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PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

04 Dec 20. Defence Committee to hear from Permanent Secretary on the MoD’s Annual Report and Accounts. On Tuesday the 8 December, at 14.30, the Defence Committee will hold an evidence session scrutinising the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Annual Report and Accounts, hearing from the Department’s Permanent Secretary, Sir Stephen Lovegrove, as well as other senior officials.

14.30, 8 December:

* Sir Stephen Lovegrove, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence

* Sir Simon Bollom, Chief Executive Officer, Defence Equipment and Support

* Mr Charlie Pate, Director General Finance, Ministry of Defence

* Air Marshal Richard Knighton, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Military Capability), Ministry of Defence

02 Dec 20. Defence Committee launch report approving appointment of Service Complaints Ombudsman. Today, the Defence Committee is publishing its report approving the appointment of Mariette Hughes as the new Service Complaints Ombudsman, following the departure of Nicola Williams at the end of this year. The attached Report includes a summary of Ms Hughes’ curriculum vitae, details on the recruitment process and background to the role of Service Complaints Ombudsman.

This follows the Committee’s pre-appointment hearing on 1 December.

Since March 2018, Mariette Hughes has been the Head of External Affairs, Service Policy and Impact with the Legal Ombudsman. She also currently holds the interim posts of Chief Ombudsman and Director of Operations.

The position of Service Complaints Ombudsman was created in 2015 and provides an alternative route for Service personnel who do not wish to approach the chain of command directly to have allegations fed into the system. The Ombudsman produces an annual report on the fairness, efficiency and effectiveness of the Service complaints system. The tenure of Nicola Williams, the first Service Complaints Ombudsman, ends on 31 December 2020 and a replacement is required to be in post by 1 January 2021.

Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, said:, “I am delighted to approve the appointment of Mariette Hughes in the role of Service Complaint Ombudsman. The Committee was particularly impressed by the breadth of her experience and her enthusiasm for new challenges.  The importance of the role of Service Complaints Ombudsman cannot be overstated. It is vital that service personnel feel able to come forward and that the right mechanisms are in place to support those who wish to lodge a complaint.  The overrepresentation of female and BAME complainants is striking and must be addressed. We hope that the Defence Committee’s new inquiry exploring the issues faced by women in the Armed Forces will help inform and guide the Ombudsman’s work during her tenure.  Whilst there are some considerable challenges ahead of her, I am confident that Ms Hughes will deliver results, building on the important work of her predecessor Nicola Williams. We wish her every success in this vital role.”

30 Nov 20. Defence Committee launch inquiry on Women in the Armed Forces. The Defence Committee is today launching an inquiry on Women in the Armed Forces: From Recruitment to Civilian Life, with the intention of this becoming a Sub-Committee, chaired by Sarah Atherton MP.  For this inquiry, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has lifted the usual restrictions, allowing female service personnel to participate in the inquiry.  The Committee will look at the experience of female service personnel from recruitment to transition and consider whether there are unique challenges that are not adequately addressed by the current policies and services.

The Committee will look at:

* Whether the Government and MoD is doing enough to address any additional challenges;

* how easy it is to make a complaint, and identify what barriers there are to female personnel complaining;

* whether the experiences of female BAME personnel differ;

* why women chose to leave the Armed forces;

* whether ex-servicewomen face different challenges to men during their transition to civilian life;

* whether the needs of female veterans are currently met by the available services; and

* explore the effect that the introduction of the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Act (2010) has had.

Other areas of interest that the Committee are keen to cover within the scope of the inquiry include issues around pensions, terms and conditions of employment, housing and general wellbeing.

Survey: As part of this inquiry, the Committee will be undertaking a survey, hoping to hear from female service personnel about their experiences serving.

Chair of the planned Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces, Sarah Atherton, said: “Women make a vital and valued contribution to our Armed Forces and to our country. However, serious challenges remain. Female personnel are more likely to make complaints, more likely to report mental health difficulties and more likely to be subject to sexual assaults. We need to understand the scale, nature and root of the challenges that female personnel face. Only then can we begin to address the incidence in which the services have failed female serving personnel and identify the solutions.

“My hope is that this inquiry will provide servicewomen and veterans, who have too often struggled to get their voices heard, with a platform to discuss their experiences frankly, freely and without fear of repercussions. There is worrying data to suggest a disparity in the experiences of women and men both during and after leaving the Armed Forces that demands serious examination. Neglecting to do so is a disservice to those prepared to lay down their lives for our safety and protection.

“Our Forces are stronger, richer and more capable when they are diverse and inclusive. A robust Armed Forces includes personnel from all walks of life, with different experiences and fresh perspectives. This is not only the right thing to do but contributes directly to operational effectiveness. We need the right person for the right role, and it is in no one’s interest to discourage women from joining and remaining in the Armed Forces.”

Form of written evidence:

Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 words. The main body of any submission should use numbered paragraphs. Each submission should contain:

* a short summary, perhaps in bullet point form;

* a brief introduction about the person or organisation submitting evidence, for example explaining their area of expertise or experience;

* any factual information from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses;

* any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.

Submissions should be in malleable format such as MS Word (not PDFs) with no use of colour or logos. Guidance on submitting written evidence and data protection information is available here: Guidance on submitting written evidence.

Deadline for submissions

The Committee is asking for initial written evidence to be submitted through the Committee’s web portal by midnight on 31 January 2021.

It is recommended that all submitters familiarise themselves with the Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons which outlines particulars of word count, format, document size, and content restrictions.

Diversity

We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind when we ask them to choose a representative. We are currently monitoring the diversity of our witnesses.

House of Commons and House of Lords Hansard Written Answers

Question

Mr Kevan Jones

Labour

North Durham

Commons

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether he plans to update the National Security Strategy.

Answer

James Heappey

Conservative

Wells

Commons

Answered on

3 December 2020

In his statement on 19 November, the Prime Minister said the Government will announce the full conclusions of the Integrated Review early in the new year. Through these conclusions we will set out the Government’s overarching strategy for national security and foreign policy, including defence, diplomacy, development and national resilience, setting direction for more detailed strategies and departmental activity in the coming years.

 

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