Labour and Tories pledge to support veterans and their families

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Boris Johnson has pledged to change the law to protect Armed Forces veterans from vexatious legal action as he announced a raft of measures to support military personnel.

The Tories want to end unfair trials of veterans where no new evidence has been produced and the accusations have been questioned exhaustively in court.

If they win a majority at the election, the party will introduce legislation to ensure the Law of Armed Conflict has primacy and that peacetime laws are not applied to service personnel on military operations.

Under the proposals, the Tories would amend the Human Rights Act so it does not apply to issues – including deaths during the Troubles – which took place before it came into force in 2000.

The pledge is among a package of measures the party is proposing to support military personnel, veterans and their families.

It comes as the prime minister took part in Armistice Day commemorations in Wolverhampton, laying a wreath to remember those who fell in conflict.

Labour and the Conservatives have pledged to support the armed services in new pledges. Credit: PA

Meanwhile, Labour has announced plans to improve the working conditions for the forces – including scrapping the public sector pay cap and providing more decent housing, by ending the reliance on the private rented sector.

Speaking to ITV News, the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said: "We would lift the public sector pay cap. Over the last few years our armed forces have effectively been subject to pay cuts.

"We say that's unfair and we think the cap should be lifted. An independent body should look at the wages of these people who we ask in the end to make the ultimate sacrifice, if necessary, are being paid so at least they're being paid properly."

It will also consult on creating a representative body to give a voice for service men and women, and end privatisation - with a review on outsourcing contracts.

The party will also pledge to improve support for forces children with better access to schools and dedicated local authorities admissions strategy to give children and parents a "route through" to better education, the shadow foreign secretary said.

According to Labour analysis, the starting salary of a private is £1,159 lower in real terms than in 2010.

Mr Corbyn said: "Real security requires decent pay, decent housing, support for our Armed Forces and their families, and a way to get their voice heard.

"Our forces should not have to put up with pay cuts, sub-standard housing, difficulties accessing school for their children, or face the uncertainty of relying on outsourced providers.

"After a decade of government cuts and outsourcing, Labour offers our Armed Forces real change with the pay, conditions and respect they deserve."

The Tories would protect veterans from vexatious legal action. Credit: PA

While the Tories pledge include measures to guarantee veterans a job interview for any public sector role they apply for in a bid to tackle stereotypes that might hold servicemen and women back from employment.

They would also provide Ministry of Defence funded “wraparound” childcare with breakfast and after school clubs to cover early starts and late finishes for working military parents of children aged four to 11-year-old.

And they will provide a one-year employers’ national insurance contribution holiday for all UK companies that hire veterans in the first year after they have left service.

It follows a pledge from the party over the weekend to make veterans eligible for a railcard giving them a third off the cost of train travel.

Labour would provide improved wages for service personnel. Credit: PA

Mr Johnson, who will visit the Black Country on Monday to mark Armistice Day, said his government would “always support” the Armed Forces.

“As we remember the ultimate sacrifice made by our brave men and women for their country just over a century ago, it is right that we renew our commitment to the soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and veterans of today,” he said.

“These measures will mean more childcare support for those who are currently serving. And it will mean that we harness the enormous contribution that veterans can make to our businesses and public sector organisations.

“If I’m elected on the 12th December, I want the message from my government to our Armed Forces to be louder and clearer than ever: we salute you and we will always support you.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace added: “In the days of advanced technology and automation it is easy to forget that the most important equipment in the armed forces are the men and women serving.

“This policy demonstrates our commitment to them and is a recognition of the pressures they face.”