Extra help for troops to mask U-turn on covenant

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Indy Politics

Ministers across the Government have been ordered to find extra resources for armed forces personnel and veterans in an attempt to mask a U-turn on David Cameron's pledge to enshrine the Military Covenant in law.

The Ministry of Defence is wrangling with departments, demanding they offer increased benefits or priority access to services for those in the forces. It is hoped that a more generous package to honour the deal between the state and those who serve on the frontline will counter criticism of a policy reversal.

The Armed Forces Bill was due to be debated by MPs this week. But the Government pulled the plug after an amendment, tabled by the Tory backbencher Philip Hollobone, placing the covenant on the statue book, threatened to spark a rebellion. Now a behind-the-scenes scramble ordered by Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, is trying to bolster the new tri-service Armed Forces Covenant before it is published. A senior source said: "We are working to add a few things into the covenant, but will have to concede the point that the text of it will not be written into the Bill."

The move is likely to spark a furious row with Conservative traditionalists who hoped a Tory government would do more to honour troops.

The MoD said the Bill gives the covenant legal status and forces the Defence Secretary to report annually on it. "The report will include progress on healthcare, housing and education. This is the first time that the covenant will be recognised in statute."

Jim Murphy, the shadow Defence Secretary, said: "Our forces deserve much better."