The new Armed Forces Act 2011 creates the requirement for an annual Armed Forces Covenant report to Parliament each year.
This will set out how the Government is supporting our Armed Forces, their families and veterans in key areas such as healthcare, housing and education.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
We made a promise to do more for our Armed Services and to put the Military Covenant at the heart of our national life. Today we are delivering on that promise - the principles of the Covenant are now part of the law of our land and the value we place on our Armed Forces is clear for all to see.
We must now live up to these obligations, not just Government but society as a whole, and ensure that our Armed Forces and their families have the support they need and are treated with the dignity they deserve.
It will be for the Defence Secretary to present the annual Armed Forces Covenant report to Parliament. An interim report will be delivered by the end of this year, with the statutory requirement coming into effect from 2012.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:
I am delighted the Armed Forces Bill has been given Royal Assent. For the first time the existence of the Armed Forces Covenant has been recognised in law. This is an important step and shows the Government’s commitment to rebuilding the Covenant. We are doing everything we can to provide our Service personnel with the right support, focused on the most important areas.
Significant progress has already been made on the promises given in May 2010, including the doubling of Operational Allowance, improved Rest and Recuperation leave for those on operations, and the endorsement of Andrew Murrison’s proposals for improving mental healthcare.
But we recognise the need to do more to ensure our Armed Forces, veterans and their families have the support they need and are treated with the dignity they deserve, and we are working towards achieving this.
The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, said:
It is poignant that the Armed Forces Bill, which recognises for the first time the existence of the Armed Forces Covenant, should receive Royal Assent during this period of remembrance.
It is a fitting tribute that the legislation should be granted during a time that the nation is thinking about the sacrifices Service personnel have made and are still making for their country.
This sacrifice is recognised by the Covenant for the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force. The Covenant enshrines the principle that members of the Armed Forces Community do not suffer disadvantage as a result of their service and, where appropriate, receive special treatment. I welcome the granting of Royal Assent wholeheartedly.
Chris Simpkins, Director General of the Royal British Legion, said:
This is a historic breakthrough - one that the Legion campaigned for vigorously. We applaud the Government’s enactment of this. For the first time, serving men and women and their families will see the principles of fair treatment on the statute book. And fairness for our brave Armed Forces can be put to parliamentary scrutiny. This will benefit all those in Service and their families for generations to come.
The Armed Forces Covenant was published in May 2011. Its core principles are that members of the Armed Forces Community should not suffer disadvantage as a result of their service and that where appropriate they may receive special treatment (especially those that have been injured or bereaved).
Under the Armed Forces Covenant, the following measures have already been delivered to support Service personnel, veterans, and their families:
- the doubling of Operational Allowance
- improved Rest and Recuperation leave for those on operations
- the endorsement of Andrew Murrison’s proposals for improving mental healthcare
- the delivery of a scheme to provide scholarships for bereaved Service children
- extra help for those leaving the Services to go on to higher/further education, and the Pupil Premium for the children of those currently serving. In addition to the Pupil Premium, further funding of £3m per year for state schools with Service children
- an increase to Council Tax Relief
- the announcement of a Community Covenant Scheme supported by a £30m Community Covenant Grant Scheme to provide funding for projects which promote a greater understanding between the Armed Forces and the local population.
The statutory requirement for an annual Armed Forces Covenant report comes into effect from 2012. However, we plan to publish an interim report this year, which will provide a useful baseline for the statutory reports that will follow.
The Armed Forces Bill also provides primary legislation for 15 other areas such as Service police forces and the Ministry of Defence police, powers of entry, and search and seizure, plus providing for testing Service personnel, in specified circumstances, for alcohol and drugs.
The full text of the Armed Forces Bill can be found at Related Links.