2 Implementation across the UK |
6. Significant progress has been made in implementing
the Armed Forces Covenant throughout Great Britain. Progress made
on the implementation of the Covenant across the UK was outlined
by HM Government in both the Interim Report and first Annual Report
on the Armed Forces Covenant. The Scottish and the Welsh Governments
have also published comprehensive reports of the support they
provide to the Armed Forces Community, and have appointed Armed
Forces Advocates to sit on the Covenant Reference Group, which
contributes to the Annual Report on the Armed Forces Covenant.
7. We have received mixed evidence, however, about
the level of progress that has been made on implementing the Armed
Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland. On the one hand, the Minister
of State for Northern Ireland, Mike Penning MP, who carries particular
responsibility for its implementation in Northern Ireland, told
around about 93%it is very difficult to
be exactly precise, but about 93%of the Covenant is being
delivered on a regular basis within the Province.
On the other hand, the written submission from the
Northern Ireland Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee (NIVAPC),
a statutory body established by HM Government to support veterans
in Northern Ireland, took a less positive view of progress, stating:
There is a perceived lack of movement with regards
to implementing the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland.
Some Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly use Section 75 of
the Northern Ireland Act to veto any attempt to implement the
AFC and some others use it as an excuse to do nothing, This should
not mean that we should do nothing as this leaves the Service
and Ex-Service Communities in Northern Ireland at a disadvantage
to the rest of the United Kingdom.
The NIVAPC judged Northern Ireland not to have made
the same progress as has been made in Great Britain in two areas
in particular: failure to appoint an Armed Forces Advocate to
represent Northern Ireland on the Covenant Reference Group, and
not endorsing the principles outlined in the Covenant.
Annual Report on the Covenant
8. As required by the Armed Forces Act 2011, the
Ministry of Defence published the first statutory Report on the
Armed Forces Covenant on 6 December 2012.
The Report, compiled in consultation with the Covenant Reference
Group (which brings together officials from across Government
with Service charities and the Families Federations), considered
the key principles of the Covenant and progress made towards its
implementation across the United Kingdom. The Armed Forces Act
2011 requires the Secretary of State for Defence to "seek
the views of any relevant devolved administration" when preparing
the Annual Report on the Armed Forces Covenant.
There is, however, no statutory obligation for the devolved administrations
to contribute to the Annual Report.
9. The first Annual Report stated that the Welsh
Government Package of Support for the Armed Forces Community in
Wales had been launched in November 2011, and the Scottish
Government had published a report, Scottish Government support
for the Armed Forces Community in Scotland, on 5 September
2012, each of which had set out its respective Government's actions
so far as well as its future commitments. As for Northern Ireland,
the Report stated:
For this year's annual report, the views of the
Northern Ireland Executive have been sought but not obtained.
Where services are provided by the MOD, these are provided consistently
throughout the UK.
There appeared to be a definite note of regret as
the Report stated:
In contrast to Scotland and Wales, it has not
been possible to make the same progress in building support for
and delivering the Armed Forces Covenant from within the Northern
Ireland Executive. The suggestion that the Covenant could provide
preferential access to cross-government services for serving and
former members of the Armed Forces could be seen as running counter
to their strict equalities legislation. We will continue to make
the case for the Northern Ireland Executive to adopt the principles
of the Armed Forces Covenant where it is possible to do so.
10. We welcome the work undertaken by the Scottish
and the Welsh Governments on implementing the Armed Forces Covenant
in Scotland and in Wales, in particular the comprehensive reports
they have published on Government support available to the Armed
Forces Community. We regret, as it would appear does the Ministry
of Defence, that the Northern Ireland Executive has not yet published
a similar report.
5 Q423 Back
Ev 98 Back
The Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2012, December
Armed Forces Act 2011, Section 2, Para 4 Back