The Conservatives and Labour will mark Armistice Day with pledges to improve the lives of service personnel and their families.
The Tories would change the law to protect veterans from “vexatious” legal action, if they win 12 December’s general election.
They are also promising extra childcare for military families and a new railcard for veterans.
Labour is promising improved support for forces children and better wages.
In other election developments:
- Conservative minister Michael Gove claims Labour now backs “uncontrolled immigration”, in an article for The Times
- The Lib Dems are proposing a £10,000 fund for all adults to pay for skills training
- Labour’s Keith Vaz has announced he will not be standing for re-election, after being suspended from the Commons by its standards watchdog
- Labour, in a story first reported by the Mirror, is promising to spend £845m a year on improving children’s mental health, including a counsellor for every school
It is the first time since 1923 that Armistice Day – commemorating the end of World War One – has fallen during a general election campaign.
Speaking ahead of a trip to the Midlands to meet forces personnel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “As we remember the ultimate sacrifice made by our brave men and women for their country just over a century ago, it is right that we renew our commitment to the soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and veterans of today.”
Mr Johnson has pledged to change the law to protect forces veterans from “vexatious” legal action, if the Conservatives win a majority at the election.
Human Rights Act
He says the party will introduce legislation to ensure the Law of Armed Conflict has primacy and that peacetime laws are not applied to service personnel on military operations.
Under the proposals, the Tories would amend the Human Rights Act so it does not apply to issues – including deaths during the Troubles in Northern Ireland – that took place before it came into force in 2000.
Conservative plans to exempt British troops from human rights laws during combat were first announced in 2016 by Mr Johnson’s predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, but they have yet to be put into law.
The Conservatives are also promising to extend the school day for forces children aged 4 to 11, with “breakfast clubs” and “after-school clubs” to help working parents and promote the recruitment and retention of women in the services.
Military veterans will also be guaranteed a job interview for any public sector role they apply for – and there will be a potential tax cut for businesses that employ veterans, under Tory plans.
And the party has announced plans for a new Veterans’ Railcard, allowing all those who have served in the armed forces a third off rail fares.
The new railcard would allow 700,000 veterans and their families who are not entitled for other discounted rail schemes – such as Senior Railcard or the Disabled Person’s Railcard – to make savings, the Conservatives say.
A HM Forces Railcard can already be bought for £21 a year, allowing a third off the price of most rail tickets, but it is only available to serving members of the forces.
Labour, meanwhile, is restating pledges it made in June, for Armed Forces Day, to improve support for forces children with better access to schools and dedicated local authorities admissions strategies to help with frequent school moves.
The party says its plan to scrap the public sector pay cap will boost the income of the lowest paid members of the forces.
According to Labour analysis, the starting salary of a private is £1,159 lower in real terms than in 2010.
Armed forces pay was frozen to an increase of 1% between 2013 and 2017 by Conservative-led governments. The independent Armed Forces Pay Review Board recommended a 2.9% rise for 2018/19, which the government chose to implement as a 2% increase with a 0.9% one-off payment.
Labour is also promising to provide “decent housing” for forces personnel and their families by ending the reliance on the private rented sector.
It will also consult on creating a representative body to give a voice for service men and women, and end privatisation – with a review of outsourcing contracts.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “After a decade of government cuts and outsourcing, Labour offers our armed forces real change with the pay, conditions and respect they deserve.”
Remembrance Sunday, which is held on the second Sunday of November, saw political leaders and members of the Royal Family join military veterans to commemorate those who have lost their lives in conflict.
Mr Corbyn joined Mr Johnson, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford in laying wreaths at the Cenotaph to commemorate the Armistice.