Armed Forces Bill passed in Parliament

The Armed Forces Act enshrines the Armed Forces Covenant in law for the first time.

New legislation has been passed in Parliament designed to ensure Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families are better supported when accessing key public services.

The Armed Forces Act gained Royal Assent in Parliament and enshrines the Armed Forces Covenant in law for the first time.

This will help prevent service personnel and veterans from being disadvantaged when accessing essential services – such as healthcare, education and housing.

The Armed Forces Act will look to deliver improvements to the Service Justice System, ensuring personnel have a clear, fair and effective route to justice.

It will also tackle delays in the Service Complaints System by giving the Armed Forces the ability to make changes to how appeals are managed.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the Armed Forces Act "places a legal obligation on public bodies to consider the welfare of service personnel and veterans alike".

Watch: Armed Forces Bill – what will it do and how will it work?

"Today is a significant day for the military community which for the first time has seen the Armed Forces Covenant enshrined in law," he said. 

"It will also strengthen the Service Justice System – an integral part of the Armed Forces and support the unique role of our people who operate globally."

The Armed Forces Act will also place a duty on the Director of Service Prosecutions and the Director of Public Prosecutions to agree on the handling of cases where there is concurrent jurisdiction between civilian and military legal systems in England and Wales.

This will look to provide clarity on how decisions on jurisdiction are made and make sure decisions are left to the independent service justice and civilian prosecutors. 

A new independent body will be created to oversee complaints against service police, managed by a Service Police Complaints Commissioner to allow for an independent line of resolution if someone is unhappy with the outcome of a complaint.

Watch: Royal British Legion urges Government to do more to support Armed Forces Covenant.

Veterans Minister Leo Docherty said the Armed Forces Bill was "a very significant step forward in the interests of our Armed Forces people".

"People are our finest defence asset and this landmark bill reflects that," he said.

The bill will also help improve the flexibility of service for Reserve personnel by allowing for full or part-time service – or a combination of the two.