MPs: protecting civil service while troops are sacked

While thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen have been made redundant not one civil servant has been forced to go despite 25,000 job losses, the Commons Defence Committee report disclosed.

It roundly criticised the MoD’s top civil servant for suggesting that only MoD civilians had the skills to do different jobs.

MPs were shocked that sacked service personnel could not be retrained for specialist posts. There are more than 2,000 “pinch point” trades positions available such as bomb disposal yet more than 40 percent of troops were made compulsorily redundant in the last round of sackings.

“For military redundancies to be compulsory yet for civilian redundancies to be compulsory in none is so grotesque that it requires an exceptionally persuasive reason,” the report said.

MPs questioned whether redundancy terms were “fair or appropriate” between the two branches of service in the MoD. Civil servants, unlike servicemen, are able to join trade unions.

The MPs were angered by Ursula Brennan, the MoD’s top civil servants, who suggested that civilians were “flexibly employable” whereas the military were not.

She told them: “A very large number of the Civil Service have flexible skills that enable them to work in a variety of places.”

The report said her view ran “contrary to the committee’s experience of the breadth of the military training and the skills shown by personnel as witnessed on operations.”

It added: “We were not convinced by the reasons given for this situation by the MoD—that civil servants had generic skills and could be more readily transferred.”

James Arbuthnot, the Tory MP and chairman of the committee, said: “The stark and shocking differences between redundancies in the MoD require an exceptionally persuasive explanation, which we are yet to hear.

“Look at the areas where the Armed Forces are undermanned.”

The Forces are short of more than 500 intelligence specialists, 120 Navy nuclear engineer and nearly 300 medical staff.

The Armed Forces redundancy programme is expected to deliver up to 11,000 redundancies across the three Services while civil servant redundancies are 15,000. The rest of the reduction in personnel will be through natural wastage or posts being removed.

The report recommend that sacked troops should be given the opportunity to retrain for trades needed in the Armed Forces, in particular, pinch point trades.

The MPs demanded that the MoD gave a detailed explanation of how it planned to address the shortfall in specialist posts.