HC Deb 17 December 1991 vol 201 cc136-7
9. Mr. Sayeed

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the Royal Naval Reserve; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

As my right hon. Friend said in his statement on 10 December, our aim is that the naval reserves should be streamlined but more closely integrated with the Royal Navy."—[Official Report, 10 December 1991; Vol. 200, c. 733.]

Mr. Sayeed

My right hon. Friend will recognise that mine counter-measures is a hazardous undertaking—the penalty for getting it wrong is a very large bang and lots of little bits. As the best way to reduce that risk is regular training, can he explain the logic of mothballing two of the River class MCMVs belonging to the Royal Naval Reserve which undertakes mine counter-measures and of leaving two divisions, including the largest—London division—without a ship?

Mr. Hamilton

We have had to take into account the changes in the international situation when considering the RNR. including the lengthening warning time. In those circumstances, it was thought right to reduce some of the activities of the RNR and to make them more relevant to the future.

Sir Patrick Duffy

As the Minister reconsiders the regular-reserve mix of the Royal Navy, as he promised on 10 December, will he ensure that a proper study of task threats is completed and will he create a supplementary list of personnel whom it is planned to axe until that review of task threats is complete?

Mr. Hamilton

Clearly, the regular-reserve force mix study will have to take into account what we see as threats and how we intend to deal with them. We expect to make a statement on that in the new year.

Mr. Robert Banks

While welcoming my right hon. Friend's reply, may I ask him to accept that the best training for Royal Navy reservists is with the regular Navy and will he give that priority in the coming operations for the Royal Naval Reserve?

Mr. Hamilton

I hear what my hon. Friend says and we shall see whether more opportunities can be given to the RNR to train with the regular Navy.

Mr. O'Neill

Will the Minister ensure that before the review is completed we shall be able to have adequate information so that we can determine the implications for the various areas and for particular bases which are under threat? Will he give an undertaking today to give us information on recruitment levels, retention levels and the position of one base as compared with another before such a report is produced?

Mr. Hamilton

The whole process of rationalising the RNR will be progressed in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence and with the RNR itself and it will make proposals.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that the air squadrons of the Royal Naval Reserve have been especially effective and exceptionally well recruited and that there have even been one or two Harrier pilots in the reserve? Could not that be an example for the flying service, the Royal Air Force?

Mr. Hamilton

The position of the Royal Air Force Reserve is, as I am sure my hon. Friend knows, that does not have the opportunity to fly aircraft. I do not believe that the Harrier pilots who found themselves in the Royal Naval Reserve will have the opportunity to fly either, but it is certainly useful to have them in the reserve should they be needed.