HC Deb 24 July 1996 vol 282 cc425-6W
Sir Jim Spicer

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to improve recruitment and retention in the armed forces. [39640]

Mr. Portillo

A number of measures are being taken to encourage recruiting and retention in the armed forces. These include targeted recruitment advertising campaigns; payment of a recruiting bounty to marines and soldiers who persuade others to enlist; and payment of a retention bonus to those who serve beyond the three-year commitment in the Royal Marines and the Army where most shortages occur.

There was a much improved level of recruitment in the final quarter of 1995–96 and that has continued into the current year. In the first quarter of this year there was a 53 per cent. increase in Army enlistments compared with the same period last year; enlistments into the infantry have almost doubled. In addition, over a similar period, there has been a 35 per cent. increase in applications for Royal Marines, general duties.

The Government have also been considering the proposals made by Sir Michael Bett's independent review of the services' manpower, career and remuneration structure.

My guiding principle is to seek to develop terms and conditions that will enable the services to recruit and retain people of the right calibre and with the mix of skills required for our armed forces in the future.

More work is still required on detailed options. It is likely that those will be set out in a report later this year which would provide the basis for an information exercise within the forces.