Since British intervention in Afghanistan began, the Conservatives have criticised the poor pay and equipment for her Majesty’s armed forces in strong terms as a breach of the nation’s covenant with our troops.
As David Cameron looks closer to power than any Tory leader for over a decade, he has become increasingly clear in his pledge to put this right once in government, hinting at various measures that may entail higher defence spending. After meeting troops in Afghanistan, Cameron has today announced that the Conservatives will tackle the issue of lost leave – under which soldiers’ rest periods are counted from the moment they leave the field, including all delays in flights home. He endorsed the recommendations of Simon Weston and Frederick Forsyth that the leave be counted only from the moment they arrive home.
"Today when our servicemen and women end their duties in the heat and dust of Afghanistan or Iraq, their leave starts not when they arrive home but often after several days delay in trying to get home. Under our plans, the leave clock would not start ticking until they arrive back on British soil. This is a common sense idea that will make a big difference to the lives of our brave troops and their families.
"I think this is fair for our troops. They should be able to predict how long their leave is going to be rather than having to spend it on an aeroplane and on air bases a long way from home."
Liam Fox has warned regularly in his capacity as Shadow Defence Secretary of how under-funded the armed forces have been, noting in March that the army, air force and navy are now sufficiently small that every single serviceman will be able to fit into the new Wembley Stadium.
Cameron has explained to Dylan Jones how as Prime Minister he would handle the issue of military overstretch, so that the resources available to our armed forces genuinely reflect our nation’s commitments:
“There is a very strong case for a bigger army, and this will sound like a fudge but it isn’t meant to be: what we need is a defence review based on our national security, not on Treasury guidelines, and that will tell us either that we need to reduce the commitments that we have or we need to increase spending.”