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Speaking in the House of Lords today DUP deputy leader and Peer Nigel Dodds welcomed the Armed Forces Covenant being put into law and called for its extension.

He said: “The Armed Forces Covenant is so important given that it represents the promise between our country and those who put on the uniform to serve it and to protect us. It is our solemn responsibility to look after them both while they are in service and afterwards.

I very much welcome the provisions in the Armed Forces Bill to strengthen the statutory underpinning of the Covenant and to put it into law.

I am pleased that this legislation will apply to the whole of the United Kingdom.This is something that we have been campaigning for for some considerable time.

This fulfils the commitment which we secured in New Decade New Approach agreement that there should be statutory underpinning of the Armed Forces covenant on a UK wide basis.

Sadly there have been attempts to block the implementation of the Covenant in Northern Ireland with some trying to deny it applies. This is in a country where despite making up less than 3% of the population of the UK, our people contribute in much larger numbers proportionately than elsewhere, both to the regular, as well as the reserve forces.

Veterans in Northern Ireland have particular difficulties and challenges given that many of them live where they also carried out operational duties.

However I believe the government could be even more ambitious.

The legislation should go further than covering the areas of health, education and housing to include other areas such as employment, pensions, education, criminal justice and social care to name but a few.

The legislation will give the Government the power to add extra public bodies and other functions if that is felt to be necessary in the future. I hope it will act swiftly to do so.

We owe such a debt of gratitude to the service men and women of our armed forces. Their courage, professionalism and outstanding devotion to duty is unparalleled anywhere in the world.

It must never be forgotten that the sacrifices of our armed forces both at home and abroad enable us to carry on our daily lives protected as far as possible from hostile action and secure in our democracy and liberties.

And no one epitomised more the best qualities of our veterans than the late Captain Sir Tom Moore who will never be forgotten.

I also pay tribute to all those organisations and charities which have done so much for veterans through delivering services and helping champion their cause. Each and everyone of them, and the many volunteers involved, deserve our highest praise."