Friday, 12 November 2010

Forces Covenant - where has it gone?

Today's Times carried a letter from the Chairman of the Forces Pension Society that the widows of Service personnel are going to be financially worse off following government changes to indexation of public sector pension schemes. Changes to pension indexation announced in the emergency budget on 22 June 2010 affect all public service pensions. The Forces Pension Society is calling for the Armed Forces to be exempt from these changes.

The reply from the MOD mandarins is that it is not possible to treat the Armed Forces differently from other public servants. To do so would be unfair on those who do similar worthy and in some cases dangerous jobs. Furthermore, attempting to retrospectively change previous pension schemes would cost billions of pounds. It is a prohibitive cost that could not be justified, especially given the current financial situation.

Now, here is a funny thing - the letter appears in the actual paper but not in full on the Times On Line internet version. I wonder why this is - can it be related to the contents of the Chairman's letter? He points out that the comparison with civil servants is fallacious. The Services never strike, have no union representation, can be sent into a war zone at no notice and may be killed, crippled or mentally and physically damaged by their experiences. He goes on to say that Cameron extolled the Services at every opportunity but his words have a hollow ring unless he instructs his Ministers do not understand and show no intention of wanting to do so. I suppose that the situation was surrendered during the review in exchange for ships we do not need and will not have for some years ahead.

It was exactly this sort of similar but different status of the Army that was meant to be addressed by The Military Covenant. This is very clear -
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 the same way the unique nature of military land operations means that the Army differs from all other institutions, and must be sustained and provided for accordingly by the Nation.

This mutual obligation forms the Military Covenant between the Nation, the Army and each individual soldier; an unbreakable common bond of identity, loyalty and responsibility which has sustained the Army throughout its history. It has perhaps its greatest manifestation in the annual commemoration of Armistice Day, when the Nation keeps covenant with those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives in action.

Army Doctrine Publication Volume 5
Note that this was published as a official Army Doctrine. Cameron cannot claim he does not know it."In March 2008, David Cameron set up a commission to examine the health of the military covenant and how Government and society can better support the Armed Forces." On his very first visit to Afghanistan as PM he said
"What you are doing here will never be forgotten. It is great and important work. You are incredibly brave and professional in what you do. I stand here as your prime minister wanting to tell you from the bottom of my heart that you should be proud of yourselves and what you do because your country is incredibly proud of you."
So, more of what the Army calls bullshit and the rest of the nation might regard as just another set of lies.

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