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Armed Forces Personnel

Volume 691: debated on Monday 15 March 2021

What recent assessment he has made of the level of satisfaction among armed forces personnel with military (a) housing and (b) salaries. (913323)

Defence regularly monitors several metrics to gauge service personnel satisfaction levels, including for accommodation and pay, via the armed forces continuous attitude survey.

The Army has been instrumental in the fight against covid, from assisting with logistics to being directly involved in testing the vaccination programmes; yet the reward for army personnel is a pay freeze at a time when low pay is one of the factors that causes people to leave the armed forces, as Government studies should show. I ask the Minister, why was Dominic Cummings awarded a huge pay rise, yet armed forces personnel are not deemed worthy of one?

No; I do not have responsibility for the Prime Minister’s advisers, clearly. On satisfaction around pay, I am clear that pay is one of the reasons that people stay in the military. If the hon. Member looks forward to the integrated review, we will be looking to announce a direction of travel on this matter in due course.

On behalf of the Scottish National party, I send our condolences to Sergeant Hillier’s family.

The issue of pay rises and satisfaction more generally has been a bone of contention in the House for many years. The numbers speak for themselves; four in 10 serving personnel do not think that the pay they receive reflects the work they do. Why?

The crushing irony of our people who work in Scotland having to pay more in tax and therefore take home less pay and the hon. Gentleman raising this point is not lost on those who serve. Pay is a one of a number of factors that people speak about when the armed forces continuous attitude survey comes through. It is by no means the primary factor. We are constantly reviewing it and I am comfortable that we offer a world-class package to our people.

Yet again, the Minister is rather poorly briefed. The lowest-paid members of the armed forces in Scotland actually pay less in tax. If he wants to talk exemptions, that is a power that lies in the Treasury; it is not a tax power that lies with the Scottish Government. But let me press him on this: when the integrated review is published tomorrow, will it contain something—anything at all—to reverse the trend on satisfaction, and will he apologise to the armed forces, who have had a kick in the teeth with their pay rise being paused, given everything they have done for everyone over the covid crisis?

Let me be clear: this will be the first strategic review to have a specific address to our people. They are our finest asset. They are rewarded not only financially but through the choice of career on offer to them. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to read that when it comes out and I am more than happy to have a conversation with him after that.