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The primary purpose of the Armed Forces Bill is to renew the Armed Forces Act 2006 (itself renewed by the Armed Forces Acts of 2011 and 2016), which provides the legal basis for the existence of the Armed Forces as disciplined bodies. The Bill also amends the service justice system, further incorporates the Armed Forces Covenant into law and creates a new Service Police Complaints Commissioner.

The Armed Forces Bill, as amended in the Commons, was presented to the Lords on 14 July 2021 as Bill 42.

The Bill was considered in Lords Committee between 27 October and 8 November 2021. Report Stage took place on 23 November 2021 and Third Reading took place on 29 November 2021.

Several amendments were made to the Bill. Government amendments include:

  • Changes to the constitution of a Court Martial
  • The establishment of a new Defence Serious Crimes Unit and Provost Marshal for Serious Crimes, as recommended by the Henrique Review which was published in October 2021.
  • Amendments were agreed relating to the Armed Forces Covenant guidance to which public authorities must have due regard.
  • Several technical amendments were also agreed relating to the language around the flexible working of Reserve personnel and to ensure consistency with existing legislation.

On Report, the Lords also agreed changes to concurrent jurisdiction and placed a legal responsibility on central government to have due regard to the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant.

House of Commons consideration of the Lords amendments took place on 6 December 2021. The Government’s amendments were agreed. However, the Commons disagreed with the Lords amendments on concurrent jurisdiction and the Armed Forces Covenant.  

The Lords discussed the Commons reasons for rejecting the amendments on 8 December 2021. Two amendments in lieu were proposed and agreed.

The Bill will now come back to the House of Commons.

The bill must receive Royal Assent by the end of 2021, otherwise the Armed Forces Act 2006 will expire.

For background on the provisions of the bill and the debate in the initial Commons stages see Library briefing papers:

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