The armed forces covenant

The government has rightly signed a special covenant with armed forces personnel to look after their interests. They have no right to strike, and can be put in harms way by their government employer, so they deserve special attention and consideration. There is widespread cross party support for this approach.

I have been talking to MP colleagues this week about what more the government could do to improve the reality of the Covenant. There are various issues affecting service personnel lives where improvements can and should be made.

The first is housing. There is a home purchase scheme, but it does not work for many Ministry of Defence employees. There are cases of individuals ending up homeless on departing the armed forces. They have not saved for a deposit or amassed some equity during their time in the forces. Quite often local Councils give them little priority for rented accommodation as they have been mobile during their service careers, not establishing entitlement in any particular location.

Part of the answer to this is to go over to a home base approach for all service personnel, so there is a place they return to regularly between tours of duty. More imaginative and helpful schemes to encourage home purchase, or to provide surrogates for home purchase would ensure on leaving the forces the individual either owned a home or had money for deposit on a home of their own. My proposals include acquiring the room or flat on the base that the MOD owns for the duration of their service or use, and agreeing to sell it back at an indexed price to the MOD on departure. This in normal market conditions would give the individual a deposit sum from the price gains.

The second is employment for the spouse or partner of the uniformed employee. Where there is no home base and frequent moves to undertake new assignments, the spouse or partner can have their careers disrupted or destroyed by the changes.The home base idea would help with this problem, allowing more stability for the family.

The third is the impact on the education of the children. Frequent changes of school can be disruptive to someone’s learning, as they have to adapt to different approaches and curricula. It also breaks friendships and creates more unsettled feelings. Again settling on a home base approach could be of considerable benefit.

I have put ideas into the current review on these issues, and would be happy to add other points if constituents want to join in these conversations.

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46 Comments

  1. agricola
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    Create a very strong Vetrans Association to support members of the armed forces who have left. It should be open to all irrespective of rank and in effect be the trade union or guild that serving members are not allowed for good reason to belong to. As the problems of vetrans are varied and change with the times, a live VA is probably the best way to keep government aware of all aspects of life after service. Appointing a minister, totally separate from the MOD is also a necessary conduit to government. Said minister should have served in HM forces.

    • Hope
      Posted April 11, 2019 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      The UK contribution to The European Development Fund is now £3.81 billion a year on top of the £15.1 billion overseas aid. May has agreed this will continue for years after the UK alleges leaves. Nearly £20 billion given away while soldiers and elderly suffer and May demands we sell our homes to pay for adult social care! The Tory party like Traitor May has lost the plot.

    • Stephen O
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      That sounds like a sensible idea. Such an organisation should drive for improvements in the treatment of veterans. In the US many shops have special discounts for veterans, there are also preferential employment criteria for veterans.

      In the UK, there are too many other groups given preference for housing and employment leaving more deserving veterans too far down the queue.

  2. What Tiler
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Why worry about it? It’ll be an EU competency soon enough, and then you’ll all just do as you’re told, like with most other things.

  3. Stred
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    It is odd that ISIS terrorists who have been mobile can be found a council flat when they return but soldiers who have been mobile are left on the street. Perhaps the ranks should be given training in an employable skill during their fighting career and be in a savings scheme for house purchase.

  4. Mike Wilson
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Again the expectation that house prices will constantly inflate enough – to provide a magic deposit when a soldier leaves the army. Why not pay a soldier enough money so he or she ca afford a mortgage while they are serving.

  5. Mike Wilson
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Are we voting in the EU election?

  6. Posted April 11, 2019 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Excellent.
    Apparently the number of people volunteering for the defence of our country is falling fast. And if soldiers can be unjustly accused of murder and sued in a civil court for obeying orders or behaving mercifully on a field of battle, then something has to be done.
    Houseing soldiers near their “home base” (even if that is a fiction nowadays) is a really good idea. Have you spoken with soldiers about this?

    I wonder how many Muslim soldiers there are in our armed services?

    • Steve
      Posted April 11, 2019 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      Mike Stallard

      Actually Mike there are Muslims serving in the forces.

    • yossarion
      Posted April 11, 2019 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      Didn’t Heseltine sell of armed forces accommodation to a certain Japanese investment bank?

  7. Iain Gill
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Worth reading what president trump has been tweeting about the EU and Brexit.

    • Mitchel
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Why…does it bear any more relation to the truth than his comments yesterday on Julian Assange/Wikileaks?!

  8. Lifelogic
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Indeed very good points. Also not helped when they are often sent into entirely pointless or counterproductive wars, some entered on blatant lies from the Blair government. Cameron’s air bombing of Libya using aged Tornados (that I worked on in my youth). It certainly seems to have far done more harm than good (as anyone sensible might have predicted). The current the state of Libya seems very dire indeed.

  9. Nigel
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    How about a statute of limitations on prosecution? We are fed up seeing old pensioners being pursued for alleged crimes while under fire from terrorists who have been granted effective immunity.

  10. BW
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Hello Sir John. You could be talking about me. Service schooling from here to Singapore. Different school every three years. That caused an awful schooling experience. I also left the service myself whilst everyone was allowed to buy their council house, that was a bit unfair. I was fortunate and did save so was able to get on the housing ladder. I would hasten to add that not all had bad experiences at service schools, or serving in the armed forces.

  11. Alan Jutson
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Why not make it much more simple.

    Every year you serve in the armed forces has a financial value (Rather like a pension pot has) this value per year is then paid out in the form of a lump sum on leaving, no matter what the term of serving is.

    Thus the family can locate wherever they want on leaving, and not be tied to any location at all.

    The value of course should be indexed and linked to national house price inflation, so that its value is protected.

  12. eeyore
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Britain has a bad record for looking after its servicemen and women. For centuries we have used them up and disgracefully cast them aside. Thank you Sir John for not letting government – and people too – forget their debt of honour.

  13. J Bush
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    It was not that long ago when personnel leaving the armed services were prioritized on the housing list and for their children’s needs. It was in recognition of their service to the country, which was honoured. Now since Blair, we live in a parallel universe, where terrorist get pieces of paper and preferential treatment for housing etc and ex-personnel are homeless and hounded through the courts by the State.

    A disgusting state of affairs.

    If you and your colleagues want to help ex-servicemen you need first to remove the causation which has created the problems of which you write.

  14. Julie Dyson
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    This is something long overdue. We put our lives and our liberty in the hands of the brave soldiers, sailors and airmen standing ready to defend us, and even in times of extended relative peace our duty in return must not be shirked.

    The home base idea is an excellent one for all the reasons given. I would also like to see service personnel awarded government bonds for each year of service — even perhaps special Service Premium Bonds — so these accrue steadily during their time in service but cannot be cashed in until that service ends, giving each the choice of a lump sum, gradual cashing in as needed, or retaining the investment whole. As a bond, the bulk of the money remains available to the government as per ordinary Premium Bonds, but serves to help give each ex-serviceman some real choices and extra security in life thereafter.

  15. Bryan Harris
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    The housing issue is just one area the armed forces personnel are prejudiced against.

    When will they be given immunity from prosecution.
    If people are fighting on behalf of the Queen then they should not face the kind of situations we commonly see where they are pursued through the courts for doing their job.

    I would suggest the covenant be amended to give personnel much better protection.

  16. Nick Thompson
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Sir John.

    Thank you for raising this point. Your idea of a home base is a sound one for the reasons you outline.

    When I was a member of the armed services (army) during the 70’s and early 80’s the home base approach seemed standard. Most regiments and corps had a base of origin to which serving personnel returned after a tour of duty. This helped to provide continuity and hence stability.

    Given the sad, and to my mind, harmful reductions in the armed services over the years, it shouldn’t be too difficult to implement your idea onto the few bases that remain for our service personnel to be sent to.

  17. bigneil
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    If the armed forces are special – -then why are so many ex-Forces homeless while thousands, every year, of non ( probably NEVER ) contributing new arrivals are housed, getting free cash, free NHS, free schooling for their multiple kids of multiple wives etc etc? This country relies on the taxes of those who work – -NOT those who come to freeload.

  18. Anonymous
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Nothing exemplified the mistreatment by government of our service personnel than a programme by Heston Blumenthal. He had to make do with fish heads for submarine crew dinners. The flanks went to prisons.

    Well almost. The expenditure on prisoner meals was many times that of the submariner’s.

    I do not know why anyone serves and their deployments are largely for the vanity of politicians anyway.

  19. Mark B
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Good morning – again.

    We need to ask the service men and women what they want to see. We also have to take into consideration that service personel can become institutionalised. They spend a large part of their adult live usually being told were to go, what to do and when. Back out on civy street they have to make the adjustment to making all those decision themselves. Some can cope, others cannot.

    It would be a good idea for service personel to have a second, civilian career. For example. Some can learn a construction trade. Such a trade maybe have an extra use in disaster relief and so on. Having service people take time out will be both good for them and the economy.

    I could write more but appreciate our hosts time is limited. But it is good that we tackle this.

    • Mark B
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 6:05 am | Permalink

      Oh come on, Sir John. I appreciate that you have a lot to do but seriously?

  20. Everhopeful
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Would there be a clause about being prosecuted 30 years down the line?

    There were hundreds and hundreds of MOD houses here…full of soldiers keeping the local economy going.
    All sold off plus a beautiful garrison. All to destroyers/developers.
    I well remember various friends sending MUCH NEEDED parcels of basic supplies off to their sons/ husbands in Iraq.

    Whichever govt destroyed our armed forces I don’tremember any shenanigans to stop the vandalism.
    No..all Parliament can do is stop democratic decisions… virtually unopposed.

    And spare a thought for those civil servants stranded in places they never would have chosen to live when Thatcher pulled the Crown Transfer System.

  21. Paul H
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    How about not allowing lawyers, whose security and prosperity is enabled by the risks to live and limb run by the armed forces, not being allowed to persecute their personnel by leisurely revisiting judgements which were made under acute pressure?

  22. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    T he answer is fairly obvious for long standing services personnel. Their families can rent a home while they are serving, and they should be given a large lump sum on leaving the armed forces. Retirement in one’s forties is the rule for most service personnel, because people become too old to fight.

  23. javelin
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Support is needed for after they leave. Perhaps a housing fund where any rent paid during service is invested in housing stock so that the fund rises and falls with house prices.

  24. Man of Kent
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    As a long retired Army officer this is a subject close to my heart .
    All you say is quite correct and necessary but there is an extra dimension with the concentration of the Army into a few cantonments – Salisbury Plain , Catterick and Colchester …
    Going but not quite gone are the days when a regiment or battalion were housed , based , studied and worked as part of a town .
    This had great benefits for wives and families living in quarters who had local jobs with children at local schools during the long periods of separation when sub units were away on operations or training .
    Many later settled in the area .
    There are benefits for both the Army and the town with an appreciation of the military life .
    Recruiting used not to be a problem but is now as the Army is increasingly separated from the main population on cheap land while their prime land is sold off to developers .
    The town had a fixed base of a regularly paid unit without the bother of administering problem people who were all looked after by the units themselves .

  25. Hugh Gunn
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    The PM said repeatedly that No Deal is better than a Bad Deal, then the deal she managed to get was voted down repeatedly by the House, ergo, it is thought to be a bad deal by a large Majority of the House.
    I think it is required that she gets the Civil Service to set out in detail where the No Deal scenario fails and shares it with us.
    The situation is getting embarrassing.

  26. Edwardm
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Quite right.
    Armed force personnel when they leave the forces should be given help and re-training to get a job and accommodation found for them.
    Also members of the armed forces should not be subject only to judicial activism, and any judicial action should only be possible against the MOD as a body, not against individual service men – who should only have to answer to their military commanders.

  27. John Bucknall
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I am also concerned about the impact of the use & prioritisation of Civil Law over Military Law.

    The abuse of “no win no fee” Solicitors hired by Iraqi civilians was appalling.

    The asymmetric terms of the Good Friday agreement must have sent a shiver up the spine of every soldier who served in NI.

  28. Lifelogic
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Well said Prof. Robert Tombs in the Telegraph today:-

    “Had our rulers shown a modicum of honesty, consistency, judgment and courage, we would not be where we are today. Never was so much embarrassment caused to so many by so few. But the humiliation is theirs, not ours.”

    Indeed May & Hammond’s in particular when on earth are this Traitors going leave in richly deserved ignominy.

    Perhaps the excellent Prof. Tombs needs to watch out as the insufferably remoaner (and clearly an enemy of free speech) Cambridge University might try to kick him out (as they did to Jordan Peterson recently just for the appalling crime of standing next to someone in a
    T-shirt).

    Plus we even have the Conservative Party attacking the gentle, generally right thinking & totally harmless Roger Scruton. Perhaps some what related to Cameron’s idiotic decision to appoint Baroness Warsi as a Tory Chairman some time back and her endless attacks now to damage the party at every turn.

  29. Lifelogic
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Surely the sound MPs can get 10,000 signatures to get rid of the 12 month rule and oust May.
    Most members must be desperate to sign up and rid the country of this lying traitor who is humiliating the country so much.

    Also hopefully to remove the rule that enables MP to fix a leadership referendum to give only two (or even just one as last time) choices in the leadership extension.

  30. Brit
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Mrs May’s plane from Europe was allowed to land in England.

  31. Yorkie
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    The Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt , an unreformed campaigner for Remain despite all democratic vote says today…today…at 12 noon..”No-one is above the Law”

    The late Mr. Enoch Powell of ill-reputation now,
    said on a Frost programme in regard to the British Empire ever really existing as people think it did ” A Country lives on its Myths”

  32. davies
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    A good friend of mine left the British Army at the end of his service a good while ago and went straight into the Australian army.

    The first thing he had to do was find a home as (I believe) there are no services housing facilities there. The govt gave him a generous allowance for a large deposit so he could purchase a property which he did.

    If large parts of the armed forces have now become more static in terms of where they are based then a similar approach might be an avenue to explore. I cant see it working with your typical infantry battalion who move every 3 years or so on your corps support unit who tend to move individuals around as having to sell up every 3 years would be a pain.

    The problem with army accommodation from what I remember is that because it is cheap many don’t bother looking to buy a property until they need it when prices have often got out of reach.

  33. Hugh Thomas
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Refer to previous. ‘The Conservative party opposes any delay in our exit’

    That is not really true is it? As your Conservative Party leader is now delaying Brexit. The PM is is the very standard bearer of the Conservative Party and she always, always dilutes Brexit and causes delay. She is there all aloft on the shoulders of Conservative Party members so that previous headline is false. Whilst that PM is there, there is NO Brexit. And be no Brexit. Dysfunctional PM means the Party is similar. A rotten apple rots all in the end. Brexit means Brexit and Treachery means Treachery. May elections hopefully demonstrates to the Con Elite that The People are not so easily fobbed off with gutless liars.

  34. acorn
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    JR, do you think the Conservative Party will propose an ERG 62 covenant? If Mrs May wins the present battle in this purely Conservative Party war, she will have to slash and burn you and the rest of the ERG 62+, from the Conservative Party, to have any hope at the 2022 General Election.

    It is time for the ERG to fall on their swords and do the nation a favour. If only you had constructed a coherent plan for a no-deal Brexit and ignored the likes of Dominic Cummings.

    • Edward2
      Posted April 11, 2019 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes let’s just roll over and remain in the EU
      Come on acorn just say it.
      Don’t be shy.

  35. Steve
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    JR

    It is very decent of you to draw attention to this.

    However, I, and I suspect many other electors, are so furious with Theresa May and the rest of the traitors, I no longer believe they are fit to be trusted with any issue at all.

    Accordingly while I agree with what you say, I think trying to get anywhere with this corrupted spineless government is just a waste of time.

    Unless you were lobbying for soldiers to be prosecuted for the crime of returning fire – then that would be a different matter.

  36. Edward2
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    We need to treat all service men and women as the heroes they are.
    The forces need to be given a legal duty of care over those who leave the services.
    We should be very generous in the way we treat them and help them in their lives afterwards.
    They help to keep us safe and they are prepared to die for the rest of us.

  37. Stevie
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    Six highly trained para’s flown back from Afghanistan To theUK for possible dismissal from the brigade because some official caught them firing paint bullets at a figure of our poor Jeremy Corbyn’s. To qualify as a para you have months of heavy training. The officer who requested this should have a spell of active duty in that blighted country.

    How to encourage members of the public to be men of action

  38. Iain Moore
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    I gather veterans are sending their medals back with a white feather. Shame on the Tories for allowing matters to get to this, but I suppose we shouldn’t expect anything else from the ‘compassionate ‘ Conservatives , who virtue signal about any and all politically correct causes while alienating the police and insulting the military.

  39. gregory martin
    Posted April 12, 2019 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Certainly our service personnel should face the demands of their calling in the very firm knowledge that, even if we may disagree with politicians demands on their professionalism, we, the Queens subjects, all fully support them in what they have to do. In spirit, we travel with them.
    However, I think that our financial support towards the rest of their lives would be better taken from the hands of civil servants, that greater value for the money would be achieved by channelling directly towards the individual via the Royal British Legion, or any of the 2000 Ex-service support registered charities. Perhaps by a ‘per capita’ grant at time of discharge.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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