Select Committee on Defence First Special Report


1. The Government acknowledges the Committee's latest report as a further contribution to Parliament's understanding of progress achieved in restructuring the reserve forces and their supporting infrastructure in the wake of the Strategic Defence Review. It welcomes the breadth of the study, noting that the report encompasses not only the volunteer and ex-regular reserve forces, but also the National Employers' Liaison Committee, the Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Associations and cadet units. The Government agrees with the report's conclusion that Parliament owes a special responsibility to those who volunteer to give so much time and effort to supporting the regular Armed Forces.

2. The Government welcomes the report's commending the continuing efficiency of the call-out procedures to support current operations through the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre, and the positive outcome of TAVRA/RFCA reorganisation. The Government accepts that there are a number of areas for improvement, but it is disappointed that the report has failed to give greater acknowledgement to progress to date and developments in train. Particularly, it is not accepted that MOD lacks imagination about possible roles for and use of reservists, or is careless in its approach to maintaining some elements of the records for reserve forces personnel. Present and future roles for the Territorial Army are being examined in the context of the work arising from the Strategy for the Army study, the report on which will be made available to the Committee in due course.

3. Sadly also, the report's debate on aircrew issues does not acknowledge the realities of reconciling the United Kingdom's demands on both civil and military aviation against the background of a buoyant economy and the nature of current operational demands. The Government is determined and committed to recruit and train as many reserve aircrew as possible to deliver the mandated military output, but this commitment to their use is based wholly on operational utility.

4. The Government response to the report's main conclusions is given below.

Progress of TA Restructuring:

We welcome the acknowledgement on the Floor of the House by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces that the infantry are (in his view) one area of the Reserves which have not properly settled down since the Strategic Defence Review. Revisiting the infantry battalion structure must be a high priority. (para 7)

5. The Strategy for the Army (SFTA), which was endorsed by the Army Board in November 2000, includes an action to consider how, within the decisions reached during the SDR of a requirement for a TA of 41200, to build on the work already undertaken to make better use of this important resource in an expeditionary environment. The role of the TA Infantry is included in this work, which is likely to be concluded later this year.

If no accurate or reliable records [of the number of Man Training Days per TA soldier allocated to collective training] are maintained, this may give reason to doubt the assurance given by MoD as to the accuracy of its figures. We therefore welcome news of a new IT system - Cresta - which is under trial in the Royal Engineers TA.... We hope that, in future, the MoD will be able to demonstrate convincingly that both individual training and unit training levels for the TA are being maintained at appropriate levels. (para 9)

6. MoD is committed to maintaining both individual and unit training levels at an appropriate level. An integrated management information system is key to providing the necessary data on a consistent and reliable basis. The TA is now firmly at the forefront of the Army in developing command and management information systems. Providing the IT tools to enable the TA to manage all aspects of its personnel administration and training is a high priority over the next three years.

Overall there appears to have been disappointingly little new thinking on possible roles for Reservists... We recommend the early deployment of formed TA sub-units, for example, to the Balkans. (para 14)

7. The use of the TA is dependent upon prevailing operational requirements. As the Committee are aware, 3PWO(V) provided a composite platoon to the Balkans in 1996, and a composite troop form R Mon RE(V) deployed the following year. A composite squadron from the Royal Signals will deploy to Bosnia for a six-month tour in November 2001; 97(SFOR(V)) Sig Sqn has been drawn from TA volunteers serving in 2 Sig Bde. Future roles for the TA, including consideration of support to enduring operations such as the Balkans, are being examined in the context of the work arising from the Strategy for the Army.

Royal Naval Reserve

 ... and we invite MoD in its response to this Report to provide evidence of a positive trend in recruitment to the RNR which is on target to meet the requirement. (para 15)

RNR Recruitment

31 May
30 Jun

RNR Strength

31 May
30 Jun

8. Not surprisingly recruiting has "seasonal variations" in the holiday months (December, April, May and August), but the positive impact of 8 satellite units now active and recruiting is becoming apparent, and the 2001/02 recruiting target of 650 is both realistic and achievable. However, recent recruitment successes have been counter-balanced by several factors, including reservists coming to the end of their engagements and the increasing pressures of balancing work, family and their commitments as an RNR volunteer. It is hoped that new recruitment and retention initiatives (such as the plan to bring in some 60 new undergraduate officers under the current Officer Programme for Undergraduates and Students (OPUS) initiative) will counteract such wastage in the period ahead.

... we welcome the RNR's achievement in recruiting and retaining part-time pilots. We believe that it is a success that should be built on further. (para 16)

9. We agree. Commodore Naval Aviation (COMNA) continues to take active steps to increase recruiting from those who leave regular service and to retain existing reserve aircrew.

... the need to develop a career path for part-time personnel ... applies with equal force to the Fleet Air Arm.... (paras 18 and 19)

10. It is the Government's view that integrating aircrew and ground crew into existing active units is best practice; there are no plans to create any formed RNR flying units per se, nor are they required. Against that background, COMNA is developing plans for a proper career path for RNR aircrew.

The Royal Auxiliary Air Force

It is time for the Reserve Forces fully to take up the task of supporting the Regular Forces' Deployments of air forces abroad. Developing a proper career path for part-time Royal Auxiliary Air Force personnel and some formed flying units would be integral parts of this, as proposed in the SDR. (para 19)

.....For example, if the Americans can have F15 Air Guard squadrons, and the Territorial Army can operate a successful helicopter regiment, it is puzzling that the RAF should remain so resolutely opposed to allowing formed flying units in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. (Conclusion, at para 50)

11. While we acknowledge that there may be some further scope for a greater use of reserves we consider that the current contribution, based on volunteers, is already highly commendable. (Para 40 of the Report reflects that during mid-April 2000 there were 60 reservists, primarily RAuxAF, participating in operations over no-fly zones. Similarly there were 162 Reservists called out in the year ended 31 March 2001.) We must acknowledge that unless compulsory call-out is invoked, the Services will always be reliant upon goodwill and the willingness of the reservist to volunteer and the granting of "leave of absence" by the civilian employer.

12. We note that this recommendation to develop a career path opportunity also appeared in the HCDC "Policy for People" Report. We acknowledge such a need for those volunteer Reservists who are motivated in this way. Recent work regularising the establishments of the RAuxAF Operations Support Squadrons (arising from the post-SDR expansion of reserves) has embraced this. The RAF is committed to a Total Force Concept where reservists are integral to the delivery of RAF operational output. Those reserves are trained to the same levels as their regular counterparts, albeit in a more protracted timescale. Consequently, the career opportunities offered mirror those of the respective Regular Branches and Trades. Rank pyramids must match those of Regulars and be established against the output requirement, rather than a justification to form stand-alone RAuxAF units for the sake of it. Thus RAuxAF reserve aircrew (RA) personnel have a "career progression" opportunity to Flt Cdr (Sqn Ldr) as part of 57(R) Sqn.

13. The Government acknowledges the benefits of formed flying units with their own identity, but only where numbers justify it. For example, the numbers of RAuxAF RA are sufficient to merit the formation of a Flight (No1359 Flt RAuxAF) within 57(R) Sqn; in this respect it is entirely right for the Report to draw comparison between the AAC Rotary Wing units and the RAF's Multi-Engine force in terms of organisation. Any comparison with the US Air National Guard, is inappropriate; they are a separate force from the USAF, have enormous resources and many members are virtually full-time.

Medical Reservists

The MoD can provide exclusive experience for NHS Personnel in specialist areas such as emergency surgery, burns, trauma etc. The potential benefits to the NHS of generating more medical reservists should be more aggressively marketed by the MoD, now that more NHS senior management figures are on the Defence Medical Services Board. In order to attract further medical staff an incentive scheme tailored towards the NHS should be introduced in order to recruit more volunteer staff. Giving a larger voice to senior part-time officers in the Territorial Army, RNR and Royal Auxiliary Air Force should also help to inject some reality into plans largely devised by regular military staff.
(para 24)

14. The MoD is actively seeking to increase awareness in the NHS of the mutual benefits to be gained from NHS staff becoming medical reservists. Current terms of service of reserve medical and dental officers are being reviewed to determine the changes that are necessary to make becoming a reservist more attractive. Particular emphasis will be given to ensuring that relevant civilian experience is acknowledged.

15. Visits have been made to the Balkans in 2000 and 2001 by senior NHS officials to gain a better understanding of the Defence Medical Services' (DMS) operational role. We believe that these visits have been particularly beneficial in underlining the value of reservist experience for NHS staff. The MoD is also engaged in exploratory talks with the NHS with a view to the provision of Sponsored Reserve surgical teams. In September 2000, a pilot scheme commenced with the Warwickshire Ambulance Service to recruit civilian paramedics as medical reservists in the Territorial Army. These paramedics will fill a current operational capability gap, and, moreover, demonstrate the mutual advantages to the Department of Health and MoD of closer co-operation. In addition, a beacon project is currently being developed between an NHS Hospital Trust and a TA field hospital which aims to explore areas of mutual benefit. If successful, it is hoped to expand this model to other DMS reserve units.

16. In terms of 'aggressive marketing', in June there was a stand at the NHS 'Managers in Trust' Conference. That month, the MoD also provided two stands at the NHS Human Resource (HR) Conference at Birmingham manned jointly by regular and reserve medical personnel and NHS staff to emphasise the symbiotic nature of medical reserve membership in the NHS. It is intended to highlight the professional benefits of reserve service again at the next HR Conference in spring 2002. Between such events, the Aeromedical specialisation, based on 4626 Sqn RAuxAF, acts as a great recruiting incentive as it provides professional experience rarely available in the NHS/Private Sector. Similarly, 612 Sqn RAuxAF is expanding its establishment in order to provide two of the RAF's six Air Transportable Surgical Support Teams. With more focussed recruiting initiatives and promoting word-of-mouth advocacy, the recruitment prognosis envisages no significant difficulties in providing those teams.

17. Senior part-time Medical Officers already have a voice in overall Defence planning, and through the participation of senior medical reservists in numerous exercises alongside regular military staff. This also provides an excellent opportunity to ensure that the right message is then communicated back to the reservists' civilian employers. The Director of the RNR Medical Branch has regular meetings with the RN's Director of Medical Organisation (DMed Org), and the latter has visited all of the RNR Training Centres in the past 12 months, providing Principal Medical Officers with opportunities to contribute to the RNR policy and branch management and planning. A senior medical reserve officer is on the staff of the Director General Army Medical Services to provide input on critical and current medical reserve issues. Contributions to RAF planning are similarly made through the involvement of the senior RAuxAF medical reservist (a wing commander). Although this particular Defence Committee recommendation is set in the context of Medical Reservists, the Services are committed to the application of the same principle across all staff areas.

Regular Reservists

When Regulars leave the Forces they are under a statutory obligation to be available for a call-up period of up to 22 years from when they joined up. ...The MoD's memorandum states that although —

    ...the majority of Regular Reservists decline to volunteer the fact that their invitations are not returned as undeliverable tends to confirm contact has been maintained.

This is an unacceptable approach. We do not have the evidence to assure us of the accuracy of central records of the Regular Reservists at present. The MoD cannot afford to treat this resource carelessly. (para 25)

If failure to prosecute those who ignore their obligations as Regular Reservists is common knowledge both within the MoD and the Reservist community it is obvious that the procedures are discredited. The MoD should grasp the nettle and decide whether to enforce the current procedures - including prosecution - where necessary, or admit that current procedures have failed, in which case reform of the system, including the legislation, should be made a high priority. In the meantime, it must be recognised that the Territorial Army and the other Volunteer Reserve services provide the bulk of individual reinforcements, as well as being required to be available for fulfilling requirements for formed units and sub-units.(para 26)

18. The first sentence of paragraph 25 applies only to the Army, as the footnote reference indicates. The Regular Reserve is an important element of the work arising from the Strategy for the Army, which is likely to be concluded later this year.

19. In all Services, resources required to sustain guaranteed contact with the ex-regular reservists must be balanced against realistic expectations of the need for their support. For Naval Service Ratings/Other Ranks not in receipt of a pension the statutory period of RFR(NC) reserve liability is three years. For Officers on the "Retired List" and "Emergency List" the obligation is lifelong and 4 years respectively. Post-SDR planning assumptions concluded that ex-RAF personnel with a reserve liability would not be required to meet RAF outputs short of regeneration, albeit they are still required by regulation to keep the RAF informed of their contact addresses, and they retain their liability to call-out. The Defence Committee Chairman was advised of the policy change by the Minister for the Armed Forces in November 1999.

20. As to prosecutions, MoD is conscious that the application of the full weight of the law needs to be balanced also against the current initiatives to cultivate a culture that gives optimum support within the UK to the benefits of reserve service - from skills training through to mobilised service - by ex-regular personnel and civilians interested in volunteer service, their employers and the general public. The Government believes that the situation would have to be very serious to warrant invoking the available legal avenues to enforce compliance. The robust approach advocated by the Defence Committee could, in the reality of the current lack of direct threat to the UK or its allies, be counter-productive.

21. In the meantime, the Committee should note that volunteers to be called-out for current operations have been provided by the Volunteer and Ex-Regular Reserve Forces in the ratio of around 6:4 in the year to 31 March 2001.

Restructuring the TAVRAs/RFCAs

We welcome the reorganisation of the TAVRAs into the RFCAs and are pleased to hear that it was undertaken in a positive climate. We recommend that the MoD build on this good relationship in order to find solutions for areas which are still experiencing post-restructuring problems. The first call on money saved from running costs arising from the restructuring should be for re-investment in the RFCA infrastructure.
(para 32)

22. The Government welcomes the Committee's recognition of the importance the MoD attaches to the constructive relationship it has with the RFCAs. MoD recognises the importance of reinvesting efficiency savings in cost-effective infrastructure improvements. However, the specific savings from the RFCA restructuring were taken into account in the overall reallocation of resources in the SDR, and are not available for reinvestment now.

The Associations' Estate

It is unacceptable for units of the new and improved TA to be left homeless or in temporary or inadequate accommodation for years. Such a situation is also unacceptable for the Cadet Units.
... It is essential, for the future of the Forces, that accommodation issues relating to the cadets are quickly and effectively resolved. ... A financial provision of £12m from the proceeds of estsate disposals has been provided solely for this. We recommend that MoD continue to ring-fence this funding to ensure that all cadets units are properly housed and their accommodation is brought up to standard. In the response to this Report we expect to be given the date on which work will be complete. (paras 34 to 36)

23. No TA or cadet units are homeless and all are in locations in accordance with the TA Restructuring Plan. Many of the necessary works are complete, others are ongoing and in planning.

24. All works related to cadets' accommodation as a result of TA restructuring are being progressed as quickly as possible. Although the MoD has no responsibility for Sea Cadet accommodation matters (because each unit is an independent charity with fund-raising rights), it rightly recognises the effects of the TA restructuring. None of the six Sea Cadet units displaced by the TA reorganisation (Buxton, Dundee, Newham, Newtownards, Shirley and Bolton) will be left homeless or in poor accommodation. The RAF places great value on the Air Training Corps, which helps to develop an interest in flying and aviation matters and hence benefits the Service. The TA Restructuring programme is not currently affecting any of the ATC squadron's ability to parade.

25. A total of £12million was allocated to complete the necessary cadet relocation work as a result of TA Restructuring. Of that sum, £10.5million was allocated to specific cadet projects and the remaining £1.5million was allocated to the RFCAs to fund further cadet work directly connected with the effects of TA Restructuring. This sum is expected to be sufficient to cover the work.

National Employers' Liaison Committee (NELC)####[The witness] highlighted the fact that most businesses require some degree of notice if they are to lose key members of staff, even for a temporary period. The MoD needs to win the trust of employers if they are to release reservists in the event of an emergency, and employers must be approached early in such situations for trust to be won and maintained. (para 38)

26. The MOD is in no doubt about the critical importance of employer support if the reserves are to be able to deliver the military capability demanded by the Strategic Defence Review. It is the Government's view that for any policy of usable reserve forces to be successful, the need to ensure that early national, and specifically employer, support is secured is critical for the involvement of reserves in any possible military deployment.

27. With guidance from the NELC, MoD have now reviewed and revised much of the procedures and guidance on the conduct of employer support. The recent publication of "The MoD Directive on Employer Support for the Reserve Forces" confirms the importance of this area as a key capability issue. It provides, in a single source document, the direction, guidance and resources necessary to enable employer support to be tackled in a co-ordinated manner from the top down and the bottom up. In addition, continuing public exposure to the Reserve contribution to current military deployments is helping to develop a mobilisation culture amongst the public and employers.

28. To assist employers' business and manpower planning, MoD have also embarked on a programme to ensure that employers are notified of their employees' reserve force membership. The Secretary of State has indicated also that it is right in principle that MoD should inform employers of volunteer reserves of their employees' reserve liability and of their rights as employers. Individuals are actively encouraged to notify their employer of their liabilities and details of the reservist's current employer will in future be maintained on personnel databases.

29. The RAF has recently undertaken a pilot scheme involving three RAuxAF Squadrons that confirmed that personnel of the RAuxAF had no objection to employer notification. This scheme has now been introduced throughout the RAF from July 2001. In the light of lessons learned, the policy will be developed incrementally by all the Services, with the support of the National and local Employer Liaison Committees.

Call-out Orders

The MoD must continue to monitor the effect of 'overfishing' the volunteer Reserves carefully. We expect a report on their current assessment of the scale of this problem in their response to this Report.
(para 41)

30. 'Overfishing' is not currently a difficulty for the RN, RM and RAF. They have experienced no difficulties in meeting operational commitments with reservists who have volunteered for call-out. Both TA and ex-regular Army reservists are continuing to make a valuable contribution to the Services' ability to meet their operational requirements, and five years after NATO operations commenced in the Balkans, are still providing 10% of the manpower in theatre.

Kosovo and the Threat of Mass Mobilisation

We expressed our doubt about the validity of the SDR calculation of the size of the TA, and noted at the time that events had often overturned previous defence reviews and shown how quickly and dramatically planning assumptions can be proved wrong.
(para 42)

31. Defence planning assumptions are reviewed regularly, as a guide to assist planning. Planning for deployment to Kosovo validated the SDR assumptions about the size of the TA, and the lessons learned from it have been incorporated into the ongoing work on mobilisation planning. There are no plans to change the size of the TA that resulted from the SDR and the Strategy for the Army confirmed that follow-on work should be undertaken on that basis

We applaud the frankness with which our MOD witnesses owned up to the lessons of Kosovo for the use of the TA. We trust our successors will take time to check the MOD's good intentions have been put into practice. Meanwhile, we expect that our successors will be briefed on the results of the mobilisation exercise referred to earlier. (para 48)

32. A report of the mobilisation exercise scheduled for 2001 will be submitted to the Committee's successors.

Ministry of Defence
13 July 2001

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