Verbally abusing or discriminating against members of the Armed Forces will be made illegal in the first year of a Labour government, Ed Miliband pledged yesterday as he visited British troops in Afghanistan.
A new law would give the same protection to men and women in the services as to disabled people, religious communities and ethnic minorities.
Mr Miliband told soldiers in Camp Bastion, the troops' headquarters in Helmand: "We will not let your heroism and bravery of our Armed Forces be forgotten once Afghanistan has dropped from the headlines. We as a party and as a government will be committed to recognising the unique place of the armed forces in our society. Men and women in the Army, Navy and RAF serve us with dignity and bravery. It is our duty to ensure they are treated with dignity in return."
If Labour is elected in May 2015, the Armed Forces (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill would be included in Mr Miliband's first Queen's Speech.
The Bill would amend the 2003 Criminal Justice Act to bring stricter penalties for those who attack soldiers where it can be established that their service was the motive for the assault.
The new law would also amend the 2010 Equality Act so that a member or former member of the Armed Forces would be protected from discrimination in the provision of goods and services – for example, not being served in shops, hotels and pubs – simply because of their job.
A 2013 survey of Armed Forces personnel found that within the past five years, 21 per cent had been subject to verbal abuse.Reuse content