Defence Committee Press Notice

Session 2008-09, 2 July 2009

Publication of Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces: the first year

Service Complaints Commissioner makes an impressive start

The Defence Committee today praises the excellent start made by Dr Susan Atkins in her first year as Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces.

The Commissioner provides independent oversight of how well the Service Complaints System operates; she also provides an alternative point of contact for Service men and women who feel they have been the subject of discrimination, harassment, bullying, or other improper behaviour.

The role of Commissioner was created by the Armed Forces Act 2006 as a result of recommendations made in Sir Nicholas Blake’s report The Deepcut Review and the previous Defence Committee’s report on Duty of Care.  However, the Commissioner has not been granted all of the powers originally envisaged in those reports.

Chairman of the Defence Committee, the Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, says, “The Commissioner does not have the power to intervene in the handling of complaints; nor does she have the power to re-open cases. It is still too early to decide whether the Commissioner has sufficient powers; and we believe that the Commissioner will be much better placed to judge that for herself in her next annual report. We recommend that our successor Committee takes evidence from the Commissioner at the appropriate time.” 

Dr Atkins, previously the first Chief Executive of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, took up her role in January 2008 and published her first annual report in March 2009. Conclusions and recommendations made by Dr Atkins in her report were given the full backing of the Defence Committee.

The Chairman of the Defence Committee, the Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, says, “Dr Atkins has produced an excellent first annual report. She has set tough yet achievable goals for the three Services, the Ministry of Defence, and her own office. In our Report, we recommend that the MoD provides the Commissioner with the resources which she feels are necessary to carry out the tasks entrusted to her.”


The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005. The Defence Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Ministry of Defence and its associated public bodies.


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