Men in the front line of the former Yugoslavia have had the tax-free overseas allowance, which supplements their salaries in the Rhine Army in Germany, drastically slashed on the grounds - according to the parents of one of them - that 'there was nothing in Bosnia for them to spend it on'. Other parents said the cut was 'a disgrace to this country and the Ministry of Defence'.
David Clark, Labour defence spokesman, said that it was 'absolutely outrageous that soldiers should get less in Bosnia than in Germany - if any one thing would raise morale, it would be to increase pay'. He said he would be raising the issue with the Government.
The Local Overseas Allowance, a tax-free bonus paid to soldiers serving overseas, was cut by 60 per cent for single men and by 30 per cent for those who left behind wives and children in Germany. The allowance is worth between pounds 150 and pounds 250 a month to a private soldier based in Germany.
The Ministry of Defence yesterday confirmed that the allowance had been cut for soldiers serving in Bosnia but said that this was because living expenses were not as high there as in Germany. It added that soldiers received a 75p a day gratuity from the United Nations for service. Asked if soldiers were justified in feeling they were worse off for being put in the firing line, the spokesman said: 'It's a point of view.'
An average rank private (Class 2, band 1) can expect to earn slightly less than pounds 10,000 before tax. One parent said that his son had complained that 'they were led to believe they would not suffer financially by going to Bosnia'.
This soldier, serving with the Cheshire Regiment, which has now left Bosnia, also complained that food and board were deducted from their wages while he and most of his colleagues were living in tents. The ministry said that this had been due to an administrative error.
One relative claimed that no deductions were made for food and board for six weeks, and then arrears were taken in a lump sum, leaving some soldiers owing money to the Army.
'My son was on the phone asking for food parcels and cigarettes because he had no money,' said one father. Another relative said that a soldier's regular payments into a British bank account for his family ceased when he was in Bosnia.
Four men have been detained by Bosnian authorities for the abduction of British aid workers in which Paul Goodall was shot dead, United Nations officials said yesterday.
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