1 Introduction |
The Armed Forces Covenant
1. The Armed Forces Covenant was published in May
2011 and set out the relationship between the people of the United
Kingdom, Her Majesty's Government and the Armed Forces Community.
It stressed the moral obligation the nation had to the Armed Forces
Community, made up of serving and former members of the Royal
Navy and Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force, together
with their families. Specifically, the Covenant stated:
Those who serve in the Armed Forces, whether
Regular or Reserve, those who have served in the past, and their
families, should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens
in the provision of public and commercial services. Special
consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for
those who have given most such as the injured and the bereaved.
The Covenant identified fifteen themes within its
scope, which included: Healthcare, Education, Housing, Benefits
and Tax, Commercial Products and Services, Transition and Support
After-Service. Many of these services are provided by the UK's
devolved administrations, thereby making delivery of the Covenant
a matter equally for HM Government and the respective devolved
2. We unreservedly endorse the key principles
of the Armed Forces Covenant:
· members of the Armed Forces Community
should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens, and
· special consideration may be appropriate
in some cases.
3. The Covenant is recognised in the Armed Forces
Act 2011, which cites the principles laid out in the Covenant,
and which created a statutory duty on the Secretary of State for
Defence to produce an Annual Report outlining progress on the
Armed Forces Covenant.
The then Secretary of State for Defence, Rt Hon Liam Fox MP, described
the thinking behind recognising the principles of the Covenant
in law when he announced the Covenant in May 2011, stating:
In deciding how best to recognise the covenant
in law, the Government have had to maintain a careful balance.
On the one hand, we do not want to see the chain of command undermined
or the military permanently involved in human rights cases in
the European courts. On the other, we must ensure that the legitimate
aspirations of the wider service community, the armed forces charities
and the British public for our armed forces are met.
We believe that a sensible way forward - one
that will give the right kind of legal basis to the armed forces
covenant for the first time in our history - is to enshrine the
principles in law, provide a regular review of the policies that
will make them a reality, ensure that Parliament has a chance
to scrutinise that review through the annual report, and ensure
that the report itself is widely informed, consultative and transparent.
I believe that it is right for the Government to be held to account
on delivering the principles underpinning the covenant by this
House, and not by the European Courts.
4. We announced our inquiry into The implementation
of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland on 13 December
2012. We agreed to take into account the progress made so far
in implementing the Covenant in England, in Scotland and in Wales,
and would examine progress in its implementation in Northern Ireland,
· links between the Armed Forces Community
in Northern Ireland and Departments of the NI Executive;
· barriers to progress, statutory or otherwise,
in implementing the Covenant;
· the level of co-ordination between the
NI Executive, the Northern Ireland Office, the Ministry of
Defence and other relevant HM Government Departments; and
· the absence of NI representation
on the Covenant Reference Group.
Our inquiry has focused particularly on veterans
in Northern Ireland.
5. We have taken evidence from witnesses including
Armed Forces charities, representatives of Service Personnel,
organisations concerned with the equality framework in Northern
Ireland, Ministers from the Northern Ireland departments responsible
for health and social housing, and Ministers from the Ministry
of Defence and the Northern Ireland Office. A full list of the
witnesses who gave evidence is included in this Report. We also
held a number of meetings in Washington DC.
We are grateful to all those who contributed to our inquiry, whether
by giving oral evidence, informal briefings or submitting written
1 The Armed Forces Covenant, May 2011 Back
The relevant section of the Armed Forces Act 2011 is included
with this Report as an Appendix. Back
HC Deb 16 May 2011, c26 Back
See the Annex for a note of meetings held in Washington DC relevant
to this inquiry. Back