HC Deb 25 May 1954 vol 528 cc197-8
29. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for War what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for the Colonies regarding the formation of colonial battalions for the coming year 1954–55.

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

There is frequent discussion between the War Office and the Colonial Office about the various problems arising from the defence of Colonial Territories, including the organisation of colonial forces.

Mr. Johnson

Is the Minister aware that the Secretary of State for War, in both last year's and this year's debates on the Army Estimates, talked of raising 19 battalions in the three-year cycle 1952–55, and that, so far, only four have been raised? Is he aware that both Nigeria and Gold Coast wish to have armed forces, and what is he doing about it? Are the words used in these annual Estimates debates meaningless?

Mr. Hutchison

As regards what has been done about it, may I give the hon. Gentleman this information? My right hon. Friend is most anxious to see the building up of local forces in the Colonies, and, as he announced in the debate on the Army Estimates last year, some five equivalent battalions had then been formed. Progress in the formation of a further eight equivalent battalions has unfortunately had to be retarded, primarily for reasons of economy in defence expenditure in the Federation of Malaya, but a further battalion is now forming, and further units, about three battalions in strength, are likely to start forming by April, 1955. The volunteer units to be formed, equivalent in strength to some six battalions, are now being built up gradually, and all the new units of the Singapore military forces are at cadre strength, or better.