HC Deb 22 March 1988 vol 130 c191
13. Dr. Michael Clark

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many recruits joined the armed forces in the most recent 12 months for which figures are available; what was the number of recruits actually needed for this period; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Roger Freeman)

In the 12 months ended 31 January 1988 the United Kingdom regular forces recruited 33,805 men and women. In 1986–87 recruitment reached 99 per cent. of the targets for officers and other ranks.

Dr. Clark

Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is the sheer professionalism of our armed forces that makes the services so attractive to recruits? Does he agree that it is this, coupled with the good and realistic rates of pay since 1979, that has led to the satisfactory figures that he has been able to report this afternoon?

Mr. Freeman

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. The Government's pay policy, which has involved pay comparability for the armed forces, has been successful in recruitment. The record is excellent and is in stark contrast to the policy pursued by the Labour party.

Mr. Sean Hughes

Should not the figure of 33,000 recruits be placed in the context of almost 37,000 who left the armed services over the same period?

Mr. Freeman

The reasons why officers and men leave the armed services vary greatly between those wishing to leave before the end of their term of engagement and those who reach the end of their engagement. Premature voluntary retirement rates — PVR rates — for all three services have been broadly stable for the last 18 months. They are still too high, but they are very much lower than the level reached under the previous Labour Government.