Guest column: Tories must do more for our armed forces

Sir Kevin Barron MP
Sir Kevin Barron MP

This week, Labour held a debate on armed forces pay, recruitment and retention. The current situation in our armed forces can be described as nothing short of a crisis in my view.

The overall ‘offer’ to service personnel is continuing to fall under the Conservatives, which is having a devastating effect on recruitment and retention.

Central to improving this is lifting the one per cent public sector pay cap and allowing the Armed Forces Pay Review Body to make recommendations without that restriction to help to stem the outflow rate that continues to out-strip intake.

Whilst other public sector workers have unions to speak up for them, our armed forces don’t and so we must be their voice.

Figures show the starting salary of an army private is down 5.3 per cent in real terms since 2010 – a cut of more than £1,000 a year.

I believe it is vital that our forces and their families are properly looked after.

After redundancies and years of pay restraint, morale among our dedicated forces personnel and their families has plummeted.

There has been additional pressure put on the incomes of forces families from increases in National Insurance, changes in tax credits and increases in rental charges for those in service family accommodation.

We need to ensure that the armed forces continue to be an attractive offer for our best and brightest in order to maintain our operational effectiveness.

The armed forces are driven by the hard working men and women who serve in them and it is time the Tories recognised that.

The Tories must get to grips with the recruitment and retention crisis in order to meet the numbers around which new structures have been planned.

I support the Bill proposing votes at 16 as I believe this will empower 16 and 17-year-olds, through a democratic right, to influence decisions that will define their future.

These young people are knowledgeable and passionate about the world in which they live, and are as capable of engaging in the democratic system as anyone.

Participation in free elections is a fundamental human right (protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UK’s Human Rights Act).

Because of these laws, the reasons for excluding people from the vote have to be fair and balanced.

Sixteen and 17-year-olds would be able to raise issues that affect young people in their area and vote on whether the introduction of a policy would improve their area for the better.