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Manning control

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Manning control

Manning control is a policy in the British Army which allows the army to terminate the service of soldiers at the end of three, six, nine, 12 or 15 years' service in order to maintain the balance of age and capability within the force and ensure that there are opportunities for talented individuals to progress through the ranks. The policy has been criticised as being a way of dismissing committed and loyal soldiers whilst avoiding providing suitable pensions or redundancy compensation.


Manning control was created to allow the army to maintain a balance of experience and to ensure that there were opportunities for talented soldiers to progress through the ranks. It was originally designed to review soldiers' careers at six, nine and 12-year points of service and to free up the promotional logjam in the junior NCO ranks of corporal and lance-corporal.[1] If a soldier was not progressing through the ranks they may be redeployed or dismissed.[2] The regulations are defined in para 9.413 of Queen's Regulations 1975.[3] A similar system is used by the United States Armed Forces, which insists that certain ranks be held for no longer than a set amount of time, with lack of promotion in that time being used as grounds for dismissal.[4]


Manning Control was first introduced in the late 1950s to reduce the numbers of soldiers in the British Army after conscription ended. It was suspended in the 1970s and 80s.

It was re-activated in 1993 after 34,600 redundancies in the UK Armed Forces with almost half from the army taking redundancy. This was a direct result of the end of the cold war. As well as the culling of regular battalions, the Territorial Army was significantly reduced from 57,000 to around 40,000.[5]

However, the result of the redundancies was under-manning in various skill trades and a huge black hole in the MOD budget as many more soldiers opted for the attractive redundancy package than was first anticipated. Weeks later, soldiers who had taken the redundancy package would be back in uniform at the request of the MOD and would sign back on but only for a short period, in order to ameliorate what was hoped to be a temporary manning shortfall. The contract used was an S/Type contract, this contract was used primarily for the TA soldier. This however was called a Type S contract if a TA member wished to serve with a regular battalion.

Soldiers who joined the Army in the 90s signed on for 22 years with an option to leave after three, six or nine years. At the end of their 22 years, they receive an immediate pension for life.[6]

Lists of soldiers subject to Manning Control were being sent by APC Glasgow the Army's administrative wing, on a regular basis even when there was a well reported shortfall in Army manning. Soon more and more soldiers were falling victim to the "Brown envelope" as it was known. Soldier who are regarded as excellent in their reports where pressured into leaving the Army "voluntarily", or signing a new "S-type engagement" contract, and giving up the prospect of an immediate pension when they left.

Forms such as the AFB130A application against the soldiers discharge were negated from the process, preventing the soldier from making a representation against the Manning Control order until it was too late.

The absence of the form also hid the real number of soldiers subject to Manning Control from the Defence Analytical Services Agency[7] as most soldiers would "jump ship" rather than it be known on their record of service that they were forced out. This was later admitted by Geoff Hoon the then secretary of state for defence in a letter to Paul Keetch the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman.

Controversy (1999-)

A Soldier from the Parachute Regiment. Corporal Paul Biddiss [8] was told in November 1999 by his Commanding Officer Lt Col Kennett that he would be manning controlled. He refused to sign off his old contract as it was alleged he should never have been subject to the system. It is believed he was the first soldier to refuse. He won his fight against the system and is still a serving soldier.[9] This was the turning point for Manning Control due mainly to treatment Cpl Biddiss and his family were alleged to have endured during the Manning Control process. This generated media attention to what was until then an unknown system of mass discharging of soldiers, allegedly for their pension rights.[10]

29 Apr 2002 Michael Smith, defence correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, and Tom Newton Dunn, defence editor of the Daily Mirror and Andrew Gilligan from the Radio 4 Today Programme, publicized the case of Cpl Paul Biddiss. In a combined effort, and with the help of campaigning solicitor Thomas Reah and his assistant Dave Howels who later went on to help establish the British Armed Forces Federation under the leadership of Douglas Young[11]

Tom Reah campaigned for the change in pension rights for the partner of an SAS soldier who was killed rescuing British hostages in Sierra Leone[12] The Liberal Democrats defence spokesman Paul Keetch called for the immediate suspension of the scheme, known as "manning control", and an inquiry into its administration.

Mr Breed from the Liberal Democrats defence team stated:[13]

There is a danger of seeing such measures in purely fiscal terms—as an extra figure in the MOD budget—but the effect that such measures can have on members of the armed forces and their loved ones cannot be underestimated. To that end, I would like to raise a subject on which I have exchanged many letters and parliamentary questions with the Minster with responsibility for the armed forces: manning control points. In principle, a mechanism that prevents soldiers who are struggling from blocking promotion paths is reasonable, but in practice we have seen considerable evidence from former soldiers that the system has been misused, or at worst abused. Such a system should never be used simply to try to move decent, hard-working soldiers on to short-term contracts, under which they enjoy fewer rights and their service can be terminated without the pension entitlement that they richly deserve.

During the next few months more and more stories was being reported about alleged abuse of the system by former soldiers. During Parliamentary questions the MoD admitted that hundreds of medically unfit soldiers were thrown out of the Army rather than being given medical discharges, in an apparent contravention of its own rules.[14]

The Army admitted it had used Manning Control to throw out Soldiers who should have been Medically Discharged. The admission came in a written answer from Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces minister, who said 259 soldiers who were medically downgraded to a point where they could no longer carry out their roles had been sacked since 1997.[15]

A number of the medically unfit soldiers were sacked under the "manning control" system that allowed the Army to discharge soldiers it did not want . Medically Discharged. It was used to discharge hundreds of soldiers who had done nothing wrong, in an apparent attempt to ensure they did not qualify for an immediate pension.[16] An unnamed serving soldier told Channel 4 News he believed the Army was forcing servicemen to “jump before they are pushed” in a bid to save money".

The Army was facing a class action by hundreds of former soldiers alleging that they were sacked or forced out under the manning control system to stop them attaining the length of service that would have entitled them to an immediate pension.[1] Soon after, Manning Control was suspended. But it is expected to be reintroduced raising questions as to whether soldiers wounded in Afghanistan will find themselves "brown-enveloped". [17]

December 2007 BAFF discovered a plan to sacked Gurkhas early to reduce their pension rights using Manning Control. THE Ministry of Defence (MoD) is facing legal action over plans to cut the pensions of Gurkhas by sacking them three years before they are due to leave the army. The move, which means the MoD will avoid having to pay an ordinary Gurkha soldier more than £200,000, is to be challenged in the courts by the British Armed Forces Federation (BAFF).[18]

When Bill Rammell, the Secretary of State for Defence, was asked in parliament how many soldiers subject to manning control are (a) awaiting discharge and (b) have been discharged since 2007, he responded "No soldiers have been discharged under Manning Control Points since 2002, and no soldiers are awaiting discharge".[19][20]

Started by the MOD again[21] The Sun published an article "WAR heroes are to be secretly sacked on the cheap as they fight on the frontline".[22] Manning control was suspended again after only eight months and after national news coverage and a Facebook campaign.[23]

Prime Minister David Cameron, answering MPs' questions following his Statement on the SDSR, gave the assurance that the resulting reductions in the numbers of service personnel would not involve the use of manning control instead of "proper redundancy payments". Against a historic background of real injustice to some individuals during earlier times of financial stringency and forces downsizing, BAFF welcomes this important confirmation by the PM and looks to the MoD and service authorities to ensure that it is not overlooked in practice.

See also


  1. ^ "MoD in move to curb rights of personnel Secret attempt to prevent cash claims". 
  2. ^ "Rebalancing Army manpower". 
  3. ^ "Manning Control Reviews". Hansard. 
  4. ^  
  5. ^ "The history of the Light Infantry". 
  6. ^ "Title not known". 
  7. ^ "Defence Analytical Services Agency". 
  8. ^ "The Para who refused to toe the line". The Daily Telegraph (London). 23 June 2003. 
  9. ^ 
  10. ^ "Charles letter for Para son". 
  11. ^ "unknown title". 
  12. ^ "SAS hero's partner to sue MoD". BBC News. 31 July 2001. 
  13. ^ "Hansard 26 October 2013". 
  14. ^ Smith, Michael (25 May 2004). "Army threw out 259 medically unfit soldiers, admits minister". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  15. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (24 June 2003). "MoD accused of sacking soldiers to save on pensions". The Guardian (London). 
  16. ^ "'"Army pension 'scam. Daily Mail (London). 20 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "Unknown title". 
  18. ^ 
  19. ^ 
  20. ^ 
  21. ^ "Rebalancing Army manpower". 
  22. ^ "WAR heroes are to be secretly sacked on the cheap as they fight on the frontline". The Sun (London). 
  23. ^ "Frontline heroes ‘won’t be sacked’". The Sun (London). 

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