A warm welcome and hello to all our November 2023 Update. Much has happened in the four weeks since our last update, but November is a month of 2 very different commitments: a time for reflection and commemoration of those who have fallen and a final chance to ensure the best possible outcomes of the Etherton Report recommendations through the campaign. For Remembrance, though, our campaign fell silent.
With huge thanks to RBL’s Commemorative Events team, over 50 LGBT+ veterans were able to mark Remembrance at the national ceremonies, with many others attending services throughout the UK, reported separately in the regional news sections below. With amazing support from trustee Kate Green within RBL and the outstanding organisational lead of Alex Meyrick, FWPs Veterans Community Worker for London, we supported forty veterans to attend the Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 11th November at the matinee and evening performances, and thirty-six LGBT+ Veterans to march in the FWP contingent at the Cenotaph on the Sunday, with others proudly rejoining their own units or associations. It was a weekend of pride, reflection, tears and commemoration, closed with a FWP Reception hosted again at the fabulous Phoenix Arts Club, with huge thanks to RAF Veteran Ken Wright and husband Colin. Ken proudly held this year’s honour of being FWP’s wreath bearer for the Cenotaph service. For the very first time, FWP was also invited to parade a Standard at the Festival of Remembrance, with Claire Ashton doing us all proud as the Standard Bearer, and amongst all the inspirational speakers and performers on the Festival stage, Sergeant Sarah O’Connor’s unexpected words brought cheer when she said ‘As an Army Reservist, my LGBT identity has never held me back. I remember all the people who served before me who weren’t able to be themselves, and honour those who fought for the right for me to live my most authentic life.’ You can listen to Sarah’s words here.
Remembrance never leaves the hearts of those who have served or their loved ones, and every day, we look back as much as we look forward, with pride and respect for all those who have served, are serving, and will serve. For now, post-remembrance, we have returned to our own campaign as we anticipate the Government’s response to the LGBT Veterans Independent Review’s Final Report and its recommendations on reparations.
We continue working with the MOD and the veterans’ reparations group, and the MOD information and application front-door webpage enters its final stages of completion, ready to go live as soon as the outcomes of the response are announced by the Government, through the Secretary of State for Defence. The MOD’s work on non-financial reparations is keenly proactive, positive and thoughtful and will be welcomed by many; therefore, our main focus remains the financial reparations and, in particular, the Government’s planned £50m cap on total compensation. The detail of any financial compensation has yet to be announced, but we are reinforcing our message that the Government imposed this cap in Lord Etherton’s Terms of Reference, and it must be removed. Compensation must be based fairly on impact and need, but a limiting cap won’t allow this, especially when the final number of recipients has yet to be determined or individually considered.
Allies in Parliament are already calling for the cap not to be implemented and, following an event we hosted recently in Edinburgh, opened by Mr Graeme Dey MSP (Minister for Veterans, Higher and Further Education), support from Scottish ministers has included Keith Brown MSP submitting a motion in Scottish Parliament that will be announced soon publicly. In the past week, hundreds of you have responded to our call to write to your MP, MSP or MS too. This is the moment for every voice to be heard to ensure that the debate in Parliament is widely informed and that financial reparations are meaningful and impactful. If you wish to include some of your own story in your letter but are worried about revisiting difficult times, please don’t feel you have to. A short overview of key facts is just as helpful.
This is likely our last chance to influence the outcome of the reparations discussion, and the important detail is that the impacts and consequences of the ban are shockingly cruel and have lasted a lifetime, that the cap cannot be justified and that payments need to be fair. So many of you have endured, but your futures must be brighter and financial reparation needs to bring a sense of justice, comfort and security in later life. You can help our campaigning by making sure your politicians hear your voices.
If you need aid to identify or connect to your MP, whether as a veteran, ally or supporter, please see the advice we recently published in our call to Write to Your MP, which is repeated in the November newsletter and can be found in our social media or on our website, and includes an example letter for guidance.
We hope to have an update for you at our next Town Hall and very much look forward to seeing you there on 11th December; see details below.
Craig and Caroline