HC Deb 24 November 1965 vol 721 cc485-9
6. Mr. Hugh Fraser

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when the promised White Paper on the Reorganisation of the Territorial Army will be published.

8. Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will now make a statement on the future o: the Territorial Army.

Mr. Mulley

The White Paper, which will deal fully with these matters, will be published next month.

Mr. Fraser

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he has given a rather offhand answer, because earlier this year we were told that the defence review would be published in late autumn? Does this mean that it will be published early in December or just before the House rises for the Recess? Does it also mean that the right hon. Gentleman is having second thoughts in view of the feeling throughout the House about the proposals for reorganising the Territorial Army? May we have an assurance that the House will have time to debate the White Paper before the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Mulley

The right hon. Gentleman understands procedure well enough to know that questions about debates are not for me. I appreciate that to publish the White Paper in the Christmas period would probably not be for general convenience, but I cannot give an exact date today. Publication is rather later than we had hoped because, with the good wishes, I am sure, of all right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, we have held long consultations with the Territorial Army Council and with local Territorial Army associations. While such consultations are a valuable process, they take time.

Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the impression has got about that the Government's proposals may kill the Territorial Army stone dead? Can he give an assurance that such a thing will not be allowed to happen without every opportunity for a debate on it first?

Mr. Mulley

I can give the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that we do not desire—and the proposals my right hon. Friend made in July are not designed—to kill the Territorial Army "stone dead" as the right hon. Gentleman calls it. The object of the revision, which is generally conceded in Territorial Army circles as being overdue, is to bring the rôle and the functions of the T.A. into line with the current strategic requirements of the Army.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Will the White Paper explain how the Territorial Army could defend us against 100 megaton bombs arriving by rocket?

Mr. Mulley

I was not envisaging a paragraph on those lines in the White Paper. However, I am sure that if I were able to provide such an answer it would surprise my hon. Friend even more perhaps than others.

Sir T. Beamish

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the fundamental criticisms of the principles on which the proposed reorganisation is based are by no means confined to this side of the House but are widely shared on his own side and in the Liberal Party? Will he make a clear note of the fact that we regard it as essential to debate the principles underlying the White Paper as soon as possible after the White Paper is laid and before Christmas?

Mr. Mulley

As I have said, the question of debate is not for me but I will convey these views to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. However, I would re-emphasise that there is no change in the principles that my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary announced in July and indeed, as I understand it, there is no difference between us and many Territorials on the need to make the reserves more widely available to meet the kind of demands that could be placed upon us. The big difference that exists is on the question of the rôle of home defence, but the other principles underlying reorganisation are agreed and were, indeed, set out by the T.A. Council itself in its agreed papers.

Sir T. Beamish rose


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get on. I do not think that 'he hon. and gallant Gentleman can justly claim a second supplementary.

9. Mr. MacArthur

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many representations he has received from local authorities and other public bodies in Scotland against his plans for the future of the Territorial Army; and what reply he has sent.

Mr. Mulley

I have received 25 letters, most of which expressed concern at the prospect of having no local Territorial Army units: the replies to them have explained that the detailed location of units in the new Reserve is not yet settled.

Mr. MacArthur

Is the right hon. Gentleman becoming aware of the widespread opposition there is in Scotland to these proposals? Is he further aware of the grave concern about the defence consequences of removing a disciplined home force? Even now, will not he contemplate rather more than he has done the question of reorganisation instead of disbandment? Will he recognise that there is nothing so uncertain in the state of present world conditions as what might happen in a future conflict?

Mr. Mulley

I am aware of the concern in Scotland that Scotland should have a proper share of the new reserves and I give an assurance that Scotland will at least have its proper share of these new provisions. But I do not accept that if we had such units in Scotland they would want to stay there for contingencies which I cannot foresee happening. If there were an emergency, Scottish units would want to go overseas with their English colleagues.

Mr. H. Hynd

May we have an assurance that my right hon. Friend will not attempt to amalgamate the Black Watch with the Gordon Highlanders?

Mr. Mulley

At this stage I can give no indication as to titles of such new units as may be formed.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

In view of the implications of the proposals for local government, will the right hon. Gentleman take account of the views of local authorities and preferably consult them before announcing the results of the review?

Mr. Mulley

We have taken and will continue to take account of the views expressed, including those of local authorities in Scotland. As has been announced, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will be making a statement as soon as possible on the outcome of the Government's study of Civil Defence requirements.

Mr. Powell

The Minister used the words "a proper share" when referring to the Scottish allocation of units. Will he bear in mind the great relevance of Territorial units and their location to the recruiting of the Regular Army?

Mr. Mulley

That is one of the considerations we have very much in mind, but it can be overstated.

32. Sir J. Gilmour

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what reply he has sent to the town council of St. Andrews to their letter dated 2nd November on the subject of the Territorial Army.

Mr. Mulley

I have sent the hon. Member a copy of the reply, which explained that the detailed location of units for the proposed new Reserve is not yet settled.

Sir J. Gilmour

Whilst thanking the right hon. Gentleman for sending me a copy of the reply, would he agree that it would not be in any way disclosing a confidence to say to the council of St. Andrews that there will be no opportunities whatsoever for anyone in the St. Andrews district to take part in the Territorial Army, as his proposals are constituted?

Mr. Mulley

As I have said, the detailed location is not yet finally settled, and it would be quite wrong to enter into discussions about these matters with one area of the country when others are still awaiting a final decision. I do not accept that it would be impossible for people to participate in the Reserve, because whether or not there are locally-based units, there are also the sponsored sections for which people in all parts of the country can volunteer.

45. Mr. Tilney

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what further consultations he has had with the Territorial Council on the future of the Territorial Army; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mulley

Discussions with representatives of the Territorial Army Council are, for the present, concluded: their views are being carefully considered.

Mr. Tilney

Did the Council stress the strength of public opinion against the future lack of home defence due to the virtual destruction of the Territorial Army? Since I have eight pages of signatures and complaints, may I ask whether the Council urged the need not to isolate the Regular Army from the public, which knows the Territorial Army much better than it knows the Regular Army?

Mr. Mulley

If the hon. Member is aware of the activities of the Territorial Council he will know that it put a very strong case from its own point of view, but that it accepted, as it was bound to do, that the responsibility for the operational requirements and size and shape of the Reserve must rest with the Government.

50. Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many officers and other ranks he hopes to recruit for the Territorial Army in Scotland over the next 12 months.

Mr. Mulley

I cannot make any reliable estimate until the location of units of the new Reserve has been settled and announced.