The Army spends more feeding its dogs than its soldiers, it has been claimed.

Figures obtained by a Tory MP show that £1.51 a day goes on meals for troops, compared with £2.63 for military dogs.

Even prisoners - who cost £1.87 a day to feed - fare better than servicemen. Schoolchildren get £1.55 for lunch alone.

The MP, Mike Penning, is to raise the issue in the House of Commons today. The former Grenadier Guard said troops serving in war zones such as Iraq were being denied decent meals.

And he claimed that U.S. troops are given high-quality meat while British soldiers make do with cheap sausages and chips.

The armed forces keep 998 dogs for searching, guarding and arrest duties.

Mr Penning said: 'The troops are not getting enough good-quality meals and are missing out on their daily meat and two veg.

'I have been repeatedly told that Army cooks are struggling to feed the troops properly on just £1.51 a day.

'This is a derisory amount of money. In contrast, I have been very reliably informed that dogs are being fed on more than £2.63 a day.

'I cannot believe that soldiers are risking their lives daily for the country, but are not being fed properly. I have spoken to a number of mums who are being forced to send out food to their hungry sons. When I was in the army, my mum sent me a cake but that was as a treat.'

Another Tory MP, Patrick Mercer, a former army colonel, said: 'It is absolutely crazy. Military dogs are important and an expensive commodity but they should not be fed better than our soldiers.

'I have often heard that our soldiers are being given a dog's life, but this takes the biscuit.'

An MoD spokesman disputed Mr Penning's figures last night.

'It costs significantly less to feed a dog than a person on operations,' she said. 'The mess rate for across all service personnel is £1.51 a day.

'It varies for dogs as it depends on the size of the dog and the nature of the work. But it works out at roughly 78p a day for an ammunition dog and £1.20 for a patrol dog.

'Dogs make an important contribution to our forces, and it is right that we make sure they are well looked after.'

Mr Penning stood by his figures and said the MoD repeatedly told him none were available.

Soldiers on operations rely on 4,000-calorie ration packs which include items such as onion soup, hot chocolate, cooked rice, fruit dumplings in custard, boiled sweets and bacon and beans.

Civilian men are generally advised to consume no more than 2,500 calories a day, with the soldiers given more because they are on active operations.

American troops are given meals in self-heating bags that warm food in a few minutes. British soldiers have to boil their bagged meals or eat them cold.

In barracks back in Britain, solders are served three meals a day and the MoD insists high emphasis is given to healthy eating.

However one soldier said: 'Most soldiers when possible would rather eat at McDonald's than in the Mess. The food quality is substandard and the quantity is the minimum.'

In recent months, senior military commanders have spoken out about poor medical care, 'slum' housing, inadequate funding, lack of training and equipment cuts.

Earlier this year, the Army's personnel chief, Adjutant General Sir Freddie Viggers, admitted that too many soldiers were living in 'poor standard' barrack blocks, blighted by damp and faulty fittings.

Scores of warships, submarines, aircraft and armoured vehicles have been scrapped or mothballed in recent years to save money.

The Army's trained strength recently dipped below the 100,000 mark for the first time in 200 years, despite the demands of two simultaneous wars. Britain has around 7,700 troops in Afghanistan and 5,500 in southern Iraq, with numbers falling in Iraq but rising in Afghanistan.