MoD dismisses wounded soldiers redundancy plan

Philip Hammond: "The so-called leaked document frankly is incorrect"

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A leaked memo suggesting injured soldiers could lose their jobs has been dismissed by the Ministry of Defence.

The document, seen by the Daily Telegraph, suggests 2,500 wounded personnel could go as part of 16,500 Army job losses - up from 12,000.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the memo, written by a junior army officer, was "incorrect".

Labour leader Ed Miliband said it was the government's duty to "do right by our armed forces".

The document is thought to have been distributed to commanders in Afghanistan.

Some 7,000 army troops will be laid off as part of the first tranche of redundancies, which has already begun.

The Army announced in September it would be telling about 920 people they would be made redundant as part of the cuts.

Defence job cuts by 2015

  • 12,000 Army
  • 5,000 Navy
  • 5,000 Royal Air Force
  • 32,000 civilian staff

Earlier reports had suggested the second tranche would add 5,000 to that number by April 2015, but the new memo puts the figure much higher.

But Mr Hammond said: "We haven't changed our position, my predecessor announced the reductions in force numbers that the Army will achieve over the remainder of this decade to 2020.

"We have no plans to change those numbers. Anyone who is injured and who is receiving medical treatment will not be considered in any way for inclusion in a redundancy programme until after their treatment is complete."

A Ministry of Defence statement said the Army was "still considering the criteria including size and shape for Tranche 2 and any subsequent redundancy, and nothing has yet been agreed."

Analysis

The timing of this leak is clearly deeply embarrassing for both the British Army and the Ministry of Defence, just as the entire nation remembers the sacrifices made by those who serve on the front line.

Though the MoD has all but disowned the memo, it does highlight some of the painful decisions that will have to be made as the Army tries to reduce its strength by 20,000 troops by the end of the decade.

It may have been written by a relatively junior officer, a captain, but it was still distributed to commanders on the ground. There are difficult decisions to be made.

How does a shrinking army deal with the hundreds of soldiers who have been injured and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The Army's promised that they will be helped in their recovery, and as they make the transition to civilian life.

The hope is that many will agree to be medically discharged, but the Army does not want to disown those who have served on the front line.

But an army needs soldiers who are fit to fight on the front line. And controversial decisions will have to be made.

The Chief of the General Staff, Sir Peter Wall, said: "The Army is reducing in size over the next few years and a redundancy programme, although deeply regrettable, is unavoidable.

"Those injured on operations will continue to get the best medical treatment and after-care the Army and the nation can provide. There is no question of wounded soldiers being made redundant whilst their recovery is best served by remaining in the Army."

He said the Telegraph story was a "distortion of the facts".

Soldiers 'outraged'

Commodore Clive Walker, joint force support commander in Afghanistan, said the army was "just scoping all of the options that are open".

But the Telegraph reports that the memo has "been seen by soldiers serving on the front line in Afghanistan, who are outraged".

The mother of Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, who lost both legs and suffered brain damage from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2006, said wounded personnel should not be forced out too soon.

"It's very difficult if you are not fit enough to return to your army job but you aren't fit enough to return to a physical career outside of the Army, then what is there for you?" said Diane Dernie.

"And surely in an organisation the size of the MoD, there must be some leeway to employ some of those who are wounded who want to remain in service."

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said the government's "strategic shrinkage" of the armed forces was "being done by stealth".

He said: "No-one should be sacked because they are seriously injured while defending our country.

"This weekend is about remembrance not argument.

M Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, carrying out Operation Volcano in Northern Helmand Province, Afghanistan The memo suggested as many as 2,500 soldiers wounded on the front line could be made redundant

"The government should be doing everything in its power to support people in to new roles in the forces, in the MoD or to a new career outside of defence.

Former Royal Navy officer Lewis Page said other cuts should be made before injured soldiers were targeted: "The Royal Navy has enormous numbers of senior officers bluntly sitting around not doing anything that possibly justifies their rank and pay."

The leak came as the government pledges to improve access to housing for ex-services personnel.

Housing minister Grant Shapps told Sky News they should be prioritised on social housing waiting lists and government first-time buyer schemes, and there should be increased funding to adapt homes for wounded personnel and to stop so many ending up sleeping rough.

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