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Defence Secretary pleads with Tory rebels not to cause 'chaos' by delaying plan to replace 20,000 soldiers with reservists
Philip Hammond warns Conservative MPs it is too late to change course
Regular forces to be cut by 20,000, offset by expanding reserves to 30,000
Tory rebels warn targets to recruit reservists are being badly missed


By Matt Chorley, Mailonline Political Editor

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond warned delaying the recruitment of reservists would cause chaos

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond today pleaded with Tory rebels not to derail his plans to replace thousands of professional soldiers with reservists.

The government faces a crunch Commons vote later when Conservative backbenchers will attempt to delay plans to expand the Army Reserve to 30,000 to offset cuts of 20,000 in regular forces by 2020.

Mr Hammond warned the move would be ‘very confusing, very chaotic’ for the Army, but there were warnings that campaigns to recruit reservists had fallen woefully behind target.

The government is reducing the total standing armed forces to just 82,000 under plans to save billions of pounds, as the British military pulls out of Afghanistan.

Ministers argue that having 30,000 reservists on standby will mean the UK is still able to launch a sustained military campaign lasting years if it was necessary.

Figures released earlier this month showed the Army's reserve numbers fell from 19,220 in October 2012 to 19,090 in October 2013, raising further concerns about the ability to meet the Government's target.

Opponents, led by Tory MP John Baron, warn recruitment targets have been ‘badly missed’, with costs rising and ‘herculean assumptions’ being made by the Military of Defence to ensure that the plan works.

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However, Mr Hammond argues that the cuts to the regular army are already being made, and halting the recruitment of reservists would cause more problems for the forces.

‘I believe it would be very confusing, very chaotic, for the Army to have the course on which it is set interrupted at this stage,’ he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme .

‘We cannot go back. The Army has set out a course, it's executing its plan and to halt that or to seek to reverse it at this stage would simply create confusion in the ranks.’


Top brass: Head of the Army Sir Peter Wall (left) has joined Mr Hammond in warning the Tory rebels against derailing the military reforms
Top brass: Head of the Army Sir Peter Wall (left) has joined Mr Hammond in warning the Tory rebels against derailing the military reforms


Mr Hammond said he was ‘confident’ that the additional numbers of reservists needed under the plan would be delivered in the next five years.

Military top brass have joined Mr Hammond in urging the rebels to back down.

General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the Army, said: 'Increasing and rebuilding the Army Reserve is crucial to delivering the fighting force of the future.

'To reverse course at this stage would be destabilising and damaging, leave a gap in our capability and deprive talented young people of an opportunity to benefit from military service.'

Ringleader: Tory MP John Baron said the reaction to his call for delay had been 'hysterical'
Ringleader: Tory MP John Baron said the reaction to his call for delay had been 'hysterical'


But MPs will vote later on an amendment to the Defence Reform Bill which would force the the Defence Secretary to report to Parliament on the ‘viability and cost-effectiveness’ of his plans.

He would have to spell out in detail how he intends to implement them, and would not be permitted to go ahead without the approval of both Houses.

Mr Baron claimed criticism of his amendment had ‘bordered on almost hysteria’.

But Mr Baron told the BBC: ‘We have concerns about its viability and cost-effectiveness. There are a number of things that are not going right with this plan and the Government have not been able to answer our questions.

‘We have badly missed reserve recruitment targets, we have decline in TA (Territorial Army) numbers, costs are rising, there are herculean assumptions to make the plan work.

‘All we are saying with these amendments is they will stop the implementation of the Government's reservists plans until their viability and cost-effectiveness has been presented to and accepted by Parliament ... Some of the accusations against this amendment have bordered on almost hysteria.’

Retired officer Colonel Ian Brazier, who heckled Mr Hammond over cuts during his Tory party conference speech last month, warned the expensive plan could endanger lives.

He said: 'Reserve recruitment is catastrophically failing to meet targets, and those reservists who are recruited will be dangerously under-trained.


'Providing only 40 days of training a year for is irresponsible and demonstrates a worryingly cavalier attitude towards lives.'

The Territorial Army is set to be renamed the Army Reserve and minsters insist a new recruitment drive is already underway.


Retired Colonel Ian Brazier (left) who heckled Mr Hammond at the Tory conference, warned the changes could put lives at risk
Retired Colonel Ian Brazier (left) who heckled Mr Hammond at the Tory conference, warned the changes could put lives at risk


In a letter to potential rebels last night Mr Hammond said: 'I hope colleagues will support the Government in resisting John's amendment.


'To do otherwise will not only give a significant fillip to the Labour Party but, more significantly, would risk serious damage to our future armed forces.

'There is a very significant risk that halting, or threatening to halt, the implementation of measures in the Reserves White Paper would hit morale among the existing reserve forces, confuse employers, and make future recruitment a much more difficult task.'

I can see by the end of the day Mr Hammond will resign and so he should putting our country at risk He is a banker (Spell right) and when it comes out later it will show how more expensive the Reserve Force will cost


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