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Reserve Forces

Volume 978: debated on Tuesday 12 February 1980

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the recruitment in the reserve forces of the Crown has increased as a result of the improvement in pay and conditions recently introduced.

Recruiting for all the volunteer reserves is generally encouraging. As I informed the House during the debate on national service on 1 February, recruitment for the Territorial Army, which constitutes the bulk of our volunteer forces, has shown a sustained improvement, with the strength having increased by some 2,500 since August last year.

:I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, which will give great encouragement to the vast majority of the House. Does he recall the statement that his right hon. Friend made to the House regarding the improvement in conditions and service of the reserve forces, to the effect that certain reserve forces such as the Royal Marines Reserve, will have their liability for call-up merged with the Territorial Army, and transfer of QO2 to QO1? When will that be done?

My hon. Friend is a distinguished member of the Royal Marines Reserve—

:My right hon. Friend is right about the importance of speeding up mobilisation and reinforcement. Legislation may be required to bring the call-up requirement of those elements of our Armed Forces absolutely into line. I shall write to him on the details.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of us on the Labour Benches welcome the figures given? The Territorial Army is the closest approximation to a citizens' army that we can hope to achieve. Will the Minister confirm that we can meet our existing commitments, even in times of military pressure, within the framework of our professional Army, Regulars and Reservists, without recourse to the idiocy of a return to national service.

:We debated that matter on 1 February. At present it is our judgment that there is no need to return to national service. We believe that we can meet our defence requirements by building up our Regular forces and our reserve forces. Both were allowed to run down during the previous Administration and need to be built back to proper strength.