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Armed Forces: Capacity

Volume 639: debated on Monday 23 April 2018

We are committed to maintaining the overall size of the armed forces. The services are meeting all their current commitments, keeping the country and its interests safe.

According to a recent National Audit Office report, at the current rate of recruitment the RAF estimates that it will be another 20 years before it has enough pilots. What urgent steps is the Minister taking to rectify that?

I do not recognise those figures. We have just done a review of the pilot training scheme and will shorten and simplify the process, which has not changed much in the past 30 years. Owing to successes in selling our aircraft overseas, some of our pilot training system is occupied by overseas pilots, so we need to look carefully at how to find a balance to ensure that, with the limited capacity available, we can continue to train all the pilots we need.

A recent NAO report found a 26% shortfall in the staffing of intelligence analysis in the armed forces, but those specialists are crucial to our national security and to our fight against cyber-crime. Given the threats of information warfare from a variety of disparate groups—from terrorist organisations to states such as Russia—does the Minister agree that we cannot keep our country safe on the cheap?

We are certainly not keeping our country safe on the cheap, which is why we have committed to spending more than 2% of GDP, and our defence budget will continue to rise from £36 billion this year. However, I agree with the hon. Lady that we need to find innovative solutions when it comes to recruiting cyber-specialists, which is precisely why we are now doing that in the reserves. We have changed the rules about who can join and their backgrounds, which has proven to be a tremendous success.