If only one half of the facts concerning accommodation for the military uncovered by The Commons Defence Select Committee in its report (See The Times here) are correct, it would represent a scandal of monumental proportions.

There is perhaps nothing more corrosive to morale than that the families of servicemen serving abroad on active service in areas where there is some of the fiercest fighting since the Korean War should be left behind living in the kind of housing described in the report. The serviceman himself will, because that is the way he or she is built, put up with very considerable amounts of personal discomfort. But if he thinks that his family is having to live in a modern slum then he is unlikely to give of his very best as his mind will often be distracted and his long-term morale will dip. In time he will say’ enough’ and take himself and his family out of the service.

No wonder our Armed Services are suffering from a recruitment and retention problem!

It really is no use Bob Ainsworth, Armed Forces Minister, bleating about us how much money is to be spent in the future. The problem is here and now and the leeching of servicemen and servicewomen is happening now as a result of ten years of neglect. The condition of service housing has deteriorated alarmingly on Labour’s watch and the current problem is down to their failure properly to monitor the condition of the properties into which service personnel families are shoved without a care.

This is criminal neglect of the condition of our armed forces on a grand scale, a neglect contempt for which is reflected by the popularity of the British Legion’s “Broken Covenant” (see here).

Liam Fox is rightly on the case, but he should keep at it until the Government take emergency steps to improve the lot of servicemen and their families.

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