The CWO Forum Panel on “Iraq and Afghanistan…..and those left behind” took place in Committee Room 6 at the House of Commons on Wednesday 23rd January.
Dr. Liam Fox, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence started the session by talking about the overstretch in the British military forces at the present time due to the relatively low levels of defence spending.. He said that the army was at its smallest since 1851 and that there were more aircraft in Hendon Museum now than in the RAF. He went on to talk about how, conversely, Russia was spending more on defence expansion. He stressed his concern that the media was not reporting the situation of our military accurately.
Dr. Fox then spoke about some of the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan and also about the unstable situations in Pakistan and Iran.
The PPC for Oxford, Nicola Blackwood, told the forum about her experiences visiting Dalton Barracks in her constituency. She told the Forum that some of the living conditions there were appalling and how the families felt very isolated from the local community. She talked about how she and some of the other local leaders have been trying to address this.
Cllr. Pauline Hazell was the last speaker on the panel and she talked about her work with SAAFA (Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen Families Association) in Colchester. Colchester has a big army garrison. She talked about the difficulties for families with the long periods of separation that they had to endure and how difficult some of the soldiers found talking about the experiences they had had in action, which in turn led to marital problems.. She also talked about how she works with the Army Welfare Officer to try and help with the families when the soldiers are away.
The discussion which followed which centered on how army families could be better helped and supported.