TWO soldiers recently received modest pay-outs from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) which were then upgraded by a tribunal. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) argued that the tribunal had wrongly taken into account the subsequent physical deterioration of each soldier.
A case was lodged with the court of appeal. Technically, the MoD's case is quite strong and my own view is that it has a good chance of success at the Court of Appeal in October. But wait; right now we are seeing the toughest phase of fighting in Afghanistan. Moreover, one of the soldiers in question, Corporal Anthony Duncan, of the Light Dragoons, is actually back in Afghanistan now. Here, a strong technical argument has come into direct contact with what most people think is the right thing to do.
While politics has a bad name at the moment, political instincts should by definition usually lead to decisions which most people agree are fair and right. In this compensation case, a victory for the MoD in October at the Court of Appeal would come against the backdrop of a giant neon sign saying spelling out the word 'Pyrrhic'. It would represent a victory for bureaucracy over bravery. The appeal should be dropped.
The Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, has rightly announced a fast review of the way service personnel are compensated for injury. Crucially, though, none of the service personnel whose cases are live at present should lose a penny – that really is non-negotiable.
For our part, politicians have to recognise that while the public will give us a lot of rope at times, where we get the moral call profoundly wrong on a matter of how we treat our astonishingly brave service personnel, we'll find ourselves dangling at the end of it.
Eric Joyce is MP for Falkirk and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Defence Secretary.