The Armed services covenant

On Monday Parliament debated a new complaints system for the armed forces. This is part of the work the government is doing to improve and define the Military Covenant.

The forces covenant is meant to give armed service personnel decent terms and conditions, recognising that military discipline takes away some rights other workers enjoy. During the debate I raised the issue of what happens when a member of the armed services has to move to a different location when instructed to do so. This can be difficult for the family and disruptive of the wife or husband’s employment. In view of this surely there should be some flexibility in the government rules to help those who are doing all they can to co-operate with military requirements? Late requests to move at short notice are particularly difficult for all concerned.

I have myself for some time urged the MOD to look at offering more of its armed service personnel a home base to which they return following duty abroad, and to limit the number of moves required within the UK. This would assist more military staff to buy their own home if they wished, with the help of the MOD schemes. It would enable children of serving personnel to have more stability in their schooling, and would be less disruptive for husbands and wives. As the average ages of serving military personnel coincides with the most popular ages to have children we do need to help families when one of their members wishes to serve the nation.

I have campaigned for more assistance with home purchase. Military service usually terminates well before normal retirement age. Many ex military personnel have no home to live in when their service ends. If they have moved between various military establishments, renting MOD accommodation, they often have little or no priority on housing lists in individual Council areas. We should be able to do better for our armed services, and plan with them their return to civilian life. The Minister assured me they were finding good levels of take up of MOD home ownership schemes, but more could be done.

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37 Comments

  1. Posted February 4, 2015 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Historically, the British government has not been good at rewarding the loyalty of its servants and the record of the present incumbents does not suggest any inclination to improve things. I shouldn’t expect anything substantial to come of your campaign. Well done for trying though.

    • Posted February 4, 2015 at 6:20 am | Permalink

      PS: I should have written ‘its humbler servants’. Those at the top of the tree have always been given the plumpest fruit.

  2. Posted February 4, 2015 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Indeed I agree with all that the military personnel deserve better. Above all they should not be sent to pointless and damaging wars on a lie and often without proper equipment.

    But what about Hague’s proposed new constitutional settlement where the Scottish will still have a veto over matters only affecting England, or England and Wales that they will clearly use given the chance.

    Worse still it will give them a way to further hold the English to ransom and demand further concessions of the type the Cameron & Miliband agreed (without any English voter approval) in their last minute Scottish referendum panic.

    • Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      Not much to say about when they come back from these wars have you?
      I am concerned that with the proposed restriction on immigration how Britain and in particular London will remain competitive in low labour rates?
      Many of the working poor are being pushed out of London and adding immigration restrictions begs the question of how menial jobs such as shop work and cleaning are to be filled at sensible rates. Rents are so high even five to room is getting to expensive for most cleaners. They are also be restricted from bringing in their own staff by such regulations as the minimum wage and employment rights.
      They can only travel in from so far and as travel costs such as ridiculously subsidised and high priced train and bus fares rise taking the bus/train/tube will not be an option as many do. Five to a car will cause traffic jams across London enraging rich Londoners who pay for the roads with many leaving for cheaper cities where labour costs are rock bottom and the facilities are better reducing property prices/rents and taxes paid by the rich.

      • Posted February 5, 2015 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

        The way housing subsidy is tied to being allocated social housing, and the way once allocated decent social housing the incentives are there to stay put and not take risks with that housing subsidy.., they are the main things that need fixing. IDS has not fixed any of that, and Labour like social housing estates tied to subsidy and state benefits unable to move to seek work.

  3. Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    A worthy cause JR.
    However, today i had hoped for your views on the Hague fudge Re. English votes for English issues.

    • Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Indeed the proposal has plenty of cracks into which the SNP will insert a crow bar given half a chance.

      • Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        Lifelogic

        …”crowbar”…

        Inch and mile springs to mind !

      • Posted February 4, 2015 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        Basically it’s a dogs breakfast, Mr Hague’s proposal is more like EVIL than “EVEL”, certainly no better than the existing and quite possibly much worse – giving the devolved nations Westminster parties and the UK official opposition an effective back-door veto process. I suspect the Tory party will try and bury this EVEL proposal between now and May…

  4. Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    A very laudable idea but can it be implemented without putting undue strain on the existing defence budget? If not then it has to be on a wish list until such time the UK economy can afford it. After all we are not lefties who want social changes without considering the cost and the economic downside consequences (as we know that way can be self defeating as it puts a strain on our limited resources).

    However ensuring retiring service personnel are given priority in social housing would appear to be doable and reasonable that does not have an unmanageable cost implication and rewards those who put their life in jeopardy in defence of our country .

    • Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      Antisthenes – Give service personnel the houses that are given to teenage mums and unemployed immigrants. No change in budgets therefore.

      • Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        Mondeo Man

        …………..”No change in Budgets”….

        Could also take any extra finance needed for housing from the overseas aid budget, after all some of our troops are coming back from overseas operations., where we have usually spent a fortune.
        Then at least we would know where it had been spent !

        • Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

          @AJ > I see you’ve been reading the ukip policies leaflet too?

          • Posted February 5, 2015 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

            Bob

            Not aware it was UKIP policy

            Just thought I would add a common sense alternative to the argument mix.

  5. Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    A few points which may have slipped under the radar (although I know the previous SCC was aware of them) which you may like to have in your back pocket for future debates/meetings.

    1. SINGLE LIVING ACCOMMODATION – Servicemen don’t tend to get paid like footballers or rock stars, but when the boom years were here many did take advantage of various schemes and extra cash to buy houses and single personnel bought/rented local flats. However, when the recession hit they were forced to sell (rental prices weren’t enough to cover mortgages) so they moved back to camp. This resulted in huge numbers of men living 8 to a 6-man flat or worse. Maintenance had been allowed to slip. Would you believe, 45 years after we put a man on the moon, hundreds of camps run out of hot water after 0745 daily?

    The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the Blair regime sold off huge swathes of Family Accom (SFA) meaning that the MoD spent more in renting local housing to accommodate families. Ultimately, the forces need more, better, single living accom.

    2. What’s the knock on effect? Well, re the SFA, once it’s gone, it’s gone. As you mention, the Army 2020 “area Brigading” scheme is a slightly cynical attempt to get people to join local units and marry/buy/live locally. Fine. However, what you don’t mention is that in order to further “encourage” sevicemen to buy locally, the cost of rent on SFA is set to almost double. Again, slightly cynical but an understandable policy. But, what happens with units like the REME, Royal Artillery, Royal Air Force, etc? They don’t all come from one area and don’t necessarily want to settle in the area where they are (temporarily) based, but they will end up paying twice as much for their SFA if they are married. I personally haven’t been based in the same area for longer than 3 years.

    Servicemen and women don’t tend to complian much because they choose to do the job they do and are paid for it. Additionally, despite what the media might think, they are not all victims either!! Most enjoy their jobs immensely and regard the risk of death or injury as an occupational hazard, no more or less than, say, a fisherman or road-worker.

    However, in spite of the above points, the one thing which irked thousands of servicemen was the recent tinkering with pensions. Pay is not great, conditions are not always fantastic, but the gold-plated contract assuring a good pension was – for many – the light at the end of the tunnel. The government broke its promise on that one John; the contract was an agreement going both ways – we kept our side of the bargain.

  6. Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    “Many ex military personnel have no home to live in when their service ends”

    And that caused me to buy myself out of the RAF in 1977. No housing and cr*p unionised jobs expected. Thats apart from the cr*p salary. So I became an expat PDQ and purchased a house outright 5 years later. Fortunately for me I was in the right profession to do that.

  7. Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Perhaps we should also look at the way some armed forces personal have been tried in a peacetime Court , with a the general public sitting as jurors.

    Peacetime laws and thoughts are a world away from a combat situation.

    Military Courts are surely the best place for such trials.

    • Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      Perhaps we should also look at the rules of engagement.

      Asking our troops to hold fire until they are shot at, is simply a betrayal of their training and safety.

  8. Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    JR, interesting take on the Eurozone crisis with comment by Warren Mosler.

    http://moslereconomics.com/2015/02/03/a-modest-response/

  9. Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I don’t know why anyone would volunteer to fight for a country that puts just about everyone else first.

    • Posted February 4, 2015 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      …nor for one whose treacherous politicians put them in harm’s way to further the malign ends of neocon filth.

  10. Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    It would help a good deal if there wasn’t the endless redundancy threats. If our military was treated half as well as the immigrants things would be better.
    I served 9 years in the Royal Navy in the 60 ‘ s. and I don’t think things have improved in the meantime.
    Now we have the useless elfansafety brigade in charge and military personnel being tried by civilians they are in an impossible position.
    These lawyers and jurors should be sent unarmed into combat zones and see how their touchy feely methods work.
    The coalition are a disgrace as defending the citizens should be the first priority but the only thing you defend is the aid budget.

  11. Posted February 4, 2015 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Successive British governments and the MOD in particular have little concern for ex servicemen. You must be aware of the E-Petition highlighted in the Daily Express to try to get a better deal for members of the armed forces on retirement. You could perhaps learn a lot from the Veterans Association in the USA. Retiring members of HM Forces have frequently given their all and more for Queen and country, more than can be said for many politicians. We owe them and their families a stable and fruitful retirement. However having witnessed the ways of government I am not holding my breath, nor would I recommend the military as a career, based on the way they have been used in the past two decades or our concern for them afterwards.

  12. Posted February 4, 2015 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I grew up in a military family and have experienced some of the difficulties you refer to this am . At at 11 yrs I had just passed the “scholarship” and was due to go to the nearby grammar school ; that summer my father received short notice to relocate to the Midlands , so off we went . At our new location I was too late for the September entry at the Grammar School in Burton-on-Trent and had to sit another “late entry” exam in order to qualify . This I took at a “Senior” school in the October and , having passed , was then able to start in the “Prep” class at Burton Grammar school . It meant that I was delayed my start in “Year 1” for one year . This late year start remained a stigma for the rest of my time at Burton Grammar School and subsequently meant that I had to rely on “matriculating” at School Cert. level in order to qualify for a place at University .Other boys intent on further education went into the 6th form and had more time to qualify for University entrance .

    My parents were not able to put any real estate roots down until my father was in his mid 50’s when they were reasonably certain of not being shifted again . Of course this was accepted as a part of their life-style and they never – to my knowledge ever complained . I should add that my father reached a very senior rank in the army and the various married quarters the family experienced were always comfortable and secure .

  13. Posted February 4, 2015 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    You could do worse than adopt the policies of UKIP particularly strong here in Kent :

    – guarantee those who have served in the Armed Forces for a minimum of 12 years a job in the police/prison or border forces

    -change the points system for social housing to give priority to ex-servicemen and women
    and those returning from active service.

    -Veterans receive a Veterans Service Card to ensure they are fast-tracked for mental health care and services,if needed.

    -All entitlements will be extended to servicemen recruited from overseas.

    – A National Service Medal for all who have served in the Armed Forces.

    A second point :

    Urban warfare ate up manpower in N Ireland not so long ago .
    An infantry force of 3000 was needed to control the Lower Falls in August 1970.
    A breakdown in law and order in ‘n0-go’ areas in England would first break our police force and then our ever-diminishing Army.

    We are cutting numbers on the assumption that there will be fewer overseas wars while turning our backs on possible threats at home.

    • Posted February 4, 2015 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      “– guarantee those who have served in the Armed Forces for a minimum of 12 years a job in the police/prison or border forces”

      With respect MoK, I appreciate the guaranteed employment intention, but when I’m done, I’ll never put on another uniform in my life!!

      [Also, whisper it quietly, servicemen are servicemen – not all of them have quite the mentality, attitude, or record to join law-enforcement agencies. Myself included!]

      • Posted February 4, 2015 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

        Takes one to spot one .
        Good luck !

  14. Posted February 4, 2015 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    “The forces covenant is meant to give armed service personnel decent terms and conditions…”

    Have you been reading the ukip policies leaflet?

  15. Posted February 4, 2015 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Even before the unnecessary, costly duplication of services of Arms Length Management Organizations ( ALMOs ) with loss of service provision most notably in some areas, of that given by long-term housing maintenance officers, many armed forces personnel applied for social housing provision under the distinct impression their applications would be prioritized. They were not. As far as I am aware they are still not.

    It has been a long despicable tradition in all our armed forces that despite official and public recognition of the strain put upon relationships, not enough has been done to cement and support enduring marital life. Much additional personal stress has been heaped upon young persons who we all agree have quite enough their plate.

    It is to be hoped things will get better.

  16. Posted February 4, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Odd how the Treasury can dish out hundreds of thousands of £££ to ex-prime ministers every year in payments over and above their pensions, but can’t look after the military properly.

    • Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      Surely Major and Blair should be paying money back to the country, the former for the huge damage inflicted by his idiotic and predictable ERM fiasco and burying the Tory party for 3+terms. The latter for his damaging and counterproductive wars, one on a clear lie.

  17. Posted February 4, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Very worthwhile cause. How can we see men dying, dismembered and serving our Country and be so selfish as not to put a roof over their and their families heads ?

  18. Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    The many and varied talents of the various ranks could be used by local councils to cut accommodation and labour costs running the councils and carrying out the necessary work every town requires, maybe even policing of the town centres and other social services. Many of the camps they were on were sometimes as large as small towns with similar problems, giving us all a well deserved cut in council taxes and some real law and order. No massive pay-offs, luxury cars and palace like offices for them, just sturdy huts and barracks with surplus military equipment brought back from Afghanistan and the like, with the added bonus of freeing up the council workers to do more suitable and more required jobs such as those carried out by EU migrants at the moment.

    • Posted February 5, 2015 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Bazman

      Could also used some of our redundant forces within schools as teachers, after all many of them had real technical skills, and taught new recruits.

      • Posted February 5, 2015 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        You are right Mike and the cost of government could be atomised by just removing the politicians and installing a few generals to issue sensible decrees on tax, law and order, defence and any other executive orders required.
        This could be made more efficient by making one the president and he just does it all. Many countries operate this very sensible form of government. Russia is a fine example and has produced great wealth from it transforming London.

  19. Posted February 4, 2015 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    You are right about home bases. Units traditionally move on an arms plot basis to different roles meaning a large uproot and no doubt a lot of expense. Now with the army being so small I think there has to be a case for most regiments becoming static and only moving on operational tours – then your point about purchasing their own housing for those who serve for a long time and settle down should be much easier.

  20. Posted February 5, 2015 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    In common with lots of the lifelong civvies I have spent my entire adult life moving from town to town in a nomadic existence, moving from one project to another. For some it’s the “consultancy lifestyle” for those with manual jobs in similar projects it’s called other things. Trust me I have worked around the world with Brits doing this bringing wealth into this country, as well as here keeping the country going.
    I compare and contrast to those moving around in the military… For one many are getting their kids school fees paid, for two many are getting their own post grad courses and lodgings paid for, for three many retire at a young age on a gold plated pension, for another many end up on defence projects when they leave the service on the old boys network whether or not they are the best candidate for the job (due to the silly ways security clearance are dealt with and HR works in the MOD and defence industry), for another officers are generally on exactly 3 year postings and can predict when they will move next from the beginning which doesn’t happen in civvy street, the warrant officers and other ranks can play the system and stay in one place long term (if they want). If they get ill or injured they are generally well looked after. Their only real problem is if the government decides to get angry with someone and they get woken out of their peacetime slumber.
    I personally remember the Brits who died digging the channel tunnel as much as I remember our servicemen who died for our country, each in their own way deserves recognition.
    Armed forces service isn’t even the most dangerous profession in the country, in terms of numbers killed per person doing it.
    And (for instance) I know folk who have fought in Afghan who look at our police walking around (say) Woolwich and openly say they wouldn’t do that without arms, its far too risky.
    So in many ways I think the armed forces already get a good deal.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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