MoD denies further Army job losses

 

The Ministry of Defence was forced today to deny claims in a leaked Army memo that many more soldiers faced the axe than previously announced - including personnel injured in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In an embarrassing disclosure on the eve of Remembrance Sunday, a classified document obtained by the Daily Telegraph suggested 2,500 wounded troops would not be exempt from the axeing of up to 16,500 posts..

Wounded soldiers who had been "temporarily downgraded" would "not be exempt" and those too injured or sick to return to service would be "looked at in more detail", it said.

The MoD dismissed it as the "factually incorrect" work of a junior officer however and said there were no plans to change the level of cuts to the armed forces set out in the summer.

Nor was there been any change to the treatment of injured personnel, it insisted, who were protected from the cuts until they "reached a point in their recovery where leaving the Armed Forces is the right decision".

The memo said 350 soldiers who had lost limbs in action would not be spared consideration for redundancy, a move which shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy would be "the cruellest cut of all".

It emerged as Philip Hammond flew back from his first visit as Defence Secretary to troops in Afghanistan and amid preparations for the annual ceremony in honour of the war dead at the Cenotaph and across the country.

An MOD spokesman said: "The information in this leaked Army memo from a junior officer is incorrect.

"Beyond those already announced, there are no further Army reductions planned. There is absolutely no plan to change our treatment of Service personnel who are wounded, injured or sick.

"Personnel injured on operations will not be included in the redundancy process while they are undergoing medical treatment.

"No one will leave the Armed Forces until they have reached a point in their recovery that is right for them."

More than 900 soldiers were among 2,870 service personnel who lost their jobs in the first round of redundancies earlier this year - with future tranches yet to be announced as the military drastically reduces numbers.

The news overshadowed efforts by the Government to demonstrate its commitment to the military by renewing promises to make it easier for personnel to secure accommodation after they leave the services.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said allowing them to jump social housing waiting lists and granting priority for first-time buyer scheme would help recognise their sacrifice and ease barriers they left many homeless.

Dismissing the claims in the memo, he told Sky News there was "no chance" of the original reduction plans being changed and dismissed the leaked document as "some memo that somebody junior has written".

He told Sky News: "It's always easy to pick up on some memo that somebody junior has written and come to conclusions.

"There is no chance of this changing and this weekend of all weekends what we should be doing is honouring those have fought for our country."

Head of Army planning, Brigadier Richard Nugee, said: "We have been clear throughout the redundancy and have made clear in the House of Commons that 'every case of wounded, injured or sick will be assessed individually. No-one will leave the Armed Forces through redundancy or otherwise until they have reached a point in their recovery where leaving the Armed Forces is the right decision, however long it take'."

And speaking at Camp Bastion, the main UK base in Helmand province, Commodore Clive Walker, commander of Joint Force Support in Afghanistan, said: "I think it was a draft memo and these sort of things can circulate from junior officers.

"It's not endorsed I don't think by the army at this stage, because I think they are just scoping all of the options that are open." PA

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