What does the Armed Forces Bill 2015 include?

12 October 2015

The Commons Library has published a briefing on this year’s Armed Forces Bill, explaining its purpose and what it includes.

The last Armed Forces Act received Royal Assent in November 2011 and will expire in November 2016. Therefore a new bill is required in the 2015-16.

Second Reading debate in the House of Commons is scheduled for 15 October 2015.

Main provisions of the Bill

Renewal of the Act

To continue the Armed Forces Act 2006 for a further period of five years, ending no later than 2021.

Drugs testing

Clause 2 of the Bill extends the circumstances in which a commanding officer can require a member of the Armed Forces or a civilian subject to service law to take a preliminary test for alcohol or drugs.

Legal cases

It amends the circumstances when service police need to refer the case directly to the Director of Service Prosecutions (DSP) and when they need to refer the case to the commanding officer.

The Bill will allow the Director of Service Prosecutions to bring a charge directly rather than directing the suspect’s commanding officer to bring the charge. It will also provide the DSP with the power to offer immunity and other agreements to witnesses and defendants in return for their assistance with investigations.

The Bill will allow the Court Martial to suspend sentences of service detention for up to 24 months.

Clause 7 will allow the DSP to give a person immunity from prosecution for any service offence in return for assistance from that person in the investigation or prosecution of a service offence. However, this immunity can be withdrawn if the person fails to comply with agreed conditions.

Other British Territories

It will bring the Armed Forces Act 2006 into force in the Isle of Man and British Overseas Territories (except Gibraltar), with the option of extending it to the Channel Islands.

MOD fire-fighters

Fire-fighters will have the power to do anything they reasonably believe to be necessary to protect life or property or for the purpose of extinguishing or preventing a fire. This will bring them in line with those available to civilian fire and rescue authorities.

Content list of briefing paper

  • Background to the previous Bills
  • Parliamentary procedure
  • Main provisions of the Bill
  • Renewal of the primary legislation
  • Power to require preliminary alcohol and drugs tests
  • Duty of service policeman following investigation
  • Power of commanding officer to charge
  • Power of Director of Service Prosecutions to charge
  • Suspended sentences of service detention
  • New statutory framework for immunity from prosecution
  • Isle of Man and British Overseas Territories (except Gibraltar)
  • Ministry of Defence fire-fighters in an emergency

Tracking this Bill

Keep up to date with the progress of this Bill as it proceeds through Parliament.


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