Why I'm backing the Armed Forces Bill
The Armed Forces Covenant will at last be placed in law.
The Covenant, a moral obligation between the nation, the Government and our brave Armed Forces, was introduced a decade ago. Since then, there has been a growing focus on recognising all that service personnel sacrifice to keep us safe, and how we can best honour them.
Over the past ten years, veterans have received more help to get back onto ‘civvy street’ and find jobs; reservists have been given time off their careers in order to deploy, and military families have been provided more assistance.
The scope and effectiveness of the Armed Forces Covenant has continued to grow under successive Conservative Governments.
79,000 service children now benefit from £24.5 million of additional pupil funding, 22,200 service personnel have been helped onto the housing ladder by the Forces Help to Buy Scheme, and millions given to service charities.
However, only the Covenant’s principles are currently legally enshrined, with a statutory requirement upon the Secretary of State for Defence to make an annual report to Parliament with progress made to improve the welfare of service personnel and veterans.
This Government will now go one step further by strengthening this bond.
Due to historical factors, Parliament must renew the legislative basis for the UK’s military forces. The Covenant will therefore be given force within the upcoming Armed Forces Bill 2021 which the House of Commons is now considering.
This Bill will introduce a new duty, requiring relevant public bodies across education, healthcare and housing across the UK to have due regard to the Covenant’s principles.
This will recognise the unique obligations of, and sacrifices made by, the Armed Forces. Not only will there be consideration for disadvantages arising from current or past service to be removed, but special provision for personnel and veterans can be justified given the effects arising from serving.
The Bill will also refresh the Armed Forces Families Strategy and develop the Service Children’s Childcare plan, including the manifesto commitment for 4-11-year old Wraparound Childcare.
I am very encouraged by the Government’s stance and look forward to supporting this Bill – and our Armed Forces.