Defence Secretary wants reserve soldiers 'build-up'

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The Independent Online

Defence Secretary Liam Fox has pledged a "build-up" of reserve soldiers which could see a reduction in the size of the regular Army.

Dr Fox said he wanted to ensure the Territorial Army was "properly trained and equipped" so more soldiers were ready for frontline duties.

Ahead of a statement to the House of Commons, he said it was "offensive" to refer to reserves as "Dad's Army", insisting they had not received the level of recognition they deserved.

Dr Fox told Sky News' Murnaghan programme he would inform MPs tomorrow of what he believed the "appropriate size of the Army in total" should be.

But he said a reduction in the regular Army would only happen when the Government invested more in reserve forces and the UK had successfully withdrawn from Afghanistan.

"I'm not going to say too much ahead of the statement tomorrow in the House of Commons but I think that we need to look at international comparisons where you generally see the reserves slightly bigger in relation to the regular forces that we have in Britain," he said.

"One of the problems in the UK has been the rundown of the reserves and I have, in Opposition and during our time in Government, been very concerned to see that we are going to put the correct resources into the reserves to make sure they're properly trained and equipped.

"We cannot simply see the reserves as a group of people from whom we draw a six-month tour of Afghanistan and let the rest wither on the vine, that's simply not good enough.

"What I intend to do is see a build-up again of the reserves so that their utility is greater, and also so that over time we create the sort of civil contingency in the UK that sadly we've been lacking."

Dr Fox was asked whether he was prepared for criticism that reserve soldiers were the "Dad's Army" equivalent of the regular Army.

"I do feel it's a little offensive when we've used the reserves so successfully in Afghanistan to talk about them as Dad's Army," he replied.

"In fact, one of the problems with the reserves is that there has not been sufficient investment in recent years."