HC Deb 01 December 1997 vol 302 cc1-3
1. Mr. Brazier

What steps he is taking to ensure that Territorial Army units can continue to conduct unit-level exercises and participate, as units, in formation-level training. [16794]

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Dr. John Reid)

Territorial Army units take part in a minimum of six days collective training each year and two of those are spent on a unit or formation-level exercise. The future training requirement for TA units will depend on the outcome of strategic defence review work into the future size and shape of the Regular and Reserve forces.

Mr. Brazier

Is the Minister aware that such unit and formation-level exercises attract and retain the best-quality people in the TA? Is it true that an admiral has been asked to head the relevant strategic defence review team which will conduct the Reserve forces study? The Royal Navy has so run down the resources for its own Reserve that it is now almost the worst-recruited section of the Reserve forces.

Dr. Reid

In response to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, we recognise the importance of collective training for individuals. The TA units took part in four formation-level exercises this year, compared with two last year, and four are planned for next year. We shall obviously bear that in mind during the strategic defence review considerations.

As regards the make-up of the project team, senior personnel at two-star level have been given the task of overseeing each of the main project areas under consideration in the strategic defence review. The study on the Reserves is being conducted by a mixed civil and military team and includes the Director of Reserves and Cadets, Richard Holmes, whom I shall see tomorrow as part of those discussions. Brigadier Holmes and that group are overseen by an assistant chief of the defence staff programmes, who, as the hon. Gentleman says, is an admiral, but is also a purple post.

Mr. Edwards

May I remind my hon. Friend that the oldest Territorial regiment in the British Army is the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers, based in Monmouth in my constituency? Does he agree with me that the outstanding work that it has performed in Bosnia recently demonstrates the important operational role that the Territorial forces can play following the strategic defence review?

Dr. Reid

I thank my hon. Friend for that observation. I am sure that the whole House will join me in paying tribute not only to the generality of the TA, but, in particular, to the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers. We particularly recall those who have done and continue to do such sterling work in areas such as Bosnia. We are truly fortunate to be able to call upon such dedicated, professional and highly motivated individuals who make up the voluntary Reserves. We are intent on ensuring that their use is as flexible as possible. Indeed, only today, a reservist officer has been called up for service with UNSCOM in Iraq, which again demonstrates the flexibility and utility of our Reserve forces.

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