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Military Covenant

Volume 528: debated on Monday 16 May 2011

13. What steps the Government plan to take to fulfil the Prime Minister’s pledge to enshrine the military covenant in law. (55367)

The Prime Minister’s pledge is being fulfilled through the Armed Forces Bill, which recognises the armed forces covenant in statute for the first time. I will make a further announcement to the House shortly.

What assurance can the Secretary of State give the House and members of the armed forces, such as my constituent, 19-year-old Private James Kenny of C company, 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, who has recently returned from active service in Afghanistan, that an independent panel will be set up to report on the Government’s performance in relation to the military covenant?

I have said repeatedly in the House, in answer to similar questions, that I want the widest possible consultation and the widest possible transparency. If the hon. Lady will permit me, I will set out the details shortly.

Is not today an important day of justice for the honouring of the armed forces after the disgraceful neglect of the past 10 years?

I think that the whole House, in fact the whole country, will want today to rally behind the Government’s proposals, which I believe represent a wide consensus across those with different political views and those with none.

I have not had the misfortune of getting into a lift with the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr Robathan), but I have spent many hours debating the military covenant with him. I was therefore very surprised to learn at the weekend that he has performed not only a U-turn on the matter, but a double U-turn. He had said previously that he did not believe that a veterans ID card was necessary. What does the Secretary of State think?

I am not sure what a double U-turn looks like. Again, I will be outlining the proposals, which will be available in the documents that will be published and available to the House, very shortly.