Skip to main content

Armed Forces: Personnel Levels

Volume 642: debated on Monday 11 June 2018

We remain committed to maintaining the overall size of the armed forces, and we have a range of measures under way to improve recruitment and retention. The challenge is kept under constant review.

Regarding Capita’s performance on the recruitment target, the Secretary of State was very clear when he said:

“do you have to give them a red card at some point if they don’t deliver? Yes, you do”.

Capita is not delivering, so when is it time for the red card?

There have certainly been challenges, particularly with the introduction of the defence recruiting system, but 12,360 recruits joined the British Army last year. I have met the chief executive of Capita on several occasions, and an improvement plan is in place at the moment—I think we need to provide an opportunity for it to be run through—but, absolutely, there is an alternative if need be.

Before the Scottish independence referendum, the UK Government promised to increase armed forces personnel from 11,000 to 12,500. As of October last year, there were fewer than 10,000 regular forces personnel stationed in Scotland. When will the UK Government keep their promise, or is this just another broken one?

I understand the SNP’s desire to get more service personnel in Scotland, as that is more service personnel they can tax under their Nat tax—[Interruption.] At least the hon. Gentleman finds it amusing. I am pleased to say that there are 14,000 regular and reserve personnel in Scotland. Also, let us not forget that all of the Royal Navy submarines will be moving to Faslane, and there is the new Typhoon squadron in Lossiemouth and our infantry brigade too.

Cadet detachments are an ideal training ground for those young people considering a future career in the armed forces. Can my right hon. Friend outline what he is doing to increase recruitment from cadet forces and will he consider visiting my constituency to see the hard work and dedication put in by cadets in Erewash?

We do not directly target cadets for recruitment in the armed forces. However, it is a fact that nearly 18% of members of the armed forces were once cadets and 4% of cadets go on to join the armed forces.

Potential recruits may well be concerned about the issue of legal claims against personnel and veterans, especially in the light of the Iraq historic allegations team debacle. It is now more than a year since the Conservatives made a manifesto promise to tackle those claims, and the issue has been raised repeatedly by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Why has nothing been done?

Actually, a lot has been done. I appreciate it is now some time since that consultation was completed, but it really is a reflection of the complexity of some of the legal issues. I can assure the House that we will come back in due course.