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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 January 2007, 09:03 GMT
General condemns forces housing
Picture of barracks sent in by soldier
Sir Freddie says the state of some barracks is of a "poor standard"

The Army's personnel chief has pledged to fight for better housing for soldiers and their families.

The adjutant-general, Lt Gen Freddie Viggers, told BBC News that defence chiefs must "fight our corner... to get our families what they deserve".

He spoke after BBC News received photos of barracks and shower blocks with cracked walls, mildew and broken pipes.

The government said it accepted accommodation was "not perfect, and that we need to improve it".

Conservative leader David Cameron said the government should do more to improve living conditions for forces families.

Last month, outgoing Army head Gen Sir Mike Jackson said some forces accommodation was "frankly shaming".

Lt-Gen Viggers
It's a key issue in what we call the military covenant - giving our soldiers and their families what they deserve in return for what they do for us
Lt Gen Freddie Viggers

"The issue we have is that there is still too much accommodation which is of a poor standard, which is old, and which is not modern in the way it's fitted for families," Gen Viggers said.

"It's a key issue in what we call the military covenant - giving our soldiers and their families what they deserve in return for what they do for us."

People "must understand how poor some of this accommodation is", he added.

"Our duty now is to fight our corner, in defence, to get for our families what they deserve."

BBC defence correspondent Paul Wood said Gen Viggers was the latest in a long line of senior officers to speak out publicly because they felt they were not winning the argument within Whitehall.

'Depressed and demoralised'

Jennifer James, the mother of a young soldier who e-mailed pictures of his "shocking" barracks, said: "We treat prisoners better than our soldiers."

Picture of barracks sent in by soldier
Jennifer James said her son wished he could leave his barracks

Her son said many soldiers were left "depressed and demoralised" because of the poor state of their housing, she added.

"He complains about the smell, the puddles and water on the floor from the leaking toilets.

"He just wishes he could get out of there."

Defence Minister Derek Twigg said the government had "a sustained programme of investment in accommodation".

"We've spent £700m last year in improving service accommodation," he added.

They do so much for us and frankly we should do more for them
David Cameron

"We recognise there is a challenge, we recognise that the accommodation is not perfect and that we need to improve it."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Cameron said: "They do so much for us and frankly we should do more for them."

Exposed wiring
Gary Durban sent this picture of his family's accommodation in Bicester

He said the Tories planned to announce a "manifesto for forces families" addressing issues such as housing and education.

Mr Cameron also called for urgent action to improve accommodation for service people at Brize Norton, which is in his constituency.

Douglas Young, of the British Armed Forces Federation, which represents forces staff, said there were big variations in standards of accommodation.

Some very good work was being done to upgrade accommodation but all accommodation should be brought up to that standard, he said.

Speaking last month, Sir Mike Jackson hit out at a "Kafka-esque situation whereby the MoD congratulates itself on achieving an accommodation improvement plan defined by itself on what it calls affordability, but which is far from what is defined by the needs of soldiers and their families".


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