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Armed Forces Pay

Part of Opposition Day - [4TH Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:47 pm on 1st November 2017.

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Photo of Conor McGinn Conor McGinn Labour, St Helens North 2:47 pm, 1st November 2017

The hon. Lady makes an important and interesting point. We have certainly tried hard in my constituency and the Metropolitan Borough of St Helens more widely to implement the armed forces covenant, but there have been issues with its implementation in Northern Ireland. I am sure we would all wish to see those issues resolved and its full implementation in Northern Ireland, as in the rest of the UK.

Despite the Government’s target in the strategic defence and security review to have 82,000 full-time fully trained troops, as of April this year there were just 78,000 soldiers in the Army. By any measure, that is an abject failure on the Government’s watch, and it was rightly identified as a key problem by the former commander of Joint Forces Command, General Sir Richard Barrons. The recent report by Mr Francois confirmed that the Regular Army needs to recruit 10,000 people a year to maintain its strength, but managed to attract only 7,000 entrants last year.

Worryingly, alongside all that, the figures show that the numbers leaving the part-time Army Reserve, which we were told would be increased to meet the decline in numbers in the Regular Army, increased by 20% between 1 June 2016 and 1 June 2017. At about the same time, in the most recent financial year the reserve intake fell by 18%. The Government do not seem to have a strategy to turn these falling numbers around. In fact, their only solution so far has been to sack another 120 members of the armed forces personnel who serve as recruiters and replace them with civilians from Capita. I say gently to the Minister—as I said earlier, he is an agreeable chap—that he has a bit of a cheek on him to criticise our plans for recruitment and what we would do with the budget when he is taking money out of the pockets of armed forces personnel and giving it to a private company.