HL Deb 20 July 1966 vol 276 cc434-44

3.6 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in rising to move the Second Reading of the Reserve Forces Bill, which I am afraid is a fairly complicated measure and will take a little explaining, I am very conscious that your Lordships will be anxiously waiting for the Statement, and all the pleasures that will come from that, at half-past three. If by any chance I am not near the end of my remarks, I will break off my speech so that you may not be deprived any longer than necessary.

First of all, I should like to say how very glad I am to see that the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, is to make what I believe is his maiden speech from the Front Bench, and we shall wait with interest to hear from someone who probably knows more about this subject than anyone else in your Lordships' House. We are also very glad to look forward to two maiden speeches, from the noble Lord, Lord Frey berg, and the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater.

Over the past year or so we have discussed at very considerable length the organisation of the Reserve Forces, and in the course of those discussions—and, indeed, to a considerable extent as a result of them—changes and improvements have been made. So now I hope we are at least approaching a broad consensus, even if there are points of disagreement on the subject of the reorganisation of our Reserve Forces. Nevertheless, I think it would be as well if I made some introductory remarks about the reorganisation in general and deal only rather briefly with the Bill. But I hope to reply at the end of the debate and will then, as your Lordships may wish, go into greater detail on a number of the provisions. However, as I say, I hope to cover most of the Bill.

I believe that if we bear in mind the purpose and the general plan of the reorganisation we shall be clearer about the parts played in the whole scheme of things by the particular aspects dealt with in the Bill before your Lordships. What at first sight appears to be a rather miscellaneous collection of provisions will then be seen to fall into place as an integral part of the scheme. If we liken the new organisation to an architectural structure, we may think of the legal provisions in existing legislation as a supporting arch on which the structure rests, and of this Bill as the keystone of that arch.

I will start, if I may, by reminding your Lordships of the basic purpose of the reorganisation. This has, of course, been set out on many occasions, and we debated it pretty thoroughly on May10. My Lords, the Territorial Army, as things now stand, has three roles: first, it has the job, which it shares with the Army Emergency Reserve, of reinforcing the Regular army overseas on the outbreak of war; secondly, it is available to aid the civil power in war; and thirdly, it constitutes a framework on which general preparation for war can be made. In short, it is an all-purpose force; and there is, I think, general agreement that it does not fill all the roles effectively, particularly the first, which has the most immediate importance.

Moreover (and this is of fundamental significance), the third role—that is, to provide a framework on which general preparation for war can be made—has become out of date. Military strategy no longer assumes slow preparation for a general war of large conventional armies. The possibility of such a war is now regarded as a very remote one, and preparation for it would be far more expensive for the country than could possibly be justified. I rather hope that we may all be agreed on this. In these circumstances, the Government have thought it right to abandon the third role.

We have further decided that the other two roles, re-interpreted in the light of the operational tasks of to-day, should each be met by its own force. I may say that these roles are separate, and the forces will be separate, though very closely interlinked. In this way the Government intend to create up-to-date reserves, designed to meet the likeliest requirements. We shall retain some flexibility, but not to meet every possible contingency. But, of course, there will be a continuing basis for development, as the years go by, according to how strategy may appear to develop. The new reserves, therefore, will be the most suitable we can get within the limits of what the country can afford, and the most flexible, taking into account both present needs and any developments which may change the situation in the future. I have been very brief about these fundamental matters because I think those of your Lordships who have been concerned in this reorganisation will agree that they have been very fully expounded, both here and in another place.

My Lords, I should now like to turn for a few minutes, before coming to my main task, to the progress we are making with the reorganisation. I am sure your Lordships will be interested in this for its own sake, and it will, as I have already indicated, be useful as a background against which to consider the actual provisions of the Bill. I should like to start by explaining that the main reorganisation will, as has been intended right from the start, come into effect on April 1 next. That is the date on which the new Reserve will come into existence. Various other parts of the Bill will be brought into force at suitable stages. For example, after the Bill has been enacted it will be possible for any individual to commit himself to assuming the new liabilities with effect from April 1, 1967.

Your Lordships will be glad to know that Planning is generally very well advanced and, so far as it relates to units of the new Reserve, will be completed in good time for April 1 next. The main problems concerning the units are the Order of Battle—that is, the number and types of units to be raised, and the particular drill halls which individual units are to occupy. The Order of Battle is in final form, and was in fact promulgated two months ago. It is, of course, based throughout on existing units of the A.E.R. and the Territorial Army, and all major units of these Reserves are represented in it in some form or other. The drill halls for each unit have now also been decided, apart from a handful of special cases, and Commands and Territorial Army and Air Force Associations have been informed.

The consideration next in importance for units is no doubt their regular and civilian permanent staff. The scale of regular permanent staff has been settled, and that of civilian permanent staff has been approximately assessed and will very soon, I hope, be settled finally. I have no doubt that when the new units come into existence next April these staff will be in post, ready and keen to get their units off to a good start.

Equipment plans are also well advanced. Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserves I and II, the Volunteers, will right away get higher scales of equipment than their counterparts have at present. For example, the Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment will get a full scale of Saladins, Ferrets and radio sets, instead of only about 15 per cent. All Volunteer units, "teeth" and "support" alike, will get full scales of vehicles, instead of only about one-third. Issue of combat dress will start next April, and No. 2 dress a year later. Speaking generally, in the future the Volunteers will get a share of such new equipment being provided for the Regular Army as their role requires. I ought perhaps to add, to avoid any misconception, that the amount of equipment actually in units' hands will be limited to what they need and can look after; the rest will be held in depots.

The equipment of T. and A.V.R.III, the Territorials, will be on a more limited scale, though it will be sufficient for training the force in its home defence role of helping the civil authorities to maintain law and order after a nuclear attack. They will have rifles, some wireless sets and radiac instruments. Each unit will have seven land rovers, and, in the particular circumstances I have described, the force will depend on requisitioned vehicles for its mobility on call-out. This equipment which I have outlined will be available for the new units right from the start. Other planning for units is going ahead well. I will mention just one example—the training arrangements for the Volunteers. Your Lordships will, I am sure, be pleased to hear that a training cycle is planned under which the majority of those Volunteers who have reached a suitable standard of training will go overseas every third year.

I should like now to turn briefly to the Associations. It has already been agreed with the T.A. Council what functions are to remain with the Associations, and these are of two main kinds: first, the essentially local functions (recruiting, public relations and liaison with employers, trade unions and local authorities); and, secondly, functions connected with Association property—for example, work services, heating, lighting, cleaning and furnishing. Associations will also hold small amounts of clothing and personal equipment for retail distribution to units of the Territorials. My Lords, the future organisation of Associations is now being studied—in consultation, of course, with the T.A. Council—with Commands and with T. and A..F. Associations. It is already clear that there will be a considerable reduction in the number of Associations, as is indeed inevitable with the reduction in the size of the reserves. This particular phase of the reorganisation will not be completed until some time after the reorganisation of units.

My Lords, so far I have explained that planning is progressing well, and that we expect to meet all our target dates. I should now like to refer to one important matter in which we have gone beyond planning and have taken action, provisional though that must be, in advance of the enactment of this Bill. The matter concerned is one of quite fundamental importance: the recruiting drive at this year's annual camps of the A.E.R. and the Territorial Army. It is clearly crucial to persuade their members to continue to serve in the new Reserve. Annual camp is the obvious occasion for doing so, when a far greater proportion of a unit's members get together than at any other time.

None of them can assume new liabilities until the present Bill is enacted, but they are being invited to make declarations of intent regarding these liabilities, so that manning plans can be made in preparation for the formation of the new units next April. Statistics of those signing declarations of intent are not yet available, but we have made some inquiries, and your Lordships will be glad to know that the response so far has been very encouraging. I should mention that we appreciate that would-be recruits must be able to count on the support of their employers. Here also the situation is encouraging. Accordingly the Minister of Defence for the Army, with help from the Confederation of British Industry, sent a leaflet to all the major employers in the country reassuring them that no unreasonable burden was being laid upon either employer or employee by the new liabilities, and seeking their support for the new Reserve. From information I have received I believe that that leaflet has done much to dispel misunderstandings and will be useful as a permanent record for the future information of the employers.

I have given your Lordships an account of the current planning phase of affairs. Apart from the reorganisation of Associations, to which I have already referred, and the arrangements for the support of the Army Cadet Force, the main outlines of the new scheme have now been settled. I must add that throughout we have been in consultation with the T.A. Council by means of a Joint Working Party, on which the C.B.I. and the T.U.C. also were represented; and my own impression from the outside is that there has been a steady coming together of minds and a great degree of co-operation and understanding. This is a Working Party that has so well established itself that it has its own tie, as the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, is aware. I must pay tribute to the valuable advice and help they have given us. Your Lordships will be glad to hear that there is clearly a determination on the part of all concerned to achieve a successful launching of the new Reserves.

To turn now to the Bill, I think that many of your Lordships would have shared my reaction on first glancing through it—that its scope and purpose were difficult to grasp. However, as I have already pointed out, it is to be the last of a line of Acts, and it does take a little understanding, but I think it will be easier to understand if your Lordships realise that there has been this long line of Acts dealing with Reserves, which have been added to the Statute Book over the last century. Generally speaking, the statutory provisions governing the Territorial Army are contained in the Auxiliary Forces Act 1953, which is itself a Consolidation Act and mainly incorporates the provisions of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 which Lord Haldane drew up and to which your Lordships took exception at the time. The Regular Army Reserve and the Army Emergency Reserve are, generally speaking, governed by the provisions of the Army Reserve Act 1950, which is also a Consolidation Act largely based on the Reserves Act 1882. Navy Reserves legislation is even more diffuse and older.

The present Bill is mainly concerned with the Army and I assure your Lordships that the references to the Air Force, and Navy Reserves legislation hold the key to no unsuspected aspect of Government policy. Broadly speaking, the reorganisation which is attempted is an Army one, but the reorganisation has certain effects in the Air Force and Navy which are catered for in this Bill because one of the objects has been to try so far as possible to bring the legislation of the three Services into line. The Army Reserve Act 1950, and the Auxiliary Forces Act 1953, therefore already provide the statutory backing for the Regular Army Reserve, the Army Emergency Reserve and the Territorial Army and for the formation of units in the Reserve Army and so on. The Bill which is before us aims to introduce into Reserves legislation as a whole the new features required by the reorganisation which can be implemented only by legislation.

The supplementary role of the new Bill is perhaps best illustrated by Clause 1. Under this clause the name of the Territorial Army is changed to the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve. The implication which your Lordships will readily perceive is that the new force which will be brought into being after April 1, 1967, is none other than the Territorial Army with a new name and different organisation. Legally the Territorial Army continues under a new name, although the introduction of certain new liabilities and a different organisation and different role entitle it to be regarded practically as a new force though it will carry on the splendid tradition of Territorial service.

Although likely in the course of time to be much reduced in number, the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations will continue with the duties which were theirs by virtue of the Auxiliary Forces Act 1953. Clause 17 concisely gives the Secretary of State and the Defence Council additional powers in relation to the associations, such as the power to set up associations for areas which do not follow county boundaries, the power to wind up associations which will no longer be necessary, and the power to alter their composition. These are necessary supplementary provisions.

Another example of the economy of the Bill is the way in which the Army Emergency Reserve is being dealt with. Unitsand men of the Army Emergency Reserve are being dovetailed into the new Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve. One might have expected to see some specific clause to this effect in the Bill—if not more than one clause. The Bill deals simply with the problem by making it possible for the Secretary of State to make regulations for the transfer of men from the A.E.R. to the T. and A.V.R. under Clause 14(4), and for officers in the A.E.R. to he placed on the active list of officers of the T. and A.V.R. by virtue of the provision in Clause 14(5). The existing statutory provisions governing the raising of the A.E.R. are left intact so that if at any later stage it should be necessary to raise an A.E.R. distinct from the T. and A.V.R. it will not be necessary to have a further Bill. Indeed, your Lordships will find that the Bill in a few cases adds to the existing body of legislation concerning the A.E.R.

Similarly, the legislation affecting the special class of the Fleet Reserve has been kept up to date, despite the fact that the special class of the Fleet Reserve do not at present exist, as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will be aware. This Reserve, which is the equivalent of Section A of the Regular Army Reserve, might be required at some future date and it seems desirable to provide that it should be as similar to the Section A of the Army Reserve as possible should it ever be raised. In other words, the Government are showing their usual foresight. I hope that what I have been saying will enable your Lordships to understand the philosophy of the Bill, which is that existing legislation should be relied upon where it is still sound and that the Bill should cater for the new requirements, keeping the legislation regarding the three Services as much in line as possible. I appreciate that this is a difficult Bill for your Lordships who are not familiar with the legislation to follow, and I must apologise for going into such detail.

Before I turn very briefly to the provisions of the Bill, I would just remind your Lordships of the categories and titles of those whose future we are debating. The Special Army Volunteer Reserve individuals, including members of the T. and A.V.R.I units, will have the Ever-Ready liability, at present applicable to the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve—the "Ever-Readies"—and are in general covered by the 1962 Act. I shall not refer to them further for the moment. This Bill is primarily concerned with the volunteers in Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve II, whose units are designed to support the Regular Army, and the Territorials in T. and A.V.R.III, who are for home service. The individuals in the Regular Reserve are also affected.

A large part of the re-organisation determined upon by the Government could be carried out without this legislation. The number of units in the T. and A.V.R. and the establishment of those units can be determined and implemented by the Government quite independently of any legislation. The Bill is mainly required to ensure that the men who are recruited into the new force have the appropriate liabilities. The whole concept of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve II is that they should be better trained than the existing Territorial Army and more readily available for service should there by a NATO Simple Alert or a major limited war. Clause 6 therefore provides that the Volunteers shall have the liability to be called out for permanent service anywhere in the world when warlike operations are in preparation or in progress. If your Lordships wish, when I come to wind up I will go more fully into the definition of "warlike operations". In paragraph 21 of the Government's December White Paper it was said that the Volunteers would have this liability, and it is provided for in Clause 6.

The Territorials, or Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve III, are dealt with in Clause 2 which creates a force for home service. The purpose of the Territorials is to be available as a disciplined force to support the police in such circumstances as anuclear attack, and their training will be conducted in accordance with this role. They will not be expected to serve outside the United Kingdom, and so Clause 2 specifically says this. It further provides that men who have enlisted for service with the Territorials may not be compulsorily transferred to the Volunteers and so acquire a higher call-out liability. Nevertheless, voluntary transfers between the Territorials and Volunteers will be possible and, indeed, will be encouraged.

When a man moves from one part of the country to another he may find as a Volunteer that the only unit of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve in his new locality is a Territorial unit. A man moving to another part of the country may find as a Territorial that he is near a Volunteer unit. There will be no obstacles to arranging a transfer from one type of unit to another type, and the Bill carefully provides that they will assume the warlike operations liability or a home service liability in accordance with the unit in which they are serving at the time.

My Lords, Clause 8 provides that members of the Regular Reserve may sign the agreements which enable them to be available for service anywhere at the discretion of the Secretary of State. These are the agreements which we normally call "Ever-Ready" agreements. We hope that 3,500 men of the Regular Reserves will volunteer for these purposes. This concludes my review of what I call the military parts of the Bill. Just to repeat briefly, these are the provisions extending the warlike operations liability, creating the home service force, and enabling members of the Regular Reserve to become "Ever-Readies".

The other provisions in the Bill may be termed ancillary, although some of them are a matter of very great concern to the Associations, and I do not mean to minimise their importance. For the benefit of your Lordships I will try to group them, but they are not grouped in the same way in the Bill, and I shall only deal with them very briefly at this moment, though again I can go into them in greater depth later. The first group to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention is the group of clauses concerned with call-out procedure. This group covers a wide range. Clause 5 repeals the present procedure of calling out the Reserves by proclamation and replaces it by a procedure of call-out by Queen's Order. It is no longer appropriate in the timescale of modern war that the Proclamation should have to be ordered by Her Majesty in Council and that Parliament should have to be informed before action is taken to call out the Reserves. Under Clause 5 it will be possible for Her Majesty, upon the advice of Her Ministers, to order the call out of the Reserves and then to report the occasion to Parliament. And, if it is not sitting, Parliament must be recalled within five days.

Clauses 9 and 13 improve the procedure for the call-out of the individual. For the first time we shall, if this Bill is enacted, have provisions which pronounce about such subjects as the time a person becomes subject to military law if he is recalled by broadcast. The clause minimises the possibility of a man's escaping justice should he deliberately disobey call out. Clause 11 enables a man to be switched from service under one liability to service under another liability as the result of a direction from the Secretary of State.

Another subject I have already mentioned is training, which is dealt with in Clause 16. This makes training overseas and week-end training compulsory. The subject of the future of non-public service funds is dealt with in Clauses 18 and 19; and then there is the widening of the field of selection for Deputy Lieutenants. I do not think I will go into them any further at the moment. I would conclude by commending the Bill to your Lordships as an essential measure in the reorganisation of the Reserve Forces. This reorganisation is certainly an important measure in the field of national defence, and its effects will be pretty lasting. I have no doubt that these effects will be beneficial and will be proved to be so as the years pass. My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Shackleton.)