Armed Forces Bill: House Of Commons Launches Select Committee

A new Select Committee has been launched by the House of Commons on the Armed Forces Bill.

It is responsible for scrutinising the bill and is chaired by Conservative MP James Sunderland.

The Select Committee is authorised to go through the bill clause by clause and make amendments.

Mr Sunderland, formerly a colonel in the Royal Logistic Corps, told Forces News the Armed Forces Bill represents "an opportunity to to do a number of things".

"First of all, it's going to see the Armed Forces Covenant into statute," he said.

"It's a long-standing promise to the taxpayer that we're going to do this... but also it amends the service justice act in a variety of ways, so it's an all-encompassing bill. It's very exciting."

As well as reporting the bill to the House of Commons, the select committee may also make a special report of its findings and recommendations to the House.

"We've got a good team and we're going to see this bill into law looking at all of the factors that the evidence sessions will generate," he told Forces News.

"We'll scrutinise, we'll ask lots of questions and we'll make sure that we honour our commitment to the Armed Forces across the UK."

James Sunderland, the Chair of the new Select Committee for the Armed Forces Bill
James Sunderland will chair the new Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill (Picture: UK Parliament).

The Armed Forces Bill will also look to improve the military complaints and justice system, but Mr Sunderland told Forces News any changes would be more "tweaks rather than fundamental change". 

"I think this is basically, going forward, giving commanding officers more powers and making sure that the system is fairer for all," he said.

He added the committee will provide "an opportunity for Parliament to take a broader look" at issues facing the UK Armed Forces.

"The committee will work intensively, within the space of a couple of months, to explore not only the bill itself but also the current imperatives," he said. 

These include, he said, the "efficacy of support available for service personnel, veterans and families" and the "structures in place that both safeguard and ensure accountability".

The committee is to welcome written and oral evidence submissions on all the provisions in the bill, as well as any notable omissions and has called for evidence submissions on both the Armed Forces Covenant and Service Justice System Reforms.

The Armed Forces Bill aims to see the Armed Forces Covenant enshrined in law and introduce a legal duty for some UK public bodies to have due regard to the principles of the Covenant – a pledge to ensure the Armed Forces community is treated fairly.

Cover image: PA.