Page last updated at 14:35 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 15:35 UK

Brown makes pledge on forces' pay

Army soldiers in Afghanistan
The government has pledged to help members of the armed forces

The prime minister says the government will do "everything in our power" to help members of the armed forces, after criticism of how much they get paid.

Mr Brown said a White Paper would set out the help available to troops in areas such as healthcare and education.

He spoke after Army chief General Sir Richard Dannatt called for pay rises above inflation for service personnel.

In an interview in the Sun, Sir Richard compared soldiers' pay with that of traffic wardens and police.

'We wish to help'

Mr Brown said: "I recognise the huge contribution that our armed forces make to the security of the country and we will continue to try to reward our armed forces for the dedication and commitment they show, often in very difficult theatres of war.

PRIVATE'S PAY
Salary at age 18: 16,227
Operational Allowance: (182 days) 2,380.56 (during six month tour of Afghanistan)
Longer Separation Allowance: (182 days) 1,132.04
Other perks including dental care and free eye tests: 510
Financial assistance for learning costs: 2,175
Subsidised living accommodation: 425.83
Estimated annual employers' pension contribution: 3,148.04
Total: 25,998.47
Source: Ministry of Defence

"We will do everything in our power in the years to come to recognise the great individual contribution that is made by all the members of the Army, the navy, and the air force."

He said that the most junior grades received a 9% pay rise last year, "and that is an indication of how we wish to help the people in our armed forces".

Earlier, in the Sun, Sir Richard said: "You look to see how much a traffic warden is paid and compare that against what a private soldier gets paid.

"If you compare a police constable on overtime, I think you will find that an individual serviceman gets quite a lot less."

He said more money must be spent on the armed forces for the UK to win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I'd like to see service pay go up above inflation for the next couple of years and keep going up if this level of commitment continues.

TRAFFIC WARDEN WAGES
Central London: About 17,000 starting wage
Outside London: About 15,000 starting wage
Figures provided by NCP

"Servicemen go on operations knowing they are putting their lives on the line. It is very hard to put a price on that."

Sir Richard also said more should be spent on troop welfare, and called for a debate on what proportion of national wealth should be spent on defence.

However, he went on to say the Army found other ways of rewarding soldiers for the risks they take, such as through medals recognising "gallantry" and "meritorious service".

'More priority'

One British soldier, who wished to remain anonymous, told BBC News no-one in the Army was looking for preferential treatment - but equal treatment would be nice.

"I knew what I was signing up for. I could go to some not-very-nice place and get killed - I did realise that. I don't necessarily say we should be treated better, but it would be nice to be treated around the same kind of level.

"You know, when you're saying that a lot of us don't even get paid as much as a traffic warden, I do, in my opinion, think their job is quite a bit easier than ours."

The Royal British Legion, a charity which supports current and ex-service people, welcomed Sir Richard's comments.

A spokesman said: "The Legion has long taken the view that an increased financial commitment to the human and welfare costs of national defence are fundamental to honouring the nation's covenant with its armed forces."

Improvements were being made, he added, but greater efforts were urgently needed, particularly over soldiers' welfare and accommodation.

Everyone always wants a pay rise. But soldiers really do need to feel appreciated
Ex-Army captain Alastair Galloway

The chairman of the defence select committee, James Arbuthnot, also said he agreed with Sir Richard.

He told BBC Radio 4's World at One the general had posed a straightforward question: "Are we giving the defence of this country - and are we giving the men and women who risk everything, their lives and everything for us - enough priority?

"And he has come to the conclusion - and I have come to the conclusion - that we have not. We need to give them more priority."

However, defence minister Derek Twigg told BBC News the comparison with traffic wardens was not fair, and troops were not doing too badly.

"Well if you look at the full package for an 18-year-old solider going out to Afghanistan, it comes out at something - with the allowances and benefits they get including the pension contribution - of around 25,000, 26,000.

"We've already seen over the last two years an above-inflation pay rise; and we'll continue to press for the best possible pay rises for our armed forces.

"But we have an independent pay review body, we took on board fully what they recommended and I see no reason to change that."

15,000 starting salary

The Ministry of Defence said pay was only one element of a soldier's salary, which included allowances for housing, food, tax relief and schooling.

HAVE YOUR SAY
When I broke down my army pay by hour, it was below the minimum wage
Rebecca, UK

An MoD spokesman said: "In February we announced a pay rise of 2.6% for all servicemen and women, which builds upon last year's award of over 9% for the most junior ranks.

"A private on their first operation will receive a minimum of 16,227, plus a 2,320 tax-free operational allowance."

According to the NCP company, which manages parking spaces around the country, the starting salary for a traffic warden is about 17,000 in London. Outside London, the starting salary is about 15,000.




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