Wallace says strikes over Christmas are 'ruining lives' of Armed Forces personnel


Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has called on the Labour front bench to tell their "union paymasters" to not go on strike over Christmas and "ruin the lives" of members of the Armed Forces.

Mr Wallace made the comment in response to a question from Labour shadow defence secretary John Healey.

It comes after it was confirmed 750 military personnel are set to be deployed to cover ambulance strikes as the UK prepares to be hit by a wave of industrial action in the coming weeks.

Troops have also been training at Heathrow and Gatwick airports for passport-checking roles ahead of Border Force staff going on strike over Christmas.

Plans for members of the military and civil servants to cover striking workers is being discussed at a Cobra meeting on Monday evening. 

Earlier in the House of Commons, Mr Healey said: "At today's Cobra meeting, will the Defence Secretary tell other ministers in other departments they are too often using our Armed Forces to bail out their own departments’ failures, especially when he’s making further deep cuts to the Army?

“Will he tell the House now, in addition to those deployed on overseas operations which he’s mentioned, how many of our forces will be deployed or on stand-by over Christmas in response to requests for military assistance he’s already agreed to?”

Mr Wallace said: “I will do the right honourable gentleman a deal. I’ll raise that at Cobra if he tells his union paymasters to not go on strike over Christmas and not ruin the lives of our soldiers and sailors.”

Meanwhile, MP Richard Drax asked the Minister for Defence People Andrew Murrison if personnel who have to work to cover the strikes will receive any sort of reward or thank you.

Mr Murrison said: "I can assure him that conversations are happening across Whitehall on the subject matter he has raised."

Labour MP Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) said: "Christmas leave is precious, so I wonder if the Secretary of State … could confirm that any serving personnel who are losing their leave over the Christmas period in order to support Maca (Military Aid to Civil Authorities) commitments will be properly compensated?”

Mr Wallace replied: "Yes, soldiers and sailors would prefer to be doing their day job of defending the country, but sometimes they are called upon when the unions put at risk the safety of parts of this country, and do so over a festive period.

"So, perhaps he could have a word with his friend on the front bench and ask him to get his unions to desist."

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