Ministry of Defence
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MoD responds to House of Commons Defence Committee (HCDC) report on recruiting and retaining Armed Forces personnel
Defence Minister, Derek Twigg, today responded to Defence Select Committee report on the recruitment and retention of the Armed Forces.
Mr Derek Twigg said:
"We are working hard to meet the challenges in recruitment and retention, but it is crucial to acknowledge that there has been an increase in the number of people joining the Armed Forces compared with the same point last year. We are looking into the evidence used in the HCDC report, as our own independently verified manning statistics show that recruiting is up and that the Army's harmony guidelines are improving.
"We face strong competition from other employers and our personnel are very much in demand owing to the skills and experience they acquire during service life. But as the Committee acknowledges, the MoD has introduced a number of measures to address these challenges. The recently published Service Personnel Command Paper sets out a range of new initiatives to address some of the disadvantages which have previously affected our service personnel, their families and veterans. These include improved access to health, housing and education.
"The Secretary of State for Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff are on the record saying that we are asking our forces to do a lot. Shortages do remain in some specific pinchpoint trades, which are being addressed through a number of retention initiatives, including increased pay, improved accommodation, better welfare packages and by restructuring the Services to improve effectiveness. We have recently announced an increased commitment bonus of £15,000 for longer serving personnel.
"Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are challenging, but the morale of our people is high. Commanders assure me that operational effectiveness has not been compromised and units deploy fully manned for the tasks they will be expected to undertake. Over the last year we have reduced our commitments considerably in Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland. The recent deployment to Kosovo shows that we retain the capability to respond to emerging situations but also that we will bring our people back as soon as they are no longer required.
"I accept that there is more to do. But the issues raised by the Committee are not new to us and are being addressed. The MoD and Armed Forces will continue to do our utmost to ensure that the hard-working, brave service personnel, and their families, have the support they deserve and need to do the dangerous and demanding things we ask of them."
The MoD will respond to the report fully in due course, however there are a number of points to acknowledge:
* The number of military personnel finishing their training and moving into the strength of the Armed Forces has actually risen, compared with the same point last year. There has been an 8.3 per cent increase (1,600 people) in the number of new recruits who have joined the Armed Forces in the 12 months to 31 March 2008, compared to the previous year. There has also been an increase (830 people) in the number of recruits who have joined the trained strength of the Armed Forces compared with the same period last year.
* Overall, the number of people leaving the trained strength of the Armed Forces in the 12 months to 31 March 2008 has decreased by 1.3 per cent (280 people) compared with the 12 months to 31 March 2007.
* We continually monitor the manpower situation so we can look at trends and take action where necessary. As at 1 May 2008 (the latest quarterly manning report) the Armed Forces were at 97.3 per cent of the agreed manning requirement (173,840). In 1997 strength was at 95.8 per cent of requirement.
* All three services closely monitor harmony guidelines to ensure that training and time at home are balanced with time spent on operational tours. The Royal Navy continues to deliver harmony for more than 99 per cent of their people. 10 per cent of the Army and RAF are breaching harmony.
* The National Recognition Study by Quentin Davies MP has also made many recommendations on how to improve the visibility and understanding of the Armed Forces, including establishing an Armed Forces and Veterans Day and encouraging the wearing of uniforms in public.
* The MoD welcomes the report's finding that the overall basic pay package does not appear to be a major cause of Armed Forces personnel leaving the services. In February, we accepted the Armed Forces Pay Review Board (AFPRB) recommendation of a 2.6 per cent pay rise for all Servicemen and women - amongst the best in the public sector. This award builds upon last year's increase of 3.3 per cent - also the highest in the public sector. The 2007 award included a 9.4 per cent pay increase for some 13,000 of the most junior trained Service personnel. Currently, a trained Private in the Army is able to earn up to £25,182 depending on their trade and length of service. There was also a 1 per cent increase to (14 per cent) in the X-Factor component of basic pay.
* Some of our accommodation is not good enough. But we are making progress in addressing this against a background of decades of underfunding. Improvements, upgrades and vast defence PFI projects such as Allenby Connaught at Aldershot and new barracks at Colchester, are turning things around. We will spend over £8 billion on accommodation over the next 10 years. In the last financial year (07/08), we have upgraded over 650 service family homes and replaced 3,900 boilers, 320 bathrooms, 350 kitchens and 22 playparks. For single living accommodation, over 25,000 new or upgraded bedspaces have been delivered since 2003. We will continue to prioritise investment and deliver improvements.
* The MoD welcomes the report's acknowledgement of the difficulties faced in recruiting from certain ethnic minority communities, which can only be addressed within those communities, should they choose to do so.
Notes to Editors
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