HC Deb 09 March 1964 vol 691 cc49-92

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £21,480,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the Reserve Forces (to a number not exceeding 153,000, all ranks, including a number not exceeding 147,000 other ranks), Territorial Army (to a number not exceeding 221,000, 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 1965.

Mr. Paget

I see that the sum in respect of the Malta Territorial Force has fallen from £60,000 to £15,000. What has happened about that?

Mr. Forbes Hendry (Aberdeenshire, West)

I have several questions to ask about the Territorial Army. It is very comforting to think of the Territorial Army in the background, but a very awkward question always seems to be raised whenever we think of spending any money on it. In the first place, it seems quite extraordinary that the number of training days allowed in the Territorial Army out of the camp period has been reduced to 16. I put it very strongly to my hon. Friend that this is quite inadequate. Nowadays, if the Territorial Army is to be made efficient for its purpose, it must train and train hard. This cannot be done on a shoestring.

In the days when I was actively associated with the Territorial Army, there was no limit to the number of days on which a Territorial officer or soldier might, if he though fit, report for training. Now, because of some cheeseparing policy, it seems that the number of days out of camp has been reduced to 16.

I have tried to do some arithmetic on this subject, although it is extremely difficult to find the figures. As I understand, however, the cost of increasing the number of paid training days would be virtually negligible. From the figures in the Estimates, it is impossible to get any idea of what it would cost, and would like my hon. Friend to give me some information about this.

The first task of the Territorial Army appears to be that of reinforcing B.A.O.R., so it must be properly equipped to do that. I understand that proper equipment is not available; that members of the Territorial Army are supposed to undertake arduous training in the depth of winter equipped only with denim clothing. I should like to know why proper clothing cannot be provided. There is still the scandal of ammunition shortage and the men are expected to work with old weapons. If they are to reinforce B.A.O.R., why cannot they be sent to train with B.A.O.R.? That has been done before. I took part in some very useful exercises in 1948, and I think that if similar activities were carried out now, the Territorial Army would obtain more benefit from its training.

I think that the idea of the "Ever-readies" was most useful and brilliant. But no practical use has been made of the "Ever-readies" and, to use an Army expression, they are becoming completely and utterly "browned off". Their training must be made more realistic and use should be made of their services. Recently, when there was trouble in Cyprus, everyone knew that the battalions which went to Cyprus were under-strength. The men in the "Ever-readies" knew this because they had friends and brothers in those regular battalions.

The men in the "Ever-readies" were also aware that they could have done a useful job in Cyprus and received some valuable training. But nothing was done and the "Ever-readies" were not called up. At present, their existence appears to be pointless and, obviously, there is a lack of keenness. I plead with my hon. Friend to do something to revive the enthusiasm which prompted these men to join the "Ever-readies".

I should like an assurance from my hon. Friend that if these men are called up to serve abroad, their employers will be obliged to re-employ them upon their return. Such a reassurance would tend to improve recruiting figures and be a comfort to the men. Naturally, the best men in the Territorial Army become non-commissioned officers. There are a great many sergeants who would be willing to become "Ever-readies" but for the fact that the establishment for sergeants is quite small. Could these men become "Ever-readies" and, upon embodiment, revert to their former ranks? These are practical suggestions which would provide great advantages to everyone concerned.

It would be an advantage to the Territorial Army in that these men would have done a period of full-time service with the Regular Army and received more advanced training; and they could pass on their knowledge to the Territorial Army upon their return from Regular service.

I suggest bluntly to my hon. Friend that for too long the Territorial Army has been regarded as a cheap reserve. It has been forgotten until a time of dire need. It has always been run on a shoestring and that shoestring is becoming so worn that it is no longer fit to hold in the "dogbody". A man who joins the Territorial Army must be patriotic but, more important, he must like soldiering. The money inducement comes a poor third. In these days, however, a man can obtain overtime by working on Sundays and, therefore, he is put in the awkward position of having to forfeit overtime in order to give his services to the Territorial Army.

It seems to me that the War Office does not understand why a man becomes a Territorial soldier. He does it because he loves soldiering. But men cannot be expected to join the Territorial Army unless they are encouraged, and receive the proper equipment. I plead that something be done quickly to improve the training facilities for the Territorial Army.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Shinwell

The Committee may recall that when the precedessor of the present Secretary of State for War introduced the scheme for "Ever-readies" it generated much excitement among hon. Members. The scheme was first announced in the House of Commons. At that time it was undoubtedly regarded as a brilliant scheme, at any rate by hon. Members opposite. There were many hon. Members on this side of the Committee who were sceptical about its value and subsequent events have justified our scepticism. The fact is that very little is said or heard about the "Ever-readies". During the debate on the Estimates last week neither the Under-Secretary nor the Secretary of State made much reference to them. In the Supplementary Estimate there is provision for a sum concerning pay, etc., of the Territorial Army amounting to more than £4½ million. Indeed, there is a revised Estimate amounting to almost £5 million. But there is no indication of the sums to be expended on the "Ever-readies".

Not much information has yet been furnished about the nature of the training for the "Ever-readies". When the scheme was introduced I understood that it was intended that the "Ever-readies" were to be the "spearhead" of the Territorial Army. They were to receive bounties, allowances and pay in excess of that received by the ordinary members of the Territorial forces. The conception was that they were to be available to support the Regular Army.

If the Under-Secretary rejects that view, I should be very ready to listen to what he has to say. I think that hon. Members who heard the debate on that occasion would agree that that was the original concept. But the War Department has departed from it and, so far as we know, no attempt is being made to build up the "Ever-readies". We all know why. So much for that. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will reply later.

The question of training is one with which I have concerned myself ever since I was associated with the War Office. When I was Secretary of State for War I was concerned with a campaign to build up the Territorial Army. We decided to have a march through the City of London, bringing in some of the battalions from the Home Counties. I also wanted to bring in one of the Highland battalions, to have pipers marching at their head. The Lord Mayor of the day was to take the salute. Everything was in train when one day the Director General of the Territorial Army came to see me. I was informed that the battalions which were originally to participate in the march would not be available, and it was impossible to proceed.

I listened with attention and then said to him, "I shall tell you how it should be done". He asked me to explain and I said, "Just go and do it". He went away and it was done. We had our march through the City of London. I was present on the dais where the Lord Mayor took the salute. There was considerable interest in the City of London and some measure of enthusiasm. What the results in increased enlistment to the Territorial force were, I cannot recall.

I make these observations to indicate the interest displayed in the matter of building up the Territorial force. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) on one occasion indulged in a mild rebuke to me because of some remarks I made about the Territorial force. In spite of statements made by those associated with the Territorial and auxiliary forces, I have never discovered, apart from most perfunctory intermittent training of an ineffective character, and, of course, social advantages in being associated with the Territorial Army—there are social advantages and prestige in being associated with the Territorial Army and I say nothing derogatory to the officers and ranks—whether we have yet succeeded in building up an effective and efficient Territorial Army.

It was believed that that might come about as a result of the "Ever-readies" scheme. We are entitled to hear from the Under-Secretary what has happened about the "Ever-readies", how they are getting on and what is the nature of their training. We might hear something about their emoluments in order to ascertain whether their emoluments are consistent with their training, and vice versa. Unless we get that information there will continue to be some dissatisfaction with the building up of this section of the Territorial forces.

Having raised a matter of some importance, I want to raise a matter which may be regarded as trivial and of minor importance in the opinion of hon. Members because it concerns only my constituency. I notice that expenditure on the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations amounts to £6,810,000. That is quite a lot of money. The Associations are in charge of Territorial depots and drill halls. In the town of Horden, in my constituency, which is a mining township, there is a drill hall. A little time ago I was asked by the director of a youth organisation if I would intervene on its behalf with the War Office because the organisation had requested that a jazz band which it organised should have facility for training, indulging in, presumably, musical exercises in the drill hall. I intervened with the War Office as requested only to find that my submission should have been made to the headquarters of the Durham Territorial Forces Association.

I approached that Association and was told that no such facilities could be provided. The only people who could be accommodated in a Territorial drill hall for any purpose were those who were members of the Territorial force. It often happens that these drill halls are unoccupied and not being used for training purposes. I should have thought that as a means of creating some interest in the Territorial Army and possibly inducing some of the younger males associated with these organisations to join the Territorial force, such accommodation could be provided in this way, but the request was turned down flat. There is considerable discontent among the members of the youth organisation in consequence of that refusal.

It seems that the War Office has some responsibility in a matter of this sort. It must not be left entirely to the wishes or caprice of the great panjandrums of the Territorial force either in County Durham or elsewhere. No doubt they are excellent people, but they ought to consider the consequences of a rejection of this sort. I hope that the Under-Secretary will give this matter sympathetic consideration. I do not know if it is possible to do anything now. It may be that the jazz band has been disbanded. That would create even more dismay in the locality.

I have raised two points, one of substantial importance, of a general character and affecting the rôle of the Territorial Army in training and its effectiveness and ability to come to the aid of the Regular Army, if circumstances require, in an emergency. The other point, I agree, is of less importance, but it is of interest in my locality. I hope that these two matters will receive consideration.

Sir H. Harrison

I am sure that the Committee listens with great interest and respect to any remarks made by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). He was quite right in saying that he has always been interested in the training of the Army.

I remember perfectly well that when I was a Territorial C.O. he invited us to some manoeuvres in Germany. He was taken around in a truck and became covered with dust. He was far too important as Secretary of State for me then to speak to him. He and I would be only too willing to get up before dawn, but there were some grand foreign military attachés present, so the exercise was rather unreal as the attack did not take place until 11 a.m.

I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) raised a number of points about the Territorial Army, in which he has had a great career. I do not think it right that we should pass this Vote merely with a few comments on it about the great work done by men and women in the Territorial Army.

In a time when, in civilian life, they are earning more money and there are many more distractions, they are still prepared to join the Territorial Army. When I look at the Estimates I am a little concerned to see that the Vote for the Regular Army is about 9 per cent. up—I do not complain about that—but that the vote for the Territorial and reserve forces is only about 3½ per cent. up.

4.30 p.m.

May I put a few questions to my hon. Friend? If he cannot answer them all now, I know that he will write to me on the subject later. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West raised the question of recruiting. As the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has said, there is a section of young men who, whatever else happens in their lives, are determined to do some form of service. Some join as Regular soldiers and others join the Territorial Army. It must be borne in mind that we are back to pre-1939 training conditions for the Territorial Army. When I was commanding a unit the men in it had trained either in war or under National Service. Today, recruits are joining who do not know a single thing about the Army when they join, and the difficulty is to get them through their initial training. They have to be taught how to be soldiers and how to conduct themselves, and this is not the most interesting side of training.

We must also remember that our men and girls are marrying younger than ever. The pay which may have been attractive to a young bachelor is not so attractive to the married man. It is difficult for him to go away for military training when he has a wife. I ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West about the pay of the Territorial Army. Is my hon. Friend satisfied about the number of recruits from the Cadet Corps into either the Regular Army or the Territorial Army?

It is a little invidious to single out people, but I think that I ought to single out the difficulties of an officer who takes command of a Territorial unit as a Territorial soldier. I believe that it is important that many of our Territorial units are commanded by Territorial soldiers, but this involves them in much more than spare-time work; it is nearly half-time work for those who command Territorial units if those units are to be kept up to a state of efficiency. Will my hon. Friend consult his right hon. Friend on the question whether commanding officers are sufficiently rewarded for the amount of time which they have to put in?

How large a percentage of the Territorial Army was able to do its training overseas last year? This is a very attractive side of Territorial Army training as it helps recruiting as well as being good for the men. If a man joins the county regiment or some other Territorial regiment, what are his prospects of going overseas for at least one of his camps?

I know that a certain amount of streamlining is going on between different Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations on the administrative side. Very happy relations of this kind have been established in Suffolk with the association of which I am a member. Is this continuing and gradually reducing the cost of administration? Administration is very important, but what the Territorial soldier gets is even more important.

Last year, on the Army Estimates, I raised a small matter about training—the issue of clothing. I was informed that the Regular Army are issued with combat suits, which are water-proof suits, fairly warm, and very useful for crawling about the cold hills of Scotlan. These are not issued to the Territorial Army. That may be right as a question of policy, but hundreds of these suits which are condemned as not being 100 per cent. satisfactory for use by the Regular Army find their way into the innumerable shops which sell an enormous amount of surplus Government clothing. Many Territorials buy these combat suits from the shops out of their own money. I was told last year that this point would be looked into, but I am informed—I should like to be wrong—that the suits are not yet issued as regular equipment to men in the Territorial Army.

I pay tribute to the men and women who give up their time to join the Territorial Army, no doubt in a sense of patriotism. They get a great deal of enjoyment and pleasure out of it, but they are playing a vital part in the nation's affairs.

Mr. Wigg

I add my voice to that of the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) in paying tribute to those who have kept the Territorial Army going over the years and who, indeed, still do what they consider to be their duty—prepare themselves against emergencies which we hope will not occur. If these emergencies do occur, these men, by giving their time and energy, will have deserved well of their fellow countrymen.

I do not often disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), but when he made a point about the jazz band and the Durham County Association he raised an important issue of who shall control the drill hall. We cannot have it both ways. Either the drill hall will be controlled by the War Office, or it will be controlled by the Territorial Association. In times like the present, when the Armed Forces of the Crown are not regarded with the same high sense of importance as they are in an emergency, it is the Territorial Association, giving its time and effort in the same way as the young men give their time and their effort, which keeps the machine rolling. If we are to take power from the Association, even if only in terms of the letting of the drill hall, we must be careful to see the long-term implications.

I hold the view that the Territorial Army is one of the most important sections of the Armed Forces. In my judgment, it is far more, infinitely more, important than the Navy. I would get rid of the Nagy tomorrow and spend the money on the Territorial Army. Only a handful of hon. Members are present today——

Mr. Shinwell

Do I understand that my hon. Friend is merely expressing a personal view? Will he take it from me that that is not the opinion of the Labour Party?

Mr. Wigg

I am aware that it is not the opinion of the Labour Party. That means that the Labour Party has not caught up.

My right hon. Friend does not understand the implications of the situation in which we find ourselves, and I will try to help him and the Committee. Both parties are agreed that we should get rid of National Service. It would be improper to discuss the motives which prompted that decision, but both are agreed that we should get rid of National Service and they have decided what the target should be. The target is 182,000 men. The Government claim that they have got rid of National Service. The idea of selective service is abhorrent; these are two dirty words not to be used. It is believed that anyone who can pin the words "selective service" on to someone else has scored a bull's eye.

But it is a point which I have constantly made on other occasions, and which I make again now, that we have not got rid of conscription and that we have selective service—otherwise the passing of the Army Reserve Act, 1962 had no meaning. Let us go back to the circumstances of that Act. It created a high sense of excitement. It was going to fill the gap. The "Ever-readies" were to come along and we were going to get 15,000 of them.

I was rather surprised that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington was so quick to get to his feet to denounce me. He did it with such virulence that it made me shudder. Does he really know the emoluments involved? The particulars are in the Estimates and the facts were put out in some literature which I retained against this day, for I knew that the question was bound to come up again. The "Ever-readies" get a bounty of £150 a year and if they are recalled they get a bounty of £50 and a further proportion of the £150, reckoned from the beginning of the year in question up to the day when they are called up. Having set the target at 15,000 men, which was the essential minimum that not only the Government but both parties considered necessary, the Government have failed to reach that target. The target of 15,000 was gradually phased down until the Government are left with a target of 5,000 men, to which extent they have been almost successful.

Then we had the admission by the Secretary of State for War—for whom, as I have said in previous debates, I have the highest regard—that during the Cyprus emergency the Government could not call the "Ever-readies" up because they were afraid of international repercussions. Really! Is not that a senseless use of 5,000 reserves at £150 a year each—or 33⅓ per cent. of the target of 15,000 reserves which the Government managed to reach? What an admission; that they did not have the guts to call them up; but what can we expect from this Government?

Also against this day I have kept a confidential document which I am sure will interest hon. Members. It was confidential when first issued, there is no reason why its contents should not now be revealed. This document was prepared for commands and was headed: Public Presentation of the Government's Actions on Army Manpower Shortage". It was an ably written document, the first paragraph of which stated: The recruiting campaign is in full swing and we still hope to hit our minimum target of 165,000 to 182,000". It went over the manpower policy of the Government, which we have dealt with on many occasions, and then, in paragraph 6, it stated: The best way to achieve this for the immediate Berlin crisis is, of course, to make use of men who are already in the Army, trained and equipped. That paragraph made it clear that the 1962 Act was introduced for that purpose, because it stated: The best way to achieve this for the immediate Berlin crisis … The decision to retain National Service men for six months shows that that decision was taken in connection with the Berlin crisis, as is revealed in paragraph 6. The document went on to say something, in paragraph 7, which was completely concealed from the National Service reservist—and this is particularly interesting to those who think that we can get rid of conscription: Her Majesty's Government has, therefore, decided to take powers to retain men doing their full-time National Service for up to a further six months. 4.45 p.m.

The document went on to explain how, with these things in mind, the Government were making a major examination of our reserves. That major examination produced the trifling little Army Reserve Bill, which went through its Committee stage in a couple of mornings and which reorganised the general reserves' liability to recall; but, apart from that, it did not do anything very much.

When I began speaking my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington was quick to point out that I was not speaking for the whole of the Labour Party. In fact, my right hon. Friend denied that I was so speaking. It is rather terrible to think what some people will say, bearing in mind the importance of the Territorial Army, if they have an unrealistic view of the situation and know little about it. The document from which I was quoting went on to add: This action will certainly carry us through under all conditions until 1963. It went on to pose a question, and asked: What after that? We must hope and work for an improvement in the world situation to such a level as to be able to carry out our commitments with regular forces, backed by an increased ability to recall reservists if we hit any temporary crisis. Just prior to that, in paragraph 10, the document stated: Therefore, Her Majesty's Government proposes to take permissive powers to call back National Service men who are still in their 3½ years' part-time service, for up to six months additional full-time service, if necessary. Remembering that the document posed the question, "What after that?" in regard to what will happen after 1963, it is clear that the world has made no progress towards real disarmament. We must also look ahead three or four years when there will be no trained National Service men with a reserve liability. That point is made clear and that is why I say that the Territorial Army and the "Ever-readies" are more important than the Navy, for the Navy is concerned with a concept which it is unlikely we will have to face.

The Government's policy of giving us three aircraft carriers and 120 Phantoms, but failing to provide us with tank landing ships, is a lousy policy. We want infantry, trained and carried by the Royal Air Force and backed up by the R.A.F. They must be highly mobile with effective reserves who can be used to meet likely emergencies. From where will those reserves come? The document from which I have quoted, which was circulated when the 1962 Act was going through Parliament, did not give us the answer.

I guess that about 100,000 National Service men are still liable for service. In two or three years' time they will have gone and the 1962 Act, to which the document I quoted and the Government attached so much importance, will be meaningless because the liability to recall for six months affecting those reservists will not apply. All the Government will then have will be 5,000 "Ever-readies", the A.E.R. and the Class A reservists and the Government will also have the Section B men who are not pre-Proclamation reservists. Beyond that the Government have the Territorial Army on which to fall back and which has existed, to its credit, inadequately trained, inadequately equipped and under-manned—yet it is to be the spearhead to bring active formations up to a high state of readiness to meet a sudden emergency.

I hope that the Under-Secretary realises that it is impossible to take a nucleus of a unit and then suddenly merge it with reservists and imagine that five minutes later it has become a combat unit. That sort of thinking is for the amateurs. To do this in a real emergency is not on and it is worth remembering, as I have said on many previous occasions, that the best forces this country ever turned out were the "Old Contemptibles" of 1914, who were superbly trained and equipped and who out-marched and out-shot the German Army and brought it to a standstill, though substantially outnumbered. They did it because they formed a long-service and disciplined Army, and because the reservists who came back in their turn had had a long period of training.

What I am endeavouring to say is that the enthusiasm and patriotism which may exist in any force counts for nothing without the efficiency which comes from long training. It is in this direction that the Government have and are failing to appreciate the realities of life and I regret to say that the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington reveals that he has failed to notice that the importance of the Territorial Army stems from the fact that the Government and the Opposition are committed to the abolition of conscription; that is to say, that the last vestige of it will go with the expiration of the 1962 Act, when we must begin to think what we will put in its place.

It is because of this that I have, in our debates during the last week, asked the Government many questions, because what right hon. Gentlemen opposite have preferred to do is to turn their backs on constructive thinking and on getting the maximum amount of agreement between both sides so that by our general consideration of this difficult problem we may find a satisfactory solution. Under the leadership of the present Prime Minister the party opposite has chosen to throw defence into the cockpit of party politics. To that extent both sides have moved away from each other, and the interruptions I had from my own side a few moments ago were born of that fact. Whether or not it is Labour Party policy, my proposition is that the sun rises in the east and sinks in the west—basic facts——

Mr. Shinwell

I think that my hon. Friend is allowing his enthusiasm to run away with his judgment. I regret that very much, but it is probably just a temporary aberration. My hon. Friend was at the War Office with me, and will be aware that no one stressed the need for the training of the Territorial Army more than I did. I constantly pressed on those responsible the need for this training, and I still do so. I can see no value having a Territorial Army, an auxiliary forces Army, unless there is, not perfunctory training, as is the position now, but regular training. I know that there are difficulties, but they must be surmounted.

Mr. Wigg

If my enthusiasm is running away with me I hope that my right hon. Friend will break into a gallop and try to keep up with me. I am not talking exclusively about training. I have dealt with the organisation and numbers of the "Ever-readies". I have dealt with their emoluments, and I am now moving to the question of the Territorial Army, the Emergency Reserve and the Regular Army Reserve, at present organised on the comfortable basis that the Government, any Government, will in the last analysis, have 100,000 National Service men to call back for six months during their Reserve service, but the liability of those 100,000 men, down to the last man, finishes certainly by May, 1966.

I still plead with the Government to set up a Select Committee, because this is a very difficult problem. It would mean release of the control by this House because, at present, if the Government call out Section B they must at once inform the House of Commons; they cannot exercise the proclamation procedure without telling the House. But the Government set up a special reserve, pay men £150 each for the specific liability of recall for six months without proclamation and then, when the chips are down, say that they have not the guts to call them up.

If I am making the running and am over-enthusiastic, at least I err on the right side. I do not believe that the post-Proclamation procedure is applicable to the needs of our times. When Section B was called up in 1914 the Territorial Army was embodied by Proclamation, because that was the kind of world in which we then lived. It is an historical fact that when the First World War broke out, in 1914, a Liberal Government delayed mobilisation for 24 hours because they did not want to interfere with the Bank Holiday traffic. If hon. Members ever want to read an account of that wonderful operation, I will give them two sources: the first chapter of the official history of the First World War is one, and the second, and infinitely more readable, is the opening chapters of General Fuller's "Diary of an Unconventional Soldier".

That operation worked because the mobilisation plans as then conceived put the expeditionary force into France with a vast number of horses and their fodder, and they made contact with the Germans on 22nd August. It was a wonderful planning operation, and was possible because the whole structure of the Army, the terms of service, how the men were brought in, and the equipment, made the whole thing an exercise in team work. I do not think that at present the procedure of calling up vast numbers of men by Proclamation when an emergency blows up meets the needs of the modern world——

Sir H. Harrison

The hon. Member will remember that those Territorial Army regiments and battalions went to France in 1914 when their terms of service were for home duties—they went there as volunteers.

Mr. Wigg

Yes, and it happened at a holiday period, and some of the men were already in camp. Those details are there, but they do not invalidate my point.

The trouble with the "Ever-readies" is not necessarily that the Government were wrong, but that there is lacking the co-operation of the employers. When I talked to a group of "Ever-readies", every one of them told me the same story; that he had volunteered because his employer had guaranteed that his job would be waiting for him. It is asking quite a lot of an employer to liberate a man at a moment's notice for six months and guarantee that he will get his job back. Unless a way can be found round that difficulty I do not think that there will be a very great rise in the numbers of "Ever-readies".

A bargain should be struck, and a great deal more money should be provided for the Territorial Army. The men should be given the opportunity to train with the equipment with which they might be called upon to fight, and their standard training should be roughly in line with that of the Regular Army. The ceiling figure might be lower. In return, the officers and men should be prepared to accept the liability, not to be called out, as the "Ever-readies" are, at any time for six months, but either in units or as individuals without Proclamation That involves the control of this House over mobilisation procedure, and the touchy point about the House of Commons keeping control of Vote A. That is why I urge the necessity of approaching this problem from an all-party standpoint. We must have regard to the rights of the House of Commons, because this takes us back over 300 years of controversy between Parliament and Monarch—controversy that now has no validity.

We have to look at it in the light of control by the House of Commons and the needs of the Armed Forces—and we may find ourselves forced to face up to them, not because of forward-thinking, but because events will overtake us. That marks the difference between my right hon. Friend and myself. He says that I am over-enthusiastic. and rebukes me—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, he went out of his way to give me a savage rebuke when I said that I attached much more importance to the Territorial Army—and, certainly, to the Army—than I do to the Navy. I did not mention the Air Force, because the Air Force has another rôle to play for the Army.

Some hon. Members are perfectly sincere in saying that they want all-Regular forces and are now astonished that some protagonists should hold the view that selective service is wicked. But we have to do some forward thinking about the organisation of reserve forces, because if we are to depend on Regular forces, and see the need for rapid expansion in terms of either the First or Second World Wars, or in terms of the many emergencies that have occurred since then, it is absolutely clear that, in some way or other, we have to find a means whereby those reserve forces can be trained, equipped and organised, and their call-up system so arranged that batches of individuals can be assimilated into Regular units without affecting the efficiency of those units, or have units of the Territorial Army organised and trained so that they can form a second echelon. It seems to me that that is the challenge. This is 1964, and we have now got no more than two years. By May, 1966, the last National Service man will have gone.

If hon. Members will just take the trouble to bring themselves up to date in terms of the numbers which exist and which have a liability for recall under the pre-Proclamation procedure, they will see the narrowness of the bridge which they are asking these forces to cross. The alternative, of course, is a frightening one. If nothing is done now and the matter is left till next year and then something begins to go wrong—of course, 100,000 men do not all go out together—the only way to deal with it then will be by general mobilisation.

We have already been warned about the alacrity with which the Government respond to the possible reaction to mobilisation. Therefore, I urge the Government to reconsider their decision not to carry the examination of reserve forces further, and not only to carry it further but to regard one other aspect of it as a House of Commons matter and to use the good will which exists on both sides of the House in order to get not only the Territorial Army but the reserve forces on to a sound basis.

5.0 p.m.

Dr. Man Glyn

The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), with his great enthusiasm for the Army, helped us at the beginning of his speech to dispose of the Navy. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not follow him completely in all that he said. I want to reinforce two things. I think that we are faced with a very real problem as to how and where we use our reserve forces. My view on the matter goes a long way towards supporting what the hon. Member for Dudley said. If we are to have a Territorial force then it has to be a real force and has to be used as a reinforcement of the Regular Army.

When T.A.E.R. and A.E.R. were first suggested in the House many of us supported them fully, but we said at the time that we hoped that the employers would accept as part of their contribution to the national effort allowing men to go. I believe that one of the great obstacles to joining the T.A.E.R. is that men are frightened that, even though they have some statutory protection with regard to returning to their job, their employers may not feel the same about it and that their jobs may be jeopardised.

The second reason why I think that the T.A.E.R. has not received the response which we would all have liked it to receive is that the men are not trained in units. If there is to be an emergency section of the Regular Army and the T.A. it is vitally essential that the men should be grouped together in units. Men going out on active service want particularly not to go out as individuals; they want to go out with their friends as a sub-unit. This is a very important factor in getting men to join this Reserve.

The other thing we have to accept is that if we are to have this emergency force we must take the political consequence of using these men for operations abroad. In the case of an emergency such as that in Cyprus, or emergencies similar to those in other Commonwealth countries to which we have been called, we should not hesitate to say that as we have these men in this pre-Proclamation Reserve we should use them to reinforce the Regular Army. I do not think that there is anything to object to in that. After all, these are the terms on which these men enlist and if we send them out on active operations abroad they will receive much more encouragement to join such a force. Men like to feel that they are going to do a job which is useful rather than just spend their time in camp.

I believe that to use these men in a situation such as that in Cyprus would have a beneficial effect on recruitment to this type of reserve. It would encourage them and make them feel that they were doing a useful job. I see that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) is nodding. I do not know whether he is agreeing with me or not.

Mr. Paget

I certainly was not disagreeing with the hon. Gentleman.

Dr. Glyn

I did not know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman was nodding in approval or disapproval. I am glad to learn that he was nodding in approval.

The decision which I am venturing to suggest is not really an Army decision at all; it is a political decision. It is the decision whether or not we are prepared to take whatever consequences there are in using this reserve for overseas commitments. It is a very important decision which has to be made.

There are one or two other small points I wish to take up. First, we must send out a message today to employers pointing out that it is vitally important that they should accept the fact that men in the Reserve are subject to call-up and subject to serve for a period. The second thing I want to make clear to my right hon. Friend, and one on which I should like reassurance, is that I believe what the Territorial Army should have more flexibility concerning the times when the men are trained. It is very discouraging to a man not to get double pay on Sundays and not to do his training with the unit. I believe that by some alteration of the machinery we could easily overcome that difficulty.

The other point I wish to raise, and on which I pressed my right hon. Friend the previous Secretary of State for War, is the question of the A.E.R. A great number of men and a large number of officers would like to do a longer period than that prescribed by regulation. At present it is 15 days. Before the war the Supplementary Reserve allowed officers and men to serve for six months. As I say, I believe that there are men on these reserves, and especially officers, who would be prepared to serve for a longer period.

I admit that to do this would mean increased expenditure, but I am quite sure that the Committee will agree that it would be an expenditure very well worth while. I hope that before his term of office ends my right hon. Friend will look into this matter extremely carefully, because I am sure that we have here a number of men who could be of real use.

The last point I wish to take up is that concerning commanding officers of T.A. units. I do not think any one would deny that, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) said, commanding officers are put to a considerable expenditure of time and expense in connection with their duties. They have a very large amount of entertaining to do by virtue of their position. If they are to retain their position and get recruits they have to know local people. I feel that we could possibly be slightly more generous in the allowance which we give to commanding officers of T.A. units. As I say, they are frequently put to considerable expense which they have to meet out of their own pockets. I know that my hon. Friend will say that there are allowances given for this purpose, but I think that we should look at the matter and give commanding officers of these units a helping hand.

Finally, I hope that the position of our reserve forces will be looked at and that the country will accept the fact that the T.A. Reserve and the Army Emergency Reserve are the right reserves with which to reinforce the Regular Army when and if required, and that they should be looked upon by the country, and particularly by employers, in that light.

Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)

I propose to detain the Committee for only a few minutes, to make two points. One was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. A. Glyn) and the other by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) about the National Service men. In 18 months or two years' time these men will not be available in their present form, and whatever Government are in power then will have to face the matter very seriously. As far as the Territorial Army Association is concerned, they are the best men available. We are not making full use of them. They are keen men and are devoting their spare time to the T.A.

I should like to see the Government approach industry, perhaps through the F.B.I. or some other organisation, in order to arrange for men to he released from their jobs with the guarantee that they shall be taken back after the emergency rather like industry is asked to take 2 per cent. of disabled men into its employ. Something like this could be worked out. Industry has never been asked. The British people will understand any problem affecting the country if it is put to them clearly. If my hon. Friend sees that industry is approached. I am sure that he will have a tremendous response.

Mr. Paget

I know that the hon. Member has great experience in this sphere. Does he feel that industry would also respond to the proposal that, within this quota, wages should be made up to whatever the men were earning in the industry?

Sir A. V. Harvey

Yes, that should be the case, but small firms, naturally, will be unable to fall into line. We should tackle first those firms which are in receipt of Government contracts for the supply of clothing or of arms. Hundreds, if not thousands, of firms have these Government contracts. Let us get moving with them. I nave industrial interests and I am not aware of any appeal being made to industry in this matter I should like to see it made from the top.

Is the Under-Secretary satisfied that the Territorial Army units have up-to-date equipment? My information is that they have not. Nothing is more disheartening to men who voluntarily give up their time for training than to be denied proper equipment. I do not want to say too much about the Auxiliary Air Force, because I should be out of order under this Vote, but for years before and after the last war members of that force did more flying than the Regulars and they were just as competent. The fact is that a volunteer can be trained to be as efficient as a Regular if his enthusiasm is kept going and he is given the right equipment.

I know that one or two units in the London area deficient in equipment. I should prefer to see equipment taken away from the Regulars to train these men who are the hard core of the reserve. I should like to know what is being done to improve their status and to get them better trained.

5.15 p.m.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I am sorry if we are having a somewhat one-sided debate. There is no doubt that the issue which we have been discussing for the last hour or so is probably the most important of all in the sphere of defence. I would not go the whole way, however, with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in suggesting that because it is the most important issue we should, therefore, scrap the Navy. The hon. Member said that he thought that the Territorial Army was so important that in comparison with it he would be prepared to scrap the whole Navy. He really used those words, but if he wants to explain them further I will gladly give way to him.

Mr. Wigg

I meant what I said. What I would do would be to take money misspent on the Navy and give it to the Territorial Army. I put the efficiency of the Territorial Army and the reserve forces far beyond where I place the efficiency of the Navy.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I am little clearer now about what the hon. Member meant, but I cannot pursue it very far, because he is on a different Vote. Where I found the hon. Member's argument most compelling was on the point that, whether we like it or not, in a year or two's time, even if not earlier, we shall have to make a great decision over manpower for the Army. I certainly ask the hon. Member to believe that he does not have a monopoly of interest in this matter. All of us who have studied the matter over the years have been deeply concerned about it.

It has always been clear to me that the obvious alternative to selective service is to increase the right to call up reservists. Whereas the whole question of National Service would be outside the Vote, the question of what we can do about the reservists is very relevant and I propose to address my remarks to that point. It is perfectly clear from what the Secretary of State for War said on 5th March, when he introduced the Estimates, that the figure which we shall have to deal with in the immediate future is 8,000.

My right hon. Friend said: From 1st January, 1963, to 1st February, 1964, the other rank strength rose by only 1,830, to 152,260 within a total Army strength of 171,588. We are still nearly 8,000 other ranks short."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1964; Vol. 690, c. 1534–5.] I have tried to face this issue all along. If we do not get enough men by voluntary recruitment we have only two choices before us. We must either reduce our commitments or we must get the men by some means other than voluntary recruitment.

I do not believe that we can now reduce our commitments any more. They are highly likely to increase in the next few months. As we know, many units are not up to strength at the moment. Where shall we find the men to man them? I say without hesitation that the right place to find them is from among the reservists. I say this because it is the reservists who are the best trained of all the men who are not actually serving at the moment. The serious consideration is that the longer the time that elapses between the time that they are trained and the time when they are called upon to serve, the less useful they are likely to be.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

Would my hon. Friend bear in mind that although there may be a shortfall of only about 8,000 from the target figure, that does not represent necessarily the actual requirement, which may be 28,000 rather than 8,000?

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I am grateful for that intervention. It strengthens rather than weakens my argument. I accept that, but I was dealing with the immediate issue to which the Secretary of State referred. The gap will be far greater as the years go by, but this is the hard figure which we have to bite on in this year's Estimates.

I feel that the country has an attitude towards defence at the moment which shows that it is not prepared to do sufficient by voluntary means of what it must do if it is to play a full part in Implementing defence policy. We must, therefore, consider whether the reservists referred to in Army Vote 2 will be enough. The first item is the Regular Reserve on which we are to spend £580,000. Last year, we spent £800,000. What is the reason for the fall? Is it that so many more men have gone off the Reserve and have not been replaced? The Regular Reserve is also referred to in Appendix III on page 104.

The Regular Reserve consists of: Section A. Men who are liable to recall for permanent service outside the United Kingdom without proclamation, when warlike operations are in preparation or in progress. Section B. Men, other than those in Section A who, after completing a period of service with the Colours, have been transferred to the reserve. There are also Sections D, F and G with which are also included the Royal Army Nursing Corps and the Women's Royal Army Corps.

The whole of this is governed by a footnote on page 104, which refers to the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves Bill, which will have the effect of increasing the liability of those under Section A from one year to three. The same Bill also extends the Army General Reserve liability for those completing their liability under the National Service Acts after 31st December, 1962, for five years. Four years from now anything that those reservists may have learned while they were serving will be becoming rapidly out of date.

My principal reason for intervening is to ask my hon. Friend a question. I know that he will not this afternoon be in a position to declare new Government policy on the calling-up of reserves. But I should like to know whether he can give some undertaking that a real review will be undertaken to discover what can be done to keep the reservists whom we have got up to date, especially those in Sections A and B.

It is quite obvious that at the moment we cannot call up Section B reservists without a proclamation. If the reduction in the Vote this year on Section A reservists means what I fear it may mean—in other words, that we are not getting sufficient replacements for those who are leaving it—I hope we shall be told what is going to be done to make good that loss and to keep Section B well trained.

Finally, are we satisfied that the National Service men who are doing their part-time service with the Territorial Army are getting the sort of training which it would be necessary for them to have were they to be recalled? Nobody respects the Territorial Army more than I do. When I was a Regular soldier I was often attached to units of the Territorial Army as an instructor, and I have an immense admiration for them in all my recollections of those times. But I know perfectly well that the Territorial Army is not fully equipped in the same way as the frontline regiments are. It would probably be unreasonable to expect them to be so. But their enthusiasm is not always as well rewarded as it should be, neither is the amount that the Treasury allows to be spent on them as great as it should be.

Nevertheless, even if we have got all that can reasonably be expected, I still believe that the part-time service of the National Service man will not necessarily be adequate to enable him to fulfil straight away his obligation of full-time service were he recalled and engaged in operations as tricky as those in Cyprus at the moment.

I sympathise deeply with the Government and with the Army in the position in which they find themselves. I have had sufficient experience of having to train men with inadequate strength and inadequate weapons, or with flags to represent the weapons. I know how disheartening it can be to any Regular soldier to Lave to carry out training with only two-thirds of the men that he should have under his command. It is absolutely incredible how well the Army has done, in view of the difficulties that it has had to face. It is to the greatest credit of all ranks involved. Whatever may be the assessment of the Army's patience to continue enduring those sorts of things, there is something even more important than that. The real danger that this country faces is putting off the evil day too long.

Rather than follow the advice that was given by my right hon. Friend when he introduced his Estimates the other day, namely, to have a polyglot Army consisting of every other nation but our own trying to look after the safety of this country—and there were times when even the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) worried me a little because I thought he was relying far too much on overseas and Commonwealth troops, and far too little on our own ability to find our own defence from this country—if we cannot do this by voluntary means, we may have to say to our Regular soldiers, "Your liability to come back to as is to be increased commensurately with your inability to persuade your sons to come into the Army after you." I honestly believe this to be the case.

One of the surest ways of making certain that the reservists themselves will not have to be called upon will be to try to persuade them to get their sons to join up as Regulars. The feeling, "We need not bother. We have served our time. Our sons do not happen to want to join at the moment," seems to me to be the weak way out. I would rather see more former Regular soldiers encouraging their children to join up. I see that the hon. Member for Dudley is itching to interrupt, so I will give way.

Mr. Wigg

I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, his speeches arouse great sympathy. I only ask this question to get the matter clarified. I presume that he is not urging that there should be any breach in the terms of the Regular soldier's engagement. He does not propose that the Regular soldier should be told. "You have got to have an additional Reserve service commitment because the others will not pull their weight"?

Sir A. V. Harvey

If my hon. Friend suggests that we should draw on the good will of our serving officers and men, he will have to recognise that considerably more will have to be done in respect of pensions, including widows' pensions.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I could not agree with my hon. Friend more on that point. That ought to be done, whether my suggestion is followed or not. It is overdue anyway. Unfortunately, that point does not arise on this Vote. I wish it did, because I should like to follow it up at some length.

In reply to the hon. Member for Dudley, it is just because the country is putting our defence in this position that made that proposal. It is because the country has not responded to the voluntary appeal, because I believe that National Service is a wasteful way of doing it and I do not want to see National Service reintroduced, that I made that suggestion. The whole problem could be answered overnight if we had a surge of voluntary recruitment to the Colours. Even my suggestion to increase the liability of reservists would not pay off very quickly. It would mean amending the law and increasing the liability of Section 3 reservists. It would require new legislation.

I have voiced these thoughts, not because I expect my hon. Friend to be able to answer these points "off the cuff" but to show that there are others besides the hon. Member for Dudley who are worried about the situation. He does not possess a monopoly of interest in this matter. The hon. Member for Dudley year after year holds the attention of the House—or of those Members who have remained behind while he has spoken on these topics—and I know that his heart is deeply in the subject, but I ask him to believe that he does not possess a monopoly of interest. Many of us have tried to solve this problem.

I say to him that rather than have National Service or selective National Service, I would prefer a really good voluntary Army with the reservists as an immediate boost to the Regular strength. I believe that is sensible economics, apart from anything else. We have spent thousands of pounds training these soldiers while they were under the Colours. If we accept the fact that there is a need for an Army Reserve, why not take full advantage of that training rather than start from scratch each time? This is the great disadvantage of National Service, and even of selective National Service.

I still believe that we can train a Regular Army better than any other nation can, and that the best way to increase the numbers is to ensure that we have sufficient rights, so far as the reservists are concerned, to boost the Regular Army up to the strength necessary to carry out its commitments.

5.30 p.m.

This question raises the whole issue of the size of the commitments and the question of getting the men where they are needed, but the most important question of all that is raised is keeping the reservists well enough trained to be of use on immediate recall. That is the question which I am putting to my hon. Friend. I want him to give an undertaking to look into it if he has not already done so. The more he can say about it, the better.

I hope that in saying what I have said today, nobody will think that I am suggesting that what I put forward is fair—of course it is not; it is monstrously unfair—but those who will have made it unfair are the people who will not respond to the voluntary call and will not face the other alternatives, the other alternatives being to cut our commitments or to reintroduce National Service. To fail to face up to any of these things, which is what all too many people are doing, inevitably means injustice.

Perhaps when some people outside the House of Commons, as well as in it, study a bit more what sort of life the Army has been made to live because the country has treated the Army in the way it has, we may have a little more incentive in the minds of a few more people to have voluntary recruitment at the level which it should be.

Mr. Wigg

I cannot understand why the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) imagines that because I come here and say what I think about the reserve forces, I want to monopolise the subject. That is the last thing I want to do. What I have tried to do since I have been a Member of the House of Commons is to do what I call my homework and then come to the House and say what I think. I do not want to monopolise the discussion. I am delighted that the hon. Member has seen the light. I only wish that he would go a little further and think about it a bit more.

Even now, the hon. Member is only just beginning to get half the story. He has told the Committee about his prewar experience, and he is right. That was how the Conservative Government of the day prepared the British Army for war before the Second World War. What happened on that occasion happens now. Every effort was made to disguise the truth from the public before 1939 and the same thing happens now. As the hon. Member has said, flags were used to indicate units and "make believe" was the order of the day.

What was wrong then is wrong today. The A tiny is out of balance. Before the war, the Army tried to balance manpower by enlisting all regular soldiers for 12 years. The balance was obtained by enlisting the infantry for seven years with the Colours and five with the reserves, the Artillery for six years with the Colours and six years with the reserves, the artillery for six years with the Colours and nine with the reserves and the R.A.S.C. eight with the Colours and four with the reserves, and so on. In other words, every 12-year Regular soldier spent part of his time with the Colours and part with the Reserve to give balance. Today the Government have abandoned balance.

To the extent that the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely has supported me he has done so because he is a patriot and an ex-Regular soldier, but, true to his traditions, he cannot face the logic of his own action. So when I spell out the prospect that faces us if we do not mend our ways he suggests that I have monopolised the discussion when all I am doing is, once again, to recount the facts.

The hon. Member now agrees with that. To that extent, we are allies. We want to get this matter off party lines so that we look at the facts objectively in the interests of the country and of the Army. That is one of the reasons why I have advocated taking these matters upstairs, adopting the American system, looking at cost effectiveness and having an expenditure committee examining the Estimates, not to make party points, but to ascertain the facts. This applies even to my "crack" about the Navy. Obviously, the balance as between the Army, the Navy and the Royal Air Force should depend not upon the extent to which one's emotions are aroused about these subjects, but upon the basic facts.

The Americans have found a technique of ascertaining the facts objectively so that they get value for money. We do not do that. We simply go drifting along. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely and myself are allies. Let us be content with that, but do not let anybody say that I want to monopolist. I do not. I would rather not be here than do that.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

This has been a valuable and interesting debate. Points have been raised, both this afternoon and in the debate last Thursday, about the equipment of the Territorial Army and criticisms have been made from time to time. Obviously, there will always be limits as to the equipment that the Territorial Army can have. The point which I wish to make is that even though we must regard the Regular Army as having the first priority in equipment, every effort must be made by the Government to ensure that the best equipment available is with the Territorial Army.

The test of the equipment of the Territorial Army is how it affects its training compared with the Regular Army. Perhaps we may hear from the Under-Secretary of State, when he replies, first, whether his Department is doing its best to ensure that the best possible equipment is available, and secondly, that the training does not suffer because of the equipment which the Territorial Army has.

My next point concerns the "Ever-readies". When the last Bill but one was introduced to the House, the "Ever-readies" were held up as an important innovation and a great deal was expected of them. If I remember rightly, the ceiling—it was not a target; it was a ceiling, as the then Secretary of State told us—was 15,000. I believe that the figure is now about 5,000. Perhaps the Under-Secretary can tell us exactly what it is. Something, however, has gone wrong concerning recruiting to this valuable force.

I was interested in the valuable speech made by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) when he dealt with the position concerning employers. Obviously, there is no real security for those who sign on the line and become a member of the "Ever-readies". If they are called up, they do not know whether their jobs will be there when they come back. It might well be that if they are called up on the first occasion from a big firm, there would be no difficulty, but I agree entirely with the hon. Member that a real approach should be made to industry and that co-operation is needed. Perhaps we may have an indication from the Government this afternoon of the steps which have been taken to ensure the future of men who sign and who agree to undertake this service or that, at least, an attempt has been made to safeguard them with their employers. I am sure that unless this is done, no real force will be available and recruiting will not rise much higher than it is today.

We heard from the Secretary of State in the debate on Thursday, and earlier in the defence debate, that some of the reasons why the "Ever-readies" were not called up recently was, first, that there was not the need for them, and secondly, that there might well be international repercussions if they were called up. We are now in the position that if there were a need for the "Ever. readies", if they were needed at any time to reinforce and bolster up the Regular Army, we are unable to call them up because of the international repercussions that the calling up of this force might have.

If that is made a sacrosanct reason for not calling up the "Ever-readies", that in itself reduces the force to sterility. The Government must find a way out of this, otherwise this Committee is entitled to ask why we are paying these men and what we are getting for the money and the bounty which they get every year, unless at some stage they can be called back without our having international repercussions.

A way out of that difficulty might be if the Government were to make a practice of calling a regular number of the "Ever-readies" back to the Regular Army every year, not because they are needed, but to ensure that the force does not become sterile and to ensure that the situation does not continue that we are unable to call this force back simply because of international considerations. If the practice were to be adopted of calling back a certain percentage every year—the percentage need not be disclosed—there would be no general world-wide alarm if the whole, or even a substantial part, of this force were called up. It would become a regular practice and would meet the observations of hon. Members that some of those who have joined would like to be called up and do a useful job—which, after all, was one of their purposes.

I ask the Under-Secretary of State seriously to consider the suggestion that it might well be made a practice that a percentage—the proportion need not be disclosed—of the "Ever-readies" will be called back annually to ensure that it does not become a sterile force.

Dr. Alan Glyn

Surely it would be most important also to send them overseas as well as a matter of course.

Mr. John Hall

Surely one difficulty is that, if it became known that a certain percentage of the "Ever-readies" would be called up each year, this would discourage employers from agreeing to employees volunteering as "Ever-readies" whereas that situation does not apply because there is only an indefinite commitment to something which may or may not occur.

Mr. Morris

I agree with the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) that this might militate against recruitment, but that danger is already present. If only a small percentage were called up annually, however, I do not think that this would militate any more against recruitment than does the present situation.

I also agree with the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) that not only should the men be called up, but that they should be sent overseas as well. However, that would obviously depend on the need of the time and how best they could be fitted in. Overseas service in this way would certainly prove attractive for recruiting. This ties up with the point put by the hon. Member for Wycombe and the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey)—that, if we seek the co-operation of employers before we start and secure an assurance that the jobs of these men would be available again on their return, we should get the co-operation of the great firms.

There might, of course, be difficulties with the smaller firms and I sympathise with their position if they knew that perhaps one-fifth or one-tenth of their workers would be liable to be called to service with the "Ever-readies" every year. But I would not visualise great difficulties with the larger firms.

Certainly, such a system would prevent this force from becoming sterile and that is the important point. It would be a major tragedy if this force, which was launched with such high hopes, became sterile and one which we could not equip or use in any way because of international considerations. I hope that the Government will consider making it flexible and using it in the way suggested.

As has been shown by the speeches on both sides of the Committee, we all appreciate the great deal of work done by the Territorial Army. I only spent a short time in it myself, in fulfilment of a statutory obligation. But there were many others in it not as National Service men, but as a labour of love. I regard our reserve forces as being tremendously important but we must face the fact that, in them, our National Service men are a wasting asset.

The Army Reserve Act was introduced after we had been warned that the Government would have a close examination of the reserve situation but, in effect, it only cut the Government's losses. We must now face the situation that, in a very short time, very few of those eligible to join the Territorial Army will have received military training. All the ex-National Service men will have gone. Of course, ex-Regulars will be available, but, certainly, those with experience of active campaign will be disappearing almost completely from the Territorial Army.

That imposes an important problem of how to train effectively this new force which will be composed of volunteers with no active military training. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to tell us the Government's view of our reserve forces when the cupboard is bare of National Service men.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Kirk

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) asked about the Malta Territorial Force and I will begin by answering him on the reason for the very large drop in its vote. We expect Malta's independence in the next few months, and, whatever may happen to the force after that date, we do not expect it to be borne on the Votes of the Defence Department.

The main discussion has turned on the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have rightly stressed the very great importance which the House and the Government attach to the T.A. and the service it renders. We are only too well aware of the situation that will arise in two years' time, when the last of the ex-National Service men passes off the immediate reserve.

It is our intention to build up the reserve forces partly through the T.A. and the T.A.E.R. and also through the extension a Section A, which will, of course, come into effect progressively as the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserve Act, 1964, takes effect. But there are problems connected with this, as hon. Members have pointed out.

My hon Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) spoke with great vigour on a number of points which have also been worrying the war Office over the last few years. First, he raised the question of the man training days. It is true that, as the National Service element of the T.A. passes out, the need for even greater and more effective training of the T.A. will increase. The figure of 16 man training days has been in effect for some years now and so far seems to have worked quite well. But I am aware of the desire of the T.A. to have a longer time at it. I cannot give a firm undertaking today other than to say that I am sympathetic to the points put by my hon. Friend and that we shall certainly look very carefully at the position.

Another major point, put not only by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West, but by nearly every other speaker, was that of equipment and clothing. Again, the War Office would like to do better if it could. We are studying the question of providing combat dress for the reserve army generally and that would include the T.A.

Sir H. Harrison

I raised this subject a year ago. Has there been any move forward since then?

Mr. Kirk

A few inches further forward. We are studying this subject in considerable detail and we hope that it will be possible to do something on these lines fairly shortly. We are only too well aware of the feeling in the T.A. about clothing in particular and we are most anxious to satisfy the demand if we can. We are now at the stage where there are pools of No. 2 dress—ceremonial dress—so that, if we get the question of combat dress settled, the T.A. will probably be satisfied. But I cannot say anything more definite this afternoon.

Dr. Alan Glyn

Hon. Members referred to combat suits being disposed of through surplus stores. Will my hon. Friend consider whether these are suitable for issue to the T.A.?

Mr. Kirk

I will do so but I imagine that they have flaws in them. We considered the possibility of second-hand issues but the trouble is that most combat suits are not fit for anything by the time the Regular Army is done with them.

We are now making issues of modern radio equipment under the programme which covers both the Regular and T.A. units. Because of increased Regular Army demand, however, T.A. units will now not be fully equipped with modern radio equipment until 1968, but we have made additional old range radio equipment available to cover the gap.

Issues of armoured vehicles to the T.A. are complete, and the issue of new Land Rovers nearly so. We are now making a world-wide survey of stocks to see whether further specialised and engineering vehicles can be made available.

Self-loading rifles are being issued to complete scales of T.A. units. This programme was set back because of our commitments to India in the emergency there about a year ago but will be resumed shortly and, if the planned programme is adhered to, we should have the T.A. fully equipped with these rifles by 1965. The training scales of new weapons are being issued as they become available—these will include infantry weapons and some guns—while a proportion of the instruments and fire control equipment has been issued.

I agree, however, that this is not enough and we are doing our best to step up the issue of equipment and clothing to the T.A. We are aware of the very strong feeling both in this Committee and in the T.A. itself. These points are vigorously brought home to me at meetings with the T.A. Advisory Committee, of which I am chairman.

Sir A. V. Harvey

My hon. Friend says that he wants to get modern radio equipment for the T.A. by 1968. Surely, in time of peace, there should not be such a time lag. By planning and subcontracting surely the War Office can do better than that.

Mr. Kirk

We are doing our best, but we cannot do better than that at the moment. I cannot promise any earlier completion date, although we will do our best to hustle it.

Mr. Shinwell

Surely there is a reason for this delay. I cannot discuss other Votes at the moment but the reason here surely is that the estimate for stores and equipment is down by £8,800,000. This reduced expenditure is said to be due to production delays, and so on. But may not that be just an excuse? May not the reason be that we have to pay our debt to the United States for support costs during the Korean War?

Sir A. V. Harvey

And before—the £1,000 million loan the Labour Government negotiated.

Mr. Kirk

I should not be in order if I discussed that.

Mr. Paget

Is not the real point here that, if we push on with these orders, the War Office will get too much in this year's Estimates? Is not this a matter of keeping down the Estimates by deliberately postponing deliveries of goods to less essential units like the T.A.?

Mr. Kirk

I cannot accept that. We are doing our best to equip the T.A. as soon as possible.

The right hon. Member for Easing-ton (Mr. Shinwell) spoke about drill halls and jazz bands. With some trepidation I agree with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in this. I think that this is a matter for the T.A. Associations themselves. The general rule is that when these drill halls are not required for training they can be lent for almost any other purpose except a political one. I do not know what is the political composition of the right hon. Gentleman's jazz band.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Shinwell

There is no political composition at all. It was a youth organisation which made the inquiry and the facts were presented to the Secretary of State for War and subsequently to the Dunham headquarters of the T.A. I have been called to the telephone from Newcastle—apparently there was a note that I had raised the matter this afternoon; by the way, I was able to transfer the charge, or I should not have phoned—and there is to be a song and dance about this.

Mr. Kirk

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, because I think that this is a matter for the association, which is the responsible body in this regard.

I was asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) about overseas training. Last year, about 2,500 men went overseas for training, which is a little less than 2½ per cent. of the total. As my right hon. Friend announced in January, with the increased connection between the T.A. and B.A.O.R., we are hoping to get more units to train in Germany if we possibly can. My hon. and gallant Friend will have seen in paragraph 113 of the Statement on Defence that 2,400 soldiers of the 44 Parachute Brigade Group took part in an exercise in Cyprus and that 200 soldiers of the T.A.E.R. were flown out to Hong Kong and Singapore while others accompanied the 2nd Green Jackets on an exercise in Libya. We are hoping to increase that as far as we can, because we realise that it is important from the training point of view and obviously an attraction to those who may volunteer for the Territorial Army.

The hon. Member for Dudley put forward, as he did last Thursday, a scheme for bringing the T.A. into a pre-Proclamation rôle rather than a post-Proclamation rôle and for making it smaller but better trained and equipped. This type of reorganisation is to be avoided if possible. "Reorganisation" is rather a dirty word to the Territorial Army which has just settled down after the last, and I would hate to inflict upon it another upheaval of this kind. We must be careful not to prejudice the morale of this all-volunteer force by changing its character drastically. The solution is much more to try to step up recruiting for the T.A.E.R.

I was interested in the comments which were made on this force. It is perfectly true, as I said on Thursday, that we have not achieved with the "Ever-readies" the success for which we hoped in the first instance. The present position is that recruiting is just under 5.000 strong. It went up towards the end of last year—November and December were good recruiting months for the T.A.E.R.

I do not think that the problem is entirely one of employment. Members of the T.A.E.R. are, of course, guaranteed reinstatement in their civil employment, although such a guarantee by the nature of things can extend for only six months after their return from service. It would be extremely difficult for any Government to extend a guarantee of this kind and thus limit an employer's right to select his own labour.

The problem is rather more of a number of men who would like to join, but who are frightened that by joining they will jeopardise not so much their employment as their prospects of promotion within the firm and the general way in which their careers will develop. This is an exceedingly difficult problem and one to which we have lately been giving a great deal of thought. We have close relationships with the employers' organisations. Both my right hon. Friend and I have been in touch with them by correspondence lately about the revision of the leaflets about T.A.E.R. which we sent to the employers. We try so far as possible to take their opinions about the best way in which we can recruit for it, but I will bear in mind what my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) has said and see whether we are making quite enough contact with the employers' organisations.

The problem, as the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. J. Morris) said, is rather more with the small than the big firms and it is obviously more difficult to get in touch with the smaller firms. But we will do everything we can to see that we march in step with the employers.

Mr. Shinwell

That should have been thought of at the beginning.

Mr. Kirk

We gave considerable thought to it before we started the scheme and we learn as we go along. This was an experiment and, like all experiments, adjustments have to be made from time to time.

Dr. Alan Glyn

I remember that this question was raised when the T.A.E.R. was first discussed. We all said that this scheme would work only if the employers were contacted. My hon. Friend has underestimated what his own Department has done—and I know that he has done a great deal—because, as the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) will remember, many of us, including myself, raised this point at the beginning.

Mr. Kirk

That is what I said in reply to the interjection of the right hon. Member. We thought of this at the beginning, but we are now in the process of thinking it out again.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West raised the subject of a reversion in rank for those in the T.A. who wished to join the T.A.E.R. We have gone into this with very great care, because it was forcibly brought home to us that there were a number, of N.C.O.s particularly, who might be prepared to revert in rank on call-up to the T.A.E.R. if there were no vacancy for someone in their rank in the "Ever- readies" themselves. The problem is that one must be careful not to denude the T.A. of its best people, so we have decided that it would not be practicable to allow this in the ranks of sergeant and above, but we have agreed that it should be allowed in the ranks of corporal and lance-corporal, or bombardier and lance-bombardier. We hope that some of these men will be prepared to accept this obligation on a condition of reversion of rank.

The hon. Member for Aberavon suggested that we might have a kind of trial call-up once a year of some men. This might be a mistake not only for the reasons mentioned but because it might make employers even less anxious to see people join the T.A.E.R. than some are at the moment, and also because this would exhaust men's liability to service in the T.A.E.R. It is rather difficult to call people out unless there is a real need for them.

This brings me to the last point I want to make in reply to a comment of the hon. Member for Dudley, who very fairly asked why they were not called out in the last few weeks. Of course international repercussions are part of the reason, but I think that it is quite clear that if they had been needed, if there had been such a necessity for them that the crisis could not have been coped with in any other way, they would have been called out. If the situation should arise or the situation get worse, consideration will have to be given to calling them out. It is not a case, as the hon. Member for Aberavon appeared to suggest, of the possibility of international repercussion preventing them from being used in a time of necessity.

Mr. J. Morris

I gave two reasons. One was the need and the other was the international repercussions.

Mr. Kirk

I may be unfair to the hon. Member, which is the last thing I would wish to be, but he seemed to feel that we needed them desperately a month ago and that international repercussions prevented them from being called out. It is a combination of the two. One has to have a proper balance about when one calls them out and on balance it seemed that they were not needed so overwhelmingly in the last month or two. But this does not mean that they will never be called out. Quite the reverse, they remain the first and most immediate line of reserve and therefore considerably important.

I hope that I have answered most of the questions. I should like to write to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eye about commanding officers. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) also raised the subject.

I assure the hon. Member for Dudley once again that we take this question of the proper provision of reserves very seriously. We are not satisfied with the present position and we keep it under constant review. The review of the reserves which took place two or three years ago yielded the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves Act and also considerable knowledge of the pattern of reserves in this country. We are constantly keeping an eye on the situation to see how best we can cope with it. As I have said, the most immediate task is the building up of the T.A.E.R. and we intend to go ahead with that so far as we possibly can.

Mr. Paget

The most important comment was that of the hon. Member for Maccleslield (Sir A. V. Harvey) about recruiting "Ever-readies" through the employers as we have failed to recruit them direct. The hon. Member said that he would reconsider approaching employers' organisations, but that was not what the hon. Member for Macclesfield intended. This has to be an approach at the highest level, not to employers' organisations, but to employers.

It is true that we would have to pick the big employers, but I see them being approached in this way: "You have so many Territorials you are employing; it would be only a reasonable quota if you sent so many and we would be very grateful for your encouragement to these men; will you tell your Territorials that if a certain number of them were available, that would be very much with your blessing and that their promotion and pay would be made up, as this would be of great assistance to the country?".

I see this sort of approach being made to individual chairmen. With an approach at that level, employers could be made recruiting agents. That is the way to do it and that is what I thought the hon. Member for Macclesfield had in mind.

Sir A. V. Harvey indicated assent.

Mr. Kirk

I should like to look at that. We are in touch both with employers and employers' associations on the whole subject of the T.A.E.R., but we will certainly consider that further suggestion.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

My hon. Friend has not answered two questions which I thought he might have been able to mention. One is why the figure of £800,000 in respect of the pay of the Regular reserves has gone down to £580,000 and the second is whether he will say anything about the War Office intentions regarding training all reservists to keep them up to date.

Mr. Kirk

The answer to the first question is that this is due to a reduction, a running out, in the numbers of paid reservists. Section A and T.A.E.R., are the two most immediate reserves, Section A people having left the Army within the last year or two, and therefore well-trained, while the T.A.E.R. members receive training while in the T.A.E.R. of course, in the event of general mobilisation when we had to call up everybody it would not be practicable to have them all in a high state of training, although Section D reservists have an obligation to be in a high state of training, an obligation which is not in force at the moment, but which could be brought in if necessary.

Mr. Wigg

Will the hon. Gentleman clear one point for me? In 1961 in the Queen's Speech we were promised an examination of the reserve forces and, following that, we got the Reserve Act, 1962. The examination went on and we recently had another Act. Is that all that is to happen? Will the Government wait until the end of the liability of National Service men for six months and then introduce another reserves Bill, or are they content to leave things as they are and is the examination which we were promised in 1961 now coming to an end?

Mr. Kirk

It is fairer to say that the examination of 1961 is now almost a permanent review of the reserves. We are constantly looking at the whole of the reserve position. We are acutely aware of what will happen in 1966. The last Act was part of the process. I cannot forecast exactly how it will go on and how much will be public and how much will be done in the Ministry of Defence, but we are keeping this matter practically on a day-to-day basis to ensure that the whole of the reserve position is considered.

Mr. Shinwell

During my absence the hon. Gentleman may have dealt with the question of training for the T.A.E.R., but I should like to be satisfied about the position. There may be some difficulty about providing training at weekends, and so on, but it seems to me that there is a special reason why members of the T.A.E.R. should have rather more effective training than ordinary Territorials. Can the hon. Gentleman give us any details of the training received by the T.A.E.R.? Can he also tell us whether it is the intention of the War Office to step up the training of the T.A.E.R.?

Mr. Kirk

Part of the difficulty is that the T.A.E.R. is technically part of the T.A. Until it is called out, it is part of the T.A. The bounty is payable solely because of the liability to call out. The training obligation is the same as that of the T.A., except that there must be at least a fortnight's camp, whereas members of the T.A. do not in all circumstances do a fortnight's camp.

I referred to paragraph 113 of the Memorandum. We have started to try to get T.A.E.R. people out on exercise outside the country, and we have been fairly successful in that. We hope to do more, but, as I said, members of the T.A.E.R. are essentially part of the T.A. They are not separate from it until they are called out, and their training, therefore, is good or bad only in so far as T.A. training is good or bad. I shall, however, consider the point to see whether we can step up T.A.E.R. training, but it will be difficult to do so without upsetting the relationship inside the T.A.

Dr. Alan Glyn

Can my hon. Friend enlarge on that? I asked whether he would consider whether those who wished to do a longer than usual period of training with A.E.R. than was prescribed would be allowed to do it.

Secondly, following on what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), if my hon. Friend's approach to employers does not do what we all hope it will do, will he consider setting up some sort of machinery like the machinery which exists for disabled people whereby firms which are given Government contracts have to employ at least 2 per cent. of disabled people?

Mr. Kirk

I shall look into the first point, but I think that there may be difficulties over the second one. Not all firms have a large number of employees who are members of the T.A.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £21,480,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the Reserve Forces (to a number not exceeding 153,000, all ranks, including a number not exceeding 147,000 other ranks), Territorial Army (to a number not exceeding 221,000, 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, 1965.