Cuts 'a turning point' for forces
Around 1,500 military personnel are to lose their jobs in the final round of redundancies under the Government's programme to re-structure the armed forces, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announced.
Up to 1,425 members of the Army are to go along with up to 70 medical and dental officers from the RAF and up to 10 from the Royal Navy, Mr Hammond told MPs in a Commons statement.
Among the hardest hit will be the Brigade of Gurkhas who are set to lose around 350 troops.
Mr Hammond said the redundancies would mark a "turning point" for the forces after a period of upheaval in which thousands of jobs have been shed.
For Labour, shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker accused the Government of letting down the forces and and "taking risks with our nation's safety".
The fourth tranche of redundancies is part of an armed forces re-structuring programme which will see the r egular Army cut from 102,000 in 2010 to 82,000 by 2020, while the newly-renamed Army Reserve - formerly the Territorial Army - is being expanded from 19,000 to 30,000.
The plans also involve cutting the Royal Navy from 35,500 to 30,000 and the RAF from 40,130 to 35,000.
Mr Hammond said that by encouraging transfers between different parts of the Army in particular, efforts had been made to keep the cuts to an "absolute minimum".
"For the men and women of our armed forces, I know that this has been a painful process but completion of this final tranche will mark a turning point," he said.
"With the bulk of our troops back from Afghanistan by the end of this year and coming back from Germany over the next four years, they will be able to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from belonging to armed forces that have put a period of change and restructuring behind them and are focused on building their skills and capabilities for the future."
To ease the transition to civilian life, he said that the armed forces help-to-buy scheme would be extended to personnel taking redundancy who did not have their own home.
While the services had been instructed to maximise the number of voluntary redundancies, Mr Hammond acknowledged there were likely to be fewer than in previous rounds - in part because the Gurkhas were traditionally reluctant to opt to leave early.
He said the cuts were necessary as changes introduced in 2007, which put the Gurkhas' terms of service on the same footing as the rest of the Army, meant that the brigade was still over-manned.
The losses include 246 from the Royal Gurkha Rifles, 71 from the Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment, 28 from the Queen's Gurkha Engineers and nine staff and personnel support posts.
The latest cuts come just two weeks after the Army launched a £3 million recruitment drive. Mr Hammond said there was always a need to bring in new recruits.
"There is a constant need to replace those who are promoted or who complete their service with new talent. The armed forces require a constant flow of young fit recruits to maintain the structure required," he said.
Mr Coaker acknowledged that there was a need to reconfigure the armed forces after the withdrawal from Afghanistan but said it must not jeopardise national security.
"The Government is letting down our armed forces and their families, and taking risks with our nation's safety," he said.
"The IT fiasco at the Ministry of Defence is costing millions of taxpayer pounds and hampering recruitment to the armed forces. The promised increase in the number of reserves - to make up for the gap left by these redundancies - hasn't happened."