Armed Forces Act (with its variations) is a stock short title used for legislation in India, Malaysia and the United Kingdom relating to armed forces. The bill for an act with this short title will usually have been known as an Armed Forces Bill during its passage through Parliament.
Armed Forces Acts may be a generic name either for legislation bearing that short title or for all legislation which relates to armed forces.
In the United Kingdom, an Armed Forces Act must be passed every five years to enable the maintenance of a standing army, which would otherwise be illegal under the Bill of Rights 1689.
For constitutional reasons an Armed Forces Bill is required every five years. The primary purpose of Armed Forces Bills is accordingly to provide for the continuation for a further period of up to five years of the provisions enabling the armed forces to be recruited and maintained as disciplined bodies.
Since 1955 the Army and Air Force Acts (and, since 1971, the Naval Discipline Act) have been subject to renewal by primary legislation every five years and, in each of the intervening years, by an Order in Council approved in draft by both Houses of Parliament. This requirement for Parliamentary agreement for their continuation has its origins in the Bill of Rights 1688, which provides that the raising of a standing army is against the law unless Parliament consents to it. Since the 1950s the five-yearly Bills have been used primarily to make necessary and desirable amendments to the SDAs [Service Discipline Acts], often to reflect changes in the civilian criminal law of England and Wales.