My Lords, I would like to repeat a Statement that was made earlier by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence.
“Mr Speaker, I wish to express my condolences to the family and friends of Lance-Corporal Paul Watkins of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, who was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday. My thoughts and prayers are with them at this very difficult time.
I wish to make a Statement on the next steps in implementing the strategic defence and security review (SDSR). This Government inherited both a national economic disaster that represented a strategic threat and a defence programme undermined by a £38 billion black hole. Without a fundamental review for 12 years, our Armed Forces were still largely configured for the 20th century, despite a decade of sustained operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. This failure to set out a coherent, long-term strategy for defence and to match commitments to resources effectively is one of Labour’s worst legacies. However, it is not enough to deal with the mess we inherited. We need to build something better for the future.
So right from the start, this Government have been determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to make the difficult decisions that were ducked by the previous Government. We are determined to be bold and ambitious and build formidable, well managed Armed Forces, structured for the rigours of future conflict and supported by an affordable defence programme. The SDSR has mapped out our long-term goal for Future Force 2020. The report of the Defence Reform Unit announced to the House on 27 June was part of this process.
Today I want to set out the next phase of defence transformation: bringing the Army back from Germany, creating a better future for our Reserve Forces and delivering on our commitment to agree a 10-year defence equipment budget. I have written to Members of both Houses and the devolved Administrations whose constituencies and interests are affected by the decisions we have taken.
Commitments must match resources in order to achieve a balanced budget. As part of the preparation for this year’s planning round, we have identified a number of adjustments to the defence programme. This includes rationalising vehicle acquisition to make the best use of those we have procured to support operations in Afghanistan and continuing to bear down on non-front-line costs, where we will aim to deliver further substantial efficiencies in support, estate spending and IT provision.
Against this background and as part of this overall approach to balancing the programme, I have agreed with the Treasury that the MoD can now plan on the defence equipment and equipment support budget increasing by 1 per cent a year in real terms between 2015 and 2016, and 2020 and 2021. I am grateful to colleagues, particularly the Prime Minister, for their support in this process. These and other changes will enable us to proceed with a range of high-priority programmes set out in the SDSR.
I can now give the go-ahead for the procurement of 14 additional Chinook helicopters, the upgrade of the Army’s Warrior vehicles, spending on the Joint Strike Fighter, the procurement of the Rivet Joint intelligence and surveillance aircraft, the cat and traps for the Queen Elizabeth class carriers, and the development of the global combat ship. This equipment can now be bought with confidence, ending a decade of uncertainty for our Armed Forces and for industry. But similar discipline will be applied in future— we will only order what we can afford to buy.
Today I am placing in the Library the report of the review into the Reserve Forces, Future Reserves 2020. I would like to thank General Sir Nick Houghton, Lieutenant-General Graeme Lamb and the honourable Member for Canterbury and Whitstable for their excellent report. The report makes it clear that our Reserve Forces make an outstanding contribution to operations but have been shamefully neglected in recent years. For example, by some estimates the Territorial Army has a trained and active strength as low as 14,000. So I am pleased to announce that the Government will proceed with a £1.5 billion investment package over the next 10 years—£400 million in this Parliament—to enhance the capability of the reserves and consequently increase their trained strength.
The Government will work with employers and legislate if necessary to ensure that the reserves are more readily usable on operations. This significant investment will also build up the capacity of the reserves to contribute to homeland security, consistent with the adaptive posture set out in the SDSR. As the capability of the Territorial Army improves, this will allow a progressive adjustment of the regular/reserve balance of the Army while maintaining the land forces’ capability set out in the SDSR. This will include the delivery of the multi-role brigade (MRB) structure of Future Force 2020. By 2020, if the Territorial Army develops in the way that we hope, we envisage a total force of around 120,000 broadly in the ratio of 70:30, regular to reserve. This will be more in line with comparable countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia.
Let me turn to basing. The decisions we have taken in the SDSR to reduce aircraft types, bring the Army back from Germany and form the Army into five multi-role brigades enable us to rationalise the defence estate and dispose of high-value sites no longer needed. The security of the nation and the requirements of defence were paramount in our analysis but we have also considered the impact of changes on local communities, the impact on service personnel and their families, and the current pattern of the Armed Forces in Britain. Army brigades currently stationed around Catterick and Salisbury will make up three of the five MRBs. The other two MRBs will be based on the east coast of England, centred on Cottesmore, and in Scotland, centred on Kirknewton, south of Edinburgh.
The MRB centred in Scotland will require a new training area, and positive discussions are being taken forward with the Scottish Executive. Two major units and a formation headquarters will be based at Leuchars. Consequently, the Typhoon force due to be built up there will instead be built up at RAF Lossiemouth. Other MRB units will be moved into Glencorse, Caledonia, Albemarle Barracks and eventually Arbroath, since over time we intend to bring the bulk of the Royal Marines together in the south-west. We are also planning to place Army units in Kinloss in around 2014-15. Taken together, this represents a significant increase in the defence footprint in Scotland of well over 2,000 posts. This is in line with the Scottish tradition of supporting our Armed Forces and a recognition that these are United Kingdom forces under the Crown, protecting the citizens and interests of this United Kingdom.
With the move to five multi-role brigades, we have concluded that 19 Light Brigade in Northern Ireland will be disbanded. Other units returning from Germany will move into those bases vacated. We remain committed to maintaining a permanent military garrison in Northern Ireland, and 160 Wales Brigade will remain in Brecon. We will retain St Athan at its current size and intend to increase its usage. RAF Marham will remain as a base for Tornado GR4. More details of these and other estate-related decisions are in the Written Statement I have laid today.
The planning work, including the investment required to adapt sites, will now get under way based on this strategic direction. It will involve consultations as appropriate with local communities and other statutory obligations we will need to fulfil. I am very conscious of the uncertainties that these changes will cause for service personnel and their families. Let me reassure them that the majority of the moves I have announced today will take place after 2015. In both basing and reserves, we have sought wherever possible to strengthen the strong and natural links between local communities and the Armed Forces. I do not underestimate the importance of these ties in underpinning the military covenant.
The overall package I have announced today is good news for our Armed Forces and means that they can look forward to the future with renewed confidence because the defence programme I have announced is underpinned with real resources. This investment in people and equipment is not the wish list of the past but is certainty for the future. I commend these decisions to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, on this side, we, too, wish to express our sincere condolences at this very difficult time for them to the family and friends of Lance Corporal Paul Watkins who was killed in Afghanistan the other day.
I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made a few minutes ago in the other place by the Secretary of State for Defence. It covers a number of big policy areas: the RAF basing review, Reserve Forces, the financial settlement and cuts to the Regular Army. The Statement, as did the strategic defence and security review, repeats the Government's line about the financial position they inherited, which arose as a result of a global economic recession which was not sparked off in this country. The Statement refers to a £38 billion black hole, but that figure assumes a flat line in cash terms in the defence budget over the coming years; in other words, a decline in real terms, which is unlikely. It also assumes that every commitment, including equipment, will be adhered to.
The National Audit Office 2009 report into major projects at the Ministry of Defence stated:
“If the Defence budget remained constant in real terms, and using the Department's forecast for defence inflation of 2.7 per cent the gap would now be £6 billion over the next ten years. If … there was no increase in the defence budget in cash terms over the same ten year period, the gap would rise to £36 billion".
I appreciate that this Government have managed to reduce the rate of growth during their period in office, but presumably even this Government intend to ensure that growth in the economy, from which additional resource can be provided, returns at some stage in the not-too-distant future.
The recent strategic defence and security review, which seems, with every MoD Statement, to be becoming less related to reality and expected reality, stated:
“Further work is required to determine the numbers of personnel that will be required to man the 2020 Force Structure. The Defence Reform Review, the review of Reserve Forces, further efficiency measures and changes in the policy context will all need to be taken into account at the next Strategic Defence and Security Review, which will set out detailed plans for the five years beyond 2015 ... We will also, for now, assume that by 2020 we will require a Royal Navy of 29,000 personnel, an Army of 94,000 and an RAF of 31,500”.
Yet the Government have announced cuts to the Army of 17,000—a sixth of the entire force—in just 10 months. However, in opposition, the Government said:
“In the real world the only logical conclusion you can come to is that the army is already too small”.
The SDSR referred to members of the Reserve Forces performing outstandingly well in Afghanistan, and we share that view and pay tribute to the commitment and dedication of our Reserve Forces and to the real contribution they play in protecting our own citizens and the lives of others in operations abroad. The SDSR also referred to the six-month study being undertaken into the future role and structure of the Reserve Forces and the Statement today includes the Government's response to that review. We, too, would wish to place on record our thanks to General Sir Nicholas Houghton, the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, and his two colleagues who undertook the review. Will the Minister say whether the review suggested that the reductions in the Regular Forces should be made in the light of their recommendations on the Reserve Forces?
The Government have said that they will be undertaking a strategic defence and security review every five years. They now appear already to be making policy decisions on the structure and composition of our Armed Forces for the five years between 2015 and 2020, the period to be covered by the next defence review. What then are the strategic decisions and goals that have been made and determined for the five years from 2015 to 2020 which the decisions announced in the Statement today are presumably intended to deliver? Is it the Government's approach that our strategy for the five years from 2015 to 2020 will be determined by the Armed Forces that we have decided we will have rather than our required defence strategy for those years being determined first and then consideration being given to how to provide the Armed Forces needed to support and deliver that strategy?
If the Reserve Forces are to constitute some 30 per cent of our forces, rather than less than 20 per cent, to what extent will they become stand-alone units? There will be concerns if bespoke standing units of reservists were to become the norm since this could increase the commitment required from civilians and therefore potentially hinder recruitment. Will this approach not also undermine the one army concept? It appears as though the review highlighted the cost of Reserve Forces compared with the cost of Regular Forces. In view of the proposed increase in the percentage of our Armed Forces who will be reserves and the significant reduction in regulars, how do the Government evaluate the abilities, experience and expertise of our Reserve Forces against those of the Regular Army personnel? Do the Government consider them less effective, more effective or of equal worth and value person for person? How is such an assessment made and by whom? The boost to our Reserve Forces is, it would seem, intended to make up for the fact that our Regular Forces are being reduced.
The Statement, referring to the Army, indicated that two major units and a formation headquarters will be based at Leuchars. Does this mean that RAF Leuchars will close? Will the Minister for clarity say how many personnel and what personnel are currently based at Leuchars and how many personnel and what personnel will be based at Leuchars once these changes have been implemented? What will be the cost of that change, who will be paying for it, and how long will the time lag be between the moving out of present personnel from Leuchars and the moving in of the new personnel? What is the Government’s assessment of this change on the local economy?
The Statement referred to the savings that would be realised by the reduction in regular personnel. It stated that money would therefore become available for reinvestment in our Reserve Forces and also for the construction of additional Chinook helicopters, which was an undertaking the Prime Minister gave. We welcome any additional investment in our Armed Forces, and not least the £1.5 billion investment package over the next 10 years to enhance the capability of the reserves, and the increase in the defence equipment and equipment support budget by 1 per cent a year in real terms—though we note that that is not until 2015-16. Can the Minister confirm, though, that this means there will be no increase in real terms in the rest of the core defence budget from 2015-16 to 2020-21?
We are seeing additional resources having to be devoted to our operations over Libya, which is being paid for from the general reserve, and also the need to finance the additional Chinooks promised by the Prime Minister. To conclude, what meaningful assurances can the Minister give that today’s further announcements, which we will certainly wish to study in far more detail than we have been able to so far, have not been influenced by financial considerations, but purely by military considerations?
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. He asked me lots of questions which I was writing down as fast as I could. I will do my best to answer as many as I can, and if I do not answer them all, I undertake to write to him.
The noble Lord first asked about the SDSR. In announcing the SDSR, the Prime Minister was clear that in his view the Future Force 2020 structure would require real year-on-year growth in the defence budget beyond 2015. The announcement today that the MoD can plan on an increase in equipment and an equipment support programme in the years before the spending review settlement means that the department has a firm base for its longer term plans. This will enable the department to make better value-for-money decisions, and makes clear this Government’s commitment to deliver the forces necessary to meet our future commitments.
The noble Lord then asked if there are going to be reductions in the regular Armed Forces because of cuts in reserves. We are confident that with the additional investment, the reprioritisation and efficiency improvement and the planned withdrawal from combat operations in Afghanistan we can rebalance the Army in particular, so that we can have a whole force of around 120,000 with a ratio of about 70 per cent regulars to 30 per cent Territorial Army. This will allow us to maintain an enduring commitment at brigade level as described in the SDSR. As the Secretary of State has said, the role of the Territorial Army has been greatly undervalued too often in the past. It will continue to have an important role in the Army.
The noble Lord then asked about strategic decisions and the Future Force 2020. We are confident that with the additional investment, the reprioritisation and efficiency improvements and the planned withdrawal from combat operations in Afghanistan, together with a rebalancing of Regular and Reserve Forces, we can generate the forces required to achieve the objectives in the SDSR, including the ability to maintain an enduring commitment at brigade level as described in the SDSR.
The noble Lord asked about the expertise of reservists. I have some personal experience: I was for a number of years colonel of a Sapper TA regiment. They had expertise of a very high order, they were very highly trained, and whenever they went out to Afghanistan they were very much respected by the Regular Forces with which they trained. This is an issue that we will be working on. Clearly, recruiting, which the noble Lord mentioned, is vital. A recruiting and training surge will be needed to meet the demands of the revised reservist roles, and to provide for more viable unit strength. The establishment of an effective recruiting and training mechanism to handle the potential surge requirement will be an essential precondition of success if reserve manpower decline is to be arrested, initially, and then increased. This should include rapid changes to existing processes and regulations to make it more attractive for ex-regulars to join the reserves on leaving.
The noble Lord then asked whether RAF Leuchars is closing. Leuchars is not being closed. It will become a major Army base. Following the SDSR, the Royal Air Force needed three, not four, RAF fast-jet bases. It could not make military sense, and would be uneconomic, to close RAF Marham or RAF Coningsby. A decision had to be taken that was best for defence as a whole. With the Tornado force drawing down at Lossiemouth, we concluded that we could build up the Typhoon force there rather than continuing at RAF Leuchars, enabling Leuchars to be utilised for the MRB to be based in Scotland.
The noble Lord mentioned the Chinooks, and I can confirm that we will be ordering the 12 plus the two very early on in the autumn. He welcomed the 1 per cent increase and asked if would it affect the rest of the defence budget. Her Majesty’s Treasury has agreed that we may plan on the basis of an uplift of equipment expenditure, and equipment support year-on-year of 1 per cent above inflation in the years beyond the current spending period. Finally, all these decisions were taken solely on military considerations.
My Lords, first, I join these Benches in the earlier tribute. Very recently, the Leader of the Opposition offered talks with the coalition Government on the future of financing long-term care in this country. I suggest that, important as long-term care is, defence is of equal importance. Would it not make sense for the coalition Government to attempt to talk to the Opposition about getting a unified approach to defence spend? That is my main point.
I would like to put two smaller points to my noble friend. First, will he confirm that the proceeds of the sale of valuable defence sites and buildings will be retained within the defence budget? Secondly, can he indicate the total costs of withdrawal from Germany and the necessary rehousing of those units in this country?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his tribute. As for as his question about opening discussions with Her Majesty’s Opposition, he has raised this before; I am very happy to take it back to my department and come back, and I will let my noble friend know what the answer is. As far as proceeds of defence sales are concerned, the answer is yes: they will remain in the MoD budget. As far as the total cost of withdrawal from Germany is concerned, I do not have any figures on this at the moment. We are working on it, and as soon as I have some figures I will let my noble friend know.
My Lords, having served as honorary colonel of a TA Royal Engineer regiment I confirm what the Minister has said about the TA’s expertise and utility. However, in repeating the Statement made in another place the Minister referred to models from other countries: Canada and the United States. Part of the reason for the success of the reservist element of their forces has very much to do with the culture of those countries and the background from which those people come. It has to do with the way that reservists are honoured and celebrated within society; the view that ordinary citizens and employers across the board take of their service.
I do not for one moment suggest that we could not have a similar culture in this country but it would be a change from that which we currently have. As we recognise, change in culture is a difficult thing to do. It takes time, commitment and a sustained effort across that period of time, and it has to be led from the top. What strategy does the Minister have? What strategy do the Government have for this transformation of culture, which will be essential if the very demanding recruitment targets he has outlined today for the TA have any hope of being met in the future?
My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord makes an excellent point about the culture of the reserves in the United States, Canada and other countries. We are aware that this area will need a lot of work and we are determined to make this whole issue of the reserves successful. We will work on it. Part of this issue is mentioned in the booklet. I very much look forward to discussions with the noble and gallant Lord about any further ideas on how we can take this forward.
My Lords, given the shortage of time, let me focus on just the procurement issues. My noble friend has dealt with the £38 billion myth. I am very sorry that the Government are still descending to using it. It is of course a completely bogus figure based on, as he said, quite unreasonable assumptions. It is really a very silly, as well as a very disingenuous, piece of propaganda.
Apart from that, perhaps I may surprise the noble Lord—because I believe in giving credit where credit is due—by congratulating him. I do not think that 1 per cent in real terms is enough. I would rather have 1.5 per cent, which is what we had when we were in Government. Of course, the sustainable long-term growth rate of the economy is generally reckoned at being 2.25 per cent. Nevertheless, 1 per cent is considerably better than what we have now got. The noble Lord and his ministerial colleagues are to be congratulated on a reasonably successful outcome on what must have been a very difficult negotiation with the Treasury and, no doubt, with No. 10 Downing Street, but I do not think that they understand much about military matters these days.
I do not resile at all from the critiques I have made in the past, particularly about the disappearance of carrier strike capability, but the announcements that the Minister has made today on procurement are extremely important. I am delighted about the Warrior upgrade. That was the only project, which was a priority of mine, that I failed to get through in my time of office and would have been my first priority after the election if we had won it. The Rivet Joints are an enormously important intelligence asset and it is great news that that is going through.
Fourteen Chinooks is not as good as the 22 which we were going to order but, again, it is a good deal better than nothing, which has been happening up until now. Will the noble Lord say the projected in-service dates for these Chinooks? Obviously, there will be different dates. What are the in-service dates for the Rivet Joint aircraft? What are the expected in-service dates for the new upgraded Warriors with the 45 millimetre cannon and so forth? Will he say how many of the Rivet Joint aircraft and how many of the upgraded Warriors the Government intend to procure?
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his support. Perhaps I may correct him on what he said about the Prime Minister. I have had a meeting on defence issues with him and I can assure the noble Lord that he takes the whole issue of the Armed Forces and equipment very seriously. Defence of the realm is the first duty of a Government, which he takes very seriously. I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord there.
The noble Lord welcomed the Warrior upgrade and the Rivet Joint. I can confirm that we will order three Rivet Joints. I do not have the in-service date for the Chinooks. We are very near a point where we can go ahead with the ordering and as soon as I have the in-service date I will make a point of writing to the noble Lord to let him know the answer to that.
My Lords, my noble friend the Minister, I am sure, will realise that this Statement will be warmly welcomed by the Reserve Forces, in particular by the Territorial Army, which over the past decade has seen a dramatic reduction in their numbers and their utility in the field of conflict. Will my noble friend convey to the Ministry of Defence and General Houghton—I, together with my colleagues pay tribute to the diligence of his work over the past two years in this regard—to please look at the skills required by the Reserve Forces in conjunction with the demands not only of employers but also their willingness to identify the skills that could be available? I see the Reserve Forces as playing a crucial role not only in homeland security but abroad within specific skill sets.
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for his question. I agree that we have seen major reductions in the TA recently. I will convey his congratulations to my department and to General Sir Nick Houghton and his co-members for their excellent work on Future Reserves 2020. I know that they spent hours and hours agonising about this review. I will also ask my department to look at the issue that he raised about the skills required and how we can work on that with employers.
My Lords, while welcoming the general trend of this Statement—it is 30 years since I was involved actively in military matters—will the Minister clarify exactly what he is saying in terms of Northern Ireland? As regards recruitment in Scotland, I read that certain things will happen,
“in line with the Scottish tradition of supporting our Armed Forces”.
At the same time, I think I read that there will be a virtual disconnection between the military in Northern Ireland and pertaining to Northern Ireland in the future. That is totally unacceptable. There is a tradition—I am proud to say that I was part of that tradition for a number of years—in Northern Ireland, which was highlighted during the Troubles and during the invasion of Normandy. Most recently, when I visited troops in Afghanistan, the commander in charge of Camp Bastion said of the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish that they have achieved more in four months than would have been expected of them in a full tour. Is that going to be sacrificed? Are we going to have another instalment of what I would call “Heathism”; that is, detaching Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom? If that were to happen, the resentment in Northern Ireland among those who have served faithfully for so many years and at such a cost would be deeply felt.
My Lords, I am well aware of the tradition in Northern Ireland of support for our Armed Forces. I served in Northern Ireland as a soldier and I am well aware of that. Indeed, my driver came from Northern Ireland. I can confirm that we have no wish whatever to detach Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain. The Statement makes clear that other Army units returning from Germany will move into those bases that were vacated, and we remain committed to maintaining a permanent military garrison in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I apologise to the House for missing the very earliest part of the Statement, which I welcome. Our reservists do outstanding work. Will my noble friend confirm that the reserves will continue to welcome retired servicemen into the reserve service? Will the outcome of this Statement make the reserve service more attractive to former servicemen? I would remind the House that Corporal Croucher, George Cross, a Royal Marines reservist, was a regular Royal Marine, as was Corporal Seth Stephens, Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, a special boat service reservist who was killed in action in Afghanistan last year.
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for his support. Service personnel, the Veterans Agency and the single services are working together to simplify their business processes and ensure that their advice and guidance help to improve transfer between commitments; that is, to make it easier for transfer between the regulars and the reserves. A service-terms and conditions-of-service subject-matter expert has been appointed for each service to advise and educate those involved. Work continues to look at ways of streamlining the processes. My noble friend makes a very important point: we want to get as many former regulars into the reserves as possible.
My Lords, the Minister has outlined some very welcome news about the reserves in particular and the increase in spending by 1 per cent in real terms. When I speak to senior people in government, the answer to my first question about defence is, “There’s no money”. When I speak to senior service officers, they talk about “mitigating” and “removing capability”. This Statement shows that the Government are willing to listen. With Libya, we have seen that we could have done with an aircraft carrier, that we could have done with Harriers and that we could have done with the Nimrod, yet the Nimrod was just dismantled. Was it really worth doing that? Was it not short-sighted? What if something happens in the Falklands? What about our nuclear submarines having AWACS cover? Have we not learnt? Have we been penny-wise and pound-foolish? Have we put means before ends?
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his support. We inherited a very difficult situation; it was not perfect. We tried to do the very best we could under the circumstances. I did not feel comfortable with a lot of the cuts, but under the financial circumstances, we had no alternative.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for the Statement. It is highly complicated and will take a lot of study before one can give very sensible comments on it. In general terms, I have no doubt that we need a greater increase in defence spending and I would hope that both sides of the House felt that was appropriate in the future. I am very supportive of the withdrawal from Germany—it should have happened previously; it has cost us a huge amount of money having those forces there. I like the basing of the marines down in the south-west. My question is brief, just for clarity. The Statement said:
“I can now give the go ahead for … the cat and traps for the Queen Elizabeth class carriers”.
Cats and traps is shorthand for catapults and arrester wires. Do I assume, because the Statement seems to say it, that we are intending to put catapults and arrester wires on the “Queen Elizabeth” and the “Prince of Wales”?
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that this is a very complicated issue which will take a lot of study. I am very happy to organise further briefings for noble Lords if they would like on any particular issue, be it on the reserves or basing or anything else. I am grateful that the noble Lord supports the increase in spending, albeit of 1 per cent, which will enable us to do quite a lot. I can confirm that the cats and traps will be for one carrier—at the moment, we do not know which one it is. Whether to equip the other carrier with them will be a decision for the 2015 SDSR.
My Lords, perhaps I may put a question to the Minister on reserves. Any declaration of interest that I might make would probably be otiose in light of the statute of limitations, since it is 55 years since I joined the Territorial Army. I joined the very happily named Queen’s Westminsters and spent nine years feeling that we were doing something useful. Of course, in those days, we had already done two years’ service, which meant that, when we arrived in the territorial battalions, we knew a little bit about what we were expected to do having had some training and felt that we were ready for anything. That may partly answer the very good point made by the noble and gallant Lord that the culture has changed. In those days, the culture in the country was much more receptive to the idea of territorial service.
I welcome what was in the Statement that the Minister has repeated to us. It is true that, as the decades have passed, as the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, pointed out, the Territorial Army has suffered from the depredations of the Treasury. Therefore, I welcome what the Statement says about its strengthening. It is right that we should try to bring the regular-to-reserve ratio further into balance; I think 70:30 is right. I spent many years in the United States and was very impressed by the fact that there was a culture there which made that ratio possible. It is possible to recreate it. Are the Government fully aware of the enormous value of service in the reserves, not just for an increase in military capacity but also because of the social and community value that it represents? It provides young people of both sexes with experience that enhances their working-life prospects. Will the Minister assure us that, in the important recruitment that will have to take place if we are to achieve that balance, sufficient resources will be devoted to the recruitment programme? Our ability to reach 70:30 will depend on us being able to convince a sceptical public that service in the reserves is worth while. Her Majesty's Government would gain greatly from paying attention to the social and community value of the reserves and from making sure that the regular forces are fully engaged in helping in that recruitment drive.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his contribution. I know what a distinguished officer he was, both in the regular Army and the reserves. Indeed, the noble Lord looked very military in his regimental tie laying a wreath at the Cenotaph yesterday.
I am grateful for the noble Lord’s welcome of the 70:30 ratio from his experience of living in the United States. Of course, we understand the value of service in the reserves and will do our very best to ensure that sufficient resources are given to the reserves to make this all possible.
My Lords, in the rebalancing of the Army into multi-role brigades, is any role to be retained for the main battle tank? If there is, where will the training for it be able to be done, one wonders, with the loss of the training grounds in Germany. If there is not to be any role for it, what consequential plans are there for those regiments at present equipped with or trained for the use of Challenger?
My Lords, I can confirm that we will have fewer numbers of Challenger 2 tanks, but we very much value their use. There is of course the training area on Salisbury Plain—where I spent many happy hours. We are also in discussions with the Scottish Executive about the use of some land in Scotland for training.