I just wanted to updated constituents on the progress of our Armed Forces Bill, which completed its Remaining Stages in the House of Commons yesterday, and will now move into the House of Lords for debate.
This legislation serves a simple, but vital, purpose: to renew the 2006 Armed Forces Act, which provides the legal basis for the existence of the Armed Forces as disciplined bodies. Without renewal, the 2006 Act will expire at the end of 2021.
However, the Government have also taken the opportunity to expand the scope of this legislation, and I know my colleagues in the MoD have been working especially hard on this new, improved Bill. This also included a public consultation on key elements of this legislation, including pathway to residency, which opened back in May. Some of the notable measures in this Bill are:
- Making provisions to continue the 2006 Act for a further period of five years, ending no later than 2026;
- Amending the service justice system;
- Creating a new independent body to oversee complaints about the Service Police;
- Requiring specified public bodies to have due regard to the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant in the areas of housing, education and healthcare;
- Allowing for flexible working for Reserve personnel;
- Making changes to sentencing and rehabilitation;
- Extending posthumous pardons for those convicted of abolished service offences;
- Allowing for a British overseas territory (i.e. Gibraltar) to bring the Royal Gibraltar Regiment into the UK’s service justice system;
- Aligning the time limits for war pension appeals in Scotland and Northern Ireland with those in England and Wales.
The Bill has received cross-party support, and while the Bill was not amended by the specially convened ad hoc Select Committee, several amendments and clauses put forward by Labour and the SNP were defeated.
During yesterday's debate on the Bill, my colleague the Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Leo Docherty, said the following:
"I think the whole House is united in our desire to support our armed forces, and I am confident that the Bill delivers for our armed forces. It renews the Armed Forces Act 2006, it improves the service justice system, and it delivers on the Government’s commitment to further enshrine the armed forces covenant in law.
"Our service people are entitled to receive comprehensive legal support, and a full range of welfare and mental health support is Column 250is located here offered to all our people, as laid out in the Defence Secretary’s written ministerial statement of 13 April 2021. We have made clear our intent to provide a gold standard of care, and we will not deviate from that."
For the full debate, please visit https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-07-13/debates/CDF9AFDF-4BFA-…
Full further detail about this legislation: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/armed-forces-bill-2021