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David Cameron has, this afternoon, responded to Defence Secretary Des Browne’s admission that he made the wrong judgment call on the Navy 15 being allowed to sell their stories to the press:

“Our Armed forces need a Government that understands the military and understands the importance of maintaining respect and dignity and I don’t think we have got that in the Government today.  The events surrounding the taking of our Service personnel hostage in Iran has been handled shambolically and I think that there are two things that need to happen: We need to learn all the lessons of what went wrong, we need the equivalent of a Board of Inquiry, a full MoD inquiry that is then made public, so we can learn the lessons of what went wrong and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.  Secondly, we need a full explanation of the calamitous decision Ministers made when they encouraged Service personnel to sell their stories to the media. This was a dreadful decision and there are still further questions that need to be answered. Des Browne himself said that this was an important decision, if that’s the case why didn’t he consult more widely? When did he consult Downing Street? When was the PM told? And what involvement did the PM have in the decision? We still need a full and proper explanation.  The Government has put headlines and good PR ahead of the long term good of the Armed Forces and the nation.  There is a pattern of the Government behaving in this way. They have done huge damage to Parliament. They have done damage to the independence of the civil service. Now they are in danger of damaging the reputation of the Armed Forces.”

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Earlier today a member of the Shadow Defence team Mark Harper MP
outlined the Conservatives’ plans to improve the welfare of British
troops. He reminded the Government of the military covenant which
requires the troops to lay down their lives for the country and act
with professionalism and integrity in the face of great demands that
the nation puts on them. In exchange they should expect that they and
their families are provided with the full support of the country and
can be confident that their needs will be provided for both in conflict
and at home. He highlighted four key areas of government failure:

  • Healthcare: Mr Harper said that a Conservative government would
    create a dedicated military ward in Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham.
    According to him, treatment for our forces should not be divorced from
    the ‘mental healing’ which they can only receive if they recuperate
    together. He also highlighted the difficulties their families face with
    obtaining NHS dental care because of their regular travels across the
    country.
  • Housing: The Shadow Minister quoted the Adjutant General of the
    Army who said that the quality of the accommodation offered to the
    majority of our troops was below standard. He argued that this
    situation must be improved because we expect our troops to lay down
    their lives for their country and in exchange they ought to receive
    quality accommodation from the country. Further he stated poor
    accommodation quality was one of the factors affecting recruitment in
    the Armed forces.
  • Education: Mr Harper stated that a Conservative government would
    look into providing quality education for our troops by offering to pay
    for them to access university education if they have served for more
    than five years. He believes that this will help to increase the
    retention rate as well as improve interaction between our troops and
    the wider society.
  • Spending: The Shadow Minister criticised the government for
    failing to match its spending and recruitment with its international
    commitments. He argued that our forces are under funded and
    overstretched. Mr Harper promised a press conference that a future
    Conservative government will ensure that our spending on defence is
    sufficient to maintain our international obligations.

A PDF OF THE TORY REPORT ON SERVICE FAMILIES

41 comments for: Cameron: Labour has put PR before long-term health of Britain’s armed forces

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