Cameron's Colchester defence pledge

CONSERVATIVE leader David Cameron last night promised to put families of service personnel at the heart of the party's general election manifesto.

Graham Dines

CONSERVATIVE leader David Cameron last night promised to put families of service personnel at the heart of the party's general election manifesto.

Speaking at a public meeting in Colchester, one of the country's main garrison towns, Mr Cameron said the partners and children of members of the armed forces had been let down by the Labour government.

Mr Cameron said it was “inexcusable” that service families went to the bottom of local National Health Service waiting lists when they were moved around the UK from one garrison town to another.


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“I say they should go to the top of the list when they are moved from barracks to barracks,” he declared. “It won't cost much money but it is the right thing to do for all the sacrifices which families make.”

The Tory leader, taking part in a Cameron Direct questions and answers session attended by more than 200 people in Colchester's Moot Hall, said his government would undertake a proper defence review as soon as he entered Downing Street.

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The UK needed to define what it wanted to do in defence policy in Europe and around the world.

“How much do we want to punch above our weight? When we decide that, we can then fund defence better.

“Our armed forces do a superb job, but the defence budget has remained tight. We keep adding defence obligation after obligation - Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan - without additional money for the defence budget.”

Mr Cameron gave a clear indication that the UK would retain an independent nuclear deterrent under a Conservative administration. He supported the current government's policy to upgrade the Trident nuclear missile system, which includes ordering four new submarines.

“We must keep a nuclear deterrent and the ultimate insurance for our own safety. We need a strong defence capability.”

Mr Cameron faced a 50 minute grilling from the audience on a range of issues including education, single parents, immigration and border controls, gypsies and small businesses.

He said the purpose of Cameron Direct was to get away from school visits and media interviews so that he could answer questions from a cross-section of voters.

His other aim was to support Colchester's Tory candidate for the general election Will Quince and Conservative European parliament candidates headed by Geoffrey van Orden in the East of England as they start their campaign for June's election to Brussels.

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