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Army Restructuring

Lord Bach: My Lords, with the permission of the House, I shall repeat a Statement being made as I speak by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence in another place. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the future structure of the Army.
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"I announced in July a rebalancing of the Army designed to make it better able to meet the challenges and threats of the 21st century. The changes I announced then reflect the need both to complement our existing heavy and light weight capabilities with new medium weight forces; and to ensure that the Army is equipped, trained and organised to meet the demands of multiple, concurrent and—above all—expeditionary operations across the full spectrum of military tasks.

"Reductions in heavy armour, heavy artillery and the infantry will be accompanied by an increase in the number of key specialists without whom the Army cannot deploy on operations. Our objective therefore is to develop a more deployable, agile and flexible force.

"Since July, the Army has been engaged—under the leadership of the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson—in detailed work on how the changes should be implemented. I will now set out to the House the results of the Army's deliberations.

"The future Army structure is underpinned by two complementary changes. The first is the move towards a more balanced force organised around two armoured brigades, three mechanised brigades, a light and an air assault brigade, in addition, of course, to the Royal Marines Commando Brigade. We are moving ahead quickly with the changes required to put this in place.

"19 Mechanised Brigade, based in Catterick, will start its conversion to a light brigade in January. The brigade will be ready for deployment on operations if required in the first half of 2006, when it will serve as the contingent NATO response force.

"4th Armoured Brigade, based in Germany, will convert to a mechanised brigade in 2006, and the other brigades will adopt their new structures in a similar time-frame. The key foundations on which the future Army structure is to be built will be in place by 2008.

"But it is important to emphasise that we cannot use the front line soldiers if they cannot be deployed and sustained on operations because we lack sufficient supporting forces. In parallel, therefore, we are moving ahead with the second element of the reorganisation: making the Army more robust and resilient, able to sustain the enduring expeditionary operations that have become commonplace in recent years.

"The overriding requirement is to make significant enhancements to the key specialist capabilities—communications, engineers, logisticians, intelligence experts and other key capabilities. At the same time, we want to make fighting units—including the infantry—more robust by ensuring they have adequate numbers.

"This is an ambitious programme of change, which will take several years to complete. It is more far-reaching in its impact on the Army than Options for Change in 1991. Virtually every Army unit establishment has been examined, and 10,000 posts
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redistributed. We still have further work to do in establishing all the new arrangements. However, enhancements we have already decided on include the creation of a new commando engineer regiment; a new port and maritime unit; an additional strategic communications unit; and a new logistic support regiment for each deployable brigade. We are also creating a number of new sub-units for surveillance and target acquisition, bomb disposal and vehicle maintenance capabilities.

"These are new capabilities—not cuts. They are being backed up by an impressive re-equipment programme, introducing new communications equipment such as Bowman and Falcon, enhanced intelligence collection assets such as the Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle and Soothsayer electronic warfare capability, modern vehicles such as the Panther armoured reconnaissance vehicle and, looking further ahead, the ambitious FRES armoured fighting vehicle programme which will modernise the armoured vehicle fleet and be the basis of the medium-weight capability.

"These enhancements will directly improve the ability of the Army to deploy, support and sustain itself on the range of operations that we envisage. That can be achieved only as the result of the planned reduction by four in the number of infantry battalions, which will release about 2,400 posts for redeployment across the force structure.

"It is to the changes to the infantry that I now turn. I know that this is an emotive subject. I entirely understand the importance to morale, esprit de corps and operational effectiveness of regimental traditions.

"But we need to consider these changes to the infantry in the wider context of rebalancing the Army and the opportunity it affords to reallocate manpower to those areas that current and future operations require us to develop.

"Very few of our regiments and corps exist today in the same form that they existed in the past. There has been a recurrent process of change and regeneration over the past 150 years. In the last decade for example, under the previous government, Options for Change represented the first attempt to reshape our Armed Forces to reflect the post-Cold War era.

"Each change, designed to make the Army more relevant to the prevailing strategic context, was passionately opposed at the time. But on each occasion new organisations were created, fostering military renown while developing their own traditions and reputations to engender loyalty and camaraderie. That remains the guiding principle.

"We are able to reduce the size of the infantry because of the reduction in the requirement for permanently committed forces to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which flows from the encouraging progress towards a lasting settlement in the Province; and the decision by the Army Board that the infantry arms plot—the mechanism by which units routinely move location and change role every few
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years—no longer represents the best way to deliver operational capability. In future, battalions will be fixed by role and largely by location.

"This requires that we find a new means of providing variety of experience and posting for individuals to sustain the operational flexibility for which our infantry units are rightly famed. In future, that will be provided through individual posting. The only means of doing that within the framework of the regimental structure is by having regiments of more than one battalion.

"Let me emphasise that this is not a revolutionary concept. The Army Board took a decision as long ago as 1962 to establish large regiments. Nearly half the infantry is already organised in this way and operates extremely effectively. Multi-battalion regiments will allow individuals to move between battalions while at the same time maintaining the sense of regimental identity that is so critical to the Army's ethos and fighting effectiveness.

"Those who argue against ending the Arms Plot need to explain why. Ending it will ensure that we get far more military capability out of the resources we have. Of the 40 battalions in the current order of battle, as many as 11 are likely during any 12-month period to move location or re-role. At any one time, as many as seven may be unavailable for operations. This is simply not efficient. The logic is undeniable: at the end of this process, many more, if not all, of the future 36 infantry battalions will actually be available for operations.

"Phasing out the Arms Plot will mean that the infantry is able to offer much greater stability for soldiers and their families. It will also allow career development for both soldiers and officers to be much more carefully planned, while keeping the variety, opportunity and challenge of new roles and locations open to all soldiers within large regiments. It will give greater brigade cohesion by maintaining units within formations.

"There has been a wide-ranging and detailed consultation exercise, with the infantry being invited to express their views on how the restructuring should be implemented. I am also grateful to the many honourable Members who have played their part in representing the interests of their local regiments.

"The Army has concluded that the only prudent basis on which to make decisions is one that has regard to the long-term sustainability and effectiveness of the battalions concerned, based on an analysis of historic manning statistics, regional demographics and future manning predictions.

"But it has also rightly tempered this with a recognition of the need to take account of regional and geographic representation. That is why for example, we are looking to Scotland for only one reduction; and why the Royal Irish Regiment has been exempted from consideration.
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"The Army also considered the Gurkha battalions but concluded that, given the requirement to sustain the Brunei garrison and their excellent manning record, they should not face any reduction.

"It also took account of the ceremonial duties required of the five battalions of the Foot Guards. It concluded that these justified the status quo in relation to both the number and organisation of these battalions. In considering the Foot Guards, the Army took the view that any change to titles or structure would ultimately affect their ability to sustain the ceremonial roles which are so important to the fabric of our national life. Their existing structure already provides the geographical stability which we are looking to achieve elsewhere.

"Against this background, I have decided, as recommended by the Army, that the first three battalions should be reduced as follows. One battalion will be taken from the Scottish Division. The Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers will merge. This and the other four battalions—including the Black Watch—will become part of a new large regiment, to be called the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The identities of the antecedent regiments will be preserved in a variety of ways, not least by including them prominently in the battalion titles of the new regiment. So, for example, the 1st Battalion the Royal Highland Fusiliers will become the Royal Highland Fusiliers (2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland).

"One battalion will be taken from the area west of the Pennines. The King's Own Royal Border Regiment, the King's Regiment and the Queen's Lancashire Regiment will amalgamate to form two new battalions within the new King's, Lancashire and Border Regiment.

"One battalion will be taken from the Prince of Wales's Division in the south of England. This will be achieved by merging the antecedent components of the Royal Gloucester, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment with, in the case of the Glosters, the Devonshire and Dorsetshire Regiment, which will then merge with the Light Infantry, and, in the case of the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment, with the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.

"In considering how the fourth reduction should be made I have taken into account the need for additional specialist enabling support which will underpin our future expeditionary capability.

"Critical to our prosecution of the war against terror are our Special Forces. We were able to announce some improvements to our Special Forces in July. We are also looking at the broader arrangements through which the Armed Forces provide support to Special Forces operations. One option that has emerged in this continuing work is the creation of a tri-service "Ranger" unit, which would be dedicated to Special Forces support. I have decided that it would be appropriate to develop such a unit over the next few years, which would take its place alongside the other enhancements to specialist support elements of the Army.
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"The fourth infantry battalion reduction will therefore be found by removing the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment from the infantry structure, and using its highly trained manpower as the core of a new, tri-service ranger unit.

"The changes that I have announced today mean that the infantry will now, with the exception—for the reasons that I have already outlined—of the Foot Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment, be organised into large regiments. The seven existing multi-battalion regiments will continue. In addition to the changes I have already announced, the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Royal Regiment of Wales will combine as the Royal Welsh. They will be known respectively as 1st Battalion the Royal Welsh (the Royal Welch Fusiliers) and 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh (the Royal Regiment of Wales). The Staffordshire Regiment, the Cheshire Regiment and the Worcester and Sherwood Foresters will combine as the Mercian Regiment, and be known as 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment (Cheshires), 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) and 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment (Staffords). And the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, the Prince of Wales's Own Regiment and the Green Howards will come together to form the Yorkshire Regiment and be known as 1st Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own), 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) and 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington's).

"The move to larger, multi-battalion regiments is the only sustainable way in which to structure the infantry for the long term. In implementing the new system the Army will ensure that the regimental traditions, heritages, cultures and local connections will live on in the new arrangements. Golden threads of identity will be preserved within any new uniform; for example, by the retention of accoutrements, such as the Black Watch hackle. The new battalions will continue to recruit in the areas of their original constituent elements. Regional recruiting will remain the bedrock of the British infantry.

"Nor will there be any diminution in the role of the Territorial Army and the Reserves. The TA will in future be more closely integrated with the Regular Army for both training and operations. Each of the 14 TA infantry battalions will be part of a regular parent regiment, one per regular regiment with the exception of the Royal Regiment of Scotland which will have two, and the Guards Division which will have one affiliated TA battalion. The TA is also to be rebalanced to support large-scale operations and home defence, as well as remaining capable of reinforcing regular units deploying on enduring operations. It will remain broadly the same size as today, but with a structure that is more capable and relevant to future operations. Complementing the changes to the Regulars, these changes will provide more TA manpower for specialist areas, including intelligence, engineers, the Military Provost Service and Attack Helicopter support teams.
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"TA establishments will be organised to accommodate those personnel who may not be able to deploy in support of a large-scale operation. TA establishments will also be sufficiently robust to take account of personnel undergoing individual training. The final arrangements will be the subject of further announcements in due course.

"As part of our work on the future Army structure, we have also examined the requirement for Army musicians. On the basis of recommendations made by the Army, it has been decided that there should be a reduction from two to one in the number of bands per division of line infantry and to reduce the number of Royal Armoured Corps bands from four to two. We will also be reducing the band of the Light Division by 14 posts to bring it into line with the rest of the line infantry.

"We will be trying to ensure that individuals affected by these changes are provided with the chance to retrain and re-role to take on new tasks. But the changes in the infantry and bandsmen that I have announced today will require a limited redundancy programme. The scheme will be carefully targeted at the small number of infantry personnel and Army musicians who, for whatever reason, are unsuited to be retrained and employed elsewhere in the Army. It will be designed to ensure that we maintain a balanced rank and age structure and are able to continue recruiting. Not to do so could impact on military effectiveness by creating promotion blockages. We anticipate that around 400 personnel will be affected. Details of terms and conditions will be set out in the new year.

"But, and let me be clear about this, a redundancy programme does not mean that career opportunities in the Army will be reduced. The Army will continue at around its current size. At around 102,000 strong, it will continue to require over 11,000 new recruits every year, and offer a wide range of high-quality employment and training opportunities.

"I have never failed to be impressed by the Army's professionalism, courage and determination to succeed. It is a body of men and women of whom the nation is justifiably very proud. I know that the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to them. I am convinced—and so is the Army—that the transformation that we have set in hand is the right course for the future. The new army structure will deliver an Army fit for the challenges of the 21st century. It will preserve the vital traditions and ethos, and it will improve the lives of soldiers and their families. I commend it to the House".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

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