Select Committee on Social Security Sixth Report


Joint MOD/DSS review of compensation arrangements

  25. On 8 December 1997, Dr John Reid, the then Minister of State for the Armed Forces, announced a comprehensive review of compensation arrangements for service personnel. Dr Reid said that the Government's aim was "to devise a modern, fair and simplified scheme which could apply to all Service personnel injured or killed on peacetime duties—in training or on operations—where death or injury was attributable to military service, to replace the current complex arrangements."[83] The review will result in the publication of a consultation document. The War Pensions Agency has had a role in informing this review.[84] We consider it to be very important that the experience of the War Pensions Agency should inform both the current review and the consultation which follows. The original intention was to complete it in time for the publication of a consultative document in the Summer of 1998.[85] On 15 March 1999 Mr Doug Henderson, the Minister for the Armed Forces, conceded that the review had proved more complicated than expected and had therefore taken longer than originally planned. The new target was the publication of a consultation document "around the middle of the year."[86] In a written answer on 21 April 1999, the Minister stated that the aim of the review "is to make proposals for a new compensation scheme that could replace the current War Pension Scheme and the attributable provisions of the Armed Forces Scheme. The War Pension Scheme would, however, remain available for those who have already left the Armed Forces including current war pensioners."[87] Given that there are no time limits for making claims after leaving service, it is likely that any new compensation arrangements will exist alongside the current arrangements for a considerable period of time.

26. We see the current review of compensation arrangements as crucially important. It is essential that new arrangements do not recreate what the Chief Executive described as "the complexity and confusion" of the current scheme.[88] Many of the problems identified by the ex-service organisations result from this complexity. Mr Hextall told us that "rules and procedures are old—the legislation is old legislation—and developed for a situation that does not currently exist."[89] The key Acts relating to war pensions were passed in 1916 and 1939. It is for this reason that officer ranks are treated differently to other ranks. The method and frequency of payment of War Disablement Pension is different and the level of War Widow's Pension is still related to the rank held by the deceased husband in service.[90] We were surprised to hear of the anachronistic treatment of officers and other ranks. We believe that the current review provides an opportunity to modernise the arrangements. The Government envisages that legislation to enact a new compensation scheme will be included in the 2001 Armed Forces Bill and that the scheme will be introduced in 2003.[91] The Minister for the Armed Forces told the Defence Select Committee on 28 April 1999 that he wanted to ensure that changes encourage speedier processing of claims.[92]

27. We fully support the Government's aim of devising a modern, fair and simplified compensation scheme. We welcome the fact that the current review of compensation arrangements will result in the publication of a consultation document and trust that the consultation will be conducted thoroughly.

83   HC Deb 8 December 1997, cols 440-441w. Back

84   Q 102. Back

85   HC Deb 17 December 1997 col 216w. Back

86   HC Deb 15 March 1999 col 502w. Back

87   HC Deb 21 April 1999 col 562w. Back

88   Q 102. Back

89   Q 20. Back

90   HC Deb 22 April 1999 col 632w. Back

91   Appendix 10. Back

92   See Minutes of Evidence taken before the Defence Committee, Wednesday 28 April 1999, on Gulf Veterans' Illnesses, HC 418-i, Q75. Back

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