Later today Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox will welcome the interim report of the party’s Military Covenant Commission, chaired by Frederick Forsyth and launched by David Cameron in March. The report will recommend:
- A guaranteed NHS dentist for service families even if the lists in the areas they move to are full.
- Passporting of their place on NHS waiting lists so that they do not start waiting all over again when they move from one NHS jurisdiction to another.
- Extra investment in pre-school childcare and after school clubs.
- Extra education funding for servicemen’s children; the report finds problems of underachievement related to constant changing of schools.
- Faster refurbishment of service families’ accommodation.
- A new system for compensating injured soldiers so that "functional impairment rather than a formulaic assessment of individual injuries" determines payments.
The report’s recommendations will now go to Dr Fox and the shadow cabinet for consideration.
Dr Fox told The Sunday Telegraph that Tory defence policy would have five priorities:
- Repair the Military Covenant
- Sell parts of the defence estate to improve service housing.
- Place greater pressure on Nato countries to contribute troops and cash to the war in Afghanistan.
- Transform defence procurement.
- Hold a Strategic Defence Review.
The Shadow Defence Secretary expands on those themes in an interview for this morning’s Financial Times. The man regarded as the leading voice of the right, tells the FT that tax cuts may be impossible because of the possibility that the party might inherit “unpleasant, unpaid bills” at the Ministry of Defence. An on-message Dr Fox says:
"I take every opportunity, despite being an ardent tax cutter myself, to warn my colleagues that we may find a number of unpleasant unpaid bills left behind by Labour on taking office. I would not go as far as to call it a scorched earth policy, but we have big worries about the size of this.”
Conservative Party members have voted for the defence budget to be an incoming Conservative government’s number one expenditure priority.
ConservativeHome’s Samuel Coates will be at today’s Forsyth Commission launch and will report more afterwards.