Former Defence Minister Challenges Government on Armed Forces Redundancy Injustice
Betrayal of Military Covenant is a major Breach of Trust for our loyal troops
On Thursday 31st October, at 2.30pm, former Labour Defence Minister, Lord Touhig, called an emergency debate in the House of Lords, to highlight the plight of armed forces personnel who feel betrayed by the Government as it has refused to pay them the pension payments they were promised when making them compulsorily redundant. You can read the debate here http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2013-10-31a.1725.2&s=speaker%3A10600#g1726.0 Please have a look and if you feel strongly please write to your MP and get others to do so too.
Please also see this presentation that I gave to MPs and Peers in April 2013, since when nothing has changed and these loyal officers’ lives remain in turmoil. http://www.rosaltmann.com/pdf/afps_injustice_apr13.pdf
In July, Lord Touhig commented that The Government is making soldiers redundant in a “cheapskate” way to save “a few bob in petty cash’’ and he urged the Government to review how it treated soldiers who lost their jobs as part of military reforms to stop them from missing out on their full resettlement pension rights. Today’s debate will be another chance for Parliamentarians to try to press Ministers to uphold the Military covenant that this Government enshrined in law. As we approach Remembrance Day, it is vital that the needs of our loyal armed forces, who put their lives on the line for our country are treated decently and honourably.
Despite numerous pleas from the personnel affected, and from members of Parliament, The Government has refused to review its policy decisions, despite clear evidence of the injustice it is causing.
The Issue: Long-serving Officers have been made compulsorily redundant close to their Immediate Pension Point (IPP). As a result they are losing expected resettlement income payments worth up to £200,000 each up to age 55 which they need in order to establish themselves in civilian life, find a home and a new career. The army has reneged on its written and verbal commitments to these men and their families. They feel betrayed and powerless. Despite the army values and standards declaring that each member of the armed forces is owed a duty of care, the current redundancy programme has failed to consider the needs of these loyal men, women and their families.
Armed Forces are denied employment rights – they rely on trust, which has been betrayed: Other groups of public servants have unions and representatives to fight their cause, but the armed forces are denied this and rely on the Military Covenant and trust to be dealt with fairly by the nation and the Government. They accept the redundancy decisions, but cannot accept being treated so dishonourably. Their families have adjusted their lives around the promises made, they must be kept. This is the first Government to treat Officers in this way.
Appealing to Peers & MPs to take cross-party action to seek a resolution: The Armed Forces are denied normal employment protections. Indeed they are called on to step in when other services take industrial action. They rely entirely on their Chain of Command, Ministers and Parliament to ensure fair treatment in relation to their terms of service. Appeals to Ministers have so far failed and Service Complaints have taken an inordinately long time to be dealt with, leaving those affected hanging on, waiting for justice which is being denied.
Betrayal of Military Covenant: The Military Covenant, enshrined in law by this Government last year states: “Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices – including the ultimate sacrifice – in the service of the Nation. In putting the needs of the nation and the Army before their own they forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces. In return British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service.” Soldiering –The Military Covenant. The External Covenant Reference Group calls this situation a “betrayal of the spirit” of the Covenant and calls for Government to “review how it can restore pension rights to those who have been disadvantaged.” p16 Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report Dec 2012.
The Army has admitted that “the Covenant” and one of its key tenets for all its personnel “Values and Standards” have not been applied to the redundancy process. This counters the words in the values and standards handbook “Our Values and Standards are essential to the British Army, they define what the British soldier is. They are more than just words, we must all believe in them and live by them.”
Why this situation is so wrong:
- Service personnel were recruited, promoted and retained on the basis of receiving their resettlement Pension, which was also confirmed in writing when Officers converted to IRC.
- Unfairness within cohorts has been created by the Redundancy programme exclusions which are politically, not militarily motivated. Those excluded from consideration for redundancy are personnel pre-, in-, or post-operations, Officers with less than 2 reports in rank and those whose EED (End of Engagement Date) is before April 2015. This means, for example, the whole 12-14 year Length of Service cohort of Infantry Majors was not taken into consideration for redundancy, so the selection pool was skewed. A redundancy scheme that allows such anomalies undermines the intent to restructure the army while ‘retaining the best’.
- Short-sighted cost-cutting, ongoing challenges and disgruntled service personnel will impact the future performance of our military forces. However much we spend on equipment, if the men operating it and Officers leading the troops are not treated fairly, the Defence forces’ effectiveness will be weakened.
Ministers have suggested this is not about the money, but as this appears to be the first Government ever to refuse to properly compensate Officers close to IPP for their losses, it seems that money must be the issue. Indeed, the MoD seems to have been under pressure from the Treasury not to compensate these officers, but surely a written commitment confirming years of oral commitments, must be honoured.
Army morale & trust in the Military Covenant are essential for an effective army.
This is a clear breach of the Covenant and a broken Government promise to loyal service men and their families. Such cliff-edge pension losses would not be tolerated in the private sector, why are they being allowed to happen to service personnel?
Today’s Lords Debate title: “Lord Touhig to ask HMG, in the light of the recent comments by General Sir Nick Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff, what assessment they have made of the impact of redundancies on the armed forces.”
Those affected are calling on the Government to :
1) Uphold the Covenant for all service personnel and ensure the financial promises made when they sign up, and on which they risk their lives, are honoured.
2) to put in place a fair compensation package that recognises cliff-edge pension losses, compensate those long serving soldiers affected so far and ensure such injustices do not happen again.
3) review the Armed Forces Service Complaints procedure which is failing to address this matter in a timely matter . The Service Complaints Commissioner in her annual report released on 21 March 2013 said that “I am very disappointed that, for the fifth year running, I am still unable to say that the Service complaints system is working efficiently, effectively or fairly. This is unacceptable”
Pension Justice for Troops
Contact: Jayne Bullock – 07949070149
Notes for Editors:
Lord Touhig intervened in the Summer on behalf of a 35-year-old soldier who was set to lose a £10,000-a-year pension as he will be made redundant 24 days before he qualifies for a full pension.
The soldier, who joined the Army aged 16 and served in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan, was recovering from surgery when his wife found out by chance that he was due to lose his job.
The Government’s defence spokesman, Lord Astor of Hever, responded to Lord Touhig saying only 1.2% of Armed Forces personnel selected for compulsory redundancy were close to their pension point and that there were no plans to review the policy.
Lord Touhig said of the soldier in line for redundancy: “Two months ago he was promoted to warrant officer class 2. But while he was convalescing following surgery, his wife attended an Army wives’ event and to discover by chance that he’s to be made redundant. He hadn’t been told.”
Lord Touhig will be raising the Armed Forces Redundancy Injustice which has seen a number of long-serving service personnel, across all ranks and across all services, made compulsorily redundant close to qualifying for their Immediate Pension. This has resulted in loyal, long-serving officers and soldiers losing tens of thousands of pounds when they have been forced out of the armed forces. Feedback from serving soldiers shows that the pension is one of the top 5 reasons people remain serving (Continuous Attitude Survey 2012 and 2013). This matter, though affecting a few, is impacting on the services as a whole, affecting morale, recruitment and retention.
The External Covenant Reference Group, made up of COBSEO, RBL, SSAFA, WWA and military historian Professor Hew Strachan, in the First Armed Forces Covenant Report, Dec 2012, called is matter a “betrayal of the spirit” of the Covenant and state “….the government should carefully examine how it can avoid a repeat of such circumstances in future rounds of redundancies….” and to ” review how it can restore pension rights to those who have been disadvantaged so far.” p16