Page last updated at 20:41 GMT, Tuesday, 14 June 2011 21:41 UK

Armed Forces Bill

Defence minister Andrew Robathan has defended the government's decision to perform a U-turn on whether the military covenant - the duty of care to armed forces personnel - should be enshrined in law.

The Armed Forces Bill, which provides the legal basis for maintaining the armed forces, initially included no definition of the covenant.

But ministers subsequently tabled a series of amendments to place the covenant on a statutory footing for the first time.

As MPs debated the bill at committee stage on 14 June 2011, shadow defence minister Gemma Doyle said the move was a "a step in the right direction", but she added: "The path to get them to this point has been far from graceful."

"It has been both torturous and frustrating to watch ministers deny what is in black and white on the paper in front of them," Ms Doyle told MPs.

"But however they got here, I am certainly glad that they have progressed."

Mr Robathan said the ministers had "come to the view that we might enhance the bill and that is what we have done".

"We have listened to what people have said and we have responded."

Plaid Cymru parliamentary leader Elfyn Llywd called on the government to provide details in future of how veterans in prison, and those who battle with drug and alcohol problems, were being supported.

"It can, I think, not be a coincidence that so many veterans leave active service displaying an over-independence on alcohol," he said.

He warned that this addiction, if left untreated, could lead to other habits like violent behaviour and crime.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell said the government had to improve accommodation for military personnel and their families.

Mr Russell added: "Frankly, if the government can find money to modernise former army housing to accommodate civilians, then the same government should be able to find the same money to modernise housing fit for the heroes who have just returned from Helmand Province.

"If anything I think the military covenant should look at the families of military personnel as well as the serving personnel."

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