‘Prove our military is strong enough’: Labour demands annual report on the fighting capacities of our Armed Forces amid shortage of battle-ready troops
- Labour Party wants ministers to report annually on military’s fighting strength
- Daily Mail revealed over weekend that 32 of 33 battalions are short of personnel
- Infantry needs 14,984 soldiers but has only 11,301 who can be sent to battlefield
Labour will today try to compel ministers to report annually on the fighting strength of the military.
The party’s defence spokesman John Healey will attempt to introduce the requirement by amending the Armed Forces Bill, which will be debated in the Commons.
It comes after the Daily Mail revealed on Saturday that 32 of 33 infantry battalions are short of battle-ready personnel.
A leaked Ministry of Defence document showed how many soldiers battalions are short of (picture of Royal Marine commandos in Afghanistan in 2007)
A leaked MoD document – titled ‘Infantry Battalion Soldier Strength Summary, January 2021’ – listed how many soldiers each of the battalions needs.
The infantry as a whole needs 14,984 soldiers but has only 11,301 who could be sent to the battlefield, according to the report.
A target to avoid reducing the size of the Army to below 82,000 has not been met, with numbers falling to 75,310 last year.
Mr Healey said last night: ‘The strength of our forces should rightly be set by a full assessment of the security threats we face… our adversaries will exploit continuing holes in our capability. The UK needs a proper defence strategy without further delay.
‘Labour also wants to ensure the Government’s Armed Forces Bill will deliver step-change improvements in work and living conditions for the forces, veterans and their families.’
Applications to join the Army are, however, at a five-year high.
Lord Kim Darroch, a former UK ambassador to the US, warned last week that further cuts to the British Army could put trans-Atlantic defence relations at risk, with Washington already concerned that the Army is too small.
Reports have surfaced that the Army could be trimmed of 10,000 soldiers as military bosses weigh up shifting to technology such as drones to replace manpower in an integrated review which is under way.
“I would be really worried about reducing further the size of the British Army,” he told the Commons Defence Committee.
“If we do this then it could potentially be quite risky to our reputation in Washington.”
He told MPs that secretaries of defence in the Trump and Obama administrations used to tell him the Army was “already too small” and it had been a “big mistake” to take numbers down to 80,000.
In November, the Prime Minister set out a £16.5 billion increase in defence spending over four years as he said the UK faced a “perilous” period for global security.
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