Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 6 MARCH 2002
20. There is a problem. It is about when Service
personnel are considered to be off-duty. Most Service personnel
consider that they are on 24-hour call. So, effectively, even
at home they are available for duty. Getting from home to work
is considered part of the duty by the overwhelming number of Service
personnel and some commanding officers. Do you believe that there
is a grey area that needs clarification?
(Colonel English) I would like to see that area clarified.
If one becomes too judgmentalwe have all seen thisand
the rules are laid down, there is always someone who falls to
one side or the other. Currently, that is the case with this particular
aspect of war pensions awards. The majority of cases, I believe,
would not receive an award for that, but there is a significant
number that do. When the agency judges the case, it can either
see there and then that the individual has fallen between the
rules, and is obviously on duty, or the other way around and it
will turn down the case. Similarly, it can go to appeal and the
tribunal system will review it with all the facts before it. It
would be wrong of us to say today that universally we would expect
that to be compensated in every case.
21. On the constraint of cost neutrality, we
know that the Treasury has imposed this constraint. There is evidence
of a decline in the benefits for the AFPS against the comparator
pension schemes. We know that as fact. The review document says
that there will be additional costs in the short term as the scheme
is introduced, but "in the longer term we would expect the
direct costs of the new scheme to be broadly cost neutral".
What have been the effects on the proposals of cost neutrality
being taken as the starting point?
(Colonel English) I am surprised that cost neutrality
comes into it at this stage. I am not sure how they do that for
war pensions. Much of the cost of war pensions must depend upon
which ailments will be compensated. Perhaps I can give you an
example. A few years ago in 1996 the rules for deafness were changed.
As a result, a considerable sum was saved on war pensions because
40 per cent of all war pensions were given for a degree of deafness.
We believe that there is a strong possibility that that will be
overturned in the near future as it is under current review by
senior consultants in the deafness field. Should that happen,
the bill for war pensions will increase markedly again. Although
there must be a figure that the Treasury sets for war pensions,
for example, I am not aware of it. I would find it hard to know
how they will prophesise which ailments will qualify for a war
pension, for example, in the next few years and which will not.
There are many other illnesses that are currently under review
and we are all conscious of what happened on Gulf War issues.
It takes only a change in what has happened there to generate
a situation where far higher payments may be appropriate. So I
am surprised that the paper has capped it so overtly in that way,
although perhaps I am not surprised, having been a MoD staff officer,
that may have been the case.
22. On the cost neutrality basis, taking into
account that there perhaps is not anything extra coming in, that
prices are increasing and that there is a gradual reduction in
the benefits you can give, the only way to balance things out
is to make savings, which means you have to make cuts which will
hurt, or increase contributions. There does not appear to be any
leeway at all suggested to help you.
(Colonel English) No.
23. I think the title of "war pension"
is a misnomer and causes a lot of problems. I tried to get the
MoD to accept that there should be a Service health-related pension
or a Service disability pension which would be much better. The
other issue is that when many personnel leave the Services they
receive bad advice from people in the Service because they do
not know enough about the procedures. That leads me to the current
state of play. Service personnel can make a claim after a very
lengthy period of time. One of the things that the Government
are considering is whether that period should come down to a maximum
of three years after leaving the Service. Where do you stand on
that? Why do you tend to suggest that that is inevitable rather
than something that the Legion should fight?
(Colonel English) I am sorry that you have that message.
It is totally the reverse. We do not agree with introducing a
period of three years from the time when the illness is diagnosedalthough
it may be diagnosed shortly after they leavebecause so
many of those who become unwell due to their service, for one
reason or another, either do not know that they can make a claim
or choose not to make a claim. I am sure that my colleagues in
Combat Stress will tell you that many who suffer from mental illness
reject the idea themselves and they do not want to advertise it
by making a claim until their situation deteriorates to such an
extent that they become so unwell that they have to. There are
many like that. The current system does not have a time bar of
that nature. There is the seven-year rule which ensures that the
burden of proof is with the organisation before seven years and
with the individual afterwards. We consider that to be reasonably
fair. We would strongly disagree with the three-year rule.
24. I shall give you an example of where the
MoD will not accept that. I have been dealing with a Serviceman
who sadly was involved in the sinking of one of the ships in the
Falklands War. His family and now he admit that he suffers considerable
stress because of that. In the end the Navy discharged him because
he was alcoholic and unable to get proper treatment. In the past
couple of years he has realised that his drinking, which has got
out of control, is because of the trauma that he would not face
up to, and the Navy now will not accept that the start of the
problem all stems back to something that happened 20 years ago.
He is now locked into a "forever" battle trying to get
a pension from the War Pensions Agency which is hiding behind
the Navy. I wonder whether you are making your very positive stance
on this known to the MoD. Have you told the Ministry that the
view of the Royal British Legion is that you are not prepared
to see that change?
(Colonel English) We have told them that this paper
is not acceptable in its present form and that that is one of
the issues that is not acceptable to us.
25. That is good. My next question relates to
the tariff compensation, how that operates and the sort of representations
that you must have received from your members who must be upset
about the way that that is interpreted. What is the current view
of the Royal British Legion on the operation of the tariff system?
(Colonel English) I have alluded to that. A number
of factors are associated with the tariff system. First, we do
not like it. We have had experience, through the South Atlantic
war and on an ongoing basis with ordinary Service pensions, where
lump sums have melted away and an individual has thereafter faced
great hardship. We believe that the tariffs suggested are in question.
They are the criminal injury tariffs. I believe that they have
already been questioned elsewhere. To suggest the same level of
tariffs for Servicemen would be wrong. We believe that the best
way to satisfy those who are disabled is to answer the problem
with an income stream in the form of a pension, as is usually
the case today with disabilities over a certain level.
26. Have you looked at who would benefit from
these changes and who would lose out?
(Colonel English) It is easy to look at a figure.
If you say to a young man, "I shall give you £5,000
today", that young man may take it, but when one looks at
his long-term best interests, one can see all the flaws in that.
We see real flaws in the sums suggested in this paper.
27. What about the widows of people who are
young Servicemen who are killed and the widows of those who die
as a result of illness and they are granted a war pension? What
advice would you give to those people? Would you suggest that
it is better for them to have a lump sum?
(Colonel English) The problem is similar. A lump sum
may look attractive at first sight, but a widow in her early 20s
may have to provide for a family for the next 10, or 15 years.
She may or may not remarry, but if she does not, she may have
to live on that pension for the rest of her life.
28. If she remarries she loses the pension,
does she not?
(Colonel English) There is a tweak here. She loses
it unless she is divorced, in which case she can go back to the
existing situation. She can reclaim as a widow. We think that
that area should be tidied up as well.
29. Are you making any representations about
that point, that it is unfair to take that pension away from a
widow and a family simply because she remarries, bearing in mind
that the pension was because of the service of her husband and
the father of her children. The pension should be for them.
(Colonel English) We support our sisters in the War
Widows Association on this very matter. Yes, we are supportive.
30. They feel that it is very unjust that they
should lose that pension.
(Colonel English) Yes.
31. Do you believe that the tariff system differentiates
between a physical illness and a psychiatric illness? Do you share
the view that I have that a psychiatric illness is more difficult
to prove and that it is difficult to get the collaborative evidence
relating to the circumstances that may first have been a contributory
factor to the illness developing?
(Colonel English) We share that view. There is scant
mention of deterioration in the paper and all that comes into
play. In essence, I believe that we are very much against the
tariff system. We shall make that very clear when we have our
ongoing discussions with the MoD.
32. Far be it from me to rush to Mr Hancock's
aid, as he handles himself well, but he may be right in his question
on the Legion's attitude to the three-year limit. Unless I have
been misled by what you have written in your memorandum, you appear
not to be hostile, but acquiescent. You say, "The 3-year
time limit is on par with the modern compensation schemes",
that the three-year limit is unavoidable and that it is hard to
argue against these as they are modern time constraints. Can you
clarify that for us or amend the memorandum? Are you opposed in
(Colonel English) We are opposed in principle and
as part of the discussion we are now firmly against the three-year
33. Have you made that clear to the MoD?
(Colonel English) We have not had a chance to speak
to them yet, but we have given them a whole range of things that
we intend to take up with them.
34. Perhaps you could revise your memorandum
for us to bring it up to date for us.
(Colonel English) Yes, indeed.
35. I have a similar confusion on the guaranteed
income stream in relation to the lump sum payment? We have a copy
of the letter from Ian Townsend of July where it is said that
the guaranteed income stream is welcomed as a way of mitigating
some of the problems to which you alluded earlier.
(Colonel English) Yes. The guaranteed income stream
is welcomed but the tariff stream is not. We shall be fighting
to have the guaranteed income stream as the main source of compensation.
36. Would you regard the guaranteed income stream
as less or more satisfactory than a war pension?
(Colonel English) A war pension is a guaranteed income
37. It is not a guarantee, is it? It can be
(Colonel English) Yes, it can, but I do not think
that we have ever seen a war pension stopped.
(Major House) The only time that a war pension can
be taken way is if the condition for which the war pension was
awarded has righted itself. You have a guaranteed income stream
for the rest of your life as long as you remain so injured.
(Colonel English) That would have to be the same with
any scheme that we introduced.
38. The guaranteed income stream is a mechanism
for distributing the lump sum?
(Colonel English) Yes.
39. Because it is guaranteed, it will carry
(Colonel English) What I should say as well is that
the tariffs are very low. We could not accept that. We obviously
could not accept an income stream that was based purely on that