12. What assessment he has made of the effect of the delayed pay increase on retention in the armed forces. 
Pay rates are recommended by the independent Armed Forces Pay Review Body. We look forward to receiving its next set of recommendations later in the spring. We have made clear to all personnel that any award, once announced, will be backdated to 1 April 2018.
Is the Minister actually saying that the pay increase for the armed forces has been delayed, and if so, when does he intend to implement it?
As I say, we are waiting for the report to come through. It is unfortunate that we have had to introduce this pay restraint, but we should not lose sight of why pay restraint was introduced in the first place. It was because the previous Government were living beyond their means. [Interruption.] Only with the return to a strong economy can we responsibly increase public sector pay.
Last week, we saw how our armed forces stepped up to help with the chaos caused by the very challenging weather conditions. Does the Minister not agree that these brave men and women therefore deserve more than a 1% pay rise—it is, in fact, a real-terms pay cut—and will he make that clear to the pay review body?
It actually works the other way around, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman in that I would like to see an increase of more than 1%. However, I go back to the rather delicate point, which was received with a bit of hostility by Opposition Members, that we cannot lose sight of the fact that they must have a sense of responsibility in making sure we have a strong economy so that we can increase public sector pay across the board.
If I may, I will just underline the wider point I made last week that without strong defence in this fast-changing and, indeed, dangerous world, a strong economy cannot in fact be guaranteed. That is why I said that 2% of GDP on defence is not enough. Thanks to the efforts of this Defence Secretary, we now have an opportunity to make the case and to put the argument through the defence modernisation programme for the more robust defence posture that will ensure we retain access to the very vital international markets that will help our economy.