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Conditions of Service

Volume 637: debated on Monday 5 March 2018

9. What plans he has to introduce greater flexibility in the conditions of service for the armed forces. (904160)

17. What plans he has to introduce greater flexibility in the conditions of service for the armed forces. (904168)

Members will recall that the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill passed its Third Reading on 29 January 2018 and has now received Royal Assent. It will allow Regular armed forces personnel to work part time for a temporary period, subject to the operational capability of the applicant’s unit.

I thank the Minister for his reply. To recruit and retain people in the armed services these days, it is important to have more flexible terms and conditions. How rapidly does he think that will happen? Will it be implemented now or in two or three months?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s question. It is important to recognise that we need to reflect the needs and aspirations of civilian society. Flexible capability has already been introduced, and the process is ongoing. The Bill has received Royal Assent, as I mentioned, and will come into force in April 2019.

It is extremely important that we continue to make careers in the armed forces desirable through measures such as flexible working. However, in Scotland, due to the SNP Government, personnel will be paying higher taxes than their colleagues south of the border. Will my right hon. Friend do all he can to clear up the ill-thought-out mess that the SNP has created?

On the conditions of service, it is also right that servicemen and women who become unfit for duty should have a system that supports them that is fit for purpose. We know that currently, it is not. The Minister said that his Department would publish a response to the February 2017 review of the armed forces compensation scheme a year after publication. Where is it?

I will certainly write to the hon. Lady with the details of that. She is absolutely right; we want to see people recuperate, recover and get back on to the frontline. One of the big changes last year was our mental health and wellbeing strategy, which does exactly that—it removes the stigma that sometimes is attached to people coming forward, to make it clear when there is an issue that needs to be dealt with, so that they can get back on to the frontline. I will write to her.

Many constituents who have given outstanding service to our country have come to me with mental health problems. How can we ensure that the conditions of service also include post-service follow-up, to give these people the care they need?

That leads on nicely from the answer that I just gave. The mental health strategy was brought in. This was not working well before, and people were reluctant to come forward. We now have 11 major departments across Britain established in the main hubs of where our armed forces are based that are designed to assist people in stepping forward and dealing with mental health issues. We should also recognise that the armed forces 24/7 military mental health helpline, which allows direct access to support 24/7, was launched last week.