Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Armed Forces to continue to exist ....!

It is an interesting quirk of English law that it is necessary for Parliament to renew the existence of the Armed Forces of the Crown.  This is usually done annually.  The government is now taking the appropriate steps to renew them until 8th November 2011 - see Draft Renewal Order.  This requirement stems from the Bill of Rights 1689 which states that - "raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law".

From October 2009, the Armed Forces Act 2006 provides a uniform code of law for the Armed Forces and has replaced earlier "Service Discipline Acts" - viz. Army Act 1955, Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957.  The process used to change from the old discipline acts to the 2006 Act regime was exceptionally convoluted - (see the Explanatory note to the renewal order).

Addendum:  Simon Jenkins writes in The Guardian 9th June that the armed forces should be wrapped up saving the country £45bn per year.  I would certainly not go as far as Mr Jenkins since there has to be the capability to defend essential British interests including those abroad.  Also, Mr Jenkins does not consider the amount of employment which the defence industry, rightly or wrongly depending on your viewpoint,  generates.  I think that I will leave it there since (a) this is a law blog and (b) I wondered here and here whether British foreign policy would be all that different under the new government.


  1. Even quirkier, the 2006 Act now extended does not in terms authorise the keeping of a standing army (although it makes little sense if there isn't one).

    And of course there was never any need to renew authority for the keeping of a navy, since the navy cannot be used by the Crown to oppress the citizenry (except at the seaside, but there ...)

  2. Nicholas - thanks. Yes, of course there was no air force in 1689 and the Bill of Rights did not mention the navy. However, the practice grew of renewing all 3 services through the method renewing the individual service discipline acts. Since October 2009, it is only necessary to renew the 2006 Act.

    The Bystander blog had some interesting discussion about this in the context of a man they charged with wearing medals to which he was not entitled (Army Act 1955). The 2006 Act does not contain such an offence and it transpired that the Army Act 1955 had been repealed before he wore the medals at a Remembrance Day parade! See here.