Sunday, July 21, 2024

BAFF analysis of some of the manifestos, including Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, and SNP.

The Green Parties (Scotland and England)

Neither the Scottish or English Green Parties appear to say anything in their manifestos about forces personnel or veterans.

The co-leader of the English version was quoted on D Day as saying veterans would not "trust any pledges from the Conservatives", and attacking the government for not adding veterans ID cards to the list of documents that can be used to vote in elections.

Attitudes to NATO

The English Greens do say in their manifesto that while wishing to abandon nuclear weapons,

The Green Party recognises that NATO has an important role in ensuring the ability of its member states to respond to threats to their security. We would work within NATO to achieve:

A greater focus on global peacebuilding.
A commitment to a ‘No First Use’ of nuclear weapons.

In contrast,

 the Scottish Greens do not believe NATO is compatible with global peace making.

 On Ukraine, the English party says that "Green MPs will work for the UK to ... [c]ontinue to support Ukraine as it resists Russian invasion."

Their Scottish counterparts, on the other hand, while having quite a lot to say about financial sanctions against Russia, and being "proud to continue offering our unwavering support to [Ukraine's] struggle for freedom", offer no general support for UK action on Ukraine.

Conservative Party

In 'Our strategic defence priorities', the Conservatives say that they will be:

  • Boosting the UK defence industrial base.
  • Accelerating the modernisation of our Armed Forces and investing in technology.
  • Guaranteeing Ukraine the support it needs for the long haul.

In 'Our pledge to Veterans', the Conservatives say that they will:

  • maintain the Office for Veterans Affairs in its current position in the Cabinet Office, with a dedicated Ministern Cabinet.
  • maintain the base operating budget of the Office for Veterans Affairs at £10 million throughout the next Parliament
  • retain the National Insurance holiday for those who employ veterans
  • bring forward measures so that War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme awards are not counted as income for the purpose of benefits and pensions.
    extend the visa fees waiver introduced to cover Commonwealth personnel, to include their direct dependants.
  • fully implement the findings of the independent review into Veterans UK.
  • bring forward measures to ensure public bodies record whether someone has served in the UK’s Armed Forces.
  • cut the cost of the Veterans Railcard so that it costs the same as the HM Forces Railcard.
  • pass the UK’s first ever Veterans’ Bill to enshrine Veterans’ rights in law, ensuring qualifications from Service are correctly recognised in civilian life, creating a legal duty on government to look after our Veterans and widening the scope of the Armed Forces Covenant in law to include the UK Government and devolved administrations.
  • change the law to ensure Veterans ID cards are valid identification in all future elections.

Service Family Accommodation

We will improve Service Family Accommodation, improving quality and ensuring military families get the support they deserve.

National Service

The Conservatives propose to

Give young people the skills and opportunities they deserve by introducing mandatory National Service for all school leavers at 18, with the choice between a competitive placement in the military or civic service roles.

and of interest to some veterans:

We have delivered on our manifesto pledge to introduce 'votes for life' for British citizens living overseas. We will appoint a Minister for British Citizens.

The Scottish Conservatives Manifesto launched on 24 June unsurprisingly echoes the Conservatives' main manifesto in regard to UK-wide issues, and has no Scotland-specific proposals in respect of armed forces personnel and veterans.

Scottish National Party

 The SNP say they will continue to back UK support to Ukraine. They also propose a range of measures relating to armed forces personnel.

  • Strengthen Scotland’s security by pushing the UK to focus on countering disinformation and misinformation, better protecting national critical infrastructure, improving supply chain resilience and strengthening the ability of the UK to rebound and rebuild from the aftermath of a shock or crisis.
  • Raise the military recruitment age to 18. SNP MPs will urge the UK Government to phase out the recruitment of people under 18 in line with international standards.
  • Prioritise the needs of our Armed Forces and Veterans community. We have long campaigned for an Armed Forces Representative Body to accommodate the wide range of needs, concerns, and identities within the Forces Community. We believe it is vital that the UK Government prioritise employment, social
    inclusion, health and wellbeing for veterans and their families.
  • Support our veterans by following the approach of the SNP Scottish Government and ensure that the War Disablement Pension is exempt from the
    assessment of income for veterans who require social care services.

BAFF welcomes the SNP's continued support for the concept of a recognised Armed Forces Representative Body.

Although we have not debated the issue recently, BAFF has tended not to share the SNP's wish to completely do away with properly conducted junior entry  opportunities at the Army Foundation College Harrogate. We of course strongly support efforts to stop the use of child soldiers in combat worldwide, and we have engaged respectfully with UK campaigners against UK under-18 recruitment.

The SNP proposes to "Scrap Trident and invest the billions spent funding these immoral weapons in public services, like our NHS and schools and adequately funding conventional defence."

The Labour Party

Defending the UK’s security

Labour’s first duty in government will be to keep our country safe. We will launch a Strategic Defence Review to assess the threats we face and the capabilities needed to address them.

At the heart of our security are the men and women who serve and risk their lives for this country. We will strengthen support for our Armed Forces communities by putting the Armed Forces Covenant fully into law and establishing an independent Armed Forces Commissioner to improve service life. Labour will ensure veterans have access to the mental health, employment, and housing support and in other areas they need.

We will also scrap visa fees for non-UK veterans who have served for four or more years, and their dependents.

Labour also say they will "address the inconsistencies in voter ID rules that prevent legitimate voters from voting. For example, in the case of HM Armed Forces Veteran Cards."

Reform UK

Reform UK say

Our Armed Forces are at risk of being sucked into an EU Command and Control Force.

and

Reform UK will ensure our servicemen and women have the resources they need to defend our nation and that they are respected and supported after they leave the services.

Under "Critical Reforms needed in the first 100 days":

  • Increase Defence Spending to 2.5% of National GDP by year 3, then 3% within 6 years. This will increase the size and capacity of our armed forces and ensure our lead role in NATO. It will also improve equipment, quality of life for services personnel and boost morale in military communities.
    Introduce Urgent Pay Review
  • Increase basic pay across our armed forces to boost recruitment and retention. It is unacceptable that a private soldier is paid less than an Amazon worker.
  • Introduce new Armed Forces Justice Bill. Protect our servicemen and women on active duty inside and outside the UK from civil law and human rights lawyers. The bill will also create an armed forces watchdog to fast-track complaints and appeals in housing and welfare.
  • New, Dedicated Ministerial Department for Veterans. A properly funded and resourced whole department is essential to guarantee no veteran goes without and that our former servicemen and women play a leading role in our society and economy.

Thereafter:

  • Recruit 30,000 for the army. Military national service for 30,000 young people for one year is not the answer. We need to recruit 30,000 to join the army full time
  • Introduce incentives and tax breaks to boost the UK defence industry. Improve equipment selfsufficiency and manufacture world class products
    for export.
  • Reform Defence Procurement. Launch a Joint Acquisition Corp to ensure world class procurement. The Ministry of Defence must listen to soldiers on the front line and ensure they get the equipment they need.
  • Education for Military Personnel. Free education both during and after service is vital to ensure a successful return to civilian life.

 Reform say they have costed their Defence Pledges at an additional £14 billion per annum.

Postal voting

Reform's proposals for electoral reform would end postal voting for people absent from the constituency for work reasons, including members of the armed forces:

Commence Reform of the Postal Voting System
Postal voting has allowed electoral fraud. We will stop postal voting except for the elderly, disabled or those who can’t leave their homes.

Liberal Democrats

In relation to armed forces personnel, the Liberal Democrats say that they will Secure a fair deal for the armed forces community, and improve recruitment, retention and resettlement, by:

  • Strengthening the Armed Forces Covenant by placing a legal duty on the Defence Secretary and government departments to give it due regard.
  • Improving the standard of Ministry of Defence housing, including by reviewing maintenance contracts.
  • Waiving application fees for indefinite leave for members of the armed forces on discharge, and their families.
  • Accepting the recommendations of the Atherton Report on women in the armed forces.
  • Ensuring that military compensation for illness or injury does not count towards means-testing for benefits.
  • Establishing a ‘Fair Deal for Service Personnel, Veterans and Families Commission’.

Alliance Party (NI)

Alliance respects and values the difficult work that our armed forces undertake. That is why
we believe several changes must be made to ensure they are properly remunerated and rewarded for their efforts.
This should include:
• An audit of the equipment and training provided to the armed forces to ensure that they are adequately prepared for the various types of missions that they face. This audit should ensure appropriate equipment for the changing natures of deployments.
• Provision of quality housing for armed forces personnel and their families.
• Supporting the continuing implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland, including regular monitoring of the scheme.

BAFF comment

BAFF is resolutely non-politically partisan, but that was our take on some of the policies revealed so far.

Most voters never read the party manifestos - Reform call theirs a 'contract' - but they are still an important part of the electoral debate.

Few voters will decide their voting preference just on the basis of policies affecting armed forces personnel and veterans - but you might like to take them into account.

Members will have their own opinion on whether any particular party has any prospect of being in power and, if it is, whether its pledges are achievable.

Got a comment? Have we been unfair to your party's manifesto? Does one of the other party manifestos include important proposals affecting armed forces personnel or veterans? Use the site contact form to let us know.

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