Skip to main content

Veterans (Benefits)

Volume 522: debated on Monday 31 January 2011

5. What his policy is on the provision of benefits to veterans; and if he will make a statement. (36738)

Veterans who are injured as a result of their service before 6 April 2005 can apply for compensation in the form of a war pension. For those whose disablement affects their ability to work, additional provision may be made in the form of supplementary allowances, paid in addition to the war pension.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Will he explain why it is proving so difficult, in terms of benefits, to treat the UK’s atomic veterans as fairly and equally as the atomic veterans of other similar nations?

The hon. Gentleman ought to discuss that matter with his own Front-Bench team, as it was the last Government who appealed against the ruling in favour of the atomic war veterans—

Absolutely. As the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) will know, the courts have now decided in favour of the Government. I pay tribute to those who took part in the tests many years ago, but it was about 60-odd years ago and I am afraid that the courts have found that there is no causal link whatever between many of the disabilities and illnesses suffered and exposure to any radiation.

Will the Minister expand a little on his reply in respect of the long-term help that veterans will receive. He has referred to the short-term help, but many of the injured veteran personnel in my Devizes constituency are concerned about where the support will be in 20 or 25 years’ time.

My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. Injured personnel have a high profile and the support of the country at the moment, but in 15, 20 or 30 years’ time, it might be rather different. We are putting in place a whole raft of initiatives. I pay tribute to the last Government, who put a lot of it together. We supported the personnel recovery centre, among others, and there will be such a centre in Tidworth. God willing, we look forward to opening it in the near future.

The Deputy Prime Minister announced a “health for heroes” scheme for veterans in a newspaper article on 23 January. How much funding has the Ministry of Defence dedicated to this scheme?

This is not actually an MOD but a Department of Health measure. As I understand it, the whole mental health package is worth £400 million and it will be announced in April. Some part of it will go towards assistance with mental health problems among members of the armed forces. We already provide a great deal of support to those with mental health problems, not least through the “Fighting Fit” report of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison).