Phone bills for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq will be slashed to help officers stay in touch with their loved ones, the Government said today.
Officers in war zones will now get 30 minutes of free calls to anywhere in the world.
Defence Secretary Des Browne said: "This funding boost will ensure that though our brave boys and girls may be far from home, they can always be in touch with their loved ones."
I presume that they don't just mean 'officers' but the journalist at PA was struggling to find another adjective, and what's this with the 'brave boys and girls'? They haven't managed to go to the loo all by themselves for the first time, they're out in a war zone risking their lives which is more than that pompous ass Des Browne is doing.
So, after 11 years of pretty shoddy treatment for the armed forces, now they get to ring home free for 30 minutes.
However, troops who are based outside of the UK and sent to Afghan or similar are flown back to their base and not home.
Troops from the Royal Welch Fusiliers based in Cyprus are given only £250 a year to pay for their flights back to the UK, despite a return fare costing at least £300 a time.
Yet despite the battalion being on on standby for short term deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq they are having to fund their own flights out of dwindling pay cheques.
The MoD provide free flights on RAF craft but soldiers rarely use them as they are infrequent and the men can be removed from the flight even after they have checked in.
The whole of the 1st battalion based in Cyprus has seen active service in Afghanistan, where it has been estimated that the risk of dying on the front line is a 1 in 36 chance. The troops are undertaking high intensity operations against Taliban forces on a daily basis and three of the force suffered severe injuries.
This question was raised with the Secretary of State for Defence by UKIP MP Bob Spink who asked,
the Secretary of State for Defence whether there are circumstances in which service personnel are required to pay (a) in part and (b) in entirety for an air ticket to return to the UK following the end of a tour of active service abroad.
Bob Ainsworth replied:
MOD fully funds the cost both of travel from and return to the UK for service personnel posted abroad on active duty (including on operations). In addition, personnel serving abroad are entitled to claim Get You Home (Overseas) which assists with the cost of one leave return journey to the UK per assignment year from their overseas duty station.
So basically, what the Armed Forces Minister is saying is that they don't fund service personnel to return to their families if they are based outside the UK apart from a token amount for one flight. That's nice of them.
No wonder the forces have problems with retention.