Discrimination and abuse of members of the armed forces will be outlawed in the first year of a Labour Government, Ed Miliband announced yesterday.
On a visit to British troops stationed at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan he said a Labour government would introduce an Armed Forces (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill in its first Queen’s Speech after May 2015.
The Bill would propose changing the Criminal Justice Act 2003 so that a physical or verbal assault upon a member of the Armed Forces or their family would be classed as an aggravated crime where the prosecution can establish that service in the Armed Forces was the motive for the assault.
It would give Armed Forces additional protection against discrimination, similar to that which disabled people, religious groups and members of ethnic minorities receive.
It also proposed changing the Equality Act 2010 to so that a member of former member of the armed forces would be protected from discrimination in the provision of goods and services – for example in shops, restaurants, hotels and pubs – simply because of their service to our country.
Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, told troops in Bastion:
“We will not let your heroism and bravery of our Armed Forces be forgotten once Afghanistan has dropped from the headlines.
“We as a party and as a Government will be committed to recognising the unique place of the armed forces in our society.
“That is why today I want to tell you that we are we are committed to changing the law to make it a specific criminal offence to assault a member of the Armed Forces, and to outlaw discrimination against service personnel and veterans.
“Men and women in the Army, Navy and RAF serve us with dignity and bravery. It is our duty to ensure they are treated with dignity in return.”
Vernon Coaker, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, said:
“There are still too many members of our Armed Forces who face discrimination as they go about their daily lives. It’s sad to think that those who fight for our country might need the protection of our laws, but some do.
“Our brave servicemen and women deserve to be treated with respect. Ed Miliband has today pledged a Labour government to helping ensure they are.”