Home secretary Alan Johnson has defended the £47m bonus bill for civil servants at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), claiming they face the same risks as troops on the front line in Afghanistan.
Johnson said some civilian staff from the department go “into the front line”, justifying their bonuses. Some 50,000 MoD office staff will receive bonuses this year, ranging from less than £1,000 to £8,000.
Speaking to GMTV, Johnson said: “When they [go to the frontline] my understanding is they work 17-18 hours in Afghanistan. They don’t get overtime for that – they get a bonus to compensate.
He added: “I instinctively feel that as much as we can… should be going to our front-line troops. But I wouldn’t suggest that civil servants doing that very difficult and sometimes dangerous job should just be told ‘you don’t get any extra reward for that’.”
Military families and campaigners were outraged at the amount of bonuses paid to civilian staff, claiming they could not be justified when troops were fighting and dying overseas.
A total of 232 British service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001. More than 1,000 have been seriously wounded.
Official MoD figures yesterday showed a total of £287.8m has been paid out in bonuses to civil servants since 2003 – the year Britain went to war in Iraq.