Defence secretary John Hutton has defended the government’s new ‘going back to work by going over the top’ job-shadowing scheme after critics described the way posts were allocated as ‘a lottery’.
The scheme allows for nominees to be attached to serving units in the army, navy or air force for an extra £1.50 jobseeker’s allowance per month, or £2.50 if in an active combat situation. With pressure groups already accusing the government of bolstering the armed forces on the cheap whilst distorting unemployment figures, the latest allegations have been robustly denied.
’We don’t just hand these places out willy-nilly.’ said Hutton. ‘Candidates are carefully selected to ensure that the skills they gained during full-time employment match their new role in the armed forces as closely as possible.’
However opposition parties have rubbished this claim, citing the example of Edna Smith, a 48 year-old former Woolworths till operator from Preston, who was sent to Afghanistan as part of an SAS special operations team and participated in a covert snatch and grab raid in South Waziristan.
Critics also point out the case of Nigel Meek, a 16 year-old school leaver from Rhyl who was posted with Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy. Meek is alleged to have sat on several high-level strategy meetings and was given the task to procure contracts for a new fixed wing fighter-bomber.
’The MOD cannot comment on such security-sensitive issues.’ said Hutton. ‘But I can assure you that increased military spending on of bucket seats, bass boxes and ‘Nigel 4eva’ window stickers is entirely coincidental.’
(Written 23 Jan 2009)