HC Deb 23 April 2001 vol 367 c11
8. Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

By how many the Territorial Army is under strength; and if he will make a statement. [156934]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie)

The latest available official figures show that the Territorial Army is under strength by 520 personnel.

Mr. Waterson

May I inform the Minister that, like many other hon. Members, I visited my excellent local TA signals unit in Eastbourne during the recent TA open day? Does he agree that the morale of the extremely committed men and women in the TA is potentially undermined by the fact that the Government have cut the TA during the current Parliament, but are requiring ever greater service from serving TA members, to a level that has never been required in the past?

Dr. Moonie

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman enjoyed visiting his local TA unit. I enjoyed a similar visit a couple of weeks ago. The current TA bears little relation to that of 10 years ago. It is a far leaner organisation and is far better fitted to the tasks that we want it to perform than it was when it had the rather inappropriate structure which we were bequeathed. I am confident that the organisation will continue to go from strength to strength, especially as we have just started a recruitment campaign to encourage people to join it.

Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth)

When I met the commanding officer of the Royal Monmouthshire Engineers last week, he did not tell me that his regiment was under strength. However, he informed me that certain members of the regiment had volunteered individually to help in dealing with the foot and mouth crisis, and that the local information centre for the crisis, which was set up by the Welsh Assembly, had been housed at the regimental headquarters in Monmouth. Will my hon. Friend join me in commending the work of the regiment in supporting our farmers at this time?

Dr. Moonie

Yes, I certainly shall. We are grateful for the role that reservists play in joining up with units for a period of service, especially with regard to the work that they are doing on foot and mouth. Currently, almost 500 volunteer and regular reservists are called out on operational duties. I can only say how much we appreciate their efforts on our behalf.