Army reservists to have 'integral' role in the military

The cut in regular soldiers to 82,000 is being accompanied by a doubling in the number of reservists to 30,000

Army reservists are to be given more training and longer notice of mobilisations under plans to integrate them better with regular troops and ensure they are “prepared to deploy”.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond will say today he wants recruits to the Territorial Army (TA) who are ready to train and make themselves available for deployment as the military increases its reliance on reserves after the regular Army is slashed by 20,000.

The cut in regular soldiers to 82,000 is being accompanied by a doubling in the number of so-called weekend warriors to 30,000.

In a speech today, Mr Hammond will set out plans to ensure that the TA - which could be renamed the Army Reserve - is able to play a bigger role in future operations.

Mr Hammond wants to be able to create an "integrated force of regulars and reservists, able to deploy as formed units and sub-units".

Under proposals to be considered in a consultation are increasing the number of training days for reservists from 35 to 40 a year and giving them and their employers more notice of mobilisations.

Companies could be given some kind of kitemark in recognition of their support for reservists on their staff, potentially giving rise to a league of "patriotic employers".

The consultation will also consider the name change to Army Reserve and explore ways of attracting more regulars to become reservists after they leave full service

Mr Hammond will call today for a "radical shift" in the role of reservists, who he will say have for too long been "the forgotten part of our Armed Forces".

"We're looking for people who are going to turn out when they're required to turn out, who are going to do the training they need to do and who are available for deployment," he will say.

"So the message to future reservists is clear: promise us you will make the commitment; turn up regularly to train and be prepared to deploy. And in return, we promise to equip you, train you, fund you and use you as an integral part of the British Army."

Mr Hammond will also pledge a "fresh start" in the Government's relationship with reservists, who will in future be required to routinely share responsibility for "activities once the exclusive domain of regular forces".

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "We support action to enhance the role of the Reserves, but the Government can go further to protect our reservists' patriotism.

"If more is going to be asked of reservists, ministers must provide more support. Anti-discrimination legislation, improved pre-deployment training and better mental healthcare are vital.

"At a difficult time for many companies, employers must be given the support they need when their workers serve on reserve duty.

"Crucially, Reserve units must be integrated with regular forces rather than form stand alone units and civilian skills must be maximised in military contexts."