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Armed Forces: Service Complaints Commissioner

Volume 696: debated on Monday 12 November 2007

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

A number of improvements have been made to the service redress of individual grievance process (the service complaints process) under the Armed Forces Act 2006 in the light of recommendations made by Nicholas Blake QC. One of these is the establishment of the post of Service Complaints Commissioner, which will introduce an element of independence to the system and provide assurance that the system is working fairly and effectively. I am pleased to announce that Dr Susan Atkins has been appointed to the post of commissioner. She will have a comprehensive induction prior to taking up full duties when the new service complaints process comes into effect in January 2008.

As commissioner, Dr Atkins can receive complaints directly from service personnel, or allegations made on their behalf by family members or other third parties, about any wrong against a service person in relation to harassment, bullying or other improper behaviour, and will have the power to refer them to the chain of command for action. She will be notified of the outcome. The commissioner will also provide an annual report to the Secretary of State for Defence on the fairness, effectiveness and timeliness of the service complaints process which will be laid before Parliament and published.

The appointment of the commissioner is an important step towards the full implementation of the new service complaints process which is due to come into effect in January 2008.