Our Armed Forces are essential to our national defence, resilience, and our global obligations. From operations abroad which keep us safe to supporting local communities throughout the pandemic, dedicated service personnel deserve our thanks.
This Saturday is Armed Forces Day, which is a great opportunity to show our appreciation and raise awareness of the Armed Forces and our veterans. However, after over a decade of Conservative cuts to our military, simply raising a flag just isn’t good enough.
Since 2010, the Conservatives have cut the Army to its smallest size in 300 years. The Government has cut the full-time strength of our Armed Forces by over 40,000 servicemen and women. One in five of our ships have been removed from the Royal Navy’s surface fleet, and more than 200 aircraft have been taken out of active RAF service since 2017.
The Conservatives have successfully peddled the myth that they are the party of the Forces, but their actions tell a different story. They are responsible for systematically dismantling our military and only the Labour Party has a plan to support both serving personnel and our veterans. There are around 7,000 veterans living in Barking and Dagenham, and 9,000 in Havering – the sixth highest veteran population in London.
In Dagenham, where we have a Labour MP and a Labour council, veterans get support with housing, local business are signed up to a commercial charter which guarantees an interview for unemployed veterans, they get free access to leisure facilities, and much more to help with the transition back into civilian life.
In Havering, where we have a history of Tory control (recently taken by Independents), with two Conservative MPs, veterans get a very different experience. The council refers them to external organisations for support and has failed to renew its 2012 commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant – a social pact that Labour in Parliament are pressing to be enshrined into law.
Over the past 12 months Labour has been calling on Ministers to halt their proposals to cut yet another 10,000 troops from the army. In 2021 Labour MPs mounted an ongoing campaign to amend the Armed Forces Bill, promoting a new duty of care to allow personnel to receive better legal, welfare, employment, and housing support.
We have a proud service history across Dagenham and Rainham, and as we thank the Armed Forces community this weekend, we must also look to our neighbours in Romford and Hornchurch & Upminster.
Active servicemen and women, their families, and our veterans desperately need Labour MPs who will fight for them and deliver a better future in Havering.