Guardian Cutback Story

#1
http://www.guardian.co.uk/military/story/0,11816,1298020,00.html

MoD cuts spending on soldiers and families as arms bill soars

David Hencke and Richard Norton-Taylor
Monday September 6, 2004
The Guardian

The human cost for military personnel and their families of defence cost-cutting and huge overspends on weapons has been revealed in leaked minutes seen by the Guardian.
The Ministry of Defence is so short of cash it is axing investment in playground equipment for the children of service personnel. It is also scrapping orders for power showers in barracks. Meanwhile, billions of pounds are being ploughed into long-delayed projects such as the Eurofighter.

The scale of the problem is revealed in classified minutes of a meeting earlier this year chaired by Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin, the army's adjutant general. The minutes reflect mounting anger inside the services, highlighted by General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the army, who recently described the state of some barracks as appalling. The minutes said defence property was at the "greatest risk, with the overall position worsening".

Some of the strongest criticism is reserved for cuts to the education budget, which provides schools for overseas troops' families in Germany. Up to £2.65m is to be cut from budgets over the next two years, with the main savings on plans to refurbish school playgrounds and recruit teaching staff. The minutes record that this was a "high pain" measure.

According to the minutes, David Wadsworth, chief executive of the education service, said he was "bitterly disappointed" and wanted to talk directly to Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, about the cuts. He had to be restrained from approaching Mr Hoon by Gen Irwin. Ministers will have to make final decisions on where to wield the axe.

The cuts to the housing budget are also highlighted in the latest annual report of the defence housing executive which has been placed in the Commons in the summer recess. It reveals that the MoD is under pressure to impose cuts by delaying refurbishment programmes.

A scheme to demolish and rebuild Tidworth barracks in Hampshire is behind schedule and four other schemes to improve service personnel homes in Chicksands, Cottesmore, Credenhill and Marchwood have also been delayed. Chicksands, in Wiltshire, will be the new headquarters of the intelligence corps.

Some other schemes are now to be developed using the Treasury's private finance initiative, including the refurbishing of 600 homes at Brize Norton. A spokesman said the schemes would be "up and running" soon, although a defence official said yesterday that such projects were not considered to be of "immediate priority".

They admit that other projects which are important to improve the quality of service life are also being delayed, including a long-standing aim to provide every soldier with a single room with a shower. Training exercises have also been cut.

The Treasury agreed this summer to increases in the defence budget from £29.7bn to £33.4bn in three years. But most of this is earmarked for pay or new prestige equipment projects. The items likely to be cut account for a fraction of the cost of delays to high- profile equipment projects for the army, navy and RAF.

In July, the Commons defence committee found that the armed forces were being let down by endemic and systemic problems in procuring weapons systems. According to the MPs' report, average delays on big projects have reached 18 months with annual cost increases totally more than £3bn.

The first Eurofighter, renamed Typhoon, was delivered to the RAF in 2003, four and a half years late. The project is forecast to cost £19bn, compared to the original estimate of £16.7bn - and the MoD is likely to incur further costs by modifying the fighter into a ground attack aircraft.

Other delayed projects include the Astute nuclear-powered attack submarine - three and a half years late and costing £3.5bn, compared to the original estimate of £2.6bn - and the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft. Its cost has risen to £3.5bn from £2.8bn, and it is forecast to be six years late.

The MoD will not say how much it is having to pare down and cut other projects designed to improve the ordinary soldier's quality of life. A spokeswoman also declined to reveal full details of the cuts to schools.
Enough is enough. Any block or MFQ defects - drop a line to your unit health and safety officer, put in a redress, threaten legal action on the grounds of health and safety, get the missus to write to the press. Then, post 2005, use the Freedom of Information Act to get hold of any minutes, letters or policy regarding cuts. Publish these and let's see TCH's party get the kicking they deserve at the election. No serviceman or woman, or their relatives or family, should vote Labour.

I was in charge of an ORs block some years ago and the only way to get anything done was to leave the offending article in a glaringly obvious state of disrepair at CO's inspection time - broken doors off hinges, slime-filled showers. They would then get fixed post-haste! I thought we were moving away from this state of affairs, but we are obviously regressing in our treatment of the troops and their standard of living!
 
#2
Interesting point here, I recall many years ago the Southern Irish defence forces had an even worse (hard to believe I know) problem than us as regards pay, equipment, training and MSQ's.

As any armed forces should never have a union, the Irish soldiers wives formed a pressure group called PDFORA (I think) as their husbands could certainly not raise a stink their wives became such a visible and very annoying thorn in the government of the days side things eventually did improve.

Food for thought? I would imagine Buff would find it rather hard to discipline such individuals. While wifes/husbands are to a degree subject to military law, the PR repercussions of directly or indirectly punishing a civilian would put the sh1ts up the ever sensitive "right on" governments of today.

Secret untouchable weapons?
 
#3
The Army Families Federation and its RAF & RN counterparts, have campaigned endlessly for improvements to FQs. The Service Families Task Force was set up partly as a result, though it seems not to be listened to by the holders of the purse strings.

The Grauniad story has all the hallmarks of Grasping Gordon setting about making the military pay for his dislike of defence spending.
 
#4
To the best of my recolection, the Irish lot were rather robust to say the least in their campaign against government tomfoolery. Some of their tactics resulted in lots of press coverage.

My concern is that existing oranisations have almost been tamed and would appear to be rather toothless, would I be correct in saying that there are various links to offical channels which would by their very nature influence and prevent anyone making too much of a fuss lest it upset the grown ups?

If you dont complain nothing changes, if they dont listen sometimnes you need to raise your voice and make them listen!!
 
#5
Mind you, they also point out that Chicksands is in Wiltshire - when I was there, it was outside Bedford... Unless they're planning on packing up the whole camp and moving it en masse... :roll:
 
#6
A scheme to demolish and rebuild Tidworth barracks in Hampshire is behind schedule and four other schemes to improve service personnel homes in Chicksands, Cottesmore, Credenhill and Marchwood have also been delayed. Chicksands, in Wiltshire, will be the new headquarters of the intelligence corps.
You can also add Blandford to that list, we have recieved notification that the much need estate upgrade has been put on hold AGAIN!!

For crying out loud I dont even have a shower in my MQ.

Luckily for me I am posted to a better estate.

Oh well back to the tin bath in front of the fire, just need to knock on next door at No2 and see if they have finished with it.
 
#7
See www.pdforra.ie for info - although it won't tell you any of what follows ...

For fans of employment law as it affects soldiers, the PDFORRA (Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks Association) is an interesting example. Membership of a union was illegal for soldiers in the Irish Army. Pay and conditions were so awful in the 1980s that the Army Wives' Association was formed. Their protests became louder and louder. Some Army wives ran for election to the Irish parliament, attracting enough votes (under Ireland's voting system, fringe parties make a bigger impact than here) to make the then government wake up.

Since 1990, the PDFORRA is a recognised union. The Defence (Amendment) Act 1990 permitted Irish soldiers to form unions. It was brought in alongside a long-overdue examination of the lousy rates of pay which soldiers were getting.

Its membership consists of soldiers themselves rather than their other halves. As Ireland's domestic politics are a bit further to the left than in Blighty, the union is accorded all sorts of consultation rights as a "social partner" in enhancing "social partnership" and other Euro-style blather.

The Government retained the right to suspend the unions' activities in times of a declared state of emergency (so no "Can't fight - I'm on me tea break, sor" excuses allowed).

Officers have their own, separate union (sound of chinless jaws dropping in arrseland ) called RACO, the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers.

There is also a union for members of the Army Reserve (officers and ORs) called RDFRA, the Reserve Defence Forces Respresentative Association.

Oddly enough, the 1990 Act was brought in by Fianna Fail, an ostensibly right-wing party. I wonder what an ostensibly left-wing party in the UK would think of it?
 
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#8
four other schemes to improve service personnel homes in Chicksands, Cottesmore, Credenhill and Marchwood have also been delayed.
They don't want to pi55 off the people who live at Credenhill :)
 
#9
Disco said:
A scheme to demolish and rebuild Tidworth barracks in Hampshire is behind schedule and four other schemes to improve service personnel homes in Chicksands, Cottesmore, Credenhill and Marchwood have also been delayed. Chicksands, in Wiltshire, will be the new headquarters of the intelligence corps.
You can also add Blandford to that list, we have recieved notification that the much need estate upgrade has been put on hold AGAIN!!

For crying out loud I dont even have a shower in my MQ.

Luckily for me I am posted to a better estate.

Oh well back to the tin bath in front of the fire, just need to knock on next door at No2 and see if they have finished with it.
Its not just the MQ's mate. The whole place is in something of an estates spending vortex.

Basic amenities in accommodation are in states of dis-repair. Doors in the old school building are rotting out of their frames and the condition of the various messes is an old and much debated subject!!! Basically the list goes on and on.

There are explanations of why this is happening, which all boil down to a lack of money. I can accept that - if the system doesnt have the money to do the repairs/upgrades, they cant be done, the funding needs to be looked at again.

It does however seem ludicrous to me. If you dont keep up with the estate management, things detereiorate into an even worse state, which costs more to put right. Surely the MOD has a duty to adaquately maintain its property? And a moral (and possibly legal) obbligation to provide satisfactory living and working accommodations for its workforce?

Sorry, i forgot, theres no money :?

Boney
 
#10
Thanks for the research Dr Evil, Unions for OR's and Officers??? 8O :x :x

I know things in Oireland can sometimes be a bit...well a bit incomprehensible but thats just ridiculous.

The interesting thing to be learned is the action the wives took. Certainly one group Buff and our senior ranks would have difficulty lecturing let alone disciplining :D
I am familiar with Fianna Fail (translation - Soldiers of Destiny 8O ) when they want to be they can be extremely right wing anyhoo I digress. The state of MSQ's etc will not be rectified unless ttere is a public outcry or enough press attention to make the powers be look useless.

As usual nothing will be done until someone or a department or a certain policy is shown to be lacking, and as we all know the only thing that achieves this is regretfully, the UK press.
 
#11
We cannot be stopped from forming or joining unions. The Human Rights Act allows "freedom of association" and there is a Council of Europe directive (alas not law) that calls on member states to allow Armed Forces personnel the right to freedom of association by forming unions (with a bar on strike action) and by allowing them to join political parties.

However, exercising said rights in the meantime may cause "career problems!" Also, unless the organisation can speak out collectively (and avoid individual punishment for unauthorised media contact) it would be pointless.
 
#12
Sorry, MrPVRd, but you're tackling me on my home ground.

You say:

We cannot be stopped from forming or joining unions. The Human Rights Act allows "freedom of association" ...
The Human Rights Act incorporates the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights in to United Kingdom law. Unfortunately, the Convention right you are talking about specifically allows for its restriction in the case of the armed forces:

Article 11 - Freedom of assembly and association

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.
Equally, as you rightly pointed out, the Council of Europe directive calling on states to allow members of the armed forces to form unions is just a recommendation. There is no sanction against states which are party to the Convention if they don't implement the recommendation.

So, for now, British servicemen and women cannot form unions. Time to get the Mrs to chain herself to the railings of the Palace of Westminster, I reckon.
 
#13
Would love some of the 'Labour activists' to see these MQs.

How do these feckers live with themselves, supporting a corrupt government that houses it's workers in conditions a 19th century Pit Boss would be ashamed of!

Only two types of people vote for the Labor party-

1. The mind numbingly stupid.

2. Those too lazy to think.
 
#14
Whether it's of interest or not I dunno, but the Irish Army relatively recenly suffered a few accidents with WMIK equipped Lannies. At least one of which was fatal.

In reaction, the O'Toms point blank refused to drive or ride in them, result:- Lannies sold at auction (first Irish defence equipment ever legally sold on) and the troops have Ford F350's....
 
#16
I'm probably setting myself up to be tied spreadeagled to a slab with a "la-ser" moving upwards, but never mind, it'll take a big beam to cut my swinging mojo off, baby! :p

The Human Rights Act incorporates the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights in to United Kingdom law. Unfortunately, the Convention right you are talking about specifically allows for its restriction in the case of the armed forces: [article 11 follows]
Do the restrictions have to be passed as primary or secondary legislation? I believe that QRs are passed by prerogative and, as such, constitute neither. Why do I make such a bold statement, other than its simply shagadelic face value? Because the MoD does not exactly have a swinging legal track record, baby!

That "la-ser" is starting to scorch my shagtastic paisley pants. Ooh, be-have!
 
#17
MrPVRd said:
Do the restrictions have to be passed as primary or secondary legislation? I believe that QRs are passed by prerogative and, as such, constitute neither. Why do I make such a bold statement, other than its simply shagadelic face value? Because the MoD does not exactly have a swinging legal track record, baby!
Nice try. So long as the restriction on the enjoyment of the right to free association is a "lawful restriction" then the UK is in the clear. It doesn't matter if the restriction arises out of primary or secondary legislation, or some wild species. States who have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights are free to make lawful restrictions in whatever way they like - be it Act of Parliament, presidential decree, or whatever.

So here, my mojo-less adversary, you have fallen victim not to my "la-ser" (currently inoperative because of a procurement problem I have encountered - never using Silvermans for this kind of thing again) but the vagaries of human rights law, which as T Blair (married to a human rights lawyer) has found, is just as good at chopping your willy off.

In any case, would allowing unions in the British Army, as the Irish have done, make a difference?

I'll let the following speak for itself. It's from p.53 of the August 2004 issue of Soldier magazine. Cpl J Dunbar, on Op Oculus, asks: "Why is our pay pants?"

PS10(A) - if that is his real name - replies:

Other ranks from Australia, Ireland and New Zealand and warrant officers from USA and officers from Ireland and USA are paid more than their UK equivalents.

However, this comparability does not include additional benefits such as the pension scheme, subsidised accommodation charges, leave entitlement and allowances such as for children's education.

It is considered that if these arrangements were incorporated into the total remuneration [ie, pay] package, the UK's position would be enhanced further.
Nice use of "considered" there. This can mean "having seen the figures, we have taken the view that all these freebies improve the UK picture". Or it can mean "we think so but don't know for sure because we haven't worked it out."

I imagine that if they knew it to be true they would say so.

In any case, it's interesting that out of all the countries they might mention, it's the Yanks (obviously, as they're rich) and the Irish who come off best.

Anyone care to draw the conclusion for me about a connection between unionisation and better pay?
 
#18
Got a call off the Labour party asking if I would like to donate £5 a month for the upcoming election 8O :evil: They promptly got told where to go and why.
 
#19
Ahh, the sequel beckons. Did Powers lose his mojo, or was it too small for the wavelength of the "la-ser"? Or did he pump it back up with the Swedish penis enlarger? How longer can this be sustained, particularly given Dr Evil's superior avatar and "evil" knowledge, perhaps from "evil" law school? Is there any other type of law school? Never mind....

Perusing QRs lately, it struck me that there is nothing to say that soldiers, sailors and airmen cannot join or form a union. It does say something along the lines of it being permitted to join a union for "professional development" purposes (RE/REME/RAF tech trades?) and that we cannot take an "active part" in the affairs of political parties - although, the Ministry of Defence has no record (PQ response) of anyone being shown the door for that heinous offence - even the turncoat Major Joyce, jock-turned-shinybum who now shines his bottom on green leather benches as a Bliar lackey!

Also, an appeal no longer stops at the House of Lords, as those in ermine are Strasbourg's bitches! Given the propensity of our NATO colleagues to allow long hair, unions and tree hugging, how can the highest court in Europe allow this to continue? The free-flowing river of edicts from Brussels and the amount of case law that is causing reversion of supposedly-watertight military procedure (summary appeal court etc) gives some hope!

Finally, there are two precedents. The cops have a long-standing federation and, mor recently, the ban on the eavesdroppers at GCHQ from joining or forming a union was quickly reversed by Neu Arbeit after the 1997 putsch! To quote Dr Evil:

This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.
So why should the Armed Forces be different from the police or the administration of the State? I think this will end up in Strasbourg one day. I am no lawyer, merely someone who watches their back and tries to seek out the forbidden and arcane knowledge! I await a suitably contrived demise at the learned hands of Dr Evil!

The major benefit from a union (with a bar on strike action, as is the case with the police and GCHQ) would be that erosions in terms and conditions of service could be fought much more effectively in the public domain. I doubt we'd get any more money, but at least sit would be possible to fight cuts such as those which initiated this thread.
 
#20
You're sapping my mojo, baby.

All I am saying is that the rules currently say that soldiers cannot form a union (take it from me, they can't) and that there is no superior rule (eg, a Convention right) which requires that they should be allowed to do so. It doesn't matter if the Government decides to let the police, lollipop ladies or whoever form a union: if the law says a ban can be imposed on the armed forces then that's the end of it.

BUT

That is not to say that I think that this is a proper state of affairs.

The bottom line is: as the Irish example shows, it is possible to change these rules by political action.

As a humorous aside, read this House of Lords debate from 1702. Er, I mean 2002 (though when you read it you'll see the reason for my mistake):


House of Lords

Tuesday, 16th April 2002.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Manchester.

Armed Forces: Trade Union Membership


Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

What rights members of the Armed Forces have under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights to form a trade union.


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach):

My Lords, Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides for a right to peaceful assembly and association, including the right to form a trade union. The article allows the position of lawful restrictions on the exercise of those rights by members of the Armed Forces.

Lord Vivian:

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his Answer. I understand that Article 10(2) provides an exemption to Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, but only if restrictions on trade union activity by members of the Armed Forces are prescribed by law with sufficient certainty in primary or secondary legislation, so as to give them sufficient clarity as to what they are and are not allowed to do. Where is that legislation laid down?

Lord Bach:

My Lords, the law that covers the Armed Forces is to be found in Queen's Regulations. Of course, that is law evolved through the Royal Prerogative rather than statute. The point about Queen's Regulations is that they have power if necessary to control the effect of Article 11, if that is how it is deemed to be used. So in the second part of my Answer, we point to the Queen's Regulations which, as the noble Lord well knows, exist for all three services.

Lord Redesdale:

My Lords, considering the number of cases at present being brought against the Ministry of Defence, does the Minister agree that the system of redress is not working as well as it should? Perhaps a review of the means of arbitration for members of the Armed Forces should be considered.

Lord Bach:

No, my Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord's suggestion. It is well known that any soldier from the least rank can ultimately have his complaint dealt with by defence counsel, if he is so inclined. That there are sometimes delays, as unfortunately there are in dealing with complaints in many fields, is true, but he has that right. Indeed, the system of complaints in the Armed Forces has been well received, so for once I must disagree with the noble Lord.

Lord Lea of Crondall:

My Lords, would my noble friend like to take this opportunity to confirm that many members of the Armed Forces are indeed members of trade unions?

Lord Bach:

My Lords, I can confirm that some are members of trade unions. The Ministry of Defence has agreements with several major trade unions and concessions with professional associations whereby service personnel may be recognised as eligible for membership. That is often regarded as an aid to eventual resettlement into civilian life. Those due to leave the services are encouraged to seek membership of an appropriate organisation. I may say in passing that doctors in the Armed Forces are members of the British Medical Association and some members of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers are also members of the appropriate trade union. That is different from saying that there is a trade union for the Armed Forces.

Lord Campbell of Alloway:

My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that this takes us back to my amendment for an opt-out for the Armed Forces? Does he also accept that Queen's Regulations are no answer to the problem posed by the Question and that it will require primary legislation, if that is the Government's wish?

Lord Bach:

My Lords, I disagree with the noble Lord at my peril, but as I understand it, either primary or secondary legislation would cover the matter.

If I may, I should like to make clear to the House that at present there appears to be no great urge on behalf of those who serve in the Armed Forces to concern themselves with whether they are members of an Armed Forces trade union. At present—I know that the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, shares my view on this—the Armed Forces are wrapped up in serious work all over the world, in particular in Afghanistan. It is perhaps more important that we think of them today than that we deal with this issue.

Lord Ashley of Stoke:

My Lords, does it not seem a reversal of the usual historic process for members of the Tory party to be advocating people's right to join trade unions? My noble friend is right to be cautious. Nevertheless, given that many of us are concerned about the problems of the Armed Forces and the controversies surrounding their health and welfare, will he reconsider the matter?

Lord Bach:

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that that seems a strange state of mind, but of course every sinner who repents will be well received both by him and by me. I stress again that the complaints and grievances procedure works pretty well. Of course, matters are raised frequently in this House, not least by my noble friend, that are matters of public importance
with which the Ministry of Defence is dealing. But on the specific matter raised by the Question, there is at present no great impetus from those who serve in our Armed Forces to take the matter further.

Lord Campbell of Croy:

My Lords, on a lighter note, if such a trade union were to be formed, can the noble Lord visualise who would be its shop stewards? Some sergeant-majors and drill sergeants would have to undergo considerable change of personality if they were to fill such roles.

Lord Bach:

My Lords, I do not know whether I agree with the noble Lord. I am not sure that there are not sergeant-majors and warrant officers who would make superb shop stewards.
You say -

Also, an appeal no longer stops at the House of Lords, as those in ermine are Strasbourg's bitches! Given the propensity of our NATO colleagues to allow long hair, unions and tree hugging, how can the highest court in Europe allow this to continue? The free-flowing river of edicts from Brussels and the amount of case law that is causing reversion of supposedly-watertight military procedure (summary appeal court etc) gives some hope!
I've already answered your question "How can the highest court in Europe allow this to continue?" It must do so, as the Convention deprives it of the power to intervene to force states to allow their armed forces to form trade unions.

By contrast, the Convention does not allow states to curtail the right to a fair trial in that way: that's why British military legal procedure got a bit of a bashing recently.
 

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