Army

Tory MPs have dismissed Labour calls to give armed forces personnel a "fair" pay increase, claiming it is "not on the list" of concerns.

Labour accused the Government of a "litany of broken promises" over Army pay and recruitment since 2015, as it moved a motion which warned "dissatisfaction with pay" was among the reasons identified by personnel as a reason for leaving.

MPs heard Army numbers have dwindled from more than 100,000 in 2010, to 77,600 this year.

Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith said the starting salary of an Army private had been cut by more than £1,000 in real terms since 2010. She said:

"Is it any wonder, then, that the Government finds itself presiding over a crisis in recruitment and retention?"

But Tory former Defence Minister Anna Soubry was quick to dismiss the suggestion that pay was a concern for personnel.

She said: "I am a former minister in the Ministry of Defence responsible for welfare and I have to say pay was not on the list and it is not on the list of those constituents who serve so well in our armed forces.

"There are other issues we should be debating but not this one when it comes to our armed forces."

Nia Griffith
Labour MP Nia Griffith said "real action", in line with Labour's police, be taken to give Army personnel a pay rise

Tory's Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View and former soldier, also dismissed the idea that pay was an issue. He said:

"I don't want to drone on about it, but I have been in the Army for 14 years and not once, not once has someone spoken to me about their pay.

"If you look incrementally at how we are paid compared to our Nato allies, compared to the US, the British armed forces have a respectable pay deal that goes up each year in pay bands, with the X-factor.

"It's simply disingenuous to say that there is a military out there that is deeply disaffected with how much they are paid."

In reply, Ms Griffith said the armed forces pay review body had talked about frustrations over pay, adding: "I do think we're living on different planets."

The Labour frontbencher outlined that it was her party's policy to lift the public sector pay cap and take "real action" to give Army personnel a pay rise.

She added:

"The Conservative's record is a litany of missed targets and broken promises.

"Their 2015 manifesto pledged to keep the size of the army above 82,000, hardly an ambitious target considering it was over 100,000 when Labour left government.

"But we can add that to the rubbish pile along with rest of the Tory manifesto because since June's election we have seen a reduction in the size of the Army, a reduction in the size of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines and a reduction in the size of the Royal Air Force.

"The Government may well be complacent about the diminishing size of our armed forces but we are not."

tank
The 2015 manifesto pledged to keep the size of the army above 82,000

Defence minister Mark Lancaster echoed the remarks of his backbench colleagues when he said:

"For those joining our armed forces, pay isn't the be all and end all."

He said people also sign-up to challenge themselves, learn new skills, adding: "The most frequently cited reason for leaving, according to the armed forces continuous attitude survey in 2017, is the impact of the service on family and personal life.

"That's why we're very keen to do all we can to improve life for our personnel."

Mr Lancaster reiterated the Government was seeking to introduce more flexible working patterns via legislation.

He earlier also told MPs: "We shouldn't forget why pay restraint was imposed in the first place back in 2010, it was the consequence of a large inherited economic deficit.

"The whole of the public sector, not just our armed forces, was subject to the same conditions.

"Given that a huge chunk of the defence budget is spent on personnel, currently just £9 billion more than we spend on equipment support, the MoD (Ministry of Defence) had an important part to play in supporting the Government's efforts."

Last month, the Labour Party took to the House of Commons to demand the pay cap on the Armed Forces to be scrapped.

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