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Mr. Rifkind: I announced in July that the new role for the Territorial Army would be to act as a general reserve to the Army. It will remain an integral component of our defence forces on mobilisation, and it is intended to make greater use of volunteers in peacetime. We have now completed our examination of the structure of the TA against this background. This process has involved wide consultation, particularly within the TA itself.
We have concluded that our operational requirement necessitates some adjustments to the current balance of arms and services within the TA. Accordingly, we intend to increase the number of sub-units in the Royal Armoured Corps from 17 to 22; in the Royal Logistic Corps from 69 to 86; in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers from 13 to 16; and in the Adjutant General's Corps from 10 to 11. We propose to reduce the number of rifle companies in the TA infantry from 109 to 87. We intend to maintain the current effective manpower strength of the Special Air Service TA, although there will be some restructuring to enable manpower to be used more flexibly and efficiently. Army medical services units
Column 205will also be restructured to provide a more flexible capability. In all other arms and services, the number of sub- units will be unaffected.
In the infantry, we shall concentrate the support weapons platoons of the eight battalions currently so equipped into specialist, two company, fire support battalions. These fire support battalions will be available to support all infantry battalions and will, we believe, improve overall infantry training and operational effectiveness. The four battalions which will take on this role are the 5th Battalion, The Royal Green Jackets; the 3rd Battalion, the Prince of Wales' Own Regiment of Yorkshire; the 1/51st Highland Volunteers; and the 3rd Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment. The 1st and 2nd Battalions, the Wessex Regiment, will merge. The 8th
Column 206Battalion, the Light Infantry, will re-role as a national defence reconnaissance regiment in the Royal Armoured Corps, taking over the current role of the Royal Yeomanry which will become the Army's Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence Regiment. The Royal Anglian TA will be reduced from three to two battalions, with elements re-roling to form a new independent transport regiment. All other new sub-units will be newly formed.
The majority of these changes will be implemented by April 1997 within an overall TA size of 59,000 as previously announced. In the months ahead, we shall be considering the implications of these changes for the existing distribution of TA centres.
These plans offer the TA a structure consistent with its new role founded firmly on the operational requirement. They will, I believe, be widely welcomed in the TA.