Territorial Army: Rebalancing

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:02 pm on 23rd March 2006.

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Photo of Lord King of Bridgwater Lord King of Bridgwater Conservative 2:02 pm, 23rd March 2006

My Lords, could the Minister clarify the following point? The noble Lord, Lord Garden, pointed out that, increasingly, the TA and reservists are seen as a central part of our expeditionary forces. Consider that, historically, the TA was seen as an essential part of this country's Armed Forces and the defence of this country. Ministers from the Ministry of Defence, myself included, used to tour the country, encouraging employers to make the best people they had available in a public-spirited way. People who have important jobs simply cannot take on in any continuing way a central role in expeditionary forces. The noble Lord, Lord Freeman, refers to the problem of recruiting and retaining officers and the sort of leaders we are looking for in the TA. However, most of those people will, almost by definition, have significant jobs in civilian life and are simply not available.

I am sorry for cutting into this general atmosphere of "what a wonderful Statement," but I have been deeply worried about the TA for some time. I think the Government's expectation that the TA should be a regular and available resource for expeditionary forces, supplementing gaps that exist because of difficulties of recruitment and retention in the regular forces, is, in the long run, disastrous for the retention of a strong and resilient TA, available, ultimately, to defend our country. I hope Ministers appreciate that situation and understand that if they take on these commitments, they must principally and significantly be met by the volunteers who make up our country's regular forces. The TA must not be seen as a resource that is totally available at all times for expeditionary activities.