The Chancellor announced extensions to public sector pay restraint in the autumn statement 2011. That will impact on armed forces pay. However, my right hon. Friend announced no further changes in relation to pay in the 2012 Budget, but he did announce the doubling of council tax relief for personnel on operations; the doubling of the families welfare fund to support the families of those deployed; and an additional £100 million of spending to improve accommodation for service personnel and their families. In addition, the lower-paid members of the armed forces are benefiting from the changes to taxation announced in the Budget.
Before the 2010 election, in full knowledge of the deficit, Hull Liberal Democrats promised to “raise the pay of our lowest-paid soldiers by as much as £6,000”. Lib Dems now back the pay freeze and the 20,000 redundancies while expecting our troops to sort out the Olympic shambles. Why should our armed forces trust Liberal Democrat promises ever again?
The hon. Lady supported the Government who got us into the deficit that this Government are currently digging our way out of. We are setting out plans for sustainable, affordable armed forces who will be properly equipped for the task we ask them to do in future. They understand that.
Part of the remuneration package for reservists is the option for them to earn a bounty if they are deemed to be efficient. Territorial Army regulations allow the linking of a compulsion to train on certain days with the award of that bounty. Although that is not currently done, are there any plans to do it in future?
As my hon. Friend knows, we are committed to publishing a consultation document in the autumn that will look at employer engagement and terms and conditions for reservists. We will set out clearly our proposals for the new deal for reserves under the new arrangements I announced last week.
There is all-party concern about forces’ pay during the Olympic games. The Secretary of State is right that there is no exact comparison with other workers, but the country has noticed that London bus and train drivers are getting Olympic bonus payments and that our forces are not. What contact has he had with G4S about it paying bonuses to troops who are called up at the last minute? I do not begrudge the transport workers their bonus, but just because troops rightly cannot go on strike, they should not be ignored by the Government.
Clearly the union got to the right hon. Gentleman and made sure he included that last bit. We are determined to ensure that the welfare of our troops who are engaged in the Olympic project is properly looked after while they are deployed on that operation and that they are properly recognised. I am in discussion with senior members of the armed forces about how best to do that.
The Government do not have a direct contractual relationship with G4S—the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games holds that relationship—but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that whatever resources we need to ensure we offer an appropriate package to our armed forces will be made available.
22. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that battalions made up largely of British personnel, such as the Royal Welsh, are now facing the axe, whereas battalions made up largely of non-British personnel, such as the Gurkhas, are not? (116913)
This strays slightly wide of the original question. I explained the week before last, I believe, the reason why the decision was taken not to look at removing a Gurkha Rifles battalion—the arrangements we have with the Sultanate of Brunei for the rotation of battalions would have broken down and been inoperable had we removed one of the two battalions.