There was more than a whiff of hypocrisy in the air when our Prime Minister repeatedly lauded the UK’s “military prowess” when talking about the crisis in the Middle East.
This from the leader of a government which is eviscerating our military capability and treating our armed forces’ veterans in the most shameful manner!
Most of the public probably took comfort in the existence of what is known as The Military Covenant. Many of us probably thought the Covenant was enshrined in law but it is not. It is this deliberate absence of legal status which has allowed an unscrupulous government to side step its moral responsibilities.
The spirit of the Covenant – the guarantee of care for military personnel wounded in the service of their country – is admirable. It should be the bedrock of the relationship between our armed forces and the society they volunteer to serve.
There are three areas in which the Government has shown a shameful disregard for the spirit of the Covenant – medical care, pay and pensions.
There are many examples I could quote but here are just a few.
The Government makes great play of how much is done for severely wounded personnel but this is not the whole truth. The Ministry of Defence has refused, over decades, to recognise the mental effects of combat. They deny the existence of Combat Stress and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They have spent millions – of our money – fighting claims brought by our personnel affected by non-physical injuries.
The hardship of Service life leads most personnel to retire halfway through their working life – for non-commissioned ranks it is typically age 40. Traditionally they are then given an Immediate Service Pension (ISP).
Over the last three years there have been large scale redundancies. A disproportionate number were very close to but not at the point of receiving their ISP – a shameful tactic that has saved the Government millions. In one unbelievable case a sergeant was made redundant three days before he was due to receive his pension. Under enormous pressure, the MoD relented in this case only but there are still thousands badly let down by a Government which is failing to keep its side of the Covenant.
Armed Forces pay levels are recommended by the independent Armed Forces Pay Review Board. At last year’s round the Board recommended a 1% increase plus a further 0.5% increase in recognition of the danger of service life and the fact that service men and women are prohibited from taking any form of industrial action to better their situation.
The Treasury turned down the 0.5% recommendation on the grounds that it “would read across the whole public sector”. This from a Government that implemented a full 15% pay increase for MP’s because it was “recommended by an independent body”.
The contempt which this Government has shown for The Military Covenant is an affront to common decency and an affront the men and women of our Armed Forces. It is also a betrayal of the public belief that those who step into harm’s way to serve our society will be properly supported and cared for when it is time for them to call upon us, just as we once called upon them.
UKIP’s policy promises, as we approach next year’s General Election, will show how we can end this shameful neglect of Britain’s service personnel and veterans.