Defence Secretary Liam Fox unveiled the new document, which sets out broad obligations to members of the Armed Forces and their families, after ministers bowed to pressure to enshrine it in law.

It says personnel past and present, and their families, should face "no disadvantage" compared with other citizens in accessing services, with "special consideration" appropriate in some cases.

A package of enhanced benefits for the military including council tax relief for personnel serving overseas and cut-price public transport for the seriously injured was also set out.

But the move came as it emerged the Ministry of Defence is considering a further wave of cuts to personnel and equipment in the next financial year as it seeks to make more savings.

Former head of the Navy Lord West said further cuts, coming on top of last year's strategic defence and security review, which outlined measures to slash thousands of personnel, would have a "very big impact" on the Armed Forces.

And the Labour peer questioned the timing of the military covenant being unveiled, saying: "We must not use this as a smokescreen to cover the fact that we are cutting the military to the bone."