The £1.8 billion overhaul to double the size of the Territorial Army announced by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has been welcomed in the West.
A string of changes to create a “fully integrated” Armed Forces includes an increase in reservist numbers to 30,000 and a ‘kite mark’ for patriotic employers who make life simpler for reservists.
The revamp comes as the number of regular soldiers is being cut to 82,000, with many of those affected likely to be based in the West.
In a “symbolic” move, the Territorial Army name could be ditched, and reservists will receive five days’ more annual training, up from 35 to 40.
Mr Hammond told MPs: “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.”
Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, North Somerset Tory MP, welcomed the plan, and suggested Ministers look at how the US uses reservists in a full range of tasks.
North Wiltshire Conservative James Gray, who spent seven years in the Honourable Artillery Company, the oldest TA regiment, also praised the plan and suggested financial incentives to ensure those leaving the regular forces remain in the Army Reserve.
Filton & Bradley Stoke Tory Jack Lopresti, who served in Afghanistan as a mobilized reservist with 29 Commando RA, asked for assurances the extra £1.8 billion would be used exclusively for the reserves, and not find its way into the budgets of the regular forces, as had happened in the past.
Another Tory, Edward Leigh, said when he joined the TA there was no difficulty getting recruits for “Monday night in the drill hall with your chums, the occasional weekend on Salisbury Plain, two weeks camp in Germany.
“Isn’t there a real problem now when you are asking people to devote perhaps one year in five in a very dangerous and challenging environment like Afghanistan?”
But Mr Hammond told him: “There are different types of recruits and to put it very frankly, someone who is looking to join up to go and prop up a bar on a Monday night and have an occasional outing on the Salisbury Plain is ... with the greatest respect, probably not the person we are looking for.”
Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said: “It is vital that legislation is now actively considered to protect reservists against discrimination in employment interviews, in pay and career promotion.”