MPs attack 'grotesque' defence cuts
MPs have attacked a "grotesque" defence cuts process that means no civilian has been forced out of a job while 40% of redundancies among armed forces personnel have been compulsory.
In a scathing report, the Commons defence committee questioned whether the terms on offer were "fair or appropriate" and dismissed Ministry of Defence explanations of the "shocking" difference. Insufficient attention had been given to retraining soldiers, sailors and airmen for roles the military faced shortages in, it suggested.
Around two in five of 2,860 servicemen and women laid off late last year in the first phase of a huge reduction in manning levels were made compulsorily redundant. In contrast, the first two tranches of redundancies in civilian staff - set to total 15,000 over several years - were all done on a voluntary basis, the committee heard.
The MoD's senior civil servant, permanent secretary Ursula Brennan, said that was partly because civil servants were more "flexible" while the armed forces tended to have "specific trades".
Defence minister Andrew Robathan pointed out in the Commons that the armed forces had been "less forthcoming" with applications for voluntary redundancy than civilian staff.
Both were condemned by the committee as inadequate 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."
Ms Brennan's argument also implied "a lack of strategic vision as to the direction to be taken by the civilian component of the MoD", the MPs said.
"On the other hand the minister's assertion, that many civil servants but insufficient members of the armed forces have applied for redundancy, ignores the question of why that should be so."
It continued: "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. We are not persuaded by either of the two reasons we have been given."