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Service Complaints Commissioner

Volume 708: debated on Wednesday 4 March 2009


My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have placed in the Library of the House today a copy of the Service Complaints Commissioner’s first annual report on the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the service complaints system. 

The Government committed to the establishment of a Service Complaints Commissioner in their response to the Deepcut review, which was published in June 2006. Provisions had already been proposed in the Armed Forces Bill then under consideration for an independent external reviewer who would examine the fairness and effectiveness of the service complaints system and report annually to Ministers. However, in light of the Deepcut review, the reviewer was given a wider role in relation to allegations of bullying, harassment and other improper behaviour. Recommendations made by the HCDC in its duty of care report 2004-05 also helped to shape the role of the commissioner and the complaints process.

The role of the commissioner is to provide scrutiny and assurance that the complaints process is working effectively and that lessons learnt are being implemented. The commissioner offers an independent ear for the concerns of service personnel and their families and can pursue their proper consideration by the chain of command. The commissioner’s work will help us to maintain a complaints system that is fair and effective and where necessary improve it. I am confident that the commissioner provides the optimum arrangement for both service personnel and the chain of command responsible for their welfare and discipline.

I and the service chiefs are committed to the role of the commissioner and welcome this first annual report. We are committed to continuously improving the service complaints process and take the commissioner’s recommendations very seriously. I am pleased that the report states that the new complaints system is well designed and is working; it also makes a number of criticisms of current procedures, which we will need to consider carefully. I will provide a formal response to the commissioner once we have had time to look at the report in detail.