(Source: Lib Dem press release 22 May 2006) As the Armed Forces Bill has its final reading in the House of Commons, the Liberal Democrats have tabled amendments to achieve effective representation for British servicemen and women:
Nick Harvey MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Defence Secretary who has tabled amendments for the creation of an independent Military Complaints Commission and a British Armed Forces Federation said:
“We place enormous physical and mental demands on our troops and families, who deserve first rate welfare protection.
“After the tragedy of Deepcut, there is an unassailable case for an independent complaints commission, to tackle the serious problems of bullying and other abuse.
"An Armed Forces Federation, as exists in America and Australia, would facilitate proper representation and finally give a voice to service personnel."
Notes to editors
Nick Harvey MP has tabled the following amendments to the Armed Forces Bill: Amendment to New Clause 4, Military Complaints Commissioner; and New Clause 5, British Armed Forces Federation.
Military Complaints Commission
The Commission, which has been backed by the Defence Select Committee, would have the purpose of ensuring the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness and independence of the military complaints system, the confidence of the public and of members of the Armed Forces in that system, and a reduction in the incidence of bullying, harassment, discrimination or other unfair treatment. The Commission would be comprised of a Commissioner and not less than ten members; it would not replace the current chain-of-command or grievance complaints mechanisms, but would have powers to investigate individual complaints or systemic problems, and make such findings or recommendations as it sees fit.
Armed Forces Federation
The primary purpose of the Federation (which would not allow strike action), would be to represent the professional and welfare interests of all its members, and provide advice and assistance to its members on their legal and professional entitlements. Australia and the United States both have functioning Armed Forces Federations, and the Bett Report (The Independent Report of Armed Forces Manpower, Career and Remuneration Structures (1995)) stated that 66% of servicemen and women were in favour of independent representation outside the chain of command.