July Update from Craig Jones MBE (Executive Chair) and Caroline Paige (Chief Executive)
Welcome to our July News Update. On the 19th of July 2023, the long-awaited LGBT Veterans’ Independent Review Report was published along with Lord Etherton’s 49 recommendations for reparations. The first to be actioned was an apology from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on behalf of the British state.
In the words of the Prime Minister:
“The ban on LGBT people serving in our military until the year 2000 was an appalling failure of the British state – decades behind the law of this land.
“As today’s report makes clear, in that period many endured the most horrific sexual abuse and violence, homophobic bullying and harassment while bravely serving this country.
“Today, on behalf of the British state, I apologise, and I hope all those affected will be able to feel part of the proud veteran community that has done so much to keep our country safe.”
We understand the PM’s apology was unscripted by choice, and it was unprecedented for such a statement to be heard at the beginning of Prime Ministers Questions (PMQs), before the rest of business was begun.
The outcomes of 19th July have been far too long a time in the making but are a direct result of the courage of many of you who gave your evidence without which the report would have been academic. The voices of those who reached back into their hurt have delivered the opportunity for a real difference to be made for all. Although this has happened over 23 years after the ban was lifted on LGBT+ service in the British Armed Forces, we are proud that in 2 years 4 months, after we gave evidence to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, which led to the formation of the LGBT Veterans’ Independent Review, FWP’s continuous campaign has seen this day through. We should all take pride and assurance that the LGBT Veterans’ Independent Review only launched its Call for Evidence on 15th July 2022, just 1 year 4 days before the announcement of the publication of its report in Parliament, an achievement that says much about the will to deliver this, quickly but properly.
The apology is important, it is there for every single LGBT+ person who stepped up to serve, and those wrongly identified to be LGBT+ too, whatever the circumstances of your service or your leaving. It is there for the families, friends, colleagues and allies too, those who suffered, those we lost, and those who cared. The apology is yours to own or dismiss, it can never repair what happened, and it will mean many different things to many different people, in good, bad or indifferent ways, but it is a start and there was much more to the day. The apology will never be lost to history, recorded forever in Hansard and with film and audio by the BBC.
The Prime Minister’s apology was closely guarded by Downing Street, an ordinary part of their process, but it did mean that all but 2 veterans watched the apology on television. We joined a small selection of veterans and Government officials, invited at short notice by the Office for Veterans Affairs, to watch from the Cabinet Office, accompanied by Dr Andrew Murrison MP Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Military Families and Johnny Mercer MP, Cabinet Minister for Veterans Affairs. Both Ministers repeated apologies they had given individually previously, and Min DPV spoke further of the importance of this day and his and the Government’s commitment to making sure that the recommendations in Lord Etherton’s report would be actioned as closely to their intent as possible, and where they couldn’t be due to ‘technicalities’, they would continue to work with FWP and LGBT Veterans to ensure the best possible acceptable alternative to deliver the intent. Minister Mercer left a little before 1200 to take 2 representative veterans to witness the PM’s speech in the commons, one a male Army rating and one a female Royal Navy rating, both of whom had lost their careers because of the ban.
We wanted to see a greater selection of veterans there on such a momentous day. Sadly, these matters are controlled by 10 Downing Street, and as much as we would have wished to know and communicate details of the apology, give notice, or get more veterans there, these matters were beyond the influence of ourselves, or the Ministers involved. We are happy to have won this apology, but less thrilled by the arrangements to witness delivery! If an FWP Team Member ever becomes Prime Minister, there will be changes!!
Following the PMs apology, we entered Parliament and were seated in the Strangers’ Gallery, above the House of Commons chamber, to hear Ben Wallace as he dedicated his final statement in the House as Secretary of State for Defence, to be solely on the report into the LGBT+ ban and its impacts and consequences, with a humble and sincere apology of his own as a veteran who was serving at that time.
His words were impactful and straight from the heart. His commitment to work with the community and his motion to the opposition parties to hold him to account if the reparations weren’t agreeable, to work with him to find better ways if need be, were powerful insights into his sincerity. Though we have no intention of relaxing our own obligations either until the job is done. What was equally reassuring was the support and commitment of every member present in the house who stood to recognise the courage and suffering of those impacted by the ban and the urgent need to deliver swift and proper reparation, and through their own questions, they made clear how they would hold Government to account in delivering them. In his speech the Secretary of State seemed to suggest that enigma code breaker, Alan Turing should be commemorated in Trafalgar Square, we have a feeling that might be a news feature tomorrow!!
If you have not seen the Prime Ministers or Secretary of State’s speech and the subsequent debate, you can catch up here:
In the body of this newsletter, we have also included links to the Review’s Final Report, their Analysis Report, next steps, MODs website for details on some of the ‘restorations’ available now, and an information sheet that includes a copy of the Prime Minister’s apology and the Secretary of State for Defence statement in full.
Please be careful when reading the reports as they contain lived experience accounts that may trigger additional or unknowingly suppressed bad memories or experiences within anyone reading them. Please do reach out for support if you need it. Details of support resources are within this newsletter.
The Government has accepted all 49 recommendations in principle, with some reparations accessible immediately (MOD link) but others, including compensation, are, in their own words, needing more time to resolve such that they are delivered properly and justly. There was a commitment to follow up on these reparations and restorations on return from the summer recess, and we will hold them to that. We will keep you updated through our website, newsletters, bulletins and social media, and please do get in touch if you have any questions.
There is of course much more detail to cover than we can do here and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at our Town Hall Zoom meeting on Monday (24th July) at 1830 BST (registration details are included below).
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning’.
We know we have much more to do, and we won’t stop until we reach the end.