The Ministry of Defence has introduced a series of measures to support our people to cope with the cost of living, including: implementing the independent Armed Forces Pay Review Body’s 2022 pay award recommendations in full; capping subsidised accommodation charges at 1%; freezing food charges; and increasing travel allowances by 7%. More than 32,000 service personnel have received a £150 contribution in lieu of the council tax rebate, families can save around £3,400 per child per year through our wraparound childcare, and our people in service family accommodation are receiving a £400 non-repayable discount to help with energy costs.
I thank the Minister for his response, but nearly 3,000 personnel are already claiming universal credit, and food and heating costs are soaring for everyone. In addition to what he has already said, what discussions is he having with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that all personnel who are entitled to claim universal credit are doing so? What discussions is he having with the Treasury to ensure that personnel are further supported where required?
The hon. Lady will know that universal credit is an in-work benefit and is dependent on income, family size, type of accommodation and a raft of other issues. She will probably be interested to know about the further investment we are putting into family accommodation, which will help with many of the problems that have been reported to me in relation to heating and the cost of energy, especially through insulation. I suspect her constituents will probably be most appreciative of that.
The cost of living crisis is no doubt affecting all those in the armed forces, and so, too, will the call on them to help out during all these strikes. Will the Government reward those who so generously give of their time? I know they are assigned to work over Christmas and new year, but are there any signs of some sort of reward or thank you to those who, yet again, have been called on to fill a hole?
The Army’s most senior soldier says personnel are turning to food banks and second jobs this Christmas, just to make ends meet. Six months ago, I raised the alarm that some troops are having to take second jobs at McDonald’s because of the cost of living crisis. I know the Minister says he is supporting our armed forces during the cost of living crisis, but why is the Ministry of Defence still not collecting data on the number of service personnel using food vouchers and food banks or taking second jobs?
I visited the food bank in my own constituency and discussed the reasons that people use them, which are often complicated. The hon. Gentleman will know that we have accepted the Armed Forces Pay Review Body’s recommendation in full, in recognition of the work that men and women of our armed forces do. He will be aware of the very real big incentives to remain within the armed forces, including a generous non-contributory pension, subsidised accommodation and all the rest of it. He will also be aware of the Haythornthwaite review, which I hope will report soon on what more we can do to incentivise people not only to join but to stay.