1.The Armed Forces Covenant was first published by the then coalition Government in May 2011. At that time it was described by Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP, the then Secretary of State for Defence as:
The expression of the moral obligation the Government and the Nation owe to those who serve or have served in our Armed Forces and to their families.
2.The Covenant defined the extent of the Armed Forces community and set out fifteen thematic areas within which support to that community should be provided (including terms and conditions of service (TACOS), healthcare, education, housing, benefits/tax, family life and transition). It further sought to identify the organisations and institutions which would be required to provide that support, and to articulate the obligations which underpin the Covenant. Guidance was published alongside the Covenant to set out initial practical measures, identified by the Government, to aid its implementation.
3.The Armed Forces Act 2011 does not create legally enforceable rights for Service personnel, but it does require the Secretary of State to lay an Annual Report before Parliament on the implementation of the Covenant. An interim Annual Report was published in December 2011. The first Covenant Annual Report was published in 2012. The 2018 Annual Report, published in November 2018, is the seventh full report in the series.
4.The 2011 Act also describes the two central principles of the Covenant to which the Secretary of State is required to have particular regard in the preparation of the Annual Report:
5.The 2018 Annual Report, like previous editions, contains a section of unedited observations from the External Members of the Covenant Reference Group (CRG). The CRG brings together representatives of Government Departments and external organisations, including the Confederation of Service Charities (COBSEO), the Royal British Legion and the single Service Families Federations.
6.On 16 January 2019, we launched our inquiry into the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2018. Our call for evidence asked for submissions on the following points:
7.We held two oral evidence sessions, the first with the Service Families Federations and Service Charities who are members of the External Reference Group. The final session was with the then Minister with responsibility for the Armed Force Covenant, Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, and Mr James Greenrod, Interim Head, Service Personnel Support at the Ministry of Defence (MoD). We received a total of 22 written evidence submissions. We are grateful to everyone who has offered their time and expertise to assist us in our work.
8.The Covenant covers a wide range of matters and responsibility for implementation and delivery falls across Government Departments, the devolved administrations, local authorities and other bodies such as charities. Our report does not seek to cover all the areas of concern expressed about the Covenant, but focuses on the Covenant governance structure, the establishment of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, the data available and metrics used to measure Covenant delivery, family life, education, healthcare, accommodation, through-life support and the Covenant in relation to business and local communities.
5 Armed Forces Act 2011 (ch18),
6 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Interim Report (2011), 1 November 2011
9 Armed Forces Act 2011 (ch 18),
11 A list of Covenant Reference Group Members is set out in HL Deb, 20 May 2013,
Published: 25 September 2019