The Lib Dems have set out their views in a paper which will be voted on at their conference in Glasgow next month and could become party policy if approved.
The party had already confirmed its support of the right of representation before the 2010 General Election, but the issue had not been pressed when it entered into coalition with the Conservatives.
The proposal is included in a wide-ranging conference paper entitled Defending the Future - UK Defence in the 21st Century. The draft policies include:
Offering the Armed Forces the opportunity to organise representation along the lines of the Police Federation but without the right to strike.
It was being pointed out tonight that police officers have no right to strike anyway, and that none of BAFF's NATO counterparts take part in strike action either.
While the question of strike action is completely spurious, the paper's authors probably felt it prudent to mention it, in view of previous efforts by opponents of the right of representation.
Defending the Future can be downloaded from the party's conference site here:
1. The late Lib Dem defence spokesman Air Marshal Lord Tim Garden (1944-2007) was an eloquent debater of the right of representation for armed forces personnel along the general lines of the Police Federation, and a founding ordinary member of the British Armed Forces Federation.
2. During the consideration of the Armed Forces Bill 2006, Nick Harvey MP tabled an amendment to provide for an 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.
3. The Liberal Democrat party conference have now approved this proposal, and there are indications that representation for armed forces personnel will be included in the party's Defence Manifesto for the next General Election. See more.