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Armed Services (Strength)

Volume 24: debated on Tuesday 25 May 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the current strength of the Armed Services; and how this figure compares with that for three years before.

The strength of the Armed Services on 31 March 1982 was 327,647, excluding locally entered personnel and reserves. This is 12,656 more than at 31 March 1979.

I have noted that increase. Will my hon. Friend confirm that, in the continuing review of defence plans, not only is defence procurement and equipment being reassessed, but the numbers required in each of the Armed Services?

Government policy remains as outlined in Cmnd. 8288, "The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The Way Forward". We shall, of course, seek to learn from the lessons of the current operation as we review it in the future.

At a time of increasing numbers in the Armed Services, what is the logic of cutting manpower in the Royal ordnance factories, including Birtley in my constituency?

That is not an area within my direct responsibility, but I understand that the reductions in manpower are entirely related to the business done by the factories.

Will my hon. Friend confirm not only that the numbers are up, but that the wastage rate of experienced personnel is down and that we are using this opportunity to increase further the standard of recruits coming into the Forces?

I can confirm what my hon. Friend said. Recruiting has improved since the Government took a proper approach to Service pay.

In view of the operations in the South Atlantic, what further review will the Government undertake of the strength of the Navy in future years as against the proposed cuts?

I do not think that I have anything to add to what I have just said. We shall, of course, take a sensible view of all the lessons that we shall learn as a result of this operation. The numbers of men, equipment and so on will be looked at in the same light.