Christmas is a time for people to come together with loved ones to celebrate what we share and remember what we have lost. At this time we will all think of you, our Armed Forces who protect our shores and our interests through collective courage, acting with patriotism and professionalism. We will all, I hope, take a moment this Christmas to remember those who have fallen in defence of our national interest, their families and friends, as well as those who remain in theatre around the world.
Defence is going through a period of immense change. There is less resource at a time of increased threats. Our national interest increasingly cannot be separated from events beyond our borders. A restructuring programme has led to uncertainty while those being made redundant struggle to resettle in a harsh economic environment. I hope we can give you confidence that we regard the security of our nation and the protection and development of UK service personnel as being the most important responsibility which falls upon those who sit in the House of Commons.
This year you have made us hugely proud. Our Forces act with a quiet heroism around the world, whether in tackling piracy in Somalia or supporting the Kosovo authorities to ensure a lasting peace. Crucially, there is significant progress being made in Afghanistan, where we aim to give the Afghan population the lives and livelihoods they deserve. I know from those of you I have met the commitment you have to succeeding in this mission.
At home this year we of course saw you perform at the Olympics at short notice with the same dedication as the athletes, showing that when our nation is challenged the Armed Forces can always be relied upon. The humility and humour with which you approached that task helped make the Olympics a triumphant event we – and the world – will never forget.
In 2013 we will continue to support you.
This year Labour introduced the Veterans Interview Programme, in which businesses offer service-leavers a guaranteed interview and other support finding work, and we will want this to be expanded. We will work with companies to find new ways to support the service community.
It is fantastic that the Armed Forces Covenant is now enshrined, but we all have a challenge to spread its principles throughout our society. Central to this, for us, will be increased support for Forces’ families, whose quiet courage is so important to those away from home, and so we will look at supporting military spouses’ employment as well as how to improve service accommodation.
We have outlined plans for ‘advanced and affordable’ defence, because we know you need the best possible kit and equipment on the frontline on time and that the MoD must live within its means. We will continue to outline a different approach to industrial and procurement policy and hope the Government will end the uncertainty surrounding basing and Defence Equipment and Support.
The UK’s Armed Forces are the best in the world because of the professionalism which embodies all you do. This Christmas I hope that wherever you are you have a moment to enjoy yourself, speak to or see family, and do so in the knowledge that our country is taking a moment to say thank you for your courage.