City MP grills MoD on armed forces recruitment gap

Stephen Morgan MP grills MoD on armed forces recruitment gap

MP for Portsmouth South and member of the Public Accounts Committee, Stephen Morgan, today jointly lead a session of the PAC on skill shortages in the armed forces.

Stephen has previously 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.

PAC SM

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“If we’re to respond to complex modern threats we must attract and retain the very best. It was helpful to hear how the Department plans to achieve this.

The recruitment gap is the highest in a decade, and numbers of skilled personnel in engineering and intelligence divisions are dangerously low. On behalf of military families in Portsmouth and for the sake of our national security, it’s important we get to the bottom of why targets are not being met.

It is clearly vital that our approach to recruitment and retention is got right, the PAC will consider the evidence given today and make recommendations accordingly.”

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.”