Good to see the Telegraph at least is keeping the pressure up....... link below: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2006/10/07/cmarmy07.xml For Queen, country and less than the minimum wage (Filed: 07/10/2006) Ministry of Defence figures on the pay of front line forces' personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan just don't add up, says Alison Steed Thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen, risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, could get a pay rise after the Government was embarrassed into reviewing pay and conditions. The Daily Telegraph revealed earlier this week that members of the Armed Forces are being paid less than the national minimum wage, which rose for other employees to Â£5.35 an hour this week. Underpaid and over there: British soldiers in Basra Yet squaddies overseas are being paid less than Â£3 an hour as their basic salary, even when certain additional "bonuses" are taken into account. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is exempt from paying forces personnel the minimum wage, putting our soldiers, sailors and airmen in the same league as prisoners, one of the few other groups denied this right. However, the MoD claimed this week that a review of "remuneration" has been going on for "some while", although it was unable to confirm when the review started. It will be completed "within weeks", said a spokesman. He added: "The entire Armed Forces remuneration package is being reviewed to make sure it is appropriate for the future. So it is going to take into account the need to recruit, motivate and retain staff." A private is paid Â£15,166 a year, but this figure includes an additional payment equal to 13 per cent of their "base" salary called an "x-factor". This "bonus", amounting to Â£1,745 of their annual salary, is designed to compensate for conditions specific to the Armed Forces, such as being mobilised at short notice. Taking this off the annual salary gives a squaddie a "base" salary of just Â£13,421. If soldiers were working 12-hour days in a combat zone, this would mean their "base" pay would be Â£3.07 an hour, according to calculations by Mike Warburton, a leading accountant at Grant Thornton. But they are more likely to be working 16-hour days at least, which takes the figure down to just Â£2.30 an hour. Given that the fighting in some areas of Iraq is constant, even more experienced personnel would not be paid the minimum wage if they are considered to be working 24 hours a day. Mr Warburton said: "These people in the front line have to work whatever is required. The Taliban do not stop shooting overnight, or at weekends." An additional payment of Â£6.02 a day, known as a Longer Separation Allowance, is also paid to those in a war zone, although there is a qualifying period for this. The MoD was unable to confirm what this was when asked. Even if this additional payment is taken into account, Mr Warburton calculated that to be paid the minimum wage, privates in a war zone would have to be working just 62 hours a week â about nine hours a day. A 16-hour day equates to 112 hours a week. The MoD spokesman said simplistic comparisons between a private's pay and the minimum wage "can be misleading". He added: "A soldier is paid an annual wage which is not dependent upon their working hours, or on whether or not they deploy on operations. In making comparisons it is therefore important to look at their working pattern over the full year upon which their salary is based." The spokesman said operational tours are normally six months long, and followed by 28 days' leave in addition to the normal leave allowance. He added: "Based on a working year that includes an operational tour of six months, a junior private's salary still equates to more than the minimum wage for the number of hours he will have worked during the year." However, Mr Warburton said he did "not understand this argument" as "the minimum wage is not worked out on an annual basis". It sets the minimum hourly wage. He added that forces personnel based overseas also have to pay UK tax and National Insurance, no matter where they are or for how long. An employee of, say, BP would not have to pay either if he worked overseas on a contract for a full tax year. Mr Warburton added: "If you are a member of the Armed Forces, serving in Iraq, being paid below the minimum wage and having bullets fired at you seven days a week, you also have the privilege of paying income tax and National Insurance on those earnings. This seems disgracefully unfair." The MoD said its pay review was also looking into whether troops overseas should be paying tax in the UK, but added that it is not clear-cut. He said: "They are going to be looking [at] whether to introduce operational pay, and if it is deemed appropriate they will question HM Revenue & Customs again about the fact that pay is taxable wherever they are deployed. "There is no expectation they will change their position, and it is possible the change would not be beneficial for personnel, as they would be taxed in their host country." David Laws, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for work and pensions, said it would be "totally unacceptable" for members of the Armed Forces to be earning below the minimum wage. It would also "be in direct breach of ministerial undertakings when the legislation was passed". He added: "There should be a full investigation into this issue to establish how many of the members of the Armed Forces are receiving less than the national minimum wage. Any shortfall should be resolved as soon as possible."