Military personnel report should act as wake-up call for MoD, says MP

Stephen Morgan MP calls on Government to act now to plug recruitment gap

MP for Portsmouth South and member of the Public Accounts Committee, Stephen Morgan, has described as ‘worrying’ a new report from the National Audit Office highlighting a shortage of skilled military personnel in critical areas.

The report highlights that the number of full time military personnel, known as regulars, in the Armed Forces is 5.7% (8,200 regulars) below the existing requirement – the largest gap in a decade.

There are, though, much larger gaps in critical skills. 102 ‘pinch-point’ trades do not have enough trained regulars to carry out operational tasks without measures such as cancelling leave or training. The challenge is also likely to grow as the Ministry of Defence (the Department) will increasingly require new specialist technical and digital skills to respond to the emerging threats of modern warfare.

Many shortfalls will remain in the near future. The Department estimates that it will resolve the shortfalls in only six of these 102 ‘pinch-point’ trades within the next five years. The Department has prioritised essential defence tasks, but the report highlights that the approach of placing increasing demands on regulars is not a sustainable long-term solution.

The shortfalls result mainly from recruitment and retention problems. In 2016-17 there was a 24% shortfall against targets for the number of regulars recruited into the Armed Forces. Mr Morgan has raised this issue repeatedly with ministers, holding a Westminster hall debate on Armed Forces pay in the first months after his election.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“I hope this report acts as a wake-up call for the MoD. The recruitment gap is the highest in a decade, and numbers of skilled personnel in engineering and intelligence divisions are dangerously low.

 If we’re to respond to complex modern threats we must attract and retain the very best. As MP, I’ve stood up for servicemen and women, holding debates on armed forces pay and calling for a response from the department that allows us to do just this.

Keeping the nation safe and maintaining the capability of our armed forces is the first duty of Government; it’s deeply concerning that the Government is failing to deliver on this fundamental responsibility and high-time they re-assessed their approach to recruitment and retention.”

Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier MP, added:

“In these uncertain times, it is more critical than ever that Britain has a well-staffed Armed Forces with the technical know-how to handle threats to national security.

 But the NAO report shows that the Armed Forces are woefully below compliment, especially in crucial areas like intelligence and engineering.

 The Ministry of Defence needs to take a long hard look at its current approach. Without more innovative methods to attract and retain staff, the UK risks continuing with big gaps in capability and overstretching already hard working and crucial service personnel.”