HC Deb 22 March 1999 vol 328 cc8-10
5. Mr. Howard Flight (Arundel and South Downs)

What impact his review of the Territorial Army has had on recruiting and retention levels. [75968]

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Doug Henderson)

As we expected, the numbers leaving the TA have risen since we announced the restructuring in mid-November and there has been a small decrease in those joining, by comparison with the previous year. None the less, we fully anticipate that many new young people will take up the many opportunities that there are to serve in the TA, and we launched a new TA recruitment campaign last month to make those opportunities widely known.

Mr. Flight

I am sure that the Minister acknowledges that the TA is an important area of recruitment for regulars, as has been said. Does he not expect some commensurate fall in recruitment from the TA as numbers fall by 12,800? Is he concerned about the infantry, where the TA is being cut in particular and where there is the biggest under-recruitment in the Regular Army.

Mr. Henderson

No, I do not expect that. With the restructuring of the TA so that it is in the kind of shape to be able better and more effectively to reinforce the Regular Army, there will be more people in the TA who have those qualifications and that background. It will be more attractive to them to join our Regular Army.

Bill O'Brien (Normanton)

There is still substantial support for the TA from about 6,000 companies. The relevant company in Wakefield is still as interested in recruiting and retaining members of the TA, and it is supported by local organisations. I commend my hon. Friend for the campaign that his Department is organising. Will he continue to make sure that local companies, such as mine in Wakefield, are retained to strength?

8. Henderson

I am very grateful for my hon. Friend's support, and he makes an important point about the TA. The restructuring is not only about taking people from companies and using them in our armed forces; it is about giving people better skills, better qualifications and more experience while they are in the TA so that they return to their normal civilian employment with greater aptitude—and, often, greater commitment—which is why so many employers welcome the opportunity for their staff to serve in the TA.

Keith Simpson (Mid-Norfolk)

The Minister has expressed disappointment about recruitment and retention in the Territorial Army. Does he not think that part of the problem of retention is due to the restructuring of the TA, which now constitutes a major disincentive? Following the amalgamation of the 10th and 4th Battalions Parachute Regiment, an horrendous organisation will spread between Glasgow and London. What possible motivation is there for young men and women to join such an organisation, or to remain in it? Some of those valuable men and women are probably to be deployed in Kosovo.


As the hon. Gentleman knows, parachute units are already spread among a number of geographical locations. Nor do I accept that the restructuring of the TA has led to greater retention difficulties. On the contrary, I believe that, following the restructuring, people will be more inclined to join, feeling that they can make a real contribution to the reinforcement of the Regular Army, and to stay to make that contribution. They will eventually return to civilian life with better qualifications, better able to contribute in civilian employment.