http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/28427.html More back stabbing, I would love to know who sends these lists Army puts 286 NCOs in the firing line IAN BRUCE and MICHAEL SETTLE THE Army intends to make almost 300 of its most experienced warrant officers, sergeants, and corporals redundant in early 2006 as part of a plan to slash costs and manpower. The Herald has seen a draft copy of a Defence Council instruction which details a still-unannounced move to axe 286 senior NCOs, including some in Scottish units, to help reduce frontline strength by 1500 men. Commanding officers have also been issued with lists of soldiers approaching the 12-year service point of their careers, the stage at which their pensions become more expensive. Military sources say the lists, sent out as manning control advisory instructions, are aimed at pressurising men into leaving early to avoid the stigma of being sacked. One veteran said yesterday: "Those who jump before being pushed save the MoD around Â£200,000 apiece in pension payments over the long haul. It is redundancy by stealth without the cash compensation." Ivor Caplin and Adam Ingram, junior defence ministers, are both on parliamentary record as stating that manning control was not being used as a means of ridding the army of surplus soldiers. They have also stated there were no plans to reintroduce the system, officially abandoned two years ago because it could contravene both UK and EU employment regulations. However, Mr Caplin has now admitted in a reply to a written parliamentary question manning control lists have been sent out to regiments up to 10 times over the past 18 months. The lists are compiled by the Army's pay and personnel centre at Kentigern House in Glasgow and identify soldiers approaching pensionable milestones at six, nine, and 12 years' service. Paul Keetch, the Lib-Dem defence spokesman who asked the question, said yesterday: "The MoD's answer does not make sense. Why are they still sending out lists for a policy they claim to have abandoned? "If this is a means of pressurising men into leaving early, then it should be challenged publicly. It would make more sense at a time when the Army is overstretched and may have to reinforce the garrison in Iraq, that attention should be paid to improving morale and retention of key personnel rather than looking for cheap ways to discharge them." More than 1400 soldiers have already signed up for a joint class action against the MoD, alleging unfair dismissal and intimidation by officers who tried to bully them into signing voluntary discharge papers or short-term contracts which reduced their pension entitlements. An MoD spokesman said: "The lists of soldiers approaching key career points are sent out as a matter of routine. Their commanding officers are not obliged to act on them. We have no intention of using manning control at the moment, but reserve the right to do so if necessary." Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, announced in July that four regiments, including one in Scotland, were to be disbanded to cut costs and produce an overall manpower reduction of 1500. General Sir Mike Jackson, chief of the general staff, yesterday made clear that he believes the scrapping would go ahead despite widespread protests. In an interview, Britain's top soldier said: "Yes, people are going to be sad. I daresay some people will say: 'Bloody man Jackson, why is he doing this?' That is the heart talking. The head will say, once we have got from A to B, although it's a pretty uncomfortable road sometimes, it will be more than worth it." He claimed that the planned changes to larger regiments would result in a more flexible and capable fighting force to meet the more unpredictable threats of terrorism and civil war. European Union defence ministers have to set up 13 elite battlegroups by 2007 to arm the bloc with rapid intervention forces to snuff out incipient international crises. Henk Kamp, the Dutch defence minister, said the 1500-strong battlegroups would give the EU "credible, rapidly deployable, coherent force packages." The main aim will be early deployment before tension develops into a full-blown crisis, but they could also be used for conventional peacekeeping or humanitarian operations.