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Armed Forces Pay — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:31 pm on 14th September 2017.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence 3:31 pm, 14th September 2017

I will not do what the Leader of the Opposition suggested when we came back to office after the general election, which was a knee-jerk removal of the 1% pay freeze. That was suggested in proposed amendments to the Queen’s Speech. I will work extremely hard to ensure that that ambition is fulfilled. If the hon. Member for Caerphilly recognises and reads what is happening this week, there is greater clarity to provide independence, to ensure that Departments are free to reflect what is required in this day and age.

The Government will continue to ensure that the overall package for public sector workers is fair to them and that we can deliver world-class public services that are affordable within the public finances and fair to taxpayers. The last spending review budgeted for 1% average basic pay awards, as has been mentioned a number of times, but that is in addition to progression pay for specific workforces, such as the armed forces, and that must not be forgotten. There will still be a need for pay discipline over the coming years to ensure the affordability of the public services and the sustainability of public sector employment. The Government recognise that in some parts of the public sector, particularly in areas of skill shortages—such as with engineers, as has been mentioned—more flexibility may be required to deliver those world-class public services, including in return for improvements to public sector productivity.

The detail of the 2018-19 remit for the Armed Forces Pay Review Body and the Senior Salaries Review Body—I stress that they are both independent bodies that provide advice to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State on pay and remuneration for the armed forces—is still under consideration and will be agreed as part of the Budget process. Recommendations from the AFPRB and SSRB are expected in the new year.

The Government, as I have emphasised, fully recognise the invaluable work undertaken by our gallant members of the armed forces, often in dangerous and difficult circumstances. A good example is the response of our personnel to the recent events in the Caribbean and Hurricane Irma. That is a timely example of the professionalism of our armed forces in a crisis. More than 1,100 armed forces personnel have been deployed so far under Operation Ruman, to provide relief to the people of the devastated Caribbean islands. A further 600 are en route on board HMS Ocean, which was mentioned earlier. I am sure all hon. Members will join me in paying tribute to the valuable work of our armed forces personnel.

The armed forces pay and wider remuneration package is designed to reward their unique service to our country and to support the recruitment and retention of personnel. The Government are of the view that the armed forces receive an attractive package of terms and conditions of service, which have not been mentioned so far and include a competitive salary with incremental pay scales. I stress that there are pay bands for privates, lieutenants and other ranks, such as captain. Each year they move up the band and their salary does not stay still. In fact, across the armed forces, the average individual pay rise has been about 1.5%.