Part of LONDON COUNTY COUNCIL (GENERAL POWERS) BILL [Lords] (By Order) – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th July 1959.

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Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford 12:00 am, 27th July 1959

I cannot answer that question off the cuff.

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the infantry have the F.N. rifle. The answer is "Yes". At the time of the Army Estimates last March, I told the House—the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the anti-tank gun—that the battalion anti-tank gun, the Mobat, the lighter and more accurate version of the Bat, was being issued in quantity. Since then, production has been well maintained in all infantry units.

We are in the process of up-armouring and up-gunning the Centurion tanks, and that programme is going forward. Our armoured cars, the Saladin and the Ferret Scout car, are both nearing the end of their production and both these vehicles have proved highly successful. By the end of the financial year all units will have received their full complement of them.

In the sphere of air defence, all light anti-aircraft regiments of the Regular Army and those of the Territorial Army earmarked for the air defence of the United Kingdom have now been re-equipped with the L.70 gun and they also all have the latest tactical control radar. Anti-aircraft missile equipment has been issued to schools and training establishments and our first heavy anti-aircraft regiments will be equipped with these missiles during this year.

Our surface-to-surface missile regiments are now equipped with the Corporal missile and have already reached the necessary standard of training to be able to operate this weapon in the field. Our communications equipment, which has for long been a source of adverse comment among hon. Members during their visits to Army units, is steadily being replaced by an entirely new range of wireless sets, and this is going forward today. This part of our replacement programme has not been done without its difficulties, but the House will be glad to know that before long our units and formations in Germany will be entirely re-equipped and at present we are ahead of our forecast. The new equipments are of longer range, lighter in weight and more reliable and simpler to maintain, and hon. Members who visit units that have this equipment will find that they are very pleased with it.

Steady re-equipment of the Army continues. Already we have many millions of pounds worth of orders placed for 1960–61. We have much new equipment now under development which will come off the production lines in the years after that. We are paying a lot of money for this equipment, but we believe that it will be good. When there is added to these sums the money that will be spent upon providing airlift for Army personnel and equipment, the figure rises steeply but so, we believe, does the effectiveness of the Army to fulfil its future rôles.

Whether our resources available for defence are being apportioned correctly as between nuclear and conventional weapons must be a matter of opinion, and that is a subject which will always be argued. However, there is a strong and notable body of opinion which agrees with the apportionment as laid down by the Government, which is aimed at preserving the balance of reality, of reconciling the desirable with the possible; and that, I believe, is widely appreciated among those who make a serious study of these most complex problems.