Mark Lancaster Defence Questions on Capita Credit Parliament TV

Armed Forces Minister Defends Capita Recruitment Contract

Mark Lancaster Defence Questions on Capita Credit Parliament TV

The future of Capita was questioned at the House of Commons (Picture: Parliament TV).

Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster MP has defended the government's handling of military recruitment.

It's after the National Audit Office found Capita had consistently failed to recruit enough regulars or reservists, since winning the contract in 2012.

Former Defence Minister Mark Francois MP questioned Mr Lancaster on the future of the Army and echoed comments that the outsourcing recruitment company Capita was "atrocious."

"While the applications are up, the enlistments, those actually joining are dramatically down," Mr Francois said.

"The Secretary of State has called their performance 'atrocious' - it is."

Mr Francois continued to press that the "SCOTS Guards are barely at 50% manned" and Capita's performance is "now becoming a threat to one element to our National Security."

During Defence Questions at the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Francois asked:

"When will the government come out of denial and sack this useless, hopeless company?"

In response to the bold question, Mr Lancaster said there are now "positive" signs of improvement within recruitment in the Army.

"Sandhurst is now 100% fullĀ for what we need for young officers - an improvement on the last two years.

"The Infantry Training Centre at Catterick is now 80% full, yes that's 20% lower than we need but it's a significant increase in improvement on where we were last year.

"All the signs are heading in the right direction."

But as MPs shouted from the bench saying "no they're not" in response to Mr Lancaster saying things are "heading in the right direction" he then admitted they are facing a challenge.

"The challenge we face is that whilst applications are up, the conversion rate is getting better but that will take time to feed through into the strength of the regular Army."

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence Nia Griffith MP followed on from Mr Francois' questions.

Ms Griffith said: "The reality is, Mr Speaker, that the size of the Army has fallen every year since the conservatives came to power.

"The fact is, the initial applications are not turning into enlistments."

Ms Griffith asked Mr Lancaster what the strength of the Army would be at the end of this Parliament.

"Well, I'm confident at the end of this Parliament, assuming that's 2022, that the trained strength of the Army will be higher than it is now," Mr Lancaster replied.

In response, Ms Griffith said: "I don't think that gives us very much reassurance.

"By May 2022, the Army will be down to just 68,000."

A Capita spokesperson told Forces News: "The Army recruitment partnership was re-set less than a year ago.

"The full benefits will naturally take a little time to come through, but already we are seeing applications at a five-year high and major improvements in the time it takes to get applicants through the recruitment process.

"We will hit full recruitment targets before the end of the contract, saving the Army a significant sum of money and leaving the military with a system fit for the 21st century."