Leaders mark D-Day anniversary with veterans pledges

D-Day veteran Joe Randall
[Reuters]

The UK's political leaders are marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings by setting out their electoral offer to veterans and members of the armed forces.

The Conservatives say they would cut the cost of veterans' railcards by a third and keep in place tax breaks for employers of veterans.

Labour has committed to setting up a new commissioner to speak for members of the armed forces.

The Liberal Democrats are promising to improve Ministry of Defence housing.

Commemorations are taking place all week to pay tribute to those who took part in the D-Day landings - the military operation which began the campaign to liberate north-west Europe from Nazi occupation.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer attended an event in Portsmouth held for the 80th anniversary of the operation.

Speaking ahead of further events on Thursday, Mr Sunak said his party would, if re-elected, reduce the price of veterans' railcards from £30 per year to £21 - funded from the Department for Transport's existing budget.

It is also re-committing to introducing a Veterans' Bill which would criminalise the wearing of medals that people are not entitled to and ensure military qualifications get equal standing with civilian ones.

A Labour spokesperson said: “Veterans have had 14 years of the Conservatives promising a lot but delivering very little."

In a statement, Sir Keir Starmer said the country owed "a huge debt of gratitude" to armed forces personnel and veterans and that his party would "repay that commitment with a new package of support".

Labour said it would use its first King's Speech to legislate for a new armed forces commissioner to be a "strong independent champion" for the serving forces and their families.

It said it would also enshrine in law a new armed forces covenant to ensure "everyone who serves or has served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated with fairness and respect".

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said he wanted to ensure that "everyone who has stood in defence of our nation is rewarded and properly supported".

The Lib Dems' plans for the armed forces include reviewing maintenance contracts for Ministry of Defence housing and ensuring military compensation for illness or injury does not count towards means testing for benefits.

The SNP has previously said it supports the creation of an armed forces union body to ensure veterans can access services.

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said veterans would not "trust any pledges from the Conservatives" and attacked the government for not adding veterans ID cards to the list of documents that can be used to vote in elections.

The government has previously said it intended to add the veterans card - which was rolled out in January - to the list of valid ID.

Reform UK has said it would instigate a "veterans first" priority status for access to healthcare, housing and training.