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Armed Forces Personnel: Trends

Volume 652: debated on Monday 14 January 2019

We remain committed to maintaining the overall size of the armed forces, and we have a range of measures under way to improve recruitment and retention. The challenge is kept under constant review.

Surely the Secretary of State recognises the need for a serious recruitment programme for the armed forces rather than this targeting of gamers, whose screen skills could, I suppose, be redeployed in bombarding the Spanish navy with paintballs.

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his confidence in me. With respect, he is rather missing the point of the latest recruitment campaign. We will always have core intenders who want to join the military, but equally we are trying to attract a whole group of people who do not realise that the modern military requires many skills other than the ability to use a bayonet. That is precisely why, when it comes to looking at peacekeeping operations, we need to use the compassion of the so-called snowflakes who can sit there and be effective operators in the humanitarian environment.

In calling the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith), I take this opportunity to wish him a very happy birthday—might I suggest the 49th?

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is very kind of you to give me your best wishes.

Does the Minister not accept that the number of fully trained personnel in each of the armed services is now lower than it was this time last year, making a mockery of the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to maintain the overall size of the armed forces?

The overall manning of the armed forces remains at 93%. Crucially, that means that we are maintaining all of our operational commitments.

As part of the future accommodation model, service personnel are being forced off-patch. This could increase the loneliness among service personnel that has been identified by the Royal British Legion. Has the Minister made an assessment of the implications for people and for the attractiveness of coming into the forces that that will induce?

Let us be absolutely clear. The future accommodation model is about choice. It is about recognising that not everybody necessarily wants to live on the patch, and about creating a more stable armed forces. For example, creating super-garrisons means that families are not being moved around the country the whole time. The aim is to create a good retention tool and, crucially, to give our service personnel choice in how they live their lives.