Select Committee on Defence First Report


47. The TA, and independent TAVRAs that support them, are a vital component of the British Army. The Secretary of State promised the House, when announcing the proposed restructuring of the TA, that it would produce a modern Territorial Army that is more relevant, more useable and more fully integrated into our armed forces and our defence plans.[149] We intend to test these claims against reality as the restructuring unfolds. To achieve these goals, the TA will need to be fully manned, properly equipped and above all well-trained. We welcome assurances from the Minister of State that where problems arise they will be corrected. We will monitor the implementation of the restructuring of the TA, and the longer-term effects the restructuring will have. To provide us with the necessary information to assess the success of the restructuring, we sought from the MoD a quarterly report detailing the following information:

  (i)  the recruited strength of the TA and the Cadets;

  (ii)  wastage levels;

  (iii)  number of regular and non-regular Permanent Staff Instructors;

  (iv)  numbers of days trained at formed unit or higher level;

  (v)  success rates of tests for operational competence; and

  (vi)  numbers of unit level command posts held by territorials.

The MoD responded that—

Since the restructuring will be in mid-flow at the end of March, it is likely to be of limited use to the Committee to have information at that date. We propose to make the first return after the TA Summer Camp period (say in October), next year. Quarterly reports on all the aspects set out in your minute will place a considerable burden on TA units who will need to be closely involved in their production; as the Committee has noted, we should be aiming to minimise the burden of reporting, and so we propose:

(1)  Quarterly reports on the recruited strengths of the TA and the cadets; and on wastage levels.

(2)  Annual reports on the numbers of regular and non-regular Permanent Staff Instructors, and numbers of unit level command posts held by territorials; in practice, there will not be much variation in the strengths against establishment for these posts and more frequent reporting will not add value to the exercise.

(3)  Annual reports also of the numbers of man training days at formed unit (battalion or equivalent) level including any that are carried out at higher levels; and of the numbers of TA assessed to be fit for role. In this latter respect, the Committee should note that TA units are not tested collectively for operational competence, and the fitness for role of individuals is primarily assessed during the summer camp period.[150]

We do not find these proposals wholly satisfactory.

48. We therefore propose a compromise position between our original request and the MoD's proposal. Beginning with March/April this year, we propose that this Committee should be supplied with quarterly reports of—

  (i)  the recruited strength of the Territorial Army and the Cadets;

  (ii)  wastage levels;

  (iii)  number of regular and non-regular Permanent Staff Instructors; and

  (iv)  numbers of unit level command posts held by territorials.

As from 1st October of this year, we also seek an annual report on—

  (v)  numbers of days trained at formed unit or higher level;

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

If, as the MoD suggests, the figures for items (iii) and (iv) show negligible variation over the first 12 months of the proposed reporting cycle, we will be content to review our request. We do not think it appropriate to delay the first quarterly report until October, since a central purpose is to monitor progress in restructuring. We recommend that the MoD implement this system of reporting from March/April 1999.

49. The future of the Territorial Army is a subject which arouses strong passions amongst its members and supporters, as the debates in the House following the Strategic Defence Review demonstrated. The volunteers who comprise the TA, and those who give so much time to administer it through the TAVRAs, have fought hard to defend the institution, and we have lent some support to that fight. The TA has not always been its own best advocate, and may on occasion have harmed its case by overstating it. But it is a good case. We are unimpressed by an apparent unwillingness within the MoD, including some senior elements of the Regular Army, to listen to the voice of the volunteers. The tone, if not the ostensible content, of the MoD's response to this debate has sometimes bordered on the patronising and offensive.

50. The honest brokers between the two parts of our one Army must be Ministers. We hold these Ministers to account on behalf of Parliament. As the dust of the debate stirred up by the Strategic Defence Review begins to settle, any spirit of factionalism between the regular and volunteer Services must be dispelled, and it is the duty of Ministers to ensure that it is. We expect the future relations between the two parts of the Army to be characterised by mutual respect. The regular Chain of Command hold the purse strings and most of the trumps in the pack. Its officers therefore have a particular obligation to listen to, and to demonstrate that they have listened to, the views of their volunteer colleagues. It is the duty of Ministers to act, and be seen to act, quickly and fairly when conflicts, perceived or otherwise, between the two parts of the Army appear. We expect Ministers closely to monitor relations between Land Command and the TAVRAs and not to be afraid to knock heads together if relations start once more to sour. Otherwise, we will certainly not achieve a Territorial Army fit for the future. Without that, the Army will be incomplete.

149  Modern Forces for the Modern World, A Territorial Army for the Future, Volume 1, Foreword Back

150  Ev p 37 Back

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Prepared 11 February 1999