Crawley has always been a town which strongly supports the armed forces. To be clear, I’m not just talking about the public displays of recognition we make every year around Armed Forces Day and Remembrance Sunday, but in the consistent solid support we see in the numbers of our young people who sign-up to serve.
As a councillor, I often thought about the friends I had at Holy Trinity who joined the armed forces when I pushed for Crawley Borough Council to be an early adopter of the Armed Forces Covenant and subsequently implemented the Veterans Interview Scheme. No one who has put themselves in the firing line on our behalf, should ever find themselves worse off for it when accessing public services.
Yet, that’s exactly what is at risk of happening with the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill. Last month, Conservative MPs voted to do three things:
- Strip British Forces personnel serving overseas of their right to claim compensation from the MoD for injuries; these are basic employment rights that all of us as citizens continue to enjoy.
- Reject changes to the Bill to deal with the flawed system of investigations; so the Bill only deals with the prosecution system that would not have helped in more than 99% of cases against our veterans.
- Reject Labour’s proposal for a new duty of care standard on the MoD to provide legal, pastoral and mental health support to Forces personnel who have been accused; those who have been through the trauma of long-running investigations often say they felt ‘cut adrift’ by the MoD and by their chain of command.
There is one last chance to fix this before the bill becomes law, to ensure the government protects veterans and provides them with the support they deserve, but it won’t pass without the support of Conservative MPs. So, if you care about the conditions facing those who have served, please let your local MP know that it’s not enough to wear a poppy on Remembrance Sunday, they actually have to vote to support the men and women who wear the uniforms.