HC Deb 03 November 1997 vol 300 cc1-3
1. Mr. Swayne

If he will make a statement on the role of the Territorial Army. [11734]

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

The primary role of the Territorial Army is to act as a general reserve for the Regular Army and to provide a framework for full mobilisation in times of national emergency. The TA also helps to maintain a link between the military and civilian communities throughout the country. The role of the TA is being fully considered, along with those of the other reserve forces, as part of the Government's strategic defence review.

Mr. Swayne

I thank the Minister for his reply. He will be aware that the decision to withdraw the series III Land Rover falls disproportionately heavily on the Territorial Army. Are replacement vehicles being delayed up by Ministers? What steps will the Minister take to ensure that the Territorial Army has vehicles with which to train on 2 January next year?

Dr. Reid

I noticed that this was one of the more constructive questions asked by the hon. Gentleman during an otherwise non-constructive speech in the House a few days ago. The answer to his first question is no and the answer to his second question is that everything possible will be done to make sure that the Territorial Army can meet its training obligations not only at local level but at regimental and battle group level.

Mr. Bill O'Brien

Will my hon. Friend have regard to the fact that, if we are to sustain a reasonable, good and active Territorial Army, it must be led by professional people in cities and towns throughout the country? In my area, the King's Own Yorkshire Yeomanry, which used to be the King's Own Light Infantry, is a good and well-maintained territorial unit, but I fear that unless we retain full-time professional people to train, there will be a reduction in the efficiency and appropriateness of the Territorial Army.

Dr. Reid

The strategic defence review will take into account the strength that the volunteer reserve brings to the armed forces and to our regular service men and women. The immense contribution made by the Territorial Army is recognised by the Government, particularly its contribution to our operations in Bosnia in recent times. As my hon. Friend makes clear, a vital part of ensuring that we can meet such operational capability is ensuring that training is carried out professionally and with appropriate resources. That matter will be addressed during the strategic defence review.

Mr. Brazier

Is the Minister aware that no other country in the English-speaking world has less than a quarter of its total armed forces in the form of volunteer reserves? Who is carrying out the studies advising the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State on the future of the reserve forces? Are they regular officers and civil servants, or are some serving territorials directly involved?

Dr. Reid

The strategic defence review will take into account a range of views from a range of contributors, not least the hon. Gentleman in his published material. The examination will be carried out by Ministers presiding over a range of inputs, including those that are in the Library, and those from the regular forces. We will consult reservist representatives during that process.

Helen Jones

Does my hon. Friend commend the concern of the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) about the effectiveness of the Territorial Army? Will my hon. Friend invite him to show similar concern for the effectiveness of the Regular Army by withdrawing the disgraceful remarks he made in last week's defence debate, which constituted a slur on the professionalism of men and women in our armed forces?

Dr. Reid

With great respect to my hon. Friend, the hon. Gentleman must defend his position. I have no intention of doing that, but I echo her remarks about the contribution that the regular forces and the Territorial Army in particular make to our defence effort, and it will not have slipped her notice that in the TA all posts are open to women.

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