New ministerial committee to uphold pledges to armed forces
A new ministerial committee will ensure that the Government delivers promises made under the Armed Forces Covenant as part of a cross-Government effort to keep the interests of Service personnel at the heart of the Nation.
The committee, led by Oliver Letwin, Minister for Government Policy, will oversee this work and ensure that momentum is maintained.
On Monday, the Prime Minister announced his intention to be personally involved; he will chair the inaugural meeting of the committee in the New Year.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the arrangements announced by the PM earlier in the week as he delivered an interim report on the Armed Forces Covenant to Parliament today.
The report outlines the progress the Government has made on upholding previous pledges the Government made in May 2010 as part of its desire to repair the Armed Forces Covenant.
The new committee will work closely with the Covenant Reference Group which is made up of charities and families federations to raise issues on behalf of Service Personnel, their families and veterans.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
"Our Armed Forces do so much to keep us safe. That's why this government has enshrined the Military Covenant in law. This new committee is about doing more to make the Covenant work - making sure that throughout their daily lives our troops, their families and veterans get all the help and support they need and in the coming year, I will make sure that we deliver."
The interim report also outlines additional areas of work being undertaken to ensure military personnel are not disadvantaged by their service to their country.
This interim report is additional to the legal requirement placed on the Defence Secretary to deliver an annual Armed Forces Covenant Report. This statutory requirement, which was enshrined in law by the Armed Forces Act, will come into effect next year.
Since May 2010, the Government has fulfilled a number of pledges made to repair the Military Covenant, including:
- the doubling of the tax free Operational Allowance
- improving Rest and Recuperation leave for those on operations
- endorsing the proposals for improving mental health care and provision of prosthetics
- the delivery of a scheme to provide scholarships to bereaved Service children
- the delivery of more help for those leaving the Services to go on to higher/further education
- the introduction of the Pupil Premium for the children of those currently serving currently £200 per child, rising to £250 in 2012-13.) in addition, we have provided further funding of £3M per year for state schools with Service children (including those of reservists), to help offset the impact of deployed service
- the announcement of a Community Covenant scheme supported by a £30m Community Covenant fund - nearly £1m of funding was released after the first batch of bids were received in September
- the doubling of Council Tax Relief for those on eligible operations overseas
- working with Credit Reference Agencies to ensure Service people are not disadvantaged by mobility requirements in accessing credit.
The full Armed Forces Covenant report will consider the delivery of services to our Armed Forces in the areas of housing, education and healthcare and the operation of inquests, as well as other areas that the Secretary of State judges to be appropriate.
The Department is also required to consider where Service personnel may be disadvantaged in accessing public and commercial products and where special treatment may be justified and set out his response to these issues.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:
"The cross-government ministerial committee will give a voice to, and act as champion of, Armed Forces and veterans' issues to ensure Government is joined up when providing vital services for Armed Forces personnel. It is something that was recommended in the interim Covenant Report and its implementation shows the Government listens to those who work tirelessly on behalf of the men and women of our Armed Forces, their families and veterans.
"The interim report shows the hard work the Government has put into delivering its promises to troops both at home and those deployed on operations. However the work will not stop there, as even more effort is being put into delivering support for our Service personnel to ensure they are not disadvantaged in any way by their military service."
The interim Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report has been compiled in consultation with the Covenant Reference Group, which is made up of officials across Government, Service charities and families' federations. The Government has committed itself to publishing, alongside the annual report, any observations which the external members of the group might have.