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Armed Forces Covenant

Volume 637: debated on Monday 5 March 2018

8. What steps he is taking to encourage more organisations to participate in the armed forces covenant. (904159)

The armed forces covenant annual report was published in December 2017. I am pleased to say that more than 2,000 organisations and companies are now signed up. The new cross-Whitehall body, the veterans board, chaired by the Defence Secretary, is used to ensure that all Departments meet their covenant commitments.

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. What conversations has he had with colleagues in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government about ensuring that there is better understanding in local government of their duties and obligations and what they need to be doing under the covenant?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. It is important that each Department understands its commitments. That is why I stressed the importance of the veterans board, on which the Secretaries of State of all the Departments are represented. We now have proper assessment techniques to make sure that Departments’ commitments—in that case, to do with housing—are met.

Members across the House and people across the country were horrified to read last week that the Ministry of Defence had taken money raised from the LIBOR funds that was supposed to benefit forces charities and support the delivery of the armed forces covenant, and instead spent it on projects—although worthy ones—that should be part of routine departmental spending. We know that things are bad in the MOD, but it can hardly consider itself a charity. Can the Minister tell the House how that was allowed to happen? More importantly, will the Ministry be paying the money back?

I also saw those comments in the press. It is important to understand that LIBOR grants are there for additional facilities. The MOD has a responsibility to provide core activities. Obviously, there is a grey area between a core activity and an additional facility. I am more than happy to look at the details of what the hon. Gentleman raises, and I will write to him.