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Armed Forces Redundancy Process

Volume 524: debated on Tuesday 1 March 2011

The strategic defence and security review (SDSR) set out in October 2010 long-term plans for our armed forces, based on a detailed analysis of the future risk and threats to our national security, but also recognising the dire fiscal situation inherited by this Government. That new 2020 force structure will be more agile and flexible, better able to respond to new threats such as cyber-warfare, terrorism and managing the consequences of failed or failing states. As the SDSR made clear, however, that force structure will require fewer people: the combined size of the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force will fall by some 17,000 by 2015. These changes are about delivering the future force we need, not about today’s operational capabilities.

Some of this reduction will be achieved by slowing down recruitment—but the long-term health of the services requires that we maintain a steady influx of new recruits. And so we estimate that up to around 11,000 personnel will need to be made redundant. In formal terms, redundancy schemes for the armed forces are compulsory. But there will be scope for individuals to volunteer to be considered for redundancy and where possible we will meet our manpower target through volunteers. But some difficult choices are sadly inevitable.

The SDSR set out some changes to our long-term requirements for fast jets, multi-engine aircraft and helicopters. As a result, our future requirement for pilots has reduced. Some 514 individuals currently being trained are potentially affected by these changes. Starting today and over the next 10 days, those trainee pilots will be informed of their future in the RAF. Some 344 will continue with their pilot training. But I very much regret to inform the House that up to 170 will not. Some of those individuals will be offered alternative appointments. But sadly many will have to be made redundant.

Today, the RAF will also publish in some detail the specialist trades in which reductions in numbers need to be achieved, and in which it will be seeking volunteers for redundancy. Detailed information on the terms on offer, including the compensation package, will be made available online. Similar information will be published for the Army and Navy on 4 April 2011.

Once the deadline for response has passed, selection boards will sit for each of the three services to determine whether those who have volunteered should be released and which other individuals should also regrettably be made redundant to enable the manning targets to be achieved. We aim to inform all those individuals selected for redundancy of that decision in September 2011—on 1 September for the Army and RAF, and 30 September for the Navy. Those voluntarily leaving the armed forces will do so within six months, non-volunteers will do so within a year.

The Department will need to balance extremely carefully the needs of the individual with the needs of our armed forces. And I am determined that this very difficult process will be handled with the utmost sensitivity and professionalism. No one who is deployed on operations, recently returned from operations or is preparing to deploy on operations will be made redundant unless they have volunteered. Nor will those undergoing rehabilitation from injury be considered. But inevitably some incredibly difficult decisions will have to be made to ensure the long-term health and balance of our armed forces.

In Afghanistan, and as has been seen in recent days in Libya, our armed forces constantly perform great acts of heroism, selflessness and valour to keep us safe. As a country, we have an absolute responsibility to ensure that those who risk their lives in that way are properly looked after while they serve our country but equally importantly when they return to civilian life. For all those leaving the armed forces as a result of these changes, every effort will be made to assist in what can often be a difficult transition. A comprehensive package of support and advice on housing, finance and finding a job will be made available. Over the coming months. Ministers will scrutinise those plans in detail, working closely with domestic Departments, to ensure they are as good as can be achieved. Our people deserve nothing less.