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Veterans (Support)

Volume 551: debated on Monday 22 October 2012

4. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on steps to ensure that seriously wounded war veterans will receive a minimum of £130 per week towards the cost of care and living. (123714)

The Defence Secretary has regular discussions with his Cabinet colleagues regarding the support provided to those who have been seriously wounded while serving in the armed forces. The matter has also been discussed by the Cabinet Sub-Committee on the Armed Forces Covenant. Work on minimum payments is at an early stage, but Ministry of Defence officials continue to work closely with the Department for Work and Pensions to develop the support that we provide to service personnel and veterans.

There seems to be a little hope in the Minister’s answer. Will he say what is being done now about veterans who have already lost their disability living allowance? My constituent Aaron Moon lost his leg in Afghanistan and had more than six months without disability living allowance. Surely that is not the right way to treat our wounded heroes.

I hope that we can offer the hon. Lady some good news. When the personal independence payment comes in, anyone will be able to apply for it. However, seriously injured service personnel and ex-service personnel will instead be able to apply for a separate payment, which will guarantee that they will not be worse off than under disability living allowance. Under that payment, they will not be subject to periodic reassessment, as PIP recipients will be. The separate payment, which is known as the armed forces independence payment, or AFIP, will be available to those in receipt of an award from the armed forces compensation scheme at tariff levels 1 to 8, or with an entitlement to a guaranteed income payment of 50% or higher.

11. Does the Minister share my concern that multiple amputee UK soldiers are not receiving the Genium X2 product, which is generally accredited as the best available in the prosthetics field and is used by the US? Will he agree to meet triple amputee Rifleman Jack Otter, who is my constituent, to understand the difficulties and worries that such people have? (123722)

I understand that my hon. Friend’s Question was further down the Order Paper, but has been grouped with another Question. However, using the principles of military flexibility, I will attempt to be fleet of foot.

I am familiar with the issue that my hon. Friend raises. The Ministry of Defence has made considerable investments at Headley Court to provide a world-class service for those with prosthetics. I was present when His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales opened the new £17 million Jubilee rehabilitation wing, which was paid for by the Ministry of Defence. The Secretary of State has recently announced a further £5 million of investment. I am familiar with the case of my hon. Friend’s constituent and will agree to meet him. However, I must enter the caveat that I am not qualified as a doctor and that I will have to take clinical advice on what decision it would be best to take following the meeting.

I have known the right hon. Gentleman for 27 years and he is often right, but on this occasion he is half right. The hon. Member for Enfield North (Nick de Bois) does have a Question lower down the Order Paper. That played a part in my choosing to call him now. It is Question 11, as the right hon. Gentleman will correctly discern, but it has not been grouped with any other Question.

I welcome the Minister to his post. Having travelled with him and his colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne), all the way to Stanley last year, I can say that an 18-hour journey is useful in fostering cross-party co-operation.

I welcome the Minister’s comments today because, despite the Prime Minister’s assurances on the personal independence payment, in a letter to me dated 30 September the then Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), who had responsibility for disabled people, wrote:

“we are working with the MOD to establish if it would be possible to avoid severely injured veterans undergoing multiple reassessments”.

At that stage, the Prime Minister’s message clearly had not filtered through to Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions. Will the Minister clarify how far back the policy that he has announced today will apply?

It was an enjoyable trip, but what goes on tour stays on tour.

As I have already tried to explain, there will be a special payment called the AFIP, which we hope will be able to address the bulk of these issues. The hon. Lady will know from her interest in the field that the second principle of the armed forces covenant is special treatment where appropriate, especially for the injured or bereaved. We hope that the AFIP will play into that and be an example of the second principle of the covenant in action.