Cameron chided for defence 'U-turn'

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David Cameron with British soldiers at the Kabul Military Training Centre in Afghanistan

David Cameron has been accused of backtracking on a promise to enshrine the military covenant into law.

The Prime Minister was also criticised for “watering down” proposals to increase the support for Britain’s troops.

The attack, by Chris Simpkins, the director-general of the Royal British Legion, comes as thousands of servicemen and women face austerity-enforced job cuts, pension and pay changes.

Speaking in The Times, Mr Simpkins said plans set out in the Armed Forces Bill requiring the Ministry of Defence to publish an annual report on the unwritten pact between society and the Armed Forces were not the same as writing it into legislation – something he said Mr Cameron pledged to do last June.

Describing the proposals as a “U-turn” he said: “The covenant is a concept that we think should be enshrined into law so that the public can hold any government’s feet to the fire about whether it is being properly honoured and respected.”

Mr Simpkins also claimed proposals in the draft bill would reduce the influence of an external reference group that is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the covenant.

“The proposals have been significantly watered down to a point where we can’t entirely support them,” he added.

He also said the families of servicemen had been let down by the coalition’s decision to scrap the Chief Coroner’s Office, which was created in 2009 and praised for improving the inquest system in relation to military inquests.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox, who has supported the need to rebuild the military covenant, said: “We are introducing greater accountability and scrutiny through an annual report to Parliament. This will set out how we are supporting our Armed Forces, their families and veterans in key areas such as healthcare housing and education.”

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