HC Deb 18 November 1999 vol 339 cc1-2W
Mrs. Gilroy

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes are to be made to the reserve service liability of non-commissioned Royal Air Force personnel. [98663]

Mr. Spellar

Currently, on completion of a period of regular service which does not attract an immediate pension, non-commissioned Royal Air Force personnel are liable for up to six years service in either Category 1 or Category 2 of the RAF Reserve of Airmen. The majority of these reservists are placed in Category 1 and have a liability for 15 days annual training, in return for which they receive a small annual payment. Those in Category 2 have no such training liability and, therefore, do not receive payment.

The reason for this annual training liability dates back to the Cold War and was intended to ensure that sufficient trained personnel would be available to provide, at relatively short notice, key point guards in the event of an anticipated attack on the United Kingdom. In the current strategic environment, however, any requirement for reinforcement could be met within the longer period that the Royal Air Force would have to achieve its required readiness states. Moreover, current planning assumptions indicate that, although there is a continuing need for volunteer reservists, there is little likelihood of the Royal Air Force Reserve of Airmen being required to meet Royal Air Force outputs short of regeneration. Indeed, lessons learned from the operations in Kosovo are expected to further emphasise the need for volunteer reserves, rather than ex-regular reserves.

It has therefore been decided that non-commissioned personnel who have a commitment beginning on or after 1 February 2000 to serve in the Royal Air Force Reserve of Airmen, will be placed in Category 2 and will have no annual training liability. Ex-regular personnel currently serving in Category 1 will be invited to forego their annual training liability for the remainder of their reserve service commitment.

This decision will not affect the requirement for all members of the Royal Air Force Reserve of Airmen to keep the Service authorities informed of their contact addresses, and they will still retain their liability for call-out.