HL Deb 03 February 1994 vol 551 cc1414-34

5.50 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what are their plans for the future of the Army Cadet Force, the Air Training Corps and the Sea Cadets.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to ask my Unstarred Question I must first declare an interest in that I am a vice-chairman of the Army Cadet Force Association. That is a purely non-executive position, but it enables me to keep abreast of cadet affairs generally —a matter in which I took considerable interest during my time at the Ministry of Defence some years ago.

Everyone recognises that the defence budget is under considerable pressure these days. Some would say that the peace dividend has been gathered in more than once. Be that as it may, all aspects of defence expenditure are now under close scrutiny, not least the cadet forces.

I believe that the cadet forces of our three services have never been more vital than they are now, for a. number of reasons. Here I want to deal particularly with the Army Cadet Force and also with the Air Training Corps, leaving my noble friend Lord Mottistone to deal with the Sea Cadets. I want to emphasise right from the start that the ACF is not just a recruiting officer for the British Army. That is not even its first role although it may be a useful by-product. Nonetheless, it is a fact that young men joining the Army following ACF experience tend as a general rule to stay much longer. As the cost of training, particularly having regard to the high-tech nature of today's Army, is very high that has a demonstrable financial benefit. Indeed, so far as concerns the ATC, I remember being told that an RAF pilot entrant who has completed a course in gliding with the ATC is twice as likely to pass his fast jet training as one who has not. If I go on to tell your Lordships that the cost of training a fast jet pilot is close to £5 million, the demonstrable financial benefit that the ATC brings to its parent service is abundantly apparent.

My honourable friend Mr. Walker, the Member for Tayside in another place, initiated a debate in the other place recently about the Air Training Corps, in which he has played a distinguished part for a number of years, so I shall not delay your Lordships on that particular matter at this time.

The second benefit to which I would refer is the simple fact that as our three services shrink, they are visibly represented in fewer and fewer places, which in public relations terms is most undesirable. Thus, for example, the 1,620 ACF locations, many in inner cities, represent a very important Army presence which would not otherwise exist. I do not offer that as a key rationale; but it is a point to be kept in mind.

By far the most important aspect of ACF, ATC and Sea Cadet activity—and here I draw particularly on my own ACF experience—is their role in providing a strong and effective youth movement at a time when such things have never been more vital or valuable to the nation. There are some 90,000 youngsters in the cadets altogether, enjoying not only an exciting and challenging outlet for their energy but also a range of quality training leading to useful qualifications, most recognised by the appropriate non-military authorities. Recently in South London—as some of your Lordships may have heard—a young girl aged 17 who had been serving in the ACF was reported by the local social worker at the Lewisham social services to have played a quite exemplary part in the circumstances following a regrettable road accident. The young lady was highly commended for the action she took at the time of the accident and subsequently. She has since made it absolutely clear that all the skills and experience that she brought to bear on that occasion were drawn from her ACF experience.

The cadets, and the ACF in particular, represent an excellent example of a successful joint venture, with the Government on the one hand and the voluntary sector on the other. Over the years the Ministry of Defence has provided a whole range of accommodation and administrative and training support, always in a cost effective way and often through the economic use of existing facilities. In return, the Government have had the benefit of the services of some 7,000 voluntary leaders who give their time and experience to the movement in an extraordinarily generous way. The result is a stream of responsible and disciplined youngsters, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, emerging into the community as responsible adults.

It is a fact that Ministers, from the Prime Minister down, have on many occasions reaffirmed the importance they attach to these organisations and declared their continued support. For example, during the course of last year my right honourable friend the Prime Minister himself wrote in a letter to ACF officials: I have nothing but praise for the work of the Army Cadet Force, not only here in Cambridgeshire", where he was supporting a function, but throughout the country". My right honourable friend went on to say: I want to pay tribute … to all those who work in support of the ACF. You cannot be in any doubt of the value of the work which you do". Perhaps I may turn now to the words of my noble friend on the Front Bench, who is to answer the debate tonight. My noble friend visited an ACF unit in Cleveland about a year ago. He said—and I hope that I quote him correctly: The Army values the work of the ACF. From the Army's point of view, it is a good source of recruits, many of whom go on to make fine careers with us. The ACF also helps the Army maintain its roots among the population at a time when the proportion of British people with Service connections is falling. That is the point that I made a moment ago.

Why then, my Lords, do I raise this matter tonight? It is because I fear greatly that in the latest round of defence expenditure reviews the future of the ACF and the other cadet forces is again being examined most critically, and rumour has it that draconian cuts are again being considered. It seems that the chopper is poised to fall first on the cadet training teams.

These are the regular officers and NCOs, generally operating in teams of five or six, who visit the various ACF and CCF detachments on a regular basis in support of training and other activities. The agreed number of personnel assigned to the teams has already been reduced recently by some 12 posts, and I gather that a further cut of 30 is now proposed. I am sure that my noble friend realises that to achieve those larger cuts it will be necessary to reduce the strength of the CTTs by 50 per cent. in Wales, 40 per cent. in the Highlands and by a third in both Northern Ireland and the North of England. I believe that it is proposed to cut the strength of the cadet training teams by a third in Northern Ireland. Your Lordships may think that that is a preposterous proposal.

Does my noble friend really propose to endorse those devastating cuts in the light of his own words, which I have just quoted, and in the light of the words of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister? I hope that my noble friend will be able to give a plain and unvarnished assurance on this matter when he replies a little later.

There is a further disquieting rumour—namely, that my noble friend may be considering reducing the modest remuneration paid to the voluntary leaders by between 60 and 70 per cent. I refer, of course, to the reduction in paid training days, at present 28, but I hear to be reduced to around five.

This is not the first time that the affairs of cadets have been raised in any detail in your Lordships' House. However, the last time upon which they were raised in great detail was, I understand, on 1st April 1930. That was the time, as your Lordships will recall, when the first Labour Government had recently come into office and were for the first time proposing the sort of draconian cuts about which we hear tonight in the strength of support for the Army Cadet Force. The hapless Minister on that occasion, the then Under-Secretary of State at the War Office, was Earl De La Warr. I imagine that that would be the grandfather of the present noble Earl. Among those who spoke was the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Earl of Onslow, all different personages from those we know and love today but none the less particularly effective on this topic. It is perhaps salutary for me to remind my noble friend that the unfortunate and hapless Minister left his office shortly after replying to that debate in which, so far as I can read, he had not a single friend from the Floor of the House.

Perhaps I may summarise the questions that I should like to put to my noble friend. First, will he assure me that the cadet training teams will remain sufficiently numerous to do their job properly and will therefore not be reduced beyond the 12 posts presently agreed? Secondly, can he assure me that the present level of cadet funding, taken together at around £40 million will remain broadly intact for so far ahead as he can see, and in particular that the number of paid training days to which I have referred will not be reduced?

I am most grateful for your Lordships' attention on the matter. I look forward to the speeches of other noble Lords, and of course to the reply of my noble friend shortly.

6.3 p.m.

Viscount Ridley

My Lords, we should all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, for raising the matter tonight. As we know, he is an ex-Minister of Defence and also vice chairman of the Army Cadet Force Association. He therefore knows all the facts. I declare an interest as the Honorary Colonel of Northumbrian Army Cadet Force. It is a great pleasure, honour and interest, but it is a sobering fact that I find I am over 50 years older than any of my troops.

I accepted the post because I was so deeply impressed with the spirit of voluntary service which characterises all cadet movements—the ACF, the Air Training Corps and the Sea Cadets. After a good deal of experience, I believe that they are all as good as any of the youth movements in this country. I, and many others, are worried at the serious threats to their funding by the Ministry of Defence's proposed cuts.

We all of course realise the desperate need to cut public spending. What is less easy to agree to is the question of how the Ministry of Defence seems to be going about it. It seems to be doing so by taking a percentage off everything regardless of its value to the country or its total cost or importance. I believe that the approach is called the equality of misery theory. Absolutely nothing, however trivial, is apparently exempt. To put into perspective the costs of the forces, the ACF at present is thought to cost about £18 million; the Air Training Corps, £20 million; and the Sea Cadets, £6 million. The Sea Cadets cost less because the Admiralty has always been notably stingy about paying for them, but they are a registered charity. The numbers involved at present are about 18,000 adults in all three, with over 91,000 cadets.

To put the matter into perspective, the costs of the Army Cadet Force, or the ATC, could be said to be almost exactly the same as the compensation which is likely to be payable to 100 dismissed pregnant WREN s, or the cost of one Chieftain tank.

From what I have learnt, the ATC is facing the worst cuts of all. While it is no doubt possible to say that a small percentage reduction can be made in almost anything once, I believe that a major cut would destroy the morale which is already dangerously low because of the rumours and threats. Before the Second World War, there were similar cuts to the funding of the cadet forces, as the noble Lord said. Many of the cuts were carried out on a voluntary basis, and although that may 'well have to occur now I do not believe that we should rely on that approach. The danger is that we lose those vital services to young people.

The beneficial effect that these young people receive in learning to be good citizens, and good soldiers, sailors or airman, is not in question, Nor is their contribution to the country, often in very depressing urban areas. The chief constable of my county, himself an ex-cadet, has told me that he is distressed at the prospect of major cuts to cadet funding. He believes that they play a significant role in keeping some young people from drifting into a life of crime. In particular, after the serious riots in the inaptly named Meadowell Estate in North Tyneside two years ago, the ACF made an important initiative in recruiting bored and disillusioned young people. Many more young criminals may cost us a great deal more than the cadet forces cost in the present climate of unemployment. If this is an argument that the Home Office should fund part of the costs of those forces, perhaps we may consider that, too. Indeed, privatisation of some or part of the cadet forces may well be considered a possible third alternative.

I could further quote the dismay of a number of senior prison officers, some of whom I spoke to last week, who have given a great deal of their time voluntarily to serve as adult instructors. They believe that the cadet forces play an important role in keeping young people away from prison or from young offenders' institutions. The fact that many of the adult instructors give so much of their time for free is a matter that we must all acknowledge with gratitude. I am told that many of them are paid for far less than a third of the days or weekends which they attend, and a great many of them, to my certain knowledge, have undertaken this task for over 30 years. It is a dedicated job to which they attach the greatest importance, and financial reward is by no means their priority.

However, if the cuts go deep, as we have heard, it is possible that the instructors would be paid for only five days per annum against the current 28 days. That would be shameful, and I very much hope that it does not occur. As the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has said, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, has himself seen the activities of the ACF in Cleveland; and I know that he was much impressed. I believe that he has since encouraged the cadets to become involved in the Government's Action for Cities Initiative which they are happy to do. I am sure that that involvement will repay the efforts that they put in.

Further confirmation of the value of those youth movements can be found in the fact that so many of the cadets go on to join the Army, Navy or Air Force. Indeed, I am told that it is possible, although not easy to prove, that some 50 per cent. of the senior NCOs in the Army at this moment have at one time or another been in a cadet force. Many young men or women learn some flying in the ATC for the first time. Therefore when they join the forces they are to some extent partly trained, which must save a good deal of initial training costs as well as producing a steady supply of highly motivated and keen young people. I am delighted to inform your Lordships that all three cadet forces are very politically incorrect as both girls and boys are found together in all the movements.

It could of course be argued that it is an obsolete military philosophy that is being taught—and there is some truth in that. But whether or not we like it, many young people need a tough outlet for their activities which can only be provided by such a movement. I believe that they will soon become more interested in working for the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Many cadets have been outstandingly successful in that scheme over many years, and they contribute a great deal to it.

I hope I have said enough to indicate that I believe cadet forces are a valuable and important part of the civilisation of this country. They make a real contribution to the life of the nation. At this time, with unemployment very high, and boredom among our youth a major and growing problem, we should be actively seeking to expand our cadet forces. We should hear no more talk about contraction, cuts or reduction.

6.9 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow my noble friend Lord Ridley, (as I like still to call him), as we are Lords Lieutenant of our counties. I have similar experience of cadet forces. In our county we have one advantage over most of the others: the late Lord Mountbatten set up a pentathlon to take place once a year for the cadets of all three services in both the counties of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. I am happy to say that the Isle of Wight wins more often than Hampshire, which is remarkable, seeing as there are 10 of them to one of us. I boast of that just by the way. The fact is that it involves all the cadets together; the pentathlon is much admired by them as a great activity at which to aim. It is one of the best examples of how the cadet forces operate in their own way.

I have been invited to say more about the Sea Cadets, but before doing so I wish to comment on what my noble friends have said. There is little to add to what my noble friend Lord Trefgarne had to say in his splendid introductory speech or to what the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, mentioned. The Air Training Corps and the Army Cadet Force are much bigger than the Sea Cadets and are a worthy part of the cadet forces as a whole in the community.

I have noticed that there is a remarkable tendency for each of the cadet forces to recruit people in different ways. It is not that their parents were in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force. The cadet forces are all important in their own way in providing a special activity for youth and making it available to the whole community. It is important that all three should thrive and continue.

I very much take the point made by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne that the shrinking of the services, the reserves and possibly the cadet forces, although I hope not, will mean that the services have a much lower image throughout the country than they have had for many years. It is no good expecting first-class people to want to join the three services for the many roles which they will have to continue to carry out, whatever people may think about the future, if we do not have wide coverage throughout the country—not just around the bases of the regular forces, which are becoming fewer throughout the country.

In a wonderful way, the cadets are a good starting point for encouraging people to remember the armed forces of the Crown and the uniforms that they wear. Forgetting for the moment whether or not they are paid enough by the Treasury, I have an awful feeling that the regular services may say, "We have got to economise because we must have an extra tank, ship or whatever". It is they who are in danger. They forget that they may be all right now, that their reputation may be splendid and that there may have been a county regiment in the past, though they are also vanishing; but as time goes on, the need for young people is more important than it has ever been in our history. So let us have all three.

To take the Sea Cadets, naturally I think they are the best of the bunch, though one must not say that to the ACF and the ATC in the Isle of Wight. Being the best of the bunch, they have had the wisdom to organise their own Sea Cadet Association which, as my noble friend Lord Trefgarne said, contributes much of the money towards their expenses. In fact, the association contributes more than a third of what it costs to run the Sea Cadets. That is not saying that the Navy Department of the Ministry of Defence is being mean; it is because the department has been able to get away with it for a long time.

However, it is important that the public money of the Sea Cadets is not diminished in any sense. It is only about £6 million or £7 million, which is chicken-feed when compared with other expenditure which people have to make. We must keep our cadets and, above all, we must keep their officers, the volunteer instructors who are the backbone in running the cadets. They are the people who will lose heart, much more than the young men. They devote their spare time to keeping the cadet forces going and they are the people whom we must thank most for providing the route for an interest in the services which begins in early life and, in some cases, keeps people away from bad habits in the community. They provide a youth organisation which is second to none in its ability to teach people how to be responsible for their own actions in a sensible way.

I hope that, in replying, the Minister will be able to set at rest the great anxieties which, among others, the Sea Cadet Association has about the possibility of reductions in cash on the lines which my noble friend Lord Trefgarne suggested. I look forward to hearing him say that, because if he says the wrong thing, we may be able to get back at him.

6.15 p.m.

Viscount Allenby of Megiddo

My Lords, unlike noble Lords who have already spoken, I am afraid that I can claim no connection with cadet forces other than having been a very bad cadet in the combined cadet force at school. However, I must say that that sowed the seed or set the spark which subsequently made me join the Army.

This is not the first time that the cadet forces of this country have been discussed in your Lordships' Chamber and probably it will not be the last. Back in 1930, under a Labour Government, my great uncle, the first Viscount, became the first president of the Cadet Association. The Earl of Onslow initiated a debate to call attention to the withdrawal of financial support for the cadets which, at that time, was four shillings for each qualified cadet and a grant of one shilling for each qualified cadet for administrative purposes. Today we face similar problems with the cadets. We are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, for initiating the debate tonight.

In 1930, there were some 10,000 cadets. Today we have nearly 10 times that figure, not including the Combined Cadet Force of nearly 40,000 cadets in schools. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has omitted the Combined Cadet Force from his Question, I believe in order to limit the scope of the debate. However, with the indulgence of the House, I should like to say that the schools, including 48 grant-maintained schools, do a quite remarkable job in running the sea, air and army detachments, giving up a great deal of their spare time to run these individual detachments. I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and ask the Minister not to allow the proposed cut in the number of paid training days for air detachments of the CCF from 28 to around five.

Apart from setting a dangerous precedent, I question whether it is right to deprive those volunteers of crucial support when they themselves make a staggering contribution to our young people and, through them, to our country. They open up their detachment huts often two nights a week, come rain or hail, after a full day's work. They organise and run a weekend's training every six weeks and take their cadets to camp for a fortnight each summer, often giving up their own holidays to do So.

Noble Lords may not be surprised to hear that of a recent training course of 39 trainers, three-quarters had put in an average of 50 days apiece last year. That is leaving out the considerable amount of pastoral work they also find themselves doing on the side. Against that background, I find it immensely disturbing to hear the rumour that these splendid people may be deprived of the small and wholly inadequate remuneration they can receive for their work. If one service imposes such a cut, undoubtedly the other two services will do likewise. That would be intolerable, given the considerable responsibilities that they have on ranges, for flying instruction, rock climbing and the great many other activities the cadets undertake when they are bound by military discipline and hold the same commission as officers in the Territorial Army, alongside whom they work.

With the recent closure of Junior Soldiers and Junior Leaders battalions and regiments, a wide void has been created in the development of young people. The transition from youth to adulthood is as difficult today as it ever was. Today we see far too many young people on our streets with nothing to do. As we heard only yesterday, our goals are rapidly filling up with young offenders.

As the noble Lord indicated, the cadet organisation renders a wonderful service to this country. With over 1,600 detachments—some in very new buildings but some in World War I vintage huts—it provides an excellent service to the community with worthwhile challenges, including the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, British Orienteering Federation Salver Badge and Community Sports Leaders awards. More recently the National Vocational Qualification scheme—NVQ —became part of the Army Cadet Force. However, the NVQ is under threat because of the major reduction of the cadet training team, about which we have already heard, by 42 posts—some 30 more than that proposed by United Kingdom Land Forces. They will not be able to validate the NVQ scheme.

Cadet training schemes, which range from an officer or warrant officer and three to six men selected for their talents, are absolutely essential to the running of the cadet forces. Without those trainers the cadet organisations would wither and die. As the years roll by there are unfortunately fewer and fewer people who either want or are willing to help and train young people voluntarily.

I know that the Minister received a number of letters on the subject of the reductions of the cadet training teams. He has always indicated his willingness to help. Sadly those cuts in numbers are imminent and, yet again, are Treasury driven. However, the Government appear to be giving conflicting directions. On the one hand the cadets are receiving letters of encouragement from no less a person than the Prime Minister, as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said; on the other hand, the cadets, leaders and their training teams are being called upon to do the same work with swingeing cuts hanging over them. Salami slicing has gone on for too long and is becoming a massacre. As we heard, cuts ranging from 50 per cent. in Wales to 30 per cent. elsewhere are forecast. Taking Scotland as an example, how can a team of five based on Inverness serve cadets in Orkney. Shetland, Stornaway, Wick, Thurso and the Grampian Region? The answer is that they cannot.

The cadet training teams are the trainers of the trainers. The Army's problem is that it must divest itself of 5,000 regular soldiers by 1995. Therefore the Ministry of Defence sought to impose arbitrary cuts. However that is not a practical solution in relation to cadets. There is a possible solution. Although recruiting is not part of the ACF charter and should not become so, the ACF provides a considerable proportion of regular recruits. In that I speak from personal experience, having been a recruiter myself. One was constantly being confronted with young men with cadet experience. Whenever they declared cadet experience, they had to produce a cadet report. An interesting incident occurred around three years ago when a young company sergeant major—the highest rank in a detachment—came before me asking to join the regular Army. Although he was a brilliant cadet, he could neither read nor write. He went away for a year and learnt to do both; he is now a sergeant serving in Bosnia. If that does not tell a story, I do not know what does.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, said, as many as 50 per cent. of recruits have some cadet experience and I believe it may be higher. At one time every RSM in the Highland Division had been a cadet. Undoubtedly the best recruiters are the NCOs in the cadet training teams. I believe that every serviceman with the right attitude and the right approach is a recruiter. I believe that the time is ripe for the recruiters and trainers to work together for the benefit of both. There are a number of Army youth teams around the country—some established but some held just on the strength of parent units. They are reducing but still exist. The Army needs to look at them most carefully and, rather than reduce CTTs, it needs to enhance them in order to cover the country properly, even if the director of Army recruiting staff has his numbers reduced—and he will not like me for saying that.

I should like to end where I started, by quoting from my great uncle's speech to your Lordships on 1st April 1930 (col. 1112 of Hansard), when he said, These cadets learn … the virtues of citizenship. They are disciplined, they are taught to work together, they are taught to think with each other, they are taught self-respect, self-control and self-reliance, and taught to be, I hope, men who will take their places in the world of men". Those words were spoken 63 years ago but I submit that they are as true today as then. But sadly we find our cadet organisation threatened now, as then. I too sincerely hope that the noble Viscount can go some way to giving your Lordships an assurance that the additional 30 posts will not be taken away at the end of the day, and that the current remuneration of voluntary staff will not be reduced.

6.27 p.m.

Lord Milverton

My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Trefgarne. Some may wonder why I should; the reason is that I spent 12 to 13 years as a chaplain to C Company of the Wiltshire Army Cadet Force. From those 12 to 13 years I came to appreciate what they did and how the boys—and now girls—benefited from it.

Her Majesty's Government need to think carefully before they put into effect the proposed cuts. I say that for several reasons. During those 12 to 13 years I worked with the staff and the boys. I went out with them every day. Whenever they were camping, I went camping. As far as possible, during the year I went to the different units, to the different centres to see them.

What does the Army Cadet Force do for the boys, and now girls? One could see a wonderful, build-up in the character and personality of the young people. I would say that that is the great value of that force, of the Sea Cadets and of the Air Training Corps at the grant-maintained schools and even the combined cadet forces at public schools. In my section at school, I was not all that terrific. But I am speaking on behalf of the Army Cadet Force and relating what I saw as being of great value to the boys. One could see them mature and grow up from what they were when they came so young to when they finished. They were helped to learn about living not only with themselves but with others; to know themselves and to know others; how to live with others and relate to others—to use a modern phrase.

The following are some of the qualities of character that one saw growing in these young boys, which now one would see in the girls. They learnt confidence—yes, confidence—in themselves so that they could be of some use not only to themselves but to others; they learnt trust in one another, faith in one another, assurance in one another and reliance in one another; they learnt initiative and respect, not only for themselves but for one another. All those things were happening, too, between the boys and the staff. They learnt strength—not just physical strength but moral and physical strength.

Along with the other chaplains, who were able to help in a spiritual way, we saw that they were interested —although they may not have appeared to be so—to talk about the things of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, faith and the meaning and purpose of life. I can remember times when the boys and staff said, "We would like to have a talk with the chaplain". They asked for it and so one would go. They would ask the questions and we would start from there. It was not because I had said to the NCOs and officers, "Look, I want to have my boys at a certain place to talk to them"; it happened on the initiative of the boys and staff. It was wonderful to see how there was an interest which people might not have realised they had in trying to wish to know how to live. There was consideration and thought for others.

This type of organisation has far greater benefit and use than just any ordinary youth club. As a clergyman I have experience of youth clubs as well. When you are a curate, looking after the youth club is one of the things your vicar or rector asks you to do. When you are boss of your own place you still do it but you cannot spend the same amount of time on youth clubs so you try to find people to delegate to. But on the whole, unless you have really fine people morally and spiritually to run youth clubs, I do not believe they can give nearly as much help and value to the young boys and girls as organisations like the Army Cadet Force.

The boys, and now girls, are encouraged and are made to think and reason. It is not a question of their being told, "This is it. Do this, do that". They learn that they have to think and reason. They have to work out how to do a thing and why to do it. They have to learn reason and purpose, something which, on the whole, in many youth clubs does not happen. In fact, we often see boys and girls left to run riot. The activities of the cadets are far ranging. They are not confined to military stuff. There are many other activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and so on. It builds them up to become healthy, strong people in body, mind and soul.

Therefore, as I said at the beginning of my speech, Her Majesty's Government should think hard about this. They will have to give a very good reason as to why the cuts involving these services should be made. It will be a sorry day for youth, the young boys and girls, if that so happens. They grow up to be fine men and women, not just in persevering in their own careers but in being helpful, useful, positive and good citizens who will help in other spheres, so enabling there to be a harmonious community of people respecting and honouring one another and helping one another to lift themselves up; to respect one another for what they can give; to have respect for what someone else has which they may not have. All these things are able to be done in the Army Cadet Force, the Sea. Cadets and the Air Training Corps, things which do not always happen in youth clubs unless a youth club is lucky to have a fine couple or fine people as leaders. On the whole, things are suggested in youth clubs. Things are suggested in the Army Cadet Force but there is a difference.

Noble Lords have already heard praise of these organisations. Perhaps I may quote from the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette. An article under the heading "Worth a Medal" states: Hardwick community centre in Stockton was plagued with bored, abusive youth and vandalism. Now there is no trouble at all. What can the secret be? The secret has apparently been the forming of a detachment of Para Cadets, and winning the young people over to a form of constructive and disciplined leisure activity". There is also an instance of army cadets' quick thinking and actions which helped in saving a life. We are told in a press release: During the evening of Thursday 25 February 1993 an attempted murder took place in Banbury. The victim, a young man, was left lying in the roadway suffering from serious injuries, having been dragged by a motor vehicle for a distance of approximately half a mile. Some of the first people to arrive on the scene were two Army Cadets—Daniel Kent (14 years) and Andrew Fothergill (15 years). Despite the horrific nature and extent of the injuries sustained by the man, the two cadets gave immediate first aid and continued to do so until the arrival of the ambulance". One could go on and on with such examples. There is a letter from Queen Elizabeth School in Northamptonshire which states how, through his time in the cadets, a boy was helped in his school work and with his relationships at school. There is praise of cadets from Derbyshire Constabulary. There is also praise of cadets with regard to an expedition to Nepal. Some cadets managed to get to the top of the peaks.

I hope that Her Majesty's Government will realise what harm could be done if in any way the great work of these different youth organisations was impaired. As has already been said, it is not a question of the purpose of these organisations being first and foremost to grab people for the Army, Navy or Air Force. It is not. That is incidental, but naturally it is very nice if in the end many of them decide to join the forces. I ask the Government to be very careful in what they do.

6.40 p.m.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, I wish to speak for a very short time in support of what has already been said, in particular by the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, and my noble friend Lord Mottistone, who, like myself, have had the honour of being honorary colonels of their cadets. I particularly wish to stress the point about the connection with the regular Army. There is no doubt at all that cadets who wear their badge proudly can go to their territorial regiment and then the regular army. That is a most valuable way of recruiting.

The dedication of leaders has been stressed and it is worth stressing again. Many of the leaders have enormous dedication and give an enormous amount of time. They give discipline to people who would never have it otherwise. I am sure that my county is not alone in helping other organisations. For example, a fortnight ago my cadet corps ran a cadet competition for all other organisations. Present were the Red Cross, the St. John's Ambulance and others. That meant that their organisational abilities were made available to the benefit of all the other youth organisations.

Many of the cadet huts are in very bad. areas. I want to finish with a story. One of the huts in my county is in a very bad area. The glass in it had to be resistant to the kind of damage which was likely to occur. A lady demanded damages because a brick which her child had thrown at the glass had bounced back and hurt her child!

6.41 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, when the noble Viscount comes to wind up I hope that he will give the reasons which have led the Government to cut the training schemes and to threaten the cadet forces. In the light of the speeches which have been made in the debate, it is most extraordinary that the Government appear to be cracking down on the cadet forces. To argue that because the cold war is over the cadet forces can be smaller is ludicrous. The noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, has just explained to us that the cadet forces can be of considerable value to the Army, Navy and Air Force for various reasons of recruitment and so on. No one denies that.

However, I maintain strongly—and this has been the, spirit of the debate—that the principal value of the cadet forces today is their contribution to the well-being and self-discipline of our young people. I am sure that that is the big justification and nothing to do with the cold war. Today, when we look at our society and ask ourselves what the priorities are, it is these kinds of organisation which should have priority. If one is going back to basics, self-discipline and the well-being of our young people is the most basic thing that one can go for. Therefore, I hope that the noble Viscount can explain what the Government are up to. To link the number of cadets to the international situation and the threat to national security, is ridiculous. It is related to a cost-cutting exercise which the Secretary of State is about to embark on as regards the support services. Perhaps the noble Viscount can specifically deny that the reduction in the training groups has anything to do with the cost-cutting exercise for the support services. Such a reduction would be folly in the extreme.

I wish to ask the noble Viscount about the figure of 91,000 cadets. Is that a target for the Government? The Government have in mind a certain manpower figure for the Army, Navy and Air Force. Do they also have in mind a manpower figure for the cadets? The noble Viscount shakes his head. So why is the figure 91,000? I very much agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, who said that he is looking for more. There is the figure of £40 million pounds for 91,000 cadets. We should look at our society and ask: Why 91,000 cadets and why not twice or three times that number? We have heard about case after case and the effect on civilian values of the cadet forces. Why is the figure 91,000? I ask the Government to give an explanation of that figure, which is surprising to me.

I was delighted to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby, praising the schools' cadet forces. That reminded me that I was the senior cadet in the cadet force of the old school of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. I was a pacifist at the time, but it kept me off the streets. However, I ask these questions very seriously of the noble Viscount. Why is the figure 91,000? What is the Government's target and why not a far higher number? Also why, at this time above all, when the priorities in our society should be so different, make this hostile move against the cadet forces?

6.45 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, the House will indeed be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, for raising this Question. One of the benefits of winding up from the Opposition Front Bench is that most of what I wished to say has already been said. Therefore, I shall not weary your Lordships too long.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and indeed, others, were right to point to the objective and purpose of the cadet forces. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, summed it up very well by saying that there are really three objectives which one should bear in mind. First, the forces provide worthwhile activities for young people, particularly in deprived areas and those of high unemployment. Secondly, as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, said, they give a sense of identity to young people who might otherwise stray. Thirdly, as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said, and I believe the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, emphasised, they act as a form of recruiting sergeant for the armed forces. I believe that those three purposes are as valid today as they have ever been and indeed, if anything, in times of high unemployment, they are more valid.

I was glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby of Megiddo, brought in the Combined Cadet Force. Can the noble Viscount let us know how far that force is represented in the state sector of education rather than in the independent sector? The noble Viscount did say that some grant-maintained schools had a force of this nature. I should be grateful if the Minister can enlarge on that when he comes to reply.

As regards recruitment, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, quite rightly produced some information about how people stay longer in the regular forces if they have had cadet training. That is because they are more skilled initially. When the noble Viscount comes to reply can he tell us what proportion of those who have had cadet training go into the armed forces? I am not quite sure how he can put the figures. I should be interested in that information.

For cadet forces to operate effectively there seem to me to be three necessary conditions. If one of them is not met there is the risk of a vicious downward spiral. In other words, if one is not present there are fewer cadets and if there are fewer cadets then one does not have the second and so it goes on. The first concerns material resources. These must be made available, such as places for camps, training equipment, accommodation in centres of towns and such things. Are there going to be any cuts here that the noble Viscount can tell us about?

A second necessary condition is that we must have personnel. That is not just voluntary leaders who, as many noble Lords have pointed out, are becoming more and more rare at the moment. Above all, we must have teams from the regular forces as training teams for cadets. Perhaps I may put in a plea for Wales as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, did mention Wales. I am told by the Army Cadet Force Association Wales that regular Army units do play a vital role in the training of cadets.

Over the years they have already endured cuts in their numbers. Further cuts would be unsustainable and would affect the level of training that is necessary to maintain the present high standards. In Wales it is proposed that we should lose a third of our cadet training team personnel, including one whole team. These reductions in manpower, together with the geography of the Principality, would create great difficulties. For that reason they have asked me to support the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, in his plea, which I willingly do.

The third necessary condition is the political will, the thought that these cadet forces serve a useful purpose. In addition to what the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and indeed others, have said, I should like to refer to what the Prime Minister himself has said. This is one of the few occasions I can remember when in fact I agree with the Prime Minister. He says this: At a time when much of the news highlights the problems of modern youth and the lack of direction of many young people of today, I am considerably heartened when I hear of the work of the Army Cadet Force. I am aware of the success you have had in providing worthwhile activities for young people across the whole of the UK and in particular the deprived areas of some of our inner cities. What particularly encourages me is that as well as the activities you offer, the Army Cadet Forces provide teamwork and a development structure enabling the young people to assume responsibility and begin to put back into society what they have gained. None of this of course could be possible without the dedicated effort of those of you who give of your time to lead and instruct. I thank you for your devotion to the ACF. Your contribution is vital and very much appreciated. That was signed by John Major and it is dated November 1993.

I agree with the Prime Minister on that. I only hope the noble Viscount this evening can assure us that the Government will put the Prime Minister's words into practice.

6.52 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Viscount Cranborne)

My Lords, like every noble Lord who has spoken in this short debate I too am grateful to my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, with his unrivalled experience, combined with the cadet forces and the Ministry of Defence, for giving me the opportunity to do a number of things this evening. The first is to place on record once again Her Majesty's Government's recognition of the valuable work of the Sea Cadet Corps, the Army Cadet Force, the Air Training Corps and the Combined Cadet Force.

I wish to place on record that I personally agree with everything he and other noble Lords said about the functions the cadet forces perform in our national life and the value of those functions. Indeed, if it is not immodest of me to say so, I was at least in part instrumental in encouraging my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to give the message that he did in November 1993, so eloquently quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, a moment ago.

On the question of numbers, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that the four cadet forces have at the moment a combined strength of about 130,000 cadets. We welcome that figure and are happy that people want to join in such numbers.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, may I interrupt to make one point? I was quoting cadets and not adults.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I have a figure of a combined strength for the four cadet forces of 130,000 souls. I am extremely happy that your Lordships allowed the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby of Megiddo, to widen the scope of the debate and to include the combined cadet force contingents. These, as your Lordships will know, are tri-service and are formed in schools in both the maintained and private sectors. What I am unable to supply to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, at the moment is the precise number of cadets in the combined cadet forces in maintained schools. I apologise to your Lordships. I should have anticipated that question. If your Lordships will allow me, I will endeavour to find out and write to the noble Lord and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

The Sea Cadet Corps, the Army Cadet Force and the Air Training Corps, as your Lordships have mentioned, are based in local communities in cities, towns and villages throughout the United Kingdom. Indeed, they attract young people of both sexes from a wide range of social and ethnic backgrounds. A number of your Lordships have referred to the role that the cadet forces play in acting as a source of recruits to the regular forces and the Territorial Army. As the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, observed, it is surprisingly difficult to find out a precise answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Williams. As so often happens with Government spokesmen, the traditional phrase goes that the statistics are not compiled centrally or in the form requested. That is perhaps a rather convenient way for Ministers to cloak their answers. However, I have heard many estimates. The one I find most convincing—although I would hate noble Lords to hold me to it—is something in the order, in some cases, of 20 per cent. Certainly, I subscribe to the view that a very high proportion of recruits spend a much longer than average period in the services and therefore rise to the distinguished rank of warrant officer. As your Lordships will know, that rank is very much the backbone of the forces.

I shall not weary your Lordships with a history of the cadet forces because, with your combined experience, you will be at least as knowledgeable, if not more knowledgeable, than I. But it is worth drawing to your attention, as indeed has already been done, the fact that the system of support and management of the cadets varies quite significantly. For example, the Sea Cadet Corps—I believe my noble friend Lord Mottistone confirmed this—is a registered charity, managed by the Sea Cadet Council and is only partly funded by the Ministry of Defence, although the naval section of the combined cadet force is administered centrally. The Army Cadet Force receives greater support from its parent service and is administered by the Ministry of Defence and the Territorial Auxiliary and Volunteer Reserve Associations, or TAVRAs, with ACF county commandants providing an administrative as well as a command function. The Army Cadet Force Association also plays an important supporting role.

The CCF (Army) is administered by the Ministry of Defence through the district and brigade chain of command. Both the Air Training Corps and the RAF section of the CCF are administered centrally by a single headquarters at RAF Newton. The Air Training Corps relies to a large degree on support from the RAF, with accommodation provided by the TAVRAs and with additional valuable support provided by local parents' committees. That, I believe, is an important point to note. The Ministry of Defence provides support in the form of service manpower, as many of your Lordships have observed, and by means of training facilities, equipment and help with accommodation for all four cadet forces.

Whatever their administrative and historical differences may be, I agree with your Lordships that the aims and charters of the four cadet forces reflect a common purpose. As my noble friends Lord Milverton and Lord Trefgarne, and also the noble Lord, Lord Williams, noted, that purpose is to seek to help young people, regardless of their background, to succeed in life by developing the qualities of good citizenship and engendering self-reliance, confidence, loyalty and initiative. Through the provision of challenging and exciting activities and useful training, the cadet forces seek to stimulate a practical interest in the Armed Forces and the ethos of service to the nation and community they represent. As the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, noted, that is often done in combination with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme. Cadets participate in community projects with the aim of encouraging a responsible attitude to society, as a number of noble Lords have emphasised. I saw an outstanding example of the success of such projects during my visit to three ACF detachments in Cleveland last year, where praise for the achievements of the ACF in terms of community relations was unanimous from community leaders of all kinds and, above all, from the parents of the cadets. Indeed, I am flattered that my noble friend Lord Trefgarne follows my travels so closely that he could refer to that experience.

The benefits to society of the participation by young people in such a worthwhile activity cannot be overestimated. The department—what ever your Lordships may think—is anxious to build upon the long-standing reputation of the cadet forces in the promotion of those qualities and to extend their influence particularly in those urban areas where facilities for the training of the young are most badly needed. As my noble friend Lord Gisborough and the noble Viscounts, Lord Ridley and Lord Allenby, have noted, we are anxious to extend that influence where juvenile crime is increasing. Although it is difficult to find figures, it is clear from the Cleveland experience that the new detachments have performed a very important role in that regard, including on one of the estates that has been mentioned this evening.

Indeed, as President of a squadron of the Air Training Corps for over 20 years now, and as ex-officio President of the Air Cadet Council, I have a long-standing connection with the Air Training Corps. I try to take a keen interest also in the activities and well-being of all my local cadet forces. I am especially anxious to strengthen the links between the cadets and the community at large; for example, by promoting their participation in the Government's Inner City Challenge programme, which was an initiative that I took last year and which I hope will begin to bear fruit as our conversations with other government departments proceed.

Your Lordships have laid a great deal of emphasis on community service and personal development. Those aims are reflected in the aims of other national youth organisations. However, I agree with your Lordships that what makes the cadet forces so special is that they achieve those aims by working within an environment based on a military structure and Service concepts of discipline. As one of your Lordships observed earlier, perhaps that is not a politically correct thing to applaud but, nevertheless, I applaud it without any reservation. The high quality training provided by the adult leaders through the Service technique is unique and the underlying military themes provide a special attraction. I have seen, for example, how a detachment of the ACF affiliated to the Parachute Regiment in Middlesbrough was able to attract young people who were unmoved by the overtures of other youth organisations. The access that the cadets are given to military units—as the noble Lord, Lord Williams, observed in the context of Wales —is essential to provide a variety of training experience and exposure to Service life.

I come to a point that I certainly do not apologise for emphasising at least as much as other noble Lords have emphasised it this evening. The proportion of British citizens with first-hand knowledge of the roles of the Services, or the way in which they train for and conduct their business, is, as we know, steadily declining as the Services reduce in size and National Service recedes further into history—and into our collective memories. Indeed, I have no memory of it at all. I agree with your Lordships that in some parts of the United Kingdom cadets are now, and increasingly, the only form of military representation in their communities. Their presence gives the Armed Forces a place in the community which, as the Armed Forces get smaller, would quite often not exist at all if there were no uniformed youth representation. I am delighted that my noble friends Lord Trefgarne and Lord Mottistone made that point so clearly. I would be inclined to place even greater emphasis on its importance than they did.

We should certainly not take it for granted that our nation will inevitably retain its traditional support for the Armed Forces. Those who wish to encourage that support, both within your Lordships' House and outside it, must recognise the valuable contribution that the cadet forces can and are making to plug that gap.

All that is common ground between us. I am sure that your Lordships, with your noted appreciation of the importance of government economy, will not differ from me on another point. The department which I represent in your Lordships' House has a duty to ensure that the cadet forces make effective use of the funds that are allocated for various activities. It may be useful if I tell your Lordships' House that for the financial year 1992–93 the Ministry of Defence's contribution to the three cadet forces was as follows: the Sea Cadets, £4.5 million; the Army Cadet Force, £16.8 million; and the Air Training Corps, £17.9 million. Whatever the noble Lords, Lord Williams and Lord Mayhew, may say, surely it is right that the cadet organisations should be no different from any other organisation in having to prove and improve their cost-effectiveness and efficiency. It is important that that is done without reducing their capability to achieve their aims. That is the question to which your Lordships addressed yourselves.

A great many noble Lords have taken the opportunity of this Unstarred Question to place their views on the record. I can assure your Lordships that my right honourable and honourable friends and I take very close account of them.

The dedication and quality of the leadership provided by the adults who give their time to run cadet units is a key factor in the success of the cadet forces. My noble friend Lord Mottistone referred to that. They are entitled to a certain amount of pay, but I know that they give many more hours without remuneration. As the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, said, this is greatly appreciated and my department should not endeavour to take advantage of their good nature. It is absolutely vital not to inhibit the spirit in which the leaders volunteer and to ensure that our continued recognition of their magnificent contribution is plain.

Your Lordships are aware of the wide-ranging changes facing the Armed Services following the end of the cold war. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that that is not the reason that this proposal has been put forward. The noble Lord will be aware that any item of expenditure affecting the Ministry of Defence is part of the defence budget and therefore cannot escape some of the effects of the changes that are facing my department at the moment. It is important that each year we consider carefully the cadets' funding arrangements in competition with other demands on the defence budget. As I said a moment ago, it is equally important that we do not change the spirit or traditions of any of the cadet corps. Indeed, as I hope that I have made plain this evening, I would be extremely loath for that to happen.

Nevertheless, I have to confirm to your Lordships that a proposal has been made to reduce the number of cadet training teams along the lines that your Lordships —extremely well informed as always—have laid out. The only quibble I have is that the reduction is smaller in percentage terms than that of the Army as a whole. I believe that the rhetoric that a number of your Lordships very understandably have employed this evening has perhaps not made that clear.

I agree that your Lordships have made a strong and coherent case for rejecting the proposal. Much as I would like to, I fear that I cannot guarantee that my right honourable and honourable friends and I will be able to reject it as your Lordships wish us to. Such is the difficulty of our present condition. Although it is small comfort, I can say that the views of your Lordships will weigh very heavily with us. To that extent I believe that the debate has been particularly timely. Therefore, I am more than usually grateful to my noble friend for raising the matter this evening. I undertake to keep your Lordships informed of any substantial developments.

Finally, I should like to refer to my apprehension when my noble friend Lord Trefgarne reminded me of the fate of the grandfather of my noble friend Lord De La Warr as a result of his less-than-helpful intervention in 1930. I believe that any sensible junior Minister should feel that he has no right of occupation of any office in your Lordships' House or Her Majesty's Government and that he should anticipate ejection from the enjoyment of his job daily. I hasten to reassure your Lordships that that is very much the spirit in which I approach this task. I am all the more grateful for the gypsy warning of my noble friend. It will further encourage me to take seriously your Lordships' strictures on the cadet forces.

House adjourned at twelve minutes past seven o'clock.