Armed Forces Covenant: House of Commons Updates

Discussion in 'House of Commons' started by DOT, Jun 24, 2013.

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  1. DOT

    DOT Old-Salt SME

    Armed Forces Covenant in NI: Select Committee evidence session, 26 June 1.30pm

    Note - This is an alert for upcoming business in the House of Commons. We encourage discussion and comments concerning the topic or content of the debate.

    The evidence session will be streamed live on Parliament TV: Player

    Oral evidence session: Implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland

    An evidence session will be held on Wednesday 26 June at 1.30pm. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will take evidence from Mike Penning MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, on its inquiry into the implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland.

    About the inquiry:

    The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee announced in December 2012 that it would inquire into the implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland.

    Taking account of progress made so far in implementing the Covenant in England, Scotland and Wales, the inquiry has examined progress in its implementation in Northern Ireland, including:
    • links between the Armed Forces Community in Northern Ireland and Departments of the NI Executive;
    • barriers to progress, statutory or otherwise, in implementing the Covenant;
    • the level of co-ordination between the NI Executive, the Northern Ireland Office, the Ministry of Defence and other relevant UK Government Departments, and
    • the absence of NI representation on the Covenant Reference Group.

    To date, the Committee has held six public evidence sessions, with witnesses including:

    • The Reserve Forces and Cadets Association for Northern Ireland.
    • Armed Forces charities: SSAFA Forces Help, Royal British Legion, Combat Stress, and ABF the Soldiers' Charity.
    • Northern Ireland Executive Departments: Nelson McCausland MLA, Minister for Social Development NI and Edwin Poots MLA, Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety NI.
    • MoD: Rt Hon Mark Francois MP, Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, Rear Admiral Simon Williams, Assistant Chief of Defence Staff and Gavin Barlow, Ministry of Defence. Also, the Commander of 38 (Irish) Brigade.
    • Representatives of the Regimental Association for the Royal Irish Regiment.
    • The Committee on the Administration of Justice and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

    Transcripts of the above sessions are available on the Committee’s website: Publications

    Issues discussed so far include:

    • The current level of support for the Armed Forces Community in Northern Ireland
    • Action the Northern Ireland Executive has taken to work with the Armed Forces Community
    • How the UK Government has addressed implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland
    • Whether the equality framework in Northern Ireland is compatible with the Armed Forces Covenant

    Please note - The Committee is in the closing stages of their inquiry but wanted to inform you of their work. The Committee encourages discussion on this topic but regrets that they are no longer seeking formal evidence.

    For more information about the inquiry and the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee please visit the inquiry homepage.
     
  2. DOT

    DOT Old-Salt SME

    Following on from the meeting last Wednesday, some of the areas the Committee questioned the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Mike Penning MP, on included:

    • The extent to which the Armed Forces Covenant has been implemented in Northern Ireland
      • Mike Penning MP told the Committee 93% of the Covenant is being delivered in Northern Ireland.
    • New measures to engage with the Armed Forces Community in NI
      • The Northern Ireland Office will establish an e-mail address for anyone wishing to ask a question relating to the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland.
    • Engagement with the Northern Ireland Executive
      • Mike Penning MP told the Committee he had spoken to the leaders of the key political parties in Northern Ireland about the Covenant, and discussed areas of concern with them.
    • Future Armed Forces Covenant Annual Reports
      • The Committee discussed the desirability of having a representative of the Northern Ireland Executive on the Covenant Reference Group.
      • Options for receiving contributions from departments of the Northern Ireland Executive for future Reports were discussed.
    To watch the recording of the meeting please go to Parliament TV. (Please note that Windows Media Player or Silverlight are required to stream parliament TV).

    To read the full transcript of the meeting please go to: Transcript of 26 June

    For more information about the inquiry and the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee please visit the inquiry homepage.

    The Committee is due to produce a Report following this inquiry shortly.
     
  3. DOT

    DOT Old-Salt SME

    The Northern Ireland Select Committee has now published their report on the implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland.

    The report says the UK Government must identify any shortfalls in the provision of services to the Armed Forces Community in Northern Ireland, and report on how these will be met. The Committee also calls for closer engagement between the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive on support for the Armed Forces Community.

    Laurence Robertson MP, Chair of the Committee said;

    “We absolutely support the principle that members of the Armed Forces and their families must not be disadvantaged by their service to their country and all that it entails. This means that in some cases, special consideration should be given, to reflect the special demands and sacrifices of service. The Welsh and Scottish administrations have worked admirably to implement the Armed Forces Covenant in Scotland and in Wales and published comprehensive reports on Government support available to the Armed Forces Community, and we hope that the Northern Ireland Executive will do the same.

    “Of course we recognise that the political and legal situation in Northern Ireland makes issues relating to the Armed Forces delicate and potentially contentious, but this should not mean that the Armed Forces Community in Northern Ireland is disadvantaged.

    “We welcome the work by the Northern Ireland Office and the Ministry of Defence to assess any shortfall in Covenant provision in Northern Ireland. It is vital that any such shortfalls are addressed, whether this is by the Northern Ireland Executive or HM Government. The MoD must respond to any identified needs of the Armed Forces Community in Northern Ireland, and report on how these will be met.”

    To read the full report please go to MPs publish Report on implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland - News from Parliament - UK Parliament
     
  4. DOT

    DOT Old-Salt SME

    The Committee says there are still a number of areas where improvements are needed, including:



    • HM Government should respond to the identified needs of the Armed Forces Community in Northern Ireland, and report on how these will be met;
    • Service providers should understand that the equality framework in Northern Ireland does not create a greater barrier to the implementation of the Covenant than elsewhere in the UK;
    • The MoD should approach individual Northern Ireland departments for contributions to future Annual Reports on the Armed Forces Covenant, so that the Secretary of State for Defence can report on progress in Northern Ireland, and on those areas where more needs to be done, and
    • The NIO and MoD should work with the Northern Ireland Executive towards the appointment of a representative from the Executive to the Covenant Reference Group.