I intended to write about an emotive Libyan anniversary this week, but the news that the government has ordered the Armed Forces to deploy their drivers to deliver fuel to petrol stations cannot be ignored. This is not the first time this operation has been dusted down because in 2005, I was involved in preparing 1,000 drivers to operate tankers if the fuel blockade that was crippling the country continued.
The provision of military aid to the civil authorities is an act of desperation and only considered as the last resort. Of course the drivers from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force will be delighted to help and do their duty, but the use of Service personnel for domestic crises is becoming something of a habit for this government. The news that a royal marine general has been asked to sort out the National Health Service adds to the impression that there is a real problem in our national institutions.
The Army in Britain is not funded for domestic tasks other than a few specialist roles such as bomb disposal and ceremonial duties. They are supposed to be training for overseas operations such as the peacekeeping mission to Mali, or the conflict-prevention deployment to the Baltic states. The serious underfunding of the military in the past decade has compounded the issue of poor retention.
Society owes a huge debt to those serving in the British military who have helped the country in the past 18 months. It would be really good if our schools, colleges and universities were to recognise this debt by signing the Armed Forces Covenant (https://www.armedforcescovenant.gov.uk/get-involved/show-your-support/) and encouraging their students to join up.