MoD bonuses: a 'travesty of justice'?

The £47m handed out to officials in the Ministry of Defence is part of the bonus culture that has grown beyond banking to become pervasive in the public sector too.

Being a civil servant at the Ministry of Defence is a "very difficult and sometimes dangerous job", said Home Secretary Alan Johnson this week. That's why 50,000 of the 85,000 officials working in the department have been granted a total of £47m in bonuses between them since the start of the year.

Dangerous? Well, I'm sure "staple guns can nip a bit", says Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times. But in reality, this is just part of the bonus culture that has grown beyond banking to become pervasive in the public sector too. Only a "tiny percentage" of these officials have been to Afghanistan. Nor do we know of anyone among the 23,000 staff employed at the MoD's procurement arm who has lost their job, or even their bonus, after an official report in August described it as "incompetent from top to bottom".

The £47m bonus figure is misleading in any case, says Michael Smith, also in The Sunday Times. MoD staff who volunteer to be posted to conflict zones none of whom have lost their lives in Afghanistan are already receiving extra payments of up to £49,500 for a six-month tour. A junior civil servant gets a top-up of £6,750 a month; a senior civil servant receives allowances worth £8,250 a month. A junior infantry soldier, on the other hand, who is paid £16,681 a year, will receive additional allowances of just £595 a month.

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It's a travesty of justice, says Max Hastings in the Daily Mail. I do not know a single soldier, of any rank, "who fails to attribute a host of difficulties since 2001, and a significant proportion of casualties, to mismanagement by government and Whitehall". They bitterly resent the "extravagant rewards" for MoD and Foreign Office civilian staff who work in war zones, which are "far in excess of service pay, for people who face much less risk than the troops". "No army in history has had all the resources it wanted", but Britain is a rich nation and no soldier should "bleed and die for want of sufficient helicopters, body armour, vehicle spare parts, radios and some types of ammunition".

"So goes the familiar and trite argument," says Patrick Hennessey in The Times. A friend of mine who recently left the army and became a civil servant found himself back in Basra, working twice as hard for substantially less money. "Most servicemen I know would rather be confident that the staff supporting them in Whitehall were recruited from the brightest and best To focus on the bonuses instead of the billions of pounds of overspend and delay in dodgy procurement is rather like focusing on MPs' hundred-pound expense bills while the national debt increases by thousands of pounds an hour." Dangerous business: but staple guns can nip a bit too

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 


On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.