Fed-up soldiers are 'quitting in droves'


Last updated at 00:27 03 July 2007

The armed forces are struggling to cope because so many demoralised servicemen are quitting, a committee of MPs will say.

A damning report by a Commons committee will warn that the growing shortfall - fuelled by a recruitment crisis - is leaving the military increasingly overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It found the number of RAF servicemen and Army officers returning to civilian life has hit a ten-year high.

This means the lives of British troops in war zones are being put at risk, the influential Public Accounts Committee will warn.

The report - Recruitment and Retention in the Armed Forces - will be embarrassing for Defence Secretary Des Browne, who has made desperate attempts to boost recruitment.

The total shortfall in forces personnel was 5,850 in April this year. The shortage was 5,170 in 2006.

Increasingly frequent overseas postings, heavier workloads, poor pay and disruption to family life were the key reasons more troops were quitting the military, MPs found.

Conservative MP Edward Leigh, the committee chairman, said: "The Ministry of Defence has been relying for too long on the goodwill and courageous spirit of our servicemen and women to compensate for the increasing shortages of personnel in all three services.

"There are simply not enough service people to meet levels of military activity planned some years ago, let alone the heightened demands now being placed on them by commitments such as the Iraq and Afghanistan operations.

"Let us fervently hope that it will not take some future operational failure on the battlefield for the department to change its mind."

Defence Minister Derek Twigg insisted the Armed Forces could cope.

He said: "The Chief of Defence Staff himself has said that the armed forces are very stretched but can sustain what they are currently doing. Some of the pressure should soon start to ease.'

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