MPs brand compulsory armed forces job cuts 'grotesque'


Defence Minister Philip Hammond says redundancy payouts offered to military staff are "not ungenerous”

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MPs have said it is "grotesque" that 40% of armed forces redundancies have been compulsory, while no civilian staff have been forced out of a job.

The Commons defence committee queried whether the terms on offer to military personnel were "fair or appropriate" given the "shocking" difference.

It also said not enough was being done to retrain, rather than sack, troops.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the MPs were wrong and personnel were given "every opportunity" to retrain.

Some 11,000 service personnel and 25,000 civilian Ministry of Defence (MoD) staff are being made redundant as part of government efforts to deal with the £38bn hole in the defence budget.

But the defence committee has been told that of the 2,860 military personnel laid off last year, about two in five were made compulsorily redundant.

Explanations criticised

In contrast, the first two phases of civilian redundancies were all done on a voluntary basis.

The MoD's senior civil servant, permanent secretary Ursula Brennan, told the MPs the discrepancy was partly because civil servants were more "flexible" while the armed forces tended to have "specific trades".

Start Quote

Thousands of service personnel are being unceremoniously sacked”

End Quote Jim Murphy Shadow defence secretary

Defence Minister Andrew Robathan, meanwhile, told the Commons the armed forces had been "less forthcoming" with applications for voluntary redundancy than civilian staff.

The committee said it was "not persuaded" by either of these explanations.

"The argument that civilians are flexibly employable, whereas the military are not, runs contrary to our experience of the breadth of the military training we have witnessed on operations," it said.

"The MoD should set out what opportunities and encouragement it gives to those in the armed forces who face compulsory redundancy to retrain, especially into 'pinch-point' trades."

'So grotesque'

Chairman James Arbuthnot, Conservative MP, suggested those trades could include combat medical technicians or intelligence gatherers - both of which are undermanned.

The report said: "The MoD should consider whether the terms of redundancy offered to either the military or civilian staff are fair or appropriate in the light of the stark and shocking difference between the application of compulsion in redundancy to the two branches of service in the MoD.

James Arbuthnot, defence select committee chair, says the disparity in redundancy cases appears "bizarre"

"For military redundancies to be compulsory in 40% of cases, yet for civilian redundancies to be compulsory in none, is so grotesque that it requires an exceptionally persuasive reason."

Labour's shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "There is a thin line between callousness and carelessness and ministers need to start taking responsibility for their decisions.

"Thousands of service personnel are being unceremoniously sacked. It is essential that the painful impact of David Cameron's decisions is minimised wherever possible."

'Far more generous'

But Defence Secretary Mr Hammond said he rejected the idea that people had been treated unfairly and said the committee had only looked at the first phase of redundancies - in which enough civil servants had volunteered that the MoD had not had to resort to compulsory job losses.

"That doesn't mean that we won't have to resort to compulsory redundancies for civilians in future tranches."

He added: "Over the whole programme, the proportion of civil service jobs that will be lost is almost twice as high as the proportion of military jobs that will be lost and the terms on which redundancy is offered to the military are far more generous in monetary terms than the redundancy terms offered to civilians."

He said "every opportunity" was being given for military personnel to retrain for other forces roles or in civilian life but added: "The simple fact is we have to tackle the massive deficit we inherited from Labour and the huge black hole in the defence budget."

The committee was also highly critical of the MoD's accounting procedure, saying that for the fifth successive year the department did not comply with Treasury rules on financial reporting.

And it accused the MoD of impeding its job of scrutinising spending by "hiding behind security classifications".

Finally, the committee said it was concerned that the level of theft and fraud in the MoD "appear generally to be increasing year on year".


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  • Comment number 170.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    #MPs have said it is "grotesque" that 40% of armed forces redundancies have been compulsory, while no civilian staff have been forced out of a job.#
    Demonstrating the low levels of intelligence/competence of such MPs. Civs were keener to volunteer themselves out of their pen pushing. Or had other places to go.

    Unfortunate but this is the price of reckless spending in the past, baby bonds etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    152. Bill Walker "The country that does not respect its own army will one day learn to respect someone else's".

    That is the most sensible remark I have read on here so far - what happens when we get another terrorist attack - call out "Dads Army"
    We have become a laughing stock of the world and Labour sit back smirking when they caused all this......

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    HM Forces are gagged and unable to comment on the actual state of things. Each has to have the permission of their boss, right back to the MOD, so PR is controlled by the MOD.

    Forces are over-stretched and moral is at rock bottom. The current level of forces and training is internally regarded as dangerous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    If we didn't keep entering wars for oil maybe the MOD would not have to cut as many jobs? The only thing Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have in common is oil. Now that China has agreed to purchase Afghan oil we will need to look to another country...Iran maybe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    What else do we expect? Our government has been putting costs ahead of lives since Queen Elizabeth 1 didn’t want to pay our victorious sailors in the days of the Amada on the grounds that she couldn't afford it.

    If anyone should be sacked it should be the civil servants at the MoD and those running defence procurement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Whatever happened to the "Military Covenant" and what does this mean in practice?

    Recent MOD examples: soldiers sacked by email whilst on service, injured sodiers being threatened with redundancy etc. All promoted by process experts.

    Let's work on the ratio of 5 out (MOD civil servants) first to 1 member of the armed forces. Perhaps the MOD permanent secretary could comment?

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    The so called "every effort" to retrain or as we call it "remuster" for those made compulsory redundant is a complete lie.
    I have been made compulsory redundant and have had no offer of this even though I am fully able and educationally qualified to do so for almost 80% of the trades that the RAF are actually recruiting for.

    I would be interested to see evidence on MY offer to retrain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    @ Andrew James, you are very niave if you think every soldier leaving the military has something they are trained in to turn to on civvy street, particuarly infantry soldiers- how how they supposed to utilise those skills? The private security sector will be overwhelmed no doubt. It takes a lot of money to train soldiers in trades such as plumbing, etc you have to give back A LOT of service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.


    Politicians start wars then expect their country's young to clear up their mess. Soldiers put their lives on the line to do so. Many don't return from the front line.

    So it's a pretty nasty slap round the head for these brave people and their families. The MOD could reduce the forces by natural wastage if it wanted to but it never thinks things through properly..

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Cutting the frontline forces so severely is shortsighted.The majority of waste and expense is at the MOD.Why the need for 10 civil servants for every 1 or 2 military personel?We live in uncertain times, Iran,Somalia,Falklands where we may need extra forces.We're overstretched now with Afghanistan still ongoing till at least 2015.The govt need to rethink who goes here,civvy staff are overbloated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    What makes us more secure, a large Armed Forces or a healthy economy which can pay its way in the world. If we carry a lot of debt this is a threat to national security and the armed forces. We need to balance the books after fighting two wars, both were of questionable importance. Labour agree with the cuts, but not the way the Government is doing it, but cannot tell us what they would do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    I am no supporter of war, but I also understand the mechanics of democracy and like it or lump it, these soldiers have been risking their lives furthering the geo-political adventures of our democratically elected government. Subsequently to treat the armed forces personnel in this way is a disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    . . . we should be looking at a small regular core to our forces with a much larger professional reserve component. The american forces have a huge reserve and national guard component. This would allow the hardware to remain at critical mass. Reservists should be given tax incentives and fast track access to higher education, and protected employment status when on deployment

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Germany's Bundeswehr is about 120,000 strong.
    They feel their armed forces are adequate for their tasks. Their procurement procedures seem to deliver equipment fit for purpose and on cost and on time too.
    However they don't feel they have to 'punch above their weight' or trail along while the USA throws it's weight around.
    The French seem to manage their military requirements better too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Civil servants have signed up in droves to leave the MOD.

    Freedom of Information request 20110811 FOI095043 002 says that 13,308 MOD civil servants applied for the first 2,500 voluntary redundancies. It looks like the 25,000 civil service cuts will happen because they can't wait to leave.

    Service people seem not to be taking voluntary release as often and so some have to be sacked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    This government is "hell-bent" on economising by destroying exactly what the country really wants, e.g. NHS, and what it needs, e.g. efficient defences. Having destroyed the RAF and RN by slashing its equipment, now they are wiping out the "men on the ground". If the Forces are to function worldwide then cease axing uniformed personnel immediately and concentrate on the MoD civil servants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    No doubt right wing Tory lunatics will be asking that the disabled, unemployed and single mothers be conscripted on no wages to make up the armed forces whilst they sit in their cosy mansions in the South East and count their money making sure to avoid paying any tax for those nastly undeserving poor people they have created? Published in the Mail of course!

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    As Kipling put it " And it's Tommy this, and Tommy that, and chuck 'im out the brute, but it's saviour of 'is country when the guns begin to shoot". Although there is still a war in Afghanistan we're chucking out already, forgetting Napoleon's maxim "The country that does not respect its own army will one day learn to respect someone else's".

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    ref 133 it didn't let me finish!The cost to the mod increased by £1million per year!This decision was argued by the department I worked with but was overidden by a pencil pusher in Glasgow.


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