By Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Kevan Jones MP
Last week it was announced that 3,500 armed forces personnel are to be called up by ministers to undertake security operations at the Olympics, making a total of 17,000 troops taking part. This is the right thing to do, since a successful Games is a secure Games.
However, our admiration for our Forces and aspirations for the Olympics are overshadowed by our concern about the Government’s handling of Olympic security.
With the Games due to begin within two weeks, service men and women—many of whom would have just returned from Afghanistan—have had well-earned leave cancelled. Family holidays have been called off because of Ministerial incompetence and the planning failures of G4S.
Today there are huge questions about Forces’ accommodation, whether more service personnel may be required and which Ministers knew what when. We got little information from Ministers in the Commons.
Of course, the Armed Forces will perform their tasks professionally and diligently. We believe, however, that if tube, train and bus drivers are to receive bonuses for their work during the Olympics then our service men and women deserve at least the same.
Our Armed Forces are not allowed to unionise or strike, but that does not mean that their efforts should be overlooked or their great personal sacrifices be ignored.
Of course, the nature of military service is unique, but will people accept our Forces being treated less fairly than others?
That is why we are calling for the work of the Armed Forces during the Olympics to be recognised by a £500 bonus. This should be paid for by G4S, the company which has caused the inconvenience and confusion, and which last year registered a turnover of £7.5bn and profit of £531m.
Philip Hammond—the Secretary of State for Defence—has said he will talk to the Military about this. He needs to do better than that and argue with G4S to do the right thing. Our Forces deserve an Olympic Bonus.
Our Forces are already facing redundancy, a squeeze on pensions and cuts to allowances. Now they are cancelling time with their families to serve the national interest. The least we owe them is a proper thank you.