The Military Covenant Commission set up by David Cameron last March has announced its interim findings this afternoon. Liam Fox MP was joined by Chairman of the Commission Frederick Forsyth, and Simon Weston and Andrew Murrison MP in CCHQ this afternoon. Download a copy of the report here.
The Military Covenant should be clearly established and written into tri-service doctrine (as opposed to just the army’s charter).
There should be a Strategic Defence Review about every four years. Fox criticised the Government for not having one since 1998, and therefore for basing its response to the new strategic environment on old assumptions.
Inquests have repeatedly pointed to inadequate provision of basic equipment. Forsyth estimated that fifty or sixty deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan could be attributed to "crap equipment". Injured soldiers (and NHS professionals) should be aware of their right to priority treatment.
Des Browne as Secretary of State for Defence should be full-time, and the minister for veterans and personnel should be a Minister of State.
Public shows of support for members of the Armed Forces and veterans should be encouraged with corporate and civic sponsorship. Simon Weston said that the public engaged with the military more positively during the troubles in Northern Ireland because the fighting was closer to home than the wards in Iraq and Afghanistan. The wearing of uniforms in public more would help with the disconnect between society and military.
Schools Presentation Teams should be reinstated so that children
understand the military. We asked if they would consider ambitious
plans for the expansion of cadet forces in state schools
(as it would help address the three key issues of broken society,
military covenant, and recruitment). The panel said it should be
strongly considered and that the Government has started a pilot project
on this which Cameron has supported. They rightly said they deplored
the attitude of the National Union of Teachers towards the military,
and Fox criticised Quentin Davies’ government report for the serious
omission of not consulting the NUT about it.
Exit rates for officers have increased every year for five years. More
people are leaving the reserve forces than are joining. Overstretch
require some retasking. Leave should start once soldiers have actually
managed to get home. The intervals between operational tours are often
shorter than recommended.
Families who relocate due to military commitments should
keep their places on waiting/dental lists. The idea of a pupil premium
to help school children from disadvantaged backgrounds should reflect
the needs of service children who tend to underperform in education.
All of the questions from journalists were about costings. They wanted
to know whether they would "spend more or do less". Forsyth said that he had no mandate to suggest where the required money came
from but he did refer to the
"deplorable litanies of waste" at the MOD. Fox said many of the
recommendations didn’t require investment and that it was hard to make
financial commitments when there was a lack of information from the
Government about the MOD’s assets.
Related link: Fox says defence bills come before tax cuts