Up to 60 servicemen have died in Iraq and Afghanistan because Gordon Brown failed to supply them with adequate equipment, the chairman of a Conservative commission has claimed.
Author Frederick Forsyth was speaking at the launch of the interim report of the Military Covenant Commission set up by David Cameron to develop policies for an Armed Forces manifesto he has promised for the coming General Election.
The report warned that the covenant between government, society and the Armed Forces was “under serious and unprecedented strain”, because of complaints over issues ranging from accommodation, healthcare, leave to military overstretch.
Mr Forsyth said his team had found “truly world-class” treatment in some aspects of the healthcare received by service personnel, particularly at the Headley Court rehabilitation unit in Surrey and Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham.
But, he said, the treatment of servicemen and women was “inadequate” in virtually every respect, adding that the issue of kit was paramount, as it made the difference between life and death.
He told the launch of the commission’s interim report at Conservative HQ in London: “What has angered me is to see fine young men coming home in boxes draped in a flag who should never have died at all and died because they were required to go in harm’s way with crap equipment.
“If you add them all together, you are looking at 50 to 60 young men. That angers me because we have the money in this country.
“We have seen 10 years of the most unbelievable frittering away of billions on schemes that never work by a (then) Chancellor who repeatedly refused and refused to recognise that, with two vicious wars going on, we needed extra funds. He provided the funds for his personal favoured projects, but they didn’t include the Armed Forces.
“There is a responsibility here, there is a blame here and there ought to be a guilt here, which they don’t feel.”
The final recommendations of the commission are due in September. They will not be binding on Mr Cameron.