Territorial Army: Rebalancing

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:59 pm on 23rd March 2006.

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Photo of Lord Drayson Lord Drayson Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Defence Procurement), Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Procurement) 1:59 pm, 23rd March 2006

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lords for their clear support in welcoming this Statement and for their comments about the tremendous contribution which our Reserve Forces make to our defence. In that spirit, I appreciate the way in which they have rightly focused on questions about the specifics, and I am happy to answer those general points as clearly as I can.

I note the noble Lords' astonishment at the slight innovation in the way in which this has been done. I think it reflects the level of innovation in the Ministry of Defence these days. We are learning lessons from the past and we are implementing them.

The changes announced today will be cost-neutral because of the way in which we will be better able to integrate what the Reserve Forces do with the regular forces. We think that there will be appreciable savings and efficiency. It will also improve the quality and scope of the training that Reserve Forces will be able to undertake. The noble Lord raised a specific point on Apache helicopters. We will not recruit Apache pilots. These personnel will be engaged to support armouring and refuelling the Apache in the Army Air Corps.

The noble Lords are right to focus on matters relating to medical combat personnel. This reflects the challenges in today's environment with the significant growth taking place within the NHS, for example, and the real challenge in recruiting personnel into this field. The rebalancing reflects a statement of recognition of that reality. It does not suggest that there is any diminution; it is a clear look at the specific needs of the TA as an integrated part of the one-Army concept, making sure that the rebalancing takes place within that structure. I note the positive comments on the provost company. I promise to look at how that goes. The noble Lord asked whether it will be acting in support of the SIB. Yes, that will be one of the functions of the provost company.

I want to make absolutely clear to the House that there will not be any compulsory redundancies as a result of this rebalancing exercise. These changes will be made over a period of time. As noble Lords have said, they have been done in full consultation. We believe that there is recognition of the current operational environment. For example, skills are now required within the logistics tail of operations that more closely reflect the skills that infantrymen in the front-line forces require. We therefore believe that it will be possible for people to transition from the infantry to support roles. That reflects the reality of the operational needs we see at this time.

I promise to keep the House informed on progress. We have set out our aspirations in terms of harmony. Noble Lords have asked me to come back to the House on a regular basis—perhaps annually—and I will do that. We believe that we can do this, but we will keep the House informed.