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Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK

UK Politics

Pay cut for UK troops in Balkans

Most UK soldiers in the Balkans were based in Germany

Rory Cellan-Jones looks at soldiers' pay and the broader costs of the war
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed British soldiers transferred to the Balkans are seeing their pay cut, while their German counterparts receive a rise.

A unmarried captain in the UK army sent to work in the Kosovo conflict will see his pay fall by nearly 5 a day.

Kosovo: Special Report
At the same time, German troops are getting an extra 40 daily.

Conservative MPs have branded the situation "disgraceful" and promised to raise it in Parliament.

UK soldiers based overseas receive a Local Overseas Allowance on top of their basic salary.

The MoD admits British troops sent from German bases to Macedonia and Albania are having this bonus reduced by up to 60%.

Brits in Balkans
Most of the UK soldiers transferred to the Kosovo conflict were previously based in Germany.

Married soldiers retain 70% of their allowance, but those without spouses keep only 40%.

The pay cut takes place after troops have served 17 days in the Balkan area.

An MoD spokesman said the subject was complex and varied according to soldiers' rank.

[ image: Crispin Blunt MP:
Crispin Blunt MP: "Time to sort this out"
An unmarried captain, who gets a basic salary of 72.21 a day, receives a Local Overseas Allowance of 7.21 when in Germany.

This drops to 2.88 a day if he is transferred to Macedonia or Albania.

A married captain in Germany, on the same basic salary, would get an allowance of 13.56, which would fall to 9.79.

The grievance felt by British troops is heightened by the knowledge German soldiers are getting a bonus.

A German Defence Ministry spokesman confirmed its troops serving directly in the Kosovo conflict receive an extra 130 Deutschmarks each day - more than 40.

A British MoD spokesman said: "We're definitely not in a position to comment on pay and rates for other country's armed forces."

Conservative MP Michael Colvin told BBC News Online the government had to accept the situation was "disgraceful" and would become more apparent as multilateral forces became more common.

"I think we should be looking at it as a matter of urgency," he said, adding that he planned to table a parliamentary question on the subject.

US forces received considerable extra benefits when they were sent on overseas conflict missions, said Mr Colvin, who is a member of the Defence Select Committee.

"Even the Russians, who are paid with sacks of potatoes at home, get benefits when they are sent abroad."

He admitted the issue had not been addressed during the previous Conservative government, but said that would not deter his personal campaign.

"I don't care who's in power - we're going to go on bashing them until they get it right."

Fellow Tory Crispin Blunt, also a member of the Defence Select Committee, agreed the time had come to change the rules.

"It's a foolish annoyance that on the face of it seems unreasonable," he said.

The situation had existed for years, he said, stretching back into his own time in the armed forces 10 years ago.

"I'm surprised that we haven't found a solution," he said.

"The solution should be for soldiers to continue receiving the Local Overseas Allowance at the rate of the place they were deployed from, unless they need more in which case it should be more."

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