My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement made in the other place. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a Statement on the future of our Reserve Forces. In November last year, I announced a formal consultation which lasted until January this year. I am grateful for the more than 3,000 responses we received. I have placed copies of the summary of consultation findings in the Library of the House.
More than 25,000 reservists from all three services have deployed on operations over the past 10 years. Sadly, 30 have paid the ultimate price, and I know that the whole House will want to join me in saluting their sacrifice.
In 2011, the Future Reserves 2020 Commission reported that our reserves were in serious decline. The Government responded by committing to revitalise our Reserve Forces as part of Future Force 2020, reversing the decline of the recent past, growing their trained strength to 35,000 by 2018 and investing an additional £1.8 billion in them over 10 years.
We recognise the extraordinary commitment reservists make and, in return, we commit to deliver the reservist a challenging and rewarding experience, combined with an enhanced remuneration and support package and an improved deal for employers, but to recruit the reserves we need and train and equip them to be fit for purpose in Future Force 2020 requires substantial change.
I am today publishing a White Paper setting out our vision for the Reserve Forces and the detail of how we will make reserve service more attractive. It also confirms our intention to change the name of the Territorial Army to Army Reserve—better to reflect the future role. Alongside the White Paper, I am publishing the first report of the independent External Scrutiny Group which I announced last year to oversee and report on our progress in delivering Future Reserves 2020.
The White Paper reiterates our commitment to improve access to modern equipment and provide better training as part of the £1.8 billion package. Two hundred million pounds will be invested in equipment for the Army Reserve and to kick start that programme I can announce today that we will bring forward to this year £40 million of investment in new dismounted close combat equipment—meaning upgraded weapons and sights, night vision systems, and GPS capabilities will start to be delivered to reserve units before the end of the year.
The integration of regulars and reserves is key to Future Force 2020. That integration prompts a closer alignment of the structure of remuneration across the Armed Forces. We have therefore decided to increase reservists’ total remuneration in two ways: through the provision, for the first time, of a paid annual leave entitlement in respect of training days and through the accrual of pension entitlements under the new future armed forces pension scheme 2015, for time spent on training as well as when mobilised. These two measures represent a substantial percentage increase in total reserve remuneration.
The White Paper sets out details of an improved package of occupational health support for reservists to underpin operational fitness. We will also ensure that effective welfare support is delivered to reservists and their families. Welfare officers are being recruited now for Army Reserve units. Additionally, we have already implemented measures to streamline and incentivise the process by which those leaving the Regular Forces can transfer to the volunteer reserve, with accelerated processing, passporting of medical and security clearances and retention of rank, as well as a signing-on bounty of £5,000 for ex-regulars and for direct entry officers joining the Army Reserve.
The support of employers is crucial to delivering the future Reserve Forces. We seek to strengthen Defence’s relationships with employers so that they are open and predictable. The White Paper sets out how we will make liability for call up more predictable; make it easier for them to claim the financial assistance that is already available; increase financial support for SMEs by introducing a £500 per month per reservist financial award to small and medium enterprises when their reservist employees are mobilised; and improve civilian-recognised training accreditation to help employers to benefit from reserve training and skills.
The White Paper signals a step change in Defence’s offer to employers. I urge them to take up this challenge. In turn, by building on the Armed Forces covenant with the introduction of the corporate covenant, we will ensure that reservist employers get the recognition they deserve. However, while Defence is fully committed to an open and collaborative relationship with employers, it is essential that the interests of reservists are protected. Dismissal of reservists on the grounds of their mobilised reserve service is already illegal. We will legislate in the forthcoming defence reform Bill to ensure access to employment tribunals in claims for unfair dismissal on grounds of reserve service without a qualifying employment period.
The job that we are asking our reservists to do is changing, and the way in which we organise and train them will also have to change. That will impact on both force structure, and basing laydown. The force structures and roles of the maritime and air reserves will remain broadly similar to now, although increased in size and capability. The Army, however, has had substantially to redesign its reserve component to ensure regular and reserve capabilities seamlessly complement each other in an integrated structure designed for the future role. That redesigned structure has been driven primarily by the changed function and roles of the Army Reserve and the need to reach critical mass for effective sub-unit training.
The details of the future Army Reserve structure are complex and beyond what could coherently be explained in an Oral Statement. I have therefore laid a Written Ministerial Statement, supported by detailed documents which have been placed in the Library of the House, showing the complete revised order of battle of the reserve component of Army 2020.
This restructuring will require changes to the current basing laydown of the Army Reserve. The TA currently operates from 334 individual sites around the United Kingdom, including a number of locations with small detachments of fewer than 30 personnel. Some of these sites are seriously under-recruited. To maximise the potential for future recruitment, the Army is determined that, as it translates its revised structure into a basing laydown, it should take the opportunity to rationalise its presence by merging small, poorly recruited sub-units into larger sites in the same conurbation or in neighbouring communities. As part of this exercise, the Army Reserve will open or reopen nine additional reserve sites.
However, the consolidation of all poorly recruited units would have led to a significant reduction in basing footprint and a significant loss of presence in some, particularly rural, areas. I have decided that that would not be appropriate as we embark on a major recruitment campaign. We will therefore retain a significant number of small and under-recruited sites that the Army considers could become viable through effective recruiting. The units on those sites will be challenged to recruit up to strength in the years ahead. Over the next couple of years, we will work with local communities, through the Army’s regional chain of command, to target recruitment into those units. I know that honourable and right honourable Members will want to lead their local communities in rising to this challenge.
The result of the decisions I am announcing today is that the overall number of Army Reserve bases will reduce from the current total of 334 to 308, a net reduction of 26 sites. With your permission, Mr Speaker, I am distributing a summary sheet which identifies the reserve locations being opened and those being vacated.
The White Paper and the WMS on structure and basing together set the conditions to grow and sustain our reserves as we invest an additional £1.8 billion over 10 years in our vision for the integrated reserves of Future Force 2020. That vision means an even bigger contribution from our reservists and from employers as we expand the Reserve Forces. I am confident that both will rise to the challenge.
For the first time in 20 years, the reserves are on an upward trajectory. Those of us who are neither reservists nor employers can none the less provide vital support and encouragement to our fellow citizens who make such a valuable contribution to delivering our national security, and I know that Members on all sides of the House will want to take the lead in urging our communities to get behind the reserves and the recruiting drive that will build their strength to the target level over the next five years. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier in the House of Commons by the Secretary of State. The Minister will be aware that the information on the hardly insignificant issue of the net reduction of 26 sites that will be lost was not available when the Secretary of State made his Statement. The Speaker in the Commons described that as “woefully inadequate” and reminded the Secretary of State that he was responsible for his department. The information on the sites is now available but will the Minister confirm that, in future, when the Secretary of State makes a Statement, he—the Secretary of State —will provide both it and the supporting documentation at the normally accepted time?
Before I go any further, I should say that we support an enhanced role for our Reserve Forces working alongside our regulars. We pay tribute to those who have served, particularly the 30 reservists who have died in the service of our country over the last 10 years and the much larger number who have been wounded. We welcome much of today’s announcement, not least those parts dealing with increased training alongside regulars, investment in equipment, the changed nature of Reserve Forces, improved occupational healthcare and welfare arrangements—including, presumably, for mental health problems—and the intentions to address the issues surrounding potential discrimination against members of our future Reserve Forces in their civilian employment.
We want the increase in the number of our reserves to be achieved, not least because the Government appear to be putting all their eggs in one basket on this issue; there appears to be no plan B. Today’s Statement and White Paper follow on from previous Statements and the consultation document Future Reserves 2020. In the foreword to that document, the Secretary of State said that it marked,
“a significant step forward in our plans to build the effective reserves our Armed Forces require to provide security for the Nation in future”.
The paper also said that our Reserve Forces,
“will be an integral and integrated element of our Armed Forces”,
“routinely involved in most military deployments”,
and that our Armed Forces will,
“increasingly rely on the Reserve Forces to achieve the full range of tasks set to Defence”.
On the basis of the Government’s own words, the reserves will not simply be complementing our Army; they will be plugging some of the gaps left by cuts to regular personnel. However, when I asked the Government two weeks ago for an assurance that the size of our Regular Army would not be reduced to the intended figure of 82,000 unless the strength of our Army Reserve had been increased to the intended trained strength of 30,000, the Minister said he could not give me such an undertaking.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010 addressed the issue of the commitments and planning assumptions that our future Armed Forces could be expected to carry out and the maximum level, extent and nature of operations they could be expected to undertake at any one time. Can those planning assumptions, set out in the SDSR in 2010 when there were 102,000 regulars in the Army, still be carried out with a Regular Army of 82,000 and an Army Reserve force of 30,000? Is the reduction in the size of our Regular Army to 82,000 dependent on our having increased the size of our trained Army Reserve to 30,000? If we need a Regular Army of 82,000 and an Army Reserve force of 30,000 to fulfil the maximum level, extent and nature of operations that we would expect our future Armed Forces to undertake at any one time, as set out in the 2010 SDSR, how can the Government allow the size of our Regular Army to fall to 82,000 unless there is, by then, a trained Army Reserve force of 30,000? If the reduction in the size of our Regular Army to 82,000 is not dependent on having first achieved an increase in the size of our trained Army Reserve to 30,000, that must surely mean that we will not have the manpower available that was assumed in the 2010 SDSR. Could the Minister confirm that this would mean less capability as a result and, if so, which capabilities would go or be reduced as a result?
The Statement has confirmed that the Government will be investing an additional £1.8 billion in the reserves over the next 10 years. How will that be divided between buildings, equipment, recruitment—including financial incentives—and pay? Will a trained Army reservist be regarded as having the same level of skills, expertise and experience as a comparable member of the Regular Army?
Some concerns have been expressed about the likelihood of increasing the number in our Reserve Forces to the required level. How is recruitment to our reserves currently going against targets? What was the situation in that regard last year? As for recruitment to the reserves, will new recruits be committed to staying in the reserves for a minimum or any other specific period of time? Will those receiving the taxable bonus of £5,000, to which I think reference was made in the Statement, be required to stay for a minimum period of time? What assumptions have been made about turnover in the reserves in future? How many people has it been assumed will need to be recruited into the reserves each year to sustain the greatly increased numbers in our Reserve Forces, including 30,000 in the Army Reserve?
How easy or otherwise it proves to increase the size of our reserve forces remains to be seen. A recent Federation of Small Businesses survey found that one in three employers believed that nothing would encourage them to employ a reservist, despite the fact that service experience provides people with organisational, team-building and leadership skills. It is of course possible that the financial incentives for SMEs announced in the Statement may change that position.
I reiterate our support for the enhanced role of our Reserve Forces. The move will also provide the opportunity to help to ensure that we can maximise niche civilian skills in a military setting, not least in the fields of cybersecurity and languages. It is also essential that those who want to volunteer to serve their country are protected in the workplace and do not suffer discrimination. That may not always be easy to achieve, since discrimination against someone who is not there the whole time can sometimes be very difficult to prove. I look to the Government to put particular emphasis on that point in the legislation and regulations that will follow.
We hope that the required increase in our Reserve Forces is achieved. The potential consequences for the defence and protection of our nation could be very serious if it is not.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his general support for what we are doing. I share his and the Opposition’s aspiration to strengthen the reserves in a very bipartisan way. The noble Lord asked me about the Commons Statement. The Secretary of State said that he would investigate and write to the right honourable shadow Secretary of State. When I have more information, I will pass it on to the noble Lord. I myself have ensured that all the necessary paperwork was distributed in the Peers’ Lobby and the Prince’s Chamber during the first Question, and I hope that noble Lords have got their hands on everything. If they have not and we have run out of copies, I have some spare copies.
There is one correction that I need to point out: in the information that I have handed out, I have been advised that there is an inconsistency over Kilmarnock. There is no change in the end result for the figure of 46 sites for Scotland, but Kilmarnock should have been scored as a new site rather than as an existing one. That is therefore good news regarding occupation.
The reserves are an essential component of our national security, our future forces and success on operations. In future, their contribution to our defence capability will increase and the reserves will become an integrated part of the whole force.
I turn to the noble Lord’s questions. First, he mentioned plan B. I am confident that we can deliver on that, and I will come to that in a short while when I address another of his questions. His second question concerned whether the reductions in the Regular Forces made them more dependent on the reserves and the commitment that I was not able to give the noble Lord the other day. I still cannot give that commitment. We are aware that there are risks in this, but we are confident. Recruiting is going well and the historical figures are on our side. When I was in the Army—a long time ago, admittedly—the reserves numbered 100,000, with a much smaller population, and we had half the strength of the present reserves in 1990. Other countries, such as the United States, Australia and Canada, have a much higher percentage of reserves. We are investing £1.8 billion over 10 years and, as the Statement said, we are investing £40 million this year. We are confident that the reinvigorated reserves will deliver the quality and number of reservists that we will require in future, both in training and on operations.
Employers play a key role in enabling the reserves to deliver their essential contribution to defending the nation’s security. This future relationship may need some incentives, which could include a cross-government commitment to support employers who encourage volunteering. The public sector will take the lead in setting the example.
The noble Lord asked how the £1.8 billion will be divided. We review our allocation on a continuous basis, to maximise value for money from the available resources to meet the needs of the Reserve Forces. He also asked if a trained reservist would have the same level of skills as a regular. When reservists deploy to operations, they will be equally as skilled in their specialist roles as a regular they serve alongside. The noble Lord asked how recruitment was going. All the indications that I have heard indicate that it is going very well and we believe that the announcement will have a positive effect on Army Reserve recruiting.
Our Reserve Forces have always attracted highly motivated individuals, and the assurance that the reserves will play a more routine and assured role within the whole force concept will act to broaden the appeal and encourage those looking for such an opportunity and their employers. The noble Lord asked about the commitment that a reservist must give and whether there is a minimum time. Every service person enlists for an agreed period of service. As we are a voluntary force, we recognise that individuals can exercise choice to remain or leave. Measures announced in the White Paper should further encourage retention.
As for turnover, I can confirm that retention of reservists, particularly in the Army, is on average much better than that of their regular counterparts. The noble Lord then asked me about employers. The Ministry of Defence is committed to working with employers to understand their views on its use of reservists and the impact of legislation, to understand better what an employer can realistically sustain in future. The Ministry of Defence understands the importance of engaging with employers and potential employers and, in addition of engaging with employer groups such as the CBI and FSB through the chain of command, the National Employer Advisory Board, SaBRE and the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association.
Finally, the noble Lord asked about the legal situation relating to employment tribunals. An individual cannot generally bring a claim for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal until he or she has completed two years of continuous service with an employer. Periods of mobilisation do not count towards continuous service; therefore, it can take reservists longer than two years to gain this protection. I think that covers all the noble Lord’s questions, but if I have missed anything I will write to him.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the Statement that he has repeated. From these Benches we associate ourselves with saluting the sacrifice made by our reservists. To meet the challenge of significantly increasing the numbers in our Reserve Forces we need to foster the belief that employers, employees and the nation all benefit from reserve service. Will the Minister say whether medically trained reservists will be able to bring skills to the military and develop additional skills to bring back to their UK employers? Will he also tell the House how employers and employees are to be convinced that there are benefits to the employer and the employee from improved skills and experience while serving, which might outweigh the temporary loss of civilian work time? Finally, will he say whether consultation with employers—which he mentioned previously—have uncovered signs of corporate social responsibility by allowing or even encouraging participation in the reserves?
My Lords, in answer to the first part of the noble Lord’s question, medical reservists develop additional valuable specialist skills when they are deployed, which they then bring back to the National Health Service. The Defence Medical Services is uniquely placed to share the development of operationally specific medical science and clinical excellence with the NHS. The National Institute for Health Research centre has brought together military and civilian trauma surgeons and scientists to share innovation in medical research, to advance clinical practice on the battlefield and to benefit all trauma patients in the National Health Service at an early stage of injury.
On the benefits to an employer who recruits an employee who is a reservist, I would say that reserve service will benefit different employers in different ways. For some, the improved skills, experience and training of the individual reservist will be beneficial. For others, where the reservist’s military role is close to their civilian one, there will be more benefit from transferable skills. For some companies and sectors, reserve service suits and supports their business models. For many, reserve service may support corporate social responsibility objectives and may be part of their social action plans, alongside wider volunteering policies. We encourage employers to publicise their support for the Reserve Forces to customers, suppliers and their local communities. The second part of my answer was in response to my noble friend’s third question.
My Lords, the Government say in the White Paper that they will introduce new legislation to enable mobilisation for the full range of tasks that our Armed Forces may be asked to undertake. Current mobilisation arrangements are something of a historical anachronism. Invariably they require ministerial authority. They date from a time when protection for employers was nothing like as good as it will be in future. Will there be arrangements to allow mobilisation of individuals for very small units to be carried out without having to seek ministerial authority?
My Lords, I cannot from the Dispatch Box answer the noble and gallant Lord’s question. That point is not in my briefing, but I will write to him.
My Lords, as a former president for 10 years of the Reserve Forces Association, I warmly welcome this Statement. I would be grateful if the Minister would confirm two key principles. First, we should maintain the footprint of the Reserve Forces—and the Armed Forces—around the country. I am very pleased that there are no dramatic plans to reduce their number. Secondly, will the Minister confirm that the support of employers, and in particular of small employers, is crucial to maintaining support for the Reserve Forces?
My Lords, I can confirm both points. We consider the footprint absolutely vital. Where we have had to close places it is because there has been a very small uptake in recruitment. We have managed to close fewer than we planned. I agree with my noble friend’s point about employers, and in particular small companies. In finishing, I pay tribute to my noble friend for the important work that he did.
The noble Lord was characteristically thorough and conscientious in informing the House and in answering my noble friend’s questions. However, I think that he left out one point. Will the £5,000 joining-up bonus be repayable if the officer does not do a minimum amount of service? I would be interested in the answer to that. I think that it will be quite a challenge to get to 35,000 but an ever greater challenge to get to a point where the reservists are on the same footing as the regulars and do not suffer a higher rate of casualties on active deployment. In that context, it is very important that we should put everything behind them in terms of equipment and training, and the noble Lord gave us some assurances on that point. Equally valuable is the promise by the Government to strengthen the defence of reservists against dismissal. However, would it not be a good idea for the Government to go further and to protect reservists not just against the danger of unfair dismissal but against discrimination in terms of remuneration or promotion? The American national guard has that kind of protection. Surely it is very important that reservists, or those who are planning to join the reserves, are confident that they will not suffer discrimination of that kind in the job market.
My Lords, as regards the noble Lord’s first question about the £5,000, I do not change my answer. The reservists who join up are free to leave whenever they want. We are very confident that those regulars who become reservists will stay and will not leave the minute they get their money. We are also very confident that by 2018 we will get up to the figures that we need. I have spent a lot of time being briefed and our recruiting figures are going better than we expected. Noble Lords will see in the White Paper all the inducements that we are giving to the reservists and their families, and the encouragement that we are giving to employers. We realise that we have to work much more closely with employers than has happened in the past and we will endeavour to do that.
Will my noble friend confirm to the House that no closures of Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Marines Reserve units are planned? I should remind the House that Corporal Croucher, a Royal Marine reservist, was awarded the George Cross while serving in Afghanistan, and Corporal Seth Stephens, a Special Boat Service reservist who was killed in action in Afghanistan, was posthumously awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross. These two outstanding and brave men had both served for many years as regular Royal Marines. What encouragement are the Government going to give retiring members of the Regular Forces to join the reserves? Regular members of the Armed Forces have so much to offer the reserves. They have a high level of training and expertise and are fully aware of the demands that will be made of them.
My Lords, I can confirm my noble friend’s first point. No Royal Naval Reserve or Royal Marines Reserve units are closing as a result of FR20. As part of a wider betterment programme, three units will relocate to new accommodation, often in more populated areas. In some instances, the final decision on where the new locations will be is yet to be made, but the distance that current reserves will be expected to travel to attend their new location is likely to be less than 12 miles.
Regarding my noble friend’s question about regular redundees joining the reserves, the reserves have always benefited from the experience brought by ex-regulars, and some capabilities have relied heavily on their skills owing to the time that it takes to train on advanced equipment. Those who leave the Army through redundancy are being encouraged to consider a part-time military career in the reserves. For the Army, ex-regulars who enlist in the Army Reserve within three years of leaving regular service can enjoy a number of incentives and benefits, such as the reduced Army Reserve commitment and training requirement or, alternatively, a commitment bonus worth £5,000 paid over four years. That partly answers the noble Lord’s question. There is a comprehensive information campaign to ensure that all service leavers, and not just redundees, are aware of the opportunities and benefits of joining the reserves.
My Lords, can the Minister confirm that, pro rata, recruitment to the reserves in Northern Ireland in recent years has been greater than that in England, Scotland or Wales?
My Lords, I can confirm that to the noble Lord. That point came up in the Statement in the other place and it is absolutely true.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Statement and wish him and his colleagues every success in achieving this plan for the Reserve Forces. As the Minister knows, in the past I have asked him a number of questions about the Defence Medical Services and I see from the White Paper that 38% of the DMS is currently reservists. What percentage of the DMS does he envisage will be reservists in the future and will there be some medical competences within the DMS which will be entirely dependent on reservists?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his support. He is absolutely right that the figure is 38%. I have seen the hugely valuable work that they do in Camp Bastion. Both the Armed Forces and the National Health Service benefit from the work that is going on and we will need these medical people in the future. I cannot give a specific percentage figure but I can assure the noble Lord how vital these people will be to us.
My Lords, the Written Ministerial Statement rightly makes reference to the potential implications that the basing changes may have on cadet force units where these are collated with reservist units. I welcome the statement that alternative accommodation will be pursued in such cases but, of course, “pursue” is a slightly slippery word and does not quite imply the same as “achieve”. Will the Minister undertake to keep a very close eye on this to ensure that the changes being made with regard to the Reserve Forces cause no harm to what is widely acknowledged to be the finest youth institution in the land?
My Lords, I can give the noble and gallant Lord that assurance. We take the cadets very seriously. In the few cases where a unit closes, mostly the cadets will remain in the building but on a very few occasions they will be moved very nearby. I have been a patron of sea cadets and I have first-hand knowledge of the important work that they do.
My Lords, can my noble friend say a little more about the integration of the newly enhanced Reserve Forces with the Regular Forces, which will be crucial to the effective transfer to which he referred?
My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. Army Reserve units will be paired with regular units in peacetime for training and force generation, enabling combined training and helping to build links with the local community, including employers, to aid recruitment and resettlement of service leavers. Reserve units in all three services may be integrated with regular units for mission rehearsals and for operations. We will ensure that our use of reserves is as predictable as possible to help reservists, their families and particularly employers to plan ahead. Specific levels of attendance will become a compulsory part of the proposition and the majority of reservists can expect a maximum of 12-months mobilised service in a five-year period. Whether it is needed will obviously depend on operational requirement.
My Lords, I very much welcome the Statement. It is certainly extremely comprehensive. From what one can see from a first glance at the White Paper, it fulfils many of the aspirations which those of us who commented on the Green Paper felt were necessary. However, I should like to ask my noble friend about the national relationship management scheme. I suggest that, in any adaptation of the current relationships that exist, the process should be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Having been involved in it for several years as chairman of the National Employer Advisory Board, the mechanisms that have existed for the past 12 to 15 years have proved to be extraordinarily effective. For example, the branding of SaBRE is such that it is understood throughout the country. I hope that my noble friend will ensure that this can be built on rather than something totally new created which is more likely to confuse than to help.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his support. I also pay tribute to him for the important work that he has done for the reserves over many years. My noble friend made some very important points. I will take them on board and take them back to my department.
My Lords, in terms of the importance of enthusing and recognising employers, rather on the lines of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, and given the military service of Prince William and Prince Harry, would it be possible to consider something like the Princes’ Reserve Forces Award, which would combine employer participation, national interest and royal recognition?
My Lords, we are looking at this area very closely. As I said, we take the relationship with the employers very seriously, and this is one of the ideas under consideration.
My Lords, will my noble friend come back to the question of retention? If the reserve units are to be fully integrated into the Regular Forces, does it not follow that if their members do not step up to the plate when called on to do so, the Regular Forces concerned will be deficient in their capability? Can he think a little further as to whether what he says he has great confidence in ought not to be toughened up with something more enforceable?
My Lords, I repeat that I am confident. As I understand it, retention in the reserves, particularly the Army reserves, is very much higher than in the regulars. I do not have the figures in front of me, but I was told before I came into the Chamber that retention in the reserves is considerably higher than in the regulars. I can write to my noble and learned friend with the figures.
My Lords, the noble Lord is aware that the business community has culled and fined its companies in the matter of strength and management to get through this very difficult economic stage. As a number of noble Lords have mentioned, some sort of reward is essential for those companies which are taking part. I will say a little more bluntly that perhaps some tax benefit or some exemption from certain company taxes should be given to companies which fulfil the deal. Giving away one chap today in a company, particularly in a small to medium-sized company, is a considerable sacrifice, and I believe that Her Majesty’s Government have not fully thought through the rewards for the business community.
My Lords, I can assure the noble Viscount that nothing is off the table. We are open to any suggestions. As for his proposal for a tax benefit, I will run it by the Treasury. It is certainly a very good suggestion. We seek an open relationship with employers tailored to meet the needs of different sizes and types of employers, based on mutual benefit. That will include working together to credit the skills and the training that reservists gain during service with recognised civilian qualifications, and the area that the noble Viscount mentioned.