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Volume 657: debated on Monday 25 March 2019

8. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Capita’s Army recruitment contract with his Department. (909994)

The Army continues to work closely with Capita with multiple interventions now in place and the delivery of improvements. Regular soldier applications remain at a five-year high with this year’s “Your Army needs you” advertising campaign seeing over 15,000 applications in January alone. It will take longer to see increases to trained strengths due to the length of the recruitment and training pipeline.

The Secretary of State has said he might re-examine the Capita contract in the next financial year, meaning we will have to wait another 12 months before any action is taken. All the while Capita is failing abysmally, with Army numbers falling year after year. Instead of endlessly kicking the can down the road, why do the Government not deal with the problem now: strip Capita of the contract and bring the service back in-house?

I answered that question earlier and, with respect to the hon. Lady, she clearly did not listen to the answer I just gave her. Applications are up; there is the start of a process. One of the confusions the House has is that we talk about trained strength, which is the number—93% manned in respect of the Army—but that is after a very long process of going through not only basic training but, for example, for Royal Engineers also combat engineer training and then trade training. So this can take up to 18 months from the first time somebody puts a uniform on and considers themselves to be part of the Army. Those in training do not go home and say “I’m not in the Army because I am not fully trade trained yet.” There are some 5,000 soldiers now in that process who are wearing a uniform but are not included in the numbers; in time they will join the Army and we are seeing that uplift. It is the time lag that this House is not fully understanding, but I understand why.

In terms of the effectiveness of recruitment, my right hon. Friend will know that we recruit many armed forces servicemen and women from the Commonwealth, but is he aware of the Royal British Legion campaign to eliminate the current high costs of their applications for indefinite leave to remain, to which they are eligible after four years’ service? This can cost almost £10,000 for a family of four; does my right hon. Friend agree it is time that this issue was tackled in order that we recruit more from the Commonwealth?

My hon. Friend raises a very important issue and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is engaging with the Home Office in an attempt to solve it.