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Veterans' Badges

Volume 468: debated on Monday 3 December 2007

I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that veterans’ badges have been a tremendous success, but they are only one part of the covenant that exists between the Government, the British people and members of the armed forces. What further action does he intend to take in recognising the unique nature of military service?

My hon. Friend makes an important point about the recognition of veterans. More than half a million veterans’ badges have now been presented, but the awarding of badges is just one of a number of things that we are doing to support veterans. Veterans day itself is an important aspect of what we are doing, and I am sure that next year even more Members will support it than did so this year. We now have a Service Personnel and Veterans Agency, and the Government have appointed a veterans Minister.

Recently, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health made an announcement about priority treatment and I announced new mental health pilots for veterans. The Ministry of Defence will work with the national health service to provide even better support for veterans’ mental health.

The Minister has sensibly led me to my question. Veterans who receive their badges will be interested by Ministers’ announcement of the expansion of NHS priority treatment to all veterans whose injuries or ill health are suspected of being due to service. A veteran hearing that announcement could have been forgiven for thinking that it represented a policy change, but, as the Minister knows, he said exactly the same in a letter to me earlier this year.

Order. The hon. Gentleman should simply ask the Minister whether it represents a policy change.

In his statement, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health made it clear that he was reiterating the policy on veterans and the priority given to their health. Hull primary care trust has also made veterans’ treatment a priority when their GPs consider that they may have a condition resulting from their service. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has raised the issue, because it is important for us to convey the message about veterans’ priority treatment, and I am pleased that my right hon. Friend was able to make that announcement.