|Elfyn Llwyd MP|
Mr Llwyd has also slammed the UK Government for excluding him from the key Standing Committee Stage of the Bill in which amendments are argued and considered.
This is the first Bill this Parliament that a member of the minority parties has been excluded from such a crucial point. This was done by cutting the size of the Bill Committee to 14 members. At all other times, Bill Committees have ranged from 16 plus one minority member to 21 and one minority member.
Mr Llwyd will be tabling a series of amendments to the Armed Forces Bill, to ensure the military covenant is implemented, and to place a legal duty on the Secretary of State to act to provide progress - and not simply place a report before Parliament which would not enforce a duty on the Secretary to do anything.
The foremost campaigner on veterans’ affairs in the UK Parliament, Mr Llwyd is Chair of the Justice Unions’ Parliamentary Group and a member of the Howard League for Penal Reform’s inquiry into Veterans in Prison. The inquiry team recently travelled to the States to learn more about their groundbreaking work in veterans’ aftercare.
In December 2010, Mr Llwyd also scooped the Welsh Campaigner of the Year award for his work on veterans’ welfare.
Mr Llwyd said: “There is a mandatory duty on the government to implement the military covenant. The last Labour government failed pitifully in this respect and we are still seeing increasing numbers of veterans in prison – maybe as high as at one in nine of the prison population.
“This was an opportunity to put veterans’ welfare at the heart of the Bill – one that has been badly missed. Last year, figures showed there were twice as many veterans in prison than British troops are in Afghanistan.
“I fear that this government is about to continue in this failure to our troops.
“It is disgusting that I have been excluded from the Committee stage of the Bill. It is evident in Westminster that I have a long standing interested in the field of veterans and this smacks of ‘stitch-up’ – in the same way as this toothless Clause is stitching up veterans.
“The amendments that I will be proposing already have cross party support.
“I will be ensuring that veterans are put at the heart of the Bill – and through voting with or against these, the UK Government will have to show whether they are serious about implementing the military covenant.
“I recently travelled to the States to learn about their experiences of veterans support and I believe they are already streets ahead of us in this field. The inquiry will be reporting back on its overall findings in the coming months and I dearly hope the UK Government takes them on board.
“Although I was against the military incursion into Iraq and Afghanistan and voted against them it is politicians who place these brave troops in harm's way. We owe them a duty to ensure their wellbeing upon their return home.
“Anything else is a breach of the military covenant.”