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Volume 164: debated on Thursday 21 December 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will give details of the steps being taken in his Department towards expanding the size and role of reservists in British military capability; and if he will make a statement.

Since 1979 the Ministry of Defence has set in hand measures to increase all volunteer reserve services. The Royal Naval Reserve has 11 new fleet minesweepers and has increased the numbers of communications and medical staffs. The role of the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service has been expanded to include participation in the defence of ports and anchorages. Two new detachments of the Royal Marines Reserve have been formed to enhance and support 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines and to undertake home defence tasks. Measures affecting the TA have included the raising of six new TA infantry battalions, an air defence regiment and five batteries, and eight airfield damage repair units. The Home Service Force has been established and 43 companies have now been raised. Seven new auxiliary field squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force have been formed to defend airfields, together with an auxiliary air movements squadron and an auxiliary aeromedical evacuation squadron. Some additional small measures are also under consideration.

Action continues to recruit volunteers for these services and to improve retention. Response from employers to the campaign to provide support for the Volunteer Reserves has been most encouraging.