The Army is working closely with Capita, with multiple interventions now in place and delivering improvements. Regular soldier applications are at a five-year high, supported by last year’s award-winning “This is Belonging” marketing campaign. It will take longer to see increases in trained strength due to the length of the recruitment and training pipelines.
This contract has underperformed. How much would it cost to cancel it, and why is the Minister not considering that as a key option?
There are certainly alternative plans in place should this contract not perform, and the Secretary of State has made it absolutely clear that he has not ruled that out. However, I am pleased that in recent months, after interventions by Capita, we have seen a dramatic improvement in the contract. One of the indications of that is that applications are now at a five-year high.
Capita’s complete failure to deliver on its Army recruitment contract is frustrating the ambitions of many youngsters whose only desire is to serve their country. In the light of all this, may I ask the Minister again: can Capita be trusted to run the defence contract, and that of the fire service as well?
We have been quite open about the fact that there have been challenges in this contract. Equally, the Chief of the Defence Staff, in his appearance before the Select Committee the other day, recognised that some of these issues were of the Army’s own making historically. I can only repeat again that I am confident—this has occupied much of my time in recent months—that improvements have been made to the contract, and we are now seeing that pipeline working. It is much more effective than it has been in the past, and I think the results will be seen in a few months’ time.
I accept that it is early days, but has the Minister made any assessment of the Army’s new recruitment advertising campaign?
Yes. The very fact that everybody seems to be talking about it is a very positive sign. Time will tell, but early indications are that applications are up by over 20% on this time last year and by 35% on 2017, so that appears to be positive.