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Armed Forces: Personnel and Veterans

Volume 684: debated on Monday 17 July 2006

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

As foreshadowed by my predecessor in his Statement in March 2005, I am announcing today the outcome of the study to explore whether there is scope for further service improvement through the greater integration of services delivered by the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency and the Veterans Agency. The study has included consultation of trade unions and veterans’ groups and has recommended that the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency and the Veterans Agency are integrated on 1 April 2007.

I have decided that the integration of these two agencies should take place, as it will enable improvements to the service received by both veterans and serving members of our Armed Forces. It is my intention that each of these two groups should be able to access the whole range of services and benefits currently provided by the two agencies, simply by going to their own single, dedicated contact point where their different needs will be understood and valued. Bringing together these agencies will enable the creation of an organisation with separate front-office customer contact for veterans and serving personnel, supported by a single back-office and unified corporate services and strategy, with one person accountable for overall service delivery. This chief executive will be supported by directors with responsibility respectively for services to veterans and services to those currently serving. The new structure will enable more joined-up and hence more accurate assessments of total entitlements that currently span two agencies. It will also facilitate the development of integrated business processes and IT, leading in due course to further improvements in services for serving and retired members of the Armed Forces and their beneficiaries, thus providing excellent and efficient service from cradle to grave.

Integrating these two agencies does not of itself imply an intention to collocate or further outsource services. These are separate issues to be considered on their merits as and when opportunities arise or existing contracts expire. Integration is designed to improve the administrative support we provide to the Armed Forces and veterans; and robust key targets will be set to ensure no erosion in the quality of service provided. Bringing together the agencies is consistent with the pan-government initiative for more coherent, joined-up approaches to service delivery. To retain a sharp focus on the quality of veterans’ services and to reassure elderly customers through a sense of continuity, the Veterans Agency name for the veterans’ contact point will be retained, with a director dedicated to veterans’ services. As Minister for veterans, I am committed to ensuring that the quality of service to veterans and their dependants as well as the serving population is continued and improved even further under the new arrangements.