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2010 Defence Manifesto - Labour

Strengthening our Armed Forces and national security

The first duty of government is to protect the security of its citizens. We have created Britain's first ever National Security Strategy to strengthen our response to fast-moving and interconnected threats, from terrorism and nuclear proliferation to new challenges like cybersecurity. We have trebled investment in counterterrorism at home, combined with multilateral action against terrorism and extremism abroad, not just in the Afghan-Pakistan border areas - still the main source of the threat - but also in Yemen and Somalia.

Our commitment to defence is non-negotiable. Defence spending has increased by ten per cent in real terms since 1997. Funding for Iraq and Afghanistan is additional to that, with the Treasury Reserve providing 18 billion in total so far and an estimated 5 billion in the next year. Despite this continued investment, acute cost pressures remain in long-term defence projects. We are reforming defence procurement, making further reductions in civilian staff, and cutting lower-priority spending on headquarters costs, travel and consultancy.

A Strategic Defence Review will look at all areas of defence, but we will maintain our independent nuclear deterrent. We will fight for multilateral disarmament, working for a world free of nuclear weapons, in the Non Proliferation Treaty Review conference and beyond - combining support for civilian nuclear energy with concerted action against proliferation. We are committed to a strong Navy based on the new aircraft carriers, an Air Force with two state-of-the-art fast-jet fleets as well as additional helicopters, transport planes and unmanned drones, and a strong, high-tech Army, vastly better equipped than it was in 1997.

The growth in the core defence budget has also enabled us to guarantee fair pay for all our forces, including the first ever tax-free bonus for those on operations abroad, while strengthening our support for their welfare. Service families can now retain their place on NHS waiting lists when they are deployed to another part of the country. Further education is free for those leaving the forces with six years' service or more.

We have invested hundreds of millions of pounds to reverse a legacy of decades of neglect of forces' accommodation, and we are helping service personnel get onto the housing ladder. Homelessness among service leavers has been sharply reduced, and the law changed to give them better access to social housing. The new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham will have a military-run ward and the largest single-floor critical care unit in the world. Headley Court and the new Army Recovery Capability will continue to offer world-leading support to those rehabilitating after serious injury. We have doubled the lump-sum payments for the most seriously injured to 570,000, and increased the lifetime-income payments by up to a third.

As a sign of our continued commitment to the military community, we will introduce a Forces Charter to enshrine in law the rights of forces, their families, and Veterans. A Veterans ID card will help Veterans access their improved benefits and will be free to service leavers. We will continue to strengthen mental health provision in partnership with the Combat Stress charity, and roll out our Welfare Pathway to give personnel and their families better support and advice.




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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:07:54 ZULU