|Back to Table of Contents
|Lords Hansard Home Page
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord comes to the heart of the question. There is no problem with the roll-over of most of the sanctionsthe arms embargo, the assets freeze and a number of other matters but there is an issue in regard to the travel ban. As they do every other year, the French wish to hold a summit meeting and to invite the heads of state of all the African countries to meet them in Paris. That meeting is due to take place in a period shortly after the sanctions end. The idea the French are pursuing is that there should be a window of opportunity to allow them to do that. There would therefore be a gap in the travel ban of some three to four days. Her Majesty's Government are disappointed that the French take that view.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, in regard to the answer given to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about the prosecution of heads of state who have left power, did not the House make a declaration on a similar matter when it decided that General Pinochet could be prosecuted? Indeed, he was placed under house arrest in this country. Is that not the case? Am I wrong?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, the Ministry of Defence makes provision under the Armed Forces Pension Scheme and the equivalent reserves scheme for personnel injured or killed in service. Those wanting additional protection can obtain cover from commercial providers through independent financial advisers or insurance brokers. The MoD also facilitates voluntary, commercially-run schemesPAX, Forces Safeguard and RPAXfor all personnel. These are still available at present. Nevertheless, the Government are currently examining the options should the necessary cover become unavailable at a reasonable premium.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. I declare an interest as an honorary vice-president of the Royal British Legion women's section. Is the Minister aware of the great anxiety this is causing? People who are willing to risk their lives are concerned that those they leave behind may suddenly find themselves homeless because mortgages cannot be met. All kinds of other financial difficulties could arise. As I understand it, the pension scheme to which the Minister refers will give only the equivalent of one year's earnings, whereas many private companies schemes give four times that. Is he also aware that, contrary to what he has said about the Safeguard scheme, I am told that it is not available at present and that it has never covered reservists?
Lord Bach: My Lords, the RPAX scheme, which has been in operation for some time, covers reservists. Of course there are concerns about this, and the Government want to do their best to alleviate those concerns. That is why I want to make it clear that personnel who are already insured under the Forces Safeguard and the RPAX schemes, as well as being insured under ordinary commercial schemes, will be covered. That is the crucial message that we need to get across this afternoon.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the recent letter in The Times from a consultant surgeon who is also a reservist, worrying about the fact that there is no cover, from his point of view? Is the Minister worried that there will be a shortage of medical personnel if it is true that they will not be covered without a limit of finality on their service abroad?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am aware of the letter that appeared in The Times yesterday. I have already accepted that there is concern about the issue. I can only repeat that the Armed Forces Pension Scheme and the equivalent reserves scheme are available and that those wanting additional protection can still get it from commercial providers. Those who already have additional protection are covered.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, will there be an increase in the death-in-service benefit from one and a half times to four times, and when could we expect such provision to be made? If there is an excess premium for
Lord Bach: My Lords, on the first part of the noble Lord's question, it is a little too simple to suggest that the death-in-service benefit under the existing Armed Forces Pension Scheme is as limited as the noble Lord suggests. There is a one-off lump sum payment with a subsequent pension. For death on active service, both are tax free and are calculated according to factors such as number of dependants and length of service. We are looking at how we can improve this package, but it will take some time before we can complete our consideration and do so.
Lord Vivian: My Lords, what guidance is given on life and disability insurance matters when reservists report to mobilisation centres? What guidance is given to regular personnel when enlisting into the Armed Forces? Will the Minister comment on the fact that, as I understand it, Safeguard has said that it is excluding war cover with effect from 7th February?
Lord Bach: My Lords, as far as Safeguard is concerned, I believe that a meeting is to be held tomorrow to see whether what appeared in The Times yesterday will happen. The noble Lord asks what we do to inform personnel, especially reservists, about insurance matters when they join up. Some providersand I think this is the basis of his questionhave withdrawn schemes for new members under order to deploy. Existing policyholders are on unchanged risk until their policy expires. Internal communications briefings steer individuals to the services' insurance and investment advisory panel. We assist service personnel in getting independent financial advice by publishing a list of 35 independent financial advisers and brokers who have knowledge of the services.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I can confirm that because, as I said in answer to the original Question, the equivalent attributable reserves schemethe equivalent of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme, which the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, knows very wellwill apply for personnel injured or killed in service.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in another place, the Secretary of State for Defence said that these insurance companies were still offering cover, whereas the Minister seems to have admitted today that a number of well known insurers are not? Is not the great dividing line between those who already have policies, whom we know are covered, and those who are now applying? Is he willing to admit that people are being refused policies now?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The first amendment implements a recommendation to which your Lordships agreed on 15th January and the second and third correct drafting errors.