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Ministry of Defence: Pensions

Volume 684: debated on Tuesday 11 July 2006

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Tom Watson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The House will be aware that the Ministry of Defence has been engaged in correcting a number of Armed Forces pension awards to both ex-service personnel and widows. These exercises, known as Project Haven and Project Scribe, flowed from the uncovering in 1998 of a systemic pensions and tax error and from a Court of Appeal judgment in 2003 in the case of Hulme v MoD. My predecessors have made a number of statements to the House on these matters. I am pleased to report that the second of these projects, Project Scribe, is now nearing completion and that, as a result of both projects, some 5,500 corrections to pension awards have been made at a cost to date of £32.4 million, plus some £18.2 million in compensation.

However, I have to tell the House that, during this work, teams from the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency and the Veterans Agency have uncovered a further error. Our initial estimate is that this may mean that a number of awards—our initial estimate is about 1,800—to those invalided for causes due to service may not have been consistently uprated as they should have been in line with the acceptance by the Veterans Agency of deterioration claims. Widows’ pensions are not affected. I apologise unreservedly for this further error. Beginning next month, officials will identify and correct these pensions with the payment of any interest due. I will be considering, as a matter of priority, whether additional recompense is appropriate. I can assure the House that the cause of the error has been corrected and mechanisms put in place to ensure that it will not recur.

The proposed merger of the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency and the Veterans Agency would be a positive step, aimed at reducing the risk of further errors and at providing a better service to both current and former members of the Armed Forces, their families and dependants. I will provide more information to the House on this work soon.