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Volume 570: debated on Monday 4 November 2013

14. What contracts for recruitment of armed forces personnel have been outsourced to date; and what arrangements are in place to monitor such contracts. (900866)

The Ministry of Defence has not outsourced the recruitment of armed forces personnel, but the Army has entered into a recruiting partnership with Capita, and once the contract is fully operational, payment will be linked to the number of recruits required by the Army. I have already acknowledged that there have been teething problems with the IT support for the contract, but the issue has the attention of those at the highest levels in the Army and in the ministerial team.

We have heard a lot this afternoon about recruitment and how critical it is to the White Paper, and how difficult it will be to meet the target that has been set. Given the real difficulties with recruitment on the ground—I am referring to unanswered e-mails, lack of communication between departments and lost forms—will the Secretary of State hold an urgent investigation into the way that Capita plays its part in the joint venture, with particular reference to candidate support managers?

Yes; we are already doing this. The initiatives that I mentioned to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier) are designed to deal with specific problems with the way in which the website interacts with mobile devices, and the way that we deal with medical records and with inducting candidates through the interview process. We will reintroduce, on a pilot basis, the idea of a face-to-face weekend process that deals with all the procedures in one hit. If that is successful, we will make it the default option for 2014.

What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with large public and private sector employers to see how they can better support our reservists to improve the recruitment and, equally importantly, retention of our volunteers?

That is absolutely the key to the programme. In the public sector, central Government have made a generous offer of an additional 10 days’ paid leave to reservists in the central Government service, so that they can take those days for training. Many major private companies have already signed up to the corporate covenant, and more are considering doing so. There are excellent examples of companies working with us to reach out to their employees, and to make a joint proposition to them, so that employees join the reserves in a way that is supported by their employer, not done behind the employer’s back.