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Army: Size

Volume 745: debated on Monday 19 February 2024

The latest figure for the full-time strength of the Army is 73,520. The Army is continuing to work towards its “Future Soldier” structure of 73,000 regular and 30,000 reserve personnel. There are no plans to change this. The good news is that provisional figures suggest that January had the highest number of Army applications for six years.

Media reports have suggested that white men have been actively discriminated against in recruitment, and that security checks may be relaxed due to promoting ethnic diversity within the Army. A number of senior military figures have purportedly warned that the pervasiveness of woke ideology being pushed on to the armed forces is a real and present threat to national security, and will give aid and comfort to the King’s enemies. Will the planned review of diversity policies seek to address those concerns?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s remarks, but I do not recognise the situation that he describes. We take security extremely seriously and ensure that all personnel have security clearance appropriate to their job. Checks normally require at least three years’ UK residency, but Commonwealth candidates are permitted to accrue qualifying residency while serving, although they cannot take up roles and ranks that require higher levels of vetting. This policy has been in place for several years, and it has not changed.

Figures in The Times last month showed that the British Army will shrink to as small as 67,000 by 2026 due to the crisis in recruitment and retention. As threats to the UK increase, will the Minister finally commit to halting the cuts that he continues to make to the Army?

The Government are sticking to 73,000 regular and 30,000 reserved personnel, as I said earlier. Those figures are in “Future Soldier”, published in 2021, and they remain unchanged.