MINISTERS FAILING SOLDIERS
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
15 Aug 07. The BBC reported that the government is failing to honour its commitments to troops who put their lives on the line for their country, the Royal British Legion has said. The forces charity said the Military Covenant – which guarantees soldiers fair treatment in return for forgoing other rights – is not being upheld. In an unprecedented move, it is to launch a campaign to shame ministers into improving treatment of personnel.
The arrogance of this government shows no bounds. At a time when the Army is desperate for new equipment to save lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, the government launches the largest naval equipment re-equipment programme for years in what is seen by many as a vote winner in Scotland where Labour is fast losing control of its heartland 39 seats, vital for a majority.
Sources suggest that Army supremo Sir Richard Dannat is exasperated with Des Browne’s behaviour and they are close to ‘non speaks.’ This government has demonstrated since it came to power that it does not value the role of the Armed Forces and seems to be keen to follow Mr Blair’s example of using and abusing, just like a new landowner taking over from the ‘old laird.’ The Army begged for months to be removed from ‘sniper alley’ in Basra to the Airport complex and for weeks the Government hid the true extent of the casualties,
It follows concern Britain’s forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are overstretched. The Royal British Legion campaign – titled Broken Covenant – will focus on the need to boost medical care, strengthen the system of coroners’ inquests to ensure swift closure for bereaved families, and provide more compensation. The initiative, which will be launched in the autumn, aims to “address the growing sense of disillusionment among service personnel and veterans about their treatment by the state”. “British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment.”
Military Covenant. “The Legion believes that our servicemen and women deserve more from their government,” the organisation says on its website. “By committing themselves to put their lives on the line for their country they deserve immediate medical attention and just compensation if they are injured.” Military personnel are banned from taking strike action, joining trade unions or taking part in political activities. They have legal rights to complain to their commanding officers and ultimately to the Defence Council. Their rights as employees are enshrined in a doctrine published by the Ministry of Defence. The Military Covenant promises: “Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices – including the ultimate sacrifice – in the service of the Nation. “In putting the needs of the Nation and the Army before their own, they forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces. “In return, British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service.” In January, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair called for the Covenant to be “renewed” in the light of the intense and controversial conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. “This is a new situation for our Armed Forces, there are new commitments necessary to make it work and make it fair,” he said. But an organisation set up last year to represent the interests of British troops, the British Armed Forces Federation (BAFF), following concern about equipment shortages, said the Covenant had to mean something in practice.
BAFF chairman Douglas Young told the Guardian: “If the Covenant is to be anything other than hot air, it needs to be at the forefront of policymakers’ minds whenever defence policy is being formulated and not just trotted out when there’s a good news story.”
Senior military figures have warned that British forces are stretche