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Projects Haven and Scribe

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what procedures he has put in place under Project Haven and Project Scribe to invite applications from ex-service personnel who believe they may be entitled to compensation under the initiatives; (93308)

(2) what steps he has taken to increase awareness among ex-service personnel of their possible entitlement to compensation under the Project Haven and Project Scribe initiatives;

(3) what criteria were set by his Department for the assessment of eligibility for compensation under the Project Haven and Project Scribe initiative;

(4) how many ex-service personnel have been paid compensation under Project Haven and Project Scribe; and what the cost of such compensation was;

(5) what procedures he plans to put in place to ensure that ex-service personnel whose claim for compensation under Project Haven or Project Scribe is refused can have their case independently assessed;

(6) how many assessments of entitlement under the Project Haven and Project Scribe initiatives resulted in no compensation being paid;

(7) what procedures he has put in place to ensure that the assessment of entitlement to compensation under Project Haven and Project Scribe is subject to independent scrutiny.

The Ministry of Defence fully publicised Project Haven in the national media and in ex-service organisations publications, along with information on our websites. All material advised how an individual could make a claim to correct their tax status. In Project Scribe there was no national media campaign; however, information about the error regarding Armed Forces Pension Scheme invaliding pensions, was sent to all individuals who were in receipt of a War Pensions Scheme disablement pension, widows or widowers pension, in the form of a “War Pensions Newsletter”. This group of pensioners were at risk and therefore they were advised how to make a claim. In addition, information was posted on our websites, and towards the end of the review ex-service organisations kindly published details about the error and how to make a claim in their publications.

In both projects individuals were not invited to make a claim for compensation but to contact the Department to correct the tax status or level of their pension and claim any back payments of pension or tax. Once an individual had been identified as receiving incorrect payments etc. interest was paid in accordance with Government Accounting and HM Revenue and Customs rules and additional recompense as agreed by the Department.

This publicity was considered the most appropriate at the time the errors were established and during the review period. There are no plans to increase the level of awareness for Projects Haven and Scribe as we are confident that we have identified all those affected and have made the necessary corrections plus interest and compensation payments where appropriate.

The criteria for the payment of compensation in Project Haven and Scribe was set out in written ministerial statements on 15 December 2003, Official Report, column 130WS, and 15 June 2004, Official Report, column 26WS, respectively.

In his written ministerial statement of 11 July 2006, Official Report, columns 60-61WS, my predecessor reported that some 5,500 pension awards under both projects had been corrected at a cost of £32.4 million plus some £18.2 million paid in compensation. Approximately 1,600 individuals whose pension or tax status was corrected did not receive compensation. There are a number of reasons why an individual may not have received compensation, for example, an individual's pension was recorded as “taxable”, however, as the value of the pension was below the tax threshold, they had not paid tax.

The Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency (AFPAA) was responsible for assessing the entitlement to compensation in each case according to the methodology set by the Department. There are no independent procedures in place to ensure that the individual's assessment is correct; however, AFPAA’s own internal project team undertook an audit on a proportion of the cases. The compensation methodology was available to all individuals and if an individual considers that this has not been followed AFPAA will investigate and provide a detailed breakdown of the compensation. Likewise where an individual has not received compensation and they consider that they should have, the appeal will be considered initially under the Department's statutory Internal Dispute Resolution procedures. Following this appeal route an individual may seek the services of the Occupational Pensions Advisory Service and the pensions ombudsman, both of whom are independent.