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Army Faces 20,000 Troops Reduction

PRESS ASSOCIATION -- Defence Secretary Liam Fox is to set out his vision for a "build-up" of reserve soldiers which could see a reduction in the size of the regular Army.

Dr Fox will tell the House of Commons what he believes the "appropriate size of the Army in total" should be.

And he will announce more investment in reserve forces to ensure more Territorial Army (TA) soldiers can be sent out on the front line.

His statement to MPs comes as a Government-commissioned review of reservists is published, which was carried out by General Sir Nick Houghton, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, and Conservative MP Julian Brazier.

On Sunday Dr Fox said that a reduction in the regular Army would only happen if the Government invested more in reserve forces and the UK had successfully withdrawn from Afghanistan.

"I think that we need to look at international comparisons where you generally see the reserves slightly bigger in relation to the regular forces that we have in Britain," he told Sky News.

"One of the problems in the UK has been the rundown of the reserves and I have, in Opposition and during our time in Government, been very concerned to see that we are going to put the correct resources into the reserves to make sure they're properly trained and equipped.

"We cannot simply see the reserves as a group of people from whom we draw a six-month tour of Afghanistan and let the rest wither on the vine, that's simply not good enough. What I intend to do is see a build-up again of the reserves so that their utility is greater and also so that over time we create the sort of civil contingency in the UK that sadly we've been lacking."

Dr Fox was asked whether he was prepared for criticism that reserve soldiers were the "Dad's Army" equivalent of the regular Army. "I do feel it's a little offensive when we've used the reserves so successfully in Afghanistan to talk about them as Dad's Army," he replied. "In fact, one of the problems with the reserves is that there has not been sufficient investment in recent years."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said a series of studies had been undertaken following October's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), to "continue the work of transforming and rebalancing Defence".