PM pledges to do more for serving troops

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown said the Government would do "everything in our power" to improve conditions for the armed forces after General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army, compared the pay of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to that of traffic wardens.

General Dannatt called for above-inflation pay rises to make up for service personnel falling behind on earnings and for more spending on their welfare and housing.

The Prime Minister said a White Paper would be published within weeks setting out the help available to troops. He said: "We will do everything in our power in the years to come to recognise the great individual contribution that is made by all the members of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force."

Mr Brown said the armed forces had been given above-inflation pay awards for the past two years, with more junior ranks receiving a 9 per cent rise last year and having their council tax reduced or removed while in theatre.

An Army briefing paper last month warned that increasing numbers were being forced to leave the service because they could not afford to bring up a family on their wages. Speaking during a tour of Afghanistan, General Dannatt said: "You look to see how much a traffic warden is paid and compare that against what a private soldier gets paid.

"I'd like to see service pay go up above inflation for the next couple of years and keep going up if this level of commitment continues. Servicemen go on operations knowing they are putting their lives on the line. It is very hard to put a price on that."

Union leaders said General Dannatt was making unfair comparisons. Paul Mahoney, of the GMB union, said: "Many traffic wardens are only paid the national minimum wage of around £11,000 a year and any extra has to be earned with very long overtime hours. The GMB is not against our armed forces being properly paid, but the generals who are putting forward the case need to make sure they are comparing like with like."

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