§ 4.25 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, we are back now on the debate on the Reserve Army. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, apologised when he began his speech for his voice, but I thought that when he had ended his voice was in pretty good form. I spoke in the Defence debate on June 30 for 22 minutes. I apologise for that. It will not happen again. Since the debate in this House on July 29, a great many brickbats have been thrown at Her Majesty's Government on the subject of the reorganisation of the Reserve Army. My view is that some of the rebukes are unfair, and I should like to consider this point calmly and without emotion.
The Territorial Army was formed by Lord Haldane about sixty years ago for a definite purpose, and it gave magnificent service in two world wars. That I can subscribe to, because I served right through both wars. But its organisation to-day is not what is needed for the Reserve Army or our nation, in an age of cold war, limited war and of unlikely all-out nuclear war. That being so, I think it is absolutely right and proper that it should be reshaped to meet the needs of to-day. This reshaping should have been carried out ten years ago or more, when we were definitely in the age of the hydrogen bomb and it became clear that a Reserve Army of ten divisions on a normal Regular Army establishment was not what was necessary. It was not 819 needed. Reshaping should have been carried out then, but it was not. Why? Because nobody in those days would grasp this nettle. The Labour Government to-day have decided to take action. They have grasped the nettle, and have found it very, very prickly.
In my speech in June last, I indicated how the reorganisation or reshaping might be carried out and advocated a Reserve Army on a two-tier (spelt, t.i.e.r!) basis. The present plan adopts the first tier, but discards the second. My view is that the removal of one tier changes the whole conception and makes it much more difficult to raise the Reserves needed. The second tier, in my estimation, was needed to nourish the first tier and keep it up to strength with basically trained men. The issue revolves a good deal around the question of whether the time has come to abandon any form of home defence. I do not believe that the time has come. In war time, absolute security of the home base is vital, and that goes for law and order throughout the nation. The Secretary of State for Defence made it clear in the House of Commons on July 29 last that any form of home defence for the Reserve Army is not necessary, not even to help the police to preserve law and order, which the police most certainly could not do unaided.
I mentioned in that speech that I had learned in my long military life that only one thing is certain in war—namely, that everything is uncertain. I should like to add to that a remark made by von Moltke, when he was addressing his subordinate commanders many years ago. He said:You will generally find that the enemy has three courses open to him. Of these he will choose the fourth.How very true that is! Whatever form the reshaped Reserve Army may take, it must be based, as it always has been, on the voluntary spirit of the nation. That, surely, must never be allowed to die. Nor must the regimental spirit be stamped on—and that goes for the "tribal areas", too, where that spirit is very strong. I once got into great trouble in your Lordships' House because I said that the Highland regiments were not the corps d'élite of the British Army—I said that the Guards were; but I did 820 say that they were the "cat's whiskers". With this voluntary spirit in mind, it seems to me absolutely necessary that the Ministry of Defence should consult T.A. associations, trade unions, employers of labour and so on. It would seem that this was not done, because when the plan was announced the Territorial Army associations became very upset, to put it mildly.
To conclude my ten minutes, while I congratulate the Government on grasping this prickly nettle, I have not the same congratulations to offer them about the way it has been handled; and it is my earnest hope that the Government will put back the second tier, which had a definite home defence commitment, because, according to the dictum of von Moltke, "you never know!"
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ LORD LEIGH
My Lords, I trust that your Lordships will extend to me the usual courtesy of the House on this the first time, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, so kindly mentioned, that I have had the temerity to address your Lordships. I feel particularly bold in following the noble and gallant Viscount, whose remarks have always been entirely above my head in the past, as they were again to-day. But I am a little relieved to find that we think on exactly the same lines. I came here to-day in the hope of urging Her Majesty's Government not to do away with the regimental spirit and regimental traditions of the Territorial Army. The Yeomanry Regiments founded in the middle of the eighteenth century are to be disbanded—killed—and their glorious past and glorious traditions are to go for nothing.
I understand that one of the objects of the Reserve is to enable us to fill the gap in our NATO commitments with an Emergency Reserve which is to be on immediate call for an indefinite length of time. I venture to think that employers will not look at this idea with any great kindness, and will not encourage their men to belong to this Reserve in the same way as they have encouraged them to belong to the Territorial Army in the past; and if the men feel that their employers are thinking on these lines they will not join, and this scheme will not be, perhaps, the success that is hoped for.
821 A second object of the Reserve is, I believe, to free Regular commanders, officers and N.C.Os. for service with formations earmarked for NATO; and thirdly to save about 2½d. in the £ out of all the money spent on Defence. To attain this object it is proposed to disband 130 out of 151 R.A. and infantry units, and to tell about 70,000 volunteer soldiers that their services are not required. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that the Regular Army was very hard pushed at the moment; and no doubt this is right. Is this, then, the moment to tell 70,000 volunteers that their services are not required? Could not something better than that be done?
No one, I think, wants to retain an army with divisions, brigades and men trained in obsolescent weapons to fight a war that may never happen—although I feel that the certainty as to the form of the next war is possibly a little premature. After all, we never have been right in the past as to how wars would be fought. We spent a great deal of time at the beginning of the last war walking about with gas masks, and a great deal of money and energy were spent in providing them and training people to put them on and take them off.
This complete doing away with all forms of insurance because we think that the next war will he fought in a certain way is surely rather rash. Should we not have some form of streamlined Territorial Army upon which we can raise a force in time of emergency, even if it is only a platoon taking over where a company is now? Do we want to do away with a great number of these new drill halls that have just been built? Do we, above all, want to concentrate these reserve forces in the towns? The trouble during a big raid at Coventry in the last war was that they could not get the ammunition out to the guns, because it was in the middle of Coventry and every road was blocked. If all the reserves were to be put in big towns, in the event of an atomic war it would be somewhat dangerous. Should they not be spread over the country as widely as they possibly can be?
In my own county of Warwick, which is by no means the worst hit, it is proposed that the total of 4,500 men and girls now serving should be reduced to 1,400, the reserve forces to be concen- 822 trated in Birmingham, Coventry and possibly Rugby: all other drill halls and so on are to be abandoned. Surely this is extremely rash; and it will be discouraging to anybody likely to volunteer for the new Reserve. I hope that the Government will think carefully before destroying the Territorial Army and all it stands for. I thank your Lordships for hearing me so patiently. I fear that I shall be unable to stay until the end of the debate, because I have a long-standing engagement in Coventry. But, once again, I thank you.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, it is my pleasant task to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, on his maiden speech, which I do with great sincerity. It seems to me, looking at the clock, that, like the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, before him, he has a gift not only of clarity but also of brevity, because he told us a great deal in a short time. I am sure your Lordships will wish that, having heard him once, you will hear him many times again.
This brings me to the subject under debate, the Reserve Army, and I will try to be short. There are a couple of mechanical points which intrigue me a little to start with, and then, after mentioning them, I should like to discuss purely the rôle of the Reserve Army, because although we have heard a great deal of detail from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, about conditions of service and that sort of thing, I think we ought to postpone discussion of them until we have received the White Paper. This debate may perhaps hit the air somewhat, because we are waiting for the White Paper, and we are debating somewhat in ignorance if there are any changes or amendments in the Government's view as expressed at the end of July, but we shall probably do some good by discussing them now.
On top of that, as I mentioned a week or two ago, we are really discussing this subject in the wrong order, because surely we ought to await the outcome of the Defence Review to hear the projected make and shape of our national forces, Navy, Army and Air Force, before we discuss one of those components—that is to say, the Reserve or Territorial Army. 823 We are discussing this matter in isolation, and it is therefore somewhat difficult. As the noble and gallant Viscount has said, this reorganisation is a long time overdue. I have to declare an interest, in having been connected with the Territorial Army on more than one occasion. It is quite remarkable to me how that Army stood up and provided such efficiency and spirit, when I observe that its rôle has been by no means clear for the last ten or twelve years.
Here I would make one small challenge to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, because he mentioned that the Army Emergency Reserve was way ahead of the Territorial Army in recruiting—up to 100 per cent. I ought to tell him privately afterwards, perhaps, the name of the unit, but the unit with which I was concerned was 90 per cent., recruited because we rejected the other 10 per cent. If a fellow did not turn up for his drills, or if we did not like the look of him, we threw him out before he even joined. We could fill up the parachute battalions at any time we wanted. Incidentally, before we leave sentiment and tradition—because I think they ought to be kept out of this debate—it would perhaps interest the House to know that I was told by a Regular parachute officer that when any of the companies of the four Territorial parachute battalions worked alongside Regular units in exercises all over the world, they were indistinguishable from the Regulars.
I think we ought to leave sentiment, tradition and history behind us, and get down to the actual rôle. Is there a rôle required for the Reserve Army, apart from the Reserve element? It falls into two parts, I suggest. First, there is this Reserve element, which the Government are quite right to tailor for the requirements of the Regular Army. That has been long overdue, and whatever the details settled between the Ministry of Defence, the Territorial associations, the unions and the employers, I feel sure that it will work out for the best. It has been required for the last ten years, and it is a welcome step.
The second part of the duties of the Reserve Army and the Territorial Army is to fight alongside the Regular Army in war. It has done so with great distinc- 824 tion, as we have heard, in the last two world wars. It is at this point where we ought really to discuss whether there is a future rôle for the Territorial Army. Again we can divide it, for convenience, into overseas and home defence. I feel sure that the Minister of Defence is right in rejecting the need for a separate Territorial Army for overseas, other than a few reinforcing units. There he is right. But we have not mentioned in any of the official Papers whether doing away with our home defence, 107,000 of them to-day, ten divisions, does not in fact diminish the credibility of the British deterrent and, much more important, the credibility of the NATO deterrent. If, by a unilateral action, we diminish the credibility of the deterrent, we are doing something which in my opinion we ought not to do. I wonder whether we have consulted our allies on this point. Certainly the Russians take some notice of the size of our Reserve Army, as they do of the American Reserve Army. The National Guard is 700,000 strong.
Lastly, what happens in the overseas rôle, supposing B.O.A.R., all 55,000 of them, are obliterated on Day 1, Day 2 or Day 3? What happens then? It is quite possible, under the new conditions of warfare, where escalation takes place rapidly, for us to be without an Army. Last time we were very nearly without an Army. The wind and the tide were in the right direction, and we got a lot of them home. Perhaps we shall not have that chance next time. Should we like to be in a nuclear war without any Army at all? That is a question to be answered.
Now I come to home defence. Here, again, it is best to split it. First of all, there is the anti-invasion rôle. Of course, the militia and the Territorial Army have been defending this country against seaborne invasion ever since Napoleonic times. I agree with the Government that we do not need to take out that insurance policy. But I am not so sure about one against airborne invasion. At the moment this country is the only NATO ally—or about to be—without any home defence, if we obliterate or abolish the greater part of the Territorial Army. Russia has seven airborne divisions, of which two can go into the sky at one time, and another two can come in a few days' time. Supposing we have no home 825 defence armies in this country and we are the only NATO country to have no home defence: do we not present a perfect target? That is another question.
Then we come to Civil Defence. In their White Paper, the Government have so far rejected the idea that the Territorial Army is required for the support of Civil Defence. I am not so sure about that. If you talk to the head Civil Defence people who are in the game, as I have done, they say that Civil Defence without the Territorial Army at the present time does not make sense. Again, a more basic question: are we to give up Civil Defence altogether, so long as there is a threat of nuclear war? I do not believe we should give it up. If we keep Civil Defence, and if the Civil Defence organisation requires a Territorial Army supporting force, as I believe it does, then we ought to examine the question very carefully before we abolish this force. At the present time it takes part in the fire fighting and the field ambulance work. The signals and the communications system of Civil Defence are greatly supported by the Territorial Army.
But, much more important, Civil Defence relies at present on the Territorial Army for the maintenance of law and order in those terrible conditions which may come about if these big bombs are dropped. No man can say what terrible situations will arise, but it is possible to say with certainty that if we want an Army to operate in such awful conditions with the sympathy of the general public, we could not select a better Army than the Territorial Army, because it comes from the people; it is much closer to the people than the Regular Army, the Navy or the Air Force. That is just a fact of life. Therefore, I should like the Government to reconsider this point.
My conclusions are, first, that there should be a home defence rôle established for the Territorial Army in the future; second, that it is specially required in support of Civil Defence, but that airborne invasion should not be completely ignored, and, third, if we decide that some sort of Territorial Army force is required, it should be organised on a very lightly armed basis, probably a standard unit, without any heavy divisional or brigade headquarters even, on a basis of one per county and one, two or three in each big city. That would probably bring 826 us to between 60 and 70 smaller, lightly armed units, strong in communications, which is almost exactly half the present number of 130 units. It is only a suggestion, and obviously not to be discussed in detail until the fundamental questions have been asked and answered.
Therefore, may I ask the Government to answer three questions? And here I have to apologise, because if the debate goes on for very long I have to go to another engagement. Before the Government reach this important decision, may I ask them to answer these questions? First, have they catered in their plan for what the noble and gallant Field Marshal mentioned, namely, the fourth course, that is to say, the unforeseen? It does not look as if they have. It looks as though they have taken out an insurance policy for a known set of eventualities when it is the unknown with which we have to compete. Second, if the Regular Army were to be destroyed, ought we to be without some sort of Territorial Army for the defence of this country? Third, if Civil Defence, on a re-examination, does require some Army support, ought we not to examine how deeply and how effectively we can give it from our organisation of the Territorial Army?
§ LORD FRASER OF NORTH CAPE
My Lords, may I just ask the noble Lord one question? He mentioned the seven Russian airborne divisions; I am not quite certain how they would be supplied. I think on D-Day we had to send 50,000 tons of supplies out of the country.
§ LORD BOURNE
That is perfectly true: it is quite a difficult supply and tactical question. But if you are jumping into a country suffering from severe disorganisation and disruption owing to nuclear bombing, I think the question of supply for an invading force would be considerably easier than for that of the people living in the country. I do not think it would necessarily be an impediment to a successful, rapid airborne invasion.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF COURTOWN
My Lords, I also should perhaps declare an interest, in that I have been concerned in many respects with the Territorial Army for a great many years. I think we all accept that some sort of reshaping of the Reserve Army is necessary at this time. 827 The question is: what sort of reshaping? I shall read with great interest Lord Shackleton's description of some of the aspects which are coming into the White Paper. It was difficult to follow him as he spoke it, therefore in commenting one has to base one's ideas rather on what has been announced prior to this debate.
I should like to ask a number of questions which in some ways are complementary to those of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. First of all, there is the question of what sort of emergency the Reserve Army is required for? There is considerable need for the reinforcement of the Regular Army when it is short of men overseas, and it seems to me that even if the Regular Army reached its target—and it is not very far below its target to-day—it would still need reinforcement whenever any quite minor emergency occurred in foreign parts. The assumption is that orthodox war is now out; that never again shall we have to face an orthodox war which will involve the enrolment in the Services of a large part of the civilian population. Whether or not that is true, I leave it to others to speculate; but at any rate it is the fashion at this time to assume that in the future it will be nuclear war, and nuclear war only, with which we have to deal.
My Lords, what happens if we get nuclear war? We presumably get nuclear bombs dropped on this country. We presumably get a considerable destruction of life and property here, and we are assuming that our forces overseas will then strike back. But in those circumstances what will the defence of this country be? What will be left? What will there be if we destroy the Territorial Army—an Army spread widely over the countryside? On what will the defence of this country be based? It seems to me essential that we should have something like a reshaped Territorial Army, an Army spread widely over the countryside, ready to take up the duties of Civil Defence and to provide the basis for further resistance.
Then we come to the question of the recruitment of people for the new Reserve Army. It is essential that we attract the right sort of people, and the type of man required is the type who is going to remain in a highly trained condition in 828 spite of the fact that he gets comparatively little training. It is this type of man on whom industry and commerce base so much of the future expansion in this country. This is the type of man who is working in the professions, and we have to make sure that we can get this type of man in the future. Unless we have a state of affairs whereby such a man can come into the Reserve Army, play his part in it, yet know that he is not going to be called out to support a brigade group in the Persian Gulf—unless there is that feeling of continuity in his civilian job, the Government will find it difficult to get the people they require.
It has also been said that the new Reserve Army is to consist largely of non-fighting troops. If a volunteer wants to join the Army on a part-time basis, it is mainly due to a spirit of adventure. The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, referred to the Parachute Regiment and its high standard of recruitment. This is because men have joined in a spirit of adventure. We shall not find nearly so many people of that type joining these logistic units of the Reserve Army. Yet we are told that the future recruitment for this Army appears to turn much more towards the logistic units than to fighting troops.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, implied, at any rate, in his speech that the recruitment for the Army Emergency Reserve was better than for the Territorial Army. He gave his own figures. As I took them down they were these: the strength of the establishment for the Territorial Army is 123,000, and 110,000 have been recruited. That gives a figure of 90 per cent. recruited. He described the Army Emergency Reserve, Category I, as having an establishment of 11,000, with 9,000 recruited, which gives a figure of 82 per cent. The standard of recruitment of the Army Emergency Reserve, Category II, is very much lower. That does not give a great deal of support to the idea that one is going to be able, under the terms as we have them up till now, to recruit the sort of people needed for the future Reserve Army.
There is also the question of the employer. Of this aspect I have some knowledge. The Territorial Army has depended very much on the full support of industry and commerce to fill its ranks. Employers, including the nationalised industries, cannot be expected to support, 829 or at least condone, their employees' joining the Reserve Army if they are liable to be called up at short notice, except for some major emergency clearly involving a considerable proportion of the country's efforts. It is essential that the Government, in their White Paper, should give a clear indication of the circumstances in which volunteers will be called up. If the Government do not get the Reserve they want, if the doubts about volunteers should turn out to be well based, what do the Government intend to do about it? If, when they have destroyed the Territorial Army, they do not get the recruits, what do they intend to do about it? Will they consider bringing in some form of selective conscription? I think the House ought to know what is the intention of the Government in this respect.
With regard to the Youth Service, the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, mentioned the question of the Army Cadet Force, and mentioned that more than 50 per cent. of the units are based on Territorial Army drill halls. In my own experience, pretty well every Army Cadet unit is based on some Territorial Army drill hall and exists only as a result of great support from the Territorial Army. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, did not refer to this point, but what is the future intention in connection with the Army Cadet Force and will this be dealt with in the White Paper? If the destruction of the Territorial Army is going to have a serious effect on the Army Cadet Force, what effect will that, in its turn, have on Regular Army recruiting?
How is this £20 million which has been mentioned to be saved? I say £20 million though I do not think it has been mentioned in this debate—I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, mentioned any figure. But I have seen it written that it was intended to save £20 million by the changes in the Territorial Army. If that is so, how is this sum to be broken down? I suggest that a considerable amount of this may lie in the cost of the Regular soldiers attached to the Territorial Army. If so, what is to be done with the officers, warrant officers and N.C.O.s at present attached to the Territorial Army? There will be an immediate surplus in the numbers of those, and saving will be achieved only if they are discharged. On the other hand, a 830 reduction in the commissioned and non-commissioned ranks will reduce by a considerable amount the promotion available in the Regular Army, with its inevitable effect on Regular recruitment. Everybody connected with the Territorial Army is fully cognisant of the fact that there is a considerable saving to be achieved, but a study should be carried out to see what saving can be achieved without affecting seriously this country's defence.
There is no doubt that there is necessity for change. The Territorial Army never likes change; nor does anybody else. But change is necessary to meet changing requirements. The changes which are proposed now are likely to be obsolete in a few years' time. I have seen any number of reorganisations of the Territorial Army, and on each occasion in five years' time it has always had to be changed again. There has been no serious difficulty in the past, because there has been spread over the country a solid basis of Territorial units which could be switched to meet the requirements of the time. What appears to be the worst point of the present reorganisation is that it is destroying the whole basis of the T.A. with the solid base in every part of the country. It is easy to destroy a unit, but it will be almost impossible to start one again in the future. An example of this occurred not long ago in the early 1950s, just after the disbandment of Anti-Aircraft Command and a number of T.A. regiments attached to it. The Territorial Army associations were asked to collaborate in the formation of 48 Mobile Defence Corps battalions of the Army Emergency Reserve. What happened? Nothing. It was quite impossible to recruit them. It is now a matter of history that this was a complete failure. And I suggest that this sort of thing will happen in the future.
Therefore, my Lords, in our defence thinking we must be flexible enough to maintain our basic resources and adapt them to suit the requirements of the time. What the Government seem to be attempting now will, if carried through on the lines which seem to be intended, destroy a basis and a tradition, and thus will affect the ability of future Governments to reshape the basis of our Reserve Army.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, I must begin by apologising in advance to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, because an engagement that I entered into before this debate was put down will make it necessary for me to leave before he replies; so I shall read tomorrow what he has to say. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, is in the Chamber. May I add my congratulations to those of others, particularly as he comes from a county, Warwickshire, whose support of the Territorial Army and all to do with it is known to be second to none.
The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, raised the question as to whether it was right to put down this Motion in advance of the White Paper. I know my noble friend Lord Thurlow thought very carefully over this point, and certainly I did myself. I felt that there were White Papers and White Papers. Some White Papers, like the recent one called The Child, the Family and the Young Offender, set out a certain line of thought on the part of the Government with the object, among others, of testing public opinion and seeing what happens. That is indeed what did happen on the debate on the Address, and I shall be very much surprised if the proposals for the child, the family and the young offender remain quite the same as they would have done if certain noble Lords on both sides had not spoken. But our fear was that this White Paper would not quite fall into that category and would present us with an accomplished fact; and because we thought that in certain directions, not in all, the thinking in the White Paper was very far from right, we were very anxious indeed to have an opportunity of putting these views to the House before it was too late and before too much loss of face would be felt in adopting any suggestions on which we might think we were able to convince Her Majesty's Government. So I shall try to say the few words I am going to say in the spirit in which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked us to speak—namely, an objective spirit.
I think one can begin by saying that his speech did a very great deal to clear the air, and if nobody else had spoken at all it would have justified my noble friend in putting down the Motion for this debate. For one thing, to my mind, 832 at least, it greatly narrowed the field of disagreement; and so, for my part, I do not want to go into any of the arguments surrounding the arrangements for providing reserves for the Regular Army. I think there is a great deal of common ground in principle. There may be important differences in detail; but, as I see it, they are not for debate to-day. Nor, I think, could anybody disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he said that the Territorial Army was over-ripe for reorganisation. Everybody who knows about it knows how right he was.
So we begin to find that the area of disagreement has little or nothing to do with the problem of providing regular reserves and their state of readiness—anyway, not in principle. It has a great deal to do with the decision not to use the Territorial Army for Civil Defence or home defence in any form, because that decision, if it stands, will have the result of destroying the roots and the sources of national military effort in the country.
Therefore, it would be my contention, and I think that of many others, that although there are proved arguments as put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in favour of the course which the Government now proposes, when you look more widely at those arguments they are far outweighed by other arguments most of which have by now been produced in this House to-day, and therefore I am not going to repeat them in full. As I said before, in the debate of the Address I think that the point at which (if I may use the expression) Her Majesty's Government took a slightly wrong turning was in not making wider inquiries outside the professonal circles of the Ministry of Defence, because I think that if they had they would have learned a great deal about the uses of the Territorial Army, which may not be strictly military, and may not be easy in their advantages to reduce to statistics.
It has been most interesting to me to see how the country has begun to react. The announcement was made at the end of July at a time when Parliament was rising and most people went away for their holidays. It was not for about another six weeks or two months that the Territorial Army itself and, even more important, the country as a whole, 833 realised the full implications of the Government's decision about Civil Defence; and that realisation was also delayed because, as I have said before, the Civil Defence organisation had no idea that this change was going to be made, and when they discovered what was going to happen they took the view most strongly that Civil Defence in its present form, or indeed in any form, short of a complete counsel of despair at the arrival of nuclear warfare, could not possibly carry on its duties without reinforcement by a body of trained and disciplined men like the Territorial Army, or the Home Guard in the last war—whom I saw myself, the day after the two raids in Glasgow and Manchester; and what I am thinking now, in saying these few words on it, is based on personal experience.
So we come to this vital conflict of opinion. I do not want to say any more about that, because it was put in so crystal clear a fashion by the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. If you accept his version, and then add up all the different things that would flow from the adoption of ideas such as he spoke of in the House, a whole lot of things will begin to fall into place. You get your insurance against the possibility that the Government may have been mistaken in taking what I will call such a high and dry nuclear view of the requirements of home defence. You get the insurance of possible expansion to an Army of a large size in the event of the enemy, whoever he is, taking the fourth course.
Here I should like to comment on something that the noble and gallant Field Marshal said when he said that Lord Haldane formed the Territorial Army in 1908. So he did. But he built it on foundations which were age-old—foundations going right back to Tudor times. I am saying this in no alarmist fashion. If the present proposals for the Territorial Army go through, those age-old foundations will be destroyed because, as I understand it, the present plan deprives some counties of any representation at all, and in other counties it is so small that those resources will be dried up.
So I would agree with those noble Lords who have already spoken when they 834 beg the Government most earnestly to think again about this second point and to see whether, on balance, something in the nature of the two-tier system will have advantages which outweigh the advantages, whatever they may be, of saving the amount of money, whatever it is—and it is largely problematical. The more one looks at this problem, the more one sees that a two-tier organisation, if adopted, cannot possibly conflict with any of the theories which have been given to this House as the Government theories by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. It may increase the expense slightly, but you must add up all the advantages which you will get—the possibility of expansion, the certainty of assisting the Civil Defence, the traditional and social values, which I agree must only be put into the makeweight and not be made as the main cause of argument, and last but not least, the value of the Army Cadet Force. By the way, I should like to say to my noble friend Lord Courtown, as President of the Army Cadet Force Association, that it is my understanding that their affairs have been dealt with separately, and I would much prefer that they should be kept separate.
That is all I have to say. I could say more, but I do not want to take the time of your Lordships' House by repeating what have been excellent arguments from the speakers before me, and keep noble Lords waiting for the excellent arguments which are coming after my remarks.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, I seem to have been left to defend these trenches single-handed. My noble friends have not deserted or gone over to the enemy; they have merely retired to Committee Room No. 4 for a briefing conference, which is quite another matter. I have every reason to believe that the "thin red line" will very soon be back at their stations.
As one who did his soldiering in the same regiment as that in which the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, spent his early days—
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
Not to-day, no. The noble Viscount had not his on 835 last time, so I thought that on this occasion we had both better be dressed in the same way. I was glad, though perhaps a little surprised, to find myself agreeing with him on one basic point, if I do not perhaps put it in the same elegant words as he used. The Ministry appear to be kicking away the ladder on which the reservists are expected to climb.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, assured us that the Government will give some consideration to the views which are expressed in this House to-day. I am delighted to hear that, but it seemed to me that he still stands wedded to his major premise—that is, that reservists are needed but that the Territorial Army as a home defence army is not needed. I think it is the view of many of us in this House and of countless people outside that a home defence army is still needed, and that without that Territorial home defence Army it will be more difficult than ever to recruit those reservists who are urgently needed for the Regular Forces.
I see on the list of speakers the names of several generals. I must explain that I never was a general, but that perhaps is just one more mistake we must lay at the door of what we used to call the old War Office. However, I have taken a deep interest in the Territorial Army and its affairs. For twenty years I have been a member of the governing body of the Territorial Army Association for my county. I am a Deputy Lieutenant for my county, which perhaps gives me a special reason for coming to the aid of the Territorial Army. But I do not want to base anything I say on a sentimental appeal of that kind. We must approach this matter quite objectively. I feel that if there is any questioning or any criticism of the Ministry's policy, it has to be done in that frame of mind.
It has been said—and I will say it again—that the Territorial Army as it at present exists certainly does not meet the needs of modern strategy. For one thing, it has been very badly starved of modern equipment. For that I am afraid blame must be put on the members of previous Administrations. But the Territorial Army has potentialities, and the day might come when we shall be very glad of it, just as we have been glad of it on two occasions in my own lifetime. 836 When all is said and done, all defence systems are an insurance policy. You may not need to use them very often, you may never need to use them at all, but it is very nice to feel that they are around and about if the occasion should ever arise. That is a factor which, I suggest to the Ministry, cannot be properly assessed in the costing system which from time to time has been mentioned in documents on this reorganisation.
It is, in a way, a disadvantage that we are discussing this matter before we have seen the White Paper. We are virtually shooting at an invisible target, as the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, pointed out. But there is another point of view. There may be an advantage in our discussing this subject here to-day before the White Paper comes out, in that the Ministry can take note of what we say and will then be in a position to modify their original proposals without any serious loss of prestige. We are here to-day talking as ordinary citizens, some perhaps with more experience than others, giving advice which we think can be useful and taking the whole matter to-day out of Party politics, although it may not be possible to take it out of Party politics later on. That is why I think there is a real advantage in our being able to discuss the matter to-day in the absence of a finalised White Paper.
We have to remember that there have been various defence reorganisations suggested in the past, and they have not always been of unquestionable wisdom. For instance, a few years ago we were very nearly called on to scrap the Royal Air Force. I think we have to bear in mind—and if I descend to the vernacular it is only in a respectful way—that the present vintage of "brass hats" need not necessarily be right. Their successors may take a quite different view. If one made an analysis, I think one would find that the professional advisers at the highest level have from time to time taken different views of perhaps an unchanged set of circumstances. I do not want to criticise the professional experts—it would be improper of me to do so—but the thought sometimes crosses my mind that if these professional experts, soldiers of very high degree, dedicated to their caste, were asked to make a 837 £20 million economy at the War Department, they might well, out of loyalty to their class, desire to preserve the integrity of the Regular Forces and say: "Let us throw the semi-civilian Territorial Army to the wolves". I do not suggest that that has actually happened, but it is an attitude of mind that could exist.
I think that to accept automatically the views of the professional advisers would he a mistake. We have already seen in Germany what a menace it can be if the professional military élite become a superior, exclusive element in the Constitution, sacred from the criticism of civilians. There is a good deal to be said for a sizeable citizen army. Intercourse between that citizen army and the professional army and its hierarchy can do a good deal to prevent the professional army from shutting itself up in a closed compartment. I do not want to see the professional army, especially the higher ranks, withdrawing into their shells, remote from the civilian world. Apart from other considerations, it is not good for democracy.
It is quite obvious that there will have to be alterations in the Territorial Army's rôle and in its constitution, as well as in regard to the strategy, personnel and rôles of the Defence Forces as a whole. We are living in a nuclear age, and just as in the 1914 War many of us suffered because of the old Boer War mentality in the military hierarchy, so we might suffer to-day unless we are prepared to look ahead and not merely look backwards. So I commend the Government for making a comprehensive review of the whole defence situation. But there again we do not yet know what the Review findings are. I do not complain about this. I do not think it ought to be rushed, because when a few years ago we were confronted with a revolutionary assessment of the rôle of the Royal Air Force, that was rushed and it did harm. It threw all our thinking about defence matters right off balance.
However, while we are waiting for the Defence Review, and while the professional experts and Ministers are fitting together the various pieces in the jigsaw, it will be premature for us to scrap one branch of the defence forces until we can see the whole picture. That is one reason why I am opposed to the immediate 838 proposal of the Ministry. It is one thing to knock Humpty-Dumpty off the wall. It is a very different matter to put him together again in circumstances of urgency and emergency.
In their review, the experts will no doubt try to assess the whole world situation. They will look ahead for a period of years. They will do the best they can. They will try to think of the sphere in which war will come. They will try to calculate who will be attacked by whom, and by whom the victim will have to be defended. They will do that to the best of their ability. But in both the wars that we know of, the prognostications of the experts were wrong, or else the preparations were wholly inadequate, and in both cases this country had to resort to very hasty improvisations.
Now the basic alteration that is suggested is that there is no rôle for the Territorial Army in home defence. That assumes that we shall never again have to fight on the beaches. It assumes that there will be no war involving Europe, or, if there is, it will be a nuclear war which will be over in 48 hours. It assumes the existence of a loyal NATO; but will there be a loyal NATO? Can we see so far ahead as that? Might not some country contract out? Might not some country surrender as soon as the first vital blow is struck? I place a lot of faith in NATO but I think we have to view its limitations as well. It also assumes that there is going to be no war in Europe, say, for the next ten years, just as many of us assumed in 1929 that in the ten years to 1939 there would be no war in Europe. If war did come, if it were the nuclear war about which my noble friend Lord Shackleton spoke, then amidst all that wreckage and all that chaos, all that frantic fear among the civilian population, would not the presence of 100,000 trained, disciplined men be of value? And how useful would that same 100,000 trained disciplined men be in the few days of tension before the war actually began, in watching our vital spots and defending them against saboteurs, fifth columnists and all the underground techniques of modern warfare!
The Ministry may retort, "Well, we have 160,000 Regular soldiers." The answer to that is that they are spread all round the world, and in the event 839 of any sudden outbreak it might not be at all possible to get them home. The Ministry may say that they have around 50,000 troops in this country, but many of them are base details, perhaps not the kind of people suitable for active service, and in any case it might be difficult to move them from the static posts where they happen to be stationed. The Ministry may say as well, "We have the civilian Civil Defence force." We have, but we have had warning that it is shortly to be cut down. That argument also overlooks the fact that the Civil Defence force as we know it now, with its present strength, depends to a very large extent for its fire-fighting manpower on the Territorial Army; it depends to a lesser but still considerable extent on the Territorial Army for its rescue manpower; and it depends largely on the Territorial Army for its communications and signals and its transport, too. Of course, in those circumstances of emergency we might manage to recruit an untrained Home Guard; but why have to go to that trouble and take that risk by throwing away the best Home Guard this country ever had—the Territorial Army?
So long as there is a prospect of a nuclear war, I feel that the Territorial Army must be maintained. I know that Russia is not now looked upon as a potential enemy in Europe. I know that United States aid would be available for us in the event of any conflict. But I also remember that in the last two wars the wars were well advanced before the United States stepped in. We also have to remember that there are many other countries which in the next ten years will attain major nuclear status, and some of those are ruled by very spiteful men. So I think it is wrong to scrap the home defence army. I think it is wrong materially; I think it is wrong psychologically. I think it is wrong to do so prematurely, before we know anything about the proposals for cutting down Civil Defence, and I think it is wrong to do so prematurely until we have received the Defence White Paper with all the details of all the Services there explained to us.
But if we assume that there is to be no war affecting Britain's homeland in the next ten years, can we say with any cer- 840 tainty that there will be no war elsewhere? We have heard of places like Aden, Malaysia, Cyprus and many more, and we have even heard, too, of China. I feel that we might have to draft very large military forces to distant parts of the world at the request of organisations like UNO and NATO and SEATO. We have a very small Regular Army, and if we send all our troops abroad it is going to be very useful to have a Territorial Army at home to fill the gap here. It will at least be very comforting. It is not as though we had a very big Regular Army with queues of recruits lining up outside each recruiting station eager to join.
I think that three things are going to make recruiting for the Regular Army even more difficult in the years to come than it is to-day. The first is the continuance of full employment and the prophecy in the National Plan that we shall soon be short of 200,000 workers for civil employment. The second is the boom in those technical employments which employ just those very skilled technicians of which the Regular Army and the Reserves are shortest to-day. The third is the trend towards early marriage, which means that increasing numbers of young men of recruitable age are going to feel unwilling to be parted from their families. The Ministry, of course, knows all these things and that is why, recognising that there are gaps in the Army, it is seeking to fill those gaps by setting up this organisation of reservists. But will the attempts to get those reservists succeed if the Territorial Army itself is filleted? They will be sending home disgruntled Territorials; the kind of men who might otherwise have become volunteers. They will be disbanding Territorial Army units to which many of the "Ever Readies" already belong. They will be drying un a reservoir of potential reservists.
I think we have to remember that many of the "Ever Readies" came forward as a result of encouragement from their Territorial commanders and as a result of assurances that were obtained through civilian employers and trade unionists who are associated with the Territorial Army associations. If the influence of those associations is removed, and if recruiting is to be carried on from purely military channels, then I feel that people are going to be less willing to jeopardise their civilian careers than if 841 an employer from the Territorial association can have a chat with their employers and get an assurance from them. Moreover, the new plan proposes to concentrate the whole of the new T.A. in the big towns. That means that many of the best men are going to be shut out of it. So if the Territorial Army is ruined, I feel that the attempt to build up the body of Reserves will also be ruined.
What, then, is left? I think we have to look at this, uncomfortable though it may be to do so. Will the professional advisers then come forward with proposals for selective conscription? Because those places in the Reserves certainly have to be filled. Another point which I will not develop, because it has already been mentioned, is that we are destroying a base from which we might build a massive Army if one were ever needed for a conflagration that might take place in some part of the world. The Regular Army, of course, could do something in that line, but the Regular Army has not the resources to carry out a magnification of the Army such as we had to do in both the world wars which are within our memory.
In view of all these considerations, I do not think the new scheme makes for efficiency, and I doubt whether it makes very much for economy either. We are told that it will save £20 million, but it is not going to save that £20 million until 1969. Nineteen sixty-five, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969. By that time, my Lords, surely, the National Plan will have helped us to such a state of prosperity that the £20 million will be merely a fleabite; yet in this next year, when I presume the need for economy is most urgent, the saving is going to be only £3½ million. If we need economy all this urgently, why not go the whole hog and scrap the Territorial Army completely at this moment and save the whole £20 million? Could it possibly be that that would leave the Army, the defences of this country, in an incomplete condition? I feel that it would.
I do not want to shirk one more thing, my Lords, at the expense of boring you, but there is the sociological factor. I think that too many of the people among whom I move and have my being are inclined to feel that there is a feudalistic atmosphere within the Territorial Army; something that is contrary to modern 842 democratic ideas. Certainly in the old days that was the case, particularly in the county Yeomanry Regiments. Then, the C.O. was usually one of the major squires; the squadron commanders were the lesser squires; the adjutant was probably the C.O.'s land agent who ran his estate; the head of the reconnaissance section was probably the gamekeeper (because gamekeepers are people with great versatility); and the lads of the village were conscious of their proper stations.
To-day, all that is changed—and I speak with some knowledge of the Territorial Army. There are some of the squires still left in positions of authority, certainly. It is what they regard as their form of social duty, public service—and not a bad form at that! But among the colonels with whom I am in contact there is one who runs a garage: there is another who runs a garage and a petrol company: there is another who is a manufacturer of underwear; there is another who is a printer: there is another who is an architect, and another who is a civil engineer.
Another colonel was one of my Labour county councillors on the Essex County Council, and there was a major, also, who was another of my county councillors on the Essex County Council. On our county association we have a retired railway clerk and a full-time trade union official; and a few years ago the company sergeant major of one unit was the secretary of the local Labour Party of which I myself was the chairman. There are serving in the Territorial Army throughout the country to-day thousands of men who are loyal and dedicated trade unionists. I think the social picture of the organisation has completely changed in the last two or three generations.
To sum up, my Lords, I see things like this. I think it is a mistake to be premature and to take a decision before we get the White Paper, giving us the whole picture. I think it is a mistake to take a decision prematurely, before we get details of the Civil Defence reorganisation. I know that greater efficiency is needed, but I do not think this is the way to get it. I do not think it will produce the "Ever-Readies", the reservists, who are urgently needed. It will also remove a base for expansion, which is a very important sector of our military organisation to-day, and I think it would 843 be wrong to leave this country without a Home Defence Army.
There is, I believe, a workable scheme that can be put up. I think that if the Territorial Army were cut down to 100,000—I would even go as low as 90,000 or 85,000—probably by dispensing with some of the smaller units, you could then let the reservists do their basic military training with the Territorial units; you could send them away at week-ends for their specialised training at Regular Army depots. By keeping the Territorial Army publicly respected (which is a very important thing) you could maintain a reservoir from which these "Ever-Readies" or reservists could be drawn; and at the same time you would have quite a fair-sized and competent Home Defence Army. I fear that we shall not get all the reservists if the recruiting is to be directed from Whitehall through the commands, instead of through the employers and the trade union officials who serve on the associations. For this reason I should like to see the associations kept in being, although I admit that in these circumstances they will have to be of a limited size.
Finally, I want to congratulate the Government (I suppose it is right and proper, seeing that I stand on this side of the House) on the measures they have already taken, and on the measures they are proposing to take generally to increase the efficiency of the Defence forces, and also to bring about such measures of economy as are possible. I believe that they got things right in their Election Manifesto, when they said:Our stress will be on the strengthening of our conventional Regular Forces…".But, my Lords, those Regular Forces are not being notably strengthened at present, and I think we can best compensate for that weakness by keeping the T.A. at sufficient strength to supply the reserves and, at the same time, supply us with a substantial measure of home defence. I think the best thing that could happen now would be for a completely fresh start to be made; for the Army Department to get together with the Council of the Territorial Associations and produce a completely new scheme which might meet the needs of the Government.
My Lords, there are many fields of voluntary public service open to the 844 citizens of this country. Some of us render that public service through the medium of words, some of us through deeds. Those who render that public service through deeds may be mistaken, but do not let us scorn them simply because they want to serve.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ LORD MARGADALE
My Lords, I rise with considerable diffidence this afternoon because, except for my maiden speech, this is the only time I have addressed this House. I should say that I have had a long connection with the Territorial Army. I am still connected with the Yeomanry in an honorary capacity; and the Yeomanry in particular, I think, not without justification, consider that they are rather more than ordinarily "hard done by" under the proposals which we understand are being considered. I was very glad to hear the opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he said that all the various points raised in this debate would be considered very closely. I am quite sure that I speak for all those who serve in the Territorial Army, men and women (and they are members of all political Parties, or of none) when I say that certainly they do not wish to drag politics into the Territorial Army if it can possibly be avoided. I believe that further thoughts on the White Paper, before it is produced, could achieve unity and bridge the gulf between the various points of view more readily than might at one time have appeared to be possible.
Mention has been made of the "Ever-Readies", but what has not been said in the course of the debate is that a very high percentage of the "Ever-Readies" come from the "teeth" arms, yet it is these "teeth" arms in the present Territorial Army which are to be scrapped. I can only conclude that it may well be more difficult, rather than easier, to get adequate numbers of men to join the proposed new Reserve Army if the whole of our traditional county and regimental spirit is scrapped overnight, which seems to be the proposal. Therefore, as the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, and others have said, I hope most sincerely that it will be possible to maintain that spirit and those county affiliations, possibly on the lines of the two-tier set-up mentioned by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein.
845 I feel that the thought so far has been on tying the Territorial Army too closely to a particular role. Through the years, individual parts of it have played all sorts of roles, quite usefully and effectively, I believe, in war. Therefore, I believe that they are capable of flexibility and of adapting themselves very considerably. According to expert opinion, nuclear war is likely to be the order of the day in the next war. But I feel strongly that this may not be so. We all trust that we shall be able to avoid that. We read in the newspapers of a good many wars going on at the moment; and I am glad to see they are not nuclear wars.
Nobody has yet answered one point which worries me very considerably. If there are troubles in Germany and in Aden, or possibly other danger spots in the world, and if more of our Regular forces have to go overseas than at present, what will happen to the people of this country and to the particularly vulnerable parts of the country if, for instance, there were an aerial parachute attack? There seems to be no home security on that basis. I believe that is an important point that we should remember.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, that the scrapping of the Territorial forces would have a very adverse effect on recruitment for the Regular army. Whole counties and areas would have no Territorial force, and their civilian population would not see any men in uniform and so be encouraged to join our Regular Forces. I believe that considerable savings can be effected on the Territorial forces and on equipment not only of various regiments themselves but on drill halls, and so on, and to some extent, also, at Territorial Army Council level. I do not think I have detected any argument about that during the debate this afternoon.
I wonder whether, from the expert point of view, there is unity of thought on one or two little matters, supposing we are planning for a conventional war. At the present time I note in various local newspapers that another £2 million is being spent on Machrihanish Airport, which I occasionally visit on my way home. It is already so long that one cannot see the other end. More money is to be spent on Stornoway Airfield, which is very useful from the internal 846 communications point of view. But that must be planning for a conventional war.
On the other hand, experts are saying that the only kind of war envisaged is a nuclear war. The same applies to oil storage in hidden places, which one must not mention but which one knows about. This, too, is planning for long-term conventional war. I would add that as I understand it, with modern aerial photography, from high-level aeroplanes or from satellities, it is possible to photograph objects of only 10 square feet. That makes all airfields very vulnerable and it also makes aircraft carriers very vulnerable. But a little more money saved there could, I believe, avoid cutting out the Territorial Army which means so much to a good many people in this country and is, I believe, essential for home security.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord this question? Did I understand him to suggest that the Territorial Army might defend the aircraft carriers? I did not quite follow his arguments.
§ LORD MARGADALE
My Lords, I was not suggesting that. I was suggesting that possibly a little more saving in the limited amount of money which we all realise is available from the taxpayers, and possibly a little more cheeseparing, would enable our Territorial Forces to be maintained as the vital home defence security which so many people feel they should be.
I might add one thing. I have here, in my pocket, a draft proposal for the re-organisation of the Territorial Army and the new proposed force. It has not been published; it has not been approved by the Territorial Army Association and it has not been seen by the Ministry of Defence. In due course I hope that it will. I believe that it will bridge the gulf between saving money and maintaining county and regimental loyalities. As the noble Lord said that he would consider all points, I will not weary the House with this proposal, but perhaps I might send it to him. I believe that it is very good. It has been compiled by three serving members of the Territorial Army. Of course, Territorial Army serving personnel have not been consulted at all about the Government's present proposal. It is they who will have to carry it out, 847 and work it in the future, and I believe that they should be consulted.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I must preface the few remarks I wish to make by apologising to the House and to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, because I have an important appointment at 7.30 or 7.45 which I cannot escape and may have to leave the House before he replies. When I entered this Chamber this afternoon my noble and gallant friend beside me said, "Well, are you taking part in this debate?" I said that I was, and he asked why. I replied, "I am the naval beachmaster. Every military assault has at least one naval beachmaster. And here I am." The assault troops have gone in; I think they have made a deep penetration; and I shall not keep your Lordships very long from the following troops which include very heavy metal. However, joking apart, I feel it to be my duty to take part in this debate and to support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Thurlow.
I have had a very long and close connection with the Territorial Army in that my father, my kinsmen and my friends have served in it in both world wars. In fact, my father commanded the Third Battalion, the Special Reserve Battalion, of the Bedfords in August, 1914, and eventually went to France with another battalion of that Regiment. Also—of no importance at all to me, because it did not belong to me or to my father—the Third Battalion of the Bedfords always went to their annual camp in Ampthill Park. As I say, apart from my father, my kinsmen and many of my friends served in the Territorial Army during both world wars. Moreover, both before and after the Second World War, during my business career I was in a position to encourage many young men to join the Territorial Army whether as officers or as other ranks; to follow their careers with interest, and to help them to make the necessary arrangements with their firms for annual training and so forth. I mention these things to show that I have had a very long and close interest in Territorial Army affairs. This has convinced me that, in its officers and men, the country has a trained and disciplined force which would be of incalculable value in an emergency.
848 I think that we shall always need such a force, despite the great technical and political changes in the world scene to-day. After all, throughout our long history we have from time to time found it necessary to call on volunteers to assist in the country's defence. True it is no longer necessary to summon them to arms by lighting bonfires on every hill from Land's End to John o' Groats; it is done more simply. But, of course, the most recent example of calling on volunteers was the formation of the Local Defence Volunteers, which later, in 1939, became the Home Guard. My noble friend Lord Bridgeman has told the House of his actual experiences with the Home Guard during the Second World War. My Lords, we cannot foresee the exact circumstances in which they will he needed, but when those circumstances arise, as they will, we shall find that if we keep a force of disciplined men, trained at least in the use of their personal weapons and able to handle wireless sets, trucks and so forth, they will fulfil an absolutely vital need.
Having said that, I must admit that for some time past I have been of the opinion that the time was ripe, if not overdue, for a measure of reorganisation of the Territorial Army, in particular of its training. I agree very much with what was said by my noble friend Lord Thurlow and the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and, of course, last but by no means least, by my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein. I feel that any such reorganisation must pay due regard to the special character of our splendid force of volunteers as well as to the current world situation as it affects our Defence problems. The special qualifications or character of this force, its traditional territorial basis, which dates from far earlier than the start of the Territorial Army, as my noble friend Lord Bridgeman has reminded us, their spirit of service and self-sacrifice and their motives of patriotism inspired what were in effect dedicated men.
Without the promised White Paper before us—I read yesterday, and we have heard to-day, that it will not be before us until mid-December—it is difficulty for me to say anything about the merits or demerits of any scheme which the Government and their advisers may have. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, let a few cats out of the bag during his speech, if I may put it in that way. But this may, 849 or may not, have deadened the speculation and the rumours which have been rife for so many months. I was not surprised when the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, speaking from the Government Front Bench on November 11, said that when he visited a T.A. unit in September he discovered that there were a number of misconceptions among the soldiers about Government proposals, misconceptions which were causing a great deal of uncertainty and hardship. My Lords, since September speculation and uncertainty have, if anything, increased. I do not know exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, meant by "hardship", but I can tell him now that the Territorial Army people whom I have met are literally seething with rage.
Can anyone he surprised that that is so, when all these rumours floating round, and when intelligent anticipation by military correspondents, who always seem to be able to get hold of the "dirt" from somewhere, have given the impression, rightly or wrongly, first, that 130 out of 150 famous units, and "teeth" units at that, are to be disbanded; secondly, that the force is to be reduced to 50,000 men, under half its present strength, and, finally, that those who remain will largely be trained and used to provide administrative and technical services for the Regular Army? I know only what I read in the newspapers; I have no special sources of information. But that is the impression which has been left in my mind. I admit that speeches made to-day, by people who are better informed than I, have slightly altered that impression; but the fact remains that that is what the ordinary man has thought and will think, at any rate perhaps until he reads our debate to-day.
It cannot, and does not, need much imagination to understand the effect of these rumours and speculation on the spirit of such famous fighting units as the London Scottish, the Northern Irish Horse, the Honourable Artillery Company and the Bedfords, to name only a few of those units with whom I have fairly close contacts. I imagine the feelings of the Sussex Artillery Regiment, about whom I was told on Sunday night. This Regiment served in the western desert, in Sicily and finally in Normandy. My informant was the Regular Army officer who commanded the Regiment in battle 850 in Normandy, and who, previous to war, had had much experience of Territorials in the Midlands. I will not repeat all that he said to me—it was hardly Parliamentary. But I must repeat one thing which he told me, because it bears on what so many of us have mentioned tonight. I refer to the tradition of these units. He told me that one of the proudest traditions of this fine fighting Sussex Regiment was that it had provided gunners for Drake's fleet which smashed the Armada in 1588. Just imagine the intolerable position of commanding officers like my noble friend Lord Ailsa, who during our debate on November 11 asked whether Her Majesty's Government wished the Territorial Army to remain in being in the meantime. Eventually he received the answer, "Yes". I was surprised that he did not immediately ask, "How?"
It seems to me, and to many others, that Her Majesty's Government have gone out of their way utterly to destroy the spirit of the Territorial Army by allowing speculation and rumour to reign unchallenged for so long. It makes one wonder whether the real reason is simply that they have found it impossible to complete their plans for the reorganisation of the Territorial Army until this famous Defence Review is complete. I think this is probably true. We on these Benches have warned and beseeched them time and again about the dangerous results of taking major decisions on Defence policy before this much-heralded Defence Review is complete and appears before Parliament.
My Lords, it is my firm conviction that, at this time, as much as, or more than, at any time in our history, we need a disciplined, trained and adequate force for the home defence of this country. I entirely agree with and support the views expressed by my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein. All our history and tradition shows this to be necessary, as it also shows that the necessary volunteers will always be forthcoming. The Government should remember the words of my own Commander-in-chief. At a time of crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean he told his Fleet, who were very concerned about shipping losses, "Always remember that it takes three hundred years to build a tradition." The 851 Territorial Army has a tradition considerably longer than three hundred years, and I beseech the Government to reconsider carefully what has been said about it, to take advantage of the wonderful spirit and traditions of this force, and to give us a home defence force.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, since Her Majesty's Government made known that it was intended to streamline the Territorial Army and reassess the whole question of National Defence, after consultation with both political and military experts, many thought that it would have been more honest of the Government if they had said that their firm intention was to abolish the Territorial Army and all vestige of home defence. As to the consultations, one had only to read the various directives to the Territorial Army to get the impression that the only people to be consulted were those who had a built-in antagonism to the whole conception of the Territorial Army.
In passing, it is interesting to note what was characteristic of far too many of the military experts consulted: that few really knew anything about the Territorial Army, and most had a long-standing prejudice against it. They were the ideal "yes men," clever theorists, occupying senior military posts in Whitehall; but their paper theories were faulty, being devoid of a knowledge of history or of human psychology. Especially was this the case when it came to the feelings, beliefs and knowledge of people in the different areas, not only in countries such as Scotland and Wales, but even in their own country, outside the rarefied atmosphere of Whitehall. These are the same men who have that Teutonic desire that famous regiments should lose their identity and be referred to only by numbers.
We should beware of experts. Some of us are old enough to remember the experts who nearly lost us two world wars. If, from the beginning, honest and real consultations had taken place with those best qualified, such as the Territorial Army associations and the many Regular officers who had intimate knowledge through service with Territorial Army units, there would have 852 been maximum co-operation in bringing the Reserve Army as a whole up-to-date. Of course, it would have involved changes. We do not mind change, but we do not like dictatorship from people who do not know their job.
It became obvious that this was not desired by the Government who, perhaps for political reasons, had decided to destroy the Territorial Army and the whole conception of home defence. Why, then, did they not carry this policy through to its logical conclusion and abolish Civil Defence as a whole? I had the honour this summer of visiting Devizes, where a famous Scottish Territorial division was training with the Civil Defence, with, I may say, great success. It became obvious that in the event of a nuclear attack of any magnitude, the Civil Defence would depend very greatly on the Territorial units who support them, not only in the realm of fire-fighting and rescue work, but also to maintain law and order, if the situation got beyond the control of the civil police, and this could be done only by disciplined and armed men. Has it not occurred to those concerned that, with a small Regular Army dispersed in the four quarters of the earth, a situation might arise—race riots, for example—when the civil police might require help?
Finally, let us examine for a moment one suggestion of the Government—an increase in the number of "Ever-Readies", who will have to spend much more time away from their employment for training, apart from the liability for lengthy periods abroad. Do the Government really think that employers, especially those with small businesses are going to encourage their key men to do this without a substantial payment in lieu of the services of these men? The ultimate result will have to be, in my opinion, the reintroduction of National Service, but this time the National Service man will have to be paid properly, at the same rate as the Regular soldier. The Government, having destroyed the Territorial Army training organisation and facilities, will have to set up new and expensive methods for training the National Service soldiery. So I do not see much change in this alleged saving of £20 million.
853 In addition, what steps do the Government propose to take to set up an alternative to replace a body which provides for young men such a splendid social club, and one with such a spirit of service, pride and real purpose? I do not wish to be too political about this, because I know that a number of noble Lords opposite will agree with me—and I do not see any very Left noble Lords opposite. Will not Her Majesty's Government admit that this alleged saving was perhaps another smokescreen to hide the real reason which lay behind this act of destruction, which could so easily be misconstrued as a sop thrown to the extreme Left Wing in politics, who have always hated the idea of a disciplined, efficient, and patriotic body of citizen soldiers?
§ 6.18 p.m.
My Lords, a debate in this House on the destruction of the Territorial Army would be a sad occasion, even if the arguments were convincing; but to-day, when the arguments are so unconvincing, it is a doubly sad occasion. There are few noble Lords, I am sure, who would not agree that there is a strong case for reorganising and recasting the Territorial Army from top to bottom, in order to meet modern defence needs, and also the often top-heavy Territorial associations. Equally, there must be few who have been convinced by the arguments deployed so far that there is any good case for the virtual abolition of the Territorial Army, which is what has been proposed.
I believe that one of the considerations is the saving of a few million pounds, but I noticed that little was said about this in the opening speech, and I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply to this debate from the Government Front Bench will tell us a little more about the financial considerations involved. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who I am sorry to see is not now here, said that there was an air of unreality about the previously stated role of the Territorial Army. There may be some unreality about it, but not enough for the emphasis he gave it, and certainly no more unreality than in the opening paragraphs of the Defence Statement which the noble Lord gave to the House on July 29.
854 In particular, I should like to speak about the arguments on home defence and home security, and in this I am much encouraged by what the noble and gallant Field Marshal said. Before I began to speak, I was wondering whether I should be justified in placing so much emphasis on the home defence side of the argument. But since he said that security of the home base was vital to any operation, I feel that I am entitled to go ahead.
It is really too naive to say, as the Government statement apparently does, that home defence considerations begin to apply only during the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Nor, I think, is it realistic to suppose that if such considerations did become important there would necessarily be, under the new organisation, units or detachments of the Regular Army available in the right place and at the right time. Home defence and home security is really more elaborate than that. There can be calls on it under many headings. I read in the Daily Telegraph to-day that there has been a call on the Army to provide a small detachment to go to Durham Gaol in order to help the civil power in a particular problem they have there. So there is no real reason to suppose that we must wait until after a nuclear attack before there is any question of the military being useful as an aid to the civil power.
I think I heard the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, say that we could rule out of our planning considerations the question of any large-scale sea and land invasion. On the other hand, surely the question of large-scale raids must still be taken into account. I do not think it is entirely irrelevant to this debate to recall an experience that I had at the beginning of the last war. I can remember how the Territorial brigade to which I was posted on mobilisation, as staff captain, immediately had to find large numbers of men to guard what were then called vulnerable points, before our second-line battalions were capable of taking them over from us, and finally the Home Guard from them, and we were freed to concentrate and carry on with the serious training which was vitally important before we could go overseas.
Looking at that same sort of question to-day, as a member of the Cumberland 855 and Westmorland Territorial Association, I suppose I am not giving anything away to any enemy if I refer to three particularly important installations in our area, even though their importance may have struck all noble Lords opposite. I am sure there would be claims for similar guards if, by chance, we were faced with a threat of serious war. We have the atomic power installations on the Cumberland coast; we have the largest B.B.C. installation, for short-wave transmissions, in the country; and we have one of the largest maintenance units of the Royal Air Force. Although the numbers of men normally employed at this last unit are very large, only a handful—I should think less than one per cent—are men enlisted in the R.A.F.; and certainly none of these installations will be able to provide from their own resources proper guards for the very large areas involved.
If you look at the new Reserve Army organisation which is proposed, your Lordships will see that the two counties would be left with approximately one company of infantry to carry out all these duties, apart from any others; and there is no guarantee that the whole or any part of that company would be in the county at a time when it might be called upon for a home defence rôle. Presumably other areas have similar problems. I hope that the noble Lord, when he replies, will be able to tell us, too, whether chief constables up and down the country have expressed to the Government any views about their proposed reorganisation. The poet Milton, writing over rather 300 years ago in one of his sonnets, refers to war being carried on asmoved by her two main nerves, iron and gold, in all her equipage.So far as it goes, that is true; but he has forgotten at least the important rôle of the trained, determined and loyal men.
When we discuss the future of the Territorial Army, we often hear the argument that one of the reasons against maintaining the Territorial Army on the basis we have known it, is that modern equipment is so costly; that while it stretches our resources very tightly to provide equipment for the Regular Army, it is a waste to supply it to other units, particularly since so much of it becomes 856 out of date so quickly. But surely it is possible for us to re-design the Territorial Army without providing all this elaborate equipment and specialist training such as has been included in the plans in recent years.
It may well be that, when all our resources are matched against our needs, the country will get better value for money if the equipment of the Regular Army and the Regular Reserves is strengthened, rather than issued to the Territorial Army. But even if that is so, it is still no convincing case for destroying the whole Territorial Army. As my noble friend Lord Thurlow and other noble Lords have said, it is surely possible for us to consider a Territorial Army of the future which avoids the elaborate specialist training and the need for expensive equipment and which, instead, concentrates on learning basic military training and mobility.
We need have no guarantee that, in the case of emergency, men would necessarily fight as units, as we always hoped to do in the past. I understand that, among other considerations, the Regular Army is desperately short of R.A.S.C. drivers, and the Territorial units could be one of the sources from which that shortage could be made up. The fact that equipment is expensive does not seem to me to be an adequate reason for destroying the whole Territorial Army. Iron, gold and oil may still be some of the main nerves; but they are not the whole. Surely this country of ours must be the poorer without the voluntary Reserve Army which we have known for several generations. We must recognise the influence for good it has exercised in times of peace, as well as the additional strength it gives this country in time of war. Surely the Government are not going to cast this away for so little saving.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT YOUNGER OF LECKIE
My Lords, I think I should start by declaring an interest, as I have been actively concerned with the Territorial Army for nearly forty years and I am still an honorary colonel of an infantry battalion. I also have the curious duty of disclaiming another interest which one of the national newspapers attributed to me, predicting that I would give your 857 Lordships the views of the Lord Lieutenants on this subject. I need hardly tell your Lordships that no such idea ever entered my mind, but I think I should disclaim it. Anything that I say is as an individual only. As a matter of fact, in this debate I feel it is important that we should not concentrate on special interests. This is not a subject on which we should strike a balance between special interests; it is a national subject, of vital importance to the future defence of the country, and I should hope that, if there is a division in the country, it will be between those who are interested in the defence of their country and those who are apathetic about it.
I do not take such a gloomy view as the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, took about to-day's debate. I hope that the result of this debate will be to bring the two sides of the argument, if I may so describe it, somewhat closer together. I hope that the Government will get perhaps two main impressions from this debate. The first, I feel sure, is that it is a great mistake to be stingy on information. Looking hack now, I think one can see that the Statement that was made in this House on July 29 was a rotten and had statement, both in its timing and in its content, and I think the whole argument has suffered from it since. So far as timing goes, it is obviously a bad thing to make a Statement like that just before the Summer Recess. But in this case it was worse, because if this Statement was not to be available fairly quickly, with an adequate explanation of the appreciation on which the decisions were based and of the implications to our defences for the future, then it should not have been made. If the Government say, as I believe they do, that they made it under pressure, that is what Ministers are for—to resist pressure—and if they have not got their case ready they should not put it forward.
Her Majesty's Government should realise, from the course of this debate, just what a lively interest in their strategic appreciations there is among many Members of this House, perhaps of some of us, speaking for myself, with no particular expertise. I would suggest to them that they will find that a similar interest exists in the country—if the country is told anything, which it has not been. 858 It may begin to hear something now. It is high time that the country was told exactly what is being proposed and was given the chance to form its own opinion on the rights and wrongs of it. Do not let us forget that in the over-45s in this country there must be thousands and thousands of people who are only too familiar with the principles of war and the principles of defence and who are perfectly entitled to judge whether a Government's conclusions or appreciations are sensible or not. I think if that had been done at an earlier stage, we should have a clearer idea of what was going on.
It is very difficult in peace time to get the public to take an interest in defence—it always has been, and I suppose it always will be—but a real effort should be made to put this straight to the country, and not to wrap it up, as it was in the Statement of July 29, because, let us face it, the very wording, "Reorganisation of the Reserve Army", was at best a euphemism. I have heard it called very many worse things than that. But the plain fact is that anybody who knew about the subject could see at once that it involved the abolition of the Reserve Army, not merely the Territorial Army, coupled with a small increase in the Army Reserve for the Regular Army, which is quite a different thing and is largely a collection of individual reservists.
The second lesson I should like to think the Government have learned from this debate is that noble Lords in this House are not nearly as confident as the Government are in their powers of prophecy. It is all very well to say that it will not happen here; that it will not happen within fifteen or twenty years; but the plain fact is that when you get to that sort of period you cannot make certain forecasts. That is why, as the noble and gallant Field Marshal told us, it is always essential to have a reserve against the unforeseen; and that is what the present plans do not provide in any shape or form, Territorial or otherwise.
I think the real lesson that has come out of this is that there will be great difficulty in convincing the country that, in the present state of affairs, you can say with confidence that we shall never need home defence. But that is certainly a more arguable point. I can only 859 say that in my career as an amateur soldier, such as it was, I seem to remember that in all defence problems you had a number of foreseen dangers against which you had to provide, and you never had enough resources to provide for them all. I also remember that the quickest way of being sure of being relegated to less exacting duties was to produce an answer which put all your goods in the shop window and did not keep in hand even a small reserve against the unexpected. In the past, our reserve against the unexpected has always been the Territorial Army. In that, perhaps we are not unique, but we are unique among many of our major allies, who have all had conscription.
It is perhaps interesting to consider why that should be. I would suggest that there are two main reasons why we have always had this Territorial voluntary system. The first is that we have a long tradition in this country of voluntary public service in every walk of life, not least, as noble Lords on Government Benches will agree, in the Labour and trade union movements. One aspect of that has always been that young men and women have been prepared to train themselves in peace for service to the country in war. The other main reason is, I am afraid, not quite such a creditable one, but a very understandable one, and it is that we have never liked the idea of compulsory military service in peace—that is, a full-time service. We are not, thank goodness!, a militaristic nation. Worse than that, of course, we hate paying for it. I would suggest that the result is that, in the Territorial Army, we have had our insurance against the unexpected on the cheap. Therefore, I do not think anyone has any right to turn round now and say that it is an expensive army, because it is not.
If noble Lords on the Government Benches are wrong in their appreciation, there is nothing more certain than that they will be introducing conscription in no time. That will cost money—very much more money than the Territorial Army would cost—and it will be unpopular. Let us not lose sight of the fact that, if you introduce conscription, if history is any guide to us it will be introduced at the last possible moment. You will then have to wait probably five, 860 perhaps ten, years before you have any matured officers or N.C.O.s from your conscripts; and when you first introduce conscription the immediate result, as somebody has already said, is actually to reduce the size or the effectiveness of your Regular Army because it has to provide a training cadre for your conscripts. So if anybody feels doubtful whether this idea which has been put forward of abolishing the Reserve Army is sound, he should think what is going to be done in introducing conscription and what the effects of that might be.
That brings me back to the point of the Government's forecasts of future dangers, because it is not a matter of thinking about next year or the year after. Any decision that is taken about the Reserve Army now would take five, ten or fifteen years to put right again. Therefore it is that kind of distance we have to look ahead. If noble Lords in the Government think that they can do some soothsaying as far ahead as that, I can only say that I admire them very much.
Finally—because I do not want to keep the House too long—I would say a word about the Territorial Army itself. I do not think there is any point in making emotional appeals on this subject. This is a purely practical problem, and I am sure no Territorial would wish to continue serving in an Army which had no useful purpose. But the effectiveness of any Army is dependent not only on its state of training and on modern equipment but, of course, on its morale and its fighting spirit. Deficiences in training and equipment can be made good fairly easily and quickly, but the setting up of morale is a thing which takes a great many years to do. I doubt very much whether any possible alternative to the Territorial Army can give the nation an equally good insurance against the unexpected for an equally modest cost.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I do not wish to compete too closely, or to compare myself too closely, with the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, who has just spoken, but I think that possibly I can beat him in length of service with the Territorial Army; I can no longer claim to be an honorary colonel. 861 I would agree with him most heartily that this issue must not be put on an emotional basis of the past glories of the Territorial Army, even the glories in the two world wars. I will not go over all the arguments which have been put so ably by others, but I want to draw attention to one point in particular which I think has been omitted, and that is the tremendous value of the Territorial officer in time of emergency.
In both the world wars, at the time of emergency, the fact that we had officers who were acquainted with the organisation of the Armed Forces, and who understood the spirit of the Armed Forces and of the Army, meant that we could immediately transfer them into certain staff jobs, jobs from which the Regular Army officers could thereby be released to go and take command in the field. If we do away with the Territorial Army, if we change its nature, we shall not get the best brains of the civilian population made immediately available to the Army on the outbreak of war. In Scotland we have been taking a great deal of interest in this whole subject of the rundown of the Territorial Army during the past few months, and on this point I would quote a paragraph from one of a series of articles appearing in the Glasgow Herald. The last two articles were by a relatively young man with recent war experience. I quote:It is short-sighted and unreasonable to expect to recruit the cream of our youth to the T.A. if they are to be denied the ambition of one day commanding their unit. Regulars have their part to play as commanders of T.A. units but if there is no leavening of first-class volunteer commanders the T.A. will become a colourless branch office of the Regular Army, feeding it with a few recruits perhaps but without any esprit de corps of its own.The implications of transferring the volunteer Territorial Army into the Reserve of the Regular Army are, as many of your Lordships have already said, far-reaching. It is, of course, ridiculous to consider that the 50,000 strength proposed for the Territorial Army means that there will be 50,000 reservists available for the Regular Army. It takes at least two years to train a recruit in the Territorial Army to any reasonable standard whatsoever, and the length of service of a large number—indeed perhaps of half—of all the recruits taken in averages only about two years. There- 862 fore, in the Territorial Army we are turning over a large number of men, and it is quite ridiculous to think that we can get out of the Territorial Army more than 20,000, or perhaps 25,000, reservists able to reinforce the Regular Army. The cat was let out of the bag in a rather nice way by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he expected that the Regular Reserve, which now stands at 20,000, would in 1970 be of the order of 40,000, which means that it would then supply all that was needed for the Reserve of the Regular Army and in fact the Territorial Army as a civilian volunteer body would no longer exist.
In the year 1777 the War Office and the Government of the day refused the offer of many bodies, many peers, to raise troops for the Army. That was the year of Saratoga, a period about which the late George Bernard Shaw wrote rather cuttingly in regard to the Government and the War Office. The offers to raise troops were refused because there was no foreseeable emergency in the next ten years, and yet only a few years later regiments had to be raised and Governments changed; War Office policy was changed, crises occurred, and by the end of that century we had a whole variety of forces—militia, fencibles, volunteers, yeomanry—created to meet each recurring crisis, often with a different complexion to the Government.
But the most magnificent thing of all occurred in the year 1804, when the Permanent Additional Forces Act was passed and the Government were at their last stage of exasperation to try to raise some troops. They then offered a bounty of 12 guineas to induce men to enlist. I suppose 12 guineas then would be at least £100 by modern standards, but the whole thing was a flop because of the recurring calls on patriotism, a constant blowing hot and cold, and no consistent policy being maintained in regard to the primary defence of the country. If the ghost of William Pitt were hovering around us now, he would say, "This is where I came in".
In the Territorial Army as we have it now we have a piece of consistent machinery which is capable of adjustment and can be tuned up and modified as occasion demands and as dangers impend upon the country. I think it is a great pity that anything should be done to 863 change its nature so radically as the proposals suggest. I think we are seeking economy at the expense of security, and I would re-echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, almost the first words which he spoke: Who is to know what is to happen in the next ten, fifteen, or twenty years?
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, I will be very brief. I have just returned from three months overseas, most of it in Australia, and in that country they have their equivalent of the Territorial Army called the C.M.F., Citizens' Military Forces, in which I have myself served. Just recently they also had a serious heart searching and they were going to change things; they were going to cut out the names of regiments, they were going to limit the size, and all that. Then the Minister for the Army, and of course the Government, thought again, and with considerable political courage decided that that was wrong and that they had much better build on what they had already than try to start again with any new gimmickry. I came here this afternoon purely with the hope and the prayer that perhaps the Government here would do the same as far as our Territorial Army was concerned.
By way of declaring my interest, may I say that, as I have just stated, I have had a commission in the Australian Territorial Army, I have had a commission in this country's Regular Army and I have commanded a Territorial Army battalion in this country. Therefore I cannot, for the life of me, say that I can approach any of these subjects without some sentiment. Noble Lords have said, right, left and centre, that this subject must not be treated with sentiment. On the other hand, sentiment has a lot to do with the whole of our lives, and especially when there is a voluntary traditional method of defence, which is the Territorial Army. I think that if you abolish the Territorial Army, which is what the plans in effect are doing, you will find it very hard to start or build up again without, as has been mentioned, compulsion. Man cannot live by bread alone, and I think there is a sentimental or traditional side to this matter which should not be ignored.
I remember the courses one has done at the Civil Defence Staff College and the 864 various Civil Defence exercises one has been on in the Territorial Army, and I cannot see how, without terrific expense, any form of Civil Defence can carry on without the Territorial Army as we know it to-day. The next point is one which I also made on June 30 last, concerning these mobilisation exercises that one has from time to time. I cannot, for the life of me, see how, without again great expense and providing other facilities, you can carry out general mobilisation without the facilities and the other things that go with the Territorial Army as we have it to-day. The point has been mentioned of the traditional built-in dislike, mainly from Cromwellian times, of a standing Army, and if you are going to abolish the Territorial Army I think your connection between your country and the Regular Army is going to be severed, with the dangers that are inherent.
Lastly, in September I was shown around Los Angeles and, as your Lordships know, that was one of the last places where the Americans thought there would be anything like what happened. But what did they have to fall back on but their Territorial Army, the National Guard, to stop it from spreading? I think we should be extremely short-sighted if, just because at the moment we cannot foresee our various extremist bodies on either side of the political spectrum being in a position to create disturbances of this sort, we ignored the fact that something like that could happen in one of our big cities in, say, ten years' time. If you have no on-the-spot Territorial Army or equivalent reserve, then you are not looking after the home defence of this country as you should.
§ 6.55 p.m.
My Lords, I venture to intervene in this debate as, after eleven years' service in the Regular Army, I took over in 1938 a company of the Queen's Westminsters which during the war became a battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps and is now incorporated in the Queen's Royal Rifles. At the outbreak of the last war we were in the 56th London Division and at first were stationed in London to supplement the civil power in case there was bombing. Later we were moved into the Kent area on the coastal defences, where we carried out many rôles during the Battle of Britain, and were eventually trained 865 as a motor battalion of the Eighth Army Division before going overseas just before Alamein. It is just this rôle that could be a possible one for the Territorial Army should a war break out to-day.
Our Regular forces are stretched to a maximum, and there can be no doubt that should our conventional commitments be further extended a decision would have to be made to embody by proclamation the Territorial Army or to resort to conscription. That is not beyond the realms of possibility at some future date, and should this occasion arise and should the Government persist in this plan we shall be found wanting. Is this the moment to deal a death blow to the Territorial Army which, for many years, has been the first line reinforcement of the Regular Army?
Those of us who have served in the Territorial Army, both in peace and in war, can testify to the enthusiasm and efficiency of this force. It is evident that the younger members of our society, both in the country and in the towns, have come forward to join the Territorial Army, giving up their evenings, week-ends and holidays, not only because they believe that the training is essential for the defence of their country but also because they will be learning things which will be of great value to them in after life, not excluding the comradeship which is one of the great factors of the Territorial Army.
I understand, and again it is rumour, rumour, rumour, that the Queen's Royal Rifles would become one company, which would entail 300 young officers, N.C.O's and riflemen being suddenly disbanded. If we had one company, say, of about 140 men in one regiment, how are we going to get recruits? Surely they will not think it worth while to give up the time they have given up before, when they were on a battalion basis. Surely this will not be easy to bring about.
I come to another point which has not been made so far and is often forgotten: that the Territorial Army is a potential officer-producing organisation.
At the start of the last war we lost many of our N.C.O's and riflemen to the O.C.T.U's. I am convinced that their training in the ranks of the Territorial Army was of infinite value to their service afterwards as officers. If the disaster 866 of nuclear war should ever overcome us, we should need a disciplined force with the mobility to deal with any situation which might arise. I am not so defeatist as to think that the whole of Britain will be wiped out at one blow, but I believe that it is essential that a disciplined force should be available in order to assist the civil power in rescue work and the restoration of communications and supplies; and I do not think we can leave that to any chance regiment which happens to be in the area for a short time. It is essential also for the morale of the population that this force should not only exist but be known to exist. It is the ideal work for the Territorial Army.
The Territorial Army has been invaluable in two world wars. It is invaluable to-day. It is a disastrous decision to deal with it in this way. I trust that, even at this late hour, Her Majesty's Government may reverse a decision which, to my mind, is endangering the defence of this country and, I am quite certain, is not the will of the people.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT RIDLEY
My Lords, at this late hour almost everything has already been said on this subject, but because I feel so violently opposed to the Government's proposals for the reorganisation of the Reserve Army I feel I must say one or two things again. Before I do so, I, too, would thank my noble friend Lord Thurlow for giving us the opportunity to speak to-night, as I do not think that this is the wrong moment to do so. I think it is right that we should discuss these matters before the Government have finally issued their White Paper.
To my mind, the proposals which the Government have made are based on three totally false assumptions. The first false assumption is that these proposals will work. I do not think for one moment that they will work, because I do not believe that people will join this new type of Reserve Army, with the increased commitment which is required of it; and I do not believe that the country at large, the employers and so forth, will agree to allowing their key men to join this type of Reserve Army, where they may be expected, if called up, to lose their seniority or any prospects of it. I do not think that the £60 tax free bounty is going to be much of an 867 inducement to such people. Nor do I think that volunteers are going to join this Reserve Army, because the type of unit which is proposed for the majority of the Reserve is administrative and logistical. There is far less glamour in this side of the Army than in any other side, although I would agree that it is vitally needed in the event of war. But if the country will not pay a wage comparable to what these people can get outside the Army, then why should we expect them to join the Reserve Army when they have not so far joined the Regular Army? I think that in this connection there is a tendency for the Regular Army to feel that they can get the technicians which they cannot recruit by falling back upon the Reserve Army to supply them; and I think that there is a tendency for the Regular Army to hope to get their people "on the cheap", which will not work.
The second false assumption is that the proposals will save £20 million. I have seen no estimate of where this saving is going to come from. I do not see the grounds on which the Government have based this figure. I would entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Leather-land, who spoke so eloquently and at length on the subject of saving money. In fact, the noble Lord spoke so eloquently in defence of the Territorial Army that I think he should be sitting on this side of the House. If the saving of £20 million were the sole objective of this reorganisation, I should feel there were so many other ways in which the money could be saved in the Defence Estimates. I cannot think that this is the real reason, or even a serious reason, why these proposals have been put forward.
The third and, I think, the falsest assumption of all is that there is no longer a home defence rôle for the Territorial Army. This is the main subject upon which the whole of the debate to-day seems to me to have crystallised. Almost every speaker has mentioned it, and almost every speaker has mentioned that he disagrees with the Government on this subject. I should like to ask the Government how they can possibly be so categorical as to state, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has to-day stated, that home defence, after a nuclear or 868 any other war (I hope the noble Lord will correct me if I am misquoting him) is not a contingency that we should provide for. After being only a few months in office, the Government have stated this as a fact. I do not see how they can possibly justify this statement, and I should like to know on what possible grounds they could come down so strongly on that side, before even completing the Defence Review which we are continually being asked to wait for. It seems to me that this statement is rather like the situation created by someone who is writing a book, who starts off by writing Appendix A and then returns to write the rest of the book. Until the Defence Review is completed, how can it be possible for us possibly to say what defence rôle there will be for whom and when? In fact, I would go so far as to say that the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, might perhaps be compared with the statement made by a distinguished, but nameless, Air Marshal, who, just before the R.101 disaster, said that there was no future for the heavier-than-air flying machine.
The Territorial Army has always been our insurance against the unforeseen. Even since your Lordships last debated this subject we have seen innumerable situations all over the world where the use of soldiers has been advocated and has been needed. In fact, we have even had advocates for the use of force in Rhodesia. But I do not know what force we can use if we are about to disband our forces. I believe that we should not become the only improvident nation which alone neglects to pay any insurance premium against the unknown.
I admit to being destructive in my criticism so far, but I am most impressed, as we all are, at the complete unanimity with which every speaker has agreed that some reorganisation, and a radical reorganisation, is needed to bring the Territorial Army up to date. We have come to a complete and entire agreement on that. Certainly I agree with it myself. I would even congratulate the Government, as other speakers have done, on grasping the nettle. We have heard quite a lot about grasping nettles to-day, but it is one thing to grasp the nettle and it is another to squash it and crush it once you have grasped it. Those who 869 grasp too many nettles should not complain if they get stung in the process.
It is up to the opponents of this scheme to suggest constructive alternatives. This may be difficult in advance of the Defence Review, but the purpose of this debate is, I think, that we should put forward alternative ideas for the Government to consider. I think that the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, made some suggestions in the debate in this House in June of this year which were almost prophetic. He suggested that there should be a two-tier force. I will not quote him at length, because I am glad to say that he has repeated the suggestion this afternoon. The Government accepted proposals for the top tier which he suggested, in almost exactly the same way as he suggested them. In fact, I think his proposals were accepted with such accuracy that the similarity must be too great to be a mere coincidence.
The noble and gallant Viscount has again emphasised the need to organise the balance of the Territorial Army into the second tier, which has also been described and advocated by so many noble Lords this afternoon. I believe strongly that this is the basis on which we should find a solution to this problem. It seems to me that it would solve all the problems. It has already been mentioned in so many speeches that I need not detain your Lordships by going into it at any greater detail. I would just add that it is not at all dissimilar from the solution and the ideas which the Council of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations put forward in July, though their suggestions seem to have been totally ignored by the Government.
I believe that the Government have proposals in mind to reorganise the Civil Defence Service. Can we not realise that neither the Territorial Army nor the Civil Defence Service can possibly work in isolation? Combined together they could provide us with the essential, basic home defence which everybody seems to think is required and which we must preserve at all possible costs. The amalgamation of the two Services might well save us much more than £20 million. We should then be left with a highly mobile volunteer force ready to assist the Government in any possible emergency.
870 The force could be limited to 40,000 or 50,000 relatively unspecialised soldiers who have been trained in basic military discipline and various degrees of Civil Defence knowledge. It would be cheap to run, and certainly cheaply equipped, and could be based on the existing Territorial Army structure under the control of the Ministry of Defence. This force, as suggested by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, would have to be additional to, and separate from, the Regular Army Reserve, whatever that might turn out to be. If we did create such a force, we should be using in the service of the country the great reservoir of good will and talent which the Government now propose to cast aside as unwanted. We should be keeping alive all the old loyalties and traditions which are so valued by the nation today, if not by the Labour Party.
§ 7.14 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
My Lords, I must at the outset once again declare an interest, as I am a serving officer in the Territorial Army. I have the honour to command one of the many battalions whose services will no longer be required if the Government proposals for disbanding the Territorial Army are carried out. I had hoped to-day to hear the Governments case for dispensing with the country's home defence force. Having listened with great care to the arguments put forward by the noble Lord on behalf of the Government, I am left with the impression that the Government feel that the country is not worth defending. As the amount concerned is so very small, this attitude is ridiculous. I begin to wonder whether these proposals have been brought before us, before the White Paper is published or the Defence Review as a whole has been carried out, so that the Government have a "let out" for some of their overseas commitments by stating that as there is no home defence force they cannot honour those overseas commitments. Whether there is a defence force such as ours or not, many of these commitments remain, and if the Territorial Army does not do them, who does?
I should like briefly to turn to the proposals for the reorganisation. These proposals were not put in such a manner as to win friends and influence people—certainly not to influence people in the 871 Government's favour. It might surprise your Lordships to know that the method the Ministry-of-no-Defence chose for informing its T.A. commanders of its proposals was by requesting those commanders to sit by their teleprinters between the hours of 3 and 4 p.m. on July 29. They then saw an announcement made by the Minister of Defence, or the Minister-of-no-Defence, Mr. Healey. At precisely 4 p.m. their chief clerks marched in and presented them with a bundle of envelopes, saying, "You may open these now, sir". One begins to wonder, slightly cynically, "Were these chief clerks fully paid-up Party members?".
As to the proposals, most of what I should like to say has been said already. I can only say it is going to be very difficult to implement them, and I say this with the best will in the world. We can get soldiers, but it will be very hard to get senior N.C.O.'s, and even harder to get officers—I mean on the terms so far proposed. One hopes that when the White Paper is forthcoming, they may well be made more acceptable.
I constantly hear comments as to the Territorial Army's state of readiness. I have taken great care to enquire into this, and I am informed on the best possible authority that a Territorial soldier is as well trained as any soldier leaving the Regular Army depot, and in many cases as well trained as a Regular Army battalion soldier—I refer not to soldiers serving in Germany, Borneo or Aden, but serving in some other part of the world. Therefore, the Territorial state of readiness cannot be so bad as is thought.
I should like to pose a few questions. When was the Regular Army Reserve last used? Was it in Korea? Was it in Suez? If and when it was used, how many were called and how many were found fit and able to serve? When was the Army Emergency Reserve last called and, when it was called, how many were called, and how many were found fit and able to serve? Lastly, I should like to ask three questions, and in regard to at least two of them could I please have a convincing answer, not a Parliamentary one?
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
I am sure not, but I should like to have one, if possible. The first is this. I have heard a rumour that the Government are thinking of accepting a suggestion somewhat similar to the one on the lines put forward by the noble and gallant Viscount. Could we have some indication whether this is so?
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (LORD CHALFONT)
My Lords, would the noble Marquess mind repeating the question? I will try to answer it when I wind up, but I am afraid I did not hear it.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
I have heard a rumour that the Government are thinking of accepting a proposal very similar to that made by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein: that is to say, for a two-tier system. My second question is: do you really wish the T.A. to continue at present? The third is: do you really wish the proposed reorganisation to work? If I can have an answer to those questions, I shall be grateful.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, we have had a lengthy debate, so I do not propose to speak for long. The debate started with noble and gallant Field Marshals, and we are now down to Colonels. In this connection, I must declare an interest, because I think that I first put on Territorial Army uniform about 55 years ago. The association—though not the same suit—lasted for about 35 years, and I then took command of a Regular regiment. So I have had a certain amount of experience of this matter, quite apart from being a member of a Territorial association.
There appears to be absolute unanimity on the fact that the present organisation of the Territorial Army as a fighting force of ten divisions is unsuitable. That I would not contest in the least. I remember that between the wars when I was commanding a regiment, there was very little training done above regimental level which was really useful. I cannot help thinking that the future Territorial Army, if it consisted of a few hundred units which were not expected to get beyond regimental or battalion training, would serve an extremely useful purpose 873 from every point of view. The point has often been emphasised that the Territorial Army not only is a reservoir for the Regular Army, but can also serve as a reservoir for the Army Reserves. For that purpose something of the sort will be very much needed in the future. I cannot visualise these relatively small reserves being manned at all on the proposals put forward by the Government.
I feel that the Government have been badly advised over this, and that quite insufficient weight has been lent to morale and esprit de corps. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, knows exactly what esprit de corps means, and in the last Defence debate he gave us a most moving story. I think his Warwickshire cap badge means a great deal more to him than most things, following his Colonel, the noble and gallant Viscount, who occasionally indulged in the unsoldierly habit of wearing two cap badges. The Government should realise that esprit de corps goes for an enormous amount, especially in these days, and the esprit de corps of the Territorial Army would he completely destroyed. I am talking not only of the regimental spirit, but of the spirit of the country. There was an extremely good article in the Daily Telegraph this morning, pointing out that the abolition of the Territorial Army would demilitarise the whole nation. Soldiers would not be seen in the country, and the spirit of national defence and everything else would perish.
I apologise for an anecdote, but between the wars, when I was commanding a regiment, I had about 20 drill halls, which were a great nuisance and militated against efficiency. I was making arrangements to do away with one or two of them, at the same time making arrangements for the training of the men elsewhere, when the local authorities came to me and said, "We hear that you are going to do away with our drill hall. You cannot do that". I asked, "Why?" and they told me, in words which have not been repeated to-day, rather to my surprise, "The Territorial Army is the most successful youth club in this country." For that reason, if for no other, it should be worth preserving. These local authorities said to me: "You cannot do away with our drill hall. It is the mainstay of the whole place." I 874 think I only had about ten men training there, but, even so, the authorities said it was the mainstay of the whole place. One of them said that he had gone from there to the Boer War, his son had gone from there to the First War, and his daughter's wedding reception had been held there. I was bound to relent, and I had to make other arrangements. Quite obviously, that Territorial drill hall was the life and soul of the place—not a very big place, I admit. But what happened in one place is happening, in greater or lesser degree, all through the country; and not all the local authorities are so vocal, or the commanding officers perhaps, so accessible as in the case I have mentioned.
I implore the Government to think again before killing the Territorial Army. There is this proposal to do away with the Territorial Army because there is nothing very obvious for it to do at the moment. The noble and gallant Viscount produced a most telling saying about the fourth alternative which always turns up, something which had not been foreseen; and in many cases this has already happened to the Territorial Army. The improvidence of doing away with it because there is nothing immediate for it to do, strikes me like the improvidence of one of the Surrealist artists in Paris, who happened to be painting a blonde and therefore threw all his dark coloured paints into the Seine. No amount of computers and Kaldors can produce the answer to what esprit de corps is worth, and I implore the Government to think again, because the unexpected must turn up and the Territorial Army would be the only means of meeting it.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ LORD HARDING OF PETHERTON
My Lords, I must crave your Lordships' indulgence for intervening in this debate because, thinking that I should not be able to get here in time, I did not put my name down to speak. Consequently, I did not hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, at the beginning of the debate. I have already declared my personal interest in the Territorial Army in a letter which was published yesterday in The Times, because I started my military career in a unit of the Territorial Army shortly before the First 875 World War. So I have a close personal interest, though not, I hope, to the extent of going in for special pleading on behalf of the Territorial Army.
As one who has had the responsibility for a home command, I do most sincerely and completely endorse all that has been said in your Lordships' House this afternoon about the important rôle which the Territorial Army has to play in home defence; and it is, I submit, a rôle that cannot be properly and adequately fulfilled in any other way. As has already been said this afternoon, there is no need for the home defence element of the Territorial Army in the future to have heavy equipment, to be organised in large and cumbersome formations. What I believe is required is lightly equipped, highly mobile forces, which are locally trusted and have knowledge of local conditions. These are requirements which can adequately and fully be met by a reorganised Territorial Army on a light and highly mobile basis.
I have asked the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government whether he would deal with another question that I should like to put; that is, whether serious consideration has been given to the possibility of letting the Territorial Army take over responsibility for certain of the Civil Defence functions, such as the wardens' service, the auxiliary fire service and the mobile police columns. It seems to me that in that direction there lies scope for some integration between what I may call the home defence element of the Territorial Army—which I very much hope the Government will reconsider, and decide to retain—and the existing Civil Defence organisation. If that possibility has not been considered, will the Government consider it and see whether there is not scope for savings and greater efficiency in that direction? It may be a means of making up the shortage which they would otherwise have from destroying—and I do not think that is too strong a word to use—the Territorial Army as it exists to-day, certainly from the point of view of home defence.
These are matters of very great importance. I know that they fall to be considered finally in the context of the Government's general Defence Review. But I would strongly urge, as one who has had, first of all, service in the Territorial 876 Army, then experience of home command organisations and, finally, responsibility for the general efficiency of the Army and its part in our overall defence organisation, that the Government should give very serious reconsideration to retaining sufficient of the Territorial Army to meet the home defence requirement; to reorganising it on a new light, highly mobile basis, and to looking into the question of the economies that could result from some integration of the home defence element of a reorganised Territorial Army and the existing Civil Defence organisation.
§ 7.30 p.m.
My Lords, this has been a long debate—not quite as long as I expected, may I say; and I should like to thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, for his timely intervention—but I believe, and I think your Lordships believe, that it has been a useful debate. It has been useful because of the knowledge deployed by a long list of speakers. They all possess a far greater knowledge of the Army Reserve Forces and the Territorial Army than I can possibly command: not least my noble friend Lord Leigh—that outstanding yeoman whose maiden speech we were all so very glad to listen to earlier this afternoon.
I think also that this debate has been useful because of its timing. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bourne, said that it was perhaps a debate rather in the air, since the White Paper was not yet with us. That, of course, is so. But I myself believe that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, really meant it when he said that the Government would give very careful consideration indeed to what was said in your Lordships' House this afternoon and this evening. I am sure that those words of his were more than a polite and platonic expression of obeisance to your Lordships' House; and, if so—and I am sure it is the case—I would agree with the many noble Lords who have said in the course of this afternoon's discussion that this debate has been really well worth while.
My Lords, I had thought I was going to speak a great deal earlier in the discussion this afternoon, and I must apologise for not having been listening to all the speeches; but I think that this 877 debate has gained from being non-political, and I was very glad that that was underlined by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland. It seemed to me, if I may say so, that he talked extremely good sense, but one always thinks that people talk good sense when one finds oneself agreeing with what they say.
In summing up this debate from this side, the points which I should like to make are comparatively simple and, because of the hour, I will make them as briefly as possible. Our first worry here relates to the timing of the Government's proposals and to their relationship to the Government's Defence Review. It was a point which was made very forcibly earlier this afternoon by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bourne. The Government tell us that they are reviewing in depth our Defence commitments and our ability to discharge those commitments. I do not think that any of us have any quarrel with that at all, although we perhaps have some quarrel with the tortoise-like progress which they are making. But presumably they are not ready with that Defence Review, or its fruits, because they are still undecided about those commitments; or, if they are decided about the commitments, because they are still not quite certain how best to discharge them. This means, presumably, that they must still be undecided about the size, the shape and the disposition of our Regular Forces.
If this is so now, in late November, as I assume it must be, I cannot for the life of me see how the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence was in a position to announce, in late July, his broad proposals for the Reserve Forces. Surely, in logic, decisions about the size and the shape of our Reserve Forces must follow, not precede, decisions on our commitments, on the sort of wars we may have to fight and on the sort of Regular Forces which we feel we need to fight those wars.
I must tell noble Lords opposite, as several other speakers earlier to-day have also told them, that I am genuinely puzzled by the way in which they have gone about this. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, when he replies, will be able to explain the logic behind this seemingly illogical procedure. If not, 878 I think that some of us will be inclined to conclude that the proposals so far made by the Government for our Army Reserve Forces are not really related to any coherent strategic requirement, but that they have been governed in the most part by Mr. Healey's efforts to contain Defence expenditure within a ceiling imposed upon him by his colleagues.
Although it may be rather illogical to discuss the roles of our Reserve Forces, as we have been doing this evening, in advance of this Defence Review, I feel that I must to some extent follow the Government down this rather illogical path, and I should like to touch on one or two of the roles which have been discussed in our debate—first, Home Defence. In another place on July 29 the Secretary of State for Defence said—and I quote his words from column 694 of Hansard:It is no longer realistic to think in terms of the Territorial Army as a force for the defence of the United Kingdom itself…".Later, he went on to say—and I again quote his words, from column 700:We do not believe that it is likely that we shall have to meet a major land invasion of these islands by conventional forces or that this is a contingency which it is right for us to spend the taxpayers' money on preparing for.With the second of Mr. Healey's points—the unlikelihood of a major land invasion of these islands by conventional forces—I am inclined to agree. But this does not mean that we necessarily accept his first point—that is, the entire abolition of the Territorial Army's responsibility for home defence. I am inclined to agree with the Government that deliberate Soviet aggression in Europe is, in present circumstances, in the highest degree unlikely. I also agree with them—and I quote the words of the White Paper—thatthere is always a risk of war arising out of misunderstanding or miscalculation".Above all, I agree with what my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein has said—and he repeated these words to-day—thatin war only one thing is certain, and that is that everything is uncertain".That being so, my Lords—and this is the question I would wish to put to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—in the very unlikely event of war in Europe—even limited, non-nuclear war—can we assume 879 that these islands will be immune? In those circumstances, should we be able to insulate ourselves from the repercussions of war, or a state of extreme tension, in Europe? I grant that in those circumstances we could probably rule out a major invasion by conventional forces, as Mr. Healey himself has ruled it out. But can we rule out the possibility of diversionary and sabotage attacks, perhaps in a period of very high tension? And were we faced with this sort of thing, if we had to grapple with it, who would guard the key points in these islands: our power stations, our major public utilities, our communications centres, the main bridges—even the seat of Government itself? Do the Government really believe that this can be left entirely, say, to the police or to such Regular Forces as we might have in these islands at that time? I do not think we have had a really convincing answer to that question this afternoon.
Then, of course, there are contingencies such as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bourne, referred to: for example, a possible airborne attack on these islands. I would grant that this again is in the highest degree unlikely. But can we rule it out? Can we rule out something which I personally feel to be perhaps more probable—diversionary airborne attacks, in small packets, for sabotage and other reasons? Can we entirely rule out such a possibility? I should be glad to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, may have to tell us about this.
Secondly, my Lords, and closely linked, there is the possible rôle of Civil Defence. In speaking of this on July 29 Mr. Healey (and again I quote his words) said:Moreover, if it came about"—that is, nuclear attack on this country,—conditions of unimaginable horror would supervene, and it is entirely speculative whether the Territorial Army would be of great value in such a situation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Commons) Vol. 717 (No. 164), col. 698; 29/7/65.]Here again we are in considerable difficulty in discussing this matter, since we know so very little about the Government's basic thinking on it. We were told in July that Parliament would be informed "in the near future" of the Home Secretary's proposals about Civil Defence. We were told this afternoon that we should 880 be informed "in due course". The fact remains that we have not yet been informed; and it is difficult to judge the validity of the Government's proposals, so far as the Territorial Army and Civil Defence are concerned, save against the background of their basic thinking in this respect. At present we are unable to do so.
Apart from that, I come to a point which I feel to be of real substance, and to which many noble Lords have referred in our discussion to-day. When I was, for a shortish time, a Minister of State at the Home Office I had certain very definite responsibilities in this field of Civil Defence. I do not for one moment dispute Mr. Healey's statement that following a nuclear attack on these islands we should be faced with conditions of "unimaginable horror". I concede that only too readily. But it was certainly the view of the Government's advisers then, only two years or so ago (and I do not wish to shelter behind their views because I agree with them), that millions of our fellow countrymen would in all probability survive a nuclear attack, and would perforce have to grapple with those conditions of "unimaginable horror".
It was certainly my belief then—and every plan that I saw and every exercise that I attended reinforced that belief—that in those conditions of unimaginable horror our ability to recreate any form of civilised life in these islands, our ability to pull ourselves up from that almost bottomless pit, would turn largely on the reaction of a comparatively small nucleus of men and women controlling a residue of disciplined and organised forces. That was certainly the strong impression that I retained from that experience at the Home Office.
I do not belittle for one moment the part that the police, the fire services and the Civil Defence—and indeed such Regular Forces as we might have in these islands—would play in all this. Yet, again, every plan that I saw, every exercise that I attended, emphasised that an absolutely crucial role would devolve on the Territorial Army, with its transport and all the things which the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, mentioned; its indispenable communication network, and, above all, its structure of organised discipline based on territorial loyalties. 881 find it very hard to see how this role, which only two years ago was thought to be so indispensable, should now be judged to be dispensable. It is for that reason that I very much hope the Government will study what has been said in this House this afternoon and this evening, and, above all, perhaps, on this particular point, because I feel that a very strong case has been made out for what I think has been called the second or third tier of the Territorial Army functions.
My Lords, time is getting on, so I will put only a couple of brief questions to the Government. The first relates to the commitment accepted by the Government to reinforce the British Army of the Rhine in a period of emergency. Last June my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein said that we should probably have to double the Rhine Army, and that in those circumstances another 50,000 men were needed. I do not think that this is an area in which we wish to play the numbers game, because there are security factors involved; but I suspect that that figure is a little on the high side. In any event, the total Reserve Forces proposed by the Government come to only 50,000. How, therefore, do we propose to honour this NATO commitment? Our Reserve Forces might be deployed elsewhere at that time; some might be going through a period of initial training. It seems to me that the margin here must be very thin indeed. I do not wish to press this point unduly, but I feel that it might be helpful if the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, could say something about this aspect of the matter, and also tell us to what extent it has been discussed with our NATO Allies.
There are many other things that I should like to say; but I hesitate to do so because so much has already been said—and said by people with an intimate knowledge of our Territorial Army which I do not possess. But I should like, for a moment, to revert to the question of recruitment. I think that noble Lords opposite have always accepted the very close connection between our small professional or Regular Army and our Reserve Forces. It has, as I see it, two facets: the Territorial Army can do a great deal to help recruitment to the Regular Army; and the smaller our 882 Regular Army is, the greater is our need for adequate Reserve Forces.
Now, as I understand it, recruitment for the Army is not going particularly well at the present time. It is not altogether surprising that this should be the case, given the uncertainty created by the Government over the defence field. But in any event we were told by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, on April 7, that it was hoped to reach the target of 181,000 officers and men by April, 1966. Only three months later, in June, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, told us that the hope now is that the ceiling will be reached by the second half of 1966—a hope somewhat deferred. To when, my Lords, must hope be now deferred? And are not the Government, by their handling of the issue, by drying up, as it were, the springs of the Territorial and voluntary effort, contributing to that deferment of hope? I feel that this is an aspect of the matter to which the Government should give very serious attention: the help which the Territorial Army, as at present organised, could give to Regular Army recruitment, and what could be the result if the Government's present proposals go through.
My Lords, in conclusion, I should like to make one thing very clear, speaking from this Bench. On this side of the House we do not in any way challenge the determination of the Government to pass the Army Reserve under review. We are not wedded to the status quo, by any means. I have always found our present organisation, the nine different types of reserves, of almost Byzantine complexity, and I feel that we could do with some simplification in this sphere. The Proclamation liability may well need review, and so indeed may the size, the shape, and the equipment of the Reserves. I would readily grant all that. We do not challenge that, my Lords. What we do challenge is the way in which the Government have gone about this process and, so far as one can discern them, some of the assumptions on which they appear to be proceeding, particularly, if I may say so, the rather dangerous assumption that no insurance policy seems to be required for home defence, and precious little, it would appear, for Civil Defence. I may be overstating it but that is the impression that 883 I have received from the discussion to-day.
Nearly two years ago I remember your Lordships' House discussing a short Bill entitled the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserve Bill. In winding up for the then Opposition the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said,I would make a plea to the noble Earl"—he was referring to me—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." [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 255, col. 379; 10/2/64.]My Lords, I should like to return that plea to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. I trust that he and his colleagues will do their utmost, and that the Government will do their utmost, to elevate the Army Reserve forces to a greater measure of responsibility and importance in the eyes of the country. That is my hope, and I trust that it is not a vain one. I have been encouraged by soma things which have been said from the Benches opposite by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, and by some things said by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. That is my hope. My fear is that the Government's present proposals, unless they are modified, may well have a precisely opposite effect.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, one or two noble Lords opposite seem, from things which have been said this afternoon, to be addicted to the conspiracy theory of Government and history. I hope that they will see nothing sinister in the fact that the Minister of State responsible for disarmament is replying to a debate on the reorganisation of the Territorial Army. I can assure noble Lords opposite that these proposals are not measures of disarmament but are indeed for something which the Government believe to be very real and overdue, the reorganisation of our Reserve forces.
As so many noble Lords have to-day declared an interest in this debate, perhaps I should declare mine. As my noble friend Lord Shackleton said earlier, I began my military career, such as it was, as a Territorial soldier, and no one 884 has a greater affection, respect and admiration for the Territorial Army and its history and achievements than I have. I should like to say that in the short time in which I have been in your Lordships' House I have never heard a debate which has been ill-informed or ill-directed or ill-tempered, and to-day's debate has been typical of all the debates I have heard before. It has been extremely valuable, extremely well-informed, and contributed to by noble Lords who have a far greater right to speak about, and for, the Territorial Army than I have. I shall not, obviously, single out any noble Lords—it would be an invidious thing to do—but I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for initiating this debate, and I think it would be wrong of me to let this occasion go by without remarking on the usual pungent and brief contribution from the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein.
It is a great privilege to reply to this debate. Everyone seems to agree—I thought it significant—that changes are needed. Indeed the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said that they ought to have come ten years ago, and on that, at least, I entirely agree with him. I think that they should have come a long time ago and that they are long overdue. I hope, as several noble Lords have said, that we can approach this whole matter in a spirit of calmness and remove from it as much emotion as possible. Of course it is an emotional matter. It affects the traditions, livelihoods, feelings and families of thousands of people in this country. But I believe that in your Lordships' House we have to iron out as much of this emotion as we can. We are dealing here with some very cold facts, as I hope to show in a moment.
The first thing I should like to say is that I believe that in a good many speeches to-day there has been, I think involuntarily, a major fallacy. Many times I have heard used the words, "destroying the Territorial Army", "throwing away the Territorial Army". I am not going here to anticipate the terms of the White Paper which will be published shortly, but I should like to make it clear that the Government are not 885 destroying anything. They are reorganising our Reserve Forces on a logical, functional and objective basis. Someone said, I believe that it was a noble Lord opposite, that nobody likes change—I think that it must have been said by a noble Lord opposite. It is a proposition with which I cannot agree. I certainly like change and when it is necessary and right, my Lords, I welcome it.
Before I go on to say why I believe that change is necessary here, and that the lines on which we propose to construct this change are right, I should like to deal with one or two specific points which have been made in the debate. The first is the question of consultation. Here I should like to remonstrate mildly with the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie. I was surprised at some of the comments that he made on the motives and qualities of some of the professional officers who have advised on this reorganisation. May I say that, to my knowledge, many of these advisers are people to whom the Territorial Army means a very great deal—as much as it means to any of us in this House? May I say that it is to my certain knowledge that two of the very senior and distinguished officers in the Army Department who have been particularly connected with this reorganisation and the proposals for it have an admiration of, an affection for and an affinity to, the Territorial Army that are second to none? I hope that the noble Earl and all noble Lords will be assured that those officers who have advised upon these proposals have advised with the best possible motives. There has been nothing sinister about this at all. They have hated this idea, some of them, as much as noble Lords appear to hate it, but they have simply done their duty and have advised as they have thought fit to advise, with the best motives.
In passing, may I make a less serious comment on the noble Earl's speech? I think that he demonstrated the dancer of too narrow a view of tradition. He mentioned some section of nameless Teutonic people, who have tried to take away the names of Territorial Regiments and replace them with numbers.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord will admit that a short time ago there was a body of opinion among certain senior officers which wanted to change all the 886 names of these regiments and to number them. Therefore, I think I was quite justified in making that remark. I cannot think of anything more un-British.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, this is exactly the point I was about to make. The noble Earl will perhaps remember that it was only recently that the regiments of the British Army got names instead of numbers. This, I believe, is the danger of a too narrow view of tradition. If I may give a personal reference, in my own regiment, the South Wales Borderers, we always refer to ourselves as the Twenty-fourth Foot. We have no objection to being referred to by number. However, this is merely a light, passing remark.
Noble Lords have said that the Statement made before the Summer Recess should not have been made unless the Government were prepared to follow it up immediately with further details of the proposed changes. I am sure that your Lordships will recall that the right honourable gentleman who at that time spoke for the Opposition in the other place on defence matters, especially asked that Parliament should be informed first of the Government's intentions regarding these questions. This was the proper course and the Government followed it.
On the matter of consultation, I must repeat, as my noble friend Lord Shackleton said earlier this afternoon, that in spite of one or two suggestions that have been made to the contrary during this debate, there has been the fullest consultation with the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army Council have responded to our offer to discuss with them the detailed implementation of the Government's proposals, and they have had every opportunity to put their views before us. There has been extensive consultation over the past months between the Territorial Army Council and the Ministry of Defence. I can say from my personal knowledge that for years past now there has been the most constant interchange of ideas between the Army Department and not only the Territorial Army as a whole, but also individual officers of the Territorial Army at all levels. I can assure your Lordships of this from my own personal experience.
May I now go on to the vexed question of why the Government did not wait until 887 the Defence Review was finished before announcing plans for the Reserve Army? This has been mentioned several times in this most interesting debate. The point really is that the key decision of policy that brought about this reorganisation of the Territorial Army was that the Territorial Army would no longer be needed for home defence. There may be argument about this—and perhaps I could come on to that later—but this decision was taken independently of the main Defence Review. Once it was made, the way was then open to reorganise the Territorial Army, and because a reorganisation of this sort was bound to take time, and because so many people would be closely affected by it, the Government were extremely unwilling to leave this decision on ice just for the sake of the tidy solution of bringing the whole Defence Review together, including the reserve force.
In any case, the reorganisation of the Army Reserve was already widely felt to be long overdue and once the rôle of the Territorial Army in home defence had been settled there really was no reason or excuse for holding this up. I think that it is wrong to suggest that it was putting the cart before the horse to fix the rôle and organisation of the reserves before confirming those of the Regular Army. The new plan meets the future operational requirements for the Reserve Army as we now see them. Certainly, as has been brought out over and over again to-day, we cannot rule out the possibility that these operational requirements may be modified by later developments in the current Defence Review, and it might be that these modifications will lead to some change in the shape and size of the Reserve Force, but I ought to stress that this is only a remote and long-term possibility. I do not believe that it will have much practical effect on the proposals in the near future. Certainly it is not a possibility that would have justified the Government in putting off a decision or announcement about the future of the Territorial Army.
Let me now deal with the question of Territorial tradition. This is a very delicate subject. My noble friend Lord Leatherland, in a most interesting contribution to our debate, spoke of the feudal image that some people have of the 888 Territorial Army. May I say that the Government value extremely the territorial tradition and want it to continue. Of course, I think that one must say plainly that we cannot allow traditions, however hallowed and precious they may be, for their own sake, to take priority and precedence over the construction of an efficient defence establishment. We have recognised the value of these traditions in planning the organisation of the new reserve. Three-quarters of it will continue to have territorial affiliations—that is to say, their units will have their own local centres and their recruits will largely be local people. We hope that the territorial flavour will not disappear. But we could not go any further than this without keeping on a force larger than the operational need would justify. I believe that that is the situation we have at the moment. The Territorial Army is much larger than operational needs require.
I do not believe that these proposals of ours mean that there is an end of the Territorial Army or of opportunities for the volunteer spirit to express itself. These will continue, although it must be admitted that their scale will be reduced so far as territorial military organisation is concerned. But I do not believe that anybody in your Lordships' House would seriously suggest that the Defence Budget ought to sustain, just to provide opportunities for this excellent and admirable spirit of volunteer service, a larger military force than is justified by the operational requirement.
May I now turn to the vexed question of the £20 million saving on the Territorial Army, which has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords, who have suggested that the Government are throwing away—this was the expression used—most of the present Territorial Army for the sake of saving a mere £20 million a year, or rather less than 1 per cent. of the total Defence Budget. The Government do not accept this. In the first place, this reorganisation of the Reserve Army is justified and, I repeat, overdue in the interests of greater efficiency. I believe that it will mean a more streamlined and effective means of reinforcing the Regular Army than what we have now, which is what we really need. In any case, I believe that an annual saving of about £20 million, 889 which we expect to achieve by 1969, is considerable by any standards.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
My Lords, I hesitate to butt in, but how much does the noble Lord think the annual rise in gross output will rise during the same period?
§ LORD CHALFONT
As I understand the noble Marquess, he is asking what would be the rise in the gross national product over that period.
§ LORD CHALFONT
I think, if I may say so, that to go into the details of the National Plan would be slightly irrelevant. Of course the gross national product will rise. So will the cost of Defence services rise pari passu with the gross national product. My point is that the £20 million a year in real money is, by any standards, a considerable sum.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
I do not wish to divert the noble Lord from the subject, but I heard yesterday that the annual expenditure on prescription charges had increased by £13 million. Is it not better to defend ourselves?
§ LORD CHALFONT
I really cannot at this late hour follow the noble Marquess through these interesting but recondite economic considerations.
I think there has been a tendency this afternoon on the part of some noble Lords opposite to dismiss a sum of the order of £20 million a year as inconsiderable. I simply cannot accept this. The present Government are determined to contain this sort of expenditure. In terms of value for money, I believe that the contrast between the present system for Reserves and the reorganised Reserves will be even greater, because, as I said earlier in my speech, in the past I do not believe that adequate provision has been made for the equipment and training of the Territorial Army as it is now organised. I think that no one who has taken note of earlier debates on the Territorial Army, both in your Lordships' House and in another place, could doubt the strength of feeling on this point. I must say that Her Majesty's Government now intend that the new Reserve Force shall be suitably equipped and fully 890 trained for the tasks which it might be called upon to perform.
I now come to the question of the "Ever Readies", to which the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, drew attention in his admirable opening speech. The Government in their proposals fully recognise the importance of these reservists. It may be interesting to your Lordships to recall that the first call-out of the "Ever Ready" reservists took place this spring, when 176 of them were sent to reinforce the Army overseas. I feel that this is a suitable opportunity to pay a tribute to the way in which these volunteers, coming straight from civilian life, many of them to the arduous climate of Aden, carried out their tasks and made a valuable, and in many cases unforgettable, contribution to the effectiveness of the units which they joined. This successful call-out of "Ever Ready" reservists—the first since our predecessors launched the scheme nearly four years ago—points to a continuing need for volunteers of this sort as a means of relieving the strain and tension on the Regular Army, which will otherwise find itself overstretched on occasions by unforeseen commitments, of which we have heard a great deal to-day, of a temporary nature. We are satisfied that the Volunteer Reserve Force which we propose will have a broad enough base to enable us to raise a satisfactory number of "Ever Ready" reservists from it. I cannot go into more detail now, in advance of the White Paper, but I can assure the noble Lord that we shall be able to raise the number of "Ever Readies" needed on the basis of the Reserve Forces that we have planned.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe (by the way, perhaps I should congratulate the noble Earl on his dramatic and timely arrival this evening: it is not the first time that the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton, has saved the day) asked whether we should be able to meet our NATO commitment effectively. I believe that this new plan will enable us to meet our NATO commitment much more effectively than we can under the present organisation. This commitment, as the noble Earl will well know, is to provide logistic backing in the Rhine Army in war time for the ground forces which we have assigned to NATO. Taken as a whole, the present Territorial 891 Army units which would be needed as NATO reinforcements are at a strength well below 60 per cent. of their establishment, but we expect to recruit units of the new Reserve to a strength much above this. So we should not need to rely to the extent which we now do on making up numbers with other trained reservists in the event of call-out. Moreover, in relation to the new order of battle, there will be an increasing number of Regular reservists available to reinforce a smaller number of volunteer Reserve units.
There is one matter that has been brought up many times this afternoon, and I think it is an important and a valid point. The point is: will the removal of Territorial Army units from various places around the country affect Regular recruiting? This is something of which naturally the Government are extremely seized and which they are examining closely. But I think, if I may say so without anticipating the results of that examination, there are three general points that I should make. The first, which connects with something I have said before, is that we really could not justify keeping in existence, to help the Regular recruiting, units for which there will be no operational requirement. This is a simple, cold fact of life. Secondly—I think there may be a slight fallacy at work in some people's minds here—although a number of Regular recruits have seen previous service in the Territorial Army, it does not follow that if there had not been a Territorial Army unit in their area they would not therefore have joined the Regular Army. I think we should be careful not to place too much emphasis on this aspect of recruiting.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene again, but as a commander of a Territorial Army unit, may I say that at least thirty soldiers pass through us each year.
§ LORD CHALFONT
The point I was making was that they might have joined the Army, anyway, if they had not had the good fortune to pass through the noble Marquess's unit.
Thirdly, I think we should consider, in all seriousness—I am not making this as 892 a debating point—whether the image of the modern Army given by Territorial soldiers wearing out-of-date battledress and using obsolescent equipment, carried about in many cases in old and broken down vehicles, has done as much for the Army recruiting figures as some noble Lords would have us believe. The new volunteers proposed, on the other hand, will in due course be receiving the same type of combat clothing as the Regular Forces, and parade dress, as well as better equipment. This, as I am sure many noble Lords will appreciate, will be one of the advantages of having a smaller force. We shall be able to equip it and clothe it that much better. I believe that it will improve the image of the Volunteer Reserve Army with the public.
The Army Cadet Force was mentioned particularly by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and the noble Earl, Lord Courtown. We appreciate that the reorganisation of the Reserves is going to affect the Army Cadet Force, which relies at present on a good deal of help from the Territorial Army. Again, I can only say that we shall he looking carefully at this implication of the reorganised Reserve Forces; and although, again, it would not really be justifiable to maintain, just to help A.C.F. detachments, units that are not operationally needed, we shall certainly need to make suitable arrangements to support the Army Cadet Force in future. I cannot go into more detail about this to-day, because it cannot be taken very far until the deployment of the units of the new Volunteer Reserve has been settled, but it is likely to mean an examination on a very broad basis of the whole Cadet Force's organisation, and the resources needed to take it. I am sure that this examination will prove to be very valuable. I would say here that neither the school contingents nor the O.T.C.s, which, as your Lordships will know, are now confined to universities, will be directly concerned by any reorganisation of the Territorial Army, because they do not rely on it to a very great extent for training and administration.
The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, drew attention to the important question of the Women's Royal Army Corps and the new Reserve. Again, since the detailed location of units of the new Reserve is not yet settled, the only answer I can give at this point must be in general terms.
893 In the new Reserve Force there will be no operational requirement for W.R.A.C. units as such, but we shall be arranging opportunities for W.R.A.C. volunteer reservists to join certain signal units in the new Reserve. I cannot give any more details at the present stage, nor can I say precisely how Scotland may be affected in this. But the noble Lord may be sure that we do not dissent in principle from his view that provision for some form of W.R.A.C. element in a volunteer reserve force represents a valuable bonus for recruiting, and we shall certainly do what we can to preserve it.
There are two other points I should like to mention which have come up in this afternoon's debate. One is the question of redundancy in the Regular Army as a result of the reorganisation of the Reserve forces. It is true that, as a result of this reorganisation, there will be redundancy in certain ranks of the Regular Army, and, as we have said before, those individuals whose careers have to be prematurely ended will be given fair compensation. This does not, however, as was suggested this afternoon, necessarily mean that the Regular Army's total manpower ceiling will be reduced. The size of the Regular Army is something which will be decided separately as a result of the current Defence Review as a whole. The £20 million saving to which we have referred does not, therefore, allow for any saving on account of the reduction of the Regular Army's own ceiling corresponding to the reduction in the permanent staff of the Territorial Army. So there is no double accounting going on here.
The final detailed point with which I should like to deal is one of percentages of establishment. I think there was perhaps some misunderstanding of what was said by my noble friend Lord Shackleton. What he said was that the Territorial Army was recruited to 110,000 against an establishment of 190,000 in all and a recruiting ceiling of 123,000 set by the previous Government. I think we ought to keep clear in our minds the difference between the establishment and the recruiting ceiling. So 110,000 is not more than 60 per cent. of the establishment of 190,000. Category 1 of the Army Emergency Reserve is recruited to 80 per cent. of its establishment of 11,000. I think it is important, at the risk of 894 boring your Lordships with these figures, that I should set the record straight.
May I now, in the closing minutes that I shall allow myself, comment on the more general aspect of these proposals for reorganisation? The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, suggested that these proposals were tied to financial ceilings imposed, as he rather quaintly put it, by the Secretary of State on his colleagues, and had nothing to do with strategic concepts. Perhaps we might look at these strategic concepts for a moment.
My Lords, may I correct the noble Lord? I said that, in default of a satisfactory answer to the point I was putting, I imagined that this was the case. I did not say this was the case.
§ LORD CHALFONT
I apologise to the noble Earl, and I shall do my best to give him a satisfactory answer.
There were occasions this afternoon, when I was listening to some of the speeches, when I wondered whether somehow we had not made a journey backwards in time and were taking part in a pre-nuclear Defence debate. Several speakers seemed to be drawing, rightly and justifiably, on their own experience in previous wars. I think that some noble Lords were still envisaging situations in which large conventional armies were going to march across Central Europe to the Channel Ports, and that we should again have to mobilise the nation's manpower to defend this country against invasion. Another noble Lord suggested that we might be in danger of attack from parachutists, and that we should have to take some account and make preparations for that. In a previous incarnation I was accustomed to write long and pompous articles on the subject of defence, and I was often distressed to find that the educational effect of—I will not say these articles, but of ideas on modern warfare, was very slow to spread. I should like, therefore, if I may, to say a few words about the strategic background against which this reorganisation of the Reserve Army has been planned.
First of all, the whole defence policy of this country is based on the deterrent power of the West's very formidable nuclear armoury. I think that no one would dissent from that. Because the 895 members of the NATO alliance possess the power to devastate the homeland of any aggressor, and because the NATO Alliance has the will to use that power, if necessary (although we hope that it will never be used), we believe that a major war in Europe is highly unlikely. But if war came—and this is the second point I want to make and underline—there can be little doubt that it would be a nuclear war. And if anyone doubts my word on that, I can only invite them to read all the literature of the Soviet Union on the subject, and in particular the recent book by the Soviet military expert, Marshal Sokolovsky, and all the words of the present Soviet Government and the past Soviet Government.
If war came in Europe, there is very little doubt that it would be a nuclear war. The conventional forces of the British Army of the Rhine, and those of our allies, are simply not capable of holding, nor are they designed to hold, for very long a major conventional attack by the numerically superior forces in the Eastern European countries. If we were going to provide the conventional strength to do this the whole way along the Iron Curtain, it would place an intolerable strain on the resources and economies of the West.
The function of our conventional forces in all this is to deal with any minor act of aggression or frontier incident, and in the case of a major aggression, if it should happen, to identify it and to contain it long enough for all the processes of political consultation, and, if necessary, for the decision to be taken to resort to nuclear weapons. This is the strategy of the Alliance, and there is no getting away from it. In the unlikely event of a major aggression of this sort taking place, nuclear weapons would have to be used, and used without delay. I emphasise the time factor here, because the decision would have to be taken very quickly. Except in the event of the type of attack that is called the "bolt from the blue"—perhaps the most unlikely contingency of all—we should expect a very short period of tension, which would permit the calling out of limited numbers of already trained reservists to reinforce the British Army of the Rhine. But there could no longer be any question of mobilising new armies from civilian life.
896 This is not a part of the modern concept of war. We cannot afford to maintain mass armies in peace time. In the nuclear age, the massing of the nation in arms is a dead concept. There would be no time in an emergency to train these people, or to provide them with the necessary sophisticated equipment, complicated equipment, and to train them to use it in modern war. I have said that this war, if it came, would be a nuclear war; and if nuclear war comes, it will be nasty, brutish and short. I hope the fact that I quote, or misquote, Hobbes will not lead any noble Lord to believe that I subscribe to his philosophies.
I wonder whether some of the noble Lords opposite who have spoken this afternoon appreciate just how devastating this would be? Perhaps they will if I say that a single Corporal missile, which is a battlefield missile used by ground troops, has a fire power greater than all the shells that were fired in the famous artillery barrage of the noble and gallant Field Marshal at El Alamein. This is just one single tactical nuclear weapon, and each side in Europe has large numbers of these tactical nuclear weapons facing the other, quite apart from the larger strategic weapons. The effect of a nuclear exchange—and I believe that after the first few had been fired the process of escalation, the gradual widening and tightening of a nuclear exchange, would be rapid—would be to produce a state of almost indescribable chaos. Communications, supplies and movements would be hopelessly disrupted, and warfare, in the sense of any controlled, large-scale military operations of the sort we have known in the past, would cease to be practicable, and certainly would cease to be relevant to the struggle for survival of the people who would be involved in this nuclear exchange.
In the context of a strategic doctrine of this sort, and in those circumstances, I urge upon your Lordships that the possibility of the invasion of these islands would be the very least of our worries; and it is certainly not something for which we any longer feel justified, in the whole context of our scale of priorities, in retaining a large Territorial Army. I believe that we must regard these Reserve Forces as part of our whole military establishment. For reasons which I need not go into in detail here, Her Majesty's 897 Government have decided to contain within a certain figure the proportion of the gross national product allocated to defence. Therefore we must assess our priorities within that figure.
If money for defence were unlimited, we could have everything—Armies, Navies, Air Forces, Cadet Services, Territorial Armies: all of ideal size, all perfectly trained and perfectly organised to meet every contingency with which we might be faced. But we are not a super-Power; we are not able any longer to secure a place of predominance in the world by means of military might. We are trying to find a new place for ourselves, and one thing is certain: it must be based on a firm and strong economic basis. It would not matter if we had the most powerful Armies, Navies and Air Forces in the world: if our economy was not soundly based, they would be so much useless machinery. Therefore we must decide on our priorities.
We have heard a good deal this afternoon about a concept which has proved attractive to your Lordships but which I believe to be fallacious; that is, the concept of the fourth course. In order to advocate this concept of the fourth course, the unexpected, the unforeseen, we had to go back to von Moltke, who was a very pre-nuclear figure indeed. My Lords, we cannot maintain a military establishment designed to meet every contingency, to deal with every crisis that might arise. So what must a prudent Government do?
They must decide what contingencies they are most likely to meet in the pursuit of their foreign policy. They must then calculate which of these they can afford to insure themselves against within a reasonable cost in men and money, and then have a defence force accordingly. I believe the theory that we must also insure ourselves against unforeseen contingencies is a bad and dangerous one. We have existing tasks and commitments. Let us deal with them first, and if we then have money left over, we may be able to look to these unforeseen fourth course contingencies. But let us be quite clear that we cannot deal with everything, and that we must make sure what our priorities are.
What, then, are the contingencies with which we are most likely to be faced? 898 What sort of war are we in Britain likely to want Armed Forces for? I have suggested that the invasion of Britain and nuclear war is an unlikely contingency, and that the large-scale nuclear war in Europe is an unlikely contingency. I believe that, so far as Britain is concerned, large-scale limited wars of the Korean type are also unlikely. What we shall be faced with is the sort of thing now going on in Borneo, in Southern Arabia, and in Aden—guerrilla warfare, subversion, internal security problems and the perpetual crises and operational demands of the cold war. I must emphasise once more that, although we cannot predict how all these things will turn out, we must make some assumptions about them. We cannot insure ourselves against everything. It is the Government's task to make the assumptions and to act accordingly.
I should like to diverge for a moment to answer a question asked by the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton, about Civil Defence in general. We have been accused this afternoon, I think, of not taking sufficient account of the needs of home defence and of the dangers involved. A Statement on the Government's Civil Defence plans is to be made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, and I know that noble Lords will not expect me to anticipate this Statement.
My Lords, could the noble Lord possibly tell us when we may expect to hear this Statement? We have heard rather contradictory reports—"In the near future", "In July", "In due course" and now, "In November".
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords. I can only tell the noble Earl that it will be as soon as possible. In reply to the noble and gallant Field Marshal—
My Lords, I am terribly sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but he gave me a very bland reply then to what is holding up these proposals. Why cannot we receive them, and why is it possible for the Government to determine the relationship of the Territorial Army to Civil Defence when their own proposals on Civil Defence have not been promulgated?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I know the noble Earl will not want me to follow him in the substance of the 899 examination. I am sorry if my reply about the timing was bland. I really do mean, as soon as possible. I am unable to give any further information at the moment, but if I can find out anything I will communicate the information to the noble Earl.
May I return to the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton, and say that at this stage it is extremely unlikely that a force such as the Territorial Army, organised on military lines, would be a useful or economical way of discharging specialised tasks of the sort mentioned by the noble and gallant Field Marshal—functions like the Auxiliary Fire Service, Mobile Police columns or the Wardens' Branch of the Civil Defence Corps. The existing Services that discharge these tasks are trained for this purpose, and I find it difficult to believe that another organisation like the Territorial Army could do the job any more effectively than they do.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
My Lords, I hesitate to intervene again, but the Territorial Army is trained in Civil Defence matters and firefighting.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, the hour is getting very late and, although there are many other things that I should have liked to say, and I should have liked to follow the noble Marquess further along that most interesting line of thought, I really do believe I must bring my speech to an end as quickly as I can and allow your Lordships to go home to a belated dinner.
I would, however, before I close mention one matter which I think is important. A noble Lord mentioned (I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Bourne) that the credibility of the deterrent would be diminished by removing the Territorial Army and its home defence functions from the order of battle. Without going into the deep and complicated arguments about this, I must say to your Lordships that there are very strong arguments the other way. It can be argued (I will not argue it now, out of deference to your Lordships' House) that in fact the provision of complicated and sophisticated home defence arrangements itself detracts from the credibility of the nuclear deterrent.
900 In conclusion, may I repeat the words of my noble friend Lord Shackleton, that the Government will, of course, take into account all the suggestions made by noble Lords in this most interesting debate this afternoon. In the end, however, as I am sure your Lordships will agree, it is the Government who must make the decisions about these proposed changes. The proposals, as your Lordships know, will see the light of day soon. I believe that they will be seen to be an extremely effective and objective attempt to rationalise the Reserve Forces and to bring them into line with modern strategic concepts. This country, and certainly Her Majesty's Government, will never forget what the Territorial Army has done for this country, not least the fact that it has helped to save this country in two world wars.
I assure your Lordships that the opportunities for voluntary service will remain, but we shall, as a result of this reorganisation, have a force and organisation designed specifically to meet the real crises with which we are faced and which we are likely to face in the future. I hope that noble Lords opposite and everyone else in the country will help Her Majesty's Government to make this new force as resounding a success as the Territorial Army has been in the past.
My Lords, I have listened with great interest to what the noble Lord has said, particularly on this whole question of home defence, but can he tell us why our NATO allies, who are presumably in the same boat as ourselves in this matter, are, if anything, strengthening, and not weakening, their home defence forces at the present time.
§ LORD CHALFONT
I think it would be unwise to follow the noble Earl too far down that path this evening. But I would make one point. A number of our allies in NATO—he will know this—have an entirely different military structure from our own. Many of them base their armies upon the civilian soldier concept, upon the levée en masse, and their requirements for reserves are very different from ours. There is also the fact that the geographical position, and the tactical and strategic position, of some of our allies—not all, but some—is vastly different from our own and their requirements for reserves are very different. I should be delighted 901 to debate this aspect with the noble Earl, but perhaps at some other time.
My Lords, at this late hour I think there is nothing left for me to do except to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate; to express the hope that the Government will have another look at some of our suggestions, and to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, on his maiden speech. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.