Up to 60 service personnel are now dead as a result of Gordon Brown’s failure to fund adequate equipment, the chairman of a Conservative commission has claimed
Frederick Forsyth, the author who was asked by David Cameron to chair an inquiry into the military covenant, said that the Prime Minister should take direct responsibility for kit failures because of his actions while Chancellor.
Speaking at the launch of the Commission’s interim report, he warned that the treatment of servicemen and women generally was “inadequate” in virtually every respect.
But the issue of equipment was paramount, because it could mean the difference between life and death.
“What has angered me is to see fine young men coming home in boxes draped in a flag who should never have died at all and died because they were required to go in harm’s way with crap equipment,” he said.
“If you add them all together, you are looking at 50 to 60 young men. That angers me because we have the money in this country.
“We have seen 10 years of the most unbelievable frittering away of billions on schemes that never work by a chancellor who repeatedly refused and refused to recognise that, with two vicious wars going on, we needed extra funds.
“There is a responsibility here, there is a blame here and there ought to be a guilt here, which they don’t feel.”
Mr Forsyth’s figures are thought to be based on the findings of inquests into the deaths soldiers killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan in which coroners have suggested that their injuries might not have proved fatal had the deceased been properly equipped.
As first disclosed in The Daily Telegraph, the Commission has come up with recommendations on a range of issues relating to the military covenant – the pact between service personnel and the public which ensures troops are properly looked after to reflect the sacrifices they make for their country.
They include a number of suggestions for improving life for military families, so troops can be assured that their loved ones are looked after while they are serving abroad.
The commission, which also included Simon Weston, the Falklands veteran, found that military overstretch was having a big impact on service families’ lives, with gaps between tours of duty frequently shorter than they should be.
Accommodation was often sub-standard and in some cases “shameful” and forces families lost out in terms of healthcare because they were moved to the bottom of NHS waiting lists every time they were relocated to a new base.
There was a sense of “estrangement” between the forces and civilian life, because fewer citizens had personal links with the military.
The final report is due in September, and while its findings will not necessarily become official Tory policy, Mr Cameron is thought likely to adopt most of the recommendations.
Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, welcomed the Commission’s interim findings, but admitted it was not yet clear whether a Conservative government would have the available funds to meet the recommendations within a short space of time.
The Government claimed that many of the concerns raised in the report were already being addressed.
Bob Ainsworth, the Armed Forces Minister, said: “Having announced our intention to publish a White Paper on support for our Armed Forces in November last year, we have been working across government to improve the help we give to our people, their families and veterans.
“I note the Tories are following in our wake and have highlighted areas that I have already repeatedly been discussing with Government colleagues.
“Ahead of publication, I can’t give too much away about the White Paper – I am however determined that it will ensure that families and servicemen and women are not disadvantaged by their service.”