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Army Recovery Capability

Volume 515: debated on Monday 13 September 2010

3. What plans he has for the future of the Army recovery capability; and if he will make a statement. (14519)

The coalition Government are fully committed to supporting injured servicemen and women who have sacrificed so much for our country’s security. We are therefore proceeding with the delivery of the Army recovery capability, which was announced by the previous Administration in February this year, in partnership with Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion. This extremely laudable initiative will make a real difference to the support that the sick and wounded receive during and after the excellent clinical care from which they already benefit. Last Wednesday, I met the future Chief of the General Staff to discuss progress with the delivery of this capability, and to consider what more can be done to support these individuals as they return to duty or make the transition to civilian life.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Will the Government confirm that the three new personnel recovery centres are on track to open according to the time scale set up by Labour?

May I first, unusually, pay tribute to the previous Administration? The Army recovery capability represents a really positive, sensible move forward. They committed resources to it, and we shall continue to do so. Yes, at the moment, we are definitely on track for the opening times. I visited the current centre at the Erskine homes in Edinburgh three weeks ago and saw the work that has been going on there. That is improving the whole time. I should say that this is a new development, and things will evolve as we move forward.

One of the centres will be in Bulford and Tidworth, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), and it will open in 2012. Does the Minister agree that, as well as looking after the injured servicemen, there are two elements that we must not lose sight of? The first is to look after their families, who often suffer greatly. The second is to find really practical ways of giving these people jobs and putting them in touch with employers, so that they can be employed for many years to come.

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. Families play a hugely important role in that regard. Indeed, I regularly meet members of the families federations of the Army and the other forces, and I can assure him that they let me know their views in no uncertain terms. Regarding his second point, the Army recovery capability is working on ensuring that, whatever the future of the personnel it is treating, they have a future either in the armed forces or in civilian life.

I am sure that the Minister has seen in The Sun newspaper this morning the proposal to throw out of the armed forces those who have been severely wounded on active service. I note that the Ministry of Defence and the Secretary of State are citing the introduction of manning control points as a justification for that. When I was the Minister responsible for these matters, I resisted the introduction of manning control points, and it was only after intense pressure from the head of the Army, General Sir David Richards, and the Army Board that they were introduced. What was clear, however, was that they would not be used as a way of getting rid of brave servicemen and women injured in the defence of this country—a position that was underlined when General Richards and I launched the Army recovery capability in February. At the time, General Richards said that he expected

“that no soldier who thinks it is in his interests to stay will be forced out.”

May I ask the Minister whether that has now changed? Is it now the intention of the Ministry of Defence, under pressure from the Treasury, to use manning control points to force out those injured in the line of duty? If it is, it will be a moral betrayal and run contrary to all the rhetoric—

Order. We have got the thrust of the question, and I am extremely grateful to the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones). A brief reply from the Minister, please.

I hate to agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I think it would be a moral outrage if we were to throw people out through manning control points after they had been injured on active service. As he will know, if people have been treated through the Army recovery capability, they will be going down an entirely different route and no manning control point will be used at the time. I counsel the hon. Gentleman against believing everything he reads in The Sun or any other newspaper.