Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - FCA Training.

9.

asked the Minister for Defence if he will restore the two weeks annual training and gratuity for the FCA; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

(Limerick West): The reduction in the annual training period to 7 days continues to be necessary as part of the Government's programme for achieving reductions in the level of public expenditure.

Notwithstanding the reduced period of annual training, the gratuities payable to members who undergo annual training in 1988 will continue to be at the full rates and not at the reduced rates which would normally apply in respect of attendance at training for the shorter period.

Would the Minister not consider that it is essential for morale and for a high standard of efficiency to be achieved by personnel of the FCA that they would continue to have the opportunity to attend at a two-week annual training course? Will the Minister reconsider Government policy in this area and state what role the Government now see for the FCA, as morale has deteriorated rapidly since this one-week annual training course was introduced?

The question deals with the restoration of the two weeks annual training.

(Limerick West): I do not know where the Deputy is getting his information with regard to the lack of morale in the FCA and in the Army and I am daily in touch with the Army and the FCA. The one-week training has been in operation since 1983 as a part of the continuing programme to achieve reductions in the level of public expenditure. The Army are not exempt from this policy. When the time comes for a restoration of the two-weeks training period, it will be done.

Has there been a fall-off in the FCA recruitments?

In view of the fact that people carry their personal expenses for training during the course of the year, will the Minister consider speaking to his colleagues and ensuring that whatever gratuity is paid to them will be nontaxable?

That is another matter.

Has there been a fairly dramatic fall-off in recruitment to the FCA in the last couple of years?

(Limerick West): No. Recruitment to the FCA since 1983 has been permitted to the extent necessary to replace wastage.

Will the Minister give us the strength of the FCA in 1983 and today?

This is far removed from the two-weeks annual training time.

(Limerick West): The strength of the FCA at 31 December 1987 was 15,645.

What was it in 1983?

(Limerick West): It was 16,361.

It dropped by 1,000.