Sunday, August 01, 2021

Sky News reports that Defence Secretary Liam Fox has set out how the Government's new military covenant will be enshrined into law:

Dr Fox told the Commons: "The nation has no greater obligation than to look after those who have served it.

"The men and women of the three services, regulars and reservists, whether they are serving to date or have done so in the past - all deserve our respect.

"The Government will set out... the principles that we believe will ensure that members of the Armed Forces community do not suffer disadvantage as a result of their service and, where appropriate, receive special treatment."

Measures to help personnel and veterans will include greater assistance with mortgages and council tax relief for troops abroad.

On Sunday, Prime Minister David Cameron agreed the military covenant - a commitment to care for members of the Armed Forces and their families - should be legally binding.

In an interview with the News of the World he said: "The historic agreement we have reached means that, for the first time, the value we place on those brave men and women who put their lives on the line will be written down for all to see."

Veterans' campaigners hailed it as a "major step forward" that the principle of fair treatment for those who fight for their country to be put on a statutory basis.

Specific benefits in areas such as housing, health and education will not be written into law because of fears that could leave the Ministry of Defence "permanently embroiled" in court action.

However, those areas will be published and debated annually by Parliament.

The Armed Forces Bill originally included only an annual review of how the informal agreement was being met - leading to accusations the PM had broken a pre-election pledge to make it law.

Dr Fox set out a number of enhanced services for the military, such as doubling the rate of council tax relief to 50% for those serving overseas.

There will also be a £3m boost for schools with high numbers of children from Armed Forces families and it will become easier for seriously injured service personnel and veterans to access cheaper public transport.

Shops and public sector organisations will also be encouraged to take part in a discount card scheme for veterans.

Action will be promised to improve military inquests and to provide those with genital injuries access to IVF treatment.

The campaign to force Mr Cameron to meet his commitment was led by the Royal British Legion, which said the "historic breakthrough" would benefit servicemen and women and their families for generations to come.

An annual report on Government compliance with the covenant will be written by the Defence Secretary with "key stakeholders" and published alongside an independent expert review.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "We back any measures which support our armed forces and will study these closely to ensure there is new investment which will deliver real benefits.

"But let's be clear, this is not an act of conviction but an act of submission. For months Ministers have refused to enshrine the covenant in law."

Sky News source article: Minister sets out details of New Covenant