as to the impressions people in the Territorial Army had.
This afternoon and this evening we have listened to several other prize versions of how these proposals came about. I want to mention what in fact the position is and how the proposals we are now debating eventually came before the House. As right hon. and hon. Members know, for two or three years before the 1964 General Election, I had been sitting on the Opposition Front Bench in what the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West called the "Defence Club" so far as the House was concerned. I had spent a considerable amount of time looking at the position of the T.A., so it was no particular surprise to me to find, on coming into office in 1964, the actual position of the Territorial Army at that time.
One hundred and ninety thousand men was the establishment, but right hon. and hon. Members opposite refused to allow them to recruit to more than 60 per cent. of that establishment, for a reason with which I am sure the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West would agree completely—a purely financial one. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite were not prepared to spend more money than it was necessary to spend to provide an actual recruiting level of 60 per cent. A purely financial and arbitrary limit was placed on it—60 per cent. of establishment. That is all the Territorial Army could go up to—for financial reasons and for no other.
In fact, the Territorial Army was only recruited on average up to 55 per cent. of establishment and for several years had not been able to reach even that arbitrary financial limit. It was perfectly obvious to any T.A. officer or soldier and to anyone connected with the Territorial Army that even that 55 per cent. figure was probably a little artificial. If one went through the units and picked out the ones who did not come along to do their quota of parades, if one examined birth certificates and medical certificates, one probably came down to considerably below 55 per cent. Whenever I went into a sergeants' mess, I was usually presented to the 66-year old sergeant who had been in the mess for 40 years. How he came to be there no one 349 quite knew, but he was on the strength. Most of I he units were still existing.
This is the reason why the Territorial Army came to be regarded as a cheap reserve army—because it was getting by on Second World War equipment. The Territorial Army would not have been cheap at all if it had been provided with modern equipment in sufficient quantities. They had, for example, Second World War radio sets with instructions in Russian stencilled on the back. These radio sets had originally been manufactured during the Second World War to be sent to Russia. They had been sent there and on the cessation of war they had been returned to this country under Lease/Lend.
Those in the Territorial Army had battledress but no combat kit. One of the main moans of Territorial Army officers and soldiers was that they were expected to use up the Army stock of battledresses and that there was no mention at all of providing them with combat kit. Most of the units of the Territorial Army were designated for home defence, the sort of rôle that we are now proposing for the Territorials, rather than the rôle for which they were actually trained. This is a fantastic waste of money to maintain 40 large regiments of artillery with 25 pounder guns, when there is no plan to use them in that rôle and when in an emergency they would put their guns in the drill hall, grease them up and take cover because they are for home defence. It is fantastic to maintain 20 regiments of yeomanry with no real rôle—simply earmarked for home defence.
Nevertheless, this was being done quite deliberately by hon. Members opposite who were responsible for the Ministry of Defence for many years, because they knew these units were not required for the purpose for which they were equipped and trained. They were in fact required for a completely different rôle. Yet with a majority of 100 in this House for five years, they refused to grasp the nettle of reorganising the reserve forces of this country because politically they knew that it would cause quite a row, as indeed, it has caused quite a row, in the last 12 months.
No one would have dared to prophesy after the election of 1964 that the narrowest majority in this House that a Labour Government would have would 350 be on a vote concerning the Territorial Army. Hon. Members opposite, with a majority of 100, funked the job of reorganising the Territorial Army because they knew that a row would break out and they knew that there were hon. Members on the benches opposite with honourable records in the Territorial Army who would kick over the traces if the Government decided to do anything which was not to their liking. At last we decided there was a nettle to be grasped.
In November 1964, before the Defence Review was announced, before my right hon. Friend decided on the defence expenditure, the then Deputy Secretary of State and Minister of Defence for the Army asked me to look at the question of the Territorial Army and try to find out what reorganisation would be beneficial to give us efficient reserves. We knew that the present system was not efficient. I must stress this because people seem to think that the plan that we have brought forward is the only one that we have ever looked at. We looked at many alternatives in the following two or three months. We looked at the question of further amalgamations of the units. We considered whether we should cut battalions to companies, and cut regiments to batteries and squadrons. We considered whether it would be desirable to raise battalion group types of units stationed in various parts of the country. We looked closely at the idea, which hon. Members opposite are now proposing, of having a two-tier system, with one company for reserve for the Regular Army and another in a battalion for home defence, or rotating the battalions so that one battalion would have one or two years as a reserve battalion with the Regular Army and then three or four years in a home defence rôle.
We considered all these different methods of reorganising the reserve forces. In many cases we found that the overhead costs which would arise would be far more per man at the sharp end than would be justifiable. We also found that not only would we save £17 million to £20 million by some of these methods, but that we would, in fact, he able to save up to £25 million a year if we were to reorganise the Territorial Army by one of the methods that we have suggested. But we were not trying just to save money. We realised that although we 351 could probably save £25 million in this way, none of the suggestions I have just mentioned would have given us the reserve units that we require to meet the commitments which the Regular Army might have to meet at any particular stage.
So far as those commitments are concerned, I must make it clear that at that time and now, with the order of battle which we have put forward in the White Paper, the commitments for which we are providing are without any alteration at all—commitments approved by the General Staff and by Ministers in the years 1957–1963. The commitments were approved by the Government of which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, was one of the Ministers—a Government, a few of the members of which are left on the Front Bench opposite, who were instrumental in approving those commitments.
A few minor alterations have been made so far as the Reserve Army units are concerned, but basically we drew up an order of battle which will give us the units needed to meet the commitments inherited from right hon. Members opposite, plus the units which would be required for new commitments which we have accepted to provide logistic forces for six battalions of a United Nations force if asked, and plus a certain number of units, not for the unforeseen—that is the wrong way to put it—but for such other possible commitments which were not deliberately provided for but which might in the event prove necessary to meet by the provision of troops.
We did not want to make an announcement about the reorganisation we were planning, of course, until the investigations on home defence which were running parallel with it, in which the Home Office is vitally concerned, were completed and the outcome was ready to be announced, but, unfortunately, things kept overtaking us. There were Questions in the House. There were articles in the newspapers. The Bow Group published a pamphlet, and the T.A. Associations themselves published a pamphlet.
Pressure built up and, eventually, we made the announcement on 29th July before the investigation into home defence had been completed. There was, in fact no change of mind on this matter on the 352 part of the Government, and, in fact, from July to December no decision had been taken on home defence. There was a lot of pressure on us in regard to home defence. I am not able to say how much that might have influenced the minds of the individual people dealing with it, but the fact was that no decision on home defence was taken till January of this year, and the announcement was made in February.
That is the way in which we went about the job, and I believe that in the proposals we now put before the House we have provided for the units which are required, and we can provide them much better equipped and more easily available, while saving in total about £17 million at the same time. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) asked whether the Reserves we are now providing for were large enough. It follows from what I have been saying the last ten minutes that these Reserves are large enough for the commitments which right hon. Members opposite approved and the additional commitments which we have added so far as the United Nations is concerned, less the minor reductions which have been made in the requirement for Reserve forces as a result of the Defence Review.
It has been said already that the Regular Army Reserve, because of legislation passed by right hon. and hon. Members opposite a few years ago, is gradually building up. The build-up of the Regular Army Reserve will go on at the same time as the run-down of the volunteer reserve forces, and we shall have the units we require to meet our commitments both at home and overseas.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked whether the conditions of service would attract. I believe that the conditions of service of the A.V.R. will attract reserves in sufficient numbers. The only way one can, as it were, compare this is by taking the type of liability and type of bounty in the A.E.R.I units, which are recruiting up to 80 per cent. The Territorial Army, on the other hand, has in the past been recruiting up to only 55 per cent. I think, therefore, that the terms and conditions of service in the A.V.R.II will attract recruits to it.
As regards home defence units, I think that in the initial stages we shall have no trouble there in filling the vacancies. 353 However, in the long-term, the main source of recruitment for home defence units will be people who have joined A.V.R. units and then, because they have got promotion in their job, because they have got married, or for some other personal reason, find they are not able to accept that liability and will welcome transfer to a home defence unit with lower liability. I think that there is more likely to be movement in that direction rather than of people going directly into home defence units. I think that any young man who wants to be a weekend soldier is far more likely to join a unit with the bigger training liability and with modern equipment than he is to join a home defence unit. Therefore, as I say, I think that there will be movement from the A.V.R. type of unit to the home defence unit, although one hopes that movement will take place in both directions to meet the changing circumstances of the individual.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman's third main point was on equipment. He wanted to know what equipment the artillery regiments would have. The medium regiments will have the 5.5 towed howitzer the same as the Regular Army, and the air defence units will have the L.40/70. Full supplies of both radio sets and guns will be available to meet units' full requirements, hut, in fact, they will he only issued to drill halls only in the numbers required for training, the reason being that these items of equipment have to be maintained and this does require a certain amount of expert assistance.
I was asked about the number of women who would be able to join as W.R.A.C.s in the reorganised Reserve Army. In the home defence units there will be 250 places specifically for W.R.A.C. volunteers. There will be another 700 vacancies for which we are quite prepared to accept W.R.A.C.s, but they will not be exclusively reserved for them; in other words, these vacancies could be filled by men or women. In T. and A.V.R.I and II there will be 400 vacancies for individual W.R.A.C.s. That makes a total of about 1,350 or 1,400 vacancies for women in the reorganised force.
I was asked whether the secretariats will coincide with Army districts and Civil Defence areas. The reorganisation of the Reserve Army will have an effect 354 on Army districts, but so far as possible—we are looking at this with the associations—we hope that the reorganised Army districts will coincide with the reorganised secretariat areas and, as far as possible, also with the Civil Defence areas.
The main point made by several right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite concerned the argument that one had to link together in some form the home defence units and the A.V.R. units. I find it exceedingly difficult to accept this argument. These two types of unit will have two completely different rôles. They will need, to a considerable extent, different training—more extensive training on the one hand. They will have two different rôles. In a situation where a home defence unit had to be used in its primary rôle—for home defence—it is almost certain that the A.V.R. unit, if it happened to be based in the same drill hall, would already have been mobilised and would already have gone across to the Continent.
So we do not accept that it is possible to have in one unit elements of the two different formations with two completely different rôles. We thought that there must be two separate units with their own chains of command. They will have to operate completely separately. We did not think it possible to have two chains of command, one for peace time and one springing into operation as soon as an emergency was declared.
But many of these units—home defence and A.V.R.—will be sharing drill halls. In other cases they will have their own drill halls, but probably be close to each other. We want the maximum co-operation between home defence units and A.V.R. units where possible. We want to make it as easy as possible for a man whose circumstances change to transfer from one type of unit to another. I think that this can be arranged between commanding officers and units without setting up an artificial unit which would never go into action as a unit.
Complaints are made about equipment for home defence units. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said in moving the Second Reading, their primary rôle is to support the police in the maintenance of law and order after a nuclear onslaught, and they will be available, if required, to give aid to the civil power. If there were landings in this country, we should not tell them to go home to 355 bed. We should tell them to do something to assist in repelling the landing. But this is not one of their primary rôles. Their primary rôle is to aid the police. As to equipment, they will have one Land Rover per company.
But hon. Gentlemen should realise what the circumstances in this country would be if we had to bring such forces into operation. It would be in the event of the possible outbreak of a nuclear war in Europe. Hon. Members will realise that one thing that we are not short of in this country is motor vehicles. Indeed, we have 9 million or 10 million of them. Plenty of vehicles will be available to make the home defence units mobile within the 50–60 mile area of the drill hall, which will generally be the area in which we think they would operate. One of the problems will be not the motor vehicles but the petrol with which to run them in that situation. We think that for administrative purposes they need a vehicle. Normally, in the event of such a need, there will be plenty of vehicles available which we can commandeer or requisition in order to make the units operational.
The hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) urged that we should make it compulsory for volunteers to tell their employers. We have looked into this carefully. We have consulted the T.U.C. and the new Confederation of British Industry. We came to the conclusion that there were many administrative difficulties about this, and that it would in any case be an infringement of the liberty of the individual to insist that he did something of this kind. But, with the number of people who change their employment, rapidly in some parts of the country and in some of our units, it would be almost impossible to keep track of whether they had told their employers that they had this liability. But we hope that individual volunteers—officers and soldiers—will tell their employers of the liability which they have voluntarily accepted.
I was asked whether our proposals have been discussed with N.A.T.O. We have not discussed them with N.A.T.O., but we informed SACEUR and N.A.T.O. on the morning of 29th July when the announcement was made by my right hon. Friend in the House. We explained what would be done and said that it 356 would enable us to meet our commitments much better than with the present organisation of the Territorial Army.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) referred again to his pet hobby horse—putting British soldiers under United Nations control. This is something which can happen with any Army unit. We have them in Cyprus. It could happen with a reserve unit. In my view, if the United Nations is to mean anything, this is probably something which will happen increasingly over the years to come. I do not envisage a great deal of difficulty about it.
The right hon. Members for Thirsk and Malton and Wolverhampton, South-West referred to the fact that there was no limit on the period for which individuals could be called up. We proposed in the statement made on 29th July—and this was quickly taken up by the Territorial Army associations—to continue the 12 months limit which at present applies to A.E.R.I volunteers. But the Territorial Army associations said that they felt that this would give the impression that we were asking people to undertake in T. & A.V.R.II a greater liability to serve for 12 months than the Ever-readies, who get more money and have a liability to serve for six months. It was on their advice that we proposed to get rid of the 12 months limitation and have no limit at all.
We have considered this matter in some detail. I am prepared to consider it in Committee if hon. Members think that it would be of advantage. But the advice on which we have acted in making the decision is not to have such a limitation.
The hon. Member for Dorset, North referred to the fact that there are no details of the reorganisation in the Bill. It is possible, as right hon. Members opposite found out, to reorganise the Territorial Army without having any legislation. They did it without introducing legislation.
I was asked whether the Territorial Army Reserve of officers would continue. It will continue for the time being under Clause 23(3), but in future new commissions will go as land force commissions so that people, when they give up being active members of the Reserve Army, 357 will go on the Regular Army Reserve of officers, in the same way as the holder of a land force commission.
On recruiting, we are making arrangements to counteract the disappearance of a large number of Territorial Army centres. But there is a converse argument. It can be argued that people who think of joining the Army would not consider it a good thing to see men in battledress- with .303 rifles driving 15year-old vehicles. There are two sides to this argument, and I should not like to plump in favour of one side or the other.
The main point which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West made was that we should maintain a large citizen army because we could not he sure whether we should not at some time require Territorial Army divisions to train on Salisbury Plain for three months and be taken to France to fight in a Continental war. At present, among the 86 battalions of infantry in the Territorial Army there are not any mobilisation packs available which help them to do that. The vast majority of mobilisation packs are home defence mobilisation packs provided by right hon. and hon. Members opposite and not by the present Government, who have been in office for only a comparatively short time. The vast majority of the 46 regiments of artillery have only 15 per cent. of the radio sets which are required to enable them to operate effectively. There are no radio sets in stock to bring them up to the required percentage in the event of embodiment.
As I said at the meeting in Taunton, there is this shortage of equipment in the Territorial Army. I did not condemn right hon. and hon. Members opposite for it because we knew that these units would never use that equipment. It is scheduled for home defence. Obviously right hon. and hon. Members opposite did not waste large sums of money in equipping units for a rôle which they knew they would never be asked to undertake. If the right hon. 358 Member is serious on this, to equip half the present Territorial Army up to operational standards would cost £189 million and would take many years of productive effort. If it was to mean anything, we should have to double or treble the size of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy to give it support and to make it operational.
Our proposals will give us the Reserve Army which we need, and I hope that the House will accept them.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingy read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).