§ Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What plans they have to improve retention of personnel in the Army. [HL4506]
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
The Government inherited a shortfall in Army manpower, and recognise that improved retention is key to realising the goal of full manning. In line with the targets set in the SDR, it is committed to achieving that improvement and a number of initiatives are under way.
In recognition of the increasingly expeditionary nature of our tasks, the operational welfare package has been improved and the Service Families Task Force is addressing a variety of issues which create domestic difficulties for our personnel. The Army's Human Resources Strategy includes a six-month review of the effectiveness of present Army retention policies. This work, which is being conducted by external consultants, will listen to a wide range of opinions and make recommendations for improvements in the Army's personnel management policies.
We are also keeping operational commitments under close review. Our determination to ease the burden on the Army is demonstrated by the significant reduction in force levels in Bosnia announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 26 October 1999.
In addition we have considered whether the minimum commitment for soldiers of only three years provides the best return for the Army and the best opportunities for the individual. We have concluded that it should be raised to four years. This will make a 84WA significant contribution to the Army's ability to fulfil its obligations and liabilities as set out in the SDR manning target. It will also allow more time for the individual to benefit from the excellent training and development opportunities in the Army, including the acquisition of new skills and recognised civilian and professional qualifications.