HC Deb 13 December 1999 vol 341 cc18-20
16. Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth)

If he will make a statement about the role of the Territorial Army in supporting the Regular Army in Kosovo. [100969]

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. John Spellar)

The Territorial Army is an integral part of our armed forces, and many members of the TA are currently serving in the Balkans theatre of operations. As of 3 December 1999, 229 members of the TA were serving in Kosovo. The TA also supports the Regular Army by back-filling jobs of Army personnel deployed in the region.

Mr. Edwards

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he join me in saying that we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all Territorial Army members who are currently supporting the Regular Army, including the 17 members of the Royal Monmouth Royal Engineers currently deployed on humanitarian work in Bosnia and in Kosovo?

Mr. Spellar

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I have special affection for the Royal Monmouth Royal Engineers, because—as he will know—a part of the unit is in my constituency. My hon. Friend—like others who have been to Kosovo and to Bosnia—will be aware of the tremendous job being done and the enthusiasm and commitment being shown by reserve forces in those places. They are working alongside their fellows in the Regular Army—doing a job that is well done, and a job which—contrary to some of the assertions made by Conservative Members—is worth doing.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

Will the Minister take this opportunity to answer the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn), which he tried to dodge? Is it not the case that, because of defence cuts, the Territorial Army is having to be deployed compulsorily for the first time since the second world war?

Mr. Spellar

As I said in my previous answer, it is strange for Conservatives to make that point, because it was the Conservative Government, with all-party support, who brought in the provisions for compulsory call-out under the Reserve Forces Act 1996, to make the TA and the reserve forces usable and used. I fail to understand why they have such a low opinion of the reserve forces that they do not think that we should be using them. They want to be used and we want to use them.