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On 7 September 2021, the second reading of the Armed Forces Bill is scheduled to take place in the House of Lords.

The Armed Forces Bill 2021–22 is a government bill that would renew the statutory basis for the United Kingdom’s armed forces. The bill would also further incorporate the armed forces covenant into law, and would make several amendments to the service justice system, including the creation of a service police complaints commissioner. 

Parliamentary consent for the armed forces dates back to the 1688 Bill of Rights. Consent is currently given through the renewal of armed forces primary legislation every five years, and through the passing of yearly orders in council approved by affirmative resolution in both Houses.

The Armed Forces Act 2006 was a significant piece of legislation that made major changes to the armed forces. One of the major provisions of the Armed Forces Act 2006 was to establish a single system of service law which applied to personnel of the Royal Navy, the British Army and the Royal Air Force, wherever they were operating. Prior to the act, each service had its own justice system. The 2006 Act was subsequently amended by the Armed Forces Act 2011 and the Armed Forces Act 2016, with each act extending parliamentary consent for the armed forces for a further five years, as well as other provisions.

The current Armed Forces Bill was introduced in session 2019–21, and was subject to a carry-over motion. It completed its House of Commons stages on 13 July 2021. The bill received broad support in the House of Commons. However, several MPs raised concerns around service justice system reform, whether the legal strengthening of the armed forces covenant went far enough, and whether national as well as local authorities should be included in the covenant clauses of the bill.

Documents to download

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