The British National Party’s Veterans Officer has said it is a national disgrace that soldiers who have been made redundant have been sacked days before they qualified for a full pension.
Pete Molloy, who runs the British Veterans’ Group, said: ‘This appears to be an extremely cynical cost-cutting exercise.
‘Past British governments have a history of treating our Armed Forces with contempt, so why should this coalition be any different? The government makes the Ministry of Defence act like a corporate business, which is totally wrong.
He added:‘Our armed forces will lose very highly experienced soldiers for the sake of saving a few pounds. This will in turn cost lives as well as throwing good soldiers onto the scrap heap. It’s a national disgrace.’
Families of servicemen contacted The Daily Telegraph this week with suspicions that the Army, which has just axed 3,000 personnel, targeted a number who were within touching distance of lifelong pay outs.
Some parents said their sons have been sacked just short of serving 16 years, at which point they would get an immediate annual stipend of around £12,000. They will now have to wait until they are 65.
One 40-year-old sergeant serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers was only three days away from serving 22 years and qualifying for an immediate pension pot worth £108,000. He too will now have to wait until he is 65 to receive the pension.
The Telegraph reported that Diana and Barry Payne said their son, Richard, a major, had been sacked just 86 days short of 16 years’ service that included ‘life-threatening’ operational tours of Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Northern Ireland.
‘To deny him a pension so close to qualifying is not only underhand, but undermines the ethos on which the Army supposedly prides itself,’ the couple said.
‘While we understand that the Army has to reduce numbers in accordance with government directives, it is apparent that those selected for redundancy are the officers who are about to reach pensionable entitlement.’
The Armed Forces pension scheme is seen as one of the more generous in the public sector, with personnel awarded around 40 percent of their final salary. Servicemen aged over 40 with 16 or 18 years’ service can claim an immediate pension and tax-free lump sum on leaving the Army and a second lump sum at 65.
But Henry Witham said his son, Rupert, a major in the infantry, was just a year away from qualifying for an immediate pension when he was sacked. The 38-year-old soldier has served four tours in Afghanistan and received a steady number of good reports. Not only does he lose his pension but also the boarding school allowance for his two young children, the Telegraph said.
‘Enthusiasm and loyalty to the Army have been rewarded by the sack, purely on the grounds that a decent pension was due after 16 years of service,’ Mr Witham commented.
‘The decision is not being made on the grounds of ability, experience or commitment, but purely on cost. It would appear that capable, experienced and dedicated officers are being sacrificed.’
His suspicions were further raised after 38 out of 50 of his son’s Sandhurst 1999 intake were sacked.