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Territorial Army (Future)

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 3 November 1965

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42.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he took, before announcing his plans for the future of the Territorial Army, to consult Scottish Territorial Associations.

The Deputy Secretary of State for Defence and Minister of Defence for the Army
(Mr. Frederick Mulley)

None, Sir. The rôle of the Army Reserves, and their size and shape, are the responsibility of Ministers. This the Council of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association has recognised. We have however been discussing with the Council, which represents all Associations, the means by which our proposals should be given effect.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the lack of consultation has caused grave concern because there is an impression that over large parts of the country it will be impossible for young men to volunteer for service in fighting Territorial Army units? In view of the fine record of these units in the last two wars, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that we can afford to deprive ourselves of that good voluntary manpower?

One the first point, it was the wish of the House, and Questions were answered by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that the House should be first informed of the Government's decision in principle. The details involved have been, and are still being, discussed with the Associations and the Territorial Army Council, but quite clearly what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind may mean not reducing but increasing the present size of the T.A.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Scottish Territorial Army Associations are willing to consider methods by which public expenditure can be saved, and will he take this into account in deciding whether to consult them in future?

Consultation is one thing, decision is another. I think that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not necessarily wish to discuss the whole range of public expenditure with the T.A. Associations in Scotland.

Would not it have been wise for the Government, before announcing their proposals, to ascertain by consultation with the T.A. Council whether they were practicable?

I think that the right hon. Gentleman has enough experience of the difficulties of leakages in the Press to know that it would be impossible to conduct wide-scale consultation before the House was informed, and his predecessor, the shadow spokesman on that side of the House, asked specifically that the House of Commons should be informed first of our intentions. I think that that is right, and that was done.

50.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what consultations he has held with the Territorial Council on the future of the Territorial Army; and if he will make a statement.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that what is really affronting the Territorial Army is the feeling that it was handed a death sentence, and that consultations were limited to the funeral details? If his future plans have any rôle for the voluntary peacetime soldier, does not he think that he ought to start now by saying that his services are better appreciated than is apparently the case?

Perhaps the hon. Member does not know that since immediately after my right hon. Friend announced the broad plan for reorganisation—which must be the responsibility of the Government and which has been accepted to be the Government's responsibility by the Territorial Army Council—we have been willing and in fact have been consulting the Territorial Army Council over all the details involved, but we cannot consult it on what is essentially a matter of Government policy, which must be the responsibility of Ministers.