Select Committee on Defence Fifth Report



1. In our Report on the Draft Visiting Forces and International Headquarters (Application of Law)(Amendment) Order 1998 we stated our intention to 'consider each item of delegated legislation laid by Ministers'.[1] Since then the Ministry of Defence has laid before Parliament three Orders relating to the Reserve Forces: a Call out Order for the Reserves, the Territorial Regulations 1978—Supplement to Amendment 18, and Change 1 to the Regulation for the Royal Naval Reserve (BR60). Although the Orders we are examining in this Report are not statutory instruments, we still consider examining these Orders to be a valuable exercise of our duty to scrutinise the legislative acts of the Ministry of Defence. We requested memoranda from the MoD on each of the Orders.[2] We also took oral evidence from MoD officials on Wednesday 24 June.[3]

The Call out Order

2. The Call out Order was laid before Parliament on 8 April 1998. The Minister of State for the Armed Forces made the Order stating that—

The Order further notes that—

The reservists are required to support operations in former Yugoslavia and in the region of Iraq.[5]

3. The 1998 Order provides for the call out of 1,000 Reservists.[6] The breakdown of this figure by Service was given to us in a note by the MoD.[7] Most of these will be specialists[8] although there is also an increasing need for Infantrymen.[9] We were told that the requirement for the region of Iraq was specifically for one interpreter.[10] If more Reserves are required, for example to support any Regular forces which might be deployed in Kosovo, we were told a further Order would not strictly be needed, but we were given assurances by the MoD that Parliament would be informed in the event of a further call out.[11]

4. We note that the present Call out Order requires reservists for seven months, six of which are in theatre.[12] Although this does not present problems for the majority of reservists, our witnesses recognised that for some occupations—in particular medicine—mobilisation for this period of time can be problematic.[13] Whilst we appreciate that the first principle of the Call out is the operational requirement, we look to the MoD to give sympathetic consideration to shorter mobilisation periods for personnel in such employment.

5. This is the second Call out Order to be issued under the Reserve Forces Act 1996—the first having been laid in April 1997[14]—and therefore it is still a relatively new procedure. The call out of Reserves before the enactment of the Reserve Forces Act 1996[15] was authorised under section 11 of the Reserve Forces Act 1980. Procedures under the 1980 Act were established during the Cold War when the call out for the Reserves was designed for a mass mobilisation to support the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) in the event of a Warsaw Pact assault on NATO countries. Our witnesses from the MoD told us that the old system—

    ... presumed that if there was a crisis when Reserves would be needed, they would be needed suddenly and in large numbers. If you like, the system was geared to there being a large on-off switch, and the legislation was geared to throwing the switch from the off position to the on position in a hurry. Clearly with the collapse of the bi-polar world, and a change in the sort of military operations in which Britain might become involved, that was inappropriate.[16]

6. Experience of post Cold War call outs in Bosnia and the Gulf exposed the shortcomings of the existing legislation, prompting our predecessors, in their Report on the Reserve Forces, to declare that it was 'untidy, complex and inconsistent'[17] and that 'the most pressing need for revision stems from the new wider roles earmarked for the Reserves.'[18]

7. Assessments of the experience of the working of the new legislation so far have been favourable. Brigadier Holmes argued that 'in terms of legislation RFA 96 [The Reserve Forces Act 1996] is about right and apart from minor tweaks it is pretty well there.'[19] However he endorsed the view that there would always be room for improvement—

    ... what we are now seeing is the process of making it work, using regulations to make it work, seeing what the advantages and disadvantages are, and the practical implications of using that new legislation.[20]

One of the practical implications of using the legislation thrown up by the experience of the first Call out Order was the question of the best way to mobilise those volunteers called out. Both the Army Personnel Centre in Glasgow and the Chain of Command have been used; the latter now being the preferred option.[21] The process of issuing a Call out Order starts with the Director of Military Operations, who assesses the requirements for an operation. He will pass these requirements on to Land Command, whose task it is to provide them. If this is to include Reservists, the requirement be trawled through the Chain of Command.[22]

8. In practice, the requirement for Reservists will then appear at the unit level, with the commanding officer of that unit explaining the requirement to his soldiers and asking who would be interested.[23] The notice will—

    ... say vacancies are for a particular deployment and this comes out on a large list saying what individuals they are after, what jobs they will be doing and what the rank range required is. This comes through the chain of command to unit level so that individuals have the opportunity of assessing whether the prospect appeals to them.[24]

There are two considerations to be taken into account when selecting volunteers; first, the tasks they are being asked to undertake; and second, the quality and skill level of those volunteering. To ensure that those who go will be able to perform their duties, there is a form of vetting in which commanding officers will have an 'unofficial list' of who might be asked.[25] Furthermore, we were told, it is at this level that a commanding officer will be able to weed out those who volunteer but who would not make the grade.[26]

9. We were assured that, wherever possible, the MoD will seek to ensure that the reservist will undertake the tasks that they volunteered to perform. Brigadier Holmes readily admitted that, 'If we send somebody out to do a particularly skilled job and they finish off painting Landrovers they are not going to be pleased, and the fact that they are not pleased will reflect on the likelihood of other members of their unit to volunteer.'[27]

10. We asked our witnesses what further improvements they believed could be made to the call out process. Brigadier Holmes reiterated that, on the whole, the system was working well. However, with respect to pre-deployment training, the MoD had identified room for improvement. The main difficulty they experienced was 'that we have had to do pre-deployment training and mobilisation preparation on a rather ad hoc basis'. As a result the MoD has decided to establish a Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre which, when it is up and running, will provide mobilisation, focussed training and demobilisation training.[28] We very much welcome the announcement of the establishment of a mobilisation centre, and look forward to receiving further details from the MoD when the final decisions are made.

11. Brigadier Holmes stressed the importance of the mobilisation centre to establish best practice for regular contact between the chain of command, mobilised territorials and reservists' employers. This, he admitted, is an area in which we have, so far, been weak.[29] Brigadier Smales added that while the first commanding officer, who would set the organisation up, would be a regular officer, he could see 'no reason why a TA officer, properly qualified and recommended, should not command the mobilisation centre' and believed that such a development would be 'desirable'.[30] We welcome the MoD's readiness to consider a reservist commanding officer for the proposed Mobilisation Centre and believe that such an appointment would enhance the links between the chain of command, mobilised reservists and employers.

12. We note that the annual capacity for the new Training and Mobilisation Centre is planned to be 3,000.[31] This figure has implications for the level of future expectations about numbers and roles of the Reserves; an issue that we intend to explore in more depth in our forthcoming Report on the government's Strategic Defence Review.

13. On the whole, we conclude that the new procedures for calling out Reserves are working well, and we welcome the open-minded approach taken by the MoD to implementing further improvements. In particular, we welcome the initiatives to improve the administration of the Call out Order and will monitor the effect of these initiatives under future Orders.

The Territorial Army Regulations 1978 - Supplement to Amendment 18

14. The Territorial Army Regulations 1978 provide for 'the command and administration of the Territorial Army and also many of the terms and conditions of service for the officers and soldiers of that force.'[32] They explain in detail such things as how long people can join for, how they get promoted and what benefits they can get. They also deal with discipline and are cross referenced to both the Army Act and the Queen's Regulations.[33] As Brigadier Holmes explained, the regulations are, in effect, the 'Bible for the Reserves'.[34]

15. The supplement to Amendment 18 was laid before Parliament on 24 March 1998. It brings the Regulations up to date, following the introduction of the Reserve Forces Act 1996, by extending benefits enjoyed by the Regular Army to members of the Territorial Army while on attachments to the Regular Army. Benefits include membership of the Army Officers' Dependants Fund[35] and the Soldiers' Dependants Fund. [36] Both are charitable funds which pay a nominated dependant a one-off tax free sum of money in the event of death, irrespective of cause.[37] The sums paid out are about £8,000 if married and £5,500 if single, and are usually paid out to the nominee within 48 hours of death.[38]

16. Supplement to Amendment 18 also provides information and advice on types of insurance cover that members of the TA should have. This includes personal accident insurance to cover: loss of earnings in the event of death; sport, adventurous training and challenge pursuits; inter unit and sub unit competitions, as these are not covered by the TA sports Control Board insurance cover; kit; and loss of clothing and equipment if the individual is found liable and negligent.[39]

17. It also advises members of the TA to check life policies to ensure that they will retain cover while on military duties of any nature.[40] Brigadier Smales told us that—

    In 1991 it was realised that in the TA as well as the regular army individuals needed to be advised to make provisions for personal insurance in various fields but particularly against death or disability, because the benefits to which they would be entitled if they died while on duty, while they would get them, would by no means equate with what they might be earning in civilian life.[41]

18. We note that MoD are also engaged in strongly marketing RPAX, the Reserves' element of the Army Insurance Scheme. The take-up of this scheme is low—only 591 members of the Territorial Army have actually signed up—although recently MoD has experienced an increase in demand.[42] Whilst we appreciate that members of the Territorial Army may well have private insurance arrangements, we look to the MoD to continue its work in ensuring that all Reservists are aware of the need for adequate insurance cover.

Change 1 to the Regulation for the Royal Naval Reserve (BR60)

19. The Regulations for the Royal Naval Reserve are essentially the Royal Naval Reserve's equivalent to the Territorial Regulations providing terms and conditions for the Royal Naval Reservists. The change was introduced in May 1997 to take account of the Reserve Forces Act 1996.[43] Brigadier Holmes explained that the Royal Naval Reserves are organised on a series of lists.[44] The introduction of BR60 removed the last two lists, Lists 7[45] and 8.[46] This created the impression that members of University Royal Naval Units (URNUs) and the Sea Cadets ceased effectively to be members of the Royal Naval Reserve.

20. The purpose of the change is formally to restore the status of the University Royal Naval Units and the Sea Cadets while retaining their exclusion from any call out obligation. We welcome of this common-sense approach to the Regulations which will maintain the formal link between the Royal Naval Reserve and universities and schools.


21. This Committee has taken a keen interest in the Reserve Forces over the course of this Session. Their contribution to our defence will be a subject of close scrutiny in our inquiry into the Strategic Defence Review, upon which we shall be reporting shortly.

1   Second Report, Session 1997-98, The Draft Visiting Forces and International Headquarters (Application of Law)(Amendment) Order 1998, HC 521, para 12 Back

2   Ev p 1 Back

3   QQ 1469-1550 Back

4   The Call out Order Back

5   ibid Back

6   Ev p 1 Back

7   Ev p 13 Back

8   Q 1481 Back

9   Q 1482-3 Back

10   Q 1544 Back

11   Q 1502 Back

12   Q 1496 Back

13   Q 1497 Back

14   Q 1472 Back

15   22 May 1996 Back

16   Q 1471 Back

17   Twelfth Report, Session 1994-95, The Reserve Forces, HC65, para 46 Back

18   Ibid Back

19   Q 1530 Back

20  Q 1470 Back

21  Q 1473 Back

22   QQ 1473-4 Back

23   Q 1475 Back

24   Q 1474 Back

25   Q 1475 Back

26   Q 1490 Back

27   Q 1476 Back

28   QQ 1489-1494 Back

29   Q 1494 Back

30   Q 1508 Back

31   Q 1493 Back

32   Ev p 1 Back

33   Q 1535 Back

34   Q 1470 Back

35   Formally the Army Officers' Widows and Widowers Fund Back

36   Formally the Soldiers' Widows and Widowers Fund Back

37   Territorial Regulations 1978, para 3.050 and 3.050A Back

38   Q 1536 Back

39   Territorial Regulations 1978, para 3.045-3.048 Back

40   ibid, para 3.049 Back

41  Q 1539 Back

42  Q 1549 Back

43   Q 1543 Back

44   List 1: Seagoing Merchant Navy Deck Officers who serve in the Amphibious Warfare sub-branch; List 2: RNR Air Branch officers and ratings; List 3: the 'principal' RNR List for trained officers or ratings, or those under training or in support of RTC training or administration; List 4: the 'principal' RNR List for trained officers or ratings, or those unable to meet a List 3 commitment; List 5: Officers and ratings not required by their RTC CO or otherwise unable to meet a List 4 commitment; List 6: a 'holding' List for personnel unable to meet any training commitment for in excess of one year but for no longer than three years Back

45   University Royal Naval Units, URNUs Back

46   Sea cadets Back

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Prepared 10 August 1998