§ Viscount Mersey
asked Her Majesty's Government:
When they expect to make an announcement concerning the Bett Report.
§ Lord Henley
My right honourable friend the then Minister for the Armed Forces announced on 9 February 1994 (Official Report, col. 361) the intention, in the light of changes in military commitments and deployment patterns, to set in hand a major independent review of Service career and manpower structures and terms and conditions of service, to ensure that we will have personnel and management arrangements appropriate to the early part of the 21st century. The review was to be wide-ranging in accordance with the terms of reference set out on 30 March 1994 (Official Report, cols. 748 and 749). It was also to take into account the implications of the Front Line First exercise. In that context, the Government have made it clear that following the decisions that have been taken on the size, capabilities and roles of the Armed Forces for the post-Cold War World the Armed Forces are now set on a steady course for the future. Mr Michael Bett was appointed to lead the review.
Mr Bett and his team have completed their review and we received their report, Managing People in Tomorrow's Armed Forces, on 30 March. Mr Bett has consulted extensively within the Armed Forces and within my department. He has made some 150 recommendations, which cover the whole field of rank 21WA and career structures, pay and allowance structures and pensions, housing and accommodation policies and wider conditions of service. As Mr. Bett says, his intention has been to ensure that the Armed Forces continue to hold their own against civilian competitors, in recruiting and retaining high quality people. We are most grateful to Mr. Bett and his team for all their work.
Mr. Bett has undertaken an independent review; we now need to consider his recommendations. Our initial examination is likely to take several weeks, and will include a consideration of the amount of further study and development required to validate Mr. Belt's proposals. We shall make a further statement about our general approach at the end of that period. Thereafter there will need to be a further, more lengthy development period before a final definitive response to the report can be made.
Throughout this process, we intend that, as for Front Line First, the Armed Forces themselves should be fully involved. Service personnel will be encouraged to submit their comments, which we shall consider carefully. In the meantime, to assist in the consultation process, Mr. Belt's report is being published today. A copy of the report is being distributed to every unit of the Armed Forces together with an explanatory leaflet for every Serviceman and woman. Copies of the report and leaflet are being placed in the Library of the House.