Examination of witnesses
(Questions 1480 - 1499)
WEDNESDAY 24 JUNE 1998
and MR JOHN
1480. The commenced date?
(Brigadier Smales) December 1995.
1481. Of those who are asked to go, for
example, to serve in Bosnia, what percentage are asked to go and
fulfil specialist roles and how many of them are asked to replace
(Brigadier Holmes) Unless Brigadier Smales has
a more accurate breakdown all I can give you is a general outline
of our principal requirements, firstly for the period December
1995 to March 1997 and then in the period 1997 to 1998. In December
1995 to March 1997 by cap badge we had a requirement for Royal
Military Police, Royal Signals and Royal Logistic Corp drivers.
1997 to 1998 Royal Engineers, REME, Royal Signals, Infantry, Royal
Logistic Corp drivers and cooks, REME and Adjutant-Generals Corps.
That shows a general tendency to go for people who have specialist
1482. Who bring the skill with them.
(Brigadier Holmes) Yes. What is actually quite
interesting is to see the infantry appearing in 1997-98 figures.
1483. That is a reflection, of course, of
the recruitment problem and difficulties elsewhere?
(Brigadier Holmes) It may well be.
1484. On the question of infantrymenand
thank you for giving us the little intro into this, it was coming
anywaywe keep getting told that the infantrymen in the
TA really are not up to the task. Where have you found these guys?
What tasks have they slotted into? How quickly was it before they
managed to raise their game sufficiently to fit in easily with
the full-time boys playing at being very good soldiers?
(Brigadier Holmes) The way that we have used infantry
in Bosnia so far has been by reinforcing regular infantry battalions
going to Bosnia with Territorials. Very often, wherever possible,
we have done this with the grain of the regimental system. This
would result in soldiers in the first Loamshires being reinforced
by Territorials wearing the same cap badge and that is where the
regimental system works best of all. Typically a unit going might
take from say 30 to say 80 Territorials.
1485. As many as that?
(Brigadier Holmes) As many as that. By and large
they will be relatively low in terms of rank. In other words it
might take out an officer or two, a corporal or two but most of
them are private soldiers and most of them fit into the structure
provided by the regular army. You see the Territorials feeding
into a regular framework, and while obviously there are lots of
different individual experiences, I think the consensus is that
the system has worked very well indeed because we are using Territorials
to fit into a structure which is already working and therefore
it does not require much time. If the Territorials join the unit
for work up training before it goes, I thinkand I would
not wish to put words into all their mouthsmost regimental
commanding officers would say that you really cannot see the joins
by the time
1486. How quickly.
(Brigadier Holmes) they get into
theatre. It is worth adding, I was having a conversation with
a Green Howards officer the other day, not merely was he very
pleased with the Territorials he had got but he had a Territorial
corporal in his platoon who turned out to be a stonemason. The
Green Howards entirely unofficially had been repairing a variety
of buildings in theatre and the stonemason had done some rather
nice little stone plaques with the Green Howards' badge on. That
has nothing at all to do with readiness but I think
1487. He has been promoted I presume.
(Brigadier Holmes) it has an awful
lot to do with style and putting a little bit of value added in.
I think that is another thing these boys can do.
1488. And they are very happy when they
come back to talk to their mates and to say what it was like being
an infantryman in theatre?
(Brigadier Holmes) Yes and I think another advantage
of doing these things with the grain of the regimental system
is that a Territorial soldier is much more likely to be well regarded
by the receiving unit. Even if in the early stages they think
"he is a bloody Territorial", at least he is one of
1489. In terms of the training prior to
going out, how would that be tailor-made in order to meet the
requirements of Bosnia? How many hours would it take?
(Brigadier Holmes) It is worth emphasising the
trawling process will only start with a Territorial who is trained
to a basic level in any event. A commanding officer is not going
to feed into the trawling process somebody who is not trained.
He will then receive some top up training in UK before he goes
to theatre and this is where the Reserves Training and Mobilisation
Centrewhich I will be entirely happy to talk aboutcomes
in. Once that is up and running it will give more focused training.
I think one of the difficulties which has occurred so far is that
we have had to do pre-deployment training and mobilisation preparation
on a rather ad hoc basis.
1490. If you are a commanding officer and
you have someone going, you are not going to send a trouble maker
are you because the difficulty is that the representation of your
unit will then be rather poor in the unit to which your soldier
has gone. I suppose there is self-selection, that is to say people
who say: "Well I would like to do this" and then you
have the commanding officer saying: "I will not nominate
so and so because he is a trouble maker or may not do the job
properly". Then is there a further stage at which centrally
someone says: "Well this chap may want to do it, the commanding
officer may think he is good enough to do it but we do not think
he is good enough to do it". Does he get weeded out?
(Brigadier Holmes) Yes, he does. He has to go
through the mobilisation process over here. Now, at present, that
is a process which has been carried out in a number of different
places and has not worked ideally. We have in-train the establishment
of a Reserve Training and Mobilisation Centre. For example, that
will give him a medical, it will make sure he passes his combat
fitness test and it will bring his training up to the required
standard for deployment. If he does not come up to that then he
will not get mobilised so it is a final filter.
1491. May I say the Committee is rather
pleased to hear that because that was one of the recommendations
the Committee made in the last Parliament. How long do you think
it may be before that Centre is fully up and running?
(Brigadier Smales) 1st April 1999 is the plan
to have it in operation.
1492. And who will run that? Will that be
run by the regular army or by the reservists?
(Brigadier Holmes) It will have a regular lieutenant
1493. You have a location?
(Brigadier Holmes) We are considering a number
of locations including Chilwell although a final ministerial decision
on its location has yet to be made. It will be commanded by a
lieutenant colonel and it will have enough dedicated staff to
look after over 3,000 reservists annually to both mobilise and
1494. And train?
(Brigadier Holmes) And train. In other words,
it will take reservists, both regular and volunteer, in. It will
get them kitted, any extra kit they require. It will get them
documented which is very important because TA pay is not the same
as regular army pay. Another of the things that, as you will all
be well aware, did go wrong in the past, pay did not always work
as it should. It will get them properly documented. It will get
them medically examined and it will then dispatch them to theatre.
It will complete their demobilisation when they come back. It
also seems to me that another area where we have not in the past
covered ourselves with glory is in our relationship with employers.
That is because we have, if you like, two sorts of relationships
with employers. The first is the formal one where the Army Personnel
Centre at Glasgow sends at the very beginning of the process a
formal notification that an individual has agreed to be mobilised
into service and it tells the employer what the legal requirements
are. There is a similar document sent at the end of it which tells
the employer that he has a certain amount of time to lodge a claim
for financial assistance if he wishes to do so. It does seem to
me that we need to do more than that. In other words that we need
to be sure that employers are told after the individual has gone
what he is doing and how he is doing it. It seems to me this is
a chain of command responsibility. It is a chain of command responsibility
which will be much easier to exercise if the receiving unit, the
hard pressed lieutenant colonel in Banja Luka or elsewhere knows
who a man's employer is and who he ought to write to. From this
point of view I think the Reserve Training and Mobilisation Centre
is going to do more than simply train and mobilise, it will act
as a focal point where information about reservists going out
to theatre and coming back can be more readily controlled.
1495. It will be really helpful if we could
be sent information on this Reserve Training and Mobilisation
Centre. Certainly when it is open we would like to come along.
If it can accommodate 3,000, is the assumption we will only ever
require 3,000? If there be some catastrophe whereby we require
6,000, 9,000, 12,000 or, as in the First World War hundreds of
thousands, let us say we need 10,000 in the event of a major crisis,
where would the training be done?
(Brigadier Holmes) I think the first thing is
we would assume we would get some warning before we are required
to deploy a force which needs that number of reservists. We could,
between warning and mobilisation, take some steps to increase
the capacity. The key thing there is we will at least have a fund
of knowledge and a fund of skills which is required so we will
at least know what we are doing. We could expand the capacity
in order to take more people.
1496. I am so glad you preempted my questions
to you on employers. It is something which is concerning this
Committee, as you know no doubt and I thank you for that. I would
like to go on a little bit and perhaps bring that back into what
I am going to ask you by saying do you believe that there is any
flexibility in this system for call up for reservists? It is something
that I have been pursuing through the Committee and on the floor
of the House in the difficulties that the length of time is causing
for employers, particularly the National Health Service. I can
see that there are some people who feel that they are being pulled
in all directions, reservists who are very keen to serve but find
they are going to cause great difficulty for the NHS back home.
I wonder if you could let me know if you believe there is any
scope for looking at the tours of duty that people do and perhaps
splitting them up?
(Brigadier Holmes) If I could perhaps start with
this one and Brigadier Smales may like to say a word afterwards.
At present we are mobilising reservists for seven months, which
includes six months in theatre. Now the argument over this cuts
in two directions. There is the straight operational requirement
argument which is entirely logical and says quite clearly that
if you are going to mobilise a reservist, the longer you use him
or her for the more value you get out of the training period and
the less disruption you cause in theatre by people coming in and
out. That is an argument which I am very sensitive to. On the
other side of the coin there is an argument which says that the
shorter the period of mobilisation the more people you will get
to volunteer and that will be the case particularly for peopleand
medical personnel will be a key instance herewho are hard
pressed in their everyday lives. I think the answer is to acknowledge
the importance of the first principle, that of the operational
requirement, meaning that one should remain in theatre as long
as possible, but to recognise that the shorter the period the
more people you would get. For example, in the case of railway
engineers we took railway engineers for less than six months because
we were fishing in a very tiny pool. I think there is a principle
which ought to be tempered by common sense. Speaking as a Territorial
I would acknowledge certainly that it is easier to persuade people
to give up their jobs for three months than for six.
1497. I would like to look at that in terms
of employers as well. They may be more likelyI realise
this is a call outto acquiesce to all the requests of the
reserve forces if there is some flexibility. Do you take that
argument, if you acknowledge it, any further forward to say that
would be worth pursuing?
(Brigadier Holmes) I think it would be easier
obviously to persuade employers to release people for six months.
Through the National Employer Liaison Committee we are in close
contact with employers and there are some areas, particularly
the National Health Service, where employers are extraordinarily
hard pressed. Clearly there are two factors, the shorter the mobilisation
period and as importantly the more warning time an employer gets
the easier it will be for the employer. What is quite difficult
is to tell an employer late on that you would like one of their
employees. It does put the employer sometimes in a situation where
they are being dragged in two directions. I have been reminded,
although this is not the thrust of your question, that an employer
can apply for exemption or deferral for compulsory mobilisation
but at this stage, as I judge it, we are talking about volunteers.
1498. Sure. We get beyond that, of course
there will be some looking for that but co-operation and working
with employers seems to me the best way forward.
(Brigadier Holmes) Yes. It is worth reiterating
that Bosnia has been a very considerable success. To get this
number of reservists to Bosnia who have volunteered and who have
organised things with their employers before-hand has been a very
considerable success which we need to build on. The employers
are an essential plank in this. We must keep employers on side.
Laura Moffatt: You will note from our report on
Bosnia that there was considerable disquiet amongst those services,
including the NHS, about the pickle that they had left behind
and also about making some sort of arrangement to sort that out.
Chairman: We hope the SDR, which we do not expect
you to discuss, will perhaps undo some of the damage that has
been caused and will make your task rather easier should medical
personnel be required to turn up on the core. I would not expect
you to answer that. We are crossing our fingers that is what is
going to happen.
Mr Campbell: Casting a fly.
1499. Can we turn to readiness then. Do
you keep records of TA readiness and the levels at which they
(Brigadier Holmes) Yes. This is where I will defer
to Brigadier Smales to talk about this.
(Brigadier Smales) At present, and I cannot predict
what the SDR might give us, the bulk of the TA, almost all of
the TA, are at what is known as readiness level 8 which is at
180 days' notice. There are one or two signals' units which are
essential for the regular army deployment on shorter notice but
for the most part they are at 180 days' notice. This means that
each unit is required to have 50 per cent of its establishment
with individual's fit for role and it is given 90 per cent of
its pay, its funding, to achieve that.
1 Note by witness: The Reserve Mobilisation
and Training Centre is designed to cope with the mobilisation
of individuals; large-scale mobilisation would involve units,
which would mobilise under their own arrangements. Back