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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask a question for clarification. I have listened with great attention to everything he said. He seemed at one stage to be saying one thing, and at another stage to be saying another. That was my impression. As regards the role of the Territorial Army, does the noble Lord agree in substance with the remarks of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, or does he not?
Lord Burnham: My Lords, the peculiar merit of the debate of my noble friend Lord Vivian is that it is an occasion when this House might just possibly be able to bring some influence to bear on the Government. I wish to pay tribute to the Government Front-Bench defence spokesmen in both Houses for the tenacious and skilful way in which they have fought their corner, and the way in which, as we see it, the Strategic Defence Review may in most of its aspects be going. I am only disappointed that the Minister in this House does not seem to have received the support that he deserves and is his right. As some noble Lords remarked, for large periods of the debate the Benches behind him were absolutely empty. There were only two government supporters, one of whom, sadly, was unable to be here for a large proportion of it.
The debate has been excellent. I believe that all points have been covered, most of them several times over. If there is one speech which encapsulates the spirit of today's debate, it is that of my noble friend Lord Selkirk. I recommend that those who have not attended, and indeed those who have, should read it in Hansard. It was outstanding and covered virtually the entire matter.
I have been disappointed that, with the exception of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, none of the other noble and gallant Lords has been here to address the House today. They have immense experience of this particular problem. I can only hope that their absence does not reflect the views of many senior Army officers with regard to the Territorial Army. I also regret the absence of my noble friend Lord Attlee, who did not address your Lordships today for a different reason. As several noble Lords noted, having returned last Friday from Bosnia, where he has served for the past seven months, he is not demobilised until the day after tomorrow and is therefore unable to speak today. It is a great pity, since the noble Lord's most recent experience of the Territorial Army in service would have been most valuable.
The article in The Times repeated all the information that most of us had already picked up--that the TA infantry would be cut by two-thirds; the number of TA centres by one-third; and that there would be a 19,000 cut in the numbers of the TA itself. It is to those alleged decisions--which may not be accurate--that we must address ourselves.
If the leaks are accurate, I must state that the Opposition will fight the cuts tooth and nail. That is our official position. Whether or not they are accurate, I believe I am justified in saying that we should prefer the Government to leak to your Lordships and to Members of another place rather than to the press.
One of the most serious and worrying leaks is that the General Staff seem to be happy with the SDR in the state in which it left the Ministry of Defence before Easter. For some reason it does not seem too worried about what will happen when it reaches the Treasury. It is generally accepted, as I said, that the General Staff does not care too much for the Territorial Army, particularly the infantry, for which it can see no need and can find no role. Nevertheless, it is true to say that the specialist corps are needed. They will accept that. But the "poor bloody infantry" will continue to play a vital role, as reserves to the regular Army and the rest of the TA. It is much easier to teach a soldier to be a truck driver than it is to make a truck driver a soldier. Most young men are embryo mechanics anyway.
As the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, it is self-evident that a reduction in the TA would damage recruitment to the regular forces. That point was made by a number of noble Lords. But even in the TA there is a need for infantry battalions and companies. My noble friend Lord Vivian drew attention to the numbers of territorial Green Jackets serving in Bosnia.
Those who cannot see a role for the infantry fail to understand that, by destroying the infantry, you destroy the guts of an army. Even though we are unlikely to see again a 1914 army on the Continent, where the first territorial battalions arrived in Ypres by November that year, it would be a disaster if the Government were to write off even the possibility of a threat, as they would seem to do if they effectively destroyed the TA's capability to operate in an infantry role.
In 1991 it was originally planned to send three battalions to the Gulf. Those would have been used in a communications and guarding role, as was the plan for the defence of West Germany against a Russian invasion during the Cold War. This may have been a rather pedestrian role--I intend no pun--but the prisoner
Reserves are necessary, and if the Army throws away its box of soldiers in the shape of a territorial battalion, it will not be able to find another box and will have nowhere to go to find further reserves. In addition, logistics, which will probably be retained, are much more expensive than men. A territorial battalion, as has been stated in the course of today's debate, is cheap to run. One battalion costs the same as a single Spearfish torpedo, £1.5 million, and considerably less than training a Tornado pilot. The average cost of each member of the TA is £6,100 a year--about one-fifth of his regular counterpart. One noble Lord said that it was one-seventh, but I believe it is one-fifth.
In February last year, the Secretary of State--Conservative admittedly--said there would be no change to the establishment levels of the TA or to its vital role in deploying as formed units--I emphasise "formed"--in a major crisis. There is nothing that has happened in the last 15 months, certainly not the Irish concord, which has changed the truth of that statement.
The severe cuts in the infantry battalions which are forecast must have a serious effect both on the military capacity of the Army and the social life of both towns and country areas. The noble Earl, Lord Stair, in a notable maiden speech has tabled the percentage of Army cadets in his area of Scotland who go on to enlist in the Army and the percentage of Army recruits who come from the Army Cadet Force. When I was a young officer, the noble Earl's father was my regimental lieutenant-colonel and he was simply terrifying.
Recruiting to the regular forces has been in difficulties for a long time and it would be immensely foolish, just for a pittance, to cut off one of the main areas from which the recruits come. Many of them must be lost if the Territorial Army is cut in this way. While the Government have stated that the Army Cadet Force will be retained in its present form, the cadets live in one of the 443 territorial drill halls or centres. If those go--and they surely must if their purpose disappears--what will happen to the Army cadets and the other cadet corps? The services play a large part in the development of so many youths of both sexes. It would surely be foolish to cut MoD costs and increase--as it inevitably would do--the cost of the social services.
Here I must make reference to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, followed by other noble Lords from Northern Ireland who spoke about the immense purpose and usefulness of the Territorial Army and cadet force in Northern Ireland. I thought his was a remarkable and moving speech.
Members of the cadet forces grow up to be useful members of the community in a way which is very much fostered by the TA, particularly in difficult areas where the facilities the services can offer are much required. Of course, the existence of the Territorial Army is largely a defence affair, but its social aspects must not be forgotten. Something costing money would have to be put in its place.
A further small but vital point, unquantifiable in monetary terms, is that without the TA and the cadets very few people around the country ever see a soldier. Security has brought this about, sadly, and I hope it can be reversed.
Throughout the debate has run the theme that the TA still has a vital role to play, whether as specialists or infantry, high readiness reserve or sponsored reserve and that the costs of the TA are minimal in comparison with the associated benefits. Again we must ask the Government to pay due attention to the value of the Territorial Army and the cadet forces in both military and non-military affairs. These are matters which the pundits at the Ministry of Defence--in the services; I do not mean the Ministers--cannot be expected to appreciate, although the Treasury, which will discover it has to find money for those purposes from elsewhere, might do.
Noble Lords have been confused by the problems they have raised, which seem incomprehensible. I hope that the Minister will be able to reply to those questions. We must hope that this debate will lead the Government to do some real thinking and, while improving the training to bring in current needs, leave the Territorial Army substantially alone, and certainly not destroy it.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): My Lords, perhaps I might add my voice to the many we have heard this afternoon thanking the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, for putting the Motion down on the Order Paper for the House to debate. I also wish to pay tribute to his always courteous and energetic role as Chairman of the All-Party Defence Studies Group in this House and for the work he does in that respect.
This is not a dress rehearsal for the debate on the Strategic Defence Review; that will come shortly. However, it might be helpful if I were to make one or two remarks today about the future of modern warfare because it bears on the decisions that Ministers have to take. I was particularly seized of some of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, at the beginning of our debate. They were, namely, that we no longer needed mass armies and that reinforcements in central Europe are much less likely to be needed than they have been in the past.
I am sure that your Lordships are aware of the changes that have taken place in modern warfare, not only since 1945 but also since the last major conflict in which our forces were involved in the Gulf. Weapons are becoming more and more powerful and more accurate. The amount of intelligence available to military commanders is increasing at an exponential rate. I thought one of the remarks of a noble Lord was
Before I reply in detail to the debate, there are one or two points that I wish to take up. I particularly wanted to address the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, who made an extremely eloquent contribution, without notes, to which we should all pay attention. I wish to address many of his remarks. The first question he asked quite properly was: what are the Government's motives? They are perfectly simple: they are to try to provide for the future defence of the realm, for British interests abroad and British citizens abroad, forces with an expeditionary capability, with a flexibility, with a rapid reaction capability of the kind that this country has never seen before.
The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, said something extremely important about the traditions that descended from generation to generation. I take his point entirely. Of course, the traditions that come down from generation to generation with respect to the fighting spirit of our forces are an essential ingredient of our military capability. Morale is of crucial importance and we understand the significance of cap badging and the regimental tradition in regard to the morale of our forces. I am talking now about the Army because most of this debate has been about the Army. I shall have some remarks to make about the other forces in a moment.
I hope that I quote the noble Lord accurately when he said that, "generations live up to previous generations' standards". However, I am sure that the noble Lord will agree with me that generations do not use the previous generation's weapons; they do not use the previous generation's skills; they do not use the previous generation's tactics; nor do they use the previous generation's organisation. If they do, I am sure that I carry your Lordships with me in saying that the country that relies purely on tradition for such matters--tactics, organisation, skills and weapons--will be in dire trouble. That is the crucial message that this Government will produce in the Strategic Defence Review, shortly to be available for your Lordships' detailed scrutiny.
One of the most extraordinary things to me, as a relative newcomer to your Lordships' House, was the number of declarations of interest that we heard today. To me that is remarkable. It is also magnificent in that virtually every declaration was a declaration of a public service interest, rather than an interest whereby somebody had derived a commercial benefit. I can say without fear of contradiction that it would be impossible to have a debate in another place of the sort we have had today. It makes me stand here with far greater trepidation than I ever stood at the Dispatch Box in another place with the Defence Minister's portfolio.
Not only did we have many expert Members of this House on their feet today, but I also detected no fewer than three former Defence Secretaries coming in and out at various times to listen to your Lordships. The sheer volume of expertise that we heard today was
I want to address one or two specific points. First, it is a pleasant duty for me to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Stair, and the noble Lord, Lord Glanusk, on their maiden speeches. I was glad that the noble Earl, Lord Stair, welcomed the review and I take seriously his remarks concerning the importance of volunteers in Northern Ireland. Those remarks were echoed by the noble Lords, Lord Molyneaux and Lord Alderdice. Everybody in this Chamber is aware of the courage, dedication and importance to stability in the Province of the volunteers in the Territorial Army.
I was glad to note that your Lordships had read the statements of my honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces on the future of the cadet forces. I have nothing useful to add to what he said. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, spoke on a previous occasion of the connection between the Territorial Army's drill halls and the resources that are vital for the maintenance of the Army Cadet Forces. We are aware of the social role of the Army Cadet Forces. In fact, I have not heard a single point made by your Lordships this evening that has not been taken seriously into account by Ministers over the past few months.
Difficult decisions will have to be taken during the course of the defence review. We hope to be able to put before your Lordships and the other place the fact that there will be some enhancement capabilities, which no doubt will be welcomed. It must follow therefore, as night follows day, that if there are to be enhancements in certain directions, there will have to be changes in others.
We must not believe everything we read in the newspapers in relation to changes in the structure of the Territorial Army. The noble Lord, Lord Shuttleworth, asked whether the allocation of drill halls, units and battalions would be based on recruiting record, training opportunities and population. Of course, those are extremely important criteria which we will be taking into account, just as we recognise the significance to the TAVRAs of their present dispositions.
My noble friend Lord Monkswell asked for an assurance that the review is foreign-policy led and that reservists and cadets will play an important part in the defence of the realm in the future. I have not the slightest difficulty in giving my noble friend that assurance.
The noble Lord, Lord Monro, raised some interesting points in relation to the Royal Air Force Auxiliary Reserve. Without tipping my hand too much, I believe that he will be pleased with the results of the review when they come out, as will the noble Lord who asked about the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Marines Reserve.
Most of the criticisms regarding the putative changes revolved around what are thought to be our proposals for the Territorial Army. It is our intention to try to make the territorials more effective than they have been in the past. As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, pointed out, the Territorial Army's great strength in recent years
We particularly need reservists with the skills to operate sophisticated military equipment of the most modern nature; we need them with the skill to speak foreign languages, to deal with local civilian populations, to fly fast military jets and to engage in a wide range of specialist and other core military tasks. I am glad to say that we already have some Royal Air Force Auxiliary Reserve people flying Tornadoes and we hope to expand that role in the future. They are already using Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems and we hope before long that they will be equipped in part with the High Velocity Missile defence system, if that comes through in the way we are hoping.
We need to enhance our medical reserves. The review has shown that there are serious weaknesses in many aspects of our medical forces which we need to address. We are hopeful that in future their reserves will play an even more important part in that respect than they have done up until now.
We intend to improve our mobilisation procedures, particularly for Army reserves which are now very much on an ad hoc basis. We want to put them on a more dedicated basis and to provide training on mobilisation that will reinforce the skills they already possess. It is not for me tonight to speculate on how individual units may be affected by the outcome of the review. Various noble Lords invited me to give commitments, not least the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. He specialises in inviting me to give commitments that he knows perfectly well I am unable to give. He is extremely skilful at that. I am unable to give him the blanket commitment he wants in relation to drill halls. But the thrust behind his question is one of which we are seriously seized. However, it would be wrong of me to promise that numbers will not change.
I have a couple of questions to answer. The noble Baroness, Lady Park, asked about previous sales of Ministry of Defence property. I have had inquiries made and I am told that the record shows that the Ministry of Defence did state that the sale of TA centres would offset certain equipment costs for the TA. I have no doubt that the equipment was bought and that the centres were sold. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, asked what would happen in the future with the proceeds of the sale of Territorial Army centres and whether they would go back to the Treasury or whether the Ministry of Defence would keep the money. The proceeds of the sale of drill halls would come back to the Ministry of Defence. The Land Command Top Level Budget holder would be the beneficiary in the first instance. In that regard the proceeds of the sales would help to balance the overall Ministry of Defence budget.
I want to emphasise, and I hope that your Lordships appreciate, that size is not strength. Size is important. There is such a thing as critical mass and we recognise that. It is a matter of judgment that we shall have to make. Your Lordships will have the opportunity to criticise, if they see fit, the decisions that we reach.
Noble Lords have stressed the need to ensure that we do not deprive any locality of its sole military representative. We shall be very reluctant to do that. But there are other arguments--
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