Party conference season Autumn 2014: Defence and Veterans
In the last party conference season before the General Election on 7 May 2015, political parties have been setting out their proposals affecting armed forces personnel and veterans. In alphabetical order, to be updated as the conference season progresses:
A future Tory government would ban members of the military from mounting human rights lawsuits, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced during the Conservative Party Conference at Birmingham.
He said the Ministry of Defence had spent £85m defending "fairly spurious cases" - a fact which showed human rights law was not just being "used", it was being "abused".
British service personnel would not be able to mount human rights law challenges under the Defence Secretary's plans.
Mr Fallon told a conference fringe event: "I have agreed now with the Lord Chancellor in his plans to restrict the application of European law the convention on human rights will apply now to the military side as well.
"Otherwise we will end up with every platoon taking a legal advisor out on patrol. That is simply unacceptable."
In his main conference speech on 1 Oct, the Defence Secretary told the conference that "this is no time" to be lowering Britain's defence spending. Against a background of further public spending cuts promised by the Prime Minister, Mr Fallon said he "wanted" to carry on meeting NATO's target of 2% of national income being spent on defence.
Mr Fallon said that "The only area of defence Liberal Democrats are interested in is downgrading our continuous-at-sea nuclear deterrent for a part-time deterrent sitting in a dockyard."
Vernon Coaker MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, paid tribute to the sacrifice and work of the armed forces, and included the following proposals in his speech to the party conference in Manchester on 22 September:
- Put the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) on a statutory basis, to be openly debated in Parliament, making it mandatory for the Government to undertake one during the lifetime of every Parliament "because our Armed Forces need direction".
- Outlaw discrimination against members of the Armed Forces.
- Prioritise support for members of the Armed Forces, for veterans and for service families.
Conference taking place in Glasgow on 4-8 Oct.
Conference to be held in Aberystwyth on 24-25 Oct.
Scottish National Party
Conference to be held in Perth on 13-15 Nov.
UKIP's defence spokesman, Mike Hookem, used his party conference speech in Doncaster on 26 September to announce "a completely new range of policies aimed at helping armed forces veterans". These include:
- Creat a dedicated Veterans Department within the MoD based on the US Veterans Department model.
- Guarantee a job in the police force, prison service or border force to those who have served for a minimum of 12 years.
- Change the points system for social housing "to give priority to ex-servicemen and women and those returning from active service".
- Introduce a Veterans Service Card to gurantee fast-track access to NHS mental health care.
- UKIP will guarantee that all entitlements outline above will be extended to servicemen from overseas. "UKIP is committed to ... legislation that will give equal rights and benefits for all armed forces personnel, no matter of their ethnic origin."
- All veterans of all services to be issued with a new National Defence Medal irrespective of rank and length of service. "The armed forces operate as a team and every aspect of that team deserves to be recognised."
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