Today, I am placing a copy of the Department’s qualitative whole force inclusivity report in the House of Commons Library. It will form part of the evidence the Ministry of Defence is submitting to the Defence Committee’s inquiry into women in the armed forces. The report helps to underline the scale of the task we must address. Given the significance of the issue, I felt that a wider readership was important. The armed forces offer a fantastic career opportunity for men and women alike, but, as the reports highlights, their experiences are not always equal and in some cases are unacceptable. I am determined to level up opportunities for all who work in defence through behaviour and culture change. While much is being done, including the implementation of the Wigston and Gray reports, I am grateful to the Defence Committee for its additional work in this important area.
We take taskforce protection of our service personnel allies very seriously, and want Iran to engage seriously with the international community, especially on its nuclear commitments. We remain concerned over support for militant proscribed groups. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a whole remains subject to UK, EU and US sanctions. Many associated individuals and entities are also designated. We review the list of proscribed groups, but do not routinely comment on specific organisations.
I thank the Secretary of State for answering my question before I asked it, which was excellent and very timely. I thank him for his answer. In recent weeks, Iran has once again threatened to crush its enemies. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been testing long-range missiles and drones. I am aware of what my right hon. Friend said in regard to proscribing the revolutionary guard, but this is a country that continues to destabilise the middle east so we really must go further.
I apologise to my hon. Friend for jumping the gun, so to speak. The IRGC and its activities in the region are destabilising. That is why the United Kingdom is investing, along with its allies and NATO, in keeping places such as Iraq stable and secure. We ask the IRGC and the Iranian Government to desist from that activity, and to return to the table on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action now that we have a new US Administration. Let us try to resolve the nuclear issue and return to some stability.
The Secretary of State mentions nuclear proliferation in relation to Iran, but I am disappointed that he makes no mention of New START—strategic arms reduction treaty—which President Biden rescued last week, particularly as Britain is a beneficiary of the stability that it brings to Europe. He made no mention of New START when it collapsed with President Trump last year. He was also silent when the US pulled out of the 34-nation open skies treaty, so why has Britain become a bystander while the international rules-based order has been breaking down? While it remains essential to maintain our UK nuclear deterrent, will he also use the integrated review to reboot Britain’s commitment to help forge the next generation of necessary arms controls and security agreements?
First, we did not necessarily write it, but I read the right hon. Gentleman’s good article over the weekend with the shadow Foreign Secretary, the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), calling for action on a number of these issues. It was not the case that the United Kingdom did not communicate to the United States Administration the importance of both the open skies treaty and the New START agreement. We welcome its return. Sometimes we do things in public; sometimes we do things in private. It is incredibly important, and we welcome the steps that are being taken, but we should not forget that Russia has consistently broken some of these treaties and played on loopholes, both on chemical weapons and nuclear weapons.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for his relentless campaigning on this. The recent review by the independent Advisory Military Sub-Committee into the case for medallic recognition concluded that it did not meet the level of risk and rigour. However, we are committed to ensuring that we have good wraparound care for those who suffered injury from these operations and exercises at the time.
I can give the hon. Gentleman an assurance that the current contract—which is obviously in the middle of a competition, so I have to be cautious in what I say—is not about driving down terms and conditions; it is about increasing the productivity around getting our boats and ships out on the water and making sure that our men and women of the armed forces are getting the maintenance and the turnaround that is required for taxpayers’ money. I have already met a number of stakeholders, including the leader of the trade union to discuss his concerns. My eyes and ears are wide open to the fears of the workforce, and I shall be working to make sure that whatever comes afterwards is not about driving down conditions, but about increasing and improving service.
The Warrior CSP is now at an advanced stage in its demonstration phase. It has been ongoing for a period—it is now 75% through—but all projects are subject to the integrated review. I know that my hon. Friend would not expect me to comment on any particular project at this stage, but I will say that it is one of a huge number of contributions that Bedfordshire makes to defence, including across Ajax, Wildcat and Tempest. It is a county that has got a great investment in and support for our services.
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. If she writes to me with the specific details, I will be more than happy to help her. However, I am very clear that no previous Government have done more than we have for armed forces communities. We are absolutely determined to get to the root causes of veterans’ suicide, and if the hon. Lady writes to me with the particular case, I will of course reach out and see what we can do.
I of course pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s constituents from RE:ACT, and to Richard Sharp, who set up RE:ACT. I think that every vaccination centre in the UK has veterans serving again in what is a national effort to defeat coronavirus. I pay tribute to them, I thank them for their work, and I urge them to keep going.
There are a number of measures related to service justice in the Armed Forces Bill, which was introduced last Monday. Those measures are particularly focused on improving the experience of those who use the system and make service complaints, making that system more transparent, with more integrity and more resilience to challenge. My hon. Friend will be delighted to hear that the Bill will have its Second Reading next Monday. There is some really good stuff in there; I urge her to have a look at it, and I am more than happy to engage with her further on the issues.
The hon. Gentleman makes a point, which is that first, we, as the United Kingdom armed forces, are here to help, and will do whatever is needed to help any one of the four nations of the United Kingdom. The amazing thing about the United Kingdom—the most successful political union in history—is that we are here to help each other seamlessly. An 80-year-old in need of a vaccine in London has the same need as an 80-year-old in Caithness. Our armed forces are all of our armed forces, and we will not be playing petty nationalist politics when it comes to defeating this evil virus.
On behalf of everyone in Bolton, I would also like to wish Sir Tom a speedy recovery. I was heartened to hear that many soldiers have been deployed to set up 80 new covid-19 vaccine centres for NHS Scotland. Can my hon. Friend confirm how many have now opened as a result of this military support?
We are very proud of the fact that military planners and advisers are embedded in so many Departments of the Scottish Government, just as they are down here in Whitehall with the UK Government, helping to make sure that the response of the Scottish Government is properly resourced with military expertise and planning horsepower. At present, 70 vaccination centres have been identified in Scotland as a result of the support from the United Kingdom’s armed forces, with 11 of those now open.
I am happy to look into the specific parameters of the issue that the hon. Lady raises. I have been very clear that with representatives of the armed forces in every DWP centre, helping users of the service, we now have a better service than we have ever had for those who use those jobcentres. We are always looking to do more. My heart goes out in this appalling case, and I am more than happy to look at it. However, the reality is that the vast majority of our people have an excellent experience in very difficult times. I pay tribute to the staff at the DWP and all those working in jobcentres, particularly at the moment.
We have many team medics, who are trained in advanced first aid and are well used to injecting morphine with some urgency on the battlefield. We are looking at how we might train them to be part of the vaccination process. There are 275 of them currently undertaking training, and clearly, the more of them we can make available, the better we will be able to support the NHS in vaccine delivery.
The veterans ID card is an important recognition of those who have served. Everyone who leaves the services receives an ID card. The hon. Lady is right to identify the challenges in backdating the cards, with issues of fraud and so on. We are committed to delivering this year, and backdating the cards for all those who have served, so that everyone has an important memento of their service in the UK armed forces.
I can confirm that that is very much the requirement, and we would fully expect all those whom we send out to support local authorities to be properly catered for. There have been one or two instances —one was reported to me by my hon. Friend—in which the service has fallen short. That is not good enough; we are investigating.
The Department has worked hard to put our arms around veterans across the community, working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to make sure that our homeless veterans are looked after. We have commissioned studies from King’s College to look at the specific impacts of the covid-19 pandemic on veterans. We are committed to making sure that we do our duty by those who serve, and I am confident that we will do so.