Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from the Minister of State for Defence Procurement (6 September 2000)

  I am writing to inform you that the Defence Council is in the process of laying an Order by statutory instrument that provides for the winding-up of the Eastern Wessex Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Association and for the alteration of the administrative areas of the existing Wessex and South East Associations. A copy of this is enclosed.[2]

  The Order arises from the statutory requirements of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 (RFA96) Part XI relating to alterations of areas into which the UK has been divided for the purpose of establishing Associations and the winding up of an Association. Article 1 indicates the name by which the Order is to be known and 1 October 2000 as the date it comes into force. Article 2 provides definitions, principally of the counties and non-metropolitan districts and Islands encompassed by the areas for which the existing Eastern Wessex, Wessex and South East Associations currently have administrative responsibility. Article 3 provides for the winding-up of the existing Eastern Wessex Association. Article 4 defines the counties and non-metropolitan districts to be encompassed by the area for which the expanded Wessex Association will have administrative responsibility. Article 5 defines the counties and non-metropolitan districts and Channel Islands to be encompassed by the area for which the expanded South East Association will have administrative responsibility. Articles 6 and 7 are designed to effect transfers of property, rights and liabilities from the existing Eastern Wessex Association to the expanded Wessex or South East Associations, as appropriate.

  The Order is required to underpin arrangements that will be in place in readiness for the effective date, but there is no question of retrospection to the legislation. The Ministry of Defence is not a regulatory department, and the Order does not impose costs on commerce or industry. A Regulatory Impact Assessment is therefore not needed.

  The background, as you are aware, is the Strategic Defence Review recommendation of a reduction in the number of Associations. As part of the implementation of that recommendation, the future structure of the Associations was the subject of a joint study involving the Associations themselves and the Ministry of Defence (the MoD/TAVRA Interface Study). A recommendation of the Study was that, to reflect the important links between the civil and military communities that Associations provide, and to accord with the "Modernising Government" initiative, arrangements were to be set in hand to ensure that the areas of responsibility of Associations in England and of the Government Office (GO) regions are aligned. The arrangement has several advantages. No change is required to the areas for which the majority of the Associations are already established; arrangements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are unchanged; and GO-related areas also align with those of Army divisional areas and RAF regional arrangements.

  This new arrangement was announced by the Minister for the Armed Forces in written answers to Parliamentary Questions on 21 April 1999 and again on 12 May 1999,[3] and to the Committee with notification of the review of the TAVRA/RFCA constitutions and also in response to your request for information following the laying of the new RFCA Regulations.[4] The announcements envisaged an amalgamation of the South East and Eastern Wessex Associations to form a new Association. However, a merger is not envisaged by the legislation; legal effect can only be given by the seeming expansion of one Association at the expense of the other.

  Both this Department and the Associations wish to make clear that what is being effected is an amalgamation of the responsibilities of two Associations, and quite definitely is not a takeover of the one by the other. I am pleased to inform you that, thanks to truly commendable efforts by the staff of the Eastern Wessex and South East Associations, the "new" South East Association will be established from 1 October 2000. Indeed, the move to the new, more central headquarters in Aldershot was completed by 1 September 2000, as planned.

  Knowing only a slight change would be required to match the Wessex Association area with that of the South West GO region (to extend the boundary to encompass the county of Dorset), Wessex Association has been acting as agent for Eastern Wessex's Dorset responsibilities since 1 April 2000. The Order merely effects the formal transfer of those responsibilities.

  The Secretary and his staff are employed directly by each Association. They are not MoD civil servants. Some 13 RFCA employees have opted for redundancy as a result of the rationalisation. Seven left on 31 August, three will leave on 31 December 2000 and three on 30 April 2001. The general liability to make redundancy payments that is imposed by the Employment Rights Act 1996 does not apply to Associations as emanations of the Crown. However, some Association employees have become redundant in circumstances corresponding to those laid down in that Act and have therefore been treated no less favourably than they would have been if the liability imposed by that Act had applied to the Crown. The redundancy terms are broadly in line with MoD Regulations and PCSPS arrangements. (The benefits cannot be identical because the RFCA and civil service pension arrangements differ). MoD has been advised there are no Treasury policy objections to these arrangements. There are no payments for diminution of income nor aggregated payments. In view of the arrangements made by the Associations, regulations under RFA96 section 118 have not been made.

  The aim throughout was that all Association staff should be kept fully informed of progress, and given full acknowledgement for their service. The RFCA Staff's Trade Union representatives were provided with a copy of the MoD/TAVRA Interface Study Report in April 1999. Consultation began on 14 May 1999 and has continued throughout. There are 25 staff posts in the "new" South East Association's secretariat. All employees who transfer will do so on terms negotiated through the senior national officer of the Public & Commercial Services Union. Those staff will suffer no detriment. All Association employees accepting redundancy have been or will be given six months' notice.

  The Associations are very much aware of their responsibilities to those staff and have provided support on resettlement and, where requested, more practical help and training. To acknowledge the tremendous debt they owe their staff, a formal farewell lunch will be followed by letters of appreciation signed by the appropriate Association's Chairman. All the Eastern Wessex Association's voluntary, unpaid Members will migrate to become members of the Wessex Association or the South East Association, depending on whether their linkage is with Dorset or somewhere in the South East GO regional area.

  We believe the Order is needed to give legal effect to the restructuring of Associations and thus complete the implementation of the recommendations arising from Strategic Defence Review studies. Immediately following the Order coming into force, the Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Associations Regulations will be amended to reflect the changes. The changes are minor (Regulation 1.4 and Annex A and its Appendix 1) and the replacement pages, details of which will be placed in the libraries of both Houses, are attached. From 1 October 2000 there will be revised Schemes of Association for the South East RFCA and the Wessex RFCA, and also consequential amendments to the Schemes for the other seven Associations in England that include changes in the descriptions of their areas of responsibility. Copies will be provided shortly after that date.

  Copies of this letter will be placed in the library of each House.

2   Not printed. Back

3   Hansard 21 April 1999, Col WA566 and 12 May 1999 Col 510W. Back

4   D/Parliamentary/21/24 dated 13 April 2000. Back

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