§ 11. Mr. Trimble
To ask the Secretary of Slate for Defence what is the current (a) full-time and (b) part-time strength of the home service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment, the former Ulster Defence Regiment; and if he will make a statement on the current progress of reorganisation.
§ Mr. Archie Hamilton
As at 28 February 1993, the strength of the full-time element of the Royal Irish Regiment, home service, was 112 officers and 2,789 soldiers. The strength of the part-time element was 136 officers and 2,564 soldiers.
The reorganisation that followed the formation of the Royal Irish Regiment is proceeding well.
§ Mr. Trimble
The Minister knows that the part-time element is vital to the success of the regiment. Could he advise some of the regular officers who have recently been posted to it to revise the excessive training schedules that some of them are operating? Former UDR soldiers have decades of operational experience, more so than some of the officers in question. There is a limit to the amount of time that can be spared for training unless one wants to drive the part-timers out of the regiment, which 1 assume the Minister does not want to do. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Hamilton
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the part-time element of the Royal Irish Regiment is essential for the future of the regiment and gives us the reserve capability that can be called up if at any time it should be needed. I know that the part-time soldiers are concerned about the amount of training that they have to do, but that is true of all elements of the British Army: we have to ensure that our soldiers are fully trained. I am afraid that that is one of the requirements we make of them, although I know that they feel that they would be better employed on operational duties. I cannot give the hon. Member the satisfaction that he wants. We must ensure that all our soldiers are properly trained for the tasks that they are asked to do.
§ Madam Speaker
Order. The House is particularly noisy today. I should be much obliged if hon. Members would now settle down.