Discriminating against troops 'should be illegal'
28 May 2012
The government must hold urgent cross-party talks on how to end discrimination against members of the armed forces, including consideration of new legal protections, Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy has said.
Earlier this month a survey of more than 9,000 military personnel, organised by Lord Ashcroft, revealed that one in five had been verbally abused by members of the public whilst wearing their uniform.
Now, Labour is calling for possible legal protections to prevent discrimination against troops in uniform.
In a letter to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond on 27 May, Murphy wrote: "There are many examples of legal rights for specific groups to protect against discrimination, harassment or abuse, but none for the armed forces and wider service community. Recent evidence shows that discrimination remains an issue and we believe now is the time to discuss enshrining greater protection for service personnel, veterans and their families.
"We support the progress that has been made by enshrining the Military Covenant in law, but believe we can take this further to ensure the principle that no-one should suffer disadvantage as a result of service applies across society, not just in limited policy areas, and becomes a characteristic of our country."
Lord Ashcroft's survey found that 18 per cent of personnel reported having been refused service while in uniform and 6 per cent said that they had been subjected to violence or threats of violence.
Labour says any new protections should specifically protect forces personnel from discrimination in gaining access to housing, public and private services, the provision of goods and services, consumer rights and harassment or victimisation.
"Any talks must listen to the military, because we must in no way impact on the chain of command and rules covering active duty," Murphy wrote on the Huffington Post website. "We should also involve the service charities, who are often among the closest to the service community we aim to protect."
While Lord Ashcroft's survey did find evidence of discrimination, the reports of negative reactions were far outweighed by the number of positive incidents.
Some 56 per cent of personnel wearing their military uniform in public were offered thanks or support by strangers, 29 per cent had been offered drinks and some 26 per cent had reportedly been given on-the-spot discounts from shops and business.
HAVE YOUR SAY
28 May 2012
Radical, when the services themselves still suffer "institutional sexism", frequent sexual harassment suits and bullying, and we've only just got past the "it is okay to be gay" (America still hasn't - God knows about the res tof NATO).
When there is a female CGS then things will have changed.
AlMiles - Bristol, UK
28 May 2012
Who is this Murphy guy. He actually seems to be speaking sense. Military effectiveness isn't just about balancing books. It does come from the heart. Regiments. Squadrons. Trophies. Veterans associations. Communities. That's why we're good at it. The present group of tories simply can't grasp that. So well done Hammond for balancing the books. Now hand over to Murphy.
DC - Wellington