Following a leaked Ministry of Defence report last weekend that showed 32 of 33 infantry battalions are dangerously short of battle-ready personnel, Labour are demanding the Government to do more safeguard the strength of Britain’s full-time forces.
Labour is planning to use the Armed Forces Bill, debated in the Commons last Monday [8 February], to mandate Ministers to report to Parliament each year on the fighting strength of the Armed Forces
Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah reporters “this leaked report is the latest of many concerns that the Tories are not maintaining the Armed Forces. In 2015 the Tories promised to maintain the size of the regular Armed Forces and to not reduce the Army to below 82,000 but that promise was broken amid a botched £1.3 billion recruitment contract and long-running problems with retention stemming from dissatisfaction with pay, housing and low morale.”
The size of full-time, fully-trained Army personnel has shrunk from 102,200 in 2010 to 75,310 in 2020, well below the commitment of 82,000 and the overall numbers of personnel across the Armed Forces are down by 43,645 [a cut of 25%] since 2010.
In fresh concerns for the local Fenham Barracks, a new defence review due to be published by the Government next month, is feared to be cutting another 10,000 men and women from the forces nationwide.
Chi Onwurah said “Fenham base is not only a major employer but an important part of our community, people in this area are rightly proud of the military heritage in our area. Loosing further jobs through cuts in this review would be devastating for the town. I urge Minister to think hard before making any rash decisions.
Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey MP, said:
“I have serious concerns that Britain’s Armed Forces remain 10,000 below the total strength Ministers have said is needed, and I believe there is cross-party support for making sure the MoD keeps our full-time forces up to strength and battle-ready.
“The strength of our forces should rightly be set to meet the multiplying security threats Britain faces and the Government’s new Integrated Review must give a clear commitment on this. Ministers must avoid the mistakes of past decade and put our fighting men and women at the heart of future defence plans.”
Notes to editors
- Shocking state of the British Army exposed: Secret MoD report reveals 32 out of 33 infantry battalions are dangerously short of battle-ready soldiers: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9229483/Leaked-Ministry-Defence-report-reveals-32-infantry-battalions-dangerously-short-soldiers.html (Daily Mail, 6 February 2020)
- The Government currently produces quarterly statistics on the total size of the forces but these do not detail how many are battle-ready.
- British Army to Shrink by Nearly 10,000 Over the Next Decade, The Daily Telegraph, 13 February2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/02/12/british-army-shrink-nearly-10000-troops-next-decade/
- For more information on satisfaction with service, pay, housing and moral see: UK Regular Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey Results 2020: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/885861/Armed_Forces_Continuous_Attitude_Survey_2020_Main_Report.pdf
- 2010 Quarterly Personnel Statistics:
- 2020 Quarterly Personnel Statistics:
2015 SDSR, commitment to Forces Strength, P.27: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/555607/2015_Strategic_Defence_and_Security_Review.pdf