HC Deb 30 July 1997 vol 299 c357W
Mr. Bob Russell

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what figure for personnel in the Army will be used as the benchmark under the current defence review. [11088]

Dr. Reid

The strategic defence review will decide upon the size and structure of the Army in accordance with what is needed to meet our nation's interests and commitments. There is no benchmark figure for the strength of the Army in relation to the review.

Mr. Russell

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what measures he has taken to retain, recruit and re-enlist service personnel to fill vacancies in the Army. [11087]

Dr. Reid

The Army has a number of initiatives in place to ensure that personnel of the right quality are retained in the service in sufficient numbers. This includes retention bonuses to target specific groups of soldiers where retention problems have been identified, for example in the Household Cavalry, the Royal Armoured Corps, the Royal Artillery and the infantry. In addition, re-enlistment bounties are available to ex-regular soldiers in the above regiments and corps who agree to rejoin the active list. A recruiting bounty is also payable to serving soldiers in the arms with particular recruiting difficulties, who sponsor a recruit to join their regiment or corps.

Recruiting for the Army is a continuous process, but from time to time, campaigns are undertaken to target specific population groups. At the present moment, there is an enhanced summer advertising campaign in progress, which is aimed at 16 and 17-year-olds who have just left school. Other measures planned and approved are the Army Foundation college, due to open in September 1998, and the Scotland school leavers scheme, due to begin its first course in January 1998. This scheme is a short-term measure to address the acute manpower shortages in the Scottish infantry. Both these schemes are aimed at 16-year-old school leavers and will provide a good grounding in core skills in the NVQ/SCOTVEC schemes, as well as basic military training. In addition, I have approved the retention of 41 high street Army careers information offices until at least 2000. Further measures are being considered.