John Stanley – 1986 Statement on the Army

Below is the text of the speech made by John Stanley, the then Minister of State for the Armed Forces, in the House of Commons on 30 January 1986.

The past year has been one of sustained progress and achievement for the Army both at home and overseas.

In addition to the Army’s normal deployments, 1985 saw continuing and effective operations against terrorists in Northern Ireland, the largest home defence exercise we have ever conducted, significant progress in the modernisation of the Army’s equipment, the provision of military training to over 70 foreign countries, important contributions to international peacekeeping in Cyprus and the Sinai, and a rapid and highly valued response to the natural disasters in Mexico and Colombia.

Nineteen eighty five also saw no fewer than 12 regiments of the British Army celebrating 300 years of continuous service to the Crown — a record that we believe is unmatched by that of any other army in the world.

I shall start with the main areas of actual or potential Army operations. During the past year, there has been no let-up in the modernisation of the Warsaw pact nuclear and conventional forces facing us on the central front. The Warsaw pact has continued to deploy new self-propelled artillery in eastern Europe, both conventional and nuclear capable. There has been significant additional deployment of its latest main battle tank, the T80, which has a gas turbine engine and a laser range-finder system, and which can fire an anti-tank guided missile as well as normal tank ammunition through its main gun barrel.

The deployment in eastern Europe of Frogfoot aircraft which are designed to provide close air support for Warsaw pact ground forces, and which has been used extensively by the Russians in Afghanistan, has continued. The aircraft has now made its first appearance with Soviet forces in the forward areas of East Germany. The formidable Hind anti-tank helicopter is still being added to the Warsaw pact front line at a fast rate.

The Warsaw pact’s logistic support for its forces will shortly be further improved with the deployment of its new heavy lift helicopter, designated, somewhat improbably, by NATO as the Halo. We saw for ourselves in the Falklands what a force multiplier helicopters in the logistic role can be.
The Soviet chemical threat remains as significant as ever. To counter the Warsaw pact threat, important improvements to the Army’s equipment programme have been made in the past year. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement will refer to these when he comes to reply.

From the operational standpoint, I am glad to say that these improvements will give 1st British Corps larger numbers of modern main battle tanks, much improved protected mobility with new wheeled and tracked armoured personnel carriers, new small arms, improved air defence, an improved targeting capability for the artillery and a quantum jump improvement in its communications and data processing facilities. These all represent very important contributions to NATO’s plans for strengthening the Alliance’s conventional defences right down the central front.​

Mr. Robert Atkins (South Ribble)

Regrettably, I must go north tonight to my constituency to face the problem of the redundancies at the royal ordnance factories in my constituency and elsewhere. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the regrettable redundancies at ROF Chorley result from Ministry of Defence war stocks being returned to their requisite high level following the Falklands conflict? Will he further confirm that the contract for 105 mm shells, which will go some way towards alleviating the obvious distress caused by those job losses, has been awarded as a direct result of ROF’s improved competitive edge and the sheer quality of product compared with foreign alternatives?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend is again forcefully representing the interests of his constituents. As he knows, my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement has been in correspondence with him about the detailed background to those particular redundancies. I know that my hon. Friend wishes to refer to them when he replies.

Mr. John McWilliam (Blaydon)

If the Minister of State for Defence Procurement has been in detailed correspondence with his hon. Friend, why has he not yet been in correspondence with me? I have not received a letter.

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend the Minister advises me from a sedentary position that he has.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement has kindly been in correspondence with me. He has made it clear that although orders will be placed with royal ordnance factories, and they will go some way towards reducing the size of the announced redundancies, the reduction will be by less than 10 per cent. Will the Minister confirm that?

Mr. Stanley

As I have already said, my hon. Friend the Minister will deal with that specific issue when he replies, and in view of the interest shown by three hon. Members I am sure that he will do so.

The past year has also been notable for the adoption of an improved concept of operations by northern army group (NORTHAG) of which C-in-C BAOR is the Army Group commander, and of which 1st British Corps comprises one of the four NORTHAG army corps.

The adoption of this new concept of operatons marks no change in NATO’s wholly defensive posture, and no change in NATO’s fundamental strategy of forward defence and flexible response. It has been adopted in response to the continuing improvements in Soviet firepower, the Russians’ tactic of concentrating their forces so as to achieve local superiority, and their creation of operational manoeuvre groups of divisional size or larger, which are intended to exploit initial breakthroughs and penetrate rapidly into NATO’s rear areas. In the light of those developments, NORTHAG needed a less static: defence, more defence in depth and strong armoured reserves. The new concept of operations provides all of these.

The House will wish to he aware of the major contribution to the formulation of this new concept of operations, and to getting it agreed by the Alliance as a whole, played by General Sir Nigel Bagnall, then the commander of NORTHAG and now chief of the general staff. ​ In a letter to The Times on 3 July last year, General Chalupa, commander-in-chief allied forces central Europe, said:

“I would also wish to acknowledge General Bagnall’s significant contribution towards the successful accomplishment of our primary task, which is the prevention of war by maintaining a credible defence posture. I appreciate in particular his untiring efforts in developing and refining further the defence concepts and plans evolved by his predecessors.”

I am sure the House was gratified to see General Chalupa’s generous tribute to General Bagnall.

Turning to northern Norway, although the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines have major roles in protecting this key area of NATO territory, the Army also makes a significant contribution, and trains accordingly. We deploy to northern Norway, not merely 3 Commando Brigade, but the battalion with logistic support that the Army contributes to the ACE mobile force (land) AMF(L).

These units undertake the same arctic warfare training as the Royal Marines, and have recently been equipped with the new BV206 over-snow tracked vehicle. The AMF(L) role is currently being discharged by the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment.

In terms of operations outside the NATO area, the House will recall that in November 1983 my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for Defence announced, in the light of our Falklands experience, an important range of enhancements for 5 Brigade. That brigade has been renamed 5 Airborne Brigade to reflect its new ability to mount a parachute assault with a minimum of one parachute battalion and its supporting air defence, artillery, signals, engineer and medical elements, all of which can now be parachute dropped.

The House will be glad to know that all the enhancements announced in November 1983 have now been implemented, as has the programme of fitting station-keeping radars to a number of Hercules aircraft so that the whole of the leading parachute battalion group can be delivered in a single parachute drop. In view of the importance we attach to our out-of-area capability, we announced last month that a major strategic exercise would be held in Oman later this year involving British forces and those of the Sultanate of Oman. The exercise is to be called Saif Sareea, which I am advised is Arabic for Swift Sword.

The aim of the exercise will be to practise our ability to respond rapidly to a crisis outside the NATO area. The exercise will involve some 5,000 service men from all three services. The units taking part will include elements of 5 Airborne Brigade and 3 Commando Brigade. It will also involve ships from the Royal Navy task group, which will be on its way back from its planned deployment to the Pacific. In addition, the RAF will make a major contribution in the form of a detachment of Tornado aircraft and substantial air transport resources. Exercise Saif Sareea will be the largest out-of-area exercise we have undertaken for many years and should prove to be of great value.

The one operation in which the Army is involved every day of the year is supporting the police against terrorism in Northern Ireland. In recent years, and indeed over the centuries, terrorism has taken many forms. Today, terrorism is increasingly assuming an international dimension, and in Northern Ireland takes one of the most ​ sophisticated forms of any in the world. Fortunately, the British Army has unique experience and unique expertise in combating this menace.

The Army’s assistance to the police in dealing with terrorism is not confined to Northern Ireland. It also assists the police, who have the primary counter-terrorist responsibility in the rest of the United Kingdom. It does so through the provision of specialist skills such as Royal Engineers explosive search teams, Royal Army Ordnance Corps bomb disposal teams, and through specialist training and equipment. In June last year it was an RAOC team that rendered safe and cleared the large quantity of terrorist bomb-making equipment found by the Strathclyde police in Glasgow.

However, it is of course in Northern Ireland in support of the RUC that the Army’s counter-terrorist effort is overwhelmingly concentrated. Last year saw some significant successes. As a result of the security forces’ efforts, 522 charges were brought relating to terrorist offences and 237 weapons were seized and nearly seven tonnes of explosives were recovered. One cannot speak too highly of the skill and bravery of all those elements of the armed forces and the RUC who secured these results.

The work of the Army’s bomb disposal and search teams in Northern Ireland in saving lives, property and jobs from destruction by terrorist bombs continues to be outstanding. These teams dealt with some 200 explosive devices last year, one of which contained 1,600 lbs of explosive. For the bomb disposal teams, the smallest device represents as great a personal danger as the largest. The way those teams combine outstanding technical skill with selfless personal bravery commands our highest admiration.

The achievements of the security forces in Northern Ireland in 1985 were not obtained without cost. Twenty nine police officers and soldiers lost their lives last year, and a further 340 were injured. Of the 29 killed, 27 were members of the RUC or the UDR. As the House recognises, the men and women of the RUC and the UDR, knowingly and willingly, accept the particular risks that service with either force or its reserves automatically confers. These men and women are at risk on duty, at home, and, if part-timers, at their place of work as well. They are at risk both when they are serving and when they retire. One man killed last year had finished his service with the UDR seven years previously. They are at risk at any place and at any time. The commitment and the courage of the men and women of the RUC and the UDR are of the highest order.

That commitment and that courage have been recognised in the award to service personnel last year of a further 73 decorations for gallantry in Northern Ireland. Those decorations included one George medal, one military cross, 12 Queen’s gallantry medals and six military medals, one of which, sadly, was posthumous. In addition, 102 service men and service women were mentioned in dispatches. We salute those who were honoured in this way. My only regret is that for security reasons the citations cannot be made public. They make remarkable reading.

Over the years the terrorist threat in the province has moved through various phases, and the security forces have had to adapt their response to meet each phase. Currently, the terrorists are making particular use of homemade mortars against police stations. This has been coupled with the attempted intimidation of building ​ contractors doing work for the security forces. The Government are firmly determined to ensure that such tactics do not succeed.

An additional battalion, the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment, was moved at short notice to Northern Ireland at the beginning of this month and became operational there with commendable speed. Additional Royal Engineers have also been deployed in the province and, as I saw for myself recently, they are doing a first-class job in providing the security forces with additional protection. The House will be glad to know that the work of rebuilding the first of the RUC stations that was severely hit before Christmas has already started.

The events of the last few weeks have underlined once again the importance of security co-operation across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. We are in no doubt that the Anglo-Irish agreement marks a crucial step forward in this area which is equally vital to the Republic and to ourselves. I should mention that the terrorist weapon find — about which we were all delighted to hear—made by the Garda last weekend just south of the border was one of the largest ever such finds in the Republic.

It is to the immense credit of the security forces that we have come a long way from the peak of violence in the early 1970s. The RUC has increasingly been able to resume policing on the streets, and the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland are able to live normal lives. I know that the whole House will wish me to express our gratitude to all the members of the security forces in Northern Ireland for the dangerous and essential work that they do.

Last year reminded us, to an unusual degree, of the Army’s value in being able to respond quickly and effectively to civilian needs. In the last 12 months, the British Army has helped in three major natural disasters outside the United Kingdom. Successive teams of Army air dispatchers from the Royal Corps of Transport, including three Territorial Army members, served continuously in Ethiopia from February to December last year air-dropping desperately needed grain to areas inaccessible by vehicle.

With the RAF, the air dispatchers air-dropped over 14,000 tonnes of grain in a huge total of 954 separate sorties. Almost all these airdrops were made at extremely low level from RAF Hercules aircraft flying at about 50 ft from the ground. This reflected both flying and air-dropping skills of the highest order. Following the Mexico earthquake disaster, a Royal Engineer troop was on the scene within 48 hours of our being asked to help. It was given the key job of trying to save the partially collapsed building that was the hub of a high proportion of Mexico’s telephone network and therefore represented a vital communications link for the whole country. The building was unstable, and contained a number of rapidly decomposing bodies. The Royal Engineers worked round the clock on that building for nearly three weeks in physically hazardous and most unpleasant conditions. They rightly earned the high regard and very warm appreciation of the Mexican authorities.

Only a few weeks after that, the Army was again on hand with the service team that was deployed to Colombia to help evacuate and get relief supplies to civilians in the Armero district who survived the devastating volcanic eruption there. ​ In case anyone should think that the Army is only likely to play that sort of a role outside the United Kingdom, the House will recall that when over a quarter of a million people in Leeds suddenly found themselves without a water supply just before Christmas, the situation was saved by all three services sending water bowsers to Leeds with most impressive speed, following a no-notice emergency call-out in the middle of the night. The speed and proficiency of the responses made by the Army and of course by the other two services to these major crises for civilian communities has been extremely creditable.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

My right hon. Friend has talked about the admirable service given by the armed services here and overseas. I endorse everything that he has said. Can he tell us whether he will deal with the crisis in the services brought about by so many young, skilled, qualified officers, NCOs and other ranks leaving the services because they are deeply upset and concerned about the level of pay and the dramatic reduction in allowances when they are serving in not very popular parts of the world, including the British Army of the Rhine?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend is anticipating a later section of my speech.

I now want to turn to the other main commitments that the Army has. My right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for Defence made it clear that we shall continue to be responsible for the defence and internal security of Hong Kong up to 1997, and that we shall maintain the forces needed for that purpose. He also made it clear that we intend that there will be a continuing role for the Gurkhas after 1997 with the British Army, though not of course in Hong Kong. We shall be giving continuous consideration to the Army’s force level in Hong Kong up to 1997.

There is no change at present in the Army’s commitments in Brunei, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Belize, or to our contingent in Sinai with the multinational force and observers on the border between Egypt and Israel.

As far as the Falklands are concerned, our policy is to maintain the forces at the minimum size necessary to defend the islands and the dependencies. The opening of Mount Pleasant airport has greatly improved our rapid reinforcement capability. Once the airport and garrison facilities are complete, we should be able to reduce still further the level of forces permanently stationed on the islands.

Given the events of the last few days, the House will wish to know the situation of our small training team in Uganda. The value of the British Army presence to foreign expatriates in Uganda, of which British expatriates are still the largest component, was shown immediately after the coup against President Obote last July. A considerable number of expatriates wanted to leave at that point. An evacuation convoy from Kampala to the Kenyan border was, therefore, jointly planned and administered by the British high commission and the British Army training team in Uganda. That action won widespread praise and gratitude from all involved. During the events of last weekend we did, of course, keep in the closest touch with our team in Uganda. We will now be considering its future in the light of the new situation in that country.

The House will also be interested to know that, building on the success of British training teams in Zimbabwe since ​ independence, it has been agreed by the Governments of Zimbabwe and Mozambique and ourselves that the British army training team in Zimbabwe should provide some training for Mozambican officers and NCOs at the Battalion battle school at Nyanga in Zimbabwe. The first course is due to begin in February.

The contribution we make to providing military advice and training to foreign countries all over the world through the loan service personnel of all three services receives less prominence than I believe it merits. The Army contributes some 450 personnel in 20 countries. Those teams maintain an excellent standard of training, are highly regarded by their host countries and are an asset to Britain, and to the West, out of all proportion to their size and their cost.

I have spoken so far about the operations and commitments of the Army’s full-time professionals. I now turn to the Regular and volunteer reserves. The critical importance of the reserves is shown by the fact that, in a period of tension and after full mobilisation, the size of the Army as a whole would increase by some 175,000 through the addition of the reserves, and the size of the Army in Germany would almost treble. From that it can be seen that the Army would be in no position to discharge its wartime commitments without our reserve forces. Moreover, the reserves are strikingly cost-effective. The TA, for example, generates over 30 per cent. of the Army’s order of battle for only some 5 per cent. of its budget.

As for the regular reserves, we are carrying out more detailed planning for fitting them to their wartime tasks. We also started a new training scheme last year to give regular reservists a week’s refresher training in their third year out of the Army, and we gave some 2,000 of them the opportunity to take part in exercise Brave Defender last year. We shall continue to look for cost-effective ways in which we can make greater use of our regular reserves.

Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham)

My right hon. Friend’s words on the Territorial Army and the volunteer regular reserves are welcome in many quarters of the House but particularly on these Benches. Can he say whether progress has yet been made with his right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of Health and Social Security to try to help those members of the TA who are unemployed and who find that their supplementary benefit or dole is cut immediately whereas it can take several weeks for the pay office to go through the administration of payment? That is causing great hardship in areas of high unemployment. Progress would be very much welcomed by the TA.

Mr. Stanley

I am aware of the problem to which my hon. Friend has referred. I assure him that my noble Friend the Minister of State for Defence Support is pursuing the matter personally with my right hon. and hon. Friends in the DHSS.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

We greatly applaud my right hon. Friend’s remarks about the TA, its reliance and its cost-effectiveness. None the less, can he assure the House that cost-effectiveness will not be taken to the point of penny-pinching? I am thinking particularly of the recent successful recruiting drive which is bringing in many young people who are enthusiastic and are excellent material. However, they have to train in drill halls that ​ were built for the 1930s and have been virtually unmaintained, giving an uncared for impression that can be discouraging to young recruits.

Reference has been made to people leaving the services. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that he is aware of the serious drain at the level of lieutenant-colonel or of regimental and battalion commanders, a rank that is crucial?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Briefly, please.

Mr. Browne

It is a matter not just of pay but of career opportunities.

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the points he has made. I have not yet completed what I wish to say on the TA but I can assure my hon. Friend that we are encouraged by the levels of recruitment which we have been achieving. I am about to come to that. I take his point that if we could provide a training base in reasonably attractive conditions that would be a plus for recruiting.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

I hope that my right hon. Friend will say something about the cadet force because that is the nursery for recruiting. I understand that the cadet force is now much better equipped. On page 45 of volume 1 of the “Statement on the Defence Estimates” a good deal of space is rightly given to the cadet force. If young people are properly trained, not only does it do them good for civilian life but a very high proportion join the regular forces or the TA.

Mr. Stanley

I endorse what my hon. Friend has said. One meets a large number of people who have come into all three services, but particularly the Army, from the ranks of the cadets and the junior leaders. As he will see in the second volume of the “Statement on the Defence Estimates”, we have been maintaining a high level of entry into the cadet force and we hope that will continue.

The expansion of the Territorial Army is making steady progress towards our target of 86,000. The strength of the TA was only some 59,000 when we came into office in 1979. It is over 76,000 now, having increased by some 4,000 in the past year.

The House will be interested to know that we are having good results from our trial scheme to raise TA units from the many British people living on the continent. Many of these are ex-service men, and they invariably have language skills and good local knowledge as well. These continental TA units look like proving a very valuable addition to our reserve forces.

Equally successful has been the expansion of the home service force. The enthusiasm of the force can be judged from the fact that 92 per cent. of the force’s strength participated in exercise Brave Defender.

The HSF has already grown to 2,800 — in other words, over halfway to our initial target strength of nearly 5,000. We shall be considering whether we can go beyond that figure.

As I have made clear, the Army’s Regular and volunteer Reserves are an indispensable element of the British Army. We are very grateful indeed to employers who are generous and sympathetic towards the release of their staff with TA commitments, recognising that it is in the national interest that those commitments should be fulfilled. In this context, I am very pleased to be able to announce the formation of a national employer liaison ​ committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. Tommy Macpherson. I know that Mr. Macpherson and his committee will make a most valuable contribution to maintaining and increasing the essential support that the TA receives from employers. Mr. Macpherson has the two essential qualifications: substantial experience as an employer in industry and substantial experience in the services as well.

We are very grateful to all those in the Regular and volunteer Reserves for giving their time, their skills and their enthusiasm to the British Army.

Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. He will know that his remarks and the emphasis that the Government place on the Territorial Army are widely welcomed. Is he satisfied that there are now sufficient man training days for the Territorial Army to carry out its task adequately? Will he say something about the history of the expansion of man training days?

Mr. Stanley

It is obviously a matter of judgment as to what level of training days will meet the particular requirements of the TA. We make that judgment as accurately as possible. There is a trade-off: the more the training days are expanded, the more difficult it is for some individuals to get the necessary degree of release, which makes it that much more difficult for units to carry out their exercises as formed units. So there is a balance to be struck. The recent major exercises, both Lionheart and Brave Defender, have shown that the Territorial Army units, the Volunteer Reserve, and the Regular Reserve are now achieving a good level of training and have done very well in both exercises.

The calibre of the British Army rests ultimately on the calibre of its people. I am glad to say that recruitment overall goes well, with both officer and soldier entries being close to target. The Army’s view is that the quality of entrants has been rising. Amongst officers the proportion of graduate entrants is now about 45 per cent. compared with 30 per cent. as recently as 1978–79.

Rates of retention are as important as rates of entry. Though the rate of premature voluntary retirement has risen from its historic low point in 1981–82, it is still well below the record high in the last year of the previous Government. Pay and conditions of service clearly bear on rates of retention. Although we are fully aware of the concern over the reductions in local overseas allowance that have taken place in Germany, our view is that there is nothing basically wrong with the LOA system, which provides absolutely essential financial compensation for those service men who have to serve in overseas countries where the cost of living is substantially higher than in the United Kingdom.

As far as pay is concerned, this Government, unlike our predecessors, have accepted the service pay recommendations in seven successive reports of the armed forces pay review body, with the one exception of part of the 1984 award being made subject to seven months’ phasing.

We have also made a number of important improvements to conditions of service. We have introduced a scheme to sell surplus married quarters to service personnel at 30 per cent. discount. We have allowed time in service accommodation to count for discount purposes in the local authority and new town “right to buy” scheme. We have improved the free travel entitlement for married personnel serving in Northern ​ Ireland and the Scottish islands and we have abolished the contribution that parents serving overseas had to make towards their first child’s visit to them for the third school holiday each year, which saved many parents several hundred pounds. There is no question that the record of the present Government on service pay and conditions is very much better than that of our predecessors.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

My right hon. Friend said that he was going to raise the matter later in his speech, but would he admit to the House that it is not only graduate officers and others who are very important to the armed services, it is the qualities of motivation and leadership, which do not always accompany a university degree? Would he indicate that in the future the position of non-graduate officers will be given a higher priority by the Government than has perhaps been the case in the immediate past? The position of graduate officers is very much better moneywise than that of non-graduate officers. Will my right hon. Friend attend to this point in future?

Mr. Stanley

I understand fully the point that my hon. Friend makes. I would not want him to think from what I have said about statistics in relation to graduate entry that the Army is reluctant to have non-graduate officers. There are very many of them and they are of the highest calibre. When people are considering the Army and, perhaps even more important, once they are in the Army, it is good to know that all officers are treated exactly the same, whether they have degrees or not, and that they are treated entirely on their merit. I can assure my hon. Friend that that will continue.

Mr. John Browne rose—

Mr. Stanley

I think that this will have to be the last intervention because many of my hon. Friends want to speak, and I want to draw my remarks to a close.

Mr. Browne

Would my right hon. Friend comment on the fact that retention is a matter not just of pay—1 agree with much of what he has said —but of career prospects?

Mr. Stanley

Yes, I agree. It is a question of career prospects and a multitude of other factors. There is the degree of stretch on the force. career prospects, pay, conditions of service, it is the total of all the elements that go towards to job satisfaction.

In the last Army debate I announced the Government’s scheme to make it possible for war widows, for the very first time, to visit their husbands’ graves overseas, almost entirely at public expense. I can tell the House that the scheme has been an unqualified success, as I know at first hand. It was a privilege to meet a number of widows taking part in the scheme at the El Alamein commemoration service last October. The letters I have had from widows taking part in these pilgrimages have been as appreciative and as moving as any I have received.

In the first year of the scheme, some 350 widows, often accompanied at their own expense by other members of their families, visited cemeteries in a total of 11 countries, stretching from Europe to the far east. I cannot speak too highly of the way in which the scheme has been run by the Royal British Legion, both at the legion’s headquarters and at its newly created pilgrimages department at Aylesford which, as it happens, is in my own constituency. ​ The British Legion’s organisation and sensitivity, both in the preparations and on the actual pilgrimages, has been superb, as the war widows themselves have been the first to say. I should like to express our very warm appreciation to the president of the Royal British Legion, General Sir Patrick Howard Dobson, and his pilgrimages team for the outstanding way in which the Royal British Legion is running this scheme.

The Army today is a well balanced and highly trained fighting force. It has amply demonstrated its superb professionalism in NATO reinforcement and home defence exercises, in supporting the police against terrorism, in international peacekeeping, in providing military training for many other countries, and in responding with speed and great effectiveness to a large variety of civil emergencies. The Army, like the other two services, does our country the greatest credit.