Action on discrimination urged

Labour leader Ed Miliband meets British soldiers at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan

Labour leader Ed Miliband meets British soldiers at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan

First published in National News © by

Fresh laws may be required to protect armed forces personnel from discrimination and abuse, Ed Miliband said as he called for cross-party action on the issue after meeting troops serving in Afghanistan.

The Labour leader said politicians should consider extending the sort of legal protection offered to racial, sexual and religious minorities if other ways could not be found to ensure serving and retired troops were treated fairly.

Reports that soldiers were this week turned away from a pub in Blackpool by bouncers who told them "No Army here" were just one example of many of the sort of barriers they faced, he said.

During a tour of British bases in southern Helmand, he heard a number of stories of problems with credit ratings because of regular house moves, and issues securing other services such as mobile phones.

While the Military Covenant - setting out the duties owed by the state to the armed forces, has been enshrined in law by the coalition Government, more needed to be done to tackle wider issues, Mr Miliband suggested.

Labour pointed to a poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft which suggested that more than one in five personnel had suffered verbal abuse while in uniform and almost as many, 18%, had been turned away from pubs and clubs.

More than a quarter said they had been refused a mortgage, loan or credit card despite having a full-time job with a decent income, as a result of having a long list of recent addresses.

Specialist recruitment firm ForceSelect had also reported problems with securing posts for veterans, it said.

Speaking at the British embassy in Kabul, Mr Miliband said: "I think it is wrong that any of our troops face discrimination, disadvantage or unfair treatment because they have served in the military or because they are serving.

"It happens in terms of everything from the availability of consumer credit to our troops and some of them outrageously being turned away from pubs and hotels. That should not be happening."

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