Calls grow for an end to troop reductions to help the British military cope with rising demands at home

Friday, June 10, 2022 7:23 a.m.

Troop reductions should be halted to help the armed forces cope with increased demands on them to respond to emergencies in the UK, the Labor Party has said.

Requests for the armed forces to help civil authorities have more than doubled during the pandemic, according to Defense Ministry figures.

In the years leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of requests for military aid to civil authorities (MACA) – where the government or public bodies request the support of the armed forces – increased steadily, from 123 in 2016 to 157 in 2019.

But the MoD said it received 550 applications in 2020.

The number dropped in 2021 but has remained much higher in recent years with 332 applications.

As of May 26 this year, 76 requests had been made.

Not all requests are granted and the percentage of requests granted has also fallen, according to MoD figures, from 93% in 2016 and down year-on-year to 55% last year and 41% this year.

The figures were provided by Defense Secretary James Heappey in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour’s shadow defense secretary John Healey.

Civil authorities such as government councils or departments may request military support for a range of issues, including natural disasters such as extreme flooding, security issues, and public health emergencies such as pandemic. of Covid-19.

The Ministry of Defense said around 34,000 service personnel had been deployed to support the UK’s response to the pandemic. Armed forces personnel have been deployed to help vaccinate, support hospitals and ambulance services, assist with testing, build Nightingale hospitals and distribute PPE.

The government presented plans last year to reduce the size of the regular army, lowering the target size from 82,000 personnel to 72,500 by 2025. When the announcement was made in March 2021, the army numbered approximately 76,500 regular soldiers.

Mr Healey said: “Our armed forces are essential to our national resilience, as well as our national defence, as we have seen during the Covid pandemic.

“But Tory ministers have cut Britain’s army to its smallest size in 300 years, and they are pushing ahead with further cuts of 10,000 troops over the next three years.

“With growing demands at home and threats abroad, ministers must stop these cuts now.”

A Ministry of Defense spokesman said: “The military has provided an unprecedented level of support to communities during the pandemic and continues to have the manpower and equipment necessary to meet its overseas commitments and United Kingdom.

“We are regularly reviewing our capabilities to ensure they meet current and future threats and are investing an additional £24 billion in defense – the biggest investment in the UK Armed Forces since the end of the Cold War – which will provide the British army new tanks, armored vehicles and attack helicopters.

“According to our plans, the army will have a full force of more than 100,000 men, composed of regulars and reserves, ready to fight the wars of the future.”

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