§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ Earl CATHCART
My Lords, I return to the Motion of my noble friend on the effective Reserves and I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, that in 1966 the Territorial Army was under-recruited and contained a great deal of dead wood. However, as I shall try to show in a few minutes, I think that it was over-pruned at that time. I believe that there is a need for a moderate and gradual increase in our Reserve Forces, mostly for security purposes in the United Kingdom base, but also in order to provide Reserves for our Forces. I also believe that the will exists to man those additional Reserve Forces. I do not share the pessimism of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that the necessary leadership in this matter will not be forthcoming.
Effective Reserves are an essential component of a sound defence policy. As the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said, we usually give Reserve Forces a mention in our annual defence debate, but they receive only a passing reference. Therefore, we must be particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Glenarthur for the opportunity which this short debate this afternoon gives us to concentrate our attention on this subject.
Regular Reserves of the Army account for 68 per cent. of the total Regular Reserve Forces of all three Services, as the needs of a reserve manpower for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force are much less. The 1979 Statement on Defence Policy, issued shortly before the general election and which is the most recent one available for reference, indicates that the total number of Regular Army Reservists had risen since 1975 from 107,000 to 124,000 as at 1st January this year; whereas the total number of Reservists for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force—albeit of a smaller quantity—during the same period had fallen slightly. No explanation was given in the Statement for either this rise or the fall.
I wonder whether the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate will tell us whether the total number of Reservists for the Army has now reached its ceiling, or whether we can expect it to continue to increase at the same pace for a few more 1178 years? Furthermore, can he say whether the fall in the Reserves of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force is a matter of anxiety. Have our operational commitments been reduced by a similar amount and, if not—as I suspect is the case—what steps can be proposed to fill that gap?
I have often had the feeling that such large numbers of Reservists in peacetime were just statistics maintained on the tiles of some branch in the Ministry of Defence, and that if an emergency came leading to mobilisation many would not be available for one reason or another, or would be unfit. Therefore, we must especially welcome the arrangements recently announced in another place by the Minister of Defence—which have been referred to by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur—and as forecast in the 1979 Statement on defence, that Reservists will be called up from time to time in order to confirm their availability, to check their fitness and their continuing suitability. I should like to see these arrangements developed still further so that each Reservist receives from time to time—say, every four or five years—a short, 48-hour refresher course in new weapons and equipment and improved techniques relevant to his particular branch of the Service.
In 1914 the full brunt of fighting in the opening stages was borne by the Regulars. In 1939, although many territorial units and Reservists were deployed in theatres of operations at the outset, the phoney war gave time for them to settle down. If ever hostilities or mobilisation happen again, it is unlikely that any such respite would occur, and many civilian soldiers would be immediately involved in operations. There is a tendency to refer to all civilian soldiers as Reserves, whether they be Regular Reservists now returned to civilian life or whether they are members of the Territorial Army.
The 1979 Defence Statement tries to have its cake and to eat it in this respect, since Chapter 2 confirms that after mobilisation 70 per cent. of Army Forces would be deployed on the European mainland, and that in order to enable the Army combat Forces to complete their commitments to NATO many Reservists and Territorial Army would be needed immediately to bring the British Army of the Rhine to the required strength. Yet 1179 Table 2 of Annexure H of the same Statement, which deals exclusively with Reserves, lists the total number of Reservists and members of the Territorial Army as Reserve Forces.
The point I am trying to make is that individuals, or units, drawn from Regular Reserves, or the Territorial Army, who have a specific operational task to go to either in the United Kingdom or on the European mainland are not reserves in the strict sense of that word. Perhaps we should call them reinforcements, since on mobilisation they immediately reinforce our combat Forces to bring them to an effective war footing. To "maintain effective Reserve Forces", in the words of the Motion of my noble friend Lord Glenarthur calls for sufficient men and units from the TA and from the various types of Regular Reserves who are uncommitted—that is the key to the word "Reserve "—to any particular immediate operational task. They should be, as the word" Reserve " implies, available to strengthen a particular combat requirement where the initial deployment has proved to be inadequate.
Secondly, they should be available to deal with any unforeseen contingencies, which somehow always seem to recur. Thirdly, they must be available to replace casualties. Bearing in mind these large numbers of Regular Reservists and TA who are committed to an immediate operational role, and if your Lordships accept my supposition that these should not be regarded as Reserves, then I believe that our genuine Reserve manpower needs to be increased if they are to meet effectively the unexpected. Since the number of Regular Reservists depends on the size of our Armed Forces, this increase must be found, as many of your Lordships agree, I know, from the Territorial Army.
I should like to see a gradual and a moderate increase in the number of Territorial Army units. I believe that the enthusiasm of the general public can be found, can be inspired by leadership if they see the need for it. I am certain that there are valuable tasks for them to do and train for. Therefore I should like to see it restored. I should like to see it restored gradually, because there will be problems in finding sufficient leaders, officers and 1180 non-commissioned officers, and also drill halls to accommodate them in. Nevertheless, that is something that we must do.
My final point concerns compensation awarded to a member of the Territorial Army, or his dependants, for injury or death occurring on training. If certain units of the Territorial Army are going to be required to carry out important and immediate operational tasks on mobilisation, their training must be realistic and they must have the opportunity of training to the same standards as the Regular Army. Accidents will occur, and especially on night exercises. Your Lordships will remember the case of the TA soldiers who were drowned in the River Trent on night exercises about two years ago. Then the unconvincing ruling was given that the Ministry of Defence was not responsible for compensation, but that it was a matter for the individual civilian employer based on his civilian career. Many young men in the TA are not yet eligible for civil employment compensation schemes, as they have not worked for that employer for long enough, and others, too, of course may be unemployed. I hope very much that this Government will continue to give urgent consideration to that problem, and that they will agree that it really must be a Ministry of Defence responsibility for that compensation.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Lord CLIFFORD of CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, when I first joined your Lordships' House in 1964 I happened to be a Territorial Army ADC to the Queen. This was an honour which was given to some of us who had commanded Territorial Army battalions and been deputy brigade commanders too. In 1965 we first heard the rumblings of the carving knife being sharpened on the Healey Grindstone. We then started a whole series of debates, culminating in that cut taking place. I continued non-stop protesting them, and I have ever since. In every defence debate that has taken place I have hammered this point of our lack of reserves. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur—and the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said it as well—that there are those of us in this House who have continually battled on on this question of inadequate Reserves.
Just after the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, came to your Lordships' House I first 1181 had the good fortune to get in close touch with him, and I am honoured to have been in close touch with him ever since on all questions of defence. After the first debate on defence that followed he came up to me and said, "Young man, the thing that has worried me more than anything else about our defence situation is our lack of Reserves ". From that date I may say that my connection with the noble Lord has dated. May I go back a little further leading up to a story about the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. When I was commanding a TA battalion over 20 years ago, I had a young officer, a captain, who was then a journalist on the Western Morning News. At about the time that I gave up command he moved to London and became a junior and then later a senior lobby correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. He is now a Euro MP. I mention this because he was very useful to me, especially when I first became honorary secretary to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, on the all-party Defence Study Group. There was quite a lot of publicity in our local paper as well as nationally at the time.
It so happened—this is the story I want to tell—that that announcement appeared in the Western Morning News just before I had to go to see my predecessor as honorary colonel of the Royal Devon Yeomanry about a personal matter, and he told me this story about Lord Shinwell when he was Minister for War; and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, will follow the example of Lord Shinwell at that time. The Minister came to address the Territorial Army Association in Exeter. He made his speech and this friend of mine—the father of two well-known sons, I might mention, one an ambassador and the other a major general who has just flown to Rhodesia to be in charge of the monitoring forces—told me that at the end of his talk to the TA Association, Lord Shinwell asked, "Do any of the commanding officers have any questions they want to ask me?" My friend, who was commanding a TA gunner regiment, told the then Minister, "I have so many 16 and 25 pounders "—whatever the figures may have been—" and I have only 10 quads to draw them ". The Minister consulted the bureaucrat seated beside him and replied," When it comes to specialist equipment, it is more difficult ". 1182 My friend then said, "I happen to know there are hundreds of them littering the autobahns in Germany ". "Is that so ", said the Minister, and without again referring to the bureaucrat seated beside him he replied, "Indent again for your quads, and write to me if you do not get them ".
After that, my friend telephoned the staff captain in the South-West District and was told by the captain, "I told you they are not available ". Whereupon my friend replied, "I have been told to write to the Minister if I don't get them ". The captain replied, "You can't do that ", but, not deterred, my friend said, "I have witnesses who will say I must write direct to the Minister ". Not only did my friend get the quads he wanted; he got two more within a matter of weeks. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, will follow that example of Lord Shinwell and cut through his so-called advisors.
I hope Lord Strathcona has his pencil ready because I am now going to tell him what I want for my mob. First of all, we need an assistant training officer; he is on establishment but we have not had the position filled. We need more regular assistants, and I am now talking about a TA home defence unit. In my county there are three drill halls for the squadron 70 miles apart and the regimental headquarters is 140 miles away. How can one expect a company squadron commander, with those distances to cover, to be able to do that as well as all the various other things he has to do? For example, he had to do seven CCF and ACF inspections last year. In my day we had regular training majors who could do that. Now we do not have enough, so one cannot expect them to do that sort of thing.
Home defence units of the TA are equipped with four-by-two Bedford trucks, and that is absolutely ridiculous; once they get off a metal road they are up to their axles in mud. They must be given four-by-four vehicles as soon as possible. I mentioned wireless sets the other day in a supplementary question; we have been promised adequate, more up-to-date ones for over two years but we have still not got them.
I turn from the particular to the general and I want to concentrate on home and civil defence reserves. It is generally 1183 accepted that we will be the first, not the last, country to be attacked if the balloon goes up. We are the staging platform for all the Reserves coming from the North American Continent, yet we have no adequate home defence—what we have is less than a small crowd at Twickenham, as one noble Lord said—and our civil defence is non-existent.
When we had National Service, a strong TA and the civil defence, there were no problems because that automatically gave us Reserves for everything. The Conservatives, to their utter shame, abolished National Service, and to my way of thinking, from that time stem all our Reserve problems; and of course Healey and Callaghan then went and abolished the TA and the civil defence. It is no use crying over spilt milk, so let us try to do something now for home defence. Though the most important, the home defence TA thinks it is the Cinderella.
As I have previously told your Lordships, I am chairman of a civil defence organisation called the Devon Emergency Volunteers and we are trying, through volunteers, to fill some of that gap. It is difficult to get training equipment, but we at least have got somewhere where other counties have got nowhere. Some time ago the Minister told me there would be a Statement on this subject. I now hear through a member of that organisation who is also a Member in another place that we are not to get it for about six months. The recent Easingwold Conference resulted in the usual platitudes, and I remind the noble Lord of what his party said about this when they were in Opposition: that we should remember that in a crisis, for our Servicemen, be they in the North Sea, flying over Italy or fighting in NATO, it is of great importance that adequate home defence facilities should be laid on. It is of great importance for the morale of the Services, but at present they know we do not have it, and anybody who does not believe me can refer to General Hackett's book.
Let us do something now, and I suggest that as far as civil defence is concerned, speaking from experience, we should begin by taking it away from the Home Office and putting it under the Ministry of Defence, which would help both finance- 1184 wise and equipment-wise. The County Councils Association is already on record about the misuse of the 75 per cent. home defence grant. Any defence-country, home, civil—will be sacrificed by the bureaucrats and their local politicians for vote-catching and things of that nature. Remember too, regarding bureaucrats, Parkinson's Law: do not let your civil defence, or any other defence organisation, get caught up in the bureaucratic control of voluntary organisations.
I only ask the House to remember what trouble can come to other organisations; one thinks of how for years there was trouble between the Police Federation and their excellent reserves, the Specials. Time is not on our side; 1983 is supposed to be the year when the peak of advantage of Russia over NATO will be reached. We must act now.
§ 4.48 p.m.
My Lords, I am pleased to be speaking in this debate, and I am really intervening on behalf of the women's Services. But, first, I want to tell the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that we are grateful to him for having an all-party committee, and I would suggest that, when we have the White Paper on Defence, we might have a discussion with noble Lords in all parts of the House joining in; it is not satisfactory when only one or two take part from the Opposition Benches. We should have a general discussion, not a debate, because it is vitally important that going out from this Chamber is one mind on this issue, especially in regard to the present state of NATO, and I hope I may get some support for that suggestion.
I want to say a few words about the Auxiliary Territorial Corps (ATS) which was formed in 1939, because they do not really know what their future position is to be. I have studied the Journal of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies and the report of the conference held on 7th December, 1977, at which three very important persons from the three Services spoke. Yet I can find no mention of the role of the women in the future. Recently, in October, there has been a recruiting campaign. Perhaps the noble Lord, when he winds up, would care to say how successful it has been. The corps must know what they are going to do in the future.
1185 Our Reserve Forces are very different from those of the Republic of Germany or of France, not only because they are voluntary, but also in regard to the position of women in these Services. At the present time when there is need women, particularly from the medical services, are called up because the Royal Navy and others are very short of medical personnel. What is to be the position regarding British Forces in Germany and assistance towards the security of the British Base? Is the 1967 decision still to apply in future? Will it therefore be the women who will be on duty for the security of the British Base?
In the Expenditure Committee Report in 1977 the days of moving territorial formations of greater than basic unit size to the Continent at the outset of a conflict were assumed to be over. Does this still hold good? It is rather important to know this. Has there been a change of policy?
It has been suggested that the British Army, while retaining the strength of the TAVR system, could move, in relation to those who volunteer for its Regular Services, to a system involving recall during the period of reserve liability. Would this mean a great change in the present system? As I understand it, the present situation is that there are two armoured reconnaissance regiments; the Artillery have two medium and three light air defence regiments, making five in all; the Engineers' regiments total seven; the Honourable Artillery Company comprises one, the Infrantry 38, and Special Air Service Regiments two. Are these the numbers at the present time? If the noble Lord cannot answer this question today, perhaps he will let me know later on.
I now turn to what is to be the role of women in the future. Their present jobs are merely clerical, cooking, working as stewards, in signals, and driving, none of which is a really skilled occupation. Therefore we do not get the really skilled people coming into the Services. I suggest that it is important that we try to get a better standard of recruit. When one remembers the excellent work that they did in two world wars, I think that they deserve to know what their future is.
1186 I understand that at the moment it is much easier to recruit Service women than officers because the officers do not feel that they have enough work to do of great importance, and their equipment is poor. I should also like to suggest that some of these people, particularly those on, say, Salisbury Plain, should go to small towns such as Devizes, Chippenham and Warminster and get more young recruits, as I gather that from the age of 17 they can join the Army Cadet Forces. A great many young people have literally nothing to do in these small country towns, and I think that the Services, particularly perhaps, the Women's Services, could be advantageous in stopping delinquency. I know that a great number of youngsters would like to join the Services, but when it comes to actually joining invariably they are turned down because their educational standard is not high enough. or it is thought that they do not have enough personal knowledge; and this is a great blow. I know of four young men in my village who have been turned down in circumstances which I think were a pity. If they had had a little training and some occupation beforehand, they might have made very able recruits.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, I am glad of the opportunity to speak in the debate. I congratulate the noble Lord who initiated it on providing the House with this opportunity. I probably find myself in almost complete disagreement with all that has been said, but I am afraid that I cannot help that. I do not expect anyone to take any notice of what I say, or even to listen to what I say. I have been saying the same thing now for so many years that I have given up attending the defence debates because I do not want to bore. But it is a fact that this debate, in terms of national defence, is completely and utterly irrelevant.
Let us assume that if the occasion arises in which the Reserve Forces are called upon to play an active role, it would bring them, in a matter of hours, either into conflict, or to the possibility of immediate conflict, with—so we are told by the experts on Soviet strength—the greatest military power on earth; men who are produced from a military machine, following long periods of training, equipped down to the last button. What we propose to put against them are the new-named Terri- 1187 torial Army and Regular Army Reservists, many of whom will have left the colours years before. Overall they will have been inadequately trained and inadequately equipped.
Let us look at the proposition. We were fortunate yesterday to have been given in another place a dictum from our greatest military expert, the Prime Minister. She said:The greatest danger to any country is weakness in defence".—[Official Report, Commons, 11/12/79; col. 1072.]All right—that is the test. Now the day comes and the Reserve Forces have to be mobilised. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, has given us some evidence. A unit of which he had knowledge in the West Country was spread over immense areas in penny packets. This is not exceptional. Even in London Territorials are spread all over, from Fulham to Barking, from the North of London to the South of London; and they have to be brought together in a matter of hours, turned into fighting units and transported to Germany, to face—on the basis of the evidence from the other side—highly sophisticated, highly trained regular soldiers. I do not believe that that can be done. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell touched on the point.
The turning point of course was the 1957 White Paper—I apologise for saying this again—and that was a political document. It was designed to save the Government of the day from the embarrassment in which they found themselves. It was a very severe embarrassment. Let us apply Mrs. Thatcher's test to a Conservative Government who have been in power not for months, but for years. Their first Minister of Defence was the great Churchill. They had Field Marshal Lord Alexander as a Minister of Defence. I looked up—I have a good memory, but I believe in checking—what was said on 5th December, 23 years ago, by a distinguished Conservative Member of Parliament, well-known to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, the late Captain Charles Waterhouse. He was not a Left-Wing ideologue, but a Right-Wing imperalist in the old-fashioned sense. This is what he said—and remember the test, my Lords, when the Prime Minister said that the greatest danger to a country is defence weakness; 1188The fact remains that when this crisis came "—it did not come like a thief in the night, there was two months' or more warning—we had no plan, no ships, no aeroplanes and no men available in sufficient quantities to hit quickly ".—[Official Report, Commons, 5/12/56; col. 1303.]On the moral of this Mr. Macmillan could not get Lord Head to do his dirty work. He got the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, through the 1957 White Paper to do the job, which was to get rid of conscription. We were going to have nuclear forces in its place. Skybolt—where is Skybolt? Blue Streak—where is Blue Streak? When there was no Blue Streak and no Skybolt, we had Polaris. and we are still lumbered with Polaris. I am not going to argue the case today; I have done it often enough. Polaris is fit only for Steptoe and Son—an obsolete weapon. Often there is none of them at sea at all.
The obligations into which this country has entered in terms of NATO can be discharged only through compulsory military service. There is no other way. If you turn your back on compulsory military service, then all you do is to escalate the bill to the point where you cannot afford to buy the equipment. So you now have more women and children on the payroll of the Ministry of Defence than you have soldiers, sailors and airmen. Let us face the fact—and there is no denying that fact. Therefore, if you step up your Reserve Forces and you want to take them to Germany, how do you take them?
Let us come down to the present day. The Territorial Army has to be transported to Germany. There are available Puma aircraft. The Puma was ordered by Mr. Healey. It could have been conveyed by the Belfast. The Belfast was built to fly Blue Streaks, but there were no Blue Streaks. The only cargo it could carry was a load of ping-pong balls. That is now obsolescent: and we have no carrier aircraft that can lift a Puma. Yet the Puma is your battlefield transport helicopter. These facts are as well known to the Russian intelligence as they are to me. They are known to the Government, and they are known to noble Lords on all sides of the House. To come here today and suggest that by titivating round through publicity campaigns, that by added recruitment. one is going to be 1189 able to solve this problem. I just do not believe it.
The point is, my Lords, that I hold a completely different view about defence from that of other noble Lords. I believe the Russians, as indeed they are, are Marxist. The best way to do us down is to get us to spend money on defence, because the greatest single inflationary cause in the Western World is defence expenditure. It is wholly non-productive. So the present Administration says, "Come February, increase defence "—one up to the Kremlin. This is going on throughout the Western World: and whenever there is a sign of pacification the Kremlin rattles the sabre and we pour a few more thousand million pounds on defence. Yes, go along and spend £5,000 million on the Trident, just to make absolutely sure that inflation goes on. So far as the Russians are concerned, to them defence is totality, not only in terms of equipment but right across the hoard. This will go on until they can get you to be sensible, and they do not think you will become sensible because the vested interests in the country against the body politic behaving sensibly are very great indeed. Therefore, there is a guarantee of more expenditure on defence, more inflation, basic economic weakness. If any noble Lord believes that the Kremlin shivers in its shoes at the strength which is expressed in that White Paper, all I can say is that they are greater optimists than I am. I am filled with foreboding. I believe the chips are down, and you may be called upon to catch them perhaps quicker than you know. So far as I am concerned, I continue with my warnings. I do not expect you to listen, but a future Gibbon, if the place does not burn up, may get amusement from reading them.
§ Lord BOOTHBY
My Lords, does he think it is a pity we ever gave up compulsory National Service? Because I do.
§ Lord JACOBSON
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, could I follow on the question of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby? When we had compulsory National Service for a number of years after the war, was it not a fact that the Army did not quite know what to do with the—
§ Several noble Lords: Order, order!
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ The Earl of AVON
My Lords, it has been my (shall I say?) privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, quite constantly in this House, sometimes on gambling and sometimes on defence. If I may, I should like to return rather to our Reserve Army, and leave the battles of the world to others. It might interest the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, to recall that the birth of the Territorial Army after the war was really in 1957, when conscription ended, because up until that time people were drafted into the Territorial Army, and the real volunteer force started only in 1957.
I should like to follow my noble friend Lord Cathcart in one or two remarks about the old Territorial Army, which was dismissed, I thought, rather with a sweep of the brush by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I thought it was a very good army. I had the privilege of commanding a battalion in the Territorial Army from 1965 to 1967, and then I commanded a battalion in the TAVR shortly afterwards. I was inspected by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, when I commanded the battalion in the TAVR, and I hope he found it efficient. But I think he would have found my old TA battalion efficient, too, and I wish he had inspected that one. It might amuse your Lordships to know that my new battalion had one or two differences from the old one. I was given a staff car and a driver, an ambulance and six minibuses. None of this had I asked for in the old TA; all of it came in the new TAVR. To save money, was it, my Lords?
I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Glenarthur for raising this subject today. I think it is a very opportune moment to have a debate on the Reserves.
1191 The present Government have changed the name and changed the atmosphere between the Government and the Reserve Army. At a recent meeting of the Territorial Army Council, held only last week, which was addressed by the Minister, the Under-Secretary from the other place, Mr. Barney FIayhoe, it was quite clear that the Territorial Army is now excited by its future. I should like to take up one more point which my noble friend Lord Cathcart mentioned, and that is the matter of compensation for widows of members of the Territorial Army. This is a matter which exercises the members of the Territorial Army very much. I understand that this is now the subject of a tri-Service study group. We should all like an undertaking by the Minister to ensure that this does not get put under the carpet, as it were, but is expedited as much as possible, perhaps not with the backdating of such benefits as we hope may come about but, anyway, by making sure that the date is a realistic one.
I know that it is the Government's wish to encourage the TA, and that the Government would be willing to expand the Territorial Army. It is argued that there is no need for expansion because the Territorial Army is not fully recruited. But there is a flaw in this argument. The Territorial Army has a diverse establishment because of its role in support of BAOR. The teeth arms are often 100 per cent. recruited—sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. I cannot see that the Territorial Army as it is now conceived can ever be 100 per cent. recruited because of the difficulty in filling some vacancies in logistic units and, in particular, the medical units. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, mentioned this. Therefore, the argument about reaching 100 per cent., although it will always be present, is not in my opinion valid.
I should like to see the teeth arms monitored carefully, and whenever there is, say, a 110 per cent.-recruited battalion, the possibility of expansion explored. It need not be initially forming a new battalion, but perhaps just a company. A policy of flexibility would be ideal. I believe there is always a role for increased teeth arm troops. We need not get too Whitehall top-heavy about what these roles should be.
1192 I hope we shall never again see a poor-cousin role whereby they are under-equipped or under-established compared with the present Territorial Army. If a new company is formed, I see it becoming a training company in title, although the commanding officer should be given discretion. This would go a long way towards answering the criticism that, because of the large turnover in the Territorial Army, many of their number will always be under-trained. If a new battalion is formed, I see their role in rotation on an annual basis with a sister battalion committed to BAOR, with the alternative role being deployment in the United Kingdom, should mobilisation ever happen. What I believe is that units should never turn away volunteers to the teeth arms but that the Government should actually and actively encourage over-recruitment with the carrot of expansion. Nobody can crystal-gaze into the future and say that these trained men will never be necessary. I would welcome a policy of flexibility in this field.
No noble Lord has touched on the Army Cadet Force. I should like to mention them. They are an excellent recruiter for both the Regular and the Territorial Army but there are two particular spheres in which they have been left behind. The first is identity cards and the second is their rank structure. Believe it or not, if an adult is wearing the uniform of Her Majesty's Forces he is not able to identify himself with an ID card. There has been a case of cadets entering a military establishment and, when challenged, being unable to identify themselves in the normal fashion. This is humiliating. I am told that there would be administrative difficulties. Surely it should not be impossible for the adult to draw out his ID at the commencement of a weekend and hand it back at the end of training.
The question of rank is one of history. All cadet officers are substantive lieutenants so that you get the farce of a lieutenant colonel wearing the uniform of and being in all sense and performing as a lieutenant-colonel while in the Army List he is a "lieutenant (acting lieutenant-colonel) ". Cadet officers have become used to this anomaly but—and this is why I should like to see this changed as soon as possible—it can discourage officers transferring into the cadet force. A TA or Regular 1193 major is in some cases jibbing at this paper degradation even if he maintains his rank in public. It is, anyway, an unflattering demotion. As these officers are the very instructors we should encourage to join the cadet force, this unfortunate anachronism should be removed. My Lords, we look forward to my noble friend the Minister being in his present office for many years. I am sure the ACF would be grateful if he were to look into these problems.
§ 5.13 p.m.
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for having given us the opportunity of this debate this afternoon. I have four brief points which I should like to mention. Some of them have been referred to already. First, we welcome—and when I say "we ", I speak as a member of the TAVR Association—the improvement in the bounty to TA members; but inflation being what it is, I think it ought to be reviewed periodically, perhaps once a year, to keep pace with inflation. There are still a significant number of people who lose money when they go off to camp for a fortnight every year. Secondly, I understand that Her Majesty's Government are looking into the matter of compensation for part-time soldiers to bring them into line with regular soldiers. I welcome that and I hope that they will be able to expedite implementation of it, because part-time soldiers are just as vulnerable to accidents as are regular soldiers; and their families suffer every bit as much in the unfortunate event of their being permanently injured or killed as do the families of regular soldiers.
Thirdly, I think that unremitting efforts should be made to keep employers aware of the role, the significance and importance of the Reserve Forces. Some employers are very good. Very often, when I was in the TA—and that is going back 10½ years—you would find that the employers who seemed least likely to be able to do so were the ones generous enough to pay their employees when they went off to camp. I think that employers need to be kept informed continuously as to the role and purpose of the Reserve Forces. One must recognise that a small firm can suffer quite considerably if a large proportion of its workforce is in the same Territorial regi- 1194 ment and they all go off to camp at the same time. This often happens, particularly where you get one or two men at foreman level, who are the sort of material that staff sergeants or sergeant-majors are made of. If they are looked up to by the others and they join the TA, quite a few colleagues in their firms may join as well; so that an employer employing a couple of dozen men may find some eight or 10 of them away at the same time. This is hard on the employer. I wonder whether there is any way in which Her Majesty's Government could assist firms who are in that particular dilemma.
Finally, I should like to commend all those who give up their spare time to serve as part-time members of our Reserve Forces and, in particular, I should like to salute especially the members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, who are at risk not only on duty but even more so when off duty. Particularly at risk are those whose civilian employment involves a certain routine, postmen, milk roundsmen, bakers' delivery men and so on; because the unspeakable terrorists have a pretty good idea of what particular place they will be passing at a certain time every week day; and they are soft targets. It can take a lot of courage to write your signature to enrolment in the UDR if you live in certain places. I was lucky when I was in the Ulster Defence Regiment because I lived in a comparatively peaceful, comparatively non-sectarian and highly-civilised part of the Province, so that I had not too much to worry about. But there are certain places where the men or the female soldiers, the "Greenfinches ", and their families can never relax. They are under threat all the time. I commend and salute them most heartily.
§ 5.10 p.m.
My Lords, although I am tempted to speak about the Territorial Army in which I served for many years, including the whole of the war, I want briefly to echo some things which were said about civil defence at Question Time on 6th December. As has been stated already by the noble and gallant Lord opposite, there is little that can be done at the start of war unless there have been major preparations of a quite different nature from those we have today. If you allow that there is little to be done in the first 20 minutes, there 1195 will yet be a need later to try to preserve life, to reduce chaos and then to start reconstruction. Any noble Lord who saw Belgium collapse in May and June 1940 will never forget it. The horror of the refugees, the misery, the fires, the blocked roads and the breakdown of all the services could have been much lessened if they had only had better civil defence preparations.
I want to mention just one or two examples. I told the noble Lord who is to reply that I was going to speak on these lines, so I hope he will be able to say something in reply. First, is there any plan to revive the Auxiliary Fire Service? The professional fire service—that is, the regular fire service—in this country could never be brought to the strength to deal with all the emergencies such as those we have in mind this afternoon. I know there is, or was, a certain amount of equipment, and a lot of it was brought into use last winter and manned by Servicemen. At the beginning of the outbreak of hostilities there will be no Servicemen available for tasks like that. Who is being trained to man this equipment again?—that is, if any of the equipment survived the ordeal of last winter and was thought worth putting back into store. There are other countries in Europe which I know attach great importance to the Auxiliary Fire Service, for example, Austria and Denmark. We should look at this very seriously.
Then we come to the heavy squads or rescue squads—whatever they were called in the civil defence world. We cannot expect the Sappers to clear all obstructions and open roads for general communications. They will have other things to do more closely associated with Army commitments. If there are no squads with appropriate equipment for clearing major obstructions, how are ambulances going to move about? How would any fire engine get to the scene of a fire? I should like to know from the Government whether they have any plans for trying to revive such squads. It cannot all be left to private contractors, for they will not have the special training.
Then we come to the police function, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. Again, the regulars would never be able to meet all 1196 the demands in an emergency. I do not believe it is generally known that here in this country we have no regular police reserves. It may be more difficult for us to recruit and organise regular reserves than in a country whose police follow the gendarmerie pattern. None the less, that is no reason for having let the small reserve that we had before the war dwindle away to nothing. I do not believe there is a single police force which today continues the system of first police reserve, as I think it was called. They were regulars or ex-regulars with part-time commitments. I should have thought it would be possible to ask young men who leave the police force below a certain age to undertake commitments rather on the lines of the Territorial Army. There could be short refresher courses and they could undertake short periods of service when they were particularly needed. That is a stystem Which is quite familiar to us from experience with both the Regular and the Territorial Army.
Last but not least, I want to say something about the Special Constabulary to which the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, referred. It is, I believe, something unique to this country to have such a service in all parts. There are other countries which have something similar but only in certain towns or districts, while we have a Special Constabulary covering the whole country: 23,000 unpaid volunteers with no national organisation and hence no national voice. I submit that today they are far from happy. They are the Cinderella in this whole picture that we have been painting here this afternoon. The Special Constabulary should be of immense value to this country. It is unhappy to have to say that they are held back by the Home Office and the regular police. If I am wrong, I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply will tell me.
It would seem entirely up to the chief constables—not the Government—as to how far Special constables are recruited and encouraged or whether they exist at all. From my reading of the 1964 Act, it is possible for any chief constable to decide that he will dispose of or dismiss his entire strength overnight. If all chief constables decided to do this we would wake up tomorrow morning and find the entire force had disappeared. Of course, chief constables are not accountable to the 1197 Government or Parliament for operational duty, although they are accountable to the courts, but I believe that if they abolished the force, they would not be in breach of their statutory responsibilities.
Joking apart, chief constables have not done well by the Special Constabulary, and they must take responsibility for the present state of the force. The Police Federation has been hostile to the Special Constabulary, and still is, and most chief constables—they are only human—would prefer to avoid stirring up the Federation, if giving open encouragement to the Special Constabulary was going to result in trouble.
I do not wish to be unjust to any of them, but, if any chief constable has come out boldly on a public occasion in favour of developing the Special Constabulary in his area, and has said that he is going to give them exciting training and duties within their ability, I have never heard him, and I doubt whether any other noble Lord here tonight has either. I know of one or two chief constables who have come fairly near it; but there are others who have done just the minimum. Some have done well; others have not done well at all.
Meanwhile, the Home Office hides behind the recommendations of a very ill-fated working party which ought never to have been set up on the basis that it was and which reported two years ago. The recommendations are already out of date and the special constables are very unhappy about some of them. This is all such an important field that I hope your Lordships will agree that it is one where on some future date we could have a full debate all on its own.
§ 5.25 p.m.
My Lords, I hesitated before adding my name to the list of speakers to this very valuable debate because I served in a Reserve Force for only a few years. That was a long time ago and that particular Reserve, an Air Force one, has long since been disbanded, for the reasons which my noble friend Lord Glenarthur mentioned earlier. However, I should like to make one point and offer one suggestion. First, the point: I was recently fortunate enough to go to Germany with a parliamentary party to 1198 visit the British forces there. I had the opportunity of talking to the commanders and other senior officers. Happily, the story they told was a very different one from the one which the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, told this House this afternoon. As has been mentioned already, on mobilisation BAOR would rely not only on the return of units from Northern Ireland, but on immediate reinforcements from the Territorial Army. These territorials now go to Germany at regular intervals and train with the units with which they will fight in an emergency.
Your Lordships will know that professionals are all too reluctant to give due praise to amateurs. However, in this case I was deeply impressed by the vital importance that these officers attached to their TA reinforcements. They know them well and emphasise how efficient they are and how immediately valuable they would be in an emergency. This is surely high praise coming from senior officers of such an excellent force. I submit that this should add a lot of weight to the case for increasing these Reserve Forces.
As to my suggestion, this concerns the areas in which territorial units are recruited and trained. As an example, I know the North Devon Yeomanry which between the wars became the Royal Devon Yeomanry. It now provides a squadron. for the Royal Wessex Yeomanry which has its headquarters in Cirencester. Cirencester is well over 100 miles away from Barnstaple and the regiment covers three or four counties. It is now therefore a regional unit rather than the county unit that it used to be. I gather that it is a very good regiment, and the last thing I want to do is to decry it. But apart from the administrative, training and social advantages of each regiment occupying a compact area, I believe that county loyalties still mean a lot to most people and help to produce a good regimental spirit. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, will correct me if I am wrong, but I strongly suspect that many Devonians have never heard of the Kingdom of Wessex, unless they joined the Yeomanry.
My Lords, for these reasons, I suggest that county identities are given careful consideration if the Reserve Forces are further expanded as I think they should be.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, this has been an interesting debate and a debate which has been worthwhile. I thought at first that it could easily get bogged down, but, no, I think we have had an excellent debate. Many of the points that have been raised are very germane to the problem, and I believe that on another occasion we should return to this subject. I was going to discuss the Shapland Report. I read it carefully through last night—I did my homework—but there has been very little mention of it today; so I hope that one day we shall come back to this subject.
If I may say so to the noble Earl, Lord Fortescue, regarding his visit to Germany, I think he is a little unfair about the noble Lord. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, is a realist in the best sense. He is very loyal because of his own Army experience and he is anxious to have adequate defence. I think the only criticism that could be made of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, is that probably he repeats the argument again and again—but he may be speaking the truth. All I would say is: Let us listen to him. In the sphere of Army policy he is like a breath of fresh air and you need a critic of that kind.
May I say about the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, that he raised a most interesting aspect of defence. He has been not only a distinguished serving soldier but also a Territorial, and in the field of local administration he has played a major part in the North of England. He made the point that we need to have a police reserve. There may well be considerable opposition from the chief constables and the Police Federation. The noble Lord also went on to talk about the Special Constabulary: there are 23,000 of them and they are badly paid, the Cinderellas of the Service.
§ Lord PEART
Unpaid, my Lords: I am sorry. That is even worse. This is a matter for the Home Office and I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate will take up the interesting point that has been made.
I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, on having introduced this subject for debate. I am sorry I missed a few remarks at the beginning of his speech but I listened carefully to the 1200 rest of it. He should be congratulated and we owe him a debt. His speech was a fine and good one. He dealt with the trained Reserve and the need to train regularly. He also talked about wider aspects and about the Soviets' increasing ability and the considerable strength that is arraigned against us. He came out unhesitatingly in support of a 3 per cent. increase in defence expenditure, and of course of the need for forces pay increases. I could follow his speech further in detail, but I will read it carefully in Hansard.
May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, that I am glad he paid a tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. 1 know Northern Ireland—I am sorry the noble Lord has gone, but I hope he will read the tributes that have been paid to him. The Royal Ulster Constabulary have done yeoman service.
I come now to the speech which I think mattered most of all and that is the speech by a former Minister of Defence, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. I agreed with it so much. He dealt with the Reserve Forces and argued the need for those forces and for a strengthening of them. We should not be difficult because there is an opinion in the country which is not sympathetic to defence. I thought it was like a breath of fresh air. I have heard the noble Lord speak in many places as well as in the other Chamber, when he was Minister of Defence, and he has never altered and never wavered. He has been a great patriot and I pay tribute to him. His speech was refreshing.
He talked about the lack of enthusiasm; he went back to the Government of 1945, to the position of National Service and to a period of international tension. He pleaded for continuous support. After all, as he argued, we are in Europe and have obligations to NATO. Therefore, inevitably we come up against nuclear weapons and missiles. The noble Lord went into great detail and said that we had many experts in this House. Of course, we have. Many speakers today have had either some experience of the Territorials or some experience of being Regular soldiers in the last war; and so we have a wealth of talent. The noble Lord, as I say, talked about experts. May I just remind your Lordships of what Veblen, the great American sociologist, said: that experts sometimes have a trained incapa- 1201 city to think. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will not be too over-whelmed by the problem of experts giving advice, which may or may not be good.
I quickly turn to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who talked about the reorganisation of the Territorial Army. He thought some of it was very ineffective. I thought that was a bit too hard on the Territorials, a volunteer army. I know he is a very distinguished soldier, but I think he had got it wrong there—perhaps I am wrong and he is right. He dealt with the problem of sabotage, particularly as regards air defence and civil defence areas, which are sensitive. I agree that we need to increase security: that was an important point to make. It is essential that we should have efficient internal security at RAF stations and establishments, and indeed at military establishments in different parts of the country. Civil defence, I think he said, should be a matter for the local authorities to look at and we must have a catching up of civil defence. He is probably right there. I now come to the noble Earl, Lord Avon, who has had long experience of the Territorial Army. I thought he made an excellent contribution. He mentioned how his battalion saved money—I was rather amused at his having Army vehicles pressed upon him which he did not want. Somebody should have had a rocket about that, and I hope they did.
I have been asked to cut short my speech, and in any case I always feel that a short speech is better than a long one. So I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, that I thought she was quite right when she said there had been no mention of the role of women. After all, women played a major part in the last war, and not just in connection with making armaments or shells for the troops. I can remember having my first practice shoot as an anti-aircraft gunner down in the South-West and there, working the predictors, were university girls from Queen's University, Belfast. Later I saw some of those self-same women in different parts of the country really taking part in the action. Their place was not abroad, but they played a most important part in the anti-aircraft system we had at that time. And of course there were the WRNS: the noble Baroness is a great defender of the WRNS.
1202 I am cutting my speech now because we are going on to another important debate and it would be wrong for me to waste time. I think we have had a very good debate and I hope we shall come back to this topic at a later date, when perhaps the Government will give us a full day for it. I hope we shall not have to wait until the debate on defence. I think we should spend a full day on this, and after the noble Lord and his colleagues have read Hansard it should be possible for us to make that debate a good one. I hope the Minister will be constructive: he always is. I wish him well in his job. I am certain it must be most exciting to be a Minister in the Defence Department. I never wanted to go to Agriculture and I should have loved to have been in Defence-but, anyhow, an Army marches on its stomach.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, MINISTRY of DEFENCE (Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal)
My Lords, perhaps if the noble Lord, Lord Peart, could change the nature of his politics, he might yet find himself in a very exciting job which I can assure him this one is. I should like to start by echoing his remarks in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, not only on the concept of having initiated this debate, but on the manner in which he did it. I think we might say that he reflects credit on his Army training for the way in which he marshalled his facts, and for the clarity of his exposition.
Also, I cannot let the opportunity pass without thanking and congratulating noble Lords once again. Defence debates are outstanding for the shortness and the crispness of the speeches which we have in them, and today has really been a remarkable example in the number of speeches of under 10 minutes. It is something that I frequently try to emulate, with total failure, and I am sure that this evening will be no exception.
However, I believe that this debate will contribute in an important sense to the wellbeing of our Reserve Forces, in that it will have helped to focus public attention upon the vital role of the Reserve Forces. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, rightly drew attention to this point, which was picked up by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, in the question that he asked on 4th December, and I believe 1203 that there are few better ways of giving publicity to this point than initiating debates in this House. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peart, that this is a subject worthy of a separate full debate on its own, rather than getting subsumed in a defence debate which inevitably is very wide ranging.
Before I try to answer some of the specific points, I should like to make a few general comments about the size and the organisation of our Reserve Forces. Our election manifesto said that,We must maintain the efficiency of our reserve forces ",and then it also said,We hope to increase their strengthSince coming to office, this Government have restated the importance which we attach to defence. We are proud of having done this and I believe we can say that our actions have matched our words. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, pointed out that one of our first acts on coming to office was to restore the rates of pay of the Armed Forces to the level of their counterparts in civilian life. That was the first shot in the campaign.
§ Lord STRATHCONA and MOUNT ROYAL
Too little and too late. But even if the regular forces were 100 per cent. manned, we should still need the Reserve Forces to bring the Regulars up to war strength in periods of tension. This is their primary job and I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, that we simply do not agree that these Reservists cannot be adequately trained to make a contribution in this way. The Government fully recognise the need to ensure that the Reserve Forces are capable of fulfilling this, their first and vital role.
The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, and indeed the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, distinguished between the two types of Reservists. There are the ex-Regulars, who have a reserve liability, and there are the Volunteer Reservists; that is, the ordinary men and women from every walk of life, who join up because they feel that they have something to contribute to our national security. Before dealing with the volunteers, I should like to say one or 1204 two further words about the Regular Reserves; and I do not intend to get into a semantic argument with the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, who referred to the military definition of the word "Reserves". This is not what I believe the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, was addressing himself to in initiating this debate. It is a perfectly fair point, but not the one which we are addressing this afternoon.
Regular Reserves are ex-Servicemen who leave the Regular Forces and have a liability for their Reserve Service. But their mobilisation role is different from that of the volunteers. In the Army, the Territorials are organised, trained, equipped, armed and administered as units with specifically defined wartime tasks. But the Regular Reserves, on the other hand, are to supply individual Reservists, both officers and soldiers, men and women, to bring both the regular and the TA units up to their war establishments. A minimal amount of training is needed in peacetime, because these men have all had Army experience, and only those soldiers who had recently left the Army would be earmarked for tasks which required some degree of up-to-date specialist knowledge.
The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carver, about the updating of the Reserves was, to some extent, answered by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, when he called attention to the recent announcement made in another place by my Secretary of State of the mobilisation scheme for Reserves and the individual reinforcement plan. Under this scheme, the Reservists are asked to report in person on one day a year to their specified local unit, so that their records can be kept up-to-date, their fitness can be assessed and their uniform and equipment—that is, apart from the fire-arms—can be inspected. They may also be asked to do a certain amount of refresher training. For this they will receive an annual reporting grant of £100, in addition to their travelling expenses.
But, of course, on mobilisation the Reservists will report either to their local unit or to the local centre which will be dedicated to the reinforcement of a specific formation. We estimate that these new measures, which will involve about 50,000 men, should halve the time required for the mobilisation of the men concerned, and we hope that this will be an important enhancement of the overall effectiveness of our defence capability.
1205 Several noble Lords referred to the Royal Naval Reserve, which is very much smaller at 5,500. This is primarily to fill the gaps on ships and to provide a much greater margin of manpower than is necessary in peacetime. Then there are the RAF Reserves and here, again, the number of RAF Reservists is smaller than those of the other Services because, as the noble Lord said in introducing the debate, of the highly sophisticated equipment and the associated skills which are needed in a modern air force. But I do not think that the effectiveness should be measured only in numbers. The importance of the RAF Reserves is that they would enable the RAF to function in war at a higher level of intensity and a higher level of utilisation of their expensive equipment, so that they could keep more aeroplanes in the air for longer and more frequently. So much for the Reserves.
If I may, I will now turn to the volunteers; that is, the Territorial Army. There are 60,000 in the Territorial Army and, for the benefit of the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, that includes the women, of whom there are about 4,000. Their tasks are different but quite clear. They make a major contribution to the reinforcement of the BAOR in an emergency, and they help to maintain a secure base here in the United Kingdom. The Territorial Army's role in BAOR would be crucial to the NATO policy of forward defence and flexible response. The success of such a policy will depend upon the ability of ourselves and our allies to deploy sufficient conventional Forces, including Reserves, who will be readily available at short notice, with the purpose of deterring, hopefully, but if that fails, resisting aggression. The part envisaged in this scenario for the modern Territorial Army is to provide formed units ready to take their place and to fight side by side with the Regular soldiers.
This leads me to the question of equipment. The Territorials cannot do their job unless they are given the proper tools of their trade. It has been said that they are second-class citizens. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, described them as a Cinderella. This may have been true in the past when the role, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Carver, pointed out, of the Territorial Army was different and when its size was very much greater.
1206 The tendency then was to give them cast-off equipment from the Regular Army. Since the 1967 reorganisation, it has been Army Board policy to provide the Territorials with the most modern equipment available and, ideally, with the same equipment as that of the regular units which have a comparable role. So when new equipment is introduced into the Army, provision is normally made for the Territorial Army as well. In general, we depart from this principle only when an item of equipment is considered to be too sophisticated to be given to the Territorial Army because of the training time needed to exploit it.
I should not pretend that this policy has been wholly attained, but we are on the way. May I give to your Lordships a few examples of the modern equipment which the Territorial Army will be receiving over the next few years. The Yeomanry Regiments will receive the latest reconnaissance vehicles and the personnel carriers and the ambulances. That is the Scorpion range of tracked vehicles. BAOR units will be issued with the latest anti-tank missile system—that is, the Milan. In some cases, Territorial Army units will be getting them before Regular units which have a home defence role. Some of the Royal Artillery Volunteers are very shortly to be getting the 105 mm light gun and a start has been made on the vexed question of communications equipment. The Clansman radios are coming in—obviously not so fast as we would like, but they are on their way. The Blowpipe air defence missile is already being issued to some Territorial Army units. If one takes all these together, they represent a substantial improvement in the capability of the Territorial Army which will have greater mobility and a very much improved anti-tank and anti-aircraft performance, along with the much needed better communications. The cost of this package—and it is not an exhaustive list—will be well over £100 million.
Most of the equipment which I have mentioned is for use in the BAOR role, but we have not forgotten the general reserve battalions, whose role is home defence. Perhaps they have felt themselves to be even more the Cinderella of the Territorial Army, but improvements in their weapons—in communication equipment and in transport which I announced in the defence debate on 1207 26th June—are now coming to hand. But I cannot pretend to be satisfied about this. I hope I shall not be upsetting the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, by being complacent. I assure him that we are not complacent. With this in mind, we have set in hand a special analysis of equipment requirements for the whole of the Territorial Army. This is aimed at identifying the options for improvement, and we are going to compare most carefully the equipment scales for the Territorial Army with those of the Regular Army. Clearly, equipment is only one part of the equation. Perhaps it sounds like a truism—nevertheless, it is worth repeating—that the best weapons in any Army are the men who serve in it. It would be idle to pretend that we have not had problems in the past in holding on to the trained manpower in the Territorial Army. Here again, without wishing to be smug, I believe that we can take credit for having moved fast and taken action to reverse the trend. We believe that the most important thing, as with the Regular Army, is to get morale right.
With a view to improving morale, we have moved as fast as possible towards putting into effect the Shapland Report which I am delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Peart, used as his bedside reading last night. The main recommendation of the report concerned the increases in bounties. Some volunteers now get £300 a year in addition to their pay. And we have reverted to the name "Territorial Army". The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, raised the very fair point about keeping the bounties up-to-date. We are determined that they shall not be eroded as they were between 1975 and 1979. The plan is to have an annual review of these bounties so that this erosion is not repeated. We intend to review the present rates at the end of this financial year. There were some 40 proposals in the Shapland Report, most of which have now been implemented. It is too early yet to say whether this has been effective but we believe that the signs are encouraging. The retention rate in the Territorial Army has improved. We have had more inquiries, and enlistments are increasing. I am glad to say that some volunteers who left the Territorial Army intend to reenlist. I noted the point made by one noble Lord—I do not remember exactly 1208 who it was—that those units whose success rate in recruiting is high should have their establishment increased. We believe that this is only the beginning of the process. There is quite a long way to go. The Territorial Army is currently 17 per cent. below establishment. This was a point which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, when we debated this question the other day. We have about 61,000 men against an establishment of rather over 73,000. But we confidently hope that this gap will shortly be bridged.
One of the recommendations of the Shapland Report was that the Government should encourage their own agencies—that is, the nationalised industries and other parts of industry and commerce as a whole—to follow the attitude of the Civil Service Department towards Territorial Army membership by their employees. I have said before that we fully accept the importance of achieving a generally favourable attitude towards Territorial Army membership on the part of employers. This was another point to which the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, in particular referred.
We wish to encourage employers to translate this into positive co-operation by allowing time off to attend camp and annual courses, although we do not underrate the difficulty of achieving this. We intend to continue to impress upon employers the importance of the Volunteer Reserves to the successful execution of our defence policy and the priority which the Government attach to maintaining its efficiency, and anything that noble Lords can do to assist us in this respect will be appreciated. Certainly the greatly Government intend to take every opportunity to try to get this message over both to employers and to trade unions. In this context, I can say that in next year's recruiting campaign we intend to ensure that sufficient money is made available to maintain the momentum in the Territorial Army recruiting because our aim is to provide at least as much money in real terms as was spent this year.
One rather specialist question which was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, by the noble Earl, Lord Avon, and by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, was the matter of compensation for attributable death or injury. It is true that at present benefits paid by the Ministry of Defence in respect 1209 of a Reservist who is killed or injured are less than the equivalent benefits for a Regular. There arc of course reasons for this, and historical reasons. The position of a Reservist is not directly comparable to that of a Regular. Nevertheless, we are aware that for some time this has been a matter of concern to Reservists and to the Council of the TAVR Associations. As a result we are now conducting a completely fresh review of the Reservists' schemes and among other things this will consider whether their pensions should be more closely comparable with those paid to injured Regular Servicemen or their dependants. In other words, we are working on it, my Lords.
The volunteer Reserves of the Navy are trained in peacetime for a number of specific tasks. In the case of the Royal Naval Reserve they include minehunting and minesweeping, the naval control of shipping and the augmenting of major shore establishments and they are backed up by the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service and the Women's Royal Naval Reserve and of course the RNR also helps with the local defence of ports and anchorages and the manning of port headquarters.
The Royal Marines Reserves' main wartime role is the reinforcement of the Regular corps. Some 8,500 men and women belong to the Navy's Volunteer Reserve and this too is somewhat short of strength but we hope that these forces will also benefit from the increased bounties being given to the Territorials. But there is only limited scope for providing the Naval Reserves with their own equipment and, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, said, to counteract the increased threat of mine laying in deep waters a new class of ship which has been called by some genius by the almost unpronounceable tongue-twister, the extra deep armed team sweep trawlers, is being procured. That is one case where initials will be a great relief.
The noble Lord has already drawn attention to the important enhancement to the RNR which was announced on the 20th November, which is the creation of the RNR air branch. They will have two roles: first, to maintain a reserve to augment the front line squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm in anti-submarine and Command) assault roles, and secondly to provide a pool of expertise (although it will be somewhat limited) for communications 1210 flying. This reserve will be restricted to recently retired Fleet Air Arm pilots and observers and their training will be mainly of a refresher flying type
As I have already said about the Air Force, they have the smallest volunteer Reserves as they do regular reserves. There are only 450. The obvious reason for this is the sophisticated and complicated nature of the aircraft they are operating. The role of the Volunteer Reserves, some of whom would be trained for particular tasks, for example intelligence and photo-interpretation, is to fill minor shortfalls in war manning requirements. We think this is a sensible approach and we think it is a flexible one, as we have demonstrated. On 1st July we formed three squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment for a three-year trial. It is a curious fact that it is always quite easy to recruit into the RAF Regiment—easier than into the Army doing an equivalent role. I do not know what it is—perhaps the uniform is more glamorous. Anyway, these squadrons are going to be recruited to provide ground defence support for their parent stations and they will be organised and equipped in a field role as Land Rover mounted infantry. They will have a strong fire power and full-scale radio communications. This has got off to a good start and if the experiment is a success we believe it will be an important new contribution by the Reserves to the overall effectiveness of the RAF. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, made a number of useful suggestions for further expansion of this kind. I do not think I can really comment on those today, beyond saying that we shall examine his ideas, and the ideas of others, with interest when we come to read this debate.
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Carver, and the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, drew attention to questions of home defence and they identified some of the weak points there. This point was also made by my noble friend Lord Inglewood, and I am sorry that I did not hear the whole of his speech. We recognise and believe that this general area is where more could be done. We have a number of studies in hand, but of course it also involves other departments so it is necessarily a somewhat complicated matter and I assure the noble Lords, 1211 including the noble Lord, Lord Peart, that this is something that will not be overlooked.
In conclusion, I should like to try to sweep this matter up by summarising our attitude to the Reserve Forces. In spite of anything that the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, may say, we are convinced that they have an important role to play, both in the central region and in the direct defence of the United Kingdom. We recognise that they must be kept up to strength, they must be enthusiastic, they must be well-equipped and, above all, they must have the full support of the community which they serve. I have no doubts about their enthusiasm and I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that we in the Government share the enthusiasm. We hope that their strengths will increase as a result of the improvements made following the Shapland Report. We shall make significant improvements to their equipment as our resources allow, and as I have already said we are doing what we can to encourage employers to release the men for annual training. But I revert to where I started, by saying that publicity for all of this will be invaluable and debates such as this are exceedingly helpful, and I am grateful to all the noble Lords who have contributed to the debate.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he not say a few words about civil defence, and particularly the police aspect of this, that I mentioned, because they are important and I did give warning that I should raise the matter.
§ Lord STRATHCONA and MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords. I am in some difficulty. This is a question which the Government recognise they have to study. It is quite a complicated issue, as the noble Lord knows very well and the noble Lord, Lord Peart, mentioned. For example, the police are a matter for the Home Office and not the Ministry of Defence. Criticisms have been made in the past that overall responsibility needs to reside in one department or another, and the noble Lord himself has had experience of knowing that anything that involves more than one department is never a simple matter to resolve.
§ Lord GLENARTHUR
My Lords, it has been a privilege for me to have had this chance to initiate a debate on the Reserves. All that remains is for me to thank very much all the noble Lords who have taken part in it and have contributed so much towards it. The debate has highlighted some areas where there are strengths, and others with weaknesses. Nevertheless, the noble Lord has given us cause to be encouraged and we shall all be grateful for that. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.