Armed Forces Covenant

I receive hundreds of letters and e-mails from constituents every week and one of the issues often raised is our armed forces.

People feel very strongly about backing our troops and I could not agree more.

I have always felt that our armed services deserve the highest recognition for the special work they do.

Since the end of the Second World War our military has been in active service every year, putting their lives on the line in defence of the realm. 

As I write, our troops are committed not just to major operations in Afghanistan and Libya, but to numerous other humanitarian and peace-keeping projects across the globe.

Our armed forces operate to the very highest standards of professionalism and bravery.  Yet I feel that, as a nation, we have not always given back to our servicemen and women the conditions and support they deserve.

Care for veterans has often been shamefully bad.  It is an often repeated statistic that more Falklands veterans have committed suicide since the end of that war than died in the conflict.

Excellent charities like Help For Heroes, whose work so many local people support, have done so much to keep the needs of returning soldiers in the public eye.

But I think the State needs to do more.  So I am delighted that the Prime Minister has laid out plans to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law.  This move has already been welcomed by the Royal British Legion as "an historic breakthrough".

Good progress has already been made towards improving the lot of our armed services.  Since taking office we have doubled the operational allowance, included service children in the pupil premium, introduced scholarships for the children of bereaved service families, and taken action to improve mental health care.

More needs to be done, but I strongly agree with the Prime Minister that "if we are asking our armed forces to do dangerous jobs in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, we have to ensure we are doing all we can for them in return."

Christopher N Howarth