Wounded soldiers' 'jobs at risk'

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond at an Armistice Day ceremony with UK troops in Afghanistan
Image caption The leak made the news on the day that millions of people honoured war dead for Armistice Day

Soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq could be made redundant as part of tens of thousands of armed forces job cuts, a leaked army memo suggests.

Wounded personnel were not part of 1,000 army redundancies earlier this year but could feature in coming cuts.

The memo seen by the Daily Telegraph suggests there could be 16,500 army cuts - up from 12,000 earlier reported.

The Army says no wounded personnel will be made to leave until their recovery means it "is the right decision".

The Telegraph reports that the memo suggests as many as 2,500 wounded soldiers could be made redundant in the next round of military cuts, as the military makes tens of thousands of job cuts by April 2015.

The document is thought to have been authored by a junior officer.

'Embarrassing timing'

The Telegraph reports that it has "been seen by soldiers serving on the front line in Afghanistan, who are outraged that they could be made redundant if they are wounded".

The BBC's defence correspondent Jonathan Beale described the timing of the leak as "deeply embarrassing" for the Ministry of Defence, "just as the nation remembers the sacrifices of those who have and are still fighting on the front line".

Following the leak, a Ministry of Defence statement said: "The Army is still considering the criteria including size and shape for Tranche 2 and any subsequent redundancy and nothing has yet been agreed."

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

Earlier reports had suggested that the second tranche would add 5,000 to that number, but the new memo seems to challenge that figure.

However housing minister Grant Shapps dismissed the document.

He told Sky News: "We have announced to the House of Commons what will happen. There is no change to that.

"I know it's always easy to pick up on some memo that somebody junior has written and come to conclusions.

"There is no chance of these people being kicked out. That is quite misleading."

Commodore Clive Walker, joint force support commander in Afghanistan, agreed.

"These sort of things can circulate from junior officers," he said.

"It's not endorsed I don't think by the army at this stage, because I think they are just scoping all of the options that are open."

But the shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy MP said that 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.

Image caption The memo suggests as many as 2,500 soldiers wounded on the front line could be made redundant

"This weekend is about remembrance not argument.

"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.

"After all the changes to defence in the past year this would be the cruellest cut of all," he said.

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.

"And that's the case top to bottom, side to side in the MoD.

"There are lots and lots of people, fully able-bodied people, often uniformed servicemen of quite senior ranks, who you could get rid of first before you would dream of telling an injured soldier he had to move on."

But the head of Army manning, Brig Richard Nugee said wounded soldiers would not be singled out for redundancy: "There is absolutely no plan to change our treatment of service personnel who are wounded, injured or sick.

"We have been clear throughout the redundancy and have made clear in the House of Commons that 'every case of wounded, injured or sick will be assessed individually.

"No-one will leave the armed forces through redundancy or otherwise until they have reached a point in their recovery where leaving the Armed Forces is the right decision, however long it takes'."

'Call of duty'

The revelations come as the government pledges to improve access to housing for ex-services personnel.

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, said Grant Shapps.

"Our brave men and women in uniform aren't looking for sympathy and handouts, but all too often their selfless sacrifice for this country can become a major blockade on the road to a home of their own," he said.

Former British Army officer and Conservative MP Patrick Mercer said people needed to be realistic about how the Army budget was spent.

"The armed forces are not a charity.

"There comes a point when a soldier... say had been too badly injured particularly do their combat job, there aren't other jobs that can be found inside the armed forces, the time comes when they must go.

"But the provisions for them leaving the armed forces must be very, very carefully handled."

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