HC Deb 09 December 1963 vol 686 cc124-61

Order for Second Reading read.

8.10 p.m.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. James Ramsden)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill deals with the reserves necessary for all three Services. It is the second one about the reserves which I have helped to bring before the House. The main feature of the last one was that we had to ask for powers to extend some people's term of National Service by a further six months, and to provide for the call-out in a state of international tension of part-time National Service men. It was a necessary Measure at the time, but no one liked it. I hope that the House will find this Bill, as I do, much more palatable. It is certainly indispensable both in its short- and long-term results.

Part of the Bill is the direct descendant of the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves Act which the House passed in 1954 and renewed as recently as 1959. During this period, there have been important changes both in our own defence policy and in the world situation. In particular, the Government have re-established the traditional British institution of an all-Regular Army, long-service, volunteer, and professional. These changes are the prelude to what we are proposing in this Bill.

In November, 1961, the then Secretary of State told the House that the War Office was carrying out a review of the reserves. This was a natural consequence of the decision to end National Service, because a considerable part of the reserves were, and, indeed, still are. National Service men doing their part-time service or discharging their liability in the Army General Reserve. In the course of this review we have had to consider the consequences of the gradual drying up of the National Service element in our reserves. We have also had to study what sized reserve is required to support the Regular Army and what numbers of men the Regular Army will produce for service with the reserve.

I ought to apologise in advance in case my speech appears to be over-weighted with the Army aspect of these questions. The fact is that, this is a Bill about manpower, and it is an axiom that manpower problems bulk larger in the affairs of the Army than in those of the other two Services. There is some truth in the aphorism that, in the last resort, the Army equips men, whereas the other two Services man equipment: hence my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend have been prepared to leave the introduction of the Bill to me.

Before I come to details of the Bill, I would like, if I may, to give the House a general picture of the reserves of today. It may help hon. Members to get clear the fairly complicated structure of our reserves if I draw attention to three separate sets of distinctions which run through all thinking on reserves; first, between limited war and general war, secondly, between pre-Proclamation and post-Proclamation reserves and, thirdly, between reserves providing individual reinforcements and those who go to their duty in formed reserve units.

For limited war we rely on the pre-Proclamation reserves to reinforce the Regular Army. Reservists used as individuals supplement the peace establishments of Regular Army units and bring them up to war strength. The reserve units are mainly those which have no counterpart in the Regular Army. They tend to be specialist in character, managing the operations of ports and railways, and so on. Once a Proclamation becomes justified, the post-Proclamation reserves become available to put B.A.O.R. on a war footing and to provide for the home defence of this country; they would also, in part, provide individual reinforcements and, in part, complete units.

This is the broad framework. Let me now briefly remind the House of the categories of reserves available within this framework, and how we plan to use them.

Beginning, then, with the Regular Reserve, we have Section A. This consists, in the main, of men who have just left the colours. At present, they do a year's compulsory service in Section A, although many volunteer to stay on for longer. Their number fluctuates from year to year, depending on how many men leave the colours and how many volunteer for additional service.

Their role, broadly speaking, is to enable the Strategic Reserve and the theatre reserves concerned to be brought up to war strength. This is the logical use of these men because, in the event of limited war, these are fully trained men who can be made available in a hurry, and without a proclamation. They would go where they belong as individuals, and would quite easily fit back into the sort of Regular units of which they themselves had recently formed a part.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

As there are not many hon. Members present, I wonder whether it would be convenient for the Minister if, as he goes along, I asked the questions that would, in any case, arise. That would enable me to avoid making another speech, which I do not want to make and would, at the same time, clear up these points.

For example, under Section A, I shall not ask the right hon. Gentleman the number—I can understand his not wanting to give us that—but, as I understand, there is a ceiling of 30,000 which I would have thought to be quite unrealistic, Is that a statutory ceiling, or does the Minister fix it up by Regulation? The question is: is there a ceiling? If there is, what is it, and what is the authority for it?

Mr. Ramsden

I speak subject to correction—and if I need to be corrected, my hon. Friend will do so when he replies—but I think that the hon. Member will understand if I describe the ceiling as a sort of Vote A figure. It is a figure given to guide the House as to the order of magnitude of the reserve in question, while respecting what hon. Members accept in general, and as the hon. Gentleman has accepted, that it would be prejudicial to give the actual strengths.

Mr. Wigg

This is what puzzles me. As far as I can understand it, there is no ceiling to Section B.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but we are on the Second Reading of the Bill, and we really cannot carry on our proceedings as though the House were in Committee. I do not mind one or two questions, but continual interruptions are disorderly on Second Reading.

Mr. Wigg

I do not want to make continual interruptions, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but the right hon. Gentleman's statements are not intelligible unless one has the answers to these questions. I thought that it would be for his convenience—certainly for mine and, perhaps, for the rest of the House—if we cleared up the ceilings, and the authorities for them, as and when they arose. But if it is the only way to do it, I will wait until you call me. I will then have to go through these items, but we shall then be in exactly the same predicament as we are in now.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am governed by what are the rules of the House.

Mr. Ramsden

I shall certainly try to assist the hon. Gentleman as far as I can as we go along. The only figure I have is 50,000 for the Regular Reserve, and that includes Sections A, B and D. I believe that my description of it as, so to speak, a Vote A figure of a ceiling, to give the House a broad indication of magnitude, is a correct one.

From Section A, then, come individuals to make up the strength of the limited war force. Sections B and D, the other main components of the Regular Reserve—in general, men who have passed through Section A—also go to war as individuals, but a proclamation is needed to recall them. We plan to make extensive use of them in emergency to go to Europe to reinforce B.A.O.R. This, again, is a logical use of manpower on the reasonable assumption that the sort of situation in which we would want to use them would justify the making of a proclamation.

Those, then, are the regular reserves, and I now come to say a word about the Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve. The present rôle and organisation of the T.A. is, I think, well understood by both them and by the House, and it is not affected by anything we are proposing to do in the Bill. But, in trying to present to the House a picture of the reserves position, I must, as it were, paint in the background which is provided for us and for the Regular Army by the existence of the T.A. and, indeed, of the A.E.R. which is the unique and invaluable background.

The T.A. has a distinguished record in war and in peace. Among its many virtues it has the invaluable one of flexibility. It undertakes, in fact, several rôles. It makes an indispensable contribution to our reinforcement plans for B.A.O.R., and also provides the framework within which we would mobilise, in extreme emergency, the land forces required for the home defence of this country.

The T.A. has also been able and willing to provide from within its ranks what is in effect the most readily available of all the reserves we have. I mean the T.A.E.R.—the "Ever-readies." The House has given the Secretary of State power to call them out for service anywhere without any limitations if he considers the circumstances warrant it.

When they were first started, there was a disposition in some quarters to regard them as window-dressing. I therefore wish to make clear, first, that this is a reserve of first-class military value; secondly, that its value looks like getting greater, rather than less, in the future; and thirdly, that great credit is due to my predecessor for the part he played in setting up this reserve.

Next, a word about the Army Emergency Reserve. This is divided into two parts, of which one has a pre-proclamation and the other a post-proclamation liability. The A.E.R., in the main, consists of formed units. In both parts, the units are of a specialist and administrative nature which are not maintained in the Regular Army in peace time and which, because of their specialist character, could not be raised on a local basis in the Territorial Army. The pre-proclamation part of the Army Emergency Reserve is part of the limited war order of battle. The post-proclamation part is designed to reinforce B.A.O.R. and the forces required for Home Defence in the United Kingdom. In an emergency, we should lean very heavily upon these specialist units whose spirit and enthusiasm are of a very high order.

Finally, the Army General Reserve, which brings me on to Clause 1 of the Bill. First of all, what is the Army General Reserve for? We need them primarily for the reinforcement of the Territorial Army in a grave emergency, though some, mainly medical orderlies, drivers and clerks, would be required for B.A.O.R. What sort of people are they? There are over 1 million of them and they are all those who have been through National Service, whole and part-time or voluntary service in lieu, and are not yet 45 years of age.

The Army General Reserve, in its present form, is the direct product of National Service. The number available in it, over 1 million, as I have said, bears no relationship to any precise requirement but merely represents the number of men who have been through the National Service mill. This figure is more than is required. There will, however, still be a requirement for a substantial number of men who have had military training, primarily for the reinforcement of the Territorial Army for home defence.

Clause 1 of the Bill makes a change in the pattern of existing legislation by extending the 1954 Act for a further five years, but—and this is the point—we are confining its application to those who completed their liability under the National Service Act, 1948, after 31st December, 1962. The effect of this will be to release 1½ million men of all three Services from their liability. This will leave in, roughly speaking, trained men of about 25 years of age, and their numbers will be topped up until 1966 by other men of about this age as they, in trun, come to the end of their National Service liability.

Over the five years 1964 to 1969, this Clause will produce a reserve which builds up to about 185,000 men of which 25,000 are naval reservists. The form of extension we are proposing also makes liable some 34,000 R.A.F. Class G reservists.

Here, I ought diffidently to say a word about the Navy's problem, which is rather different from that of the Army. Its requirements are much smaller. Its reservists liable under the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves Act, 1954, are held in the Royal Naval Special Reserve, the Navy's equivalent of the Army General Reserve. In a grave emergency, these men would be used chiefly to maintain the capability to man the ships in the Reserve Fleet and to replace men who, on mobilisation, would be transferred from shore establishments to seagoing ships.

This requirement is expected to be met in time from the Royal Fleet Reserve—the Navy's Regular Reserve—and from the Royal Naval Reserve—the Volunteer Reserve—but during the late 1960s the strength of the Royal Fleet Reserve will decline because of a short gap between the last of the men who entered it on special service engagement completing their time in the R.F.R. and the first of the men on the long service and reserve engagement entering the R.F.R.

Those now serving with the Royal Fleet Reserve will be encouraged to sign on for a further period with the reserve, but we considered it essential that the Navy should be in a position to call upon the Royal Naval Special Reserve until 1969, by which time the Royal Fleet Reserve will be built up to full strength again. My noble Friend is satisfied that, after 1970, the Navy will be able to meet foreseeable commitments in any emergency by calling on the R.F.R. or R.N.R. and on pensioners, as necessary.

To sum up, the form of extension of the 1954 Act proposed in the Bill will have the effect of releasing 1½ million men from this liability. The men will be released with effect from the date of Royal Assent. The remaining numbers are absolutely essential to our mobilisation plans, and I must make it clear that, to meet our requirements, there is no alternative to asking the House to extend the 1954 Act. This, of course, poses the question of what will happen after 1969 when the extension of the Act runs out, producing much the same situation as we have now if the operational requirements continue the same.

I shall have more to say later about possible means of filling the gap which will develop, but one in particular I wish to deal with now because it is the subject of Clause 2. I should make clear at this point that Clause 2 applies only to the Army. The problem we shall have to face is the disappearance of the Army General Reserve, unless the Act is extended yet again in 1969.

The House will have observed that the general characteristic of these Army general reservists is that they have all had basic military training and a period of service in the Armed Forces such as leaves them fit, even when they become older men and even after some years out of touch with Service life, to take their place in various sorts of units, mainly those with a home defence rôle.

Where are such men to be found, when the ex-National Service men have become too old? The answer can only be from those who have done service with the Regular Army, who should have completed their colour and reserve service and who will still be young enough to meet this particular requirement, really because—and this is the important thing—it will still come as second nature to them to form part, once again, of a disciplined force under orders.

It seems to us sound that the potential source of manpower which lies in these ex-Regulars should be at the disposal of the country in time of need, and in Clause 2 we provide for the creation of a long-term reserve of ex-Regular soldiers which will give effect to this intention.

There are one or two points of detail in connection with Clause 2 which I should mention. First, and most important, the Clause applies only to men enlisting after the Bill comes into force. Secondly, there is a point in connection with this long-term reserve which I should stress. I do not believe that the new liability it represents will be of such a nature as to discourage a man from joining the Army. The sort of situation in which this category of the reserve might be used is one in which, I believe, every man would wish to place his services at the disposal of the country. The existence of this reserve will enable us, in such a situation, to make the best use of those men who, by virtue of military training in earlier life, represent some of the most valuable elements of the nation's manpower in an emergency.

What about the position in 1969, when this extension of the Army General Reserve has come to an end, and before the build-up of the long-term reserve—that is the Clause 2 reserve—has had a chance to take effect? This is an Army problem and does not bother the other two Services. In dealing with a period of five, or even 10, years ahead, I do not believe that the House would wish to tie me to announcing any clear-cut plans, but rather that I should indicate what means there would be open to us for dealing with the situation.

In the first place, much will depend on the military needs of the time and the House will appreciate that these are not easy to forecast five or 10 years ahead. It would be quite reasonable to propose a further extension of the Army General Reserve in 1969. The trained men would still be available in sufficient numbers and their ages would be between 28 and 31, which the House has already endorsed as being a reasonable proposition.

It would also be open to us to make use of volunteer elements of the reserve Army, for example, by further recruiting to the Territorial Army, which is recruiting well at the moment. Thus there would be means for dealing with the situation and these will need to be considered more carefully nearer the time when the Army's requirement can be more accurately predicted.

I come now to Clause 3 of the Bill, which affects both the Army and the R.A.F. I explained earlier that Section A of the Army Regular Reserve are the people who are immediately available without a proclamation and who comprise the most recently trained Regular Reserve manpower. The legal basis of this Reserve is an existing provision in the Army and Air Force Reserves Act, 1950, under which a man can be designated when he finishes the active part of his engagement for a special liability during the first year of his reserve service. He undertakes to accept this liability as part of the conditions under which he enlists.

In practice, we also accept volunteers for this reserve from Regular reservists, and these together with men in the year of their designation, form the most important and valuable source of trained manpower we have. In the Clause we are asking for powers to designate for periods not exceeding three years as against the present one. This will, of course, apply only to men enlisting after the Bill comes into effect. We did not feel that it would be right to alter the terms of service of men who had already enlisted.

Mr. Wigg

Do the rates of pay shown in Section A of Appendix III of the Army Estimates for 1963–64 apply to all men designated or only to those who volunteer?

Mr. Ramsden

There is one rate of pay for those in Section A and a lower rate of pay for those in Section B.

Mr. Wigg

Do the rates in Section A apply to all the men in Section A?

Mr. Ramsden

As I understand it, yes.

I was saying that, in practice, we also accept volunteers for this reserve from Regular reservists. I had made the point that clearly it would not have been right to alter the terms of service of men who had already enlisted and that this Clause would therefore apply, if the House accepted it, to future enlistments.

We need the powers proposed in the Bill because with the single year's term, and notwithstanding the volunteer element, the numbers in this reserve are not sufficient for our pre-proclamation needs. With this in mind, we are asking the House for powers to designate for up to three years, but, in practice, if the volunteer element continues unchanged, and if our operational commitments do not increase, I would hope that we should be able to designate men for two years only. But I think it sensible to ask the House for power to designate for three years so as to be able to deal with possible fluctuations both in the commitments of the reserve and its size.

The position in the R.A.F. is similar to that of the Army, except that in certain trades it will probably be necessary to designate men for the full period of three years. I should add that both for the Army and the Royal Air Force this proposal does not represent any addition in time to a man's reserve service. He will merely spend more time in one category and less in another than at present and he will, of course, get the appropriate pay for the more immediate liability to recall which he assumes by the change.

Mr. Wigg

Surely that is not quite right. In the case of a Regular soldier now, once he has joined the Army he is under a liability until he is 45. Under the provisions of the General Reserve, if he is 18 when he joins, the Army has him now until he is 27 years.

Mr. Ramsden

I am speaking about the liability under Clause 3.

Mr. Wigg

I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon.

Mr. Ramsden

The hon. Member may not have quite understood that the point he is now on is dealt with in Clause 2. The proposal in Clause 2 does not represent an increase in a man's reserve service. We are asking the House to add to the reserve service an increase in total reserve liability. Technically, however, this is something slightly different and we can pursue this in Committee.

Mr. Wigg

I ought to raise the point on Clause 2, but I thought that the Minister was passing to Clause 3 and was saying that the Bill added no liability beyond a man's reserve service. I went back to Clause 2, because, as I understand it, it does.

Mr. Ramsden

I beg the hon. Member's pardon. Originally, I was saying that the proposal in Clause 3 does not represent any addition in time to a man's reserve service. When we pursue Clause 2 further in Committee, the hon. Member will find that neither does Clause 2, which deals with the long-term reserve, represent any addition to a man's reserve service in the technical sense of those words. That, however, is not a material point. We can pursue it in Committee.

That brings me to the end of the main provisions of the Bill. They will mean a considerable step forward in improving the position of the reserve forces. A large number of men have been released from a liability which, even if it has never had to be invoked, none the less existed. Smaller numbers will have been given other liabilities. From a military point of view, it is necessary that the House should endorse these proposals and I hope that the Bill may be given a Second Reading.

8.37 p.m.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

I should like to add to the congratulations which have been given to the new Under-Secretary of State on his appointment. I am fortified in so doing having regard to his speech a few minutes ago on the previous Order. The hon. Gentleman is a man who is highly regarded in Europe. Having only just returned from Paris, from the meeting of Western European Union, I know of the regard in which he is held there and the many offices which he has held, including that of Chairman of the General Affairs Committee. He is held in high regard also in Strasbourg.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not take it amiss from me if I quote the remarks of one of his colleagues, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark), last Tuesday in Paris, when he referred to the new office of his hon. Friend. In discussing a report by M. Bourgoin concerning the shortage of forces on the Continent, the hon. Member for Antrim, North said: …any comments which he may have made of the weakness of the British forces at present in West Germany should be quickly cured, because that very great friend of Western European Union, Mr. Peter Kirk, recently the Chairman of the General Affairs Committee, has now taken a portfolio in the War Office in London, and if anyone is likely to bring Britain's forces in Germany up to the full letter of her treaty obligations it is Mr. Kirk. With those few words, I hope that Europe will not expect too much from the Under-Secretary. A great deal has been promised of him. He is indeed, the secret weapon of the Government concerning our forces in Europe.

We frequently have an opportunity in the House of Commons to discuss the Army, but on far too infrequent occasions do we discuss solely our reserves. This discussion comes soon after the passage of the recent Army Reserve Act, and it will be of great advantage for a few moments to discuss our reserves and the position outlined by the Bill. The reserves play a vital and important role. I would not attempt an exhaustive definition of what they should do and should be capable of doing, save that they are the bodies that raise the Army from its peace-time establishment to an effective force to meet whatever commitment is required to be met. If, however, the force is to be effective, it is vital that the bodies should be there and that they should be of the type and have the requirements that are needed; and secondly, that the whereabouts of these bodies should be known.

On 31st January of last year my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) complained during the Committee stage discussions on the Army Reserve Bill that far too frequently the whereabouts of the General Reserve was not always known. He said: The General Reserve is composed of men who have completed their service with the colours and have gone through their three-and-a-half years reserve service. They are liable to recall. The general powers run out in June, 1964. There are about 800,000 of them"— obviously my hon. Friend was underestimating the number, according to the remarks of the Secretary of State today. He said—he is a sporting man— I am willing to bet a modest sum that if an attempt were made to call up those men it would be found that probably as many as 75 per cent. of them had changed their addresses."—[Official Report, 31st January, 1962; Vol. 652, c. 1224.] My hon. Friend was implying that not only had they changed their addresses but it would be exceedingly difficult to find their new addresses.

I ought perhaps, as I have done on previous occasions, to declare a minor interest in this Bill and the position of the reserves. Like others in this House, I am an ex-National Service man. Hon. Members may or may not believe it, but I have completed my Regular service and my part-time service and I think that I am right in saying—if I have read the Explanatory Memorandum correctly—that I am now on the Army General Reserve. It confirms the remark of my hon. Friend last year that I can say that for many years I have not received a billet doux from the War Office. No suggestion has been made that I should tell the War Office where I now live and, so far as I know the War Office has made no inquiry regarding my whereabouts. If I am in a position similar to that of others of this large body of 800,000 men, then, as my hon. Friend remarked, there are perhaps a large number whose addresses we do not know. This is of vital importance. If we are to have an effective reserve force we should know where to find the men in an emergency, and I should like an explanation from the Under-Secretary of State about the system of ensuring that the whereabouts of the existing reservists is known and when that system was last tested. What assurance can the hon. Gentleman give that, if it were necessary, we could discover where the reservists are. What percentage of them could he find? Was my hon. Friend far out when he said he would take a modest bet that it would be difficult to find 75 per cent. of these men?

Clause 1 of the Bill extends the 1954 Act, under which I and others were liable to serve until January, 1964, in the Army General Reserve. When this Bill becomes an Act, its provisions will apply only to those who have completed their full-time and part-time service after 31st December of this year. The Explanatory Memorandum indicates that a very large number of men will be released altogether. It states: …this will release from liability a considerable number of men to whom the Act has hitherto applied. Continuing from there, obviously the number of men on the reserve in future will be those who completed their service after 31st December of this year until the end of National Service, full-time and part-time, some day in 1966. Therefore, at the beginning this will be a very small force. It will be topped up from time to time, but after the middle of 1966 it will be static and constant and there will be no further accretion to it. The pool will have dried up with the ending of liability for part-time National Service.

The second Clause of the Bill is more controversial than the first. Here is an attempt, which will, I think, succeed, by me Government to impose an additional liability on Regular soldiers. It will apply to new Regular soldiers who enlist after the Bill comes into effect. It should be made perfectly clear to all who enlist after the Bill comes into effect that they will have this additional liability, and I want an assurance from the Under-Secretary about that. It would be very bad if the additional liability were to be imposed on men who were not aware that they were taking it on. Therefore, the matter should be made perfectly clear to them.

I do not know offhand the shortest period of Regular service that one can undertake in the Regular Forces now, but I believe that in the Guards one can do a three-year period with an additional period of part-time service after that. If that is the position, it may mean that a young man who enlists at 18 for a very short period of service, perhaps three years with an additional liability to serve on the reserve for a few years after that, will now under the Bill be liable until he is 45—for twenty-seven years in all. This would be a substantial departure from the liability which his predecessors would have imposed on themselves had they joined before the Bill came into effect. There is a very great deal of difference between a complete and overall liability for six or nine years and one which includes an additional liability to serve, if called upon, for an additional period of perhaps nineteen or twenty years. It would be quite contrary to what the Secretary of State had in mind if these people were buying a pig in a poke.

The right hon. Gentleman seemed very confident that the new additional liability would not affect recruitment. I hope he is right. If it affects recruitment it may be a very serious matter. I expected that he would be telling the House that as a quid pro quo for the additional liability there would be some additional financial inducement to the people who join the Army after the Bill comes into effect, because those who join the day before will not have the additional commitment and those who join shortly afterwards will, as I understand it, have the same financial reimbursement as their predecessors merely because they joined perhaps a day after the Bill comes into effect. Perhaps we can deal with the details at a later stage in the proceedings, but I should have thought that the Minister would have given us some indication on these lines.

There is a part of the Bill which the Secretary of State did not mention, or else I did not hear him mention it. I refer to the provision making it possible for Regular soldiers either serving now or on the Reserve also to volunteer for this liability. Therefore, there are two categories who will be affected by Clause 2—those who join after the Bill comes into force, and those now serving in some capacity who opt for the additional liability. If the Secretary of State is not attracted by my argument for giving additional financial reimbursement to those who join after the Bill comes into force, since they will have to accept an additional liability, I believe that my argument on behalf of those joining before the Bill conies into force and opting for the additional liability is very strong. What is the inducement to make them take on this additional commitment? I am surprised that the Secretary of State has not given us any indication of this. Perhaps we can return to that matter also at a later stage.

We cannot deal with the reserves mentioned in the Bill without considering the whole of the reserves available to the Army. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Territorials—who are not affected directly by the Bill—and also the "Ever-readies". When the "Ever-readies" were introduced the Secretary of State—then the Undersecretary of State—rebutted talk of "window dressing" and repeated that there were high hopes in this scheme. The object was to supplement the Regular Army where needed.

Today the present Under-Secretary of State has indicated that he dislikes targets. Indeed, we have never really known the target set for the Regular Army by successive Secretaries of State. It appears to have been a moving target, difficult to aim at. Yet with monotonous regularity Secretaries of State have been able to claim a bull's-eye. Whatever the number of recruits at any time, it has always happened to be precisely the number needed.

We should examine more closely the position of the "Ever-readies." Will the Under-Secretary of State tell us tonight what is the establishment? What proportion has this force to the Territorial Army? When pressed on the matter on 1st February last year, the former Secretary of State said: I do not want to be definite, because in this matter we have to feel our way. It is my idea that the figure should be about one-third. Mr. Profumo was referring there to the size compared with the Territorial Army. How far have we progressed in that direction? Have the Government succeeded in the aim of getting one-third "Ever-readies" to the total of the Territorial Army? The impression conveyed by Mr. Profumo was that because of the bounty offered there would be a big rush to join the "Ever-readies" and that commanding officers would face a difficult task in having to turn men away since only the very best would be taken. This was to be a crack force.

Mr. Profumo would not be tied down to any accurate figure, but he did discuss possible ceilings. Also on 1st February last year he said: Here again, I wish to be careful, because we are starting something new. But, to give the Committee an idea, may I say that I have in mind a ceiling of about 15,000…"—[Official Report, 1st February, 1962; Vol. 652, c. 1156–8.] Later on, Mr. Profumo spoke of an increase in the Emergency Reserve when he discussed the pre-proclamation reserves as a whole. The indication was that the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve should be about 15,000.

Before giving the Bill a Second Reading, the House will want to know some indication of the measure of success in raising the "Ever-readies." Stern warnings were issued by both sides of the House when the scheme was introduced about the hazards of training these men with the existing Territorial Army. How has this worked in practice?

If the scheme has not succeeded as well as expected and a ceiling has not been reached, despite all the talk of there being such a rush that only the best would be taken, perhaps we may be told whether the failure has in any way led to Clause 2of this Bill. If Clause 2 is a recognition of the limited success—or partial failure, possibly—of the ever-readies, perhaps in this way the Government are seeking to offset the deficiency by imposing an additional liability on a new class of Regulars and ex-Regulars. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will explain how the "Ever-readies" are faring.

This is an important Bill for many National Service men. It marks the end of a commitment which has not had a marked influence on our lives in recent years, but it is a step in the direction of transferring a liability which was imposed on National Service men to Regulars who have contracted to do a period of service in the Forces. Before we part with the Bill, I hope that the Secretary of State will give us a clear indication that he is satisfied that the additional liability for Regulars will not affect recruiting, which is a vital consideration. It would be tragic if we leaped from the frying pan of a commitment for National Service men into the fire of a commitment for Regulars and a consequent adverse effect on recruiting.

I cannot add anything more except to say that our reserves should be effective and adequate and at all times suitable to the task which they are required to undertake. I hope that close tabs will be kept on the other National Service men who in future will come under Clause 1 and that the War Office will always know where they are, so that if they are needed in some eventuality they can be called upon to fulfil their tasks.

9.0 p.m.

Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)

As my right hon. Friend has said, this Bill is concerned with manpower, the size of the Army and the mobilisation plan. I welcome it mainly because it draws attention to the need for reserves and to the importance both of the function of the reserves and the necessity to support them in all possible ways.

My right hon. Friend said that Section A reserves will be increased by the provisions of Clause 3. Sections B and D have already been mentioned when the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) discussed the ceiling figure, and the necessity for the other reserves is obviously dependent upon those two figures together.

Although my right hon. Friend believes that the rô1e of the reserves in general end the Territorial Army in particular is widely appreciated, that is less so than is desirable. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will reiterate the importance of the rôle of the reserves, particularly that of the Territorial Army. This is not known widely or understood as clearly as it should be, although it was set out in the White Paper of 1960. It has not changed since then, but it has not been repeated sufficiently often.

By the Bill, a wider public, particularly those affected by it and all forms of Army reservists, including those in the Territorial Army, will realise for the first time that the Territorial Army's function an a reserve for B.A.O.R. is vital and should be its first commitment. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) spoke of the "Ever-readies," but the Territorial Army still maintains its unit and territorial basis. Some of the difficulties encountered by the "Ever-ready" scheme may be partly due to its not having a territorial or unit basis. Both are vital to the Territorial Army.

If the Territorial Army is to play the rôle mentioned by my right hon. Friend, it must be much better equipped and trained. The misgivings in the Territorial Army about its own rôle, necessity and functions largely derive from the fact that its equipment and training are below the necessary standards. Hon. Members will have read an article in The Times on 23 rd October, by its defence correspondent, when he expressed doubt about the adequacy and training of the Territorial Army. This article was widely read and was taken to heart by those whose duty it is to train the Territorial Army and who feel that they do not have the equipment which they would like. I realise that my right hon. Friend will say that they will never get the equipment they would like, but I think that examination would show that they have less than an adequate amount at the moment.

If it is numerically necessary for the Territorial Army to fulfil the reserve function about which we have heard today, it will go a long way towards solving our overall manpower problem, but I do not think that it can do this unless it is trained to an adequate standard, and to reach this standard it requires more equipment than it has.

If we accept that we need this reinforcement, and if we intend the reserves to include the Territorial Army, we must, first, consider whether additional man-training days are necessary. I hope that my hon. Friend will deal with this because I do not consider that the present number of man-training days is adequate. I think that there is considerable substance in the suggestion that there is a financial aspect to this which could be overcome.

Secondly, it is urgently necessary to make available to the Territorial Army more arms, equipment, and clothing to the standard used by the Regular Army. I recognise that this cannot be done on a full unit scale, and I am not asking for that. I am asking for the standard which the Regular Army enjoys in these three things to be made available to the Territorial Army, although I understand that it will have to be less than to the full unit scale required by the Regular Army.

Thirdly, if we are to include reserves effectively in our defences, we must face the expense of using them more widely in overseas training. The attraction of overseas training to the reserve army is obviously greater than any other single item, and is of great value. This can be seen by anyone who has visited the B.A.O.R., as other hon. Members and I did recently. This applies not only to Regular reservists in the B.A.O.R., but to members of the Territorial Army, a number of whom I saw there. It was clear that, both from the point of view of the Regular Army unit to which they were attached, and from that of the men, this was an excellent training and recruiting measure.

Lastly, I refer to what my right hon. Friend said in connection with pre-proclamation and post-proclamation call-up, because I consider that the law on this matter requires examination. I know that this is a controversial point, but it appears that our pre-proclamation call-up and our post-proclamation call-up are not adequately balanced. I hope that my hon. Friend will deal with this point, too.

My hon. Friend has impressed the House with the competence, and ease with which he has taken command at the Box. I hope that he will comment on what I believe to be some urgent problems which I am glad to have had the opportunity to raise.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

When I first saw the Bill I went back to the Defence White Paper of 1962 and looked at paragraph 38. The last sentence of that paragraph says: An examination of the whole reserve system is in hand. We have had statements in debates to the same effect and I thought we should get a comprehensive Bill which would lay the foundations of reserve policy for some time ahead.

Before coming to the merits of the Bill and the comments I want to make on it, may I clear up one or two items of what I call mechanics? In trying to understand the reserve situation I am guided by the Army Estimates for 1963–64. I certainly have no complaint about Appendix III. The details are all there. I would, however, suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it would certainly help me if, in future issues, he would give the dates on which the various financial inducements were introduced. For example, I understand that the rates of reserve pay for Section A were introduced on 16th June, 1948, for Section B on 1st January, 1947, and for Section C on 1st April, 1949, and then we have the dates of the pre-proclamation payments for the A.E.R., and so on.

I shall not weary the House with the minutiae, but if the Secretary of State would be kind enough to write to me to clear up these points I should be obliged because, before we reach the Committee stage, I want to understand where we have got to. When I move to Appendix III, about which I have no complaints, and then to Vote 2, I find myself in difficulties. I went into the position and endeavoured to understand it when the previous reserves Bill came before the House. The ceiling for Section A, I understand—I got the figures from the War Office—was 30,000. If that 30,000 is included in the 80,000 mentioned on page 30 of the Estimates for 1962–63 and in the corresponding figure on page 15 of the 1963–64 Estimates, how comes it that the figure is reduced from 80,000 to 50,000?

I suppose that it must be that although no ceiling was fixed for Section B the ceiling for Section A was quite unrealistic. I shall not mention the actual strength as at the date when I got those figures, but it appears to bear no relation to the ceiling whereas in Section B there was no ceiling but the strength of Section B was many times higher than that of Section A. My difficulty is in not mentioning the actual figures, but they come to less than 80,000 and 50,000 and I wonder whether they are realistic. I understand that for security reasons they are not given and I shall understand if the Secretary of State is not able to give me an answer now.

The figure for Section D was not in these figures, but it was an entirely administrative ceiling. Why the right hon. Gentleman should want an administrative ceiling for Section D when it was miles above the actual figure for Section D, I cannot comprehend. There may be some explanation and I hope that it can be given. When we come to the A.E.R. we find that there was a ceiling for Category A of 15,000 and for Category 2A of 13,000, but when we turn to the Estimates for 1963–64 we find a ceiling on the reserve of 130,000 which, again, is quite unrealistic. I have refrained from giving the actual figures.

Mr. Ramsden

So as not to leave too much for my hon. Friend the Under-secretary to answer, I shall try to clear this up straight away. I think that the explanation lies in the breakdown between normal volunteers, which the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will find in the column under "Statement of Defence", where it is analysed, and National Service men doing their part-time liability. They go into that reserve and are responsible for greatly increasing the number over the normal number for volunteers in the reserve.

Mr. Wigg

I thought that that was the explanation. I will not press the Minister to give figures, but I rightly understand the arguments against it.

But where there are ceilings and they can be stated, may we be told what they are? Having given us all the information which he has given in Appendix III, will he give a little additional information to enable someone coming fresh to the subject after some time to understand what it is all about? Will he consider in a footnote or footnotes on Vote 2, on page 15, setting out what the ceilings are because it would enable my hon. Friends to understand the position without pressing the right hon. Gentleman to give information which it would be embarrassing to him to have to give.

Earlier this evening I was involved in a number of controversies with the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro), who drew me on the issue of selective service. My offer on this subject is plain. I will vote for a Bill for selective service which is introduced by the present Government without any hesitation at all, because, first, I know that they will not do it, and, secondly, we have a measure of selective service of the most iniquitous, the most vicious, the most incompetent and the most short sighted kind; and the Bill is another example of it.

Look what we do in the name of justice. The National Service men who were unfortunate enough to be caught up, and were required to do an additional period after they had served, are now to have an additional reserve liability. Those National Service men who did not finish their time until after 31st December, 1962, are caught. This form of selective service always imposes an extra liability on the unfortunate who finds himself within the Government's target. In other words, the Government, faced with a situation, grabs anyone willy nilly.

Let us look at the Regular soldier's situation. Take the man who, after the passing of the Bill, joins the Guards for three years with the colours and nine years with the reserve, or six years and six years, or whatever it is. He does his time and then perhaps volunteers. He is designated for a year. Perhaps he slays on and volunteers for three years on Section A, and then has a spell on Section B. He gets married and settles down. Perhaps he becomes a teacher or does extra-mural studies, takes a decree and gets an administrative post. He is 40. His children are going to university, or thinking of going there. He is still paying for his house. He has a car—all started from very honourable beginnings. Then there is an emergency, and because, years before, he was a Regular soldier, a notice is brought to the door and he is called up.

I well remember being approached by right hon. Gentlemen opposite on an Adjournment debate on the eve of Suez and asked not to press the subject on that debate, because of the danger of mutiny among the reserves who were called back. This is happening time and again. If hon. Members want the ingredients of indiscipline or discontent or hatred of the Army, then impose this liability and fail to do what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) asked—tell these men what will happen and give them time for second thoughts. I give notice that in Committee I shall put down an Amendment requiring a plain statutory obligation on the Secretary of State to serve a written notice on these young men stating, "As from the date of your enlistment you maybe designated to serve in the Section A for a year, for which you will get reserve pay, and from when your reserve liability is ended until you reach the age of 45, until your 46th birthday, you will be liable to recall."

That notice should be given, but not by the recruiting officer. A recruit should be given written notice of exactly what the House is letting a Regular soldier in for because it has not the guts to face up to a situation which has been developing for a long time and about which we warned the Government in the last debate on a reserves Bill. We have had a series of these. This is not the first one. We had the "Ever-readies". I have tabled a number of Questions about their strength.

I discussed the matter with the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. I have a fair idea what the targets are. At 30th June last the strength was about 4,200. It is negligible. As a policy it failed. It failed for a very simple reason. The Territorial Army draws its strength from pleasure in serving in a particular unit. It has a local appeal. A man is either a member of the Territorial Army, of which he is proud, or he is a member of the Regular force.

A high rate of bounty is to be paid, but if ever these men are called up that is when the fun will start. A number of them, particularly as the years roll by, will have one thousand and one reasons why they should not be called up. What is wanted is a reserve liability in a moment of national emergency when national unity and national discipline are of paramount importance so that the liability at that moment rests fairly and squarely right across the nation. It should not be imposed in a fashion entirely guided by reasons of political expediency, hoping that no one will notice, hoping that the power will never be exercised and, if the power has to be exercised, hoping that the numbers affected will be so small that, although there will be some squeals, they will not be heard.

We shall have this out in Committee. I hope very much that, without any pressure from my hon. Friends, the right hon. Gentleman, who is a fair and honourable man, will see the force of this argument and will himself take steps to table an Amendment to meet the spirit of the very reasonable request which we are making that these men should not be taken in by a side wind but that there should be a written notice explaining to them what they are letting themselves in for.

Having said that, I believe that the right hon. Gentleman will find no difficulty in believing me when I say that I do not want to use this to harm recruiting. That is the last thing I want to do and it is the last thing that my hon. Friends want to do. We should be very sad indeed if that happened, but, equally, we should be failing in our duty if we did not warn the right hon. Gentle man of what might happen. After all, we do this from a sense of justice and in a desire to do justice to the regular soldier.

I come now to a point on which I am a little foxed. Section 1(2) of the Army Reserve Act, 1950, establishes Class 1 and Class 2 of the Army Reserve. Class 2 is said to consist of out-pensioners of Chelsea Hospital. As far as I know, this provision has never been applied and I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would take it out at some time if ever he has to amend this Act, as he is not using this power.

The provision reads in this way: The second class shall consist of men who— (a) being out-pensioners of Chelsea hospital… Out-pensioners of Chelsea Hospital are not the gentlemen who walk round in red coats. They are all those who, like myself, have earned a few shillings as a result of serving in the Regular Army. We are described as out-pensioners of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea. This picturesque description, which has been in the Act since 1950, which is never used because Class 2 is itself never used, and which as it stands imposes a liability to recall, is out of date and might well be put right.

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will stay at the War Office to do this. I serve notice of this on my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. One of the things they might well do when they reach the War Office is to look at the reserve Acts, look at the policy as a whole, and bring forward a consolidation Act based upon a proper policy. What the Government are doing is getting themselves out of a jam which they have got into because of their recruiting policies as a whole.

The basis of all sound Army policy is to look 10 to 20 years ahead and, in doing so, to produce a consolidation Act based on firm principles on which one can rely even 20 years hence. Doing this is the first road to wisdom. I appreciate that it will take a lot of wisdom to achieve this, particularly when Parliamentary time is short. However, if it is done any Government will not only evolve a wise long-term policy, but will also take the necessary steps to avoid a great deal of embarrassment in the short term. This is sound sense and I hope that this advice will be taken.

9.26 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the Bill because it represents a sensible way of using troops. When a man has been trained in the Regular Army or during National Service there is no reason why he should not continue to act in the reserve services.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend mentioned the other reserves—the Army Emergency Reserve and the Territorial Army—because the House cannot possibly examine the position without considering them all. It should be made clear at the outset that we have today accepted the necessity of having reserves as part of our defence policy. I trust that employers throughout the country will also accept this and will regard it as their contribution towards defence to make sure that those who are liable for reserve service are released and that their jobs are retained I appreciate that provision is made for this in the Bill, but while legal provision is one thing the spirit of an employer to accept his obligations is another.

One of the most important aspects of the Bill—covered by Clauses 1 and 2—is the attempt to ensure that people liable for service undergo proper training. It is no good calling someone up three years after he had done Regular service only to find that he is completely out of touch. I hope that my right hon. Friend will ensure that people are kept abreast of modern trends so that when they are called up they are not out of touch.

It is important that the "Ever-ready" reserves are given the opportunity of training abroad. This not only enables a trained man to keep up to date with modern equipment but also gives him some incentive for wishing to join the reserves. Many men will be willing to join if they know that they will be sent to, say, B.A.O.R., Singapore. It is equally important that men should be sent abroad in groups rather than individually. Many men do not like the idea of going to a unit where they feel strange and do not know anyone. On the other hand, if they can go with a few of their mates from their own units at home they feel happier and enjoy their training more.

It is important that addresses should be kept up to date. My right hon. Friend might occasionally consider having a test call-up to see how the Bill is working. He could, perhaps, call up 150 men and see how many report within 24 hours. If 96 turn up he will have an idea of the general reaction. In this connection, when reserves are called up, what is the priority? Will the pre-proclamation reserves be called up before the "Ever-readies" or with them? The Bill does not make this clear and it would be advisable to clear this up so that everyone concerned will know his obligation.

In our reserves, we should provide something that has not been provided before; senior officers should be given a chance of refresher courses. If the Army were to expand, as it would have to on mobilisation, we would need a large number of senior staff officers. In the past, these have been found from the lower echelons is of the existing Army, but there should be facilities to give reserve officers refresher courses at the Staff College of the Imperial Defence College, so providing ourselves with a large fund of officers capable of doing these jobs in an emergency.

I know that reserve training periods are limited for financial reasons, but I know, too, that many men—officers in particular—would like the periods extended. At one time, an officer in the Supplementary Reserve could train for up to six months a year, but training is now limited to 15 days and then to so many individual days. It would be well worth while to allow those who wished to serve longer to do so, because the benefit derived from someone really keen on his Service is enormous.

The financial position could easily be dealt with. My right hon. Friend earlier mentioned equipment, which is one of the problems facing the Territorial Army. The only way I can see of getting over that is to make sure that from each unit a small élite subsection is sent to train with units abroad, where the better equipment is available. I know that in the last few years my right hon. Friend has made great efforts to see that the Territorial Army is trained abroad, but perhaps he might leave it to commanding officers to send their best sections or companies abroad for training. That would act as an incentive to the Territorial Army to become efficient, and would give it a chance to work with troops in Europe with the most modern equipment.

We must have the reserves. I hope that the country will accept that fact and, in particular, that employers will. People must be made to realise that this is an essential part of our defence, and that those doing the job play an important rôle. Employers must appreciate that not only is this task important but that they themselves get some benefit from having their employees trained in the Army and being part of the national defence programme. That being so, I hope that all employers will take a much more progressive view of these men doing their service in whatever arm of the reserve it may be.

9.33 p.m.

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)

We have had a short but interesting debate on the Bill, but I am still not satisfied on one or two points. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) drew attention to the review that we were told was being made of the whole question of the reserve forces, and I should like to hear a little bit more about that before agreeing to giving the Bill its Second Reading. Has that review been completed? If so, is the Bill the result of that review? Are we not to have any other information about the results of the review? The main question is: is the Bill the only thing that has come out of the review which we were told about a short time ago?

We have to look at the need for such a Measure as this. It obviously arises from the general manpower problem, and not just from the position of reserves from which the Army has suffered for some years. I was rather horrified at a comment I understood the Secretary of State to make when he was speaking just now, to the effect that the full review has been carried out, that the Bill is the result, but that the Secretary of State apparently still does not know what exactly he will be able to do, or what it may be necessary for him to do, with the reserves in the period 1968–71, or thereabouts, when the existing reserve will begin to fade away and before the new reserve provided for by Clause 2 really becomes effective in terms of numbers.

If the full review has been carried out, some suggestions must have been put forward for the filling of the gap to which the right hon. Gentleman himself referred. If we are being asked now to deal with a Bill which comes as a result of the review, we should be given a little more information about how the gap is to be filled. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had one or two ideas about ways of filling it, but we should be told rather more than that.

One way of filling the gap is mentioned in Clause 2 which, as I understand it, makes it possible for existing Regular soldiers or existing reservists to opt to be treated in the same way, and take a liability up to 45 years of age, as anyone who signs on for a Regular engagement after the Bill becomes law. I should like to know how they will be persuaded to do this. How will the existing reservist or Regular soldier be persuaded, cajoled or asked to take on an additional liability?

Presumably, some arrangements have been made for publicising this additional liability to existing Regulars and reservists of one kind and another, but what is the exact approach to be? Will it be a purely patriotic appeal, drawing to their attention the fact that their services are required in the new reserve? There must be some idea in the back of the Minister's mind of how he will persuade people to accept a liability which at present they do not have. This may be one way of bridging the gap which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned.

Another reason for the Bill, as I see it, is the complete failure, according to the figures we have had so far, of the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has already drawn attention to the fact that the then Secretary of State had in mind a total of about 15,000 men being engaged in this reserve. He gave the impression at that time that the 15,000 men chosen would come from, perhaps, 30,000 or 35,000 men who would be rushing to volunteer and get the £150 bounty which would enable them—these were the right hon. Gentleman's words—to take their wives on holiday or buy them fur coats. This was the whole idea of the scheme; it was to be extremely attractive to existing members of the Territorial Army. Indeed, we were told that the numbers would be so great that there would be a careful screening by Territorial Army colonels, to start with. The initial responsibility was put on the colonel to submit only the names of those men who, he was absolutely certain, were good soldiers who knew their trade and who would be effective in the new reserve.

More than that, the numbers would be so great that there was to be another screening. After the men who were satisfactory had been sorted out, there would be a screening at a higher level so that only the men whose trades were necessary in such a reserve would ultimately be accepted. At the end of it all, we should get 15,000 men, through this double screening process, who would be soldiers in the Territorial Army doing Regular training and liable to call to go to fill up the gaps, mainly—this was the intention at the time—in Europe, They would be round pegs for round holes in the Regular Army, so the Secretary of State told us at that time.

Presumably, the right hon. Gentle man thought in terms of 15,000 round pegs to be fitted into 15,000 round holes, but, so far as one can see now, we have only a little more than 4,000 round pegs, although, presumably, the 15,000 round holes still exist.

Mr. Ramsden indicated dissent.

Mr. Reynolds

The Secretary of State shakes his head, but I have heard nothing so far at Question Time or in debates to indicate that, in fact, Regular Army recruiting is greatly better than it was at the time when the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve was thought of.

On this side of the House, we hoped that the new scheme would be successful because it seemed a reasonable idea, but something has gone wrong. It has not worked anywhere near as well as the Secretary of State at that time hoped that it would. There must be some reason why the numbers are only about one-third of the number it was originally intended to recruit. Perhaps we can be told how many members of the Territorial Army actually volunteered for the reserve. Was there a screening process, or has almost everyone who volunteered been accepted? The figures are important, and, when we are considering a Bill dealing with reserves, which, we understand, is the result of a complete review, this is the sort of information which the House should have.

I can see no reason why it should be withheld because the overall number of 15,000 has been published. The numbers recruited up to June this year were published at the same time. We should have a great deal more information about the reasons for the apparent complete luck of success in recruiting for this reserve.

We discussed during the passage of the Act the effect which the creation of such a reserve would have on the Territorial Army. This is an opportunity which should have been taken to give us some idea of how the reserve has fitted in with the numbers working in the Territorial Army. I said in the debates on that Measure that I thought that it might possibly mean that if the men who would be in the new Territorial Army Emergency Reserve, were called up, and if, later, it was necessary to embody the Territorial Army, the T.A. units would be become non-effective because skilled tradesmen who were needed in the Regular Army and who were called up beforehand would have gone out of those units. We should be given information on that matter.

I did not completely agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) when she referred to the equipment for the Territorial Army. At various times during the last two years I drew the attention of the former Secretary of State to the position concerning equipment in various Territorial Army units. They have to rely largely on equipment provided for the last war and on wireless sets which still have the instructions stencilled in Russian on them which were sent out to Russia on Lend-Lease and returned to this country afterwards. However, even some of those sets have been taken from the Territorial Army during the last 18 months and sent to the Regular Army in Germany which needed replacements so that the Territorial Army was stripped of 50 per cent. of its equipment. It is difficult to see that the Territorial Army is doing the good and reliable job that it is supposed to be trained for when one realises some of the equipment available to them.

One of the main changes in the Bill is that in Clause 2 which imposes this additional liability to recall in certain circumstances up to the age of 45 on all Regular soldiers. I have grave doubts about the use of someone aged, say, 42 years, who, having been out of the Army for 20 years after completing a three-year engagement, is suddenly recalled. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley referred to the trouble which might arise from a disciplinary point of view. I would go further and say that I envisage that it would probably take almost as long to retrain a man who has been out of the Army for 20 years in the use of what would be very different equipment as it would to retrain a younger man with virtually no Army service.

The Secretary of State referred to the fact that this would be calling back into the Army men used to a life of discipline. In many cases, that may be right if a man has done 21 years in the Service and has been out for only a few years. But I do not think that that applies to a man of 42 years who has spent three years in the Regular Army. A man of 42 could have spent three years of his life in the Regular Army and, under certain circumstances, be recalled under Clause 2.

I should have thought that the fact that a man who had been a member of the Regular Army for three years between the ages of 18 and 21 had been out of the Army for 21 years would have played havoc with his general ideas of military discipline and things of that nature. If and when this reserve is created these men will not be pleased if they are called upon to deal with purely local incidents, and this would not have a good effect on the units to which they were posted.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley referred to the fact that we are asking young men of 18 years to sign something which will commit them to certain responsibilities for the next 27 years. This is something at which we shall have to look very much more closely in Committee. We have other legislation coming before us, which is before another place at the moment, under which if someone signs a hire-purchase agreement he is given 48 hours in which to think about it. If that protection is to be put in comparatively simple hire-purchase agreements, we must consider protection being put into legislation of this sort for people of 18 years of age who will be signing documents committing them to certain things for the next 27 years.

We have no responsibility for this legislation or for the present manpower position in the Army. We have been told by the Secretary of State that many of the Bill's provisions will not begin to become effective for another five, six or seven years. This underlines the fact that in my opinion and, I am sure, in the opinion of my hon. Friends, it will take at least five or six years after the next General Election before whatever Government are then in office will be able to undo the havoc which has been done to the manpower and recruiting aspects and the general level of our Armed Forces during the last 12 years.

9.45 p.m.

The Under-secretary of State for War (Mr. Peter Kirk)

I should, first, thank the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) and my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) for their kind remarks about myself. I ought, perhaps, to remind the hon. Member for Aberavon of the part of the country from which my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark) comes. If he remembers that, the hon. Member will realise that no further comment is needed on whatever my hon. Friend has said and particularly in the circumstances in which he said it.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has pointed out, the Bill does three things. It scales down considerably the liability of those on the Army General Reserve and eventually will cut out altogether all but about 100,000 of them, Secondly, it doubles, or trebles rather, the length of liability of Section A of the existing Reserve. Thirdly, it creates an entirely new and long-term reserve of all those who, after the date of the passing of the Bill, enlist in the Regular Army. It is on this third point that most of the discussion concerning the Bill has centred during this interesting debate.

The debate has, however, given the opportunity for a quick look at the Reserve Army, which, as the hon. Member for Aberavon rightly said, we do not often discuss in the House of Commons. It has, therefore, been useful debate quite apart from the discussion purely on the matters contained in the Bill.

To deal first with the more general points about the reserves as a whole, the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) appeared to take a certain amount of exception to the fact that this was the only fruit of the review of the Reserves. That is true to the extent that it is the only legislative fruit, but, of course, the position of the reserves is kept under constant watch and the shape of the Reserve as it stands, with the exception of the Army General Reserve, which, obviously, was becoming impossible, appeared fairly satisfactory.

At this point, I should say a word to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) about ceilings. There is only one ceiling in this connection which makes any sense and that is the 60,000 which was put in this Army Reserve Act, 1962, covering all the pre-proclamation reserves. I agree with the hon. Member that the others are somewhat unintelligible. Although I have been looking at the situation closely in the five weeks that I have been at the War Office, I still do not understand them. If we can look into the points made by the hon. Member about this and find a much more intelligible way of setting out these ceilings without in any way affecting security, we will do it. Either I or my right hon. Friend will be writing to the hon. Member about this in the near future

Apart from certain specific issues in the Bill, the debate has centred generally on the rôle of the Territorial Army and on the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve, or the "Ever-readies", as they are sometimes called. I endorse everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East said about the rôle of the Territorial Army. It is vital to our defence plans. It is the main support in the reserve for B.A.O.R. and, as a result, plays a vital part in all our strategic planning. The importance of the Territorial Army in this respect cannot be over-estimated.

I fully realise—it has been brought forcibly home to me since I have been at the War Office—the disappointment of many members of the Territorial Army with equipment, clothing, and so on. By virtue of my office, I am chairman of the Territorial Army Advisory Council. I am meeting the Council for the first time on Wednesday and expect to hear that disappointment fairly forcibly expressed again on that occasion.

We are, of course, in difficulties in providing fully up-to-date equipment, clothing, and so on, to cover the whole of the Territorial Army. We are, however, doing our best as far as we can to bring equipment and clothing up to the requirements, and we shall continue to try to do so. But there are a lot of difficulties about this which we hope to overcome as we go along.

As I say, the fact that we have not yet been able to provide the equipment and clothing that we should wish to provide does not in any way suggest that we regard them as second-class soldiers. They are an absolutely vital part of the whole reserve situation.

Mr. Wigg

This is a very important statement. As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman is now saying that the Territorial Army plays a vital part in the strategic thinking of the War Office. For a long time I have not been able to understand what is the role of the Territorial Army. In view of what the hon. Gentleman has said, may we take it that if we put down a Question on the Order Paper he would be good enough to make a statement in categorical terms about what is the role of the Territorial Army now and what it is planned that the role should be for the next four or five years?

Mr. Kirk

I should have to see the statement first. But I do not think that the members of the Territorial Army are in any doubt about what is their place today.

Regarding the "Ever-readies" this Bill does not cover them in any way. They are external to the thinking behind the Bill. They are a reserve entirely of their own, the only pre-Proclamation reserve of complete flexibility. I fully admit that perhaps the original ceilings contemplated for this reserve were over-optimistic. There is no question, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Islington, North, of having 15,000 round holes and only 4,000 pegs. The number of round holes is smaller than 15,000.

Shortly after bringing in the T.A.E.R. we discovered that recruiting for the Regular Army went on rapidly in the course of 1962. As a result, the immediate need for the T.A.E.R. was lessened and we have settled down to a fairly long-term build-up. It is true that many more men have applied to join the T.A.E.R. than have been accepted. In fact, there is a small waiting list, so it may be seen that to talk about "complete failure", as the hon. Gentleman did, is to exaggerate considerably. It has not come up as rapidly as we had hoped. But nevertheless, it is there and again has a vital part to play. Above all, it has the merit of flexibility which is the most important merit in this connection.

A number of important points were made about the Bill which no doubt we shall discuss during the Committee stage.

But there is one suggestion, made by the hon. Member for Aberavon, the hon. Member for Dudley and the hon. Member for Islington, North which I should like to get absolutely right straight away. We have no intention of trying to conceal this new liability from anyone who wishes to join the Army. It is our intention that the paper given to every recruit to read before he joins the Army shall contain this liability set out as clearly as possible. We do not wish to deceive anyone. We want to make plain what is the liability, But, at the same time, it should be made clear both in this connection and with the A.G.R. that the liability is fairly remote.

This is a reserve which we are considering only for the gravest emergency. It is pretty long-term—it is called the Long-term Reserve. Nevertheless, it is true that we shall have to have the power for which we ask in the Bill to ensure that we know where the reservists are when we do need them. I will say no more about the old A.G.R., except that I should not have accepted the bet of the hon. Member for Dudley. The hon. Member for Aberavon will be relieved to hear that we always knew where he was because he is a member of the Territorial Army Reserve of Officers and we keep a close watch on them.

These men will be told of this liability before they join. We do not believe—we have looked at this carefully—that this will have an adverse effect on recruiting, because of the very long-term nature of the liability. I do not think that many men when applying to join the Army consider very deeply what will happen in the event of a general war, which is, after all, what we are planning the reserve for. All of us in this House hope that this is a situation which will never come about. Therefore, we do not believe that the effect on recruiting will be very great.

I wish to say a final word about Clause 2(7), which provides for volunteers. Frankly, we do not expect to get a tremendous number of volunteers in this way. Everybody serving in the Regular Army will, however, be notified of the possibility. Those who care to volunteer may do so and will be very welcome. We thought it illogical to set up a new reserve without providing the Regular Army with an opportunity to volunteer.

Mr. Wigg

If Regular soldiers volunteer for Section A will they receive the rates of pay to which they are entitled under Section A?

Mr. Kirk

Yes, they do now and they will do. We are talking of volunteering not only for a longer period under Section A but for a longer period of service on the reserve which is unpaid; but the Regular soldiers will get their pay for Section A service if they volunteer for it.

Mr. Wigg

If they volunteer for any of the sections which are paid, may I take it that merely because they are Regular soldiers and because they volunteer they will not lose the pay?

Mr. Kirk

Not at all. They will be paid on exactly the same basis while they are in the Reserve.

I hope that I have answered the general points raised in the debate. I am grateful to hon. Members who have spoken in the debate. I hope that we may now have the Second Reading of the Bill, knowing that we can come back to a great many of these points during the Committee stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).