Nia Griffith MP: We will deliver a better deal for our Armed Forces and their families
Labour will make sure that our personnel receive a fair pay rise every year, decent housing, and ensure value for money on outsourcing, writes Nia Griffith MP
As a country we are all proud of our dedicated Armed Forces personnel, ready at a moment’s notice to do whatever is necessary to defend the UK. Their selfless service and dedication are in evidence across the world – whether in building hospitals to fight the Ebola epidemic, combating poaching in southern Africa, or freeing civilians from the tyranny of Daesh.
But under this Government, our Armed Forces have had a raw deal. Since 2010, the Conservatives have delivered short-sighted defence cuts and failed privatisations that have let down personnel and taxpayers alike.
That is why the next Labour government will deliver a better deal for our Armed Forces and their families.
We will ensure a fair pay rise each year for our Armed Forces personnel. The Conservatives have dealt a real-terms pay cut to our servicemen and women for seven years running. This is despite the fact that the Government has increased food and accommodation charges and cut social security payments for Forces families.
Adding insult to injury, the Conservatives have also delayed the announcement about pay, leaving personnel and their families waiting months to find out how much they will have in their pay packets.
This is having a knock-on effect on the morale of our personnel, which has fallen dramatically since 2010. Two-thirds of personnel are not satisfied with their pay. The number of personnel choosing to leave the Forces is at historically high levels and pay remains one of the top reasons why personnel decide to leave.
And so Labour will make sure that our personnel receive a fair pay rise every year. And we will give a pay rise to the hardworking seafarers serving in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, who support our Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and who have also faced years of below-inflation rises.
Labour will make sure that our personnel receive a fair pay rise every year
Labour will also ensure decent, properly maintained housing that meets the specific needs of personnel and their families. There have been repeated complaints about the poor maintenance of Ministry of Defence (MoD) accommodation, which is letting down service personnel and their families.
Despite the failure associated with outsourcing maintenance to a private company, the Government seems unable or unwilling to insist on better delivery of the service. This is all part of the Conservatives’ ideological obsession with privatisation that has seen many MoD contracts outsourced to the private sector.
All too often these private contracts simply fail on their own terms. They fail to make the promised savings and they fail to deliver a good quality of service for personnel and their families.
Whether it is the persistent complaints about the quality of housing maintenance provided by contractor Amey – with personnel and their families stuck for days with leaking roofs, broken boilers and appliances that don’t work. Or the appalling performance of Capita’s Recruiting Partnership Project which is failing in its basic job of recruiting people to the Army. This in turn puts enormous pressure on existing personnel.
And so we will get to grips with the practice of outsourcing MoD services to the private sector. Upon taking office, we will carry out a root and branch review of significant service contracts that have been outsourced by the department. Where they are not delivering, where they are failing our personnel and their families, or failing to provide value for money to UK taxpayers, we will have no hesitation in bringing these contracts back in-house.
Labour will introduce a clear presumption in favour of public contracts being delivered by the public sector and we will call an immediate halt to the significant contracts that are currently being considered for outsourcing.
Those who serve our country deserve our full and unwavering support. The next Labour government will put the needs of the Armed Forces community at the very heart of what we do.
Nia Griffith is Labour MP for Llanelli and shadow defence secretary