Select Committee on Defence Second Special Report


The Defence Committee has agreed to the following Special Report:—


The Committee published its First Report on the Strategic Defence Review: Territorial Army Restructuring on 11 February 1999. The government's response to this report was received on 21 April 1999 and is published as an Annex to this Special Report.




1.  This memorandum sets out the Government's response to the Defence Committee's report on the reforms of the Territorial Army (TA) first published in outline in the Strategic Defence Review and then set out in detail in the announcement by the Secretary of State for Defence to the House on 17 November 1998.


2.  The Government regards as misplaced the Committee's criticism of the consultation process leading to the November announcement as falling short of the high standards set generally in the Strategic Defence Review. Publication of the Strategic Defence Review was followed by a period of over three months during which detailed proposals for the reform of the TA were circulated widely for comment on 21 July, revised and then circulated again on 23 September for discussion during a week-long series of consultation meetings, with full TA involvement, before final proposals were made. Those consulted included TA headquarters, the directors of each Arm and Service represented in the TA, the divisional and brigade commanders who command both regulars and volunteers in their areas, the TAVRAs, and Reserve forces directorates in the MOD. Their advice was sought on the optimum organisation and distribution of the TA within the policy announced in the Strategic Defence Review, and was instrumental in bringing about substantial changes to the initial proposals. The Government considers that this consultation was open and genuine, and fully in keeping with the spirit of the Strategic Defence Review.

3.  One consequence of the openness of this consultation was that it gave rise to extensive rumours and speculation on the outcome. It was to avoid damaging consequences for the morale of the units and individuals and properly to protect the confidentiality of the policy-making process that the Commander in Chief Land Command reminded Regular and TA personnel alike, of the relevant provisions of Queen's Regulations. The Government believes this to have been perfectly correct and that it in no way restricted the rights of individuals in relation to their MPs.


4.  The Government notes the Committee's concern that the right balance may not have been struck between the geographical spread of infantry battalions in the new structure, and their ability to train to fulfil the roles required of them. The reforms have sought to maintain a geographical spread of the TA as a whole, including combat arms such as the infantry, but also supporting Arms and Services; and the Committee has welcomed this in principle. Military cohesion and effectiveness will be maintained among the 15 new infantry battalions by ensuring that infantry volunteers are able to train at company level, as befits the roles that they are most likely to carry out in support of Regular forces, but within the framework of the battalions. The 15 battalions, most of which will have four or five companies, will have their own integral support weapons in the form of manoeuvre support platoons, unlike the existing practice where all such weapons are held in four support battalions. This will give greater access to a wider range of volunteers to serve in the manoeuvre support role. The structure of TA infantry companies themselves, which will be over 100 strong and over 150 strong in some cases, will enable training to be carried out as effectively or better than at present, for volunteers both in rifle platoons and in the new manoeuvre support platoons. It is doubtful that an increase in establishment would increase the effectiveness of training, but the Government will monitor this aspect and is determined to ensure that infantry companies are recruited to a level that will permit effective training to be carried out.

5.  The Committee expressed the view that proportionately larger numbers of Permanent Staff Instructors (PSIs) would be required in the reformed TA. The role of PSIs is to supervise training of volunteers by the TA chain of command (that is, to train the trainers) and to ensure that standards are set and maintained. The conduct of training itself is the responsibility of Commanding Officers and their subordinate officers and NCOs who receive guidance from PSIs. The standards of training achieved will therefore be a product not only of the numbers of PSI but also of the TA command structure itself and the many other Permanent Staff who provide support to the unit. New establishments have now been promulgated that will increase, proportionately, this support to the volunteers; and will ensure that sufficient numbers of PSI are available to units, reflecting their roles, readiness requirements placed on them and their geographic spread. Where it appears that training standards are not being achieved as a result of a lack of training support, this can be corrected.


6.  The Committee made a number of further observations on the Sponsored Reserves concept which does not form part of the announced reform of the TA, although Sponsored Reservists will be subject to many of the terms and conditions of service that are applicable to the TA. The Government welcomes the Committee's approval of the Sponsored Reserve Regulations pamphlet, and notes that the Committee will nevertheless wish to see the concept work in practice before drawing conclusions on its benefits. The Government would stress however that the potential employment of Sponsored Reserves is still a developing concept; one which is being explored through a number of initiatives in all three Services. Each of these is receiving advisory and support services from the Directorate of Reserve Forces and Cadets, which encompasses the National Employers' Liaison Committee Secretariat - the conduit for the liaison sought by the Committee.

7.  The Government agrees that Sponsored Reservists should not be expected to serve as frontline combat infantrymen; the provision in the Regulations is designed to ensure that they are able to serve in an operational environment, which will place demands on them for which a degree of training in military skills is necessary to enable them safely to exercise their expertise. As with all our serving personnel, Regular or Reserve, the military training given to Sponsored Reservists will be appropriate and relevant to the task they are to perform.


8.  The Government shares the Committee's concern about the challenge involved in expanding the volunteer medical services. Within the initiative announced in December to strengthen the Defence Medical Service as a whole, the Government intends to bring existing volunteer units up to strength and create new detachments whose locations will be strongly influenced by medical recruiting factors. We are also considering introducing even more flexible modes of employing volunteer medical staff, through both TA and combined Regular/TA composite units, to minimise disruption to local medical services of deployment of TA AMS. Requirements for medical specialisms within the expanded TA medical services are being refined and a recruitment campaign specifically for the TA medical service will be launched in the Autumn. Changes within the Surgeon General's Department include the provision of a stronger focus on Reserve matters, allied with enhancements to existing liaison arrangements between the MOD and the Department of Health/NHS to ensure that these and other issues of common interest are dealt with effectively. At the same time the National Employers' Liaison Committee is coordinating closer links with Health Industry representatives.


9.  The Committee urged that TAVRA advice on the disposal of properties be acted upon where valid, even where this might involve reconsidering individual sites earmarked for sale. TAVRA advice on individual cases formed a major element in decisions on the detailed location of units announced on 17 November. These decisions have had to take into account a wide range of factors of which the expectation of a disposal receipt was one. The Committee has been advised of the assumptions underlying the choice of location for TA units. The Government undertook to review cases where it appeared that a decision was made on the basis of incorrect, or incomplete, information; but subsequent review has indicated that in virtually all but a few cases the information was robust. The changes to these few cases was announced recently.


10.  The Government can accept the spirit of the Committee's recommendation that any unused element of the £12 million, earmarked for reproviding facilities for cadets displaced by the closure of TA Centres, should be invested in upgrading and refurbishing existing accommodation for the cadets. However, separate provision is made for these purposes which is part of the annual allocation of resources to TAVRAs for their support to the cadets. The Government's commitment is to spend up to £12 million on the reprovision of facilities for cadet units affected by the TA restructuring; in addition, £3 million will be spent over a period of four years on additional resources for all cadet organisations, including the Army Cadet Force.


11.  The future organisation of the TAVRAs has been considered by a joint (MOD/TAVRA) working group; as a result MOD Ministers have accepted joint recommendations by the Commander in Chief Land Command and the Chairman of the Council of TAVRAs for a future organisation that will align TAVRA boundaries with those of Government offices for the regions in England, which match those of the Regional Development Agencies. This arrangement will introduce greater stability in the organisation of TAVRAs while at the same time improving links with the Army's chain of command at regional level. TAVRAs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be unaffected in this reorganisation which will reduce overall numbers of TAVRAs from 14 to 13 through the amalgamation of the South East and Eastern Wessex Associations.

12.  TAVRA Funding. Budgetary arrangements for the TAVRAs will reflect the new structure and relationships. Each TAVRA will have a budget, channelled through its linked regional Division to achieve agreed tasks, and will be responsible for management of its budget accordingly. Any changes will be negotiated between the TAVRA and the Division, and there will be full visibility at all stages. Current arrangements for the separate resourcing of tasks laid upon the TAVRAs by the RN and RAF will continue unchanged.

13.  The Government welcomes the Committee's acknowledgement that there is a case for the MOD to recoup income accrued by the TAVRAs from investment of funds allocated to them. The Committee recommends, however, that the budgeting system for TAVRAs allows them to retain for their own use a proportion of efficiency savings made on their annual budget and of accruals from other income generating activities. Some TAVRAs may have sources of income that do not derive from facilities funded by the MOD and, in such cases, it will be for the TAVRAs to determine how this income is spent in support of their objectives. But the budgetary arrangements will continue to take account of anticipated income from the use of facilities funded from the public purse, in accordance with normal accounting procedures.


14.  The Government agrees the compromise position proposed by the Committee whereby quarterly reports will be supplied on:

(i)    the strength of the TA; and strength of cadets;

(ii)  turnover/wastage levels for the TA;

(iii)  numbers of Regular and Non-Regular Permanent Staff, including Permanent Staff Instructors (separately identified);

(iv)  numbers of unit level command posts held by Regulars

and annual reports on

(v)  numbers of days trained at formed unit or higher (ie company and battalion) level;

(vi)  numbers of TA volunteers assessed to be fit for role.

Since the end of the training year falls in March, and because it is then only that comprehensive annual returns on fitness for role are available, it is suggested this would be a better time to make available items (v) and (vi). The first quarterly report will be forwarded soon.

Ministry of Defence

21 April 1999

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