Examination of Witnesses (Questions 177-247)
Q177 Chair: Welcome to this morning's
evidence session of the Armed Forces Bill Committee. Would you
be good enough to introduce yourselves? Shall we start at your
end, Air Marshal Pulford?
Air Marshal Pulford: I'm Air Marshal
Andy Pulford. I am the Deputy Commander-in-Chief Personnel at
Air Command at High Wycombe, and I am the Air Member for Personnel
on the Air Force Board.
General Sir William Rollo: My
name is Bill Rollo. I'm the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff
for Personnel and Training and therefore the central staff officer
responsible for policy in these areas.
Admiral Montgomery: I'm Charles
Montgomery, the Second Sea Lord and the Commander-in-Chief of
the Naval Home Command.
General Mans: I'm Lieutenant General
Mark Mans, the Adjutant General, and I also command the Personnel
and Support Command within Land Forces.
Q178 Chair: Thank you and welcome
to the Committee. The main purpose of the Armed Forces Bill is
to allow our Armed Forces to continue in existence for the next
five-year period. Could you tell us whether the five yearly renewal
of primary legislation allows the Government to deal promptly
and effectively with any practical or legal problems that may
General Sir William Rollo: From
my perspective, it provides a framework and a target, so if there
is routine business to be done that isn't compellingly urgent
and we know when it's going to come up, we know that there is
a vehicle that is guaranteed to be there in time, bearing in mind
all the other pressures on the parliamentary schedule. If we do
need to do something more quicklyif it's sufficiently urgentclearly
that can be done. It has to fight its corner in the overall schedule.
Admiral Montgomery: I wouldn't
have anything to add.
Q179 Mark Lancaster: How do you
feel that the Secretary of State's Annual Report as proposed in
the Bill will help to rebuild the Covenant? Do you in fact feel
that the Covenant needs rebuilding?
General Sir William Rollo: The
Covenant has existed in one form or another, in a fairly intangible
fashion, for a long time. I guess your question begs the question:
what is it? I would answer that question by saying that it's a
moral bond between those who serve and the Government and, I guess,
the nation and the chain of command. It tries to answer a question
that by its nature is pretty intangible, which is what value you
put on military service. How do you have a contract with someone
when you're asking him to put his life on the line? It's quite
hard to say whether something is at a particular stage at a particular
moment. Is the present measure a good thing? From my perspective,
to have the Secretary of State under a statutory duty to produce
a report to Parliament on an annual basis must be a good thing.
I'll therefore support it. It's a development of what we've been
doing before. The External Reference Group and its Report was
a good thing, and this will be a good thing.
Admiral Montgomery: Did the Covenant
require rebuilding? I think it did require rebuilding. That process
of rebuilding has been under way for probably two or three years
already, and we're already in a better place than we were at that
stage. I'm in no doubt at all that the Annual Report is a significant
step forward for openness, transparency and the ability of our
people to know and be confident that the Nation is respecting
General Mans: It is a process
of evolution, which was started more formally, obviously, two
or three years ago. That's how we see it in the Army. Of course,
we've articulated how we interpret the Military Covenant for some
time, but in terms of supporting that Covenant and supporting
our own people, their families, the Reserves and the veterans,
it is a process of evolution. Therefore, we are very positive
about the direction in which this is all going.
Q180 Mark Lancaster: You say it
is a process of evolution. Perhaps, then, you could outline what
you envisage the next steps to be. You articulate clearly that
the Army has a concept of what the Covenant is. Would it be sensible
perhaps to move to a Tri-Service Covenant? Are the other two services
as clear in their minds about what the Covenant enshrines?
General Mans: I'll kick off. There
is the Armed Forces Covenant, which of course is still being discussed
and so on and will come to fruition in the very near future. Clearly,
as far as the Army is concerned, we've had our own Military Covenant,
and that now will dovetail, I feel, very nicely into what is proposed
or what is being discussed by ourselves and officials.
Admiral Montgomery: The Armed
Forces Covenant has been developed thus far on a Tri-Service basis.
I'm entirely comfortable with its overall sense of direction.
You've asked what might be the next steps; is it a process of
evolution? To my mind, the next steps are clear and already under
waythat is, the closer definition of just what is going
to be within that Covenant and what we will expect to get out
of it, and then both the objective assessments of performance
and the means by which we subjectively judge the performance.
Air Marshal Pulford: It comes
back to the point you made. The Army had the Army Covenant; the
other two Servicesthe Navy and ourselvesdidn't.
This is a sweeper, which will capture that. The Adjutant General
can speak better on this than I can, but I think it will maintain
its own Army Covenant for its own single-Service purpose. But
in terms of this being a step forward, it is moving forward, in
terms of the Armed Forces Covenant, and capturing those things
that perhaps in the past we've taken for granted and didn't quantify
in a meaningful way. We now have a vehicle to do that, and it
comes back to your first question about the Report. I'm talking
about the accuracy and the breadth of that report and the three
points of the triangleit being exposed to Government and,
through that, to the British people, but, importantly, the Armed
Forces and the Service people, as defined by the Bill and therefore
the Act, then buying into the fact that this is an accurate representation
of where the Government stand on that annual basis. So I think
the Armed Forces Covenant is a step forward. The purpose and the
value of the Report will stand on the quality of it, the accuracy
of it and that buy-in that you get from the people involved.
Q181 Gemma Doyle: General Rollo,
you noted that the Bill includes a statutory duty on the Secretary
of State to place a report before Parliament. As such, do you
think that the Bill enshrines the Military Covenant in law, or
does it enshrine a report on the Military Covenant in law?
General Sir William Rollo: Well,
it establishes that there is such a thing and it lays a duty on
the Secretary of State to report on the state of that Covenant.
It looks at three areas in particularhealth, education
and housingand such other areas as are required at the
time. That seems to me to be reasonable. Those are the core subjects.
I can't imagine that we wouldn't want to report on them. Other
subjects will arise from time to time that he can and, I hope,
will report on.
Q182 Gemma Doyle: Just to clarify,
it enshrines the Report in law and it notes that the Military
General Sir William Rollo: That
would be my understanding, yes.
Q183 Bob Russell: Gentlemen, the
Royal British Legion, which of course is Tri-Service, is being
very active in promoting the Military Covenant. We're making reference
here to the Armed Forces Covenant. Do you share my view that the
general public have a graspan understanding of sortsof
what the Military Covenant may be about and that the term "Armed
Forces Covenant" could cause confusion rather than clarification?
General Sir William Rollo: Well,
I certainly think that we all need to be clear about what we mean
by different terms. As I understand it, in the language in this
and other Bills, when we use "military", it normally
means the Army, in the same way that "naval" means the
Navy; "Air Force" is self-explanatory. So I guess for
consistency we ought to try to preserve that and therefore to
talk about the Armed Forces Covenant that sits above them makes
sense to me. Andy mentioned the Army Covenant. Within the Armyto
resume my single-Service status for a momentwe've always
called it the Military Covenant.
Q184 Chair: That is an interesting
answer, General Rollo. Do you think that the Royal Air Force and
the Royal Navy are not military?
General Sir William Rollo: We
are all Military Services with a small m. The Military Covenant
had a capital on it. The sense in which you use "military"
as opposed to "naval"in the sense that I used
it, I thinkis one that I'm accustomed to, but that may
not be general usage.
Air Marshal Pulford: I don't think
this is an issue about the Navy and the Air Force being non-military.
Of course it's not. It's the traditional use of the term "military"
in the past to represent the Army. There is a more significant
issue here, and that's the term "military" somehow implying
an all-uniformed force. Certainly today, in the way we deliver
operations, this is not about just the Military. This is about
the Armed Forces in the round and all those parts that come together
to deliver military effect. That will be just as, if not more,
important in future, as this Covenant grows and matures and we
take on the whole-force concept of not just the traditional, regular
and Reserves, but contractors, civil servants within the Ministry
of Defence and all of the places that they reach, such that this
is not just about civilians representing the Armed Forces in the
MoD and Whitehall, but as far forward as the front line as well.
To use "military" in that sense would have been the
wrong term; "Armed Forces" is not a bad compromise.
Admiral Montgomery: I would just
say that from a naval service perspective, I would much prefer
"Armed Forces" to "military", not least because
of the way that it will be perceived in the public's mind's eye,
where "military" is so closely associated with the Army.
Q185 Mr Jones: It has been spun
that the Bill will enshrine the Covenant in law, which clearly
it does not. It does not define what the Covenant is. We were
told last week that Hew Strachan's report is ongoing and that
work is being done to define what the Covenant is. Is this not
just enshrining a super External Reference Group Report, which
has already been produced, and dressing it up as the Secretary
of State's Report, which will then report to Parliament?
General Sir William Rollo: Is
it a super External Reference Group Report? It will cover many
of the same topics that the External Reference Group already covers.
The External Reference Group's Report in the past has focused
very much on the specific measures in the Service Personnel Command
Paper. I would see this Report as being broader than that. The
key distinction though is that it is a report that will be laid
before Parliament. I may be wrong, but that seems to have an extra
significance which is thoroughly helpful. It will give it a profile
that perhaps it has not had in the past.
Q186 Mr Jones: I possibly accept
that, but it does not define what the Covenant is, does it?
General Sir William Rollo: The
Bill itself does not, no. That is a matter of fact.
Q187 Mr Jones: Are you aware of
what is happening with the Strachan report? We were told last
week that work is still going on to define what the Covenant is.
Is it not putting the cart before the horse to put a Bill before
Parliament which says it will report on the Covenant, when you
have not defined what the Covenant is?
General Sir William Rollo: Well,
I think there is a general sense of what the Covenant will be.
Ministers have not finally agreed the language. If you define
it as a sense of moral obligation, that is fairly broad and all
encompassing. That is the way that it should be seen.
Air Marshal Pulford: There is
a programme of measures that has yet to be decided and agreed,
which will capture both the Command Paper, the Strachan report,
the Green Paper, in the sense of what is in it and what will be
reported on. In terms of what the Covenant is, there will be measures
which have been captured within that programme which will be reported
on, on an annual basis.
Q188 Mr Jones: That is very interesting.
Are you telling the Committee that the Green Paper that was produced
two years ago is part of this policy-making process?
General Sir William Rollo: I guess
that everything that has gone before is part of the policy-making
process. There is very much a sense of evolution here from the
work that was done before. There is nothing about this that is
starting completely afresh. In the opening debate, the Service
Personnel Command Paper was acknowledged and the starting point
that it represented was set out. Certainly, that is the way that
we see it. This is evolution.
Q189 Chair: Admiral Montgomery,
you said that the Covenant had been being rebuilt for two or three
years now. So what would your answer to Kevan Jones's question
Admiral Montgomery: That period
of two or three years has been a process of evolution, which I
think General Rollo has been referring to. Perhaps the single
greatest step up from that was the formulation and publication
of the Service Personnel Command Paper by the previous Administration.
I would also add that the National Recognition Study that was
led by Quentin Davies was a component of that, which in itself
was another leg up in terms of the Armed Forces' status and visibility
within society. I think that the process of evolution over three
years has at least been building blocks along the way. This is
the next particular stage of that evolution.
Q190 Mr Jones: One of the things
in the Green Paper was how you actually make the things in the
Covenant, or the Service Command Paper as it was then, legally
enforceable. There is nothing in the Bill, even though it has
been pitched or spun to say that it puts the Covenant into law,
that gives any form of redress in terms of whatever has come forward
in the Report.
Chair: We will be coming back to that
in a few minutes.
Q191 Bob Russell: Looking back
over the last two to three years, you made reference to looking
at lots of reports and so on. Did that include consideration of
Defence Select Committee reports? In particular, I would like
to home in on the one about the education in state schools of
children from all three branches of the Military.
General Sir William Rollo: Mark,
would you like to pick up on that? Otherwise, I can.
Chair: He missed out the words, "the
Defence Committee's excellent report."
General Mans: Yes, indeed. I am
aware of the reports, as far as the actual process of reviewing
those is concerned and making sure that they have been picked
up in the work that is ongoing. But I will have to defer to that,
as obviously it is being driven by
Q192 Bob Russell: Could I ask,
gentlemen, that you take that away and look at the question I
put there? Events have moved on and the evolution has moved on.
The pupil premium, in my understanding, is not necessarily about
to fit in with the requirements of the children of Military personnel
because of the criteria that the Government may be using to define
which pupils are entitled to a Pupil Premium. That is an important
part of the education aspect of the Armed Forces Covenant.
General Sir William Rollo: Thank
you is the answer to that. When I was AG, we recruited a new chief
executive to the Service children's education authority with a
background in education in this country, specifically to develop
the relationship with local authorities and the Department for
Education in order to improve our understanding of the education
experience of Service children in this country, so I am focused
on that. I thought that the Pupil Premium was a good movethat
is a debate we have been having for some time. If there are criteria
that affect it that we need to look at, we will certainly do so.
Bob Russell: Thank you.
Q193 Alex Cunningham: What do
you consider to be the key purpose of the Armed Forces Covenant
Report to Parliament?
General Sir William Rollo: To
set out, as a statement of fact, where we are with those three
subjects in particular, with the treatment of Armed Service personnel
on housing, education and welfare; to provide an opportunity for
other stakeholders, such as the charitable sector and the Service
Families Federation, to give their views, so you get both a qualitative
and a quantitative statement of the welfare of the Services; and
to allow a debate in Parliament as to whether that situation is
adequate, and for the Secretary of State to say what he is doing
Q194 Alex Cunningham: How will
that provision directly improve the welfare of Service personnel
and their families? Is there enough there to convince Service
people that your side of the deal, or the Nation's side of the
deal, has been upheld?
General Sir William Rollo: Well,
it will also contain a report on the programme of measures, which
will build on those of the previous Administration, and what the
Government are doing about it.
Q195 Alex Cunningham: But there
are no measures, minimum requirements or anything?
General Sir William Rollo: That's
so, and there wasn't before, but the Government undertook to carry
out a series of commitments, whether in statute or in the other
direction within the Administration. If it isn't adequate, I'm
sure that the Families Federation and other people will say so.
Indeed, Parliament will have the opportunity to do so too.
Q196 Alex Cunningham: There seems
to be a tremendous reluctance to put down minimum standards. Would
you like to see minimum standards enshrined?
General Sir William Rollo: Minimum
standards are often quite difficult to enshrine in legislation.
In practice, for instance, on housing, we have said clearly that
we want people to be in the upper grades of housing. Where you
can define it, I think we should. Our experience over the past
three years is that defining standards is often quite tricky,
and we will have to go on devilling away at that until we get
General Mans: I don't think there
is a requirement to set down standards, but remember that the
Secretary of State's Report will be annual. Parliament will be
able to track progress year on year, therefore, which is a very
important aspect of the Report and the underpinning rationale.
Time will tell, in one sense, but the importance is laying something
before Parliament so there can be a debate, year on year.
Q197 Alex Cunningham: Yesterday
we paid a visit to the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre
at Chilwell in Nottingham. A couple of people I spoke to there
hadn't even heard of the Covenant, and another suggested it wasn't
worth the paper it was written on, because there were no guarantees
in there at all. Can you tell me about how much discussion there
has actually been with personnel and their families about the
kind of Covenant that should exist?
General Mans: Again, as I said
before, the Army has had its own Covenant and articulated it for
at least 10 years, and it is embedded in our doctrine. The training
that our officers and soldiers have is very much part of that.
Of course, I wouldn't expect every soldier, or indeed every officer,
to remember some of the fine words that are in our doctrine, but
it underpins a lot of what we do in terms of how we define what
we call the moral component.
You mentioned the families, and the Army Families
Federation, with whom I engage on a very frequent basis, understand
this and we have involved them in some of the discussions about
how this issue is progressed. If I am honest, if you were to go
to Chilwell in a year's or two years' time, I think you would
see a momentum building on the issue of the Armed Forces Covenant.
Admiral Montgomery: And I'm not
surprised that there wasn't open recognition among those you met
at Chilwell of the Covenant. After all, while the three Services
and the Families Federations have been involved in the Strachan
workwe have all been involved in the way in which that
work was taken forwardwe have been more formally engaged
in the way in which the Covenant itself has evolved thus far.
Down on the ground, of course, what will make
the difference to the sailors, soldiers and airmen is when they
see results, and that's when it's going to become more relevant.
The excellent work of the Service Personnel Command Paper, for
example, took considerable time to achieve even the minimum traction
among our people. In my view, it will only be when our people
start to see a mechanism that can produce beneficial results that
they will start really to get a grasp of what the Covenant is
doing for them.
Air Marshal Pulford: I reinforce
that entirely. An awful lot of change is going on out there, and
there is a lot of chatting in crew rooms and on the hangar floor.
Most of them know it's coming, and they will wait to see what
it is. They are by their very nature a pretty cynical bunch, hence
the "There will be nothing in it for us" view. That
comes back to the point of the Report and its quality and value,
because our peoplethose who are the subject of the Reporthave
got to believe in it as well. That's when that, "What's in
it for us?"when they see that there is tangible effect
from that Report each year.
Q198 Alex Cunningham: Just a quick
tangent; some of the people yesterday were talking about the American
system. It's one small factor, but they mentioned the benefits
card that the Americans have during and after service. They were
thinking that that card would be a great idea in Britain, but
they can't access it because they don't have those ID cards. Is
that something you would like to see?
General Sir William Rollo: There
is a Services discount website and scheme which gives discounts
for all kinds of things.
Q199 Alex Cunningham:
If you produce an ID card, post-Service.
General Sir William Rollo: No,
I think you can use it at any stage. An old chestnut about the
veterans ID card that has been going the rounds is that the key
is whether it would actually give a physical advantage to anyone,
and whether it would therefore be something that people actually
wanted. To date, I think we and the charitable sector have been
unable to pin that down satisfactorily.
Q200 Alex Cunningham:
One soldier suggested yesterday that free entry to Alton Towers
would be nice for his family, but that is another matter.
My final question is about the Devolved Administrations,
and how much discussion has been had with them as to how they
can live up to their Covenant obligations.
General Sir William Rollo: They
are represented on the External Reference Groupthey have
been involved. Clearly, if we are discussing an obligation on
their Administrations to do something, that is their decision,
and we respect that. The short answer to your question is that
they are fully engaged.
Q201 Sandra Osborne: What obligations
do they actually have? Do they have any legal obligations relating
to the Covenant, or are they just moral?
General Sir William Rollo: Gosh;
my first answer to your question is that there is a moral obligation,
in the same way that there is here. The legal duty imposed by
this legislation is on the Secretary of State to produce a reportthat
is the context of our conversation. The obligation is on him.
If we want to achieve a particular outcome, we will decide whether
that is best done by statute or not. If it is by statute, clearly
the Devolved Administrations will have to enact their own statute
where that is the right thing to do. If it is a moral obligation,
it is exactly that. The evidence so far and all the work on the
Service Personnel Command Paper show that they have been very
Q202 Sandra Osborne: As you rightly
point out, it is up to them whether they do something about health
care, education and housing, but those are all things that could
cost considerable resources. The three main headings that you
have chosen to highlight because they are very important potentially
all require resources but not from the MoD. What things would
you highlight that could require resources from the MoD?
General Sir William Rollo: In
the first instance, housing for Service people is an MoD responsibilitythat
sits with us. What is on the shortlist otherwise? I will give
an example of something I am really interested in: the Armed Forces
Compensation Scheme and its relationship with other benefits.
That is an area where there is clearly a crossover, because the
Government is giving people significant sums of money in compensation,
quite rightly, and therefore their financial status changes and
there is a significant interaction with benefits elsewhere. That
works, often on a voluntary basis, very satisfactorily, but it
is an area where I am really keen that we should achieve consistency
in practice in the future. That is one area.
Q203 Chair: Does anyone want to
add to that?
Air Marshal Pulford: I come back
to the resources thing. You are absolutely right that some of
this will cost money, but remember that it is about our people
not feeling disadvantaged because of the nature of the life they
are asked to lead because they are in the Armed Forces. A lot
of that is about prioritisation and access, not necessarily something
that will require resources. They are not asking for special treatmentto
go to the very top of a listbut they are asking that if
they move around on a regular basis, they are put at the appropriate
place on the list when they move. It comes down to fairness. I
do not think that it is all necessarily about resource, although
I do acknowledge that some areas will cost money.
Admiral Montgomery: The most obvious
and emotive area would be the continuing care that Service men
and ex-Service men need when they have suffered injuries, whether
in operations or not, and what place and what preferential treatment
they might be afforded in the NHS. There are areas that undoubtedly
will bring resource costs to other Government Departments and
Q204 David Wright: This follows
on, really, from what Admiral Montgomery just said. Clearly,
it is easier to monitor the Covenant among serving personnel;
and clearly, we will keep track on the progress of people who
are, sadly, badly injured, as they leave the Service. How will
we gather data on veterans who perhaps leave the Service without
injuryhopefully most do; we would like them all toand
monitor them in terms of the commitments in the Covenant? How
long do we keep data on veterans, for example? How will we assess
whether we are meeting our ongoing commitment to them as veterans
over time? We heard in a briefing about a week ago that we do
keep some records, but they are pretty sketchy. How are we going
to deal with that?
General Sir William Rollo: One
of the key ones is medical records. I do not know whether you
are calling the Surgeon General but he has done a huge amount
of work in the past two or three years to improve the interaction
of the Services medical system and the Department of Health, so
that effectively, records will be transferred in a much smoother
fashion than they could be in the past, and there will be a way
of identifying former Service men within the Department of Health
records. That is my understanding, anyway.
Q205 David Wright: Take, for example,
housing. Someone may leave the Service, say, after 10 years,
as a veteran with housing requirements. How, and how long, will
we monitor those individuals with respect to their housing needssay,
over five or 10 years?
General Sir William Rollo: I am
not sure we will. We will provide resettlement advice as they
go out, and we are doing a lot of additional work on how we improve
that service, but once they are launched, unless they have a specific
problem related to their service, they become a normal citizen
and carry on.
Q206 David Wright: One would assume
that we have a commitment to people who leave the Servicethat
they will not, for example, become street homeless.
General Sir William Rollo: Surely.
Q207 David Wright: How do we monitor
that? How do we keep a record of whether they are street homeless,
where they have gone, and whether we are meeting our obligations
as a society to someone who has served in the Forces?
General Sir William Rollo: We
have an interaction with the charitable sector, which deals with
this on a daily basis and in my view has the right people to deal
with it. I do not think that people actually necessarily want
to be tracked too much after they leave, although I understand
the helpful sense of what you are saying. Once they have left
they are very proud of their former Service, but they are equally
proud of being able to look after themselves and carry on their
Q208 David Wright: Of course they
are, but if we are going to adjust policy on housing, for example,
and give people particular levels of priority for accessing social
housing, we need some record of whether they are able to do that.
Clearly, people want to be independent and go off and live their
lives; we all accept that. I am trying to be helpful and find
out how we can track what happens through the Covenant Report,
for example. Presumably the Report would have to say, "X
number of people have left the Services and we reckon that most
have gone into these sectors of housing" in relation to our
fulfilling our obligation to them as a nation.
General Mans: Absolutely, and
that is something that requires more work. There is a mechanism
that we need to make more use of, which is that when a regular
soldier or officer leaves regular Service they have a reserve
liability and therefore there is a data capture process. It needs
to be improved, but there is a facility to keep track. Clearly,
that reserve liability does not go on for ever, so there would
be a time in terms of where, after five years or whatever, the
liability is, and it does change. The individual would then perhaps,
shall we say, become less connected to the Military. I would say
that it is a very good point, and it is something that we will
clearly want to follow through on.
David Wright: Thanks. That's helpful.
Q209 Mr Jones: Can I just ask,
General Rollo, about what you just said about the tracking of
medical records? You are correct that, in January 2009, there
was an agreement between the MoD and the NHS to ensure a smoother
transfer of medical records. There was, however, also an agreement
that, when people left the Armed Forces, they would be flagged
up on GPs' records, so that even 20 or 30 years down the line
you could say that people had seen service. When we were at Chilwell
yesterday, the GP told us that, because of cost, that is not being
implemented. Is that the case?
General Sir William Rollo: I don't
know. I am going to have to come back to you.
Q210 Thomas Docherty: Going back
to the point, General, that you made to Mr Wright about homelessness,
I am not sure that I would agree with an assessment that somebody
who has ended up homeless is in a position to be proud. I think
that you were roughly saying thatI will paraphrase slightlywe
don't track these people, because they are proud of their service,
and they wouldn't want to co-operate. Well, I'm sorry, but if
someone has ended up living homeless on the street, that mission
has failed. I struggle to understand why nobody takes responsibility
for tracking veterans when they leave their primary Forces.
General Sir William Rollo: I don't
think that I said that they would be proud of their Military service
if they ended up homeless. They might be, or they might not be.
I cannot put myself in somebody's brain. Do I want to see ex-Service
people homeless? Clearly, I don't. I think that the best way that
we can prevent that is by providing a better transition service
and a better lifelong education and personal development system
while they're in the Service. We take people from all sorts of
backgrounds, and I hope that we give them every opportunity to
develop themselves and to come out as useful members of society
when they leave the Service.
The issue is more about how one tracks somebody
in that position, and that has proven difficult. Is there a case
for a specific military charityI have been involved in
oneto look after the Military homeless? We did a survey
last year, which said that the problem was more diffuse. It isn't
just London-based. Also, the way that the charitable sector is
going in terms of mass and specialisation suggests that the best
way of looking after people in that position is to lift everybody
who is there, rather than focusing specifically on those who are
Military. I would hope that a rising tide will lift all ships
on this one. That is my perspective.
Air Marshal Pulford: Homelessness
is just one side of it. There is the medical side as well. We
were talking about resource earliersome sort of agency
that tracks the many thousands of veterans over the years. There
is some sophisticated network of charities out there to assist.
A lot of this comes down to the mutual pride of not wanting to
fall on to the charity sector in the first instance, and, of course,
all too often, by the time that they are picked up, it's very
late in their decline. We will, however, continue to refine our
understanding of how best to place the various assets, both of
the formal Government, as opposed to the MoD, and the charity
sector, to ensure that you are there to capture those that are
falling as early as possible.
General Sir William Rollo: Another
angle where Services are improving is on the mental health side.
Very often, people in that position have had a mental health problem
at some stage, and the continued development of the improvements
that began two to three years ago is an area that would be helpful
to people in that position. I think that everything becomes a
rather holistic problem, and deciding whether somebody is homeless
because they have a mental health problem, they develop a health
problem because they are homeless, or they are homeless because
their relationships have got into problems or they have lost a
joball those factors tend to come together and you have
to treat all of them at the same time. Again, that is a positive
aspect of the developments that we have had during the last few
years, which will continue.
Chair: We will be taking evidence on
Thursday from many of the Service charities, so this issue may
well come up again then.
Q211 Gemma Doyle: As we have discussed,
the three issues in the Bill that the Secretary of State will
be required to report on are health care, housing and education.
General Rollo, you mentioned welfare, housing and education, and
my definition of "welfare" would include pensions and
benefits. I wonder whether you or anyone on the panel could give
a view on whether the definitions should be expanded, at least
to include pensions and benefits.
General Sir William Rollo: We
are laying out a Bill for the future. I think that the core subjects
areI had better make sure I get it right this time, hadn't
I?education, health and medical care. Would we always want
to talk about pensions and pay? We might. There will be other
occasions when it is clearly more pertinent to do so. I guess
that this might be one of them; I don't know. That is an issue
for the drafting of the Report in due course. There are big changes
to pensions going on at the moment and those are very pertinent
to us. Whether the Report is the right place to raise them"to
Q212 Gemma Doyle: On the basis
that health care, housing and education are all devolved issues,
certainly in Scotland, the inclusion of pensions and benefits
would ensure that there was a UK focus to the Covenant Report.
Could you respond to that point? If pensions and benefits are
not included, Scottish veterans, for example, will be looking
at this system and wondering where they fit into it, because at
the moment there is no issue on which the Secretary of State would
be required to report on that would affect them.
General Sir William Rollo: You
raise a really interesting issue, in particular the way in which
the Report covers work carried out by the Devolved Administrations.
I would be slightly surprised if the Report did not mention the
work of the Devolved Administrations. Otherwise, I do not see
how we could give a picture of what is happening across the board.
The issue of what the Secretary of State is accountable for is
clearly one that we will have to look at as we go through the
Q213 Gemma Doyle: I don't mind
if someone else answers this question. How will it be decided
which issues are included in the Report? Will the Secretary of
State himself or herself decide those issues, or who do you think
will be involved in that decision-making process?
General Sir William Rollo: I guess
that I have to start, because I am the only one of the three of
us who is a Member of the External Reference Group. Clearly the
External Reference Group will play a key part in that process,
but they won't be the only people involved. The chain of command
will also be involved. At that point, I will look sideways.
Admiral Montgomery: I was going
to come back to exactly the same point. Of course the chain of
command will have a very fundamental internal input into the Secretary
of State's Report and there will be other inputs too, such as
the Continuous Attitude Survey, whether it be the Armed Forces'
Continuous Attitude Survey or the surveys for the families or
the Reserve Forces. All those surveys will have an input into
the Secretary of State's Report, as indeed might the Leavers Survey,
for example. So I am sure that all those internally generated
triggers will feed up to General Rollo's area in the Department,
for him to be able to put together the sorts of issues that eventually
might be put to the Secretary of State to decide what goes into
General Mans: I think that we
referred earlier to the programme of measures, which will sweep
up the previous Service Personnel Command measures and some of
the issues that Professor Hew Strachan has examined. So there
will be measures that will be reported against in some way, and
clearly in doing that the views of the Services will be articulated.
That programme of measures will be important, because it really
is the start point.
Q214 Gemma Doyle: Air Marshal
Pulford, you raised the issue of access to health care. Do you
think that the Bill guarantees priority access to NHS treatment
for Service people?
Air Marshal Pulford: Guarantees?
We are looking for the Covenant and the programme of measures
to deliver the means by which our people are not disadvantaged
due to their lifestyle. So, within the programme of measures,
we are looking at the mechanisms by which those disadvantages
as they presently sit are removed.
Gemma Doyle: I understand, but there
is no measure in the Bill that guarantees priority in the NHS.
Air Marshal Pulford: As we discussed
much earlier, the Bill is about the reporting. The programme of
measures will be the specific effects themselves. The Report,
which is outlined by the Bill, will be about how we are doing:
it will be about measuring ourselves each year on the progress
we are making in removing those disadvantages if they presently
exist. As we have just discussed, if new issues come in during
a year and we detect that this contractthis Covenantis
beginning to break down, it will be about how we readjust and
ensure that it sits on a level playing field.
General Sir William Rollo: The
short answer to your question is, no, there isn't a guarantee.
Q215 Alex Cunningham: Should there
General Sir William Rollo: I think
there is an existing measure that gives people with wounds related
to their Service a degree of priority treatment measured against
Q216 Alex Cunningham: Is it good
General Sir William Rollo: I don't
know. We are particularly concerned at the moment about the supply
of prosthetics to people after they have left the Service, and
it is an area on which we are focusing a lot of attention. The
Department of Health has said it will provide a service for people
after they've left. Precisely how that works is being looked at
by Dr Murrison among other people. We will have to ensure that
that is right, because it is an area of particular need in which
a degree of specialist commitment is clearly required. It raises
a number of interesting issues such as whether active people who
have the misfortune to have such an injury at a young age should
also have better NHS provision. So there are some complicated
things to tease out.
Q217 Chair: Is it also an issue
of Devolved Administrations? The Government of the United Kingdom
would not be in a position to issue a guarantee on the part of
the Devolved Administrations, would it?
General Sir William Rollo: I guess
that is the case. The Scottish Executive are already looking at
prosthetics, and they have a working group. They do it, and we
are engaged with them.
Q218 Chair: Sticking with the
Devolved Administrations, last week I asked whether the devolved
Administrations would see in advance a copy of the Secretary of
State's draft Report. I may be unfair, but I had the impression
that the answer we received, which was yes, had not been fully
worked through the chain of commandI suppose that would
be the best way of putting it. Do you have a view on that?
General Sir William Rollo: If
they said yes, I am sure they meant it.
Q219 Chair: What if they had given
it a huge amount of thought?
General Sir William Rollo: It
would be fair to say that the question of how reports are to be
produced is still being worked through. It was discussed at the
most recent External Reference Group, which I attended last month,
and I am sure it will be discussed again next time as we put together
precisely how we are going to do it.
Chair: I see. Thank you.
Q220 Mark Lancaster: The Bill
specifically mentions the Reserve Forces in its definition of
the Armed Forces. But of the three reporting streamshealth,
education and accommodationeducation and accommodation
are certainly not particularly relevant to the Reserve Forces.
Health care is to a degree, although, as we saw yesterday, effectively
only during the mobilisation period and slightly after, depending
on the problems. My point is that the three reporting streams
do not have the same relevance as they do for the Regular Forces.
The Reserve Forces represent a large proportion of our Armed Forces
and, occasionally, have felt as if they are second-class citizens.
Would you have any objections if there were to be a fourth category
entitled "Reserve Forces", specifically designed to
mop up some of the other areas that are specific to the Reserve
Forces? Perhaps I could invite the Inspector General of the Territorial
Army to comment.
General Mans: Inspector General
of the Reserve Army is the correct title. I am not scoring points.
It is an important pointthe Reserves. It is important because,
interestingly, it links to the discussion that we had on veterans.
Where is that dividing line? Is there a dividing line? There can't
be in terms of what we seek to get out of the Covenant or of what
the Reserve Force is. From an Army perspective, that is both the
Territorial Army and the Regular Reserves. We are talking about
slightly different beasts, hence my raising earlier the linkage
to the veterans issue with regard to the regular reserves.
If I am honest, we need to do more work to identify
those areas, perhaps for someone in the Territorial Army who was
mobilised, then demobilised, then served in the Territorial Army
and later left it and became a veteran. There is a spectrum of
issues that we need to look at to see how we can support people
in terms of their well-being, education, health and housing.
Health care is one
area that, as you will be aware, we have put a lot of effort into.
That is where the most vulnerable people are, and it does not
always link to a mobilised service. That is an important dynamic,
and I would like to see it developed. I referred earlier to the
notion of the Covenant and the annual reporting. It is an evolution
and we will learn ways to do things better. Mr Wright's earlier
point about tracking and so on goes to the heart of the issue.
We must ensure that we help the most vulnerable in terms of delivering
on the Covenant. I accept that more work needs to be done concerning
the Reserve Forces.
Admiral Montgomery: It is an interesting
dichotomy. I for one do not immediately get attracted to anything
that starts to draw a dividing line between Regular Forces and
Reserves. If we were to have a separate block that sits in the
reporting framework which is about reserves, we are, de facto,
starting to treat reserves rather separately. For my moneyI
speak intuitively herethose three areas will catch many
of the issues that are of most interest to our reserves, predominantly
health care. I return to the point that I find very reassuring,
which is that the utilisation of our various Attitude Surveys
will be a fundamental component of reporting performance against
the Covenant. There is a separate reporting mechanism through
the Reserve Forces where their views can be expressed. If there
are areas beyond those three key areas, they can be fed through
Q221 Mark Lancaster: How will
accommodation affect the Reserve Forces?
Admiral Montgomery: How would
accommodation affect them?
Q222 Mark Lancaster: How will
the reporting affect the accommodation? Can you give me some examples?
Admiral Montgomery: In my judgment
now, very little, if at all.
Q223 Mark Lancaster: Precisely.
Admiral Montgomery: No, that is
not my point. My point is that in those instances where there
is an issue, there is a reporting mechanism so that things can
get factored in if necessary.
Air Marshal Pulford: We need to
be very careful. I don't want to repeat what I said earlier, but
this rather binary regular reserve boundary is being eroded all
the time. There is a full-time Reserve Service, and we have FSTA,
the new air tanker, coming in. That will have sponsored Reserves
on boardaccompanying people who will at times be expected
to put on uniform and go into harm's way. We have contractors
in harm's way now who are not part of the Covenant. How does the
future look? As we continue to mature our understanding of the
model and move away from the traditional regular reserve civilian,
any suggestion that we somehow break out little parts of that
Service personnel within the Bill would be counter-productive.
More work is required to understand the model as it matures in
terms of the different categories of Service people in the Bill.
General Sir William Rollo: Mr
Lancaster, what would you like to see if you had that category?
What would go into it?
Q224 Mark Lancaster: There are
specific issuesgreat, I am being questioned; it is marvelloussuch
as the welfare of families of Reserve Forces who do not enjoy
the same level of support that Members of the regulars do. The
spouse of a member of the Reserve Forces could be 100 miles away
from the TA centre in which their husband or wife is based. They
do not get that same support. There are a number of areas where
those three principal categories simply would not allow those
issues to be raised. We are then reliant on the secondary category
whereby there is a catch-all for the Secretary of State each year
potentially to include a category. The point that I am attempting
to make is that in choosing those three categories, they are not
particularly relevant to the Reserve Forces. They are in part,
but they do not capture all of the issues that are relevant to
the Reserve Forces. It also sends a very clear message to the
Reserve Forces that they are of equal status, which proves the
point that all four of you have given in your evidence that they
are of equal status. Perhaps we are coming at this from different
General Sir William Rollo: My
only comment on that is the problem of how we do welfare for families
who are away from the base of the organisation concerned. It is
not unique to the reserves. We will see how we can sweep up the
Chair: That is the first experience that
I have had of the witnesses questioning the Committee.
Q225 Mr Jones: The only legal
obligation in this Bill is for the Secretary of State to produce
the Annual Report to Parliament. The areas covered are exactly
the same as the External Reference Group already covers at the
moment, although I accept that there is no legal obligation for
that Report to be presented to Parliament. Last week, we were
told that the External Reference Group would no longer produce
its own report.
Chair: Well, it would but it would not
Mr Jones: Well, yes. It is a bit confusing.
In terms of the Secretary of State presenting it to Parliament,
is that not therefore going to reduce the independent oversight
of the actual Report?
General Sir William Rollo: I don't
think that we have yet decided, with the External Reference Group,
quite how this is going to be done. I can say that with confidence
because I was there at the discussion. I am clear that there is
no point in the Secretary of State producing a report that does
not include the Group's views. What I would like to get out of
the Report, or Reports, will be both a factual sense of where
we areI accept that there are some difficult areas of metrics
that we will have to work atand a qualitative sense of
what people feel about it, which will need to reflect the views
of the independent members of the External Reference Group.
Q226 Mr Jones: I accept that,
but if you are not going to produce publicly the External Reference
Group's Report, how could you say whether it agrees with the Secretary
of State? What is to stop a future Secretary of State disagreeing
and saying, "No, I'm not going to put that in. I will not
look at those areas"? Isn't the quickest way to make the
External Reference Group Report to Parliament? Would that not
be an easier way of doing it?
General Sir William Rollo: I'm
not sure. The key point is that we have not yet decided how we
are going to do it.
Q227 Mr Jones: That's remarkable.
We have a Bill before us. You deal with the various interlocutors
on the External Reference Group and know that they have strong
views about their independence and about the MoD on occasions.
General Sir William Rollo: They
Q228 Mr Jones: So isn't it a bit
remarkable that we are going to produce a report, and yet no thought
has gone into how you are going to involve those individuals?
General Sir William Rollo: Thought
has gone into it, but it has not reached a conclusion, not least
becauseI think that it is fair to say thisthey have
not reached a common position among themselves as to how they
would like to do it. We will have to tease this out. For the Secretary
of State to make a report that is flatly disagreed with on a factual
basis by the other organisations there would be a curious place
Q229 Mr Jones: Yes, but it is
not fact. As you know, a lot of it is nuance or interpretation.
General Sir William Rollo: Some
of it will be fact.
Q230 Mr Jones: Dentistry, for
example, is always a good one, isn't it?
General Sir William Rollo: Gosh.
That's almost a private grief between us, isn't it?
Chair: I think we'd better move on.
Q231 Jack Lopresti: Given that
there seems to be a general concern in this Committee about the
lack of minimum standards in the Covenant and legally enforceable
obligations from the Government, it all seems rather vague. Has
any consultation been done to find out whether serving personnel
would like an enforceable, legally enshrined Covenant with minimum
standards of care and obligations?
General Sir William Rollo: In
any formal sense, the short answer to that question is no, it
hasn't. Let me pass the question down the line.
General Mans: Informally, I repeat
myself about the Army having had a Covenant for some time. In
terms of officers and soldiers, certainly, there hasn't been a
desire in the past to have that enshrined in law in terms of standards
and what have you; It's not that there's a groundswell of opinion
in that respect. I think that that is important. Therefore, it
has perhaps informed the debate as far as the Armed Forces Covenant
in that respect. I personally don't feel that standards would
be appropriate. You could end up in quite a legal minefield, perhaps,
in terms of obeying standards, what they meant and what have you.
We might possibly lose sight of the original intent. In other
words, you would have so much legal process tied up with what
you're trying to do.
I'm a great believer, though, in collective
engagement and so on. A good example, if I can refer back to the
Scottish Government, is that we have a very healthy dialogue through
my regional chain with the Scottish Government. A lot is being
done at that level, without recourse to specific standards.
Admiral Montgomery: I have detected
no appetite for legally enforceable measures within this Covenant,
none whatsoever. Where we have been before with personal functional
standards in our own Service, which are in many ways not so dissimilar
in principle, our people are much more content with something
that is simple, straightforward and easy to understand.
I think the point really is that until our people
see how the Covenant works in practice, they are content with
the current arrangements. They will want to see it working in
practice. If it doesn't feel as though it's working under the
current arrangements, although I see no reason why it shouldn't,
those attitudes may change, but I detect no appetite for it at
the moment at all.
Air Marshal Pulford: Just to complete,
I concur with both. There is no great push for the legal side
of it. I think, given all the various aspects of this, it would
be a very complicated thing to try to deliver anyway. In terms
of minimum standards, "minimum" is probably the wrong
What is acceptable to our people? It comes back
to the idea that they're being disadvantaged in some way. All
they expect is fairness. There will be very good reasons why,
in some places, people at the moment are probably living in accommodation
that is unacceptable in normal terms. Why? Because that base has
probably got another six months to go, and we're handing it over.
Is it acceptable under those circumstances to ask them to live
there? Yes. Do they buy into that and agree with us that it is
acceptable? Yes. I think the danger is that if you start laying
down the law, as it were, in terms of minimums, it all gets very
The bottom line is that our people will make
their own judgment of what is acceptable to them and what is fair
in their eyes. Are they being disadvantaged? If they are, they
will want to understand why and what we intend doing about it.
Q232 Gemma Doyle: The Prime Minister
has said that the Bill enshrines the Military Covenant in law.
Do you disagree with the Prime Minister that it is necessary to
enshrine it in law or that the Bill does so?
Chair: General Rollo, this is one for
General Sir William Rollo: I'm
putting my mind back to my last year of law at university, because
I feel that this is becoming a rather more legal issue than I
personally think it is. I would prefer to say, is it appropriately
enshrined in law? I think you asked me a previous question on
this point. As I understand it from the rather more expert lawyers
who provide us with advice, if you put a definition into statute,
the legal system will assume that, in doing so, you meant to provide
for specific rights that you will then apply with the whole machinery
of the law to provide them. That takes us straight into the areas
that we have discussed over the past hour or so: is that actually
what we want to do? I think our collective view is that no, it
is not. Military Service is not a contract and that is not an
area where we want to go. I think that the solution we have come
up with, which is to provide for a statutory duty on the Secretary
of State to report on the working of the Covenant and the Welfare
of the Armed Services, is a sensible compromise. It is a tricky
Q233 Mr Francois: Sorry, General,
but I am trying to keep my word on something. When we were at
Chilwell yesterday, we spoke to reservists being mobilised, and
I spent quite a while speaking to one group. No one made a plea
for minimum standards at the pointit did not pop upbut
one thing that they raised, and that they all agreed upon as a
group of a dozen or so Territorial Army soldiers, was that they
wanted more effort made to explain to employers the importance
of what they were doing. They were being deployed on operations
and serving their country. Some of them were finding that, in
this difficult economic climate, their employers were resistant
to letting them go. We as politicians have a duty to address that
better, but while you are hereto be honest to them, as
it weremay I put that point to you and say that I think
that senior ranks within the Military also need to do more to
get that message across so that, when these people are required
to serve, their employers support them, rather than doing the
opposite, as has unfortunately been the case in a couple of cases?
Can you say anything about that?
General Mans: Yes, it's an excellent
point, if I may say so, and it is uppermost in our mind. There
are ways of doing this. I am not making an excusefar from
itbecause we need to do more in terms of using SABRE NEAB
and what have you to engage with employers and so on. It works
very wellMr Lancaster will understand thisin terms
of the larger employers. They can cope with individuals who are
in the TA being mobilised and being away for up to 12 months,
which is what the legislation provides. We need to do more in
relation to the smaller employers and those who, frankly, lack
the clout to have their voice heard. Whether or not we need to
go down the legislative route and look again at the Reserve Forces
Act 1996 remains to be seen.
All I would say is that this is being addressed
as part of the Future Reserves 2020 review, which is ongoing at
the moment. The whole question of legislation and how the Reserves
are used and so on is certainly being looked at, and we will have
to see how that work progresses. In the meantime, I spend a lot
of my effort focusing on the chambers of commerce in some of our
larger cities and so on to try to get in amongst some of the detail
on how employers react. As you have articulated, it is a well-known
problem in that respect, particularly for smaller companies.
Mr Francois: General, I am grateful.
I feel that I have kept my word now. If you can be mindful of
that future reserves 2020 review, I think these people going out
there to serve would be grateful to you.
Mark Lancaster: You can, of course, add
that to my list.
Chair: We have a few quick final questions
for you. The first is on Service complaints procedures from Thomas
Q234 Thomas Docherty: Are you
satisfied that clause 20 goes far enough in meeting the issues
of the Service Complaints Panel? Do you believe that all Service
Complaint Panels should have at least one independent member?
General Mans: As I understand
itagain, I have not read it and will have to refer to the
detail lateran independent member is already part of the
Service Complaints Panel for certain complaints, such as bullying,
harassment and so on. That is already laid down. Again, without
referring to the detailI will do so in a secondI
was wondering if you could perhaps clarify your question.
Q235 Thomas Docherty: You rightly
pointed out that for some there is an independent member, but
not all. The Bill makes no change to that. The question is: should
there be a member on all the panels?
General Mans: I am very happy
with the way the Service Complaints Panel is working in its current
guise. As I think you heard from Dr Atkins earlier, we are creating
more of a momentum in terms of that. I do not detect a need to
have an independent member to cover all complaints. If I am frank,
I am not sure it would be a huge value added in that respect.
Chair: You don't all have to answer these
questions, but you can do so if you would like to.
General Sir William Rollo: In
other circumstances, where a complaint concerns an issue of policy,
it would go to a Service Board. There are normally two members
of that board, which would not include an independent member.
I do not think any of us are uncomfortable with that system. I
have sat on one on many occasions. The short answer to that question
Q236 Thomas Docherty: How closely
do you work with the Commissioner to try to address some of the
emerging trends or patterns? One example we talked about with
her last week was if you offer IVF treatment, it varies from PCT
to PCT, depending on where there is the requirement. She feels
able to address that individually, but are you, as Services, working
with her to address those issues as they develop?
General Sir William Rollo: Let
me take that one. Again, the short answer is yesvery. I
have been in Service in one place to another since she was appointed.
The relationship has developed. At the moment, we interact regularly
with her office on an official level. I probably see her once
a month. She comes to the Service Personnel Board at least twice
a year and we have the common aim of improving the speed and efficiency
of the complaints system.
Chair: By the way, as a Committee, we
were most impressed with her evidence last week.
Q237 Thomas Docherty: I shall
ask my final question, Chair. She talked to us about the issue
of validation of her work and there was a discussion about whether
Parliament should, perhaps through the Defence Committee, have
her in for a session and take evidence and validate her work.
How do you, as Services, feel about that as a suggested process?
General Sir William Rollo: She
makes a report to Parliament every year. I do not know how the
process works beyond that. The aim of that report is to satisfy
Parliament that the complaints system is working properly and,
where it is not, that there are measures introduced to improve
it. The fact that that happens on a yearly basis will show whether
we are making progress or not. We are making progress and there
are plenty of areas where we need to go on doing that.
Chair: We have received representations
from certain groups, including some from the Coalition to Stop
the Use of Child Soldiers. I call Kevan Jones.
Q238 Mr Jones: We have had a number
of representations, including from the Quakers and others, on
the Billit is a regular thing. Could you clarify something
because I think that some of the things here are wrong and it
would be worth while getting your take on it? There is obviously
a policy to recruit under-16-year-olds. I think that things like
Harrogate and other things are very good, but could you just explain
for the record the issue around the ability of people who joined
at 16 to leave the Armed Forces? There seems to be the impression
that once you join at 16, you're locked in for a longer period,
or for the rest of your life. Could you say how we compare internationally
and do you actually think that UK Armed Forces should seek to
General Sir William Rollo: The
answer to your question would be no. Under the current educational
system, where many people still leave at 16 or where there is
a period between 16 and 18 of vocational employment, that should
be seamless. You should give the opportunity to somebody to leave
the educational system and go into full-time employment. We should
be part of that. We provide career opportunities, training and
education and a structured environment, all of which are good
things to a varying degree for the people concerned. I shall ask
the Adjutant General to talk to the first point on whether you
are locked in for life, because that point particularly applies
with regard to the Army.
General Mans: Every solider serves
for a minimum commitment of four years, as you know, Mr Jones.
For those who are under 18, that commitment does not start until
their 18th birthday. If you join after your 18th birthday, then
obviously it starts on whatever date you join, or are attested.
Again, as you will be aware, in terms of deployed Servicesoldiers
serving on operationsthey do not deploy until their 18th
birthday or after, so we do not deploy anybody under 18.
Q239 Mr Jones: So what is the
mechanism for somebody leaving at, say, 16 and three months?
General Mans: They can apply for
a discharge as of right and, depending on the length of time that
they have been in training, they can be given that opportunity
General Sir William Rollo: But
there is also a window at 18, for a further three months, where
they can apply to leave. You asked how we compared with other
people. My information is that France allows voluntary service
from the age of 17; Austria, I think, from 16; Spain 20; Germany
18; and the USA 17, with parental consent. So I do not think we
are completely out of kilter with everybody else.
Q240 Alex Cunningham: Just to
clarify this, because I met this group, the young person gets
from 16 through to 18. They are then compelled to serve a minimum
of four yearsin effect, six years in totalso they
do not have the same benefit as others. How do they get out? How
does somebody get out at 18?
General Mans: After 18?
Alex Cunningham: Yes.
General Mans: There is a window.
There is a three-month period when you can actually apply.
Alex Cunningham: The 16-year-old who
gets to 18 has a three-month window to leave at the age of 18.
General Mans: Yes. So there is
Alex Cunningham: Otherwise they've got
four years that they have to serve.
General Mans: Absolutely. And
that is one reason why that clause was put into our regulations
some time ago, in reply to and cognisant of these very issues
that have been raised about child soldiers.
Chair: Moving on to disability legislation,
Q241 Sandra Osborne: Has any reconsideration
been given to the exemption that the Armed Forces have on the
statutory provisions of the disability discrimination legislation,
following the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights?
General Mans: Again, perhaps if
I can pick that one up. I am no expert on the finer workings of
that legislation, but clearly we need able-bodied individuals
to join the Army for obvious reasons. We do have exemptions in
terms of the legislation, I think, where we exercise a degree
of judgment with, for example, individuals who suffer from dyslexia.
I think there is a clause on that particular disabilityI
cannot remember. There are one or two other areas where we say,
"Yes, we will accept that disability in the Armed Forces",
but I cannot be more specific than that without referring directly
to the fine detail of the legislation. Not having exemptions in
the legislation, though, is not an area where we would want to
Q242 Sandra Osborne: How does
the exemption affect those who are disabled while they are on
General Mans: In answer to that,
it does not affect them at all once they are serving. Some of
you will be well aware of the capability that we are implementing
and developing at speed called the Army Recovery Capability, which
is designed to do just thatto look after our sick, injured
and wounded soldiers not only while they are serving, but to give
those who are badly injured or wounded an appropriate transition
into civilian life over a period time, because each person is
different. The fact that we are exempt from the legislation has
not impacted on that area at all.
Q243 Sandra Osborne: During recruitment,
is there any opportunity for people with various disabilities
to join the Armed Forces in a role that would be appropriate to
their disability, or is it just not acceptable at all?
General Mans: I would have
to check but as far as I'm aware, it is not acceptable.
General Sir William Rollo: Aside
from the various, relatively small exceptions that the Adjutant
General has mentioned, the short answer to your question is that
the Armed Forces need to be full of fit people. When we recruit,
as a matter of policy, we clearly want to accept only people who
are fit. If people are injured in Service, we have a duty to look
after them but even then, we can't keep them forever, because
we would silt up and become not operationally effective.
Q244 Sandra Osborne: What about
civilians who are employed by the Armed Forces?
General Sir William Rollo:
They are not subject to this legislation.
Q245 Mr Ellwood:
The thoroughfare of the injured coming back from Afghanistan is
a reflection of the different world we now live in, compared with
the '80s and early '90s, when either injuries, or certainly deaths,
were a rarity. What has been done to invigorate the role of the
Regimental Associations while soldiers are serving, to encourage
that communication and sense of bonding that will hopefully continue
for the rest of the lives of the injured personnel, so that these
people can be kept track of?
General Mans: Shall I pick that
one up? It relates directly to what I have just talked about,
which is the Army Recovery Capability. We have created not only
a capability to look after our injured, wounded and sick, but
we have created a focus, which sits within my headquarters, to
which the Regimental Associationsthrough the Regimental
Headquarters to which they alignare in almost daily contact,
in terms of ensuring that individual soldiers who are wounded,
injured and need care are looked after. However, it is also about
the transition into civilian life and civilian employment where
the Regimental Associations are so powerful. It is about ensuring
that the transition from serving to veterans is absolutely seamless,
and therefore, ensuring that Regimental Associations are part
of that process is important. That is exactly where a lot of our
energies are being directed.
Admiral Montgomery: May I just
amplify that? I'm sure that you will understand that this is not
only an Army issue; it is across all three Services. The Naval
Service Recovery CentreHasler company, which many Members
will be familiar withis already up and running. It, too,
has very strong links with the Royal Marines Association in particular;
most of their casualties are from the Royal Marines. They, too,
are sweeping these individuals up and providing them with through-life
Q246 Mr Ellwood: I asked the question
because, when I served, the role of Regimental Associations was
seen as an organisation for elderly charactersthe vets,
who we saw on Poppy Dayand not really for the younger generation.
Are any efforts being made for the serving soldiers to be made
aware that there is a facility that will look after them, so they
are educated not as they are signing their papers and being demobbed,
but during their process?
Admiral Montgomery: Actually,
from my Service perspective, the issue is the other way round.
We just have to make sure that these Associations don't lose sight
of the older veterans, rather than the younger ones. That is the
greater challenge, because there are so many more older veterans
who need looking after.
Q247 Mr Jones:
It is not just the Regular Associations, because in my experience
some are very good, and others are not, depending on the secretary.
At the end of that pipeline, there is a whole list of other organisations
and charities that have been involved in that process.
General Mans: Which is the power
of this new capability. Again, the full colonel who runs it is,
as I say, in daily contact with the charitable sector and all
these other organisations. In answer to your question, every soldier
is now briefed while they go through their initial training, in
terms of the regimental bitabout Regimental Associations,
in particularin time for the point at which they eventually
Chair: Okay. That was the final question.
We are about to move on to policing issues, with a different group
of witnesses, so may I say thank you very much indeed for some
very helpful, clarifying answers? I would be grateful if we could
now move quickly to a new set of witnesses.