Select Committee on Defence First Report


The Defence Committee has agreed to the following Report:—




1. When the Government published its Strategic Defence Review on 8th July 1998[1] it set out, in broad terms, its proposals for the future of the Reserve Forces. The supporting documents to the SDR announced that work was being done on the detailed changes to units and Territorial Army (TA) centres with a view to completing the work by the Autumn,[2] and this Committee undertook to examine decisions arising from that process.[3] This Committee was forthright in its criticism of the Government's policy on the TA in its report on the Strategic Defence Review.[4] While we have not changed our view on the conclusions the SDR reached on the Reserves,[5] we do not in this report intend to rake over the coals of those decisions. This report focuses on the restructuring of the TA announced in Modern Forces for the Modern World: A Territorial Army for the Future and its implementation. As part of this inquiry we took evidence from representatives of the Territorial and Auxiliary Volunteer Reserve Associations (TAVRAs) on Wednesday 2nd December and from Mr Doug Henderson MP, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces and General Sir Michael Walker, Commander in Chief, Land Command, on Wednesday 9th December. In addition to the oral evidence we received written evidence from the Ministry of Defence and the British Medical Association.[6] We also visited members of the Reserves at the Duke of York's Headquarters—which due to its proposed sale may, regrettably, have been the last opportunity for this Committee to undertake such a visit.

2. The proposals for restructuring of the TA were announced to the House in a statement by the Secretary of State on 17th November. The announcement reaffirmed the broad outline and size of the TA set out in the SDR, and gave greater detail of the new structure to be implemented. The main changes included—

  • a modest add-back in the proposed establishment of the TA which is now to be reduced from 59,000 to 41,200 rather than to the 40,000 originally proposed;[7]

  • the infantry to be reduced from 33 battalions and reorganised into 15 new infantry battalions with the retention of cap badges;[8]

  • the yeomanry to be reduced from seven regiments to four smaller ones;[9]

  • the Royal Engineers to be reduced from nine regiments to five;[10]

  • significant expansion of the TA's contribution to the Royal Army Medical Corps with an increase in its establishment by 2,000 posts and an overhaul of its structure;[11]

  • continued consultation on the future of the Territorial and Auxiliary Volunteer Reserve Associations (TAVRAs);[12]

—  a reduction in the number of TA Centres from 455 to 341, with a further 27 retained for the cadets (a net reduction of 87).[13]

1   The Strategic Defence Review CM3999 Back

2   ibid Factsheet: Changes to the Territorial Army Back

3   Eighth Report, Session 1997-98, HC 138-I, The Strategic Defence Review bid, para 260 Back

4   ibid Back

5   ibid, para 258-289 Back

6   Ev pp 35-36 Back

7   Modern Forces for the Modern World: A Territorial Army for the Future, Volume 1, para 10 Back

8   ibid, Volume 1, para 11 Back

9   See chart opposite Back

10   ibid Back

11   ibid, Volume 1, para 12 Back

12   ibid. Volume 1, para 19 Back

13   ibid, Volume 1, para 18 Back

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Prepared 11 February 1999