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Support for Veterans

Volume 671: debated on Monday 3 February 2020

The strategy for our veterans outlines a 10-year vision. The MOD has launched a new holistic transition policy, broadening the support offered to our people. Resettlement policy and the career transition partnership provide this employment support.

Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking businesses in my constituency, such as Iggesund, James Walker & Co and TSP Engineering, among others, that have actively recruited veterans? Will he pledge his support for companies like them to help veterans after their valued service?

I certainly pay tribute to my hon. Friend and the company he mentions. Veterans in this country are a significant untapped resource, and one primary objective of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs is to re-evaluate what the perception of veterans is in this country. They bring so much to so many companies across the land, including the one he mentions.

An area where we can do more to tackle disadvantage that families face is in helping bereaved services children in the education system. Will my hon. Friend therefore look favourably at proposals from Scotty’s Little Soldiers, an excellent charity based in King’s Lynn, in my constituency, to track and support 1,000 bereaved services children in our schools?

Absolutely. I pay tribute to those at Scotty’s Little Soldiers, who have done a remarkable job over the years, and I am seeing them tomorrow. Data is an area where the Government are determined to do their work to make sure that all of our policies are evidence-based and that they reach the people who need them tracking service families, particularly bereaved families, through schools is an important part of that work.

Since 2013, four men have been lost to their families following their deaths during Army training in the Brecon area. The parents of one of these men, Craig Roberts, are in the Gallery today. At the latest inquest, the coroner criticised the Minister’s Department, saying that lessons were not being learnt from these tragedies. She has already granted one extension to respond—when will the Minister respond?

I pay tribute to those who have lost their lives on these exercises. Indeed, on the Select Committee, I worked on a report that was determined to make sure that every question the parents will have about these tragic accidents is investigated. The report is being gone over at the moment, and I want to make sure it is right and that it applies the lessons that have been learned. No child should die in training in our UK armed forces, although we must remain cognisant of the fact that it needs to remain as aggressive and warlike as we can make it. I am more than happy to meet the hon. Lady and her constituents to find out what more we can do to narrow that delta in training.

Too many times in the past five years, I have met veterans in my constituency office who have been unable to access the mental health support they need. The Minister has mentioned a holistic approach to transition. Will he give mental healthcare a top priority in that?

One of my primary duties in this role is to ensure that no veteran does not know where to turn in this country for help, and that is particularly pertinent to mental health. We have some brilliant services across the country. A reconfiguration is going on at the moment, from third sectors into the NHS, but I am looking to launch a veterans’ mental health strategy later on this year. I am determined that within six to 12 months there will be no veteran in this country who will not know where to turn to for help.

Veterans who served in Northern Ireland on Operation Banner will, along with many of their families, I am sure, welcome the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive—but not at the price of selling our veterans down the river to appease Sinn Féin. When the Prime Minister stood for the leadership of the Conservative party, he said clearly in writing in The Sun that he would legislate to protect veterans, including Northern Ireland veterans, from vexatious prosecution. Will the Minister absolutely reiterate that promise today and assure us all that we will defend those who defended us?

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s question. Let me be absolutely clear: no Government in history have done more to talk about or to try to deliver protection for our servicemen and women from vexatious claims and inquests. This Government are committed to resolving the issue, the Prime Minister has promised to do so, and my right hon. Friend has heard from the Secretary of State this afternoon that it will be done within 100 days.

First, I echo the comments of others in the Chamber about yesterday’s tragic events in Streatham.

In North East Fife, there is a fantastic military co-working scheme at Leuchars that helps veterans, spouses of serving personnel and other non-serving members of the armed forces community. It helps people to find work, to access support and to make friends. May I invite the Minister to visit the co-working hub in Leuchars and, as a former career transition partnership employee, ask what plans he has to promote similar schemes throughout the country?

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady and the team at Leuchars, who do a fantastic job. I am currently carrying out a programme of visits to a lot of bases. CTP is a huge part of what we offer for people transitioning from the military into civilian life, and more money is going into it than ever before, but I am determined to learn from best practice, which is what it sounds like the hon. Lady has in Leuchars, so I would be delighted to visit her in due course.