Armed forces signal surrender

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THE ARMED forces were resigned to the Government's 1.5 per cent pay award last night. 'Given the current economic climate we can't grumble. The fact is that people are taking pay cuts in the private sector to stay in work. We're not doing that,' one soldier said. The forces do not think the award will affect recruiting or retention of trained troops.

'The general feeling seems to be that at a time when even the Queen is having to pay income tax, there is no point in grumbling,' another source said.

There was also a feeling that the Queen is not risking her life in Northern Ireland or Bosnia. Nor are her conditions of service the same as those of the forces who swear loyalty to her.

As the House of Commons defence committee heard last week, the Scots Guards serving in Northern Ireland worked an average 113-hour week. The 2nd Battalion, The Light Infantry went to Northern Ireland four times in two years and one battalion spent 260 nights out of bed (NOOBs) in a year.

'The view is that we must play our part and take it on the chin like everyone else as times are hard,' one officer said.

By the standards of other professions, the armed forces are not badly paid. With the 1.5 per cent pay increase an Army lieutenant - a 'graduate trainee', in effect - gets pounds 16,677- pounds 18,425 a year; a lieutenant-colonel, in his or her late 30s or early 40s, gets pounds 37,518- pounds 41,475. A warrant officer earns pounds 17,637- pounds 24,524 - about the same as an Army captain; the most junior ranks pounds 8,001- pounds 13,848.

The 1.5 per cent increase applies to all ranks from naval rating, private or airman up to 'one-star' level, a senior Navy captain, brigadier or air commodore.

However, senior officers (rear- admirals, major-generals and air vice-marshals and above) will receive a 2.9 per cent rise from 1 April - the second stage of last year's award based on recommendations from the Top Salaries Review Body.

The 1.5 per cent pay decision had been widely expected following the Autumn Statement. However, it has led to the resignation of Professor John White, 68, one of eight members of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body.