Army personnel chief targets Whitehall for failure to honour the Covenant

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Indy Politics

One of Britain's most senior army officers has voiced criticism of Whitehall officials over the Military Covenant. Speaking at a private meeting last week, Lt-Gen Sir Freddie Viggers, the Adjutant General, revealed the growing divide between the Army and the Government over the treatment that soldiers and their families get.

Lt-Gen Viggers – in charge of Army personnel and administration – said there had been problems persuading government officials of the urgency of the situation. "The Military Covenant has become a talking point in the press," he said. "I welcome this... it will help us to focus the nation's attention on what we are doing to ensure our soldiers get the recognition they so richly deserve... The debate about the Covenant has also helped us to sharpen the focus on our people in the corridors of Whitehall."

He said the Military Covenant was not broken, but was "out of balance". According to Lt-Gen Viggers, although "great strides" are being made, concerns over the care of injured soldiers have been "justified", and sub-standard army housing is the result of "years of under-investment".

He described the levels of army pay as "hampering our recruiting and retention efforts", and argued that the Army needs to be expanded. "In the longer term, we are looking to address the shortfalls in our orbat [order of battle] that operating at the current level and intensity has exposed – this will mean increasing the size of the Army."

His statements, made at the annual conference of the Army Museums Ogilby Trust last week, have not gone down well with Ministry of Defence officials. His outburst came just days before the release of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review on Tuesday. MoD expenditure is set to rise in real terms by 1.5 per cent from 2008.

But a spokesman for the British Legion warned yesterday that "the defence budget must allow for increased spending over and above that required for continuing operations, and must be adequate to meet armed forces' welfare needs."

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