RAF Centenary

Part of Leaving the EU – in the House of Commons at 7:32 pm on 26th November 2018.

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Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence) 7:32 pm, 26th November 2018

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct to raise that point. Indeed, the continuous attitude survey even found examples of large numbers of people in not just the air force, but the other forces joining up for the purpose of getting a skill to then move out into the private sector. This cannot be a taboo subject that we dance around in such debates; we need to have a serious discussion about this and tackle it head on.

Let me turn to how we make the armed forces a more attractive career and a place that does not have such a movable workforce, with people going in to get a skill to then go into the private sector, as the hon. Gentleman said. The Scottish National party has introduced one proposal in particular that we believe could help to not just resolve some of these issues, but show that there is real political will to make the armed forces an attractive career prospect—it is on the issue of an armed forces representative body. This often causes some Conservative Members in particular to get a bit hot under the collar, but it is an entirely normal practice in several other NATO countries, in many of their armed forces, and it operates in different ways. The model that we suggest as a starting point is based much on that of the Police Federation.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Ellwood—the Minister for defence people and the armed forces—said at Defence questions earlier that the reason we do not need to have a body or a trade union, or whatever we want to call it, is that the armed forces have Members of Parliament to do the bidding for them. Look around you, Mr Deputy Speaker—if this is the backstop for members of the armed forces, then my goodness, we are in much more trouble than some of us suspected. If we go back to video footage of the parliamentary debate on the veterans strategy, we see that we could have fit every MP who was here for that debate on to the Treasury Bench alone.