The Armed Forces Bill

AFB 15

Further written evidence from the Ministry of Defence

Email exchange between the Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces

and MoD official

From: Dr Susan Atkins, Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces

Date: 2 February 2011

Humphrey,

Thank you and also for all your time today. Exceptionally helpful.

You suggested I drop you a line about my concerns about a potential risk in relation to one provision in the current Bill, designed to enable SCPs with independent members to be appointed . My concern is that removing the requirement for at least one member of an SCP to be an officer of 1* or above, may lead to SCPs being made up of more junior officers, even where there was no independent member.

In my experience over the last three years, there is a link between seniority and wisdom.  The risk is that the Services will take a rank based approach without recognising the need to have people of the right quality and experience, who can see the wood for the trees and are able to hold up the Services’ hand when a mistake has been made. I gave you a number of examples where individuals of Colonel and equivalent – at level 2 – were not able to do so.

Your explanations on a number of  points were re-assuring. I will keep in touch with you if I believe there are other changes that may be usefully made.

Kind Regards

Dr Susan Atkins

Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces

 

From: Humphrey Morrison, Head of Legislation, Central Legal Services, Ministry of Defence

Date: 4 February 2011

Susan

Thank you for your email. I am very pleased that our discussions were a help. On the point mentioned in your email of 2 February above, however I think that my comments over the phone suggested to you that there was a risk that Service personnel appointed to Service Complaint Panels might lack the necessary seniority. My apologies for doing so, as I do not think there is a risk of this.

It is indeed the case that the Bill removes the requirement for a Service Complaint Panel to include a senior officer. As you mention in your email below, this change is being made so that it is possible to have panels made up entirely of independent members.  This will be achieved by the repeal of section 336(3) of AFA2006. But it will remain the case that, if a panel does have Service Members (or even one Service Member) they must be senior officers. This is in section 336(1) of AFA06. Of course the Defence Council, in appointing a senior officer to a panel, will also need to have regard to appointing persons of the right experience.

I hope this provides the reassurance you need. I gather from Darren Beck that you have provided the Select Committee with a copy of your email. I think it would help the Select Committee to have an explanation of how the appointment of officers to panels will work and so, if you have no objection, I propose to send them a copy of this reply.

Very best wishes

Humphrey Morrison