Aldous calls for complete sign up to Armed Forces Covenant

MP for Waveney Peter Aldous yesterday asked in the House of Commons what steps the Government is taking to support the Armed Forces Covenant.

Having received considerations from the Chairman of the Royal British Legion branch in his Lowestoft constituency, Bob King, Mr Aldous called on the Minister for Defence to encourage all local authorities to sign a Community Covenant by Armed Forces Day on 29 June.

In October last year, Mr Aldous welcomed the decision of local authorities in his constituency, including Waveney District Council, to sign a Suffolk-wide Community Covenant, and is now pressing for all local authorities to sign up to the scheme. The Minister of State for Defence, Mark Francois MP, responded by giving his assurances that the Government will fully support the remaining local authorities to sign up to the Covenant.

The Armed Forces Covenant is part of a £30million national scheme, launched by the Ministry of Defence, to strengthen the bonds between the armed forces and civilian communities. Community Covenants are voluntary statements intended to complement, at a local level, the Armed Forces Covenant, which outlines the mutual obligations between the Nation, the Government and the Armed Forces.

The Royal British Legion welcomes Community Covenants as an excellent way for local authorities and communities to ensure that the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant are honoured in practice, on the ground and on a local level. Almost 300 out of 430 local authorities have signed a Community Covenant. Whilst this is a positive start, the Legion would like all local authorities to sign a Community Covenant and commit to tangible and concrete measures to support their local Armed Forces community.

In Autumn 2011 the Legion launched its Best Practice Guide to Community Covenants, which has been endorsed by the Local Government Association: The guide, which contains case study examples, gives practical advice and suggests measures for local authorities to consider as part of their commitment to their own Community Covenant.

Mr Aldous commented:
“I am pleased to show my support for The Royal British Legion - we expect a lot from our Armed Forces and this is one of showing our appreciation of their commitment. Community Covenants are a fantastic way for local authorities and the wider community to show their support for our Armed Forces and their families. They are about securing real improvements in the welfare of Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families in constituencies across the UK. It is fantastic that so many local authorities are signing up, such as in my own Waveney constituency, and I urge for others to do the same.”
Colonel Rae Leighton, the Armed Forces Commissioner for Suffolk, said:

“Last October, community, voluntary and Armed Forces leaders came together in Ipswich to sign a landmark Military Community Covenant which pledged mutual support and practical help for serving personnel, veterans, their families and widow(er)s living and working in Suffolk. At that ceremony, the enormous esteem in which the armed forces and their families are held by the people of Suffolk was clear to see. Similarly, the trust that the armed forces place in the civil authorities was very obvious. I am determined to make sure that we, as a County, implement the integration of those values into tangible and mutual benefits to our society. I chaired the first meeting of the Suffolk Armed Forces Community Covenant Board last month and we are now preparing an Action Plan which we will put into effect over the coming months.”


Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): What discussions his Department has had with other Government Departments on supporting the armed forces covenant. [136409]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr Mark Francois): The covenant is a matter for the whole of Government and sustained progress requires close working across Whitehall. To oversee that work and maintain the momentum, a Cabinet Sub-Committee on the armed forces covenant was established in February 2012, led by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Government Policy. The Committee met four times in 2012. It works closely with the covenant reference group, which includes representation from the service community and a number of key service charities, as well as armed forces advocates from Departments and the devolved Administrations.


Peter Aldous: Given that about 300 out of the 430 local authorities, including Suffolk county council and Waveney district council, have signed a community covenant between the civilian and armed forces communities in their area, does the Minister agree that it would be fantastic if all Departments and local authorities that are yet to sign such a covenant did so by Armed Forces day on 29 June?

Mr Francois: I am encouraged by the number of local authorities around the country that have signed community covenants and pledged to do their best for armed forces communities, the families of those who are serving and veterans. It would be fantastic if local authorities were to sign up by that date, but we should not have to wait until then—the more the merrier and the sooner the better.

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Peter holds regular surgeries at various locations in the constituency. Please call 01502 586568 to make an appointment.

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