asked the Secretary of State for Defence what are the latest figures available for the cost of recruiting a soldier, sailor, and airmen; what further steps he is taking to reduce these figures; and if he will make a statement.
The most recent available figures are those for the financial year 1978–79, which I gave to the hon. Gentleman on 12 June. I can assure the hon. Member that the cost effectiveness of the recruiting organisation is closely monitored.
Does not the Minister accept that the figures in all the cases are still far too high? As I have appealed to him before, may I ask him again to consider the more direct use of job-centres for recruitment? Will he also consider the disincentive effect on recruitment of the wide variation in facilities and conditions at present in the Armed Forces as between officers and other ranks?
I cannot accept the assertion made by the hon. Gentleman that the costs are too high, bearing in mind that the costs relate to all parts of the recruitment process, including the testing and filtering of recruits. The hon. Gentleman has made the jobcentre point before. As I have told him on other occasions, jobcentres have an important part to play in this process. He will be glad to know that recruiting in the period October to December 1979 was 24 per cent. higher than the same period in the previous year.
Will my hon. Friend say to what extent the Armed Services share recruitment centre facilities?
I can give my hon. Friend some detailed information on that sub- ject. They share facilities to a considerable extent. If I may, I shall write to my hon. Friend on the matter.
Does the Minister accept the necessity to close down recruitment centres in prime shopping areas? If he studies the figures he will find that they serve very little purpose in recruitment.Will he give an assurance that he is continuing with the trend set out in the Wellbeloved report?
We are continuing along those lines. There is considerable force in the point made by the hon. Gentleman. There is no point in closing down recruitment offices simply for the sake of doing so. Where they are doing a good job they will be maintained.