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Photo: Martin Docherty-Hughes, MP for West Dunbartonshire.

A damning report issued by MPs on the Defence Select Committee has said the UK government must act over concerns about the treatment of contracted Ministry of Defence (MoD) workers at key defence sites across the UK.

West Dunbartonshire’s MP Martin Docherty-Hughes, who chaired a Defence Sub-Committee on the Treatment of Contracted Staff for The MoD’s Ancillary Services, has welcomed the report’s findings after raising concerns about the outsourcing of civilian defence roles.

Since 2015, the UK government has outsourced key functions of the MoD to the private sector in areas including fire and rescue services. SNP MP Docherty-Hughes says evidence submitted to the defence committee suggests cuts to specialist firefighting jobs at HM Naval Base Clyde were putting the safety of staff and the public at risk.

The Committee’s report, published today (Thursday), focuses on the Defence Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) as a case study to examine the wider implications and lessons of MoD outsourcing. The report raises concerns over private defence contractors including Capita, saying it’s “absurd” the MoD is not allowed to look at contractor’s previous performance in deciding on contract awards.

The report examines the treatment of outsourced staff, including in their terms and conditions of employment. The report expresses regret that sub-contracted staff often feel excluded from the wider defence family, with poorer terms and conditions, even though their roles are integral to the service.

SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes is pressuring the UK government to act on the report’s findings, warning that cuts to civilian defence roles under the guise of ‘efficiency savings’ are putting safety at risk whilst lining the pockets of private contractors.

Commenting, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said: 

“The sessions I chaired for this committee enquiry heard damning evidence that contracted defence staff at key MoD sites, including Faslane and Coulport, are being treated poorly and that outsourcing to private companies is putting safety at risk.

“The fear is that during these economically straightened times the incentives for a cash-strapped MoD to look for the simple outsourcing solution will be increased, and as ever the price will be paid by the lowest paid workers, who will see yet more downward pressure on their pay and conditions.

“This report makes a number of recommendations which I welcome – particularly the call for a review of the Defence Fire and Rescue contract, which we have heard so often is failing the staff who undertake such a vital, skilled, but often overlooked role in assuring the safety of defence locations, like HMNB Clyde at Faslane.

“The UK government must listen to the unions as a priority. They must ensure that worrying proposals to change shift patterns which could risk public safety, just to save money that will go straight into the pockets of private shareholders, are not allowed to be repeated.”

A full copy of the Defence Sub-Committee’s report into The Treatment of Contracted Staff for The MoD’s Ancillary Services is available here.

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