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Reserve Forces

Volume 567: debated on Monday 2 September 2013

16. What discussions he has had with employers following the publication of the White Paper on reserve forces. (900056)

The proposals in the “Future Reserves 2020” White Paper published in July were the result of a full and open consultation with stakeholders, including employers and representative bodies such as the CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses. I have been encouraged by the constructive support we have received. We know that the only way to implement our plans successfully for the future reserves is to maintain an open and honest discussion among the Department, reserves and their families, and employers. That is what we have done to date, and it is precisely what we shall continue to do in the weeks and months ahead.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Will he join me in paying tribute to the many reservists who have served with distinction in both Iraq and Afghanistan, including one young man in my office, Hugh Orton, who has completed a three-month internship and who has done valuable service overseas?

I wholeheartedly join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to our reservists, including her member of staff. Our reservists are essential members of our armed forces who have served and continue to serve with great distinction and gallantry on deployed operations. Since 2003 more than 25,000 reservists have been mobilised for operations alongside their regular counterparts, with a number paying the ultimate price. In the Territorial Army alone, more than 70 operational awards have been earned since 2003.

The Minister is of course right to pay tribute to the contribution of reservists, but could he indicate to the House what protection he will put in place to ensure that reservists are not discriminated against by employers when they go for new jobs?

We are already providing additional support for employers, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, to assist them to find people to fill in if their members of staff are deployed as reservists on operations. We also plan to give greater notice to employers, so they should have greater regularity in when their employees are deployed for service. We have discussed this in great depth with employers. They are not convinced that we should legislate specifically on this issue, although of course we keep an eye on it as we go along.