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Armed Forces Deployment (Gulf)

Volume 400: debated on Monday 3 March 2003

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How many reservists have been called up to participate in Operation Telic. [99853]

As the Secretary of State for Defence announced in a written ministerial statement on 30 January, it is our intention to serve enough call-out notices to secure a total of around 6,000 reservists to support Operation Telic. As at 25 February, 7,804 call-out notices had been issued and 3,316 reservists had been accepted into service.

It is becoming increasingly clear that a great deal of planning is going on in Washington, if not in London, for changing the regime in Baghdad and running Iraq after a successful war. The commitment on behalf of our Army and our reservists may be very long term. What discussions have military authorities had with Territorial and reserve forces about the time commitment that they may have to make to this operation? How many reservists have applied for exemption from service?

Up to now, roughly 15 per cent, of those called up have applied for deferment of one sort or another. Clearly, the numbers that we call out reflect the need to secure the numbers that we require in service, so we call out many more than will be ultimately needed. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the procedure is going well.

As my hon. Friend will know, one of the changes made in recent years was to establish a national reserve mobilisation centre at Chetwynd barracks in my constituency. Will he pay tribute to the staff working on that complex operation, and is he satisfied with their work so far?

Yes, I certainly pay tribute to the dedication of the staff. The mustering centre at Chilwell is operating very well; staff are putting in long hours to carry out an enormous amount of work to ensure that reservists are properly equipped, briefed and prepared for any role that they may have.