Examination of Witnesses (Questions 91
WEDNESDAY 8 NOVEMBER 2000
TAYLOR, CBE, COLONEL
91. Welcome. Would you introduce yourselves?
(Colonel Taylor) I am Colonel Mike Taylor. I am the
newly elected (earlier this year) Chairman of the Council of the
Reserve Forces and Cadets Associations, which of course is the
new name for TAVRAs. I took over from General Sir Edward Jones
on 1 July, having previously been the Chairman of the North West
Regional Association. On my right is Colonel Patrick Robinson
who chairs the West Midlands Association, and on my left is Commodore
Ian Pemberton who chairs the Wessex Association which covers effectively
the whole of the south west of the country. Could I, Chairman,
beg your indulgence on two things? Could I first of all pass these
leaflets to members of the Committee because they are an updating
of everything that happens in the RFCAs and they could be useful.
Secondly, perhaps I could just make a couple of preliminary points,
and I will not be long; I know we are short of time.
92. Please do.
(Colonel Taylor) I think it is important to establish
that the world is considerably different from our perspective
from where it was when we last appeared before your Committee
and I would like to make a couple of brief points about that.
The first one I have already made in a sense, that I took over
from General Sir Edward Jones and that in itself was an interesting
change in the way we do our business in the senseand I
hope this does not sound immodestthat I am the first non-three
or four star general in living memory to take on this role.
93. Here, here.
(Colonel Taylor) You need not say that, sir, but thank
you. It is primarily about the re-focusing of the way we do our
business I think is the point. But more than that. The most important
point I want to make about the change is that we collectively
are now very much more integrated with the chain of command. One
of the things that flowed from the changes that occurred last
year was that I am now a member of the Land Command Board and
my colleagues are members of their respective divisional boards,
which means that on anything that is being dealt with and discussed
about reserve matters, with the TA in particular of course in
this context, we are very much a part of that process. That brings
me to my next point which is that the relationships currently
I would say between the Associations and the Chain of Command
are as good as they have ever been and we are working much more
closely than perhaps was the case shall we say two or three years
ago. I would like to record that because I think it is a very
important preliminary point for your questioning of us. If I may
make one last point generally, and I am sure it cropped up in
the earlier discussion, the one thing that is confronting all
of us, whether it be the chain of command or the Associations,
is that the budgets are incredibly tight. Wherever we look, whatever
we do, money is not available. It is very tight budgeting, very
tight financial affairs. There is virtually nothing in the system
which allows us a lot of latitude to do things that we would perhaps
previously have done or would like to do. That is not anybody's
fault. It is just the way of the world. Where we are in our current
position as an integrated organisation with the chain of command
is that budgetary issues are debated in a very open fashion and
as a result of the memorandum of understanding which was signed
last year there is a considerable degree of transparency with
our funding arrangements and I think we are all very positive
about all of that, although there are some spin-offs from that:
refurbishment, decoration, maintenance of buildings is not happening
as it should do, and there are issues floating around about training
days for TA soldiers. Those are issues I wanted to put on the
table at the front end.
94. When the old TAVRAs appeared before us when
the future of the TA was really gravely at risk, you did express
very forcibly, as did your colleagues, many reservations that
we have reflected on and frankly shared. We really do hope that
with the new name the newly designated organisation will fight
its corner as vociferously as its predecessor did because you
know, as we know, how difficult it is to survive in a Ministry
of Defence whose lack of enthusiasm (I will not go as far as to
say antipathy) for what was the former TAVRA is well known. We
really do hope that when the time comes, if it has not come already,
you will be as diligent in pursuing the interests of the Territorial
Army as you always have been.
(Colonel Taylor) If I may comment, Chairman, and pick
up on what you said, and I think my colleagues would want to comment
too, because of our integration: my involvement with the Land
Command Board, their involvement in the Divisional Boards, it
is much less a confrontation issue now because it is actually
being in at the start of those debates and discussions and that
is a much more potent position to be in than we were previously.
(Commodore Pemberton) We are the same size fish as
we were before but we are in smaller pools and we are sitting
alongside the BLBs,
the brigades and others and we have to work harder.
95. A lot of piranhas around, I must say.
(Commodore Pemberton) We have good eyesight.
96. Phase 2 of the TA restructuring has now
been completed. In your judgement, has the TA become "more
relevant, more useable and better integrated with the rest of
the UK's forces"?
(Colonel Taylor) I will kick off and then ask my two
colleagues to comment. I think the answer to that has to be in
general terms yes, butand the "but" of course
is a range of factors, not least that the footprint of the TA
across the country is very much more scattered than it was previously,
so to that extent the integration is bound to be damaged. The
evidence, as you have already heard from our colleagues who were
before you before, tells you that there is a fairly effective
mobilisation process available to work with and therefore to that
extent our TA units around the country are playing their part.
I will ask my two colleagues from their regional perspective to
(Commodore Pemberton) To the extent, Chairman, that
there are many members of the TA serving with the Army specifically
in the Balkans, I think is an illustration that they are relevant
and they are being used. It is early days still to see how we
can maintain the training levels, as was indicated I think in
the earlier part of the previous speakers. The nature of the training
that TA soldiers now get is changed, it is brought down to a smaller
unit level, and that is relevant to the work that they are going
to do. How this goes onit is early days. The jury is still
(Colonel Robinson) I would say that we are not there
yet, Chairman, in that quite a lot of work is still to be done,
particularly on rehousing. We have some units that have been re-rolled
and in theory rehoused but the housing is not going to be financed
for another three years in some cases. In your and my area, Chairman,
we have a field squadron that cannot get through its gates because
the budget is not there for it yet and will not be for quite a
long time. This does not help. Restructuring should really have
happened straightaway so that we could go into it with a bang,
but of course it was not financed properly.
(Colonel Taylor) I think we need to remind you, Chairman,
that when SDR was announced there were phrases being bandied around
about the TA being fully resourced for its new role and its new
activities. We have to say from our experience that in certain
areas that has not proven to be the case and there are shortfalls
around which are going to make it quite difficult to produce the
final things that we are looking for.
97. Perhaps you could drop us a note telling
us where you believe the shortfalls are, and anything else you
think would be relevant. To what extent were your views and concerns
taken into account during the process of restructuring the TA?
(Colonel Taylor) Our view is that we could not have
been more fully involved than we were. Right from day one we found
ourselves able to play a significant part. You may yourself recall
that we even were proactive in that sense in that we ran our own
RUSI seminar to put some points on the table before the policies
were really being finalised. Throughout the process, both nationally
from the Council perspective and regionally from the Associations'
perspective, there was a proper consultative process in place.
I do not think any of us would have anything to say other than
that it was highly involving, it was totally a consultative process
we played a part in, we were involved in all the detailed planning
assumptions and all the planning processes.
(Colonel Robinson) I would go along with that. I do
not think we got our point over as well as we might have at times
and I think that some of the restructuring is going to have to
be revisited because I still do not think it is right.
98. Could you give some examples of that because
it would be very helpful to the Committee?
(Colonel Robinson) I think the way the infantry was
re-hashed was actually not very clever and that is going to hit
us further down the line. We have not yet got the right structure
in the infantry battalion. I was listening earlier to the comments
of the previous speakers. We have put together what are called
battalions but, if we remember, they were actually training organisations.
You then asked our previous speakers if they could be mobilised.
They were never invented to be mobilised, nor were they invented
to be any more than training operations. The fact that they are
finding it extremely difficult to train and to man as infantry
battalions is a major problem. That is going to have to be revisited
and re-sorted because there is no proper career structure for
the officers or the senior NCOs and the result is that they say,
"What is the point?".
99. What really irritated me was that in my
own area they closed down the TA centre which had been recruiting
in the town for a couple of centuries, and then all we had in
the merger was keeping the band and the dog (who died) and some
of the headquarters, so you had all these guys from my area who
did not want to go to Wolverhampton or Tamworth, and I just wondered
whether you had any statistics on how many of the guys and women
who were reorganised just threw the towel in and disappeared from
the Territorial Army.
(Colonel Taylor) Those figures are available obviously
because we have information about what happened to units. I think
I need to make a point. The question we were asked was were we
fully consulted. The answer was yes. Were the things we wanted
to see delivered? The answer obviously is, "Not necessarily
so", because our views were sometimes opposed to the outcomes
that occurred. Patrick has already made the point about the infantry
and that has probably been the most stark case, with the infantry
now very scattered, and clearly we have presented some very powerful
arguments, and so did other people, and we were not always able
to win those arguments. We were consulted and I want that point
to be really clearly understood. It was not lack of consultation.
It was simply that in the circumstances those things that we were
aspiring to and wanted we did not always succeed in achieving.
2 Basic level budgets. Back