The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
My Lords, it has been a great pleasure to lead the Bill through this House. It delivers on the manifesto commitment to strengthen the legislation of the Armed Forces covenant that will deliver for the Armed Forces community across the United Kingdom. It further strengthens the service justice system for our Armed Forces, wherever they serve. Most importantly, without this Bill, the Armed Forces Act 2006—the legislation that maintains the Armed Forces as a disciplined body—could not continue in force beyond the end of this year.
I therefore convey my deep gratitude to all noble Lords for supporting the Bill and for their invaluable contributions to our extremely incisive and well-informed debates. Undoubtedly, this is a marked tribute to your Lordships’ shrewdness, the depth and breadth of knowledge and the passion that has persistently shone through when debating issues affecting our Armed Forces. I particularly express my appreciation for the constructive engagement made possible by the noble Lords, Lord Coaker, Lord Tunnicliffe, Lord Thomas of Gresford and Lord Dannatt, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, and the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Boyce, Lord Craig of Radley and Lord Houghton of Richmond.
It is an incontestable fact that all within this House have bought into the spirit of what this Bill seeks to achieve. We all want to do the very best for our Armed Forces community, from the sailors, soldiers and aircrew at the forefront of operations around the world, to the veterans whose days of active service have long since passed, and to the families who unstintingly provide support and are the bedrock to their success. I thank your Lordships for their continuing interest in the Armed Forces.
It would be unacceptably remiss were I not to acknowledge and thank the Bill team under the formidable leadership of Jayne Scheier, supported by her able and committed colleagues. There is a lot of technical detail in the Bill, with complex legal consequences, and the team’s guidance and expertise has been exemplary—as has their patience in supporting a Minister who I am sure must have been very irksome at times.
Before I finish, I remind the House again of the undertakings I made both in Grand Committee and on Report that I will keep the House informed of progress on the recommendations of Sir Richard Henriques’s review. We expect to submit very shortly our response to the House of Commons Defence Committee’s report on women in the Armed Forces; that response is detailed and substantial. This Bill now passes from my stewardship to my colleagues in the other place—so, over to them.
Finally, I pay tribute to the courageous, professional and dedicated men and women in our Armed Forces. We are proud to have the best Armed Forces in the world and, ultimately, this Bill is for them. I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.