Half of the UK population are now so unhealthy they are unable to pass initial Army selection, the chief of defence staff has said.

Giving evidence to MPs at the Commons Defence Committee, General Sir Nick Carter said Army recruiters are facing “a very difficult market” in recruiting people healthy enough to enlist.

His comments come after the committee was told in October that the Army currently has 77,000 fully trained troops compared with a target of 82,500.

Gen Carter, who took up the post of chief of the defence staff six months ago, told the committee that “50 per cent of 17-35 year olds are not healthy enough to get through the selection process.”

He also admitted that the British Army shares a large part of the blame for its recruitment failings alongside outsourcing giant Capita and that some "appalling lessons" have been learned.