Following the recession, there has been a requirement for fiscal responsibility to manage the deficit, but today we need to balance protecting jobs in the public sector, being fair to public sector workers and, of course, being fair to taxpayers who pay for it. Armed forces pay rates are recommended by the independent Armed Forces Pay Review Body. We look forward to receiving its next set of recommendations for 2018-19.
The Government are fond of saying that they value our armed forces personnel, yet back in June every Minister and every Cabinet member, including the Defence Secretary himself, voted against lifting the public sector pay cap for our armed forces. Is this not proof that their commitment to our brave men and women is only skin-deep?
The Opposition have a habit of spending money that they do not have. We need to take various things into consideration. Much as we would like to move forward with breaking the 1% pay cap, we have to bear in mind that the Armed Forces Pay Review Body takes into consideration banded progressive pay, subsidised accommodation, a range of allowances—including the X factor, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be aware of—and the basic salary, which remains competitive, as well as comparisons with the private sector. It is for the Armed Forces Pay Review Body to make its decisions, and we look forward to that.
Did I hear the Minister banging on about “The X Factor”? This may require some elaboration for some colleagues, I think, but never mind.
In spite of increases in accommodation costs and cuts to tax credits, the Government have slashed the starting pay of an Army private by over £1,000 in real terms. This is no way to treat our loyal armed forces, and it will do nothing to resolve the crisis in recruitment and retention. Will the Government now change their priorities, stop thinking about the £2.5 billion tax giveaway they are giving to the big companies and the wealthy, and commit to freeing up the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, so that it is not constrained by the 1% pay cap, allowing it to give a proper pay rise to our armed forces personnel?
I am not sure where the hon. Lady has been, but there is now that flexibility. There is no longer the pressure to remain within the 1%—it has been removed. I wish that her enthusiasm for the armed forces would rub off on the Leader of the Opposition, who has no support or respect for the armed forces, and no respect for NATO, and wants to get rid of our nuclear deterrent.