'Give redundant soldiers a reason to join reserves'
Thousands of soldiers being made redundant in defence cutbacks in the next few years should be given an extra incentive in their redundancy pay to encourage them to sign up in the new Army Reserve.
That is the view of a leading West MP, who said that making the Army Reserve – the relaunched and beefed up Territorial Army – would only work if former soldiers were encouraged to sign up.
Five infantry battalions are to be withdrawn and 17 major units axed from the Army.
Troop levels are to be slashed by a fifth from 102,000 to 82,000, while the Territorial Army will be expanded to give a combined force of 120,000.
North Wilts MP James Gray said that, while he welcomed this week’s announcements by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond that the new Army Reserve would become more important in a radical shake-up of the armed forces, he said soldiers leaving the regular army should play their part.
“Central to that will be a deal between those who are leaving the regular forces whom we will ask to remain in the Army Reserve, and others thereafter,” said Mr Gray.
“That demand on them needs to be coupled with a satisfactory financial settlement in order that they will stay for a number of years,” he added.
Mr Hammond admitted the theoretical arrangement which is supposed to see soldiers leaving the army making themselves available for the reserves was “defunct”.
He said he agreed that soldiers leaving should be paid extra if they sign up to the reserve force. “We considered whether we should seek to use the legislative powers to enforce it, but concluded that it would be better for us to approach the matter through incentivisation – incentivising ex-regulars to bring to the reserves the fresh skills and training that they have so recently received,” he said.
“I am confident that we shall be able to reinforce the volunteer reserves significantly with immediate ex-regulars.”