MoD 'will politicise covenant'

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The Independent Online

The Ministry of Defence stands accused of "politicising" the military covenant, under plans to scrap an independent review of the Government's progress in honouring the nation's pact with servicemen and women.

Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for Defence, will tomorrow set out details of the Armed Forces Bill, but critics say it will effectively bring the assessment of the Government's treatment of forces personnel "in-house". Under the system introduced by Labour after criticism of troops' housing, pay and equipment, the independent External Reference Group was set up to assess annual progress against the Service Personnel Command Paper.

Chris Simpkins, the director general of the Royal British Legion, said: "We believe that it is of vital importance that the External Reference Group is retained and continues to produce its own annual report. This would be a clear signal that the Government wishes to obtain as complete a picture as possible of the state of the lives of serving and ex-service personnel and their families."

Jim Murphy, Labour's defence spokesman, said: "The politicisation of the covenant by this Government shows that even Liam Fox has no confidence in his ability to live up to his pre-election rhetoric."

The Ministry of Defence said it remained committed to "independent scrutiny" efforts to rebuild the military covenant and Mr Fox will have to update MPs annually on progress.

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