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Armed Forces: National Recognition Study

Volume 704: debated on Wednesday 29 October 2008

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Defence (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I wish to announce the publication today of the Government response to the independent inquiry into the national recognition of the Armed Forces carried out by my honourable friend the Member for Grantham. My honourable friend was invited by the Government last December to examine ways of improving the nation’s understanding and appreciation of the Armed Forces and his report was published on 19 May.

As I said when it was published, the Government warmly welcome this report, which is comprehensive in its coverage and based on extensive consultation.

The Government are acutely aware of the debt owed to our Armed Forces. Our gratitude for the work they do in the service of our country is reflected in a raft of recent initiatives with the service personnel Command Paper the central plank. This unprecedented piece of work set out to achieve two things: first, to end any disadvantage associated with service life and, secondly, to apply, where appropriate, special treatment, particularly for those injured in the course of their service. Complementing this, it is also vital for our serving men and women, especially those engaged in difficult and dangerous overseas campaigns, to know that the whole of Britain understands and appreciates the work that they do in our name. That is why the Prime Minister set up the national recognition inquiry.

The report made many recommendations, the majority of which have been accepted. We have been considering how we might implement them and I am pleased to announce that the Government have already taken action to bring a number of measures into effect, including on the wider wearing of uniforms in public, a more systematic approach to homecoming parades and new rules on dealing with Members of Parliament. However, we are also conscious of the need to avoid placing additional burdens on our hard-pressed Armed Forces, especially given the present level of commitment to operations, which must remain our top priority. Nevertheless, we welcome the study’s objective to create more opportunities for contact between the Armed Forces and the society they serve and for the public to be able to express their support. Where we have not fully accepted recommendations, we are confident in most cases that we can give meaning to the intent behind the recommendation. Our detailed response to each of the recommendations is set out in the response that we are publishing today.

Copies of the response to the report are being placed in the Library of the House and will also be available from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.