To ask Her Majesty's Government what consultation there has been with ex-service organisations concerning letters sent by lawyers acting for the Ministry of Defence to service men and women seeking compensation for war-related illnesses and disabilities saying that assessments of their claims could be “undertaken covertly by surveillance”; and what is the breakdown of the costs to date of implementing that policy. [HL5253]
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many ex-service men and women seeking compensation for war-related illnesses and disabilities have had the assessment of their claims “undertaken covertly by surveillance”. [HL5254]
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether public reaction to the disclosure that claims by ex-service men and women for compensation for war-related illnesses and disabilities could be “undertaken covertly by surveillance” has led the Ministry of Defence to reconsider its policy. [HL5255]
The Ministry of Defence has a duty to ensure that common-law compensation claims are paid at the correct level where there is a legal liability to do so. In exceptional circumstances surveillance might be undertaken to observe the true extent of a claimant's alleged injuries in cases where there is a reasonable suspicion about the veracity of a claim or where medical evidence suggests that the claimant's disability is wholly inconsistent with the type of injury. Claims that are found to be grossly exaggerated are either repudiated or settled at a greatly reduced level of damages in line with the injury suffered and true levels of loss incurred by the claimant. Surveillance should be of no concern to claimants with a legitimate claim and where the alleged injury has not been grossly exaggerated in an attempt to extract higher levels of compensation.
About 54,000 claims for compensation have been made against the Ministry of Defence since 2000 from which 284 cases have been subject to surveillance. Such surveillance is not restricted to service personnel, but may be used in any case brought against the Ministry of Defence. In the vast majority of these cases, surveillance proved that the claim was grossly exaggerated resulting in very considerable savings to the defence budget.
No formal consultation was undertaken with ex-service personnel organisations, but lawyers representing claimants bringing cases against the Ministry of Defence are fully aware of the department's policy on surveillance. The average cost of surveillance is about £1,500 per case. The largest amount saved on an individual case that proved to be grossly exaggerated was about £1 million.
This policy relates only to common-law compensation claims where the claimant is suing the department, not to the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.