Examination of witnesses
(Questions 1500 - 1519)
WEDNESDAY 24 JUNE 1998
and MR JOHN
1500. That is interesting. Thank you very
much. Can I move on to the Call Out Orders of the former Yugoslavia
and the Gulf. Clearly you said that was a success and I think
probably we all agreed. Do you see any other areas where the reserve
forces will be effective? If you think we listen to what the Minister
says about how the TA should be responsive and useable, tell me
where else the TA could be used?
(Brigadier Holmes) I think I find it difficult
to conceive of a set of circumstancessave aid to civil
power which is an exceptionwhere the reserve forces could
not be useable. In other words, right across the scale from aid
to the civil community in the United Kingdom right through to
military operations of an intense nature overseas. Again, going
back to legislation, I think the advantage of the legislation
is it makes the reserve forces useable and useful in that whole
range of circumstances. I would expect therefore to see almost
anything in which the British forces involve themselves, including
some reservists, with that scale of involvement increasing as
the intensity of the operation evolves.
1501. In the event of operations in Kosovo,
do you see reserve forces playing their part there?
(Brigadier Holmes) Without dealing with Kosovo
specifically, obviously I could not comment, if there is military
operation then the process of selecting a force would be done
in the normal way and it might very well involve reservists.
1502. Do we need a new Call Out Order for
(Brigadier Holmes) In legal terms no because the
Call Out Order is unspecific. The notice which tells Parliament
of the Call Out Order specifies both geography and numbers. So
in practice the existing Call Out Order would work for Kosovo,
although one would expect Parliament to receive a notification
of the fact that it was going to apply to Kosovo.
1503. A follow up, Brigadier, to the response
on 180 days' readiness, does the TA meet the requirements laid
down of being ready at 180 days?
(Brigadier Smales) Each unit does produce, against
its establishment, 50 per cent of its individuals fully trained,
yes. There is no real difficulty about that.
1504. What about the other 50 per cent,
do they exist?
(Brigadier Smales) You must remember that the
TA, unlike the regular army, trains its recruits in the unit rather
than at the central training as the regular army does. So a high
proportion of its establishment at any one time will be untrained
or partly trained recruits which would account for between 20
and 30 per cent at any one time. I think 50 per cent is a very
reasonable demand to make for an organisation which is funded
to only 90 per cent of its establishment.
1505. If you had a wish list of what could
be done for the TA, especially in the infantry, to make it ready
after 150 days, 120 days, what would have to be done? What kind
of investment? What kind of training requirement and changes would
have to be made should it ever be necessary for substantial numbers
to be made available, assuming intelligence is as it has always
been a total failure, but something happens where we do not have
the luxury of 180 days, what would we need to do as a nation to
bring it down to 100 days or even less?
(Brigadier Smales) Let me start by talking about
the major inhibiting factor. Unless you call people up they are
only prepared to devote a certain amount of their time, if they
are in civil employment, to training with the TA and I would think
an ideal number of man training days would be about 40. Experience
has shown that this is about what most people can do on average.
We have 40 man training days to fill fruitfully. If we are going
to improve the quality of that training we would need a greater
investment in equipment at unit level with the TA, and that is
a problem which affects both regular and TA. We would need more
access to collective training, ie training at unit level or above.
Those are the two things that I would recommend if the threat
was sufficient to demand that we had a TA at shorter readiness.
1506. If it was possible could things be
done by the Ministry of Defence to encourage more men and women
to put in a greater number of hours than what is regarded as a
(Brigadier Smales) I am sure we can encourage
them to do so but whether the employers would accept this, I do
not know. Anyone who is unemployed, of course, would dearly love
to do as many days as they can get, and a lot of people do do
more than the average of 36 which I think is what we lay down
at the moment. It is up to the commanding officer to decide who
does what in order to achieve 50 per cent FFR. A personal opinion
now: I am dubious of the need to give people more than about 40
man training days because I do not think we could do that without
impacting on their civilian jobs and they essentially become semi
regulars. Under the new Reserve Forces Act we do have such categories
as full-time reserve service, limited commitment, which will allow
us to exploit those people who have that desire and who are needed.
1507. What percentage in the last couple
of years have done their 40 days?
(Brigadier Smales) If you want to know what percentage
of individuals I would have to do some more research but the resources
are taken up to produce the output required. How many people do
18 days, how many people do 17 or more days, I would have to look
that up if you wish.
1508. Before my questions could I ask a
supplementary to some things which were raised earlier, in terms
of this business of persuading people to come in and keeping them
happy when they are mobilised. Brigadier Holmes mentioned the
importance of liaison with employers, something which my colleague,
Laura Moffatt, and I have spent a lot of time looking at over
the last year. Could you just say, did they consider the possibility
of a part-time reservist to command the mobilisation centre so
we have somebody with a real civilian job or not? Was anybody
interviewed? Do either of you know anything about that?
(Brigadier Smales) Nothing is written down as
far as I know but the current belief is that it had better be
a regular who starts it because starting anything does require
a degree of regular expertise. Our oral policy at the moment of
Land command is that after the first chap has set it up there
is no reason why a TA officer, properly qualified and recommended,
should not command the mobilisation centre and I believe that
will be desirable if we can find the properly recommended and
1509. Thank you. Brigadier Holmes, powers
exist under the Act for compulsory mobilisation of reservists,
in what scenario would you see this being used and critically
do you think that such compulsory powerstaking people away
from their civilian jobsshould be confined, as they traditionally
have been earlier this century, to units or do you think that
individuals could be compulsorily called out?
(Brigadier Holmes) In very general terms I think
we must all be clear that the reserve forces are for use not for
show. In other words, nobody should join the reserve forces if
they do not recognise that by so doing they take on an obligation
for compulsory mobilisation. I do think that is important. I think
we need to be quite clear and very upfront about that post SDR,
whatever form the SDR may take. Any government will need to take
a view of the seriousness of a particular crisis and the way in
which that crisis will be perceived by the nation as a whole and
to relate the level of mobilisation to that perceived seriousness.
In other words, if we went back to the Gulf War, there was, as
many of the Committee will know, a feeling of irritation, I might
say, on the part of many Territorials that they were not mobilised.
There was a perception in the TA that this was a serious enough
crisis to merit mobilisation. Lower down the scale, something
like the former Yugoslavia, I would have thoughtand any
government will make a judgment at the timethat it would
be more appropriate to call for volunteers. One can imagine a
situation perhaps somewhere between the Gulf War and the former
Yugoslavia where a government might wish to mobilise compulsorily.
It will no doubt think very deeply about the fact that if it mobilises
individuals, particularly individuals who are in short supply,
it might solve a short term problem but would create a very long
term one. The repeated mobilisation piecemeal of individuals in
the TA might create a climate in which similar individuals would
feel less likely to join or to stay in. It is a political judgment
and I think compulsory mobilisation for something like the Gulfdifficult
to be precisewould be expected and I would even say welcomed.
At a lower level, of course, there might be individual mobilisation,
but I would suggest that it is something which might be used with
caution and we would need to be clear that getting volunteers
had failed. Overlying all this, people ought not to join the reserve
forces if they are not prepared to run the risk of compulsory
1510. The basic message should be that reserve
forces would welcome mobilisation of units in a big Gulf type
scenario, below that as far as possible individual mobilisation
it should be voluntary?
(Brigadier Holmes) Yes but having very much regard
to the circumstances of the crisis and the political realities
of the moment.
1511. The Call Out Order also authorises
the Call Out of regular reserves. Do you anticipate calling up
any regular reserves? If so what roles would they be asked to
undertake? Is there any distinction between the kind of roles
for which you might seek ex-regulars and the kind of roles for
which you might seek volunteer reservists?
(Brigadier Holmes) If I can start with that and
Brigadier Smales might want to add. The sort of way the balance
has gone so far, in 1995 and 1997, the mixture was 78 per cent
volunteer reserve, 22 per cent regular. 1997-98 it was 70 per
cent volunteer and 30 per cent regular. Regulars are inevitably
trawled for jobs where there is no TA equivalent. For example
if you wanted AS 90 gunners or tank crewmen then you would naturally
trawl the regular army, now that may or may not change post SDR.
That gives you a feel for the way in which the balance might be
1512. Brigadier Smales, would you like to
(Brigadier Smales) No, I think Brigadier Holmes
has said everything.
1513. Again, I am not sure which of the
two Brigadiers I am addressing the next question to, you may both
want to say something. What was your experience of calling out
regular reserves for the Gulf War because there was, as I understand,
a number of regular reservists as well as a number of volunteer
reservists who were mobilised, albeit on a small scale.
(Brigadier Holmes) A total of 1,700 reservists
of all sorts were called out in the Gulf War and 120 of those
regular reservists were compulsorily called out. The number of
compulsory called out regular reservists was actually very small.
1514. Were the procedures the same for calling
(Brigadier Holmes) The procedures were broadly
the same but remember this is when the old legislation was still
in force. I have no doubt that things will be much more flexible
and easier now.
1515. Last question on that group: obviously
a Territorial in a unit where he has to pass an annual fitness
test, and most units have PT or football or something to see the
boys are fit, what measures are there in place to ensure or at
least try to check whether or not regular reservists are keeping
physically fit? Are there any opportunities for preventing skill
fade or whatever?
(Brigadier Holmes) No. There was a system where
regular reserves used to carry out ARCEX, which is an annual reporting
exercise, where they would appear once a year. That was discontinued.
We do not expect to see regular reservists. The check however
would be the same as the check applied to any sort of reservist
by the Reserve Training and Mobilisation Centre. In other words,
if he was not medically fit and could not do his combat fitness
test he would not get over that hurdle. Regardless of the state
he might have got into since leaving the army if he cannot get
over that hurdle he will not get in.
1516. Is there any measure for what proportions
are passing the medical fitness of Territorials as against regular
reservists or not?
(Brigadier Holmes) Certainly I do not have anything.
1517. Can I just check one last point, not
directly relating to this but it does relate to this, a quick
legal point for Mr Tesh, perhaps arising out of something previously
discussed. You mentioned this involved changes to the TA regulations
would any change to the TA regulations automatically require a
statutory instrument in Parliament or not?
(Mr Tesh) Not at all. Most of the changes to the
regulations, substantial changes, arise from the Reserve Forces
Act. Quite a few of the regulations are administrative changes
which do not require any Statutory Instrument.
1518. The question, following on from Mr
Brazier, of calling up regular reservists is more of an aspiration
than a reality above a handful of cases. Our Committee when we
produced a report a few years ago was dismayed at how many formal
regulars had managed to avoid passing on their information when
they changed jobs or residence. I think the figure was 52 per
cent had managed to catch up, which is pretty spectacular compared
to the Child Support Agency. I suppose there must be congratulations
on that. Have things improved? Have you improved procedures so
you can get more than 52 per cent of people who have left the
armed forces on your computer so should there be a requirement
you will be able to find them and call them up?
(Brigadier Holmes) No things have not substantially
improved. The principal reason for that is the change in the way
that the army handles its personnel policy. No sooner had ARCEX,
which was the annual reporting of reservists, been discontinued
for financial reasons than the army centralised its personnel
affairs at Glasgow, which resulted in the closing down of all
regimental pay offices and so on. In the process, the contacting
of regular reservists suffered. We are now in contact with something
like 50 per cent of them which I concur is less than ideal.
1519. Is the MoD not trying hard enough?
I would be appalled if just because somebody was in the regulars
ten years ago that you had private investigators to chase him
all over the country, I would not say that but even the MoD computers
must work and I would have thought it would be possible if they
wanted to, to increase that figure of 50 per cent?
(Brigadier Holmes) I am sure it would be possible.
It is a question of
2 Note by witness: See Ev p. 13. Back