Reservists

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 25th February 2013.

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Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Conservative, South Dorset 2:30 pm, 25th February 2013

What plans he has for the training of reservists.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Defence has committed an additional £1.8 billion investment over 10 years, starting last year, into the reserves, including for training, equipment and recruitment. Reservists will receive the kit and the challenging individual, collective and command training they need to enable them to contribute as part of a fully integrated force.

Army reserves will be trained and be able to routinely deploy at up to sub-unit level and, at times, unit level. This operational requirement will drive improvements in training and equipment, and provide sustainable command and development opportunities both for officers and other ranks. It will also reinforce unit ethos and identity. There will be more structured and focused training up to sub-unit level, and company level overseas training exercises have already started; these will increase in number significantly by 2015.

Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Conservative, South Dorset

I thank the Minister for his answer. Is it wise to scrap regular battalions, such as 2RRF, before our reservists are fully recruited and trained?

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Many years ago, I served in the same regiment as my hon. Friend, and he raises a good point. Nobody would pretend that we wish to reduce the regular Army, but unfortunately we are in a dire financial position left by the last Government. We are quite confident that we will be able to recruit up to the 30,000 trained reserves that we want, and we are making good progress.

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Labour, Bridgend

Timely and financially prudent training of reservists who will be able to deploy at short notice alongside regular personnel will require the Ministry of Defence to have accurate figures on how many reservists it has, how many it is recruiting on a monthly basis and how many will actually turn up for training. Will the Minister agree to supply, on a monthly basis, figures that show the number of new recruits to reservist forces?

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I will not agree to do that on a monthly basis, because I do not think it is necessary. However, I will give the hon. Lady some figures. In 2000, under the last Government—whom she supported—the number in the Territorial Army was more than 40,000. We inherited approximately 25,000, and we are very hopeful that we will get the figure up to 30,000, which is what we want to see. The figures will be obvious and we will put them in the Library on a regular basis, but not monthly.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

In the future, the Army’s composition will mean that it is more reliant on reservists, with more reservists being enrolled. In the interests of leading by example, how many civil servants in the Ministry of Defence will be called up as reservists?

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

It is not a question of calling people up, because all reservists, like all regular forces, are volunteers. However, we are encouraging people in the Ministry of Defence to join the reserves. My hon. Friend will know that, among others, the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury, Mark Lancaster, is a reservist, and my hon. Friends the Members for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) and for Filton and Bradley Stoke (Jack Lopresti) have served on operations. We certainly believe in leading by example.