HC Deb 22 November 1955 vol 546 cc1241-3
13. Mr. F. Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for War what new tasks he has assigned to units of the Territorial Army in Wiltshire.

Mr. F. Maclean

As my right hon. Friend explained at Question Time last Tuesday, our plans for the reorganisation of the Territorial Army are not yet complete and I cannot, therefore, give any details.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is the Minister aware that the present state of uncertainty is extremely demoralising to these people, who want to know what tasks they are being used for? Will not he make up his mind to tell the Territorial Army whether or not the Government intend that it should continue to exist? If it is not to do so, what are these men going to do?

Mr. Maclean

My right hon. Friend consulted the Territorial Army Council only last week and told them as much as he was able to do. It would do more harm than good to make a statement now which did not go into detail.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Are we to understand from the Minister twat a statement has been made to a public body outside this House, concerning an important matter of Government policy about which we have not been told? How can he justify that?

Mr. Maclean

It was discussed with them.

36. Mr. Grimond

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement on the future of the Territorial Army and his discussions with the Council of Territorial Army Associations.

Mr. Head

I had a very helpful discussion with the Council of Territorial Army Associations. As I promised in the House last Tuesday, I will make a statement at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Grimond

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a statement about the Territorial Army was promised before the defence debate? Certain information has been given which has had a rather disturbing effect on the Territorial Army, which is worried about the short time it will have an intake of National Service men. Should not an absolutely clear statement on its rôle and function be made as soon as possible?

Mr. Head

I wish to make a statement on this subject at the very earliest opportunity. I am very well aware of what the Territorial Army feels. I think that the hon. Member is wrong in saying that a statement was promised before the defence debate. My recollection is that that is not so, nor could such a statement have been made. I believe that both the T.A. and the House will agree that to make what might prove to be a half-baked, partial statement would be worse than to make no statement, and my intention is to make the full statement at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it the Minister's intention to make a statement on this and cognate matters before the Service Estimates are due for discussion some time next year? Although the T.A. Associations have rendered very valuable service in the past, in view of modern Service conditions will the right hon. Gentleman pay rather less attention to those bodies than to military experts of capacity?

Mr. Head

In answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, the answer is "Yes, Sir," quite definitely before the Service Estimates—and, I hope, much sooner. In regard to the second part, I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the ideal is that there should be the closest contact and exchange of views between all experts and the T.A. Associations on this subject. I believe that without the administrative help, the local prestige and the work done by the T.A. Associations we should find immense difficulties and would need greater staffs to do the work.

Mr. L. M. Lever

Will the Minister give an assurance that the troubles which occurred in Territorial Army camps in the summer will not recur, and will his Department take every step—

Mr. Speaker

I think that that arises on a Question which we have passed.

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