Army reservists are to get 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 said 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.
Mr Hammond set out plans to ensure the TA – which could be renamed the Army Reserve – can play a bigger role in future operations.
He said he wants to be able to create an “integrated force of regulars and reservists, able to deploy as formed units and sub-units”.
Proposals to be considered in a consultation include 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 said for too long reservists had been “the forgotten part of our Armed 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.
“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.”