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Army Personnel

Volume 673: debated on Monday 16 March 2020

Two weeks from the end of this recruiting year we are close to achieving 100% of the basic training starts that the Army set out to achieve. That reflects the much needed efforts made to drive improvements in the recruitment process.

When Labour left office in 2010 there were 102,000 regulars in the British Army. In the subsequent decade of cuts and outsourcing, those numbers have fallen every year, down to 73,000 last October. Is the Minister confident that a full-time, regular British Army that could not fit into Wembley stadium a decade ago, but can now fit into the Old Trafford stadium, is sufficient to meet this country’s security needs?

Army recruitment this year is up 68.6% on last year, which demonstrates what a fantastic career our young men and women can still have in the Army. I am confident that the Army is more than capable of meeting the nation’s needs, and I am excited to see what comes out of the integrated review, regarding what our Army will look like in future.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating Yasmin Williams from Bangor on being the first female in the Welsh Guards Infantry? Will he suggest ways that the Army can meet its female recruitment target, and encourage other women, like me in my younger days, to take up that amazing career?

My hon. Friend is a fantastic advocate for women in the armed forces, and I was pleased—as I am sure she was—to see so many fantastic female role models being put forward by the Army, Navy and Air Force, as part of our defence celebrations on International Women’s day. There have been some fantastic successes for women in our armed forces recently. My hon. Friend mentioned the first female soldier in the Welsh Guards, and recently we had the first female to pass the incredibly tough—far tougher than I could have managed—P-company test for the Parachute Regiment.

Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), is the Royal Army Medical Corps—both regular and reserves—and other parts of the armed forces, fully recruited to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? Will the Minister be calling into full-time reserve service all those who are not NHS workers, for example, in their civilian careers?

The hon. Gentleman asked me two questions. He asked whether we are recruited sufficiently in defence to meet the needs of coronavirus, and the answer to that is yes. I will write to him about what exactly will be the manning of the Royal Army Medical Corps.