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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  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    The military are public sector just like the rest of us in it. Whilst I have every respect for anyone doing the job they signed up for, no-one in the public services should be immune to redundancies.

    As it stands, you get paid to retrain when you leave the military, to reskill in the career of your choice. I'd love to have that as part of my potential redundancy package!

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    I volunteered for redundancy and got rejected, yet a collegue who is the same rank and trade, working on the same desk got compulsory redundancy, where is the sense in that. Both he and I are now totally disheartened with the armed forces, I have since taken voluntary release. Admittedly this has saved the MOD any redundancy payout for myself, but to stay in was getting to much, 27 years 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 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 139.

    MOD Civil Service has large amount of former service personnel & serving personnel family working for it. I was in the armed services before joining the MOD and 95% of the people i work with are ex service or family members of serving. Many comments suggest bining current MOD Civil Servants and replace with redundant armed services personnel.


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