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Compulsory Redundancies

Volume 518: debated on Monday 8 November 2010

11. What recent discussions he has had on compulsory redundancies from the armed forces as a result of the outcomes of the strategic defence and security review. (22172)

I am in regular discussions with the chiefs of staff, and decisions on those selected for redundancy will be made by the individual services. A comprehensive implementation programme is being developed, and details will be promulgated by each of the three services in the coming months. We will ensure that those who leave are treated fairly and properly.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. He will agree, I am sure, that it is essential that the 25,000 civilian redundancies from the MOD announced in the strategic defence and security review do not result in service personnel being drafted in to fill the resultant gaps in capacity. Can he detail from which units within the MOD the redundancies will be made and outline any plans to supplement the lost capacity within the MOD?

As I have just said, it is for the service chiefs to set out over the coming months exactly which redundancies they think will be necessary. I am sorry that I cannot be more specific at this time in relation to the services or to the civil service, as we will seek to use natural wastage and careful management of recruits in the armed forces to minimise the number of redundancies required.

Will the Secretary of State give a guarantee that no soldier from 16 Air Assault Brigade currently serving in Afghanistan will be made redundant?

We need to maintain the Afghanistan rotation. It is therefore in the interests of common sense and fair play that no personnel serving in Afghanistan, or on notice to deploy, will be given compulsory redundancy.

The Secretary of State will know that this weekend thousands of people marched in Lossiemouth against the proposed closure of the RAF base there. That base accounts for about 10% of jobs in the area. Some will argue that the proposed closure saves the MOD money, but in truth other parts of government will have to pick up the costs of increased unemployment and the failure of small businesses. May I therefore urge him to pause and think again about the devastating wider impacts that this proposed closure would have?

First, may I welcome the shadow Secretary of State and his entire team to Question Time for the first time?

Let me say at the outset that neither party in the coalition wanted to see redundancies in the armed forces, and we would not be making such redundancies had we not been handed an utterly poisonous economic legacy by Labour and, indeed, a Ministry of Defence budget that was massively overheated and incompetently run. Having said that, we are very well aware of the various consequences—social, economic and regional—of the whole question of basing. I give the right hon. Gentleman my absolute assurance that we will consider all those elements when we look at the future of Lossiemouth.

Returning to the issue raised by the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell), we are all rightly in awe of the men and women of our armed forces, and I welcome the commitment that the Government have given to continuing to protect the front line in Afghanistan. However, the Government have announced redundancies of 7,000 in the Army, 5,000 in the Navy and 5,000 in the RAF—17,000 in total. Will the Secretary of State therefore guarantee that no one who has served in Afghanistan will face compulsory redundancy?

It would not be possible for the Government to say that no one who had ever served in Afghanistan in any way, shape or form since 2001 would not be made redundant. I reiterate what I have said: that because we need to maintain the Afghan rotation, no one currently serving in Afghanistan, or on notice to deploy, will face compulsory redundancy.