The Armed Forces Bill - Armed Forces Committee Contents

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 arise?

  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 quickly—if it's sufficiently urgent—clearly 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 their Service.

  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 way—that 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 Services—the Navy and ourselves—didn'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 triangle—it 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 particular—health, education and housing—and 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 Covenant exists?

  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 grasp—an understanding of sorts—of 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 Army—to resume my single-Service status for a moment—we'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 think—is 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 be?

  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 move—that 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 about it.

  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 it right.

  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 work—we have all been involved in the way in which that work was taken forward—we 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 people—those who are the subject of the Report—have 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 Group—they 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 report—that 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 forward-leaning.

  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 responsibility—that 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 treatment—to go to the very top of a list—but 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 Devolved Administrations.

  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 injury—hopefully most do; we would like them all to—and 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 needs—say, 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 Service—that 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 lives.

  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 that—I will paraphrase slightly—we 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 charity—I have been involved in one—to 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 earlier—some 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 job—all 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 are—I 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 be discussed".

  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 process.

  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 the Report.

  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 contract—this Covenant—is 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 be?

  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 clinical need.

  Q216 Alex Cunningham: Is it good enough?

  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 command—I 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 streams—health, education and accommodation—education 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 point—the 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 money—I speak intuitively here—those 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 that way.

  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 board—accompanying 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 issues—great, I am being questioned; it is marvellous—such 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 ends.

  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 right issues.

  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 be published.

  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 are—I accept that there are some difficult areas of metrics that we will have to work at—and 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 do.

  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 because—I think that it is fair to say this—they 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 to be.

  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 word.

  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 complicated.

  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 you.

  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 area.

  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 point—it did not pop up—but 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 here—to be honest to them, as it were—may 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 excuse—far from it—because 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 well—Mr Lancaster will understand this—in 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 Docherty.

  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 it—again, I have not read it and will have to refer to the detail later—an 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 detail—I will do so in a second—I 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 is yes.

  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 yes—very. 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 Bill—it 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 recruit under-18-year-olds?

  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 Service—soldiers serving on operations—they 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 to leave.

  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 years—in effect, six years in total—so 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 an opportunity.

  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, Sandra Osborne.

  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 disability—I 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 go.

  Q242 Sandra Osborne: How does the exemption affect those who are disabled while they are on active Service?

  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 that—to 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 Associations—through the Regimental Headquarters to which they align—are 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 Centre—Hasler company, which many Members will be familiar with—is 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 support.

  Q246 Mr Ellwood: I asked the question because, when I served, the role of Regimental Associations was seen as an organisation for elderly characters—the vets, who we saw on Poppy Day—and 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 bit—about Regimental Associations, in particular—in time for the point at which they eventually leave.

  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.

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