Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
WEDNESDAY 8 NOVEMBER 2000
TAYLOR, CBE, COLONEL
120. Can I change the focus a bit and talk about
mobilisation? We have recently produced a report on the lessons
of Kosovo and during our inquiry the Chief of the Defence Staff,
General Guthrie, told us that he came very near to mobilising
12 to 14,000 reserves within a month or so. Can you tell us what
involvement, if any, you had on that question? There must have
been some advance planning, could you tell us whether you had
any role or information about that?
(Colonel Taylor) I will speak generally and then maybe
ask for comments from the regional areas. In broad principle terms,
of course this is a highly sensitive issue which is a chain of
command responsibility and we are not actually directly involved
in that process. So to answer your question as directly as I can,
we were not part of any early deliberations and consultation about
numbers or specifics, that would have been inappropriate because
of our role, but there was, I am sure, as my colleagues can tell
you, a fair amount of discussion going on at the local level about
the details once it became obvious something was bound to happen,
but we were notrightly, I have to saypart of the
initial consultation about numbers who might be mobilised at that
121. Once those numbers were worked out, then
you would have had to have been?
(Colonel Taylor) Absolutely, then we have a role to
play. Ours is a supporting role and the most important part of
that supporting role of course is to make sure that the employers
are on-side when this issue crops up. This is where our significance
comes in because the RFCA is NELC on the ground effectively, because
it is through the associations that all the contact with the employers
is managed and maintained.
(Colonel Robinson) As the Chairman of NELC in the
West Midlands as well, which is another hat I wear, we were not
specifically asked to do anything because no instruction was ever
issued as far as we were concerned. Obviously we knew it was imminent
and therefore on the ground we were making provisional plans as
to what we might do and might have to do from the sub-ELC point
of view. Because it never happened and we were not actually involved
in the mobilisation, the answer to your question is, not a great
deal but that did not mean we were not doing it.
122. Could you be a little more specific?
(Colonel Robinson) We were aware there would be a
problem with employers in the West Midlands if the thing was called
up. Therefore we were making plans to be able to answer the questions
which were going to come winging in from employers to our organisation
about what was happening. It is very hypothetical because it did
not happen and I heard the previous speaker say, "Because
it did not happen we are going to try and exercise it." Since
then, quite a lot of discussion has gone on at local level with
employers as to what would have happened if it had gone on. The
one thing which has fallen out it is that employers and volunteers
were all a bit unclear about what those real circumstances really
were and I think we have actually put a lot of that right since.
123. Can I press you on that and perhaps your
colleagues can come in? Do you think that employers would have
thought that this timescale of a month or two, or perhaps somewhere
between there and three hours, to coin a phrase, was realistic?
How much notice would most employers that you deal with have required?
(Colonel Robinson) Would you like me to put my employer's
hat on to answer that question?
(Colonel Robinson) The difficulty is that it is a
political problem and we, as employers, know perfectly well that
the first pressure is going to come from the Opposition side of
the House saying, "You have got rid of too much of the regular
Army so you have to call up the reserves." We would be very
aware in NELC for saying, "Yes, but the organisation is there
to be used and we are going to use it and you have been told it
is there to be used. Now if you do not like it, this is what you
have to do". That is really where we came in because in our
office all the communication is usually by telephone, somebody
rings up and says "here, so and so has been taken away, what
are you going to do about it?" It is answering those questions
quickly and practically that our role would have been I think.
125. You do not have a view as to how realistic
the timetable would have been and whether people would have been
available in the time required?
(Colonel Robinson) I think it would have worked pretty
well. You would not have got everybody you wanted but it would
have worked because everybody would have put their backs to it
and gone. The political circumstances, I think, would be much
more difficult to handle than the actual circumstances on the
126. So you think the 14,000 figure would have
been met, or do you think that was unrealistic?
(Colonel Robinson) I would not like to comment.
127. You would not like to comment.
(Colonel Robinson) I think a terrific number of people
in the TA were ready to go and wanted to go and if they had been
called up it would have been a terrific boost to the system because,
apart from anything else, the system would have been tested. Our
problem is that it was not and, therefore, we are all talking
still hypothetically and it is rather sad.
128. Perhaps your colleague would like to comment?
(Commodore Pemberton) I would entirely agree with
the final thing. The system needed to be tested and once it had
been tested we would have seen the flaws. I do not entirely agree
with the consultation aspect because we did not have much consultation
or knowledge. There was conjecture in the press and one could
get a feel. Having said that, if it had come to call-out, the
build-up was such that the country was behind the idea and we
would have got large numbers. I would not be able to put a number
to it any better than Patrick can. On that occasion it would have
happened satisfactorily. The one thing that was quite clear from
where I sat was that both Reservists and employers were unaware
of their rights and protection under the Reserve Forces Act and
a major education process needs to be done, or is being done,
as a result.
129. Were unaware?
(Commodore Pemberton) Were unaware at that time.
(Colonel Taylor) I think there is another point to
add and that is that most of our soundings around the country
would indicate that had we been enabled, or had the system enabled
our COs to put together composite units from those who were willing,
able and free to go, it might have been a good solution to the
problem. That is actually quite a difficult thing to do but that
nonetheless is a suggestion that has been floating around.
130. A composite sub-unit from within a unit?
(Colonel Taylor) Indeed.
131. Can I just ask one final question. Does
the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre have the capacity
to mobilise 12,000 to 14,000 people?
(Colonel Taylor) Good question.
132. If it does not, how else could it be done?
(Colonel Taylor) I have got to preface the comment
by saying that several of our colleagues have been to Chilwell
and all the reports coming back are highly complimentary about
the efficacy of the system and, indeed, the current CO running
it. A lot goes down to that individual, I guess, being an energetic
person making it happen. We just hope that he will be replaced
in due course by somebody with similar energy. That does not answer
your question but it does give us comfort that there is a very
efficient system in place. We would assumecorrect us if
we are wrong from the chain of command behind us because it is
their problem and not oursthat that would be the model
if it was a mass mobilisation and there would have to be satellites
around the country in order to handle the numbers because it almost
certainly would be rather too much to expect one location to handle
133. When you talk about satellites, was there
any consultation about where those satellites might be?
(Colonel Taylor) Not directly, no. I am not sure that
is something that has really been considered to that degree, so
I do not think we can answer.
134. Did you think it should be?
(Colonel Taylor) I think purely logistically tells
us that we would need something around other parts of the country
to handle those numbers because it would not work practically.
I do not think we could feed them all through there in the timescales
we have talked about.
135. Just on the new administrative areas, the
areas reduced down to 13 so you are covering larger geographic
areas, have there been any significant administrative or logistical
(Colonel Taylor) No, because actually only the South
East is affected by that change. The other 12 Associations have
not altered in size. He has got an extra county, he has got Dorset,
but he has already said that is not a problem. The real challenge
and change was for the South East where you had the amalgamation
of the two. Yes, that is much bigger than it was but they are
still no bigger than my former Association in the North West or
some of the others, like his in the South West. There is nothing
indicating that it is a problem area. Do not forget, in the South
East they have moved their head office to a more central location
in the new larger area and all the initial signs are that it is
not a problem. There are other problems but not that.
136. Thank you. Maybe we will come to those
in a minute. Can I move on to the issue of the buildings. A lot
of the buildings were sold off, 87 I think is the figure we have
got. Of those TA Centres that have been retained, do you think
that they are the appropriate ones?
(Colonel Taylor) Can I start because this becomes
a regional issue. What I have to say to you is first of all those
87 have not been sold off, they have been transferred to Defence
Estates. Some have been sold but not all by any stretch of the
imagination and a lot are still waiting to be sold, but that is
an issue for somebody else and not for us because they have been
taken off our books and put on to Defence Estates' books. Where
Defence Estates are working with our regional Associations to
try to make sure those sales occur then there is a very positive
story to tell. That is particularly true up in the Yorkshire area
and the North East, that has been a very positive story up there.
I have also to add to my comments by reminding you perhaps that
we did not agree and this was the point about consultation. We
were consulted but we did not necessarily agree with the outcomes.
We can all tell tales of TA Centres that were alienated and those
that were retained that we think were the wrong decisions. I can
be very parochial about that in my own home city.
137. We would be very interested in those, if
we could have a list of those you disagreed with.
(Colonel Taylor) In my own home city of Chester I
still remain unconvinced that it was wise to dispose of the TA
Centre in the city for the sake ofI got into trouble last
time when I used this phrasea rat trap of a building in
Crewe because the logic was simply not there in terms of Reserves
TA, the logic was there purely in terms of what can we sell. The
one in Chester would sell and the one in Crewe basically would
not. I guess there are stories all around the country of that.
The decisions were not necessarily taken on TA Reserve issues
but how property could be capitalised.
138. Did the MoD change its mind on any of these?
(Colonel Taylor) Yes, there were a few changes. Where
representations were made I think there were probably four or
five where changes were made to the initial decision.
139. They were not totally deaf?
(Colonel Taylor) No, no, they were listening.