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The State Opening of Parliament 

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Armed Forces Bill completes passage through Parliament

15 December 2021

UK military ship

The Armed Forces Bill returned to the Lords for further consideration of Commons amendments in ‘ping pong’ on Tuesday 14 December.

Following agreement by both Houses on the wording of the bill's text, it received Royal Assent on 15 December 2021 and became an Act of Parliament.

The Armed Forces Bill seeks to renew the Armed Forces Act 2006 and maintain the effectiveness of the service justice system, so that it continues to meet the needs of the armed forces.

Consideration of amendments 

Members considered Commons reasons for disagreeing with Lords changes (amendments) to the bill. 

The proposed changes (PDF) covered subjects including civilian court trials for serious offences and adding the Secretary of State as a specified person to help achieve the aims of the bill.

Get involved

Watch and read the debate

Catch up on Parliament TV or read the Lords Hansard transcript.

Explore further information

Read background information on the bill in the Lords Library Armed Forces Bill briefing.

 

What's happened so far?

Consideration of Commons amendments: Wednesday 8 December

Members considered Commons reasons for disagreeing with Lords changes (amendments) to the bill. 

The proposed changes (PDF) covered subjects including civilian court trials for serious offences and adding the Secretary of State as a specified person to help achieve the aims of the bill. 

Members voted on two further changes to the Bill, which were put forward in lieu of Lords amendments rejected by the Commons.

Civilian Courts

The first vote was an amendment to ensure that certain serious offences committed within the UK are tried in a civilian court.

Members voted 205 in favour and 183 against, so the change was made.

Equality in delivery of core services

The second vote was on an amendment requiring the Secretary of State to lay a report before Parliament detailing the implications of not applying the same legal responsibility to have 'due regard' under the Armed Forces Covenant to central government as required by local authorities and other public bodies.

Members voted 215 in favour and 173 against, so the change was made.

Catch up on Parliament TV or read the transcript in Lords Hansard.

Third reading: Monday 29 November

Final checks

No changes to the wording of the bill were put forward ahead of third reading.

Members discussed the progress of the bill through the House at the conclusion of Lords stages and highlighted subjects including the removal of troops from Afghanistan and Sir Richard Henriques’ review on strengthening the Service Justice System.

Catch up on Parliament TV or read the Lords Hansard transcript.

Report stage: Tuesday 23 November

Proposed changes

Membersput forward changes (PDF (amendmentsto consider at report stage.

The amendmends covered a range of subjects including: 

  • strengthening the independence of the tri-service serious crime unit
  • supporting and protecting women in the armed forces
  • and ensuring that soldiers aged under 18 are not required to serve for a longer period than adult personnel.

Members voted on three changes to the bill.

Trials for serious crimes

The first was on a change (amendment 2) which seeks to ensure that certain serious crimes are tried in the civilian courts when committed by a serviceperson in the UK, unless the Attorney-General has specifically consented for such crimes to be tried at courts martial.

Members voted 210 in favour and 190 against, so the change was made.

Legal responsibility

The second vote was on a change (amendment 4) that would require the central government to have 'due regard' to the Armed Forces Covenant, which the Bill already requires local authorities and other public bodies to do.
Members voted 219 in favour and 173 against, so the change was made.

Independence of investigations

The final vote was on a change (amendment 23) which would impose on the chief inspector of constabulary duties reciprocal to those imposed on the Service Police Complaints Commissioner by the same regulations.

Members voted 153 in favour and 160 against, so the change was not made.

Catch up on Parliament TV or read a transcript in Lords Hansard.

Committee stage date three: Monday 8 November

Proposed changes

Members put forward changes (PDF) (amendments) to consider at committee stage, and discussed a range of subjects including:

the creation of and services provided by a new Armed Forces Federation which will represent members in matters such as welfare, pay and efficiency
the number of veterans in receipt of Universal Credit
improving the uptake and use of the Flexible Service scheme.

Catch up on Parliament TV or read a transcript in Lords Hansard.

Committee stage day two: Tuesday 2 November

Proposed changes

Members put forward changes (PDF) (amendments) to discuss covering a range of subjects, including:

  • services provided by a newly established tri-service serious crime unit
  • providing extra mental health support for armed service personnel 
  • the costs of Indefinite Leave to Remain for Commonwealth and Gurkha veterans.

Catch up on Parliament TV or read a transcript in Lords Hansard.

Committee stage day one: Wednesday 27 October

Proposed changes

Members speaking on day one of committee stage put forward changes (PDF) (amendments) to discuss.

The amendments covered a range of subjects, including court martial lay members and the armed forces covenant.

Catch up on Parliament TV or read a transcript in Lords Hansard. 

Second reading: Tuesday 7 September

Members discussed the main issues in the bill during the second reading debate, including war widows, the contribution of Commonwealth forces and veterans, the Armed Forces covenant and service justice system.

Members speaking

Baroness Goldie (Conservative), Minister of State for Defence, opened the debate and responded on behalf of the government.

Members speaking in the debate included:

Catch up on Parliament TV or read a transcript Lords Hansard.

Image: Crown Copyright