HL Deb 24 July 1968 vol 295 cc1044-6

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will give estimates of the total amount spent by units of T. & A.V.R. III from their regimental funds during 1968 to date to enable them to undertake some training; and of what further amounts are likely to be spent from such funds for the same purposes during the remainder of the current training season.]


My Lords, no information is available about the amount of non-public regimental funds spent, or likely to be spent, by units of the T. & A.V.R. III on training.


My Lords, while expressing surprise, and some disappointment, that the Government do not know more about the details of training being undertaken by units of T. & A.V.R. III, may I ask the noble Lord to take early steps to discover this, with a view to repayment from public funds, which seems the very least return we can make for this unselfish service?


My Lords, I reject utterly any allegation that Her Majesty's Government do not know the details of training undertaken by these units. They do. What they do not know are the details of the regimental funds being spent on training, because they are the private concern of regiments and not of the Government. I cannot hold out any hope that there will be any repayments of these funds to the units which are to be disbanded. I see no reason why the cost of their training should be defrayed from public funds.


My Lords, since the War Department, or the Ministry of Defence, presumably knows what the different forms of training cost, and the noble Lord says they know what training is being carried out; and since the Government know what small amount is being met out of public funds, it ought to be a question of simple arithmetic to arrive at the sum about which we are speaking. With the example of exhibitionism last week-end in the West End of London by other young men and women, and of the damage they did, not least to the police, may I repeat that in my view repayment from public funds is the least we can do for people who try to do things for their fellow men.


My Lords, I am sorry I cannot follow the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, in his convolutions of thought between the demonstrations in the West End of London and the training of the T. & A.V.R. III. All I can say is that although the Government are as capable as the noble Lord of doing simple arithmetic, we see no reason in this case for doing it. If the units wish to expend regimental funds on their training that is their concern. The Government have decided that these units are to be disbanded and no public funds are to be expended on their training.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether, in the recent Defence debate, it was not said that the decision on the disbanding of these units would not take place until the end of the year? Is there any conflict between that statement and what the noble Lord has said?


My Lords, there is no conflict. The decision as to detail will be taken at the end of this year. The decision as to the disposition and disposal of the manpower that is saved, and the other resources that are saved, will be taken at the end of this year. The decision as to disbandment has been taken, and arising from that decision there is also the further decision that while this is pending no further public funds will be expended on training.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend a nice, friendly question? Is it not a fact that recruiting for the Regular Army is falling off very considerably, and are we not, by disbanding Territorial units, depriving ourselves of a very reliable reservoir of possible recruits for the Regular Forces? Is it still too late for us to alter the decision already taken about wrecking the Territorial Army?


My Lords, all these are extremely interesting questions, especially to me, but they do not arise out of the original Question.