Page last updated at 10:32 GMT, Thursday, 22 April 2010 11:32 UK

UK must do its duty to forces, says David Cameron

British Paratroopers from the 2nd Battalion
The Conservatives are promising better pay for the military

The UK must do its "duty" by the armed forces by providing mental health screenings for all former personnel, Tory leader David Cameron has said.

He promised help to "overcome combat stress and make the sometimes tough transition to civilian life".

The pledge comes ahead of the second leaders' TV debate, which will focus on defence and foreign affairs.

Mr Cameron and Gordon Brown are expected to attack Nick Clegg over the Lib Dem policy of not renewing Trident.

The Conservatives have published an "armed forces manifesto", which promises to "repair" the Military Covenant, the government's written promise to ensure the welfare of service personnel and their families.

'Better pay'

Mr Cameron said: "Our forces sacrifice and risk so much to do their duty by us. The least we can do in return is our duty by them.

"So if elected, a Conservative government will work from day one to improve the lives of everyone in our forces. And it will work to improve the lives of all their families.

"We will provide better pay for those on active duty and better support for all service families - with special assistance for service children whose parents are killed on active duty.

"And there will be new help to support veterans overcome combat stress and make the sometimes tough transition to civilian life."

The Tory leader, meeting former soldiers in Exeter, criticised the prime minister, saying: "Not only has he used visits to the armed forces stationed in theatres of war to publicise Labour's party political agenda, but he misled a recent public inquiry by claiming defence spending had risen every year since 1997, when the official information shows it had fallen four times in that period, despite the extension of commitments.

"Our armed forces deserve so much better."

The Conservatives' armed forces manifesto also attacks the Lib Dems as "weak and irresponsible" for ruling out a replacement for the UK's Trident nuclear deterrent.

The issue is likely to dominate the second TV debate involving the main party leaders later, with both Labour and the Conservatives looking to dent Mr Clegg's recently improved poll ratings.

Conservative chairman Eric Pickles told the BBC: "We live in an uncertain world. The replacement to Trident will take effect 20 years from now. So you never can never tell what's going to happen in the world.

"I do think it's important that we shouldn't play fast and loose with our defences."

But Liberal Democrat housing spokeswoman Sarah Teather told GMTV: "I feel very positive going into this evening's debate. We've had a fantastic week on the doorsteps. Nick Clegg did a brilliant job last week.

"Foreign affairs is an issue where we have very distinctive policies, a very distinctive voice on Iraq, on Trident, so I think Nick's going to do very well.

"I'm sure that David Cameron and Gordon Brown would have learnt from last week's debate. I don't suppose they will engage as badly as they did last week."

Mr Brown said he would address the "serious challenges that face this country", including nuclear proliferation and the war in Afghanistan.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: "Obviously Cameron and Clegg are trying to knock each other out in the style stakes, and the prime minister is absolutely convinced - and I am absolutely convinced - that the right thing to do is to focus on the issues. We're not seeking to win a style contest.

"We're seeking to win an argument about the right values and the right policies for the future of the country."



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