HC Deb 10 May 1994 vol 243 cc142-3
5. Mr. Enright

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what part the Territorial Army will play in the planning of the defence budget.

Mr. Hanley

The Territorial Army plays no formal part in the budgetary process, although we do, of course, take the Territorial Army fully into account in all our defence budgetary planning, and there is regular contact between departmental staff and the Territorial Army at all levels.

Mr. Enright

The Minister will be aware how efficient the Territorial Army unit is in my area. Will he therefore promise that there will be no cuts in the Territorial Army there, particularly as the high incidence of unemployment means that for many of my constituents being in the Territorial Army is their only stake in society?

Mr. Hanley

I assure the hon. Gentleman that no decisions on the future size and shape of the Territorial Army have yet been taken. Announcements will be made before long, but, whatever the outcome of current studies, the Territorial Army will continue both to play a vital role in supporting and augmenting the Regular Army and to make a highly valued contribution to our defence capability. The Territorial Army is an integral part of the Army's mobilised order of battle.

Sir Peter Hordern

As we shall always need strong reserve forces, does my hon. Friend agree that the Territorial Army is a cost-effective way of providing those reserves? Will he say something about the present limitations on the role of the Territorial Army in serving abroad with Her Majesty's forces? Will he consider introducing legislation so that the Territorial Army and our reserve forces can play a more active part in that respect?

Mr. Hanley

I very much agree with my right hon. Friend. The Territorial Army is extremely efficient and effective. Changes are in the pipeline to try to ensure that its members can be deployed abroad more easily. On 19 April, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State announced that a pilot scheme to test the feasibility of using the Territorial Army in support of the Regular Army would be run in the Falklands. A platoon will go from July to November this year and a company will go from March to July next year. It may help the House if I say that that scheme has been oversubscribed and the group has now been formed. We look forward to a most successful experiment.

Mr. Olner

Will the Minister also bear in mind that the Air Training Corps, an excellent part of which is in my constituency of Nuneaton, also needs funding? Although the Air Training Corps depends on voluntary contributions, it needs the continuing support of the Minister and the Ministry.

Mr. Hanley

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we consider all three forces in seeking to ensure the effective use of our reserve forces.

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