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Conservatives launch Armed Forces Manifesto

FOX LIAM NEW On the day that the TV leaders' debate is set to discuss international affairs, defence and security, the Conservative Party has launched an Armed Forces Manifesto.

It was due to be launched by Liam Fox at a press conference this morning, but that event had to be cancelled because Dr Fox was burgled last night and his car stolen from his London home.

Instead, Dr Fox released the following statement:

“The first duty of government is the defence of the realm. And our most vital asset in that is our people. I know from my experience as a Civilian Army Medical Officer that the surest way to have unhappy service personnel is to have unhappy service families. This is why a Conservative government will repair the Military Covenant as a matter of urgency.

“I have said for some time that mental health will be my welfare priority if I am the next defence secretary, so I am delighted today to announce that a Conservative government will establish a new mental health screening service for all service leavers, including reservists. Together with my colleagues in our Health team, we have agreed funding for a PTSD treatment programme within the NHS. I hope that together we can defuse the potential timebomb of mental health problems, and I am very grateful for the support that Combat Stress has offered us.”

Meanwhile, as the BBC reports, David Cameron has also been talking about it, meeting former soldiers in the marginal seat of Exeter.

The key points of the manifesto are summarised as follows:

Clear leadership from government. To ensure our personnel have the resources to match  their commitments, we will protect the defence budget for 2010-11 and immediately conduct a full Strategic Defence and Security Review, with regular further reviews every four to five years. We will create a National Security Council to which opposition parties will be invited, to build consensus on decision-making. We will maintain a submarine-based nuclear deterrent, based on Trident, to ensure we are protected from nuclear threats in the long term.  And we will re-examine the Ministry of Defence (MoD) budget to ensure it is spent wisely.

Equipping our Armed Forces. We will reform procurement to make the system more efficient and ensure that equipment is delivered when our Armed Forces need it at a  reasonable cost to the taxpayer. All decisions on defence equipment will be determined by  five clear criteria: capability, affordability, adaptability, interoperability, and exportability. 

Supporting our servicemen and women. We will establish a tri-Service Military Covenant that will articulate our commitment to the men and women of the Armed Forces. We support our Forces personnel in Afghanistan and remain committed to the necessary operation there, and our strategy will have a clear focus on security and the training of the Afghan National Security Forces. The operational allowance for those serving in Afghanistan will be doubled and we will maximise their rest and recuperation time. We will change the service voting registration rules so Forces personnel do not get disenfranchised due to changes made by Labour, and we will look at changing the law to stop unfair discrimination against personnel.

Supporting our Service families and children. We will work with unit welfare officers and Service charities in providing proper relationship support to our Service families, whom we know can come under huge strain. Service children will get extra support through schools to compensate for the disruptions they experience. And we will provide university and college scholarships for the children of servicemen and women killed on active duty since 1990.

Supporting our veterans. We will offer far better help for Service leavers to settle into  civilian life after leaving the Armed Forces. We will establish Britain’s first state-funded post-traumatic stress disorder treatment programme and offer better back-to-work support.  We will offer veterans who have undertaken an active tour of service a new route into the teaching profession and we will also pay the university tuition fees of anyone who has undertaken a tour of active service who wants to take a first degree.

You can download the document in full here.

Jonathan Isaby


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