House of Commons Library

Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland

Published Tuesday, March 6, 2018

This Debate Pack has been produced ahead of the Opposition Day debate to be held in the Commons Chamber on Wednesday 7 March 2018, on the 'Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland'. The debate will be on a motion put forward by the Democratic Unionist Party.

Jump to full report >>

The Armed Forces Covenant is a statement of the moral obligation which exists between the nation, the Government and the Armed Forces. It was published in May 2011 and its core principles were enshrined in law, for the first time, in the Armed Forces Act 2011. It applies to all three services.

 The Covenant articulates the view that the nation has a moral obligation to members of the Armed Forces Community in return for the sacrifices they make. Specifically, the Covenant outlines two core principles:  

  • No disadvantage: no current or former member of the armed forces, or their families, should be at a disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services.
  • Special consideration: special consideration is appropriate in some cases, particularly for those who have been injured or bereaved.

The Armed Forces Act 2011 does not create legally enforceable rights for Service personnel but it does require the Secretary of State for Defence to report to Parliament each year on the progress made with respect to the Covenant.

On 18 December 2017 the Government published its latest annual report on the Armed Forces Covenant. It highlights all of those areas where progress has been achieved over the last year, and outlines some key priorities for the future. Most notably a new Ministerial Covenant and veterans Board was established and met for the first time in October 2017. The Board will provide strategic direction for the delivery of Covenant initiatives. In April 2017 the Veterans Gateway was also launched which provides a single point of contact for veterans seeking support.

With respect to Northern Ireland, there has been longstanding criticism over the perceived lack of implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant.


The Library will produce a briefing for this debate and the page will be updated when it is made available. You can be notified when this takes place by emailing

Commons Debate packs CDP-2018-0063

Authors: Nigel Walker; Timothy Robinson; Claire Mills

Topics: Armed forces, Defence policy

Share this page

Stay up to date

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.