I provided oral evidence to the Armed Forces Pay Review Body on
I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. He will, of course, be aware that the pay freeze and changes to pensions are causing some concern, perhaps even anger in some quarters, not least among non-commissioned officers. Does he have any concerns in that regard, and does he have any contingencies in place should the changes to pensions and the pay freeze lead to an exodus of experienced personnel?
The Government recognise the unique and important role played by the armed forces, which is why we doubled the operational allowance to £5,280 tax free, why the incremental pay system will continue during and after the pay freeze, and why we have exempted the armed forces from the average 3% increase in pension contributions that public sector workers will pay. I recognise the concern that the hon. Gentleman expresses, and I have discussed it with the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. The proposals that the Chancellor announced in the autumn statement for continued pay restraint after the freeze include flexibility for the Ministry of Defence to address specific problem areas if we find we are losing, or failing to recruit, specialist staff.
What does my right hon. Friend think will be the effect on the morale of our armed forces personnel of their pay being frozen this year, while many people on benefits are being given a 5.2% increase?
My hon. Friend will recognise that by doubling the operational allowance for the armed forces, exempting them from the pension contributions increase and continuing the incremental pay system, we have sent a very important signal to them about the importance that we attach to them. I think that most members of the armed forces understand that we are facing some very tough decisions in order to get the MOD budget back on track and ensure a sustainable future for our armed forces, and that the restraint was necessary to achieve that.
I think that the hon. Gentleman was a member of the last Government, so he will be very clear about the scale of the financial problem that the MOD and the wider public sector face. The armed forces are playing their role in helping to correct the deficit and get this country back on track.
What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Department for Education about financial incentives to encourage retiring service personnel to take up teaching as a career, in order to get some self-respect and discipline taught to our young people in schools?