§ Mr. Soames
It is clearly essential that the armed forces have pay structures, allowances, and other terms and conditions of service that attract and retain people of the calibre and exceptional qualities that we need.
Our personnel policy must recognise and reflect the unique demands of service life, while at the same time taking account of the terms and conditions of service applicable to relevant civilian groups. We need to recruit and retain substantial numbers of high-quality men and women to ensure that the armed forces continue to be able to fulfil their operational commitments. We must also offer careers which are satisfying and rewarding. We can 722W achieve those aims only if terms and conditions of service are right. We must also take account of modern practices in management and career planning. Since the independent review was published in April 1995, we have undertaken much further work on our policies.
Our plans are set out in an information document entitled "The Armed Forces of the Future—a Personnel Strategy". A copy is in the Library of the House.
We have decided to introduce pay ranges for all ranks, up to and including brigadier and its equivalent, underpinned by a new job evaluation system which we can use to allocate jobs to pay ranges. That will enable other ranks for the first time to progress through a pay range rather than be paid a spot rate. Everyone will have the opportunity to increase their earnings within their rank, in recognition of experience and qualifications, subject to satisfactory performance. This should be a welcome retention incentive.
Changes in the allowances payable to service personnel will allow us to target allowances more efficiently where they are most needed to assist recruitment and retention, and to compensate for the extra costs and disadvantages of service life. A longer separated service allowance will be introduced, targeted on those who serve long or frequent periods on operations, exercise or other training away from their base. The Government have accepted the Armed Forces Pay Review Body's recommendations of the rates of LSSA, and the consequential changes to the allowances currently paid for service in Northern Ireland and South Georgia. There will also be a new "get you home" allowance, providing a contribution to the cost of travelling home for those on detached duty or courses. These represent significant improvements for those personnel most disrupted by absences from their base and families.
The main offset for these proposals will be the withdrawal, from 1 April 1998, of the majority of leave travel warrants issued currently to all personnel. Only those in their first three years of service would retain the current entitlement. Beyond that, all single personnel with more than three but less than nine years' service would retain one leave warrant.
Detailed information about these plans is being widely disseminated within the three services. The plans have the whole-hearted support of the chiefs of staff.