HC Deb 06 February 1963 vol 671 cc445-6
35. Mr. Morris

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement on the present role of the 51st Infantry Brigade; and what steps he has taken to provide an effective reserve in the United Kingdom in the event of their departure to the Far East.

Mr. Profumo

51 Infantry Brigade is part of the Strategic Reserve. If it were sent to the Far East there would still normally be two brigade groups and some unbrigaded units left in this country.

I should add that only one battalion is still at 72 hours' notice. The remainder of 51 Brigade have now been stood down.

Mr. Morris

What steps have been taken in recent weeks to increase the strength of units in the brigade. Would it not be reasonable to assume that if the brigade went to the Far East it would be away for a considerable time? Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted our N.A.T.O. allies about this? Are they satisfied with the present arrangements?

Mr. Profumo

There is no need to consult them, because it is well known that our Strategic Reserve has a joint responsibility, to B.A.O.R. and on a world-wide basis. I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman's query about how long the brigade might be away if it were sent to the Far East. That is a hypothetical question. I am satisfied that the strength of the units in the Strategic Reserve is such that it is capable in all respects of carrying out its obligations.

Mr. Kershaw

In view of the importance of keeping up the strength of the Strategic Reserve, will the right hon. Gentleman deny the rumour that recruiting for the British Army is to be kept unofficially below 175,000?

Mr. Profumo

No Sir. I hope that my hon. Friend will not ask me to deny every rumour in the newspapers. I hope that I satisfy him by saying that our policy is proceeding steadily in building up recruitment on the lines I have announced.

Mr. Hall

Am I right in saying that one of the two brigades in the Strategic Reserve is the Parachute Brigade? If so, can he say how many battalions of that brigade are in this country?

Mr. Profumo

It is wrong to say that one of the two brigades is the Parachute Brigade. One is the 19th Brigade and the other the 51st. The Parachute Brigade is over and above that strength.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how far the 51st Brigade was pledged to N.A.T.O. as part of our commitment in Europe?

Mr. Profumo

As is known by our N.A.T.O. allies, the 51st Brigade is primarily concerned with helping B.A.O.R., but it also has a world-wide connotation. It has a double stance. It can do either lob. If it is doing something in the Far East, there is still the 19th Brigade. It is right to have a flexible Strategic Reserve which is not pinned down to one particular job on hand.