Written evidence submitted by the Ministry of Defence
Follow up answers to HCDC Evidence Session on Work of the Chief of Defence Staff, 7 July 2020
As part of the work on the Integrated Review, the MOD has developed an Integrated Operating Concept for 2025 and beyond (IOpC 25) which sets a new paradigm of modern deterrence. CDS launched the IOpC 25 on 30 September, together with a public-facing document. The Future Operating Concept is less mature, but when fully developed it will describe how the Armed Forces will be employed in the 2030s.
In positing an ‘integrated force’, we are responding to a recognition that ‘joint’ is no longer enough. We must be better integrated across government, with our allies and across the five domains (maritime, land, air, space, and cyber and electromagnetic) and three levels of warfare (strategic, operational and tactical) to counter the threat posed by adversaries adept at integrating all the state levers of power, and to protect our interests and national advantage. We will continue to refine the detail around phrases such as ‘integrated force’ as the accompanying conceptual framework matures.
The Government is committed to putting a rigorous assessment of the threats we face and the changing balance of advantage at the heart of its decision making.
Strategic Net Assessment (SNA) is designed to assess the MOD’s ability to maintain its competitive advantage in the future strategic environment. It is about the diagnosis of a future strategic issue, not its prescription (this will be addressed by other parts of the MOD’s strategic planning organisation). Its work naturally focuses on the defence and military implications of strategic problems, but it will take account of the full range of national levers of power, and through wide use of external expertise offer a strategic diagnostic approach that is unique in UK government.
We are building on the work to date to establish an SNA in the MOD by incorporating it into a new assessment, analysis and challenge area in the MOD’s Strategy Directorate. This unit will support Defence Ministers by offering alternative perspectives informed by a combination of thorough analysis, including Net Assessment, and policy and strategy expertise.
The Integrated Review is being led by the Prime Minister, supported by a cross-Whitehall team in the Cabinet Office and a small team in Downing Street. Departments across Whitehall are contributing to the IR and decisions will ultimately be made by the National Security Council, which the Prime Minister chairs.
The Government announced on 21 October that it will conduct a one-year Spending Review for 2021-22. The implications of that decision for the Integrated Review are currently being considered, and the Government will provide an update to Parliament once these have been decided.
The Defence Secretary is responsible for the MOD’s IR proposition. He and his ministerial team have been heavily involved in the process and will remain so throughout. At an official level, the Strategy Director is the Senior Responsible Owner, working in collaboration with numerous stakeholders including the Chiefs and reporting to a Review Small Group that is chaired by the Permanent Secretary.
Recognising that diversity and inclusion are not just morally right but mission critical for the successful delivery of defence, urgent actions are being taken forward with a number of initiatives delivering this year. To lead this work, the MOD has significantly expanded the Diversity and Inclusion team.
The Defence People Team are already delivering a number of initiatives that will deliver this year. This includes:
Danuta Gray began the review on 15 July 2020. Terms of reference are enclosed at Annex A. The review assessed progress made against the recommendations in the single Services, UK Strategic Command and Head Office. The review has been submitted to the Secretary of State who will determine how it should be taken forwards. The findings of the review will be published in due course.
The Department's answer to this question was already provided in answer to PQ07847 on 14 July 2020 by the Minister for Defence People and Veterans. The answer has been repeated below for convenience:
The Service Complaints (SC) procedure exists to provide recourse to members of the Armed Forces (or those who are subject to Service Law) who are aggrieved due to the actions of either individuals, or the Service as a whole. SCs can cover a range of issues, from allowances and promotions to bullying and harassment. I can confirm to the honourable member that in this calendar year (1 Jan 2020 to date), less than five Service Complaints (SCs) have been received from Service Personnel aged 16–18. As 16 is the lowest age a person can join the UK Armed Forces, there were no SCs from those aged 15. Due to the figure being less than five (this has been rounded to comply with data protection), the outcomes cannot be given in order to protect the identities of those concerned.
The Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill introduces six-year limitation longstops for personal injury and/or death claims, and for claims under the Human Rights Act 1998, in respect of overseas military operations.
The six-year time limit for certain tort claims recognises the uniquely challenging context of overseas operations, and will bring the time limit for death and personal injury claims into line with other tort claims, for example assault and false imprisonment. The time limit for bringing claims under the Human Rights Act has been aligned with the time limit for death and personal injury claims for consistency.
In Stubbings v UK, a judgment that has been repeatedly confirmed, the European Court of Human Rights upheld an absolute six-year limitation period. The court noted the need in civil litigation for limitation periods because they ensure legal certainty and finality, the avoidance of stale claims, and prevent injustice where adjudicating upon events in the distant past involve unreliable and incomplete evidence because of the passage of time.
Six years is considered to be a reasonable timeframe for claimants to gather the necessary evidence to bring a claim; beyond this point, witnesses’ recollections can fade, making it difficult for the claimant to pursue a claim and for the defendant properly to defend the claim. The six-year time limit will mean witnesses, in particular service personnel and veterans, will not be expected to give evidence in relation to incidents that happened a long time ago. By introducing absolute longstops, we can provide our service personnel and veterans with certainty that the MOD will not be calling upon them indefinitely to give evidence about incidents during historical overseas operations.
The Bill does not change how the time limit is calculated. The time limit will still be calculated from either the date of the incident, or from the date of knowledge. This means that for conditions like PTSD that may not be diagnosed until much later, the six years would start from the date of diagnosis. In the event of a late diagnosis, Service personnel and veterans will be able to bring claims against the MOD even if it is more than six years from the date of the incident. Service personnel and veterans also benefit from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, which has a 7-year time limit for bringing claims.
TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR ONE YEAR ON REVIEW OF IMPLEMENTATION OF WIGSTON REVIEW
1. The Wigston Review into Inappropriate Behaviour was published by the then Secretary of State for Defence on 15 July 2019, and its recommendations accepted in full. The current Secretary of State has directed that a review take place of the progress that has been made by Defence (defined for this purpose as Head Office and the single Services) in implementing the recommendations.
2. The Review will be led by Danuta Gray, Chair of MOD’s People Committee. Secretariat support will be provided by Elizabeth Cameron of the Wigston Review Implementation Team. The review will begin on 15 July 2020 and complete on [15 October 2020].
3. The intention of the Wigston Review was to enable and energise Defence to put in place the measures that are needed to bear down on inappropriate behaviour, to reduce the amount of inappropriate behaviour that occurs and to make it easier for individuals to come forward when it does. This can only be achieved through a change in the culture of Defence, and the Wigston report estimated that it would take 5-10 years of concerted activity to make a measurable difference.
4. It would be unrealistic therefore to expect to see changes in the culture after 1 year. Nevertheless, Ministers need to know whether an acceptable start has been made, in order to be able to direct greater effort or a change of direction if necessary.
5. The Review will therefore examine the progress that has been made by Head Office and the single Services in implementing each of the recommendations. This will identify which recommendations have been:
6. The Wigston Report recognised that its work had been conducted at pace and without the benefit of the full range of evidence that would have been available in a longer exercise, and that further work may reinforce or reveal contrasting interpretations of the evidence. The Review should therefore consider whether Defence has found this to be the case, and whether it believes that the intentions of the Wigston Report could be achieved in different ways.
7. It is recognised that covid-19 emerged as a major pandemic health crisis during the implementation period, and that with the agreement of Ministers implementation was paused from 23 March to the beginning of June to enable the single Services to focus on support to the civil community. Although being conducted one year on, the review therefore covers less than 12 months of activity.
8. The leader of the Review will be free to interview whichever members of Defence she chooses, but because the intent of the Wigston report was to change culture, and because culture change needs to be led from the top, the review is expected to interview at least the Chief of Defence Staff, Permanent Secretary, single Service Chiefs of Staff, Vice Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Defence People and Civilian HR Director.
9. The report is to be submitted to the Secretary of State for Defence by 15 October 2020. It is intended that the report will be published in the public domain.