HL Deb 04 December 1986 vol 482 cc927-9
Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the present strength of the Territorial Army.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the strength of the Territorial Army was approximately 76,600 at 30th September 1986, an increase of 2,800 over the last 12 months.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that very encouraging reply. I wonder whether he can tell us if in the last three years more units have been formed throughout the country and, if so, in what parts of the country they have been formed?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, my noble friend will know that the increase to which I referred in the main Answer is part of the current expansion plan for the Territorial Army. A number of new units are being rasied all over the country and I shall be very happy to write to my noble friend with details.

Lord Renton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that a few years ago there was some imbalance between officers, NCOs and other ranks? Can he assure us that there is now a better proportion among the various categories?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I cannot deny that there are shortages in certain areas, for example, in junior officers. But we are working very hard to overcome the problem. It is, I think, caused by the fact that junior officers are at a stage in their lives when the other pressures upon them are very considerable.

Viscount Ridley

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that some Territorial Army volunteers living on unemployment benefit can be financially penalised if they attend training other than annual camp? Will he agree that this injustice is a deterrent to recruiting in certain parts of the country?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am very well aware of the problem to which my noble friend refers. I am pleased to say that encouraging progress is being made towards resolving it, and I hope that an announcement will be possible shortly.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, can the Minister tell us the kind of unit that is doing well in recruiting? Is it infantry or one of the mechanical units?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the units that perhaps have less success, relatively speaking, in recruiting are those where the other attractions are greater. If there is any more detailed information to give, again, I shall be very happy to write to the noble Lord.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, when my noble friend replies to my noble friend Lady Macleod, will he ensure that the new regiment of Royal Artillery, formed within the last year in the Territorial Army in Scotland, is included?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, that goes without saying.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, does the Minister recall that both in the Statement in the House on the TA expansion in 1984, and again during the short debate of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, on TA pay structures, the Government lamented the considerable problem of retaining recruits in the TA? Can he tell the House what steps have been taken to alleviate this in respect of incremental pay schemes and what is being considered in that respect?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the pay of soldiers in the Territorial Army is directly related to the pay of their opposite numbers in the regular forces and is paid, therefore, on a daily basis. I am not sure that the solution to the problem to which the noble Lord refers lies in the direction of pay on which I think, broadly, there is satisfaction. I believe that what we need to do is to assist members of the Territorial Army wherever we can to accommodate the other pressures on their lives, particularly in their jobs and perhaps within their families.

Viscount Thurso

My Lords, when the noble Lord replies to the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, could he include in the information not only the number of units but how many of them are below strength and how far some of them are below strength?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I shall certainly give all the information I can to my noble friend. Of course, a copy of the letter will go to the Library.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, can the Minister elaborate on the other attractions to which he referred? They seem to me most intriguing.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, nothing sinister was meant by that answer. The fact is that service in the Territorial Army is a part-time occupation and many people have other ways in which they think they can profitably spend their free time.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I had the honour to host the TA dinner in the Dining Room in September and that morale seemed to be very high?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I think my noble friend is right. Morale is very high in the Territorial Army. But during the time of the previous Adminstration, it almost sank without sight.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us whether a member of the Territorial Army, who is unemployed and who has to sign a form to say that he is not available on a certain day will have his unemployment pay stopped, because of his attendance at some organisation attached to the Territorial Army?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, that is just the problem to which my noble friend Lord Ridley referred. It is something with which we have been grappling for some time and, as I said in answer to my noble friend, we hope to be able to make an announcement shortly.

Back to