APPENDICES TO THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Submission from Confederation of British Service and Ex-Service Organisations to the MoD Review (27 July 2001)
As you know, the Forces Pension Society has taken the lead in commenting on the Pension Scheme Review whilst the Royal British Legion has led on the Compensation Review. The recent replies that you will have received from them both carry the full support of the COBSEO Executive Committee.
In addition to the replies from these two organisations, I know that you will have received additional responses from other Executive Committee members who will wish to add comments from the perspective of their own individual organisations. The purpose of this response, therefore, is merely to reinforce the main thrust of the comments that you will have already received.
Whilst applauding the immense amount of effort that has been put into the staffing of the two Reviews, as well as some of the new proposals contained within them, we remain concerned that the underlying philosophy behind each Review is fundamentally flawed.
At the heart of our concerns is the fact that the unique commitment of the Serviceman and woman does not appear to have been properly recognised. Unlike other Government employees, it is worth remembering that although the nation has not been involved in a major conflict since 1945, over 8,000 Servicemen have been killed on duty, on operations or as a result of terrorist attacks since then (an average of 150 per year). Because of the extraordinary level of commitment involved, we know that the Secretary of State is very keen to honour all those who have died (as well as the 25,000 more who have died of other causes) with a suitable memorial.
We fully support the principle contained in the Armed Forces Overarching Personnel Strategy of providing a pension that reflects modern standards and is consistent with the legitimate expectation of Service personnel. On the basis of the hazards of Service life as explained in the previous paragraph, we would see it as a legitimate expectation that the Government has a duty to err on the generous side when it comes to end of service benefits and pensions or compensation policy for Armed Forces Personnel. This logic does not, however, appear to have been carried through in the discussion that follows in the two Reviews.
Whilst, from the MoD perspective, it may have been abundantly clear why cost neutrality should be a principal driver, the ex-Service point of view would rather judge the proposals on the basis of fairness and equity. Whilst, therefore, we welcome the targeting of greater funding to those in greater need, it is difficult for us to accept, from the outset, that there must be losers.
In the case of the Pension Review, our main concern is that the proposed levels of award appear to compare poorly in comparison with other public sector employees. In the introduction to the Review, it would have helped to see some discussion of why the proposed new scheme should remain both unfunded and non-contributory. I know that you have already taken this point on board. It would also have helped to see an expression of intent to avoid repeating one of the major pitfalls of the current scheme, for example the pensions "trough". On a more minor, but important, point, it would have been a major success for the MoD if, at the time of the announcement that Forces attributable pensions were made for life, Survivor's Benefits for life for non-attributable widow(er)s could have been introduced at the same time, and to include existing widows.
Turning to the Compensation Review, our main concern centres round the apparent assumption that War Pensioners and War Widows should be treated in the same way as civilians and those injured in criminal activities. Again, we would have hoped for a more generous response, reflecting the unique contribution made by Servicemen. We are concerned that the gateway and burden of proof for qualification for compensation have been made more difficult, with the inevitable result that, again, there will be losers. We have considerable reservations about the proposed introduction of lump sum payments when an income stream would be more appropriate. We are also concerned that, with the recent transfer of responsibility of the War Pensions Agency to the MoD, there should be an independent body both to oversee the scheme and to deal with appeals. Otherwise there could be the perception that the MoD would effectively become judge, jury and court of appeal in the case of compensation claims, possibly to the detriment of those claiming.
In summary, we have fundamental concerns about the two Reviews, as currently drafted. We would hope that the underlying philosophy behind both could be reconsidered along the lines explained above. We would be very happy to take part in further discussions about this, under your auspices, possibly as part of the ongoing work within the auspices of the Veterans' Forum.