§ 10. Dr. Goodson-Wickes
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he last had discussions with the chief of general staff regarding recruiting levels in the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve, and the co-operation of employers in releasing employees for training.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Michael Neubert)
Consultation on recruitment and employer support, as with other matters relating to the Territorial Army, is a continuous process through the formal Ministry of Defence committee structure and normal official channels. As regards employer support, we launched a major campaign last year, recommended by the national employer liaison committee, and I am pleased to say that the response thus far has been very encouraging, with more than 500 companies pledging their firm support to the reserve forces.
§ Dr. Goodson-Wickes
Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the Territorial associations are being allocated adequate resources to support and sustain the successful campaign that he mentioned? Does he agree that the so-called demographic trough makes it especially important to maintain effective follow-up with employers for volunteers?
§ Mr. Neubert
Yes, I can confirm that there is full Government commitment to the financing of our present Territorial strength and, in particular, the number of man training days planned. As I said, we are very encouraged at the response from employers, because the 500 companies already signed up represent 30 per cent. of the national private sector work force, and when this is 729 combined with the home Civil Service and the Scottish Office, it represents a substantial sector of employment. We intend to pursue this policy and to tackle smaller firms and professional partnerships as well.
§ Mr. Ron Brown
Will the Minister agree that, if money is to be spent effectively, members of the Territorial Army have a right to form trade unions, or is that extending democracy too far?
§ Mr. Conway
Does my hon. Friend agree that important aspects of retention in the Territorial Army include not just the very generous level of bounty and payment, but the opportunities to train with Regular units and to partake in exercises which, more often than not, are with the British Army of the Rhine rather than Salisbury plain or Otterburn training area?
§ Mr. Neubert
My hon. Friend experiences that opportunity and takes full advantage of it. It is a fact that the Territorials are equipped, as are the Regulars, for their role, and this means that they have the most modern equipment and are constantly kept in the forefront of our battle plans.