Armed Forces Day: Labour will renew nation's moral contract with the military - John Healey

Armed Forces Day is a public celebration of the service and commitment of our Forces, their families and veterans. It is the opportunity for us all to say ‘thank you’ for the vital role they play in keeping Britain safe.

Like everyone across Yorkshire and the country, Labour has deep respect for the serving men and women of our Armed Forces.

When I meet our troops - whether at home on Salisbury plain or on the frontline against Russian aggression and our NATO commitments in Estonia - I am always in awe of their bravery, dedication and professionalism.

Theirs is the ultimate public service.

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Labour shadow defence secretary John Healey speaks at the Institute of Directors, hosted by RUSI in London.Labour shadow defence secretary John Healey speaks at the Institute of Directors, hosted by RUSI in London.
Labour shadow defence secretary John Healey speaks at the Institute of Directors, hosted by RUSI in London.

But as Keir Starmer has said, the last 13 Conservative years have corroded the nation’s moral contract with those who serve in our Armed Forces.

Labour has found that satisfaction with service life for our troops has fallen by nearly a third since the Conservatives took charge in 2010 to historic lows - dropping from 60 per cent in 2010 to almost 40 per cent in 2023.

This is in free fall across the board - with morale, happiness with pay and satisfaction with pensions plunging.

Last week, it was even reported that our Forces are now using foodbanks to get by.

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This is impacting on retention, with over 40 per cent of personnel now suggesting that poor job satisfaction is driving a desire to leave the Armed Forces.

The state of service accommodation has also become a serious issue. It is simply unacceptable that personnel and their families are living in damp, mouldy and leaky housing.

Four thousand troops don’t even have to pay rent as their housing is so bad.

This cannot go on. Labour in Government will renew Britain’s moral contract with our Armed Forces.

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As our first step, Labour Leader Keir Starmer announced on Sunday that Labour will legislate to establish an Armed Forces Commissioner to improve service life for our Forces and their Families.

The Commissioner will be a strong public voice for personnel and their families, improve service life, and strengthen parliamentary oversight.

This is a personal priority for Keir -and why the Commissioner would be set up by a Bill in Labour’s first King's Speech.

But we know more has to be done.

This year, Labour launched its “Homes fit for Heroes” campaign to shine a light on the terrible state of service accommodation and commissioned the former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake to conduct an independent review into Forces housing.

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This review is due to report before the end of the year - and will feed into Labour’s plans to ensure our heroes have good homes to live in.

We will also complete this Government’s half job - and fully incorporate the Armed Forces Covenant into law.

This is the nation’s promise to support our Armed Forces Communities, and it is only right that this has the full weight of law behind it.

As celebrations take place this week leading up to Armed Forces Day on Saturday, we are rightly full of pride at the work our Armed Forces do to keep Britain safe.

It is only right we look after them in return.

John Healey is the Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne and Shadow Defence Secretary