Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Act 2015

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Citation2015 c. 19


Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Act 2015

2015 CHAPTER 19

An Act to make provision about service complaints; about financial assistance for the armed forces community; and for connected purposes.

[26th March 2015]

Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-

Service complaints

Service complaints

S-1 Creation of office of Service Complaints Ombudsman

1 Creation of office of Service Complaints Ombudsman

(1) After section 365A of the Armed Forces Act 2006 insert-

"Service Complaints Ombudsman

365B Service Complaints Ombudsman

(1) The office of Service Complaints Ombudsman is established.

(2) The Ombudsman is to be appointed by Her Majesty on the recommendation of the Secretary of State.

(3) A person may not be appointed as the Ombudsman if the person is-

(a) a member of the regular or reserve forces, or

(b) employed in the civil service of the State.

(4) The Ombudsman holds and vacates office in accordance with the terms of his or her appointment.

(5) The Ombudsman may authorise a person working for the Ombudsman to exercise any function of the Ombudsman on his or her behalf.

(6) The Ombudsman is not to be regarded-

(a) as the servant or agent of the Crown, or

(b) as enjoying any status, immunity or privilege of the Crown."

(2) The office of Service Complaints Commissioner is abolished.

(3) Accordingly, in the Armed Forces Act 2006, omit section 366 and the italic cross-heading immediately preceding it.

S-2 Reform of system for redress of individual grievances

2 Reform of system for redress of individual grievances

(1) After section 340 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 insert-

"Part 14A

Redress of service complaints

Service complaints

340A Who can make a service compla int?

(1) If a person subject to service law thinks himself or herself wronged in any matter relating to his or her service, the person may make a complaint about the matter.

(2) If a person who has ceased to be subject to service law thinks himself or herself wronged in any matter relating to his or her service which occurred while he or she was so subject, the person may make a complaint about the matter.

(3) In this Part, "service complaint" means a complaint made under subsection (1) or (2).

(4) A person may not make a service complaint about a matter of a description specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.

340B Procedure for making a complaint and determining admissibility

(1) The Defence Council may make regulations (referred to in this Part as "service complaints regulations") about the procedure for making and dealing with a service complaint.

(2) Service complaints regulations must make provision-

(a) for a service complaint to be made to an officer of a specified description;

(b) about the way in which a service complaint is to be made (including about the information to be provided by the complainant);

(c) that a service complaint may not be made, except in specified circumstances, after the end of the specified period.

"Specified" means specified in the regulations.

(3) The period referred to in subsection (2)(c) must be at least thre e months beginning with the day on which the matter complained of occurred.

(4) Service complaints regulations must make provision-

(a) for the officer to whom a service complaint is made to decide whether the complaint is admissible and to notify the complainant of that decision;

(b) for the Service Complaints Ombudsman, on an application by the complainant, to review a decision by the officer to whom a service complaint is made that the complaint is not admissible;

(c) for securing that the Ombudsman's decision in relation to admissibility, on such a review, is binding on the complainant and the officer to whom the complaint was made.

(5) For the purposes of subsection (4), a service complaint is not admissible if-

(a) the complaint is about a matter of a description specified in regulations made under section 340A(4),

(b) the complaint is made after the end of the period referred to in subsection (2)(c) and the case is not one in which circumstances referred to in that provision apply, or

(c) the complaint is not admissible on any other ground specified in service complaints regulations.

(6) Nothing in this Part with respect to the provision that must or may be made by service complaints regulations is to be taken as limiting the generality of subsection (1).

Decisions and appeals

340C Decisions on service complaints

(1) Service complaints regulations must provide for the Defence Council to decide, in the case of a service complaint that is found to be admissible, whether the complaint is to be dealt with-

(a) by a person or panel of persons appointed by the Council, or

(b) by the Council themselves.

(2) The regulations must provide for the person or panel appointed to deal with the complaint or (in a subsection (1)(b) case) the Defence Council-

(a) to decide whether the complaint is well-founded, and

(b)if the decision is that the complaint is well-founded-

(i) to decide what redress (if any), within the authority of (as the case may be) the person, the persons on the panel or the Defence Council would be appropriate, and

(ii) to grant any such redress.

(3) The Defence Council must not appoint a person or panel to deal with a service complaint unless-

(a) the person is, or all the persons on the panel are, authorised by the Council to decide the matters mentioned in subsection (2) and to grant appropriate redress, or

(b) the Council propose to authorise that person or those persons for those purposes.

(4) Provision made by virtue of subsection (1) is subject to regulations made under section 340E(1) (eligibility for appointment, requirements relating to independent decision-making, etc).

340D Appeals

(1) Service complaints regulations must make provision enabling the complainant in relation to a service complaint to appeal to the Defence Council against a decision on the complaint, where the decision was taken by a person or panel appointed by virtue of section 340C(1)(a).

(2) The regulations may make provision-

(a) about the way in which an appeal is to be brought (including about the information to be provided by the complainant);

(b) that an appeal may not be brought, except in circumstances specified in the regulations, after the end of the period so specified;

(c) requiring the Defence Council to decide any question relating to whether an appeal has been brought before the end of the period referred to in paragraph (b) or (if not) whether circumstances referred to in that paragraph apply;

(d)requiring the Defence Council to decide whether an appeal is to be determined-

(i) by a person or panel of persons appointed by the Council, or

(ii) by the Council themselves.

(3) The period referred to in subsection (2)(b) must be at least six weeks beginning with the day on which the complainant received notification of the decision appealed against.

(4) The Defence Council must not appoint a person or panel to determine an appeal unless-

(a) the person is, or all the persons on the panel are, authorised by the Council to determine the appeal and to grant appropriate redress, or

(b) the Council propose to authorise that person or those persons for those purposes.

(5) Provision made by virtue of subsection (2)(d) is subject to regulations made under section 340E(1) (eligibility for appointment, requirements relating to independent decision-making, etc).

(6) Service complaints regulations must make provision-

(a)for the Service Complaints Ombudsman, on an application by the complainant, to review a decision by the Defence Council that an appeal cannot be proceeded with because-

(i) it was not brought before the end of the period referred to in subsection (2)(b), and

(ii) the case is not one in which circumstances referred to in that provision apply;

(b) for securing that the decision of the Ombudsman, on such a review, is binding on the complainant and the Defence Council.

340E Further provision about persons and panels deciding service complaints etc

(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations-

(a) provide that persons of a specified description may not be appointed by virtue of section 340C(1)(a) or 340D(2)(d) (whether or not as part of a panel);

(b)require the Defence Council, in relation to any service complaint of a specified description, to act by virtue of section 340C(1)(a) or 340D(2)(d) so as to appoint-

(i) a person who is independent, or of a specified description, or both;

(ii) a panel that satisfies one or more of the requirements listed in subsection (2).

(2) Those requirements are-

(a) all of the members of the panel must be independent;

(b) the panel must include at least a specified number or proportion of independent members;

(c) the panel must include a person of a specified description.

(3) Where a requirement within subsection (2)(b) has effect, the regulations may also require specified functions of the panel to be exercised by the independent members of the panel.

(4) For the purposes of this section, a person (including a member of a panel) is independent if the person-

(a) is not a member of the regular or reserve forces or employed in the civil service of the State, and

(b) is included in a list maintained for the purposes of this section by the Secretary of State.

(5) In this section, "specified" means specified in the regulations.

Investigation, delegation and time limits

340F Investigation of complaints and delegation of Defence Council functions

(1) The Defence Council may authorise a person to investigate a particular service...

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