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Armed Forces Recruitment

Volume 722: debated on Monday 7 November 2022

We continue to apply an array of measures to support recruitment and retention and refine the armed forces’ offer. These include financial incentives, flexible service, and an improved accommodation offer. A career in the armed forces provides all recruits with a wide range of opportunities to succeed. As one of the UK’s largest apprenticeship providers, with over 80% of all recruits enrolling in apprenticeship programmes, we ensure that those recruits have the right skills to carry out their role throughout their career and into civilian life.

With war on the continent and a fragile peace in many parts of the world, our armed forces are more important than ever. My constituency of North Norfolk has a very proud military history, with a large number of veterans who care deeply about this. However, in the past 22 years, the inflow of personnel into UK regular forces has been higher than outflow in only six years. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that for the armed forces the retention of personnel, which he mentioned in his answer, is as important as the recruitment?

My hon. Friend is right about this. Not recruiting is bad, but recruiting and then not retaining is even worse, for very obvious reasons. Defence recognises the need to improve matters, both for the regulars and the reserves, where the issue of inflow and outflow is pretty much the same. I have already this afternoon outlined a range of measures that are being put in place to improve retention, and I look forward very much to the Haythornthwaite review for incentivisation that we expect in the spring.

The very youngest recruits into the armed forces, the 16 and 17-year-olds, will attend the Army Foundation College in Harrogate. However, there have been very concerning reports that an instructor at the college has been charged with more than 20 offences, including at least five sexual assaults against 16-year-old girls. Can the Minister detail to Members here today how these young recruits will be properly safeguarded at the college?

I am just a little bit concerned about this. If somebody has been charged, we should not be mentioning them. It could be sub judice.

I can assure the hon. Lady that the matter is under review. I cannot comment much further than that. I hope that that will satisfy her.