The new Armed Forces Bill has been presented in Parliament, without any debate today. It is excitingly described as a "Bill to continue the Armed Forces Act 2006; to amend that Act and other enactments relating to the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence Police; to amend the Visiting Forces Act 1952; to enable judge advocates to sit in civilian courts; to repeal the Naval Medical Compassionate Fund Act 1915; and for connected purposes."
The Armed Forces Bill follows the requirement that Parliament pass an Act every five years renewing the existing Army, Air Force and Naval Acts. This ensures the continuation of the defence forces and provides for their legal basis in a process that dates back to the struggles between the Crown and Parliament in the seventeenth century.
Other elements of the Bill include changes to Court Martial powers and strengthening the independence of service police investigations.
The Bill states that 'a number of provisions for other defence matters' will form part of the Bill, but these are not explicitly laid out within the Queen's speech. However, the Conservative Party, and more specifically defence secretary Liam Fox, have been the driving force behind the defence provisions set out in the coalition agreement.
The coalition document has laid out plans to rebuild the military covenant, by maximising leave, creating more provisions to help families of soldiers, and giving war veterans more support. However, it is not clear how much, if any of this, will be given a statutory footing, but if legislation is required then this would be the Bill in which it was included.
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