By Dominic Nicholls
Daily Telegraph – 25 September 2019
The Ministry of Defence has been accused of being "immoral and incompetent" as MPs say it is failing to uphold the Armed Forces Covenant. The all-party Commons Defence Select Committee says the Government has yet to tackle major concerns raised in its previous reports on the Covenant.
Its latest update, published today, highlights long-standing problems related to Commonwealth personnel and their families as well as service accommodation, and says many issues remain unresolved despite years of failure.
It criticised the practice of expecting Commonwealth personnel to serve in the Armed Forces without paying them enough to bring their families to the UK – for years in some cases.
Home Office rules state that Commonwealth soldiers have to reach a "minimum income threshold" of £18,600 to bring a spouse into Britain, rising by £3,800 for the first child and £2,400 for each additional child. This means that a serving person with a spouse and two children must earn £24,800 in order to bring their family to the UK, well above the £20,000 salary for new entrants.
Louise Simpson, of the Army Families Federation, told the committee:
"Asking people to put their lives on the line and then not allowing their families and children to come over to the UK [is] immoral".
The MPs were also scathing about the state of much of the MoD's housing stock, saying they were "disappointed" to still be hearing serious complaints about the condition of accommodation. Referring to the 1996 deal to sell and lease back 55,000 houses to Annington Property Limited, a private company, the report says the failure to hold ministers or civil servants to account for the "defective" deal
"reinforces the public perception that there is no accountability for incompetence".
The Armed Forces Covenant is enshrined in law and is meant to codify the moral obligation that government owes to Service personnel, veterans and their families.
Dr Julian Lewis MP, the Select Committee's chairman, said:
"Every year, we take evidence on the implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant, and every year we report similar complaints. The Government is failing in its moral obligation towards those who serve or have served in our Armed Forces."
Johnny Mercer, the new Minister for Military People and Veterans, said the MoD needs to improve
"the offer we give to those who sign up to protect the freedoms and privileges we enjoy".
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph at the weekend, during the 75th commemoration of the battle of Arnhem, he said the announcement earlier this month of an additional £2.2billion for the MoD over the next two years was a
"generational strategic opportunity to change the way this country does Defence".
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'MPs' FURY AS WAR WIDOWS STRIPPED OF £7.5k PENSION'
By John Ingham
Daily Express – 25 September 2019
War widows who have been denied pensions after remarrying are victims of a "grotesque injustice", say MPs. They also slammed inadequate housing for troops and the difficulties facing recruits from Commonwealth countries in bringing families here. The Commons Defence Committee report accused the Government of "failing in its moral obligation".
The Daily Express has campaigned for a fairer deal for around 300 war widows stripped of pensions - worth up to £7,500 a year. The report said:
"The committee considers it disgraceful that no progress has been made in the reinstatement of War Widows' Pension to between 200 and 300 people who lost the award upon remarriage or cohabitation between 1973 and 2005.
"The MoD should exert maximum pressure on the Treasury finally to put right this insulting anomaly."
Committee chairman and Tory MP Julian Lewis said:
"From inadequate Service accommodation to the grotesque injustice of some war widows' pensions, the Government is failing in its moral obligation towards those who have served in our Armed Forces."
The report described as immoral the hurdles put in front of Commonwealth veterans from states such as Tonga and South Africa who want to stay in the UK or bring their families with them. They face hefty fees to apply to stay here. Labour MP Ruth Smeeth said:
"If they are prepared to fight for this country, we should not make it impossible for them to have loved ones nearby. The situation is immoral."
War Widows' Association chairwoman, Mary Moreland, said:
"It means a lot to us that the Defence Committee has listened to us and is doing its job in taking the Government to task."
Mrs Moreland's husband John, a part-time Ulster Defence Regiment soldier, was murdered by the IRA in 1988, leaving her with two young children. She said:
"The pension is a form of recognition that your husband, spouse or significant other gave their life for their country. These war widows have seen their loved one make the ultimate sacrifice and this country should be looking after those left behind."
The MoD said it was continuing to consider the issue of war widows' pensions and was investing £1.8billion to house troops and families.This includes around 1,500 new family homes as well as thousands of new single bed spaces.
"The new Office for Veterans’ Affairs will ensure the whole of government pulls together to deliver the life-long support our veterans deserve,"
said a spokesman.
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BBC Radio 4 News – 25 September 2019
A committee of MPs has accused the Government of failing in its moral obligation to those who serve or have served in the military. The Armed Forces Covenant, enshrined in law, is supposed to help them gain access to decent accommodation, schools for their children and other services; but the Defence Select Committee says major problems remain unresolved.
Our Defence Correspondent Jonathan Beale reports:
"The report says the Ministry of Defence must learn lessons from a record of poor satisfaction with the state of Service accommodation. Military families also continued to complain of difficulties in getting their children into the schools they want. The report highlights what it calls the 'immoral' treatment of Service personnel from Commonwealth countries, with the high costs of visas for spouses and children wanting to join them in the UK. MPs also say it's disgraceful that some war widows are still being denied pensions because they remarried."
A spokesman for the Government said it was committed to treating Armed Forces personnel and veterans fairly.