The Liberal Democrat vision for defence
The men and women who serve in the Armed Forces play a vital part in improving and defending lives and while their roles may often be behind the scenes they cannot be understated. Currently nearly 200,000 UK Service Personnel are responsible for defending those of us living across the UK, as well as those in the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. They also play a vital role in providing humanitarian aid to those in need across the world.
Liberal Democrats are committed to spending 2% of GDP on Defence and building on the frameworks for defence cooperation with our key allies and through NATO. The security challenges the UK faces today are shared by our partners and we are so much stronger standing together than we could ever be alone.
Our Forces must be properly supported and invested in so those serving feel valued and able to do their jobs properly. The UK currently faces a crisis in recruitment and retention within the armed forces and an increasing level of people are leaving due to dissatisfaction with service life. That is why a Liberal Democrat government will provide a golden financial handshake to STEM graduates entering as armed forces engineering, as well as review the current Career Transition Partnership with a view to extending its remit to provide free Future or Higher Education for anyone who has served for over 12 years.
If our Armed Forces are to hold onto talented personnel, we must do more to make the services fit for 2019. That means investing in new equipment, it means providing good accommodation, it means facilitating a culture shift across all levels. This shift must include the breaking down of barriers and prejudices. Earlier this year former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in Parliament that “there is no glass ceiling” for women in the Armed Forces, yet in 2017/18 the Army saw just 20 women promoted compared to 320 men.
UK military personnel, veterans and their families have also been failed by the Tory Government when it comes to mental health care. Those serving in the armed forces put their lives on the line for all of us but the Conservatives have not been providing the necessary mental health support, which is so desperately needed. There remains a stigma around mental health problems meaning many service men and women do not seek help and the quality of care given is a postcode lottery with unacceptable variations across the UK.
The Liberal Democrats support the Armed Forces Covenant and will ensure there is access to mental health services for all service men and women, as well as veterans and service families. Part of this includes improving the quality of service housing by bringing the Ministry of Defence into line with other landlords, giving tenants the same legal rights to repair and maintenance as private tenants.
From veterans to currently serving personnel, the contribution our armed forces make is immeasurable, but words mean little if they don’t have the necessary support and funding. The Liberal Democrats demand better and want to build a brighter future for all who give their lives to protect ours.
Jamie Stone was Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross from 2017-2019, and is standing for re-election in the General Election. Stone is also the Liberal Democrats’ defence spokesperson.
With the UK now set for a General Election on December 12, Bright Green is publishing a series of articles from progressive party spokespeople on how their policies would transform the country. This article is part of that series – all articles can be found here.
Header image credit: UK Parliament – Creative Commons