Select Committee on Defence Third Report


107. MoD told us that the Armed Forces have been planned and structured on the basis that any major war-fighting operation would draw on support from the Reserve Forces. It considers that the use of reservists is a prudent approach that allows the maintenance of full time Armed Forces in no greater strength than is needed for normal peacetime activity and to meet a limited range of contingencies. In addition, the more flexible use of reservists gives MoD the opportunity to harness skills appropriate for operations, but which are not needed on a regular or frequent basis in peacetime and, therefore, are not readily found within the regular Armed Forces.[166]

108. MoD provided us with details[167] of the different categories of reserves. The reserves are divided into two parts: the Reserve Forces and those individuals with a recall liability (for example pensioners and the Long Term Reserve). Only the Reserve Forces were involved in Operation Telic. The Reserve Forces can themselves be divided into two parts—the Volunteer Reserve Forces and the Regular Reserve Forces.

    Volunteer Reserve Forces—Personnel of the Volunteer Reserve Forces are members of the public who voluntarily undertake military training, for which they are paid, in their free time. In return they accept a liability for call out as individuals or in military units when required to supplement the regular armed forces for military operations. They total around 45,000 people, some of whom may be former regular servicemen and women. They are members of either the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Marines Reserve, the Territorial Army, or the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Members of each of these forces were called out for Operation Telic.

    Regular Reserve Forces—Personnel of the Regular Reserve Forces incur a liability for reserve service as a result of previously completed regular service. They are either members of the Royal Fleet Reserve (former Royal Navy and Royal Marine regulars), the Army Reserve (former Army regulars) or the RAF Reserve (former RAF regulars). In addition, each Regular Reserve Force has a component comprising volunteers who are mainly, but not wholly, ex-regulars who have voluntarily extended their reserve liabilities. Only members of the Army Reserve and RAF Reserve were called out for Operation Telic.

109. Sponsored Reserves are special members of the Reserve Forces. They work for a civilian employer who has entered into a contract with MoD to provide a support function which under normal conditions can be performed by a civilian workforce, but which during operations requires a military workforce. A condition of each such contract is that a proportion of the workforce must be capable of being called out for full time service and they must therefore be members of a Reserve Force. There are currently five Sponsored Reserve contracts in place. For Operation Telic a small number of Sponsored Reservists were called-out for service with Strategic Sealift (Ro-Ro ferries), the Mobile Meteorological Unit, and providing engineer support for 32 (Royal) Squadron RAF.

Call-out and mobilisation

110. The key dates for the call-out and mobilisation of the Reserve for combat operations were:

111. In terms of the scale of the call-out, Lessons for the Future reported that:

    this operation involved the largest compulsory call-out of Reserve Forces since the 1956 Suez Crisis. Over 8000 reservists were called out for the deployment and campaign phases, with over 5200 taken into service. Following further incremental call-outs in April and August 2003, an additional 3300 reservists were taken into service for roulement purposes, and a further requirement for some 1100 will be met by mobilisations in January [2004]. Further call-outs may be made for future roulements. Most reservists were drawn from the Volunteer Reserve Forces together with a smaller number from Army and RAF Regular Reserves, and Sponsored Reserves.[169]

The National Audit Office reported that the reservists who were deployed 'were drawn from a wide range of specialisations, although a large number were medical personnel'. [170]

112. MoD told us that in broad terms, the requirement for Operation Telic was about 5,600 reservists: 500 Royal Navy and Royal Marine reservists; 3,600 Army reservists; and 1,500 RAF reservists.[171] In determining the number of reservists who would be sent call-out notices, allowance was made for the possible wastage rates resulting from those who might not meet medical or dental standards, and from applications for exemption or deferment from reservists or their employers. Details of the number of reservists mobilised for the combat phase of Operation Telic are shown at Table 1.

Table 1 The number of reservists mobilised for the combat phase of Operation Telic

Call-out notices served
Reservists who reported for service
Reservists who were accepted into service
Percentage accepted into service who reported for service
Royal Navy
Royal Marines

Source: Ministry of Defence (Ev 406)

113. The Reserve Forces Act 1996 includes the right for reservists or employers to seek revocation, exemption from or deferral of call-out, an application for any of which is considered by an Adjudication Officer. MoD told us that, generally, a revocation is only given either when it finds the reservist is surplus to requirements or if the reservist is suffering from an injury or ill-health.[172] For Operation Telic 1 (i.e. the combat operation), MoD received 2,021 applications for exemption and 80 applications for deferral. Of the 2,021 applications for exemption—1,101 were from reservists and 920 were from employers.[173] For Operation Telic 2, 809 applications for either exemption or deferral were received and, for Operation Telic 3, 76 applications for either exemption or deferral were received.

114. MoD told us that notice to report for compulsory call-out is set by operational requirements. Ideally, MoD would aim to give both regular reservists and volunteer reservists 21 days notice to report for service, but they noted that this cannot always be achieved. For Telic 1, MoD told us that in order to ensure the reserves were ready in time, it was generally only possible to give 14 days notice to report, and in some cases notice to report was considerably shorter. MoD believed that, in the main, these cases were due to postal problems or short notice changes in requirement. For Telic 2 and Telic 3, MoD aimed to give reservists 21 days notice to report, but this was not guaranteed and a small number of reservists received a shorter notice period due mainly to last minute changes to operational requirements. As the operation matures, MoD plan to move to 30 days notice to report.[174] We asked MoD for details of the reservists who were called up at relatively short notices. Details of the number of call-out notices issued at short notice during Operations Telic 1 and 2 are shown at Table 2.

Table 2 The number of call-out notices issued at short notice during Operations Telic 1 and 2

Operation Telic phase
Less than 1 week
Between 1 and 2 weeks
Between 2 and 3 weeks
Telic 1
Telic 2

Source: Ministry of Defence (Ev 418)
Note: The figures depict the number of call-out notices issued and not the number of individuals called out. The notice time includes the time taken to deliver the call-out notices.

115. We asked MoD about the numbers of reservists who were given informal indications that if there was a war they were likely to be called up. MoD told us that a high degree of planning was undertaken prior to the call-out order on 7 January 2003 and that this activity included warning units that their personnel might be required for mobilisation. In the case of the Army, for example, approximately 15 per cent of the TA personnel MoD planned to call-out received some form of advance notice through their unit commander prior to the call-out order being made. MoD explained that those who received advance warning were, in the main, personnel and or units who were required at fairly short notice to support the mobilisation and deployment. The change to the southern option required a different force structure to support it and a number of personnel forewarned of the possibility of mobilisation for the northern option were not used.

116. The Secretary of State told us in February 2004 that:

    we have… recognised that our procedures for mobilising Reservists need to allow for greater notice than was possible in January last year, and I am pleased that we have managed to do a bit better in subsequent mobilisations, meeting our aspiration to provide 21 rather than 14 days' notice[175]

While we are pleased to learn that for Operations Telic 2 and 3, MoD has been able to give most reservists 21 days notice to report, we are concerned that for Telic 1 reservists were given 14 days notice to report, and in some cases considerably less. We expect MoD to ensure that the appropriate lessons are learned to avoid the need for such short notice to report, and to recognise the impact of this on reservists, their families and their employers.

117. First Reflections states that 'the need for structured mobilisation and demobilisation procedures was confirmed by our experience in the 1991 Gulf conflict and reinforced by subsequent reservist deployments to the Balkans and Afghanistan. The establishment of the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre at Chilwell did much to streamline mobilisation procedures'.[176] We visited the Reserve Training and Mobilisation Centre at Chilwell where we were briefed on its role in relation to Operation Telic and visited the various Departments. We were told that the Director of Operational Capability had identified a number of issues from Telic 1. These included:

  • Timings were squeezed by changing strategic circumstances, military options and decision making. This led to limited warning for reserves and employers (the two week target was not achieved) and training and preparation time was reduced to the minimum.
  • per cent of reserves were given less than 14 days notice (the average was 9 days).
  • There was an apparent lack of knowledge of call-out liability among some members of the Territorial Army. Staff at Chilwell told us that they had received a number of calls from reservists in the TA along the lines of 'I'm not in the Army, I'm in the TA'. Some reservists did not understand that they could not resign once they had been called up.

We expect MoD and the reserve organisations to take appropriate action to ensure that reservists are made fully aware of their liability for call out.

118. During our visit, we were told that a number of improvements to the mobilisation process had been introduced including: more intelligent selection of reserve personnel (due to the timing of the formal call-out, much of the intelligent selection took place late on); enhanced briefing to donor and receiving units; and an improved training regime.

119. Reservists had to undergo 'medical run-ups' on their first day at the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre—the aim was to clear out reservists who were going to fail as early as possible. We were told that 48 per cent of the regular reserves who turned up failed the medical compared with 14 per cent for the TA reservists who tuned up. We recommend that MoD consider what action can be taken to ensure that these reservists return to being 'fit for role'.

120. During our inquiry we received correspondence from a Major in the TA who raised a number of concerns about his experience going through the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre at Chilwell before deploying to the Gulf. These included concerns about the adequacy of the five days training provided, in particular firing practice—he said that he had only fired ten rounds of ammunition. He was also concerned that young reservists were not adequately prepared before being deployed. We asked MoD to investigate these concerns.

121. MoD told us that each year a TA soldier is expected to undertake between 19 and 25 man training days, depending upon their operational role and specialisation, to ensure they meet minimum training standards and are fit for role. During mobilisation an assessment is made of the training that an individual has completed. All reservists mobilising through Chilwell received training in accordance with the Operation Telic 'mounting instruction' and further training was provided in-theatre. MoD noted that when a reservist is demobilised through Chilwell they are invited to complete an anonymous questionnaire, and one of the questions asks how well they thought they were trained for war. As at 1 September 2003, of the 1,748 individuals who completed the questionnaire, over 85 per cent of officers and nearly 80 per cent of other ranks considered that they were either 'very well' or 'well prepared' for Operation Telic (3.5 per cent of officers and 4 per cent other ranks considered they were not properly prepared).[177] However while these responses appear fairly positive, assessing how well one is prepared is a very subjective judgement and only about half the reservists who were invited to complete the questionnaire did so.

122. MoD told us that the 'non-alignment of TA and Regular shooting standards is one of the top 10 operational lessons identified and the resource implications of bringing standards into line is currently being considered'.[178] In the United States we were told that training, and particularly marksmanship, was their 'asymmetric advantage' over the Iraqi forces. The importance of maintaining high standards of basic skills, such as marksmanship, must not be forgotten. Overall, it appears that the majority of reservists mobilising through Chilwell considered that they had received adequate training before being deployed. However, we are concerned about the non-alignment of TA and Regular shooting standards and expect MoD to address this issue as soon as possible.

Length of the call-out

123. MoD told us that at the time of the call out in January 2003, it was not known whether offensive operations would occur and if they did, how long the campaign would last—the length of the call out was therefore unknown. MoD recognised that employers and reservists needed guidance on the expected duration of the call out. Reservists of all Services were told to expect a six month deployment plus two months of training and leave giving a total period of absence of eight to nine months.[179] MoD has not calculated the average length of mobilised service, but considers that the period of mobilised service for Volunteer and Regular Reserves on Operation Telic has generally been four to six months in theatre preceded by a period of pre-deployment training and followed by post-deployment and leave—this latter being dependent on how long the individual was deployed in theatre. This equates to a total of up to seven to nine months.[180]

124. In some cases, such as for the key enablers mobilised early in Operation Telic, the period for mobilisation was shorter and in others, where the skills were required immediately after the conflict to aid in the stabilisation and reconstruction, the period of mobilisation is likely to have been longer. MoD told us that a number of reservists have voluntarily extended their period of mobilised service.[181]

Finance and compensation issues

125. We received reports that some reservists had experienced problems with their pay. MoD acknowledged that there had been a problem with TA reservists and recognised that it should have sent out a reserve unit for pay and administration much earlier, so that reservists would have someone in theatre with whom they could discuss pay and other matters. MoD considered that it was a 'local problem' which had been addressed and had not been a major issue.[182] We are concerned to learn that some TA reservists experienced problems regarding their pay. We understand that for future operations, where significant numbers of reservists are deployed, PJHQ have agreed to the deployment of a Reserves Cell whose role will include issues such as pay and allowances.[183] We expect MoD to ensure that this lesson is implemented in full.

126. MoD provided us with information on the pay and financial assistance arrangements for reservists.[184] If a reservist is dissatisfied with MoD's decision they have a right to appeal to an independent Reserve Forces Appeals Tribunal. MoD and the reservist can continue to negotiate an agreed outcome before the tribunal sits and MoD told us that it was often the case that such agreement is reached prior to a hearing. As at the end of October 2003, MoD told us that, for Operation Telic 1, no reservist had made an appeal against MoD on financial grounds. MoD has subsequently received nine financial appeals—one of which has been withdrawn; one has been heard by a tribunal which found in favour of MoD; and seven had yet to be heard.[185] It is clearly wrong that reservists who are compulsorily mobilised for combat operations should lose out financially. We note that to date only a small number of appeals have been made. We recommend that these be considered sympathetically and that MoD monitor closely the numbers and outcomes of such appeals over the coming months.

127. In a presentation to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on 30 September 2003 Lieutenant General Palmer, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel), accepted that there had been a number of problems with the question of financial assistance to reservists in matters such as loss of earnings. The system was highly bureaucratic and personally intrusive with reservists forced to spend many hours demonstrating their regular outgoings, through the submission of receipts and bank statements in many cases. Reservists also raised these concerns during our visits. We expect MoD to ensure that the procedures for reservists claiming financial assistance are streamlined and less intrusive.

Employment issues

128. We have received correspondence from individual reservists, and from a firm of solicitors representing reservists, raising concerns about employment problems encountered after returning from operations. A key concern raised was that reservists had not been given adequate briefing on mobilising and, as a result their expectations of their personal employment protection were high and over optimistic. MoD told us that the Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985 deals with the rights of reservists in respect of reinstatement in their former employment after mobilisation. There is a general requirement on the employer to reinstate the reservist on return from a period of mobilised service. If it is not reasonable or practicable for the reservist to be given their old job, they must be offered employment on the same terms and conditions or on the most favourable terms and conditions applicable in their case. Employers are required to continue to employ the reservist for a set period after reinstatement—depending on the length of time the reservist has worked for the employer. The Act provides an appeal procedure, to bodies called reinstatement committees, which may order reinstatement or payment of compensation or both. The Act also makes provision for other circumstances, including the bankruptcy of the employer.[186]

129. There have been reports in the media that a number of reservists, in particular members of the TA, had lost their jobs since returning from Iraq and we asked MoD to investigate this. MoD told us that there was no obligation on reservists to inform their units or MoD of any difficulty they may have in obtaining reinstatement, or any other problems they may have with their employers. MoD also told us that there was no evidence to suggest that this problem was widespread—to date MoD was aware of 17 cases, which have resulted in applications to the reinstatement committees established under the 1985 Act. In its view, this was a very low figure when set against a background of more than 8,500 Reservists mobilised for Operation Telic during 2003—two of the cases related to other operations.[187] MoD was also aware of two other cases where reservists sought to bring a case before an Employment Tribunal, rather than a Reinstatement Committee.[188] We note that MoD has commissioned a study to measure the degree of employer support for the mobilisation of the Reserve and look forward to seeing the findings and the lessons that MoD identify.[189] But we also consider that MoD needs to adopt a more proactive approach to identifying cases where reservists have experienced employment problems following a period of mobilisation. Reservists need to be assured that they will not lose their jobs, as a result of being mobilised, and that support will be available if they encounter such problems.

130. MoD told us that it recognised that there was a risk that reservists returning from a period of mobilised service might have difficulties in obtaining reinstatement with their previous employer. To counter this risk, all reservists are briefed on demobilisation about their rights under the 1985 Act. Guidance is also given to reservists which covers the issue of returning to civilian employment.[190]

131. MoD subsequently told us that it was aware of a number of cases where members of the Territorial Army based in Germany had lost their jobs on demobilisation. One TA unit is based in Germany—412 Amphibious Engineer Troop (Volunteers). This unit forms part of 23 Amphibious Engineer Squadron who provide the only wide water gap crossing capability within the British Army. The unit's strength is 53, and five additional Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer (REME) posts are also filled by the TA. Most of these reservists have civilian jobs with MoD in Germany, but a number worked for German civilian employers and one for a civilian employer in Denmark. Forty two of these reservists were mobilised at the end of January 2003 for Operation Telic and were demobilised at the end of July 2003. Eleven of those 42 lost their jobs with their German (and in one case, Danish) civilian employers on their return. In response the MoD offered them positions in their parent unit on Full Time Reserve Service (FTRS) terms for up to 12 months. Ten of them took up the offer—two have since obtained alternative employment with other civilian employers and two have regained their previous employment. As at early February 2004, the remaining six were still serving on FTRS terms and had not found alternative civilian employment. The one reservist who did not take up the offer of FTRS has not yet found civilian employment. MoD informed us that the Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985 does not apply in Germany, and the equivalent provisions in German law do not apply to the TA.[191] We are very concerned to learn that 11 members of the TA in Germany (over a quarter of the TA in Germany deployed to Operation Telic), who form part of a key squadron (the Amphibious Engineer Squadron), lost their jobs with civilian employers on returning from deployment on Operation Telic. We expect MoD and the reserve organisations to raise these matters with the relevant authorities within Germany and with the civilian employers of the TA reservists in Germany.

132. On 3 February 2004, MoD announced administrative changes to the recruitment and re-engagement procedures for the Volunteer Reserve Forces. From 1 April 2004, new recruits to the Volunteer Reserve Force and applicants for re-engagement will be required to agree to their unit contacting their employer about their membership. MoD say that the change will 'enable employers to be in a better position to plan for the absence of employees who are reservists and also to be better informed about their rights and obligations'.[192] We are concerned that this change seems to have been announced ahead of the findings of MoD's own study on employer support. There does not seem to have been prior consultation with members of the reserves. We recommend that MoD set out why it chose to make this change at this time.

Impact on the reserves

133. MoD told us that there are no indications to suggest that the call out of reservists to support Operation Telic had resulted in a significant increase in resignations from the Reserve Forces. Some ten per cent of reservists who have demobilised have expressed an interest in joining the Regular Forces or undertaking further full-time service.[193]

134. In order to earn their annual 'bounty'—the only financial remuneration which they receive for their commitment to the Reserve—reservists need to complete their annual training requirement. During our visit to Iraq, and subsequently, reservists have told us that this meant that on top of a full operational tour to Iraq they would have to complete additional training on their return in order to be eligible for the bounty. One group of TA reservists whom we met in Basra, for example, told us that they would have to do 12 more days on their return to the UK. Unsurprisingly this caused difficulties both for their employers and perhaps even more for those reservists who were self-employed. It is unreasonable that reserve personnel deployed on Operation Telic should have to do additional service, on top of the six to nine months taken up by that tour, to qualify for their annual bounty and we recommend that MoD waives this requirement.

135. MoD has identified a number of lessons relating to the reserve from the experience of Operation Telic. We look to MoD to implement these lessons in full. We welcome the announcement that, following Operation Telic, MoD is adjusting the arrangements for the higher management of the reserve and that the Directorate of Reserve Forces and Cadets will come under the direct command of the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, which reflects the importance of this key part of our Armed Forces.[194]

136. Throughout our inquiry we have come into contact with a range of reservists who served on Operation Telic. As with the Regular service personnel, we have been impressed with their dedication and the invaluable contribution they made. We concur with MoD's conclusion that reservists 'showed the highest quality and commitment… their value in all phases of an operation has again been demonstrated.'[195]

166   Ev 404 Back

167   Ev 407-8 Back

168   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), p 41. Back

169   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq- Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 9.17. Back

170   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), para 5.8. Back

171   Ev 404 Back

172   Ev 408 Back

173   Ev 410 Back

174   Ev 408-9 Back

175   Q 2220 Back

176   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), p 9. Back

177   Ev 419 Back

178   Ev 419 Back

179   Ev 406 Back

180   Ev 408 Back

181   Ev 408 Back

182   Q 2164 Back

183   Ev 443 Back

184   Ev 409 Back

185   Ev 409 Back

186   Ev 427 Back

187   Ev 427  Back

188   Ev 427 Back

189   Ministry of Defence, Operation in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 9.22. Back

190   Ev 428 Back

191   Ev 428 Back

192   Announcement by Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Ivor Caplin), 3.2.04. Back

193   Ev 406 Back

194   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 9.23. Back

195   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), p 47. Back

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