Wales politics

MoD accused of bid to 'damage' Welsh government in soldier row

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Media captionThe UK defence secretary's spokesman says soldiers should be moved if they need treatment

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been accused of leaking information to "damage" the Welsh government in a row over NHS treatment for soldiers.

The first minster made the claim after a newspaper quoted the armed forces' most senior medical officer saying wounded soldiers must wait longer for treatment in Wales than England.

Carwyn Jones dismissed the claims as "utter and complete nonsense".

The MoD has denied leaking any information.

The Sun on Sunday claimed Surgeon General Air Marshal Paul Evans told a meeting of a joint health and defence ministry board he wanted wounded soldiers moved from Wales to England for treatment.

But Mr Jones told BBC Wales it was "political claptrap".

"The whole thing was leaked by the Ministry of Defence in order to try and damage us so we need clarification from the surgeon general," he said.

"What happened is that there was a meeting in London, minutes that were not agreed were leaked by the MoD to the press as a way of getting back at us."

Mr Jones said he feared the UK civil service was being "politicised".

He also questioned whether the UK government was "serious about keeping the union together when they are hitting Wales all the time". Mr Jones said that from now on "any meeting that takes place in Whitehall, we have to assume it will be used against us".

The MoD said in response: "Information about troops and treatment times in Wales was not leaked, but came from an FoI [Freedom of Information] response that the media approached the MoD about on Saturday."

Earlier on Monday Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon, who sits on the Commons defence select committee, said the story about the treatment of soldiers was the work of "dirty" political tricks.

She said Mr Evans's concerns had not been raised before.

Mrs Moon said the defence select committee had previously asked him about the matter.

Image caption Madeleine Moon MP said the concerns had not been raised previously

"We were wanting to know not just about England, and actually said: 'Don't come in front of us without telling us what's happening across the devolved nations'," she said.

"He raised no concerns."

Mrs Moon said she thought Mr Evans would be "horrified" to have seen the claims made in the newspaper.

"The minutes [quoted in the Sun on Sunday] referred to a meeting in February and they are selectively quoted," she claimed.

"I am very concerned about some of the statements I've seen because they talk about seriously ill service personnel... returning from Afghanistan, go straight to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. They do not come to Wales.

"This doesn't make sense at all and I am very concerned we have two different things going on here."

Mrs Moon said she had "concerns" about Mr Evans's evidence given to the select committee and questioned whether he was "withholding critical information".

She said: "The other alternative is he has been selectively quoted. What we have here is possibly the 'ministry of dirty tricks' rather than the Ministry of Defence dealing with this.

"I don't think this is coming out of the Ministry of Defence, I think it's coming out of Conservative central office."

Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar, Conservative AM for Clwyd West, said: "We are campaigning for our NHS, not against it.

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Media captionThe UK defence secretary's spokesman says soldiers should be moved if they need treatment

"Carwyn Jones and his Labour ministers need to start acting more like a government and take responsibility for their record."

Before the latest criticism from Mr Jones, an MoD spokesperson said: "The MoD takes the health and wellbeing of our personnel seriously and we are committed to providing the best possible to those requiring treatment.

"Personnel requiring secondary healthcare are treated within the NHS, usually at the most appropriate hospital close to their home or within a Ministry of Defence Hospital Units (MDHUs), which are located in NHS Trusts close to military populations."

The MoD has been asked to respond to Mr Jones's claims but it is understood it denies leaking any information.

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