Military numbers 'like a patient in the operating theatre bleeding out' warns former Armed Forces minister

Military numbers 'like a patient in the operating theatre bleeding out' warns former Armed Forces minister
Georgia Pearce

By Georgia Pearce

Published: 24/01/2024

- 09:21

Updated: 24/01/2024

- 09:46

A former Armed Forces minister has described Armed Forces personnel numbers as a ‘crisis’ and compared the situation to ‘a patient bleeding out’.

Mark Francois also declared his support for the UK mission against Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, saying he believed the action is ‘an act of self-defence’.

Speaking to GB News Mark Francois said: “I think what we've done is right.

“Under international law, there is no question at all that we and the Americans can take action to maintain freedom of navigation on the seas. The Houthis are using rockets to try and attack warships going about innocent passage.

“And if we don't do this, if we let them carry on doing it, then the Red Sea will be out, everything will have to go via the Cape and what that means is that about a month or so from now, the price of petrol is going to skyrocket.

“So what we've done is proportionate, it is correct under international law and I absolutely back the Prime Minister in doing this.

“But look, historically we are a maritime nation; 90% of our trade comes by sea. The Royal Navy, historically, one of its missions down the centuries has been to provide freedom of navigation for our ships and those of our allies, and that is what our armed forces are doing.

“At the end of the day, Iran is behind it, it’s not a secret. They're also behind Hamas, they're also behind Hezbollah.

“So we know ultimately where this is being engineered from and we very much hope that the Houthis will desist but if they won't these strikes may have to continue until they do.

“These are targeted proportionate strikes, designed for one single purpose. In the Syria debate, the argument was, what are the strikes for? I remember all of this.

“In this case, it couldn't be clearer. It's to stop the Houthi is firing rockets at innocent merchant shipping. It's a very crystal-clear military objective and that's why I think the Commons shouldn't be behind the half Prime Minister and I don't think we need to vote to prove it.

“My hope is the Houthis will stop. Let's see how this plays out. But I don't think we want to be in a situation where we have to have a vote in the House of Commons, despite what Sir Ed Davey likes to say, if we drop one bomb anywhere in the world, because if we do that we're playing right into the hands of our potential enemies. We'd be totally hamstrung.

“On recruitment and retention, we do have a crisis, and I use the word advisedly.

“At the moment, the bottom line figure is for every one new recruit that joins the armed forces, of whichever service, three are leaving.

" In terms of retention of Armed Forces personnel, it's a bit like a patient in the operating theatre bleeding out. If you can't stop the bleeding, eventually you lose the patient.

“The Defence Secretary needs to come to Parliament make a statement on what we're going to do to stop people leaving the Armed Forces because if we don't, in a few years from now, we won't be able to carry out those sorts of actions against the Houthis because we won't have the people to maintain the jets to take off."

Speaking about the vote on Rwanda Mr Francois, who voted against the government, said:

“At the end of the day in a situation like this, everybody has to look into their own heart and decide what to do.

“My view is this. We made our point. We're on the record, as you would say. Either a plane takes off or it doesn't. We thought it might not, others thought it would.

“It's going to take a few months to find out either way, isn't it because we've got to get the bills for the Lord's and then there might be a ping pong and objections.

“At some point a few months from now will take off or it won't. If the plane takes off, I will come in the studio and I will put my hand up and say I was wrong.

“But let's just see what happens."


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