Starmer’s armed forces commissioner vow as Tories say he will put UK ‘in danger’

Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to introduce a new armed forces commissioner and lead a “government of service” if Labour is elected.

The commissioner role will aim to champion those who serve by investigating issues such as sub-standard housing, faulty kit and poor discharge support, the party said.

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said only the Conservatives have a plan for veterans and can secure the future of the UK, before warning that a vote for Labour would “put us all in danger”.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer at the UK’s national commemorative event for the 80th anniversary of D-Day
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer at the UK’s national commemorative event for the 80th anniversary of D-Day (Kin Cheung/PA)

The Labour leader is set to mark Armed Forces Day, alongside shadow defence secretary John Healey, by visiting a veterans’ coffee morning in the south east of England.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has praised the dedication of the UK’s service men and women and their families and committed to securing Britain’s place on the world stage.

Ahead of the visit on Saturday, Sir Keir said the role will “help to renew the moral contract with those who serve our nation”.

The independent commissioner will report to Parliament, not ministers, and provisions will be made so that visits and inspections of Ministry of Defence sites can take place without prior approval from the defence secretary.

Sir Keir said: “Labour is deeply proud of our armed forces personnel, veterans, and their families for the contribution they make to our country.

“Theirs is the ultimate public service – and their professionalism and bravery is rightly respected across the world.

“As we mark Armed Forces Day, I am proud to say that if we are privileged to serve, my Labour government will demonstrate our respect and thanks, in action for our forces communities.

“We will legislate in our first year for an armed forces commissioner to act as a strong champion for our forces and their families.

“The commissioner will help to renew the moral contract with those who serve our nation, and the families who support them.

“This changed Labour Party will always back our forces. We’ll always ensure that those who defend our country have their voices heard at the highest level.”

Mr Healey said the Labour Party will look after the armed forces “just as they look after us”.

He added: “The first duty of any Government is to keep the nation safe and protect its citizens.

“Our new independent armed forces commissioner will have the powers to investigate and report on things which affect the everyday lives of those who serve – such as substandard housing, faulty kit or poor support ahead of discharge.”

Rishi Sunak and Johnny Mercer smile while standing in front of aircraft
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and minister for veterans’ affairs Johnny Mercer (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ahead of Armed Forces Day, Mr Sunak pointed to the importance of increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP.

As part of the Conservatives’ election pledges, the party is proposing to commission an independent review of the medical discharge process, retain the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, and ensure veterans receive benefits and compensation.

The Prime Minister said: “The women and men who serve in our armed forces represent the very best of Britain. They put their lives on the line for us, and their display of duty, dedication and selfless personal sacrifice are an inspiration to us all.

“It should be the first responsibility of any Government to support those who defend us.

“It’s why it’s so important that we get defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030, and also why we must continue our mission to make the UK the best country in the world to be a veteran.

“In an increasingly dangerous world, our service men and women play an ever more critical role in keeping us safe. We each owe them and their families a huge amount, and on Armed Forces Day I pay personal tribute to everything they do for us and our country.”

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said: “On this Armed Forces Day, I want to personally thank all our brave armed forces, both serving personnel, veterans and their families.

“They all play a vital role in the security of our nation, which is becoming increasingly perilous.

“We are the only party which has committed to the Help for Heroes Veterans’ Pledge showing that, whilst others pay lip service to veterans, we are firmly on their side.

“Sir Keir Starmer on the other hand can’t match our veterans’ pledges, protect old veterans from being hauled before juries nor back our defence spending increases.

“Only the Conservatives have a clear plan to support our armed forces and secure the future of our country. Don’t vote to let Starmer put us all in danger from Downing Street.”