My Lords, I should like to repeat the Statement made in the other place.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement on the Government’s consultation on Reserve Forces.
On the 5 July this year, I announced to the House my intention to publish a consultation paper setting out our detailed proposals for the future of the Reserve Forces, in response to the recommendations of the Future Reserves 2020 commission. This Green Paper, which I am publishing today, marks the beginning of a formal consultation period and a significant step forward in our plans to build the reserves of the future.
Reserve Forces play a vital role in delivering Britain's defence capability. Over 25,000 reservists have deployed on operations overseas in the past 10 years, and more than 2,000 deployed in support of the Olympic Games this summer. Sadly, 29 of them have paid the ultimate price while on operational service over this period and I know that the whole House will want to join me in saluting their sacrifice.
As well as delivering a range of combat capabilities, reservists have provided numerous specialist functions—from nuclear, biological and chemical protection in Iraq, to deployed medical support, saving the lives of our injured troops in Afghanistan. Whether it is at home or abroad, we should be proud of the dedication, determination and courage with which so many of our reservists serve this country.
Last year, the Future Reserves 2020 commission reported that, in spite of this service and sacrifice, our reserves, particularly the Territorial Army, were in decline; their numbers were getting smaller; the full range of their capabilities was not being used—and they were not being used in a cost-effective manner. In the Territorial Army, we still have major units configured as they were when the task was to provide mass reinforcements to counter a Cold War-era Soviet threat and we remain unable to mobilise reserves to assist our Regular Forces on their vital standing tasks, such as the defence of the Falkland Islands. The commission found that these deficiencies, when taken together, were contributing to an erosion of the effectiveness of the reserves and of the links between our Armed Forces and wider society. We cannot allow this to continue.
The 2010 strategic defence and security review called for a transformation of our Armed Forces to meet the new security challenges and threats of the 21st century while addressing the deficit in the defence budget. In Future Force 2020, we are building an adaptable whole force to meet those challenges and threats with our Army, air force, maritime and marine reserves at the heart of that force. The reserves of the future will be integral to, and fully integrated with, our Regular Forces, capable of being deployed as formed sub-units and units, as well as continuing to deliver individual augmentees, together providing an agile, high-tech, capability, able to defend our country, project power abroad and respond to diverse contingencies.
Historically, mobilisation of the reserves has often been seen as indicative of an emerging large-scale crisis for which the numbers of Regular Forces would be insufficient, a view reinforced by the current legislative framework, under which reservists cannot be mobilised to support standing military tasks. But in the future, as an integrated element of our Armed Forces, the reserves will be a part of almost every type of operation that our Armed Forces conduct, whether its in combat, capacity-building or fulfilling more routine standing commitments. Indeed, some very specialist capabilities—such as cyber, media operations and medical capability—cannot cost-effectively be held in Regular Forces and we will rely upon the reserves to deliver them.
The routine delivery of the nation’s security will broaden from being the sole preserve of the standing Regular Forces into a responsibility that is shared, through the role of the reserves, much more widely across society. To deliver it, we are investing an additional £1.8 billion in our reserves over the next 10 years, enabling us to increase their size to a trained strength of approximately 35,000. For the first time in 20 years, our reserves will be on an upward, not a downward, trajectory. By 2018, we will have grown the trained strength of the Army reserve to 30,000, the maritime reserve to 3,100, and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force to 1,800.
Reserve units will be paired with, train with and achieve the same standards as their regular counterparts. They will use the same equipment, the same vehicles and wear the same uniforms as the regulars, and they will deploy routinely, together with Regular Forces, on major overseas exercises. This year alone, reserve units will conduct some 22 overseas exercises, with probably twice that number next year. Integrated regular/reserve overseas training exercises are being developed and will become routine. Already, the additional investment we have put in place is making a difference. As I saw for myself last night at the Royal Yeomanry TA centre in Fulham, Territorial Army units are already taking delivery of WMIK light reconnaissance vehicles, Bowman radios and new Regular Army uniforms. As by far the largest element of our reserves. these changes will be felt most keenly by the Army, and to reflect the significant change in the role of Army reservists, I propose that the name of the Territorial Army should change to become the “Army Reserve”. We will consult on that proposal.
Vital to delivering this transformation will be offering a new proposition to our reserves. If you make the commitment, turn up regularly to train and are prepared to deploy, in return we will make the commitment to equip, train and fund you properly. So in the future, we will give reservists much better defined, more fulfilling roles, properly resourced and with adequate training underpinned by a balanced package of remuneration and support for them and their families, much more closely aligned to the pay, allowances and welfare support provided to the regulars. In return, we will expect them to commit to required levels of training, to meet the same exacting standards as the Regular Forces and, crucially, to be available to deploy alongside them.
National emergencies apart, we will provide greater predictability about periods of liability for deployment for our reserves. That will mean, typically, a deployment of no more than six months in a five-year period for the Army reserves, although total mobilisation could be up to a year to cover operation-specific pre-deployment training and post-operation recuperation. This predictability will help those who serve our country and their families to plan their lives. It will also help employers of reservists to plan their workforce.
Crucially, to achieve our aims, we need to develop a new relationship with civilian employers. Too often in the past, this relationship has started only at the point at which reserves have been mobilised. This has got to change. It is vital that we create a much more open and collaborative relationship with employers: providing greater certainty about reservists’ liability for deployment, with advance warning of when their call-up liability period will be; giving confidence that the skills and aptitudes reservists develop in training and on deployments will be of benefit in their civilian careers; and recognising that the relationship will need to be tailored to the different types and size of employers.
I fully accept that it may be large public sector and private sector organisations that are best able to absorb and manage periods of employee absence. I am delighted that companies such as BT, the AA and BAE Systems have shown their support to our reserves and this consultation process. But it is also the case that, with the growth of statutory legal provisions and flexible working practices, employers of all sizes are more used to managing periods of absence. In a modern, dynamic economy increasing numbers do not pursue conventional careers, creating a sizeable pool of self-employed from which to recruit. I look forward, in the consultation process, to exploring further with businesses of all sizes how we could better recognise the support that they give to our Armed Forces—perhaps through a kitemark-style national recognition scheme for reserve-friendly employers or possibly through the use of targeted financial incentives for smaller employers.
Taken together, the proposals in the Green Paper point to a new strategic direction for our Reserve Forces. They are challenging and require the support of both reservists and employers to succeed but they are also deliverable. Reserve numbers in 2018 will still be less than half the size of the Territorial Army in 1990 and recruitment levels are now starting to rise after a long-term downward trend.
Too often in the past, our Reserve Forces have been neglected and taken for granted; an afterthought when it came to investment and training; a soft target when it came to last-minute in-year budget cuts. Under our proposals, with a balanced defence budget and an additional £1.8 billion of investment, our Reserve Forces of the future will be better trained, better equipped and better resourced than ever before. Collectively, they will take on greater responsibility and benefit from greater reward and greater respect.
In the years to come, we will have Army, Navy and Royal Marines reserves, and a Royal Auxiliary Air Force sitting at the heart of the defence of our nation—Reserve Forces, of which we can be proud, supported by employers to whom we will owe a deep debt of national gratitude. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made today in the other place by the Secretary of State. We support an enhanced role for our Reserve Forces and we pay tribute to the significant contribution made by our reservists and to their courage, not least in operations in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and, most recently, Libya. Nearly 30 have lost their lives on operations over the past 10 years and many more have sustained major injuries in the service of our country.
The Statement indicated that, for the first time in many years, our Reserve Forces numbers will be on an upward trend. That is obviously the intention, but let us be clear that that is because our Regular Forces numbers are on a significant downward trend, which is now much greater than that indicated in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The Statement has confirmed the Government's earlier decision to invest an additional £1.8 billion in our reserves over the next 10 years in order to increase their size to a trained strength of approximately 35,000. Could the Minister say how this figure of £1.8 billion was determined? What exactly does it pay for in terms of training, equipment, buildings and payments and incentives, both to individuals to join the reserves and to employers to agree to them having the necessary time off to undertake the future enhanced commitment that will be expected? We need to have this breakdown to form a view on the adequacy or otherwise of the £1.8 billion in the light of the Government's intentions on the future size and role of our Reserve Forces.
The Statement refers to the commitment that will be expected from members of our Reserve Forces in the future: a deployment of no more than six months in a five-year period for the Army Reserve, with total mobilisation being up to a year to cover operation-specific, pre-deployment training and post-operation recuperation. Can the Minister confirm that, in addition to this, there will be a requirement for some 40 days’ training each year, or nearly six weeks? Will that 40 days’ training—if that is the correct figure—take place during the week, requiring further time off from employment, or will some of it be undertaken at weekends or during the evenings, or will weekend and evening training be in addition to the 40 days? If part of the training is at weekends or during the evenings, presumably that means that people who have to work shifts or work at weekends, of whom there are increasing numbers, would also require time off work for this training commitment.
Perhaps the Minister could clarify these points, as they relate directly to the amount of time that individuals would require to commit themselves to be away from their employment, and the level of leave of absence to which the employer would be asked to agree. Could the Minister also say how many reserves will be expected to be on extended readiness at any one time?
Could the Minister also confirm that if, as a nation, we felt it necessary in our national interest to become involved in a future operation requiring the level of resources that we have had to commit to Afghanistan and over the same lengthy period of time for which we have had to do that, we would be able to undertake such an operation with the number of Regular Forces and Reserve Forces projected for the future, and within the Reserve Forces commitment referred to in the Statement of a deployment of no more than six months in a five-year period for the Army Reserve, with total mobilisation being up to one year?
The present trained strength of our Army reserves is, I believe, around 17,000 and there is a need to increase that figure by some 13,000 to 30,000 over the next six years or so in order to deliver the Government's objective on the future role and strength of our Armed Forces. We hope the Government achieve that objective as we have made clear our support for an expanded and enhanced role for our Reserve Forces. We also support the proposal to look at the idea of a kitemark-style national recognition scheme for reserve-friendly employers, and we support, too, the intention to look at the renaming of our Reserve Forces.
However, what is not clear from the Statement is whether the implementation of the staged decrease in the size of our regular Armed Forces will be related to actual delivery of the required staged increase in the size of our trained Reserve Forces, or whether the implementation of the staged run-down in the size of our regular Armed Forces is simply related to the intended, but not actual, required staged increase in the size of our trained Reserve Forces. Could the Minister give some assurances on that point, as reducing the size of our regular Armed Forces without the required additional trained reservists being in place at each stage of the reduction will surely represent a potential threat to our national security and our ability to protect our vital national interests?
We have previously expressed our concerns over the ability to deliver the additional trained members of our Reserve Forces, and no doubt one area where the Government will be looking for future members of our Reserve Forces will be former members of our regular forces. Would the Minister consider fast-tracking service leavers’ applications to join the reserves for up to two years after having left the Regular Forces, instead of the one year as I believe it is at present?
The Secretary of State has said that he will be publishing a White Paper next spring, which will set out the Government's proposals for the way ahead in respect of our Reserve Forces, including any requirement for legislation. Employers are going to have to be willing to agree to the necessary time off to enable employees to give the required greater commitment as reservists that will be called for in the future, a greater commitment that frankly makes statements that it should not be a problem, because the size of our Territorial Army has been larger in the past than that now projected for our reserves, somewhat irrelevant and meaningless.
There is an argument that an employee who has had service in the reserves will have learnt and developed skills that will be of real value to the employer. I am sure that will be the case. My only comment would be that in another field, where the same argument applies—namely, over employees who wish to serve as lay magistrates—it is sometimes very difficult for an employee working for a private sector company to get the prior agreement to the time off which really is needed before they apply to become a magistrate. Even if time off can be secured, an employee who was looking to progress up through their company or organisation would need to be satisfied that their prospects of promotion or advancement would not be jeopardised by the fact that, for quite significant periods of time, they would be away and not undertaking the duties and responsibilities of the civilian post that they held. These are real issues, which the Government will have to address if they are to succeed in their objectives for our Reserve Forces, and these issues will be even more acute with small private sector employers for which the Government will need to draw up a specific strategy.
I know it will probably go against the grain for them, but the Government might care to consider whether the trade unions, who represent staff in many of our larger companies, might also have a role that they could be invited to play in drawing the attention of those staff to the opportunity of joining the reserves, and in encouraging employers to agree to the necessary time off along with some cast-iron written guarantees that people will not lose out on issues such as promotion, levels of salary enhancement or bonuses, where it might be very difficult to prove discrimination as opposed to suspecting discrimination.
My final point concerns the impact of the new enhanced role on reservists at a time when medical analysis shows that they are more susceptible than regulars to post-deployment mental health problems and post-traumatic stress disorder. Reservists return to civilian life without decompression with those with shared experiences and do not have access to military medical services. Could the Minister say what improvements are being made to post-deployment care as, in future, we will ask even more of our reserves? We should surely give more back in order to prevent the spread of this kind of invisible injury.
I conclude by reiterating our support for the Government's intention to increase the role and responsibilities of our Reserve Forces. Our concerns are over the logistics and feasibility of delivering the objective without firm, clear and decisive action. Our concerns are not over the principle of what the Government are seeking to achieve.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his support for the enhanced role of the reservists, the name change to Army Reserve and indeed for his support for the kitemark. We are very keen to approach this whole issue in as non-partisan a way as possible. It is essential that we achieve success on this. We want as much cross-government and cross-party input into the consultation as possible.
The noble Lord started by asking about numbers. I have the current total strength of the Maritime Reserve, Territorial and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. As of today the Maritime Reserve is 2,500, the Territorial Army is 25,500 and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force is 1,300-odd. The target for our total trained strength by 2020 is for the Maritime Reserve to go up to 3,100, the Army Reserve to 30,000 and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force to 1,800.
The noble Lord asked me about the breakdown of the £1.8 billion. I cannot at this stage give him an answer but I will undertake to write to him. The Ministry of Defence has committed an additional £1.8 billion investment over the next 10 years to improve reservist training, equipment and recruitment. The training packages offered will be sufficiently resourced and challenging to ensure a motivated and sustainable force.
The noble Lord asked me some detailed and legitimate questions about training. I draw his attention to the Green Paper. We have gone into quite considerable detail about the training. Again, we are asking employers and reservists for their input on training suggestions. The noble Lord asked if we had the numbers to undertake operations in the future. We are confidant that we do. He also asked a question about the possible fast track of regulars to reserves. This is one issue we are looking into very carefully. It is really important that we get a large number of regulars to convert to the reserves. We have looked at the track records of the United States, Australia and other countries on this and are open to any suggestions and we very much welcome input from anyone about where we can make up the numbers.
The noble Lord asked about next spring’s White Paper as it related to employers and what incentives are being considered. The MoD is considering financial and non-financial incentives for employers, ranging from the award of a national kitemark-type recognition scheme to an employer financial award that would be in addition to that already provided to an employer when a reservist is mobilised for military service. Most importantly, these incentives will be tailored so that they are accessible regardless of the size of the business. The noble Lord asked me about the value to an employer of a reservist. For a number of years, I was honorary colonel of a TA regiment and every year we had a function with the employers. I met a large number of them and they all valued enormously the input of the reservists and how it made a difference to their company. I am pretty enthusiastic about that.
The noble Lord asked me about trade unions and their input. I would very much welcome it. Indeed we are already in contact with the TUC on this issue. It was a point very well made by the noble Lord. Finally, on post-traumatic disorders, once reservists are mobilised, they have the same healthcare as regulars. Health is an issue on which we want to carry out consultation.
I join my noble friend in paying tribute to our reserves. They play a vital part in our defence. I wish also to pay tribute to Corporal Seth Stephens, Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, who was killed in action in Afghanistan. He was a Special Boat Service reservist and formerly a regular Royal Marine. I pay tribute, too, to Corporal Matt Croucher, George Cross, a Royal Marine reservist and also formerly a regular Royal Marine. These tributes illustrate, first, what superb work has been done and is continuing to be done by our Reserve Forces; and, secondly—the point that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made—the importance of attracting former regular service personnel to the reserves. The regulars have had a long, expensive and often arduous training. They know what they are in for and, most importantly, they understand the demands of the service.
Will my noble friend assure the House that reserve service will be advertised and made attractive to regular service personnel who decide to quit the Regular Armed Forces? For example, there might be some pension advantages and carryover of service. Presumably, the military covenant applies also to reservists. I hope that my noble friend will confirm this.
Reservists and their employers must understand that when the reservist signs up for service he or she is entering an irrevocable commitment or obligation starting immediately, if necessary, to serve at the sole discretion of the Government of the day for the duration of their time in service. Our Regular Forces must never be put in jeopardy by anyone who fails to live up to their obligations.
My Lords, I join my noble friend in the tributes to the two servicemen he mentioned. Like him, I am in awe of the work that the Special Boat Service does. I compliment my noble friend on all the work that he does for the SBS Association. He asked me about incentives for regulars to become reservists. All three services are working to make it as quick and easy as possible for individuals leaving the Regular Forces to join the reserves. This includes simplifying administrative processes, examining the use of incentives and ensuring coherent communications so that individuals who are leaving the Regular Forces, or have left, are aware of the opportunities that exist in the reserves, should they choose to enlist. No decisions have yet been made on the shape of any incentives.
The Armed Forces covenant seeks to ensure that service personnel are not disadvantaged as a result of their service. The covenant recognises reservists. Obligations for reservists very rarely constitute a problem. On the previous occasion I was in Afghanistan I met a number of reservists and regulars. All the regulars to whom I spoke said that reservists were just the same as them—they were not treated differently and mucked in just the same as everyone else. However, obviously, once a reservist is mobilised, he is under military law the same as a regular.
My Lords, I apologise for not being here at the beginning of the Statement. I ran to get here but I am not as fast as I was when I was a young officer. I welcome the thrust of what the Government are doing but share the very real concerns I have heard relating to commerce, industry and various firms. I would like to ask a couple of questions. Given the contents of the Green Paper, will there be full and comprehensive meetings with various firms and no coercive legislation to make firms provide reservists, as I think that would be extremely counterproductive?
My other point concerns the cost of reservists. I have had a lot to do with the Americans in this regard. Reservists are not as cheap as one might think when one starts using them regularly. I hope the Government will look very carefully at this because reservists can often cost more than regulars. If that is the case, perhaps it is better to use regulars.
My Lords, the noble Lord makes a good point. Our relationship with employers is obviously key to this. The Green Paper sets out a series of questions to employers which will help us to chart the way forward. I very much hope that the noble Lord will contribute to this process, particularly any thoughts he has on the United States example that he mentioned. In addition to the Green Paper, we will host a number of national and regional events to discuss specific issues with public sector and private sector employers. The closing date for this consultation is, from memory, 18 January next year.
My Lords, I do not intend to be patronising, and apologise if I appear to be, when I say that I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Astor, for bringing this Statement to the House. In addition, I think other noble Lords share my gratitude in so far as he regularly keeps us briefed on military matters. That is reassuring.
I want to pick up a point that the Minister made in passing when he replied to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and mentioned other elements of government being involved. The one thing I know, having been a soldier who served virtually full-time for 12 years, is that I understand that if you have an objective and faith in your task as a soldier, it means so much more than if you are wondering why you are there in the first place. So much of what has happened during the period of the previous Government and this Government so far has meant that we have sent our soldiers, reserves and regulars into battle without a clear view of the objective. I have raised this point before, and I deliberately raise it now. When I look at what we have left behind after the sacrifices in Iraq, and when I see people such as Martin Kobler being appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and being little more than a tool in the hands of Nouri al-Maliki as he facilitates the evil mullahs in Iran, there would be no encouragement for me to send my children or grandchildren to become members of the Army reserve. When are we going to have a more vital input and a clearer objective enunciated by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—something that gives our military a degree of confidence and assuredness when we send them into battle?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his support. Over the years I have very much enjoyed chatting to him about his distinguished military experiences over 12 years, and I very much hope that he will give his input into this consultation process. We want to change the situation. The noble Lord was critical of the past. We want to change all this, whereby employers, regulars and reservists all have a clear view of where they stand and have plenty of warning if there is mobilisation. That is important. I cannot comment on the noble Lord’s question about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
My Lords, it is a pleasure and a considerable relief for once to be able to welcome a government Statement on defence policy, and I do so unreservedly. As the noble Lord knows, I am very much in favour of this initiative and I congratulate him on it. I also congratulate General Houghton and Julian Brazier, whose initial study has led to these proposals and provided some of the background. I have just two concerns that I should like to put to the Minister. First, is it not the case that if our reservists are even slightly less well trained and experienced than regulars, we may have more casualties in future operations? That risk can be mitigated only by rigorous and probably more extensive pre-deployment training. Are the Government focused on that?
Secondly, incentives are splendid and, of course, no one would wish coercive legislation on employers, but is it not the case that this will not work at all unless reservists have complete legal protection, as they do in the United States, against discrimination by employers or potential employers in the matter of recruitment, promotion and remuneration? That system seems to work extremely well in the United States. As the noble Lord knows, it has been in operation for a long time; it seems to be widely accepted by American employers and by American society as a whole; and, of course, as we all know, the National Guard plays a vital role in American overseas operations. Does the noble Lord agree that that issue cannot be ducked and needs to be accommodated in the legislation the Government propose?
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his support and I will pass on his words too to the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, and Julian Brazier, the Member of Parliament for Canterbury, who both work very hard. I attended a number of meetings and they were very grateful for the noble Lord’s support. He asked if reservists would be put at greater risk. For reservists doing specialised roles for which they will be trained, pre-deployment training will bring them up to the required levels. The training for reservists will obviously be much greater and they will go into any mobilised operation as well trained as regulars—they will have the same kit, the same uniform—and we will do our very best to ensure that that does not happen.
The noble Lord’s last question, I think, was whether there will be any change to legislation. The integration of reserves within the whole force means that reservists will routinely be part of military deployments at home and abroad. In order to enable this we propose changes to the current legislative power to use and call out reservists. Following the consultation in spring 2013 a White Paper will set out in detail our proposals on, among other things, any legislation necessary to underpin our vision for the reserves.
Will the Minister please have some sort of exemption for small and micro-businesses about the recruitment of people? When an employer hires someone it is because there is a job to be done. If the employer suddenly loses that person for several months, it can bust them. It is very difficult to backfill or infill quickly enough. I had a small business go bust a few years ago because someone was called up unexpectedly, she had not told us properly in advance and she disappeared. We need to have it upfront at the time of recruitment and a small business should be allowed to state that it cannot handle it and have an exemption from it, otherwise there is this terrible thing of not knowing and the penalties on the small business are too great. Small businesses are where the innovation and growth of the future come from. I was a Territorial for 15 years so I thoroughly approve of it all, but please exempt those who cannot afford to do it.
The noble Earl makes a very good point. One point we make loud and clear in the Green Paper is that we want to be very much more open with employers and bring them into a confidence from a much earlier stage. As for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, we aim to tailor our approach, adjusting our working practices to reflect the different opportunities and impacts of reserve service for different employers, public and private, large, medium and small as well as by sector.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the intention behind these announcements and, like other noble Lords, I am very glad that the Minister will be taking this through the House, in view of his connection with the Territorial Army and, therefore, the reserves. As a former Inspector-General of the Territorial Army at a time when it numbered more than 100,000, I must take issue with one point that he made. At that time we initiated the National Employers Liaison Committee and the motto that was adopted about what the employers got from the TA, as opposed to what the TA got from them, was, “a profitable partnership”. That initiative has remained. Therefore, the issue that I take with the Minister is the suggestion that this sort of relationship had not existed before and that the Government were going to change it. I hope that that is not so because it seems to me, and from all of the points that have been made around the House, that the National Employers Liaison Committee is even more important now as a framework with which to conduct these discussions.
At that time, and picking up a point that was made earlier about the connection with the Americans, I was told that the most important and useful weapon used by the National Guard with employers was that employers were relieved of having to pay the employers’ national insurance contribution. I put that to the Treasury then and was told that it was a very good idea. I was told that it could happen provided that I paid it out of my budget. I could not do that, but I believe that it ought to be seriously looked at because it would have an enormous impact on employers.
My Lords, national insurance is one of the issues mentioned in the Green Paper. We are looking at it. I understand that there are a number of complications, but it is an issue that we are looking at.
I hope the noble Lord did not misunderstand me when I said that we were changing. I did not mean in any way that things were not going well. We very much value the input of the National Employer Advisory Board.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement from the other House. Unusually, I think there is general consensus across the House that this is a welcome move. But, probably, the devil is in the detail. It will succeed or not depending on co-operation from industry.
Those of us who have seen the reserves in operation know that it is not the quality of their contribution. Indeed, in modern warfare, technologically, they are probably more advanced than many of the people whom they are working alongside. This could well be a very good move for our services. But can the Minister assure me that the MoD will be flexible in its discussions with employers, especially when it comes to small firms releasing someone? You may need to help fund a substitute, not the actual person leaving to go on operations. You may need to provide that support.
The pensions issue, which is mentioned on page 56, will probably be a difficult one to overcome. The assurance I am seeking concerns the rules and regulations we have laid down now for engaging with the private sector. They may need to be changed to ensure that you succeed in recruiting the numbers that you seek.
My Lords, we realise that this will not work unless we have the co-operation of employers. We are keen to get as much input as we can from them. If we have to change the legislation and make other changes to make it work, we will do that, and of course we will be very flexible.
My Lords, I, too, welcome this Reserve Forces plan. I should like to mention two things. First, I noticed that the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State used the word “injured”. Military people are “wounded”. The Minister is always good enough to use that word when he talks about the deaths of soldiers and the wounding of soldiers.
A highly paid football player gets a hack on the shin and he writhes on the ground as if he is about to expire: he is injured. A military person who is blown up, loses a limb, is hit by a bullet, shrapnel or sometimes steel: he is wounded. It is not much fun being wounded, but it is a great honour for your country. That should be declared. This awful politically correct way of saying that everybody is injured is quite wrong. The reservist, if he is wounded, would much rather be wounded than injured. There was a time when a stripe was given for being wounded. I know I do not have time to make my second example but I shall make it very quickly. It is not quite over 20 minutes. Why do not the Government get stuck—