Christmas and New Year are times when we want above all to be with our families. It is therefore all the more important that we remember those who our many thousands of miles from their own loved ones, serving their country in our armed forces.
More than three years after John Reid, then Defence Secretary, said that he hoped the British troops being sent to Afghanistan to return home without a shot being fired, this year alone more than 100 British servicemen have died. The bravery displayed by our armed forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere has surpassed all that we are entitled to expect. Every soldier and their families should know that the whole country is right behind them and incredibly grateful for the work that they do.
Recently President Obama announced a big increase in American troops for Afghanistan. If you add to that the extra soldiers that we are sending, we now have the best chance to ensure that our counter-insurgency campaign is successful, to deliver a safer country to the Afghan authorities and then to bring our brave troops home.
One of the best ways that we can show our support for them is by honouring the Military Covenant under which we pledge that those who risk their lives in service of their country are entitled to receive the best possible care and support when they return home.
Last year, the Conservative Party launched its Military Covenant Commission under the chairmanship of Frederick Forsyth. It has examined the health of the Military Covenant and made suggestions on how Government and society could better fulfil the duty they owe our troops, their families and veterans.
The Commission included Falklands hero, Simon Weston, and the military historian and journalist Sir John Keegan. The Commission has now published its report outlining 57 recommendations to improve welfare policy for Service personnel, their families and veterans. I with many of my colleagues have also signed the Royal British Legion campaign pledge to “do my bit” to improve the welfare of serving personnel, past and present, and their families.
We should be immensely proud of our Armed Forces whatever our views on recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our serving men and women, sailors, soldiers and airmen, are currently being let down. They must be able to trust the Government to look after their wellbeing and that of their families and our veterans.