Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £15,990,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the Reserve Forces (to a number not exceeding 387,000, all ranks, including a number not exceeding 375,000 other ranks), Territorial Army (to a number not exceeding 274,800, all ranks), Cadet Forces and Malta Territorial Force, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1959.
§ Mr. Strachey rose—
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
On a point of order. May I draw your attention, Sir Norman, to the inclement weather prevailing on the back benches behind me? There is a Force 5 gale blowing up there. Can you do anything about it?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Norman Hulbert)
I will endeavour to help the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Strachey
I wish to ask one question on this Vote about the Mobile Defence Corps, which is part of the Army Emergency Reserve. I should like to hear a little about its present state. What is the present state of the first six battalions? To what extent is it a purely paper organisation? To what extent are there cadres of full-time serving soldiers? To what extent are National Service men being used in it? The great number, of course, are ex-National Service men, who are not, as I understand it, to do any part-time service. Therefore, it seems that it is a registry of names. I think the Committee will be interested to know about that.
Secondly, what is to happen to this corps after the abolition of National Service? Then, the great pool of ex-National Service men, which makes up its numbers today, will not be available. It will take some time, of course, but 688 after, let us say, 1965 or some date of that sort, they will be rapidly disappearing. What are the long-term plans for the Mobile Defence Corps? Is it that the Territorial Army will entirely undertake the civil defence functions of the Mobile Defence Corps, and will it be amalgamated with the Territorial Army? What are the long-term plans for it, because they will surely profoundly affect the abolition of National Service?
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Amery
The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to give me notice that he would question me on the subject of the Mobile Defence Corps, and I must therefore apologise in advance if my reply is not as full, detailed and informative as he might wish.
Last year, we concentrated in the War Office on the reorganisation of the active Army and the Committee is familiar with the results of what we then did. We have now turned our thoughts more especially to the problem of the Reserve Army, but our studies on this matter are not yet complete. However, there are one or two things which I want to say about the Mobile Defence Corps, both about the main problem which it has to face and about its rôle.
Like the Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve, the Mobile Defence Corps consists partly of volunteers and partly of National Service men. The National Service element is, of course, very much the larger proportion. With the ending of National Service, the Mobile Defence Corps will lose, as indeed the other two sections of the Reserve Army will lose, one means of replenishing its numbers and will then, therefore have to rely increasingly on a purely volunteer element.
The Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve have a long tradition, and their volunteer cadre is quite strong. The problem with the Mobile Defence Corps, this comparatively young organisation, is very much greater, and that has to be faced.
The rôle of the Mobile Defence Corps is the other matter to which I wish to refer. It is extremely difficult to envisage the shape of home defence if we should ever have the emergency of a global war, but two extreme aspects of the home defence problem can be discerned. On 689 the one side there would be active fighting—defence against invasion, against parachutists and saboteurs and the performance of garrison duties at ports and other essential installations. Those would be the natural rôle of the Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve. At the other extreme there would be civil defence in its more localised form, that is to say, local elements carrying out rescue work in their own or neighbouring communities.
Between those two extremes, there would be many intermediate tasks. Some of those we can foresee and some we cannot, but it seems clear that there will be a need for mobile defence units which could be moved rapidly to emergency areas to reinforce the efforts of local organisations.
My conclusion, therefore, is that although the M.D.C. will face serious problems with manpower, its role is necessary to any adequate organisation of home defence. As I said earlier, however, we are not yet in a position to say how we hope to overcome the manpower shortage, nor to explain exactly the relationship which we foresee between the Territorial Army, the Mobile Defence Corps, and the civil defence organisations generally.
§ Mr. Mellish
I want to give the Under-Secretary a chance to say some nice things about Malta, whose Prime Minister, Mr. Dom Mintoff, is here negotiating with the Colonial Secretary on the problems of that great country. I wonder whether the Under-Secretary wants to say something about Malta's Territorial Force, which this Vote covers, and whether we have achieved the numbers we want.
§ Mr. Amery
I am very glad that the hon. Member has given me this opportunity. As he knows, I was a member of the Round Table Conference, and I have for many years been a personal friend of Mr. Mintoff, whose friendship I greatly value. I was in Malta last September, and I saw units of the Royal Malta Artillery and of the Territorial Force in Malta. They seemed to be in very good heart, and I am very glad of the opportunity to be able to pay tribute to them.
§ Question put and agreed to.690
That a sum, not exceeding £15,990,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the Reserve Forces (to a number not exceeding 387,000, all ranks, including a number not exceeding 375,000 other ranks), Territorial Army (to a number not exceeding 274,800, all ranks), Cadet Forces and Malta Territorial Force, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1959.