HC Deb 20 March 1968 vol 761 cc399-402
21. Mr. Ramsden

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether, in the light of the recent official United States reappraisal of the need for reserve forces in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, he will now reconsider the decision to disband the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve, Category III.

32. Mr. Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if, in the light of further assessments of defence needs, he will now reconsider his decision to disband the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve, Category III.

Mr. Reynolds

No, Sir. As I explained during the recent debate on the Territorial Army we are now discussing with the Council of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations ways and means of putting the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve, Category III on to a care and maintenance basis.

Mr. Ramsden

Are not two things clear: first, that the British Army will be the only major N.A.T.O. land component without the capability of putting a fresh formation in the field, if need be; and, secondly, that the British Government's thinking on N.A.T.O. strategy is seriously out of step with that of the Americans?

Mr. Reynolds

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has two points clear at least, but they did not seem so clear as he went along. We have a third division in addition to the normal forces assigned to SACEUR, and we have sufficient reserves to make sure those units are up to strength.

Mr. Powell

Will not the British Army be the only army in N.A.T.O. which has no capability of raising new formations in time of war?

Mr. Reynolds

The British Army will be the only army in N.A.T.O. which has the kind of first-class equipment which is being delivered to it. As the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend will be aware, there are definite limits to the numbers of units which can be got across to Central Europe in the amount of time allowed for in all N.A.T.O. planning

Sir Frank Pearson

Can the Minister say whether the chief constables of counties and boroughs were consulted specifically before the decision to stand this force down?

Mr. Reynolds

No, Sir.

23. Mr. Allason

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what would be the cost of retaining the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve, Category III, without pay or allowances.

Mr. Reynolds

About £2.2 million if other costs remain the same.

Mr. Allason

Is the Minister satisfied that this is a useful saving in view of the loss of this very valuable Reserve at a time when our Regular forces are being reduced?

Mr. Reynolds

Something up to £3 million is a useful saving. I should not have thought there was any doubt about that. I must stress that the T & AVR III is not a Reserve for the Regular Army.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Why are the Government always trying to knock voluntary service in the forces?

Mr. Reynolds

As was pointed out in the debate a little while ago, the Territorial Army, or what is now derived from it, still exists in considerable numbers and has better equipment than before. It was knocked in preceding years by being starved of equipment. It was hon. Gentlemen opposite who abolished the R.A.F. Reserve many years before.

Mr. Ramsden

Has not the British Army been well served in the past by the policy of having a lot of relatively inexpensive Reserves rather than a few pretty expensive ones? Might not, especially in the European context, the situation be reviewed with that in mind?

Mr. Reynolds

This is completely different from the view that the right hon. Gentleman took only four years ago when he was responsible for running the Army and the Army Reserves. We have in the past had large numbers of men with no equipment for them. The trouble with hon. Gentlemen opposite is that they are always trying to fight the war before last.

42. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with members of the Council of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association about the decision to disband the Territorial Army and Volunteer Reserve Category III.

Mr. Reynolds

I have nothing to add to my statement on 6th March.—[Vol. 760, cols. 466–568.]

Mr. Goodhart

In these discussions, will the hon. Gentleman remember that the money being spent on the cancellation charges for the F111 would keep the Territorials at their present level for 20 more years, and that, if he decided to retreat on this front, he would receive much praise?

Mr. Reynolds

I find it difficult to do mental arithmetic when the amount involved is unknown, as in this case.

Sir T. Beamish

During these discussions, is the hon. Gentleman bearing in mind the N.A.T.O. Ministerial communiqué of last December to which the Secretary of State subscribed stressing the growing importance of civil emergency planning? How can the disbanding of the Territorial Army be squared with this promise which the right hon. Gentleman must have given in December?

Mr. Reynolds

We discussed this in our debates on Civil Defence and the Territorial Army.