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Tories: we won’t sack Afghan troops

Defence Secretary Liam Fox has been forced to defend the decision to make 11,000 redundancies in the armed forces, insisting that personnel who have recently returned from Afghanistan will not be sacked.

His Labour counterpart Jim Murphy summoned Dr Fox to the Commons to make a statement on the redundancies, after the RAF became the first service to give detailed plans.

The RAF announced that 1,020 personnel will go in the first tranche in September, including up to 170 trainee pilots — but no qualified pilots.

Mr Murphy said it was “disgraceful” that some forces serving overseas would be “welcomed home as heroes by the public and sacked by their Government”.

But Dr Fox accused Labour of “sad and cynical opportunism”, adding: “I have repeatedly made it clear that within the armed forces, we have compulsory redundancy schemes because we need to maintain the rank structure and the skills base required.

“When compulsory redundancies are announced, they will not affect those in receipt of the operational allowance, those within six months of deploying or those on post-operational tour leave.”

David Cameron has conceded that axing around 5,000 personnel from the Army, 3,300 from the Navy and 2,700 from the RAF will be “difficult” for those affected.

At Prime Minister's Questions, the DUP's Gregory Campbell said the armed forces were suffering “deplorable” treatment from |the Government.

But Mr Cameron said the coalition had doubled the operational allowance and introduced a pupil premium for the children of service personnel.

“Most important of all is a defence review and to make sure our forces are fit for the future,” |he said.

“To all those who express concern, I would make this point. At the end of that defence review we will have the fourth largest military budget in the world.

Last autumn's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) set out plans for reducing the size of the armed forces by 17,000 in total.

Some of that number will be met by not replacing people who were retiring or leaving for other reasons.But defence officials said 11,000 personnel still face being redundant on a compulsory or voluntary basis.

Dr Fox said that following the RAF's announcement, the Army and Navy would announce their programmes on April 4.

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