HL Deb 10 February 1964 vol 255 cc365-404

2.36 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a short and relatively simple Bill. It is, nevertheless, an important one, since it will materially affect the ability of our Armed Forces to react in time and in the numbers required to future emergencies. Recent events have merely confirmed what all of us already knew: that in this world of change—and change which is all too often of a violent character—such emergencies could steal upon us very quickly; and we have to be ready, to the best of our ability, to meet these emergencies.

This Bill is the product of a thorough review of our Reserve Forces requirements which has been undertaken in recent months by the three Services. As your Lordships are aware, we have now gone over to all-volunteer active forces. Nevertheless, a large part of the Reserves now available consist of National Servicemen who are either doing their part-time service or discharging their liability under the 1954 Reserves Act, which was extended until June, 1964. Hence we are now relying on, and will for some time continue to rely on, trained Servicemen now in civil life who are the products of National Service. That said, the primary aim of this recent inter-Service review was to prepare a plan which will reduce and eventually remove—when, is still open to question—our dependence on those Reserves which resulted from National Service.

As I have just mentioned, our Reserve requirements have been reviewed on an inter-Service basis. However, as one would expect with a Bill which is concerned with reserve manpower, the Army inevitably has the major stake here. I therefore feel that, before I turn to the three substantive clauses of this new Bill, it might be helpful if I were briefly to remind your Lordships of the structure and purposes of the Army's Reserve. I do so with some diffidence, as I realise that the further I come ashore, the more likely I am to find myself at sea.

It is obvious that if we are to place our reliance upon an all-Regular, all-volunteer, and relatively small Army, it is vital that that Army should be backed by adequate Reserves. There are at present three main tasks for the Reserves supporting the Regular Army. The first is to provide reinforcements for a limited war. For this, apart from the "Ever-readies," of whom a little more anon, Section "A" of the Regular Reserve and Category I of the Army Emergency Reserve are available. Both of these Reserves have what is called a pre-Proclamation liability: they can be called out without recourse to a Proclamation. There is no precise Navy equivalent here, but the Royal Air Force equivalent is part of Category I of Class "E" of the R.A.F. Reserve. The second main task of the Army Reserves is to bring B.A.O.R. up to war strength. The third is to provide for the home defence of the United Kingdom. These two latter requirements would clearly develop only in a very grave situation, and it is a reasonable assumption that a Proclamation would be required for them. This would make available for service at home and overseas all the other Reserves—Sections "B" and "D" of the Regular Reserve, the Territorial Army, the remainder of the Army Emergency Reserve and the Army General Reserve. This is the broad picture which I would now invite your Lordships to examine in a little more detail.

To take first the Regular Reserve, Section "A" consists in the main of men who have just left the Colours. At present they are required to do a year's compulsory service in Section "A", though quite a number volunteer to stay on for longer. They can be recalled without a Proclamation. The rôle of this Reserve is, broadly speaking, to bring the Strategic Reserve and theatre reserves up to war strength. They would go as individuals, and as they are fully trained they would quickly fit back into the sort of Regular units in which they have recently served. The other two elements of the Regular Reserve are Sections "B" and "D", which can be called out for service overseas only after a Proclamation. They are, in general, men who pass through Section "A" and are either completing the balance of their normal Reserve duty in Section "B" or, having done so, have volunteered to remain in the Regular Reserve. In that case, they pass on to Section D". In an emergency, these Reserves would be used extensively for the reinforcement of B.A.O.R.

Next there is the Territorial Army. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War spoke recently in another place of the three basic rôles of the Territorial Army. These rôles, which relate to the threat of general war, are the reinforcement of the Regular Army overseas, and particularly Rhine Army; aid to the civil power and support of the Regular Army in the United Kingdom; and, finally, the provision of a framework on which general preparations for war can be built up. The Territorial Army is an absolutely indispensable element in the Army's Reserves. Our review of future Reserve requirements, to which I referred just now, has more than confirmed this, and two of the outcomes of this review were recently mentioned by my right honourable friend in answer to a Parliamentary Question in another place. From 1965 the Territorial Army will be required to provide larger numbers of reinforcements for B.A.O.R. than hitherto, and thus the Territorial Army will be even more widely involved than at present in the reinforcement and support of Rhine Army.

Further, studies of the conditions which would prevail in the early stages of a nuclear emergency have shown that the Territorial Army ought to be trained to deal with outbreaks of fire; and the civil defence training which infantry and gunner units now do every fourth year will in future include this. These measures will give the Territorial Army added relevance to the threat of general war. Within the T.A. there is also the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve—the "Ever-readies". This, as your Lordships know, is the most readily available of all our Army Reserves—more so than either section "A" of the Regular Reserve or Category I of the Army Emergency Reserve. The Secretary of State for War has power to call the "Ever-readies" for service anywhere without any limitations if he considers the circumstances warrant it. There is no doubt about the value of this Reserve. It is likely to increase, rather than diminish, in the future, in the international conditions with which we are likely to be faced.

I have already mentioned the Army Emergency Reserve. This is in two parts, and in the main consists of formed units of a specialist and administrative nature. Category I, which has the pre-Proclamation liability, is part of the limited war order of battle and Category II would become available after a Proclamation—but only after a Proclamation—to reinforce the Rhine Army. These specialist units will have a very important part to play in any emergency. Finally, until 1966, part-time National Servicemen are available, and since 1954 there has been the Army General Reserve. This Reserve is needed primarily for the reinforcement of the Territorial Army for home defence in a grave emergency though some men from this Reserve would be needed to reinforce the Rhine Army. At present there are over a million men in this Reserve—far more than we need.

My Lords, this brings me to Clause 1 of the new Bill. This extends the application of the 1954 Act for another five years—from June, 1964, until 1969. The application of the clause is, however, confined to those who completed their liability under the National Service Act, 1948, after December 31, 1962. The effect of this extension, in one degree, and restriction in another, will be to release about 1½ million men of all three Services from their liability, and to leave in, roughly speaking, trained men of about 25 years of age. The numbers of these will rise until 1966, as the balance of part-time National Servicemen complete their National Service liability and so come into this Reserve; thereafter the numbers will fall. The effect of this clause will be to provide until 1969 a Reserve for the Army of up to about 160,000, which we consider will be large enough to match the Army's foreseen requirements. It will ultimately also provide 25,000 Naval reservists, about whom I shall be saying a little more in a moment. Finally, it will make liable for service some 34,000 R.A.F. Class "C" reservists.

We have been able to provide in this way for the release of a very large number of men from their liability under the 1954 Act by deliberately matching the future size of the Reserve to the foreseen requirements of the Army; and we are keeping in the Reserve the latest of those National Servicemen who complete whole or part-time National Service. I am sure that this is the right approach. These men will be required in a grave emergency, one in which mobilisation will be general. It will be a situation in which the country will have to call on every trained man to give his services in some form. Hence the greater a man's experience with the Forces and, more particularly the more recent that experience is, the greater will be the need for him to rejoin. Therefore we are aiming to catch by this new liability precisely those men whose experience is the greatest and most recent.

We could, of course, have adopted a different solution; but I am quite sure the one we have selected makes the most sense given the sort of liability which this Reserve has. My right honourable friend the Member for Woodford, when speaking as Prime Minister about the original Act, gave the undertaking that men in the Army General Reserve would be called out only in what he called "the gravest war emergency". This is the sort of situation with which we are concerned; and I am sure that the right answer is to retain in the Reserve, as we hope we shall do under this Bill, the youngest and most recently trained National Servicemen. I am equally sure that it is right to reduce the present sprawling mass of this Reserve—which amounts over the three Services to something like 1½ million men—to more manageable, if still sizable, proportions.

As I have already said, Clause 1 will essentially apply to some 25,000 Naval reservists as well. These are men in the Royal Naval Special Reserve, which is, of course, the Navy's equivalent to the Army General Reserve. We feel that this number will meet the Navy's requirements; but those requirements are, in fact, under review at the present time. The men to be released from their Reserve obligations—this number of almost 1½ million—will be released from the day on which this Bill receives the Royal Assent.

So much for the shorter-term position, covering the period from 1964 until 1969. We must, of course, look further to the future than that. It would be open to the Government of the day, whatever its political complexion, to extend the Act again in 1969. I would not wish to pre-judge that decision as I would not wish to prejudge the political complexion of the Government of that day. I would merely point out that, even then, the average age of these ex-National Service Reservists would not be more than about thirty. However, be that as it may, we cannot possibly do it now. We clearly need to think in terms of a longer-term plan which is not dependent on National Service or its after effects. The answer, in the case of the Army, is to start building up as soon as possible a Reserve of ex-Regulars which will be ultimately large enough to provide all the reinforcements we foresee we require. This is the purpose of Clause 2 of the Bill, which applies only to the Army. This clause provides for the creation of a long-term Reserve of ex-Regular soldiers who have completed their Colour and Regular Reserve service.

I would emphasise that this clause applies only to men enlisting after the Bill comes into force. It would clearly be wrong for a soldier to be given a liability which he had not taken on himself voluntarily when he enlisted. Therefore, except in the case of volunteers under Clause 2, this new liability will apply only to those coming into the Army after the Act is passed. What is more, it will be made absolutely clear to the recruit, when he signs on, precisely what he is letting himself in for by way of Reserve liabilities. There are, in fact, existing statutory requirements which oblige us to make certain that this is done, and these will be carefully observed. Instructions will also be issued to recruiting officers that they must particularly ensure that recruits have the terms of their new Reserve liability carefully explained to them and that they are fully understood by the potential recruit. There is no question therefore of recruits who sign on after this Bill receives the Royal Assent being unaware of this additional liability which they are incurring. At the same time, my right honourable friend is confident that this new liability will not be of such a nature as to discourage men from joining the Army. Clearly this is a point of great concern to recruits and one to which the War Office have given careful attention.

We must remember that this long-term Reserve will in due course take the place of the Army General Reserve and will be liable for recall in much the same conditions as those which apply to that Reserve. If these conditions arise, the conditions of the threat of general war, I believe that every man will wish to serve the country in the most effective way he possibly can, and this new Reserve will make it possible to get the best use out of men who have been through a period of very thorough military training.

This brings me to Clause 3, a clause which affects both the Army and the Royal Air Force. To take the Army first, I spoke earlier of the important rôle of Section "A" of the Regular Reserve in the event of a limited war and in the pre-Proclamation phase. The legal basis of this Reserve is an existing provision in the Army and Air Force Reserves Act, 1950, under which a man can be designated for special Section "A" liability after he has finished the active part of his engagement during the first year of his Reserve service. This applies only to his first year of Reserve service. A man who assumes liability for twelve years active and Reserve service and comes out after six years, has one year of his remaining six in the Special Reserve. He undertakes to accept this liability as part of the conditions under which he enlists. Volunteers are also accepted for this Reserve from Regular reservists.

Clause 3 provides powers to treble this special liability period from one to three years. We need these powers because the single year's term, notwithstanding the volunteer element, does not provide a sufficiently large Reserve for the Army's pre-Proclamation needs. However, although the clause gives power to designate for up to three years, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War intends, provided the volunteer element in this Reserve is kept up and provided there is no drastic change in international circumstances and in our operational commitments, to designate men for two years only. Although that is the case, I think that it is sensible to provide for the possibility of designating for three years without coming back to Parliament. So far as the R.A.F. is concerned, the position is similar to that of the Army, except that in certain trades it will probably be necessary to designate men for Section "A" for the full period of three years. As with Clause 2, Clause 3 will apply only to men enlisting after the Bill comes into effect, and again this new liability will be made crystal clear to new recruits before they commit themselves.

Although the structure of our Reserves is somewhat complex, the Bill itself is relatively simple. I hope—not, I must confess, with vast confidence—that I have made its provisions reasonably clear to your Lordships. As I explained in the beginning, it is the legislative outcome, but not the only outcome, of some very careful thinking on the part of the Service Departments concerned and of the Government about our future Reserve requirements. It not only provides for the continuance of an essential Reserve to support the Army, and to a more limited extent the Navy, in the event of a threat of general war, but it also lays the foundations of a longer-term plan, which will eventually enable the Army to become independent of National Service reservists; and as I think we would all agree, that is the right thing to aim at. It is in our view—and I do not think this view was questioned in another place—an essential measure from the military point of view. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Jellicoe.)

2.59 p.m.


My Lords, first of all, I must apologise to the noble Earl and to the House for my somewhat tardy arrival. Questions were dealt with rather more quickly than they normally are in our House.


There were not any.


In that case, I must have been misinformed when I telephoned to get an estimate of the time when the noble Earl would begin his speech, but I apologise for not being here. As the noble Earl indicated, this is a fairly difficult Bill to understand, and I had to face the problem without the advantage which the noble Earl has of being able to ask somebody what parts of it meant. While one necessarily has in mind a fair knowledge of the general Reserve position, I must say that that part of the noble Earl's speech which I heard undoubtedly dealt concisely and with clarity with something which is difficult but extremely important.

It is a fact that we do not get enough opportunity to consider the situation of our Reserve Forces. On those rare occasions, we have a general debate on Defence or some particular matter. There are usually one or two of your Lordships who come in with a particular angle, such as the Territorial Army or one of the cadet forces, but it tends to get lost in the general consideration of some wide defence issue. We have this opportunity to-day of looking at this a little more closely, and I am glad to see that a number of noble Lords who will have some direct knowledge of what is going on in our Reserve Forces will be taking part in the debate.

In doing this, I think it is worth looking at the whole situation. Clearly the type of Reserve Forces and the need for them depend on the general size of the Regular Forces which are serving. If we have to-day the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve, the "Ever-readies" this is undoubtedly a consequence of shortage of manpower in the Forces. I think we should ask the Government, in considering this matter, how recruiting is going. This does not arise directly on the Bill now before us, but the Bill, to a large extent, arises directly out of it, and there are certain clauses to which I shall refer which make this quite clear.

We know that at the moment we have not adequate Armed Forces in terms of manpower. As the noble Earl made clear, in this matter we are directly concerned with discussing the strength of the Reserve Forces and of the Army: not because one would suggest for a moment that the various Reserves of the other Forces are not of extreme importance, but the particular problem rests with the Army. Ever since we failed to reach the target of 200,000, or even the figure of 180,000, we have been in difficulty. We have told the Government, perhaps not helpfully, but truthfully, that the nation was failing to provide the necessary manpower; and certain actions followed. We decided, thank goodness! to continue the size of our Gurkha Forces at the figure at which they stood of just under 15,000. None the less, if recruiting continues to decline at the present rate, the need for these Reserve Forces, and particularly in the pre-Proclamation stage, which is when we especially need them, will be greater. I wonder whether the noble Earl, when he comes to reply, could tell us something about the state of recruiting, because the figures I have show a drop varying between 20 and 50 per cent. on the previous year. We are now into the least promising time, and with a pay rise imminent, there may be people who, perhaps for mistaken reasons, will decide to wait to join the Armed Forces until they can come in at the new rate. Of course, when that new rate comes into force, it may be that there will be a certain flush; but as we know from previous occasions, the optimism that this generates, and which was so notable in the speeches of the Government spokesmen, is apt to give way to a much more cautious approach. So the first question I would ask in relation to the need for Reserves is what the Government feel about the possibilities on the recruiting side. It is absolutely imperative that we seek to attain the target of 180,000. As I have already indicated, some of the increased obligations that are being laid on the Reserve—for instance, Section "A" of the Army Regular Reserve—arise out of this.

It is not, I think, of much value to go into the total size of the particular Reserves, and there are difficulties in doing so. The two that I think of the greatest importance at the moment are the Section "A" Reserve and the Territorial Emergency Reserve, the "Ever-readies". I should like to press the noble Earl a little more on the subject of Ever-readies". It is very comfortable to have ceilings, and the Government go in for ceilings. We know that they go in for moving targets in relation to their total aims in recruiting. The target moves in exact relationship to the present estimate of what they are likely to get. But their estimates have been somewhat unsuccessful, and the target has moved with some rapidity. The ceiling, however, is more comfortable; and we did have a ceiling for the "Ever-readies". We gather that there are now about 4,000, and that there is a small waiting list. Would it not be as well to recruit more of these "Ever-readies"—after all, in this respect they are volunteers—rather than to increase the compulsory reserve liability in Section "A" of the Regular Forces from one year to two years? It may be that we need both, but we should like to know a little more about the present prospects and intentions of the Government with regard to the "Ever-readies".

There is one particular question I would ask now which I do not think has ever been answered satisfactorily. In the event of the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve being called up in a pre-Proclamation phase, what will be the effect on the Territorial units from which they come? One can see a difficult situation confronting a Government at a certain time. They may well be faced with the possibility of a general emergency, leading to a Proclamation, and having to decide whether to call up, pre-Proclamation, the Territorial Emergency Army Reserve, knowing that in doing so, although they will strengthen certain other forces—those that are already embodied and in an operational position—they will at the same time be lowering the efficiency of the units from which they come. I may have misunderstood this situation; but, if I have done so, so have other commentators. It would be useful to know how this situation is to be dealt with. It may be that there are noble Lords who, because of their connection with the Territorial Associations, will be aware of how this is being dealt with; but it is certainly a factor that is material to the effectiveness of these reserve forces.

I think that in the circumstances the Government are right to increase the period of liability of recall in the pre-Proclamation phase of the Section "A" Reserve. The noble Earl told us that he hoped that the Government would be able to keep it at two years. It may be that at this moment the Government are not able to answer these particular questions. But, impressed, as everbody must have been, by the efficiency and rapidity with which recent operations have been carried out, especially those in Africa; being aware of the very crucial stage in regard to Cyprus, and knowing that the strategic reserve is also very largely committed there (and may be even more largely committed in other parts of the world), have the Government contemplated making use of certain of these pre-Proclamation Reserves? If the noble Earl says that he cannot answer that question, I certainly shall not press him.

What we are trying to judge is how vulnerable our position is, because it may at any moment get worse, and once we call into service the comparatively limited pre-Proclamation Reserves then we clearly shall be in a difficult position. We know that there have been times in recent years when consideration has been given to some form of general mobilisation. I say no more on this point now, but in judging the adequacy of these reserves I think one is bound to have a special regard to the pre-Proclamation Reserves. The need for increasing them in any way possible seems to me to be very strong at the moment, for this reason. Dubious though we have been about the "Ever-readies", and difficult though it may be to combine them with efficiency within the Territorial Army, I should be interested to know why the Government appear to have been content with the figure of 4,000. They have not suggested that it is lack of volunteers; indeed, it was stated in another place that there was even a small waiting list.

I have very little to say about the other Regular reserves. One of the most controversial or, perhaps I should say, one of the most difficult aspects of this Bill relates to the Army General Reserve, the long-term reserve. It has been strongly argued in another place—and I should still like to put this question to the Government—that those National Servicemen who have already served an extra six months, and those National Servicemen who might be called upon to do so, should be exempted from the obligation to be members of the Army General Reserve. The numbers involved would not be very great. The arguments against this are also quite strong. One is that in a really grave national emergency we should want to call everybody we could. But on this question of fairness I would point out that in a situation where with the abolition of National Service, there is not very much fairness—where there is at least selective service, so far as the reserves are concerned—this is something that is a little more unfair than the rest. I should be interested to hear the noble Earl's reply. I am not pressing this point very hard, because I thought the Secretary of State for War, in the remarks he made in another place, made a very good case for doing what he did. None the less, there are still complaints, and I think it is up to the Government to justify their policy in this matter.

The noble Earl maintains that there is little danger that the decision to require Regulars enlisting after this Bill to accept a liability up to the age of 45 to recall in the Army General Reserve will affect recruiting. I rather wonder whether 45 is a very significant age. I think it is a pretty non-significant age, so far as the former National Serviceman is concerned. I cannot really believe that calling up these men, or even having their addresses, is going to help very much fifteen years after they have left the Forces. It may well be a period of five, ten or fifteen years. Certainly so far as the National Servicemen are concerned, they are not necessarily men with a deep military tradition, like, I think they are called, the outside Chelsea Pensioners—in other words, Army pensioners who clearly are so imbued with Army life that they would come back automatically and fulfil some useful rôle. It is for consideration, therefore, whether this Reserve should carry a liability up to the age of 45. I do not necessarily suggest that we should seek to amend this Bill, because it will always be open to the Government to take action: indeed, in a few years it will be necessary to have another Bill, and it will then be possible to look at the situation. After 1970, one will be able to judge what the effectiveness will be.

Apart from a promise that the Government and the Ministry of Defence will contrive at least to get the addresses of these men, they will otherwise know nothing about it. Therefore, I am wondering whether, in the long run, it would not be better to produce for the National Servicemen (perhaps they can use it already, though I rather assume not) something equivalent to the Section "D" Reserve; something which gives a financial incentive and produces an identifiable obligation, an obligation of a kind that men are quite often happy to have. It gives them a feeling that they are there, and they are prepared to do their duty. It may well be that something of that nature, and an expression of it, would be more valuable than an amorphous Army General Reserve.

I am well aware that the Government have taken steps to reduce the size of the Army General Reserve by cutting out all the pre-1962 National Servicemen. They are, in fact, doing a cleaning-up operation which is quite realistic. The noble Earl said that it is not possible (and he emphasised this with an eye on this side of the House) to commit any future Government on these matters. If there is one thing which must be apparent to us all, it is that we shall continue to need an Army for a very long time to come. Whether or not we have any general measure of disarmament, whether or not we are successful in getting rid of nuclear weapons, it will be a long time before the pacification and acceptance of stability in some of the former colonial areas can be regarded as secure. Whether these forces operate under British, Commonwealth, NATO or even UNO control, there will clearly be a need for a long-term policy, with regard not only to the serving forces but also to the Reserves.

It has been suggested that the Government have carried out some sort of a review of the position of the Reserves. I should have thought that this Bill was little more than a tidying-up operation. We certainly should not oppose it; in fact we regard most of the provisions as right. But there is a feeling, which one hears voiced all too frequently, that the Reserves, and especially the Territorial Army, are not as well supplied with equipment and are not given quite the opportunities for training they would like. Obviously, the decision to take Territorials abroad for their training is a wholly good one. I do not know what the cost of this is, but I think we all have a strong suspicion that when the time comes for the Minister of Defence or the separate Service Ministers, as it has been, to argue with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it will be found that it is on the Reserve Forces and the Territorial Army that some of the cuts have fallen.

I would make a plea to the noble Earl that he will do his utmost, and that the Government will do their utmost, to elevate all these Reserve Forces to a greater measure of responsibility and importance in the eyes of the country. I think we take them all much too much for granted, and I think that some sort of publicity on this as well as on their general recruiting will be of value. With those words, I would say that we on this side of the House are not proposing to oppose the Bill.

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I welcome this Bill, so far as it goes. My own doubt about it is that it does not go nearly far enough. The Bill, in fact, deals with the application of Acts passed years ago: for example, the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves Act 1954, and other Acts passed in days gone by, although not so very long gone by. Indeed, the speech of the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading dealt with the traditional forms of reserves which our Army requires, the reserves for bush-fire operations, for replenishment of B.A.O.R. in case of war and for home defence. It was the sort of speech that a Minister would have made, and indeed has made in my hearing for many years past, to this House. He did not tell us anything about the Strategic Reserve and how this fits into the scheme of things. My impression is that, with one thing and another, the Strategic Reserve has been much depleted and probably hardly exists at all in this country, at all events as a reserve; though it may be earmarked in various parts of the world as part of the Strategic Reserve. It does not, in fact, any longer exist as a Strategic Reserve in one area.

As to recruiting, which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to, I can give him some information on that as I have just got it from the Printed Paper Office. Apparently, so far as the Army is concerned, the latest figures that we have, which are for November last year, show that recruiting went down. Whereas, in November, 1962, the Army recruited 2,049 other ranks, in November, 1963, the figure dropped to 1,423—a very big drop indeed. In general, the strength of the Forces at December 1 last were these: Royal Navy and Royal Marines, including boys, 82,854—a rise from a year ago when it was 80,369; the Army 162,775, from 160,828 the year before; and the Royal Air Force, men and boys—a big drop here-111,500 from 116,935. So we can see that, on the whole, the Armed Forces are slightly down from what they were a year ago. The need for Reserves of one kind or another becomes highly apparent. We do not know what the new terms which the Government are proposing for the Armed Forces will bring forth; but, on the other hand, against that, there is of course the added responsibility for reserve service which the noble Earl has mentioned to-day. He has admitted that, as yet, the War Office cannot give any real sound indication as to its effect. It cannot give it because it has not yet been long enough in operation.

In the new situation there is a fourth need—and this is really the point I want to make—of which the noble Earl did not speak, and one which has just arisen for the first time in the last two or three months, which is why I doubt whether this Bill is really sufficient. The type of force needed is this. At a few hours' notice we are expected to send off and have sent off, forces—and I fully support the praise of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in this direction—to independent members of the Commonwealth to preserve law and order; in many cases to preserve the Governments and to preserve the very identity of the State either from infiltration, maybe of a Communist kind, maybe not, but often from the insurrection of their own Forces. This has never been contemplated before in the whole history of the British people. This is why I doubt whether this particular Bill will do much to help. It may do so, but I doubt it. The need is an immediate need. You cannot wait for Reserves to come in a nineteenth-century, leisurely way and be kitted up and phased into units, and so on. If forces can go immediately to a seat of trouble then, in all probability, the trouble will stop as we have seen in so many cases recently, within a few hours. If they cannot, then an extremely serious situation arises and there may be a shooting war on the spot by the time they get there. We need not think that this is going to be a once-for-all operation—"We have seen all that's needed, and that's the end of it". In my view there may be a number of these cases in future.

In a very interesting book, entitled The Man on Horseback, written about a year ago Professor Finer, a Professor at the University of Keele, analyses the military dictatorships throughout the centuries, particularly, of course, in modern times. He says in that book that, so far from being an exceptional mode of government, as we in our democratic system have been led to believe, it is the usual form of government over the surface of the world; and so far from its being less likely to take place in the future, it is more likely to take place in the future as the power and strength of modern weapons comes into force. In our own country, I think, undoubtedly we were saved from this situation because the aristocracy and the gentry who ruled the country for so long did one good thing, at all events, in that during the time when it was difficult to control an Army they did not have an Army. At that time the Army (a very small one at that) existed only from year to year and did not exist at all unless Parliament renewed it from year to year. Unless you have some tremendous check like that, which I think no other country in the world has, it is very difficult to see in modern days in many of these new or unstable States how a civil Power can control an Army—and this is the position which we have all to face and which we have to face in many Commonwealth Countries, because they are new and unstable, and it is our responsibility to go to help them.

Over fifty countries have become independent since 1945. I have not added up how many of them have become military dictatorships, but a considerable number of them have, particularly of course in Latin America and the Middle East. This is another example of the sort of case which we shall be faced with. This means that the Government—to use the phrase of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, the Government of whatever complexion that may be in power—in a year or so will have to face this question: how are they going to deal with a problem of this kind, which may become quite extensive? And it is an immediate problem. I am sure that all Parties are against general conscription and that all the Parties, officially, are against selective conscription. Therefore, it either means that we must have some new method of reserve which we have not yet evolved or it means we must have a Commonwealth pool.

I myself am inclined to that last view. I think it is too much and quite improper to expect Britain, which after all, now has a population only about one-third larger than Nigeria's, to be able to handle on her own not only the three types of traditional Service which are required, which the noble Earl mentioned, but also the fourth service. I am quite certain that the Government ought to press for a Commonwealth pool. I do not mean to say, an existing Commonwealth force, but that all Commonwealth countries, particularly Australia, New Zealand, Canada and India, should earmark certain forces which can be ready at a few hours notice for Commonwealth duty. That I think would relieve the burden on us, which in my view we are unable to support in these times.

I should like to say a word about the Territorial Army, because, frankly, I did not quite follow the noble Earl. I did not interrupt him, knowing he was to reply, but I am not sure what he means by this obligation on the Territorial Army to provide reserve forces for B.A.O.R. I presume the reason why the "Ever-readies" have not been a great success—or they may have been a success but at least they have not been extended; there are only 4,000—is the reason the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, gave: that is, that Territorial units are not at all happy about having technicians and specialists removed from them at the very moment when they will be required, which is the moment they may be mobilised themselves. In paragraph 42 of the Statement on Defence, 1963, it said this, about the Army generally: In officer recruiting, as indeed over the whole field of Army recruiting, the most acute problem is to secure the services of the many specialists that the modern Army requires. The Territorial Army requires its specialists just as much as the Regular Army, and I imagine that is probably the reason why the "Ever-ready" development has not taken place in the way in which it was contemplated, as it would leave the Territorial Army much denuded in these clays of high specialisation if most specialists were taken away at the moment it needed them. I should have been very unhappy about this situation when I was a unit commander in the Territorial Army.

If the noble Earl meant that when there was no war, when there was no mobilisation, no Proclamation, the Territorial Army, or divisions of it, or even brigades, could go to B.A.O.R. to stiffen up B.A.O.R. in some way, I think that is an illusion. There have been two cases, and only two, so far as I am aware, in the history of this country, when that sort of thing took place. It so happened I was a humble cog in the machine on both occasions. The first was at the time of Munich, when part of the Territorial Army, including the company which I commanded of the Welch Regiment, as it was, was mobilised and sent to various parts of Great Britain without mobilisation of the Regular Army. This was the only time in history that that has happened, and the chaos was frightful. The Regular Army and all its ancillaries were on a peace-time basis—the band playing, the officers on leave and courses, and so on—and we in the Territorial Army were rushing around on a war-time basis. It was impossible. One rang up a store after 4 o'clock and found the man had gone home to tea or for the night. That kind of thing does not work. We had to bring men up from the mines and steelworks and quarries. It was a very difficult operation.

The second time the Territorial Army was called up my own unit, which was by that time a Regiment of Artillery, was called up just before the war in 1939. This was a sort of half-and-half mobilisation. We were called up for a month on August 12, 1939, and came back over six years later. That is not a very good precedent. There, again, there were considerable difficulties—not as bad in that case as in 1938; but there are difficulties if you get the Territorial Army mobilised prior to general mobilisation of the Army as a whole. I mention this only because I know that there are these difficulties—private business, civilian jobs and all the rest of it—if you try to mobilise the Territorial Army prior to declaration of war or general mobilisation.


My Lords, it might be helpful if I answered this point straight away so that there may be no misunderstanding. I think I am right in saying that the Territorial Army under the Auxiliary Forces Act, 1953, can be called out by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State without Proclamation, but only for home service against actual or apprehended attack on the United Kingdom. That is the phraseology. But so far as foreign service is concerned, the Territorial Army, under Statute—I think I am right in saying this—can be embodied only when the Army Reserve has been called out by Proclamation; it is a post-Proclamation force, so far as service abroad is concerned.


I am aware of that. I was myself embodied on two occasions under the predecessor to the Act to which the noble Earl refers. What I do not understand is the allusion to the Territorial Army, or part of it, being called out to support B.A.O.R. That would mean even greater difficulties than the original obligation when one was embodied for home defence. The noble Earl did not explain it, or I did not understand it; undoubtedly it was my fault. But perhaps he could, at a later stage, give the House some indication, because this is a very important matter for the Territorial Army—for example, if a division or a brigade is expected in peace time to be embodied and sent out prior to any general mobilisation, in support of the Regular Army of the Rhine.

That is all I have to say. I think this is a much more satisfactory debate than the one last week on the Ministry of Defence, because this is the sort of subject which lends itself to Parliamentary debate, whereas the Ministry of Defence was not; it was a subject much more suitable for Committee. I am firmly convinced our Parliamentary proceedings are largely obsolete and out of date in these matters, and there should be some sort of procedure, some machinery, by which we could discuss matters of great detail in a more efficient way than we do.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, this Bill has certainly lent itself so far to Parliamentary debate, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore said. But the reason why it has done so is not because of the Bill itself, but because my noble friend Lord Jellicoe and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, thought fit, I am sure rightly, to deal with the Bill in its wider context. I should like for a few minutes, to do something of the same sort, and to start by taking up the reference which my noble friend made to the statement about the future rôle, the revised rôle, of the Territorial Army. I welcome that very much. I also welcome the way in which the War Office have handled the matter this time, because they consulted the Territorial Advisory Council before making up their minds, rather than afterwards; and that, though it sounds a simple thing to do, has not been the universal experience in the past.

There are two main references to the functions of the Territorial Army—civil defence and employment with the Rhine Army. The civil defence rôle, with its emphasis on fire-fighting, is a perfectly logical one; it is, in fact, an extension of the original home defence rôle devised for the Territorial Army by Lord Haldane in 1908. Any suggestions that the Territorial Army dislikes civil defence are, to my mind, complete nonsense. They come partly from the quarrels of old-timers, the old soldiers of the last war, some of whom joined the Home Guard in battledress and some of whom joined civil defence in blue. They do not date from the present Territorial Army. They also stem partly from the disinclination of the War Office and Home Office to get together. In fact, most of the handling of civil defence problems by the Home Office seems to me to have had the effect not only of reducing co-operation between the forces and civil defence, but of erecting a barrier between them. Operationally there is no room for such a barrier, because, although Government Departments may draw a distinction of that sort, no potential enemy would do so.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, still has his Motion on Civil Defence down on the Order Paper for "No Day Named", and I hope that he will be able before long to name the day when we can go into these matters further. Meanwhile, I hope that the local civil defence and fire brigade organisations will be told to get together with the Territorial Army on civil defence training for this season, and that it will be made possible for the Territorial Army to borrow the equipment for civil defence and fire-fighting, which they certainly will not have by this summer, if I know anything about it. The Territorial Army battalion which I know best took part in a civil defence camp last year and wrote a report to prove what I said just now, about their feeling that it was one of the most successful camps they had ever had. They were well looked after, the training was purposeful and interesting, and a good time was had by all.

The rôle of the Territorial Army in the British Army of the Rhine is a rather different matter, because it affects manpower a good deal more directly, and it also affects the equipment and state of readiness of the Territorial Army. Here I feel, if it is not out of order to say so, that in their handling of the Territial Army the War Office may be thought to resemble the nether regions, in that their road is paved with good intentions; and this has continued down the ages. I well remember how, during the annual dinner of the Artists' Rifles in about 1936 or 1937, the late Mr. Duff Cooper (as he then was) made a most stirring speech saying that the Territorial Army was going to be put on the map; yet little happened.

Your Lordships may also recall that when, in the years directly after the Second World War, the Territorial Army was given the rôle of providing two divisions for NATO, very little indeed was done to equip them for that task—in fact, they were not equipped at all. So I think it quite fair to remind my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty of what Sir Francis Drake said, if I remember rightly: that in matters of this sort the true glory is not to be had at the beginning, but only in the achievement of the object; and, as my noble friend Lord Hawke reminds me, in continuance of the same. What the implementation of this idea is likely to involve we should all like to know, but I am not going to ask my noble friend to tell us, because I know that he cannot, since it involves the whole question of the state of readiness. I think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, touched on this point just now.

The original conception of the Territorial Army, when it took its present form in 1908, was that it should have a period of six months' training after embodiment before it was expected to be of any use in the field. That cannot be right now, and it must be made known to all concerned what state of readiness is required. The announcement, of course, does not go into a great deal of detail, and my own impression, as I think it was that of Lord Ogmore, is that a great deal more work must be done before this becomes a concrete project. After all the Territorial Army is at the present time on peace strength, and a unit would not be capable of performing operational duties as a unit until it had been brought up to war strength, and the difference between peace and war strength had been absorbed in the training.

Then, again, there is the war outfit. The equipment of a Territorial unit cannot be produced by a conjuring trick, and if it is not in the possession of the unit, apart from what is wanted for training, it must be held in a store so that it can be issued. I mention these points because, unless they are attended to, the continuance of this project will be in a good deal of doubt. Over the years the Treasury mind has always put the equipment of the reserve forces in low priority. Yet those people, of whom I am one, who have had experience of handling operations—for example in France in 1940—and the staff work involved when ill-equipped and ill-trained Territorial units went into battle do not wish to see that experience repeated by anybody else. That experience has bitten deep. So now the battle begins; and the first battle, I do not doubt, is between the Minister of Defence and the Treasury. I should like to wish the Service Departments the best of good fortune in winning this battle. I am sure that we should give them every possible support. Then, but not until then, we can look forward to seeing these designs for the Territorial Army put into practice and brought to the successful conclusion that they need to be.

Having said that, my Lords, may I come for a moment to the provisions of the Bill itself? Of course, if the plans for the Territorial Army work out as they are meant to do, that in itself will be a considerable contribution to manpower, but only, I think, in a major emergency. What we have to envisage now—and it is the background to the Bill we are discussing—is not the major emergency so much as what have been called "fire-brigade" operations, what used to be called "small wars". But that is no longer a fashionable phrase; and they are not wars, anyway. When the decision was taken to do without National Service in peace time, I imagine that the calculations of the numbers required took into account the numbers of troops whom it was thought necessary to hold available for all these fire-brigade purposes, without impinging, or at any rate without impinging too much, on the numbers required to keep NATO commitments and to keep the proper number of troops in B.A.O.R. Here again, the answer to this question must be secret, so I am not asking for it; but I have a strong suspicion that those calculations, most of which I think date from the 1957 White Paper, were mute in a period which we could call pre-Congo, and therefore may not necessarily represent the number of troops required for these operations at the present time.

If that is true, then those calculations can hardly be realistic in terms of to-day, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said. In fact, I feel strongly that all the different operations with which we may be faced, such as in Cyprus, Kenya, Malaya, British Guiana and all the rest, between them may have demanded much more fire-brigade manpower than was ever allowed for in these calculations. On top of that, recruiting has been slow. Voluntary recruiting in this country, whatever its virtues may be—and they are great—has proved, over the ages, to be most resistant to attempts to increase numbers rapidly, in exactly the same way as attempts to raise the Territorial Army to a noticeably higher strength than it has been for many years always prove difficult. That may be right or it may be wrong, but it is one of the facts of life that those who have to handle Service manpower need to contend with and to recognise.

We may be able to withdraw our troops from Central Africa, and I hope that it will be possible for those who govern the territories in those regions to feel sufficiently secure to do without them at an early date. But I feel fairly certain we shall have to keep those troops at call for a very considerable time, even if they are not kept in the territories concerned; and also that we shall want at least two other "fire brigades" ready to be sent off elsewhere at the same time. If we are not prepared to deal with all these outbreaks of international fire—and it seems plain to me that ill-disposed people will not fail to produce outbreaks at so many places at once in the hope that we shall not be able to deal with them—if we fail in one place, we are likely to fail in all.

Therefore, I would ask whether the requirements have really been foreseen to a sufficient extent; and, if that is the case, are those responsible really happy that the present measures will provide adequately for what is wanted? If so, all well and good. At any rate, these events in Africa—and I should like to associate myself with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, about the speedy mobilisation and des patch of troops to the spot—have taught us a clear manpower lesson. They have taught us that if trust is reposed in us by people like the Governments of Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika, it has likewise brought us obligations which we cannot fail to meet.

The Bill itself is a technical Bill. There are bound to be some hardships when reservists are called upon. These are inherent in the business of being called up. Like the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I have been called up myself and know quite well that, viewed from certain angles, the process has not much to be said for it. But this Bill deals with two classes of people, some who have accepted the liability of their own tree will, and others who have had the liability imposed on them by Parliament under the National Service Acts. I cannot pretend to have studied the details of the Bill so closely as has the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, but I feel fairly confident that the actual details now embodied in the Bill have had sufficient study in the Service departments to make one fairly certain that any change in them would only throw the burden on the other people, and the result would be, out of the frying pan into the fire. So I am satisfied about the terms of the Bill.

None the less, I am sure it is right that this afternoon we should attempt to look round the corner and see what is going to happen after this Bill has been passed, as I hope it will be. As has been said, the provisions of this Bill are by way of taking us up to 1969. What then? 1969 is not very far off from a planning point of view, and I think it is fair to say that the very complexity of this Bill shows that those concerned have gone through the process of scraping the bottom of the barrel; in other words, of using the last expedients before they are faced fairly and squarely between studying selective service or defaulting on their obligations. It is quite possible that these provisions of the Bill, coupled with the slow and steady rate of recruitment to the Regular Army—because it is slow and steady—will actually provide what is wanted. But who this afternoon would say that they are certain that the provisions of this Bill, and anything more of this sort that can be done, will really take us all the way in any eventuality which may face us? I am not talking at the moment about another world war; I am talking about "fire brigade" operations, because they themselves will consume a great deal of manpower, and we may very well find ourselves faced with a situation where the strain on manpower, and therefore the strain on the Regular Army, becomes intolerable.

Here I appeal to my friends in the Regular Army not to take every opportunity of opposing even the idea that selective service may be necessary. If some of the things which I have said might happen, and pray will not happen, come about, the administrative chaos in the Regular Army when it is called on, as it well may be under those conditions, to play the part of a stage army will be something to be seen to be believed. While I want to make it clear that I am not saying that selective service is necessary—I still hope, as we all do, that it will not be—I am saying very strongly that I likewise hope the matter will be studied, not only by the Government Departments but by the Regular Forces themselves, so that if the call comes (as I hope and pray it will not) we do not run the risk of falling down on obligations which we have undertaken when being called upon by many other countries, such as the emergent countries of the Commonwealth, to undertake measures for their salvation. I have gone wide of the Bill, but I do not think we should pass this Bill without realising how it fits in with the problems of manpower, what it does in making a very considerable contribution to immediate needs, and also what lies beyond its scope.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, those were grave words that we heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. The Bill is something which goes to the root of the whole defence of this country in that it is connected with recruitment; the level of reserves; the awful possibility of having to adopt some form of conscription after all; and the balance between nuclear and conventional forces. These topics have been well debated this afternoon by noble Lords who have greater knowledge than I. I hope therefore the House will bear with me if I enlarge the scope of the discussion a little to take in the whole question of this balance between one sort of force and another in the defence of this country, in the rest of this decade and in the next decade.

A few weeks ago the Prime Minister said that he was going to make defence policy an Election issue. I think the hearts of sober and responsible men sank at that statement. Then a little later he said he was not going to make defence an Election issue, and that was obviously the wise and right decision. For a few weeks he kept his good resolution. But last Monday, in a speech at Bury, he cast his restraint to the winds and made an attack on Labour's defence policy, which was in the ordinary tradition of electoral speechifying. I very much regret that. I think all those who care more for country than for Party should regret it. Unfortunately, it was not the sort of speech which can be left unanswered, and I have no doubt it will be answered many times over in the next few months.

Before this happens I think we all ought to be absolutely clear, both in this House and in the country, that it is not the Labour Party's choice to make defence policy an Election football. It is not our choice if the Prime Minister decides to kick the defence of this country around. The Labour Party's defence policy differs in several respects from that of the Government, and in those respects we have attacked the Government, I hope moderately, in Parliament. Everybody knows what the differences are and we shall set them out fairly and squarely for the electorate when the time comes, just as we have no doubt the Conservative Party will set out its policy equally squarely. But it is a far cry from that to the challenging and fractious tone of the Prime Minister's speech last Monday.

I would ask the House to listen for a moment to what he said. At this moment of all times in history Britain must show herself above all things magnanimous, authoritative, and strong. Everywhere, wherever you look at the map of the world, law and order and justice are threatened. It is at this critical moment that the Socialist Party mean to deprive us of power. For months and months Mr. Wilson has hedged but at long last I have extracted from him what he would do about Britain's nuclear arm. The truth is, he would abandon all control of it. "At long last I have extracted the truth from him!" Well, it does not read quite like that in Hansard but let it go. "He would abandon all control" of our nuclear arm.

To begin with, my Lords, we have not got a nuclear arm as such. We have some bombers, long-range bombers, which can carry either conventional or nuclear bombs; we have some shorter-range, carrier-borne bombers which can carry either conventional or nuclear bombers, and we have some guns which can fire either conventional or nuclear shells. It is all mixed up at every level. But, of course, you have to invent a separate and distinct "nuclear arm" before you can accuse the Labour Party of wanting to abandon control of it. It is true that we in this Party do want to assign the V-Bomber force definitively to a NATO Command; that is, to abandon—and mark how different this is!—the specific right to go roaring around using it on our own in one of those supreme national interests which the Government see growing on every tree. We think this might be a good way to get a more logical command system for NATO, which is badly needed, God knows.

Now back to the Prime Minister: The sole result of abandoning our nuclear arm"— and here mark how the distortion has gone further; we are now accused of abandoning not only the control of our nuclear arm, but our nuclear arm itself— would be that Britain would not be able to sit at the top table"— and so on: the familiar argument. You see how the Prime Minister has been edging round to imputing to the Labour Party the great pipe dream of a loud splash in the Lake of Geneva one day when the delegates are drowsing over their coffee. They all sit up and say, "What is that?", and the proud, pacifist, Socialist, unilateralist, British Minister for disarmament says, "Gentlemen, that was the independent British deterrent," and they all begin counting, "One, two, three", and two hours later they finish counting, "178, 179, 180", or whatever it is, and that is the end of the British independent nuclear deterrent! Is that what he thinks we would do? It is what in his speech he seems to be telling the country we would do, and it is extremely misleading. But he knows as well as we do that we have said we will keep the V-Bombers until the end of their natural operational life, whatever that may be.

At this point I would commend to the attention of the House the leader in this morning's Times, which complained of the way defence policy is enunciated in this country by an annual series of White Papers which say absolutely nothing—with between those, from time to time, announcements of this or that element of progress of this or that weapon system—which never relate anything to anything else, and may give an extremely tendentious impression of what the weapons can do. In particular, The Times leader-writer takes leave to cast doubt on the apparently new Government line, that the V-bomber is going to be operational throughout the 'seventies with the help of Blue Steel. The leader contrasts this approach to the annual statements made to Congress by the American Secretary of Defence. He has just published his annual book: 170 pages of extremely detailed information, each part of which is related most rigidly and most frankly to every other part of it.

To revert to the Prime Minister's speech, I want to make the point that to go round the country saying that the Labour Party will "abandon our nuclear arm" seems hardly worthy of a man of his experience and integrity. In my view, a Prime Minister should not fight an Election in a manner which misleads not only his immediate audience (who seem to be fair game), but also allied and other Governments. Now let us proceed. The Prime Minister also said: I do know that unilateral disarmament for Britain is a futile gesture". Mark once again: the Labour Party has now become out-and-out unilateralist. You see how the distortions pile up in series. He went on: How is it that within hours we were able to intervene in Cyprus to save war, and how is it that we were able to go to the help of three Commonwealth countries to forestall an illegal takeover? How is it, indeed, that we were able to do these things? Perhaps the East African mutineers were rounded up by Polaris rockets fired from submarines in the Indian Ocean? Perhaps the cordons in the towns and villages of Cyprus were set up with 20 megaton bombs withdrawn from NATO command in the supreme national interest? Perhaps the Indonesian guerrillas are held off from Malaysia by supersonic bombers hugging the treetops at dead of night and firing stand-off, stellar-inertial guidance, multi-megaton high-penetration rockets?

We were able to do these things because, in spite of the Government's highfalutin programmes, we still had just enough mobility and equipment for the simple, decent, old foot soldier to do it. But it is touch and go. That is precisely what the Labour Party has consistently reproached the Government with: that they have been looking for space-age Russians under the bed, while the real security operations on which we and our friends in Asia and Africa depend are conducted with rifles and helicopters.

This brings us back to the present Bill. I do not know whether it is going to be enough. I very much hope it is, because, my goodness! we need it. The Labour Party has said often enough that we will not throw away what we have got, but we will not officiously strive to prolong our so-called independent nuclear capacity for ever. In practice this will probably mean hanging on to the V-Bombers, evaluating TSR 2 as it comes along, and using the nuclear-powered submarines being built under the Nassau Agreement for some other purpose; that is, other than carrying thermo-nuclear rockets which we buy from the Americans to put in them. This is what the Prime Minister reproaches us with, that we believe there are better things to come to an agreement with the Americans about, than the next generation of strategic nuclear weapons.

He intends to forge ahead whatever the price. He is so concerned with his famous seat at the table, that he has apparently forgotten what the table itself is for. No one is going to ask for credentials at it, in terms of weapons. When we sit at the table where the test ban is extended to cover underground tests, as I hope we soon shall, we shall be there not because we have twice tested nuclear weapons underground, but because we in this country have outstanding seismologists who can help find the way to do it. Jodrell Bank and the brains of the people who designed it and work it—these are what make our voice heard in space, not our running behind the others trying to develop our very own military missiles and having to scrap them one after the other.

My Lords, what is the table for—the one that we must have our seat at? When Governments are thinking in terms of independent nuclear weapons they do not sit at international tables; they avoid them of all things. The only table where the security of this country and any other can be enhanced is the table at Geneva. There, while our Prime Minister is boasting about the control he hopes to buy over a rather small number of American missiles, President Johnson, on the other hand, talks of a verified freeze on the number and characteristics—and this is the point—of all strategic delivery systems. The Soviet Union talks not only of a freeze, but of a reduction to agreed and inspected low levels. Poland talks of a freeze on the numbers of nuclear weapons in Central Europe.

Britain's Prime Minister, or, rather, the Conservative Party in Britain, advised by whom?—the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence or a public relations firm?; I do not know—is talking about the necessity of buying new weapons in order, apparently, to keep up appearances in the 1970's. On this side of the House we hope for some arms control long before that. This plank of Conservative election policy is quite at variance with United States policy enunciated by President Johnson early last month and, since then, reiterated by United States negotiators at Geneva, we thought with the support of our own negotiators—namely, that there ought now to be a freeze on the characteristics of nuclear weapons systems; in other words, countries ought not to develop new types of delivery systems. I hope the Prime Minister will tell the country that he will work for the freeze which the Americans propose. Let him tell the country that that will mean no Polaris system for Britain, and that this will be a highly desirable measure of international arms control, separate from general disarmament, long before the possibility of these things becoming operational comes about.

Let the Prime Minister tell the country also that, if this freeze does not come off by the 1970's, the Polaris submarines he plans to buy us may very well not be effectual in any case. For one thing, the nuclear-powered submarine itself is not going to be invulnerable for ever. For another, the Russians are working "hell for leather" on antimissile systems; and this would be the most prodigiously expensive thing you could imagine to deploy. We have not the faintest chance of going into that business at all; so, if there is no arms control, we face a situation where our famous independent missiles may be able to be picked off one by one in flight, while we can do nothing about theirs. But that is the darker view. My Lords, the tide of arms will be receding in the next decade, and the right policy for Britain is not to stand out against that movement but to go with it and help it on.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl may remember mentioning in the early part of his speech that fresh units were to be added to those Territorial units which already do training in civil defence once in four years—a very pitiable amount of training, but, even so, it is an addition. He will also remember referring to a million and a half or so men who seemed to be going spare—presumably men who, in the past, have been trained. I wonder whether he could give us some idea how many of that million and a half who have gone back to civil life had any form of training in civil defence during their Army existence.

One other little point which set me wondering about the noble Earl's speech is this. The men from the Territorial Army go abroad to Germany; but do they go across to be trained themselves and then come back to their own units, or do they go across to reinforce the Regulars? If they go to be trained for their own units, well and good; but if they go over there and are then caught to stay in the Regular units and leave their own Territorial units at home bare, it means that the Territorial unit loses its feeling of Territorialism (if there is such a word) and has its enthusiasm reduced by a most remarkable extent. That has been done already by amalgamating the various Territorial units until they have almost disappeared as Territorials; but if they are to send men abroad and leave them there and lose them from themselves, I think it is most discouraging. That is all I wish to say about the admirable speech by the noble Earl.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I have sometimes felt, when listening to our more general debates on defence matters, that we slap so much paint on the canvas, and cover so large a canvas, that it is a little difficult to discern the wood for the trees. By mixing a few metaphors in this respect, I would therefore entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton (and the noble, Lord, Lord Ogmore, made the same point), that it is particularly useful, on occasions, to look somewhat more closely at, and to concentrate rather more particularly on, specific aspects of the defence problem. The usefulness of this more selective approach has been demonstrated, I think, by this short discussion this afternoon, not least because all noble Lords who have spoken bring very considerable experience and expertise to these questions. I am therefore very grateful to those noble Lords who have spoken on this Bill; and, although some of them have made some slightly tart remarks on various aspects of the Government's defence policy, I am grateful to them for their general welcome in principle to this relatively modest but not unimportant Bill.

Perhaps those noble Lords who have spoken will forgive me if, in the ambit of a fairly short reply, I do not deal with some of the points raised; they were rather detailed, and perhaps we could come back on them at a later stage. Or I will write to noble Lords about them. I do not think that I would include in that particular category the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. As usual, he was interesting, stimulating, informed and provocative. I thought that his subject matter—the deterrent, Polaris, Jodrell Bank, the logical command structure for NATO, the 178 pages of Mr. Macnamara's Report—though vastly interesting, was somewhat removed from the subject matter of this particular Bill. He accused the Prime Minister of bringing defence into the Election campaign. I can only say that I very much admire the bland manner in which the noble Lord introduced these somewhat extraneous matters into our somewhat more limited discussion on this particular Bill. None the less, they were not without point and pith, as one expects from the noble Lord.

To come to the various matters which have been raised, a number of noble Lords have asked about the recruiting position at the present time. To summarise, so far as the R.A.F. is concerned the recruiting position is very satisfactory. So far as the Navy is concerned, the recruiting position is generally satisfactory. It is up on last year but that, of course, is necessary because the requirements of the Royal Navy are increasing. So far as the Army is concerned, I would state straight away that the recruiting picture of the situation in 1963, following the bumper crop of 1962, has been disappointing. But, of course, we all know that there has been some improvement over the last four months. As a basis of comparison, the War Office have taken the average recruiting figures over the last five years, which I think give a fairly good spread. From April to August last year, we recruited 71 per cent. of the average figure for the last five years. However, from September to December of last year we recruited 82 per cent., and the December rate, which is always a low one, was in fact 85 per cent. of the average figure. As noble Lords will realise, the figures for January are not yet available; but from what trends I have seen I am pretty confident, that when we get the detailed January figures this improvement will be shown to have been maintained.


My Lords, I think the noble Earl is being very subtle. He says the December figures were 85 per cent. of the average; and he remarked at the same time that December was normally a low-rate month. What is the relevance of those two figures? This December figure is certainly not in relation to the average monthly figure; it is the average December figure, I take it. In which case, to say it is normally a low month merely shows that that high figure is of less value than of the other months.


My Lords, I was not being particularly subtle; if I was, I have been found out in my subtlety. What the noble Lord said is true. I was comparing month with month, December, 1963, with the December average for the last five years. When I said that recruiting in December is usually low, and that the figure went up to 85 per cent. of the average, what I had in mind was that, although there had been this maintained improvement from an admittedly much too low base, this was not enough to offset the outflow from the Army. Therefore, there had been some net decrease in the Army during December. I had no intention of being subtle. But I am sorry if I have confused noble Lords. I agree with noble Lords who have spoken to this point that it is absolutely imperative to come up as soon as we possibly can to the target we have set ourselves of 180,000; and that, as my noble friend Lord Bridgeman said, our true glory in recruiting will be only in the achievement.

But there is another point. Some noble Lords tended to suggest that there was some direct and very tangible connection between these recruiting difficulties and this particular Bill. To suggest that is rather to over-simplify the position. Recruiting, and the speed with which we can recruit up to our 180,000 target, has some bearing on our reserves; especially on the "Ever-readies." We need "Ever-readies" with an Army of 172,000, but we should also need them with the Army of 180,000, especially when Section "A" of the Reserve is not up to strength.

Therefore, I would suggest to noble Lords—and I do not think this was pressed very hard—that it would be quite wrong to suppose that this Bill is the result in any way of our present recruiting difficulties with the Army. We should need this Bill, and the Reserves provided for in it, however recruiting was going—for two reasons. First, because of our general concept of a highly professional and, therefore, relatively small Regular Force which needs the backing of adequate reserves; and, secondly, because of the changeover which is foreshadowed in this Bill to an all-volunteer Reserve structure with the phase-out of National Servicemen.

As regards the "Ever-readies," about whom I was asked, I would not at all dissent from the noble Lords who stressed the importance of this Reserve. It is, indeed, extremely important, but it is at the present time much too small. The strength as of (I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, was lying in wait for me, for using the words "as of") on January 22 was 4,587. Given the great potential value of this Reserve, I cannot be content with that strength. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, suggested that, it was rather curious that we should be, as it were, turning away volunteers; and in that context he asked me about the waiting list for the "Ever-ready" force. The waiting list exists for purely technical reasons, and purely because of the fact that in certain trades the "Ever-readies" have been temporarily oversubscribed. It is a matter of balance; but this is a temporary phase. We want all the volunteers we can get for the "Ever-readies."

The noble Lord also asked me what happens, when the "Ever-readies" are called out, to the holes they leave in their Territorial Army units. I think that was the point he queried. There is a fairly straightforward explanation. Not more than a proportion of each unit of the Territorial Army is, in fact, permitted to volunteer for the "Ever-readies". This immediately puts a limiting factor on them. I would mention, parenthetically, that, so far as I know, no unit has yet reached its particular ceiling; but as soon as someone joins the "Ever-readies" from within a Territorial Army unit he is counted as potentially non-effective in the event of general mobilisation, and the posting authorities then post someone else to fill that place which he has, at least theoretically, vacated. There should not be, at least in theory, any gaps to fill: they are provided for.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, also asked whether, in the present circumstances of a number of contingent and simultaneous crises on our hands, we would consider the question of calling up the "Ever-readies". I think I can give a perfectly categorical answer: we have certainly considered this possibility, but as a result of that consideration we have come to the conclusion that in present circumstances such a call-up would not be warranted. This possibility will, however, continue to be kept under close review.

I was also asked about the National Servicemen and the feeling that it was perhaps unfair that those who have already done their extra six months' stint should be caught by the provisions of this Bill. On this my only reply, rather shorthand-wise, is that we need all we can get; and that to accept the exemption from the call-up of men who have done their six months' National Service, or who may do six months extra as part-time, would straight away remove half of our new Army general Reserve; and in present circumstances that is something which we could not contemplate. Several noble Lords, not least the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, have alluded to the great importance of the Territorial Army. I would wish straight away to endorse what they said in that respect. So far as its rôle in Civil Defence, especially the fire-fighting aspect, is concerned, I am afraid that I cannot give the noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, the statistics for which he asked—and I would suspect that he did not expect me to know the precise answer to his question. But perhaps by the time we come to the debate on Lord Lindgren's Motion on Civil Defence, someone more skilled than I in statistics will have worked out the answer to the noble Lord's question.

There was some discussion about how the Territorial Army would fit into the rôle of reinforcing the British Army of the Rhine. I tried to follow this closely, but I am not certain whether I have the questions which were posed to me clearly in my mind. What is intended, as I understand it, is that reinforcement should take place in the post-Proclamation phase. That reinforcement might be either by individuals, to go to specific units which are below their war-time strength, or by units or sub-units, to reinforce specific units of the Rhine Army.


My Lords, the point I was getting at was whether it is intended to be after or before general mobilisation.


My Lords, this would be post-Proclamation and therefore, I understand, after general mobilisation, but I speak subject to correction on this point. I should like to check, if I may, whether I am right in drawing this parallel between Proclamation and mobilisation.


My Lords, although I speak subject to correction, I think that embodiment might have to be done by Proclamation. I am not quite sure what was done last time, because we were all in such a state of "flap" at the time that I do not remember.


My Lords, I am beginning to get in a slight state of "flap" myself on this point, and, since we are both speaking subject to correction, I think it would be better either to clear up this point in correspondence or for the noble Lord to put down a Question on it. But in this general context I would refer the noble Lord to the statement by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War in another place on January 22, where he set out pretty clearly the Government's intention with regard to the reinforcement of the Rhine Army by the Territorial Army. In that statement he also said that further study was being given to the very point which my noble friend Lord Bridgman particularly has in mind—that is, the better equipment of the Territorial Army and its training, in particular the possibility of members training either as individuals or in subunits with the Rhine Army abroad.

All noble Lords have somewhat reproached me for my failure to deal with the effect of this Bill on our Strategic Reserve. Of course, much of what I was saying by way of introduction bore on that, although not explicitly. Here and now I should like to associate myself with the tributes which have been made to those responsible for the very quick response which the Armed Forces have made to the recent emergencies. I think it argues extremely good planning and good execution by the three Services.

Of course, these three simultaneous emergencies have stretched the reserves, in particular the Strategic Reserve, available in these islands. That is not unnatural, because, within my recollection, we have not been faced with three parallel emergencies of this kind in the post-war phase. The reaction is not only proof of the ability and planning of those responsible, but also in some way a tribute to the Strategic Reserve itself. I think that those noble Lords who have suggested that we have only just got through and are now very close to the bottom of the barrel have somewhat exaggerated the position.


My Lords, is that not exactly what the Minister of Defence himself said?


My Lords, I have already said that it stretched our reserves, but, if the noble Lord will bear with me for a moment, I would point to the facts that, first, there are still units available to the Strategic Reserve in this country; secondly, that within each of the three theatres there is some flexibility within the Forces concerned, especially in the Far East; thirdly, that we have the right, and have already gone on notice, to call on one brigade of the B.A.O.R., if necessary, and if we do so we are merely exercising a right which other members of NATO have exercised in the past; and finally, we have the "Ever-readies" and all the other pre-Proclamation reserves available, should we decide to call them out. But, all that said, I admit that this has stretched our reserves. All this reinforces the obvious need, which we acknowledge, of reaching the manpower target for the Army as quickly as we possibly can.

We often say, at the conclusion of a debate, that we have had a very useful debate, and perhaps that is not always quite the case, but I sincerely feel that this has been a useful and constructive discussion and I am sincerely grateful to those noble Lords who have taken part in it. I trust that your Lordships will feel disposed to accord a Second Reading to this Bill.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.