The MoD has been accused of being “immoral and incompetent” as MPs say it is failing to uphold the Armed Forces covenant.
The Defence Select Committee says the government has yet to tackle major concerns raised in its previous reports on the Armed Forces Covenant, according to its latest update which is published today.
Among other long-standing concerns the report highlighted problems related to Commonwealth personnel and their families and Service accommodation, saying many issues remain unresolved despite years of failure.
The report 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 say Commonwealth soldiers have to reach a “minimum income threshold” of £18,600 to bring a spouse into the UK, rising by £3,800 for the first child and £2,400 for each additional child.
This means a serving person with a spouse and two children must earn £24,800 to bring his or her 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 controversial 1996 deal to sell and lease back 55,000 houses to private company Annington Property Limited, 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 the government owes to service personnel, veterans and their families.
Defence Committee chairman, Dr Julian Lewis, 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.”
Ruth Smeeth, a member of the Committee and Chair of the APPG on the Armed Forces Covenant, said: “We are particularly concerned by the difficulties faced by Commonwealth personnel who wish to bring their families to the UK.
“If they are prepared to fight for this country, we should not make it impossible for them to have their loved ones nearby. We agree with the Army Families Federation that the current situation is immoral.”
The new Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Johnny Mercer, 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 Telegraph at the weekend during the 75th commemoration of the battle of Arnhem he said the announcement earlier this month of an additional £2.2 billion for the MoD over the next two years was a “generational strategic opportunity to change the way this country does Defence.”
“I think we’ve made a really good start under this Prime Minister.
“He’s come in and set up an office for veterans’ affairs and in his first spending review, 20 per cent of the increased spending went to Defence.
“So this guy gets it and I’m going to work hard to make sure everyone else does as well.”
The MPs report welcomed the establishment of Mr Mercer’s Office for Veterans’ Affairs and “expects it to tackle the concerns expressed in this report”.
Original article published by the Telegraph. Written by Dominic Nicholls – Defence and security correspondent