HC Deb 14 December 1976 vol 922 cc1175-6
7. Mr. Banks

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied with the number of trained Army reservists available for reinforcing BAOR.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. Robert C. Brown)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Banks

Is the Minister aware that fully trained reservists are an important and cost-effective reinforcement for our troops in Europe? Is he further aware that the Government have shown a marked lack of determination to increase the establishment of our reservists and provide them with transport to get them quickly into Europe so that they may be effectively used?

Mr. Brown

I am well aware of the importance and cost-effectiveness of the TAVR and its ability to reinforce BAOR. The hon. Gentleman should have read a little more before asking this sort of supplementary question. If he had done so, he would have realised that we have had tremendous success in increasing recruitment to the TAVR in the past year. Although it is not normal to divulge figures, I can tell him that the British Army of the Rhine would be doubled on mobilisation.

Mr. Blaker

Will the Under-Secretary of State draw to the attention of his right hon. Friend the fact that in June this year NATO Defence Ministers in the Defence Planning Committee unanimously agreed to the principle that NATO forces should be maintained, and not reduced, except in the context of mutual and balanced force reductions in Europe, and that that principle presumably still binds Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Brown

I confirm that the BAOR commitment of 55,000 troops, in accordance with the Brussels Treaty, is being maintained.

Mr. Churchill

Will the Minister reconsider his grossly complacent reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks)? Is he not aware that on full mobilisation of all reserve manpower the British Armed Forces total no more than 580,000 men, and that that is less than the strength of Switzerland, Sweden and even tiny Finland, with one-twelfth our population?

Mr. Brown

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his first appearance in his new rôle at the Dispatch Box. We are confident that on mobilisation we would have the reservees to increase the effective strength of BAOR. Comparisons with our European allies are not valid, bearing in mind that we have a full-time professional Army which is second to none in the world. We cannot compare a full-time professional army with a conscript army.

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