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The Times reports that more than 32,000 British Army soldiers have failed a basic fitness test in the past three years. The newspaper says that there are concerns that military canteen food is to blame.
A recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request showed that 32,419 service personnel failed the mandatory military fitness test at some point between April 2011 and March 2014.
This figure does not include the 18,000 who are classified as “medically downgraded”.
One officer told The Times, that an “appalling diet” was to blame, with soldiers at Camp Bastion enjoying daily cooked breakfasts, pizza, cheeses and large dessert buffets. More than 22,000 soldiers have found to be overweight and at risk of health problems. It has also recently emerged that at least 50 soldiers have been released for being obese in the past decade.
· Answers to written questions
· Head of British Army warns of threat from ballistic missile
· Former Military Chief says reservist plan will harm British capability
Answers to written questions
· Labour MP Katy Clark asked the Defence Secretary if he will provide a skills breakdown of the civilian personnel employed at HMNB Clyde by (a) his Department, (b) Babcock, (c) Serco, (d) Rolls-Royce, (e) Thales and (f) other main contractors.
Philip Dunne provided a table with a breakdown of the MOD civilian personnel employed at HMNB Clyde.
· Katy Clark asked the Defence Secretary how many civilian personnel employed at HMNB Clyde are resident in (a) Argyll and Bute, (b) West Dunbartonshire, (c) other parts of Scotland and (d) other parts of the UK.
Philip Dunne said the number of MOD civilian personnel employed at HMNB Clyde resident in Argyll and Bute, West Dunbartonshire, other parts of Scotland and other parts of the UK are provided in the table, which provides figures up to 9 June 2014.
· Katy Clark asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many civilian personnel are employed at HMNB Clyde by (a) his Department, (b) Babcock, (c) ABL Alliance, (d) Serco, (e) Rolls Royce, (f) Thales and (g) other main contractors.
Philip Dunne said as of 9 June 2014, 1,285 MOD civilian personnel are employed at HMNB Clyde. He said additional there are approximately 1,900 people employed in the Naval Base by contractors. The precise number is a matter for the contractors and will fluctuate, depending on the tasks and the number of sub-contractors employed.
· Labour MP Kevan Jones asked the Defence Secretary what planning data was used to devise his Department’s recruitment target for the Army Reserve as part of its Army 2020 reforms.
Defence Minister Anna Soubry said the ‘recruitment target’ has been interpreted as the 30,000 trained Army Reservists required under Army 2020. Soubry said that during the three-month exercise, the MOD examined a range of force structure options which were assessed as being able to deliver the policy demands specified by the new defence planning assumptions laid out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2010. Soubry said that as a result of this, a Senior Military Judgement Panel chaired by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and including the Assistant Chiefs of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force concluded that the size of the Regular Army should be 82,500, and the Independent Commission to Review the UK’s Reserve Forces recommended an Army Reserve of 30,000 trained personnel. She said this was judged to be the optimal size and shape of the Army within available resources.
· Paul Flynn asked the Secretary of State for Defence what reports covering the factors surrounding the use of nuclear weapons have been (a) prepared and (b) commissioned by his Department.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne said the UK has made it clear that the circumstances in which any employment of nuclear weapons might be contemplated are very remote. He said that the UK would only employ nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances of self-defence and in accordance with obligations under international law. He added that UK uses nuclear weapons as a deterrent every single day as demonstrated by the Continuous At Sea Deterrence. The most recent major Government reports that explore these issues are the 2006 White Paper The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent, the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review and the 2013 Trident Alternatives Review, all of which are in the public domain.
Head of British Army warns of threat from ballistic missile
The Times reports that the Head of the British Army, General Sir Peter Wall has said that the threat posed to Britain from a ballistic missile attack is growing. He also said that the British homeland was at increased risk from a terrorist atrocity or cyber-attack. General Wall further predicted that helping to secure the UK, including protecting it from the threat of floods, would be a job that the military would increasingly be called upon to perform.
General Wall went on to say that he expected the next Strategic Defence and Security Review would highlight the higher demand on the military to counter threats from these areas. The threat of terror has been particularly highlighted in recent weeks as security officials focus on preventing British Muslims travelling to Syria to join Islamist militants fighting in that country and in neighbouring Iraq. There are increasing concerns that such individuals could be further radicalised fighting abroad and will return home to undertake attacks on UK targets.
General Wall said there was little appetite in Whitehall for British forces to return to Iraq or any other conflict zone in a combat role but indicated that providing training and support was a useful job that the military could still perform.
Former Military Chief says reservist plan will harm British capability
The Times reports that the Former Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, has said the Government’s plan to replace 20,000 regular troops with 30,000 reservists would harm Britain’s ability to fight full-scale wars in the future. Lord Richards said that relations between the Armed Forces and Mr Hammond were “quite difficult” when he first took over as defence secretary in 2011, which he said was because Hammond did not fit with the typical military type.
Lord Richards said he had made his opposition to the reservists’ strategy clear from the beginning and criticised ministers for going ahead with the plans without conducting a pilot project. He echoed warnings from the National Audit Office, which suggested earlier this month that the attempt to boost reservists from 19,400, its current level, to 30,000 by 2018 could be delayed until 2025.
He said that depending on reserves to fight sustained operations, such as the campaign in Afghanistan, would present the Armed Forces with a “problem” and warned ministers that the failure to retain quality staff would turn Britain’s armed forces into a “banana republic” military. Lord Richards said there was a risk that the army will be at 82,000 but the number of active reserves available “will not be what the government had hoped and the Army needs”.