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Cost of Living: Armed Forces Personnel

Volume 718: debated on Monday 18 July 2022

9. What recent assessment his Department has made of the impact of the rise in the cost of living on armed forces personnel. (901121)

16. What recent assessment his Department has made of the impact of the rise in the cost of living on armed forces personnel. (901129)

Our mitigating measures on the cost of living include a freeze of the daily food charge. We are limiting the increase in accommodation charges to 1%, and we are ensuring that the council tax rebate of £150 reaches more than 28,000 of our armed forces people. We are also, of course, bringing in wraparound childcare in time for the new school year.

Will the Minister confirm that the cost of a new £250 million royal yacht, whose principal use will be for champagne receptions, is not coming out of the Ministry of Defence budget during a cost of living crisis, when personnel have not received a real-terms rise for a number of years and while bases in Scotland have been closed and we have the smallest UK standing Army ever?

The hon. Lady makes a flippant point. The serious point is that this new vessel will deliver jobs right across the United Kingdom.

Notwithstanding the Government’s cuts to the armed forces footprint in Scotland, including at Redford barracks in my constituency, over the years Scots have played a very active role in the defence of their country. Yet despite being injured in service, many veterans over 65 in the lowest-income households miss out on pension credit because their war disablement pension is considered as normal income. What steps is the Minister taking to persuade his counterpart at the Department for Work and Pensions to address this anomaly, to help our veterans cope with the rise in the cost of living?

We take any potential anomaly extremely seriously, and I would be pleased to meet the hon. and learned Lady to discuss that specific case. If I may make a general point, it is a bit rich to be told to take lessons on the cost of living from the Scottish National party, given its tax hike on armed forces personnel. There are 7,000 personnel in Scotland who pay £850 more on average, thanks to the SNP tax hike, which should be reviewed. It is absolutely outrageous.

The Government’s own figures show that at least 33,000 veterans are on universal credit, and estimates suggest the actual figure could be double that, so why does the Government’s veterans strategy cut specialist employment support in jobcentres—which would help veterans on universal credit who are out of work get back into employment—by 50%?

We on the Conservative Benches will not perpetuate the myth that receiving universal credit is a bad thing. Many of these people are in high-paid and good jobs. It is a reflection of the fact that this Government support people into work and that military service gives them skills for life.