Armed Forces Personnel: Trends

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons on 14th January 2019.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North

What recent assessment he has made of trends in the number of armed forces personnel.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

What recent assessment he has made of trends in the number of armed forces personnel.

Photo of Peter Kyle Peter Kyle Labour, Hove

What recent assessment he has made of trends in the number of armed forces personnel.

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

We remain committed to maintaining the overall size of the armed forces, and we have a range of measures under way to improve recruitment and retention. The challenge is kept under constant review.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North

Surely the Secretary of State recognises the need for a serious recruitment programme for the armed forces rather than this targeting of gamers, whose screen skills could, I suppose, be redeployed in bombarding the Spanish navy with paintballs.

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his confidence in me. With respect, he is rather missing the point of the latest recruitment campaign. We will always have core intenders who want to join the military, but equally we are trying to attract a whole group of people who do not realise that the modern military requires many skills other than the ability to use a bayonet. That is precisely why, when it comes to looking at peacekeeping operations, we need to use the compassion of the so-called snowflakes who can sit there and be effective operators in the humanitarian environment.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is very kind of you to give me your best wishes.

Does the Minister not accept that the number of fully trained personnel in each of the armed services is now lower than it was this time last year, making a mockery of the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to maintain the overall size of the armed forces?

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The overall manning of the armed forces remains at 93%. Crucially, that means that we are maintaining all of our operational commitments.

Photo of Peter Kyle Peter Kyle Labour, Hove

As part of the future accommodation model, service personnel are being forced off-patch. This could increase the loneliness among service personnel that has been identified by the Royal British Legion. Has the Minister made an assessment of the implications for people and for the attractiveness of coming into the forces that that will induce?

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Let us be absolutely clear. The future accommodation model is about choice. It is about recognising that not everybody necessarily wants to live on the patch, and about creating a more stable armed forces. For example, creating super-garrisons means that families are not being moved around the country the whole time. The aim is to create a good retention tool and, crucially, to give our service personnel choice in how they live their lives.