Armed Forces Bill

The up and coming Armed Forces Bill deserves much scrutiny by those it affects. The Commons Defence Committee have published a report, and the link is below.

Some of this is of relevance to the campaign for a Federation.

The Armed Forces Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 30 November 2005. The Bill consolidates the Service Discipline Acts into a single piece of legislation that will be subject to five-yearly renewal. This report draws attention to two issues of concern.

First, the Government's promised independent element in the complaints system is inadequate. The Bill does not include sufficient detail for an extensive analysis of the proposals, but the changes appear not to go far enough. Our predecessor Committee set out a model for an independent military complaints commission—we urge Government to bring forward new proposals which will satisfy the principal requirements of that model.

Second, the Government proposes to remove the requirement for Parliament to approve the annual renewal of the Service Discipline Acts. We reject that proposal, which would diminish Parliament's right to exercise control over the Armed Forces, which is central to our constitution, and call on the Government to amend the Bill.
So, the Government want to ignore the recommendation for an independent military complaints commission and wish to diminish Parliamentary control over the Armed Forces.

it is independent of the Armed Forces and MoD;
its recommendations would be binding;
it would have the power to look at past cases; and
it would have access rights to all documentation and persons
The Government propose a much watered down system, known as a "Service Complaints Panel". Crucially, the powers would be determined by the Secretary of State rather than enacted by primary legislation

The limited control of the Armed Forces by Parliament is exercised by the annual renewal of the Service Discipline Acts.

14. The annual renewal of Service Discipline legislation, which the Bill proposes to remove, is part of the constitutional arrangements, which have their roots in the turbulent relationship between Parliament and the Crown in the 17th century.[17] Parliament's control of the Armed Forces is exercised through annual authorisation of Armed Forces' funding, numbers of serving personnel, and disciplinary legislation. The history of these arrangements for parliamentary control is well documented.[18]

15. In its report on the Tri-Service Bill, our predecessor Committee concluded that the mechanism of annual renewal should continue.[19] The constitutional basis for that conclusion is well understood. The rationale for removing the requirement for annual renewal is not clear. There is little benefit to the business managers in the House of Commons in removing a delegated legislation standing committee debate once a year, and the annual debates in the House of Lords have, we understand, provided a widely welcomed opportunity for a focussed debate on discipline and military law.[20]

16. We believe the House should be aware of this significant proposal to end annual renewal of Service Discipline legislation, which will diminish democratic accountability of the Armed Forces. We do not believe Parliament should agree to cede this aspect of its control over the nation's Armed Forces to the Executive, particularly at a time when military law and discipline are of considerable political concern.

17. We urge the Government to reverse its proposal to end annual renewal of Service discipline legislation by tabling the necessary amendments at Committee stage.
And people are surprised at the clamour for an independent Federation? 8O

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