DEFENCE MINISTER REJECTS CLAIMS

The defence minister Bob Ainsworth today rejected claims of a
recruitment and retention crisis in the armed forces, after a report by MPs
warns that a lack of adequate resources is driving out experienced personnel
and undermining morale.

Ainsworth insists the armed forces’ retention rate is "broadly stable"
despite the findings by an influential groups of MPs that "unacceptable"
strains are being placed on Britain’s forces.

The report by the Commons Defence Select Committee warns that the
performance of the forces is "deteriorating" after five years of running at
full stretch in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that recruitment continues to be a
problem for the military.

The MPs note an overall shortage of manpower, with more experienced
personnel leaving the forces early.

The report also highlights that the continuing failure to meet
"harmony guidelines" – the period that should be allowed for rest and
training between operations – is "unacceptable".

Ainsworth told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the government is
handling the recruitment and retention challenges facing the armed forces
without allowing selection standards to drop.

He says: "Overall, retention is broadly stable – the number of people
leaving the trained strength of the Armed Forces in the 12 months to 30
September 2007 has increased by 1% compared with the 12 months to 30
September 2006.

"It should be acknowledged that recruitment to the armed forces
remains robust."

The report states ministers will have to make large cuts in the
defence programme at a time when the cost of ambitious weapons projects
continues to rise, and Britain’s soldiers and pilots are finding it
increasingly difficult to cope with the demands placed on them.

The committee also expresses dismay that troops are regularly
underpaid or overpaid by the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system,
and calls on the Ministry of Defence to resolve the problems "as quickly as
possible

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