The Ministry of Defence and the Office for Veterans’ Affairs are working together with colleagues across Government to improve access to social housing, employment and healthcare, as well as digitising the Veterans UK services. Defence Transition Services is delivering tailored support to service leavers and their families. The Government have delivered a veterans’ railcard and have announced a guaranteed interview scheme in the civil service and a national insurance holiday for veterans’ employers.
RecruitME in Grantham is a specialist recruitment business run by veterans for veterans. Will the Minister join me in congratulating it on its recent award for services to veterans, and will he outline what the Government are doing to encourage more employers to hire a hero?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and the company he mentions. I am clear, and this Government are clear, that the single biggest factor in improving the life chances of any veteran in this country, and their family, is having a job. The Government are fundamentally changing what it means to be a veteran by offering a national insurance contribution holiday, guaranteed interviews and things like that. Working with partners in the private sector, we will make this the best country in the world to be a veteran.
I thank the Minister for his answer. The protections in the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill have been warmly welcomed in constituencies such as mine, but obviously we also have veterans of Operation Banner, so will the Minister reiterate the Department’s intention to bring forward the same protections for people who served in Northern Ireland?
I am happy to reiterate again the Government’s position that those who served on Op Banner will be entitled to equal treatment from the protections that we are bringing forward on Third Reading of the overseas operations Bill tomorrow. I am clear that this is the first Government who are actually dealing with this very knotty and difficult issue. Northern Ireland veterans can be confident that we will not forget them—we will not leave them behind.
Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Veterans Charity, which ran a Halloween-themed charity car wash in my North Devon constituency and raised almost £500 this weekend? Will he also join me in recognising the vital co-operation between Government and the charity sector, with the Veterans Charity having helped 650 veterans this year alone?
I pay tribute to all the groups up and down this country who work tirelessly every day to improve the lot of our veterans, particularly the ones in my hon. Friends’ constituencies. There is a shift in the provision of veterans’ services in this country towards more of a balance between the third sector and statutory provision, but we will always require a blend of the two, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for her lobbying for this cause.