One in five soldiers is not fit for front-line duty, yet there is no money to recruit or retain replacements, it has emerged.
Nearly 5,000 officers and soldiers can not be deployed for combat duties because of injury, illness, a lack of fitness or non-medical reasons, data contained in a Parliamentary written answer has revealed.
The findings, unearthed by Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin, related to 36 battalions and three guards companies, and included troops aged under 18, those excused from front-line duties for compassionate reasons, and personnel facing disciplinary action.
Jenkins warned that the figures revealed a wider and unfunded cost of maintaining combat forces, and said the workforce was being depleted at an “unsustainable rate”, which was eroding readiness and the ability to react to other events and threats.
“Crucially, the Ministry of Defence does not get extra money to care for those who are rendered medically unfit for the front line, nor for the recruitment and training of their replacements,” he said.
The Ministry of Defence was unavailable for comment.