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Veterans (Support)

Volume 551: debated on Monday 22 October 2012

10. What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on increasing support for veterans in finding work. (123721)

15. What support his Department is providing for veterans seeking employment; and if he will make a statement. (123726)

With permission, I shall answer these questions together as I understand that they have actually been grouped.

The MOD regularly meets the Department for Education, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department for Work and Pensions and others regarding initiatives to assist service leavers in making a successful transition to civilian life. Prior to leaving, all service personnel are entitled to some form of resettlement assistance, consisting of time, money and training, according to length of service. Those who serve six years or more, and all those medically discharged, regardless of how long served, are entitled to the full resettlement programme, which includes a three-day career transition workshop, the use of a career consultant, a job-finding service, retraining time and a retraining grant.

To leave the armed forces is to lose a way of life. Does the Minister not accept that we have a triple obligation to our heroes—never to short-change them by making them redundant within days of their enjoying a full pension; always to ensure that they get the support necessary to re-enter civilian life; and, crucially, to honour their past service to this country? Will he therefore take this opportunity to apologise to the House and the Royal Fusiliers for the actions of one of his fellow Ministers last week, who wrongly sought to exclude those brave men from the Public Gallery?

I do not believe that my right hon. Friend attempted to do that. The hon. Gentleman’s first point was addressed directly in an earlier answer by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I agree that we should endeavour to do the best for our service men and women when they leave the service—it is part of the armed forces covenant—and on that I can offer the hon. Gentleman some specific good news and one direct example: BT is set to bolster its current work force by recruiting 250 further engineers from service personnel already committed to leaving the armed forces. That will make a total of 1,000 people whom BT has taken on under that heading, and we welcome that.

Given the worrying statistics on the problems faced by ex-service people in gaining employment, would Ministers be interested to hear that 1 Rifles is working with Omega Resource Group from my constituency in developing veteran-specific employment programmes? Is that something they would like to hear more about, and should it be considered in Lord Ashcroft’s review?

I would indeed be interested to hear more about that, as I am sure will be Lord Ashcroft. I know for a fact that, for instance, the Rifles have been working on projects to help seriously wounded ex-servicemen to engage in archaeology. A number have gone on to study archaeology or have applied to study it in further or higher education as a result of that initiative. The Rifles have an active programme in this regard, and we commend them for it.