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Armed Forces Covenant

Volume 627: debated on Monday 10 July 2017

The Government are committed to ensuring that service personnel, veterans and their families are not disadvantaged, and that special provision is made for those who have sacrificed the most. We will continue to use the £10 million annual covenant fund to build partnerships that support our military and wider society, including the recently launched veterans gateway, which was mentioned earlier.

Some councils are much more proactive than others in supporting the armed forces covenant and in marking Armed Forces Day. Telford’s Labour-run council has more work to do in ensuring that warm words on a website translate into action. What does he suggest can be done to encourage increased participation in future?

I am really upset to hear that Telford did not join the hundreds of local authorities across the country on 24 June to pay tribute to our armed forces. I was in Plymouth; as we have heard, the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Milton Keynes North (Mark Lancaster) was in Northern Ireland; the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin) was in Woolwich; and the Secretary of State was with the Prime Minister in Liverpool. I am not sure whether the Leader of the Opposition was on that day. We are putting a package of measures together to be given to all hon. Members, so that they can talk to their local authorities and so that next year Telford’s council will join others around the country in paying tribute to our armed forces.

The armed forces covenant is a covenant between those who serve on the frontline and the Government. Those serving on the frontline have over the past six years experienced a real-terms pay cut of about 10%, so does the Minister not agree that that bond of trust is wearing a little thin?

The Secretary of State has already answered the question on the pay itself, but the hon. Lady is absolutely right in what she implies: we have to make sure that we look after our service personnel. We put them in danger and in harm’s way, and we must look after them. Armed Forces Day is one opportunity for the nation to show its appreciation.

The armed forces covenant covers equal access to healthcare. While on the armed forces parliamentary scheme, I met many veterans and serving personnel who have issues relating to stigma and mental health. What more is being done about that?

I am pleased to be launching the new mental health strategy at the end of the month. We are bringing together the “Five Eyes”—New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom—to share best practice on how best to look after our armed forces when they move, retire and become veterans.

I am a proud patron of the veterans charity Forward Assist. Back in March, it was promised just under £200,000 from the tampon tax fund to help its work with female veterans, but the money has yet to materialise. Will the Minister say why there has been a delay and when the money will be released?

I hope the hon. Lady will understand that I am not armed with that information, but I would be more than delighted to meet her to discuss the matter. I pay tribute to her for the work she does to support that important charity.