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The Armed Forces Bill 2015-16 (175) had its Third Reading in the House of Lords on 5 May 2016. The Commons is due to consider Lords amendments on 11 May 2016.

This briefing paper provides information on amendments made to the Bill during its progress through the House of Lords.

Full background on the Bill, and its provisions as originally presented, can be found in Library Briefing Paper 7324, Armed Forces Bill 2015 and in House of Lords Library Briefing Paper LLN2016-0005, Armed Forces Bill 2015-16: Briefing for Lords stages.

Lords Amendments

The Government tabled two amendments to the Bill at Report Stage which were agreed unopposed. Both amendments concern matters raised by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of the House of Lords and are technical in nature.

Government Commitments

The Government also undertook a number of measures discussed during the Bill’s passage through both chambers which were not written into the Bill. These include:

  • A commitment to publish annually statistics on sexual offences in the armed forces, with the first set expected to be published before the 2016 summer recess;
  • A review of the powers of commanding officers to investigate allegations of sexual assault and whether to amend Schedule 2 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 via secondary legislation. This review is expected to take until the end of 2016.
  • A review of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme including the scheme’s coverage and levels of awards, in particular for those most seriously injured, including those with mental health conditions. It is expected to report at the end of 2016.

The purpose of the Bill

The Armed Forces Bill 2015-16 will renew the Armed Forces Act 2006 (itself renewed by the Armed Forces Act 2011) which provides the legal basis for the existence of the Armed Forces as disciplined bodies.

An Armed Forces Act is required every five years. The need for an Act dates back to the 1688 Bill of Rights which requires the consent of Parliament to be given to maintain an Army in time of peace. As such, one of the Act’s most important functions is to provide the legal basis for the armed forces to continue to exist as a disciplined force.

The Bill updates elements of the Armed Forces’ disciplinary system and extends the powers of Ministry of Defence firefighters.

The Bill contains provisions relating to the following matters:

  • Duration of the Armed Forces Act 2006
  • Testing for alcohol and drugs
  • Investigation and charging of service offences
  • Suspended sentences of service detention
  • Offenders assisting investigations and prosecutions
  • The Armed Forces Act 2006 outside the United Kingdom
  • Repeals relating to discharge for homosexual acts
  • War pensions committees
  • Ministry of Defence firefighters

Armed Forces Bill 2015-16 completed its House of Commons stages on 11 January 2016. It received its Second Reading in the Lords on 11 February 2016 and was debated in Committee in two sittings on 1 February and 3 February 2016. It was considered on Report on 27 February 2016 and had its Third Reading on 5 May 2016

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