The Government yesterday wrote into law for the first time the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant. The Covenant is a statement of the moral obligation which exists between the nation, the Government and the Armed Forces.
These core principles are that members of the Armed Forces community do not suffer disadvantages as a result of their service and that they receive special treatment where appropriate.
These principles, put into law through an amendment to the Armed Forces Bill, set the tone for future Government policy dedicated to improving support for the Armed Forces community.
Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said:
"The Government has no higher duty than the defence of the realm. The ties between the nation, its Government, and its Armed Forces are not the product of rules and regulations but are much deeper than that. The Armed Forces Covenant does not need to be a long and detailed charter. It should be a simple and timeless statement of the moral obligation that we owe. We are therefore publishing today a new version of the Covenant, written for the first time on a tri-Service basis."
The Armed Forces Bill will also require the Defence Secretary to report to Parliament every year on the progress of improvement to the Covenant in key areas including healthcare, housing and education. The Defence Secretary will also widely consult key stakeholders in writing the report, which will be subject to independent scrutiny by Parliament as well as members of the External Reference Group, which includes service charities.
By writing these principles in law the existence of the Covenant is being recognised in statute for the first time as promised by Prime Minister David Cameron last year.
These measures will also provide a regular review of the policies that will make greater support to Armed Forces a reality and ensure that Parliament can scrutinise this review through the annual report, and that the report itself is widely informed, consultative and transparent.
The Defence Secretary continued;
"We believe that a sensible way forward, that will give the right kind of legal basis to the Armed Forces Covenant for the first time in our history, is to enshrine the principles in law, provide a regular review of the policies that will make them a reality, ensure that Parliament has a chance to scrutinise this review through the annual report, and that the report itself is widely informed, consultative and transparent.
"Our understanding of the Covenant will change over time, as will the way in which Government and society meet it. The framework we have set out today provides the flexibility we need so that not only the Government but all of society can fully pay the enormous debt they owe our Armed Forces, their families and our veterans."