Defence Committee

Session 2007-08, 7 February 2008

New Inquiry

New Inquiry

Defence Committee inquiry into Recruitment and retention in the Armed Forces

The House of Commons Defence Committee is today launching an inquiry into the issue of recruitment and retention in the Armed Forces.  The UK is currently supporting two major operations, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and the burden this places on the Armed Forces is considerable, not least because many units are under strength.  One reason for this is difficulties in recruiting new Service personnel, particularly to the Army, and then retaining them over time.

The Defence Committee pointed out these difficulties in its recent Report, Ministry of Defence Annual Reports and Accounts 2006-07 (Fifth Report of Session 2007-08, HC 61), noting that problems with recruitment were affecting some specialised groups, such as the Army Medical Service, as well as the Army in general. The Committee also noted with concern MoD’s failure to meet its PSA target in this area, and remarked on the probable effect of MoD’s failure to meet harmony guidelines on retention of Armed Forces personnel.  The Committee expressed considerable concern over the failure by MoD to achieve most of its diversity targets, particularly with regard to the recruitment and retention of people from ethnic minorities.

The inquiry will include the following issues:

  • the identification of factors which hamper recruitment: (i) in general to the Armed Forces; (ii) in particular to the Army and to other specialised groups within the three Services such as Merlin Pilots, Observers and Aircrew and numerous trades within the Army Medical Service; and (iii) of ethnic minority personnel;

  • the effectiveness of, and priority accorded to, the recruitment strategy of the three Services;

  • the identification of factors leading to difficulties with the retention of Armed Forces personnel;

  • the steps being taken by the Services and MoD to improve the retention of personnel in the Armed Forces; and

  • the impact of difficulties with recruitment and retention on the ability of the Armed Forces to meet their commitments.

The Committee is also keen to inquire into issues concerning recruitment and retention in the Reserve Forces. 

The Committee would welcome written evidence on these matters. This should be sent to the Clerk of the Defence Committee by Monday 17 March. The Committee intends to hold oral evidence sessions towards the end of March.  Further details and witnesses will be announced in due course.


The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005. The Defence Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Ministry of Defence and its associated public bodies.


Media Enquiries: Alex Paterson, Tel 020 7219 1589, email: 

Specific Committee Information:  Tel 020 7219 5745, email:

Committee Website:

Watch committees and parliamentary debates online:

Publications / Reports / Reference Material: Copies of all select committee reports are available from the Parliamentary Bookshop (12 Bridge St, Westminster, 020 7219 3890) or the Stationery Office (0845 7023474). Committee reports, press releases, evidence transcripts, Bills; research papers, a directory of MPs, plus Hansard (from 8am daily) and much more, can be found on